The coronavirus is affecting absolutely everything. So I have zero things to do with my life, it’s odd – BUT I wrote a hugeeee list of things to do whilst not really leaving the house much (obviously wonderful for mental health recovery!). I will post pictures of the list down there somewhere.
BUT surprisingly, I’ve been fairly productive. I’ve written a two page synopsis of my novel (which was pretty hard considering it’s been a whileeeeee since I finished writing said novel). It did take a couple of hours to be honest.
If I can accomplish something like this daily, I could seriously get this manuscript off for this contest and actually might have a chance. It’s getting me back into writing and editing so – thanks virus? I shouldn’t say that/….Oops.
Wowzers, two posts in three days – who am I and what have I done with my usual, avoidant self? It’s the first day in the big self-isolating house. And, honestly, I’m already becoming stir crazy. Spent the morning trying to shake off anxiety and sadness like a dog shaking off water – it didn’t work. So I started a list, a survival list for how to survive your life being starkly empty all of a sudden. I have gone from building a life for myself, slowly by slowly and piece by piece, to ogling the deep, dark nothingness. COVID-19 has made sure that my job has shut, my drama group rehearsals are postponed indefinitely, my friends and family are either having to self-isolate or are actually ill, my therapy group has been stopped, all my other therapy appointments and sessions have been cancelled. I am really not good at being bored. Boredom is a big trigger for me – although my therapist says there’s no such thing as being bored, it merely masks a “true emotion state”. The trouble is I can rarely identify what prompts my boredom. So, with the world being up in arms against the virus, I have substantially little to occupy my days. I am worried, selfishly worried, that being cooped up with zilch motivation to leave the house will be the undoing of me. I’m barely out of my blip – hell, who am I kidding? I’m still very much in it. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Not that anyone reads this so I’m unsure why I’m making a big deal about me being “back”. But I am, anywho. I’ve let this blog go stagnant because of a) a realisation I didn’t know what/who I’m writing this for, b) I end up getting distracted by a trillion different things and procrastinate to no end and c) worries about distanced family members reading it.
BUT I realised, all those reasons mean zilch. I can write this for myself, for others, for people who just want a moment of ‘OMG! Somebody else experiences XYZ’. I was actually inspired by a kind soul on Twitter who suggested I continue.
So, what’s happening in my hurricane-head? – My best friend, my doggo, E, had to be put down on the 31st Jan -My Grandfather is dying, any day now -Lots of confusions and complications with my sister now working away from home and so lots of 4:30am wake ups and babysitting. -COVID-19 is disrupting absolutely everything. -My drinking and drug use is an ongoing battle, as is self-harm and resisting my eating disorder. -Many triggers from being around certain family members/huge PTSD triggers and rows and just general family dysfunction
I could go on but I think a few bullet points are depressing enough. I am managing. Managing, existing, surviving, crawling on through the tar. But I’m struggling, if you want me to put it plainly. It’s a struggle to get up in the mornings, to wash my face, to clean my teeth, to update diary cards and do therapy homework. It’s all a struggle. Eating without the assistance of the munchies is a struggle. Struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle.
I am trying to keep a focus on the positives, to catch myself when I’m catastrophising and think to myself ‘Hey, you, you’re doing a shit tonne better than you think you are.’ I’m making lists and attending therapy, and sleeping well (besides cyclical PTSD-prompted nightmares), I’m spending time with family, I’m writing and collaging and painting and singing and recording and keeping the safety of creativity with me. I know, if I kiss logic for a bit, that I am still doing very well and I should remain proud of myself – this is just a blip triggered by a great deal of grief, sorrow, abuse and sadness.
I’ve, unusually for me, recently got into shoplifting. It’s always been something I’ve dipped in and out of – I seem to have a good method and mildly innocent features/actions. It only dawned on me that it may be getting a little too much when I realised every piece of jewellery I’m wearing (and I’m wearing a lot) was stolen. I also nicked a plush turtle toy from a hospital cafe today – yay for morals. Hey ho, It’s better than some of my destructive coping mechanisms that are so well-worn that they’re pilled, leathery with wear and fraying at the loose hems. I work in a fabric shop, so sue me for the metaphor.
I suppose it’s fitting to end on plans and positives. I have managed one sober day a week for a fortnight – not good, but it’s something. I’m now limiting my weed to once a week and making it stretch further. I’m showering, cleaning my teeth, leaving the house, going to group, attending appointments, eating, sleeping, not doing utterly dumb things, I’m 8 months cutting free. I have some semblance of a life starting down here, here where I was a young child and felt so stranded yet now it feels safe. It’s interesting how we adjust to everything – even if it takes 90 years.
I have plans, goals, aims. I am trying. Trying is something. It may feel like trying to reach the surface of the ocean with breeze blocks strapped to your diminutive legs but I’m trying. Coronavirus is making life challenging – therapy is going to be cancelled, my 1-2-1’s are cancelled, everybody is self-isolating , my whole family here have to self-isolate for 14 days. The whole world is going bananas.
Christmas is over *pause for applause and sighs of relief*. I mean, I’m sure it was lovely for some of you – lucky bastards – but even you must be wiping your eyebrows saying ‘phew’. No more basting, no more wrapping, no more eating carrots for the reindeer at 1am, no more countdowns, no more Elf on the Shelf, no more terrible preschool nativities where everyone solely watches their own children because the rest are shite. You have got to be, somewhere deep down, relieved?
And then there’s us who are glad for a whole other world of reasons. No more rows, no more fighting, no more guilt trips, no more travelling, no more spinning plates to keep everyone happy, no more flatness when you get bullied, no more feeling bruised and battered. I can go on. Us who suffer with PTSD, anxiety, family issues (what a broad term) it all can be such an overwhelming time. Personally I found the whole week exhausting; emotionally mainly. I slept for all of Christmas Eve because I was so worn out by it all.
But, I ain’t gonna depress ya’ll during this odd period. This strange, desert of the year – where nobody knows what day of the week it is or whether the Spar is open or not. Everyone is too stuffed up on food and booze to care about the 26th-30th. Then New Year’s trots along obediently and badaboom – people can move again. I did have lots of smiles and happy bits of my Christmas – as I’m sure you did, if you look hard enough – and I choose to try to focus on them. Like hugging my dog and her waking me up with a lick like she always used to, like laughing hysterically with my mother until it hurt, to hearing my nieces sing and feeling so much pride I could physically burst, to cooking dinner on Christmas day with my Dad and feeling so lucky to have him – as he danced in his Christmas jumper, to sorting out my beautiful presents on Boxing Day and making my room even cosier than it already was. I mean there have been great parts. And shit parts. But, I guess Sinatra was right – That’s Life!
Anywho, I’ve been neglecting my therapeutic duties ma’lord. I haven’t done my diary cards in two weeks or tried to particularly focus on my skills (although I was very good at staying mindful and used my skills in Bristol). So I need to use this gap, this punctuation mark of the year, to get shit done basically. Therapy wise, I need to also prepare for my “health assessment” (please take the title with a rather sizeable pinch of salt) to see whether I get granted Personal Independence Payment or not. I 100% should because of my mental health problems but I get the impression from online research and forums that if you can walk and talk with energy and pick up a phone – you can work and so get denied the financial assistance. BUT apparently 60-70% of appeals get granted – that’s something at least. Yes, the welfare system is great. No, being on it is not. The “health” assessment is performed by a professional who is very minimally medically trained (e.g: an occupational therapist or physiotherapist – neither of whom would be lawfully allowed to treat somebody with a mental illness yet get to decide whether they get money or not. It is shite.) I repeat, parentheses aside, it is shite to be reliant on the British welfare system and watch it fall down upon you like rubble as the political landscape muddies itself further.
Anyway. A last mixed positive I will leave you with, friends, is that I am starting my second novel! No, I haven’t finished editing my first nor getting it published – BUT I just have this bloody amazing story right on the tip of my tongue and I have to write it. So, I promise you I won’t abandon ‘All the Lives I Want’ (My first book) but I am also gonna write this new love affair. Take care all!!! Oh, and happy New Decade!!!!!
This whole week has been bizarre. Flashbacks are eating me alive, sadness is scooping me out like a melon, loneliness and regrets and stupidity line my socks like fluffy remnants. I’m almost too exhausted to even riddle it out, to think about any of it. Pain, past, presents. Christmas is so close that I can smell the cloves and over-excitement already. Everything just feels so wrong at the moment. That’s the only way I can elucidate it – just this permanent feeling of wrongness. Like I’m staring up at a skyscraper as is crumples in onto itself. Impending wrongness. I also feel, constantly, that there’s a million things I need to be doing. My head never rests, not for one minute – not without weed or my prescribed sedatives (Yes, I basically live on sedatives because my head is like a washing machine of FULL spin, all the time). It’s fucking exhausting, always feeling in a rush, always feeling speedy and anxious and on high alert.
Ugh, let’s be positive. What’s RIGHT at the moment? –Singing – It’s a huge distraction for me at the moment, locking myself away in our little bathroom and hugging the acoustics as close as I can. From Amy Winehouse to Les Miserables to 70’s rock to new brand musicals. Music has always mended me. I’m using it as much as I can. –Dad – He is my rock at the moment. He tries his very best to understand the chaos I live with constantly. Just having somebody to give you a hug when you need one is so so important. –My Nieces – After a long ole’ road of complications with my sister, I am now able to see my stunning nieces as much as I want and their little pudgy faces and cart wheels and snuggles eases that pain every time. –Poetry – I’m managing to write about my pain, the wrongness, the discomfort and bizarre hypomania I’m in at the moment. I am writing like It’s the only important thing in the world, each poem helps me untangle things. BUT I also then get stressed and anxious because I SHOULD be editing my novel, I SHOULD be sending portfolios to editors and agents, I SHOULD be doing XYZ. You see where my head immediately goes. BUT poetry is my best friend at the moment. –Art – I’ve been collaging a lot, desecrating newspapers and gluing poems and sketches and muddled landscapes from ‘Private Eye’ and ‘The Big Issue’. -(Parts of) Therapy– Despite the fact that I cried for an hour during group today (a lot of trauma and pain just came surging up and badaboom I was a sniffling mess for the morning) but otherwise therapy is off on the right foot. I’m starting to try to utilise skills more – for example: shoving my face in cold water for 30 seconds, cuddling my beanie baby, blowing bubbles, making lists. Obviously therapy is more than just blowing some bubbles but I am trying (instinctively I want to say I’m not trying hard enough BUT I am bloody trying so shut up brain). I’m still showing up for every appointment, making notes, completing homework, working through deeply ingrained crud and kack in the skirting boards of my skull. -Drugs and Booze – for the eagle eyed amongst you you’ll have noted that I am a recovering addict/alcoholic. It is definitely in control, I had a couple of slip ups with self-destructive instincts last week but I now realise that they happened every time I was alone. I self-destruct to get out of being alone with my head. Classic. BUT I am still doing very well with it all, I’m sticking to boundaries and limits and it’s still very much ME being in control, not the bottle or the spliff. Which, of course, is the main testament.
I’m sure if I set enough time aside I could easily think up more things that are going RIGHT at the moment. It’s hard to balance the tilting scales sometimes when your brain is solely focusing on the negatives.
Tomorrow’s another day. And I’m trying to breathe through the pain and listen to Eva Cassidy. Tomorrow’s another day. Tomorrow’s another day.
So, this week has housed death. Death and sadness and silent screams for theses poorly people. People touch your lives, there’s no escaping, no harmonies that can cover the under-night whispers and moans at three when the tea trolley’s late.
(SIDE NOTE: This entire blog post was written in a blurry 5am smog, I was very very high so…be forgiving. Thought it was funny)
You like order? Knowing when each breath is planned to come.
But, you can still breathe – you think you can’t, you think you’re done but you are only just noticing. Harmonies are here to keep you snug. Mum, I think you need something more than a hot water bottle, I want hope and I want so many little bites of things that it scares me.
Starting again is a terrifying concept. A terrifying word, a terrifying phrase. Us musicians feel like God and then we feel like scum. Oh, how we adore the highs and lows of the music industry,
But, you can still breathe – you think you can’t, but YOU can.
Feeling scares me. Because feelings can be these beautiful, surreptitious things. OR they can be sneaky, little daggers. In my family, you never truly know which side is the winning one. I hope Nutella helps, I hope nuttiness tastes better than abandonment.
Maybe we were never meant for kisses on foreheads, for kisses at all. We tried to breathe when everybody else ran out of oxygen. But being that selfless – it speaks volumes of a shattered pelvis and a leatherette bracelet with ‘Be Mine’ engraved on the circles around the clasp.
They kiss, they kiss and it makes my loneliness palpable. Because surely the vows made on a particular Wednesday are meant to mean something.
Am I even meant to mean anything? Hand it in, hand in the justice model and go back home, feel the fabric of discontent itching at your elbows.Let’s rely on primal urges, right? Because surely nothing else makes sense, besides denial. Besides the crackles whilst a vinyl warms up, the density of sexual think tanks. I want palms around me, the only ones who knew me. I just need something OKay, you can come round – but I need some blank green to let me forget about how I am diseased from birth.
MANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Frankly I have zero idea what’s even happening with my brain, I just know I’m in a great deal of pain with seemingly no reprieves or answers. I just spend the weeks trying to wriggle my way out of reality.
Honestly, if anybody has any advice I would be so grateful. TTFN.
I shall start off this post with the fleeting positives. I am sticking to my budget – what, me? – I am working more shifts and enjoying my job, I am doing my DBT homework in between group and one-to-one and sharing – sometimes far too much – in group. (And yes I did have an anxiety flare up because I thought I’d talked too much, to which my therapist said: “Never apologise for talking.”, and a lovely, bubbly, cup-half-full woman said: “We like hearing your voice”. See, group can be lush). My CPN thought it was odd that I’m ‘enjoying’ group but…I am?!? Does that make me stellar bonker-balls or what? Oops, I already am. Well, a recovering stellar bonker-balls. And there goes my point. Oh, yeah, I’ve been implementing the skills I’m rehashing in group, I’m keeping my drink and weed under control (screw you, whiskey), I’m seeing my gorgeous nieces more, I’m sleeping during normal hours, I’m taking my meds. I’ve even started the first edit of my novel! And yes I am starting to sound big headed. I’m not, I promise.
Anywho, I feel fairly good at the mo. Stable. Even if my anxiety is still being a little bitch and controlling a large portion of my days, like some skulking shadow from a Grimm’s tale. I’m even “low risk” on my system thingy!! [insert generic shocked meme].
BUT, and I have a big but and I cannot lie, Christmas is still scaring the living shite out of me. I want to literally press the brakes on the seasons and stop the upcoming merriment. Every day closer is just messing me up, I can’t cope with it. Every inch of the family convention or, more accurately, shitstorm is making me want to run away to some island.
Also: binging. Or overrating. Or stuffing your face with 2 magnums and a PB&J after dinner because you got the munchies. I even had a nightmare last night about eating so so so so so much and not being able to purge and then the usual feeling of upcoming death in this inexplicable way I can’t explain because it makes no sense in conjunction with reality. Ugh. I have been managing to resist the hefty need to catapult my fingers down my throat, so I let myself digest and let myself feel fat and wake up with a resulting anxiety attack the next morning. It’s so hard trying to get used to this new body.
Here’s a rather hopeful poem – I rarely write with happiness in my fingers so thought I’d share:
Saturdays Full of Threads
I potter around, gently, smoothly, bumbling along like a cotton wheel caught on a hook
I ask what this lady with the green bere is making,
a wall hanging for her late husband.
Calmly, longingly. Fat quarters of his shirts,
his life, stitched into burgundy wool rich as wine.
I feel a tug in my chest but don’t allow myself a tear, I just lovingly cut this fabric like it’s the only thing in the world worth doing.
I help children pick out glittery nets,
old couples choosing the right shade of beige,
young husbands and wives designing the camper of their dreams.
All these stories are woven like dangerous silk into my skin and, like the tattooed man, I carry them with me. In my boots and my lips and my aching knees.
I laugh with them and it fills me up, a kettle singing on an AGA, a preteen busking in a passageway, a newborn’s smile when they have gas.
These hundreds of pairs of eyes all tell me their stories as the rain pierces through our bubble wrap insulation.
And sometimes I can stay mindful with just a 2” deep circle of foam to saw in the attic.
And sometimes strangers fill me up
and I forget that I’m alone.
Apologies that It separated each line into a new paragraph.
So, my CPN thinks i’m ready to take the plunge. Having seen her every week/fortnight for 9 months we’re stepping it back to once a month. Eeeeek. I’m very happy that she thinks I’m stable enough, level enough, prepared enough to lessen the support. I mean I do have a million other weekly support stuff so it’s not like i’m alone in this. Just an interesting step.
I spent today (after back to back therapy) doing predominantly nothing but eating chocolate digestives and watching inane tele. I find it hard to have a day off, to let myself rest/recharge – my brain has the delightful tendency to spend the time I should be resting telling me all the things I SHOULD be doing. Ugh. Anywho then came dinner then came dairy milk. My stomach is ripe for bursting. It’s okay for now (ish, feeling too full is a big trigger for me) but tomorrow morning I’ll wake up, see the dirty plate with the guilty crumbs on it and bam It’s anxiety attack city centre. I have gained a substantial amount of weight over the past year or so – a mixture of munchies, medication side effects and a hearty plunge into alcoholism relapse. And I am trying to get used to this new body, this unfamiliar house I find myself in, but when I binge (food replacing drink/drugs, especially at night when I would of got smashed, it’s all addiction at the end of the day – right) I feel so ashamed and it brings up years of eating disorders urges and behaviours. Ugh just another thing to get a handle on. My therapist is trying to stop my preoccupation with “food, weight and shame” (sometimes she talks like a textbook) by advising me to e.g: no longer ask my dad for reassurance about how I look, try to avoid full length mirrors etc. I am trying, I’m managing to resist purging but it doesn’t mean it’s comfortable.
Side note: I just cut my own fringe, as usual, and it’s now far too short and I look like a five year old.
Another day in the life of recovery/ish/sometimes – i’m in part time recovery. Ha, who am I kidding? My entire life is therapy at the moment. My schedule runs a little like this: Monday: sometimes working, Tues: DBT group in the morning and my addiction councillor in the afternoon (I get a free lunch on expenses, it’s great), Weds: DBT therapist in the morning followed by CPN 15 minutes later (time for a fag), Thurs: Bipolar group all morning, afternoon generally spent doing therapy homework, Friday: sometimes working, sometimes my START worker, Sat: working, Sun: die quietly.
Phew that was exhausting even to type. Sometimes it is A LOT! Sometimes it feels like i’m Atlas trying to hold up the entire sky, a shaky acrobat trying to balance three spinning plates. But I also know how bloody LUCKY I am to have all this incredible support, not everything is so lucky. Living in Birmingham for two years taught me that you seriously had to be attempting suicide to even get assessed. There are hundreds and hundreds of people desperate for help and they’re not getting it, I should know! It’s taken 8 years of therapists and pills and labels and drama to finally get the help I deserve. So, yeah, (i’ll jump down off of my lil’ high horse now) I am very lucky.
It is tricky to know who you are outside of all this therapy. Like a type of institutionalisation but without the institution (wow, great simile, Liv). I try to have things that aren’t just work and therapy – yoga, Shakespeare performance company. It’s important to have something just for you outside of skills training and side effects.
Anyways I’m rambling now. I cooked dinner tonight – chickpea, bacon and black olive warm salad (fucking delicious) followed by (bought) lemon tart with lemon yoghurt.
Hi. My name is Liv. I am a mess, a writer, a singer, a mental health advocate, performance poet, a weirdo, a nerd, a human (sometimes). Welcome to the rubbish bin for my brain, I guess.
The cafe is warm, it smells of Christmas and I feel self-conscious of the darkness inside of me, like I may be asked to leave for being the emotional antithesis of festivity. But I don’t get asked to leave, so I eat my overpriced, dry turkey sandwich and let myself feel barren, acrid, shallow. And I start writing this. And I make my lip bleed, I used blue roll to sop it up. My therapist proposed I start this blog – and I promise I’ll try to steer away from sounding like Airsupply – as I shook my leg so fast that the fat could have spontaneously flung itself off of the bone. So I’m starting this. For me, for you, for her, for your uncle Robert? Who knows. So, me being a good student/patient (well, when I want to be), here we are.
I suppose this will be my public tracking of recovery. I’m unsure how I feel about that to be honest. It, admittedly, feels a little morose and self-congratulatory but I’m a writer who’s been told to write and so I write. I’m obsessively listening to ‘Heathers: The Musical’ soundtrack, it’s getting me through most obstacles at the mo. Like sobriety, ugh – sobriety. What a fucking word. Full of stuffing, full of baking beans and disappointments. I’m so glad that I’ve rediscovered my adoration for musical theatre, It was such a gargantuan part of my life as a preteen. I forgot how much happiness it brought me.
Speaking of the sneaky bastard that is sobriety – here’s a lovely, depressing poem to start your day off: I was Walking with your Ghost: Full, full. Churning, churning. A thread of cotton caught in the washing machine, unravelling in silky, arachnid repetition. Full, full. A tyre with too much air but not enough oxygen. Syrupy carbon into each silence. Yesterday you were far away, today you itch at my elbows and I feel empty without a spliff to take the edge off, without a balloon to make me cough, without a sip, a toke, a line, The Cranberries sang about salvation in sobriety, well; sobriety hates me. It tickles me at night and paints drips of sweat onto the crease of my eyebrows, tossing and turning. Full, full, empty empty. Oh, how sexy it is to be a dichotomy. Lend me an emotion-ectomy, send me the bill, tell me where and when and I’ll let you drown. How many millimetres away am I from losing you?
So, I’m on my second week of dialectical behavioural therapy – something I have been waiting for for three years. I’ll be truthful, first week sucked. Hard. It was a sweet shop set alight with a blow torch, candy canes melting into sticky soup. BUT, second week was a million miles better. As always I’ve given myself too much homework – all or nothing, eh? – (Also, I may now have a small square of blue roll stuck to my lip like I cut myself shaving. I must look hilarious).
I am trying. I am trying very bloody hard. But I’m heavy, I’m tired, I’m a best intention gone wrong. I’m a fly in your glass of merlot. Seeing Christmas trees, the John Lewis ad, paper decs all around feels so surreal. When did November happen? Frost, snow, lonely fairy lights – It all feels like some tableaux painted before me. I’ve never wanted Christmas less. It used to be my favourite time of year, now It’s this spiky, fearful thing. Full of food anxieties, triggers, socially acceptable alcoholism and tatty, dysfunctional families.
All I can taste is blood and the coppery, sickly red is in itself triggering. I am four months self-harm free, speaking of. And I have a body of patchwork scars I’d love to scrub off of my body with metal wool.
Anyway, I’m sat in a cafe feeling sorry for myself. Turn up the volume, unburden yourself, drink water like it’s gin, run your finger over your wrist and think about unzipping your skin.