Awkward

Ah, the hairdressers. A kingdom of intimidatingly beautiful women and hydrogen peroxide fumes and my own special brand of social awkwardness. The horrible hot black cape around my shoulders, Velcro fastening itching the back of my neck, music I’ve never heard by a band I’ve never heard of playing behind the whine of 100 hair dryers, me staring off into the middle distance…

I hate going to the hairdressers. Hate it. I’m terrible at small talk and I’m awkward and I’ll garble “yes please thank you very much one sugar” when I’m offered tea and then watch sadly as it sits cooling on the shelf in front of the mirror because I don’t know how I’m supposed to drink it when I can’t move my head and there’s bits of my hair floating on top…

What am I supposed to do while my hair is being washed? Do I keep my eyes open and risk awkward eye contact with the stranger running their fingertips over my scalp and make it feel bizarrely intimate? Do I keep my stare at the ceiling resolute, even when one of their nipples inadvertently grazes my eyelashes as they lean over me to reach the towel? If I close my eyes will it make it seem more intimate?

The single saving grace is what I lack in small talk and tea drinking skills I make up for in expressions of delight at a haircut I knew I’d hate before I’d even sat down. Oh yes that’s great please do show me the back with the little mirror because I never know what to say when you do its all lovely thanks so much of course I’ll tip you take all my money just let me leave.

Mid-snip, this hairdresser delivers a concerned “are you alright?” type comment which snaps me out of what was actually a really nice daydream and back into the real world of forced anecdotes that are mostly (totally) lies because I don’t have any real life ones.

When I daydream I don’t have one of those ethereal, porcelain faced expressions, all slightly parted pink lips and eyes sparkling with distant magical worlds…In fact, when I stared back at myself in the fucking unflatteringly lit mirror, wet hair hanging limply around my shoulders, random sections pinned up awkwardly, chopped split ends stuck to my lip balm, the eyeliner on my right eye making its way down my face because please stop flicking me in the eyeball with my own hair, my face is pale and my expression is one of gormless…terror.

Oh no I’m fine, that’s just my face.

*strangled breezy laugh*

People often think I’m in a thunderous mood when I’ve floated off into a daydream or I’m thinking about food or what happened in Eastenders or why my shittest tweets always get the most stars. I’m actually perfectly happy. Fine at the very least. Probably not even actually thinking of anything at all.

I’m not a bitch, I promise. I’m not putting a hex on you and your family and anyone you’ve ever loved. I’m not snobby or rude…I’m just a shy person with a face and I’m really, really sorry you thought I was looking at you funny that time at the thing.

Not unlike my face, my brain is a pretty good tool in my arsenal of social incompetence. Especially around people I don’t know particularly well.

I’m massively self deprecating but that’s usually me trying to be funny. And it’s a jolly little shield that prevents me getting too close to anyone – everyone I care about always leaves ahahahaha maybe it’s because of my face ahahahaha – and because I like to make people laugh (validating innit) and observational humour doesn’t always work. Especially online where you can’t see the funny thing that I can and there’s no tone and you can’t see my upturned face with the hopeful look of a puppy begging for the validation of at least a half smile, please like me, lovely human, I funny, I nice.

One of the problems with a sprinkling of light hearted self mockery is that, being someone vocal about their own madness, alarm bells are going to ring when I say “OMG I’M SO SHIT WHAT A STUPID IDIOT I AM FOR THAT THING”. Because I’m all depressive and stuff often what was actually just a throw away comment about me being genuinely idiotic mutates into one hundred and one U OK HUNS and me saying over and over that yes I’m fine I promise I was actually an idiot that time I end up sounding so desperately sarcastic I regret ever thinking I could successfully put words into a sentence to be unleashed from my mind and into the world.

Sometimes, because you have to laugh or you’ll cry amirite, I’ll drop an accidental and extremely poorly thought out joke about The Bad Things into what was, until that moment, a normal conversation.

The Bad Things are such a norm to me now; I have to talk about them whether I like it or not to GPs and nurses and psychologists and, in a less obligated way to people I love and people I don’t and Twitter…I used to talk about them a lot on here. They’re just part of my life.

I don’t answer the door to the delivery man (who actually accounts for at least 75% of my real life human interaction because Amazon Prime) and lament about my medication or that really funny time I was so mentally unwell I heard a dismembered voice telling me jokes while I was in the shower. I’d tell you lot though. It was fucking weird and you’d all think I’m properly mad but it WAS funny. In hindsight.

And I would sit with a friend and absentmindedly say “this cup of tea is so bad it’s making me want to die”.

*all of the air is sucked from the room*

*sits in the deafeningly silent vacuum of awkward*

“OMG guys, just because I have, like, literally wanted to die doesn’t mean I literally want to die now, this isn’t a cry for help or a serous statement, this is just a really really shit cup of tea”

Admittedly, this only happens with people I’m not that close to or people who don’t know me very well but I have no self censor. I don’t think and it’s terrible. My brain’s so quick to throw these things out of my mouth because it’s obviously a sick, sick organ that likes to watch me cringe myself into a puddle while everyone slowly sidesteps away.

I’m really, really lucky to know people who can find a bit of gentle humour in my mentalness and joke both at me and with me. To know people on a level that they can take the piss and it be genuinely funny and not make me want to cry or kill them, but who also know when I’m poorly and need love, that’s pretty spesh.

If I’m really not well it won’t be a stupid try hard joke poorly delivered before my mouth could stop it from falling out that lets you know. It’ll be when I’ve not spoken for days. Or when I say “I’m really struggling what do I do?”.

I’m sorry that sometimes I can get it wrong or cause worry and I am forever baffled and endlessly appreciative that there are people here who care. So that’s all sort of why I’m struggling a bit to write at the moment. I’m trying to get a handle on how I’m feeling and how to translate it here and…that’s all something else for another time. But I don’t mean to scare anyone. Unless I do, in a cruelly perverse way.

…but mostly, that is why I can’t make small talk with hairdressers. (It’s also a bit because I HATE YOU I SAID I ONLY WANTED A TRIM YOU POWER CRAZY SCISSOR WIELDING HAIR DEMON).

No Hurt(?)

“No one can tell if you’re having suicidal thoughts, you can just keep going. Ideation shouldn’t stop you from cooking dinner or looking after your child…”
– My Shit Psychiatrist, 2014

 

You know that pain scale thing with the laughably bad comic faces where you/doctors/who knows place you between 1-10 based on which face you jab at/how zig-zaggy your mouth has gone…Is that actually a thing?

This:

Universal pain scale
Do they really use it in hospitals or did I just see it in Scrubs and I’m actually making this up?

Ah well…

I’m probably an 8.5 on that scale right now. That rests nicely between ‘hurts whole lot’ and ‘hurts worst’.

[Nah, this isn’t real is it? That’s not a real thing “it hurts worst doctor what can you do for the paaaaain?”

…I’ve just googled again. It is real. Bloody hell]

I’m teetering on the edge of a panic attack which itself is teetering on the edge of some deliciously depressive thoughts. Dangerous territory. I can’t give into this because if I do, the bubbling undercurrent of anxiety currently coursing though my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that I WILL DIE I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP THIS IS FOR REAL THIS TIME DEATH IS IMMINENT.

I’d quite like to avoid death and the excruciatingly slow and painful descent into death (panic) that precedes it so let’s not, okay brain? Conversely, if I jump onto/under the depressive thoughts train then I will probably end up actively wanting to die before the night is out and that’s not exactly a fun way to while away the hours either.

So I’ll just sit here, shoulders so tense that they’re hunched up around my ears, hot and cold and sore and achy and weak. Bit of a shitter really that the whole poorly brain thing manifests in actual physical suffering too. I might feel sick for a bit in a minute, maybe shake uncontrollably, feel dizzy and spaced out…I’ll probably ruminate for a while on how I’m a terrible excuse for a person. I might spend some time feeling disgustingly guilty, achingly empty, oozing with self hatred…

So yeah. 8.5. Hurts a whole lot. Hurts worst.

My face is a glorious 1 on the scale of weird faced pain though. NO HURT ALL FINE. Because, unfortunately(?), I can mentally do up to 10 looking like 1 but if you inflicted a juicy physical 4 (hurts a little more) by, say, administering a brutal kick to the shin or similar I’d probably do a 10 face.

I probably do a 10 face if I stub my toe or drop my phone or my kid wanted the blue cup not the red cup even though she expressly said she wanted the blue cup for the love of god.

It turns out, being able to clearly and calmly express burning, searing agony doesn’t go down well. No one believes it because to anyone who hasn’t been there, that kind of pain, that kind of anything, should present in a whimper from someone curled in the foetal position. By rights, I should be doing the hurts most face with its sad eyes dripping tears.

Thing is, I know myself better than anyone because I live inside my own complex little mind. I hate, hatehatehate, the reach out for help rhetoric…It’s treatment innit? You mean treatment. Don’t put the onus on me to ‘reach out…’ or ‘ask for help’. Help denotes some kind of weakness or inability to cope and that is far from fair. I cope because I have to every day but can I at least have a paracetamol and a cuddle to take the edge off?

Don’t brush me aside because I can sit with a 1 face and talk articulately about that time heinously self harmed. I don’t know how else to talk about it. I don’t want to tell you about it and I’m ashamed and embarrassed so this is all I have.

“Do you ever want to end your own life?”

[looks at the floor] Yeah. Sometimes. [looks up, acknowledges concerned head tilt with a smile] Sometimes I’d just rather not exist, y’know?

AH-HA YOU SMILED NO HELP FOR YOU!

An elderly woman stopped me in Sainsburys last week, she asked if I would pass her something from a high shelf. She called me dear and she smiled at me. She smiled but rather than turning on my heels and exclaiming WELL YOU SEEM PRETTY FUCKING HAPPY WITHOUT THOSE RICH TEA BISCUITS SO GOOD DAY TO YOU LADY I said yeah, sure, here you go.

And then I smiled back and dropped some chocolate HobNobs into my own trolley and carried on around the shop at around a 7 (hurts even more) with anxiety because bright lights lots of things people everywhere what did I need again?

Pass the smiling old lady the biscuits for you know not of her need for biscuits; be compassionate and caring to the smiling girl asking for help because you know not her true 10 face.

What Are You Saying?

I don’t know much, I’m not a doctor or a pharmacist or a psychologist – I’m just a girl and a friend and a wife…a bitch, a lover, a child, a mother etc.

I’m scared and I’m clueless and I’m lost and do you know what? I don’t know what to say either. The cruel irony of illness is that no matter what it is, it affects us all differently but…empathy. Empathy is all we can do isn’t it?

Empathy is the fucking least we can do.

When my BFF says she’s feeling [insert any less than good feeling] I feel shit because I can’t take it away or make it better and then I feel shit again because I know. I know the pain because I’ve breathed every breath of it in my own way. But I still don’t know what to say.

So I say it’s shit. Because it is. I say it will end and it will feel better one day and you can fucking do this because all of those things are true and it doesn’t hurt to have a tiny reminder. I say I don’t know what to say but I’m here. I send stupid GIFs and I listen and I respect the need for silence. I tell her I fucking love her because I do and sometimes that’s all there is, y’know?

Invalidation is the worst thing you can give someone who spends every single second of their existence invalidating themselves.

I’m not advocating skipping around the afflicted and declaring your love for them (unless you do, then go for it) and I’m not suggesting GIFs are a cure all or even vaguely helpful at all* but here’s some desperately unhelpful stuff that no one wants to hear so for the love of all of the things stop it right now.

  • But you look so well…
  • But you seem so happy…
  • But your life is so good…
  • But look at all you have…
  • What do you have to be sad about…
  • It doesn’t make sense…
  • It’s (you’re) stupid…
  • It’s (you’re) wrong…
  • Have you tried yoga…
  • Have you tried kale…
  • Have you tried running…
  • Have you tried invoking the patron saint of mentalness and pleading for salvation…
  • You’re being silly…
  • You’re making it up…
  • You’re taking things too personally…
  • You’re taking things too seriously…
  • You’re just doing this for attention…
  • You’re making it up…
  • You’re not even trying…
  • You need to take more vitamins…
  • You don’t mean it…
  • You care too much…
  • You don’t know what it’s like to be really ill…
  • There are people much worse off than you are…
  • There are so many things to be happy about…
  • Oh my brothers friends sisters mate had that and then she did this and now she’s fine…
  • Don’t you want to get better…
  • Don’t you want to try…
  • Don’t you know how difficult you’re making this for us/them/him/her…
  • Think about what you’re doing to the people that love you…
  • Just ignore it…
  • Just carry on…
  • Pull yourself together…
  • Don’t be so stupid…
  • Snap out of it…
  • Chin up…
  • Smile…
  • Stop worrying…
  • Stop wallowing…
  • Stop overthinking things…
  • Things aren’t so black and white…

I’ve heard all of those. What a lucky girl I am. At some point all of those will have made me cry hot bitter tears of self loathing and desperate loneliness.

Sometimes we need love or silence or tears or uncontrollable laughter.

Sometimes we can laugh so hard that we laugh a mouthful of tea out of our nose. Still depressed, just with tea dripping from our chin. Sometimes we can go outside, still depressed, just depressed outside.

Sometimes we can…do you know what? We’re humans so we can and we do and that doesn’t make us more or less or better or worse.

We know all the things, trust me. We feel the guilt and the pain and the injustice of the suffering and heartache we cause to the people the surround us. We feel stupid for feeling how we do because maybe we are just being selfish and so many people do have it worse why am I moaning…We carry this around with us every single day until the pain seers so deeply it becomes numb.

There’s a really, really simple thing to remember when you’re talking to anyone, mentally ill or otherwise:

Don’t be a dick. Please. Just don’t be a fucking dick.

Thank you.

 

* This one is good though. Look at it. Look at iiiiiiiit!

image

 

 

Contrariwise

I’ve been having a reoccurring dream where I’m sitting on a hard plastic chair opposite Tim Booth, passing a joint back and forth. The air thick with sweet smelling smoke and overwhelming sense that Tim is a Really Nice Guy, the carpet prickling the bare soles of my feet and dust motes floating across the shafts of sunlight streaming through the window…

I don’t like documenting all of this.

Not the dream thing, I don’t know why I told you that, I think I just needed a jumping off point. It’s been a while, I’ve forgotten what I’m doing…where does this go? Do I put this here or…? A little to the left…oh god don’t stop…

I don’t like sending words out into the world of whatever this is before I’ve even worked it out for myself. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t understand it and I can’t keep track of it and sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it exhausting but it mostly just is.

I live a heightened version of good days and bad days; I think I’m supposed to be careful with the good days, to keep a handle on them, make sure they’re not too good because that’s not healthy. I know I’m probably not supposed to do what I sometimes do and give in to the nagging urge to play some loud music and do all of the things while thinking all of the thoughts and having all of the ideas all at once.

Fuck it feels good but it’s actually bad because then…Well. Then there are the bad days and the really, really bad days and the bad days that are so bad I have no recollection of each hour as it painfully drags its way through my bones.

The crux is, I can’t believe the bad days. That’s the important thing. Never, ever believe the bad days. Allowing myself to give into that stuff would be some dangerous shit, if those thoughts permeate I’m fucked. I have to believe it’s all fleeting and as agonising and soul destroying as it is, this will end. I have to try to ignore the bad and maintain a louder narrative that it will all be okay and I will be okay and I don’t really want to die, not really. (I do. No. I do, I really do. NO…and so on.)

After a few months, the bad things go away and normal comes back. Or maybe good. Who knows that’s all part of the fun you guys! No really, ignore my raised in sarcasm eyebrow and the crazed look in my eyes.

Okay, it’s shit. Utter shit.

The good and the normal and the bad chop and change and ebb and flow and I’m so fucking exhausted it’s my instinctive reflex to believe none of it and just exist as best as I can during whatever I have to. Sometimes that means I get to laugh and do things. Sometimes I just have to survive. But fucking hell, it’s so rare that I feel.

If the bad’s not real and I expend so much energy trying to believe as much, how can the good be real?

I’m a weird emotionless robot, robotting around, achingly desperate for feelings that I won’t allow myself to keep hold of.

I know, I know…

I think I’ve got over the realignment of personal perception. I think. At least, I’ve slipped back into the mind-set of not really caring in a big brassy I AM WHAT I AAAAAAM jazz hands kind of way. I live it, I live all the internal and external stuff and I’ve realised, again, that all I can do is get on with it. It’s as simple and as impossible as that. I can’t fight it so I may as well throw one arm around it and carry on my (not always so) merry way.

I’m still really struggling with how Everyone Else sees me. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve been a bit absent.

Other reasons for absence include but are not limited to: sleeplessness, sleeping, apathy, enjoyment of other things, self deprecation, self care…and so on.

It’s a massive, massive battle for me to own my feelings. It’s a bloody big battle to just accept them in a I feel really, really good/bad/happy/sad but that’s alright kind of way.

Fuck you people who make me think I have to excuse or explain something that is so intrinsic it’s impossible.

All of the battling whirrs into white noise and I’m bloody terrified of saying anything at all because I can tweet something flippant and inane or a feeble attempt at humour or a cat GIF when I’m actually in a really bad place in my head. But that doesn’t detract from how I feel or make the cat GIF a lie (cat GIFs are never a lie you take that back). I can be angry or upset but actually feeling fine. My outward words and movements and tweets and blogs and smirks have little to no bearing on how I feel inside. None.

I’m tired of not being brave enough to believe and I don’t like not being in control. I’m scared of saying that I feel good or bad or somewhere in the middle because I don’t want to look like a total flake, of having to admit it wasn’t lasting, of flitting from one thing to the other and freaking everyone out because OMG stay in one mood for five minutes for the love of god.

In amongst all of this I’m just frightened. I’ve a limited number of words in this lifetime, there’s so, so many that I can’t say but I’m scared to say the ones that I can because I don’t know how.

 

First Things First

There are 113 books on the shelves in my bedroom, I counted them in time with the beating of my heart;
1
da-dum
2
da-dum
3
da-dum

110
da-dum
111
da-dum
112
da-dum
113
da-dum

and breathe.

113 books and one vinyl LP (Debbie Harry, bought because I loved the sleeve) and assorted detritus accumulated I don’t know when.

24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year and 5 tablets swallowed in the morning and 3 at night and the endless crawl of seconds in between.

Restless legs and racing thoughts and battered hardbacks of nursery rhymes from my childhood; yellowing pages with torn edges and rhyming couplets bring propped up by a pile of CDs that have been undisturbed for years. Green Day and Little Miss Muffet, cradling between them a whole world, a whole life.

None of these words mean anything by the way, because there’s nothing to say at 5:32am. It’s when the birds get their turn to fill the air with their chatter and song and life before we all wake up and take over and drown them out. Poor buggers.

I’ve got Things To Do today so my as yet relatively undisturbed hiatus to my bed has got to come to an end. Hair to wash and brush and one foot to place in front of the other until I can turn around and back to my little nest of sanctuary.

Except it isn’t, not really. But it’ll do.

I feel strangely exposed leaving words here again. I think I’d be more comfortable sellotaping up a risqué photo because it would feel a far less fucking revealing.

I don’t like these depressive bits. I’m ready for this one to be over now.