Regarding my Mental Health and Art- Guest post by Mike

I feel like that at some point I was a separate entity to my mental illness and I find it impossible to figure out where the two merged into just mental illness. Picasso said something about art being like a diary, and I look at my art work over the last ten years and I can see where my BPD and OCD have pushed out the creativity and the obsession has taken over, documentation of various breakdowns and hallucination and the huge gaps where I haven’t made any work because I’ve been too depressed.

The thing about art is that it is incredibly cathartic but it can become a problem. For my university degree I wrote a thesis on exposure and response prevention therapy and a tenuous link to art and in conjunction with this I produced over 400 bird paintings. Just to be clear, 400 bird paintings is a ridiculous amount of paintings to produce. They still clog boxes and boxes in my old room in my parent’s house. It really seemed like a good idea at the time and I guess it proved a point, the point that art is a true reflection of the person’s personality. But what if that person has a personality disorder I ask myself. Well that’s why I haven’t painted properly for months. Painting rejects me. I feel rejected by it. It triggers self-harm when it goes wrong and “wrong” means ‘not exactly as my brain imagines the final image’. When I can’t paint, I write too. Which I was about to say is rubbish. That’s because writing rejects me. I try to create a finished product every time, which isn’t possible and isn’t how writing works. I want it done quickly because I am addicted to the sense of achievement, but like all addictions the sense of achievement is such a fleeting high that it is gone again moments later. So I buy more art materials. Until I have no money. Like a drug I want more and more until I have a pile of fucking materials and no inspiration. Inspiration in this sense is motivation to get to the illusive sense of achievement. The emptiness is always difficult to fill. I guess that is my point.

The problem with creating is that it takes time and patience. And patience is something that is missing in me these days. I don’t know if it is medication related or BPD, but the lack of patience is so hard to bypass. My patience has lessened and lessened to the point that in my initial mark making on a painting I already feel determined that it is a failure. Is it possible to be determined to fail? Of course it is. Even when you are desperate to move forward and produce something, like breathing with a rotten lung, you can’t seem to get to the place you need. Even writing this post I am determined that it will be terrible, just like the paintings I can’t seem to be happy with, like the books of poetry and novels I don’t finish, just like the relationships with all aspects of my work that are full of rejection and that emotional void.

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Updates.

I’ve been very inactive here lately, what with moving so I thought I should write an update. 

In only month there’s been too much happening and it’s been hectic but once again I made it through breathing. There’s been loss both good and bad, crying, hugging and simple getting through. My life is still confirming that it’s not going to give me a break any time soon but I’m making the most of it. I guess it does make things a bit less boring.

So, we moved and it took us two weeks to finally get all of our stuff to our new place. In between that time Leia (on of our rats) needed vet check ups for a lump under her arm, by the end of the second week she was put down due to cancer. I dealt with this surprisingly well and I guess it was a mixture of already dealing with a lot and blocking things out and the fact that she was at the stage that a lot of rats pass naturally unlike Evie, who was still young. 

In a way I think I did have a little bit of a breakdown because I was adamant we needed a new sister for Alice although she had two younger girls in with her.  And in the midst of this my husband’s bike was stolen which was needed to get to work, resulting in a very stressed and frustrated man who didn’t have a thief to have a go at and no way to get to work and no money to do anything about it. I guess I was just a bit of a buffer until it got sorted out. 

Then Lumen arrived. A scared little rat who was being given away for the sake of convenience for the owner. She arrived frightened and skinny and clearly neglected. Of course we fell in love with her instantly, she had a check up and other than her weight and nervous habits it was simply love she needed. Even though it caused more anger and frustration at an animal being treated like trash, she became a happy distraction from recent problems. Although Lumen was meant to be company for Alice, she’s getting very old now and wasn’t interested in making new friends. Luckily the younger girls love her and so I think she will be good company for them when Alice does eventually pass away.

Around this time I also decided on losing weight again. After weeks of stress and mountains of take away, I’d been gaining consistently and got to 13 stone 8, the last time I tried weight watchers my starting weight was 12 stone. I’ve managed to get down to 13st in the few weeks we’ve been here and I mean to go on.

I’ve even got up the courage to ask about a volunteering job. It’s a huge step for me, the only issue is it not paying but that’s the point of being a volunteering job, it’s in a small second hand book store, it’s quiet and I can gain confidence that I can be out in the real world doing regular things. Sure I worry that people will say well if you can do that why can’t you get a paid job but it’ll never be that simple. Volunteering is 100% on my terms, It’s up to me when and if I leave, I can decide when I’m available and when I’m okay enough to deal with it. If anything I have to get through one day first and yes, I’m terrified. If I can’t do this, I’m not sure what I’ll do but I guess we’ll have to see. If only I could figure out why it’s so heart-stoppingly terrifying. I’ve filled out the forms and I just need to take them in tomorrow and I’m good to go. I was genuine and honest with the manager, she asked me why I wanted to volunteer and I told her “I been struggling with depression for a few years and really need something small, somewhere I can feel safe, somewhere quiet where I can build confidence”. The woman smiled at me and said “perfect”.

So that’s everything so far that I can think of, let’s hope the rest of the year lightens up a bit.

2 years later.

So at the end of 2011 I wrote a post about my new medication. Now just over 2 years on I’ve started to realise how much more stable they have made me.

I was a real mess before I started taking Sertraline. Self harm was second nature and I remember the constant chest pain and nausea from anxiety. Daily life was horrible, I was in a state of panic all the time, It reduced me to tears daily. While, of course I’m not “fixed”, not having those pains and panic all the time has improved my ability to manage on a daily basis. There was never going to be a pill that would take it all away. All the pills can do is take away the things my brain is doing wrong chemically, it doesn’t change situation or thought process.

I used to break down at the smallest thing now I only crumble when any normal person would. I admit, yes, my emotions are still too much sometimes and my reactions are more extreme than others but at least I’m actually becoming extremely emotional when it’s natural too (death, illness etc) and not screaming in tears because Jordan isn’t home yet and I imagine he’s dead in an alley way.

I’m still struggling of course, I’m not a functioning member of society quite yet (unless you include the internet society) but getting here in the first place is a big deal. For some it may seem like nothing has changed and I haven’t moved anywhere but if I look back a few years where I was desperate to be sectioned so they could fix me because I was in so much agony, then I’m definitely in a new place.

I don’t feel so much like I’m crazy any more, I just feel like I need some help on my self esteem and intrusive thoughts. I need help with my thought processes and I need to find more things to love about life. I’m constantly trying to find a purpose when I’ve got nothing around me. So I’m looking more into social hobbies and places where I can feel like I belong. I have to create my own purpose. It’ll be hard but what’s harder is being unhappy. Being unhappy is draining and exhausting. Life won’t come to me, I have to find it myself. And it’s okay if I take a little longer because I’ve still got a lot of healing to do.

Good riddance to 2013.

What an awful awful year. 

I don’t think I know anyone who had a genuinely good one.

It’s been full of death, sickness (mental and physical) and a lot of pain. 

I’ve lost 2 of my girls and so many people I know have lost animals friends too. 

My own body rejected a potential life which was probably one of the most confusing and painful times of my life.

And outside of my body, close family and friends are being diagnosed with life threatening conditions.

And so, to 2013 I say that you tried hard but I made it so you can leave now and I hope to never relive you.

And hello 2014, I’m very apprehensive about you, I feel a lot of fear about your presence but I’m trying to be as positive as possible about it. 

As you may recall, I don’t do resolutions that will make me feel depressed just thinking about them, I make goals surrounding things I enjoy so that even if my year is full of rubbish, I have those good things to keep me going.

So here are my goals for the year:

Reach 25,000 blog views.

Reach 500 facebook likes.

Read 15 books. (I want to read more novels. I may be a fast reader but I find it hard to find a good book in the first place and so I want to be able to savour and enjoy.)

Watch 52 new movies. (I did manage to reach 71 this year but I found that the reason I didn’t reach 100 was because I was watching more TV series so It might be nice to watch one new movie a week this time.)

Find a weekly social activity to take part in. (Magic the Gathering?)

Finish my second novel.

Go to London Comic-Con as Hit Girl.

And so in just over 3 hours it begins. And I’m glad.

Obligatory “Christmas is hard” post.

Well here it is, Christmas is coming up once again and as always there’s the great divide of love and hate for Christmas. It’s not just Christmas that does this, mind you, it’s all holidays. For those who don’t have much or who may not have much family or suffer from a concoction of illnesses, holidays are generally the toughest times of the year. While the well and able laugh and love with their families, the sick and lonely can only watch from afar. 

I don’t want to turn this into a pity party, I have family, I have a husband and I have my animals so I’m not going to pretend I don’t for the sake of this post. But that doesn’t take away the fact that depression itself is a driving force in making holidays shit.

Christmas used to be amazing for me, up to the age of 17, my whole family would join together at my grandma’s wonderful house and share presents and eat delicious food and generally be happy together. Then through financial problems and illness it slowly started to fade away. The first Christmas just my husband and I was quite enjoyable and then the next day I received a phone call to tell me that my best friend had been killed, so while the day itself may have been okay it was pulled down into the ground by that one moment.

The next Christmas I was feeling lonely about the idea of it being just my husband and I. I’ve always been used to large family Christmases and so it made it hard. I ended up inviting my mum over but in all honesty I remember almost nothing about that Christmas day other than it had been a year since the death of a dear friend and I was angry. I do remember the awesome and awe inspiring Becca Ward and Ross joining us once again for a 30th of December trip to Nandos though and that has become a tradition we hope to carry on.

That was last year and after a truly awful year again, (other than my birthday which was freaking amazing thanks to Charlene and Tristan) I’m wondering whether I can somehow save this year’s Christmas from the impending doom of depressing and inevitable rubbishness.

I decided this year that instead of wanting loads of possessions when I’m already drowning in them that I will choose one item that I really want and work towards that. I always end with a lot of things that I want for the sake of having but this year I decided on one really great thing so I have asked everyone for money to go towards this one thing. I think it’s something that would actually make me happier on Christmas, knowing that I am waiting and working towards one thing I would really like that may be out of our price range instead of more things I don’t need to lie around the house.

I am a terribly impatient person and it’s a good lesson for me to learn to wait. Often when I do wait I find that I’m not actually really bothered in that thing at all and this is why It’s good for me to do this for myself. Yes, it’s a material possession that in the eyes of philosophers is useless in the sense of eternal salvation but for the first time in my life I haven’t just been able to walk into a shop on a whim and throw money at someone for it. I am even selling some old things to acquire it. 

Christmas IS hard and has been hard as an adult but it has only been 3 years and I hope to create some traditions and some nice things that won’t make it so terrible. 

I’ve taken on the Christmas Eve box tradition which is supposed to be something you do for your children but I thought was a great idea for a couple of adult children like us. You have a box you can open together on Christmas eve, it contains new pyjamas, a Christmas movie and some snacks and hot chocolate. We desperately need small comforts like this and so this is what I’m going to prepare this year and hopefully for years to come. Snuggling up and watching a Christmas movie sounds like something that could really soothe the depression for both of us and help us feel loved by one another.

So, if you struggle around this time, try and create small comforts such as this to remind you that you’re not alone in feeling down and unwell and that in the end we’re all trying our best to make the best of what we have. 

I hope you all make it through the holidays with at least one small happiness to see you through.

Time to really talk.

There’s all these campaigns about opening up about mental illness. Telling your story, being an open book. While it’s helpful to open up about mental illness and the problems that come with it, it’s still the case of “Hey, open up! But not that scary thing that happened once, that will cause stigma”. 

Mental illness can’t be prettied up to prevent stigma. People need to feel less scared to talk about the scary side and the only way is to know that there won’t be any judgement or fear from the other side.

When you talk to someone about something frightening you may have done or felt like doing, they just tell you to quickly go to a doctor. That’s ignorance. That’s believing there’s a quick fix. Not to mention most people with mental health problem have care professionals who deal with their issues with them as it is.

People suddenly panic when in the end it’s not a solution we’re asking for. To tell someone close to you something scary is such a big deal, it’s almost as traumatic as the experience because you risk losing that persons trust. You risk making that person scared of you. When someone says they’ve broken their leg, you feel sympathy and comfort them in their pain. When you tell someone that on occasion you have impulses to harm people, then the response is that maybe you shouldn’t be in society. 

I’ve experienced telling people close to me about some impulses or experiences which have been distressing and the response was to try and set me up with help, even if those experiences may have been when I was a child. I’ve had so many different types of treatment and so when I open up about those things I’m not asking for a solution, I’m simply trying to tell someone close to me some genuinely scary things that have happened to me in hope it may help them to understand me and how I may behave different to normal situations. 

As a child, I self harmed. If I didn’t do something right, I would hit myself until the area I was hitting throbbed. I would pinch my skin and dip my nails in deep. I would sometimes use a hard object to hit myself on the head until I had a head ache. I was a child.

Do you know me? You probably see me as pretty normal to be around. Well, I am. I can bee a normal human being and have these experiences and problems. I did grow out of the hitting phase, my negative emotions were actually suppressed until I was 16 and they burst out in depression, anxiety and again, self harm. 

I think the worst judgement is one that is completely inaccurate. After my miscarriage, of which I’m still very fragile over, my husband was getting frequent calls to check is he was safe “around me”. I could hear the fear and panic in the person’s voice as my husband said “of course I’m fine being here with her” and the stern “are you sure?”  I have never in my life, hurt another human being and that kind of ignorance only hurts me more. It makes me feel evil. It’s the worse feeling that someone can fear for my husband around me as if I’m some kind of monster. 

When we can really talk about our experiences, the real raw ones, then maybe we can start talking about stigma.

Known for the negative.

I’ve written a few blogs believe it or not and each time I’ve noticed the same thing. The more negative the posts, the more gruesome, the better the blog has done. My first blog did brilliantly because it was an anonymous blog all about the horrible things that happen when you have a severe mental illness.

But I decided to stop writing on it. I didn’t like that the attention I was getting was because of the bad things that had happened to me.

I tried to write about nicer things, I had a nice blog once, but no one was interested, nobody read it and it’d be nice to be known for good things. Then I started this blog and even though It has taken off quite well the main reason is that it started with a lot of mental health related posts which are shared regularly (I always have the most hits when they’re shared) and I’ve learnt to have variety to what I write. Some days it may be music, other days it may be a new book or about current events. Although bad news is what people seem to enjoy, variety is where I choose to stay because I am not brought down in the process and I’m able to enjoy what I’m doing.

So even though I may write about things you don’t give a damn about sometimes just know…

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