Moving On From A Haunted Past of Home and The Inner Caverns of Self Hatred

As a child I moved a lot. Sometimes once a year, sometimes within 6 months of settling we were moving again. We didn’t stay in the same area either. We lived all over the south half of the country. When it came to going to high school my parents decided it was time to try to stay in one place. For the duration of those eight years I didn’t live in the same house the whole time: that would be a ridiculous expectation to have from my parents. I did however stay in the same town at least. I also managed to stay at the same high school from year 7 to 13. Unfortunately it turned out that the only school I stayed at happened to be the one I hated the most. It was perhaps the most damaging school I’ve ever been to in terms of self belief, self-esteem and building yourself during your teenage years. I don’t think the role of high school is to destroy you from the inwards out, but it seems to have that impact on many teenagers.

I remember walking up the hill from the bus park and one of my friends stated, ‘these are supposed to be the best years of our lives’ as if some wisdom of hindsight and insight had been bestowed upon her from the future. I hoped she was wrong when she said it. I know she was wrong 10 years later. School was not any of the best years of my life. Not at all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Never.

When I was in high school I started to develop my first signs and symptoms of mental illness. This quickly turned into a long battle with bulimia, and consequently eating disorders and all the shenanigans that erupted at 21. I didn’t feel supported at school. I wasn’t supported at home, although my parents did somehow get me referred to CAMHs via my GP and this is where the one constant figure of hope and support came into my life. I would see her at the outpatients department of the hospital, which I would walk to most weeks. I was very much left on my own in this journey with CAMHs but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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During those years, mainly 2005-2009 I would haunt around the city streets and parks on my own. I spent a lot of time on my own, struggling to maintain friends and my illness in any form of harmony, such as mental illness goes. I would eat in strange places and vomit in even stranger places. The country lanes where I lived for the most part of time in my home town were haunted with my running and cycling endeavours in a constant bid to lose weight, disappear, punish myself and repeat after me, ‘nothing is more important than losing weight. Nothing is more important than losing weight’.

If I cast my mind back to this period of time it is shrouded in a mass of thick black smog. I couldn’t see my way clearly at all back then. I struggle to see through it without the inner of my emotive self construing into tangles of excruciating pain. Yes, this place is technically my home town because I spent the most time growing up here but it was never home. Where we lived was never home. I felt outcasted, strange and extremely alone in my own dark world of writing in coffee shops, puking in public toilets, hedges and woodland, and trying to muddle through school at the same time.

I did have some good times, mainly whilst drunk. Often these weren’t even good times though because drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea any time, but drinking on a stomach that hasn’t seen any form of solid food for 3 or 5 days is just a recipe for an involuntary puking disaster. Surprisingly I remember many of these moments well, puking in the gutter outside my friend’s house, collapsing in a field as the vodka spins took over and I could move, curling up in a hay bail in a barn completely disconnected from the music or people around me. Even my year 13 prom ended with me being traipsed home from throwing up in the hotels toilets for an amount of time that no one has any idea of. No one knows how long I had been in there puking and passed out.

Making connections with people was very difficult for me. It always has been. I put this down to moving house a lot and my impending shyness that creeps into each corner of my life. There was nothing healthy about these years. There was nothing positive to come from my life other than it could only get better once I moved away. It did for a while and even during my times of being very unwell in London I wouldn’t say they were as dark as my time growing up. I lived 4 of my 8 years waiting to leave. This hope is the only thing that kept me going and things did get better in my final year. I went to art school and had one of the best years of my life. Finally there was a crowd that accepted my quirkiness and invited me out anyway. Finally I had friends who I could actually relate to and I was old enough to drink my way through all of my problems without needing to sneak around, climb over fences into clubs and get creative in my ways of obtaining alcohol. Looking back, it really is remarkable that I survived those years as in tact as I did. To this day, I don’t know how I did it.

When I left home to move to London for university it very much felt like a second chance at life. It felt like a clean slate to move away from my demons, move away from the turmoil of my home life as a teenager and make my own way. It didn’t go quite to plan but here I found a home. Since I moved to London 8 years ago I have lived here for as long as I’ve lived anywhere and I’ve been to my home town 3 times. The last time was this year. Before that I went home for one christmas in which I was reminded very much how much it didn’t feel like home to be home, and how much it never really had felt like home. I went back a few years later, then left it a few more years before going back again.

The town felt haunted to me. Seeing my old school as I went by on the train sent a great discomfort through my body. Seeing the old hospital I used to walk to each week, sometimes multiple times a week, swamped me with all the emotion tied up in that experience at once. Seeing the old streets upon which I would wonder alone and drunk in a bid to escape my reality filled me with sadness at how alone I really felt at home. The first time I went home I realised how much I actually hated it. I cried and although I didn’t plan to not return for so long it felt necessary.

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The next time I went home it was slightly lesser of a haunting experience but still it felt strange. It was odd and nostalgic in the most unpleasant way in which nostalgia can stir up old feelings and experiences to churn them over into a curdled mass of sour substance within your stomach. This time I went home, it was a last-minute decision. I was hypomanic and struggling with it. It had become uncomfortable for me and I spoke to my Dad. He said he’d pick me up that night and drive me down.

He has moved house a few times since I left home. He has finally settled in one home which oddly feels more like a home than any of the buildings he has occupied previously. With is having been so long since I left and started to build my own life in London, London is my home. London is the place I’ve been more able to be myself, received more intense help for my mental health problems and met people who are ‘my people’. Sometimes they come and they go but being able to come clean about my mental health illness and still be accepted as a friend to people is something I never experienced growing up. My illnesses being met with compassion and support in my education settings since I’ve started studying up here is something else that has been new. Finally, an education institution with support services and compassion and the belief that you can succeed rather than being surprised when you don’t fail is a place I can learn the thrive.

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My experience of life in London has been very different to the one I knew before. It hasn’t always been easy or good by any stretch of well wishing, it has however taught me a lot and encouraged me to grow. I haven’t been suppressed, I haven’t been dismissed in the way I was at school or home growing up, I have been encouraged out of my dark cavern of self-hatred that I had grown to call my comfort zone. I left home more comfortable hating myself and actively acting on it. I am now in a place where that cavern is becoming a place of the past – and because I’ve managed to move forwards in my life, because i’ve made and had so many new experiences that i chose, because i made a home for myself with what I had even when that meant a back shed with slugs, mice and leaky rooftops it was home. It was the first home i had really experienced. All of this nurturing i have experienced from myself, my partner and friends through these years has shuffled me along to a place where I can go back to my home town when I’m unwell and find it a helpful respite from the chaotic surroundings I create for myself when I am unwell.

Life in London hasn’t been perfect but it has eventually gotten better than where I came from. This allows me to go home and appreciate the nature and beauty of the countryside with fresh untainted eyes. It allows for me to go home and sit in a pub with an old school friend and enjoy their company, fully present rather than drinking until I can barely stand any more.

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I have grown since then. I continue to grow and within that growth there is a strength to face those past memories in a less tangled, less curdling to sourness light. I can be. I can enjoy the place for what it is, a nice seaside town, then I can come home refreshed rather than stressed about my history with the place, and finally, my home town doesn’t haunt me, taunt me or internally destroy me ever so slightly more with each day that I spend there. I am also able to remember the good times from that period of my life.

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I Have a Big Mind, So I Can Keep Dreaming

I have a very big mind. I don’t know if you can quantify the size of a mind seeing as it is abstract. What I mean when I say I have a big mind is that it wanders. I have high ambitions for myself, and sometimes believe in them. I think I’m going to become an award-winning author, a Nobel prize receiving nutritionist (has that ever even happened?). I’m going to run marathons and go on to running ultra’s. I want to play instruments and dance like Darcey Bussell

I don’t just want to do all of this stuff. I strive to do it all. However, one obstacle keeps getting in my way. My mental health. I can be very disabling for me. Sometimes, when I am unwell, I can’t even cook or eat properly. I can’t wash. Going to the toilet feels like a chore. Understanding and depicting between reality and fantasy can be a challenge.

I think a lot. I use mindfulness to tame my thinking – and often my mind may be empty, and still I think a lot. I can switch off, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t want all of these things for myself, along with a fantastic relationship, and friends, and above all – learning to manage my mental health.

One thing I still struggle with a lot is knowing how much I can do. I often feel like I want every waking moment of my days to be achieving something – be that studying, learning, writing, reading, running, climbing, art. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. I’m not sure.

When I’m depressed though, something I always struggle with is my inability to do very much at all – and learning to reign in my ideals of how I want to live my life. Accepting the limitations placed on me by my illnesses is something I have not fully accepted. I have accepted it more than I could a few years ago: it is a process. At the same time, I don’t want to not live my life because of my illnesses. I don’t want to sell myself short. I think most people can relate to wanting to be the best version of themselves, and to wanting to live their life as the best version of themselves.

So accepting that I can only read a paragraph at a time, accepting that I can’t go out or leave the house, accepting that I can’t run 4 times a week because quite simply, I am too unwell is difficult to adapt to each time I get unwell. Unfortunately, for me, getting unwell is still a frequent part of my life and I wonder if ever I will be as well as I hope to be. I expected to be a fully functioning member of society with a brilliant job after being off work for 6 months. That was 6 years ago. Evidently, these hopes and desires didn’t quite pan out.

There are times when I wish I was someone else. There are more than numerous times when I wish I didn’t have my illnesses. In fact, I wish this most days that I’m affected negatively by them. I think that is natural, right? So here, on that point right there I need to do some more acceptance work. By that I don’t mean stop fighting and give in. By that I mean learn when to pull the reigns in and accept that for a period of time I probably can’t do everything I want to do or wish for.

The difficulty of this acceptance I think is compounded by the highs I experience. During these times, life is bloody wonderful and I’m functioning at 200%. I’m productive beyond measure, goal orientated like a world champion athlete chasing after an Olympic Gold. I’m talented. I’m brilliant. I’m capable of anything and everything I set myself to. This is called hypomania – and the part that gets me the most is the comparison.

When I am hypomanic, experiencing myself at 200% and loving it, producing grand plans and ideas of how I’m going to become successful in every sense of the word makes the contrast between this state and being so low I cannot leave my bed a more bitter pill to swallow – and in swallowing my meds, I am to an extent, forfeiting these periods of my best self.

Overall, I know it is worth it because I get severely depressed much more than I get hypomanic – yet the contrast of the, “but I’m so brilliant” during those times is a difficult price to pay for stability. Over the years I have refused medications and not taken my medication. Slowly I have learned that this is in fact the worst thing I can do because 90% I will go down, down, down. I have learned the importance of taking my meds, and the importance of self-care in terms of sleep hygiene, and keeping calm in my overall performance, because what is the use of functioning and being my best self at 200% for a few weeks once a year or so, compared to a functioning level between 60-70% for the majority of the time? It is an equation of better odds in longevity.

But I have a big mind and I despise not being capable. I despise not being independent 100% of the time. I resent the fact that I am resigned to not working full-time, perhaps ever. At times it eats me up inside that I may never reach my full best self due to my illness – and actively accepting that going to the shop for some milk and watching Netflix is as good as it’s going to get for a few weeks is a painful realisation to find yourself in when you have such a big mind.

I know that I need to tame my mind. I may not be able to be brilliant all the time, much to my disappointment – but I can be above good for most of the time when I’m well? Is that a fair price to pay for being 5% of myself, and totally disabled by my mental illness? No. I don’t think so. Is it reality though? Is that just how mental illness goes? Yes. I suppose it is. Do I want to accept that? Not at all. Do I need to accept that? Most definitely.

Many brilliant minds in the public eye are tortured by mental illness, yet they manage to be really quite remarkable. Stephen Fry. Ruby Wax. Catherine Zeta Jones. Demi Lovato. When I see how successful they are, I find myself thinking, why not me? There is an element of self belief required, but the truth is, these people are exceptions. Exceptional minds and personalities with mental illness. They do not represent the majority of people with mental illness. I think society forgets that and that help me to also forget that.

I see a lot of people where I live, and amongst the services and hospitals I’ve been to who experience severe mental illness, and for them, just living in supported accommodation or volunteering 4 hours a week is as good as it’s going to get. Yet I don’t see myself amongst that population. I don’t see myself as higher or better, but I see my mind as bigger. I don’t identify with the people in my living complex who spend all day every day staring into space smoking and drinking – I see myself in the Stephen Fry’s and the Demi Lovato’s: but I just can’t sustain my abilities at a high enough level – and that is something I suppose I need to learn to accept. That is something I need to learn to live with, without thinking I may as well kill myself at the same time. That is something I am sure many of us struggle with, mental illness or not.

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I just wish I could be my 200% for 100% of the time. I can dream. We all can. If I keep dreaming, and keep trying, it might become reality – until then, I need to reign in my expectations of myself again – and the heart wrenching reality of my illness hits me hard in the gut, in my soul, at my very core of what I consider to be my being. This is why I don’t work. This is why many people with mental illness don’t work and that’s OK – I just wish every person understood that without judgement. Maybe one day I too will work full-time, maybe I won’t.  Like I said though, I can dream right?

Lion – Monica Scripture

I wrote this in hospital whilst I was on a 5(2). I didn’t know if I was going to be sectioned again, but the sentiment remains the same.

I am home now. Under HTT, but this is my poem about being in hospital and kept there against your will.

Think: Spoken Words 

  
During my last admission I met a nineteen year old who inspired me. She was musical, into hip hop and rhyme in addition to poetry. We had a lot of fun writing a song together, and she left a mark on me. She rekindled my love for writing poetry and music (of the poetic kind).

Since leaving hospital, my main solace and calming focus has been writing and listening to music and poems. I wrote a song about mental health and how it doesn’t matter what people think. I think eventually I could open a joint YouTube channel performing my pieces, but in time. 

For now however, I’m going to share the words, it’s called ‘Think’
You know she has an illness?

You know she has a smile?

You know she’s bat shit crazy?

You know she’s a bonified amazing? 
You see what people think

It doesn’t matter if it stinks because we’re 

all human nature in the same ice rink.

What matters is yourself and the loved ones standing by.

What matters is that you choose how to live your own life.

And ignore all the assholes who don’t get what it’s like 

to have an illness taking over your mind.

Every day trying to live the perfect lie,
That everything is wonderful and perfection all the time,

But trust me it’s bullshit and the more you try to hide

The worse the evil heads will rear up in their pride

That you have them in agony and deny them of their size. 
That they are living in your body soul and mind

It’s bollocks it’s bullshit it’s all a lie

You see in my mind

That we with a certain disease

We’re gifted you and I,

With a different perspective on life.
It can be painful to understand and a bitch to accept

That’s it’s not us but everyone else is inept,

With the boredom and hassles of every day grind

Whilst we get to see the world differently 

And exploring depths of the human mind.
Not to sugar coat shit, 

By rolling it in glitter

You can’t make shit shine

I often wished my mind wasn’t mine

But now in hindsight

I accept my mind

As the main beauty of my life.

It gives me who I am

It Makes me one of a kind 

And the same goes for you

You’re amazing too

In all your own ways

Like how you can dance for days 

And what you’re going through now

It won’t be forever.

Yes it’ll change you somehow

But probably for the better.
It will become a part of you no longer hidden in shame

But also not flown high with pride it just you.

A part of you those around will grow to love all the same.

A part of you that makes you yourself to the core

 that makes you so much more than a bore.

In all its gore and glory it’s people like you and me

Who are a bit mad bad and mental in the head sometimes

That are living to the real edges of human life

With our fingerprint on our hearts, 

On and on their leaving a mark

And it’s not just you and I

Robin Williams, ruby wax 

And great minds of the century like that of Stephen fry
We have our ups and downs, and external realms
Of reality but like we said in our song

Reality is what you want it to be

Whether your sat under an umbrella with a cup of tea

Or crying in you bedroom wishing ‘I wish I wasn’t me’
You know she has an illness?

You know she has a smile?

You know she’s bat shit crazy?

You know she’s a bonified amazing?

And so what what they think.

Does every single human being matter to you?

And their opinion and single minded views?

Or is there more worth in your loved ones

And the people there for you

To hold your hand in a break down

And not think of you as a clown?

But the human entity that you are

And to see the beauty in you

That you too are a shining star.

It’s ok to have madness all the best people are

For without these extra views

Life would be boring and at the end of our days

What would we have to say other than

I worked 9-5 had two kids and a wife

A nice house and a car but the insight I learnt

What?
Nothing. They lived the material life 

It’s made who I am and what your going through now.

Will make you who you are and its you

In all its gore and glory it’s people like you and me 

So busy experiencing

the depths of the human mind

In all its gore and glory, it’s people like you and me

Who are a bit mad, a bit mental in the head at times

Who change the future and change further lives

This poem is subject to copyright as I plan to use this for performance so please contact me if you’d like to share it in any way.  

The Story of My MIND Fundraiser – and the importance of MIND in the UK.

The other day I took my body measurements. Once upon a time this was an almost daily ritual over which the loss of a quarter-inch would be rejoiced for a moment before becoming again, ‘not small enough’. To catch me tape measure in hand would have been an invasion into the depth’s of anorexia’s secrecy that encroached my life. For me, this time though I wasn’t smaller than last time. In fact, I don’t even remember when last time was. DSC08961

This time my measurements were bigger than they’d ever been. This time I’m not trying to lose weight no matter which organ degrades to fulfil that need. I am instead focused on a whole new agenda, health and fitness – and this is no anorexia disguise, I mean really, it’s for health and fitness to improve my badass performance in OCRs, running, climbing and it’d be nice to shave commuting time from my cycling trips.

Yes, I’m the biggest I’ve ever been and I’m healthy. My thighs aren’t equally perfect – my right is 1 – 1 1/2 inches bigger that the left but that’s cool. In fact they’re both equal to or larger than my waist in inches was during my anorexic days. I didn’t cry at this realisation, nor did I vow to eat a drastically low amount of calories. I was however in a state of shock which seeped into the stark realisation at how sick I was, and how far from fat I truly was at a time when I felt like my weight was ‘just’ acceptable. There was 1/3 less of me than what I am now and I found myself wondering, how the fuck did my organs fit in such a tiny space?

As you can see, I am health conscious and most definitely as recovered as I think it gets – which is amazing considering I spent 9 years smothered by eating disorders affecting me and dictating far too much of my life. In addition to eating disorders I have bipolar and dissociative episodes – the latter of which is better than it used to be due to extensive and intensive therapy.

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Now that I manage better and am not living in a constant crisis state, nor am I being admitted to A&E or psych units regularly. I attend groups run in the community in a variety of topics such as: mindfulness, arts and crafts and gardening. All of these groups help reduce some of the worst effects of mentally ill-health; social isolation, stigma and loneliness. All of which, added on top of difficulties can make a depressive episode go from shit to actively suicidal. One charity that runs a lot of these groups well is MIND.

This is the work that many probably don’t see done by MIND, but it is in addition to their exceptionally informative website, their help line, their online forum Elefriends, their info leaflets found in most psychiatric units, their advocacy service and their anti-stigma awareness raising media projects. Without MIND I would not have had information to read on my first admission that helped explain the unexplainable. I would not have had leaving services care which directed me instead to the right services when my previous care provider had failed. I would have fewer places to go and be with fewer people in an environment where I don’t have to hide my unemployment or mental health struggles.
I am one person in a country of millions. These are just some of the ways in which MIND have helped me –  now think of how many people in the UK struggle with mental health problems, and how many of those have sought for information and support – and how many people MIND as a charity reach, help, and sometimes probably give hope to in the most hopeless of situations, and therefore keep alive for at least a while longer.

Now isn’t that a charity worth fighting for? Isn’t that a charity worth donating to, or perhaps running Tough Mudder for? This is exactly what I’m doing, but running Tough Mudder this year isn’t just about raising money for MIND. It shows to myself and others how far I’ve come in my journey, and it slaps my ED in the face whilst saying “see how much stronger I am now bitch!” It’s part of a personal journey of proving to myself how badass amazing I am whilst giving me the chance to give something back to a charity that helped save my life and that of at least a thousand others.

My Just Giving Page has a link to the right of my blog, and can be found following this link.

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Songs of My Journey: Early 2014, A Terrorising Depression

If I look over my diary from this time, it isn’t pretty. I started a private diary on my computer because I was being followed in the cyber world. I was being stalked by none other that my dad. I had no space again. I couldn’t breathe again. I became scared again. Walking around my local area became a game of who’s following me? Can I lose their track? Shit. He’s got people on the ground everywhere. Is he sitting outside my house waiting?

Life became scary. I couldn’t trust anyone. My CMHT were in on it. My care coordinator had been making a plot to destroy all my hopes at recovery to make me kill myself. The government wanted me dead to ease my contribution to the deficit and my costs on the national budget. They wanted people like me dead. I discharged myself from the CMHT. I needed to get away from them because they were dangerous. I needed to be alone and trust no-one. I needed to rely on no one.

I became very depressed. This led to more suicide attempts, and crisis’. The police and A&E became a common occurrence in my life, and my depression just. Would. Not. Lift.

Doctors were telling me it was my personality, I just needed to “get on with it” and I “just needed to get out of bed in the morning”. I needed to “stop being so selfish” and I “needed to start giving back to my partner”. Each time, these messages made me worse. I was trying. I was really trying my damned fucking hardest and they were kicking me down for not managing. I wasn’t depressed they said.

“Did I cry?” The relevance of this question I’ll never know. “Did I not want to be well. Did that thought scare me?”, “what did I gain from being sick?” I’ll tell you what I gained from being sick.

Terror. I gained a terror of being around people. A total loss of will to stay alive for the purpose of ‘that’s what people do, they stay alive for as long as possible’ – and I didn’t get it. Why would anyone want to be alive in this world? I gained a seeping paranoia that infracted every aspect of my life. People were trying to kill me. How should that be fair? If I’m going to die. It’s going to be my choice and on my terms. Why should I stay alive to be murdered by my CMHT and the government.

Then I went to my GP. I had been in A&E the night before, and had fallen on my face running away from the police. He spotted not only the massive graze on my face, but that something wasn’t right with how I was. He chose to go against the grain. He didn’t believe that I wasn’t depressed and he prescribed me anti-depressants: what I’d been asking my team for for years to only be declined each time.

Until that point though, whilst my depression engulfed my every breath I listened to the remix of summertime sadness by Lara del Ray. It was about suicide, and in my mind, I was going to die from a completed suicide at some point. It was fitting and it was perfect.