Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Day 217

Don't wash dishes in the dark.

Day 216 - Tuesday

My Mum left today. She left and I went horizontal, just like that.

It’s still spring though. I love the feel of the cool, crispy air. I spent the day with the flat windows, wide open. Birds were singing – it was pretty idyllic, apart from my lack of enthusiasm for packing and the fact that my eyes were closed.

I have three areas left to do: The naughty underwear drawer, (‘naughty’ because they won’t sort/pack themselves and have been banished to the drawer until they are ready to behave) the evil cupboard full of dead DVD players and the bags of art crapola that float ceaselessly around my dwelling space. Oh and the magazines, the piles and piles of magazines. I prescribe heavily to looking at pretty things, particularly interiors. Martha Stewart has newfound place in my heart. Well, “Martha” actually doesn’t, because as we all know, she ain’t responsible for making all those magazines or having all those ideas single-handedly. And she looks a little smug, smug and punch-able. Mind you I'd look smug if I came out of the slammer with my career intact… She did however teach me how to repair a scratch on a CD with a daub of toothpaste, so I suppose I should be grateful for that. That woman has more helpful tips than a Brownie with a safety pin.

I wish Martha were here to help me pack.

I fixed my iPod today. I can still fix things. No boyfriend required. I am very clever, very clever indeed.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Day 214.1

I am liking the spring thing that is happening today. I thought I hated these long, light nights. Makes you think of new beginnings...Well, just for a minute and then you (I) freak out.

Day 214

Today is my one-year anniversary north of the border. Strangely, I think I feel just as unsettled as I did when I arrived.

When do you actually begin to feel at home somewhere? What do you need to have in your life both externally and internally for you to feel “at home”? Whatever it is, I obviously haven’t found it yet, and yes, slightly resentfully, I admit that my search continues.

Ironically my Mum and I spent the day packing up all my belongings - she came down yesterday to help and boy was I glad to see her. After a few days of being big and brave on my own and hanging out with our visitor from down south, I needed a familiar (Mum shaped) face. The visit, although great, had proved far more difficult that I had ever imagined. I am still constantly shocked by my general, um...lack. Having old and new worlds colliding with each other in a relatively small place (my brain) is a strange thing and my head didn't quite want to cope with it. I did however give it my best shot and I didn’t retreat to my bed as usual. I also managed to have fun a lot of the time – mind you I did weep a lot. ANYWAY, Mum and I, we spent the day today, carefully wrapping my life back into boxes, making ready for the move. My pre-guest cleanup last week proved more fruitful than I thought, making the plan to fire everything that was left into boxes, entirely more palatable – thus far anyway.

I get the keys for my new place next Saturday and the movers come a week on Wednesday. I am still determined that something is going to go wrong and they’ll tell me I can’t have it after all. Hopefully they won’t, but I doubt I’ll believe it until I get the keys in my hand and the lease is signed. We got the pre-tenancy determination from Housing Benefit last week and the rent was valued at over what was deemed acceptable for the property I am planning to move into. Due to the speed in which this valuation was done, I expect the lazy sod (Rent Officer) didn’t get off his backside to actually go and see the place and now we are faced with a (probably) lengthy appeal.

Who said that being on benefit wasn’t fun? Oh aye, that would have been me…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Day 209

The problem with sleeping all day to try to avoid life, in general, means that you are up 'till after 3am cleaning. I wonder how my neighbours feel about me running my washing machine at this hour? Well, actually I don't care because it's payback for all their hollering.

The mass exodus has begun in earnest this week. I have an amazing old friend (that I completely adore) coming up to visit from London town on Wednesday and I am trying desperately to make the house habit/visitable for her arrival. As my move to the new place is also imminent I am trying a new tack of chucking out and tidying first, so that when packing time comes, all I have to do is order my minions to box up everything that's left. So, four giant black bags of rubbish, an immaculately clean bathroom and sixty thousand pieces of shredded paper later, it looks like I am getting somewhere. Well, there's a dent in it at least.

Sometimes I really wish I didn't come from a family or hoard'ers.

Last night I started a new piece of (art) work. Something that has been twirling round in my head for months with the rest of the paraphernalia that is up there. Nothing short of a miracle.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Day 208

Shut up and go away. I am very busy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Day 204

The Past Week: Part 2

After an appropriate amount of squirming and glaring (apparently I "glare" at my counsellor quite frequently) at my appointment last Friday, I went straight into to flat hunting - an entirely loathsome combination, especially in the (pissing) March rain. Getting a thorough soaking left my, “I look very respectable don’t I? Please let me rent this property?” ensemble absurdly damp and extremely lacklustre.

When I was gainfully employed, I would hobble betwixt and between flat viewings in jeans and (often suspect) slogan t-shirts without giving two hoots what I was wearing. I was employed after all so what did I care? It didn’t even enter my head. These days however, I am practically suited and booted, with my natty leather portfolio and mobile phone at the ready when something as death defying as flat hunting is the mission du jour – hoping to get someone, anyone, to give me a break.

I had begun the ‘charm offensive’ that morning at 9am sharp, calling four different agents and telling them I had a guarantor so please could they let me view their available properties? “Guarantor” is a truly magical word in Letting Agency speak. “Guarantor” cleverly elevates you from DSS scum, to: “When would you like to see the property Madam?” I had to swallow vast mouthfuls of pride by agreeing to pay any prospective landlord his/her rent via my (step)father’s bank account. But hey-ho, I need a home and my pride, I keep telling myself, I can pick up later.

I had been mooning over the first flat I saw for the last month. It was just out of my reach in price range, and of course because it was a property with a ‘buy to let’ mortgage, a DSS tenant was a no go. But now that I had a guarantor, I had a way in, and (in true “this must be fate” style) they had lowered the rent. So, I viewed and immediately fell in love – not only with the agent who showed me around, turning myself into a giggling mess of over enthusiasm, but with the flat itself. So I took it. Before anyone could change their mind. And after paying the deposit – the flat, all going well with my credit checks, was mine.

The next few hours were a blur. I remember jumping around beside a bus stop on the phone to my mum. Finally I had a beautiful new rented home. Then about 7pm or so… “I don’t deserve it” “I can’t live there! It’s too good for me.” “Someone will take it away” Thump – that was the noise I made when I hit the floor. “Too much to deal with, too much noise” Almost immediately I was back beside my train track, with a thousand trains thundering past while I tried to sort things out in my head. “I can’t pack up this house! Where do I start? What do I do with all this crap?”

The aftermath of this minor meltdown was pretty ugly and in true “I can’t deal with this” style, I crept and crawled around my house for the majority of the weekend and all of Monday. Interjected with minute moments of productivity, my scarily widening arse would meet with couch and indeed bed, almost constantly. It was too strenuous to go outside, it hurt when I moved, and it hurt when I didn’t.

By Tuesday I was trying to struggle on manfully, so very cleverly I decided to take on the biggest task possible. I have had a box in my kitchen since I moved here and for the last year it has remained smartly unopened. Inside that box was everything I destroyed the night my ex told me he was leaving. All my artwork, my pictures, photographs, paintings, collages – diaries. Everything. On that terrible night I had gone through the house like a tornado, destroying everything of mine. My truly eye popping finale, was the painstakingly slow, carve up of my side of the bed sheets, with an enormous pair of scissors. It was like an invisible line had been drawn through the house, my stuff and his. After that there was no way he was staying.

And so, the other night, I found myself in true, ritualistic and incredibly stupid form, waiting until I was really tired, in the early hours of the morning after a lousy day, opening the damn thing. And out came the horrors.

I had begun, when I was first sick, to “work through my anxieties” by making mangled collages of twisted and deformed bodies. All with painted on smiling faces. At the time I didn’t think I was working through anything, I was just having an out of body craft experience. I took numerous pictures of myself, sitting in my chair in the bedroom staring blankly at the window blinds, mashed out of my mind.

After pulling out page after page of craziness, I got out my paper pad and thick, stubby pencil and scratched and scrubbed and pounded the sheet of paper until I was done. Better paper than my arm – right? And much more satisfying that snapping a damn rubber band against my skin. Afterwards I felt so sick. Worse than when I scratched my arms. I was shaking all over when I got out the Goreki and chamomile oil – my second line of defence. I took a sleeping tablet and sat in the middle of a festoon of shredded paper until the sleeping tablet started kicking the back of my throat like an extremely persistent horse.

I was in so deep I forgot my own name, past and present colliding in one giant mess.

The next day I looked at the carnage and thought it was all so damn annoying and self indulgent and horrific and stupid. So, do I chuck it all out, or do I keep hold of it – maybe I should just put it all back in the box and tape down the lid? Or maybe I should get the shredder out. Sometimes I get so fed up of the dark stories, of the macabre mind. What if I just let it all go - what if I just agreed to happiness? What If I tried to believe that forgiveness begins within? What would happen then? Maybe I would be, just fine?

And now I am here, Thursday, after a day of picking up things off the floor and going to the post office to send off forms for my new place. Feeling surprisingly motivated. And, dare I say it, ready to put one foot in front of the other?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Day 203

The Past Week: Part 1

I’ve been hiding a bit since Friday. Well, hiding doesn’t seem to cover it really - more like trying desperately to avoid writing and snippets of my mind numbingly awkward counselling session last Friday. Therefore I have been underneath my duvet, weeping, swallowing Diazepam and scribbling furiously on paper, so as not to scratch my arms. The latter being a rather large triumph.

Wednesday (last week) I saw my NHS counsellor (at the MHC) and we FINALLY got somewhere. Bravo. I have been banging on and on about my need to understand “why” I got to this point in my life – was it inevitable considering family history, was it chemical or trauma based? I am also desperate to know what the counsellors and doctors think of my condition. I need proof that ‘this’ all isn’t just fiction. What do they think is wrong, why do they think I got here?

It is all very well to get a diagnosis of severe depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder, but…"WHY?" What tips one over the edge, what boxes do you have to tick on the multiple choice, Depression Diagnosis Test to be considered severely depressed?

So, after re-iterating this for the um, thousandth time she finally heard me and together, we are going to get something down on paper, something in black and white; something tangible that I can see and understand. This proposed attack takes the form of the illustrious spider diagram. My fate shall be outlined in all its connective, circular glory.

Last Thursday night, inspired by the fact that I didn’t want to go to my Friday counsellor the next day and not knowing what to talk about if I did manage to go (the onus is on me remember – Person Centred Counselling) so, I meditated. People (friends, family and counsellors alike) for a long time, have been suggesting this might help. So I gave it a shot. I grabbed a pencil and paper and scribbled down all that came to me – with my eyes closed.

I scribbled down words and phrases such as: “Active relaxing”. “Active thinking.” I use the word “active” to clarify the opposition to “relaxing” by staring into space, contemplating death. Relaxing, I have learned in recent days, is an act that requires mindfulness. Lying around the house in ones chocolate stained nightgown, without having washed for several days, does not in fact, pertain to being “relaxed”. Thinking also requires some thought and indeed consideration (who knew?). One can either let their mind wander into the murky depths of despair and pretend that one is thinking, or one can actually engage the brain, common sense and methods of practical problem solving. (These tenacious little light bulbs above my head are beginning to piss me off. Slightly.)

Things became really interesting when I started work on my spider diagram (the same night). The majority of circles and connecting blame-filled wagging fingers - all pointed to themes of self-hatred. Utter belief that I deserved all that happened to me because of the way I behaved as a child. I believe that I started a self-fulfilling prophecy by lying when I was a child. I had spent all this time desperately trying to get away from the past and there it was, staring smugly at me as the biggest thing that had led me to this point.

In recent weeks I had started to lose faith in all my therapy – nothing was changing. I’d talked about the past, I’d asked for forgiveness from my Mother. I’d apologised and repented; yet nothing had changed. Maybe this was why…my determined belief that I deserved all of this - if I suffer, I am repenting. I deserve it.

So I went to my Friday Counsellor begrudgingly and we talked about my spider diagram. Then that little can of worms that I had, to date, merely punctured a few holes in flew wide open; worms guts and everything, all over the place. My Friday Counsellor and I realised that it didn’t matter if everyone else had forgiven me - I had to let myself off the hook for anything to change. “Fat chance of that” and then almost simultaneously – “How the hell do I do that then?” So, reluctantly (Ms Friday doesn’t like therapeutic stereotypes) she asked if it would be helpful for me to “get to know me as a child?”.

Squirming on both parts followed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day 202.1

Every death has at least two stories.

Day 202

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Day 198 - Yestertag

I got a flat. I am stunned.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Day 197

After sleeping painfully on the couch all night I climbed into bed and under the duvet and stayed there - all day. It's nice under the duvet, especially when the duvet has no cover on it (cardinal sin) and the light shines through it. It's almost like being inside an egg.

Lost out on that flat from yesterday, the dude wanted it after all. [Fate/circumstantial/missed opportunity because of laziness - delete as applicable]

It (still) surprises me that people are still shocked (surprised) when you say you are suicidal. "Just because I don't tell you doesn't mean I don't think it." All the time. It's hardly something that you want to keep reminding people. Maybe I should just say: "I'll tell you when I've stopped wishing my life away/hoping I could just vanish/wanting to die - otherwise just assume it's a daily thing."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Day 196

How much of life comes under the "You snooze, you lose" philosophy and how much of life comes down to "fate"?

Example 1: I busted my balls to get a flat, near my friends in the east end of the city. I provided references, I bent over backwards to give the owner everything he wanted - accepting less than I did and I didn't get the flat. He turned me down because I was on benefit. ["You snooze you lose" tactics with a fatalist response?]

Example 2: I called an estate agent this morning to view another flat and didn't tell them I was on benefit in the hope that I could charm my way into it, if I liked it. This is a group viewing, so if an employed (and therefore trustworthy) person likes it, they will get it and I won't? Students are preferred tenants to those on benefit. My income is guaranteed, as a student, we all know, income is not. [Circumstances out with my control - therefore fate?]

Example 3: I have just come back from a really tough counselling session at the Mental Centre and popped into another estate agents, asking to view yet another flat. They said I could go this afternoon at 4.15pm as another prospective tenant was going back for a second viewing. Even though I know that if this guy is interested enough to be going back again that he will probably take it, I postponed until tomorrow so I could get my head straightened out. [Fate, or lazy?]

So, do I believe in fate: in that old adage that "what's for you'll not go by you" or that if I am more pushy and assertive I will get further? The latter doesn't seem to be the case thus far, so maybe I need to be more of a fatalist. And is fate a belief of a predetermined life path and if so, was I destined to be here in this dump of a life, or is believing in fate just an excuse to be lazy?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Day 194

I've been busy all day long and yet I feel like I've achieved nowt. Yes siree; nothing, nope not nada. Zip.

I did the walk of misery to Asda listening to old Aerosmith, even that failed to lift my spirits, (perhaps) unsurprisingly. I spent about three hours in there, even though I had a pre planned list. I'm not entirely sure how I managed that. By the time I left it was dusk and pissing with rain. Tick, tick, tick on the massive to do list, but yet no sense of achievement. Hmmm.

I took the gauze off the (offending) arm today and am less freaked out by what is underneath it. Bring on the elastic bands and red felt tip pens I say.

[Funny how you start to feel that your altered (sick) perception of life is the real one. And that others have started to treat you as if your altered state is normal. But maybe that's just acceptance? I don't know if I like it.]

How dull this all is (see above).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Day 193

Why does raw cookie dough taste so, very nice? Nicer than cooked cookies in fact. "Yes, I am sitting here eating Cookie Dough ice cream." I'd rather have a spoonful of the actual mixture, but I'll settle for the little balls I have, mixed up in sickly sweet vanilla. "Yes, I am allowed. Its the rules."

This, (see above) would be part of the reward scheme that I have been trying out today. Do a bit of cleaning, tick something else off the four page long 'to do list' and get little rewards in between each task. A cup of tea, a fag, an episode of 24, adding to my iTunes and lo, a potentially miserable day has been saved by a kiddie reward system. I should have stickers.

Friday was a bitch and I slept on the couch, all night. Saturday was goddam awful, (woke up crying and quite frankly, just wanted to end it all) but managed to crawl into town to meet my twirly (haired) friend. "Yeah, yeah stop whining you should be thankful that I haven't written anything for the last three days." And now it is Sunday - the official day of rest that is never actually restful. Do you know, when I was working, I never, ever, ever had the Sunday dread because I had to go to work the next day? (Well, maybe I did, but only once.) And now that I don't work, I have the Sunday dread. That my friend, is karma. Very crap karma indeed.

The pussy arm has been covered for the last week. This morning I decided to uncover the monster. I nearly fainted, then I nearly cried, then I panicked and then I covered it up again. Apparently the British Red Cross offers help to self harmers with bad scars. I think I might need that. It looks like a chunk of my arm is missing. I think I might always have a large gauze bandage on my arm, because I am never looking at it again. I have officially made myself repulsive. It might have taken several attempts, but I think I've finally done it. Maybe now I can stop trying?

Flippancy, I have discovered, is a good coping strategy.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Day 190

Today is Self Injury Awareness Day. Apparently it is on the 1st March every year. I have never heard of it, and I expect no one else has either.

I saw coin collectors in the train station today and read the back of one of their tabards on my way past - it said something along the lines of "This could help someone you know". I thought "Maybe they're collecting for SIAD" (Self Injury...) but no, they were collecting for disabled children.

Could you imagine anyone collecting for SIAD? Imagine the flack those bucket shakers would get. Maybe I am doing the general public a huge disservice, but I doubt it.

How would one raise awareness about self-harm anyway? Would you make T-shirts stating you were a self-harmer or wear button badges - a sash maybe? A promotional bumper sticker? If it were donations you were looking for - what would that go to help towards, plasters and portable first aid kits? Maybe I am too cynical.

After my mum alerted me to the fact that it was indeed SIAD today (she heard sommat on the radio about it) I started trawling through websites trying to find out more...Maybe I would find that illusive help that I have been looking for, for over six months?

It seems that no one really knows what to do with a self-harmer or should I say 'self injurer'? Everybody I have spoken to on the subject seems to know hee-haw about it. Well that isn't necessarily true; they know that shitloads of people that do it, but how to help them STOP doing it is another matter entirely.

When I was at my CPN appointment on Tuesday, I talked to her about my most recent arm trauma. She was concerned at the size of this one she was also the one who told me it was infected. She asked if my psychologist had been talking to me about ways to stop self-harming and I replied, “No”. Her advice was to wear an elastic band around my wrist and snap it against my skin when I wanted to self-harm, or to pinch myself, or go for a walk. It seems no-body really knows how to help one to stop, they just presume that it will stop when you have done all your ‘talk therapy’. Not really sooo helpful when you are scared that you might accidentally kill yourself while in the self-mutilation zone - I doubt if even a humble rubber band would save me then. When I left the Mental Centre, (I need to start calling it something else, don’t I?) I left with a bag full of contraband; sterile dishes, sterile water, giant gauze pads and micropore tape that my CPN had supplied me with, just to keep the bastard clean. “Yes, you are good to me”.

During my Internet trawling, looking for clues, I found that there was a pilot scheme started in 2006 for supervised self harming in hospitals so those who self harm could do so in a ‘safe’ environment. Although I really don’t know much about this whole debacle, I find it rather bizarre how a scheme like that would work: would you make an appointment to go in and do ‘the deed’? Would you have an allotted time?

I know from my own experience that my self-harming episodes are never planned. Although the majority of times that I have self harmed, I have usually been thinking about scratching myself most of the day, it is never an “aim”. I try everything in my power to stop it happening, but it mostly never works. Sometimes – like Monday night - the need comes completely out of the blue, and happens very quickly. I do however know that if there was someone watching me, I would never be able to do it. (Maybe that’s the winning concept?) It makes me feel a bit sick just thinking about it.

Something else that pissed me of while trawling through pages of advice for self-harmers was how ‘cloak and dagger’ they made it all seem. ‘They’ talk about “coming out” to family and friends as a self-harmer and liken it to “coming out” regarding your preferred sexuality. ‘They’ talk about picking your time carefully and sitting people down and making sure you never blurt it out in a fight. ‘They’ talk about how to reassure the person that you are telling that it is no reflection on them that you are dong this and that they shouldn’t feel that it is their fault. Hang on one second…WHAT? Are you kidding me here?

When I first self harmed when I was a teenager I didn’t tell anyone, I came up with all kind of excuses for my blood soaked school shirt, I even went as far as to say my mother did it. Of course there was the 'cat scratch' excuse too. This time round, as an adult, I was so bloody scared about what I had just done I called my mother in the early hours of the morning, terrified out of my mind. The last thing I felt like doing was talk about it calmly. This was not ‘normal’ behaviour. By Christ, I had just scratched and scratched away at the skin on my hands with a neat little pair of embroidery scissors. There was no rational thought there, no time for self-composure; there was just “Jesus, fuck what have I done?” No brain activity, just extreme panic and fear. The last thing I was worried about was how I should break it to anyone gently.

Yes, afterwards I had ‘the guilt’, and still do, every time, to this day. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for my mother to hear me telling her I had just self-harmed and have no idea, (well, I have some, but I can’t even go there) how it continues to make her feel. I know it makes her sad and I know it scares her that I might lose it and top myself, but I barely allow myself to dwell too much on this because I think I would end up killing myself, just to stop the pain of hurting her. Ironic, huh?

I was out in pub the other night with a few friends – I was all bandaged up with afore mentioned pussy arm, and not one person commented. I don’t know if that is because they know exactly how that big bandage got there and assume I don’t want to talk about it, or because it just doesn’t enter their head to say anything. It is a bizarre situation, especially when you are amongst men (I always think that they must think the whole self-harm thing is just insane because they all seem so damn rational) because you catch them looking, but no one says anything. Maybe it’s just because I have a massive gob on me and I cannot imagine not asking someone how he or she is when they are, quite obviously hurt(ing). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking or expecting people to ask me about it, I just think it’s interesting - and a really good example of that big old elephant in the room.

Day 189 - yesterday

Absolutely nothing of any consequence to report. I spent most of my day watching the dressing on my wound turn a gross shade of orange/green.