A Blog About Blogging

There have been over 9000 visits to my blog in just over six weeks. Most of them are probably me visiting to check the visitor count but nonetheless it’s a huge number of visitors for what is a little of the story of a little part of my little life.

I have also received a lot of comments on my posts, I initially set out to respond to each of them but this quickly became too much and I never set out for this to become work.

I read all the comments, learn from many of them, take comfort from most of them and feel supported by all of them. Thank you to all of those who have taken the time to go through with the faff that is comments on blogger!

In case you haven’t noticed, I love blogging and it’s hard for me to say what I get out of it. I know it’s not for everyone and that a lot of people cringe on my behalf as I reveal what is in their opinion way too much information about my journey but it’s a journey I will continue to blog about for as long as I feel I am gaining from the experience.

I fear I am entering a high/manic phase in my illness and having read my diaries from my last high phase, there is both far too much and nothing to blog about.

I was coming here tonight to say I was going to take a brief break from blogging to concentrate on my health but now I’m not so sure. I think blogging is something that helps keep me healthy.

The old style pen and paper diary is back so I can’t imagine there will be much left to blog about but if there is rest assured I will blog about it!


Tomorrow is payday- hooray, I like payday. Tomorrow is also my last full pay as sometime during mid-July I will go down to half pay having been off sick for 6 months now. I am one of the lucky ones having an employer that continues to pay full pay for the first six months in the first place.

On Monday I got signed off work for another 4 weeks, my GP offered an eight week ‘not fit’ line but I declined, not because I think I’m going to be back at work but because that feels a bit like giving up.

I am awaiting to hear if my claim for DLA (disability living allowance) has been approved and at what level, I will then have to contact HMRC to see how this affects my tax credits, I will then need to sit down with a pen and paper and work out how much we have to live on and how we are going to have to cut our cloth accordingly.

I got a letter this week from the lovely people at carers allowance (which I receive for caring for my child who has a disability) they believed there was a period of time where maybe I wasn’t caring for him for the prescribed period of time (at least 35 hours a week).

They were right- I spent 3 weeks and 4 days in a psychiatric hospital, not caring for my son but I’m pretty sure the mortgage, electricity, gas and other bills that I pay to run my and his home were still being paid- from my bank account. I have also cared for him for 24 hours a day for nearly 16 years now with minimal services at best. Incidentally his DLA claim has also been under review this week so I had to fill in his form too. What a great week!

My mental illness has felt unjust in so many ways but this period, we’ll call it the admin phase has got to be one of the cruellest.

I have had to apply for benefit (itself a demoralising and dehumanising process), rearrange appointments that I missed (and go back onto waiting lists), take a mortgage payment ‘holiday’ and generally think about aspects of my future that are difficult to think about when one is well, let alone when everyday is a battle to keep things in perspective, particularly negative things.

Last weeks emergency budget brings no comfort to people like me; it does not need to be any harder to obtain benefits when one is mentally or physically unable to work- it needs to be easier and quicker. I should not have to wait “up to 8 weeks” to find out what our household budget is going to be when the very act of entering a supermarket to spend a portion of that budget is still such a feat.

I also want to note here so that when the time comes to make my advance statement I remember to include

“should I insist that I "neeeeeed" anything be it another iPod or another pair of shoes, my debit card should be seized until the “neeeeeed” has passed”

Bipolarity can be very expensive!

Friends- the one where she realises she needs some

So another week into my journey back to full mental health and I’m still here, not doing any better or worse, suspecting and fearing I need another drug tweak.

There have been no major achievements this week but plenty of minor ones that add up to some sort of success in terms of my eternal pursuit of normality.

One thing I did this week was have a flick through some of the diaries I kept whilst I was in hospital- wow! I was off my head, I hate to use the term but thank god I was in hospital, the real world is not a safe place for someone feeling the way I was. I hope I never get that ill again and I hope if I do I or someone close to me can spot it early enough.

Having others around me has become very important and something I am aware I have to work at.

I don’t dislike people and there are some people I like very much but I am very guilty of not giving enough of myself for fear they won’t like me. Given that the vast majority of people cannot read my mind, I come across as stand-offish and perhaps even a little scary.

This has served me well so far in a number of situations but had proved to be a bit of a problem lately when I really need people to care for and about me. I continue to brush off any concerns, tell everyone I’m fine and quickly turn the conversation onto them. It’s a skill but one I have to unlearn if I’m going to build the support network I need to help me get and stay healthy.

I need to stop second guessing the intentions of others and stop making assumptions about what others are thinking- the chances are if they’re sitting on my sofa talking to me- they care about me and I need to let them do it.

Being open, admitting I need support is not a weakness, it is a strength, I only stand to gain from it.

But like everything else, this prickly exterior has taken 35 years to cultivate so it’s not going to change overnight.

Reflections on Thunder Gods

Recently, there was a flurry of messages on mailing lists within the American Asatru community about a news story about lightning striking a 62 foot Jesus statue, known as "Touchdown Jesus" owing to the posture of the figure, outside the Solid Rock church in Monroe Ohio. (Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper, June 15th, 2010, http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20100615/NEWS01/306150004/-Touchdown-Jesus-statue-at-Solid-Rock-Church-on-I-75-destroyed-by-lightning-fire ). There was much glee about this Christian icon being struck down and burnt to ashes by the power of nature associated with Thor in Norse tradition. "Hail Thor," said some. Considering the long and still continuing history of Christian oppression of Pagan religion, this bit of "schadenfreude" was certainly understandable.

I myself do not care for thanking or blaming gods for such stunning displays of the power of nature. If we are to thank Thor for blasting a Christian church, should we also "thank" him for the thunder storms, hurricanes and cyclones that cause death and destruction around the world on a regular basis? There is a "cherry-picking" tendency to associate actions we like with our gods and to dissociate when the actions are less pleasing. Should we thank the gods for the surprise storm that sent a tornado hurtling down the main street of Bridgeport, Connecticut last week? For myself, I don't mind joking a bit about Thor or other gods of thunder in other traditions throwing thunderbolts around, but I worry that some more fundamentalist Pagans might really take this kind of thing seriously, because they are using the same logic that was in the past used by missionaries to disprove Paganism, i.e., your god is only real if he can make real things happen. If the rain god cannot make it rain on demand, the rain god is false, etc. This is a very weak kind of logic because it does not allow that the gods may exist in other ways and serve other functions than to be errand boys or customer service representatives for their worshippers.

The incident did get me thinking about how the gods of thunder and lightning are often the preeminent gods in many Indo-European pantheons. To run down a partial list, Norse Thor, German Donnar, Greek Zeus, Roman Jupiter, Slavic Perun, Lithuanian Perkunas, Latvian Perkuns, Vedic (early Hindu) Indra, and probably quite a few others. These gods are generally not the creator figures in their respective mythospheres, but tend to displace the creator gods, who are often all-powerful sky gods in the earliest levels of tradition, to become the most popular gods, often associated with kingship and justice as well as the crackling power of storm and lightning. What then accounts for the rise of stature that these gods underwent within their respective traditions?

I have puzzled over this for many years, and now have an answer, or at least a hypothesis. The sky god rules the sky; the earth goddess sustains the earth. The thunder god connects them, representing the divine energy, in the form of the lightning, that reaches from the heavens to the earth. He brings divinity "down to earth," connecting earth and heaven, the human and divine realms, also bringing with him fertilizing, life-giving rain as well as lightning and thunder. He is likewise often associated with oak trees, the most majestic of trees that reach from earth to heaven. The thunder god therefore represents the pivot-point of the human-divine relationship, which accounts for his great importance.

This has analogies with other traditions outside the Indo-European spectrum. In Shinto, the god of the harvest is ritually summoned down from the mountain, to come to the field and bless the rice crop, and then returns to the mountain. He circulates from high to low and back again, bringing blessings. One of the chief decorations of Shinto shrines is a paper zig zag shape representing lightning. Though the highest god in the Shinto pantheon is the sun goddess Amaterasu, her brother Susano-no-Mikoto is a storm god, and a rival to her for supremacy in some Shinto traditions. The Hebrew god Yahweh is also a storm god, related to other storm gods of the region.

All of this brings me a new sense of the importance of the thunder god, as well as a new idea of how to direct my meditations and worship. I do not ask the thunder god to rain down destruction on my enemies or opponents. I ask him to bring me the divine intelligence down from the heavens to my humble and limited existence on this earth. I seek not brute force, but inspiration and wisdom, from the higher powers, whether they are "out there" or "in here" (pointing to head), and encourage you to consider this in your own spiritual activities and reflections.


Thanks to some timely advice, during which a bit of a cry was dragged from my austere demeanour. Early yesterday evening I took some Lorazepam and Zopiclone and slept through the urge to lie down and give up- I did lie down, for 12 hours and slept the ignorant sleep of the drugged.

Today has begun, as days are wont to do and I feel a little better, so far.

The children are elsewhere so my morning has been leisurely so far involving only my daily battle with iTunes and numerous cups of tea.

I am hoping to keep my spirits up today as I am due to spend the evening with my lovely friend and I want to avoid spending the evening crying at her.

I don’t ‘do’ crying, not because I don’t need to, I’ve spent all week on the verge of tears- (the kind of mood where asking for cashback in Morrisons is done in a trembly voice) and I don’t know why I can’t or won’t cry.

So instead I avoid it, talk about anything other than myself and if I’m not ‘fine*’ I am ‘ok*’

I think I want to cry, but I want to really do it properly a big full-on snot and tears, hours and hours of sobbing and wailing type cry but this would make me very bad company.

I had another lovely friend visit yesterday and she probably went away totally bemused as I skirted round any mention of the fact I am ill in any way.

I don’t mind others crying on me, in fact I’m rather good at mopping up other peoples tears and I don’t see crying as a weakness, perhaps except in myself?

Not so much a weakness as a way in maybe? Crying is most likely to happen when I’m talking about difficult subjects and who wants to talk about them?

*fine- anything but fine, possibly suicidal

*ok- very depressed

Ah Mr Reaper, do come in...

I wasn’t going to write this post as I wasn’t sure my clumsy somewhat flippant style was suited to such a topic but given that it’s been the overriding symptom today I though I owed it to my own honesty and those in praise of my honesty to broach the subject.

Today again I have felt the desire to just lie down and end it all. I don’t want to kill myself but I would not fight off the grim reaper if he visited in a nice socially acceptable guise.

I have felt suicidal at many many points along my journey so far but I am a mother and therefore suicide is not an option. I have had it drummed into me by my fantastic (yet also sometimes evil and challenging CPN) that it is not an option and I know she is right.

Yet again today, when I thought forward to having Friday night alone my first thought was “hooray, I could kill myself in peace” but I won’t, I can’t.

It is a difficult situation to talk about and I do often wonder if others feel the same way, I feel like I exist only for others, I feel like it’s all too hard for me and I’ve had enough and lost too much for there to be much point in going on for my own sake. But go on I will ever in the pursuit of stability, normality maybe even happiness primarily for my children and hopefully for me.

I am terrified that I will battle on only to end up a good enough parent, good enough at my job and a good enough person. I want to go back to being good at who I was and what I did.

I am praised daily by my lovely friend for how well I’ve done with this that and the other, but I long for the day where I just have a day and it passes without there being the need for praise for getting from the start to the end of it.

So tomorrow I attend my first local support group, I have painted my toenails and chosen my outfit and refused to think much beyond what I will wear for fear that I scare myself off the idea completely.

I have no expectations for tomorrow but I hope that maybe there will be others who understand how it feels like the fight is too much.

I’m not looking for a partner in a suicide pact, just someone else who understands the physical pain that grips your throat each day when you realise another day has begun and you’re still ill.

Grown-Up Stuff

For the first time in years I slept until 10am this morning, it felt great and for a moment or two I thought this illness lark could be quite good.

I had the leisurely start to the day I'd promised myself then decided as I was feeling calm and stable; now would be a good time to tackle all the grown-up stuff I’m been hiding from.

Then the postman came, bearing sad news from HMRC Tax Credits that somewhat forced my hand.

So today I have been rationalising my finances in preparation for my pay dropping by half next month as I reach my sixth month off sick.

It seems incredibly unfair that as well as fighting mental illness and fighting to recover enough to cope with normal life again I have to do battle with the bank, Tax Credits and DWP.

None of these agencies has the same sense of urgency to get things sorted as I do and I am at the mercy of the rather ominous sounding “decision maker” to see if I can get DLA to help ease the financial burden a little. A decision in my favour will mean a ‘change in circumstances’ that needs to be reported to Tax Credits so it could be months before I know where I stand financially.

It’s enough to force me back to work.

I spent a large part of the day on the phone to BT, gas and electricity companies and insurance companies to try and cut my outgoings a bit but I am in the tricky situation of having no idea what my income is going to be.

You can only guess what effect this uncertainty and lack of control is having on my mental health.

I have no-one to share this burden with my team has done their bit, I am the only adult in my household and part of that role is shielding the children from the current situation at least until I know exactly what the situation is.

I am fortunate, I am not facing complete financial ruin, we’ll always have just enough, because we’ll have to but it is so unfair- just when things feel like they’re getting a little better something comes along to throw a spanner in the works.

My poor donkey is having to be fuelled with value range carrots and whilst he willingly eats them, he’d like to know when he can have grade 1 carrots again and for how long. I haven’t had the heart to tell the donkey about yesterdays budget, I fear he would just give up.


Today started at 100mph courtesy of my 5 year old. By 9am we’d baked bread and done some art and I was out of energy and ideas. We walked to the shop I felt tired and ill and couldn’t wait for 12.30 to come so I could ship him off to nursery for a couple of hours. I stayed calm, reminded myself that most parents of most 5 year olds felt exactly the same way, this was not mental illness this was life.

With the hideous budget ringing in my ears, I dropped the youngest at nursery, went and picked up my newly-repaired phone then went to pick up my middle child to take her to the dentist. After the dentist was finished with her we went for a few groceries, collected the youngest from nursery and came home.

There was the traditional ‘just in from school’ flurry of excitement, paired with the ‘lets get the sprinkler on and soak ourselves, the kitchen and all the towels in the house’ flurry of excitement followed by the relative calm of dinner.

Sometime after dinner the youngest child was collected by his dad for a couple of nights. Shortly afterward I did something I haven’t done for a while (and at one point something I vowed never to do again) and I attended a meeting of my constituency Labour Party (CLP).

Attending this meeting, in spite of its appearance (a large-ish handful of members in a small hut on the end of a harbour) marked a huge milestone for me. It was the first time I’d been around people who I felt had badly let me down when I was at my lowest ebb. It was the first time the new me was revealed to those more familiar with the old me. It was the first time I have said ‘no’ to holding two positions of responsibility within the local party.

I even declared my intention to stand for selection to contest the Scottish Parliament elections in 2011.

That was a conversation stopper I can tell you.

So why did I do it? Well I did it for all the reasons I did it last time, I still believe local people deserve a local choice, I still believe people in my constituency are being let down by the Lib-Dems, I still think that there are huge numbers of people in North East Fife who go unrepresented.

I also did it for me. This is what I want to do and I feel ready to start thinking about doing it again. I’m not stupid enough to think if there was an election tomorrow I’d be fit enough to stand in it but I reckon by next May I will be. I also now have a whole new area of expertise to campaign on!

So there you go, I’ve said it out loud now, it makes it real, though it’s been real in my head for a long time now. As well as all the other reasons to beat/manage this illness I have this to add but it feels more like a carrot than a stick and my donkey likes carrots.

All I have to do now is convince local members I’m worth another shot………

That Monday Feeling

It’s Monday and it’s 10am, I have taken my youngest child to nursery, seen the big kids off to school, done all my housework and now I have nothing to do.

I’m not ready to do any of the things I used to do so what on earth can I put in their place to stop my days being so meaningless and long. My concentration span allowed me to skim one of the local papers but that was pushing it.

My days have no structure and no meaning aside form just making it through to the end of each one.

I don’t feel at all creative at the moment and am finding my newest hobby, crochet too difficult a skill to learn. (Unless anyone is after a long pink chain of varying tensions?!)

I’m not the kind of person who enjoys sitting around doing nothing, I crave structure and routine. I have tried a number of self-imposed routines lately but they all seem so banal and trivial and feel more like I’m just hanging around waiting to recover. I want to actively recover.

So I don’t know what to do today but I am grateful at least that I want to do something- at the end of last week I didn’t want to do anything other than put a stop to the whole horrific merry-go-round that is mental ill health.

Ooh Look a Shiny Thing!

I sat down tonight determined to get started on “Bipolar Disorder for Dummies” kindly lent to me by my fantastic CPN but it just wasn’t happening. I still have the concentration span of a gnat on acid and I’m beginning to fear it will ever return to normal.

I’ve never been a particularly tranquil kind of person but I could sit for hours with a good book and would happily read every newspaper every day if I had the time but now I struggle to make it from one end of a text message to another.

Even the spoken word is causing me problems- 5 minutes into any conversation and it all becomes largely meaningless (sorry to all of you who have engaged me in conversation lately). I like to think I’m doing a great job pretending that I am half of the conversation but I’m not too sure.

I have amassed an enormous pile of books and self help material to help me on my journey but I just can’t sit and read any of it. Possibly because some of its shit and possibly because I just assume some of its shit but I’m convinced there’s some good stuff in there and I just don’t have the staying power to get at it.

I still write, notes, diary entries, mood charts, lists of things to do, lists of things done, lists of things to remember and of course I write my blog. But I can’t even concentrate to read the stuff I’ve written!

I’m not sure what purpose all this writing has but I do find myself compelled to do it, I am never far from a pen and notebook and I find myself inextricably drawn to stationery shops where I can spend minutes deciding on just the perfect notebook to fill with thoughts, fears and ideas on my journey through mental illness.

I like to think that my writing is my own form of self help but perhaps I am fooling myself. I am surrounded by a veritable library of books on various aspects of mental illness all written by people better informed than I am yet I prefer to note

on the verge of a panic attack so have retreated to my room to try and get through it. Don’t want to take Lorazepam as it’s too close to bedtime and I need it to sleep

Very closely followed by

think ‘panic attack’ was actually Lorazepam withdrawal so took some

I suppose it’s self help in a way as it helped me decide to start writing down (in yet another notebook) when and why I am taking Lorazepam!

I hate not being able to concentrate, it makes me feel permanently out of the loop, particularly where politics is concerned- basically I have no idea what’s going on and am unable to react to the snippets I have managed to grasp.

Perhaps though there is the proof that writing does help as I can’t remember the last time I even though about politics, let alone my own engagement with it. It does make me very easy prey for the Labour leadership contenders- whichever one contacts me last before I place my vote will get it as I'll have forgotten what the others said- so the race is on, whoever you are!

So I’ll keep on writing, in notebooks, on my whiteboard, on post-its and on my blog in the hope that in some sort of bio-feedback way I become able to concentrate on output again sometime soon.

A Horrible Thought

Several horrible thoughts occur to me several times a day but one horrible thought struck me in particular today

- this is not an illness, this is a condition

This is the rest of my life.

Now I’m no psychiatrist* but I’m aware I’m in a pretty acute phase right now, not in crisis but still not quite stable so I’m still a little on the dramatic side but I don’t think I am catastrophising.

How do I know the difference between acute and crisis? Well when you’re in crisis you see people, not people, professionals. Everyone wants to check on you when you’re in a crisis, an acute phase means everyone watches and waits to see if you’re going to lurch back into a crisis or if you’re going to sort yourself out and find a way through.

Anyway, back to my original point.

I still think I’m going to wake up one day and be cured and this whole horrible episode will come down to a tick box on a form- you know the kind the dentist gives you when you go for a check up. I assumed this illness would become part of my medical history- instead it is my medical present and future.

I know this illness/condition doesn’t define me (that’s a lie, it totally does- at the moment anyway!) but it does define the rest of my life to a not insignificant degree.

I know that I can’t afford to go without sleep for too long, I won’t just get tired, I risk all sorts of nasty things happening.

I know that insisting on being a member of every local interest group and committee is perhaps a little too much for one person and will ultimately lead to one kind of episode or another.

I know that no one person needs three iPods and I know that Amazon and Ikea adore the manic.

When I am doing what ‘they’ want me to do and soldiering on, getting through the tough times and the really tough times and the not so tough times I always have it in the back of my mind that once I’m done that will be it, I’ll be better, cured and back to normal.

But it won’t be like that.

There will be more stressful events, more medication changes, more life just waiting to catch me unawares and there will always be the risk of this, or something like it happening again.

Which makes the fight just that little bit harder and seemingly less worthwhile.

So with todays horrible thought comes todays horrible lesson.

Not only do I have to get through this episode, I have to arm myself against future episodes, either to cope with them when they arise or prevent them entirely and after fighting through the last few days I can’t even begin to think about that.

We’ve ascertained I don’t like the broken leg analogy. I think a journey analogy is more appropriate and for me.

Today, I am still at the fiddling with the sat-nav and swearing stage- and the sat-nav is connected to a very slow, tired donkey who requires slow and gentle handling and very frequent stops. In my luggage I have some good friends, a great GP, a fantastic CPN, fellow bloggers and Tweeters and a big huge stash of Lorazepam.

* resisting loads of sarcastic comments here

Putting It Into Words

I don’t usually blog when I’m feeling this way but I’m actually curious to see if I can put it into words.

I hate the word depression, it’s so easily flung about to describe the feeling elicited facing a long queue at the bank, the reason why someone is ‘on the sick’, the weather, the economy, even sometimes an actual mental illness.

I don’t think there is a word that suits just how bad I feel today- hopeless, genuinely, literally hopeless comes close.

Nothing specific has happened these last few days to make me feel this way- just life’s usual trials and ups and downs.

Life, coupled with a mental illness and a tweak in medication has effects on my mood that are astoundingly disproportionate.

It’s been a struggle even to cobble this blog entry together so I’m going to leave it there. Today I am depressed, very depressed and that makes for a very poor blogger…

Independence Day

Today has been another testing day- youngest child delivered at 8.30am, brought his usual list of 5 year olds demands with him (baking, playing, entertainment) I took him to nursery at 12.30- we walked- he complained, loudly, the whole way.

I went to buy milk and collect my prescription, managed to lose my phone and find out in the worst way possible that the chemist shuts for lunch (!) between 1-2pm. I coped, I phoned my phone and the sweet angel that had found it agreed to drop it off locally for me to collect later. I retreated to the back of Morrisons café with a pot of tea and my little mindfulness notebook where I proceeded to rationalise the seemingly horrific events of the day so far. (I catastrophise?!)

The rest of the afternoon was calmer; I collected my phone left a reward and a thank-you card, wrote a letter I’d been putting off, collected my youngest from nursery and came home.

My lovely friend came round and we talked about a subject I have been valiantly trying to avoid facing- work.

This evening I ended up back at the mindfulness and eventually reached for Lorazepam as panic mounted and a retreat to my bedroom for the rest of the week felt likely.

I am really on my own here.

I like to be independent but it is another thing entirely to have independence foisted upon you. I like my own company but this evening it would have been great to have someone around to help me be mindful or even just someone to put the kettle on, hug me and hand me the tissues (if I ever actually allow myself to cry).

If I’m honest there isn’t anyone specific I want around and if I had anyone around I’d probably just say I was ‘fine’ anyway but god it’s lonely.

So I’m back at the ‘why me’s’ this evening and longing for the day to be over so I can be embraced by drug induced sleep.

I know I can look back on my day and congratulate myself on a job well done but I’d love to just look back on the day and say “yeah this happened, that happened, I did this or that- meh” I just want to have a day, just an ordinary day.

So What Do I Do Now?

I saw my GP this morning and this afternoon I saw my CPN and my psychiatrist. Aside from a small change in medication they’re all backing off- no more daily visits or weekly appointments.

My prize for doing so well on my own last week is to be, well, on my own!

I’m not on my own of course; my GP is there when I need her. My CPN is coming back next week (and more than happy for me to get in touch in between should I need to) and even my (still looking for the right adjective*) psychiatrist can be accessed should need be.

Naturally I am terrified!

I am in control of my own recovery and I’m still not convinced that I am ready.

My personality dictates that I also interpret this move as an indication that it’s time for me to get a grip and get back to work and ‘back to normal’.

I still don’t feel ready to do either.

I don’t quite know what to do next on my recovery path, (maybe drawing up some sort of recovery path?) I don’t really know who to ask for help. I have some support but feel I need more, different support but I don’t know what.

I don’t know what’s expected of me now, I don’t know what I’m expected to do, how I’m expected to do it.

I don’t know much.

What I do know is that financially I can’t really afford much more time off work. (I daren’t even think about the damage this illness had done to my “career”)

I know the school holidays are only 3 weeks away.

I know I have booked a few days away with the children on my own in 5 weeks time.

I know I have a long way to go and I know I’m going to need all the help I can get- I just have to go and get it.

*I am toying with ironical as she asked me today if I “kept a diary?”


After my reflection on how well my week had gone in yesterdays blog post I received a comment that said “….sounds like you are on the road to recovery….” When the comment landed in my email inbox, I opened it and quickly shut it again.

Today I was reading this article and again was struck by a familiar feeling of unease.

I fear recovery.

Why on earth do I fear recovery? Surely I should embrace it and work hard for it? What’s not to want?

The truth is I’m not even sure what recovery is for me. I don’t think I’m going to be who I was before I got ill and I wasn’t very sure who I was then.

Will recovery mean I can sit still long enough to read, to work, to engage meaningfully in a conversation? Will recovery mean I can sleep without drugs- and if I don’t the only consequence is tiredness? Will recovery mean I can feel sad without it turning into a great deep, dark hole?

Will recovery mean I can return to caring for all of my children all of the time, whilst holding onto my job, being an active member of the community and an active member of the Labour party?

Will recovery mean no more CPN support, no more fortnightly GP visits, no more psychiatrist appointments no more medication? Will friends stop texting, calling and visiting? Will recovery mean no-one cares anymore?

I don’t know what recovery is, so no wonder I am frightened of it. I’m not sure anyone else can tell me what it is either. I fear recovery because it is still too far away and from that I take some comfort.

In spite of my fear, I continue fighting. Today has been another successful day, nothing out of the ordinary but extraordinary nonetheless.

A Whole Year in One week

It’s Friday and the end of the first week for a long time where I haven’t seen any medical professionals at all.

There was a time not so long ago where this was the norm for me, I didn’t do illness and therefore didn’t do doctors either.

I’ve done ok this week without medical intervention, I’ve survived, faced my fair share of challenges and come through it all a year older but still in one piece. It wasn’t my choice to ‘fly solo’, it’s just the way things turned out but I’m glad I did- as an indicator for where I am in terms of recovery it’s been a very useful exercise.

So where am I? Well I’m 35, stable-ish, completely dependant on both non-benzodiazepines and benzodiazepines to sleep, over-active, unable to concentrate on much for any length of time, restless and agitated. But I can deal with day hospital disasters, dying hamsters, school visits, sick children and credit card balance transfers.

I am better than I was.

I owe a lot to one particular friend who has visited daily and stayed in frequent contact, without her support this week would’ve been a lot more difficult, friends like that are few and far between and I know I’m lucky to have her.

On Monday I’m scheduled to see my wonderful GP, my (adjective yet to be decided) psychiatrist and my fantastic CPN, they’ll all want a slightly different account of how the last week has been and they’ll all care about different aspects but I only have one story so it’ll be up to them to take out of it what they need and tell me what they plan to do to make sure all the coming weeks are as successful.

Nothing To Add

Today was a testing day, trip to the vets, subsequent dead hamster, school visit and a sick child- all by 9.30am

The pace of the afternoon was similar- dig hole for hamster grave, collect child from school visit, hold brief but poignant hamster funeral, attend meeting at school.

The evening involved an epic journey to track down a suitable pair of trousers for the eldest child, the eldest child who had earlier come stomping home from school, his first day in 5th year, said he’d had a “frazzled” day, threw his new partial timetable at me, said there’d been some sort of problem and stomped off again.

The problem is all sorted out and we’re friends again.

I don’t mention my eldest child much so with his permission here is a little about him.

He is 15, very nearly 16, has his own Twitter following of almost 200, great with computers (prefers Linux), almost fluent in German, over 6 foot tall, currently listening to Kraftwerk, draws excellent pictures of trains and has an autistic spectrum disorder.

My fight is a similar fight to the one I’ve been having for almost 13 years, to get help, services and support on his behalf. He is probably the reason my expectations of local services are so low (and being met), my experience as a parent of a child with a disability is that you’re on your own.

As he approaches adulthood the services and support seem ever more distant and I’m not sure I have the energy to fight for us both.

All I ask for him is that he is able to have the same opportunities as other kids his age but to date this has been too big an ask.

Very soon we’ll both be fighting for help within the same service yet our needs are completely different. I need services to meet my needs quickly so I can get back to meeting his. He needs services to enable him to gather the skills to ensure he is not reliant on those same, woefully inadequate services.

He and I face many of the same difficulties but mine can be largely medicated away. Perhaps the reason I am not so scared of the stigma of my mental illness is that he is more stigmatised than I will ever be and he has no escape.

I emailed him a copy of this post as he is in his bedroom (opposite the room I’m in) and he OK’d it, there’s nothing he wanted to add or take away and that I suppose is art imitating life.

Parent Trap.....eze

Today has been the first full day of caring solely for my youngest child alone for some time, he arrived sometime yesterday afternoon in time for birthday cake and general high-spiritedness and slotted in well.

Aside from a small set-to at bedtime due to different routines imposed on him by myself and his father it all went very well. He went to sleep (eventually) in his own bed and woke in mine as has been the norm for 5 years now.

This morning he tolerated the wait whilst I had my usual gallon of tea then we went for a swim. After our swim we came home briefly then went to the park, then in to town to visit a friend at work then on to a local café for lunch, popped into a few shops then home again.

By which time I was physically and emotionally worn out. He wasn’t.

The afternoon was less harmonious with lots of “I hate you” (him) and tantrums (me and him). I couldn’t get anything right and my complete inability to engage in imaginative play obviously annoyed him. He hurt his hand and sobbed as though he’d severed an artery, I negotiated time to write an email he spent the whole time swinging on the door handle asking was I “done emailing yet?” He painted a picture in about 40 seconds; it took me longer to clean up. We played marbles and lost most of them under the sofa, they were my marbles and now some of them are lost.

By the time my lovely friend responded to my distress call at 5pm I was close to tears (in fact I think one sneaked out on her shoulder when she hugged me) and I was convinced I am the worst mother in the world.

One cup of tea (me) and some very wise words later (lovely friend) I realised I am not the worlds worst mother, just a mother.

Today was never going to be easy (nursery is closed) regardless of the current circumstances of my family and what we’ve all been through.

The truth is my son is fine and perfectly at home at home and with me. I am no better or worse a mother than I was before I got ill, I still love nursery and hate Moon Sand, I still encourage bug collecting and discourage Mr Men books I still love all of my children and continue to do my best for them- and for them I will continue to get well.

Even if they are completely ungrateful…………

Happy Birthday to Me

Me and Theo blowing out the candles on my (Hello Kitty) birthday cake. 35 today and there have been several points all too recently when I felt I wouldn't make it to this birthday but I did and I fully intend to make it to the next one and all the other ones after it as well.

Today has been a good day, well it did involve the receipt of gifts and cake!

Day Hospital Disaster

Today I went to a local psychiatric day hospital; it was my first day of attendance and my last.

I got collected by the ‘bus’ (ambulance) later than expected this morning- I was irked but resolved to forgive.

I arrived and followed the crowd by signing in.

I stood alone in the hallway and after 5 minutes or so plucked up the courage to go into the office and speak to the woman who had spent the previous 5 minutes watching me stand there, tearing up. I said “this is my first day and I don’t know what to do”. She showed me to the ‘sitting room’ and said “just go in here a nurse will be along shortly”. So, I did.

I sat, and sat, I went outside and walked laps of the garden then came back in and sat some more.

I’d sat for just short of an hour when a man from the local authority came in to talk about ‘home safety’ he was introduced by a member of nursing staff who then left. The man offered “home safety checks for vulnerable people like yourselves, we don’t discriminate” he reassured the group. The home safety check on offer included looking for trip hazards and dodgy electrical cables “stuck together with insulating tape”.

I left.

I am acutely aware that I am capable of being very judgemental so I tried very hard this morning to give the day hospital a fair chance. I didn’t want to go but the lure of actual therapy; maybe someone to talk to, someone to listen and some help to get me back on my feet proved enough to get me in there- and that was what was promised.

Maybe if I’d stuck around until after the home safety talk I would’ve got something out of it but there is only so long I can sit and feel ignored. I can sit at home and ignore my emotional needs in comfort.

I won’t be going back.

I am a 34 year (and 364 days) old woman with a job and family I need to get back to. My home is safe, for now- I have a mortgage payment holiday in place.

Trip hazards and dodgy wiring are way down my list of priorities somewhere after getting my medication right and being able to care for all my own children on my own again. In fact I think trip hazards and dodgy wiring come way, way down the list.

I am trying very hard not to rush myself into a false recovery but I don’t feel I have much option. I’m not going to get the therapy I want and feel I need I just have to hope that I can get and stay healthy or get rich enough to go private next time

See Me- I'm still bloody waiting

Today in one of my Sunday newspapers there was a leaflet from See Me Scotland. It’s a good leaflet but I think it’s the wrong leaflet.

As I see it it’s not about the reducing stigma of mental illness- we can’t ever hope to view those of us with a mental health problem as equals until mental health services are as good, timely and responsive as those for people with physical health problems.

The leaflet cites the example of a broken leg vs depression-

 “When I was off work with a broken leg I got loads of support from the fire brigade. Crew were always dropping by, so much so that there was almost always a fire engine outside the house. When I went off sick with depression there was nothing. Not one card, call or visit”.

Whilst I am not in anyway saying there is no stigma (and we stigmatise ourselves by remaining silent). I think the real difference that we need to look at is services.

There is no way when this particular person turned up at hospital with his broken leg anyone said “yes I think your leg is broken- take these pills, if its not better in a month come back, we’ll increase the dose, I’ll put you on the waiting list for an x-ray but that’ll take a couple of months and if you need your leg plastered I’m afraid there is a 9 month waiting list. We’d really like to operate but we just don’t have anywhere to do it or any staff and the NHS aren’t keen on funding surgery anymore as drugs are much cheaper and can be dealt with by a GP in the community.

Yet I know I have heard the above said before in relation to my mental illness and others have too.

The real stigma of mental illness comes from within- both from sufferers and ‘the system’.

At a time when we are least able to be our own advocates we are fighting a system that has little to give and does not want to give what little it has. We settle for treatments that we don’t want or don’t think will help. Health professionals are often apologetic about the level of care offered but most are too run down or institutionalised or meek to speak up.

I don’t wholly disagree with the See Me campaign but I’d rather see a See Me-Treat Me campaign. I’d wear a badge with a list of my diagnoses on it if I thought it would get me some sort of help with my mental health problems.


Yesterday, after the publication of my interview with Stuart Hughes appeared on the BBC website, I was overwhelmed with messages via my blog and Twitter.

A lot of people praised my honesty and bravery, very many people shared their own experiences and lots of people offered their support in any future campaigns to improve services for those with mental health problems.

I am humbled by the responses.

I have published all of the comments sent anonymously and some that are less personal, if your comment has been posted and you want it removed just let me know.

I intend to continue blogging and tweeting so please keep reading and commenting, this all feels a little less futile if I can see it as preparation for battle…..

You can take the activist out of the campaigning but.......

Last night the BBC published an interview I gave. So far already this morning I’ve been called brave by both friends and strangers.

I am not brave, far from it.

I am pathologically honest though and cannot sit back and watch injustice when I think I could make a difference.

Mental/emotional health/illness/wellness/wellbeing is such a neglected cause yet 1 in 4 or us will suffer to some degree at some point in out life. Services are either non-existent or not able to cope and many of us are left floundering, scraping out a recovery and making do with whatever semblance of mental wellness we can pull together- until the next time.

I’m still too poorly to be much of a campaigner but I like to think my blogging and Tweeting counts as some kind of subversive campaigning and I will be well one day and those injustices aren’t going anywhere for a while…..

What Happened?

So now I am back in the community and doing my best to recover I am back to attempting all the normal things I used to do. Today I will pick my youngest child up from nursery, something I haven’t done in over two months.

My son Theo, 5 hard at work in my office

I’ve arranged to meet a friend to walk with and that’s where today’s conundrum lies I suppose.

I’ve been ‘missing’ from my community for the best part of 4 months; someone is bound to ask “what happened?”

I don’t know the answer.

I don’t want to say “I had a breakdown”, the overuse of this term over the years has trivialised it and I certainly don’t feel that it communicates the magnitude of my situation at all. (Besides as I’ve already discovered lots of other people have also had ‘breakdowns’ one person told me she had taken 3 weeks off work with her one…..)

I’m not special, far from it but I want to be able to make people understand just what I have gone through and am still to go through. I want people to understand how my life has changed, present and future. I look ok (I think, I hope) and I will no doubt put a brave face on this afternoon. I need others to acknowledge what a huge step this is- collecting my own child from nursery, taking him home and giving him some dinner before his father comes to collect him. (I am still unable to care for all my children at home.)

I want the world to understand and I don’t know how to make it clear and that’s just not like me at all. I'm not sure that I even understand yet, I live my days minute to minute and view my future through my fingers.

Maybe I just need to stop seeking external validation? (do I, do I?!)

I could just hurriedly print out some business cards with my blog address on them; let everyone read about it I suppose……

Pictures from hospital days

I'm no artist but when words failed me, or my hands were too shaky to control a blue Bic (and only a blue Bic will do) I drew. I drew in pencil, biro, felt-tip, coloured pencil and crayon depending on my mood. This is a selection from the hundreds of pieces I churned out during my 3 week 4 day hospital stay.
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A Better Day

Today is a better day; too much better, I can barely type as my knees are jiggling underneath my laptop as my body strives to get rid of some energy. I have several choices

- take Lorazepam, dull the high and probably fall asleep at some point

- find something to do (I have already tidied and rearranged furniture this morning)

- as one Twitter friend suggested- go down the pub

The first option always feels like opting out. I suffer through the lows with little or no medicinal support (aside from a very occasional evening of trying to drink it away) and to medicate away a high feels wrong and somehow unjust. Lorazepam does help but I try and save it for the bad highs- the highs that leave my mind spinning and my body agitated and exhausted.

The second option has already seen the younger children’s bedroom furniture rearranged, I did fleetingly consider a bit of gardening but it would be gardening with a chainsaw and my neighbours still haven’t quite forgiven me for the last time (what else to do with a 10 foot Privet?). I could go to the gym but I already stick out a bit there with my 5 minutes on each machine then out approach. I went swimming on a high once, paid full price, got in, swam 10 lengths and got out- all in about 15 minutes.

Option 3 isn’t really an option, not for all the reasons us grown ups usually cite for not being able to spend sunny weekday lunchtimes in the pub but because of my illness and my medication- and because it would be just plain wrong.

So I suppose I’m blogging, so you all know a little of what it feels like in my head at the moment. I want to do so much but in reality can focus to do very little. I need to do my hair but my hands are trembling too much for straighteners to be a wise choice. I want to do something but I have no idea what. Most of the things I come up with are a little fanciful- I am convinced that today is the day I will start to turn my mental illness diaries into a wonderful autobiography that will make my fortune or i will pick up my paintbrushes and create that masterpiece I keep talking about.

The truth is, I can’t do anything. I need to get a few things from the shop but at the moment have retained just enough insight to see that going out in public would be a very bad plan and going out to a shop would be an even badder one! I have no concentration span and can't stop moving, I know that whatever I do, or try to do just won't be enough.

The chances are I will go for option one and take the drugs, it’s a shitty option and I’m not happy about it but when am I ever happy?

Kicking and Screaming

So in the usual pattern following my last post which was quite accepting of my mental illness I am back to feeling angry, resentful and hard done by.

Not so much “why me?” as “me? No way!”

I’m back to “I can’t do this it’s too difficult” back to wondering if I stopped taking my medication would I return to the seemingly mentally well person I was before?

I’m angry, tired and scared.

Everyday is a fight and I don’t want to do it anymore. The amount of planning that goes into the simplest event is ridiculous and my ability to deal with anything out of the ordinary is non-existent.

Aside from all the normal everyday things I’m trying to find ways to deal with, life continues to throw little spanners not just in my works but in handfuls aimed squarely at my face.

Today’s example is that the bank has failed to process the mortgage payment holiday I requested. I need the mortgage payment holiday as my days of being off sick but still on full pay are rapidly coming to an end. This week was a double whammy- for some reason I didn’t get paid at all and the bank took the mortgage payment as usual.

Previously I would have dealt with this kind of event with ease but in my current state I have to rely entirely on other people to sort things out for me. Part of me wants to scream “I’m not well, you know” and another part of me wants to ‘pull myself together’- I can’t, I’ve tried, hundreds of times.

To use my mental health car crash analogy, I’m out of intensive care but not quite in a stable condition, my whole body still hurts and many of my bones are still broken. I can engage with life quite convincingly for short periods of time but I’ve got a long way to go before I’m 100%.

I survived the car crash (and several cardiac arrests whilst in intensive care) and I intend to get through rehabilitation in one piece but I am frustrated by my limitations, grieving for the way I used to be and angry at the world. It all sounds perfectly reasonable when using the car crash analogy; I wish I could get the world to understand.