Category Archives: Personal

The Shape of My World

The shape of my world is splinters of depression, mania, mixed states, and odd periods of something close to normality. The shape of my world is held together with duct tape and superglue and falling apart at a moment’s notice anyway. The shape of my world is love and care, but the jagged splinters of everything else cut and I bleed no matter what cushions there are around me to soften them.

The shape of my world is moulding the soft parts of myself around the shape of other people in order to make them more comfortable. It’s padding the shards so they only cut me, if I possibly can. It’s service and care and love while I bleed inside.

The shape of my world is lopsided and confusing, and I’m the only one who can negotiate it with any safety. People who come into my world can end up confused and hurt and even scarred, and I don’t want that any more. I want to keep the people around me safe. Happy. Comfortable. I need to try and right my world before I let anyone too far into it again.

The shape of my world is ephemeral, ever-changing, wispy and smoky and insubstantial. It could be blown away at a moment’s notice, and grasping at it achieves nothing. I try to capture it in moments, in hours of pleasure, in little glass bubbles made of experiences. But glass is fragile, and a sudden wind can send them all crashing from the shelves that barely hold them to the concrete floor of reality, and in that wind I will be gone. If you hold a bubble of my happiness, hold it dear, it may be one of my last anchors in times of storm.

The shape of my world is bounded by my fears, my hopes, and my dreams, and when those fade the boundaries of me bleed into the nothingness, until the blood loss is so bad that I pass out of reason and into a living death, and I need rescuing before I bleed to death.

The shape of my world is unstable, shifting, changing. It is difficult to deal with, challenging, confronting. This is me. I lay myself raw before you. Enter the mists at your own risk. I will try and pad the splinters, I will do my best, but there are so many, they are so scattered and disparate and sometimes I don’t know they’re there until they’ve sliced me or you to the bone.

Memories and dreams

A tiny desk light sits recessed deep into the wall. So deep that it is pretty ineffectual, really. Thick plastic protects it. It is firmly bolted to the wall. The desk is scattered with unopened food packages, wordless gifts of caring people. Pringles, Ferrero Rocher, the good things in life, gifted to keep me going.

The walls are covered with fragments of blu-tack and tacky areas of glue that someone has attempted to peel off. Places where former residents have personalised their space. Not me. I don’t want it to be mine.

I hear the sounds of the city, the motorways and the train lines, but also the sparrows and the cicadas celebrating the end of summer. There is a peace here, stashed out the back of the hospital.

I am in Te Whetu Tawera, the Auckland DHB Adult Acute Mental Health Unit.

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Rolling a cigarette at my table at home. It’s the little rituals you miss when you’re sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Smoking is prohibited on all hospital grounds, even psychiatric wards, and that is a rant for a whole new day. They break the routine and the rolling and the breathing and the release, but “poor health outcomes” trump all. Shortsighted? No, that’s the wrong word. They see the distance clearly, but the up-close reality is lost on them. What does lung cancer at 50 mean to people who on average live to about 32?

I rolled, relaxed, wandered out onto my balcony in the glorious evening sun, lit up, inhaled deeply. Bright and dark tobaccos, soaked in port, brought peace as I exhaled the geyser of spent smoke.

The sun set over the Waitakeres, shifting tones of orange and pink and lilac and violet and all the half-colours and tenuous shades in between. The ranges stained deep mauve against the shifting light as the sun sinks down.

All this I saw from my balcony, my sanctuary. It was a tiny apartment, it had black mold, there was no extractor fan in the bathroom, and it was mine. It was always a bit messy. I am not a clean freak, though I tried not to keep a complete pigsty.

Sweet lovers and dear friends passed through in their times, nourished by my renowned cooking. There was laughter and passion and comfort and joy.

I remember.

Depression is not forever.

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I will walk through my front door, wrestling with the ridiculous Patient Property bags that they release you from the hospital with. The house will smell good – Mum always goes on a cleaning binge when I get sick, and cleans my apartment thoroughly.

They tend to let you out in the late morning, so I can watch the sun as it creeps across my living room. The arc of the sun’s path is altering from high summer to slower, slumbering autumn. The light slides slower, more sensually, with less scorching heat. I will lie on the freshly vacuumed carpet. I will roll around in pleasure. I can be free.

Depression is not forever.

 

And the shit sprayeth further still

TW – suicide

When I wrote my last blog post, I at least had a head space that was fairly strong. Well, that’s dissolved to the point that my ex-husband says I’m more fragile that he has ever seen me. I’m millimetres from being inpatiented, after a stint in respite last week. I can’t keep myself safe any more. They took my stash of medication, so I’ve come up with a couple of much more lethal plans.

I planned to end my life on October 31st, but I broke down and told my partner, and he convinced me to seek help, which led to the stint in respite. But he’s not around to save me from myself again. So today, after a medication change set me to less than five hours sleep, I decided to make a go of dying.

I made a series of promises of what I would do before I died, and I started on the checklist. I called the Taylor Centre, my local community mental health centre. I was trying to tell them that I was going to go and step in front of a train as soon as I’d completed my required steps. I was advised to make a cup of coffee, have something to eat, and read a book, and they’d call in a couple of hours.

Ahem. What?! Apparently this is something to do with distress tolerance, but I was beyond sitting with my distress and letting it subside. I’ve been doing that for a good month now. I’m beyond that capacity, I was reaching for help, and I was told to make a fucking cuppa. So I made a cuppa, and went on to Stage Two – writing to the people I love and telling them they are loved, individually and personally. That’s where I’m currently at – it’s a longish process.

Meanwhile, my partner, who’s overseas now, knew what was going on and convinced me to reach out – to Mum, and to my ex-husband. Both came through for me – my ex called and didn’t hang up until he was on my doorstep, and didn’t leave until Mum arrived. He supported me, good man that he is. Meanwhile, Mum called the Taylor Centre and repeated verbatim what I had said to her, which was that I was going to write what I needed to, make the calls I needed to, and then go kill myself. The Taylor Centre, to their credit, decided to send someone over in the next couple of hours. And so the process with them begins again.

When the Taylor Centre people arrived, Nigel was there. I spoke to them, and they started talk of how I needed to practice more problem solving. Nigel intervened and told them that he had never seen me so fragile before, and that keeping myself safe was just not going to be practical. It was only when he spoke that they took me seriously.

What is it with mental health services and minimising the voice of the patient unless they have an advocate?

They Taylor Centre said they would talk about my case and get back to me in the evening. Which they did, but they smoothly talked me out of the hospital where I would be safe, and elected to give me enough benzos to knock a horse off its feet. I took those benzos at 9pm, and here it is, midnight, and I’m writing this to distract myself from writing goodbyes.

I don’t know what to do here. All that’s in me screams to keep writing, so I can check that off the list and it’s shorter so I can through more of it next time the impulse and the opportunity arise.

It’s very simple really. I want to die. Life’s downs are far more common that its ups, and the ups that I get, the hypomanic highs, destroy my life over and over. What does it matter whether this low is the one that kills me, or the next, or the next? I may as well go before I hurt more people. Yes yes I know, dying will hurt people, but it’s inevitable sometime and living is hurting a fair swathe of people too.

I’m going through all the motions of rebuilding my life, but I don’t believe in any of it. The black dog alternates between sitting on my shoulder and gripping me by the throat with iron jaws, shaking and trying to rip that throat out. One day he’ll win. Why not now?

Sexual assault happens to people you know

It happened to me. Four times I have been raped, the most recent only a bit more than a week ago. This is my story and my feelings. It is graphic and confronting – take care of your own mental space if you read this.

I am happily married to a monogamous man, but I am polyamorous. For a long time I have been burying that part of me, but with a recent bout of hypomania it has resurfaced. I struggle to love just one person, and my husband has been very understanding about this. Thus, recently I began dating again.

I made the call to try Tinder, and initially it worked really well. I was looking for casual hookups that I hoped would sometimes develop into friendships that would last, and this has happened. But the world is a dangerous place, and it was only a matter of time before  met someone who was not as good a human being as I credit them for.

I met Suman in a hotel off Queen Street, and he was incredibly respectful and caring. I was running late because of family stuff, and he was considerate and understanding. He had a clear understanding of consent – he asked if it was ok to hug me, to take my sweatshirt off, everything. He was the most respectful man I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and we had very nice vanilla sex.

He got up, and pulled out a pipe and some pot. I figured, why not, he’s a bit tense and this will relax him. He had admitted to having OCD and anxiety, and to smoking pot quite often to help deal with it. We went outside, and smoked up. I had only a little, but he drew deep and often. Before long he was buzzing and floating, happy as anything, and relaxed. We went back to the room.

As soon as we walked into the room, things changed. I took off my boots and stood up, and he wrenched my clothes off and threw me onto the bed. I was scared, and I froze up. What happened next is a mess of flashes. I can’t put it in any logical order. He forced me to go down on him, grabbing my by the hair and forcing me deeper and deeper until I choked. He pulled me by the hair til I lay on my back again and choked me. He slapped me. He bit me, and the bruises are yet to fade. He licked me all over, and that makes my skin crawl. He masturbated over my body, dripping sweat all over me. He penetrated me. All this, while I pretended to enjoy it so that I could get out of there in one piece.

Perhaps I should have said no, perhaps I should have fought. I was terrified, though, not knowing how far his violence was going to go. I shouldn’t have to excuse not fighting a sexual assault though – it’s not on me, it’s on him.

Finally, he collapsed, buzzing out, and I gave him the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert to watch. It was perfect, he was enthralled, and I got dressed and left.

I got home, threw everything I was wearing in the wash, and showered and scrubbed the sweat and stench of him off my flesh. Twenty minutes in the shower, and I felt clean enough to step out and begin the road to healing.

My husband has been amazing through this, supportive and loving. I proceeded into a four-day bender, kicked off at a wonderful friend’s place who helped me write a note to Suman telling him why I would never see him again. She poured me G&Ts until the pain was numbed, then another friend took me to dinner and poured cider down my throat.

That night, a lovely man helped me get totally plastered in a safe place, and showed me respect and kindness. It was the first step in trusting again, and I am grateful to him for how he treated me that night. The following days were spent in Wellington, soaking in wine and tequila and being cared for by wonderful women and men, and my journey continued.

Thank you to all of the people that have helped me to move forward. I’m not going to name you all, because some will want to remain unnamed and I’ll inevitably forget someone wonderful and important but I am ever grateful and I love you all.

There have been questions raised about going to the police, and it’s simply not going to happen. I know what it’s like, I’ve seen people go through it and supported them, and I will not risk my mental wellbeing for it. I will brook no condemnation for this decision. It is mine alone to make.

To the men who accept that I’m a bit broken, and deal with my freakouts and freezing up when they touch a trigger they didn’t know existed, thank you and thank you again. You’re helping me heal, and I value you deeply. To the women who have listened as I poured my heart out, you are my rocks and I appreciate you. You stand in the swirling waters of my emotions, and you hold me tight. It is wonderful beyond measure.

I will not let this stop me loving and trusting. I have known for a long time that there is no such thing as a completely safe person, after my oldest friend raped me. I choose to trust and to love, deeply and passionately. I will not let this change my heart.

My online life

I have a new policy in my online life. If you make my world a worse place in some way, you get deleted. I just don’t have the desire to see some of the crap that people spout. I’m turning my online spaces into places I would want to frequent.

I don’t mean that I will delete people who have different opinions to me in every case, every time. I can disagree about drugs, sex, and rock and roll, politics, health care, and all sorts, and that’s fine. But I’m not tolerating homophobia or transphobia. Those are non-negotiable. Racism too. Shaming people for things they can’t control – their appearance, their skin colour, their gender, the way they present, anything like that – is way out.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking ‘but what will people think of me?’ and I’ve realised, I don’t care. I want to be friends with people who respect others’ human rights. I don’t need the approval of bigots of any flavour.

I’m not strong in real life, and I tend to passively avoid difficult situations rather than actively speak up. I realise that I’m avoiding situations which bring up awkward conversations in my online life as well, and I’ve decided that’s the way I need it to be for now, especially online. I’m creating an environment that does not pose too many challenges to my mental health, so I have a place I can retreat to that is relatively safe.

I’m creating my safe space, and while I hope it doesn’t mean I lose too many people from my life, I accept that some people will go. I’m not sorry.

Friendships you never doubt

They say true friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship.

It’s true, I think. But I only think, I don’t know, because for me, crippling anxiety surrounds most interactions I have with people, and friendship is one of the hardest things to feel confident about.

People scare me, because of what they might say or do a lot more than what they actually say and do. I’m forever fearing what I might do to offend or hurt people, and trying my best to avoid doing things wrong, and forever feeling that I fail. The reality of living with mental illness is that your interactions with other people just aren’t like those of ‘normal’ people. You interact differently – people with anxiety will identify with what I feel when I interact with people, the hopes and fears I have, much more than a typical person, who might feel passing rather than crushing anxieties.

In my purely logical mind, I know that there are people who are part of my life who would pick up where we left off as if we’d seen each other only yesterday. Meeting up with a person like that, though, is a morass of what my rational mind knows are baseless fears. Logic and rationality don’t protect me from a mind that wants to tell me that I’m a failure at interpersonal communication, and that people just don’t like me.

I have friends that I do see regularly, good friends. It’s not fair that I can’t shake the feeling that they don’t really care for me all that much. The things depressed and anxious brains tell us are cruel and untrue, but they’re so believable in the moment.

Depression has spent Sunday chewing on me, so things are a bit hazy and rambly at the moment. I feel the effects of it a lot more on weekends because theres no strict routine to keep me going, unlike weekdays. I worked for a chunk of Saturday, and that helped me engage the healthy part of my brain. My unhealthy brain took over for the rest of the weekend though, and it’s thrown me into a bit of a spin. I hope the weekday routine will pull me up.

How could you not know?

One of the things that I’ve always questioned about my teenage years was how anyone could know about what was happening to me, the abuse that I was living through, and not do anything about it. There was one incident that I remember where the school administration were told about what was happening, and I will always feel like the follow up from that was completely inadequate, but in general I think there was a significant problem.

They didn’t know. These were people that I saw every day, and as I’ve got older I have questioned over and over again why they didn’t help me, and I’ve finally come to that conclusion. I didn’t often come to school with the marks of a beating on me, and so I wasn’t an obvious victim.

I think that many of them worked out things were not right when I was kicked out of home and then moved out into a boarding situation, but by then it was a bit late. I was sixteen and my more vulnerable brother was out of the country. He was safe, and I was surviving. What more could be done?

But for much of the rest of the time, I think that it just passed under the radar. My deteriorating mental health was a sign, but I don’t think it was recognised. The plain truth was, no-one helped me because no-one knew. No-one was looking for problems, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe they were and I was just not showing the signs that things were wrong.

How could they not know? Well, my own father missed the fact that I was so desperate to get out of my situation that I attempted suicide. Things just aren’t that obvious when you’re mentally distressed in the way I was. It wasn’t a lack of caring on their part. It was just hidden from view.

I used to ask over and over again why no-one helped. I think now I wonder why I didn’t ask for help over and over again until someone listened.