The Morning After The Night Before

The alarm said 4:30am.

There is a great play by Sarah Kane called 4.48 Pychosis, which is about how her only moments of clarity in a 24 hour onslaught of poor mental health would come at 4.48 in the morning.

I am a deep sleeper, but 4.30 am has become my new waking up time over the last few days.

I drifted in and out and got out of bed at 7am. I came downstairs and put on the news to discover another tragedy had befallen London, this time a massive blaze through a 20+ storey tower block. Even though this tower block was in West London, and my brother lives in East London, and he is always quick to point out it is ‘real’ East London, not what is referred to as East London, I still had to send him a text to make sure he was alright.

I went up to the boy at close to 8, he came down not long after. His dad had already phoned him.

It was then we made the phone call to my line manager and I had to tell her that yesterday my Doctor has signed me off work for 4 weeks because I am suffering from Stress, Anxiety and Depression.

A job I started less than 2 months ago.

The phone call could have been far worse.

I have texted, messaged and called more friends in the last 24 hours then I probably have in the last year. Indeed one friend I messaged on FaceBook showed my last contact with him had been in 2016.

I have realised far too late that hiding my problems, not telling them to anyone, pretending everything is alright has gotten me worse than nowhere, it has made me backtrack to a terrible, terrible point.

I feel that I have ruined everything. I feel embarrassed beyond all comprehension. I can’t bear to think of what certain people may think of me.

I would obviously never be this harsh to anyone else. If someone is sick is doesn’t matter if it is a broken leg or a broken mind. Sickness is sickness.

I had a good chat to my brother after he woke up and confirmed he was in East London and far away from West London. He spoke about his problems navigating social situations and kept saying ‘Not that it’s a competition’. We then moved on to safer topics like running and he asked me about my running ambitions and then kindly and delicately told me I should concentrate on losing weight first before I go back to running.

My other brother’s main concern regarding my mental health is to make sure I don’t miss out on season 3 of Twin Peaks.

I started re-reading ‘Grace Under Pressure’ by Sophie Walker, a running memoir, about a mum struggling to help her daughter who has Asperger’s Syndrome. I have put on the film Wild on Netflix, about a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

I guess I am focusing on what my body has the potential to do when what my mind can do is up for debate.

I have been to the Doctor to ask if my referral for assessment can somehow be escalated.

I have been to the local Mind centre to arrange an initial consultation. I was asked about what medication I am on, lots of people have been asking me that lately. As I listed the anti depressants, the anti psychotics, the anti anxiety pills and the three separate meds I take to manage my stress induced IBS I could see the person I was talking to look shocked.

The boy came home for lunch and asked how I was:

‘I’m not ok, but I’m ok’ I said

I have suddenly become consumed by anxiety, over what people will think of me, over how little I have been coping, over how ill I am.

Nearly 8 weeks ago the boy and I made a deal that if I could lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks he would get me a special prize. I would get another prize if I exceeded that.

I am currently on 12 pounds lost and the official deadline is this Saturday, the bulk of that was in the last two weeks, normally I would have been ecstatic. But I think it is a sign of deep emotional trauma if my usual comfort eating has fallen by the wayside and I have replaced it with drinking coffee and eating only bananas because anything else is too challenging.

I’m not ok, but I’m ok’. Please forgive me.

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I Don’t Believe In Being Brave

Menswear are a 90’s Brit Pop band. Some may argue that history has been unkind to them. Others will say that they don’t deserve kindness, since they were essentially a manufactured guitar band with an emphasis on the ‘pop’ part of Brit Pop, arranged for the members good looks and rumour has it they were discovered in the menswear section of a shop.

They had one song though that many hold dear to their hearts, and that is ‘Being Brave’.

I am nostalgic for the 90’s. Despite the fact it had a lot of problems and I was no older than 10 by the end of the millennium.

I often use quotes from The Simpsons, or song lyrics as a way of saying what I want to say.

I often say the chorus line of the song Being Brave, which is ‘I don’t believe in being brave’.

Being brave is tough. And I am soft and malleable. I am pathetic and weak. I am incapable of strength.

The future is bleak. The future is black.

I am not Hamlet

I first learnt the definition of the word ‘procrastination’ when I was at college studying Hamlet on my English Literature course.

Hamlet is about many things, but procrastination is one of the big themes in the play.

Hamlet is procrastinating about what to do, whether to avenge his Father’s murder, whether to kill Claudius and take back his thrown.

In the end it is fair to say he doesn’t so much decide what to do, he has his hand forced.

The fact is I have been waiting to have my hand forced. I am in the passenger seat of my own life. I am not taking control. I am placing my decisions in the hands of others. I don’t know what to do next or how to proceed. I want someone to give me the answers. I want someone to tell me what to do.

The problem in my life is my mental health has taken more than just a nose dive, it has fallen cataclysmic-ally into the abyss.

I want someone to tell me how to get better. If someone told me point blank that the way to get better is to tap your head whilst rubbing your tummy/cycle for 20km each day/howl at the moon then you can bet that I would be cycling at night, whilst tapping my head and rubbing my tummy and howling at the moon.

It would be a surreal sight but I would do anything to make me better.

The thing is I am not willing, or I am incapable of, getting into the drivers seat of my own life.

I am so stressed right now that it’s like I can feel my skin moving. Crawling away from me, going to find a new, more capable, body to attach itself to.

But I am not Hamlet. I do not want my hand forced, I do not want to be in the audience of my life. I am not the King of procrastination. I must be brave. I must persevere.

I must survive.

You’re in a bad way

Yesterday was a day in the chronicles of my life.

Today was another.

I did not like today.

I have fallen into my comforting bad habits. Comfort eating.

I have also adopted a worrying new habit.

I have started having a drink after work, sometimes not even getting to the home first but having it on the train home. I do this to take the edge off my day and I have joined the dots to see the connection that alcohol usually makes me feel happier.

Today for the first time in a long time I considered jacking in my years of non smoking and buying a pack. Smoking used to make me feel invincible.

It also gave me bad breath.

And like Toru Watanabe in Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood I hated feeling controlled by something.

The fact is my so called worrying new levels of drinking are laughable. I mean, it’s like one drink a day. But the trouble is when you drink as little as I do anything you do have extra stands out like a sore thumb.

And I had that rule about ‘Not drinking to improve or enhance a mood’.

Today my internet history has seen me search for the best (and worse) jobs for people with social anxiety disorders because I think I have proven to myself I can’t have dream careers like normal people, instead I must go with what can I cope with.

There is a show that I haven’t watched but see advertised on BBC IPlayer called ‘Can’t cope, won’t cope’ and I’m like ‘That’s what I should call my autobiography because ‘The Crying of House 49′ is far too esoteric a reference’

I have tried to search for whether being a mental f***wit means you qualify for disability welfare, because I’m beginning to think it’s not so much as I have difficulty working but that I am completely incapable of it.

But I have always prided myself on my work ethic. I want the full time wage. I want it all.

All my problems are caused by my bastard of a brain. I decided to forgo my usual habit of censoring my swearing just then because I wanted to emphasise my point. I have no real problems. I’m not even stressed by my debt other than the fact that my debt is causing me to stick with jobs I hate or find traumatic because otherwise I will lose everything.

If I could say to myself three years ago, when I was in Peacocks, buying a new outfit because I was going for an unexpected drink after work and didn’t want to wear my uniform, if I could tell myself that my stupid, stupid choices might give me an unlimited wardrobe, but they would dramatically limit all other options such as whether I can move out of the sketchy neighbourhood, whether I can take time off work to look after myself, or whether I could even afford counselling to make myself better, if I could tell myself all that then maybe things would be different now.

Tentative Steps Towards a Better Future

At the Wedding yesterday I decided how I wanted to live my life going forward.

I want to ‘Let People In’.

At the Wedding as Bridesmaid I was one of the key guests, a role I found ‘terrifying’ but even though in the days preceding the Wedding I was worried I was going to ruin the day somehow, you won’t be surprised to hear that I didn’t.

Even though I did initially stand on the wrong side at the ceremony. Something that no one noticed and is in itself kind of a ‘non’ mistake.

Instead I was surrounded by lovely people, all eager to get to know one another, share the love, celebrate the special day and talk and mingle.

I had one of the best days of my life yesterday, not 2017, life.

I want to let people in. I don’t want to be closed off.

Do you remember when Lana Del Rey first appeared and there was that Saturday Night Live sketch where the actress portraying Lana Del Rey says something along the lines of ‘I know people think I’m stand offish, distance and weird, but there’s a very good reason for that, I am stand offish, distance and weird.”

Well, I mean, as much as I hate Facebook and telling people about my problems there have been many times when I wanted to do something like ‘release a statement’ and just post about my social anxiety and explain to my Facebook feed that the reason I haven’t seen my friends who live in the same town as me for a year, and the reason why I don’t text or call or message people is not because I hate them or because I’m being a hateful dick (just a dick) but because social interactions terrify me in a way that nothing other than spiders and a weirder, more specific fear do.

I’m not saying I’m going to be ‘This Years Most Open Person’ instantly. And that forming intimacies with people is more than just me deciding to tell them about my life, it’s about being there for them when they’re suffering, when they’re in pain, when they need me.

But I need to start by forming a new version of the relationships I have with my friends. I guess part of my problem was I was determined to try and have the same life with them, the late nights, the out and about drinking, the clubs and pubs. The problem is those things scare me now. Not to an impossible standard, but I’m much happier with a calm and pleasant coffee morning somewhere, or a nice lunch, then going to ‘sweat-tro’s’

I’m not going to expect my hard partying friends to give up how they best like to socialise, maybe we can meet half way.

I had spoken before about how I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to cope with a proper wedding if me and the boy decide to get married.

Well yesterday was damn fantastic. And I want that for me. My friend’s and family would love to share a special day with me and/or the boy, I don’t just mean a wedding, I barely celebrate my birthday even though I have many friend’s who would love to join me for something.

Let them in Flo.

I am here

Twin Peaks is happening again.

I am a big fan, I even spent £20 on a Twin Peaks board game, but let’s just say it is a bit depressing to play.

The thing is whenever there is something I am looking forward to that is years away in the future-like Season 3 of Twin Peaks was at one point-there is a little part of me that thinks ‘I hope I am still alive then’.

I don’t mean that in a suicidal way, what I mean is ever since I lost a close friend to Leukaemia at the age of 10 I have realised that life is precious and that there is no guarantee I will live to see a grand old age.

I view life much like how I imagine a soldier in World War 1 would have. I might make it to the end, but the odds are stacked against me.

But for now I am here, ready to enjoy Twin Peaks, ready to enjoy the latest WWE Pay Per View, ready to enjoy the highs that life has to offer me and manage the lows that come my way.

My mental health is currently the lowest it has been all year, probably longer, but I am still capable of enjoying the good moments. I think my problems will pass.

I am here. So many aren’t. I am lucky.

My Worst Moments of Anxiety #3 Graduation Day

#3

Newport, Wales, UK 2011

I have a habit of getting extremely anxious at big social gatherings which are supposed to be happy occasions. It is primarily for this reason that I fear having a big wedding and instead hope to have a small one.

In general I had poor mental health whilst at University. I saw a counsellor in my first year and the rest of the years were dotted with moments of breakdowns where I couldn’t speak and would just be some sort of comatose blob on the verge of tears.

In many ways I should have been happy at University. I was away from my overbearing father and to a certain degree I had freedom. In some ways I was happy.

But I guess it’s the classic tale of a high achieving student going into an environment where they are no longer teachers pet or the best in the class. I compare myself to other people in every single way possible and suddenly I was forced to be alongside hundreds of students who I all considered to be better than me in terms of talent, or they were thinner, or prettier, or had a boyfriend or were more popular.

So you would think graduation day would be a happy day as I would be leaving that world behind and would never have to be in that high intense situation again.

Except a few things had happened in my last year and the summer preceding my September graduation.

In Summer 2010 my grandmother passed away. She was the matriarch of my family, our carer, our shining light. I did not cope well with her death.

As a result of this I did quite badly on my course in the final year. I also spent most of my time at University not going to lectures with my classmates as I found it too terrifying being around people who were so much better than me. I couldn’t handle that intense scrutiny, whether imagined or real.

There was also the fact that realising I was potentially going to get a bad grade on my degree I decided that the best way to give myself some good employment prospects was to gain work experience. So I went through one of those companies that arranges a work experience placement abroad in a relevant area.

Except they never found me a placement.

And they never refunded me.

And I can’t take them to court as when I sought legal advise my lawyer had to tell me it would cost thousands of pounds and the company had so many bad things about it I could lose on a technicality.

This is how I originally got into debt.

So graduation day approached. A time to put the bad times behind me?

There were many reasons I was not looking forward to my graduation. One was the fact that I had (by my accounts) ‘failed’ (this means I did not fail, I got a grade that many people would be happy with, but for me as a high achiever it was one of the worst grades I had ever got).

There was also the fact that my Dad had decided his car wouldn’t stand the journey from West Sussex to South Wales and decided he wasn’t going to come. For some reason getting the train didn’t occur to him.

I am still angry about this.

I woke up early on graduation day to straighten my hair. For many years I would refuse to leave the house if I had hair that hadn’t been straightened. I had such low self esteem I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me if I had my natural curly hair on show.

The trouble was as it was Wales, in Autumn, there was mild rain and just picking my mum up from the station about ten minutes away was enough to put a wave into my hair that I found horrendous.

I was already in an extreme state of anxiety when I got to my University and was getting overwhelmed by everything. I had bought heels to wear but after realising they were impossible to walk in I decided against it and had to carry them instead and wear my flats.

As I entered the hall where my graduation would begin I was looking around for where to go when a member of staff took me by surprise by saying hello to me. I was in a state of anxiety remember and this threw me. It was then the member of staff next to him felt the need to do that thing I hate most. Which was to say ‘Smile’ in a snotty voice.

I think there is a special place in hell reserved for those people.

The actual graduation event itself passed relatively straightforwardly. I even evr so slightly cheered up.

But the rest of the day was just awful. It’s like my anxiety sees a happy occasion and puts me in a state just to spite me, just to go against the grain.

My boyfriend and mum were both attending and I couldn’t even stand near them or talk to them. I would pointedly stand a few steps away and could see them getting more and more concerned and asking each other what was wrong with me.

I couldn’t be happy at graduation because I had failed. I was in such a state that I walked past my best friend and blanked her without even realising whilst she called after me.

In some ways going to University was the happiest time of my life, and I did have good moments.

In many more ways it was hell for me.

Most people are normal and feel happy at graduation days, like so many other happy events before me I was incapable of overcoming my anxiety and instead had a miserable time.

In the end it was a good thing my Dad hadn’t come as I couldn’t have been anxious or been uncommunicative as my Dad has never understood mental health or anxiety and he would most likely have ended up screaming at me or something. Maybe, maybe not.

I did not take a single photo at Graduation, and I certainly didn’t have one of those classic professional graduation photos done. There are only a few photos of me that friends took where I have a posed smile on my face. I just want to forget that day ever happened.