There is a psychiatrist who is giving me a hard time for using terms like “batshit crazy” to describe myself. He thinks it is “unhelpful”. I like him and I think his disapproval is to try to help me. But he’s wrong.
This psychiatrist hasn’t actually asked me but I think is under the impression that I am using “batshit” to put myself down as if I think being mad is an intrinsically bad thing and means I think I am fundamentally flawed. That I am using it as weapon to beat myself down. I wish I could say that was completely untrue and I don’t believe that but there is some of that in there, at least a little. I do think my madness lessens me. I have let it ruin my life and I feel most normal (meaning non-mad) people look down on me because of it. You will be able to hear the psychiatric staff trudging through my head here but I don’t think it’s really the madness itself that lessens me but my inability to manage it. I know intellectually that these are not my ideas but put in my head by society. This is internalised stigma. There is nothing about madness that makes a person less than another person. People’s reactions to madness are shaped by their society and by their own particular experiences.
Some of these terms are funny. A lot of madness is ridiculous and I think there are times when it is okay to laugh at it. It makes it mine when I laugh at it. When I am with a group of mad friends and we are laughing at the absurb crap our brains are throwing at us, I feel like something is healing. Reappropriation or reclamation, it’s called. We are stripping out the power those words have and making them ours. Then we have to go out into the world and show the normal people.
My term of choice for madness should really just be “madness” as that word has a solid political history behind it but I quite like “batshit” and use it in from of psychiatric staff, normal people and fellow mad people. I have stopped using the currently favoured “person with a mental health problem” (and I detest the increasingly used abbreviation “person with mental health” because it is fucking nonsensical – everyone has mental health) as it is too long and doesn’t convey any of the severity of experience of madness. Meaning it’s not punchy enough. Meaning I am trying to make the normal people uncomfortable.
There is definitely some passive aggressiveness in my enjoyment of making the normal people uncomfortable. I do feel jealous that they have such an easy time of it not having to deal with being mad and a little splashback on them feels quite nice to me. Very mature of me.
But there is a genuine reason for making the normal people uncomfortable and that is to make them fucking notice us. Mad people are treated like shite by society and some of that is active discrimination and cruelty and some of that is just indifference. To go with the current fashion of judging whether someone is okay based on whether they have a job: only a fifth of people with long term mental illnesses are working. I would bet that most normal people would have no idea about that. I’m not convinced many would care.
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I am not trying to draw an equivalence between the experience of mad people and people of colour fighting for their civil rights (and of course there are many people who belong to both those two groups). People who are trying to improve the lives of mad people also come across the frustration that Dr King describes here. Normal people often just want us to be quiet and grateful for what we do have. It’s not enough. We’re not just dying and we don’t just hurt because of their behaviour but we’re not having anywhere near the full and satisfying lives we could have if they didn’t discriminate against us. Life is short and we won’t get back the years wasted on dealing with normal people’s bullshit. I have had a lot of conversations with people about madness spurred on because of my use of the word “batshit”. That little bit of discomfort in the normal person’s mind might add up one day and maybe even make a difference. Fuck me, being optimistic again.
If I try to kill myself then I will probably fail. It’s the main thing that is stopping me trying. I hate failing but I really, really hate other people seeing me fail. Even in the best case scenario of people being empathetic and compassionate, that hurts like a motherfucker. Their kindness hurts. Of course, their indifference or cruelty hurt too. Everything hurts.
If I see the man from the hospital then other people’s reactions and judgements will hurt. If I don’t see him then I will hurt because I miss him.
If I take off and go on a trip then I will be anxious and overwhelmed. I will not know what I’m doing and I will be alone. It is risky as I might lose control and not know what to do. I might get into serious trouble and humiliate myself. It might cost a lot of money. While I want to run and get away, I don’t actually want to be sitting in an unknown room in an unknown country. I don’t want to stay but I don’t want to be elsewhere either. There’s a good chance that I would go on my trip and then just come home early feeling even worse.
There are no good options.
I have forgotten how to decide things. I can still sometimes feel like I want something, like I want to hug the man from the hospital, but my automatic reaction is distrust. If I want something then it must be wrong. If I want something then that means I shouldn’t have it. I am so tired and confused and lost.
I wish I had someone to talk to. I email the Samaritans sometimes but they don’t talk, they listen and reflect back. Which is lovely. But not enough for me. I suppose I could get a private psychologist. But I’d have deal with the anxiety of a new clinician and learn to trust them which I find painful. The hospital consultant talked to me about trust and made me realise that I don’t trust anyone. I don’t know how to trust people anymore than I know how to decide things. Doesn’t work. Had enough.
Keep hearing in my head, “I want to go home” but I am home. Think it means that I want to feel safe. But there’s no such thing as safe. Fuck, I was really pretty agitated last night and it’s still here this morning. My thoughts are screaming. I can feel the pressure in the back of my throat, my neck shoulders, chest. The monster is awake and writhing under my skin. In the old days, I’d cut. In the old days. I’d drink and take drugs. In the old days, I’d sleep the day away. In the old days, I’d run. Now I just sit. Sit with my utter helplessness. It’ll pass or it’ll not pass. Each second that passes is another second that I never have to do again. It doesn’t matter how much I fuck up and doesn’t matter what anyone else does to me, those seconds are gone and keep going. I am always, always moving closer to the end. I will be free. The seconds keep passing.
My eating is out of control again. Sometimes I get wee thoughts like “at least I’m not eating until I nearly throw up”, “at least I’m not eating until I am worried about gastric rupture”, etc, as if it’s not that bad really. I am not logging my binges because I am not logging anything. I was always shocked when I logged them at how large they really were. I think “oh that wasn’t so bad” but I bet it was.
Now it’s 2-3 times a day which is back to its worst. I feel totally helpless in front of them. I say “no more” then the next thing I know I am binging. I feel like it is already decided and my attempts at stopping are just laughable.
I am piling on the weight. It’s everywhere. My abdomen, my breasts, my arms, my legs. I feel grotesque and huge. I feel like a monster. Wearing clothes two sizes bigger. Bits of me disproportionately distended and massive. Feel like discontinuous parts. Not human, anyway. I realise this will make me sound crazy but honestly, my body is shaped so wrongly now that it does not look human anymore. I think this is another one of those things that only makes sense on the inside of my head.
All this nonsense about a body a bit bigger. It’s not a few extra inches round various circumferences. It’s what it means. It’s means more and more people are starting to treat me like a fat person again which is not intrinsically or fundamentally a bad thing in itself. But here and now, where I live and who I know, it is unsafe. It’s men thinking I must be ‘easy’ or ‘desperate’ and not accepting no. It’s having “fat cunt” shouted out of cars. It’s fucking doctors. It’s people looking down on me.
Things are nowhere near as bad as they were when I was ‘morbidly obese’ but it’s starting. And I can’t bear it. Which makes me feel desperate which makes me binge. Round and round. (There’s a joke in there about me getting rounder. Can’t work up the energy.)
What do I actually want? If I disregarded everyone else’s opinions, what I want is to go back in time to the hotel and put the bag and elastic over my head with the noose and sink down and let it tighten. Actually do it. I want none of this to have happened. No traumatic hospital stay, not meeting the man on the ward, not thoughts getting even more batshit, not eating out of control again. Not all this relentless, overwhelming pain.
I want to run away. I have this strong feeling that I have to get away. Run fucking run. I want to be free. There is no freedom here as my life is dominated by my ‘mental illness’. But I could sit on a beach or in a park in another country and know I was miles from anyone I could possibly know. That would help. I think that is all the freedom I am going to get.
It’s odd, wanting something. Usually I don’t and just drift. I have been drifting for years and years. Sometimes I think “there is no point wanting anything because I’d never get it” and my feelings are choked off at the start. But I think mostly it just doesn’t occur to my brain to want things. I blame the antipsychotics. I used to be very driven and ambitious when I was a young woman.
I think what my problem is that I feel so incredibly, overwhelmingly ashamed. I am ashamed of my life and how badly I manage my ‘mental illness’. I am ashamed of how ridiculous my recent ‘episode’ has been. Honestly, I think anyone would be embarrassed. I don’t understand what is going on. Why am I acting like such a fucking tool? Why can’t I get a grip? When I play over in my mind all the people that have been so kind to me then I get this tsunami of bad (so goddamn articulate) that I can feel physically and can only get to subside by saying “yes, we’re running. How about Friday?”. It’s like a panic. All I hear in my head is I can’t stay here. Seriously, I cannot stay here. The wave has broken over me and I have to get away. There is no air left; I can’t breathe. Run fucking run.
I talk a little to my friends and now I feel even more stupid and like a burden. I talk a little to the crisis team and now I am even more convinced that they think I am an attention-seeking waste of space. Run FUCKING RUN. Even as I try to talk, I feel the tsunami of bad about to overwhelm me. I had to back off in my appointment yesterday as I could feel myself losing control entirely. Holy crap, that is a frightening feeling. Long way of saying: there is an plenty of help here but I can no more access it than zip up a size 8 dress.
I think I am premenstrual too. I get particularly batshit then. My period started after two days of being in hospital last time.
I just had this thought that I am not doing too well right now. Pause, empty brain. I want my Mum. She used to talk to me and I remember I would feel pissed off but things would feel clearer and safer. Like “yeah, this is crap but it’ll be okay”. Why did she have to die? Why did she have to leave me so alone? This is why I want the man from the hospital. I don’t feel alone at all when I am with him. I feel safe and home when he wraps his arms round me. Something is happy and complete. It’s been so long since I felt that. But the more I get to know him the more I find out that he has been dangerous to women in the past. So I have more shame that I have allowed myself to be played and what will everyone think. Run fucking run. More evidence that I am a fucking tube and deeply, thoroughly pathetic. Everyone knows. I can’t even do the basics of adulthood like keep myself safe. So useless.
I can’t do this anymore. This maelstrom. I broke a long time ago but even broken parts swirling in the madness have limits. I am running. Fucking running.
I think I am doing something that is breaking the top 10 of stupid things I have done. It’s a crowded field. Competition is tight.
I am in the psychiatric hospital still. I am seeing the consultant today and I don’t know whether to push to get discharged today (or even go against medical advice) or whether to acquiesce and stay a few days longer. Maybe the consultant will be quite happy with discharging me today. I don’t know as nobody is telling me what is going on.
I was told the middle of last week by a nurse that I trust that if I tried to leave then she thought they’d section me. However, I was told more recently by my named nurse that she didn’t think that I was detainable anymore. So I have options now. Probably. I don’t know the hospital consultant. I don’t know her tolerances and thresholds. They all vary and they’re not consistent.
Of course, leaving the hospital too early is not the stupid thing that I am doing. Well, it’s obviously a stupid thing but it doesn’t make the top 10 or even close to it. The stupid thing I am doing is falling in love with another inpatient. Falling? Fallen? He is almost as much a mess as I am.
He is doing a 28 day section after being arrested for something that I’m not quite sure about the details of but I think he stalked, harassed and threatened an old school friend who is now a psychiatrist. He used to talk a lot about what she’d done to him. That’s much less talk unless he is agitated but his fixation is still there. He stalked and harassed and possibly did more to his ex-wife. He might have been in prison for it. He is manic. I can see how much better he is in the time I have been here but he was badly, badly manic when I first met him. He doesn’t believe he has bipolar disorder. He is not taking medication. If he isn’t actually an alcoholic then he has a drinking problem.
He is so warm. So affectionate and kind. He is sharp as fuck. I want to touch to him all the time because he is so alive under my skin. I haven’t enjoyed anything in months (longer?) as much I enjoy stroking his arms and hands. I love it when he grips my waist. When he hugs me tight, I feel safe and complete. But also exhilarated and like I am flying. He looks into my eyes and smiles at me and I just want him. That’s it. I want him.
But he is dangerous and not safe despite my brain declaring him safe. This short term exhilaration is not worth the risk of him getting strange ideas about me. We also wouldn’t fit into each other’s lives as he is also twenty years old than me and religious. He is chaos and destabilisation and warmth and life and laughter and pain. And I just want him. So I think it is time to go home.
Life has many gifts. I’m not so far gone as to deny that. Long, tight hugs from someone you love. Sunrise on a frosty but perfectly clear winter solstice. A child laughing in delight when you explain something to their satisfaction. Some people receive more of these gifts than others. Perhaps some people earn more of these gifts than others.
But life has many terrors too. Pain. Loneliness. Fear. Again, some people receive more of these terrors than others. And perhaps some people deserve more of these terrors than others.
So many different paths through so many gifts and terrors. What’s a gift? What’s a terror? In the end, we are all the same.
When your body is breaking down but the pain just keeps increasing then life has one last gift for you. When your mind is breaking down but the pain just keeps increasing then life has one last gift for you too. The pain will always end; you don’t have to be afraid; no one can take that from you. Death will always come: life’s last gift.
I feel like such a fucking fool. Such an incredible fucking fool. I used up an ambulance. I was in A&E taking up a bed. I am using up a psychiatric bed. I can’t seem to stop crying. I am so ashamed. I can’t face anyone. Oh god, I can’t believe I am in hospital. I absolutely cannot face anyone. How the fucking fuck did I let this happen? I had so many choices. So many chances to choose differently. It is all my fault. I don’t deserve all the care that I’m getting. It hurts so much that people are being nice to me.
And I’ve lost my escape route. It’s all gone.
I have mixed feelings about being in the bin. One fight over, another one starts. It is such an odd feeling knowing I can’t kill myself (well… if… says the little voice, it is immortal). I am so relieved that the dogfight in my brain is dead because one side has lost everything (at least for now). I am trapped and I am free and I am trapped and…
It was sunny today and I sat on the grass in the garden. I wanted to touch it so I did. It was beautiful. I had said goodbye to all this but it’s still here.
I am in a hotel. It is the middle of the night. I arrived yesterday evening. I have put black bin bags and towels down. I have set up three of my methods (the fourth won’t work as something has gone wrong). I have cleaned and organised my house, as best I can though I couldn’t get everything done. I threw out everything (url NSFW) I don’t want my family to see. I don’t have a Will but I printed out my wishes for my affairs, a list of household accounts with contact details and a list of people to contact. I organised all my paperwork and identification and put it together. I deliberately didn’t write a suicide note. I walked round and said goodbye to my favourite park and some other places. It was beautiful in the sunshine. I had my favourite dinner. Everything is ready and I thought I was too.
I started one method and stood there waiting to take the final, tiny step. My head was empty. I just didn’t. I just stood, Something took my hands and we moved away. (That reads as utter nonsense but I am not talking about details of methods because I know for a fucking fact that that will stay in the minds of my fellow mad people and might rear up when they are next ill. So nonsense it is.) I didn’t feel that disheartened as I have my backup plans. I emailed the Samaritans. I have been emailing them for weeks. They have been so good. Then I lay on the bed and put on the Headspace meditation about how you are not your thoughts and or your feelings, you are the blue sky (sorry sorry will explain another time) and I felt sleepy afterwards. I was surrounded by all these tiny steps to death, I had made it as easy as I could for myself to just get over the line this time and… I had a nap. Yes, I am laughing, a bit hysterically.
I woke up an hour ago. What have I done for an hour? Other than cried. The Samaritans emailed back, a warm, compassionate email that hurt so much, why does people being nice to me always hurt so much, and they have offered to phone me and said it’s okay if I just cry and can’t talk because at least I won’t be alone. Crying again. I want my Mum back. Maybe I can try again. My thoughts are breaking down. You’ll never get peace till you’re dead. Look what you have done, over and over. All you are doing is causing pain. Everyone you touch, you hurt then. You are bad. You’ll never be free till you’re dead. All that is left for you is shame, guilt and pain because that is all you deserve.
I have been a psychiatric patient for twenty-five years, off and on, and I know what to do right now. I take diazepam. I put on my clothes and pick up my handbag and abandon all this stuff and walk out the room. I phone the number and cry down the phone. Fuck crying on the street. I am a manic depressive: I am a goddamn veteran of crying on the street and having everyone not-look. I could do that.
I could phone the Samaritans. I could phone one of my friends (no). I could take diazepam and sleep some more. Wake up and try again.
It’s a good thing you’re used to incoherence on this blog.
I feel a peace in my head. My thoughts are quiet and slow. I don’t have the pain gritting up my thinking and making even the basics of everyday life unbearable. I can still feel the despair but it’s settled down and solid now. I can fairly easily just ignore it. Most of all, I am not fighting anymore. I am not agonising over my decision. It’s a terrible, selfish decision but it’s for the best. I am done. Is the combination of quiet thoughts, quiet feelings and no pain the definition of peace? I have no idea (and the dictionary didn’t help).
I’ve had this peace before. It has happened in the times between finalising my decision to try my best to die and actually trying to do it. It’s not even that I’m reluctantly resigned. I’m walking towards it quite calmly and purposefully (well, as purposefully as a currently mad person can do). I say that now, of course. I’ll see what it’s like when it’s all right in front of me in the hotel room. There’ll be doubt and probably panic then. But for now, it’s so nice. Such relief. I understand why there is a cliché of “sweet relief”. It is as delicate and delicious as the sweetest treat. Fuck me, I’m about to go all #blessed.
After the list I posted earlier today, and because I like to torture myself, here is a list of things I could do to rebuild my life and try again:
Get a dog or some other pet for company and love
Do a second day at the charity project I go to for more structure and company
Alternatively, or in addition to the above, volunteer to do something useful and try and build some self-esteem
Get a private psychologist and really talk and open up (I am very lucky that my obsessive need to control my spending, after getting into the worst kind of trouble in my twenties, has had the beneficial effect of allowing me to build up some savings. I am the only person I know of that has been this lucky.)
Start running again and be brave and try new routes but cancel the gym and admit I never enjoyed it
Do the Open University Access course I have been eyeing up for… uh… years to give me a little hope that I could possibly have a future
Get a tattoo and do the other recommended things to start reclaiming my body and stop despising it
Comparing this list with my earlier list: there are major areas not covered. I don’t think those things can be solved or ameliorated. Which is why I am eating nutella and butter sandwiches and booking a hotel.