Some thoughts at the end of May, 2015.

Everything I write here comes from the same moment in my life.  The moment when I draw into myself, when I feel a pressing into my lungs and heart – the weightiness of not being able to speak out what I feel. For me, everything I write here is sort of like a symptom, or if not a symptom then an extension – every letter for me is pulling something out of me that I can’t say, but I can type.

I can type it – I can write it.

Writing is a bit like exorcism I think, but perhaps that’s because of my extensive religious background. Perhaps if I hadn’t been told I was possessed by a demon, then I wouldn’t believe I possessed something like one. In my worst moment this is how I see myself – the harbinger of something bad. In my best moments I can step outside myself and see what is happening – I’m just a woman whose brain chemistry doesn’t necessarily work the way normal peoples does. My brain needs help. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

A brain that needs help. A brain that needs different chemicals, different energies, different treatment. It sounds so perfectly easy – if you get sick, take your medicine, if you’re ill, go to the doctor. So why is it so hard? Perhaps because when you’re sick, if you feel better, you stop taking the medicine. When you’re depressed, if you feel better, it means you keep taking the medication. It is much harder to know when you are better, when you are finally well again and if you will actually ever be ‘healed’.

I’ve been writing and thinking about my medication since it began – this blog was a response to those first twenty milligrams three years ago. Now I find myself wondering what life would be like without it, what I would be like without it, even how I would write without it. Is there a creative well inside of me that has been walled off by anti-depressants? Has it been numbed out? Or would life without those little pills every morning just become cluttered and painful again, with a brain full of words but no way of speaking them?

The only way forward would be to try. I don’t know if I’m ready to try yet, but I know I’m ready to think about it. And for a brain that needs help, that’s a pretty big step.

Chrysalis

‘… Not that one could despair of recovery. Rivers knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those who cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.’ Regeneration, Pat Barker.

So this is why it feels this way,

so much what dying might look like.

Those who fear the afterlife have never

tried to recover from something,

they do not know that there is possibility

of something

beyond even this reality you know and love,

or know and hate.

Foolish girl, I have been standing here –

one foot in the past and one in the future,

thinking of myself as a voice, a tune,

singing the song of the broken into the land of the living.

An emissary for the lost ones,

as I try to lick my wounds, but no –

I am not the voice of anything, I am a garbled spirit,

a mutant being, belonging no-where but in between.

I cannot speak for those who starve

and weep and cut and wail

any more.

I am not both sick and recovered – a mysterious

creature of light and darkness – I am not

I am decayed of both states

I am the broken thing between that

belongs nowhere.

There is death in life, everyone knows it,

but no one is entirely sure where.

I know.

Terminology

For a long time my mental illness was undiagnosed. It was locking myself in the bathroom and praying God would make me less hungry, or that he would save me from the thing I was doing that didn’t have a name. It was lying to my friends and teachers about the scars on my arms, scraped into my skin with broken protractors, dirty compasses from the maths drawer at school, shards of old photo frames and oh, so many other things. It was furious tears in the middle of the night, it was feeling like I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand, couldn’t get air into my lungs or my brain. It was crouching, motionless, telling my legs to move, my muscles to contract, and feeling nothing. Nothing at all.

So I developed my own mother tongue for this strange land I had come to live in. ‘Problems with food’ covered everything from binge eating and getting up early to sneak chocolate bars into my bed to being unable to put anything in my mouth for days on end. ‘Crashing’ was when the world went dark, when my body shook hard in the night and I couldn’t breathe. Later I would know they were panic attacks, but all I knew was that I felt like the universe crashed into my mind, throwing me back. A full system lock down.

People at camp would tell me it was demon possession, they would pray for my soul. They would sit by me in the watches of the night, and speak comforting words to parts of me and words of condemnation to others. I was unclean with it, dirty from the inside. Even when I grew a faith community strong enough to teach me that this wasn’t the truth, I still called it ‘crashing.’ I hadn’t seen a doctor yet. I didn’t know what a panic attack was, or that I was having them. I thought panic attacks were serious. What I had was a crash.

Later, even after diagnosis, ‘running’ was the terminology I kept. Running was what I felt when it all got too much, when I paced around my bedroom at university, unable to think of anything except getting out, getting away. I would call my boyfriend and hop on the first bus, I would call my best friend and go and sleep on her floor, I would crawl into my room-mates bed and refuse to come out. This blog came out of that instinct and my desire to turn ‘Running’ away from everything into ‘Running’ into something. Running into this. Running into my illness.

It never goes away, it seems. Today I am locked up in my house with dirty hair unable to get up, get out. I’m not running any more, I’ve been through therapy, and I know how to deal with a panic attack, and yet still there may never be the right words for all of this.

I am sitting on the edge of my terminology, balancing on the tightrope between suffering and recovering. Are there terms for this, after all the treatment is done and it’s fifteen years later, and you still find yourself fighting to find the words?

I’m trying to find the right words.