Why Can’t I Have Both?

It’s been a while… I know.

It’s just on two months since I disappeared off the blogging trail.  No explanation, just not there.  My apologies for the ‘no explanation’, but it just had to be.  The short story is that I came to a point where it was necessary for me to question whether my participation in the blogosphere was helping or hurting me.  Was I getting out of blogging what was good for me, or was it actually causing pain?  Ideally it would be great to say my participation couldn’t possibly be hurting me, but that’s simply not true.  I have yet to resolve the issue in my mind, and so in the meantime I will only be posting sporadically, when something is weighing particularly heavy on my mind.

I admit too, that pulling back in my participation has also included cutting back on how much I have been reading others’ posts.  That has simply been too hard, particularly with writing comments.  But I do still have a desire to support the blogs I follow and I will be back eventually.

Meanwhile, a dilemma falls before me.  It’s not one that is new to me, but perhaps this time it is a bigger issue because of the consequences involved.  Two options are before me and I wish so much that I could have both.  Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way and particularly in the issue of mental health versus physical health.  So often it seems the option is one or the other.  Why can’t I have both?

This past week I finally got in to see a Pain Specialist to consider how best to treat my Fibromyalgia.  I’ve been waiting for this for several years now, so it was so great to finally be there.  Regular readers will be pleased to know that I also finally changed my doctor (General Practitioner) a few weeks back.  That, and seeing the Pain Specialist has finally given me some hope that treatment is possible.  Unfortunately though, it looks like it might come with a cost.

The Pain Specialist has recommended a medication for me to try, which if it works for me, could turn my life around in terms of the pain and fatigue that I have on a daily basis. What the medication recommended isn’t important to this post as the last thing I want to do is get into a conversation of ‘what works for who‘.  I don’t see the point in that simply because we all respond to medication differently.

It was not possible for me to start on the medication straight away as it was necessary to get funding approved from the New Zealand health system.  The hope was that by the end of next week I would be able to start.  It would take some weeks to get to optimum dose and so to work out if it was effective.

It was all sounding great, until I came home and did my own research on the drug.  I am particularly careful to read up on medication I intend to start on because of firstly adverse interactions with other medication but also because of those lovely side effects we all dread.

The interactions were listed as moderate, but I had discussed it with the specialist and we agreed that with careful monitoring it would be ok.  But the side effects were different.  All the usuals, including my dreaded weight gain… but here’s the one that stopped me in my tracks:

“you should know that your mental health may change in unexpected ways and you may become suicidal (thinking about harming or killing yourself or
planning or trying to do so)”

Added to that was:

“….panic attacks; agitation or restlessness; new or worsening irritability, anxiety, or depression; acting on dangerous impulses; difficulty falling or staying asleep; aggressive, angry, or violent behavior; mania (frenzied, abnormally excited mood); talking or thinking about wanting to hurt yourself or end your life; withdrawing from friends and family; preoccupation with death and dying; giving away prized possessions; or any other unusual changes in behavior or mood”

It speaks for itself.

I know that this is not the first, or only, medication that has these possible side effects.  There is the well-known anti-smoking medication which I have always said I would never risk taking because of the possibility of suicidal thoughts.  Then there are of course, many anti-depressants and other medications for mental illnesses which have similar risk.

I know that.   I don’t like it.  I think it is crazy, but I know that’s the pharmaceutical world we live in.  What bothers me is that I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Yes, these are possible side effects and might not happen but I have to be prepared for their possibility.

For just a few hours, from leaving the Pain Specialist to getting home and doing my own research, I had some hope for the possible end of my pain (or at least significant reduction).  I started to think about being able to get back to work, and was even mentally rewriting my out-of-date CV.

This drug offered me hope… but at the expense of my mental health.

Do I restore my physical health while risking my mental stability?  Or do I say no to the drug, continue to be limited in my physical health, but be sure my mental health is maintained (at whatever level it is currently at).

This is a really hard one.  Yesterday I was by chance reading Lulu’s post on her blog Sunny with a Chance of Armageddon on a similar issue she was facing. Which do we preserve?  Mental health or Physical Health?  It seems that this is a common dilemma we face when we have mental illness, and I’m coming to the conclusion that we each have to make our own decision.  For each, it will be different.

Personally, while I haven’t reached a decision on my dilemma, my inclination right now is to preserve my mental health (which would practically mean avoiding this particular medication).  While my mental health is relatively stable now days, I continue to struggle.  I have been at the bottom of the pit in terms of mental illness. Years of hospitalisation, heavy medication, ECT and the many harmful things I did to myself including suicide attempts.  I had suicidal thinking for a very long time.  I have no desire to go back there.  I suspect I would find it difficult to crawl out of the pit again.

Do I try for stable physical health?  Or stable mental health?  I hate the way my life is dominated with pain right now, but perhaps surprisingly, I think I would rather have that physical pain than to go back through the mental pain I lived with, the worst of which was through the late 1990’s.

On Tuesday I will see my (new) doctor and talk to him.  Maybe I’ll find the cash and go see my rather expensive psychiatrist too.  The problem for me is that while my medical notes are full of mental illness, none of the doctors involved knew me at the worst of my mental struggles.  They haven’t seen that Cate.  They don’t know how bad it can get for me.  I do.

There are no guarantees in this game.  I could have no side effects and get good pain results too.  It just might not happen… but I’m not a lottery player and even so, I just don’t like my odds.

But forget about my dilemma for a moment…   what would you do?  Maybe you’ve already faced this issue.  How did you deal with it?

“No amount of love can cure madness or unblacken one’s dark moods. Love can help, it can make the pain more tolerable, but, always, one is beholden to medication that may or may not always work and may or may not be bearable”

— Kay Redfield Jamison (An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness)

Claiming My Voice Back

I haven’t shared this journey on this blog, mostly because until now I didn’t think it was my story to tell.  I posted Grieving For My Red Balloon about a year ago, but that is as far as I went.  It was a very carefully constructed attempt to say “help, I’m hurting” while strangely enough trying to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes.  Was I kidding?  Avoiding trampled toes?  It was far too late for that. But then I was still being manipulated… into silence.  That was all part of the game.

I’m healing now and part of that includes claiming this as my story.  It doesn’t belong to anyone else because I’m the one who lived it.  I’m the one who was played with like a toy.  I was a game. Manipulated, abused, lied to and cheated on.  It’s my story and I’m choosing finally to share it with you because I can.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

 ― Anne Lamott,Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I’ve been kissed by a…

Rose

Monster

Person With A Mental Illness

Take your pick.  You could say that I have been kissed by all three. I could go with the words of the song.  If a man can be a rose (and why not?), then that is exactly how he seemed.  He was a beautiful person with a very loving heart.  Caring, understanding of me and my world, he promised he would never play games with my heart.  He challenged my thinking and he supported my growth as a person.  He wasn’t perfect, like any of us but he was a person right for me.

But later I’d know that I’d met a ‘monster‘.  His term, not mine.  Personally I don’t like calling human beings monsters, regardless of what they might or might not have done. But I’m using the term here simply because he used the term of himself.  I regularly told him that to me he was no monster.  Actually he still isn’t (in my mind).

Eventually, what I only knew is that I had kissed a person with a mental illness.  For that matter, so had he.  No harm in that.  Is there?

Here’s the story,

Back in 2012 Blogger (boy) meets Blogger (girl) in comments section of a Third Blogger’s Post.

(BTW Third Blogger has no responsibility for anything here, except for yet another very thought-provoking post or two.)

Each blogger liked the other’s comments and so a friendship developed, followed quickly by a romance.  I should add here that we were many miles apart, me in New Zealand and him on the other side of the world.  Neither of us were looking for any kind of relationship, let alone one on the internet.  Surprise!

We lived happily ever after…

Hang on a minute.  That’s how it seemed.  We were both very happy and eventually we spent some time together ( I went to visit him) and after that we were planning on a life together.  And this wasn’t an impulsive thing, it was all carefully considered.

It was what we both wanted. I was his ‘soulmate‘.  That’s what he said, regularly.  I’ve never been too sure on the whole ‘soulmate‘ terminology but if there was such a thing, then this was him.  He was the ‘one‘ for me.  I was never more sure of anything.  My gut instinct told me that this was right.

Then one day he announced to me via the internet waves that we treasured so greatly, that he was “too sick to be in a relationship“.  Time out was what he wanted.  My compassionate heart sprung into action and understood completely.  I thought it was a break (that’s what he said) and that we still had a very bright future ahead of us (together!).  Yes, it would hurt but it seemed like the best thing for a apparently very depressed man.

Just days later though, he announced to his Facebook friends (including me at that point) that he had a new ‘soulmate‘.  He was in love with another woman (any mention of me was completely gone).  And they were very happy together.  To add to it, she was married.  That didn’t seem to be an issue though.  Two relationships gone with one hit.

The short version of the rest of the  nightmare is that as well as cheating on me, he had lied.  Actually he had lied the whole way through the year long relationship.  Everything was a lie. He had manipulated me for his own deceitful purposes.  He had abused me in more ways than I care to count.

I discovered that his diagnosed mental illness was not Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as he had always said, but was Antisocial Personality Disorder (that’s right… sociopath/psychopath).

It all hurt like hell.  I felt deranged and paranoid.  I no longer knew what the truth was.  I didn’t know what to believe.  Just how he wanted it.  Perhaps worst at that time was that I couldn’t go bang on his door to find out what the heck was happening. I eventually learnt many things.  Others I simply pieced together.  And yet others, I will simply never know.  One of those big revelations was the reason why he would never have visited me in New Zealand.  It boiled down simply to the fact that he is a convicted criminal and wouldn’t have been allowed into my country. He had never admitted that.

So that’s the very brief story of the last two years of my life.  I fell in love with a man who simply didn’t exist.  Oh sure, there was a man, complete with body, but aside from the body, everything was fake.  Everything he said to me was simply a story, all part of the game he was playing.  The extent his lies would go to was simply limited by his acting abilities. And even before anything went wrong, I knew he would make an excellent actor.

Of course all this hurt.  I cried and screamed and yelled and felt so empty, used and abused.  Now days I’m moving on, but it hasn’t been easy.  It was far from easy and very traumatic.  I’m still working on recovering, but I refuse to be held back by this anymore. When I think about all that I have been through the fact of loving someone who really didn’t exist is perhaps the hardest.  I had no desire for the true person revealed.  That person I felt angry towards and then sad for.  Incapable of a real relationship. But I still loved the person I thought I knew.  How do you grieve for someone who wasn’t ever there?

Yeah, I guess I was kissed by a monster (his words, not mine).

Does it seem a little strange that I’m sharing this now, particularly when I’ve said so little in the last year?  I have realised that by staying silent, I am allowing myself to be manipulated further. I need to speak up to claim back control on my life. I have only shared the barest detail. There has been so much more, but that detail is not important.  I am simply saying this is my story to tell to whom I chose. It’s not done in malice but rather in claiming back my voice and with it some peace for myself.

“Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing.” 

― Jennifer Brown, Hate List

Lucy In The Sound Dome With Diamonds

I’m not about to debate the true meaning of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds‘ by the Beatles, but it sprang to mind when thinking about writing this post.  Am I seeing diamonds in the sky?  No.  But the popular belief that the song has something to do with drug-laced hallucinations is appropriate.

No, I’m not doing drugs.  Well, not anymore than the small mountain of prescribed psychotropic and pain medication.  I am, however, living my life in a sound dome.  Where I go, it goes.  It’s actually very clever.

The connection for me is that I’ve been having hallucinations for six weeks now.  I am hearing music that is not there, nor can anyone else hear it.

I’m not seeing things, but I am hearing plenty.  Plenty of music, that is.  And while we’re about what ‘is‘ and ‘isn’t‘… I’m not psychotic (confirmed by a doctor!).  This is nothing to do with my mental health, although it’s fair to say that as time goes on, it is having a great effect on my mental health.  The music hallucinations I am having are related to my ears, and not some psychotic illness.

If you want to know more about music hallucinations, you can do your own googling.  What I want to talk about is how these auditory hallucinations are doing my head in right now.

You might think that six weeks of music that is almost constant in my waking hours, would be welcome, especially if you’re not having to pay for it.  But actually this is anything but welcome.  Let me explain:

  • I don’t have any control over when it plays, or at what volume;

  • I don’t have any control over what type of music plays.  Right now, I being inundated with full ensemble, church music.  Yes, that’s hymns, mostly with orchestra, choir and at times, a full pipe organ.  It’s not the type of music I would choose and actually having such a full exposure to this in my earlier life, it really does nothing but press emotional buttons;

  • I don’t have control over the quality.  I regularly hear wrong notes and off-key singing.  I regard myself as enough of a (even if lapsed) musician, that I find the errors mostly offensive.  How about when the instruments aren’t in time with the voices?

  • Sometimes my brain gets really clever and plays two separate tunes at once.  That’s fun.  Actually no it’s not, it simply becomes noise.

I don’t know why my brain/ears are choosing to do this.  That’s slightly freaky especially as with time, it seems to be getting worse and louder.  I’ve had a medical opinion (as I mentioned in What’s Fair?) but I’m still waiting to see the specialist.

Musical hallucinations running about 95 per cent of every day are also affecting the rest of my life.  Again, let me explain:

  • As an introvert, I like my silence.  Oh, how I miss it.  The only thing that successfully drowns the sound is the television (as long as I totally focus on it and don’t just have it as background noise).  But then that’s just more noise.

  • As someone who is hearing impaired and who has worn hearing aids for the past six years, I also find background noise stops me from hearing the things I need to hear.  Now days I don’t often listen to music for this very reason.  But now I am overloaded in background noise flowing from my left ear;

  • As someone who needs plenty of sleep, I need quiet.  I am trying to use a Sleep App and while that generally works for me when I am dealing with a loud case of tinnitus, with the hallucinations I just find the Sleep App creates more noise.  Oh, if I could temporarily amputate my head and leave it in another room!  Okay, I’m only half joking;

  • As a fibromyalgia sufferer, I need stress-free everything.  With an increase in stress, partly because of the noise and partly because I don’t have any definite knowledge of what is really going on in my head, that all adds to more stress in my life.  That is resulting in more pain, more fatigue and what seems like permanent brain fog.  None of that is good or welcome;

  • As a reader (yes, including your posts) I simply can’t concentrate to read when I have this noise going on.  I’m not sure if that is a by-product of past Electro Convulsive Treatments (ECT) or the brain fog related to fibro.  What I do know is that I am really struggling to read anything;

  • As a writer (and blogger), the same applies.  That’s part of the purpose of this post to explain to you why I haven’t been posting regularly.  I apologise, especially to the many who have recently followed me.  There’s nothing like following a blogger and never getting any new posts to read.  Today I am using my trusty Sleep App again as I write.  It’s not really working, so if this is the most poorly written of all my posts, you’ll hopefully understand why;

  • And finally as someone with a small pile of mental illnesses.  I started to realise last week that these hallucinations are affecting my mental health.  I’m fighting not to slide back into Depression.  Some of the worst of my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) traits are rising to the service and I find myself constantly argumentative and irritable.  Trying to withstand idiots has been beyond my ability at times, and I want to change the world… NOW!  Oh and one more thing.  It doesn’t seem related but I have absolutely no interest in eating right now.  That’s not good for someone with a history of Anorexia but I’m watching that one. Right now all of these issues have me taking a break from Social Media (except for WordPress).  Hopefully that way I won’t offend anymore people.

That’s probably more than you wanted to know but as you can see, these hallucinations are affecting my whole life.  I have a list of other symptoms for the ENT specialist when I get there.  I really hope s/he can help me as there wouldn’t be much worse than being stuck with these hallucinations for life.  That scares me as much as anything.

Please don’t give me advice (unless you are a ENT specialist).  I didn’t post this to get advice, but more to explain just what is going on for me and why you haven’t seen much of me lately.

My quote to finish is one more problem I have right now.  And it is perhaps the scariest of all.  I really struggle with it at night when I think the noise I can hear is someone breaking in.

“I no longer knew what was real and what wasn’t.  The lines between reality and delusion had become so blurred.” 

― A.B. Shepherd, The Beacon

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Who’s The Bully Now?

A few weeks ago I wrote about compassion (see Where Does Compassion Fit?).  That post came from a number of issues including subjects that were being discussed by other bloggers, as well as a slowly developing personal belief about how I treat others.  Several issues came up from the comments to that post, as well as from that which I have been reading about in various places.  So I need to return, in some way, to the subject or I will never get to sleep at night…

I was about nine and sitting on the outside fire-escape stairs at school one afternoon.  The class bully (M) came and sat down next to me.  She wanted the watch I was wearing.  This watch was a gift from my grandmother, who had gifted three of her old watches to her three grand daughters.  The watch was probably about 70 years old at that stage.  It was gold and was very precious to me.  M pulled the watch (on my wrist) towards her and then suddenly let go.  Naturally my arm flew back into the brick wall I was sitting next to.  The glass on the watch smashed as it hit the bricks.  M seemed happy with what she had done but left me in tears.

That afternoon when I got home I went in search of my Dad.  I found him in the church (he was the minister and so the church was next door to our home).  Dad took me on his knee as I told him what happened.  I told him I wanted to get M back.  I don’t remember the whole conversation but I do remember what he told me about revenge.  “Two wrongs don’t make a right” he said.  I wasn’t going to fix the matter by trying to hurt the bully back.

Something that struck me in that last post on compassion, is that for many people they hold in their heads the idea that there are a some people who don’t deserve compassion. “They’re not human beings, they’re monsters“.  I struggle with that one because I believe that those ‘monsters‘ (a human being is never a monster in my mind) are simply people who have been on a different journey.  And who am I to judge someone else’s journey?

I’m not saying that if people have done harm and maybe have some criminal issue to address, that they shouldn’t be held accountable.  I’m not saying if they have hurt me, then I don’t have the right to be angry and hurt.  I’m simply saying that for me, those ‘monsters‘ are still human beings and so still deserve my compassion.  I can address the issue of the hurt they have caused me, but I do it with compassion.  Not always easy to do, but for me it’s worth trying.

I know that’s a hard one to swallow, and I can hear people saying that I just haven’t been hurt badly enough by those ‘monsters‘.  Actually I have had more than my fair share of hurt from those people, but I simply don’t see that I have a right to turn around and seek to destroy them.  To write them off as not even worth being called human.

Maybe my compassion for them takes a different form than for someone who hasn’t harmed me, but I still have a responsibility of compassion toward my fellow human being.  And actually, it’s the way I prefer to be.  It, in time, enables me to let go of the anger I felt.

I know many people might disagree with me.  That’s ok.  What I’m doing here is thinking out loud for myself.  I am in no way telling you what you should do.  I believe that is for each of us to work out personally.

The purpose for me blogging is not to ‘make it‘ to the ‘cool group‘ of bloggers.  Actually until a few weeks ago I never knew such a group existed.  So I’ve now read, apparently it does.  I don’t want to be cool.  I don’t need thousands of followers.  I am happy to have the people who read my blog, as I really appreciate them taking the time to read what I write.

I have never been ‘Freshly Pressed’, and actually I suspect I never will be.  I don’t write the right things for that, and again, it’s not one of my goals.  Perhaps if my goals as a blogger were different, then I wouldn’t write posts such as this but I need to express myself when I get really disturbed by what I see/read.

Lately I have seeing some really hurtful things being posted, attacking people, often all in the name of getting one back.  I think it’s really sad if that’s what blogs are used for.  Naming and shaming. Revenge. Getting one back.  Bullying.  Even standing by your friends.  Whatever you call it, all it is does is hurt people (often innocent parties too) and frankly puts me off wanting to be a blogger, let alone read blogs.  To be able to write and express ourselves so freely makes us fortunate as writers.  We shouldn’t abuse that.

Many of us have histories of being hurt, abused and badly treated.  For many of us expressing that hurt is what blogging is about.  But it strikes me that having experienced these things in our lives, we should have a much better sense of how much harm we inflict when we choose to attack others.  I continue to want to treat other people as I would want to be treated.

I want to be clear that I will never use my blog to attack another person.  I am quite clear that if I have an issue with a person, then I can deal with that directly, but it is not the way that I want to blog.  If I find myself having done that, then it will be the last post that I write.  I also don’t intend to follow blogs anymore where individuals are being attacked in ways that seem inappropriate and unfair.

I can’t tell others how to behave, but just think about this… do two wrongs make a right?  If so, then who has become the bully?  And what do we think of bullies?

Personally I can’t stay quiet when I see bullies in action.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 

― Desmond Tutu

It’s Been A While…

It’s been a while since I lasted posted.  Much longer than I had intended, but as you know, that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.  There has been a hard time of depression, which unfortunately still continues.  It’s difficult then to motivate myself into anything, and time has just passed without me being really aware of it.  It seems that when depression isn’t winning the war, then fibromyalgia is.  I seem to swing from one to the other, without as much as a break.

There have been two dilemmas pressing down on my desire to blog right at the moment.  The first is a simple case of needing to protect the privacy of those around me.  Mostly it is simple to disguise identity, but sometimes it is not so easy, especially when I write under my own name and people in my ‘real‘ life read my blog.  The result is that some issues just don’t get written about.  The people around me do not get a choice in whether I blog, so I must appreciate that, and leave them out of the equation as much as possible.  Sometimes it means no posts, and I avoid those topics completely.  It’s far easier than causing offence unnecessarily.  But often anonymity has its attractions.

The second dilemma has been a more difficult and painful one.  From the experience of being lied to, abused and manipulated, I find myself reluctant to ‘put myself out there‘.  While in the past I was willing to write pretty freely of my experiences and feelings, once I got slapped in the face (hard!) I am not quite so willing to be open.  Because the pain came initially through my blog, I think it’s natural that I need time to reassess.

What is it that I am willing to ‘put out there’?  What is it that I am able to share openly, while protecting my own need for safety?  How can I achieve my goal of wanting to write about mental illness recovery, without putting myself at risk of abuse?  These are the questions that I need to answer for myself, and if you have thoughts I’d love to hear them.  They’re difficult questions, especially once someone has broken the trust, and I might take a while yet to work out exactly what I want now.

Ultimately there is always risk when writing openly.  I know that, it’s just that I need to decide for myself how much risk I take.

So meantime…

Do I start posting recipes?

I don’t think so somehow.  While that might have been me 20 years ago (in my days as a foodie… I could afford to be one then), it’s not me now and I think I would die of shock if I found myself posting recipes.  All power to those who do, it’s just not me.

So…

How about I post pictures of my pets?  That usually goes down well, and personally I love seeing photos of pets.  So try this…

Meet my dog, Dixon.

Dixon

Dixon is 34 years old, and has yet to need to be taken for a walk, yet to need to be taken outside to ‘do his business‘.  He hasn’t even needed a trip to the vet.  Oh, except I think an eyebrow needing re-gluing but actually the vet wasn’t required for such a procedure.

While he gives excellent cuddles with a bit of encouragement, he will never wake me up with sloppy, wet kisses to my face.  While there are a few drawbacks to this kind of dog, you have to admit that 34 years for a dog is ‘going the distance‘.

My best friend at high school gave me Dixon, and he is named after her.  She had a similar dog (different colouring).  My friend died tragically in a car accident about 15 years ago, so still having Dixon now is very special to me.

Actually I’d love to have what you might call a ‘real dog’ but Council By-Laws in my city rule that out as an option right now, as it is a requirement to have your property completely fenced if you have a (real) dog.  That’s not something I can do, because of shared property ownership, but no one can object to Dixon.  My neighbours don’t even know he’s here. ;-)

Stay tuned for more pictures of pets, meanwhile I’ll get back to trying to work out just what is right for me in terms of blogging.

One final point.  I love you, my blogging friends.  Please don’t think I don’t.  It’s simply when one person spoils something, it takes work to find the will to trust again.  But I will find it, eventually.  And if you haven’t seen me on Facebook lately, I’ve been taking a break from there too.

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired. 
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision. 
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy. 
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to. 
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see. 
Frolic, even when you are made fun of.
Kiss, even when others are watching.
Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring. 

Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.” 

― Alysha Speer

Dona Nobis Pacem (2013)

(That’s what ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ means)

Today I am participating, for the second time, in Blog4Peace…   because peace is something that I strongly believe is desperately needed in our world.  Bloggers from over 200 countries are participating today, and that just says to me how important our quest for peace is.

Sometimes I’m not too good at sticking to ‘the rules’, especially with blogging challenges and the like.  Hopefully Mimi will forgive my errant ways.  Usually bloggers create a template of their statement of peace, and post it on their site on 4 November.  I have borrowed a template (above) for this post, but came to the conclusion that firstly, I’m a better writer than an artist, and secondly, I had something to say that I couldn’t contain in a template. As well as that my brain isn’t quite functioning straight right now and to achieve both tasks is simply beyond me.

The Mission (1986 film)

The Mission (1986 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was watching a movie the other day.  A favourite from years ago, of which I have just managed to get my hands on a copy.  It is The Mission (1986) starring Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro.

The brief summary of what this is about is that some Jesuit priests are living and working with locals above the Iguazu Falls in the South American jungle in the 1750s.  There is some outstanding music in this movie, probably one of the reasons I love it, but there are difficult moments too when Portuguese rulers take back the land, destroy the mission built with the Jesuits ,and try to enslave the locals.  The priest, played by Jeremy Irons, believes that God is love, and violence is a direct crime against that love.  He argues that they should trust God rather than fight back.  He chooses to stay with the villagers in peace while other Jesuits decide to renounce their vows and fight with many of the male villagers.

It’s hard to fit a movie into a paragraph, but the reason I raise it is the two choices that are made, effectively between peace and war.  I sat watching the movie, and there were villagers, priests and soldiers representing the Portuguese rulers dying everywhere.  Most of it was played out beside the river and I was struck how easily dead bodies were cast aside, out-of-the-way, so that the fight could continue.  It seemed to me those bodies meant nothing, and I was struck with a knowing that I could never kill another being (human or animal), in such a situation because I simply couldn’t allow myself to let them mean so little.  It was difficult enough to stand and watch my cat being euthanised last year.  I knew it was taking away her pain, but it was so difficult to let a life be taken.

That said, that’s an easy statement for me to make.  I’m not back there in the 1750s with the threat of my village being destroyed, and I’m not even in a position where I have to consider that I might be sent to war here in the 21st century.  I live in a country (New Zealand) where military involvement is not mandatory. It was for young men (including my grandfather) in the first and second world wars, but as a woman, that was never something I would have had to face doing.  Yes, it’s easy for me to say.  My choice not to bear arms would not have any affect on my family and/or loved ones.  Saying no is definitely an option for me.  But I get that for so many, it’s not that easy.

Peace is one of those things that I think we all have our own views of what it is about.  For me it is about respecting the value of each human being to a point where that person deserves to be saved.  This post isn’t directly about war, although obviously it is not ignored because without peace we often have war. My personal belief is that war is never necessary.  There is always another way of solving a dispute, and every effort should be taken to preserve life.  Maybe it’s more difficult, maybe it takes longer.  Jeremy Irons, in his role, chose to take what he viewed as God’s way.  That’s not why I like it but rather what I do I like is the respect a peaceful solution offers to each individual.

We are all worth saving.  None of us deserve to be left dead or injured on the side of the road, or permanently traumatised by the horror that soldiers, and the indigenous and local people have witnessed in the name of war.  My belief is that peace values each of us.  It says we are all too important to be cast aside as I saw in the movie.

That’s why I have taken time out from my usual blogging to take part in today’s Blog4Peace.  All of the bloggers taking part in this event believe that if words are powerful….this matters. The wider we spread this message, each in our own way, the more people will see that the right thing to do is to lay down arms and live at peace.

What does all this have to do with blogging for mental health?  If we had peace world over then we could all let it be.  I am convinced that our overall mental health would be significantly better.

Music drew me to that movie, just as I believe that music draws us in peace toward togetherness.  That’s why I’m finishing this post with music from Playing For Change Songs Around The World.

“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?” 

― Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995

Image credit:  Shannon Pinkley-Wamsley

Knowing What Is Right For Me

The last few months have been pretty difficult for me, for a number of unrelated reasons.  My mental health has taken a dive, as I’ve told you on a number of occasions.

A big difficulty for me right now, as I explained in my last post (Back To Music (Therapy)) is that I don’t know who to trust.  I don’t know who is really on my side and who will divulge my confidences to places I’d rather they didn’t go.  That’s come about for a specific reason, and the big issue for me now is just re-learning about trusting my friends.  I have good friends, who I can trust.  It’s just that when someone has abused that trust it takes time to rebuild.

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I do that, I need to take a break from blogging.  It really isn’t wise for me to be writing about a lot of the things going on in my life right now, and trying to write about anything else is hampered by the stress I am living with.  I simply can’t focus to write.  I know that I have already cut back how much I have blogged recently and I feel frustrated by that (and in turn the stress level goes up further).

Last time I took a break from blogging it actually turned out to be for just a short while, and maybe that will happen this time too.  For now, I just need to give myself a break.

I will still be writing for A Canvas Of The Minds, and will reblog here, the posts I make.

Sometimes it’s really difficult to know what is the right thing for me.  There is a voice inside of me that gets expressed through blogging, and no doubt that voice will want it’s say.  I simply need to identify for myself what is safe for me to write about, and what is better left unsaid.  That kind of goes against the grain, but I’m going to give it a go for now.

Take care everyone.

“Do the other kids make fun of you? For how you talk?’
‘Sometimes.’
‘So why don’t you do something about it? You could learn
to talk differently, you know.’

But this is my voice. How would you be able to tell when I was talking?” 

― Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

I’ve Joined Canvas

I’m really happy to tell you that I have joined a great group of writers at A Canvas Of The Minds, a site used to write about  mental health, through different voices and different perspectives.  I’m going to use my voice to share one more perspective.

I will be writing different material for my Canvas posts, but will share with you the link when I do, so that you have the opportunity to read it too.

My first post (posted today), is about why I choose to blog using my real name rather than a pseudonym.  I know that’s quite different than a lot of bloggers.  I’m sure you’ll find it interesting and…  You’ll find it here.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’ 
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Vulnerable (aka Brave)

A few weeks back my friend Ruby introduced me to Sara Bareilles’ music.  Wow!  Can that woman sing?  It’s not just the amazing voice, but lyrics that simply seem to be written for me right now.  Ruby introduced me to this song and it has been going around in my head ever since.

That’s what I like about good lyrics.  They stick in your head and it’s often like automatic learning.  The message just keeps on going in.  And this message of being brave, is one I have particularly needed.

As a writer, I constantly put myself ‘out there‘ by sharing both what I’m thinking and what is going on in my emotions too.  I am letting readers into a part of my life that is very personal.  It’s uniquely me.  No one else will tell you exactly what I share with you.  I do it purposely.  I want to connect with a reader through my words, to allow you the opportunity to think (and maybe say)

“I get that”

Three words that are incredibly powerful, especially if we are tangled in the web of mental illness, where not everyone gets what we’re dealing with.  I know personally how much it helps to know someone else gets it, and really, all I want to do in writing. is say

“Me too”

I generally don’t share the concrete details of my life.  I purposely don’t share those.  Not because you’re not important, but because that’s a boundary I draw to give myself privacy, something all of us need at some time.  If you saw me in the street, you wouldn’t recognise me, and because of my own history, that works for me.  If though, you looked into the soul of that person in the street, you may well recognise me, and that is usually okay for me.

Sometimes though, with all the best will in the world, things go wrong.  Recently someone took information from both my book (Infinite Sadness… the book) and this blog.  The information is freely available to anyone but it makes up what is perhaps the core of me.  I made a calculated decision when I chose to share that material.  I decided it would be worth the risk.  But that choice makes me vulnerable to abuse, the same as for any other writer.  Unfortunately, the person used the information to their own means, and in doing so caused me great hurt.

I can tell you that I howled when I discovered what had happened (and I’m not a howler… honest).  I was completely devastated that someone had taken what I had offered with good intention, and used it for their own cruel purposes.  It felt like I had been cut open and bared naked to the world.  Well in a way, that’s exactly what they did.  It just wasn’t the physical me.  Actually I’m not sure which would hurt more, but it certainly gave me a small insight into the nightmare people must face when they private worlds are bared open to the public through the media.

When I pulled myself up from where I had been curled up in a ball, howling, I started to think about what this person did.  Firstly, they showed total disrespect for me as a person.  I didn’t matter to them.  I was simply a means to achieving their sick purposes.  They took my good intention of wanting to share my experience of mental illness, as a form of empathy, and completely abused that, and ripped it apart.

My immediate thoughts were ‘I’m never writing anything about me ever again’.  It’s a pretty natural response,…  I’m as human as you.  This hurt badly, and I still don’t ever want to be hurt that way again.

So I’ve spent a few weeks quietly trying to work out what to do.  If I stop writing in my own name, and use a pseudonym (as many do) it really wouldn’t make a difference.  I am quite sure that this still would have happened even if the name on my book and my blog were not my own.  At some stage…  eventually,  these things come together… as they did.

All of this still really hurts, and probably to some extent always will.  I can’t explain adequately to you how shattered I am by what I see is a complete breach of trust.  Just imagine how it would feel to be nailed to a billboard and have people throw scorn at you, directed at the most vulnerable parts of you.

But what keeps on playing in my mind (endlessly!) is Sara Bareilles’ lyrics:

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Over and over again I hear “say what you wanna say“.  With good reason too, because sometimes I can be a slow learner.

If I stop saying what I want to say, no matter what the form of written word, then the person who did this to me wins.  Not only that, if I stop writing, that is one less voice speaking up for those of us with mental illness.  Actually in my country, there are not that many people speaking up, so I believe that every voice makes a difference.

So I choose to be brave.  I dust off the wounds, which right now still feel pretty raw, and I keep on going.  The person who did this didn’t care if I got destroyed in the process of their actions, but I care, if for nothing else my niece L.  Writing about mental illness might not make a difference to her personally right now, but every one of us who writes makes a difference to the world she lives in.

In spite of my determination to keep writing, my boundaries have closed in.  I think that’s totally understandable.  I have no desire to be caught out like this again, and will do everything I can to make sure it never again happens to me.  It’s likely that some of writing outside this blog which I was intending to work on, will perhaps change in direction.  This is all sad, but necessary.

There is a degree in which we rely on good faith, but that doesn’t escape the need for careful protection of privacy.   I read recently that we need to be careful who we share our weaknesses with, as some people can’t wait for an opportunity to use them against us.  Sad but true… again.  I would dare to suggest to that because of the subject matter on which we write/read (mental illness) it is simply what we all need to have constantly in mind.  If my sharing what has happened to me, will help you avoid similar abuse, then I can live with what happened.   There will be scars but they will make me stronger in the end.

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” 

― Ernest Hemingway

“Be brave, little rabbit. Take a chance.” 

― Cherise Sinclair, Breaking Free

Blocked

I know from my reading of other blogs, that many bloggers at times, sit at their screens desperately waiting for inspiration of what to write about that day.  I don’t do that.  I don’t even actually get as far as sitting at my screen unless I have something specific on my mind that I want to share with you.  Any less than that, and I think that I am being unfair on you, my readers.  But that’s me, sometimes a little different.

Anyway I haven’t been sitting at my screen, and it hasn’t been because I have nothing to say.  Actually if you looked at my ‘drafts’ folder you would see that I have lots of things I want to say.  Getting the ideas is not the problem.  They are flowing thick and fast.  My problem is that I am having great trouble getting from the idea, through to having a presentable post for you.

I guess this is my version of writer’s block.  Probably if we could all meet for coffee (and tea, for those of that persuasion) I could tell you what I’ve been thinking.  But I just can’t get it onto the screen right now.

Other things in my life suggest to me that I am perhaps a little depressed right now.  It’s not crisis material, just time to take care of myself for a bit.  So if I’m not posting at what once was my regularity, then don’t worry, I will be back soon.

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” 

― Hilary Mantel