Peace Not War (Passion Profile Challenge #1)

Grandad as Lieutenant S.T. Reddell (1942)

WARNING:  This post was hard for me to write so maybe disturbing to read.  It contains both disturbing images and  references.

This is my paternal grandfather as a Lieutenant in the Royal New Zealand Navy, in 1942.  His son, my father, was eight years old.  Grandad died in 1968 when I was three years old.  The cause of his death were complications to injuries he had sustained in World War Two (and lived with for over 20 years).

He was a Navy man and served his time in Intelligence, which meant serving overseas in places that his family were never allowed to know.  Before my father died last year he would often tell me that as a child he and my grandmother would regularly have no idea where my grandfather was.  They would know a naval ship was leaving port one day and the assumption was that Grandad would be on it.  But because of the Intelligence requirements my father never, ever knew where Grandad had been in those times.  There are family rumours now days but no one knows for sure.  It’s probably just as well.

I never really got to know him.  I have two very vague memories of being with him, but from all I have heard since, I’m sure this is a man who I would have got on well with.  From what I know this was a man who would do anything for you, regardless of his own disabilities (from the war).  For many years he worked as a Child Welfare Officer and would regularly bring children home to live with them.  I like everything I have ever heard about this man.

Perhaps I’m being unrealistic but maybe if he hadn’t been required to serve in the war, and hadn’t got those injuries, he would have lived long enough for me to get to know him, and for him to see me grow up.  But when you’re passionate about something I don’t necessarily think one has to be practical, and perhaps there will be more evidence of this as I go through my Challenge.

I can’t give you a whole list of logical reasons why war is a bad idea.  I’m not like that.  It’s just in my heart, that I can’t accept sending innocent mean and women to fight, and possibly be injured or killed; and I can’t accept setting up a situation where innocent people (who probably have enough crisis in their lives already) get injured or killed.  It’s just wrong and there simply has to be a better way to deal with conflict.

Image via

When I was 15 years old I encountered my first gun.  And no, this wasn’t some outback hunting trip (I’m not into those either but maybe that’s another post), but instead it was a recently ex-boyfriend who loaded a gun in front of me, handed it to me and asked me to shoot him.  He said if he couldn’t have me, then he wasn’t going to live.  There’s more about this man in a previous post, but that’s not really important.  It was the beginning of a very long journey for me.  What is important is that poor, little 15 year old me got the fright of her life.  If I did what he asked, would he be dead?  If I didn’t do what he asked, would I be dead?

From that moment on I have stayed as far away from guns as I could, and I really don’t see reason why members of the public should have access to them (especially somewhat delusional 18 year olds).  Whether in war or peace, I think there is too much that can go wrong.  One impulsive move is all that it takes to kill someone.  Life is worth far too much for that.  If we give people the right to carry arms, then we give them the right to create their own war, and then someone will always get hurt.

Recently I came across Charlie Chaplin‘s The Speech of The Great Dictator.  Personally, I think the text is brilliant and Chaplin is convincing when you watch the link below.  I could use parts of it to talk about most of the passions I have listed in my Challenge but I like this:

“Soldiers: don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate, only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers: don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.” (1.)

I am fortunate to be living in a country, and born in an age, where compulsory military service is not an issue.  For my grandfather he didn’t have that luxury.  He had to do his duty, and from what I understand he was proud to do it.  Certainly my father was proud of his father, even though there was a sense of loss in the five years of his childhood that his father was gone, and then the rest of his youth with a father who had seriously ill health.

For me though, there is a choice.  I choose to go with what I was taught as a child (as a Christian) and what many other religions also recommend in their own ways.

“There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
TLB, Matthew 5:43-48) (2.)

No, my reasoning might not be enough to convince governments but it is what I feel strongly about.  I don’t ever want to be put in the position of being made to fight, nor do I want to see anyone else forced for fight.  I completely respect the people that choose military service but I don’t agree with the policies that make it necessary.  Enough people have been killed in wars and I passionately believe that as a planet we have to find a better way to deal with our differences and our injustices.


The Passions Profile Challenge

Image via Project Be Bold

My blogger friend Kevin of Voices of Glass has set down a challenge.  My first thought when I read his challenge was “I don’t have time for this”.  But then after some long, hard thinking I came to the conclusion that to take up his challenge would be good for me, and hopefully interesting to you.

Kevin makes the good point that when you’re dealing day to day with mental and physical illness some things get left behind.  There just isn’t room in my head to stop and think about what I am passionate about.  I’m too busy just trying to get to the end of each day in time to start another.  When I am depressed, I can’t focus on much else apart from survival.

So the challenge is to:

1. Write your own ‘Passions Profile’.  That is:

  • a.) List 10 things which you are personally very passionate about. (If you can’t manage 10 then don’t worry just list as many as you can and add to your list later if you want to.)
  • b.)Having written your list write a short one-paragraph explanation of that passion under each one of those items on the list.

2. Publish your ‘Passions Profile’ on your blog along with the Challenge Committment’ (see below) to take up the ‘Passions Profile Challenge’.

I Cate, of the Infinite Sadness… or what?  blog, hereby commit to taking up the ‘Passions Profile Challenge’ and I hereby promise that I will, where able, over the next days look at, and explore, a different passion each day.

Furthermore, having done so I also commit to then publishing how I did so for that particular passion and also share my experiences of having done so.

I’ll be honest from the start.  This is daunting for me but then sometimes the hard things are the most rewarding, so I’m giving it a go.  Like I’ve already said I have gone for years without really giving any thought to anything I might regard as a passion.  Actually for a lot of the time my passion was to do my best to destroy myself.  Thankfully that is changing and that is why I’m taking on this Challenge.  Another issue for me in doing this is that I’m used to being told that I am idealistic and not realistic, along with a few other accusations.  But this isn’t about having to make it practical to change the world.  Just how I’d like things to be different.

First of all I need to make sure I’m on the right track.  Just what is a passion?  The Dictionary tells me that ‘passion’ means:

1.  a strong and barely controllable emotion;

2.  a state or outburst of strong emotion;

3.  an intense sexual love

4.  an intense desire or enthusiasm for something

5.  a thing arousing great enthusiasm

So for my purposes, and a fear that my 14 and 12 year old nephews might decide to read this, I will skip item 3 and conclude that passion means something I feel strongly about.  Whether I go as far as enthusiasm or not, is really dependent on my mental state of mind.  Enthusiasm being something difficult to conjure up when one’s mind is not quite straight.

Those passions, with a brief statement include:

Mental health
I feel strongly about achieving mental health for myself but also helping others to get there too.

  •  Stigma
    Going back to the Dictionary for a moment:  Stigma means a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. I feel strongly about people being judged because of a particular characteristic which may or may not be of their choose.   Examples include mental illness,some physical illnesses,expression of sexuality and religion.
  • Care of animals
    It breaks my heart to see animals abused and neglected.
  • Social Justice
    For want of a description of what I mean I found that in my country Social Justice is seen as Equal Distribution, Tolerance, Equal Treatment, Criminal Justice, Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Legislative, Responsibility, Democratic, Collectivism  and Individualism.  While I feel strongly about all of these, to tackle them all will be more than a mouthful.  So please excuse me if concentrating on equality in distribution, treatment, opportunities and rights.
  • Religion – being accessible and relevant
    I was raised a Christian (a Preacher’s Kid)and I guess I’d still regard myself as one, although I don’t attend church.  That is because I am troubled by how irrelevant, judgemental and inaccessible it can be to the everyday person.  I mean no offence, as for each of these issues, but it is something I have felt strongly about for a long time.
  • Water
    I love to see,hear, feel, smell, taste water.   Most of this relates to sea water (taste relates to fresh chilled water) but I will explain in time.  It’s one thing I can’t do without.
  • Space for me
    After many years of parading as a wanna-be extrovert, I have come to terms with who I really am.  I am an introvert.  I love my own space and am fiercely protective of it.  Please don’t feel sorry for me.  I don’t.  I am quite happy to be me.
  • Peace not war
    This is where I start to be accused of being unrealistic.  I don’t care.  What I feel strongly about is that there has to be a better way of solving problems than by killing innocent people and sending innocent young people to war.

That’s my list.  I didn’t get to 10 passions and I am not about to make some up to make up numbers.  There are other things I feel strongly about but these are the big ones for me.  So in the coming days I will tell you about them, one at a time.  They are listed here in no particular order and again my order of addressing them will be random.

I guess I sum up my passions by the thought of someone/some people/ some animal constantly saying to me what about me?  They ask me to feel strongly.  It’s the least I can do.

Mama’s Arms

No one wants to talk about the reality.  But at the end of the day, I haven’t had children.  I hate it when people glibly say “oh you still have time”  Yeah right.  I’m well on my way towards 50.

It makes me sad sometimes, but it took a long time to realise what that feeling was about.  I found myself having an emotional reaction to seeing women walking with strollers in the park, especially women running while pushing strollers.  It made me mad, but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know what, or who I was angry at.

My therapist was brave enough to suggest that I was envious of these women.  I guess that’s the logical conclusion to reach.  I want what they have.  But it didn’t quite fit.  What I began to wonder was whether it wasn’t the mothers I was envious of, but rather the babies riding in those strollers.  I want to be held, to be nurtured.  I want to feel arms around me like a mother holds a child.  I want… mama’s arms around me.

I never pictured myself as a mother.  I was so scared of being a bad mother that I talked myself out of it.  I guess, like every one, I thought that one day I would be a mother but that somehow it would just happen.

I went into marriage thinking that way.  D and I had talked about wanting to have a family.  We even talked that it would make more sense for him to be the stay at home parent because I had a greater earning capacity than him.  That was fine with me.  It suited my fears of being a bad mother.  I would leave the parenting to him.

When I was 13 my mother and I talked about me being a mother one day.  She told me that my grandmother wasn’t a maternal woman (more interested in her career even in those days).  In the same way my mother had not been maternal, so she said that I would not be maternal.  This was something of a life changing moment for me.  In my youth I took Mum to mean that I wouldn’t be a good mother.  Now I can look at it and see that ‘not maternal’ did not mean ‘bad mother’.

Mum is not a bad mother, nor was she saying that her mother was a bad mother.  I think it was more about displays of affection.  Neither of them were particularly emotional or demonstrative women.  One part of me wanted to be a good mother and to prove mum wrong.  Another part said ‘don’t go there’.  Don’t have children and it will never be an issue.

I kept to myself the thought that I would always be a woman, but never a good mother… and therefore I wouldn’t be a good woman.  Note that I excluded from my mind the idea of being childless even though I thought that would be all right for others who chose not to have children.  I appreciated that sometimes people can’t, or don’t have children, yet they could still be a complete people.

In my twenties I didn’t need to think about this.  I could get on with my career and not to think about it.  But I did.  It hounded me whenever I was with babies and children because I wanted to prove I could ‘do’ maternal.  I could be affectionate.

Life got turned upside down when I was 28.  I was diagnosed with Depression and the bottom fell out of my world.  You can read about this in earlier posts.  During this time I married D… and some years later left him.

One thing I didn’t think about was that all this was happening in my childbearing years.  My late twenties and thirties were when I had planned to have children.  I couldn’t even think of having children without the need to try to kill, or in some way, destroy myself.  Actually a ‘friend’ told us that we should have a baby because that would cure me.  Hmm.  That seemed like the last thing we should do but there was often advice like that.  My life was all but put on hold.  Those years have just disappeared and I have little more than scars to show for them.

Even if the timing at been right I still don’t think I would have a baby.  There was too much risk.  And what sort of mother would I make?  Aside from the genes (there is an unrelated blood disorder that would risk the life of a baby, a mental disorder, as well as that maternal heritage of a lack of emotion) I would give this child, I would be a prime candidate for post-natal depression.  Sure other people get through but I worried what I would be doing to that child.  What would the atmosphere of maternal depression would do to the child’s development?  There is not enough known about this and I couldn’t take the risk.

That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have loved the opportunity to have a child.  I see the love in my brothers’ eyes when they are with their children.  I see friends, who previously were as determined as I was to destroy themselves with mental illness, who now have children.  And who wouldn’t want that?  Who wouldn’t want a child to carry on their name and reflect their life in that child?  Of course I would like that but the risk of it all going wrong was too much for me, especially after all these years of distancing myself from the world.

I doubt I could have coped with the closeness of a sexual relationship, and sexual encounters outside a committed relationship are not my choice.   Perhaps I’m also too wrapped up on my own world to make room for a child.  Who knows?  I doubt that now I could be a good mother.  Too much has happened.

So what now?  I have given away the few things I had put aside for my children.  There won’t be any children.  I’m not unreasonably sad, but rather thoughtful and acknowledge that this will be me.  It’s ok to feel some grief.  It would be odd not to feel some.  It simply makes my brothers’ children that much more special to me.

Recently I had a woman say to me that she would be nothing without her children.  I had to fight myself to stop myself saying “she thinks I’m nothing because I don’t have children”.  I was left with this nagging accusation that rears it’s head everytime people presume that motherhood is compulsory.  Mostly I feel sorry for the person who takes that view.  It’s completely ridiculous.

Maybe I am jealous of the women I see with strollers in the park.  Maybe they have something that I will never have.  But more so I wish for the nurture those babies receive.  Actually I think that is it, I want mama’s arms.  Oh to feel loved and nurtured.

NBThis isn’t in any way meant to be a criticism of my mother or my grandmother.  They are the way they were/are for good reason.  I probably wouldn’t have been the mothers they were, but I was too scared of what I couldn’t be sure. 

It’s also not in any way a criticism of people who choose to have children while experiencing mental illness.  There are many brilliant mothers who have mental illnesses and I completely admire them.  This post is simply how it is for me.

Fibromodem is written by an Australian but all that she has written of also applies to New Zealand as well.   So yes, I am

New Zealand
New Zealand (Photo credit: erjkprunczyk)

cheating but she writes about ANZAC Day (today – 25 April) so well that I am reblogging for your interest. It is also New Zealand’s perhaps most important occasion. I haven’t been to a service today because my fibromyalgia is giving me trouble today.

One Day… I’m Gonna Fly

Yes, I want to fly.  Firstly it is a simple wish to get on a plane and fly.  It’s years since I boarded a plane.  Far too long.  I have friends I want to see.  I’d start here in New Zealand and then head off around the world to meet and catch up with some very special people .  One day I’m going to make it happen.  How?  I don’t know.  But it will happen.

I love flying in a plane.  We all have our preferences for where we sit but I always want a window seat.  That way I can watch us fly above the clouds and that is always a magical feeling I will never get sick of.  I love looking out on the mountains on my flight north from here.  Way up there above the clouds it feels like life is exactly as it should be.  I can appreciate the beauty of this world and forget that troubles exist.  I love it.

Jet Pack Girl

One day I want to fly like in my dreams.  I love my flying dreams.  I have no idea of the significance of such dreams, and I don’t care much.  I just love the effortless feeling of flying on and on, high above anything that could cause me trouble.  I’m not sure whether I will have to take up residence with The Jetsons, or buy myself a Jet Pack, or maybe technology will advance so that other means exist.  But it would be great.  Here in Christchurch we have an abundance of badly damaged roads thanks to our earthquakes of 2010/11.  Flying would be so much better than continually having to get the wheel alignment on my car adjusted.  Yes, somehow I am going to fly.

And I’m going to fly one more way (at least).  About 20 years ago my mother gave me a birthday card that said “to the woman who has everything” (maybe that’s how it seemed on the outside).  I wasn’t at all convinced as while I had a good job, a nice home (including a nice mortgage) and plenty of material possessions, I also knew how much of a fraud I felt.   I was convinced that one day soon people were going to find out that I wasn’t really who I portrayed myself to be.  I didn’t think I actually deserved the job I had (or any other job I had in the past), and ‘knew’ that one step wrong and my bosses would realise I wasn’t the great worker they thought they had hired.  Everytime I was called to the boss’s office (which was often due to the nature of the job) I was convinced my days were over.

I thought one day my friends (and my family) would realise that actually I was a horrible person that didn’t deserve their love or friendship.  The man I had a relationship with (who I thought was the love of my life) would realise that I wasn’t the person he really wanted to be with.  Actually that one happened and he left.  Not just me, but left the country.  That’s another story.  But in terms of the others it was my lack of self-worth that convinced me that I was a complete fraud and one day, my number would be up.

Cut a long story short and what followed was nearly twenty years of mental illness.  It’s not exactly surprising. Now though, I feel like I’m getting a handle on things again.  I’ve started to believe in myself and that makes a huge difference.  It’s certainly not plain sailing and I still battle every day.  It’s not helped by the recent diagnosis of Fibromyalgia which leaves me wondering what life is going to be like for me.  The thought of another 40 years of what I’ve had in the past nine months is enough to plummet me back into depression.  I feel like I have to literally fight it off every single day.

I don’t know whether I’m going to get, or whether I want another “woman who has everything” card.  That’s just not me anymore (even in pretence) but I would like to feel I could fly… without the turbulence of the past twenty years.  I’m going to keep on working to make it happen.  Borderline Personality Disorder is not one of those one’s you can recover from.  It’s me.  But I’m sure I can manage it better and push some of those demons away.

Meanwhile relax and check out this kiwi music.  Music helps me push those demons away.

BPD – Why It’s Hard To Talk About

I’m pretty new to the world of blogging, but having written and published a book I am used to bearing my soul for the world to read.  Regardless though, there is a topic I that is hard to talk about.  That is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  My first personal knowledge (aside from the movies) was when BPD was being described to a group of patients by some nurses at a residential psychiatric facility where I was a patient for some months.   They were making light of it and told us that another patient (who was not in the room at the time) had BPD and was a typical example because she was a “real drama queen” and “always out for attention”.  What more could they say to put me off?  It seemed to me that they were just writing my friend off, and that just didn’t seem fair.

Fast forward ten years and I am in my psychiatrist’s office being told that I have BPD.  For years I have been diagnosed as having depression, but there was so much that just didn’t quite fit.  I had stumped a few doctors by my inability to be what they expected.  I had been discharged from the care of a mental health service here because I hadn’t responded to their treatment and they simply didn’t know what to do with me.  Around the same time I had also been discharged from a specialist eating disorders service for the same reason.  They couldn’t understand why I said and did the things I did, and had simply labelled me as defensive, troublesome and refusing to change.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV), the ‘bible’ of psychiatric disorders there is a list of nine symptoms seen in BPD, and to be diagnosed it is necessary to have at least five of these.  Briefly they are:

Extreme reactions including panic, depression or rage

A pattern of intense and stormy relationships

Distorted and unstable self-image

Impulsive and often dangerous behaviours

Recurring suicidal or self-harming behaviours

Highly changeable moods

Chronic feelings of emptiness

Problems controlling anger

Stress-related paranoid thoughts or dissociative symptoms

The reason that I find my BPD difficult to talk about is because I fit most of these symptoms in ways that I don’t feel good about.  It’s hard to talk about the things that I am least proud of.  I hate that I react to things in extreme ways.  I hate that my relationships can be stormy and that I am impulsive in many things.  My moods change so easily and sometimes it seems like it is just happening to me, out of my control.  Sometimes the way I react to those around just seems totally unwarranted but at the time, again, it feels like it is out of my control.  The only people I have talked to about these things is the therapists I have had.

Most of these things you might not see in me in a chance meeting.  A lot of it is kept inside myself, you would only see if you spent time with me, and my issues with anger tend to be directed more at myself than anyone else.  Perhaps that’s why it took so long to put a label on me, or more importantly for someone to say they understood why I say and do the things I do.

BPD is really hard to talk about because it doesn’t have a good reputation.  It is well known in the mental health arena that those with BPD are apparently the most difficult to treat, and many health professionals even refuse to treat us for that reason.  The labels of ‘drama queen’ and ‘attention seeker’ are also freely thrown at us, when actually it is so not true.  BPD is a real condition that needs to have its stigma removed even more than other psychiatric illnesses.  I need to be accepted as a real person who hurts.  A real person who wants and needs help.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask.   I am not a drama queen and I don’t think I’m an attention seeker either.  I don’t think my friend was either, but perhaps she acted in certain ways because she was in pain and needed help.

I recently came across this description what BPD is.  I’ve listened to and watched many of the ones available and unfortunately many of them are created by people who see us as the drama queens and beyond help.  It doesn’t help.  So when I listened to this one I felt I needed to share it.  Please watch it.  It’s only a few minutes to gain some understanding about a real issue.  And in return I will try to keep telling you about my battle with BPD.  There is no cure but I am determined to find a way for me to live a good, healthy life in spite of BPD.

There are many different types of vegetarians in the world, and just the same there are many different experiences of BPD.  This one fits me pretty well but it won’t fit everyone.  That’s okay because at the end of the day we are all individuals and we are all different.

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.”
~Author Unknown

Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something,
when you are least expecting it.  I never heard of anyone ever
stumbling on something sitting down.”
~Charles F. Kettering

A Man Named Jason… And Why I Cried

Image via Be You Own Kind of Beautiful

I don’t cry a lot.  I am an emotional person and that means that I feel things strongly.  I have wanted to cry at many times recently but it just hasn’t happened.  But now it has.  It’s amazing how something in which I have no involvement can affect me so deeply, but I guess I just hate it when I see someone being treated so badly.

Jason Russell of Invisible Children speaks at ...
Jason Russell of Invisible Children speaks at TEDxSanDiego in December 2011 – _MG_4054 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

Through my Facebook page Infinite Sadness or what I learnt of a man named Jason.  He’s obviously been on the news, particularly in United States, but somehow I had never heard him.  Maybe this news didn’t get as far as New Zealand, or maybe I was otherwise occupied when I should have been paying attention.  If you have heard of him, then you are probably having some thoughts about what you know so far.  I would be interested to know what your first thoughts are when you read his name here.  It seems his name is one which inspires strong feeling.

Jason Russell is a man who has recently suffered what is known as a ‘Brief Reactive Psychosis‘ as a result of extreme stress.  Before this happened he had become known for being the founder of the Invisible Children group and was behind the Kony 2012 documentary.  That highlighted human atrocities in Uganda by Joseph Kony, who forced thousands of children into sex slavery, while turning others into child soldiers to further his warped agenda (1.).  I’m not going to go into more detail because it’s not the point I want to make.  That said, searching the names I have mentioned will easily bring the details to your eyes.  It’s not the point I want to make because while the suffering of the children appalls me, what has happened to Jason Russell personally shocks me and leaves me thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

That’s not what made me cry either although it appalls me that I could face something similar.  It’s not even the criticism Invisible Children have had over how they spend their money.  What I care about, and it made me cry is the way this man (or any man or woman for that matter) has been treated as a result of his mental illness.  This man should never have become the victim of media and the general public who have found it funny to highlight his downfall into psychosis.  There are masses of clips of this man in a way I would never want to be portrayed.  I’m not showing them to you because I’m not prepared to join the bandwagon of mocking a man because of his mental illness, and giving those that posted them the satisfaction of more people watching.  And actually for the same reason, I didn’t watch them myself.  I saw the first scene frozen on my screen before me of a naked man, in public, clearly doing things you wouldn’t want to be seen doing.

My heart breaks because this man is ill.  He has a mental illness, which is now being treated, but it caused him to (probably unknowingly) do something that has caught the attention of the masses who choose to see it as a joke.  There is no joke in mental illness, ever.  I don’t know this man, and it could be anyone in the same situation but why do people choose to laugh at another’s pain?  I grew up and still believe in the philospohy to let the one who has never fallen cast the first stone.

I had my own psychotic episode back in 2001.  I was hospitalised as Jason Russell has been.  I largely kept from those around me, what that psychosis entailed because I knew I risked being seen as a joke.  I never went naked in a city street but my reality was that I believed that the  events of 9/11 in 2001 were my fault.  I believed that those thousands that died, died because of me.  I had reasons for believing this and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind.  I thought I had triggered the end of the world.  At the same time I also believed that I needed to kill someone who was very close to me.  Even though I had never before had such thoughts, I was now seriously considering how to do it.  As it was the person was not in the city in which I lived but I was told that if I took a step out of my city, then I would be arrested.  11 years on it is possible to smile about this but really there was absolutely nothing funny about what my mind had convinced me.  I was sick and I needed help.

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with an acquaintance in United States about how I suspected the stigma associated with mental illness was greater in New Zealand than in America.  We discussed how in the States it seemed more acceptable to have some form of mental illness.  But if the case of Jason Russell , who is somewhat of a public figure there, is anything to go by the stigma is still alive and well there.  I’m not in that country and I’m not here to judge.  Actually I suspect if Jason was a public figure in New Zealand people would unfortunately be just as quick to pour laughter and scorn on his suffering.

Yes, because I have a mental illness myself I am maybe sensitive to such stories.  But I’d like to think it would make me cry regardless.  In my view it’s just not acceptable to laugh at, judge, or condemn any person for their suffering and pain.  I’d like to see You Tube remove the clips of this incident and I’d like to see the media do an about-face and apologise and support this man.  I’d like to see individuals say this is not okay to treat another human being like this.  Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so.

It is well known that one in four people will encounter mental illness in their lifetime.  That is huge.  The chances are it could be you next, or the person who released the video.  None of us know what lies ahead of us.  None of us know who the next person to suffer will be.  None of us are exempt.  That cries out to me that we need to treat our fellow human with compassion.  Changing the world might be expecting too much, but compassion from each individual would be a great way to start.

PS.  If you’re saying to yourself ‘I’m just one person and what can I do?’ Well, we can all start with caring for the person next to us.  Every little bit helps.  Another thing you could do is share what I have written.  Let’s see if others feel the same.  And if the world can begin to change.

“No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother  that which he desireth for himself”

 Muhammad (P.B.U.H)

That Little Girl

I was a late 1960’s/1970’s child and yes, back then I believed in a world where anything was possible.

Anna & Jane

As that little girl I had a family of dolls, and yes, they were a family.  They all had names, they all had personalities, they were always dressed (mostly in clothes my mother sewed for them).  Actually I still have the dolls and while many collectors would snap them up, I couldn’t part with them.  I don’t quite have them all.  One I was ‘encouraged’ to give away to ‘starving children’ somewhere in Africa (Ethiopia rings a bell).  My brother, a year older than me, also gave up his teddy bear for the same purpose.  But I think he was slightly more willing than I was, especially after Mum sewed a new outfit for my doll and I fell in love with her all over again.  Interestingly, I also don’t still have my Malibu Barbie.  I loved her too and was very proud to have one, but I have no idea what happened to her.  The others though, were life and blood for me.  My reason for being.

I had two older brothers, who while close in age, had little desire to play with their young sister.  My parents, who clearly loved me very much, also had little time to play in my world, because they were busy being adults and just not that sort of people.  Apart from playing the occasional family board games with the rest of the family, I really don’t have any memory of playing with any of them, my parents or my brothers.

Like I said, I believed anything was possible and so I believed my dolls were real.  Like The Velveteen Rabbit, I loved them so much that they were REAL.

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 

Margery Williams,    The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real

So what do I mean when I say they were real?  These dolls talked to me (and I talked to them).  They were truly my family and to part with the one I gave away to charity was more than a little difficult.  It’s not that my family didn’t love me and take good care of me, and it’s not that I didn’t have friends, but they were busy doing their own things so I think I created my own family with the dolls.

Actually looking back I think it was the most sensible thing I could have done.  As a child, I think the reality of these dolls saved my mental health.  Interestingly my mental health started to suffer when I was twelve, about the time I packed the dolls away into a box in the cupboard.  At that time there was no diagnosis made, my parents didn’t think to seek help, but looking back I was deeply depressed.  There were other reasons for that depression.  I’m not saying it was packing my toys away that caused it but I find it interesting that it was around the same time.

I’ve said in earlier posts that sometimes being silly is vital to saving your mental health.  I guess being silly as a little girl meant imagining my dolls talked and having great, involved conversations with them (perhaps because there was no one else on hand to talk to).  I still think being silly is necessary for my mental health, whether it is talking to my cat, my teddy bear or even talking to the wall, like Shirley in the movie Shirley Valentine (1989).  She talked to the kitchen wall while she cooked her husband’s dinner.  It makes perfect sense to me.

The thing is that the little girl, who was me, didn’t know that everything wasn’t possible.  I’m guessing she dreamt of having people to play with and talk to, not just in the play times but always.  To have people who were interested in her and her ideas.  She didn’t know it wasn’t possible so she allowed herself to create the world she needed.  So she had conversations with inanimate objects.  So what?  She believed in a world that was full and unbroken, where she didn’t get disappointed by others, where dreams could come true and in making that happen, she did what she needed to in order to look after herself.

It’s not so silly after all, is it?

“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
~Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

WTF! How Old Am I?

I have this bad habit of thinking I’m still in my twenties.  I think I can be forgiven for that because my life as I knew it came to a stop at 28, and when I woke up from that mental health nightmare I found I was in my forties.  My friends were becoming grandmothers and that just completely freaked me out.  I had intended to have children of my own in my thirties, but now somehow we had skipped a generation.

If you read my last post you’ll know why there isn’t a picture of me on here so that you can decide for yourself.  I have good reasons but also I have somewhat of a fear of photos of myself.  I think it’s part of the denial of my age, combined with some serious body image issues that created an eating disorder.  I find it is just easier on my mental health if I avoid photos of myself.  But it seems important to add that I don’t have quite the cleavage of the lady in the picture

This week I saw some photos of a friend I haven’t seen for a very long time.  She is my age.  There’s no denying that but I looked at the photos (as nice as they were) and wondered do I look as old as she does?  Surely not.  I mean no offence to my friend.  She looked beautiful, but she looked… well, middle-aged.  And surely I don’t look middle-aged?  Do I?  Yes I know things have kind of drooped, in a way that I’m not happy about.  But I am far from ready to accept that title.

In my mind I am still young.  And I promise you that I am not wearing a mini skirt as I type.  I do realise I’m not young enough for those anymore.  But middle-aged?  Grandmotherly?  No, I had enough trouble getting my mind around being told by a friend recently that I am motherly.  Surely not!  Please don’t suggest that.

No, I think I’m going to stay in denial and think I am 28 forever.  That sounds like something Dr Suess would say but I frankly, I don’t care.

“There is the satisfaction of providing your public with a vision of true beautology,
 true stylisity, – how can I put it? – true glamorositude.”

Miss Piggy

Stalked… But Still Hiding Some Of Me

Warning:  This is long.  So grab your coffee before you start.  I’m hoping you’ll think it is worth it.

I know only too well that it is difficult to know whether someone using social media sites is telling the truth and are really who they say they are.  I know, because I have been stung myself, forming friendships with people who were later exposed to be lying.  Frankly I am gobsmacked when this has happened to me, because I thought I was super careful about who I get to know.

I am involved in a number of closed Facebook groups, primarily for the purpose of supporting others with mental health issues.  I’ll say right now that I have met some wonderful people and truly feel supported in my quest for health from these groups.  But on a regular basis I am asked why they don’t see pictures of me.  It’s the same reason why you see a daisy staring out at you rather than an image of me.  Let me explain.

For 14 years I was stalked by two men.  Yes, at the same time.  It was an utterly awful experience, not just for me but to some extent also for those close to me who did their best to protect my privacy from these men.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me for not going into the details, it really doesn’t do me much good to remember the details.  It is also another way of that can be used to identify me.  Needless to say I lost a lot.  Aside from losing an ownership of my own life, I lost friends, and mostly I lost freedom.

There are a number of ways used to identify just what stalking is and why it happens.

I like the definition by Meloy (1998):

“the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person”

As you can tell the definition is broad, and it needs to be as it involves a wide range of actions and behaviours including anything from telephone calls, following a person, threatening them  or in some way invading the privacy of a person’s life.

The two men who stalked me had little knowledge of each other’s actions.  One was an ex-boyfriend who couldn’t accept the relationship was over (The Rejected Type).  The other, who I always regarded as more dangerous to me, could be classed as a cross between a Intimacy Seeker Type and an Incompetent Type.  What that means is that I became an obsessional love interest that was perhaps increased by his inability to form relationships through a perceived normal means.  He was a client of my father’s and was twice my age.  I guess I regarded him as more dangerous to me because of a known mental illness he had which made his actions unpredictable.  I really didn’t know what would happen next, and he did threaten both me and my family.

When I saw this pic posted recently, I was one who didn’t ‘like’ it.  Actually I thought it was far from funny.  I am just not amused by making fun of other’s suffering, let alone my own.  But it does serve the purpose of telling you why you don’t see my image here or anywhere else on the internet.  Basically I don’t want to provide an update to those who made my life hell.

For 14 years I lived my life in a type of prison.  I was free to come and go as I liked but I knew there was always the possibility that one, or both would be following me and might try to initiate contact.  I lived with confidential numbers, utilities accounts not in my name, I shifted regularly to stay one step ahead.  As time went on more people came to know of what was happening and more people tried to help me.  Unfortunately I was given some incorrect advice about my rights and this prolonged the experience.  Interestingly my first contact to mental health services was refused, when they would not, at my request, work with their client to put an end to the stalking.  Something about patient confidentiality was mentioned even though I didn’t want information.  I was trying to give them information on what their client was up to.  They weren’t interested.  My fear was that this man would kill me, because he couldn’t have me.  I had no idea when, and if this might happen, but I knew enough to know that he wasn’t thinking straight most of the time and because of my refusal to give him any attention there was always a possibility that he would turn to violence

In the end I gave in and left town.  For years it had been suggested I do this but my attitude was why should I leave?  I had done nothing wrong.  But the opportunity came up, I was tired of all this and so I took it.  The second stalker has never contacted me since.  The first (the ex-boyfriend) unfortunately has, although not recently.  He took advantage of knowing I would be at a function in my old city some years later.  He still wanted to restore our earlier (brief) relationship, even though by now it was about 20 years on.

What I was told was that when a stalker loses the object of their attention, then because of the type of personality the stalker has s/he has to move on and find another focus for their attention.  I have had difficulty of finding some evidence of  this but I have repeatedly read that:

  • Truly obsessed stalkers are committed to the hunt; and
  • Even with a complete identity change, it is very difficult for someone to completely “disappear”.(1.)

So even though I have shifted cities several times, used a different name for a while, made sure my address doesn’t get listed anywhere, and my telephone number is listed as confidential, etc…  I am very cautious of where I go when I return to the city these events took place.  I have family and friends there but I’m not in a rush to go there.  I’m sure you will understand why I still feel a little bit anxious.

Image via Positive Outlooks

In the years following the stalking, when I was treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I was repeatedly told that both stalkers would have moved on to someone else as the object of their affection.  So does that work for me?  Academically I can accept that these men had obsessional natures and so would need to target someone else.  But realistically, I still have a little fear and frankly I think that’s actually healthy.

The stalking I experienced and the ongoing fear since has affected my life in big ways.  Establishing and maintaining an intimate relationship is still hard because my first boyfriend ‘taught’ me that the other party can hold on and never let go.  So I get scared and run from the relationship before that happens.  I see what I consider stalking behaviour in perfectly normal and healthy relationships.  On a practical level my phone numbers will always be unlisted and I can’t bear to have a gap in the curtains when they are pulled (in case someone is outside looking in).  For too many years this was reality and now my bedroom curtains are clipped shut with a clothes peg.  Actually I had to resort to do that because my cat Penny liked to get up on the window sill in the middle of the night and would move the curtains in the process.  In the morning I would be full of fear.  I find it difficult to walk down the road by myself (because I might be seen).  I hang my underwear on the inside of the clothesline, hidden behind other laundry.  There are probably many other things that I do still that are down to my experience.

When I published my book Infinite Sadness in 2009 I made a decision to no longer hide myself away.  I decided at that point to allow my name on the internet.  And I wasn’t going to hide behind a pen name, as I had done for some years.  This time I was going to be me.  So my name is correct.  What I’m still not prepared to do is to link a photo of myself with that name.  That would allow them way too much information if they could identify me by both name and photo.

This is my motto from now on.

I think this makes sense considering what I have been through.  I’m not letting them continue to have complete power over me but I am also not prepared to go back to where I’ve been so not prepared to totally let down my guard.  Using my own name is like taking back a bit of me.  But I would be crazy to totally open myself up that way.  I’m still not convinced that they are gone for good.  Can you blame me?

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