Going underground

Using the tube in London has always been something I’ve avoided unless it was unnecessary. I don’t so much mind being underground so much as I can’t see where I’m going or where I am. I like the bits of the underground that go overground because, no matter how awful it is, it’s something to see.

I hate going down the huge escalators with hundreds of other passengers just to stand on crowded platforms while praying to an unknown entity that I’m heading the way I’m supposed to be going.

Most of my trips to London since 1992 have been to south of the river and, since it has been more often than not Bromley, there has been no need to use the tube. (20 minutes on the 436/36 bus from Paddington then 17 minutes on a train from Victoria if you want me to justify it.)

The past six months or so have changed all of this and I no longer have had a decent excuse not to descend into the viewless void. (Why yes, I am a drama queen.) It’s an inescapable fact that longer journeys across London are far quicker on the tube than they are on a series of buses. No arguing with that.

One of my most favourite, and incredibly patient, friends has been babysitting me while I’ve been taking my first regular trips down in the dark depths. Yes I know, drama queen.

In all seriousness though he’s explained to me where we’re going, what line we’re taking, how many stops it is and, all through the journey, chats about anything that would keep me distracted from the fact that I couldn’t see out of the windows.

I’m not claustrophobic, it’s difficult to explain but a large part of it is that I love being outside. I go out for a walk when it’s raining so heavily that my dog refuses to move out of the room he’s in let alone leave the flat. When I worked in offices the windows were left with permanent indentations left by my nose being pressed up against them as I gazed wistfully at the outside world. I’m just not an indoor person.

This week I’ve been over visiting my friend and fulfilling a long time desire to seen Camley Street Natural Park and I stayed out in Finchley.

We met up in Paddington and wandered about as we do, taking tube trains when we needed to and it was okay. We had a great day and then we both traveled in the same direction as Finchley Central was the place where we would part company.

I knew that I’d be taking the trip back into central London myself the next day and I was apprehensive to say the least until we got to Finchley. The first thing I noticed when we left the station was the silence. The side street was quiet and that made me feel better, quiet is good.

As I was leaving the next day I debated taking the easy way out and pulling the “I’m a photographer and I need to satisfy the urge to get on and off buses every time I see something worth shooting” stroke but it’s not in me to give into fear or back away from challenges.

The fear is twofold – using a mode of transport that I’m not comfortable with and, more importantly, being in a strange place and having to leave it alone to find myself in a place I was familiar with.

I checked out of my hotel and went to a lovely little church just down the street and wandered around it and its churchyard. I cleaned a few of the grave markers so I could get photos of them and refused to think of what I’d have to do half an hour in the future.

I got messages from my friend to say which direction I should be traveling, what I could see if I got at certain stations and general “you can do this” stuff.

I did it. I got off at Euston, almost had a panic attack coming up from the bowels of the earth (yes, I’m still a drama queen) but I did it. I spotted a branch of Hema and stocked up on Dutch liquorice and then, shaking like crazy, went out into the air. I messaged my friend to share my joy, and it was joy, and there I was knowing exactly where I was.

I walked to Camley Street Natural Park and I spent a very happy hour there. I was surrounded by trees and wildlife while London went on in the background and it was beautiful.

I found myself outside the British Library and sat in the sunshine with a sandwich and a cold drink. I walked down the road towards Paddington with confidence because I knew where I was yet there was a time when I spent the whole time walking that route permanently attached to a map in case I went the wrong way. It’s impossible to go the wrong way.

When I got too tired I jumped on the bus that I knew would take me right outside Paddington station because I’d done it before yet there was a time when I’d done it for a first time.

This brings me full circle. I’ve done something for the first time, something that carried an undefinable fear and that fear has been demoted to apprehension. I doubt I’ll ever confess to loving the tube as much as I love buses but, even though I had fantastic support into getting to this point, I did it – I’m my own hero. Oh, and I love Finchley.

Memories and the habit they have of hiding

I sort of manage another Twitter account for a friend. It’s nothing other than scheduling fie tweets a week for him but it maintains his Twitter presence and I get nice chocolate for doing it.

This morning there was a reminder of what was a painful memory that was brought back to life by seeing the Twitter account of @Twining_news.

Twinings (the tea people) are incredibly wonderful. They support people in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich with mental health problems in getting back to work. I wrote the article featuring the SEEC which they manage and support and it brought back memories of a time when I could write that kind of piece regularly and I felt sad.

When I first realised that I would have to give up all charity and work, especially writing, I was devastated. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a volunteer in one way or another.

I started off helping run a YMCA youth club (which was the smallest thing I ever did!) and became a contact for the local police and assisted in changing the community in a very positive way. I worked with the graffiti unit with the same police force until it was scrapped and, in order to stop anti-social behaviour in a local park I worked with an ex-Arsenal player supporting him as he coached and finding funding.

My swan song in active community volunteering was acting as a troubleshooter between the local council, businesses and contractors as a local street was closed and refurbished. Heady and heavy stuff indeed.

When the gentler world of writing (though not much gentler and quite pressured at times but that’s another story) about charities for a website I founded with a friend beckoned I did it gladly.

Then the rot set in. I had to stop writing because of the pressure but there was still Twitter. Twitter for that website has had to come to an end because it’s too pressured for me and so my voluntary work, after 45 years, has finally come to an end.

It stings a little because I still have contacts  in the various areas and people that I worked with and they still ask for help. On the other hand I still get members of the communities coming up to me in the street and thanking me for the things I did because they’re still impacting positively on their community.

Memories had in strange place in our minds and when you’re least expecting it you find them as though they were a well hidden person in a game of hide and seek.

When I had to stop the voluntary work I felt that my world had shrunk considerably but then I got a new oven, a bigger and better one and started baking bread again. I started a blog which has recently become a food website. I’ve become adept at cooking with liquorice and I’m picking fruits and vegetables in order to flavour vinegars. My vinegars are wonderful. Last week I made my first batch of sausage me and it was fabulous.

The world that I thought would be tiny and constricted isn’t. I can’t bake bread or flavour vinegar during the episodes when even using a hot hob would be a dangerous thing but I can when they pass. They always pass, that’s what Bipolar Disorder does.

My life had to change and I grieved over it for a while and then I moved on. I move on quickly as I refuse to lie weeping over the dead body of a part of my life that has ceased to be. I keep on going, I keep on trying and I keep on living because, as someone once told me, I’m just too tough to give in and die.

Drama and drama

I went to pick up Finn from Stafford yesterday. The journey up was fun; we sang a lot, swore a lot and put the world to rights.

The happy bus was slightly late getting into the motorway services and we were early so the wait was nerve wracking and dragged out into forever. I got told off by one of the women from the charity for only producing one part of the adoption form even though they’d only sent me one page. Luckily for her my mind was totally focused on Finn and getting him home.

When the van got into the services and parked up we were all waved over to pick up our animals – mine was the only cat, the rest were dogs – and as we got closer I could hear a Siamese cat-like howling. My boy was telling the whole world he was unhappy.

He was first out of the van and, call me soft if you will, I could barely see him through the happy tears! The photo taken by the charity as we were united shows this old lady with wild hair and tears running down her face with a very dignified cat.

He’s home now and, very surprisingly, he had cuddles at bedtime. He’s now taken to living on my wardrobe and I think he’s going to be there for a few days. There’s a fair few kitchen things up there and I can see my popcorn machine taking a tumble before the week is out.

It was a day of drama but good drama.

Late last night I got a series of messages via Facebook from an unexpected source. There’s a bit of a back story but it’s brief so bear with me…

Last month I had two very serious episodes of mania. They are very intense and last about 90 minutes. I’m never quite sure if I’m going to survive them not just because of the intensity but also because of the conversation my brain has with itself. One side (and it does feel like sides of my brain not an all over sensation) shouts that the only way to stop the feeling is to kill myself and the other side shouts that I have to hold on because I’ve survived before and I will again.

I’m left exhausted for days and I retreat from the world except for the emergency visit to a GP to have it added to my records and to pick up extra medication if need be. This time a psychiatrist adjusted my medication via a phone consultation so the good old NHS came through for me in a big way.

Between the two episodes, which were just days apart, I had a series of texts from a person I knew on Twitter saying how depressed and anxious they were. I was in the waiting room about to be called in to see my GP when they rang me wailing about how crap they felt and that they needed my help. I had to tell her I’d ring back after I’d seen my GP and I did.

Now this person works in the mental health field, they knew how ill I was and, out of all the people they could have got in touch with they chose to get in touch with me. Perhaps they knew I’d listen but after listening to them as I walked all the way home I was tired and I was tired of them.

There was a third person in the equation who I’d been “introduced” to but, looking back, it felt like I’d been pushed into being into a “friendship” that didn’t seem to make sense. Things got scary there too. Each one of them asking what the other had said about them and what did I think. It just isn’t normal to behave like that.

To cut a long story short I blocked them on social media and on my phone. I rarely do a blanket block because some people just need to have boundaries established and established so that they cannot ignore them. I needed to cut these people out completely though as their behaviour was controlling and, to be frank, a little more than scary.

One of them me the messages on Facebook last night. They wanted things out with me, I was going to pay for what I’d done etc. etc. Since I had no idea what I was being accused of I was polite and refused to argue back and blocked them from there too.

This kind of drama is bad drama, it’s controlling drama, it’s drama that shows that people can be resentful of the attention you get because you have a serious illness and that is sick on so many levels.

So now I’ve stepped backwards a little more. There is one more thing I’m waiting for and it will come as sure as eggs is eggs. I hate waiting round for the inevitable to happen but when it does I am prepared and I am not defenceless.

I don’t do crossroads, I do corners

After what seems to be years, but in reality is just a few months, I finally have finally seemed to turn a corner. Getting to crossroads tends to suggest two options from which to choose but I’ve never been in that position, I’ve always been on the right side of the path but sometimes I turn round the wrong corners.

Recent crises have left me feeling fragmented and helpless and I don’t cope particularly well with either state. I have had unfailing support from a small circle of friends and family who have helped me whether they knew it or not.

I knew I’d turned a corner when I did some ironing today and that I knew when to stop. Too many times I tell myself that one more item won’t matter but it usually does mean the difference between tears or tantrums and sometimes both.

I got the hoover out and did the living room and the kitchen and that felt as though I’d regained a little more control over my life. I don’t like doing housework but when it’s as tidy as it can be it’s a long way of the chaos that it can be in a matter of days.

I’ve not done too well on the eating side of things but I did at least stop for a cheese sandwich at lunchtime and there will be fish finger, chips and peas for tea. Not brilliant but not disastrous either.

I’ve just realised that from starting the above paragraph and finishing it I came to the conclusion that I’ve done quite well. It becomes more obvious how well I have managed when I see things on a page. It’s very important for me to write things down. When I post my blog it doesn’t matter if it never gets read by anyone else (though people do read it and identify with it) but I write regardless because it clears my head and carves a path through the debris and detritus that’s hanging around my brain.

The most important thing that I’ve learned in these weeks and months is that acceptance isn’t a final stage. I accept that I have an illness that makes a huge impact on my life and that impact could, and probably will, make me become more severely affected. Bipolar disorder doesn’t go away and unless there is a miracle cure then how I am now is the way I will always  be and I have to live with.

I will never stop railing against it. I will never stop exhausting myself or burning myself into the ground just by doing the normal kind of things that normal kind of people do. I will always do the outrageous thing than the safe thing. I will always strive to get to a stage where I cope with this bloody awful illness instead of just managing it hour by bloody hour.

I’m not any of the descriptions that people trot out in memes. I haven’t got a mental health problem because I’m a strong person who’s been fighting too long, I’m a strong person with a mental health problem and I’m living with it not fighting it. There are days when I’m fed up and I can’t imagine living this life a moment longer but I am the semicolon and not the full stop; I know that there is a life for me if I just pause. It is not the life that 14 year old me imagined for herself but it hasn’t been a bad life, it’s been an interesting life. There’s been lots of hilarious moments, too many stupid ones and so many outrageous ones that I’ve lost count.

That life will continue. I am 59 this year and I have been living with bipolar since early adolescence – onset at 13 or 14, diagnosable at 16 or 17 but not diagnosed until I was until I was 36. I am, at times, as old as 27 in my head but I’m usually a reckless 18.

I have many talents though I would dearly love to improve both my writing and my photography because even though I’ve had pieces of each published professionally I don’t think that you ever get as good as you can be. I will leave you with the quote below which I believe the coach of the England squad said in a Rugby World Cup about how the team strived to win.

The greatest sin you can ever commit is to grow old without knowing just how good you could have been.

Getting emotional and pressing the delete button

I’ve deleted the two blog posts that I’ve written this week. I’d broken the rules about blogging which are by all means write when you’re angry or deeply emotional but don’t push the ‘publish’ button until you’ve edited the hell out of it the next day.

I feel the same way as I did when I wrote them but toned down. I’m angry but I don’t want to go out seeking one the offenders with an AK47 but there is a deep feeling of betrayal. As for the other they claimed not be be adding drama to the situation when drama is exactly what was being added. I have enough drama in my life without another drama queen challenging my title for the most dramatic drama queen ever.

There is no sense of forgiveness because there is no need to forgive the foolish and they will both be easily forgotten. The lessons will be learned and used as a shield as I check people out more thoroughly in the future.

Today I’ve had a good day. I promised myself to do some laundry which I did and I finally took two carrier bags of books to the Scope charity shop. Dropping the books in there was a form of letting go of my past because it acknowledges that my mind can’t face up to the rigours of study anymore and I don’t need to push myself or give my self a hard time over it. If you know you’re clever then you don’t have to justify even to yourself.

When I walked Ogden we got chatting to the guy who empties the bins in the park and he told me that travellers have been spotted in the area and asked me to keep a look out for them. We met a neighbour who was walking another neighbour’s dog because she’d been injured so we caught up on the local gossip. We bumped into a homeless woman who has a thing about Ogden and, when he’s in the mood, he has a thing for her too. I heard a shout behind us on one street, “It’s my nervous dog!” I knew it was the young Polish woman who lives on the corner of a street we often walk down and she got a huge hug from Ogden which made her smile. We chatted about one thing and another and she introduced me to the friend who was staying with her for a few weeks. A few yards from home we bumped into a former neighbour (he has the driest and most cracked heels I’ve ever seen!) and we chatted for ages while Ogden and his dog did play bows and generally behaved like idiots. We discussed his belief in Atlantis and little green men and my disbelief in both.

Back home I made a cup of tea and gave Ogden some treats and settled down to talk to a few people on the phone. One conversation was about a website that developed into a lesson into how to flavour vinegar and how to cook with it instead of just sloshing it over your chips. The second was with one of my closest friends, somebody I’ve known for around 20 years and we bandied around insults for a while before we both went off to do other stuff.

This is the blog I should have written instead of the angry and emotional filled ones that I did in the two days after I was deeply upset because it’s important to celebrate the good stuff. Have a picture of a duck, ducks are good stuff.

Limitations, six (now seven) and three

One thing has become very clear this past week or so and that is my previous limitations have changed. My ability to do stuff, whatever the stuff is, has lessened of late and I have to accept this. It may be a temporary thing or it may be a permanent thing but, either way, I have to deal with it.

I have a list that has guided my way of living for around 20 years. They were given to me by a consultant psychiatrist to try as an “experiment” because he knew damn well that if he told me it was a good set of guidelines to live by then I wouldn’t do them. The whole of our professional relationship was, it seems, based on a series of dares on his part and challenges to his thinking on my part but that is another story.

The list he gave me goes, in no particular order

  • Be Safe
  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Medication
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness

The first one happens automatically if I do the other five and most days I manage to do them all. Not necessarily well but I do them and that’s a big achievement.

I now have to add “Know Your Limitations” to the list and it’s incredibly difficult. I’m the person who worked 16 hour days without batting an eyelid, the one who could walk 25 miles without much of a sweat and not a blister to be seen, the one who faced down thugs in the pub I ran when my husband hid, quite literally, under the counter and I am now a person of limitations.

There is, luckily, no puzzling over where to start. I have this very sensible friend who has also been my kind of life coach for the past 10 years. He’s really good at it and has no knowledge of how poor mental health works so his suggestions are entirely practical and, for the most part, workable.

He has had me writing a daily ToDo list for a long time. I’ll write tomorrow’s list tonight and I know what I need to do so my list will look like this –

  • Turn the washing machine on
  • Hang the laundry up when the wash finishes
  • Have a nice bowl of fruit salad sat on the step with Ogden

The trick, and it’s a trick worth learning, is to write only three things on a ToDo list and make the final one a nice one. Never put a thing that you do routinely on a ToDo list; those things don’t need to go on one and they just make a list longer. Rarely will I be unable to finish a list with only three things on it. Notice I’ve broken down my laundry into two of the things and the third one is a treat. I will complete that list tomorrow and, here’s the really good bit, everything I do after that will be extra and we all know how good doing extra things feels.

The burn, and there is a burn now, is that I’ll have to limit the extra things. In order to work out how long things will take me and how important they are I’ll have to write them down because that gives me a sense of reality and not some random things running around my mind bumping into one another.

The guidelines will be my list of seven and how I’ll execute them will be the list of three. Tonight I need to do something that will help me eat properly tomorrow so I’m going to wash and slice the potatoes I harvested this morning. I’ll also slice the onion I harvested yesterday and they’ll form a meal. Preparation is a good thing as long as it doesn’t wear me out. I’ll cook sous vide tomorrow so I’ll eat well with a minimum of fuss.

So what else can I do to make things better? I’m going to spend less time on Twitter. I’m finding it quite hard going at the moment so it’s a welcome break and there’s lots of politics on my Facebook so I’ll get my fix there. I’m going to stop watching soaps – they’re moving wallpaper and light on the mind but they take up time I can be using to do something relaxing and, as I’m relaxing more I’m reading more and that makes me happy. There will be days when I can’t read but those are the days that Ogden will get longer walks and then he’ll be even happier.

Changes, my life is full of changes. Bipolar disorder rules my life with the incessant changes it throws at me and management of it is dodging, ducking, diving and changing at a rate I can’t cope with but accepting my limitations are part of that change, at least for the time being, gives me time and space to be safe and that’s good, really good.

Detaching, shredding and a lack of monks

I had a devastating manic episode a few days ago and I’ve been doing my hermit thing since. It’s very tempting to go on Twitter and rant about politics but politics was one of the contributory factors to this particular episode and the subsequent burn out.

I’ve been detaching from the world and tweeting once a day to say that I’m still not engaging with people. I do this because sometimes you get a bit overwhelmed with mentions and direct messages asking how you are when all you need is a quietness.

While I’ve been detaching from Twitter I’ve also been detaching from the outside world to a certain extent. I haven’t been talking to many people (which suits me well) and I haven’t been watching much television (politics again) so I’ve been sitting listening to music and rereading some of my favourite books. I’m totally submerged into Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” as if it was the first time I’ve read it. I’ve bought a copy of Kafka’s Letters to Milena to dip into. My rats ate the last copy so I can, once again, relive his agonies and curse Milena.

Being a hardy north-easterner I put my duvet into storage about May and it stays off until about October. I’ve been shifting things around to fit it in somewhere and while I was doing that I found a pile of twenty or so greetings cards. I thought that the layers of dust were hiding a horde of memories that would spring to life in my mind and conjure up long past feelings in my heart and eyes but they didn’t. The cards were just words that could have been written to anyone by anyone. They didn’t stir memories but they did make me think why I’d clung on to them. I’m not sentimental and I think that I could have been holding on to them because I’d been convinced that when I opened them events and occasions from the past would pop out like some bizarre jack-in-the-box. I’ve just finished shredding them and have said goodbye to a pile of inked cardboard. The memories of that relationship (which are many, varied and risque) are still there they’re just in my head gathering dust instead.

This evening I’ve been talking to a friend and I noticed that the way that he uses language is quite different from the way I do. I ramble from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep and I’m lucky that my animal brood like the sound of my voice. I talk when there is often no need to talk. He is very spare with his words and I’d say the same thing in 10 times the volume and still not get to the point.

I have spent times when my words were more considered and sparse but that is way back more than half my life ago when I was living in the little house in the woods and working part of the time in a monastery. Perhaps I need monks in my life again or maybe all I need to do is read the Rule of St Benedict and get back to the values, spirituality and silence that was.

People, politics, passion

I think it’s fair to say that since the General Election was announced I’ve become increasingly political in the run up to it. I think I’m going to blow up before I get to the polling station on Thursday (today is Tuesday 6 June 2017) to cast my vote.

I have always been decidedly left of centre to say the least. I often told my mother I’d voted for the Communist Party just for the reaction even though the Communist Party never put up candidates of any kind in the area where I grew up.

In my 41 years as a voter this is by far the most exciting election campaign that I’ve ever seen. An elected leader of the Labour Party (go Jeremy, show the bastards!) treated initially as a joke is now proving that those of us who were behind him right from the beginning were right to put our trust in him. The leader of the Conservative Party who gained leadership because nobody else wanted it has gone from a woman who was seen as a more than adequate replica of the Iron Lady to a joke. Strangely enough, it is too soon to call the result.

I have been sharing my views loudly on social media and I think that 90% of any of the posts I’ve made have been politics be it supporting Labour or condemning the other parties, particularly the Tory bastards. I am usually too polite to paraphrase my mate Dave Hutchinson who used the phrase “cunting Tories” in one of his books but I will make an exception this one time.

It’s been a bit too much for some people. I haven’t exactly been unfollowed or unfriended in droves but some people have really surprised me. The ones who declare lifelong friendship quietly drift away, the soft blocks on Twitter and the silent detaching on Facebook. Some people have even blocked me on Instagram.

I can only suppose they don’t like my point of view or disagree with the way I feel. I don’t like one of my closest friends voting Conservative at local and national elections but I’d never disown him for doing it. We come from different backgrounds I went to a grant maintained faith school and he went to a public school. I throw myself at life with little thought to consequences and have an incredible amount of fun doing it even though I am a bit shackled by the old bipolar these days. He is more controlled and cares more about how he appears in public than I do. We differ in many ways but at the core of it is a great friendship so if we can agree to not talk about politics and respect the views of one another then why can’t people who’ve never met me have the same attitude?

I think a lot of it is how people perceive us to be. It’s fair to say that we all hide some of ourselves from the world and we never show our whole person to any person. Each one of my friends and family has a piece of me and they all add up to the whole me. Some people have bigger bits than others while others have pieces so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye but they all hold part of me. One friend knows where I spend the evening of the second Sunday of every month and the rest would be stunned if they knew what I was doing. A couple of people know of how I spent my 50th birthday a the Tate Modern and the rest would be horrified (and I mean truly horrified) how I celebrated the occasion. Few people know of the part of me that sits calmly and quietly with my arm round my dog, both of us staring into the middle distance and not moving for hours though everybody knows of the long walks and the loud fun that he and I have together. Nobody (until now) knows that when I play music when I’m at home I sing along to everything (right now it’s Big Time Charlie by the Cockney Rejects).

I think it’s fair to say that I’m a passionate person – I don’t know how to do things by halves and I suppose that’s a bit too much for people to handle. I live with a minimum of possessions and a maximum of feelings, moods and emotions. I give love rarely though I do have a loving attitude and I am that person who speaks to the people that others won’t bother with. I speak to the old ladies and men on buses because they may not have spoken to somebody that day. I talk to Linda every morning because she knows when I’ll be along walking Ogden and I’m one of the few people she trusts and I’m the only person who stops and gives her time to spill out her paranoia every time I see her. If I buy a homeless person some food then I’ll sit and chat with them a while because anybody can shove a sandwich or a pasty in someone’s hands but sometimes what they really want is somebody to look them in the eyes and stop them feeling like a charity case at least just for a moment.

I’m not an angel and I think that’s what trips people up. I can be a nice person but I can also be a nasty twat. When I drank I was argumentative and not afraid of putting myself at risk of physical violence. Addiction magnifies the personality defects a person has it doesn’t invent new ones just for the duration of the active addiction. I have to work hard at being a nice person and if you doubt me then you haven’t seen the what I can get up whether I’m being watched or not.

I have finally got to the point in a perfect example of digression (go me!). We have to respect people’s right to believe what they want to unless, and this is the big thing, it inflames hatred of people of who are different to use whether it is by religion or culture or the colour of their skin. I do none of those and I do not tolerate those who are vile enough to discriminate in such a fashion. It makes me wonder if some of the people I’ve upset are closet discriminators and feel that I am pointing an invisible finger at them. I’m not but if I trouble the odd conscience or two then I can’t pretend to be unhappy.

On disordered eating

When I first saw the consultant whose care I was under for about a decade we talked about what I wanted or hoped to gain from our time together.

He was not a psychiatrist who believed that he was just there to write prescriptions and make hospital admissions, he believed that he was there to help people and so by asking me what I hoped to gain from our professional relationship gave me hope.

My immediate response was that I wanted to know myself better. I wanted to be less afraid of the insight that I had into my illness and to learn how to manage that fear. I wanted to shine some light on my eating habits and why they had always been so flaky.

We talked at length about the way I approached food.

I was anorectic from an early age. I had no interest in food and didn’t want to eat much. I remember having school dinners for a week and not being able to finish the meals that they gave me. On the last day of what felt like a very long week one of the teachers told me I was ungrateful and that I would finish the meal I’d been given even if it took all day. It did.

I was a skinny child, a skinny teenager, a skinny adult.

I felt and looked uncomfortable in my own skin. I was told that if I “made the most of myself” then I could be quite pretty. I was never one for fitting in to moulds and have broken just about every one that anybody has tried to shove me into.

Jonathan (the psychiatrist) and I talked about my approach to food and most of it was that I didn’t like it much and that I was convinced that I was going to choke on it. Even now I’m what you would call a fussy eater and, especially since my dangly bit at the back of my throat was lasered out, I’m even more scared that I will choke.

I don’t eat regularly. I can’t eat regularly. Sometimes I will eat breakfast at the right time then graze through the day never thinking that if I just made a meal then I could sit down and eat healthily. I have a timer on my phone that tells me when to eat and today, like a lot of other days, I haven’t ignored it but the time has gone by and I’ve had ginger cake and crisps instead.

Some days I eat all day and others I barely eat at all. I don’t mind not eating because sooner or later the pain of an empty stomach goes and then I forget how long it is since I’ve eaten.

I have sort of freaky eating that I don’t often mention but it usually involves dry frying pickled fruit until it caramelises and having it with cold cuts. I don’t know whether it’s really food concocting of a bizarre kind or whether I’m just ahead of my time when it comes to food. If hipsters start dry frying pickled fruit just remember that I started the trend.

It is all linked with my mental health of course. It is, like just about everything else in my life, fueled and fuels bipolar disorder. It is, like the bipolar disorder, something that I’m better off accepting but it’s one of those things that I have trouble with.

The trouble with food is that you have to eat it. Giving up drink and drugs was different because you’re not obliged to do them but you really have to eat.

It’s a long and shitty roundabout ride.