On hitting the wall

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began I have hit walls on an almost regular basis. I have a great doctor who lets me bypass the appointment system because the alternative is potential death. So far he’s assured me that I’m doing okay, my mental health toolbox is full and even if I don’t know what I’m looking for there’s something in there that may help.

He’s very good about medication. Too many doctors don’t trust their patients around diazepam and sleeping pills especially when prescribed together but mine does and has acknowledged that even though I may need to take them more often for a while that time will pass.

Today I’ve accepted that the wall I hit three days ago is part of a bipolar episode, a depressive episode. My mind tends to be in a permanent state of irritatingly chirpy so depression is an alien feeling and is something I find difficult to cope with.

Two visits to my bank this week have ended with me in tears. I’ve been talked to as though I was a stupid child and nagged constantly during the time I waited to go in and the time I was in there. I will make a formal complaint and they will send me a letter of apology. 

I’m an experienced speaker on welfare reform and disability and so the bank has asked me to send them some notes so that they can run a training session for the staff based upon them. I have a feeling that this won’t change the way that they do business very much.

It had better be good. One day it will, one day it will

Tomorrow is another day and it will be different. It may not improve but it will be different and meanwhile I will continue to keep going because I don’t know how to stop.

 

You’re not as good as Mary…

In 1980 I was on the tail end of a quest to find God, a meaning to what felt like a pointless life. I still had friends within the Roman Catholic youth “charismatic community” and one of those was Mary.

Mary threw herself in to everything. She had a cheque book in a time when few young people had bank accounts and she was always telling us what a good friend she was to everyone. She was considered to be the best singer among us and she always got the solos.

I was asked to sing the Song of Jeremiah when my parents renewed my marriage vows that year. Afterwards someone told me I sang nicely but I wasn’t as good as Mary. She wasn’t a better singer than me, she was a different kind of singer and she worked hard at hiding anyone’s light underneath her bushel.

I drifted away from the crowd I’d become friends with as I abandoned my quest for God. The God we’d been told to adore sent his Son to earth to heal the sick but only if you believed in him. Unconditional love wasn’t what God was about, it was domination.

I became interested in mindfulness around 15 years ago. It was made quite clear to me that it wasn’t about sitting on a yoga mat doing breathing exercises it was a true meditation and one that I still practise.

I’m aware that I wasn’t looking for a God to believe in when I was young, I was seeking a spiritual path and that didn’t have to include belief in a God.

In order to find spirituality I had to look at myself and be truthful about who I was and who I wanted to be.I cannot live long enough to make all the mistakes I need to learn from so I must look, in a non-judgemental way, at the mistakes of other people.

So what lessons did learn from Mary? That spending money on anyone who happened to be around and singing was all she had. She had no friends, she placed herself in the centre of a group of people and made a lot of noise. 

It isn’t possible to buy a satisfying life.

On the use of insect netting in lockdown

Every summer I hang insect netting on the windows to keep out flies.  Talking to someone recently I told them what I’d been doing and they asked if it was a term I was using to describe my coping mechanisms during lockdown. 

I think that they’ve hit on a great phrase and I formulated a description of what it means, to me at least.

I use cheap insect netting; coping mechanisms do not need to be expensive.

I often feel a need to detach a little from the world but still need to see enough of it. These are what my doctor calls my “in the world but not of it” periods.

When I am close to the netting it obscures the view but from a distance I can see through it clearly.

Sometimes it rips before I remove it from the windows in autumn as I move it slightly to open and close windows. The world begins to break in when I’m ready to rejoin it, or as Leonard Cohen wrote, “There is a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in.” 

As I speak I am keeping out the niggles that try to push their way in from the world. My netting can’t keep the big beasts out but it removes little pests from my life.

On 29 years of sobriety

In my early 20s I had a reputation for being trouble but then the alcoholic troubled often are. I was nasty and got nastier the more I drank. I wasn’t physically violent but people were nice to me in a wary kind of way. Had it been possible I would have crossed the road to avoid myself.

Like all alcoholics I drank to change the way I felt and alcohol changed me into a person I despised so I drank to forget her. A perpetual cycle.

On April 23rd 1991 a GP sat me down in his surgery and told me that if I didn’t change my lifestyle then I’d be dead before I was 35. I was 32 years old.

I knew that he wasn’t telling that it would be a brilliant party with great booze and equally great drugs but that my major organs would fail, that I wouldn’t be able to drink enough to stave off the DTs (Delirium Tremens) and I would die painfully and alone.

I wanted to live more than I wanted to drink and working out notice running a pub during my first three weeks of sobriety was one of the worst experiences I’ve had.

As I left the pub for the last time I began a period of mourning. Alcohol was my lover and I had left them without saying goodbye.

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. A divorce then two bad relationships, being at the point of suicide more than once and so worrying to my GP that he gave me my medication daily. A police officer friend took all the sharp things from my home. A diagnosis of Bipolar I was devastating. I’ve at the point of drinking many times but, believe me, alcohol doesn’t solve problems it makes them worse.

A brief dip into Alcoholics Anonymous taught me how I didn’t want to be and that friendships within “the rooms” could be as unhealthy and destructive as those without.

Twenty years ago I moved to where I’m living now and finally realised that I was allowed to be who I am.

I am a photographer and a writer. If people don’t like me then that’s fine, it’s no business of mine what other people think of me. I don’t want to have more friends than I can count, I don’t need a hectic social life and I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations including my own. I embrace my eccentricity, my imperfections and my tendency to live like a hermit.

As I sat outside last night and wrote this it was still warm from a bright spring day. I listened to some music and sang along to it a bit too loudly. I read my words back to myself and I am both pleased and astounded with how far I’m away from the woman I once was.

Today I’m alive and sober and that’s all I want and need.

I leave you with these words of hope by Leonard Cohen:

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

Distance

I was talking to someone recently and I’ve acknowledged that, as around the subject of Brexit, my attitude seems laid back. It’s not.

When I get stressed my mind begins to distance itself from reality and moving into a state called dissociation. I’m not unworried but my mind refuses to let me do it, it’s protecting itself.

This means that my approach is purely common sense and I get my information from good sources. I tend to shoot down people who share things that can be potentially dangerous. One troll this morning argued back and then had a look at my timeline to tell me how miserable my life was. Poor thing.

 

Here’s today’s corvid is a Jackdaw is technically is a subspecies but hey, it’s gorgeous.

The goo in my day – I got out with a camera for the first time in ages and decided to set up a Flickr account just for street iron.