Connections

Next week will be my last two days of work.  I work at 2 services, as a mental health worker; in one, I have already had my final day, last Thursday.  In the second- the one that I started at in 2015- the 25th will be my last day.

2 services.  16 people in each.  32 people.  32 people I will, most probably, never see again.

In 2 years, seeing people nearly every day, you get to know them.  Despite all kinds of ideas about detachment and boundaries and so on, they get to know you pretty well too.  Maybe not about the ins-and-outs of your life, maybe not about your family, maybe not about your favourite pub.  What they do see is probably something that cuts through all those things, straight to the chase: your style of being.  What I mean by that is that every individual has a series of styles: a style of talking; a style of moving; a style of expressing; a style of interacting and connecting.  If you are a fairly transparent person, then the style of being people (at work) see is most probably the style closest to the one you use when you are out-of-context, in the world, in your life.  When I said that I was leaving, people I have been supporting told me things about myself that I hadn’t noticed, about the way that I interact and the way I behave.  I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.  Why should insight be only one way?

It’s strange to be leaving.  This time last month, working in those two services had worn me down to the point where even the one month’s notice I had to give seemed like too much to work through.  And yet, on Thursday, I found myself in tears.  16 down, 16 to go.  Excluding coincidence, like I said, that totals 32 people I may never see again.  32 people whose names I will try to run through in my head so I don’t forget them.  Some whose names I might anyway, one day, forget.  Who will also forget mine.

I wrote each person a personalised goodbye message.  Some were easier than others, some more thoughtful than others.  One person told me she will stick hers to her noticeboard.

One week from today, I will be out of both services, for good.  Something I have been wanting for a long time… something I have been vaguely dreading for a while.  Off into the unknown- but everything’s unknown until you know it.

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So much change (general update)

Oh my life is changing everyday / In every possible way/
– The Cranberries, Dreams

Life changes.  In some ways, nothing much has changed this year, and in other ways things are completely different.  In the Big Wide World Out There, things have changed dramatically (politics… world events… so many, many things I couldn’t begin).  In my Little World In Here, things are no longer too dramatic. The calm is a relief.

My partner and I moved in together in April, just the two of us in a flat.  It’s pretty cool being able to walk around looking terrible and not feeling bothered about bumping into someone in the kitchen in my pants.  It’s fun watering cacti and being quickly outgrown by an alarmingly, increasingly large and unruly houseplant.  It’s liberating to shower with the door open.  And it’s wonderful being around someone I love, and being able to chill on the couch without feeling like it will make others uncomfortable, and knowing that whatever each of us gets up to (work/ social life/ family visits/ etc), we can meet back at base, and that base is just ours.

I also found out about a week ago that I got a new job.  I remember posting on here, it seems like forever ago but has been actually just under two years, when I got the job I’m in now.  It’s been a crazy ride, lately more drops than bounces, and I’ve struggled with it and enjoyed it in almost equal measure (towards the end of my tether, the measure seems not equal at all). The new job is more creative, although in the same sector (and for the same charity), and I’m hopeful that a change will be, as they say, as good as a rest.  Although I didn’t think it, I’ll be very sad to leave… sad in a normal way, not in a regretful way.  It’s been interesting, and I’ve grown/ changed/ learned, but it’s time to go.

I quit smoking.  It’s been five months exactly.  Now and then I get a random urge, pleasant weather, the sight of libraries, the late sun. It doesn’t bother me anymore when other people light up.  I don’t really like the smell.

My life feels very different now.  Late winter provided dark months.  I don’t mean the sky outside, I mean my moods, my behaviour, my thoughts. February and March were like wading through mud in thin socks.  But I wasn’t without support.  I struggled to safety.  Sometimes I wake up in the shadow of the dark months, trying to surface from under it, trying to see through it.  Sometimes I wake up and the shadow isn’t there and I don’t remember it until later on, when it seems less important to think about.  Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by everything and all I really want to do is cry until the feeling subsides and even so, at times like that I don’t feel that it ever really will.  I need to bear that darkness in mind so that I’ll be able to bear the light.

I haven’t been writing because darkness left a fog over me.  I’m still not sure I have anything at all worth saying but I can only try.  It’s not compulsory reading for anyone else 😉

 

 

 

Written on the Body: Intro

In the marriage of flesh and spirit, divorce is impossible, but that doesn’t mean that the marriage is necessarily happy or successful.  So many of us are not in our bodies…
Gabrielle Roth, Maps to Ecstasy

 

This year, the theme of the Mslexia Diary was The Body.  Each month centred on a different theme, from the skin to the heart. I have decided to write a series of posts based on each section of the diary, focussing in each post on a different aspect of the human body.  Mine, or anyone’s.  The diary has helped me to be in my body.  Roth also writes that “we live outside ourselves… absentee landlords of our own estates” (Maps to Ecstasy).  Since January, I have been trying to really feel my body; what does my skin feel?  My heart?  My liver?  Both in terms of metaphor and of tangible, solid experience.

My first blog post will be on the skin.  I have decided to see where each theme takes me, whether to stream-of-consciousness, poetry, or article.  So what’s it about?  I don’t know yet.  But I’ll find it by tracing the outer layer of my self…

People

A few years ago, I got chatting to somebody on a mental health forum online.  We exchanged poems and kind words and, in an online-only kind of way, we became almost close.  I didn’t hear from her for a long time.

Yesterday I chanced upon the site where we met whilst looking for old poems.  I posted a message on her last thread to ask how she was.  I received a message from a moderator to let me know that she had passed away at the start of this year.  From the messages posted, I can more or less conclude that she died from suicide.

I feel so sad.  Although I never got in touch for such a long time, I did think infrequently about her and wonder where she went.  It seems I only just missed speaking to her again, though this year is already halfway in.  All I can do is hope the best for her loved ones.

*

Recently, I made over 700 followers on this blog.  It feels amazing to have reached so many people.  Twitter, too, is proving fruitful in terms of furthering the small online mental health community I have around me.  Because that’s what it is, what we are: a community.  We look out for each other.  Drop messages.  Tweet across the Atlantic.  Pop cyber-hugs on the end of blog posts when we don’t know what else to say.  It is something I feel privileged to be a part of in my small way, something I am proud of.

Today’s sad news makes me all the more aware of how real the people are behind their words.  How concerned we should be, how we should look out for each other.  That’s why the mean comments about attention seeking upset me so much before- you never know how much sadness is really lurking behind another person’s seemingly throwaway words.

So this is a sad post, and a happy one.  I am happy to have known that person.  I am happy to be in touch with all the people I have come into contact with through WordPress, through Twitter, through whatever other sites.  And I am grateful.  But I am also very sad.

 

Triggers and Strengths

I have been more sensitive recently.  More easily hurt, as though I were covered in small wounds and other people were salt.

As a consequence of this, I have found more things triggering.  I can’t shy away from those things that trigger me because it is my job to deal with them.  So I have struggled at work, struggled to listen to the high emotional frequency in the air, struggled to listen to the ache behind other peoples’ words.  Struggled, in truth, even to get up in the morning/ afternoon (shift-dependent).

Things happen at work that inevitably trigger me because I have shared experiences with others.  Because others are not always as empathetic as I try to be in dealing with the problems faced by residents.  That hurts me because I think of how they would perceive my own struggles and I know, overwhelmingly, that their perceptions would be negative.  I become angry, I fight not to become jaded.  It’s hard.  every.  Single.  Day.

A GP prescribed an antidepressant to which my mind and body reacted very badly (I looked/ felt too stoned to go in to work), so I am waiting for a referral to the psych services of North West London.  They said it will take about a month.

Along with this have come negative thoughts and feelings, inwardly directed.  I struggle with this becomes I am no good at this.  I am triggered becomes I must act on this.  Sometimes my thoughts are loud enough to wake me in the night.  Sometimes I drink to blot them out, only to find they become more insistent.

I am coping but I am not coping well.  My coping strategies are not healthy ones.  My thoughts are not always reasonable ones.  My attempts to thwart the thoughts are often thwarted.

I drink to drown the dreams that died of drink, is a thought that cropped up in my head one day on the Tube.

And so, I have been trying to come up with something positive.  This is what I have come up with:

I am strong.  I may not feel it (I often don’t feel it) but I am.  I have an unwavering drive to survive, despite not wanting to at times.  I make efforts to stay safe, even when staying safe seems the least viable option.  I struggle… but to struggle is better than to give up.  I think of all the times I “failed” to die and try to see them not as failures but as successes: I am alive.  That is beautiful and I cannot dispute that.  I think of the relationship I am in, of how wonderful it is, how I have fought to maintain it. I block out the memories of past disasters, to be dealt with a later time.

So for all that I feel weak by being triggered, and by hearing the thoughts that call me useless and pathetic, I have to remember that to mainly resist the triggers takes a strength I do not always realise I have.

I need to try to hold onto that.

The Politics of Scars

 

At work, I keep myself covered up.  Still, there are the occasions when my sleeves slip up and I wonder whether anyone- staff or resident- has noticed.  Nobody has ever said anything but I have my defensive responses at the ready:

What do you think happened?
Well you know [insert resident name]?  I used to do the same.
It’s nothing to do with you.
I did battle with a tiger.
[burst into tears]
It’s a long, boring story.

I have no idea, if it came to it, which of these things I would say or do.  I also have no idea what the response would be.  There would probably a lot of “whys” and so on.  Probably a lot of judgement, too.  You would think that there was less judgement when working with people with mental health problems.  There isn’t.  My workplace is as judgemental as any other place. Sometimes more so.

*

Summer.  Both at work and outside of work, summer has always, always, always (we’re talking sixteen years of always) been a problem for me.  I want to wear short sleeves, do what other people do, look how other people look.  But the truth is I don’t- will never- look how other people look.  In certain situations (work, certain family gatherings, meeting family of partner) it is basically the smarter thing to stay sleeved (and wearing long trousers).  The thing is, that starts to seem unusual as the year grows hotter and hotter.  People start to ask, and the excuses tend to get more and more bizarre (“I’m cold,” I tell people as sweat starts to bead at my hairline).  Truth be told, I am dreading the hotter months at work because I don’t know how long I’ll be able to lie.  People have a terrible habit of intruding on personal space.

*

I am planning a wedding (yes readers, you heard it here first- Becky Bee is engaged!)  Yet I have fears around buying a dress.  Why?  Because I want a long-sleeved dress to cover my arms.  Because I want a short-sleeved dress because I have seen some I liked.  Because I don’t want people looking.  Because I don’t care if people look.  I don’t want my partner’s family to thing that she is marrying some kind of a crazy (although, of course, she is).  And I don’t want my own family to feel embarrassed/ surprised/ hurt/ whatever.  But I do want to be able to choose a dress that I love because I love it, and not because it adequately covers parts of me of which I am ashamed.

*

What is it that fascinates/ horrifies/ alarms/ disgusts people about the scars of self-harm?  I know for many people it is simply inconceivable that a person would want to hurt him/herself.  It doesn’t make sense.  Sometimes even I, when I think about what I’ve done, feel a kind of detached disbelief.

But as M (partner… fiance) always says: every scar represents a story.  A story where you might not have made it, but you did.  When someone asks, you can say “I fought a long battle with myself, where I could have lost, where I could have failed to make it through, and these are my battle scars… because they remind me that I made it.”  And, she says, “you’re my tiger.”