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dear diary mental health

F*ck You, 2020. Or in other words, a life catch up from me to you.

Content Warning – Depression & Anxiety, Suicidal thoughts / ideation, Terminal illness of a pet.

I never wrote out a resolutions list for 2020 and honestly, I am glad I didn’t. I meant to, and in my head I have a good idea of the things the would have been on that list. But I didn’t actually write it… or at least, I don’t think I did; it could be hiding somewhere in my Bullet Journal, waiting to pop out from behind the proverbial bush and surprise me. As long as that doesn’t happen, I’m pleased as I don’t have a long list of things I have failed at doing.

Still… although the list does not exist, I still know what my hopes were for this year. And it wasn’t to be where I’m sat right now.

I don’t mean physically. Not sure if I need to make that clear, but just in case I did! I fully expected to be sat in the same house, in the same village, etc etc. But I didn’t expect to be 3 weeks into an absence from work. I didn’t expect my mental health to be the worst it has been for a couple of years now. I didn’t expect to be writing this with the knowledge that I am signed off work for the next 3 1/2 weeks at least. I didn’t expect to be more than 8 months into 2020, and to be feeling like an utter, abject failure.

If my nearest and dearest are reading this…I know that you would jump in and say something at this point, if this were something being talked about rather than written. You would say that I’m not a failure for the stress and anxiety of the last few months reaching breaking point. Especially with a world wide, unprecedented pandemic in the mix. And I know that you would be (that you are) right, and I love you so much for continuing to remind me.

Feelings so often don’t listen to reason and logic however, and I find myself lost between the voices of my emotional and logical brains. One telling me that I should be flexible and strong enough to navigate the changes that COVID-19 have brought to our lives without my mental health suffering; the other rationalising how as a person who lives with mental illness, I was already rolling with a -5 before ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ became common words/phrases in our day to day lexicon.

It’s not just been the pandemic either. Things in the personal lives of myself and those I live with (my husband and girlfriend) have all added to the pot of stress, causing it to reach boiling point and overflow.

Unworthy. Inadequate. Weak. Pathetic. A selection of words I have used against myself in the last few weeks. They hurt coming from yourself about yourself.

Guilt. Shame. Anger. Resentment. Despair.

I have pushed people away and sought comfort in solitude and distraction. At one stage a few weeks ago, I hadn’t washed in over a week – I just didn’t care, didn’t see the point. And then, I started to wish for escape. Escape from the stress of life. Escape from life itself.

I haven’t seriously tried to do anything. I started to think about pills, how many it would take to give me a quiet end to life. I reached out for them in front of my husband and he took them away (we have meds around the house for all our various ailments). This happened on a couple of occasions. Thinking back on it, I think I was crying out for help more than anything – that if faced with a true quiet moment in which to follow through, I wouldn’t actually do it.

Which leads me to my present. My medication has been changed and is under review with my GP. I am still low, very low, but I don’t want to end my life. Well okay, part of me does. The part of me that is struggling with finding ‘the point’ to anything anymore. The part that keeps reminding me that I’ve been on this merry-go-round before. My mental health takes a nose dive, I end up off work. The last twice, it has been for around 2 months. I start back at work with a slow phased return, eventually building back up to what I was doing pre-absense and for a while, all is good. But in the end, it happens again. I end up back here.

At the start of the year, I was engaged in psychotherapy provided by the NHS. It was due to end early March, then got extended to July, which I was over the moon about as I thought I needed more time with my therapist; that there was a lot of ground from the past still to cover / talk through. I feel like COVID-19 has almost ‘robbed’ me of that extra time. In reality, only one appointment was lost to the pandemic (it was due to be on the same day that Mr Johnson announced the UK lockdown, so it was straight up cancelled), however most of the sessions after this point ended up focusing hard on pandemic related things, since that was the *big thing* in mine and everyone’s lives). As the end got closer and closer, I knew that there was ground I hadn’t covered with my therapist, and the time was simply no longer there. The sessions ended, and my feelings around that added to the ever-filling pot of stress.

***

I have inserted a pause here, as everything prior to this point was written in August. I started writing this piece and then just stopped. It became too hard mentally to continue. It is now 9th September. Not much has changed – I am still absent from work; my current fit note runs out next week and I do not expect the doctor to give me the all clear when we review my anti-depressant dosage next Wednesday. Two weeks ago, my focus was simply on making sure I was washing and dressing – basic self care stuff. After a rocky time last week, I’m pretty much doing the same thing this week, along with working on my mobility – possible arthritis in my knee making it hard to walk and hurting my back on Friday are only contributing to my mental state.

Today especially is going to be hard – in a couple of hours Michael and I are taking our 17 year old cat Misty to the vet with the expectation of not bringing her home. She has cancer of the month and the growth under her tongue has been growing for a good while. We had hoped she may be with us the rest of this year, but things haven’t played out that way.

My Mirtazapine dose is currently at 30mg a day – I am expecting this to increase as I am still feeling very low, with emotional outbursts. Michael and Paul are in the firing line of these most of the time. Socially I’ve withdrawn in most ways – on Facebook I browse and comment on the occasional post but its maybe once, twice a day at most? I’m not posting anything of my own. Same goes for both Twitter and Instagram. My dear friend Sarah sent me a DM on Instagram when she saw I wasn’t doing so well and it took me weeks to open it and even now when the lines of communication are open, I’m having to leave it a while between each reply I send. I know she understands but it frustrates me that I can’t just do what I normally can do and write back instantly. That it all feels harder, that it takes more energy and strength to work up to.

How can it be that my head feels so full of things….and yet, come up so empty at the same time? This is how it so often feels and its a swathe of emotion and thought that I can get lost in. It’s like looking through a phone directory that’s thousands and thousands of pages long, but each and every page is blank, but you keep turning to the next page hoping it has the number you need on it.

***

Why am I writing this? This, this jumble of thoughts and feelings. One of my multitude of counsellors / therapists, Richard, always told me that art and writing were one of the ways we can help ourselves to heal from trauma. I am not sure if moaning to oneself on the internet is quite what Richard meant when he talked about writing as a form of self healing, but it’s the only form I really know. Unless you go looking for my –really bad- TMNT fanfiction. Please, don’t.

I want to blog. I always say to myself that I want to blog. Mental health, healing from trauma… this is something I know about because I fucking live with it. Obviously I can only talk about my own experiences and how I navigate them, but maybe writing about them might help. Maybe it will help me get back to work, help me be social and function as a person again. Maybe.

So here I am. Writing.

Think of Misty for me. She is lying in the sun right now, enjoying the heat. I am going to go and take some photographs of her now in case she doesn’t come home (which is most likely).

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dear diary

Missed Ones

I want to start blogging again. Part of me wishes I didn’t look at it tonight however. As a part of the process, I reminded myself of what I had previously wrote on my ‘About’ page. There is a section where I talk about my polycule (read here if you don’t know the lingo) and my pets. My polycule is the same (3 partners, 1 metamour – go me?) but our pets? We have gone from having 6 in July 2019, to 3 right now (January 2020).

We lost our hamster Lorgar to age in July, and then our new hamster Argel Tal in October. In November my cat Sweep was diagnosed with cancer and went downhill very quickly until we took her to the vets to have her put to sleep (she had completely stopped eating bless her, couldn’t even tempt her with egg or cheese), and in December, our boy Cookie suddenly had a fit and died a few minutes later. Cookie and Argels’s deaths were the most surprising and devastating; Argel was only 4 months old. Cookie was 16 years old which is not exactly young for a cat, but he was healthy and fit, so his passing was quite a shock. Sweep’s passing hurts me greatly, but as she was 18 and had been going downhill for a while before her diagnosis, it was at least not unexpected.

(Pictured above, L-R: Argel Tal, Cookie, Lorgar, and Sweep)

Our remaining pets are of course wonderful, but Cookie in particular was such a big presence in our house. They are all missed terribly. I’m heart sore. I think we all are. Megan is especially missing Cookie, he was her cat and companion, and her anxiety has gone up significantly since we said goodbye to him.

If I could bring them all back I would. But that’s naturally not how life works. We may have to move home this year…as a result we aren’t making a decision on whether or not to get another cat for a couple of months at least. It would unfair to bring a new cat into this home to have to move them just a month or two afterwards. I think getting another one would do us all in my house some good; help fill the void that has been left behind. Once we know what is happening tenancy wise, we can make the call.

Losing a pet can be hard. They form strong ties with us and seep into our lives, sometimes without us even realising. It’s often not until they are gone that we realise just how much space around us they took up and how greatly they filled our lives with love.

I miss my babies. I wish I could just touch them one more time. I know I can’t, but I just wish.

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dear diary explore tabletop

A Dublin Adventure 2 – The Progress Progress*

I am writing this post midway through the third day of WorldCon, which is essentially the half way point of the convention, and more than half way into the trip as a whole (we arrived on Tuesday, it is currently Saturday and we leave Tuesday coming).

This trip has had its ups and downs, but is definitely weighted more in the favour of its ups. This post is an exercise in sharing some of those good and negative experiences.

Day One – We did get to Bewleys!

My last post was written while I was on the plane headed to Dublin. Upon landing, we made our way into the city centre, and made an immediate beeline for Bewleys Oriental Cafe. Situated on Grafton Street, one of the main shopping streets of Dublin, Bewley’s is a cafe and ‘cafe theatre’, not that Michael and I have ever experienced the theatre aspect ourselves.

We know from our previous times in Dublin that we love Bewley’s tea, and prior to this trip, we have been to the cafe on Grafton Street before. So it was a must visit for two reasons!

A lot of the anxiety I had felt it the run up to and during the flight over to Ireland melted around once we had actually landed, and familiar sights made themselves known. I think the destination of the trip being somewhere familiar as certainly helped keep the anxiety at bay, as has the fact that the country is majority English speaking (other than on the TV, I have only heard one Irish speaker so far!).

Bewley’s was, as expected, wonderful. So much so we went back on Day Two!

Day Two – The One Where We Chilled

Michael and I weren’t overly bothered about doing any major sightseeing; this was not out first trip to Dublin and we did the majority of the big sights on our first visit back in 2005. So on our ‘chill’ day between arriving and the start of WorldCon, we did exactly then; we chilled.

We did go across to the venue to get ourselves registered and therefore save a bit of time the next morning. It also allowed us to scope out the bus routes, and enjoy a walk along the river Liffey.

We walked around the city centre, Michael found the Games Workshop which made him very happy, and we had our first ever Supermacs. Curry cheese fries are a revelation, let me tell you!

Our day was rounded out by picking up some groceries, and clashing our diaries for the next few days, seeing what panels we would be doing together, and which ones we wouldn’t be.

Day Three, that is Con Day One!

My first day of WorldCon started off on the right foot. Michael and I arrived in time for Star Trek Yoga, which was challenging but rewarding. I had a couple more panels, and then a migraine hit. I quickly found the quiet room, and was there for the next three hours. At 5pm, Michael took me away from the con and back to our lodgings. Rest and sleep were what I needed.

I don’t know what set the migraine off, but it ruined my first day at the con. I enjoyed what I managed to do, but I closed the day out feeling frustrated and angry. And with no one to blame…which makes it even more frustrating again.

Day Four, a better con day!

Day four, yesterday, as a significantly better day than the one prior. I had the aftermath of the migraine from Thursday, but I could thinking clearly and see, so I could assimilate information again; huzzah!

Michael and I being silly on Day Two!

*** 21:19 Thursday 23rd January 2020!

Several months have passed since both WorldCon, and my last time looking at this blog. I had always meant to come back and finish this post, but clearly I did not!

I do not recall for the life of me why I called this post ‘the progress progress’, but I have left the title as I found it, purely for my own amusement.

WorldCon ended up being an amazing experience. I won’t go into a daily breakdown this long after the event. I will simply say that I went to many informative and enjoyable panels. I met some wonderful people, and Dublin was as lovely as I can remember it being on my previous visits.

The group I played D&D with one of the con days.
Jaq, who I now follow on Instagram and hope to meet again.
Michael and I get a selfie with Laser of The Doubleclicks after their concert!