Do you procrastinate to the point that you get very little done? And how do you break free?
Presenters Mark Brown and Seaneen Molloy-Vaughan (that’s me!) call it the Faff Zone and say it hijacks your mind.
It’s a mental health takeover on this week’s BBC Ouch podcast. Drop in on the two as their lively and reassuring discussions give a bit of necessary focus and humour to living with mental health difficulties.
I’ve been a bit AWOL, apologies. Just wanted to swing by to wish everyone a nice Christmas, or at least, one that’s not too shit for you. Or if it’s just another day, then I hope it’s one of the better ones.
If 2017 has been bollocks for you, I wish you a better 2018 instead. We’re just two years from sounding like we’re living in a dystopian novel, and given the way the world is going, we may just well be.
I’ll be back writing soon – take care if you’re reading.
Absolutely lashing with sweat due to illness, and having just burst an eardrum by being stupid, I went to a restaurant in West London to meet Yvette and Ellen of the Mentally Yours podcast in which, now having listened, I was surprisingly coherent in retrospect.
I don’t find self-harm the easiest topic to discuss. It’s pretty hard to without getting a bit graphic, so a warning that this podcast does have some fairly graphic language, as well as a few fucks, because it’s me. I haven’t self-harmed in 8 years, but because I live in a scar suit, the reaction my body gets from both the public and the medical profession means I may as well never have stopped.
It’s also not an easy topic to discuss because everyone is so different. The hardest question I was always asked when I self harmed was, “Why do you do it?” I know the circumstances I self harmed in, the houses, the rooms, the ritual. But the why, the visceral, deep down why, is mostly a mystery to me even now. I tried to explain here as best I could, the same way I tried when I was a teenager and was confronted, badgered, hectored with the, “Why?” from everybody who in turn wanted to understand their own anger, rage, disgust at it.
I also talk about why self-harm might be on the rise in young women, on which I wish I’d said more. What I didn’t mention was my feeling that there’s an earlier sexualisation of young bodies, and self-harm can be both a fuck you to that, and a way of acting out self hatred. I chat about coping with scars and what led me to stop, with a bit of rocking chair wisdom to anybody who is in that same, big, wide boat as I was. I also touch a bit on the trivialisation and dismissal of childhood and teenage emotions, and of their trauma, and the unfathomable things children endure and can’t express (and bear in mind I blocked someone on Twitter for asking if I had self-harmed due to something like a teenage crush on Boyzone, so do refrain from making fucking stupid comments like that please).
I’m not the most exciting person. Most days, the most exciting thing I do is break our geriatric tap in the kitchen. Whoosh, there is goes again. The momentary crisis of grabbing cloths and jumping back and hot geysers, a tiny little flood. That’s about as exciting as life often gets for me. Occasionally, I might say something slightly witty at an advert. Or write a tweet that gets FOUR likes and retweet. Put on the good bra to go to the shops. Pulse quickening.
I get plenty pulse quickening with my anxiety. Constant, worsening anxiety that turns every single thing into the same thing. Heart palpitations, hard to breathe, floaty, distant, shaking anxiety.
It used to just be Some Things. The Big Things. I’ve written at length about my fear of death and the therapy that I uselessly underwent to help it. I still have that but my more constant anxiety has even turned that heart stopping, face clawing, screaming existential terror into a mundane nightly chore, like brushing my teeth (just kidding, I don’t brush my teeth nightly, I’m not the Queen). I climb to bed (it feels like a climb because I know what’s coming, that huge boulder perched on the precipice ready to flatten me), put on my sleepy sounds (an app that has waves on it), try and read shit on my phone until I can’t stay awake, but then I invariably do because I’m reading shit on my phone, then a word, a thought, death, dead, older, you’re 32 in a month, I wonder what it’s like to be 82 and know with utter utter certainty you’ll die soon, some sort of black jellyfish thing floats into my brain and sting sting stings until I can’t breathe, and want to fling myself out of the window, just to not feel this way anymore. I am not suicidal in the least but I think about killing myself with alarming regularity just to never have another day of anxiety.
Every night. I could set my watch by it, if I had a watch. I don’t, because ticking clocks make me think of death and I can’t be in the same room as one. WHAT A CARD I AM.
How BORING IT IS to not be able to be in the same room as a ticking clock. I just go through my nightly panic attacks alone. Occasionally I’ll have flung myself across the room. Reader, in previous years, I’ve even wet myself from fear. Really quietly. Try not to wake up Robert. “Why don’t you wake me up?” he asks (he never wakes up). Because it’s fucking BORING. BORING. BORING. How many times have I talked this out, with you, with him, with a therapist, with this blog and Facebook and all the other things I fling my feelings at when I’m sick of them clinging to my heart like tar. It is BORING. I have reduced the most primal feeling of all men, all, since the beginning of time, to something so FUCKING BORING. So self obsessed, so insular. Panic or paralysis, that’s about it.
It makes me angry.
It makes me angry it’s just gotten worse and worse. When is it my time to be okay? Over the past year or so my anxiety has changed from something that happened to something that just is. Everywhere, always. It has infested every single aspect of my life and made every single thing in my life bloodless. The only exception is my son, because he is life and also because he is so attention consuming in his tiny toddlerness I have to walking into traffic it’s hard to think or feel anything else but hypervigilance.
Twee cartoons, though helpful for many, don’t capture the boredom of anxiety. They convey chaos, a mind racing with possibilities and thoughts and fears. And that is anxiety, but racing isn’t the right word. It’s tumbling, jumbling, crashing, smashing and smithereening. Over and over, so it’s just a hum. The thought processes aren’t screamy hysterical cap. Just one catastrophic thought after another. From the big. I am going to die. Smash, bang. I am going to die soon. Smash, bang, thump. Then you panic. Smithereen. Rinse, repeat. (I am not going to do this thing at work well. Now I’ve wasted so much time panicking I have no time to do it well. I am scared if I don’t cross the road at the right time I will get hit by a car. Now I am dissociating at the traffic lights and can’t remember how to cross the road. I think I fucked this thing up. Everyone must know I fucked this thing up. I am anxiously obsessing over this thing to my friends. Now my friends must be annoyed at me. I am coming across as a weirdo because I am feeling anxious and spacing out. Blah blah blah).
I am just really bloody tired of it. It is really exhausting. I don’t know what to do about it anymore. I have to think everything over a thousand billion times. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that. I find it hilarious I was once described as “impulsive” when I’m now everything I do is at a glacial pace because I have to investigate every other known option and settle on none of them. I know in a sense it’s habit. Useless CBT tried to break that habit, it didn’t work. I can’t do mindfulness because so much of my anxiety is wrapped up in mortal things; hearts beating, breathing and all that, so it actively makes me panic more.
I was off work for months due to anxiety. I had counselling, and was kicked out for missing 2 sessions (one flu, one sister visit). The counsellor was also clearly a bit unsure of me, having expected some sort of 12 session wham bam you’re cured mam and getting someone trying to process trauma and manage a mental illness on top of the day to day stuff (and it is the day to day stuff now really, it takes up such a huge amount of my energy to stay relatively sane while holding down 2 jobs to live and trying to keep everyone in my house not homeless). So I went to a private therapist for an assessment, begged skintness (despite having 2 jobs, I am skint) and will do more therapy, and maybe it’ll help, and maybe it won’t. I can’t take SSRIs because they kick off mania which would be another whole boring pile of shit to contend with. I’ve taken propranolol and it does its business but doesn’t do anything about my head.
Here are some ridiculous things my anxiety has made FUCKING BORING lately.
Booking a holiday. Being in the privileged position of being able to take our first family holiday thanks to my mum in law, I decided the most fitting way to celebrate was to faff and worry so much I didn’t book anything for weeks until it was really expensive and we picked somewhere almost at random. Then I worried about that and felt responsible for preemptively ruining everyone’s holiday and terrified of wasting a lot of money we don’t have on not going somewhere utterly perfect and anyway taking a 2.5 year old on holiday is fucking stupid so I’ll have to ask Facebook for opinions and talk about it constantly until I eventually have a panic attack in the street while I’m holding an emergency sausage roll. THANKS BRAIN.
A meteor shower. The splendor of the heavens! Shooting stars! The inky canopy dotted with bright stars, so beautiful and visible at my mum’s up in the mountains of Northern Ireland. OH HEY BY THE WAY YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHY THEY’RE THERE AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE BEFORE YOU FIND OUT. Time to go back inside.
Watching a beautiful sunset from my bedroom window. Aaaah, isn’t this nice, and it’s light enough still you might not have a panic attack in the dark. Try to go to sleep now. Go on. Sleep like the dead. ARRRGGGGH.
And I’ve mentioned it before but the insularness of it makes me angry. I wonder sometimes if my anxiety is some sort of pressure release system due to feeling constantly and rightly worried about losing my jobs (therefore I must be perfect at them but then I worry so much I am shit at them) and making my family homeless. It is so internally focused that I have tried to block out the world in case my brain just fucking collapses. Since I last wrote here a thousand awful things have happened and are still happening so I focus all my anxiety on internal, BORING things, some of which are in my control, and if they aren’t, then I try to wrench them into it. Of course, you can’t control everything, and then you freak out. And this is the biggest thing in my life I don’t feel I have any control over whatsoever which just frightens me more. And bores me, because I am constantly trying to keep it socially acceptable, and that’s boring. To just be a stuck record that skips over and over.
I’m often too knackered/too busy/too dispirited by the world to blog, so you can often find me on Twitter instead. Here’s a series of tweets I wrote tonight on the topic of mental health and motherhood. Come and find me and say hello.
Hello everyone who came from Blurt! And thank you Blurt for the hat tip-check out that link for more excellent mental health blogs.
Sorry there’s no TOP QUALITY BLOGGY GOODNESS here. That’s because I’ve been really busy. I returned to work after being signed off for two months so I’ve been pretty exhausted. I also have a new job that I’m starting next week, which I’m terrified about (leaving lovely Mind and all my lovely people! Everything and everyone I know! My first Proper Job!) but which will hopefully mean a better balance in my life (no three hour a day commute, hooray!)
I’ll write more soon but for now, here’s a cute picture of my son shouting, “Flowers!” and generally being happy.