I’m Alive, I’m A Mess

It’s been a physically and emotionally exhausting few days and I really ought to be asleep right now. It’s 4.30am at the time of writing, yet, inspite of being tired in the extreme sleep evades me.

Things have been shaky in the last few weeks, to say the least. A lot of flashbacks, and on top of that I’m on a hormone triggering treatment which makes me even less stable than normal. We are talking an emotional rollercoaster of going from blue skies to pitch dark in seconds flat, up and down, round and round. Not an enjoyable ride in any way, shape or form.

And at some point in the midst of all that my poor impulse control won over the utilisation of coping strategies; I decided that having a bit of ethylene glycol would be a good idea. I think it was only a tiny amount to start with, certainly less than a mouthful. I knew that was a really bad idea, and the following night when I felt the urge I rang the mental health crisis resolution team under whose care I’ve been the last three weeks (with a break in the middle, where I went to stay with my sisters). It was about 1am when I rang and talking seemed to help; by the end of the call I had agreed with K., (the person who was working the night shift), that I would come in to see them at ten that morning and bring the bottle of ethylene glycol for safe disposal. That felt both scary and good. It’s kind of hard to explain, but there is something about having the means to kill myself readily available that feels like a safety net of sorts, something that gives me a feeling of being in control. Twisted logic, for sure, but there you have it. But, it also felt good, the idea that someone would relieve me of this deadly stuff,would, in a sense, save me from myself.

Two hours later I once again felt myself plummeting into darkness and I picked up the phone again, since I had found it helpful the last time, and talked again to K. for some time. I may have come across somewhat incoherent because she asked me if I had ‘tasted’ any more of ‘that toxic chemical’. I said I hadn’t but in the same instance shot a glance at the plastic bottle and it was immediately clear that there was a whole lot more than ‘less than a mouthful’ missing. Alarmingly, I genuinely have no recollection of downing a large amount of this sickly-sweet substance. In fact, and I said as much to K., I wasn’t even sure if I had actually drunk it or maybe just spilled it. Or when this had happened. Still, as there was certainly more than a lethal amount missing from the bottle I agreed to let K. call for an ambulance – but, not before saying ‘Can you wait half an hour to call so I can have a shower first?’, to which she calmly explained that having a shower at three in the morning when you have potentially consumed enough poison to kill yourself was hardly a priority. So instead I started stuffing things into bags: iPad, iPod, mobile, chargers, clean underwear, toothbrush, EpiPen, my journal, a random bunch of puzzle cubes and even my prayer book. I have no idea where this sudden organisational skill came from, I normally have to write lists to make sure I don’t forget things when I pack a bag, but there I was, five minutes later, fully equipped to spend a long time in hospital, should it come to that. Then I told K., who was still on the line with me, that I was going to go outside to wait for the ambulance, promptly grabbed my bags and made it down two flights of stairs and out onto the pavement outside my house.. where I laid down to sleep while I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive. K. kept talking to me, trying to convince me that while it was OK to lay down, if I was too dizzy to stand up, I really needed to stay awake.

The paramedics arrived and got me into the ambulance with some difficulty as my legs refused to carry me properly. They asked a tonne of questions, all of which I answered in something of a drunken stupor. K. had already told them what I had taken, which was probably a good thing as they would more than likely otherwise have assumed I was just another overly refreshed Saturday night party-goer, and might not have realised that time was pretty darn critical. Also, I had brought the bottle with me so they could see exactly what I had drunk and how much was missing. I mainly just remember babbling like crazy in the ambulance before passing out, and the paramedic pinching at the nerves on my shoulders over and over to get me to stay awake.

In A&E I was first put on a drip of pure ethanol, which is one of two antidotes to ethylene glycol poisoning, followed by a number of rounds of Fomepizol. Hurt crazybad, I can tell you that much for nothing. (Imagine the sting of cleaning a wound with rubbing alcohol, and then imagine that kind of stuff going straight into your bloodstream, and you’ll get a fair idea).

The side effect of this, having bare spirit pumped into me was that I got drunker than I have ever been in my life. I’m not someone who drinks particularly often, so I have a very low tolerance to alcohol, and here they were giving me as much as they could based on my weight. Suddenly absolutely everything was hilarious beyond comprehension. I was giggling and rambling and apologising left right and centre, trying to explain that They were making me drunk. In the midst of that I decided that sending a text to let people know I was in hospital was a good idea, only – I discovered later – the text made very little sense, and I managed to send it to a whole bunch of people I wouldn’t knowingly have sent them to.

At one point a friend of mine, having seen my text, rang me (this was as I was being wheeled into a ward, still apologising profusely for my drunkenness) and all she got was me laughing, unable to explain what had happened. Later, when she came to visit me, she said that it wasn’t exactly what she had expected when she called to hear if I was still alive..

Whilst being drunk was not all that bad, it did mean that I was sick a lot. I have a sneaking suspicion that there was a miscalculation as to how much ethanol they were giving me, because last time I was rushed to hospital for having done something very similar (that time, completely on purpose), I remember screaming in pain as the ethanol went in my arm, but I don’t remember being drunk, nor being repeatedly and violently sick.

I had to stay in hospital for a day and a half, on constant drip, most of the time in both arms. It’s still too early to say if I have done any permanent damage to my kidneys and if so, what the extent is, all I know is that I my vision is extremely blurry and I have been sick a number of times even this morning.

I am out of hospital now, back under the care of the crisis resolution team, but as neither I, nor they, think it’s a good idea for me to be on my own just now, an assessment has been set up for later today at Drayton Park Women’s Mental Health Crisis House. As regular readers will know, I have stayed there in times of acute crisis before, and have found it helpful in turning a negative trend, so I really hope that following the assessment they will offer me a place.

Sorry for making this a somewhat long-winded entry, but I think I just really needed to get it all out.
I think I am still a very long way away from truly absorbing how close I got to dying, and writing is often the best way for me to process things.

Do be kinder to your Selves than I have been to my Self.

Much love,

xx

PS. If you are one of my many wonderful friends who received my drunken text and who tried to get in touch with me later, but couldn’t get through and didn’t hear from me: something went wrong with my mobile and I could only send texts, not receive them, and incoming calls only worked sporadically. So, please don’t think I was ignoring you, I simply didn’t get your messages and consequently didn’t know to respond to them.

For some reason this song is playing in my mind. (Although the title of this post is actually from another Heather Nova song).

Birthdays, Psychotherapy & London Rain

Called my little brother today. I rarely talk to him other than when I’m home and he happens to be there at the same time. We don’t really stay in touch much in between. But, today is his birthday, so a phonecall was due. It was nice to hear his voice, but, for some reason, on the phone we are quite awkward. The conversation isn’t exactly free-flowing. But, I’m still glad I called him. He’s my little brother, and fraught as our relationship is, I do love him.

My very first memory is of him. Well – technically – the more vivid bits of my memory is of riding the lift up to the maternity ward, but I do also have a fleeting memory of seeing my little brother for the first time. I was very nearly three at the time.

In other news:
I’ve finally “outed” myself in therapy.
No – this isn’t a sexuality related thing. It’s faith related. Which most of you reading this post will already know.

It’s taken me the better part of eight months to get to the point where I felt able to talk about my decision to convert in therapy. That – by the way – says more about me than it does about A. Or.. hm.. is that true? Maybe it says something about the both of us? Our relationship? Just having a few random thoughts in my head, as I’m writing this.

I have talked about this to pretty much everyone of importance in my life. My various family members, my close friends, most of my workmates, housemates.. Pretty much everyone but A.

For some reason something has held me back in these past several months. I mean, some of the reasons I feel quite aware of; the question of “Am I allowed to do this?”, the worry about intruding on someone’s turf.. [Someone meaning A.’s turf]. But I’m sure there’s more to it than just what I can see on the surface. And I’m looking forward to exploring what those reasons could be.

What else?

Went out for dinner with some of my workmates on Saturday evening. Really enjoyed it. It’s a really good, friendly gang. Got absolutely soaked on the way home, though.

That said, I kind of like torrential rain. There’s something quite purifying about it. Like being washed clean, spiritually, somehow.

It’s like Heather Nova says: “..nothing falls like London rain..”

Just love the opening lines of that song. Used to be a favourite text message to send to my ex on a rainy day.

“..I’m coming..
..I’m coming home to you..
..I’m alive, I’m a mess..
..I can’t wait to get home to you..
..to get warm..
..warm and undressed..”

London Rain [Nothing Heals Me Like You Do] – Heather Nova

Lyrics from London Rain [Nothing Heals Me Like You Do] ©  Heather Nova

Sadness, Loss & Choices

I’m feeling very lost at the moment. Lost and sad and full of grief.

A friend of mine died recently. She killed herself. She made the same decision I made, the only difference being that she succeeded. Only that doesn’t feel like the right word. She failed to survive. And now she is in a place where I can’t reach her.

Those of you who know me, also know that I don’t cry easily. Almost as if I don’t know how to. But in the past week I have cried more tears than I can ever remember. Not just for my friend, but for all the ones I have lost, who I miss, who I wish I could have just one more minute with.

I’ve not really felt able to do much since I found out about my friend. It feels too hard. And yet I keep thinking that I should. I should be doing all the things she will never get to do. Write the poems she will never write, have the children she’ll never have, talk to the people she will never get to know..

Do I feel guilty? The honest answer is that I don’t know. All I know is that she used to call me when things were rough, and this time she didn’t. And that I wish things were different, but they’re not.

I know that when a person makes that decision, when they make it for real, nothing anyone says or does can change it. I know, because I’ve been there.

And yet, I am here, and she is not. The difference is enormous, and at the same time only seconds apart. Half a breath, a heart beat missed. All that stands between her and I.

I’ve been saying lately to my sisters and my friends, that it feels as if something inside of me has changed. Something big. Important. I’m not sure I can put into words, but it’s the difference between seeing death as an option, and knowing that it’s not. I still believe in a person’s right to choose for themselves. But believing that a person has the power to choose, doesn’t mean that the decision they make is the right one.

There are no guarantees, no way of knowing that I won’t ever dip as low as I have before, that I won’t lose hope. But I hope that even if I do, I’ll remember my friend. Remember my feelings in this moment. That life is a precious gift, something to protect. To make the most of.

xx


“How many days are left
And what to spend them on?
Should I keep working
Or sit and marvel at the sun?”

HN

PS. I found this blog some time ago. An entry about one of my favourite songs, and about death: How To Save A Life

Lyrics from Drink It In © Heather Nova

Writing And Music

I woke up this morning feeling I had to write, so I got out a little something I started some years ago [not DGB, for those who were wondering] and just began writing. And it felt great. Been suffering from some serious writer’s block this year, and haven’t been able to produce anything worth anything for what seems like forever.

This little thing I was working on this morning, it’s nothing too terribly special, not Booker Prize material by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels good to be writing again. It may not amount to anything – more often than not what I write doesn’t, but at least I will have had this morning of complete all-consuming writing. And that’s worth a lot.

Saw Heather Nova live at Union Chapel on Friday, and it was really really good. I enjoyed it immensely. Such a wonderful venue, such a fantastic musician. But, oh so emotionally draining. You see, Heather Nova’s music has been with me for a long time. I’ve grown up with it, emotionally. And so, to hear it performed live, sitting so close to the person who wrote those words that have got me through such terribly desperate times, well, it’s a very powerful experience. I have yet to go to one of her concerts and not come out completely and utterly emotionally exhausted.

Because of this, up until now I’ve always gone to her concerts on my own, knowing that the potential for becoming overwhelmed is pretty high; I’ve simply not wanted to go with anyone who doesn’t get as moved by her music as I do.
But, next week that is to change.

By sheer coincidence I found out that of all the places in the world Ms Nova is playing in Gothenburg on Saturday, and as I’ll be over there to spend some time with my sisters (and *B*, and T) at that time, it seemed like an ideal chance to test my ability to share an emotional experience with another person. My youngest sister, who grew up listening to whatever I served her, has a similar appreciation for music to me, and so it made sense that we go to the concert together. Said and done, I called her up in the middle of the night, to tell her this, and the sum total is that we are now both preparing mentally for this little excursion.

So there you go. Excited trepidation.

xx

Poetry, Mourning & High Temperatures

“..it feels good, it feels like poetry.. don’t ask me to explain.. it just feels good.. like poetry..”

Those are some of my favourite lines of lyrics. From Heather Nova’s Doubled Up off her absolutely divine 1993 Oyster album. Had to squeeze that in somewhere, so why not at the very beginning of my entry? It may or may not be entirely unrelated to the rest of this entry, but it is never irrelevant..

I know I’m doing a bit of update overload at the moment. A bit like the notorious London busses; first you wait and wait and no bus comes, and then there are three arriving at once. The Heinz effect, if you like.

Anyway, on with my update.

Yesterday I came down with what can only be described as a psychosomatic fever. Some people have a digestive system which is finely tuned to pick up on emotional stress. Me, I get a temperature.

I think I’m having a delayed reaction to Dev and I separating.
Yes, I am well aware that it’s over a year since we actually split up and that we haven’t been co-habiting for eleven months. This is why I added the part about a delayed reaction. But, in fairness to myself, there have been things going on lately which have brought these barely repressed emotions to the forefront; these last few weeks I have been helping Dev pack his stuff up, and on Thursday he actually moved out of what was once our flat.

I don’t – at least not on a conscious level – feel particularly concerned about losing Dev. I feel reasonably confident that he won’t just slip out of my life. I base this on the person that he is.

But I do mourn the loss of The Flat.

That may on the surface seem terribly shallow, but it really isn’t.

Moving into that flat was something very special. It wasn’t the first flat Dev and I shared, we’d already been together for about three years by the time we moved there. But, it did involve rather a large amount of trust. You see, I hadn’t seen the flat before moving in there. Dev viewed it on his own, because I couldn’t get away from work, and he just called me up to tell me he’d found The Flat. We decided to put a bid in then and there, and having won said bid I signed on the dotted without even having seen the place. Still, walking through the door for the first time, I knew Dev had been right; it really was The Flat.

We shared some pretty amazing moments in that flat. Long weekends when he’d be on his computer at one end of the room, programming or writing music, and I’d be on mine by the opposite wall, writing. Free-flowing creative moments mixed with a lot of laughter. (..you left me a song..)

But we also experienced some serious lows at that place.
Those of you who have been along for the ride, even at a distance, know what I am talking about. And so, even after Dev and I separated, that flat held memories that I was still dealing with.

Dev, being the incredibly generous person that he is, has, ever since I moved out, allowed me to keep a piece of myself at that flat, has allowed me to come back from time to time to look at it. To remember. To heal. And to begin to let go.

But now, even though Dev, I suspect and hope, will remain a very important person in my life, The Flat is gone. And, so I mourn. Only I am not good at giving myself permission to do so, and, instead, my sorrow is expressed in the form of a temperature.

But..

“..it feels good, it feels like poetry.. don’t ask me to explain.. it just feels good.. like poetry..”

 

xx

Lyrics from Doubled Up © Heather Nova

Sleeping With Al Green – An Entry About Music Therapy

Ok, so the heading is a little misleading; I didn’t actually sleep with Al Green. But, I did fall asleep with him last night and I woke up again with him this morning, and let me tell you there are worse things a girl can do. There is just something about the good reverend’s sound that I find very soothing. I tend to go through phases in terms of music, and at the moment it’s all Al Green. I had been going through a long period of listening near exclusively to a very specific playlist of tracks sung by Gretchen Peters, Heather Nova, Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride, and then, for some completely unknown reason I came up for air only to dive straight into my Al Green archive. Not sure why. I just did. A bit odd, actually, since I haven’t really listened much to him before. I mean really listened. You know what I mean.

I’m a big believer in the healing power of music. Not just composing it (which I sadly haven’t got the talent for), but just randomly listening to music. Having it around you, allowing yourself to be completely lost in it.

I pretty much use music and lyrics as a replacement for traditional psychopharmaca. If I need something to lift my mood, well there’s a song for it, if I need something to help me settle down, there’s a song for that, too. Also, when words fail me I can often find a line from a song that will express exactly what I wanted to say. My youngest sister and I often communicate by sending texts to each other, not with our own words, but with little bits of lyrics, or lines from books we’ve read, and it’s all that’s needed to let the other one know what we’re thinking of, what mood we’re in and so on.

So, yeah, music is a pretty awesome thing, if you ask me.

I wonder if there is such a thing as music therapy (in the same capacity as there is art therapy). There should be.

Love and Happiness,

xx

A tiny bit of trivia: It’s Al Green’s 63rd birthday tomorrow.

Click “Love and Happiness” and various other hidden links in the text above to hear some great music. (Feel free to ignore the actual videos..)

Under The Influence Of Music – An Entry About Setting Boundaries

Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy“.

That’s a line from the track “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” by R.E.M. which has been playing very nearly non-stop on my computer today. It’s one of my “listen and forget the world”-songs along with The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Walk This World” by Heather Nova. My I haven’t a clue what I’m feeling but whatever it is it’s too much for me to deal with right now-songs. The kind of music that allows you to just melt away from the world, if even for a moment. The sort that offers you a safe haven in the midst of all its noisiness. No need to think, no need to feel – just sink into oblivion and let it wash over you, sound wave after sound wave crashing over your head.

I’m not consciously trying to numb myself, I’m really not, I’m just so frustrated with things that I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel stuck and tied down and at the same time so spun out of control I don’t know how to rein myself in, how to find my feet again. That feeling you get when you start out spinning round and round because you want to, but then when you stop the world carries on spinning around you whether you want it to or not and there is nothing you can do about it other than to wait for the world to slow down to a manageable pace.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love and life and death and everything in between lately, trying to figure myself out, trying to make sense of it all and coming up with very few, if any, answers.

I haven’t succumbed to self-harm, not really. Not since that time when I tested the scalpels. But I’ve been doing other things I shouldn’t be doing. Like researching suicide methods, for example. Not because I necessarily feel any more, or indeed less, suicidal than I have in the last week, but because it works something like a drug for me.

I could probably give you a detailed run-down of up to ten fail-proof ways of ending my life without even having to leave the flat. So it’s not a case of actually needing to find new and exciting ways of offing myself (if there is such a thing as needing suicide methods). D. suggested that it is similar to the way some people get addicted to pornography, and I guess there is some grotesque truth to that.

But even more than that I think it’s about control. Akin to how a person with an eating disorder may gain a sense of control from being able to decide when to eat and when to throw up, knowing all these methods allows me to feel that I have at least some sort of control over my life. Or my death, at least.

I am fully aware that this is not a good way to deal with things, but much like you start craving that drug high after the first few innocently experimental hits I get a craving for new information. I can’t just know a little bit about this method or that, I need to know everything about it, and so, what was meant to be a quick checking up on a fact turns into hours of research.

Thankfully D. is now back and at the end of my session today we made a deal; to try not to do any research at all for the coming week. And I intend to stick to that. Hence listening to my safe-music.

I know, I know – it’s hardly a unique or hard-to-come-up-with idea this Just-knock-it-on-the-head-technique (to use one of D.’s favourite expressions), but this is exactly what I mean when I say that I need direction and guidance in order to cope. Without someone to check up on me, someone to help me re-focus week on week – I just seem incapable of sticking to the healthier option, even when I know what it is.

Having lived the better part of my life without many rules to follow owing to the, at least partially, self-imposed big sister/good girl/self-sufficient reliable daughter-syndrome I find it incredibly soothing to be given some set rules to stick by. Adult supervision. It makes me feel cared for. Looked after. Safe.

I suppose that is the reason why I find my sessions with D. and Drayton Park as a whole so comforting. A sense of home, of something steady and clear and – yes – containing, where I can let go of the responsibility for a moment. Because, as much as I like having all of the above qualities attributed to me, if there is no let-up ever, it can easily become incredibly over-powering and I lose track of what is reasonable and what is over-doing it, and I end up thinking that those things are all that I am. I lose sight of what is me and what are merely aspects of the person that I am.

I forget that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

xx