As we enter the middle of May I am reminded that it is mental health awareness month.I feel I have a responsibility to promote this subject and to talk openly about how this subject affects me. I also want to draw attention to those people in the public eye who have been brace enough to discuss their own relationships with their mental health illnesses. Whilst my aim is always to provide an honest account of life for me I also want to focus attention to those who have bravely come out of the darkness and spoken up about their illnesses, and to those who have been allies to the many organisations out there promoting mental health campaigns. The fact that well known famous people have come forward demonstrates that mental health is capable of affecting every many women and child on the planet it is not racists, or ageist and is not selective when it comes to the classes in society. This illness is ruthless and sadly all to many times it can completely destroy the life of someone ill and their loved ones by taking over them completely to the point where they feel suicide is the only option to stop the suffering.
On a more personal level I was unaware that I was “self medicating” my illness for decades and it wasn’t until I almost had a serious accident that I woke up to realise what was happening. With modern technology so advanced these days after watching a tv programme featuring married phycologists nik and Eva speakmann I dhave cider to research their therapy in more depth and came across a YouTube video of them speaking in front of oxford university students. Previously in the media it had been well documented that they has been helping Kerry Keaton, singer from atomic kitten. She was attending this seminar to talk in more depth about the process of receiving treatment from nik and Eva. THIS Account of me watching the video was the turning point for me and hit me so hard it left me quite literally speechless for a while. By listening to what all parties were saying on the video I slowly realised that so much was directly resonating with my own life and feelings. For the first time in over twenty years I had realised I had a problem, and I was beginning to see what the “schemers “ were. I began to address these issues immediately and turned to a mental health organisation for support. Despite feeling anxious and in some ways denying my illness I knew so much was at steak if I didn’t deal with this from now on. I immersed myself into research, and began to become interested in more celebrities who by now were becoming more open about their illness.
My points are this, mental health doesn’t discriminate, there should be no shame in the subject more people should talk about it and ask for help. The stigma and level of taboo only exists due to lack of knowledge and understanding by people, more work needs to be done to educate people in order for attitudes to change and to make life easier for people who are unwell to live in a more supportive environment without shame hanging over them.From my own perspective, I have been on such an enormous journey since I recognised and accepted my illness I am still learning how to manage on a daily basis but I have come a long way. In fact I would go as far to say that I feel like I am a stronger, better person since I started on this journey, I’m very self aware, I’m learning my triggers, and most importantly I’ve developed a whole new set of skills which mean I can put all this into good use by being able to write about mental health, writing about myself has not only helped me personally but it has taught me to be a better writer and has given me the gift of being able to write poetry. All of these new skills have begun to open so many exciting doors of opportunities for me so instead of feeling ashamed of my illness I’m actually to a large degree thankful for it. You only have to look at the list of famous people who have told their stories recently to realise that you can have this, but at the same time, you can be talented, successful, and become famous for your skills. I am extremely grateful to The Speakmans for their wonderful work, but I am equally grateful to Kerry because if it wasn’t for her talking with Nic and Eva that day on the video, my life may have been very different now.
So I’m sat here in the living room of the flat I share with my beloved fiancé I know exactly where we are in the geographical sense and I love living here it’s spacious accessible with fantastic travel links to everywhere we need to go to…it’s perfect and is a great foundation for laying down my roots for the rest of my life, my question then why do I feel so lost.in one simple sentence I allowed myself to say about not being over not being a dancer anymore even though I have spent years dealing with my feelings about this and thought I was past it all, clearly I am not.It has become obvious to me that the power of being a dancer over my self esteem was enormous the feeling of being “somebody” being recognise, and respected for my art seemed to be the big push I needed to turn over all the negativity I had felt about myself growing up I had turned “don’t stare at me” into “look at me I’m centre stage celebrating all that I am “. The timing of the end of my dance career was forced appon me, by a freak accident causing me to sustain a serious long standing back injury and the decision by central government to withdraw all funding from the company I danced with. Being a dancer gave me a whole new status a profile of being a role model to disabled people and I revelled in this position although this had its pressures I felt like someone who mattered who’s ability not disability was encouraged and celebrated and not patronised.All the time growing up I stuck out like a sore thumb but was instead of the centre of attention a loner, sent eventually to mainstream school as the only disabled student the isolation was only magnified even more and my tiny spec of self esteem was by now non existent.so the importance of my new found status as a dancer had so much behind it and was over powering. trends within the dance world like always was ever changing and disability art was flavour of the month all of a sudden so many new opportunities were laid out in front of me I felt finally I had a choice with my life and wasn’t restricted to dreaming of a soul destroying career behind a desk like I had become accustomed to.i had been encouraged as a child to be onstage as a singer in my local community, this continued into my early special school days and on doing some family research I discovered that my great grand mother was a well respected singer in her local quire which was featured during the 50’s in a Hollywood movie.my confidence with academia was so low I could finally see for myself that the arts was were I would excel and ‘fit in’.
Dance gave me so much a new career, new friends, travel, skills, discipline a new relationship with my body, a confidence in my own skin which all I had not experienced before loosing all of this came as such a massive blow one day it was there, next day, gone.I plummeted into a deep since of loss, a grief which was over baring I felt like I went from having everything or so much, to have nothing. By this time I was finally living independently and I just wanted to disappear.within months of my injury and loosing dance I also lost my first long term girlfriend dance had also given me the courage to come out as lesbian and I very happy in a relationship at the time of the accident, but as I declined physically and emotionally, so did my relationship and I was left alone to pick up the pieces. I’m not denying that I was partly to blame for the breakup I know my actions were wrong but the separation left me feeling abandoned, a loner again, unworthy of anyone attention no career and vulnerable unable to maintain meaningful friendships.
Rightly or wrongly I made the decision to cut myself off from all aspects of dance and the arts I no longer hung out with ex colleagues it was too much of a painful reminder to around them.
Years went by and I spiralled into an emotional wreck drowning out my feelings with alcohol. I yearned for something else in my life I loved being part of the arts, I began to sing write and play guitar but this wasn’t a realistic option of a new career. I always enjoyed English language at school and it ended up being my best graded GCSEs. In a crazy but beautiful turn of events I had the idea to write a book three years ago. This is what I am doing to this date, I have two published novels a string of public appearances a website and I regularly write poetry. My career is two years on it’s a slow process but like the hours of learning and experimenting in the dance studio I am learning and training myself to be the best at this as I can be. In the same conversation I had about the spence of loss of my dance career the same person made me realise what I have actually done is re invent myself I have used all the skills from my dance career and mounded them to fit into new skills in being a writer. I was so hung up on the feeling of loosing dance and mourning my dead dance career that I failed to see the new birth of myself as a writer. I yearned to find a place I felt I belonged I found it in dance, felt shut out when this time ended but made myself a new career still within the arts as a writer. What I have learned from the grieving process of grieving for my dad and best friend is that people only die if you tell yourself they are dead I still feel a presence from dad and my friend so although in the flesh yes they have gone but their memory their impression on me will be there forever, and, now I can begin to treat my time as a dancer the same way everything it gave me I can still use to slowly maintain a happy career as a writer for however long I want it to be.
So it’s December and everywhere you go the commercial aspect is everywhere, shops filled with gift ideas and deals, festive adverts on TV and music channels filled with Christmas carol shows….The most beautiful time of the year so they say, but is it? When I was a child I loved Christmas and being the only child until I was eight I was spoilt rotten. Not every year was the same I remember the first Christmas mum and I had after the divorce, mum could hardly afford the rent on our rented cottage never mind Christmas gifts.
I have been through so much this past year I’ve felt emotions so overwhelming and taken me by surprised.The lead up to Christmas is now a bitter sweet experience, dad always made such a fuss, we would have a big night of putting up decorations mum and I would make mince pies and then I was always involved in the local Christmas concert in church I always sang a solo it was a real highlight of the year for me. One of my favourite Christmases was the year my sister was born, early January which was filed with concern as well as excitement, mum was sent into hospital a week before due date to be monitored due to my sister being still born a year before.
This year I just want Christmas to go away I struggle with my emotions everyday and to be forced to be in the company of family and be all festive will be so hard. I feel now that because I had to keep my feelings in about loosing dad I have to do the same now that I lost my best friend only in October, it’s just like everyone else is carrying on as normal, like nothing has happened but for me I’m crying inside I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my oldest friend when I had to and to be honest the idea of enjoying myself whilst he has now gone feels wrong, I know everyone says he would want you to enjoy yourself and when I have gone to events recently that I wasn’t looking forward to for the same reason I did actually have a really good time.The pain of loosing someone is so overwhelming the timing of my friends death came at such a bad time because I have only recently opened up to grieving for dad on my own terms now I’m grieving for another person who meant so much to me.Somedays I feel like I’m travelling up a mountain backwards I think I’m moving forward but the emotional blows just keep punching me.I realise that I have so much to be happy about but with depression you can’t just turn on the happy switch for who’s benefit would I be doing that for anyway I hate it when I get told “cheer up” don’t be so miserable if I could change my moods like changing a jumper it would be so easy but life isn’t easy.
I learned something new just the other day about side affects from having spina bifida and hydrocephalus (water on the brain) in that experts claim that depression in people with SB is very common it’s all part of the “hidden” condition. Although I was initially surprised by this the more I think about it the more it makes sense to me. So I was dealt bad cards on the mental health front just by being born with SB…..nice one universe.!
I am learning relaxation methods which I try to do daily so I am hoping this will help me cope over the coming weeks.My family home is small and there’s nowhere really to get any space so it will be hard so there will be lots of putting a brave face on it.Theres no point me speaking out loud about my feelings only to be accused of making everyone else upset or being ungreatful for my gifts so I will have no choice but to dig deep and get through the best I can.It shouldn’t have to be that way but at least my partner who knows me so well will be by my side which I will appreciate so much. I fully understand more than ever that it isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Mental health doesn’t just go away on holiday because it’s Christmas it’s 24/7 365 days of the year.
My message is that you are not alone get through this period the best you can and surround yourself with people who you feel comfortable with.Make time to do the things that help, listen to a piece of music, go for walks, wrote draw do what helps you when you can..see you in 2017 I hope it’s a better one for me and for you all.
Having discovered my hidden feelings and their effects on me over time I began counselling with a Sence of urgency and enthusiasm.I had this crazy notion that I will find a quick fix for me grief and be able to live happily ever after as they say. I was not prepared for the routes this would take me to and the hidden can of worms I was to eventually find myself in. As we progressed we explored deeper into my childhood and really did start to peel away all the layers of hidden memories, and feelings.i was completely unprepared for what I would go through and how this would affect me.I quickly developed nightmares, flashbacks and feelings towards people close to me that really took me by surprised.I was forced to take a break from counselling to due holidays and during this time I well….fell apart was left totally exposed to real deep unexpected unwanted emotions like being made to lay on a bed of broken glass. Thankfully during this period my partner was stronger than ever before and let me “be” how I naturally needed to be and react whilst offering me love and support and stability like ide never known before she became my absolute rock. Through her support I began to think that for a few reasons my allocated counseller wasn’t the right one for me so I requested to be allocated a new one.I had a strong feeling that I was beginning to understand more about the different kind of symptoms and diagnosis and felt that I would be given a specific diagnosis in time. When I asked for a new counseller I requested one who had specific experience in one area.
One of the hardest things I’m learning to deal with is the unpredictability of my state of mind on a daily basis and realising that this alone is exhausting, I call this pattern of mood swings “yoyo” .Sadly during this most period I have not been able to help myself much in the form of my creative work, I have penned one or two poems relating to grief and in particular loosing my best friend last month. My energy levels have been on the floor so even sitting still and trying to write has been impossible.I am constantly feeling restless in the evenings and my sleep is all over the place. Throughout all this I still try to focus on any positives instead of dwelling on the negatives but sometimes it feels there are non in some situations.I have been so used to hiding my feelings and “getting a grip” for the sake of others that even now that I’m in a position with my partner to just feel…and really feel and not be ashamed to feel I’m very uncomfortable with this but I’m learning.My physical pain levels have also played a huge part they work hand in hand if I’m low I get back pain if I’m in pain I get low it’s a vicious cycle. My stress hasn’t been helped by the fact that my pain management appointments seem to be getting me nowhere so I need to make a decision about this sooner rather than later.
In summing up what have I learned, peeling the onion can be painful and difficult but ultimately it will leave me with a pleasant taste.Secondly I’ve learned that if you are allowed to grieve on your own terms it’s very hard and can help you grow as a person and appreciate life more at the same time, I have a desire to mend a few bridges between myself and key members of my family.Thirdly whilst I’ve allowed myself to feel emotional and vulnerable this isn’t a weakness having someone by your side who really knows and understands you is so good I was laying down earlier today looking after my partner who wasn’t feeling well and suddenly realised how relaxed and content I was in that moment the first time in weeks probably months I had felt like this.Sadly I am still feeling the effects of side taking medication which gave me a huge reaction and the symptoms seem to be getting worse but I’m also aware they may be like this due to recent events and my levels of stress and grief so I have decided to give them a while longer before I go back to my doctor for advice. I have been taking advice and started to meditate again more often and practising mindfulness, I feel so blessed looking out of the window and see the rich sea of coloured leaves on the path. And I love just being able to relax completely with my partner and have a Sence of feeling content and safe.Im stronger than I think I am at times and I just need to remind myself more often.if you peel an apple or an onion and you get to the chore don’t always throw it away the core is where all the good stuff grows from and I’m proud to finally recognise that despite my inner struggles my core is good.
Over the last year and a half I have come so far and achieved a lot.Relaesing my second novel meant so much to me as I didn’t expect to be able to complete a second, and I didn’t expect to sell many of the first.All the more reason to be happy and enjoying life you would think right?however since opening Pandora’s box aka…having counselling and opening up to face my various issues I find myself feeling like I have made things worse for myself.I realise this may only be temporary as I “work through” stuff but it is so much information and new feelings to deal with on top of everything else.Somedays I feel so overwhelmed it’s all I can do to get out of bed some days,but…I do get up because well, I’m alive and want to achieve so much I value my life despite having dark days.I debated for some time whether I needed medication having heard so much press about the side affects plus the stigma of taking anti depressent medication weighed heavy on my mind.eventually my counseller suggested I look into it to get me through these initial difficult periods whilst being so open..I relented and made a doctors appointment to discuss things.
Three months on from starting medication I can definitely see the difference in myself.I can appreciate that before I was very short tempered and got wound up very easily, I know I’m more laid back now but still loose my temper on bad days. The most significant thing I have learned is exceptiance of my mental health status and all the triggers/ factors that affect its stability.I had an idea that taking medication would contribute towards a quick fix of my symptoms which I have since learned is unrealistic and untrue. Every day is different and the slightest thing can change my mood in the blink of an eye. Ive begun to unsterstand how tiring it can be too. Having chronic pain means I am constantly going round in circles. If I’m having a bad day with pain, this affects my mood, if I’m upset or something happens to bring me down I very quickly suffer pain.Now that I accept my illness instead of feeling negative about it all the time I’m thankful for the help I receive from the professionals and friends and family around me…if I’m having a bad day I accept it and let go of any expectations I may have for that day if I cannot achieve things.Since developing my writing work, I have embraced the idea of writing about my situation living with mental health.This has been the biggest revelation of all.I think my writing has a bigger impact on my state of mind than any other pill could have.The benefits being Its accessible to me 24/7 unlike some mental health services you might otherwise rely on. Whatever you write it belongs to you and no one else you can’t be judged for your own thoughts and feelings.sometimes I don’t even know what I’m feeling I’m just…not right so I take to my iPad and see what happens sometimes it’s a blog like this other times it’s a poem…or even an event for a character in one of my books.For me being able to express how I feel sometime feels like all the treatment I need.Before I started all this I would have laughed at anyone who suggested I write poetry or write anything about my own feelings but now it’s most defiantly my go to technique for coping with my mood of the day.I feel so pationate about this that I encourage anyone to try it at any given opportunity I’ve even set up a Facebook page for anyone who is on a similar journey who find writing helps…look at me thinking of helping others whilst helping myself live with this.Theres a lot of coverage out there which is focussed on stamping out the stigma of mental health and I am proud to part of behind the mask foundation.It helps me and by being open to others I hope to continue to help them.The funny thing is I’m not the most acedmically minded although English language was one of my best subjects at school, I’m on the dyxsleia spectrum so taking in lots of information from books is impossible but somehow I have learned to express my feelings. I am able to demonstrate my creativity through spoken/written work so that proves that I don’t need a degree to be able to do this for myself or anyone else.With modern day technology blogging or vlogging is so accessible so this makes it easier for more people to express their views and feelings and I encourage more people out there to follow, more discussion means better education which helps attitudes, and maybe even help to improve all services that provide support to people.My journey isn’t over it’s already had many twists and turns but I’m proud of myself for coping, and asking for help when I needed it.
I have recently gone through the loss of my best friend on top of dealing with renewed grief for my dad and the implications of that have left me feeling like I’m actually going through two bareievemts at once which is hard for anyone to understand or cope with.As it stands today I am waiting for an assessment for a definitive diagnosis and it is early days after the death of my friend but I’m alive I get up every day and shower and dress and I can smile and laugh at things after all laughter really does cheer me up.Im a work in progress some days I’m strong other days I’m a mess but I’m still me…and I’ve learned all over again to love me and be grateful for my life.I maybe a pin in a giant game of ten pin bowling but I will always get back up again and face another tomorrow.
You can take a pain killer for a head ache you can put a plaster on a cut but dealing with a mental health condition is much more complex that just taking pill.Sometimes I feel like I need a degree in medicine to understand what’s happening to me. Some days it feels like I’m on a fairground ride going round in circles, if I’m having a bad MH day this triggers my chronic back pain, if I wake with pain I get very depressed and so we go round and round and there seems no way to get off.Having recently suffered the loss of my best friend of 44 years I feel more unstable than ever. I began to accept my mental health and its cause..the death of my father and not being able to grieve for him at the time of his death, as I bagan my counselling talking about this began to unfold many other issues, memories and emotions which to be honest has knocked me sideways. Due to a very difficult break up of my parents marriage when dad died it was a difficult situation dealing with my grief I felt I had to be the grown up sister and be loyal to mum as I was living with her not dad.
What I find so hard and something I hadn’t considered was how tiring it is living with mental health.I can wake up pain free and ready to face the day with good intentions then in a split second I can be in floods of tears. In my sessions at pain management they keep talking about pacing….great in theory but for a feaircly independant disabled woman this is asking for the impossible.I’m quickly learning that I’m unable to work at the same pace that I’m used to, I can do. A few light tasks then my back begins to be painful so I have to rest but whilst I’m resting I get more and more stressed about all the things that need doing and I can’t do them because I’m resting….fairground ride yet again going round and round.ive found the last couple of weeks so difficult I described it to a friend like I was greaving all over again for two people even though dad died over twenty years ago I’m only just dealing with my feelings about that now with my best friend also passing away I feel like I’ve been double punched and it’s so hard trying to get back up.Dealing with grief and having existing MH issues affects my whole body in so many ways, Loss of appetite, poor sleep, low energy, going from down to hyper, overly emotional short tempered no patience, then there’s the added issue of chronic physical pain in the mix which is tiring, leaves me unable to move for varying periods of time causing frustration and we go round and round all over again.Granted the pills help with the pain and the new meds I have for my MH has calmed me down and stopped my impatience to a degree but at this point I’m really not sure I can find a way to stop the yoyo from bouncing.Ive been intouch with the usually professional organisations for support but like with most things there seems to be a lot of red tape to go through and endless waiting, staff off sick etc etc.With the death of my friend and my grief for dad being let out I’m overwhelmed I keep having the feeling of just wanting to take to my bed and get up in a week or two and feel better once the funeral has taken place.My partner, friends and family Have been amazing I wouldn’t be this stable without them.I have taken great comfort in reading other people’s stories of their mental health journey they are all truly an inspiration to me.My strength has been tested to the maximum but I know it’s just a matter of time to get over the death of my friend. My mental health journey however is far from over, I’m fighting for the correct diagnosis, starting to recognise TRIGGERS, and thanks to being a writer the best medication so far has definitely been my blogs and my poetry. I recently submitted some of my poetry to a mental health seminar and received overwhelming posative feedback and responses. Every day is different. Today is world mental health day this has been a blog about where I am right now and there is no shame in sharing there is no shame with mental health, you are not weak asking for help, it shows strength I hope I can help at least one person who maybe struggling by reading my blog as I continue my journey.
Seeing the fruits of my labour in print and in colour was one of the most amazing days of my life.In my hands was a shiny book with a story I had created for a need to have a better representation of the lives of disabled people but also I needed to prove to myself I was capable of being creative again .At this point I didn’t care if I only ever sold one copy, the fact I had a novel written with my name on the cover was quite simply the biggest achievement I had made in years. Gradually word got out about it, and by knowing a few key people with influence I managed to get a couple of really positive reviews and interest in my work.I realised that I had to change my way of thinking and projecting myself in social media and became a little less open, and more professional. I was heavily influenced at this point by other well known authors who seemed to be enjoying great success and exposure. I began to emulate the things they did to promote themselves. I started by creating a new Facebook page for my professional work and I started to record video blogs tackling issues raised in my book and gave examples of actual events that happened to me relating to some of the content.At the same time this was happening I was spending time with some people I was heavily influenced by for all the wrong reasons, being with them usually meant drinking heavily this I now know was to project a happy sociable likeable individual regardless of my insecurities inside, sadly though the person who came out from me was an emotional mess.I was unhappy and very vulnerable and even though I knew at the time my behaviour was unacceptable I felt out of control and unable to stop this pattern.Just around the corner from this vicious cyclone there was a light that came from nowhere which would change everything for the better. It turned out a friend of mine who was reviewing my book had suggested to someone they should get it and I received a message on Facebook asking for details for buying the book. I messaged back with enthusiasm as I was feeling so much confidence about how sales were going it felt that in my professional life at least things were going well. This person and I began to message daily and strike up a friendship it was clear she was attracted to me but I resisted.I was only a couple of months out of another failed relationship where I had been left feeling worthless and used, I was in no fit state to begin something new with anyone. In my head from that point on I was focused on my career, nothing more.During the following few weeks we began to increase our contact and found we had a strong bond lots in common and easy to talk to for hours.For some reason I didn’t feel the need to be someone else, I could 100% be me. I began to feel like I had finally met someone who understood everything about me the fact I began to find her attractive was out of the blue but I decided to be open and see if anything would develop.I began to check my phone regular for texts or missed Skype calls. By now I knew how she felt about me I was reluctant to let her in as I felt I was in a bad place but Cupid fired his arrow and that was that. Would this have a happy ending or like so manny other relationships before will I mess it up, be too difficult to live with or will I finally find my forever love. I could work out why anyone would want to be with someone so messed up as I was but she wasn’t taking no for an answer and I don’t mind admitting I enjoyed the attention, what will be will be .
A rocky road to start
The love I got from my new partner was like nothing I had received before pretty soon it felt like we had known each other forever.But there was a huge elephant in the room which was a constant source of arguments,alcohol!!,. This addiction had got hold of me so bad I couldn’t go out without causing a scene and upset for us both. We had a massive row one night and our entire relationship was on the line, I knew I was in the wrong but felt helpless when trying to figure out how to change but I wanted to by this point. I really wanted this relationship to work and I was prepared to really focus and find a way to stop. Very shortly after we both became volunteers for a mental health foundation and I began to research the work of two of the ambassadors Nick and Eva Speakman. I had seen various segments they did on This Morning so was aware of their work.During my research I came across a video online. It was the two of them at a university giving a lecture/ interview about their techniques and in particular how they treated one of the many celebrities on their CV. I was overwhelmed by the story which unfolded and by the similarities between my own experiences and the person being spoken about.I began to recognise that some of my baviour was exactly like they were describing and I recognised personal events which had happened to her where also very similar to my own history. All of a sudden I realised exactly what was happening and all the reasons why I had spent many years behaving this way. It was such a powerful Moment for me such a huge relief to be able to join the dots so to speak. I instantly knew the first couple of things I needed to do, a, stop drinking,b, finish my greaving process I hadn’t had the right opportunity to grieve for my dad 24 years before this day but FINALLY I believed I had found the route to everything and I had finally found in Natalie someone prepared to stand by me and help me through what was bound to be a very bumpy journey ahead. I knew facing deep painful emotions and reliving memories was going to be some of the hardest things to ever go through but if I was to truly be happy I knew I HAD to do it the time had come the time was right and I was ready.
365 days the hardest mountain I had to climb
As I sit here today I am happy to be celebrating one year sober, that’s 365 since I was last heavily under the influence of alcohol. I have drank the occasional one drink at a meal, but I can honestly say now that I don’t even like alcohol any longer or the way it makes me feel. I have found alternative alcohol free drinks I can enjoy in social situations and I am already feeling the physical benefits.My story about my mental health does definitely not end here far from it but today marks a very special landmark for me that I HAD to write about. What followed next opened up a whole messy can of worms…..To Be Continued………..
“Everything happens for a reason” is a saying I’m all too familiar with. I never ever thought that one day I would be sat here and totally believing in it.
Despite me having very low self esteem I was determined to get myself out into the world so I threw myself out there and was out most weekends meeting new people from the various groups I had joined online. What was unfortunate for me was that each gathering usually focused around eating and drinking and generally living it up which meant lots of alcohol.Very rapidly I developed a dependecy to alcohol but because of my small stature I wasn’t able to consume much before it really affected me and I would get drunk and sick very easily. For some reason I felt that to be accepted as “normal” and “one of us” I had to party hard just like everyone else and I felt a need to keep up whilst I was out with people. The drunk me felt confident, fun to be around, and living life despite all the obstacles I was facing eg, living with a physical disability. I felt sure that living like this was bound to attract people to me as both friends and potential partners.The reality was through my behaviour I was getting myself into all kinds of trouble and probably developing an unwanted reputation I experienced event after event each time ending with remorse but for some reason unable to controle my baviour or the need to use alcohol to try to turn myself into a positive likeable person instead I was turning into someone I hated and felt others disrespected me as well and just expected the worse from me every time.The need to forget or the need to fill a void was far greater than any self respect I had left. I was living a double life, to my family and those friends around me in the new social circles I was surrounding myself with I was happy, confident and friendly and outgoing on the inside my life was falling apart and I was lonely and full of self loathing. I eventually caught a lucky break when I was asked to participate in a q and a at the festival I was now a volunteer for. I was to watch a film documentary made by another disabled LGBT lady and take questions from the audience. At the same time this was happening unknown to myself some new people in my life had a whole different agenda about our friendships/relationships and I was treated pretty badly and my good caring nature was abused I was only focuses on what good I saw in people and didn’t want to believe that I could be treated so badly and be fooled by people’s attention of me….how wrong was i.You know I totally believe in the theory that the Internet has become a vital asset in disabled people’s lives technology on all levels is so advanced now that even the most isolated person can find ways to communicate and engage with the world outside so yes it’s a great thing…However, I also believe that many people out there will abuse the power the Internet and the technology they have at their disposal. My personal circumstances and all round good nature has been abused and tested so many times as a result of me reaching out to the wider world.Whilst trying to further my social circles I found that all my experiences were beginning to make me retreat even further back into my shell and isolation.Suddenly I hate myself for my good nature, kindness empathy and openness all my good traits had suddenly become my worst nightmare and enemy I felt so lost and started to drink more and more and spending countless nights alone drinking until the birds woke up and the sun rose .I hated this and mentally tortured myself each time vowing never to let it happen again, which was pointless as I knew it would.
All the time this was happening I kept going back in my mind to the conversations I had had with the film maker who I had befriended due to the Q and A at the festival. I had a light bulb moment when I became aware that no one was represented people from the two communities I was largely part of, the LGBT community and the Disabled community. In one of my many manic upbeat moments I announced to myself that I was going to address this issue by writing a script for a film so I instantly set to work, I had a flare for creative writing, time on my hands and a new fire in my belly to address this seemingly unjust invisible presence of my peers in the wider world of entertainment. This would stir up my creativity and give me a reason to not stay up till the early hours getting drunk, I needed a clear head to create something I was back in the arts in my own head at least, where I had felt I belonged before it was taken away from me and I was going to grasp it with both hands….. This was my chance to make my mark in the world again in some small way and I took up the challenge,knowledge is power would I use it wisely and would I conquer!??.
As I began to receive counselling I was also in the throws of yet another flare up of my back injury, sustained approximately 7 years ago. After a fall from my chair onto concrete I was dealing with increasingly painful episodes, unable to take a lot of time off work and with the demands of my job at the time I struggled on a self medicated with the usual basic cocktail of over the counter pain killers.After a few months my back finally gave in to the demands of my everyday life and was damaged further by me attampting to get into a taxi who’s seat was higher than my wheelchair so I had to lift upwards to get in, I immediately felt something pull and heard a ripping, twanging noise coming from my back.Instantly I felt spasms and excruciating pain leaving me unable to move.I was able to continue along my way for a day out but the pain increased over the day.By the time I got home that evening I was breathless with pain and needed help getting back into my chair at home and consequently spent the next four hours slowly getting ready for bed and eventually climbing into bed. From this point on my life changed so dramatically, I had to call in sick to work and notify my family the next day.I was able to see a doctor who gave me basic pain medication and said that within two to three weeks after total bed rest I should be fully recovered.What actually happened was I spent the next Severn miserable months being dependant on others for help to visit the bathroom, bath, and spent my days sleeping between taking the copious amounts of medication I was give. I Quickly developed a reaction to codeiene and was given an alternative within the first few days, the other medication knocked me to sleep and made my mood switch to being unable to function and feeling very depressed.To this day I am having regular bad days with pain but I am receiving early stages of pain management treatment so I’m hopeful that eventually I will be able to ‘manage’ my pain better. The situation with my back was quickly followed by my five year relationship coming to a very sudden end and the decision taken by my employers to fold our company due to budget cuts initiated by the new coalition government who had come into power.Within the space of a year I had sustained life changing injuries, lost my job which was such an important part of my life and now my long term relationship was over, I was in financial difficulty due to not adapting to not having regular income any longer and because I had been more or less living away with my ex partner for a number of years I had very few friends back at home and had not social life to speak of I felt totally alone, useless,unloveable, incapable of living a normal adult independent life with no hope of a good future times were very dark and I self medicated the only way I knew how and that was to drink…heavily and Wollow in self pity whilst alone but always putting on a brave face to family mainly but to a certain extent to the outside world as a whole. Eventually I realised my financial situation was very serious and I ate humble pie and asked for some help to get benefits sorted out.Whikst doing this I decided to go online and see what was out there locally for me to become sociallly active again I had put all my previous efforts into being with my partner I found it hard to make new friends and find a way to make it up to the distinguish friends I did have left.I took a deep breath and went online and soon found a number of groups that seemed appropriate to join on Facebook.I also decided after a few months to sign up to online dating websites.I had to find a way to get out of this hole and live again I had no self esteem left no confidence I was greasing for my partner who had left and for the career I loved for so long so much the feelings of worthlessness were overwhelming .I knew that I wasn’t in a position to go out alone as a freelance dance practitioner like my colleagues quickly did, my body was never going to be the same again and would not be reliable enough for me to guarantee I could carry out the work that I may or may not be lucky enough to gain as a solo practitioner.How was I going to fill the long days facing me with nothing to work towards and look forward to, I knew I needed to get out on the local LGBT scene to make friends and maybe find love again but how was I going to find the strength and courage to do it…Do you believe in fate?
So there it was hitting me like a high speed train I finally realised that I was self medicating myself to mask the emotional pain I was hiding from for almost 25 years. The feeling of finally understanding myself was at first very overwhelming but I knew I was right and that I was ready to tackle these issues head on.The following morning I woke up and prepared myself to visit the crematorium I wanted to say my own goodbye to dad in my own way on my own terms. Because my parents were divorced by the time he died there was a lot of tension and bad blood between them which split my entire family up. That morning I declared to myself and my partner that I was quitting alcohol and dealing with this head on. We set off to the crematorium, all the time I was preparing in my head what I was going to say which was a waste of time because nothing seemed to be the right thing to say when I arrived. It took a while sorting out with the office where the plot was for his family bench which had a plaque on it with his name his brother and sister who had all died within this time.I couldn’t help laugh when I was told he was in plot 7, my lucky number his favourite number too. Finally there I was sat next to his bench just staring at it as if I was trying to magically make him come to life again to see me. I said hello out loud and just began to talk to this wooden park bench covered in moss and cobwebs as if I was talking to an old friend I was having a coffee with after a few years apart.I told him all about my career and my health issues and what I was doing now, and spoke about different members of the family telling him he would be proud of my sister for everything she had become.At this point my partner reminded me that I should tell him all I had achieved and that he would be so proud of me also which made me sad as I just wished he had been there to see me go through the things I did that made me happy like my dance career.I was able to speak about how I could finally see things his way and why he behaved the way he did over certain matters. I had developed a “learned behaviour” a phrase I learned from counselling. He was bottling lots of things up about his life and hid behind alcohol to forget painful memories and thoughts….I realised I was more like dad than anyone could ever imagine despite all my childhood being told, you’re just like your dad. despite spending lots of time there in tears I felt an enormous sense of relief and comfort from being there and found it easy to speak about happy memories which actually made me laugh.I decided there and then that I was going to allow myself to grieve, I hadn’t had the chance before so now it was all going to be on my terms how ever difficult I had to do it because I knew by holding it back was making me unhappy and I didn’t want to be that person again I had many regrets about my behaviour in the past and I wanted to rid my thoughts of all these things and fill them with love and happy memories of dad….it was time to open the floodgates and let go…drink wasn’t helping so I knew I needed help dealing with this but my partner was right there helping me. Over the years I had let the wrong type of people into my life and this had a negative affect on me and felt unable to trust anyone.This began to filter through to my new career as a writer and I found certain jumping on the band wagon of pretending to be my friend only for their own gain when these friendships broke down I was subject to cyber bullying and attempts to ruin my fledgling writing career.Despite this situation in particular crushing me I was determined that I was going to take these people right out of my life and not let them affect my self esteem.Whilst I heard nothing further from these people I was dealt a multitude of negative situations which left me being unable to cope resulting in me starting to get panic attacks, which would manifest themselves either relating to these individuals or when I was having doubt about myself professionally.
So this made me realise now was the time to begin to seek professional help…a daunting prospect indeed I had the obvious overwhelming feelings of embarrassment and shame but I knew reaching out was the right move to make.With a Sence of I know what I need to discuss I entered into counselling with hope and expectations, a real desire to tackle head on the subject of what was clearly unfinished business, greasing for the death of dad…sounds simple, right? …..how wrong was I!