Monday, 1 September 2014

Bless you and bless me, bless the bees and the birds

There has been a festival of love all through August, on the south bank of the Thames, right in the middle of London. It culminated this weekend with a BIG wedding - some huge number of people got married over the two days. Among them were some old close friends, who asked us to go along, and asked Snake to act as a witness.

The marriage bit happened in groups of about 12 couples at a time. I imagined it would be fairly production lineish and impersonal (which sort of appealed to me, in theory - the anonymity), but it so wasn't. It all took place in the huge auditorium of the Royal Festival Hall, with a band playing a rousing fanfare in one of the boxes, and a man playing the incredible organ and a choir singing (not all at the same time). I was sitting next to the boyfriend of Snake's oldest friend, who is an oboe player, and who had played on the stage we were sitting in front of many times. As we sat down. he told me "I usually get given £250 after an evening spent here".

So we were sitting, with some very high quality music and fantastic acoustics, and then the couples started arriving. Some of them went straight on to the stage, some of them split up so that one of them was on stage and one walked down the centre of the auditorium towards them, some of them walked down together. There were old couples and young couples and some in enormous meringue dresses and a couple in matching bowling alley t-shirts. There were brides walked down the stairs by their mothers, or their sisters, or their friends. There was particular warmth for the same sex couples, in recognition of this whole event as a celebration of equal marriage laws. Each couple was introduced by the artistic director of the theatre, and then married by Lambeth's chief registrar, a wonderful, warm, funny woman who managed to make the same vows as meaningful for the 12th couple as for the first. The friends we'd come to see have been through a lot. They've been through so much, and after 12 years they've decided to get married, and as it was their turn to go through their vows, Jon was on the edge of tears, and the whole theatre willed him on, then broke into huge, loving applause, led by the registrar.

It was all beautiful and overflowing with love and I would have happily sobbed right through it from beginning to end if it wasn't for not wanting to embarrass my children. Later in the evening there were photographs with a backdrop of St Pauls and Big Ben and the lit up Hungerford Bridge and dancing and eating and parties of people merging into each other.

It was hot and sweaty and emotional and stressy and happy, with drunk dads and people not being where they were meant to be for photos or food, and overtired children and old friends coming together - all the components of any wedding I've ever been to, multiplied, and the dancing was really taking off just as we had to leave to travel back across London and then for the drive home.

When we got back, Snake checked emails and found one from another good friend saying that he and his partner of 20 year are splitting up. Life goes on, I realise that. But I still feel a little evangelical about all that love, so much love that even the Royal Festival Hall could hardly contain it. I guess there's little chance that all the relationships will survive. But what a wonderful act of hope and joy to stand in front of an auditorium of people and commit to giving it a try.

Thursday, 28 August 2014


This is a currently link up with Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale who every week provide inspiration in the form of 5 words. This week, the words are needing, missing, reading, hoping, playing.

I'm needing to find some emotional stability. I'm all over the place, out of sorts, grumpy and grouchy and horrible to be around. Except not all the time. But some of the time, at the moment, I'm just not as nice a person as I want to be. It's mainly my poor family that get it. I'm trying hard to shelter them from the worst of myself.

Earlier today I was listening to a song by The National (of course) with the line "I hope you don't remember me, and I hope you're not alone", about a lost love. There is someone who I would be happy not to remember me, someone who I don't ever really want to see again, but who I am still capable of missing in a strange way. I really just want to know that he's still alive. Also, missing a time when films were a sensible length. For the second time in a couple of weeks I went to the cinema last night thinking I'd be home at a reasonable hour, to find that I'd signed up for 3 hour film. Actually, last weeks film was a 1970's production so I cant even blame the modern age. Tonight we saw Boyhood. There's lots I could say but the main thing is, why boyhood? The stories of his mother and his sister were at least as compelling. Good though, I thought. if you happen to have a spare 3 hours.

I'm reading A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray. Also, re-reading How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran for The Ladies Who Book Club and looking forward to The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton for the in the pub book group.

It's been cold the last few days. Even though this has been a good, hot summer by UK standards, I'm hoping for a bit more heat and a bit more light before winter. A warm September would be massively appreciated. And then I'm hoping for a good winter - proper cold, crisp light, some snow disruption.

I've been trying to imagine some of the jobs that need dong as playing, to make them more bearable. Painting the woodwork in the bathroom, with thick, gloopy paint. Shovelling handfuls of beanbag stuffing from the floor of  Goldie's bedroom. It's the level of absorption that changes, the engagement. And the potential for mess.

Next weeks themes are loving, craving, demanding, questioning, worrying.  

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Shallow frame and shaky sticks (I know there's a river in me)

It's coming up to the end of the school holidays and it's suddenly colder and darker. I need to consciously remember it's still summer, still August. The project at work is gaining momentum, becoming more real and a whole lot more scary. I'm alternating between freaking out about our financial situation and having a totally who gives a shit response. I'm feeling like I'm withdrawing, but have been out every night for a week. It's all sort of ok and/but a bit precarious and I need to make a little more of an effort to keep things upright and on track.

We had a few more days on the Suffolk coast, thanks to Ms M. My favourite parts were the sneaking out of the sleeping house alone at 5am and heading down to the river bank to watch the seals and the bird life and the sun washing over the landscape. On the morning Snake was there we sat outside and drew pictures of the Wild Man of Orford, using mud and pastels and laughter to bring him to life. 25 years from when he first made me laugh, Snake is still the funniest person I know.

Some people we know - friends of friends, and children of friends, and partners of friends - put on a weekend long music festival just a few miles up the road from home. We went along on Friday to see Thy Last Drop, who once played for us in Ms M's back garden, and Dingus Khan, who created the sweatiest tent in the world at Latitude this year. For Dingus, we put 11 year old Cam, Ms M's boy, right at the front, protected by Snake from the wilder elements of the crowd. The Mick Hucknell haired singer, in his A line black dress, jumped off stage and handed this small boy his guitar, to his bemusement and pleasure. We kept going back over the weekend, in between meals and decorating and Snake's shifts and Goldie's football training, to say hello to friends and listen to more music and to appreciate the effort that had been made to create the event. On Saturday night, a band made up of people at various stages of their recovery journeys played magnificently, wildly. One of them, a good friend of Snake's, threw himself into his part and then got a lift back to the hospital which is keeping him safe just now from old demons that won't leave him.

There was a mother and daughter night out for cocktails - Ms M and her girl, me and my girl, and Ness, who has just moved here, and her daughter. Zel was there too. And a night for real life book group. And this evening a film I want to see.

I went for a walk this morning, a long walk like the ones I was doing daily at the beginning of the year but haven't found time for recently. It was good to be out and it was good to feel that ache and stretch and heat of exertion. I was focussed on reaching and spending some time on what has come in my head to be the mental health bench - the place where I sit to contemplate the state of the landscape and to assess it's affect on my mind. But when I got there someone else had taken possession, so I kept walking. I sort of know without looking that things are getting a bit darker, less vivid, that we're in the waning bit of the year. I'm trying to think of a way to make that less scary, less of a threat, but it's like that bit of my mind isn't working too well right now. I think probably one step at a time is the way to go. 

Perfect Song - The National

Thursday, 21 August 2014


This is a currently link up with Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale who every week provide inspiration in the form of 5 words. This week, the words are calling, lighting, making, watching, planning.

Last night we went calling on some friends who have just this minute moved here from hundreds of miles away where we didn't see enough o them. In fact we've never been near enough to see enough of them. They've lived in the Netherlands and New Zealand and Birmingham and Devon, and so it's only right that now they are here. Then we called on Goldie's football coach to sign things and pay things. That whole season of weekends being given over to training and matches is starting again, and I need to get my head round it. I can see it as a gross erosion of my free time, or I can celebrate the huge benefits it has for Goldie, and our luck that possibly the only feminist, vegetarian, atheist, green voting football coach in East Anglia found us and has put so much in to his teams development over the last 3 years.

We are back to the very beautiful Suffolk coast tonight, the girl and I. We were there last weekend, and we left Goldie there with Ms M and her two in a lovely barn they have rented. It's close enough for us to go back over today and soak up a bit more wild, and help pack up and get everyone home tomorrow. And while I'm there I'm hoping for a cloudless night, so I can make the most of the (nearly) zero light pollution, and see the stars lighting up the sky. I tried when we were there before, but that time lying on my back in a field just got me a wet back, and a bruised knee from walking into a low wall on my way back to the barn. Please no clouds tonight.

All week I've been making lots of plans at work for a project I've been asked to be involved in, and now we have a date to put it to my team and ask for their involvement and cooperation. It's exciting and scary and could go horribly wrong. I think it has the potential to be amazing, at the same time though I'm hyper aware of how much we're putting our staff through - increased demand, slashed resources, tough daily emotional slog trying to keep people safe and do the right thing. It's hard to convince them that THIS could work, let's make ANOTHER change.

I have been watching the longest film in the world ever. Except not, actually, but still, 3 hours is too long, isn't it? Snake persuaded me along to the Arts Picturehouse to watch a 70's film he remembered with great fondness, called O Lucky Man! It was clever and shocking and sort of beautiful and compulsive, but I'd been counting on getting home by 9.30 to get another bit of the bathroom painted before bed. I feel I should have been told the level of commitment required before I entered the cinema.

We're not doing the planning, but next weekend we're going to The Royal Festival Hall to a huge wedding of many many couples, and this week we received the plans in the post. It looks very, very good. Some friends are going to get married along with several hundred others in a big, camp celebration of equal marriage laws. There will be all manner of dancing and frolics and I intend to throw myself into the opportunity to be in the middle of what should be a very joyful party.

Next week themes are needing, missing, reading, hoping, playing.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Is there a powder to erase this?

It's never a good time to say anything that stops people getting help for depression. Maybe especially now, in this week. Very few people read what I write, but still, statistically the likelihood is that some of them (some of you) experience depression. So I wanted to say (following today's Currently post) that I believe that anything that helps is OK. Some meds are difficult to come off, but when you need the drug to keep you functioning, to keep you alive, to keep you whole, coming off is not an issue. Worry about the coming off part later.
I'm hoping not to go back on the medication because it feels uncomfortable to me to rely on it long term, but it undoubtedly was effective. They made me feel a tiny bit not like me (I think I generally didn't care as much about anything when I was on them - what people thought of me, whether jobs got done. I could shrug things off a lot more easily). But when I started - very reluctantly - to take them, I needed to get out of a real hamster wheel of sad, dangerous thoughts. And I think they had a big part in that - but so did psychotherapy and time off work and a lot of support. It's hard to know what did what but the pills were definitely part of that good mixture.
 (I was very lucky. I was paid a full wage while I was away from work, and I could also access psychotherapy through them. The NHS meant I had unlimited access to experienced and expert practitioners and to medication at a standard prescription price. I know that those factors aren't in place in the same way for everyone. I wish they were).
I think I've come off too quickly - right at the beginning the practitioner I saw warned me that I needed to be aware that I'd have to come off very carefully, and I only sort of listened. So there's different ways of doing it, better ways. But my experience is that about 10 days ago I stopped taking the daily pill, and since then I've have had a few days of deep despair and lots of weeping, I've been extremely reluctant to see anyone socially (I've been functioning at work), and I've had some negative thoughts that wont go away, stuck, ticking, in my head. Also, today, a flash of anger had me throwing my computer mouse across the kitchen.
(As soon as it left my hand  I realised it was going towards the shelf where I keep the china my grandmother collected and left to me, and lots of other china and ceramics that mean a lot to me, and I was already furious with myself for being so stupid when it hit a fairly non descript jug that Snake had put on there, and shattered it. I am so lucky it didn't hit something I loved. Weirdly, we couldn't find the mouse anywhere, until finally it turned up in the cat basket that was under the table, That felt sort of poetic. I didn't deserve my momentary tantrum to result in such a low material cost, or to have a poetic ending).
The thing is, I think my true nature IS anti social, with flashes of stupid anger and a tendency to low mood. So do I medicate that for ever more, or do I accept it and try and learn ways to live in this world as I am?
And the answer is  - I need to do what I have to do. I need to get through the now. I am (was) so wrapped up in this idea of my own self reliance, the belief that I could think myself out of anything, that it took me too long and too close to an edge before I realised I needed help. What I experienced was that when I was depressed, asking that  I got myself out of that place was ridiculous, meaningless. The illness stripped me of all the resources that I might have called on to make changes. I needed help. Part of that was the medication. I am extremely grateful for it. But for now I'm going to try some other stuff - eating carefully, walking as frequently as I can, saying no to social demands that feel too much and building in time alone, choosing to be with people who have shown an understanding, a kindness - and I am going to see if I can find a me that I can live with. 
But I will go back to medication if I have to in order to allow me to live my life - to relate to and support my family, to work effectively and safely, to be able to comfortably spend some time with friends, and to be able to think clearly and calmly.
Do what you have to do. Use any raft that you can reach. Through the really dark days, prioritise keeping safe. On the worst days, the priority might be staying alive. Worry about the rest (the being med free, the working on the character flaws) later, when you've found yourself again, when you trust yourself with yourself again.