14/01/19 The Grinch who stole Christmas

I’ve been in 2 minds (not meaning to Be psychiatrically hilarious there) as to whether or not I should post this. I’ve had a few attempts at writing it – I found it kind of therapeutic and triggering in equal measures. I started to write this on the 07/01/19 – it’s been a bit of a wrestling match.

Please don’t obliged to read it – it’s got triggery bits throughout.

I’ve hidden myself away in a darkened room for the majority of the festive period, like a ghost, doing all I can to be invisible.

I know this is a difficult time for many – a period where the feeling of difference from others is amplified – wherever we look we see happy, smiling friends and families…the Coca Cola lorry…the long anticipated John Lewis advert…

It was around Christmas 1993 when the Royal Ed – Edinburgh’s bin of loons – opened her doors to me…

Me…a recently qualified social worker with an avalanche of cases – 70 folk and their families demanding my immediate support as they were decanted into the community from a variety of Wards across the Westen General Hospital and me with a social work management structure that wasn’t managing…

Some days I was receiving 13 referrals a day…that’s as many as the ‘busy community care team’ of around 15 folk I middle managed 15 years later dealt with AS A TEAM…

And there was no sign of this abating. Add to this a variety of mental health shockers from my childhood that hadn’t been dealt with…that had been clumsily brushed under the carpet – so much so, to flog the metaphor to death, the undulations in the rug meant we couldn’t see the fucking telly…

Or the wood for the trees…

It was on Ward 6 – where I’d been admitted as ‘voluntary’ patient, unless of course I tried to leave, where I’d then miraculously transform into an involuntary patient…a kind of Schrodinger’s loon where all would become clear should I try to escape the box…or go off my trolley…

Anyway, it was Ward 6 where I met a lovely older guy who told me he was admitted every Christmas – he found the festering period particularly challenging because that’s when his lovely wife died.

Despite his age, he looked like a boxer, with the physical poise and grace that comes with that.

He was quite beautiful to behold, even though, looking back I know the inside of his head was like a bag of jangling spanners.

I don’t know if I still experience the long distance ripples from that time – or if they go even further back than that…

All I know is that I’ve just lost a (nother) month of my life to being fucking crazy.

With my rational, 20:20 hindsight spectacles on, I know that over the course of a year I will lose roughly a third of my life to dissociation – a main part of my own particular brand of madness – and that chance dictates that the odd Christmas will be lost as a casualty to this particular war.

I’m lucky – I get to enjoy more Christmases than I lose.

I also know that my first 11 Christmases – you know, the ones that really matter – were fucking ace. Apoplecticly exciting to the point of mild psychosis where I believed I actually witnessed Santa and his Reindeer racing across the snowy skies as I dealt with the exquiste shower of thoughts…

‘What will he bring me?’

‘Will he eat the mince pies we left out for him?’

‘Did we leave carrots for the reindeer?’

‘I’ve got to go to sleep…mum said he won’t come if…!!!’

‘How does he do it all in one night…?’

And the big one that starts to enter the mind of the youthful mind on the approach to the big day…

‘Have I been good…enough?’

This past month has been fucking Hell. Go and take a look at the wiki page for Borderline Personality Disorder/ Emotionally unstable Personality Disorder in new money, and behold the catalogue of symptoms on offer…

I had them all…often simultaneously…only broken up with drug induced, dream filled (oddly symptom free) sleep – dreams where I’m with my (currently estranged) children – smiling and laughing at our unlikely nocturnal shenanigans – I take my meds in the hope I’ll return to those lovely indulgent episodes.

I’m an old hand at dealing with this imposter…these doppelgängers who look and sound like me…where the symptoms feel so terrible my mind rushes to the old familiar solutions of self harm and suicidal thoughts.

As awful excerpts of my life play, unbidden, each screaming for attention all around me like some bizarre record collection…blasts from the past…I’ve lashed myself to the mast of some ancient ship as she’s battered by the storm…I neither know nor care where I’ll end up…I just wait for it to stop…

Everything is triggering – every thought, every sight, sound takes me to yet another vivid rerun…

Mum dying of cancer at home when I’d just turned 12 – the guilt at the relief I felt as this writhing, moaning creature she’d become stopped moving – her funeral where a seemingly endless procession of faceless adults solemnly whisper, ‘Be strong for your dad…’

Dad’s slow and silent tumble into alcoholism – the image of his frail man sitting in his armchair, head in hands, eyes often tightly closed as if fending off something terrible…

I feel the gut turning guilt of the day when, by absolute chance, I returned from college to find him in a gas filled kitchen trying to strike the match that could have ended it all…

All blending into my own failures and losses – the near unbearable pain at my own children refusing to talk to me because some real and imagined belief that I’ve failed them in a million different ways – the image of them hugging with their backs to me as I left their home for the last time – the horror of sitting in the carpark next to their house, crying uncontrollably in the hope that proximity to them would somehow alleviate the pain – my brother in law coming out to quietly tell me to leave because I was frightening the children…

A million of my own misdemeanours and indiscretions wash through my head – I fucking hate and disgust me.

I was an athlete once – playing all kinds of sports – and now look at me!

The intolerable pain at the hurt I’ve caused others in writing a book about it all – a story that I’d tried so hard to…what…? I don’t know.

Are these relationships destroyed beyond recognition? I don’t even know where to start.

Have I become my dad? Legal prescription drugs replacing his whiskey, as I try to reach a point of happy oblivion as I triple the dose of my antipsychotics…

And still I see things that aren’t there – people – weird black blobs…I know they’re hallucinations – but FUCK! It ain’t normal…

Paranoia! Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…

Ella’s too good for me…you’re too good for me…I’ve nothing…NOTHING…to offer anyone. I’m a burden…a fucking emotional leech…

Although I don’t act on them – the images of past self harm and suicidal thoughts and actions are so, so real, so vivid…playing over and over again.

For a month I was stripped of any hope…of any future…I was utterly…utterly worthless and toxic…

Even positive things/ events caused me to feel like I was falling further and further into this black abyss – my only choice was complete disengagement…except…

I felt some respite when Ella held my head (for exactly the right time) or when I sniffed the perfumed nightie she left with me…

It hasn’t lasted this long or been this intense for some time. In the background, Ella orders a book on how to deal with this flavour of mental gymnastics – she consults my GP – ensures I have the extra meds I need…

And with gentle hands, she loves me through it.

I start to have bubbles of reality…just like surfacing at the swimming pool where the world becomes real again.

I’m cautious. During this lengthy episode I’ve had a couple of false starts back – hope followed by it’s hateful sibling – disappointment- as I plummet again.

It’s hard not to rush headlong into the things I feel I need to do – the push to support people – to raise awareness – to write…blogs…articles…books…to get back to the sacred ramble…to dive into the romp I know the podcast can and will be…

Practical things aside – what about the emotional support I normally provide? Even now I’m feeling the gnaw of guilt at my inability to support the people I love at the times they need it most.

Too much too soon and I’m reminded of my life as a social worker…almost constantly feeling like I’m playing catch up from lengthy periods off work.

But I’m lucky. To say the Grinch stole my Christmas isn’t entirely true. My Christmas was merely postponed – the lovely Ella and I had ours together a couple weeks late.

I’m on my way back now. The bubbles of normality are lasting longer – I’ve been out a couple of times…the agarophoblic explorer has funny – albeit slightly mocking – tone to it.

Anyway – enough of that – I’m safe, I’m well looked after and, in time, all things Walk a Mile will bounce back.

Thanks for being lovely

Walk a Mile

Chris

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2 Responses to 14/01/19 The Grinch who stole Christmas

  1. Hi Chris
    I really wanted to respond but feel inadequate to make a comment. Cannot begin to empathise with what the last weeks must have been like.
    I desperately hope you will get a good patch of ‘normality’ and life can have meaning for you.
    Cheers Mabel

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