Thursday, 20 February 2014

An open letter to my future.

To the Rebecca Condron of 2020,

If you're reading this in 2020, then you're alive, and all things considered, that's pretty bloody impressive, although not as much of a shock to me, now, your 2014 self, than it would have been to your even younger self.

Hey, beautiful. You've realised you're beautiful, right? This isn't like when people make positive comments on my appearance now and I think they're taking the piss? You've realised that any comment, be it good or bad, on your appearance, isn't a sign that people are focussing on your 'fat' and so you need to make sure you're the thinnest possible because they're judging? You've realised that 'thin' isn't a prize or a way to make yourself less repulsive, nor living in a bubble and feeling nothing a desirable thing; you've realised you're not repulsive and that if you don't feel anything, you can't feel anything good?

When people ask me now what I want to be, with regards a career, it's hard not to tell them that I'd like to be dead. Sometimes I think I'd like more than that, and if you're reading this back, I take it you found something to be other than a corpse. I hope whatever you find yourself doing, you're passionate and electric and in love with the world, life and yourself. And I hope if you're not, you're brave enough to fix it. I hope you're brave enough to live, rather than just surviving to feed the disorders.

2014 has been difficult. It's a year now, to the day, that I came to this hospital and I hope this is all just a blurred memory for you. I'm anxious and I'm scared and I'm not eating nearly enough and it's a struggle to remember to do the most basic of tasks. Maybe it never leaves you, but if I've made it to 29, it must have calmed right down because I certainly can't and won't carry on living like this. The 20th of February will maybe still hold a sort of significance, but I hope it's a positive one, because I need this to work. And, for you, my future, I'll do my best to make it so. Remember though, it's ok to struggle. Right now the dream is to have more good days than bad and it's not really going that way. I promise to set you up as best I can now, so that you don't have the same problem in 2020.

I hope you managed all this, Condron. I wrote not too long ago about my hopes for the reader, and I hope that you've managed to reach that kind of quality of life, too.

All the love in the world,
Rebecca 2014.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A presentation and its after-shocks.

I made a bit of a breakthrough today, with the help of one of my best friends, a nurse and an audience of students I'd never met, at Huddersfield uni. I drop bits and pieces of my history on here, and it feels like I'm writing just for myself, rather than for anybody else, and those drops don't seem to hurt too much. I spill out whole stories of my past mostly just to professionals, and usually that's too safe too hurt. I tell odd and graphic things, when I'm in acute distress, to basically anybody that's around, and it hurts so much I feel like I'm being stabbed in the heart and sexually assaulted, all at once. So I have to protect myself, like you would protect yourself physically. Seat belts, helmets, great bloody walls- all, figuratively speaking. There are cracks and holes where things tumble out, but the reinforcements remain.

Or maybe they did, until today. Until I stood up and told those strangers that I was abused. I have mental health problems. And maybe it happened to you, and you too are ill- you're not alone, never when you're with me. I've never told so many people and explained how it's affected me. Maybe that's a bloody great crack in my wall, maybe those anonymous students helped me more than I ever thought possible.

I'm struggling now because I'd never said the words consciously outside of what I consider a safe environment, and after the Essex Uni debacle, where I was a student, I don't think I'll ever consider a university safe again. I feel naked and pealed, with all my innards- organs and neuroses- splayed out. I need to keep up the momentum, keep talking, destroy those walls. But God, that's easier said than done. But God, I want to feel protected. Sometimes, I just yearn for somebody to take it all away, or teach me how not to care. I suppose the latter is what therapy is all about, and today was definitely therapy. That being said, I'm glad I did it and proud of how it went.

I just want to feel safe.

Later: I've had to take so many extra meds to cope with the affects of today. I'm basically out of it. I'm ok. I just hurt for all the times I didn't in the past.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fairness and luck.

If there's one phrase that really rattles me, it's that life isn't fair. Actually, there are a fair few phrases that irritate me, but that really takes the bloody chocolate Hobnob. I don't think I ever held the illusion that life is fair, but I also don't think that I will ever stop hoping for it to be and fighting for better. The thing I've learnt most during this hospital admission, in particular, is that I need to pick my battles. That said, I don't think striving for equality through fairness is a battle that I ought not to fight. Anyway.

Another phrase that annoys me is the whole idea of wishing one luck. Life is for the lucky. Out of all the potential people, we are the ones who lived. We avoided infertile parents, accident and fatal disease. If luck is a thing- which I don't particularly think it is, because believing in luck is like believing in just another god- then we are all swimming in it, just by virtual of our hearts beating and our brains processing. Art and love, which is intrinsic to life, is just more luck that surrounds us. I don't wish you luck for the future, but I do wish for you to create your own luck and life.

Life is luck; luck isn't a thing. The concept of fairness is difficult in itself because the things we think of as fair depends upon its own circumstance. I could agree that what happened to me wasn't fair, but the fact that I'm alive now proves that I wasn't unlucky. Life, I suppose, is messy.

I'm exhausted and stressy and I'm not sure I'm making much sense. Fight for better, but accept that your achievements in this area are not luck; they're through hardwork. Work. Love. Create.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Reaching out: some tips.

Being mentally ill can be really bloomin' lonely. Say the line 'my anti-psychotic had to be increased and the side effects have been awful' and just watch people back away slowly and then hurtle off in the opposite direction. Even when people are trying to be accepting, we're so used, as a society, to this weird little dance we do around mental health- 'oh, well, I suppose we ALL get sad' or worse, that heavy blinking thing and awkward silence whilst people try and assess whether you're dangerous- that it can often just fall flat.

It's hard for both the person who is ill and the people around us, because part of a lot of mental disorders is a tendency is isolate oneself. I'm a nightmare for it, and as a result most of my friends were pushed away and so, in a way, we form our own crosses. That doesn't make it any easier and I know at times trying to be there for me can either be really heavy or feel like I'm being false, depending upon my mood. There are things you can do though, and just general support you can offer that really means something. I thought I'd share some of the things people have done for me and how they've helped, just little things that mean a lot. 

Facebook/Twitter/Skype/texts/calls etc.
You might feel like a visit might be too difficult, but how about starting a conversation on Facebook? It's free, it's easy, and if you're feeling a bit awkward you can spend some time thinking about what to reply. I personally find phone calls really overwhelming, so check first. It doesn't even have to be anything heavy, just don't fall into the bit where you both say you're fine and that's about it. Offer something that's going on, good or bad, for you, because not everything has to be about us, the ill ones. It doesn't even matter if you don't particularly know somebody but you notice they're struggling, just drop them a line. Harriet is a girl I knew at college but I've only recently been able to really think of her as a friend, because she pops up pretty regularly on Facebook with support and every time I'm amazed by her.

Cards and post and whatnot.
The walls of my hospital bedroom are almost covered. There are a few posters, hundreds of photos and then random letters, notes and drawings all over the place. I love it, because every direction I look, I can see something relating to somebody incredible. I've got a million page letter of hilarious nothing-ness from Alex that I read repeatedly when I'm struggling. Get your felt-tips out and draw a happy picture, pop it into the post and I can guarantee that you'll raise a teeny tiny semblance of a smile, AT LEAST. Even if your friend isn't in hospital, everybody loves fun post, especially when they don't have much other fun going on.

Popping over for a cuppa.
I keep my medication downstairs when I'm home, deliberately so I know that at least a few times a day I'm forced to get out of bed. There was a time just before this admission where, as a result of my Anorexia, I couldn't really walk, and so I'd slide downstairs and then have to sit, exhausted, to rest. Getting dressed was completely out of the question, and don't even ask about showering. But still, my friend Ce came around, and never commented on the state of me, to chat general life. By doing this, she reminded me that there was a world outside of my failing body that I could be a part of, even if just vicariously at that point, and she offered her ever-logical and understanding perspectives on my state at the time (I was refusing treatment, over-dosing, drinking alcohol all day, starving). She saved me at that time by reminding me there was more than just the diseased bubble in which I lived, and made me feel loved by somebody I didn't feel HAD to love me.

Hospital visits.
I suppose this is an obvious one, but, actually... I get upset at times when I think of family members and the such who haven't visited over the last year, although those thoughts are always gone when Emily (cousin by blood, little sister by life) comes. The lengths some people have come to visit me are astounding. Even the fact that my mum spends every single Sunday in Bradford with me, which must be knackering both physically and mentally. It's not just about the difficulty of the journey, it's about the courage to enter this kind of environment and to not know how I'll be when you get there. From my perspective, I can't describe the excitement of seeing an 'outsider' and how much it means. I wouldn't expect people to go out of their way, but it's always lovely when I'm in in Scunny and old friends pop over. Don't be too intimidated to go visit, but make sure the person is open to seeing you and call their unit, or your lovely gesture might thrown back.

The awkward moments will come, they always will, but they'll also pass, if you let them. Because behind the mental illness, there's a person. And that person is complex and beautiful, just like you. It might be hard to start a conversation, or to see a person in a bad way (there were few people I'd have let come around to my house when I was really ill), but it's harder still to live thinking that you're forgotten.

Monday, 3 February 2014

I believe Dylan Farrow

It wasn't a celebrity. It wasn't my dad. It wasn't my brother. It wasn't one of my uncles or grandfathers or anybody at all I was related to. It was people who I could now pass on the streets without recognising.

This is hard to write, because it's a subject that both consumes me and one that I am still trying to come to terms with the reality of. I believe Dylan Farrow, because as I read her letter, I kind of thought, well, yes. Yes, exactly. Yes, Dylan; I believe you and I believe in you. It's too raw and expresses the fear, the consequences of abuse, far too perfectly to be anything but the truth. People have been very quick to shout that Allen was deemed innocent in a court, seeming to say that she is the guilty one. Guilty until someone decides she's telling the truth.

The hospital ward I'm on is full of physical and mental survivors. Most of us were abused. Most of us have come very close, in our attempts at leaving the world, to finding ourselves 6 foot under. Sometimes, when I'm feeling like there's no hope left and that my past will forever prevent me living in the present, I look around and realise that despite it all, we're here and that's kind of beautiful. But it also makes me think of had we been the ones who died, rather than the people who actually did, the ward, never mind the actual world, would be so completely different. I believe Dylan Farrow, because of the horrors I survived and the horrors I'm still living.

Dylan Farrow isn't the only person I know of/know who has been attacked for speaking out. It was a long time after the events had happened that I actually told anybody. It's been 5 years since I started speaking out to professionals, and a hell of a lot less since I wrote about it on here. Part of why I never told, even long after it had stopped, was because I was afraid of not being believed and of being attacked for it. Hypothetically, whether what Dylan says happened or not, if I was on the edge of spilling out the poison of secrecy, I really don't think I would. The media has a lot of responsibility and influence, but at times no bloody sense. There is every reason to spill out the poisons, every reason apart from the fact you might be treated like Dylan, of course.

That brings me to you. I believe you. I believe that if someone was 'sick' enough to make something like sexual abuse up, there is something genuinely wrong there and they need help (unlike most people, telling someone they need help is more of a suggestion than a insult). I believe that years later, often more comes out than did as a kid, because you have more insight. The head is an over-full shed and when you open the door and walk in, you don't know what's going to fall on you, or how long it'll have been since you shoved it away.

Again, I believe Dylan Farrow and I believe you. And more than anything, I believe in us.