Tag Archive | mental illness

Three Years Later…

It feels strange returning to my former lifeline almost three years later to the day when I haven’t given so much as a glance to LaBellaBorgia Speaks in just as long.  There was a time when I depended on this space for care, for self-help, for self-preservation and readers, sympathisers and even medical professionals came to me through this medium to support me and keep me fighting.  I am as yet undecided as to whether this hiatus was wise or no…for maybe if I’d come back and pushed some of my shame and sadness onto this page, the cup may not have runneth over (not the usual implication of that adage, but I’m running with it) and my mind may not have breaketh into millions of pieces.

Yes, as you will have gathered, only in times of disaster and near-death do I come to this space so my presence belies the tumultuous events of the past weeks and this post is a harbinger of death and doom (sorry!).

Let me give you a speedy update of life from 2015-2018 to paint the picture…

Upon my return from the USA, I began my career in the wine industry, which is my true second passion.  As you will recall, teaching did not pan out (when does Plan A ever?!).  This was a happy time filled with new experiences and the beginning of my true passion for wine and the industry that has been my home professionally thenceforward.  I now work as an Assistant Manager within the Jeroboams Group in which I’ve worked for just over a year and enjoy purveying quality wines to the discerning London drinker.  Personally, I still have not found love but I am not sure I’ve ever truly applied myself to looking for it or being open to it.  Also, I no longer live in a windowless room in Essex with my parents but am the proud occupant of a spacious room – with two windows, no less – in Leytonstone, London in a house-share with two of my dearest friends.  I still travel extensively and since graduating, have been to numerous places in Europe, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and Palestine and am looking forward to visiting Ethiopia and Colombia in the near future.  I have more or less kept the same friends, though there have been some welcome and indispensable additions – yes, Jeroboams girls, I am talking about you here!

All-in-all, life hasn’t been too harsh a mistress this past three years.  Sure, I’ve had my skirmishes and battles, but who hasn’t who has chronic mental health issues?  I’ve wept with pride as I’ve watched this war-torn and wretched world make gargantuan strides in destroying the stigma associated with mental health and general acceptance of the shades of grey that permeate 21st century society.  Obviously, there’s still a way to go but this is one global issue that is been well-tackled.

I will say that despite these strides and new equal opportunities initiatives in the workplace, I have never once disclosed my disabilities.  I am no fool and my worldview is not so naive as to make me believe that if I did companies would be clamoring for my presence.  It is a secret I have kept in my professional life for three years and now I know what the shelf life is on that kind of repression…three years, funnily enough.  I wish to God I had and this whole sordid mess could have been avoided.

A month ago I began to feel the claws scratching away at the wall erected to keep away the crazy and keep it hidden from view.  I tried my damnedest to shore up the gaps and brace the wall but the fall was inevitable and I was always going to lose that fight.  Needless to say, when the wall came tumbling down, I went down notoriously, in flames and feeling the world of hurt.  When an anxiety disorder allies with dysthymia and overwhelms the mind’s defenses, the fallout is going to be nuclear and when you haven’t told anyone, the stress of your loved ones, your coworkers and those you respect finding out your shame, carefully concealed for years and buried deep, is the radiation poisoning that holds you down.

I don’t know that I’ve taken weeks to rally since I was eighteen or nineteen.  It’s a renewed and utterly unwelcome sensation to be rendered so powerless and so beleaguered by nervous spasms when I try to venture outside, by anxiety attacks so potent they leave my arms weak and trembling for hours after, by hallucinations in the night so real they scare the sleep from me, by periods of depression so acute my lungs hurt from sobbing.  I believed I was strong, so strong to keep all my shame buried far from the eyes of others but I was stupid, more stupid than I’ve ever been and now I barely see an end in sight and even if I make it through, I don’t know what I’m going back to on the other side.

There have been two things, two simple things that have tugged me from one day into the next over the past week since – big confession now, guys – I threw myself down the stairs on Monday (I’m fine, I have a bump on the head and some soreness but that’s about it).  Just two.  Neither of them are particularly deep or difficult to find, but they were everything I had and all I could find for myself in the moments when I truly and honestly knew there was no succour to be found on another shore or with another soul.  I think I’ve always known that in my darkest times, I am alone.  I have no partner, no BFFFFFFF, no kindred spirit that’s coming for me if I call.  I am made stronger because and no one else pull myself up from the brink with whatever tools I can find.  This time round, I went to two things that have never let me down in the past: music and TV.

I started singing and playing the autoharp again, having let it sit and gather dust for a year.  I didn’t care that my window was open and I was singing the likes of ‘Wake me Up’ (Avicii), ‘Ten Thousand Miles Away’ (Bellowhead) and ‘Carry on Wayward Son’ (Kansas) to the population of Leytonstone at the top of my voice.  I didn’t care that my voice is not as good as it used to be.  I remembered happier times making music when I was younger and singing with people I loved and who loved me in return before we lost each other along the way.  It was a reprieve – a much needed, welcome respite from the struggle.  Step one of recovery accomplished: return to a happier place in your mind and “lay your weary head to rest” until “you cry no more“.  (See what I did there…?)

That segues into step two so beautifully I may cry (again)!  As you might have seen from previous posts, I fling myself into other worlds and fictional characters when Pippa no longer has the strength.  TV is a huge, humongous, great, large, monumental, gigantic, elephantine, immense draw for me.  I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it until the day I take my own life, TV is the perfect medium for anyone that suffers with anything like what I do.  This is naturally my opinion, but I swear by it and live my life by it.  TV has the power to draw your attention away from your trembling hands, heaving chest, pulsing brain for any amount of time you wish.  For a short recovery time, you only need a miniseries or a couple of TV films perhaps.  For a bit of a bender, you need something long, thought-out and completely immersive (not sure that’s the correct nomenclature, but I’m going to run with it).  I found Supernatural!  After many years of letting it go on and on, I finally delved into the depths of the Winchester Bros’ adventures and upon realising that no.1 on the call sheet for the 14-season strong show, Mr. Jared Padalecki, has had his own battles with mental health and suicide, it spoke to the very centre of my soul.  Yeah, it’s a show about battling demons and angels (really love it on a modern exploration on Christian theology by-the-by, but I digress!), but it’s a show about struggling with inner demons, family issues, work-related drama, nonexistent self-esteem and fear at its very core and that’s why fans adore it, it’s why the cast and crew adore it (I’ve watched more hours of Supernatural convention footage than is advised) and it’s why it’s the longest running Sci-Fi & Fantasy show since records began.  Other than the plot points and intricate character arcs that take place over the many, many seasons, the show comes with the real-life hero of Jared Padalecki, which, unusually has been more of a help than the fictitious elements he portrays along with Jensen Ackles et. al.  Going off-piste for a brief moment, I suggested a while back that the unfortunate souls who live amongst us with mental health issues manage to gravitate to those of like minds and not always knowing it is taking place.  I guess I feel this way about my own immersion into Supernatural.  I did not know that the show had such a direct and well-known link towards mental health issues and charities etc. until I reached season 6 (about 4 days ago.  I’m now on season 10 – make of that what you will).

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Slogan from the March 2015 Supernatural/Jared Padalecki campaign 

Listening to the cast support their leading man as he visibly and notoriously succumbed but then rallied only to honestly vocalise his feelings and experiences and raise campaigns and funds to help others…there are no words I have that can express the irrational hope, kinship and inspiration to ‘Always Keep Fighting’ (the slogan for the J. Padalecki/Supernatural mental health awareness and support campaign).  Step two of recovery in progress: find something to obsess over that diverts attention from the pain and suffering and provides an escape hatch from an excruciating reality.

I am just over 1,700 words on this one and I’m tuckered out now.  It’s been so great to come back to LaBellaBorgia Speaks and I hope some of you give this post a read and it helps you with your own struggles or if you know me, helps understand a bit more of the disappearing act I’ve put on (I hope none of y’all think I’ve just gone to Bali or am riding round in sports cars).  I will be committing more to LaBellaBorgia Speaks over the coming months and we’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for reading, thanks for supporting, thanks for staying x

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

25-08-2018

 

Life: The Masquerade Ball

Since August 3rd I have been on a Contiki group holiday travelling from Los Angeles to New York.  At the beginning of this article, I am in a hotel abutting the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida.  For most people, this state of events is ideal and has the potential for wonderful times and indescribable adventures.  Sadly, as you will all have picked up by now, I am not most people.  Neither my brain nor my heart will permit me to compute the idea of a month of such glee or merriment.  I simply cannot stress enough just how frustrating it is to me that I so desire to join in the fun and have a great time with the new friends Pippa has made (for reason I address myself in 3rd person here, see..) and yet, there never comes a time when control of the requisite organs to appreciate my situation rests in my hands.  My illnesses are constantly usurping my power and forcing me to conceal the true madness behind the mask (yes, I am a Phantom of the Opera fan!).

The Pippa I was before I became medicated and up-to-a-point subdued and diluted would have been standoffish and shy to a fault, but eventually she would have found her feet and met her lobster (Friends has been playing on the coach!).  Sadly, the Pippa who survived assault and constant mental, emotional and physical abuse with scant comfort to punctuate the suffering, attempts to fit in and finds her lobster but buckles under the strain of being so constantly watched and masked in front of strangers.  That is what has happened in the midpoint of this wonderful trip that has been eagerly anticipated for years.

Precisely halfway through my sojourn abroad my mood took a nosedive.  My sleeping hasn’t been too bad, which can sometimes lead to depression, yet just before a wild night in NOLA (New Orleans), most of which I do not recall, I felt as though I had no reason to live.  I had just seen the most beautiful natural sight I’m sure I’ll ever see: the sunset over the bayou in Louisiana from an airboat floating on calm waters.  I’ve included one of the pictures I captured of the moment that nearly brought me to tears but though it is a cliché thing to say, you really did have to be there sitting at the front of the boat with spray hitting you and showing you just how alive you are at that moment in time.  I felt free and alone in a crowd.  It was perfection.  There was no pressure, there was no suffering, there was no thinking or living.  There was just being.  I thought it God’s gift.  Sadly, as I have previously said, the greater the gift from God, the harsher and greater the payment owed to the Devil.  The Devil took his payment in full not three hours later (even Faustus had more time to settle his debts!) when I determined to drink my way down the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  It has been said that I was “drinking like I didn’t want to live” and I am forced to agree with my travelling companions.  I did not want to live.  Life will never be as perfect or easy to deal with as it was on that boat in the middle of the swamp seeing a spectacular sunset, and somewhere, subconsciously, my broken brain told my broken heart that both should go down after a high like that and then my entire system was in agreement that Bourbon Street would be a location where I tried to die happy rather than England where I have attempted to die miserable many times.

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Louisiana Sunset

I remember the entirety of Bourbon Street, including the bulimic attack I had during a helping of gumbo.  I even remember being cogent enough to request the Uber to take me and my two friends back to our hotel.  The last thing I remember is getting into bed at probably about 2am, but after that, I have no clue what befell me or my roommate, though I am told I was a very abrasive drunk.

Drinking like I didn't want to live...

Drinking like I didn’t want to live…

Since then, I don’t know if I am almost disappointed that I am not dead or if I am just reacting to the poor opinion of me that the other passengers now have, but my mood has refused to be improved.  Despite my proverbial inhalation of my SSRIs and antidepressants, my bulimic attacks have not slowed up or gone away and I cannot get into the spirit of the trip as well as I was before I grew tired of wearing the mask that showed the rest of the world the portrait of a sane person, while beneath there resides a broken, bat-shit crazy bitch.

When I am back home, I wear a mask to a certain extent with people I do not trust or have only just met, but when you are spending a month in the company of the same people and without resorting to Facebook and Instagram stalking – something I refuse to do with my time – you have no idea who they really are as much as they cannot tell who you are.  When it’s a fortnight or less, it’s not so bad because I can keep it together (more or less…) for that duration of time, but I’ve never had to maintain a constant mask for over four weeks and to paraphrase the great Tennessee Williams, I’ve never had to depend on the kindness of strangers for so long.  It’s exhausting and it made me think about how often I don the mask and thereafter how long I wear it in the company of others.

I have since made up my mind and decided that none may know me as long as I live, save my children and the only love of my life.  They are the only ones with whom I feel – or will feel – safe.  As such, I wear a mask to all others to protect myself from being further broken and rendered unable to show my face to those who have to see it, who deserve to see it, who must see it.

Anyway, I’ll leave you all with that thought as I sit watching my roommate get ready to go to a club in Miami Beach that according to a club promoter I am too ugly, too big and not sufficiently “Miami” enough (yes, I am using Miami as an adjective that’s how low my self-esteem is currently, that without the mask I’m still too warped physically for the world that the Grammar Nazi in me has checked out for the night!).

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

20-08-2015