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 I 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).
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