Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Agony of Not Feeling

I wrote this a little while ago, and doing so made me feel a little better.

Today I'm depressed and I have no idea why. That's probably because there wasn't a trigger, there often isn't. We all feel sad sometimes, feel down and depressed, have “bad days”, but Depression is different and it's hard to explain how. It’s not as easy to define as feeling sad or defeated. It’s not as simple as walking in the steps of the black dog, bleakly staring around you, wondering how you got there.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you rode your bike or ran into a wall or post by accident? When you fell over and smacked your head on the floor? Something like that? There was a moment, so brief but bright, when you were stunned, the breath from your lungs had whooshed out and you knew there was surely pain to come, but in that split second there's just you and the breathless numbness of shock. That's what Depression can feel like sometimes – an in-between, a “without form”, an empty space waiting to be filled.
I hate that feeling; being haunted by the expectation of what’s to come. You know it’s coming, can almost hear it, taste it, but for now you’re at the mercy of not feeling, the shock of emptiness, the breathless moment before your stomach plunges into the free fall of despair. There's nothing you can do with it. You're not even sure what it is, your fight or flight is about to be triggered and in the meantime you don't know whether to shit or shower about it, but you're locked in and you're going to have to choose, going to have to decide, going to have to move, the urgency settled in your legs, in your arms, in your gut, clenched around your heart, is telling you it's coming, any moment now...
And still you simply hover. In between. The not feeling. The empty. All that urgency isn't inside you, you're swimming in it, but it doesn't buoy you, it just laps at you indifferently, not caring that it's dragging you to the rocks – but which rocks? Where?
It's excruciating in its formlessness. It's indifference will only lead to no good. You know this. You know it all, but your knowledge is like a concrete slab in your head, useless to you and unbending. No one sees it. No one sees the crack about to open up. But you do. You can feel the tremors in the walls around you, but there is nothing you can do about it but watch in frozen horror as it inevitably splits beneath your feet, the dark well, ready to consume...

It is this I dread most about Depression. The pain and despair I feel sometimes are excruciating, no doubt about it, the seesaw gut spin of anxiety rocks your equilibrium, leaving you dizzy and confused, but it's the unfeeling helplessness that's worst – helplessness in the face of certainty. The knowing it's coming and there's something you should do, but you might as well be nailed to the bed and buried in jelly for all the good it's going to do you. You're hopeless because you don't even remember your plan, the one you've made notes about, practiced, been through a million times. You're a fool, a useless helpless fool who doesn't have the sense you were born with and all you need is your plan and you don't know where it is and it's probably going to be useless anyway, all that thought and therapy sucked out of you like a bad case of the bends, because the road ahead rears up at you, you can see it coming, know you're going to spin out and if only you could remember your plan and save yourself, but it probably won't work so the weight of the road just crushes you instead, weighing you down into the bed, slowly, infinitesimally slowly, not frantic, just surely, just bone achingly slow and you couldn't reach the probably useless plan anyway...

That's how it feels sometimes. They tell you about the pain, they tell you about the trip hop of anxiety, they tell you about the darkness, but it's the in between that is more likely to destroy me.


Except, it's not. I've washed up on this shore before. I know this place, hateful as it is, I’ve weathered it a hundred, a thousand, times before, and it hasn't beaten me yet. Yes, it's held me down, trapped me in its airless waiting room for weeks, months at a time, stymied me, and made me ache with emptiness and impotence, but it has not beaten me. I know it better than it knows me. It's not an old friend, not even an enemy, it's just a place, an in-between –which means there is a before and an after. I just have to breathe, just hold on, and wait for when I can raise myself again from its icy depths, piece-by-piece but unbroken, stronger than the weight that would hold me down and drown me in its numb indifference. It's far from easy, don't ever let anyone tell you it is, and lord, is it tiring, but it can be done. I can do it. I have done it. And I will bloody well do it again.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Like McCartney said - We All Stand Together.

I believe in paying it forward, particularly in respect of mental health issues. So many people seem to think they "understand" while missing the point spectacularly. We who live under the obnoxious cloud of depression, OCD, Bipolar, Borderline or whatever other bastardy the establishment have labelled, or not, should trade experiences and advice. We're the ones who know, we're the ones who live it, and we're the ones who, with every breath we take, DEFEAT IT. Some days, just a few words that hit the right spot can send my day in a better direction. So if something occurs to me, something that I feel I need or have needed when the misery chips were down, and I think it can help someone else, I'll say it, whether that means putting it on my fb status or messaging a friend, whatever.

Last week, I posted the following on FB: 

"Here's a little advice - if someone you love is experiencing a mental health problem but they don't want to talk about it with you, don't let that stop you checking on them. They're probably not ignoring you, they're probably working through their shit and have a lot going on. By not engaging with them at all, you're not helping them, you're isolating them and that's just not kind. Just check in, make them feel like they're noticed. When you spend at least part of your life feeling like nothing, it's good to know you're worth just a little of someone's time. It's easy in this day and age."

I'd realised how hard it must be for other people to sometimes know whether to "bother" me or just leave me be. My response is JUST ASK ME. I won't flip out or destroy myself (or you) because of your enquiry. I can always ignore it, especially in this day and age. My intention was to make it clear that dicking about is not the way to go. If you're concerned, ask. DIRECTLY. Don't ask someone else to check or beat around the bush, and certainly don't ignore those you profess to care about. Even if you don't get a response, the fact that you've bothered to ask them directly will, more often than not, be thoroughly appreciated. Being seen is invaluable at times. It's really that simple.

While I'm talking about sharing, you should really check out my friend Ren Warom's vlogs (see links at bottom*). She's got a brain I could swim in and she gives good advice, plus, her vlogs are one of the ways I remind myself I'm not alone. The worst thing about any mental health issue is that the first thing it does is make you feel alone. Horribly, achingly, fearfully alone. If I can make one tiny bit of difference to that, I'm going to do it.

*Check Ren out here - 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJG0N7oVbG2AaIW1UM1gGug

 https://renwaromsumwelt.wordpress.com

Monday, 19 January 2015

Right in/on the Noggin

I'm very open about my mental health. It's not something I'm shy about discussing because I believe leaving this kind of thing in the dark is a sure way to compound the problem(s). Besides, it's a part of me, it's shaped and guided my life in some way for almost thirty years, and I own it because otherwise it would own me. This has not been an easy process, it's been a long road… it's not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It's far, far away… behind the moon… beyond the rain… Wait, I've gone all Wizard of Oz, where was I? 

Right, Darkness = Mushrooms, and everyone knows they're the devil's haemorrhoids, so I'm not embarrassed to talk about my "problems". However, I don't wish it to be a subject of levity for someone who doesn't understand what they're talking about. Ask me about it, but don't dismiss me or minimise my experience. That will get you on my shit list quicker than you can say "Ignorant Fuck Chops".  I've lost count of the number of times I've heard glorious variations on the following: "oh, you're all right though, aren't you?"; "...but it's nothing serious?"; "you're too cheery to be depressed"; or my absolute fucking favourite "you're life's so easy, so stress free, what do you have to be depressed about?". I've heard them all so often they ring in my ears at the best of times, but when I'm down, for want of a better word, they positively bellow at me. 

By my reckoning, for ten months of last year I was depressed. Seriously depressed. For days at a time I was unable to leave the apartment, my OCD was out of control (I'm neither a cleaner nor a checker, my problems are mainly intrusive thoughts and excessive worrying - and no, while you feel like you worry endlessly, it's probably not the same thing. Be grateful, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy), and I licked my wounds in private. I felt lost at times, more lost than I'd been in a very long time and it was frightening. Did many people notice? No. Not many. Why? Because I've learned to live with it and to hide the worst of my symptoms (plus sometimes people just don't want to see). This isn't purely to make myself fit for human consumption, it's also a coping mechanism. I pretend to be well to persuade myself of the fact as much as to persuade anyone else, probably more so. It's tiring to carry it with you all the time, so losing yourself in the moment and being a human again just for a while, if it's possible, can be liberating. Yet, so often I still feel like tearing my face off when I'm surrounded by people. It's not easy but I manage not to. I've taught myself how. 

So to explain to those of you who are surprised at my diagnosis, who don't really believe me when I tell them, this article is the closest to understanding me you'll probably come. Don't read it for my sake, although friends of mine might want to (I don't expect it, I gave up setting myself up for disappointment of that kind a long time ago - people don't always do well with you when they know you're a "mental" and many just don't care, alas), read it in case there's someone right under your nose who might need your help or, at the very least, your understanding.

11 Habits of People with Concealed Depression

These past few weeks though, they've been good. I feel clearer in my mind than I have for months. My mood is lifted, not the manic euphoria that can take me over after a down (which can last for moments, days or weeks), I have a genuine sense of well being and a positive frame of mind. You know why? Once again, I've survived myself. I did even better than that, in fact. Through it all I worked, I connected with others, I lived, breathed and enjoyed myself despite its ever present tyranny. So I win. I know how to live with it, I know how to function despite the despot sitting in my brain pan. Every time it comes and I live through it, I become stronger. Who knows? One day it might get tired of messing with me, one day it might realise it's not worth the effort anymore because I refuse to be broken.  With that in mind, I consider myself monumentally lucky and I refuse to take that shit for granted. There are too many of us who don't come through it, too many lives wasted by this measly shitkicker of an illness that too many people continue to pretend doesn't exist. 

Fuck you, Depression.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Ghost of Emails Past

Good lord. I got a bit zealous and decided to tidy up my email account. I went back about six years. I found some old emails. Some old emails that made my face turn inside out in horror. An exchange between me and an old friend that pretty much destroyed our friendship - although with the clarity of hindsight, I realise that it was disintegrating a long time before that, that it probably hadn't been what I thought it was in the first place. Anyway, back to the matter in hand - GOOD GOD! I sounded like a mad thing created by a very mad scientist, bashed out by a double mad machine. I barely recognise me in the writing even as I can't fail to acknowledge the echo of Past Me. My caveat here is that while I feel bad (or "off the charts crazy fandango Chloƫ, what the holy shit did you say that for?!") about what I wrote, a real friend would perhaps have read the emails and thought "HOT DANG! Something be VERY wrong with my FRIEND, maybe I should help rather than compound the problem or cut her off completely" Alas this was not the case, but Now Me sees it wasn't their responsibility to do so, it would have been nice (or even decent of them) if they had but life's not black and white, is it? And my shit was crazy as fuck.

Reading the emails, however, did something very good for me. Something very good indeed. That person? The one who wrote those emails, emails that alternately bleated ball-aching apologies and then bit with a ferocity I can rarely muster these days? She no longer exists. Parts of her do, of course, but I am a very different person to the one I was six years ago. My thought processes, reactions, expectations and ideas about the world have been almost entirely overhauled. And, even as I've been rubbing off (don't be dirty) my sharp edges, working hard on controlling those elements of myself I find most troubling - not to mention eradicating the shocking bouts of apparent lunacy as evidenced in some of those emails - I didn't really notice it happening. I think I'd just been hoping it would happen, and in the waiting I'd missed the change. In the missing of it, I've been repeating patterns of behaviour out of what I can only think of as muscle memory. Ridiculous laziness that has no place in my life because I'M NOT THAT PERSON ANYMORE. Those things no longer fit me.

I'm not the needy lost soul that I was, adrift in a foreign country, frightened. I see flashes of her, but only flashes. It's a liberating thing, to see me as I was and how I am now. I just didn't realise it had happened. Now I've seen it, I want to laugh until I pee my pants. Don't worry, I won't. Today. I will say this, however - the sins of your past, the person you were, who people thought you were? None of these things have to govern either your today or tomorrow. They do not define you, they do not even represent you. Not unless you either want them to or you allow them to. You can be the best version of yourself, but the other versions of yourself? They shouldn't be discarded or forgotten, they're templates, foundations, you can't move on without them. Just don't let them become the Bell Jar.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Kiki and Kitty

Happy Halloween folks! It's going to be a doozy because there's a double header coming at you - right between the eyes - from Fox Spirit Books: Drag Noir, edited by Kate Laity, and Wicked Women, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber. What's more, to add the welcome insult to the joyous injury, there's a story by yours truly in each. Pick yourself up off the floor and check the links below to purchase yourself some anthology goodness. Both volumes are packed with excellent authors who I'm bloody chuffed to share space with. Prepare yourselves for a link fiesta and then a little explanation.

Fox Spirit announcement: http://www.foxspirit.co.uk/double-trouble-fox-den/

Wicked Women, featuring my story "How to be the Perfect Housewife": http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wicked-Women-Jenny-Barber-ebook/dp/B00P05YRV8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414752287&sr=8-1&keywords=wicked+women+fox+spirit

Drag Noir, featuring "Kiki Le Shade": http://www.amazon.co.uk/Drag-Noir-Various/dp/1909348686/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414752315&sr=8-1&keywords=drag+noir

My sources for these stories couldn't have been more different. I'd spent countless hours berating myself for not being able to come up with something for the Prof's third instalment of the Noir series (you can find Weird Noir, featuring my story "A Kick in the Head" here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Weird-Noir-K-Laity-ebook/dp/B009YYF38M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1414752618&sr=8-2&keywords=weird+noir and "Madam Mafoutee's Bad Glass Eye" is in Noir Carnival which you can acquire thusly http://www.amazon.co.uk/Noir-Carnival-Chloe-Yates-ebook/dp/B00DV69GFK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414752734&sr=8-1&keywords=noir+carnival)

Then, although I can't remember where, I saw the Scissor Sisters' video for their song "Let's Have a Kiki" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGCD4xb-Tr8 The opening image of the story suddenly popped into my head - not that it had anything much to do with either the song or the video, but Kiki emerged, sitting on a plastic chair in the arse end of nowhere, two inches of ash on her smouldering cigarette, wig askew, waiting. I had no idea what came next until it twitched out of my mind and down my fingers like an unstoppable electric current. Who was I to say no? The question of masks is always raised when talking about Drag, but for me liberation is what's accessed via this art form, not concealment. It is an opportunity to reveal, to revel and to rail. Seeing it as a veiling negates its power - or it would if Drag Queens stood for that kind of nonsense. While Drag Queens have fascinated me since I was a child, I've never given much thought to Drag Kings and I don't know why, possibly it's because there has been so much more exposure for the former. There's a tickle at the back of my mind for a story.

As to Wicked Women, I pretty much embody the antithesis of the "perfect" housewife and I pity anyone that aspires to be such a thing - not because I think housewifery is beneath me or trivial, but because traditionally it's one of the most thankless jobs in the world. In all my narcissistic preenings (don't worry, I mostly do them in private), that's not for me. Any quest for perfection is fraught with pressure and unreasonable expectations because perfection simply does not and cannot exist in the splendour of human subjectivity. That way lies madness, friends. Just look what poor Kitty has to deal with. In my mind, juxtaposed to this idea of the perfect housewife is the keyword "wicked". It's been bastardised into meaning good in modern parlance thus lightening its severity but, by definition, something wicked is something evil, something sinful, something unjustifiable with a bad attitude. So I googled "Wicked Women" and found an absolute glut of atrocious ladies with a side dollop of inspiration. Not your kickass badasses - I figure they're becoming as stereotypical as the time worn tropes of Madonna and Whore - instead I wanted your demented, your callous,  your truly "wicked" women. I won't tell you who struck me (not with a blunt instrument) during my research, I wouldn't want to spoil the fun.

10378273_10153310968692796_8019814623163445253_n.jpg


Thursday, 18 September 2014

SHOUT! SHOUT! LET IT ALL FUCKING OUT!

Do you ever just want to scream and shout? Does it ever simply get too much and your head feels like it's going to explode even harder than your guts? The world around you is a shit pile of inequality, injustice and cruelty. You're punch drunk from the spite and venom bandied about like ever cheaper supermarket booze. It's appalling but you keep plodding on while idiots thrive, and you quietly seethe - because for your voice to be heard over the clamour of the ignorant would take a fucking miracle. You try to move forward but some folks just won't let you, they want to keep you in the predictable pigeonhole they've fashioned for you ("this is what you are, we have decided") and want to watch you slowly drown in their blinkered juice of judgement. Then someone goes and pisses you off but you know it doesn't really matter. After all, it says more about them than you, but you're still annoyed so what does that say about you if you can't just get over it and move on? Does it mean you're a nut job? In the wrong? WHAT?!

A few things have been playing on my mind for a while now. Trouble is, I don't really want to talk about them because they are totally self-indulgent and utterly pointless (and apparently a source of abundant adjectivity). I've been torturing myself about shit I should either have forgotten about by now (it's not like I do that all the time…) or not allowed to get to me because it's out of my hands… and yet… my brain doesn't work like that. Every slight and injustice imagined or otherwise plays on my mind like a stuck fucking record and I'm tired of it. Shining a light on them will give them a validity they have no right to, yet they remain, chipping at my temper like squirrelly little brain bastards. Well, I'm not going to take it anymore. That's right, Brain, you're getting purged, son! My good sense pipes aren't going to buckle, but some steam is going to be blown. I'm going to YELL. REALLY FUCKING LOUD. I'm allowed to do that on the internet, right?

I WANT TO RAGE AND KICK STUFF AND SHOUT ABOUT HOW UNFAIR IT IS. I WANT TO KICK NICE IN THE FACE AND TEAR DOWN THE BLANKET OF APATHY THAT'S SMOTHERING US ALL. I WANT TO NUT CONFORMITY RIGHT IN ITS DROOPY FUCKING CHOPS AND WAVE MY BARE ARSE AT WHAT I'M SUPPOSED TO THINK AND HOW I'M SUPPOSED TO BEHAVE. I WANT TO SCREECH "HOW FUCKING DARE YOU, YOU BLOW HOLE", AND IF YOU ACTUALLY HAD BOLLOCKS I'D KICK THEM RIGHT IN THE SWEET SPOT AND LAUGH AS YOUR EYES POPPED OUT OF YOUR SORRY EXCUSE FOR A SKULL. I'D WAVE MY FIST AT THE SKY AS I RANT ABOUT HOW BLOODY PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN MINIMISE OTHERS, HOW THEY THINK THEY CAN TELL THEM WHAT'S WHAT WITHOUT AN IF, BUT OR MAYBE, WITHOUT EVEN CONDESCENDING TO MAKE ANY APOLOGY (BECAUSE IT'S NOT LIKE THEY DID ANYTHING WRONG AT ALL) AND TOTALLY NULLIFYING SOMEONE'S VALID RESPONSE TO BALLACHING SHITDICKERY. WELL, FUCK YOU, TINY DANCER, FUCK YOU AND YOUR KIND IN THE BRAIN PAN AND UPSIDE THE DITCH PIPE AND I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY BEING A BALLBAG FOR ETERNITY. I HOPE YOU CRY AT NIGHT FOR BEING SUCH A SUPERCILIOUS ARSEHOLE. MAY YOUR BREATH EVER BE FULL OF THE SPORES OF SATAN AND ONE BY ONE YOUR TEETH FALL OUT AS YOUR GUMS RECEDE INTO YOUR NASAL PASSAGE, BUT MOSTLY I HOPE YOUR HAIR IS GREASY, YOUR SKIN BLOTCHY AND YOUR ARSE SPOTTY. REALLY. FUCKING SPOTTY.

FUCK THIS SHIT.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That was nice. You should try it. Most therapeutic. I feel a lot fucking better. Now, it's your turn...

Monday, 1 September 2014

OCD - it's not all cleaning your oven or checking your pegs...

Read this first
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5524041?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

It drives me mad when people say "It's just my OCD acting up" - and there are so many of them. I have little real humour about OCD (which is odd because I'll laugh at most anything, not like a hyena or owt though…) and it's not  right that OCD has become something of a cultural joke, a denotative shorthand for "this chap's got problems"; FYI it's a real fucking thing that can cripple you.

My OCD isn't the same as the person's who wrote the article; mine's all inappropriate thoughts and having to control and rank thoughts etc (for want of a better explanation). It's internalised. It's one of the reasons I stare into space a lot, my mind's busy evening its shit up and making sure I'm not transgressing with my evil brain skills. I habitually have trouble sleeping and have done since I was a child because of the relentless thoughts and worries - and I mean "relentless". It never stops. I often feel quite nervous around people and that comes across via the glorious medium of Babble (imagine the creaking, straining seams of my mind machine when that happens!).

I've had a recurring nightmare since I was little (it probably started around 5 years old). In it my evil smile would kill people. I'd get out the pearly whites, intending to be nice to folks, but it would dazzle them into oblivion. The only way I could stop it was to control my thoughts really hard before I smiled and that's how I feel in real life. I'm constantly fighting to keep things the right way up, to stem my terrible influence and turn it into something people (including me) won't be hurt by. That's OCD. That's how long I've lived with it. It's why I haven't always been able to go out when people ask, to be who they want me to be, or bend with their plans and ideals just because they think I should (this is one of the good things about my OCD, if you ask me). I've had run ins about that and at no time have I had any understanding. They don't see it (they don't want to, I'm happy old Chlo who gets everything she wants, what problems do I have?) and it's exhausting. All that said, I'm winning. I've worked hard at it and I. Have. Control. I know how to work around my triggers and how to deal with my thoughts both compassionately and firmly. Something I once wasn't sure I'd ever learn how to do. I'm lucky. Surviving OCD has made me stronger, given me more backbone than I realise and made me want to kick life up the arse. NO APOLOGIES NO SURRENDER! In your face OCD, you dickless gonad.

Listening to people claim OCD as though it's an inconvenience and not a grinding burden is insulting. It makes light of something that has weighed many of us down for a very long time and has stopped me being the person I might have been. Mind you, saying that, it has made me the person I am and that person isn't so bad. It's taken a long time for me to say that… I will have to do a few "who do you think you ares" to even it out though. Everything costs something with OCD. Feel lucky that you don't have it, be happy you're a neat freak.