So today was about as crazy as I am. A group at my university asked me to share my blog for mental health awareness month and I agreed to. Not only did I agree to it, I then shared the address on my social media. Wow was that an experience. I was expecting an arse kicking with the nature of what I shared. Admitting some of the things that I did, to people that I mostly only see on social media, and we only share the ‘Facebook approved’ parts of our lives, which is the only the good bits, was scary as hell. I’m quite open on Facebook, but not this open. I rarely have nice photos on there, the vast majority of them I look like Dawn French pre diet. As much as I love Dawn French. I am open about the fact that yes, you will see me running down the cheesecake aisle at Tesco (better cheesecake than anywhere else) like Gollum looking for the precious, and will status update about it. But I never over share too much on there.
Then I realised looking down my friends list, these people aren’t perfect either. Of the 300 odd on there, I have personally seen at least 12 of them roll about drunk in their own sick. I’ve seen three wee themselves. One on a national television programme. I know two of them have children their partners think belong to them but a DNA test would disagree. I know one of these people tried to fart discreetly at work, but the fart turned rebellious and followed through. This still makes me laugh, when I read the judgey posts from this Facebook friend. I’ve seen a bird use one for target practice. I’ve seen at least five get so drunk that they take home people so obviously riddled with chlamydia you can almost hear it whisper to you like the Horcruxes did to Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows. So yeah I feel slightly better now I’ve realised that.
The feedback from some of my friends was amazing so thank you to every one that left a nice comment, it made an ice queen smile. I only had one comment emailed from this blog, from a reader that read ‘smelly bitch’ which made me laugh my head off because it’s not wrong haha. I think my three year old has found the address to this blog lol.
However the self doubt still crept in and I spent parts of the day wondering whether to edit it, or even take it down. I kept myself busy, went to see my god-daughter who was wearing a pink fluffy dressing gown so it was like cuddling a teddy bear. I resisted and went to bed, only to be woken up by my brother, who had found the smelliest of all stray dogs and was trying to talk me into adopting it. It is at times like this when, as much as I love that little prick, I think back to my parents thinking that it would be ‘unfair’ for me to be an only child and I must have a sibling, and think yeah thanks for that, we could have got a dog. A fragrant smelling, obedient dog. I’ve made several notes to get revenge when they are in their old age and their marbles are AWOL. Not that they still hold too many of them now, mental illness can run in the family lol.
So after he’d admitted defeat and left – to take said dog back to my mums, so I’m looking forward to finding his body parts tomorrow, I couldn’t sleep. So I made a drink, checked my emails and that is when a good day went bad. Not just bad, go back to bed, and stay there bad.
Back in 2010, in the midst of the worst episode I have ever been in, I was made to attend a day hospital for ‘assessment’. This was recorded as voluntarily but it wasn’t. The doctors had made it very clear it was this or they would section me. Even when I’m deranged I’m a know it all. So I made a point of detailing the finer points of the mental health act to try and show they’d not be able to section me anyway. Until I realised two things. First, two doctors would agree I need sectioning, and I had not helped my case by telling one he could be a look a like for Alan Carr. Secondly, despite being with Paul, legally my next of kin was my Dad. He had also had enough, and is from the generation where they do what the Doctor tells them, and mostly when it comes to me being off my box, my parents and Paul, quite rightly, follow the advice of the doctors and not the gobby lunatic. So it was part time funny farm or full time funny farm. Part time it was.
Now even when you have a mental illness, you can still hold the same stereotypes that the people who don’t have a mental illness hold about treatment facilities. It’s a funny farm, full time human zoo, they are all dangerous, it’s just like an asylum, you will never be employed again if you get sectioned, they throw their own poo around. So I was indignant upon arrival. Normally I’m quite opened minded, but bare in mind I also wasn’t well. So upon coming through the doors, and announcing, ‘oh right, lets get on with this, which window am I supposed to be licking then’ I suppose I wasn’t set to make friends. Not that I thought I wanted to be friends with this mob.
One girl who I’ll call Jasmine, laughed and told me that they only lick the windows on Tuesdays as that is when they are cleaned, and as the new girl I could have the toilet window. This made me laugh and feel very embarrassed at my attitude at the same time. So, I apologised. Which is something I never do. We then all got talking. I realised there were professional people in here. One was a lecturer of physics at a very well known university, almost all of them there were graduates. Most had families. Not that this should have changed my view, but as the only one there without even A Levels I realised in the outside world, I couldn’t compete with this people. But I was the only one who it even occurred to. They were all nice and open. Despite none of us being there because we were having a great time in our lives.
I realised for the first time in my life that I wasn’t alone. The experiences I had were not unique and in fact, I wasn’t even on the extreme end of the spectrum. Jasmine eventually showed me her scars from her failed suicide attempts. One on her neck from a skin burn when she tried to hang herself. The scars on her wrists. Even that she has a bi weekly prescription because she has overdosed so many times its not safe for her to have more than three days medication at a time. The shame I felt at my recent attempt went away. I realised that it wasn’t me, but the Bipolar that had made me do it. That I’m not evil, or selfish, but the chemicals in my brain go off kilter and I have a really shit time as a result. She told me it probably wouldn’t be the last time it happens, but we work through it. She gave me possibly one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.
She said that life is a bitch to everyone, we all have demons that we fight. But she said with Bipolar, it’s like walking up a mountain. Every one struggles, but the pack on your back is five times the weight of everyone else’s. So you are likely the first one to fall down, and you will fall down most, but you will also pick yourself up more than anyone else and still finish with everyone else. Oh how I wish that last part were true.
We became really good friends. We kept in touch after I was let out for good behaviour. She had a family, a successful business and moved away. But we kept emailing and talking on the phone. She wont use Facebook as she likens it to emotional self harm. Her reasoning is that when you feel shit, or even well, watching everyone else advertise how wonderful their life it, puts pressure on you to make you life as wonderful as everyone else pretends it is. Plus it is never as wonderful as they make out. So we email, or even tweet (as you only have 150 characters to lie apparently).
What struck me when I looked back, is that I had shared more with Jasmine, who was a complete stranger in the first half hour of talking to her, than I had in five years with my friends and family. I tried to work out why. Then I realised it’s because she was also struggling, so I had no fear of being judged or insulted. I knew she wouldn’t hold it against me. The same with the other 7-8 people I became close with. It is this fear, even among people you like, and know like you, that stops us sharing. That saying to someone I’m feeling down and I don’t know what to do, is like saying I’ve just shit my pants. You will admit to friends about being drunkenly sick, or spending too much money, or putting weight on, but not to feeling mentally unwell. Its ludicrous.
So I waited for a response from my good friend who I emailed over Christmas when I felt bad. Her answer to my bat signal that all was not well. We often did that for each other, support each other through the bad times. I have visited her in hospital, talked her down from several attempts, even helped her change her clothes and eat something when its been bad. She’s done similar for me. Then I got my answer. From her husband. She too had been unwell. My clever, funny, successful, beautiful friend had hung herself on the 2nd of January, and it was only when going through her emails, that he had found my new contact details to tell me. I phoned him and told him how sorry I was, and did the usual of ‘is there anything I can do’ when there very rarely is. He told me that the church she goes to, that she found so helpful, has refused to let her be buried in their churchyard, in the family plot, because she committed suicide and its consecrated ground. They don’t want to be seen as condoning suicide. For a group of people that like to give it ‘Jesus loves everyone’ and ‘love thy neighbour’ they can be right bastards.
I’ve decided to not go to the funeral. For a few reasons. Mainly because I think the family need some privacy and that they would prefer people go to the memorial service instead of the funeral. Secondly, I’m not visiting a church, and filling the collection plate of somewhere that is so unchristian and selfish. The family are the only ones being punished for their choice and I hope this place see sense. Thirdly, I’m sick of funerals. I would go to any funeral quite happily, because its a chance to say good bye and celebrate a life. But at 28 Jasmine had had no chance of life. She had barely started it. I’m sick of funerals for people who go well before their time. Funerals are for people at the end of a life, not the start and I’m sick of it. Moreover I’m sick of funerals for people who suffer so much they feel they have no choice but to end their life. Of the 7 people in our little part time funny farm club four are dead. One through cancer, but the rest through suicide. Any other death rate like this and there would be television events, red noses, cake selling etc. But there isn’t.
I don’t even want there to be. All I want, and the point of this highly embarrassing open blog is to get people to talk to each other. Myself and Jasmine, I feel, have saved each others lives on so many occasions over the years by supporting each other and being there. Trusting each other enough to be honest. I don’t mean to sound dramatic or flippant but that’s the truth. This is more effective than medication, or therapy, because the biggest risk factor is isolation.
One positive thing from my Facebook promotion of this shamefully self indulgent blog is the response from the lovely people on there. Who all said I was brave, and one who even shared it. Over Christmas I looked on Facebook, and thought if I died how many of these people would actually be bothered. They would do the whole ‘RIP’ post that we all do online, and statuses and probably even turn up to my funeral at the crem, because I wouldn’t put my family through the row with the church so the crem can have the money for my service. But how many would actually feel sad. I’ve now realised more than I thought which is nice.
So in memory of Jasmine, and the countless others who have come to the end of their brave fighting of their mental illness I hope I can keep pushing people to talk to each other. To open up. Not in the horrendously public way I have to prove a point, but even over coffee, or prosecco, or even cheesecake. Talk to each other. Don’t be judgemental. Thanks to Jasmine, one of my life mottos is ‘if in doubt, don’t be a dick’, Make time for people. Don’t just put stupid statuses online that say you are there to talk, or mental health awareness statuses that you just click share. But actually ask someone, ‘are you ok, no bullshit, how are you? Pay it forward, if someone does something or says something nice that makes you feel good, do the same for someone else. You never know how much on nice comment online, or face to face could really help someone. I’m proof of that yesterday when I advertised this blog. Above all, put Facebook down and talk to each other. Less online interaction, more face to face. Be more honest on Facebook, that despite your well placed camera angle for that model looking photo, tell people you have a massive spot and have had a shit day.
For all the Jasmines out there, keep going, one foot in front of the other, one day or even hour at a time. No one likes a funeral, you will be missed and no matter how bad it seems there is always a way out. I’ll be a supportive Jasmine for anyone who needs me to. Like she was for me. I’ll miss her, but treasure the time we did know each other, and be forever grateful for the impact she had on me and others.
Laura 🙂 x