My Husband

He is my best friend; there are so many clichés to describe Luke. He is kind-hearted, loyal and selfless; he is my rock.

We met working in an insurance call centre when I was 17. He was the systems administrator for the whole company, and I’d often see him walking the floors to check on people’s computers; he was always proactive when it came to problem solving. The first time I met him properly I was enamoured by his long, curled blonde eyelashes and his unkempt mop of short-but-curly fair hair. He struck me as something of a lamb; it seemed there was something gentle and innocent about him.

I didn’t know how to properly introduce myself to him. I was nervous; I wanted to say hi but I was too timid (very out of character for me but I was crushing, hard!). One day, as I saw him coming up the office towards where I sat, I was struck by inspiration – I kicked the power cable out of my machine and voila, an instant need for technical assistance. I must have seemed so dim when I called him over and explained that ‘the power just cut out’; I can’t imagine what he thought of me when he saw it was just a cable issue. But that was it, we had officially met. Neither of us really knew the potential we had before us.

From there on, we begun spending all our free time together. We weren’t a couple, not dating, but I suppose you could call it an almost-traditional courtship. Summer lunches were spent in the park listening to music on his headphones. After work, we’d pop to the pub for a couple of drinks before getting the train together; each of us going to our respective family homes. It was a lovely summer, and I was so happy I’d made such a good friend, but I still wanted more – I wanted to kiss this wonderful man and make him my boyfriend.

It was September when we finally started making progress on becoming more than great mates. I now know that he was too shy to ask me on a proper date. Instead he let me barrel my way into his plans; he knew me well enough to know I’d take the bait. After work one Friday he told me, ever so casually, that he was going alone to London the next day; being who I am I instantly invited myself (something along the lines of “I’ll come and keep you company”). We made plans to meet on the train; I was so excited that we were finally doing something together outside of the sphere of work and work-related socialising.

We kissed for the first time that Saturday. It was such an innocent kiss; it began as a hug that turned into a cuddle and when I turned my face up to look at him from my spot under his shoulder he moved down for the first kiss. I still have butterflies thinking about it. It was unutterably perfect.

It was a month later that I moved into his family’s homes. His mum and dad had been divorced a few years earlier and Luke split his time between their houses. I wasn’t getting on with my mum at home and he invited me to stay one night that turned into two and three; before long I was spending all week with him at his parents’. It was the first indication of the generosity that is inherent in his family; they probably would’ve kept us on forever but we made the decision to look for our own place together.

We married in December 2011 – I was 22 and he was 24. No one told us we were too young to take such a big step; I think everyone knew we were made for each other. It was the best day of my life (how clichéd but so true!). I didn’t feel nervous on the day – I just wanted to get to the front of the church to finally solemnise our relationship in front of people who loved us. Walking down the aisle I remember looking around and seeing so many smiling faces; then I looked to the front and saw Luke absolutely beaming at me. It was amazing; the ceremony passed in a happy blur and the reception was exactly what we had planned; we’d arranged afternoon tea for our guests and a live band to play all the songs we’d danced to in the pub when we were first getting to know each other.

I look back on that happiest day now and still smile, despite the turmoil that we didn’t know was about to hit our lives together. From around January, I began to get unwell as I’ve written about a lot on this site. By May I was in the depths of a major psychotic episode and I know, with hindsight, it was a dark time. My husband – my wonderful husband – stood by me, even when I wasn’t letting him in on the reality I was living, even when I yelled at him for not understanding, even when I printed him off a booklet of my psychotic writings. Throughout the whole thing he remained strong and stood right by my side through appointments and referrals; he was my advocate and provided a voice I couldn’t find for myself.

The last three years have been a mix of highs and lows. Without stumbling, he’s been there with me on emergency trips to hospital and stroked my hair as I’ve hidden myself in the bedroom to sob my heart out. When I’ve been high, he’s been the first to help me divert energy with suggestions of ‘do some baking’ or ‘shall we go for a walk?’ Throughout the darkest, hardest times, I’ve always had the safety net of my husband’s love to fall back on.

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him in my life; I never want to find out. So, my love, this is my tribute to you and my promise of love for the rest of our days on Earth.

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My Husband

New Job – New Hope

On Monday I officially started my new job with the same company I’ve been temping at for the last nine months. Without a doubt, I am excited – over the moon to have the security of a permanent role and to be moving into a field that I am genuinely interested in (having been an admin bod for a long time now). The transition to the new role is taking time; there are things frustrating me and they will probably continue for a while but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now.

Today I am sat with my old team with the plan of doing a handover to one of my colleagues of the tasks he is taking over from me. So far he’s been far too busy doing other things; despite my regular question, “Are you ready for training yet?” and I can’t help but feel today has been a waste. In true company style my access to the processing systems has been revoked and I’ve had to send off a request to be re-activated for a grace period for the handover. I’ve been working on the team’s intranet pages to pass the time. I just want to get settled in my new job now!

Despite the frustrations I can still look positively on this whole new adventure. One of the biggest contrasts has been the difference in attitude between old team and new team. For example, I had to go for x-rays this morning and when I booked the appointment last week I emailed the relevant managers to let them know I would be late in today. When I arrived at the office just before 11:00 this morning, my old line manager asked, “Did I know you’d be late today?” Apparently I should’ve put it in his calendar! I kind of felt like reminding him he’s not actually my line manager any longer and that I’d only emailed him about the appointment out of courtesy. But oh well – I needed to get the x-rays sorted because I need to sort out my hip. No x-rays, no progress; considering I am struggling to walk up the hill to the office lately it is absolutely vital that I find out the problem and get it treated. And now I’m rambling!

Colleague X is barely talking to me. I get the feeling I’m being seen as some kind of traitor for leaving the team. If I go a little further I can hypothesise that she is possibly a little jealous; she admits she has little ambition to progress further with the company but – personally – I couldn’t imagine doing this admin job for eight years without hating it at least a little bit. Who knows? Maybe she’s just being who she is? After nine months I still can’t predict her; some days she’s the life and soul, other days she’s queen bitch. I’ll be glad to not have to deal with that any longer – and very glad to never hear the words “I’m not being funny – but…” several times each day!

Compare and contrast my new team; the department head welcomed me to the team on Monday, my new line manager is a genuine and lovely man who has read this blog and didn’t judge me, and my team-mate is hugely popular in the office as she’s just that nice! I can’t wait to get over there full time and really get my teeth into learning everything I need to and start working on the various bits and bobs that need covering.

So, despite the short-term turbulence ahead I am in a really positive frame of mind – the effect on my mood has been something miraculous! I feel totally stable, totally able to think my way out of minor lows and able to embrace minor highs into productivity. For the first time in a long time I don’t feel dull, I am not swinging hypo from sheer boredom. Best of all, Eve seems really content with how things are at the moment. She is really peaceful and we’re not fighting for dominance. I am happy.

New Job – New Hope

Work, Illness and Speaking Out

I had a rather sad conversation online yesterday in a peer support chat room. The guy I was talking to asked the room whether it’s best to be honest with his GP about the state of his mental health. From what I gathered he has been struggling a long time without any help; I asked him if he had a diagnosis and he replied ‘nothing official, just a fucked up psyche.’

His main concerns seemed to be being locked away and losing his job – two things I can truly identify with; when I first started seeking help I tended to play-down things in fear of the psych ward and lost a job over my mental health when it was at its direst point. But the truth is that most health systems – or at least those that are run by the state – actively seek to provide support to keep people out of hospital, and as for workplaces, in most cases the person is protected by anti-discrimination laws.

A quick Google suggests a figure of around £350 a day to treat someone in hospital on the NHS whilst intervention outside of the psychiatric wards costs far less (although I couldn’t find any concrete figures). There is also the consideration that internment in a mental health unit causes considerable stress to the client; the wards are far from peaceful, recuperative places. In most areas here in the UK there are specialist teams for acute care outside of the clinical setting; Home Treatment Teams (HTT) are able to visit clients in their homes to help with medication and provide someone to talk to; they also have 24 hour phone services so even in the middle of the night a nurse will be on hand to discuss concerns.

There are also many care homes in the UK that usually support long-term residents in transitioning back into the ‘real world’ which have ICBs (intensive care beds) for shorter term stays. I’ve been in two of these homes and they proved to be incredibly therapeutic environments; space to recover, freedom to come and go and 24 hour support from trained staff. Whilst staying in the homes, clients are supported by their own psychiatrist and care co-ordinator so there is no variation in treatment plans or any stress of seeing staff that are unfamiliar to someone who is in a fragile state.

Hospital is a last resort here; there have been only two occasions when I’ve been threatened with a section and both were when my ability to keep myself safe went beyond the scope of what the earlier interventions could cope with. This is despite suicide attempts and self-harm; despite drinking to cope. There was a real push from the NHS staff I dealt with to keep me out of the psych wards until it was an 11th-hour situation; even then I remained out of the hospital thanks to redoubled efforts from the HTT and care homes.

The guy I was speaking to online was concerned about the security of his job if he wound up needing to take time off sick for his illness. This was in part due to the nature of his work; he had passed psych clearance tests in order to secure the role in the first place. With a little discussion I discovered that he was nervous that his employer would indirectly find ways to push him out of his job; despite my reassurance of discrimination law he remained convinced that he would not be able to stay employed if he sought help and treatment.

The fact is that most countries have solid disability discrimination laws; if the illness is significant and long term. Essentially – in relation to the workplace – they lay out a requirement to allow reasonable adjustments that ensure the employer facilitates the needs of their employee and also a requirement to treat their employees equally despite their disability. These laws are the backbone for activists to be able to speak out openly about their illnesses and go a long way towards true equality and the end of stigma.

I sincerely hope the online chatter is honest with his GP and gets the help he needs; he seemed desperate for someone to hear him and assist him in his recovery – unfortunately there is still such stigma surrounding mental illnesses that it remains difficult to speak up in confidence of not being judged for something we cannot change.

Work, Illness and Speaking Out

Even Thinking of a Title for this Post is Confusing Me

I know people care! I know this, it is a proven fact in my life with the people who choose to spend time with me and talk to me; I know they care. The bit I can’t understand is why, when I come across obstacles, my mind goes straight to a truly unreasonable scenario – I am unloved. I wish I could find the words to express how it is to have these thoughts flying around my head. I hate it. It feels horrible, I feel like crying for sheer frustration because I know they are faulty thoughts – I know it’s not true!

The other problem with feeling this way is the need that comes along with it to be Reckless. I feel like I am stagnating, like I really need to shake things up. It’s a kind of dissatisfaction and I don’t deal with it particularly well. Of course, I deny myself the guilty pleasures I crave in this situation and end up frustrated; so fucking frustrated. I don’t even think I can articulate exactly how I feel right now. It is too overwhelming.

I need to get myself home; but first I must deal with another 30 minutes at my desk-jail before I face the cramped – and most likely late – bus home. I will have to deal with stuffing my raging soul deep down within me. I will have to pretend like I am one person; right now I am unbelievably missing the shirking of responsibility that comes with letting my other soul take the reins.

But, as ever, I will be a ‘good girl’.

Even Thinking of a Title for this Post is Confusing Me

The Women in my Life

Earlier today I had the pleasure of chatting to a friend about my wonderful Nanny Noo; this post is inspired by that conversation. I realise today that I am blessed to have had so many wonderful people in my life, both male and female, but I wanted to spend a little time telling you about two women who inspire me every day.

The catalyst for the post is my maternal grandmother; known to our family as Nanny Noo. Now in her 90s, she is in a care home and rarely even leaves her bed. From my perspective it seems she has aged ten years since she was forced to move out of her home, but the truth of it is that there was no other way forward. But notwithstanding the sadness of the present situation, our family is blessed to have her in our lives. Looking back, I suspect that whilst my granddad thought he wore the trousers, it was actually our matriarch that ruled the roost. From Nanny Noo I formed a true sense of belonging to my extended family; we would all gather at hers on a Saturday and eat cheese and ham rolls. The memories I have of this family time leave residual feelings of warmth and home. I don’t doubt for a second that Nanny Noo had steel in her soul. It was simply that her steel was the foundation for our childhood’s safe haven.

Coming down a generation, and you find my own mother; you’ve seen her posting as Maz on the blogs. It would be lies to say we’ve had a smooth relationship – rebellious teenager meets teacher; never going to end well. With the benefit of a few years hindsight however, it is obvious to me that at her very core is an endless font of love for her children. I admire it. I hope to embody it. I hope she realises that I love her too. After all, this is the woman who simultaneously yelled at me and held my hair when I came back from a party paralytic – that is love only a mother can know.

I am under no illusions that I am a long way off being the woman I want to be; but I have the signposts all in place to follow to get me there.

The Women in my Life

The Semicolon Project

The Semicolon Project

“Your story isn’t over yet.”

Indeed – it isn’t. There have been many – too many – times that I thought it was. Times I couldn’t see a way out of the daily hell I was living. Times I planned ways to end things; to end my life. I am still here; my story continues and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to run this blog and share with all of you in hopes of helping someone else.

The Semicolon Project has been all over the UK news outlets in the past few days and I instantly wanted in on the campaign. Officially the day to do it was April 16th 2013, but lately the vehicle of outspoken mental health advocates has been gaining so much momentum. Essentially, the message being broadcast is this: A Semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The Author is you and the sentence is your life.

I am determined that my sentence will continue on its destined path; whatever that may bring. That is why I am adding my voice and lending a small patch of skin to the many people out there who are working so hard to raise awareness and end the stigma of depression, anxiety and other mental illness. This is my declaration that I am not ashamed; I am full of hope; this is not how it ends.

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P.S. I’m sorry mummy!

The Semicolon Project