Music and Memory

The last couple of days have been musically-eclectic. From Handel’s Messiah, through Christmas hymns to my current choice of Nine Inch Nails’ epic soundscape that is The Downward Spiral, all these melodies have been serving to transport me back to other places, other times.

Some are good. Some really aren’t. The question is, why do I still choose to listen to those songs that unsettle my soul? It seems counter-intuitive to stir up those old emotions, especially when I’m already picking my way over the rocky ground I call the present. What is it that makes me revisit those darker days? What makes me want to experience the ghosts of emotion that fleet through my mind when I navigate the past through music?

The big red-flag for me is any inkling of religion. And yet I’ve been listening to hymns that I still remember all the words to from all those years ago. There’s something soothing about them, even though the actual lyrics cause me some considerable discomfort. It is a mismatch of my childhood haven – sitting in the back pew of the church with my granddad and cuddling up to him in his wax coat (I can still bring the smell of that coat to mind at will) – and the subsequent hell I went through when I became unwell and experience that most typical of psychotic features; the religious grandiosity that typified the early months of my breakdown.

Those religious songs are beautiful pieces of music and yet the proclamation of a one true God just doesn’t sit right with me. Part of my attraction back to them lies with Eve – she has no doubts in her faith and loves to listen to the music I rarely allow indulgence of. The things that make me feel so uneasy give her spiritual food and I can feel and hear how happy she is when I decide to pop on a few traditional hymns, and that’s enough for me to be able to bear listening to them.

But it’s not just those sounds from my early years that provoke discomfort for me. As I found my identity in my early teens, I began to gravitate towards the heavier, darker musical themes; and that’s where NIN, Evanescence, Korn and Slipknot come into the picture. Throughout my horridly angst-filled teenage years I listened to those few bands over and over, hearing my internal turmoil reflected in the words and sounds that someone else had written. Yes, it helped me to feel less alone but it also hurt me in a way I find hard to describe.

All these years later, listening to those bands that first gave me a sense of identity in the world of confusion I’d found myself living in means opening old wounds. It reminds me of some of my darkest times, of being bullied at school and of struggling through a year or so of college as an outsider in a group of outsiders. In the same note I can feel both the sense of inner pain and the sense of belonging to a group of people who understood.

Somewhere in the midst of all the formative confusion, punk found me and gave me a fresh way to look at the world; suddenly politics made more sense, the monarchy made less sense and I began to feel that I could direct those unsettling feelings into something constructive. I realised I had a voice to add to the countless voices that have been making musical statements for going on 45 years. Even in my own small world I wasn’t alone any longer; my best friend had also taken up the tattered flag of social justice and together we listened to the words, felt the anger, wrote poems and talked for hours about the future – the future that I wasn’t able to see until punk made me look at it for real.

Whether it makes me feel happy, sad, distressed, uncomfortable, passionate, nostalgic or energised; all this music is the soundtrack to my life.

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Music and Memory

The World of Labels

I haven’t blogged in quite a while – it’s partly down to life happenings but also the result of some general confusion over my dealings with CMHRS and not being totally sure what is happening there. The short version, if you don’t want to read the whole post, is that I’m still waiting on being accepted for psychotherapy. Read on for the full story.

So I saw P, my care coordinator, last week. He had been to see the personality disorders specialists – a panel of experts made up of psychiatrists and psychologists – and they had all sat down to review my case. The hope was that they would consider me stable and resilient enough to finally get into therapy, but they decided that I needed more time before I’d be ready for the referral to be made. I need to work on my behaviours – namely self-harm of any kind I think, but I am sure that there’s other things too. Problem is, I don’t really know what the other things are.

The big scary recommendation from the PD team was that my own psychiatrist weans me off my anti-depressant and anti-psychotic, leaving me with just one medication which is a mood stabiliser. Thankfully P said he would talk to the psychiatrist about it in full, and he also said they would possibly consult my old psychiatrist on the early intervention team who treated me for three years and knows me much better than the new doc who I’ve only seen once! Being really honest, the idea of dropping off two meds is pretty terrifying, as I really don’t want to be back to square one – it’s taken almost four years to get to this point and whilst things aren’t perfect, at least I am not suicidally depressed, or off-the-charts psychotic. Having said that, I really don’t want to be on medication forever, so this could be a good thing; it is just confusing to be told that I need to be more stable on the one hand, but on the other, stopping the meds could well cause a less-stable me.

The final thing that came out of the PD experts’ review of my case is a possible shift from EUPD (emotionally unstable personality disorder, AKA borderline PD) onto a Cluster C personality disorder. The experts think I fit more into a group of three PDs – avoidant, dependant and obsessive-compulsive. Having done a little reading, it isn’t to say that I fit all three, but more that I’m likely to be in that group rather than EUPD. Labels, labels, labels. Given my propensity to like everything in neat boxes in my mind, I really don’t like the vaguer-y of the maybe-this-maybe-that approach. I want to know what I’ve got to deal with and then I can start to understand it and work on things myself whilst I wait for CMHRS to help me more.

That’s pretty much it in the world of my mind for the last week or so. I would be super interested to find out what you all think about formal diagnoses – does having a label help or hinder your recovery?

The World of Labels

Can someone lend me a compass?

I hate trying to write and feeling very uninspired on what to write about. I feel this need to write and write, but when I begin trying to find words, nothing comes. This post may well be a lot of words that really culminate in either a) nothing, or b) an epiphany. Could go either way.

A teacher at my secondary school once told me that when you’re struggling to write, you should just write ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over until something comes to you. I don’t know how effective that method is, and I’m not trying it here. I am sort-of-repeating it in my head as I see which words wind up coming out of my brain onto the screen.

Part of the non-spiration today is that I’ve allowed my mind to stagnate a little this morning, and now I’m finding it hard to corral it into a working state. The Monday-tasks are completed. There’s a to-do list but most of it is relying on other people to reply to emails I’ve sent out; some of them are over-due a reply but only one is ripe for a follow-up – the rest will have to await motivation on the part of the addressee. Thankfully none of it is particularly time-critical so I can be polite and wait patiently. But that doesn’t solve my immediate issue.

Without much happening I am in a funk and I can feel that horrible dreaminess encroaching on the peripheral of my mind. This is what happens, and I hate it – but what can I do? I try to keep myself busy and occupied but in terms of work I don’t seem to know what to do next; I don’t feel that creativity that I know lies buried somewhere in me that’ll help me take my progression here forward. I have a rough-plan of things to do but nothing that feels particularly ‘special’, by which I mean that I can’t seem to identify key areas that I can improve – nor do I have the inspiration to improve them.

So, maybe today will be a long wander through the hours to 4:30. I hope not, I really dislike those kinds of days. I want my time at work to be useful and I want to live up to the potential that I used to think I had. In the meantime I really don’t want to become lost to this drifting, loose state-of-mind – to say the least; it is unpleasant. On Friday I wrote my Care Coordinator an email trying to describe it and marked it as “not urgent” in the subject – not a lie, but I do wish that there was some way someone could help me as I am getting progressively more upset by this feeling that is so vague and yet so upsetting. I see him tomorrow so I just hope he’ll have some bright ideas for combating it.

Can someone lend me a compass?

Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen

A moment to remember, a future to hope for.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori

Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen

That Old Fear

One of the things I really want to change and be better at is dealing with confrontation. I am totally conflict-avoidant and therefore any disagreements put me into such a dark space, and I don’t handle it particularly well. This morning’s argument has been over some work stuff – I was uploading videos but apparently I didn’t do it fast enough or provide enough feedback. I’ve written back to the email saying that I’ve been away three weeks, and the systems we have to use prohibit any semblance of speedy work; but I still now feel like I want to go home, hide in bed and cry my eyes out. It feels horrible. It feels like I’ve really fucked up and failed, even though I know I haven’t.

If I get all psychoanalytical on myself, I can see that this is just a characteristic of being borderline. There’s no rationalisation going on in my mind; as much as I’m trying to reason with myself that it’s just work, it’s not really that big a deal and so on – as much as I am trying to tell myself that it is ok, I am still sitting here thinking I’m going to get into mega trouble and therefore I should just quit. What an overreaction! But knowing and understanding that it’s not a rational reaction doesn’t make it feel any less painful or upsetting.

I saw a lovely lady to enquire about private therapy on Monday. I’m still undecided on the subject of ‘do I start therapy with her or wait for NHS to provide it?’ She was awesome to talk to and I really liked her style of exploring the past to understand the present. But something is telling me to wait for NHS counselling to come through; even though I’ve now been waiting and bouncing around the system for about 12 weeks. I really don’t know what to do.

That Old Fear

This dreaminess has a name

This week has been so muddled up that I’ve reached Friday at a break-neck pace. Returning to work has been rather stressful, but thankfully I spent a day and a half in a meeting room for my induction to the company (a year after I started here, but as I went permanent in July I had to do the training. Sigh…), so I’ve not had much time at my desk in the office around people; the being-around-people bit was my major concern. Yesterday I bailed a little earlier than ‘home time’ but I was not coping well and thought it best to cut my losses and try again today.

I’ve been over on Elefriends for about 6 weeks now; it’s a forum-style support group facilitated by mind.org.uk and it’s pretty fab! Yesterday I was so bothered by feeling so disconnected from myself that I asked the group if anyone else ever got in that kind of fuzzy, dreamy, lost state and one user told me to go look up depersonalisation. Bingo. I’ve been getting incredibly frustrated by my inability to verbalise exactly how it feels, and suddenly I’m reading these articles that describe the experience to a T.

Here’s the Wiki:

Depersonalization (or depersonalisation) is an anomaly of self-awareness. It can consist of a reality or detachment within the self, regarding one’s mind or body, or being a detached observer of oneself. Subjects feel they have changed, and the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience.

Sometimes I hate trying to label and categorise things, but this has been a bothersome state of being for me that happens whenever I get stressed so it was helpful to be reading information that gives me words that fit the experience. I had a psychiatrist appointment on Monday and was trying to describe it to her, before I had the benefit of knowing there was a word for it. I think I came up with something like ‘I feel like I’m not connected to myself, like I’m watching myself doing things, like I don’t quite fit properly in my body.’

I don’t know what I’ll do with the info I now have. I’m in two minds about discussing it with my care coordinator next week when I see him, or if I just muddle along until I finally start therapy. It really does depend on how well I can cope with work in the meantime; therapy may not happen for a while yet, so CC may have short-term ideas to help me deal with things. At least, I hope he will.

This dreaminess has a name

Back to Life, Back to (un)Reality

I suppose it was too much to hope that my first day back in the office would’ve gone smoothly. After three weeks, all my systems accesses have been locked out and I am sitting here awaiting password reset upon password reset. This is tedious at best; at worst it is causing me unneeded stress as I really did want to break the back of the catch-up today. I am only here till 1:30 and then I have to leave to make my psych doc appointment. Today may well be a write-off but I still need to wait out the hours before I can head back to town.

Part of me feels really distant. Has been feeling distant since Saturday; Halloween threw me for a loop as religious festivals tend to do (though Halloween has never been a problem before this year.) The part of me that is triggered by religiosity came to life and, looking back with the benefit of a few days’ hindsight, it was almost a big problem. In the end, I had the sense to take myself off to the land of nod before things escalated. Nonetheless, it was unpleasant.

I am tired of this battleground that my mind has become now. Warring emotions clash with warring thoughts and I am left in the middle of the melee; drowning and waving in the hopes that someone will see and throw me some kind of life jacket. If only I knew what that help looked like, I would ask for it. So far it just feels like nothing truly helps.

Back to Life, Back to (un)Reality