Sissy-Phus

There’s a chip on my shoulder the size of Sisyphus’ boulder,

I’m struggling with him as we roll it up, only for it to fall back down.

He was a cunning knave according to Google, I’m a nervous cunt.

His torment lasted an eternity, I’m lucky I guess.

Luck is something I usually lack, this life of mine is lacklustre and I’m running out of courage,

to carry on,

Pushing forward.

Going Away For a Bit

Title says it all. I’m going away for a bit, I’ll be back. I decided to take advantage of a ridiculously low price stay in a caravan and I need to blow the cobwebs out of my head. I’ll be away for five days and I plan on doing nothing except writing, reading and walking by the sea. I have a few hopes for the week, but we’ll see how they pan out.

Usually I wouldn’t like getting away from home. My home is my “safe space” or my bubble, as I prefer to call it. Anything that happens here can be controlled by me and that’s normally how I like things. I don’t generally like going on holidays for that exact reason. Unless I’m going somewhere I can be distracted 100% of the time I find it hard to leave my home and shut off. But, that’s what I’m hoping this week will do for me.

For the last few months things have been very up and down. The ten year anniversary of Amelia’s death came and went and left a mark on me. I knew it would, but I wasn’t entirely sure just how hard it would hit. I’ve had problems elsewhere in life that piled up and put me in hospital. So, I want to get away from everything – an opportunity to work on myself and focus on new things.

Something I’ve realised over the past few months is, that life is too short. I suppose I should have realised this years ago seeing as my daughter only made it to three years old, but it’s taken all that time and all those mental health problems to bring on that realisation. I’m hoping that this break away will be the first step on the road to me taking back my life.

For too long I’ve been held captive by depression and anxiety and I’ve watched as I set myself up to fail on numerous occasions. Throughout that time I’ve seen friends achieve some truly brilliant things and for the longest time I was envious of what they were doing. I felt trapped, as if I couldn’t reach out and grab what I always wanted. I’m sick of watching the world turn as I sit on the sidelines. So, I’ve made myself a plan (It’s written down on special stationary and everything) and I’m going to work towards my goals slowly, but surely. And it all starts this week.

DePressEd

I don’t wanna go away but I can’t take this,

The fe-eling bubbles up just like this,

It ain’t really like anything happened, or triggered, I just started to feel like this.

It’s a black hole that I start to spiral,

It’s being lost when the waves get tidal,

It’s like the world’s too big, my problems too big, it’s like I just lost my idol.

My veins ache when my heart pounds out,

My mind twists with fright and doubt,

Five rounds with a heavyweight, sorry mum but I can’t wait, oh shit I just lost that bout.

All my friends say we’re right here,

I can’t talk because of their fear,

Are you thinking I’m gonna swallow pride, talk about suicide, let’s get one thing clear.

When I talk about cutting? You flinch,

When I talk about death? Just blinks,

When I confide in you, open the void for you, I wonder what my man thinks.

I can’t stand to be in this world,

Or the fact that I lost my girl,

It’s the reason for feeling this, upchuck sick from the dizziness, I hate it when memories twirl.

My head’s thumping from all the thinking,

I try to bail out, but the ships still sinking,

I’m under attack, and my blood looks black, under the starlight twinkling.

I’ll try to live for one more day,

No, fuck that, survive is what I meant to say,

I’ll curl up on the floor, in the space by the door, please keep the wolves at bay.

Catastrophizing

I have a love/hate relationship with this word. I love it because it sounds cool – Catastrophizing… it sounds bombastic; like it holds weight and gravitas. It’s also a nice long word and I like those because they make you sounds smarter than you really are. However, it’s something I do on a regular basis. I do it every day, in fact. It might be something small that triggers it, or it might be something not so small. Either way the sensation that comes with it is an awful one.

I recently started reading a book to help with my Borderline Personality Disorder and it says the following on Catastrophizing:

“Catastrophizing: This is always expecting or imagining that disaster will occur no matter what, or that terrible things will happen on the basis of a trivial setback.”

It’s something the BPD sufferers do a lot, but also those who suffer from anxiety problems will too. For example, I started chatting to someone on Imgur messaging after making a post. We talked for a few days and then she vanished for weeks. My brain ran into overdrive thinking the worst. In this situation most would probably feel similarly, but it happens with EVERYTHING. Even something as simple as cooking chicken… which I now can’t do because I begin to catastrophize that I’ll undercook it and kill everyone in my house by poisoning them.

There are two major problems with catastrophizing; firstly two sides of my brain begin to argue with each other. I liken them to the angel and devil sat on my shoulders, but in this case they’re the logical and illogical sides of my personality. They bicker about the outcomes and most of the time the devil wins. Which is frustrating because I’m generally a logical person in life, but this can’t be helped, no matter what I tell myself.

The second issue with it are the physical symptoms that come along with it. The heart palpitations, the sweating, the stomach turning itself inside out, the dizziness. It’s not a pleasant feeling and once it gets going, it’s hard to stop. It basically causes panic attacks every day that range in severity.

The frustrating thing is that the catastrophizing is always ‘All or All’. There’s no ‘Nothing’. There’s never a “not to worry, everything will be fine”. The reaction is always turned up to eleven – death, destruction, etc. It’s probably the worst part of my BPD, if I’m honest because it makes me feel like I’m going insane. At times I’ve been so bad that I was rushed to hospital (about 7/8 weeks ago) or feel like I’m constantly about to shit myself with worry.

It’s something I really want to learn how to counter and control. At one point, several years ago I stopped leaving the house because of my fear of what might happen. Thankfully I’m not that bad anymore, but living every day with a constant churning of mind and body is something I’d like to change.

BPD and Me

I’ve written a bit in the past about my struggles with BPD, but I wanted to write about it with a bit more depth as so many people don’t seem to know it’s a thing. Plus, I’m having a lot of trouble with it at the moment, so it should be cathartic. Please note, this will be a LONG post and will likely be full of triggering things like suicide and self harm.

BPD is the abbreviation of Borderline Personality Disorder. I was first diagnosed with the disorder back in 2011 after a referral to a psychiatrist by my GP. I was there to discuss my depression and anxiety, but as I displayed the symptoms for BPD, that became my formal diagnosis.

BPD is not something many people know about. It’s a condition that is usually seeded as a child or young adult from traumatic events and it affects the person in many different ways. Below is the bare bones list of symptoms that medical professionals use to diagnose (The ones in bold are the ones I suffer from):

  1. Impulsive and risky behaviour
  2. Awareness of destructive behaviour, including self injury
  3. Wide mood swings
  4. Short but intense episodes of anxiety or depression
  5. Inappropriate anger and antagonistic behaviour
  6. Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
  7. Suicidal behaviour
  8. Feeling misunderstood, neglected, alone, empty or hopeless
  9. Fear of being alone or abandonment
  10. Feelings of self hate

[Yes. They’re all bold!]

Each of them can be something that anyone can suffer from in their life, but if you manifest and show at least five of these symptoms at once then there’s a high chance you’ll be diagnosed with BPD. In the US, one in ten mental health sufferers have BPD and if you were hospitalised, a quarter of the inpatients would have BPD.

So, let’s look at each of those things individually.

Impulsive and risky behaviour

This tends to appear as gambling, heavy drinking, drug taking, dangerous sexual practices or affairs or driving recklessly. I’ve had my own issues with gambling in the past and even have to avoid seaside fruit/slot machines nowadays. It’s easy to fall into an addictive cycle because BPD is mostly about avoidance of pressures in life. Like all addictive cycles these things start out as a pleasant distraction but become far worse. Those with BPD are much more likely to become addicted to substances or situations. What makes it worse, is that we can usually see the problems but give ourselves over to the behaviour because we are self destructive.

Awareness of destructive behaviour, including self injury

Which brings me to the second point. The horrid kink of BPD is that we like to be right, even when we have to self destruct in order to be correct. For example, a BPD sufferer may say “Oh, you don’t want to get close to me because I’ll hurt you emotionally” and then they will do what they can to prove their point. They can become nasty, violent or abusive in order to show they were right. They may say that “everything I do will fail” and proceed to sabotage the things they do to prove the point.

This is something I’ve done a lot over the years. When I used to write about videogames I was getting to a point where I was quite good at it. I started to find well paid work, which I then didn’t deliver so that I could show that I was a fuck up. I did the same when writing about books… I got to a point where I was seeing success and creating movements in the industry that were garnering attention and I then backed out of all responsibility in order to show that I wasn’t ever really good enough.

The problem, of course, is that you hurt the people around you. I hurt my friend Naomi by backing out of Diverse December and lumping it all on her. I shouldn’t have done it and I know I shouldn’t but I was being self destructive. I lost friends and contacts that took years to make.

Then comes the self harming or “self injury” as professionals prefer to call it. I’ve cut myself and burned myself many times for the past five years. Most of the time it’s in hard to see places so I could hide it from my loved ones. I’ve always done it in times of self hatred or when I’ve pushed myself to destruction. It becomes a way of feeling ‘alive’ and distracts me from emotional pain with physical pain.

Wide mood swings

I hate the mood swings. I can wake up one morning feeling completely fine and by 1pm I will be cutting myself in the bathroom. It happens in the blink of an eye. I could be walking around the shops feeling confident with my head held high and then I might read a comment online or from a friend that makes me doubt myself or rediscover some form of sadness and I will spiral into a pit of oblivion. It’s a very fragile balance at all times.

Short but intense episodes of anxiety or depression

I think this kind of speaks for itself, but it’s worth highlighting that these periods are incredibly intense. As I said above, I can go from happy to suicidal in a matter of minutes, especially when self confidence or self image comes into play.

Inappropriate anger and antagonistic behaviour

I fucking hate this one. I have the nicest friends in the world. They’re all brilliant in their own ways but that won’t stop be from being a massive cunt to them. And it all comes out of thin air. My best friends know to take it with a pinch of salt or to pull me up on it, but I feel bloody awful knowing that I’m hurting the people I love for little to no reason. I’ll often find myself looking for a fight or an argument, again, because it comes back to being self destructive and being ‘in the right’.

At times I’ve found myself actually looking for reasons to be nasty or antagonistic. When this happens I’ve got better at stopping myself… sadly that’s usually by cutting my arms because my brain has no other options. People with BPD often never learned how to cope with situations or lost the ability after trauma.

Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses

Fuck this one right in the ear. Wanna step out in front of a bus? Want to book a last minute holiday that you can’t afford? Want to spend money on those games you’ll never play? Want to cry yourself to sleep because your friend didn’t reply to a text? Do you want to burn your flesh because you weren’t included in a Twitter conversation? How about getting a tattoo that you never thought about before that minute? Or maybe try hating those around you who are just trying to help?

I’ve done all of those. Pathetic, really. But, it’s something that happens and can’t always be helped. It’s hard to actually say why we do these things. It’s a very intense moment that combines both clarity and a complete lack of awareness. I as the BPD sufferer will know that the people on Twitter didn’t mean to leave me out… but what if they did? Then they don’t like me? Well, that compounds the fact that I don’t like myself, which means I have to feel connected to life or punish myself = self injury.

Suicidal behaviour

This comes in a few flavours. Actual attempts (once for me), planning your suicide (a few times) and suicide ideation (every day). The first is pretty obvious. Sadly yes, I have tried to kill myself once. Nobody knows that. Well, you all do now. It was a long time ago and I was “talked down”.

Planning means what it says; that you know how you’ll do it and likely when you’ll do it. My plans changed over the years. At first my method was jumping from a bridge into motorway traffic. Then I flirted with the idea of taking an overdose or cutting my wrists. Recently I’m all about hanging myself from a particular tree. Something that needs to be mentioned comes next…

Suicidal ideation. The constant want to die. But, it’s not always a want to die. For me, it’s a want to step out of the world and remove the constant pain of life. I don’t want to die – I want to see my kids grow up and I want to see if Trump really does destroy civilisation. But, I do want to press pause on things. Sadly that often ends up at suicidal thoughts because it’s the complete removal of all problems.

Feeling misunderstood, neglected, alone, empty or hopeless

I’ve kind of touched on this in a few of the above points. Let’s just say that for many BPD sufferers life is all about being abandoned by those you love. Annoyingly BPD makes you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb and that nobody really knows how we feel. Most of the time that’s the mental health issue lying to us, but we still feel hopeless.

Fear of being alone or abandonment

I don’t usually talk about the outcomes of my therapy sessions, but let’s do it anyway. This was my trigger… twice. I was abandoned by my father before I was even born and then abandoned by my daughter when she died. The former is a worthless cunt, but it doesn’t stop fucking hurting. He didn’t want me. It happens to too many of us. He literally had no interest in me. The latter, couldn’t be helped, but it happened anyway. It’s not so much abandonment when it comes to Amelia, it’s the isolation that came with it; the fact that only I lived certain aspects of her death and saw every fraction of it happen.

Feelings of self hate

Pretty self explanatory, this one. We all do it, but some more than others. Someone who doesn’t have BPD will say “oh I hate myself sometimes” and they’ll feel bad but get on with things. A BPD sufferer may say the same thing, but they will follow it up with days of going over and over the issue, they’ll self injure and begin to act recklessly out of the hate for themselves.

*

My BPD is causing no end of issues at the moment. It’s fracturing relationships with people I care for – making me act like a lunatic (I’m so, so sorry if you’re reading this). It’s stopping me from diving into life and enjoying things – I’ve stopped spending as much time with my kids because “why would they want a loser as a dad?”.

All of the bad decisions I’ve made in life have stemmed from my personality disorder. All of the broken friendships, stupid actions and failed attempts have come from this want to self destruct. I try to pride myself on my writing, but no matter how much I think about it, I can’t quite put this all into words. I want to be able to bottle how I feel and give it to others so they can see what I’m doing to myself every day. I want to be able to depict just how each of these things makes me feel and how much they hurt, but I can’t.

I want other BPD sufferers to know they aren’t alone. I’m trying to learn to live with mine. I’m currently taking steps in many ways to do this; counselling, self help CBT, medication and mindfulness. It’s tough going, but I want to get there.

I want to take a moment here… I want to apologise to several people (who I won’t name) because I let them down. I offended them when I shouldn’t have. I didn’t deliver on promises. I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I pushed you away when all you wanted to do was help. I’m sorry for going overboard or being over the top. I’m sorry for making things awkward.

But Am I Though?

Last night I sat back to watch a film on Amazon Prime. I browsed my watchlist for options and came upon something that looked quite funny. It’s a little known British film called Adult Life Skills. It’s really rather brilliant, especially in terms of acting as you generally forget that you’re watching actors and feel that you’re looking onto people. Anyway, I was laughing my way through it and then the film began to ease in a more dramatic side. The central character, thirty year old Anna, is bereaved from her twin brother Billy. The film focuses a lot on his absence and how it affects her.

I’m used to sad films and generally take them in my stride as I sniffle out the odd tear. But, then came a line of dialogue from Anna which took the wind from my sails. Anna is approached by a guy who quite fancies her and he’s trying to get her to go home (she’d hiding in a wooded area) when she turns to him and says “Am I still a twin even though my twin is dead?”

This line produced instant tears on my part. A very similar question has dogged me for years… Am I still a dad to Amelia even though she died?

The natural reaction is to say yes. The guy in the film said no to Anna. He said no because she lost the other half to her pairing. If I were to ask anyone this question, they’d say “of course, you’re still her dad”. However, to me at least, the word ‘dad’ means something very different to ‘father’. To me, a dad is someone who is always there; someone who helps and protects you. I think in this way because I never had a dad, I had a father. A father being someone who supplies his sperm and little else.

So, using my own terminology I can’t still be her dad because she isn’t here for me to care for. Of course, this is all semantics, really, but it’s still a valid question and one that has sat with me for a very long time. I remember asking people in the first year after Amelia died and people saying yes was kneejerk and comforting. Over the years I’ve found myself still asking, though. After all, Amelia was my firstborn – all my first acts as a dad were with her and as she is no longer here does that mean I’m a dad in past tense only?

You can Google the question and nothing helpful will come up because it’s not a question one feels they’ll ever ask. But, I’ve met many bereaved parents who say the same thing, they wonder what their connection is after the child has passed on. I suppose it depends on how you view a possible afterlife. If your view is that the child is still looking down on you, then perhaps you’re less likely to question that bond as you believe that they’re still with you in some way.

I don’t believe in anything like that. I believe in memories and moments that are stored in my mind, so is this why I find it so hard to figure out my current relationship with my daughter? Or is it because I’m naturally pessimistic? This latter idea would hold weight as, being a pessimist, I question everything more than I would if I lived a more optimistic life. So, the question still stands; Am I still her dad?

I suppose, no matter how much I ask, I don’t really want an answer. Either outcome will only solidify my sadness further and it’s a question that can’t be objectively answered, because it comes down to the personal beliefs of the individual.

Owning My Own Land

By my 25th birthday I owned a plot of land. It’s in a quiet area although it’s fairly built up as residents keep appearing. It’s set just off of a main road but the noise from the traffic doesn’t really carry. There’s a Tesco about 3 minutes away and a new McDonalds has recently opened near the bowling alley. The actual plot is surrounded by greenery and all types of stone… but mostly granite; some marble. To reach my plot, you need to walk past so many others; mine is tucked away near the back. It won’t be long and there won’t be any space left.

They don’t allow cars, but it’s a nice peaceful walk. The whole area is kept tidy by the local council, but there’s never really any rubbish about. Most people just leave flowers. There’s a certain ambience to the area, it’s all very hushed. It’s quite religious, but there’s a wonderful diversity of people. Of course, people of all ages are here. Elderly next to children, young men next to baby girls. A quick scan of the grounds and you can see plenty of Christian crosses and Stars of David.

There are photographs dotted around and usually always a balloon lending a birthday atmosphere. One of my direct neighbours has left their plot to lie derelict and broken. All that adorns their land is a small wooden cross with a dirty brass plaque. Old, plastic flowers stay in place and are faded by the sun and the rain.

Christmas is always a lovely time. Many plots are decorated with wreathes or tiny Christmas trees with red and gold baubles. Sadly the visits tend to drop off again after Boxing day and the council men usually throw out the festive decorations because the families don’t return for weeks.

It’s not much of a plot but it’s mine. The deed to it sits in a drawer inside a sealed envelope. Only one resident on the plot so far, thankfully. Room for two more, apparently.

Poem from 2014: Intra-Cranial

Intra-Cranial
How did you get this way     what brought you here
That is a long story     and a difficult one to tell     my daughter Died
God
it was hard     but     the end
Do you want to tell me     about the end
It must have been difficult

Yes     in a room     a picture     there may have been
the light     the seat     the tears
A picture
A scan     my mind     can’t recollect

What did she say
That it would be hard
that the second surgery     the craniectomy     went well     a section removed
A section of her skull     to stop the swell
they did another     scan in the morning

it was worse     her brain had
It’s okay     you don’t have to
But     I do
the grey and white cells     there was no definition
now

she said 80 percent
gone
she said Thiopentone was maximum     severe cerebral odema
I asked the chances     she said she wouldn’t

walk     talk     see     hear     feed
broken     I asked     do you think it best that we turn off support
What did she say
She said     she said it was a brave choice     her lungs     diabetes insipidus
she said she would make arrangements     and asked if she could     I said no

all I wanted was to go back
back to her bedside
and that was what she said

Poem from 2014: Fading

Fading.

Here’s a shard of warmth I’ll carry, that faded from you.

I’m holding my breath, in mimicry, uselessly urging, knowing finality,

but,

if I? Will you?

That teasing sign of life is absent,

strength sinks through me, yet there is enough for this,

for you.

On the backs of eyelids, this snapshot will forever remain.

You lay here, I sit, daring not to move, so much like three years past.

That was then. Different machines, another room,

in my arms, I bear your weight.

The silence is a mute scream, an inward scar rending throughout,

no more Banana Pancakes, only the rustle of clothes plays your exit.

You are our fixed point.

Everyone leaves,

everybody’s here.

Beyond, snow falls as feathers gather,

creating a

space,

a blank

void,

a clean canvas, this unwanted fresh start.

Time runs and slips, changing form,

once we begged and now we begin again,

please.

Not long left, messages are passed and broadcast like smoke signals,

the world needs to know! God damn you, fuck you any lords above!

Our tears flow over the sentence given,

she cries too, they aren’t robots, at all.

The only possible absolute is a question, a decision,

one that will linger and haunt, forever at my back,

until my time comes.

Alone then, as now.

There may have been a picture, she said eighty percent,

I wish the conversation had been different,

my sweet girl.

Poem from 2014: Five Pounds? Oh, Okay.

Five Pounds?! Oh, Okay.

Since He and I combined, I waited for this moment.
I prayed to see the sun, if only a glimpse, yearning to escape the darkness.
Passed from calloused palm to your eager hand. You hold me tightly with a clammy touch.
I will keep lookout; a playful, rotund sentry.
I’ve heard rumours our time may be short.
Our tightness, our connection is unravelling – unknown to you.
Perhaps I longed too hard for freedom, perhaps too willingly,
I can’t cling on, I will steal a last look at your joy. The joy I bring.

Your piercing cry is obliterated by altitude. Solidity rushes into space.
Eyes glance up, hands shading the glare. I sense sadness envelop those who witness.
Some of them point.
Others sip their coffees, distracted by chirps and pips. A flashing in their hands.
I will never know your name. I am now uncatchable; dwindling,
flapping uselessly in the wind,
I cannot change this fate.

Warmth fades, deflating me. He is inside, fighting for me,
trying to prevent the inevitable.
He is wrapped in glimmer, I am beaded with moisture, a sparkle, a dazzling dot,
just a speck in a cloud.
Vapour trails frame my end of days.
There goes my escaping breath,
He rises. He is noble.