Tuesday, 24 November 2009

No fate but what we make?

I've had a run of what can only be described as bad luck this past year.
First I went completely bonkers and spent the year battling anxiety, panic attacks, depression and agoraphobia.
I know why I just don't know how!
I was always the strong one, the organiser, the life and soul, the one that always did lots of stuff. I was the one that was never off sick from work and had a joie de vivre unparalleled by most.
That was was me.
And then one day....BAM! I just broke down...just like that.
My poor OH had to grow accustomed to stepping over a sobbing mess, sprawled out in the hall way when he came home from work.
I had to grow accustomed to not wanting to go out, see my friends, go to work...even eat.

The doctor put me on SSRIs and....yep, just my luck. They made me violently ill so I had to come off 'em pretty sharpish.
I begged her to refer me to CBT but you all know that that is as rare as hen's teeth on the NHS so she gave me Beta Blockers instead.

Still, I spent the rest of the year fighting it.
I FORCED myself to go outside.
Now what this entails when you are agoraphobic is tiptoeing out from your flat dearly hoping that you will not be caught by a neighbour.
Once you are out of the door, you walk, hunched, robot-like, head down, hood up and force yourself to go where you need to be. Usually for me, my first forays involved the local shop.
I would buy my items, eyes faced down, body language closed, trying to involve as little human contact as possible.
And then I would run home and be violently sick.
But it gets better...you go out for a little longer the next day, possibly further afield and possibly even in broad daylight.
And when you return home safely again, you begin to realise, "Well that wasn't so bad! I didn't die!"
And the Dante's Inferno raging inside your trouble mind begins to give way to a more manageable riot of thoughts.

After a few days, you add in more and more activities and before you know it, you start eating again and can go back to work.
My line of work involves lots of conversations.
Now I may appear out going, but actually, I am total loner and find it difficult to sustain conversations without feeling exhausted.
Every time I hold a conversation, I am thinking:
"Am I behaving appropriately?
Am I doing the small talk right?
Am I showing enough interest in your boiler problems with my conversational and physical gestures?"

And I have had to do this every single day for many, many years in a line of work that I LOVE...but find tough at times because of all the conversations!

But when I bounce back, boy do I bounce back!
I am this bold, fearless, outgoing and cheery individual willing to take on any challenge that the world might throw at me.

The trouble is...and here's the rub:
It only takes a little disaster to set me back to square one again, because folks, I am NOT YET FULLY HEALED!!!!!
It can take up to and well over and sometimes NEVER two years for someone to recover from a break down as severe as mine.

So I have to treat it as if it were M.E. which means I cannot over do things.
A very wise friend introduced me to The Spoon Theory and it revolutionised my way of thinking.

Read it.
And then when I tell you "I am sorry I can't come out to the pub with you tonight because I am out of spoons!" you will know what I am on about.
It's the best way to explain to people who are well and full of life and vitality what it is like to have to cope with a long term illness.

I was doing so well. I had returned to work and was absolutely loving it.
I lasted one unimpressive week before I fell again.

And why did I fall?

I was victim of fraud....£2k wiped from my combined bank accounts over night...which meant having to phone people.
I am phonaphobic.
But I did it.
And then my OH contravened with his behaviour leaving me pacing up and down fretting all weekend.
And then I got me a shoulder injury and two massive black eyes by falling out of bed during my sleep (I am prone to night fits sadly).

And then there was a fair bit of drama involving my neighbours.

And then I just simply caved in again.
Just like that.
I crumpled like a piece of paper in a fist and fell to the metaphorical floor once more.

But the point of this post is not to incur sympathy...it is simply to cry out loud:


I am kind to my friends, I give to charity, I give money to tramps, I nearly always tell the truth, I pet fluffy kittens....I am a good, kind and caring person.
Surely I should have racked up some good karma by now?

Oh, and one final irony..... and I want you to laugh at this.

Since I have had to deal with doctors, metal health nurses, banks, etc, etc, I conquered my phonaphobia...I was even getting SO into using phones that I began to covet and cherish my land line phone and the lovely conversations I could have on it with my dearest friends.

And then the phone died.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Far flung places

I have been following the adventures of my friend, B.
She has spent the last 6 months working in the far east with kiddies, teaching.
She speaks of intoxicatingly exotic smells and sounds, warm climates and azure blue seas. She speaks of peace and heartbreak and beauty all played out under perpetually blue skies, peppered with a sprinkling of palms wavering gently in the breeze.

I want to do that.
I want to do that so much.
But unlike me, she is unbound.
She does not own a house or feel beholden to a significant other.
She is free to pursue paradise.
I was raised Catholic. I don't follow the religion now, as an adult...but the sense of guilt instilled upon me is very prevalent.
I chose a caring profession and I chose to abandon my personal desires in favour of taking care of others first.
But as a late 30 something, I am beginning to realise that my choices are becoming ever more limited.
I want to dance barefoot on foreign sands.
I want to gaze at the Southern Cross, flat on my back, arms behind my head, glass of exotic moonshine by my side.
I want to share this with someone that loves it as much as I do...with a passion rather than just "it's a nice holiday."
I want to write about it, photograph it, film it, LIVE it.

Where do I want to go?
EVERYWHERE!!! For the rest of my life I want to go EVERYWHERE!!!!

But I chose to care for others for my career and those kind of jobs never send you anywhere other than housing estates and the bleak greyness of Britain.

I am lucky that my dad lives in Canada. Even better, he lives in a Ski resort. It's good, clean, healthy North American living out there. I love it when I go.
But it is familiar territory. I've been to Canada and The States so many times now that it becoming as familiar to me as a well loved teddy bear.
I want danger, adventure...the edge.
I want to live until I die with one foot on the horizon into the unknown...but I am afraid to do it alone.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


It's times like these when a gal needs her Mum!
I've contracted one of those stupid, 24 hour puke-fests that have been lurking around the school.
I pick up everything these days, due to my precarious immune system, but thankfully, because of genetic robustness, I bounce back quicker than the rules of biology might have you believe.

However, it's times like these that a gal needs her mum!
I am old enough to be a mum myself and, on the estate where I work, I am old enough to be a grandmother! LOL!
But chronological and mental age are two different animals.
On the inside, I am a frightened and confused teenager most of the time (and actually on the outside too, if the shops that sell booze would have one believe).
Most of the time I enjoy being a responsible adult with a highly responsible job.
Most of the time I enjoy being the one who gives the advice, rather than takes it.

But tonight, I just want my Mum.
I want to be able to snuggle up to her as she mops my fevered brow in between puking sessions and to feel utterly safe in her arms.
When was the last time you felt utterly safe?

Answer carefully.
For most of us, it was a loooong time ago.

I remember the early Autumn of 1994.
Many of you on here know very well that I HATE Autumn.
The main reasons that I give are the changes in temperature and the dying of Summer.
But it runs deeper than that.

I knew, by late September of 1994 that my Mum was dying. No second chances... this was it for her.
I watched as she withered with the leaves and mirrored the ever greying skies.
I watched as her beautiful and effervescent lights slowly sunk to the horizon a little earlier each day, in tune with the Autumn sun.

It was an Indian Summer that year.
Summer stretched her golden arms out and breathed some of her warmth well into October.
This meant that my mother and I could continue our little tradition of sitting on the bench in the garden, under the stars of an evening while Dad pottered around indoors.
Mum and I would just sit and talk.
And talk.
And talk.
And sometimes we would stop to smell the scent of the flowers carried on the night air and the hint of Autumn threading and entwining its own scents in between.

We had a world of our own, we two...mother and daughter, sister and sister, friend and friend.
It was the truest and most beautiful of loves I have ever known.

One day, I opened up to my Mum as I often and always did.
I knew that she was dying. I knew that she had enough on her mind, but I spoke to her any way.

There were things that I had not told her...not told anyone.
I am a keeper of secrets, me. I keep those of others' and more especially, I keep my own.
I am a creeper of the underworld sometimes...I sneak off and do remarkably precarious things that are so out of character for me that I never tell of them because nobody would believe me anyway. And actually, if I did tell of them, I would have to face up to the fact that there is a very dark and dangerous faery of a creature residing within!

So that night, barely out of my teens, I confessed all.
I had racked up a fair pile of nefarious and dangerous adventures in my short time on this earth... probably more than the average forty year old. One thing I knew how to do was to LIVE and to live in a very quiet and subtle way...but also to push every single boundary I could throw myself at...just so long as it was under cover of darkness and out of view.

She wrapped her withered arms around me and stroked my hair as I sobbed my confessions into her diseased breast.
I knew that this was probably my last chance to let the one person that I had ever loved this deeply to truly know her daughter.

After I was done, she recoiled.
She asked if I could hold her as she held me so that she may honour me with her own confessions.

So I curled around her like a velvet shawl and I held her tight and cradled her as if I might be the only thing in this world that could keep her flesh from falling.

She then spilled out 54 years worth of secrets and hidden desires and regrets and longings and mistakes and heartbreak.
They spilled out of her and onto me like a torrent of water from a broken levy.
As she sobbed and spoke, I came to realise that after barely twenty years on this Earth, I had been given the chance to open my eyes and never regret the things I had never done...or the things that I HAD done.
My mother had been my carer, my best friend, a good wife and all things to every one.

But she had spent her life hiding what was, essentially, the fact that she was a poet, a dreamer, a princess, an intellect...and someone waiting for the Knight that never came.

A month later, she died.
She died in my arms in an ambulance. I whispered that I loved her and she nodded. I was the last person she ever saw with living eyes.

My world fell apart.
I had lost the only true love I had ever had and boy, was I pissed off.
I went off the rails.
I messed up my relationship with my poor boyfriend Dave by being a total fruit loop.
I went out every night and drank everything that I came into contact with.
I did whatever it took to blot out any sense of emotion or feeling.
This happened for a very long time.

But eventually, one wakes up from such folly and gets on with life.
I woke up and got on with life.

However, sometimes, when you are alone in the dark and feeling poorly and sorry for yourself, all you want is the one thing that you can never have...true, unconditional love enveloping you with no codicil, no price: just pure, 100% proof love bottled and sold to you with no request for ID and no questions asked...

Back in the day

An LJ thread on one of my previous posts (of which there are many I am sad to say) made me start thinking about my university days back in 1790 or there abouts.

I went to one of those "really posh" universities.
Back in the day, if you wanted to be classed as a true academic, you went to one of the Oxbridge colleges or, as a second best, one of the London ones. I qualified for Oxbridge of course, (3 straight As at A level plus an S level in English lit) but felt that I would be rather out of place there, given my back ground...and actually, I had the pick of the unis for my chosen subject. The two best ones were both London colleges. One was actually slap bang in the middle of London and the other was based to the far west of it, near Windsor Great park.
The wild frontiers of Middle England.
I am a suburbanite gal and certainly not a lover of the bright lights and bustle of London, so I plumped for the campus in the trees and fields.

Isn't it beautiful?
Someone who lives in the world of fairy tales and imagination like me would easily be seduced by it.
And I was.
Unfortunately, it attracted every single kind of upper class twat that you could ever imagine.
Champagne and Pimms on the lawns every Saturday for them... 3 weekend and evening jobs to pay the fees for me.
The first Summer ball was quite a juxtaposition.
I was part of the "ents team" (read that as a regular concubine of the ents officer who was a goth) and we got in some amazing bands.
For the Summer ball, we got in Fields of the Nephilim who played to a bunch of beered up hoorays in ball gowns and black ties.
My ball dress?
Funnily enough I still have it. It still fits even though I am no longer eighteen.
It was the poshest thing I ever owned.
My friend Kate and I went to Laura Ashley in Windsor to be fitted and kitted.
She had hundreds of pounds to spend and was slim and blonde and beautiful.
I was dark, dusky, short and curvy (but never the less slim... just not willowy and princess-like)
I had saved £70 after much hard graft in the shoe shop, the garden centre and the double glazing company. The latter paid me well because the millionaire boss aged 70 paid me to accompany him to dinner because I looked good on his arm. I earned a lot of money from being an escort.

I digress...back to the dress.
Even back then, you could not get a ball gown for under £100 at Laura Ashley...but I wanted to have one. Just the once.
Kate tried on various satin beauties that clung to her as if they were made to be worn by her.
I tried on many myself, but the price tags made them slip from my flesh as if I were covered in oil.

I eventually made a desperate plea to the snooty shop assistant:
"Have you got anything in the back that is broken or not quite right? Something that you would not sell out front but can be repaired?"

As it happened, they did.
It was a tad floral, but fitted me like a dream and I looked like a little princess in it.
The zip was broken and some of the seams were a bit frayed, but they sold it to me for £60.
I saved my remaining tenner towards buying some make up to make me look pretty on the night.

Once back at Uni, I lovingly repaired that dress and I went to the ball.
And I danced to Fields of the Nephilim in the courtyard of the castle under the moonlight.

And for that night, I was a princess.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Local wildlife

We have an indigenous wood pigeon. I call him "Woody". Not because of his species name but because of the fact that he smokes 60 woodbines per day.
Plus he always has a pigeon sized can of special brew in his left claw whilst rolling around drunkenly in the bushes.
He is the special "Brighton" kind of wood pigeon.
You see, back up in London, where I used to live, we had a wood pigeon too. He would coo gently and rhythmically and make me think of burnt umber on canvas and bouncy castles.
His tonality was soothing and gentle.
But this one we have here in Brighton?
Well, the local tramp would see him as kindred.
This pigeon coughs rather than coos. It does! "cough, cough, cough" When it should actually be "coo coo coo!"
Why do we always get the rubbish birds here in Brighton?
All we get are raucous sea gulls (which are chavs disguised with feathers) and manky old pigeons.
That's about it.
Our ecosystem is fucked.
Either that or all the best birds are to be found in London....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

What it is like to go a bit mental by Elizabeth Green aged XXand a half.

I am writing this because I want my work place to truly know what is going on with me and why I have hardly been able to set foot in the place this past few months.
I think it is important that they read this because I know that in the back of my mind, they are not completely aware of what “going a bit mental” means.

I know many mentally ill people despise the term “going a bit mental” but I like it because it appeals to my sense of irony and is, essentially true.
What work doesn’t realise about me is that I have a history of “going a bit mental.”
I went a bit mental on a regular basis as a kid and many a child psychologist failed to diagnose me with a nice, neat pigeon holed condition.
They eventually settled upon Synaesthesia and given how my brain works, I have always agreed that they got it right. However, I have never wanted to talk about it until now.
What happens with me (because, I am almost 100% certain this is because of my Synaesthesia) is that sometimes I reach sensory overload when I have had too much trauma. Given that so many people and most of my family that I love have died under tragic circumstances in the past two years, I was building up for an overload of sensation and emotion.
I had to sit out two deaths, day and night and pick up a broken boyfriend.
I lost two dear friends to cancer and another to suicide. I had to talk a friend down from suicide and saved him...but was unable to save myself.

Oh, and these are the things I can’t tell you about. A lot of dark, dark stuff happened in my child hood which are only just emerging into my conciousness now.
Plus I have this Synaesthesia. It is a real condition and not a fabricated excuse.
Synaesthestes feel everything more accutely because of their mixed up wiring. Sometimes even a sound or a smell can send me into paroxysms of joy...or fear.

Since I had my break down, I have not been able to leave the house for days on end at times,because everything is too noisy and bright and confusing.
I am NOT on drugs...this is just the way my mind works.

I have managed to keep it hidden and under control for years now. My condition manifests itself through song writing and the way, perhaps I talk to the children at school but it has otherwise been kept in check.

Until now.
Now, you find me as I type this having just been sick (again), shaking like a leaf and with muscles made of titanium. The worst thing is the muscle stiffness...it hurts like Hell.
I need to go to yoga and get outside for some exercise as I know that helps, but right now, outside is too bright and noisy and downright terrifying.
I need to get back to work.
I miss the kids...but a school is just about as hectic an environment you can get.
So I need to be truly ready before I return.

All of this makes me so, so miserable.
I just want to be normal again (for a given value of normal) and get on with life, see people, do my job well...

As I type this, the very thought of even having to talk to another person is sending my anxiety through the roof. Even my doctor has to speak to me over the phone rather than me going to the surgery!
I know the things that I have to do to get well again involve eating food, talking to people and leaving the house.
When I am ready to face the world again, I pick myself up and do these things.
But when I get home, the stress it has caused leads me straight to the bathroom for a good old session of projectile vomiting.

I want you to know just how bad and awful I feel for much of the day.
I also want you to know that I have no real idea why I suddenly got so sick when others, who have been through similar traumas never do.
I ask myself “Why me?!” every single day.

I don’t have a concrete answer.
But I wish someone could come along and prescribe a cure.
It seems that the mind is the most difficult organ to heal.

And I am desperate for the powers that be at work to realise just HOW sick I really am but just HOW desperate I am to return to a job I love.

Monday, 18 May 2009

What would Liz do?

I was asked, long ago by a kind and wise failure of a lady.
“What would Liz do?”
I was asked this because I did not know what to do.
The world left me dazzled by its turning and my (supposed) place in it.
But I did not really know my place and had never yet found anything that I wanted to do.

She looked at me, quizzically, owl-esque and perhaps slightly angrily.
“You don’t know what to do?”

I replied:
“Well, yes, I want to find the person that loves me to the point that his joints ache from reaching out to touch me.
I want us to tread the freshly washed sand from a new tide in a new place. I want us to gaze at the blue skies and our own eyes simultaneously. I want us to run, so very fast because we can... and because it brings delight to our souls. And I want to be able to put down in words and music just how wonderful this all is, so that others have footprints to follow.
That is what I want.”

She looked at me and said, “So you are not asking for much are you?”
And then she added:
“I don’t know a recruitment agency for that, but have you thought about a career in advertising?”

I never pursued her advice because I could never advocate the selling of false dreams...

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Vanilla Gravel

Last night, an old friend asked me why I had not updated my blog in some time.

“I am afraid that you appeared to be the equivalent of an online coma victim, so I am sorry, but I deleted you.”

It seems that euthanasia is alive and well in the digital world yet it still remains a controversial subject here among the flesh and blood of the living.

So, why have I not been writing?

It could be because I am engrossed in shaping and forming my first novel.

It could be because I am working on music projects at the moment.

Or it could be because, for the past five months, I have been stark, raving bonkers.

Let’s go with all three shall we?

Yes, let’s.

I have decided to leave the two most interesting subjects out of the three offered above, because they will tell their own tales once they have been finished.

The latter of the three is the one I have decided to make the subject of this very late in the day blog entry.

It cannot tell its own story, so I have to tell it myself.

I have Synaethesia.

Explained simply, it is a neurological condition whereby one’s senses can become muddled in quite a delightful, creative, yet ultimately confusing way.

The most common form manifests itself in grapheme-colour form. This is when people associate letters, words, days of the week and so forth with certain colours.

Less common, is the form that I have which basically consists of every single thought, word, object, verb, adjective and idea having its own colour, form, texture, sound, smell and taste.

A classic example I use it that one of my favourite sounds is that of footsteps on crunchy gravel. For me, I taste vanilla ice cream (the good quality stuff with vanilla pod grindings in it) and see blue skies and hear sparrows.

However, if one were to ask another person what the sound of gravel under foot might conjure, they would most likely associate it with eating a chocolate chip cookie (because of the sound) and grey skies (because of the colour of gravel).

Well, my mind does not work like that, I am afraid.

As a child, I was sent to a string of child psychologists and psychiatrists. I was a very difficult little madam. I would not socialise with other children because they were noisy and confusing and had too many colours. I had terrible tantrums and the craziest of obsessions.

This was the Seventies folks, and there wasn’t a whirling array of brightly coloured umbrella terms that I could be tick-boxed into. Back then, there were no such things as ADHD, Bi-polarism, Apergers, yadyada...you were lucky if you got Scizophrenia as a diagnosis. Of course, these terms were all well known among the most erudite of mental health professionals, but I did not come from a family that frequented Harley Street.

I was, however, rather lucky. The kiddie psych that my parents eventually settled with was NOT from Harley Street, but I suspect she hung around the back doors of the eminent doctors there, to get her autograph book signed.

She did test after test and concluded that I got my senses muddled when I tried to describe things. She had heard of the term Synaesthesia, looked into the research, did further tests and eventually concluded that this was all I had. Nothing to worry about.

“She’ll probably grow up to be an artist or a musician or a writer.”

I grew up to be all three...but in a rather lackadaisical way, with very little talent in extracting the wonderful imaginary world in which I inhabited so that others could see it with their own, non-Synnie eyes.

Sadly, Synnies are often as normal as normal gets and don’t exhibit any more signs of genius than any given member of the non-Synnie public.

However, we are never bored. A train ride through Birmingham can be as exciting to us a day at Thorpe Park on fast track.

The downside is when one is bombarded with too much experience and trauma all in one go.

I have had a lot of trauma and unresolved grief in the past two years. Plus, I am trapped in a job that I simply despise. I have felt trapped, confused and disillusioned for a long time.

We Synnies are prone to mental illnesses when that happens. Just a bit of short circuit if you will. Imagine taking all the LSD in the world and then having to go to work.

When my brain short circuits, it is like that.

It is Dante’s Inferno under the Duvet.

It makes Lovecraft appear as cuddly as Bungle and Zippy.

It makes life impossible unless you sit in a darkened room with no outside stimuli until the mind and body begin to quiten down and sounds and sights and senses can be slowly re-introduced.

The old fashioned term would be “Nervous Breakdown”.

Doctors hate that term.

But they love telling you that you are suffering from depression and anxiety. They love handing out pills made of pure rat poison that are “supposed” to make you better.

They love telling you that what you really need (CBT and NO DRUGS!) is tantamount to comedy and are you having a laugh?!

They are happy to send you away, knowing full well what these kinds of drugs can do to a mind like mine and they don’t mind one bit that all of your creativity and gushingly outstanding visions of a beautiful world is reduced to grey...like gravel under a steely sky.

Thankfully, there is a happy ending.

I crunched on gravel for the first time in months, yesterday... and I tasted the faintest hint of vanilla rushing like a tiny Summer wave from the back of my tongue to the very tip until it washed up against my cheeks and made them tingle.

As to the pills? I suspect they are washing up and out against the sides of the nearest sewerage outlet as I type.

I hope the local fish population doesn’t suddenly get the urge to end it all as a result...