This blog was almost called ‘Hypnotizing Chickens’ – a lyric from the Iggy Pop song ‘Lust for Life’. ‘Chickens’ is my go-to word. I say it a lot. I write it down in funny script. I annoy people by answering everything with ‘Chickens’ or ‘made of Chickens’. It started some years ago, almost a decade. I like real chickens – hens, particularly funky ones like Polish Hens who have wonderful plumage, or Burmese Bantam Roosters who have feathery feet. But, in the title to this post, I am referring to myself. It’s been hot in Bowermanland, and heat does not suit me. I have stiff joints – broken toes, Wry Neck (Torticollis), frozen left ankle. I have sensitive joints – knees, elbows, shoulders, ribs. I get pain in all of these places. Long has it been said that arthritic or damaged joints like heat and hate cold. My joints hate heat. They loathe it: they would take it outside and kick it to death if they could. They don’t like extreme cold either, but it has to be pretty extreme (by British standards – so -2 or lower). But it’s not just my joints that hate the heat. All the soft bits attached to them do too. I don’t know what causes my extreme reaction to heat – my complete inability to function, and the urge I get to cry when the temperature goes above about 16 degrees. For me trying to move in heat is like trying to wade through jelly from the neck down. I sweat a great deal, I can’t cool down, my heart rate goes crazy and I even find it difficult to breathe. There is no point in asking me to do anything that involves thought when it’s hot – I can’t do it. It’s not even a question of concentration, it’s at a lower level than that, I can barely write my name when I’m hot. Yes, my hands seize up, my knees ‘ping’, my neck feels like concrete and my skull like someone is trying to squeeze it into a tiny hat; but it’s more. I seriously feel like I’m dying when I’m hot. This weekend I just lay on my bed in my pants with the windows open, passing in and out of sleep, getting up for urination and re-hydration in the early hours. That is how I shall spend my Summer, if we have one. Why am I sharing all this with you? Because there is a misconception about people with physical pain and heat (I’ve had 20 years of “Oh, I thought hot weather was good for your joints!”) and because it brings up another subject: Depression.
Hang with me, it will become clear.
Being hot makes me miserable – properly sad, and sometimes a little scared. But it doesn’t make me Depressed. In fact the sunshine and brightness, the way the air smells in Summer as a hot evening cools, makes me feel good. I just can’t go out in it. I may be feeling physically terrible, but that does not mean I will be feeling mentally terrible. It is true that sometimes feeling physically bad (pain mainly) can lead to greater Depression. Certainly exhaustion does this. But the two are not universally linked.
This lack of link is being addressed here because on Sunday (a very hot day in Bowermanland), in the evening, I received a call from my local Mental Health Service (MHS for short). It shocked me as I’ve never been called on a Sunday before by any health service. The MHS called because I had been referred to them by my GP for an assessment. I first started using them in 2006 and stopped in 2011. 2001-2003 and 2006-2008 were ‘Peak Loony’* in Bowermanland. Luckily the second dates saw me getting support and help, when the first dates (which coincided with University) did not. However, while being with the MHS I had been medicated (Citalopram and Diazepam) and given therapy (CBT and Group) and things went well until last year. Ahh, 2015, a peach. The clusterfuck that saw my Aunt Nan become psychotic and then suddenly die**, my being taken off of ESA (found Fit For Work) the same week as my Mum was diagnosed with Terminal Lung Cancer (that would be 1 year this week), my Dad in response to this, destroy our house*** and my Mum sicken and die, also saw me stretched a bit thin. I bimbled along. I was very busy. But now 2015 has come back to bite me on the arse twofold. 1) I have to re-apply for my ESA. When Mum was alive it was decided that I would have parental support in the manner of monthly money – 50% of what I was getting on ESA – and that after Mum died, I would apply again for ESA. This is not an easy thing. This, for me, is stressful. Extremely stressful. I have Depression, but I also suffer from severe Anxiety and Hypertension. I am on Beta-Blockers and Diazepam. ESA makes my Anxiety hit its ceiling. Seizures happen, palpitations, nosebleeds and Trichotillomania. 2) Having coped in the late months of 2015 after my Mum’s death in October; after organising the funeral, sorting and giving many of her clothes to charity, giving her collected pennies to the church for their homeless shelter, helping my Dad with his on-going re-building of our house and getting used to her lack, my shell finally buckled. And to bring variety, buckled in new and exciting ways. For the first time in my life I actually, properly, hurt myself. I carved a symbol in my arm with a needle. I scar easily, I didn’t want to bleed (need not to let Dad know) – therefore needle scratches. I’ve been pulling my head hair out for 20 years, but I’ve never cut myself. But it happened. And I told my GP, and she referred me to the MHS and they called me on a very hot Sunday to ask me some questions and get me an appointment. That will happen next week.
*’Loony’ – I call myself a loony. I call myself lots of things. ‘Wonky’ is another one. I use a lot of terms that are generally regarded as bad, and that were common in The Bad Old Days. I don’t call other people by those names unless they too, use them to and with me. So I won’t refer to an unknown depressive, or even a known one, as ‘Loony’, or disabled stranger as ‘A Wonky’. I know that many people won’t find this ok. They won’t like my lexicon. That is just the way I have developed. If you don’t like my language, mentally add a ‘bleep’ when reading those words. Scold me in your mind etc.
**My Aunt Nan – my Mum’s older sister and last relative. She had a break-down late 2014 and by February 2015 she was very, very mentally ill. On the first Friday in April her health visitor noticed she was physically sick and had her taken into hospital. She was diagnosed with a bladder infection. On the following Monday, after a visit from my Mum, she got up from her chair and fell down dead in the hospital. She had DVT and a Pulmonary Embolism. My Mum had been living with her and her husband in Bucks 3-4 days a week since November – trying to help. It did mean I didn’t see my Mum a lot in the months before she was diagnosed as sick. I will admit to being angry about this. I’m not proud of it. Her sister’s death affected my Mum a great deal.
*** Mum and Dad had not decorated this house since I was born. They already had plans to renovate – but my Dad not retiring and then my Aunt getting sick got in the way. So, my Dad reacted to my Mum’s diagnosis by ploughing ahead with the work. My Mum was given 6 months to live from May. By August our halls, stairs and two rooms had been stripped, re-plastered and painted. New coving, new fire-places, no lights, no shelves, no curtains, bare floorboards, dust…. When my Mum was lying in a hospital bed in our living room on 24/7 oxygen and regular Oramorph, she lay in a freshly painted room with a new fireplace, but no f*cking lights. I had lamps plugged in all over the place. And there was lining paper on the f*cking windows in place of curtains. My Dad is a Special Snowflake. We still have the lining paper. The lights arrived just after she died.
Mr.Pop – yes, I did first hear this on the ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack. I was too young (or timid) to see the film, but I listened to the OST while doing my GCSEs. It’s a soundtrack that still stands up for me.