Bad Motherfucker called Stagger Lee…

This is going to be one ranting moaning bitchfest from the off, I warn ye, there is no joy in this post. So if you want fairies and unicorn enemas, jog on.

In no particular order, we shall begin with fear and threats.

I live in a big jumbled pigsty of a house. When my Mum got diagnosed with terminal Cancer in 2015, my Dad destroyed the house and got the builders in to renovate. All the stuff from the rooms to be ‘done’ was stuffed into other rooms. Crammed, rammed, bullied and packed into every inch. Think a tiny Japanese guy eating 35 hotdogs in 40 minutes. You know the stuff. Like a cartoon. Since my Mum’s death, we’ve been trying to sort out the house. The ‘we’ is mainly me when it comes to sorting. My Dad takes months to build a box round the gas meter. I am left with the sorting and throwing out. We have a shed bigger than most London flats full of my Dad’s things, but I have to throw mine out. When I was employed, I bought a LOT of stuff. Over the years since then, I have rid myself of most of it, but three things remain: jewellery, shoes and handbags. When I was employed, I went out a great deal, and actually used the handbags – but I stopped using them, but still added to the collection. The shoes are a different and deeper matter. I’m not going to lie, it’s very basic. As a child and teen with large feet (uk size 9) that were also deformed, I could not get shoes. Bingo! The internet and shops deciding to go over size 8! And also a wage and big time depression= shoe problem. I have whittled my shoes down to: formal flats I can genuinely wear, heels I had a fucking good time in, heels I love. I’ve rid myself of about 30 pairs of shoes already, and numerous handbags, also 3 bags of jewellery and hair accessories. So, I have been getting rid. A decade ago I was in bands and in videos and needed ridiculous clothes and jewellery to perform. Nearly all of that is gone. Those things were my history. Other people have houses and children and certificates on the wall. I had my things. But, as I’ve said, nearly all are gone. My Dad has no idea of how many of my things (that I paid for from money gained in jobs that broke me physically and mentally – all were gained before I became disabled) have left the house. But there is still more to sort. He has been going on and on at me to sort. And I have, little at a time. Last week I had bronchitis and was sick, then this week I got hit with a bolt of pain I’ve not had for nearly a decade. I took every pill, many that I should not have, but nothing would shift it. The next day I had the second worst migraine I’ve ever had, cold, cold sweats, vomiting, everything. Terrible. But my Dad asked me if I was going to clear the room. I told him I would when I was able. Wednesday I was at the hospital to have a tooth out – but they didn’t do it – sensibly they decided to wait until I wasn’t full of Rizatriptan. I still couldn’t do anything physical – I was still in pain and still dozy from the migraine. Dad came upstairs to where I was sitting at the computer and joked ‘There’s not a lot of work going on here’. I swore at him and told him I would do it when I could, that I was in enormous pain, had taken all the pills and could not haul all the shit from the room. Thursday I emptied some of The Room. 2 Black Sacks of rubbish, 3 large plastic boxes, 2 sacks of clothes for the freezer (to moth proof before giving away), one bag for charity. All were in the hall. Dad came in to the computer room again ‘There’s not a lot of work going on here’, I swore at him again. ‘You’re over reacting’, no, I said, I was re-acting. He said the same thing as last time and got the same response. He provoked me. ‘You’re over reacting’ , no, I’m reacting. It’s only an ‘over’ reaction to you. To me it’s just a ‘reaction’. He told me not to get into ‘a ruck’ with him, because I would be sorry, because I would ‘lose’.He’s always done this. The phrase ‘Do not try to get into a ruck with me, because you’ll lose, you’ll be sorry’ has been a theme in my life. It’s a threat. A real and proper threat. A way of him asserting his power over me. I do everything he wants as fast as I can, but he still doesn’t get that I can’t do what he wants when he wants it and how he wants it. I’ve not seen friends since Christmas. I’ve gone out to 3 exhibitions. Every other ‘out’ has been hospitals, volunteering, class, or something to do with the house. The week came to a close with this hanging over me. On Sunday I was woken up by him shouting at me that if I didn’t get up and do some more to the room, he’d do it and he’d do it ‘good’. Basically all my things would be gone. I eventually went down stairs and he said the same thing ‘I mean it, I want it done by the end of the week or I’ll do it’. I gave monosyllabic responses ‘Yeah, ok’, then he asked me if I was alright ‘Have you got a migraine?’. I didn’t but I did feel fucking odd. I was swaying inside and my blood pressure was all over the place. I took my beta-blockers and my Diazepam, even a migraine pill, but I felt very weird. I had to go lie down again. I slept for a few hours, but woke up with heart racing and stressed to my scalp. I didn’t do anything to the room. I did my calligraphy homework. The threat is still hanging. So much of my life is in that little room. It was my childhood bedroom. I lived in it from 9-20. And then it was turned into a study/ TV room for me. It saved my sanity in 2007, but then, when my parents decided to have a loft extension and put me in it, it was filled with things from the loft. Then when Dad kicked me out of my bedroom (before the loft was finished) the remaining items of mine from my room were put in there.

Please remember, that when I moved from the little room into a different bedroom in 2000, the room I moved into was still full of my Brothers things (including the wardrobe – I’ve never had a wardrobe). I wasn’t allowed to re-decorate or anything. My brother moved in with his wife in 2002, but we still have much of his stuff. Indeed, all his knick knacks only moved to him in 2016. In fact, I’ve found 2 boxes of his stuff, in the little room. In addition to this, in 2008 when the loft conversion was going on, there was a flood that destroyed my books and many other things, so much stuff had to be moved higgled piggiled into the small room, to save it from damp. Over and again my things have been destroyed, moved and packed away. I’ve discovered the amount of stuff I’ve re-bought because it’s been packed by someone else somewhere I don’t know. So unpacking and finding stuff is not as easy as it should be. I’m finding things from when I was a teen, from when I had break downs, from the flood, from broken relationships, the paperwork from CBT. And I’m trying to sort it out and throw it out sensibly. Some things I will never let go of: my Baptism dress made for me when I was 5 by the Aunt I loved, my Communion dress, made for me by the Mum I loved. But my Dad does not understand this. He does not understand this because he doesn’t throw anything away – he puts it in the shed. He recently got rid of a canoe he half built aged 14. That’s 60 years ago. He never finished it. I’ve got another 20 years before I can match that.

This may read as spoiled brat. It’s not. It’s an on-going problem. If you never have the space, the cupboards, draws, wardrobes to put your things in, you not only don’t have any idea of what you have and don’t have, but you learn that your things don’t matter. My Dad has a shed just for his woodworking tools. He has a room for books and a room for TV and music. I don’t have a wardrobe, the draws in my loft are from my Gran’s house. I was told that for my 35th birthday I would get new draws, but am still waiting. I don’t have the money, or the physical ability to buy and assemble new furniture. I don’t have anyone (partner, family) to call to help. And if I did bring someone in to do it, I would not have a good time with my Dad. People don’t come in our house.

The title of this piece refers, specifically, to a Nick Cave song, which sounds like my current anger feels. Stagger Lee is a figure in many old blues songs, but Cave’s version is my favourite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbe5RERDh4k – warning, contains swears.

 

 

 

Toothypegs

Is the name of a product used to home fix your teeth. My Mum always had it lying around to stick her shonky crowns back in when they fell out (which was often) or fill holes in her mouth. DIY dentist that woman. Wednesday I go to hospital to have my first tooth extraction – a ‘Wisdom tooth’ that’s so deeply embedded in my cheek I can’t feel it with my finger: my mouth is actually quite small and my teeth big – I don’t know how they’re going to get the fucker out. And I don’t know how I’m going to react. I’m strangely scared. I’m scared that the noise of the tooth removal echoing ’round my head will drive me mad. I’m noise sensitive and the tooth is on my SSCD side so I’m even more sensitive. Noise has driven me mad before. In 2002 I had such bad Tinnitus I tried to kill myself. So I’m not exaggerating. I lost my mind to sound.

In addition to having 1/4 of my Wisdom removed, I have also lost my voice. So, I’m half deaf, half blind and now, mute. It is not constant, but it has been and it will return. The Dysphonia discovered in January has not reduced, though I am not drinking caffeine, am drinking lots of water and am massaging my throat. This means I will have to see my GP to be referred for speech therapy. Apparently this is an EDS thing, but it could just be a Sarah thing.

To add to the Babel of woes, I’ve had Bronchitis. I don’t go to the GP for these things any more, but as I age I get sicker and sicker from little things. I’ve had an aching head for days, and have been so weary from coughing I’m like a 19th century heroine. I have managed to do things, but not very much. I’ve managed an exhibition that was a bitter disappointment. It took so much effort to get to it, and it let me down. Pah! To hell with art! *limps off swirling a cloak over her hunched shoulder and pressing a silk topper to her head…*

Good news on the Orchid front: after re-potting, nothing negative happened. And then my Dad knocked Orchid 2 (baby ‘chid) over and tried to hide it but I’d noticed, so I had to re-pot it again. I was preparing it’s Requiem when Bang! shit started happening. Orchid 2 has started growing all over. Orchid 1 has done fuck all, even though it was given Orchid food etc. and wasn’t knocked over.

My family is still falling apart: relationships toppling over and sending up dust all over. I am having an emotional blip of quite large size, but I shall fight that once my tooth is out.

 

 

Hauntings and Haircuts

I am a few years short of 40, and I can’t make up my own mind about my haircut. Yup. I want to dye it. I want to cut it. But I’m too scared. I have a problem with the way I look – I have had since I was 7. I find it difficult to look in mirrors. My basic problem was complicated by development of acne at 11 that has not gone away. I’ve worn covering make up since then- so that’s 25 years. More many years if I had a ‘bad face day’ – a weeping cyst that no make up could cover etc. – I would not be able to leave the house. This even affected my schooling. I’ve had the same hair style for 7 years, and before that the same style for over 10 years. Once I change something and accept it, I can’t change it again: I get scared that I’ll make myself look away I can’t stand and I’ll get so badly depressed I’ll attack myself. I used to spend up to 4 hours a day picking my skin. I did a lot of damage, but it made me feel better – like I was ‘helping’ my skin, but also a relief. I had CBT to try and help this ‘habit’ – and it did. I’ve cut down massively on my destructive behaviour. But I still can’t decide on a hair cut.

In addition to the above problem, there is the problem of comments. As a teen every time I did anything with my appearance, it was commented on by my Brother or Dad. I stopped changing – hence the 10 years of the same style. Once my Brother was gone, my Dad commented. For a brief time of mania (about 3 years in my mid-late 20’s) I changed a lot, and my Dad’s comments were shushed by my Mum. But now Mum is gone I’m stuck. I’ve developed bad psoriasis on my scalp and my head hurts. I have to chop the damn stuff off and risk it, but I also need to grow the balls. I’m in the middle of a nervous phase (I have a lot of family stuff going on and my body is rebelling with pain, headaches and all sorts of problems). How to proceed? Let’s hope I grow some testicles. And that I don’t regret them.

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale and other disappointments

Multiple turds are hitting multiple fans in Bowermanland. My family seem to be falling apart, toppling like dominoes. First my Brother and his Wife (nothing concrete has happened yet, but they’ve been talking about what is going to happen), now my Cousin and his partner of 22 years, and my other cousin, his wife and whole family. Bink, bonk, clunk, they fall. I have always been Top Loser in my family – I have no partner, no kids, no house, no job. I always looked at my Brother and Cousin as the successes – qualifications, jobs, families, property – and while that aided and abetted my self hatred, it also was a beacon. People in my family functioned! There were Normals! Oh, shit. Nope. You may have noticed that one Cousin has a capital C. Capital Cousin lived with us for 5 or 6 years after his Mum died. He’s 8 months older than my brother and more like a brother to me than a cousin. So he gets a C. Other cousin is an arsehat of such immense proportion I have no time for him. He’s causing his family grief because he is selfish. His relationship has not hit the skids, he is just greedy for what he can get out of his parents. He’s 40 for fuck sake. Blackmailing his parents into giving him property or cash by telling them they’ll never see their grandkids again if they don’t ‘help’. But Capital Cousin is different, and may have to move back in with us. My Dad’s initial reaction was ‘Ok, have the nice room we’ve just finished…’. But then he went away and thought about it. Now it’s ‘comeback in a couple of months when we may have another, shitter room for you’ (‘cos we don’t want you getting comfortable). Sometimes it takes a while for my Dad to think like me. ‘Cos that’s how I was thinking.

In addition to the above Shit/Fan situations, my Dad has been told he has some Diabetic damage to his eyes. My Dad has had endless trouble with his eyes. He is like me, naturally monocular. When he was about 4 he stuck a screwdriver in his left eye, his ‘blind’ one. Then in his 40’s he got a detached retina. Then  another and another and cataracts. Now this. He’s always been very brave with his eye surgeries, I have to say. He also had laser treatment without a blink. The fucker can’t have an MRI*, but he can have his corneas zapped while awake. The Shit/Fan family situation is telling on him. He is, of course, particularly sad for my Brother because he loves his grandchildren. He’s a very good Grandfather. But he also feels my Brother’s pain. My Dad is sentimental. He is missing my Mum a great deal. He loved/ loves her extremely, and he feels awful for Dan that his marriage has only made 15 ish years. That’s how we think in our family: 15 years is a short marriage. I think it will be the first Divorce in our history. Well, Dan was one for Firsts- in his degree (he was the first in our family to go to uni, and he got a double First), Phd. and first married. A regular trailblazer. Sorry, my grumpy malice and envy popped out there.

I’ve been looking on at this getting angry. And frustrated. But I can’t do anything. And part of me is relieved. I’ve got my own shit.

Last week I had an Adult Autism Assessment that left me questioning everything I did during it. It was at the Maudsley and it left me feeling scraped empty. I’d not had any sleep and I was scared of being late – all that jazz. I don’t know what it did and didn’t do. It’s difficult if you know the parameters and you want to fit them or not. Gah. We’ll see. I’ve also been cursed with terrible dry skin on my scalp. Not just your average dandruff – my scalp is like the surface of the moon. I fear I may have Psoriasis – I was told years ago that my dandruff wasn’t dandruff, but Psoriasis, but I didn’t really take much heed, as it was mentioned like ‘yeah, you have this thing, but that’s nothing to the big thing we’re going to treat’. Shit. I’ve been very stressed, very. I’ve not been sleeping, and then having terrible back and chest pain etc. Acid Reflux, the wish to die – you know, the whole she-bang. But having a scummy scalp too – that may be my limit. Dang.

I finally got round to reading Margaret Atwood’s very famous novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – about a time when select women are used as walking wombs for important/ worthy couples, all framed in a newly ‘religious’, moral society. It’s typically called ‘dystopian’, but recently has been used a lot on social media in reference to certain trends in the US regarding abortion.  I was rather disappointed in it. I think the story is interesting, but I didn’t find the writing stunning. The epilogue where the previous ‘Tale’ is discussed as if it were a historical document, is witty and interesting – more so than the actual body of the book. I found myself not at all interested in the narrator. I didn’t care what happened to her. I was more interested in the set up of the ‘new’ society. Those elements of the story are well realised; the colour symbolism, use of Biblical references etc. tickled my extant interest in art and history, but the main character did not. I’m glad I read it – there was a running joke in my life that I kept buying copies of it and my house kept eating them. I have about 4 somewhere… this one will be going back to the Book Shop. One thing I will say in praise of the book is it’s inspired some interesting and good illustration. I remember as a kid seeing a copy of it (my Cousin was studying it for A’level) and wanting to read it because of the cover art. Book covers are important to me.

Back to reading history next. Reading history, drinking de-caf coffee and tea, eating marzipan balls in bed. This exciting life.

*He faints in enclosed spaces.

 

Orchid Watch

At my Mother’s death in October 2015, I was given 2 Orchids. I don’t like Orchids. One came from a loved neighbour, and the other my estranged Uncle. I decided to try my best to keep them alive (well, not actively kill them). They have survived up until now, but need some TLC. I’ve been meaning to re-pot them since September, but never managed it. Orchids need special compost and pots. Luckily the craze for them as ornamental plants means that my local Homebase* has the Special Stuff needed to deal with them. But could I get there? I’d need a lift from Dad and for all the stars to align. Recently my stars have been off. I’ve been sleeping but getting no rest. I’ve not been eating and then gorging. And I’ve felt odd. But I became determined to get this shit done after noticing the shrivelled leaves of my Uncle Plant. Once glossy and, ahem, engorged, these leaves were dismal. I mentioned my Homebase need to my Dad last week: but failed. However today we managed it, and I’ve just re-potted the bastards. Today is a red flag day. I’m awake, I don’t feel grotty. Yesterday was the opposite. I ate so much, I had two dinners. I ate cheese on top. I got a migraine style headache. My scalp burned. Though I went to bed early, I didn’t sleep. My Calligraphy course tried to kill me again. It was all bad. I didn’t think I would  manage today – but it’s happened. If nothing else, I’ve done a long planned chore.

Decaffinated Me

Last week I was diagnosed with Dysphonia – a problem with my throat/ speaking parts. Apparently last year’s sore throat was Laryngitis and it’s left part of my speaking parts not working. This leads me to have a cracked voice and also to my voice just not being there. It’s pretty random when it happens. The ENT guy told me I have to drink more water, massage my throat and… cut down on caffeine. Now I’m not a big coffee person, so that leaves tea. I’ve upped my water, I’ve rubbed my throat, and yesterday I got De-Caf Tea. I was worried it would be horrible. I’m very particular with my tea. I’m not a tea snob (I kinda wish I was, I wish I had something that involved special equipment and was rare, but I’m common as muck), I like PG Tips, pale and sweet. And I have only 3 cups I use at home. So I found the De-Caf PG Tips (in Waitrose** – I didn’t buy cheese!) and did the biz, and it’s ok. I can definitely feel in my throat when I’ve drunk too much caffeine, so I’m hoping that this will reduce that feeling. I’m glad that I’m able to do the ‘right thing’ – that advised by my ENT and not find it awful. The ENT also wants me to have an operation on my SSCD – to plug the hole in my head. It was a new ENT and he was very positive about the operation – and was honest about the risks and their interest in me. The risk is that they’ll damage the nerve in my face and I won’t be able to move the left side. And that it won’t heal. They’re interested because a ‘genuine’ (??) SSCD is rare. I wonder what a ‘fake’ SSCD is?

Feeling better today has made me realise just how rotten I’ve been feeling recently. And how topsy-turvy things have been. My eating has been erratic, my mental health has been erratic and I’ve just felt awful. I must keep an eye on this – particularly how I feel after food, and when I want to eat. My mammoth session yesterday (chicken breast, fries and corn cob, then chow mein and ribs, less than an hour apart…) was properly abnormal. I still woke up wanting to eat. I’ve been told the Quetiapine will make me pack on pounds, but is it making me want to eat everything and then eat nothing? Hmmm.

*Homebase is a general DIY store in the UK. It has a garden section and now a catalogue shop – Argos. The many eyed God is an odd name for a catalogue shop.

**Waitrose is a fancy grocery store that sells artichoke hearts as a basic food and whose in store butcher has Ox cheek. It has a lot of cheese.

Strange Change

I don’t like change. Never have. But sometimes change is thrust upon me. The things I hate to change most are related to my face. I am not pretty or beautiful or usual looking. In addition to this, I have bad skin – pale with lots of scarring and dark marks*, red, brown, purple lumps. When I find a make-up I can get to stay on and cover these things, I cherish it and buy in bulk. Some of the great upsets of my life have been connected with discontinued foundation. At the moment I am struggling with a discontinued lipstick. Not as bad as a foundation, but still unsettling. Why? Well usually I don’t get upset about lipstick or eye shadow. But I am. And I realise why: my Mum.

I am currently scared of changing things from as they were when my Mum was alive. But I’ve changed a lot of stuff, but things to do with my face and hair I can’t change. I have a new coat, and shoes, and bag. New tops. But I can’t change my hair style. I really want to. My head is uncomfortable. I’m too scared to change it. I’m scared bad things will happen. Really bad things. And that’s where the lipstick comes in. I’ve been looking for a colour match for 4 months. Watching my remaining nub of waxy colour diminish. I’ve colour swatched across London. Nothing. But today I had a break through. I was very cold, very tired and a little angry. I went into a shop and tried on a colour I’d not considered at all. It didn’t look terrible. I felt relieved. I felt light and happy. I sprayed myself with a random perfume (I NEVER DO THAT) and headed out into the dark night.

I won’t buy the lipstick, it didn’t do much for me and was very expensive. But at least I know what not to buy. That is a breakthrough: I have a big pile of lipsticks I bought (over years) thinking they’d be ok and didn’t try them because I was scared to – embarrassed in the shop etc. particularly department stores. I may buy the perfume when I qualify for the necessary mortgage.

My Mum was always the one to tell me if I looked ‘okay’ (by my standards, which she understood). She checked the spots I couldn’t see on my right side, or neck, were covered. She brushed the dandruff off my shoulders. When I did things to my hair, she checked the back. She did all the Mum things. I don’t have anyone to do that now, and being half blind and having self-esteem so small you need NASA lenses to help you find it, means I’m nervous leaving the house nearly all the time. I can deal with it, but now and then it falls on me and crushes me. Not having the right lipstick, or having wonky hair, can ruin a day for me, can breed anxiety as powerful as a Pitbull. But today I felt a little glimmer of hope. Hope in a tube I had the balls NOT to buy.

*I am not a Death Eater. For some unknown reason, though I am pale skinned, I have keloid scarring and very dark patches of skin on my face. I scar a dark brown or purple. No one can tell me why. I know Keloid scarring is connected to EDS, but the colouring foxes people. They don’t address it, though I think it should be addressed – not because of vanity – but because of Lupus. Lupus is in my family. Cancer is in my family. You can see what I’m thinking re: dark patches. One day someone may look at them – I am leaving my body to medical science.

 

I love the taste of new pills in the evening….Bedlam Show.

Last October or September (I’ll have to check the archives) I was prescribed a New Brain Pill to help with anxiety and my self harming. I did not take it. I was still trying to get my ESA and I feared having a muddled or fogged head. Or just going completely batshit crazy and scared, which has happened to me before. Once I got my ESA decision, I put the pills back again because I still needed to be level headed facing Christmas and a few personal problems. But I did decide to take them once the New Year started. Last Friday I had my appointment with my old (and good) Psychiatrist Dr.P. Dr.P is a very glamorous Monica Bellucci style Italian woman. 8 years ago she made me feel bad about myself because of her glamour, but her advice, drugs and strategy were right for me. This time she seemed genuinely concerned for me. A different reaction. She gave me a choice between drugs. But no choice about adding a new pill to my then prescription. I opted for the first she prescribed. I’ll see her in 3 months and in the mean time I’ll be put on a waiting list for Bereavement Counselling. An interesting development.

The new pill is a soporific- it aids sleep*. As regulars to this blog will know, historically I don’t have a problem with sleep, but recently I have developed a problem. I’ve not been getting to sleep until 5 or 6am – regularly. Even when I’ve got something important to get up for the next day. The pill certainly works from that perspective – if it doesn’t get you to sleep, it certainly keeps you there once you nod off. I’ve been hungry for sleep. Even when I’ve had many, many hours of it. Even when I wake with a painfully full bladder or back ache, I’ve been rolling over and sleeping in a new, but familiar, drug way. I have been warned that I will get fat(ter) on the pills – and though my appetite hasn’t changed yet, my taste has. I indulged in cheese, but when I ate it, it tasted wrong. Hmmm.

I am certainly aware of a new ‘thing’ in my blood – but that might just be this month’s Red Tide. Menses affect me powerfully – more and more as I get older. My current anxiety and constant low level of dramatic fear (you know, when your first answer to everything is ‘kill yourself’) may be due to hormones, or it could be the pills. I have had a low mood for a time. I have felt rung out and also lost. There are lots of reasons for this – I miss my Mum, I’m lonely and my Dad is difficult for me to deal with, but I hope I will feel better soon. Or at least feel pushed enough to become active in making myself feel better: I hope I get angry and determined. I don’t want to feel low. I don’t want my Dad to make me feel low. I want to feel better. I want some control. I hope I can go back to feeling like I have some say in my own life.

Actually, let’s go back. I want to make something clear: I don’t feel so out of control of my life that I feel I can let everything go and take no responsibility. I feel responsible for myself, but I don’t feel I have enough or the right power to do anything about it. I feel at the mercy of the universe, but not weak or vulnerable enough to be an innocent victim. I feel guilty for feeling sad. I feel guilty for the many things in my life that I could have done differently that could have made me happy. Could, could, could. The ache of missed potential – the most painful thing for me. Errrrrarrgh.

Exhibition Time!

Last week I went to the recently closed ‘Bedlam’ exhibition at The Wellcome Trust in London. It was a weak excuse for an exhibition. And I don’t say that just as a person in the Mental Health system. Ostensibly it was a history of the Asylum – the residential Mental Hospital, beginning with the medieval Bethlem Hospital in London (origin of the word Bedlam). But in reality it was a patchy mash up. It did have detailed exhibits about Bedlam, it’s physical history. It did explain the expansion of Asylums during the Victorian period but nothing else was detailed. It mentioned some punishments/ treatments given to residential patients (restraints, chains), it mentioned some alternatives to these treatments – music, hobbies and physical employments (Occupational Therapy) – given to patients. But not enough information was given. It had a small display of ‘Outsider Art’ – the official term given to the works of the untrained and/or mentally ill – and of art representing  ‘madness’ in it’s many forms. But much more could have been made of this now popular work. It was not detailed in any way about the life of treatment after the Bedlam – more modern treatments. It had one display about ECT (shock treatment), one about medications… it was all thin on the ground. It gave more space to contemporary works of art about Mental Health than about the history and development of treatment. It was a disappointment and did a great dis-service to it’s (very interesting) subject. Nothing was made of CBT or contemporary Psychiatry. And the exhibition was very badly laid out and confusing. The Wellcome has an amazing collection and great space. I’ve been to some fantastic shows there. But this was not one of them. The history of Bedlam is fascinating, the history of Mental Health-it’s treatment and diagnosis- is fascinating. This could have been so much better.

Artists out of The Mind.

The art of the Mentally Ill – Bedlam Art – Outsider Art – is very popular at the moment. If you are interested, check out the following: Richard Dadd, Louis Wain, Mary Frances Heaton, Vaslav Nijinsky, August Strindberg, Vincent Van Gogh and Yayoi Kusama (who is still alive and lives in an asylum). Nijinsky is better known as an amazing ballet star from the early 1900’s. But when he became mentally ill, he began to make art…

*It’s actually an anti-psychotic – but this was never mentioned. That’s how I like my Psych appointments…

https://wellcomecollection.org/bedlam

 

 

 

 

Abstract Expressionism

In a former life I wanted to be an Academic. My ‘field’ was Art History. I didn’t go beyond BA and now I’m too old, deaf, forgetful and scared. However, I still attend lectures and visit museums and exhibitions. I can’t read much because I can’t concentrate and currently, can’t see too well. But this didn’t stop me dragging my butt out to a show! *Jazz Hands*.

I didn’t study anything after 1900 at University (I did a ‘Survey Course’ which lightly covered from Ancient Egypt to the YBAs in Year 1 but I slept through or missed the 1900’s) but since then (15 years) I’ve begun to be interested. This is due to individuals. People I have met have waxed lyrical about art they like and I have looked it up. I owe my friends and acquaintances a great deal in this regard.

Today’s foray was into Abstract Expressionism – at the Royal Academy. I could write a long review. There were lots of things ‘wrong’ with the Exhibition in a physical sense (1 metre cordons round the works which made it impossible to look at the textures in detail, and many of the works rely heavily on their texture to make sense and impact, labels printed too small…) there were lots of things ‘right’ (lighting, mixture of works) but rather than do that, I’ll just share my highlight. I found an artist that floats my boat. The works do not translate well into photos, and we were not allowed to take images so I couldn’t try to capture a hint of why they moved me (colour, texture, techniques, scale) but I’ll share with you anyway. The artist is American Clyfford Still. I’d not heard of him before today. But when I was making notes of the works I liked, I liked his, throughout the show, and then there was a whole room of them which made me so excited I wanted to jump into the works. I went round that room 3 times. 3 times. That’s a week of walking.

Clyfford Still has his own museum: https://clyffordstillmuseum.org/

But it was PH-605 that floated my boat: ph-605

It’s huge and oil on canvas and textured like a sexy bastard.

Ok, that’s enough.

Best laid plans

This Christmas I was a gift Ninja. A mixture of internet and real time shopping got good results. I love giving presents. I mean I love it. I love making people happy by buying them things. My physical embarrassment and anxiety means I have difficulty giving joy as a person – in person- and in all the ways. But objects, objects that show affection or my regard, those I can do. And this year had a high hit rate. This is good.

It was a close run thing because of internet fuckuppage. But I did it. And it has, inevitably, exhausted me. A few days before Christmas I began going to bed crying, and that continued until last night. All the symptoms happened – gut rot, pain, suicidal thoughts… you name it. But it wasn’t just Gift Anxiety, but a whole collection of things that I find interesting. Family has been the main one. My Brother is unhappy in his marriage. His wife has never liked us, and completely ignores my Dad when he’s babysitting her children – doesn’t even say hello. Recently this has gotten worse and the coldness has extended to my Brother. He doesn’t know why – he looks after the children after school, he works from 5am in a bank, pays the mortgage and the school fees and, he worked out, is the majority care-giver for the children. He’s not fucking anyone else (we asked)*. She works too, equally high-end job, flying to Dubai and Vienna etc. We had Christmas with them in a restaurant. Dad and I gave them several outs – because we know that Wife doesn’t want to be there. But no. She had her Christmas with us, and made sure we knew she didn’t like it. Is this passive aggressive? I was so on edge that when we got home I went to the toilet to cry and have stomach cramps. Then I ate too much cheese.

Loneliness is the next. I live with my Dad, but I am lonely. I don’t have a pet. I have my usual human frustrations (how did my Dad lose the hoover tube?), I have a few extra human frustrations (woke up, arm not working, went to bed with arm working…), but I don’t have someone or thing (dog) to share them with. My Dad only has so much time to listen and sometimes he’s just terrible at being a sounding board, and I don’t feel comfortable talking to him. I have friends, most of which I communicate with via computer, but I don’t communicate all my frustrations, because I’d become a bore, and I don’t want to be the boring ill friend. I have friends who contact me very frequently with their various problems, and I have no problem with that – I just find it tiring. Not boring. Genuinely tiring, because I get tired easily. But loneliness is not just the lack of some living thing to moan at. It’s the lack of a life. It’s facing a limited future, being Charlotte Vale** without moon, stars or money. That is what I see. And when tired etc. this seems so likely, and I become so scared. Loneliness and Fear. Horrible.

I’m still recovering from Christmas. My Dad threw a wobbly at me by mentioning a holiday. He wants to take me to St.Petersburg and Moscow in May. We’d go with my Aunt and Uncle. This is theoretically so fucking exciting. But he mentioned cost and wanted me to look at the details. I hate knowing the cost. It’s obscene amounts of money and I would just say ‘give me the money’. But no. And having to look at details shits me up. I get stressed. I get so fucking stressed. I don’t want to fuck up. But nothing can now be sorted until January 9th as Russia is closed down. Phew.

Ish. The 9th of January sees me at the Dentist. Last week my Dad lost a tooth. Yesterday I lost a tooth. A part of a Wisdom tooth broke off in my cheek. Great. I have all my Wisdom Teeth. When I was 19 I had a jaw scan and was told I had no Wisdom Teeth in my gums. Then they started to come through. I don’t know what happened. I was shown the damn scans. How the fuck did they grow? Eurgh. They’re very tightly packed. I am not looking forward to my dentist having a go at getting these fuckers out.

Good Stuff I had a very enjoyable Christmas Dinner. I discovered a love of soft cheese and soda bread. I never used to eat cheese. Now I’m a convert. Soft cheese (like Brie) seems to calm my stomach down, make me feel full and happy and well. The farts are terrible, but I don’t care. At least I now have something other than Gaviscon I can guzzle to calm the Acid Reflux. Though I’ve been crying and have felt suicidal, I have not hurt myself. I’ve not attacked my facial skin too much. Dad liked the jumpers I got him (always a worry).

*’When would I have the time to fuck anyone?’ – that was his answer. And currently it’s true – up at 5am, home at 4pm to pick up the children 3 days a week and working til 7pm the other 2 days. His work is very understanding about his hours – in fact it’s why he can’t leave his job though he wants to. No one else is going to let him leave to get his kids. It’s why he has has to work Boxing Day, Christmas Eve, will work New Year’s Eve night. Worked the Brexit vote night, worked the US Election night…

** Bette Davis character in ‘Now Voyager’- a very good film and very forward thinking and understanding about mental health – in my opinion. The ultimate Maiden Aunt character and the ultimate and original Ugly Duckling make-over on film.

Yule wish you hadn’t.

For Christmas, I only took up internet shopping a few years ago. Before that I bought everything personally because I *was* so particular. When I bought accessories I would go through every one of the type I wanted in a shop and compare them. I mean every one – I’d take them off the shelves and spread them out. But now, thanks to my body, I can’t do that. But it’s not just my body. I used to want to make people really happy or impressed by the gifts I gave them. Now – I lament- I don’t really care. My Mum was the greatest challenge because she was not a possessions or things person. But finding some earrings she liked would give me great pleasure. My Dad was critical and never happy. My Brother is now a Dad first so… you get the picture. Now, without Mum, I don’t really have anyone to impress. But I have a new game. Dad sets a price for gift spending, and I have to find the best thing for that price. It’s very fun with children’s toys. I refuse to give children things I think they should have rather than what they want. So I ask my Brother and try to fulfill demands. It’s mainly creative craft and time-consuming things for the girls, and it was trains for the boy, but now it’s Lego.

I try to get my shopping done early – necessity and a dodgy as fuck body and fragile mind make this the norm. However I have had a string of Internet disasters, so now I’m going to have to get everything in person. And I’m not happy about it. So much complaining! I’m tired – I’ve had a ENT then a Chest Infection and then something awful happening in my guts that made me have burning aches, the squits and then terrible constipation. I’m currently hoarse of voice and painful and piled of arse. In addition to this I have my menses, which are wonderful. Just great. So I’m a fucking barrel of laughs. However, these are just the icing on my cake. My cake is made of sadness. Not depression. Sadness. I feel bleak. I am lonely, I miss my Mum, I’m worried about my Dad* and I have no energy for myself. I’ve not drawn or made anything and did not feel inspired at all by my calligraphy class. I feel old. I had an alternative bright spot earlier in the week when I stayed with friends. Talking to them made me realise I’m not dead inside, but I am very close. It’s an odd feeling, and I’ve not got to the bottom of it yet. Perhaps it’s just the Holly Jolly arsecrap around me. Perhaps it’s the fakery of it this year, given the time of doom we live in. I dunno.

If I don’t perk up by tomorrow night (when the menses hump should be passed) I’ll take myself to a gallery on Sunday. I’ve been eating properly and treating my piles with respect so it should be OK.

*He’s a grey crumpled heap. His tooth split today and he doesn’t want to talk to any friends or acquaintances, which is not him. And he’s my Dad, so of course I worry. He’s become possessive of me, which makes me sad and re-enforces my loneliness. Eurrrrgh.