Daily Archives: March 19, 2015

A Bright, Shiny Thing

I pop into my bike shop to pick up some tyre levers, a set of lights, a pair of fingerless gloves. But I am distracted, even as I make my way out. Rows of brand new bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, bikes with baskets and tricycles with trainer wheels. All bright, shiny things full of potential fill my eyes, my ears. Everything about them is so perfect. The tyres are pumped up to the perfect air pressure, the brakes are stiff and strong. The chains are gleaming, the mud guards are clean. Surreptitiously I run my fingers over the saddles and then I walk out of the shop and turn to gaze back at the bikes through the massive windows that look out onto the street. The ones that cost  thousands of pounds, that are out of my price range, whose titanium features and chain sets would be wasted on me, anyway. But the window doesn’t know that. The window just lets me look, linger and lose myself among the handlebars, the seat posts and the spokes for a few seconds, for a few minutes, for a few hours.

March 20, was International Day of Happiness. The British website is full of information about research into well – being. It tells us, for example, that doing things for others, connecting with people, exercising and taking a positive approach, to name four of the ten they list, make us happy.

While it is hard to disagree that these activities improve one’s mood, something jars with me about the concept of a ‘happiness day’. It conjures many pictures of young people jumping for joy, children smiling whist engaged in activities from blowing bubbles to jumping into puddles. Then there are the ubiquitous smileys that pepper so much communication these days. I cannot help feeling that the message that these pictures transmit is that changing one’s mood, happiness, is so easy. So easy, in fact, that it should be a permanent state. I want to believe that they don’t really think that. But it feels like the attainment of happiness is so defined that it is just a matter of following a few steps to achieve it. And being unable to do that just feels like failure.

Image result for pictures of world happiness day

Take the exhortation of mental health workers everywhere to ‘connect with people’. That phrase fills my mouth with ‘connect with whom exactly? My abusive parents? My dead sibling? The job centre staff?’ It’s not so easy to pick up the phone to those people who have drifted away since you have been, well, psychotic. Life is so much easier with a plaster cast on both arms.

Then there’s exercise. You’d think I would be a big fan of that one, right? Sure. But try telling that to the 2002 edition of me. My bike never left the shed.  I walked 100 metres to the corner shop to buy the paper most days, just to bring it home and look at the pictures. Things are completely different these days, though. Not so much. Where we live now the newsagent is a bit further away, but there are days when the walk down the hill is as strenuous as the walk back home again.

Or there’s staying in the moment and appreciating your surroundings. I’ve got a lot of time for Mindfulness, but when the particular moment is full of dread and despair? And the next moment, next minute, hour, day, night, week? Appreciate your surroundings the eager psychologists tell us. and what if I lived 4 storeys up on a sink estate and have not left my flat in a week, and it’s hard to appreciate the damp patches in the bathroom or the thin walls separating me from the teenager with the drum kit who lives next door.

I think that what I’m getting at is it just feels like these bits of advice are being offered by people who, by and large, find these things easier to do than the people they are advising. Also, it puts the burden of responsibility on the people they are treating/visiting/counselling. As if to say ‘if you would just get out more, make new friends…’ and that most sinister of phrases …’learn to move on.’

Do I have anything positive to say about this? Anything – to use a phrase I am often heard repeating – recovery – orientated to offer? Well, no, at least not enough that will outweigh what I have written here. I don’t agree with the 18th century French philosopher Voltaire who wrote:  ‘I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.’ To say that one chooses happiness is implying a strong criticism of those of us who are not in such a good mood as this man who was regularly seen in public wearing tights and a powdered wig. So, he’s saying that I choose to spend my days swirling around in mood swings? No, happiness is not a bright, shiny thing. For me there is more wisdom in the words of the wife of the four – time U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt, Eleanor, who spoke for me when she said: ‘Happiness is not a goal, it is a by – product.


Is a clean bill of health from the doctor,
And the kids shouldn’t move back home for
more than a year,
And not being audited, overdrawn, in Wilkes-Barre,
in a lawsuit or in traction.

Is falling asleep without Valium,
And having two breasts to put in my brassiere,
And not (yet) needing to get my blood pressure lowered,
my eyelids raised or a second opinion.

And on Saturday nights
When my husband and I have rented
Something with Fred Astaire for the VCR,
And we’re sitting around in our robes discussing,
The state of the world, back exercises, our Keoghs,
And whether to fix the transmission or buy a new car,
And we’re eating a pint of rum-raisin ice cream
on the grounds that
Tomorrow we’re starting a diet of fish, fruit and grain,
And my dad’s in Miami dating a very nice widow,
And no one we love is in serious trouble or pain,
And our bringing-up-baby days are far behind us,
But our senior-citizen days have not begun,
It’s not what I called happiness
When I was twenty-one,
But it’s turning out to be
What happiness is.

Judith Viorst (1931 – )


Folks, I’m in need of some encouragement.  I’m feeling like I’m slipping into  a depression, and I’m having major problems with obsessive thinking.  I keep thinking that Bob’s going to die in a car accident going to and from work.  I can’t get the thoughts out of my head, even though I know it’s simply bipolar disorder barking up a tree again.  I’ve let him know and he’s promised to be extra careful (they are doing major construction on the road where he works, which is where I think some of this is coming  from).  But it’s torturing me all the same.

Obsessions are hard to describe.  It’s like your mind gets into a groove like a broken record player and keeps playing the same song over and over and over inside your head.  It’s like an earworm where you get a song stuck in your head and can’t get it out.  But instead of a song it’s a disturbing thought or worry of some kind that just will not go away.  I try and stay busy so they don’t have time to set up housekeeping in my mind, but it doesn’t always work.  Just think about me and pray for me through these next few months that this is not the onset of something even more interesting later on.  Thanks for any prayers you can send my way.

Enough, Already! Give Me a Break!

Out Of Order

By Lois Caniglia

I wish I could get my creative juices flowing more frequently. I fear that if I say nothing, I am not doing my part to bring mental health awareness to full formation. If I was to lose viewers than my humble sharing will be silenced.

I fight for my health every day in ways most people don’t understand. I’m not lazy. I’m a warrior. –unknown-

 It’s not that I have nothing to say, it is how I am feeling about myself that prevents me to express what I can contribute. It’s those times when I am consumed with negative thoughts that I become paralyzed to use my skill set effectively. Being imprisoned by my self-punishment. There are moments, days when I am filled with regret. Lost in my own self-loathing despite how well medicated. Taking my advice to apply my own interventions seems wasteful, as those negative voices will only crescendo with no sign of calmness in sight.

I surrender to riding this wave until I am free from my tussle. This is the time when I search for fellow bloggers on mental health, mental illness, bipolar, and recovery. When an article strikes a cord, I share it. I don’t want my exhaustion to silence my statement as a mental health advocate. I recently read a blog written by Natasha Tracy titled Bipolar Treatment Fatigue struck me hard enough to share on my FB page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mental-Illness-Living-Lets-Talk/349925245188610 It makes perfect sense that I am not being lazy but exhausted by the daily routine to fight against the chemical power within my black box (my mind). It answers to why my thoughts are distracted when attempting to mediate. My lack of desire to chart my mood, assess my thoughts and redirect my feelings. Despite my plans to sign up at my local YMCA, I excuse myself complaining of exhaustion.

I surrender to the numbness of my medications rather than my daily fight to sustain my activities of daily living. I am secure in the emptiness of my mind that is expressed externally as a blank stare. I can spend our evenings searching endless places of beauty that has me traveling the world. Taking a virtual tour of a custom home that is carefully constructed and ornately designed. Or viewing the expertise of a well crafted crocheted afghan on pinrest. Perhaps, these are my unconscious efforts or interventions to repair my mind back to a natural state of balance. I’m not so far gone that I can’t enjoy the surprise visit from our daughter or appreciate waking up to my husband having another day to spend together at home. His ability to make me smile or reciprocate a loving affection from his soft kisses comforts me. I still enjoy the playfulness of our puppies brings such joyful entertainment.

My life does not stop. There are plenty of moments of happiness that surrounds me. The negativity is felt like a cloud that hovers over my brain and stands out when I seek calmness. I could be perceived as the ol’ saying, “misery loves company”. Believe me, I’ve had enough misery to last my 3 lives. Misery is the very last thing I care to accompany. Natasha also wrote an article titled I’m Too Tired to Keep Fighting Bipolar Disorder. My fight is as she describes, “every second of every minute of every hour of every day” kind-of-life. It is “soul-suckingly, bone-crushingly exhaustion”. And this is exactly when I should be writing it down, sharing how I feel, and seeking for support and encouragement from others. Breaking the silence isn’t as easy as I may have made it appear.

I’ve Been Posting Every Other Day

It doesn’t feel natural though to be not posting every day. I don’t want to get out of the habit of it either. I need to fix my shit and get back to writing every day. I wasn’t going to post every day because I don’t always have something to say and I don’t want people to be bored but I am going to make sure I do it for myself.

My mood has been kind of middle of the road. I managed to make it being by myself until almost 10 o’clock last night though because hubby had a work dinner. So I think that I handled that pretty good. I didn’t crawl into bed and I didn’t break down into tears and was even encouraging about it. So good for me.

It’s grey out today and it’s hard to be in a good mood when the world is cold and yucky. I’m trying though. Think I am going to do some housework or workout or something physical.


I am less tormented by the depression today. I’m still very low but kind of resigned to it. It’s not the end of the world, right?

They sent my kid home sick, claiming she was vomiting. Which means I couldn’t go barter with R for cat food so my cats have no food. Of course, now the child has made a miraculous recovery. Mini corn dogs for lunch no more, she is cured. I am so fed up with her hypochondria. I am making her lay on the couch the entire day. No toys, no tv, nothing. If you’re sick enough to come home, you convalesce, you do not play.

So…last night…I broke my own cardinal rule of “let it alone.” Of course, I’d let it fester for days because leaving things alone kind of means…Let it go, move on. Scumbag brain and my own self righteous indignation were having no part of it. So much like throwing up…
I sent a shout out letting someone know how unimpressed I am with their behavior. They responded but ya know what? I blew it off, deleted all messages. Because I don’t want excuses or name calling or any of that standard shit people pull when they don’t have the balls to own up being an asshole.
I’d probably have let it go because, well, I know people suck.
The fact that ten days later my kid is still discussing seeing someone’s self destruction and bawling because she thinks I’m gonna do the same..
Dragging my kid into it was just wrong. I should have walked away. But idiot that I am, I like to try to see the best in people and of course, there is that whole caretaker imprint where I feel obligated to help people even though it’s never reciprocated. That’s on me. I fucked up.
But I didn’t create the drama and had I known there was going to be such drama, I sure as hell never would have exposed my kid to it. THAT is what you get for believing people and having faith in them.
It’s just proving my point that I am better off left alone.
If anyone’s going to screw my kid up, it’s gonna be me.

I feel…free, though. I got that weight off my brain and now it’s like…I am less tortured. The mind is quieter. The mood is low but manageable. The anxiety, on the other hand, is skyrocketing. But the kid whining incessantly how she feels better and I am mean for not letting her play and now I don’t know what I am gonna feed the cats and…
Yesterday, this would have probably driven me to hiding in the closet.
Today…the mind space is different. I feel less weak, more saucy. More like me. Though a lesser form of me.

I know the cycle, though, so I’m not holding out hope that this less tormented space will stick around too long. I do, however, think after yesterday’s utter blackness, I am due a little time in the gray space.

Oh, I feel the prozac boost fading already, meaning…Gray space won’t last much longer. Scumbag brain is going to go Marquis de Sade on my ass. I’d call it doomsday thinking if I didn’t live it every bloody day.

Now back to the hypochondriac on my couch.
I much prefer a bofa on my sofa.

who yoo callin’ moody?

Instead of being classified as a mood disorder, bipolar disorder is now in the category of “bipolar and related disorders.” – DSM 5

Moods eh … moods. Moods moods moods moods moods.


Moody moods.


I’ve been thinking about moods a lot today, because mine is currently
I could cite two causes for a bout of low level situational depression, but this mood is not that simple. It is constructed, I think, from the following fine and well priced materials: depression, anxiety and agitation. My hands have gone a bit numb, I’m light headed, my ears keep popping, my jaw is clenched harder than usual, I’m forgetting stuff from one minute to the next and yes, I am whining my head off. Goodbye, head – don’t forget to take my thrice cursed and misbegotten brain with you.

{On a largely unrelated note, I have xmas carols, sea shanties, hymns, Irish folk songs and 80s Afrikaans ballads echoing and earworming round my mind most of the time at the mo. Bizarre combination.}

Once again, I’ve done my best to make it go away. I was up at 6.30am, pottered in the garden a bit and chucked a ball around for the lovely dog, ate, took meds, cleaned the fridge, cleaned some bookshelves, did some laundry, reorganised the towels and linen, started to rough out another design to paint on my stoep and did some bitchstitching butchstitching redwork embroidery. Did I miss anything I should have done to improve the mood? I don’t. fucking. think so …

There was a blonde woman who co-hosted a TV programme with Iyanla Vanzant some years ago – some reality thing set in a house, with people moving their baggage about, symbolically presented as rocks in suitcases. Idk I never saw much of it, but my mother was fairly glued. Anyway, a catchphrase that the old bat quoted annoyingly often (by the aforementioned blonde who may or may not have been a therapist); it’s just an emotion, pick another one. Now, having briefly skimmed some of one of her books, I believe that she is an abuse survivor and worked hard and did well at getting into remission from PTSD. But THAT FUCKEN REMARK HAUNTS ME still and post bipolar diagnosis, irritates me even more.

Oh I can pick different and more positive emotions as easily as I can pick my nose, but I ain’t going to feel them. I won’t get that particular gear change right very much at all.

It’s just a nose, pick another one.


I’ve tried the mood shift thing. A lot. Oy, negative emotions! I am not your bitch! Begone and never darken my door again! And the only reply is sly laughter and a clip round the ear. I wrestle anyway, when I can. There are times when it all flattens me so badly that I literally can’t move, think or talk. I think the sneakiest fucker of them all is anhedonia.

Soon the washing machine will beep and I will hang the laundry on a clothes horse in the sunshine, and at some point, a friend will come to collect her dog (I’m dogsitting) and probably stay for a cup of coffee. By that time, the day will be ending. If there’s a halfway decent sunset I’ll watch it. I’ll probably sit and watch the sky darken and the stars appear too. When I do that, I don’t switch any lights on for ages, if at all. During the evening I’ll be online some, maybe watch something on the laptop, or read, or sew.

You know, I have a freaking awesome life and the only things lacking are a little more money and a goddamn fucking break from sodding bollocking shitwitted bipolar pissing disorder. Jeeeeez universe, just give me a taste, a morsel of euthymia. Pdoc says I won’t recognise it, but I’d be delighted to test the theory. I have never, ever experienced it. Gimme!

Back to that DSM 5 quote right at the beginning … bipolar still disorders moods like nothing else on earth, but it’s good to see some recognition of the fact that moods and their swings are not 100% of bipolar traits and symptoms. Here’s an example; psychosis is not a mood. It’s not a badger either – hopefully you guys have all seen that liddle video by now.


Btw, I didn’t reply to any comments on the labels post, because I tend to simply accept whatever anyone says on the subject as their stuff most of the time. At least I now know that I can count a teapot and a unicorn among my friends. Cool.

Vegas and Fetzima

You’re probably wondering what or who in the hell Fetzima is. Well, I’ll save that little surprise for later. First, let’s talk about Las Vegas.

My husband had to come here for a convention for a few days and he wanted me to come along. That way he didn’t have to worry about me being at home. And you all know how I love a nice, big bed with clean white sheets. How could I say no?

We stayed at a hotel called the Bellagio. (If you’ve been to Vegas, you can skip over this part. Here is a picture of the front of it:

bellagio dayIt has fountains down in the front of it that they turn on at night and they “dance” to music. Pretty spectacular.

I like the Bellagio. It’s sort of a hotel for the older set. I don’t mean the geriatric set, but you don’t see a lot of kids here.

When you come to check in at the front desk, you look overhead and see some glass flowers in the ceiling:

closeup of flowers

These are quite large and fill up the whole area across the top. The artist is Dale Chihuly who makes all kinds of these (and gets a ton of money for it.) I once was an art museum docent and a show of Chihuly glass came to my museum. How they transport that stuff around without breaking it I will never know. It’s pretty breathtaking.

A little further down from the check-in desk is the conservatory:


Enough said on that.

Here’s a nice little shot of the spa (best one I have been to in Vegas):


And they had a little show of the Faberge’ eggs and other goodies made for the Russian czars:

faberge egg

So you can see there was plenty here to entertain me. While my husband was off, I planned on a yoga class, a massage, $40 to throw away on slot machines, going to see the eggs, a little window shopping, and a meal at Noodles, a little restaurant I liked when my best friend and I were here a while ago.

So this all sounds pretty good, right? Even your bipolar correspondent should be able to handle this and have a good time. Let’s face it, this does look fun for most women at least. (I don’t know about you men out there, but you can always gamble.)

Enter stage right: my friend Fetzima!


Last week I begged and whined and got an appointment with my psychiatrist at the last minute. I’ve seen him for about 25 years so I know the office staff well and I am spoiled. They usually get me in. Prior to this, I had talked to my psychologist so I had her on my side. As a matter of fact, I even got her to go talk to him before my appointment. (They work in the same office.)

I told him that I was really sick of sitting on the couch, not showering, and not wanting to go anywhere. I told him I needed more energy and asked if I could get a new med change. He looked happy and waved a little box of samples in front of me.

“Fetzima!” he said. “It’s new and you will love it!” He tells us it helps increase interest in social and living activities and reduces “psycho-motor-retardation”. (I have no idea how you spell that).

Oh, boy. So he starts telling me it can raise your blood pressure. Mine is low anyway, so I wasn’t worried. He said it can cause nausea if you don’t take it with food. Well, I like to eat, so again, no problem. He gives us a bunch of samples and tells us to call our insurance to see if it is covered. We go home and call and are informed it is covered up to 40 mg per day.

So we start on it. If you’ve never started a psych drug before, you’ll enjoy this next part:

First, I have to stop another drug, Lexapro. Good-bye.

Day #1: 20 mg. After about two hours I get off the couch and start walking around. I’m not nervous or jittery, just moving. I feel good, no side effects. Go to bed that night and wake up at 2, 3, 4, and sleep from 8-10 in the morning. Not too bad so far.

Day #2: 20mg. Very cheerful but not manic. More elevated appropriate activity. Mood probably a 6-7 out of 10. No bad side effects. Liking this drug.

Day #3: Upped dose as prescribed to 40 mg: Willingness to do tasks. Waiting on myself and getting things for my husband. Being helpful. Reading things I have been putting off. Notice slight nausea all day even though I ate before taking med. Slight headache. Took Advil for this. Mood still very good.

Day #4: 40 mg: Felt very clear headed. Cheerful. Travel day to Las Vegas. Once again, nausea. Headache came on and was a little worse. Popped a constant stream of Advil. Noticed a lot of sweating. Still mental good mood and good natured. Didn’t do a lot but travel.

Day #5: 40 mg: Raging headache. Nausea that I think was caused by the bad headache. Took lots of Advil. Was afraid to take normal migraine meds due to unknown interaction with new med. First day in Vegas. Got slightly irritated as spent the day in bed with ice on my head. Missed lots of the activities wanted to do. Could not see well to read. Listened to audio book. Headache finally went away around bedtime. Woke up next morning at 6.

Day #6: 40 mg: Took med in morning and noticed headache creeping on about an hour later. Not as bad as yesterday. Still good mood but very tired due to headache yesterday. No nausea. No depression. No ambition at all. Stayed in bed all day. Not happy to miss Vegas activities. Felt better overall.

Day #7 40mg: Slight headache. No nausea. Still tired. Travel day home. Looking forward to seeing my couch again. I scheduled some things with friends and doctors while I was in Vegas. We are going to see how Fetzima works to get me going.

The dose many people take is 80 mg or 120 mg. But remember, our insurance will only pay for 40mg. So we shall see.

And there is the exciting story of my Vegas trip. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. The room was beautiful and I got a lot of stuff done. I read my best friend’s entire book. I messed with the blog. And I made the transition hopefully onto a new drug.

We’re coming back to Vegas in May or June anyway. Maybe I’ll be PERKIER then.

PhD Mummy: The Best of Worlds, The Worst of Worlds

There is a lot of stuff on the “inter-webs” about being a working mum, a stay at home mum, or a studying mum. If you take the time to read all the comments on these articles and forums it is clear that we mothers should all be at each others throats. Because, apparently, all three choices ARE DAMAGING OUR KIDS, GUYS. Working mums abandon their children. Stay at home mums are lazy, and aren’t good role models. Studying mums are selfish for taking time away from their kids to better themselves. One, two, three, four. I declare a mum war.

I think its all a bunch of codswallop. Aside from the fact that your family choices are actually none of my freaking business, I think we should be celebrating ALL mothers. The mums who somehow manage to maintain their sanity even after days inside due to the rain, cranky kids, and a husband on a business trip . The mothers who arrive at a 9am meeting unflustered after spending all night up with a colicky baby, and still manage to make after school soccer practice. The studying mums who mange to juggle exam study with school runs. The single mothers who do it alone and don’t have back up. I commend you. I bow down to you. Seriously – you rock! We’ve fought for years for gender equality (and we’re not quite there yet), we should be banding together. Not ripping each other to shreds.

But anyway, while trawling the net trying to find info for women who parent as well as PhD,  in addition to learning that pretty much every parenting choice I have ever made is wrong, I found that there really isn’t a lot of information out there on being a PhD mummy. Apparently we are a rare breed.

This might be because there aren’t many of us. Most people tend to get their qualifications under their belt before having a family. Or perhaps the ones there are are so run ragged that they don’t have the time nor energy to be writing blog posts. (Ooops.) Maybe it’s because you have to be a special kind of crazy to do a PhD, and an even specialer kind to do the doctorate with kids, and we’re dying out due to natural selection. Who is to know.

The truth is, I find being a PhD mummy has a set of its own unique challenges. It is simultaneously the best of worlds and the worst of worlds.


The best of worlds.

1) I can wear whatever I damn well please. No uncomfortable business attire for me. As long as I’m not on my way to a meeting, conference or presentation I could rock up in tracksuit bottoms with unwashed hair. Or Gucci. Or an ABBA outfit. No one cares. Academics seem to care as much about fashion as Concreters do about Paleo diets.

2) I make my own hours. I do have a contract which specifies how many hours I SHOULD be doing a week, and I tend to keep to it. But I don’t need to clock in and out, and as long as I meet my deadlines – again – no one cares. This means my work is flexible, I can arrange it around childcare, I can catch up on weekends or evenings if needs be, and this flexibility is bloody awesome for parents.

3) People think I am really smart. I’m actually not. I’m just really good at torturing myself with study. But hey, I’ll take your compliment.

4) I get paid to read and write about things I am passionate and excited about. I design my study. I don’t have to research something because that is what my boss is interested in, or that is what the grant is for. It’s all about me. Somedays I walk out of the office and think “I have the best job in the world.”

The worst of words
1) Pay. I mean…what pay? Yeah, we get a stipend which would probably just about cover the monthly Nespresso pod expenditure of the average candidate. But it’s not something you could easily survive on – especially if you have kids and were the single/main breadwinner. Working the equivalent of a full time job, often taking on part time work in addition, and not getting the financial reward – difficult. When you have a family to think of you need that extra slice of commitment and determination to continue.

2) You gotta do it. Or not do it. Quit a job two years in and you have a reference and work experience. Quit a PhD two years in and you have nothing except a bruised ego. It’s big. It’s long term. And you need to commit.

3) Some people don’t really get it.”Still at uni hey…” (Yes. And if all goes to plan, I may NEVER escape. It’s a trap!) “It’s not a real job” (Well no. I just signed a 38 hour week contract with four weeks of annual leave, and a pay that may not rival the average McDonalds employee as a hobby really.) “You must like torturing yourself.” (Ok, I actually agree with that.)

4) 95% of the PhD candidates I have met are not parents. We are at different stages of our lives, and often don’t understand each others needs. Doing a PhD is an isolating experience to begin with, and being unable to find common ground only entrenches this.

5) Missed opportunities. Sometimes I can’t go to courses or classes because I can’t get childcare on that day. Most PhDers teach to supplement their income. I can’t. I don’t have the time, energy or childcare. I can’t justify self funding conference travel when there are nappies to buy and bills to pay.

6) I know I put this as a benefit, but it can also be a negative. Working on weekends. I feel like Hubster and I tag team it and rarely see each other or spend time together as a family.

So here it is – the pro’s and con’s of being a PhD mummy. My advice for Mummy’s – do what is best for you, what is best for your children, and what is best for your family. Haters are always going to hate (hate, hate). Shake it off. Then go do your thing, whatever that may be.

Self-Harm and the Words That Made Me Want to Stop

***This post contains material that could potentially be triggering for anyone with a history of self-harm.  Please do not continue if you aren't safe right now.***

I purposely and knowingly hurt myself for the first time on December 14, 2006.  I used a broken plastic spoon to scratch three deep lines into my forearm.  Later that night I burned myself with a candle.  And it felt good.

There is no way for someone like me to explain this to someone like you if you haven't been there.

My brain says it shouldn't feel good.  My brain says it's not something that's okay to do.  And my brain knows it will bother the people around me.

But it does feel good.  And it doesn't feel like a big deal.  And in that moment of darkness, I don't care how others feel about it.

At least that's the way it's been.  In the past.  It's been a little over eight years since I first did it.  And while I understood it wasn't a healthy coping mechanism and I should probably stop, I have never wanted to stop.  Not once.

I tried to want to.  I wanted to want to.  But I just didn't.  I didn't want to give it up.  And, honestly, I just wasn't fully converted to the idea that it was important for me to give it up.

Last October (2014) I burned myself.  I mean, I really burned myself.  And it ended my relationship with my therapist.  Which led to me seeing a new therapist.

As my new therapist and I got to know each other I told him about how many therapists I'd seen over the years.  There have been many in my life.  I go for a while without seeing anyone and then, when I know the issue I'm dealing with is too big for me alone, I pray and ask God which therapist is the right one to help me through this moment.

This is the point when my new therapist asked me what I was seeing him for.  What was he supposed to help me with, whether I wanted to do it or not?

And, boy, wasn't that final qualifier just the clincher for me?  Didn't that phrase tell me I was with exactly the person I needed to see?

I looked him in the eye and told him he and I were to heal the self-harm problem I have.  That I didn't want to give it up.  But that I would work on it with him because I believed God wanted me to.

And I didn't see how I was ever going to want to give it up.

I have been seeing him about every two weeks since early November.  We've taken various approaches.  We've found things that I believe will help me and a few that didn't really fit.

And then, on February 17, he said something in passing that was a game changer for me.  I don't remember the exact words.  He was talking about helping me get more tools in my toolbox so I don't pass the trauma on.

And that was the moment.  I heard in my head and wrote on my paper, "When I self-harm, I pass the trauma on."

I am causing trauma to my children.

And that was the slap I needed.  I am in therapy to heal for them.  I am working so hard to make their world better.  To find the answers they will need in the future by doing the work myself.  And to end a long line of dysfunction.  My goal was to make the trauma stop with me.  I had hoped that I would be its last victim.

But when I hurt myself, it hurts them.  And that's just absolutely not okay with me.

So I'm done.

I can't promise I won't engage in any other unhealthy behaviors as I continue to work my way through my incredibly tangled past.  But I will never, ever purposely hurt myself again.

And that's a promise!

i like labels and i cannot lie

Warning: this post is bristling with identity politics.

Postmodernism eschews labels and I endorse them, but only on my own behalf. As far as your description etc goes, you define your own labels, or lack thereof, and I respect them. If you tell me you’re a teapot, then that is what you are (plus I’d be grateful for the tea). And imho that is just basic good manners and decency, nothing more.


My labels are human, woman, cis woman, queer, dyke, butch, bipolar, house owner, dog walker, bad swimmer, feminist, witty, clever, driver, clumsy, sister, cousin, friend, pervert, odd … the list could go on indefinitely and all of it is tied together by my name and nickname, and out here – my username. The way I look and walk and talk and think and everything else, those are all labels too. And sometimes labels wear out and peel off, and sometimes they are replaced by new ones.

Now, it is very (understandably) important to some people that other people get their labels – and by extension, their pronouns right. I get gendered and misgendered multiple times throughout the day and I don’t even correct it. I simply don’t give a damn whether I get called sir or whatever. However, all of that is easy for me to say, because I have no gender dysphoria or respect for the binary gender system. I’ve never had to fight for my true identity, or align my biology to it. I’m fortunate. I’m fluid about my labels in general; some things bugged me 3-4 decades ago, but that’s long forgotten now.


Labels applied by others can be deeply offensive and damaging. Again, most of mine stem from my gender and sexuality. And again, I am fortunate never to have needed to defend those things with my safety and/or life.

Things along the lines of …
What the fuck are you, male of female?
Faggoty assed bitch!
… have been hurled my way, oddly enough far more in the UK than SA – and I’ve been in SA for most of my life. What even is a faggoty ass? It sounds nice.

Those labels can be reclaimed or ignored. I was only ever worried once and that was by a crowd of English teenagers mouthing off at me about my gender.

You wanna use my labels to insult me?
Fuck off, why would I be insulted by my own labels? It’s your shit, not mine.
You wanna beat me up?
Even if you killed me, I’d still be a better human being than you.
You wanna throw insults at my tribe?
I’m standing here in plain sight using my voice, because if you fuck with them you fuck with me.
You wanna start a flame war?
I will never join you in that exercise in futility. May as well bypass a whole lot of ire and quote Godwin’s Law right now.
You wanna have a go at me because I have a disorder?
Blatant logic fail. I’m gonna have to go and startle your sheep now. Twat.

My clearest (and somehow most interactive) labels have clearly been the sex, gender and sexuality ones. And they’ve all sauntered through a progressive metamorphosis over the years. For example: undefined and sort of heterosexual, gay, lesbian, queer, butch. It reflects my gender performance from androgynous to blatantly masculine of centre. (The word dyke has been firmly with me from the start.)


Language = labels (in my mind). You know the lager with the label Carling Black Label? How do you recognise or order it without that label? How do you get the right treatment if you shun the label of a diagnosis? How do you get laid if you don’t either look queer or be open about the fact? (Heterosexuals please don’t be upset by your exclusion from that sentence. You’re an estimated 90% of the population, you don’t have the same issues in that respect.) Are some labels labels while other labels are not labels? If so, it’s woefully inaccurate use of words. Please explain the logic behind all this loathing of labels. Unless labels cause the possibility of your death, I do not understand it. Is it about the assumptions people make? Surely we should be a) getting over our insecurities about others’ opinions and b) being out, proud and loud in order to combat the bs?

By refusing to be labelled, you are automatically labelled “unlabelled”. There is no existence without the identification of the things in it. Language is labels. Write your own labels.


But it is possible that I am wrong about it.