The Hidden Village of Aspergers

August 20, 2017

We need to talk about Kevin.

(Note: this mentions abuse, so may be triggering for some readers)

Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care. – Kevin Pressman

For my dad, I cried a thousand tears  / For you, I won’t cry one / You were rotten to my brother and abusive to my mum / I know you’ll look down on me for being a fat, depressive Jew / But I’d rather be anything as long as I am not like you – LucyShadow, ‘Kevin Pressman’

I’ve not posted on this thing for a long time, due to working two jobs, going to Space gigs, the usual, and not having much to say, but I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time. As some people who know me might know, I write songs. I’ve been writing since I was 13 or 14, played my stuff at open mic nights and have started writing, or trying to, again. One song I wrote used an old tune I’d written in high school, and it ended up being a massive coping mechanism for me because I was finally able to articulate how I felt about my ex-stepdad.

It all began with football. More specifically, it all began with Kevin Pressman.

A bit of background for non-football fans: Kevin Pressman is a former footballer. He’s currently goalkeeping coach at Millwall, but he is most known for playing in goal for Sheffield Wednesday for nearly 20 years, during which time he scored an amazing penalty against Wolves in the FA Cup and made 404 appearances, the most out of all post-war Wednesday players. He joined Wednesday as a teenager in 1985, and left in 2004, aged thirty-six. He was one of many players let go by Chris Turner. Four years earlier, in 2000, his contract had run out, and as this article shows, he was pretty bitter about it. He’d grown up supporting Sheffield Wednesday as a kid in Dronfield, he’d outlasted several other goalies – Chris Woods, Pavel Srnicek (RIP), Matt Clarke, Ola Tidman, and so on – and had helped out with coaching at the club academy. Even now, he still cheers Wednesday on and irritates many a Sheffield United fan on Twitter. To the disappointment of many Wednesday fans, unlike other players who’d done their ten years, he never got a testimonial, which seems like a huge kick in the teeth for someone who’d spent so long at the club and been so loyal. (Even though, there are petitions calling for a Pressman testimonial, though the man himself is presumably too busy with his charges at Millwall.) I’d always thought Pressman was cool as a player, and along with Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Zinedine Zidane and the great Marco van Basten, he was one of my non-Everton favourites as a kid.

Where does my ex-stepdad come in? Well, firstly, he’s a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, and one of my best memories of him involves them. I was desperate for him to take us to Hillsborough, and in 1997, he took me, my brother Jack and my ex-stepbrother to see Wednesday play Chelsea (who, incidentally, are my current stepdad’s team). Wednesday lost 4-1, Dan Petrescu – who had recently moved from Wednesday to Chelsea – got a ton of abuse, and an annoying man behind us commentated throughout the match. But for me, it was like a bonding experience and a chance to spend quality time with my ex-stepdad. Football was one of the things that brought my dad and me together, and it was the same with my ex-stepdad, and it was part of a bigger picture. While he and Jack had a bad relationship – and for the sake of Jack’s privacy, I won’t go into detail as to why – I was the one who tried to be a good stepdaughter and make him like me. I did my chores and pretended to enjoy the incessant walks we went on. I even internalised some of his values, which is why it took so long for me to admit I had depression and needed help. Several years later, when he and my mum separated, Mum apparently asked, “How do you think Lotte will feel?” He dismissively replied, “She’ll be OK.” I started crying, because I felt like I’d been cast aside like a piece of trash. I also found it strange how he never came to visit me while I was a student, yet after the separation he sent me a card, which I threw in the bin. It felt like he only cared when it was convenient. I remembered how he’d comforted me at my maternal gran’s funeral, how I’d cried in his arms after admitting I’d been self-harming (Mum was at choir practice and Jack was too young to help). And now this.

What made it worse in retrospect was finding out that he’d been abusive to my mum – emotionally, if not physically. I’d heard them arguing, and by ‘arguing’ I mean yelling at each other and him making her cry. My dad had never done that. I won’t go into detail about the things he said, out of respect for Mum’s privacy, but one of the reasons why she is an alcoholic is because of him. At least he wasn’t abusive to me, thank G-d, but Mum and Jack are my flesh and blood, and if you hurt them, you hurt me too.

Secondly, I am an Everton supporter myself, but reading the interview with Kevin Pressman, I began to see parallels between his relationship with Sheffield Wednesday, and my relationship with my ex-stepfather. Pressman loved Wednesday to pieces, gave his all for the club (especially in Steel City derbies), and stayed with them through the good times and the bad, even after they were relegated, even when he was dropped in favour of Chris Woods, and they eventually cast him aside like a piece of trash, never even giving him a chance to say a proper goodbye (compare to how Everton treated Tim Howard in 2016). While I was upset about my mum remarrying at first, I genuinely wanted to make a go of things. I wanted everyone to get along and I really wanted my ex-stepdad to love me. I wanted to win his respect and since Jack was the ‘bad’ child, I felt I had to be the ‘good’ child. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Like Pressman, I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth when my ex-stepdad – like the powers that be at Sheffield Wednesday – stopped caring. Sometimes I even wonder if he resented the fact Mum had children. And like Sheffield Wednesday in the 00s, my blended family began to show cracks. Pressman wanted to get Wednesday back into the Premiership, and I wanted a normal family, but my parents grew further apart and split, living separate lives under the same roof, then in separate houses, then officially divorcing in 2008. I may not be a goalie (back when I played football, I was more of a defensive midfielder), but I understand the pain of being loyal, or trying to be loyal, to someone, only for them to gradually erase you from their life.

One day, I had a dream about Sheffield Wednesday, and a line about ‘watching Kevin Pressman’ got stuck in my head, and gradually I came up with more and more lines and wove them into a song, the song I’d been meaning to write for years. Music has been one of my coping mechanisms, and writing that song was a huge release for me – I still listen to it when I need a kick up the arse. I’m going to end this post with the final line:

I’d rather be at Hillsborough watching Kevin Pressman / Than spend another life with you.

 

 

May 23, 2014

Quiet Beach

On some quiet beach, we sang songs for the sea
On some quiet beach, lost with the waves we breathe

TW: attempted suicide

It’s taken me ages to gear up to writing this, because it’s not going to be easy to write. I was motivated to write this post today for two reasons. One, a guy I follow on Twitter posted about suicide and selfishness, and it got me thinking. Two, Midland Railway, a band I used to play in, have got back together and are playing in the Retro Bar tonight, and the last time I played with them, I ended up trying to kill myself.

I have three suicide attempts under my belt. None of them have been serious enough to warrant extended hospital stays, though I did have counselling. The first time, I tried to hang myself, but something made me grab hold of the noose. I managed to pull myself back from the brink. I can’t remember what started it.

The second time, I was in my second year of university. It was a tough time. I was bogged down with coursework, my housemates and I were not getting on, I was juggling my degree with student council and other commitments, I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back, and to top it off, my gran had died. Everything came to a head when I found a note on the fridge – my housemates often communicated by leaving notes – about putting single items in the washing machine. It was clearly aimed at me as I’d washed a towel. I slashed my arm. Later, I was in the union and two of my housemates blanked me, and I was pretty wound up. I went to Hulme Hall for practice with another band I was in, but no-one showed up. I sat around crying for a bit, then went the chemist, got some Nurofen and was in the process of wolfing it down when a housemate found me. She made me throw up the pills and called an ambulance. I spent a few hours in hospital, but luckily I was OK and I was discharged. As I walked home, all I could think of was the final line of the poem Mum read at Gran’s funeral: ‘I am not there, I did not die.’

When I got home, the door was locked. I rang the doorbell. One of my housemates answered, gave me a dirty look and walked upstairs without a word. The housemate who found me must have told her that she was partly to blame for my overdose. We later got into an argument and I thought that had cleared the air but things were never the same after – they didn’t buy me anything for my birthday, even though we’d all celebrated theirs, and they’d walk out of a room when I went in. I dropped out of uni and decided to repeat the year. On the advice of a counsellor, I moved out of the house and spent the rest of the year in Richmond Park, before going back to my parents’ house in Chester. Before I left the house, I left a note explaining what I’d done. My housemates never spoke to me again.

Two years later, I was playing at Joshua Brooks with Midland Railway and got into a heated argument with the drummer over some sticks I thought I’d lost, culminating in me threatening to smash him over the head with my guitar, and frantically rummaging around on the floor looking for the sticks, screaming my head off. As soon as I got home, I ate all the pills in the house I could find, and posted a goodbye message on my Livejournal. Sarah, the other female band member and a good friend of mine, came over and kept me company until the ambulance arrived, and my then boyfriend also came and sat with me in the hospital. I was kept in overnight on a drip to get the crap out of my body. Later, the male members of the band kicked me out behind my back (Sarah was kept out of the loop). I only found out because my then boyfriend told me. I don’t want to go over old ground too much, but suffice to say, whenever I hear about Midland Railway now and see them on my feed, I feel sick and shaky. I’m back in the hospital again.

When I told my mum about my first overdose, her legs went. My maternal grandad was mentally ill and had attempted suicide several times. I remember one time when I got a frantic call from the counsellor’s office telling me to ring Mum. I’d made some comment about slashing my wrists the previous night, and she was frightened and had called the counsellor’s office. I rang her to tell her I was OK and she started crying, and I hated myself so much for what I was doing to her. The thing is, as I’ve said before, however much you may love your family and friends, when you’re suicidal, they do not figure. There is no room in your head. All you can think about is disappearing. You cannot go on anymore; you just want to wipe yourself out and cease to exist, and never mind who will have to pick your body off the floor or out of the bath, clean up the blood, make the phone calls. Your entire world is that little box of pills in your hand and you think of your gran and your dad and how you want to be with them. No more pain. No more sadness.

What does this have to do with Aspergers? I think it comes back to emotional difficulties – emotional and sensory overload, not knowing how to cope, and it all comes to a head and when you tend to see things in black and white, you think of extreme options. So many times I’ve had a bad day at work and thought, “I can end this. There’s one way out.” I think of pills, of ropes, of bleach. I had such a moment lately – luckily, Mum and Jack were able to calm me down over the phone.

I’ll be honest. The main reason why I’m not dead is because I love Mum and Jack and I can’t bear to think of what me dying would do to them. Obviously, there are other people in my life who I care about – my stepfamily, my other relatives, my friends – but I know how much my suicide attempts hurt them. Jack even argued with Mum that I wasn’t safe to go back to uni. One good thing that did come out of it, though, was Jack sending me a text telling me that he loved me and he just wanted me to be OK. Nothing brings my family together like a crisis. I’ll elaborate more on this in Guestlist To Hell, the final post of the series.

May 1, 2014

Crying On The Webcam

One more minute watching you, and I feel the same
One more minute hearing you, and I feel your pain, pain, pain
She’s crying on the webcam, I want to kiss her now
She’s crying on the webcam, she’s feeling full of doubt
She’s crying on the webcam, I’d like to help her out

TW: self-injury, eating disorders

It’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, and I’ve decided to swap the Space posts around a bit and do a post about self-harming. Partly because of the stigma surrounding cutters, and partly because I was hauled into the partner’s office at work after he’d had a conversation with my boss about the fact I’d cut myself recently, and I came out feeling drained and miserable and feeling that I’d been treated like a criminal. I’m not kidding – another solicitor was in there taking notes, which I didn’t twig until I was asked to spell ‘Venlafaxine’, and I was asked the sort of questions the police ask our clients at the police station. It was not a pleasant experience and it made me realise how some people just do not get it.

As I’m tired and my left arm hurts (due to grating chocolate for a meal I made last night), it’s going to be one of those posts with bullet points.

The basics:

– I started cutting myself when I was 14, in 1999. It was after an argument I’d had with my mum.

– I generally cut my arms, but have also cut my legs, stomach, breasts and face.

– I have used knives, razor blades, broken glass, broken porcelain, compasses and scissors. I have never burned fags out on myself, but I have poured boiling water over my arm a couple of times, or bashed myself with a heavy folder, a hammer or a poker.

– I have scars on my arms, but most are only visible in summer.

– I would say that I am an addict.

I do not self-harm because:

– I am a Manics fan and I want to copy Richey Edwards. I was heavily into the Manics at the time I started self-harming, and certain songs of theirs did resonate, but it wasn’t a copycat thing. By that logic, I’d also be an alcoholic since I like the Pogues.

– I want attention. When I wrote an article for the Manchester University student paper about self-harming, I said – and I stand by this – that there are far more dignified and painless ways of getting attention. Such as dancing naked on a table in Jilly’s Rockworld (RIP). I’ve been accused of doing it for attention because I’ve gone around wearing t-shirts or sleeveless tops or dresses after cutting. It genuinely does not register with me that people will react, and if the alternative is being boiling hot and/or uncomfortable, I’m willing to risk showing my arms off. I am not like Maeve, the girl in the song and the accompany video, who filmed herself holding up various cards with little snippets of info about her life (she’s also a recovering bulimic, incidentally).

– I am trying to manipulate people. I have threatened to cut – I’m not proud of this – but never once have I done it with the specific aim of hurting someone else. I know how much it hurts my family when I self-harm, but I’ve never, to the best of my recollection, held it over them.

– I want to be cool and/or am following a trend. I do have a few mates who self-harm, but I did it way before I met any of them, and when have I ever followed trends? I am the least trendy person I know.

– I have a pain fetish. There is nothing sexual about it.

I do self-harm because:

– I struggle to deal with strong emotions (see Mister Psycho). It is a release. A temporary one, sure, but it’s still a release.

– I have very little self-confidence and I fucking hate myself. I despise myself. I’m not fishing for compliments; I genuinely do feel, especially on a bad day, that I am a loathsome human being, and even when my friends and family tell me that I’m not a loathsome human being, that nasty little voice still doesn’t shut up, and it tells me I deserve to be punished. You ate too much? Stick your fingers down your throat. You were mean to someone, you’re fat, you didn’t do the task you were supposed to, your father would be disappointed, you weren’t there for your mother when she had a drink problem, you had an argument with your mother, you didn’t give that homeless person change…you know what to do.

– I turn my anger inwards. I had to laugh when I nearly self-harmed at work and a colleague was apparently concerned I was going to shank her. I’m more likely to hurt myself than anyone else.

– It leaves visible marks on my skin, like a brand or a scarlet letter or a sign worn round my neck (hence why I don’t take up boxercise or martial arts as a release). It is the mark of punishment.

Things people have said to me about self-harming: 

– “It tears me apart when you cut yourself” – my brother.

– “How could you do that to your lovely face?” – my mum.

– “When you cut your arms, people are going to react, that’s the reality of the situation” – a guy I was obsessed with at uni.

– “Thank you so much for writing that article” – a friend who will remain nameless, and who I met at a gig after she got chatting to me about the article, amongst others.

– “When did you do it? How long ago did you last cut yourself? How many weeks? How many months? Are you getting help? Are you seeing anyone? Are you going to stop?” and so on – my colleagues, during the interview.

– “What happened to your arm?” – a supermarket cashier.

– “Your arms are going to look like a fucking zebra” – a woman I knew at uni.

Other points I would like to make:

– Telling me to stop cutting and assuming I’ll instantly stop DOES NOT WORK. Addiction doesn’t work that way. My mum accepted long ago that I can’t promise her that I’ll stop for good – I’ve tried, I’ve promised, but I always broke the promise. If she can’t talk me into stopping, no-one else can, especially people I don’t particularly know or like.

– Telling me to rid my house of plasters, antiseptic and so on is a terrible idea. The idea behind it is that without stuff to put on my wounds, I’ll be less inclined to cut. This is bullshit. I’ve self-harmed even when I’ve had no plasters or antiseptic available, just bog roll or kitchen towels, and it’s far better for me to have a medical kit of sorts handy.

– Anything can trigger me into cutting. Things that have set me off have included arguing with my family, stress at work, Everton losing 4-0 to Liverpool (I was frightened I’d have to deal with loads of abuse from Liverpool fans I know on my Facebook and Twitter feeds), falling out with people, finding a note stuck to the fridge that was clearly aimed at me (which I will discuss in Quiet Beach, because that was the start of a very bad day), certain articles on the internet, homeless guys asking me for money…the list is endless.

– I can understand if my scars catch your eye, but please don’t have a go at me for doing it or give me the third degree. I have my reasons for doing it and like I said, I am the only person who gets physically hurt.

– Do not assume cutters are all hormonal teenage girls. Men self-harm. Non-binary people self-harm. Adults self-harm. There are people old enough to be my parents who self-harm.

– If we want to talk about it, we’ll talk, but don’t force the issue.

April 12, 2014

Paranoid 6teen

If you’re getting nervous
Cos all your defences are down
And you’re running through a storm
But there’s no one on the other side
You’ve got to avoid being paranoid sixteen

(Note: I’ve been putting this post off for a while as it’s not going to be easy to write, but my brother turned 28 on Thursday. This post is for him.)

Dear Jack,

You probably have guessed this, but I’m going to come out and say it: I was always jealous of you.

You were everything I wanted to be. You were, frankly, normal. You had friends; you were popular; you were cool; you liked the right music, the right things; and most important, you didn’t have Aspergers and you didn’t get bullied. You weren’t an emotional mess like me (or Mum, for that matter – you’re the only one out of the three of us who hasn’t struggled with some kind of addiction). When Mum yelled at you, you didn’t shout back at her like I did. You were more OK with Mum remarrying than I was (which is pretty ironic, considering how badly things ended up between you and Ex-Stepdad). You did everything before I did. I felt like was the younger sibling; I was so inexperienced and boring compared to you. I didn’t have sex until I was 17, didn’t start drinking till I was in Year 11, didn’t do anything stronger than weed till I was a student, didn’t have a serious relationship until I was in my twenties. You were growing up faster than me, and I resented you for it.

I’m not going to lie and say we’ve always had a brilliant relationship. At times, I hated you and I’m sure you hated me. You were pretty violent to me when we were little, and I returned the favour when I was older. You did a lot of things that made me angry. I hated the way you and your friends would wind me up and laugh at me, especially when I was with R. I hated how you called me a ‘whore’ after you found out about the Krazyhouse incident, how you told me to shut up whenever I sang or played the flute, and how you were clearly ashamed and embarrassed to have me for a sister. When I won the Comic Relief talent contest, kids in your year told you that your sister was a bitch, and one little shitbag joked about us being in an incestuous relationship. However, I also remember that I won a load of sweets, and as you were off sick that day, I shared them with you. Likewise, a year or so earlier, when I was off sick, you gave me a copy of Tin Planet that Danny Melia had taped. (Ah, that album. We fought over it like it was our child, even after you decided you hated Space and that I knew nothing about music.)

But then, I’m going to hold my hands up and say that I wasn’t a very nice older sister. When you and Emily started going out, I couldn’t handle it, I was eaten up with jealousy, and I said and did some pretty nasty things. I scratched you, screamed abuse at you, threatened to knife you. I’m not proud of that. I would never have done it – I’m more likely to hurt myself than another person. Sometimes I’d be spoiling for a fight. I made you cry a few times. I could be bitchy and condescending, and I did side with Ex-Stepdad against you at times, although in retrospect, I wonder if he was trying to play us off against each other.

You’re the reason why I cut Ex-Stepdad out of my life. He used you as a way to get at Mum. When he was angry with me, I’d get it in the neck, but when he was angry with you, he took it out on Mum instead. Maybe he was jealous of you. I hope not, because that would be fucked up. He badmouthed you to the McPartlands one time and I was really angry. Basically, I can talk shit about you because I’m your sister, and you can say what you want about me, but Ex-Stepdad doing it was different. He was an outsider. He called you an arsehole behind your back. Mum told me he didn’t trust you, and he was prepared to leave you to spend the night sleeping in a station in Crewe. Yes, you were a pain in the fucking arse at times, missing the last train home and asking Mum to collect you, but still. I lost my temper at Ex-Stepdad that night, I tell you now, because I was worried something would happen to you. That was why I found it weird that he sent you a card, and I don’t blame you for ripping it up. (I put some sweeties in your birthday package because of that!) You were only little when Dad died, and you needed a father figure, and he failed.

The turning point for me came when I found out he’d asked Mum how I was doing, but not you. He made it clear that he didn’t give a fuck about you. That settled it. We are a package deal. Just as Alice and Tom are a package deal – I mean, fucking hell, can you imagine Mum blatantly favouring Alice over Tom like that? No, you couldn’t. When it came between you and Ex-Stepdad, you won out and I was so disgusted by the way he treated you and Mum that I cut him out of my life. I regret nothing.

It took me by surprise when I found out how upset you were about the overdose, and that you’d argued with Mum, saying she shouldn’t let me go back to uni. I honestly did not realise you cared so much. Then you sent me a text telling me you loved me, and one night you were pissed and told me how much it hurt you when I cut myself. When we were helping you move out of Liverpool halls, you saw the scars on my arms and freaked. I think we became closer partly due to that. You began to open up more; you even started hugging me. We never hugged as kids. The only body contact we had was hitting and kicking and scratching each other.

I have many happy memories of you, before you think that I’m just slagging you off. The Famous Five fanfic we wrote together, the word games we’d play in the car or walking the dog, the Sundays with Dad in Hove Park, dancing to East 17 with Danny and Mike in Southampton, going swimming with Mum. More recently, there’s Primavera 2013. When we were at Leeds 2002, we avoided each other, and 11 years later, we were watching Wu-Tang Clan together with your mates. How times change. You also helped me during the time when Mum was in rehab – you and Richard helped me get over my guilt and sadness and helplessness. She also told me you looked after her when she had a panic attack. I was so proud of you. I only wish I’d been able to go to your graduation ceremony (bloody swine flu). Again, I was so proud of you. Ex-Stepdad never had any faith in you, but I did. I knew you’d be OK in the end.

I do care about you. When I came home from work and saw you crying on the sofa, and Mum told me Emily had dumped you, I wanted to beat the shit out of her, because I couldn’t bear to see you so upset. Seeing you cry at Gran’s funeral in 2005 hurt, as did finding out that you weren’t as confident as I thought you were, that you had insecurities of your own. I’d known you all your life, and yet I knew so little about you. I’m glad that we’re making up for the teenage years now. A lot of damage was done, but we’re getting there. You’re not ashamed of me anymore and I’m not jealous of you anymore. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

I love you, and I always will. You and Mum are everything to me.

Lotte x

January 1, 2014

And 2014 begins.

I am sitting here, in my kitchen, playing Farm Heroes. The happy, smiling faces of the cartoon fruit and vegetables make me sad for some reason. I think it’s because I’m feeling a little flat and empty after spending time with my friends and family. Post-Christmas comedown and post-exertional fatigue (I’ve not been exercising, but I have been busy) has kicked in; I just want to sleep. I’m amazed I even can sum up the brain power to type this. I didn’t go out last night because of it. I just stayed in and watched Wayne’s World.

So, 2013. It’s been hit and miss. On the plus side, I met new people, went to Barcelona alone and had a fantastic time at Primavera. I became a lot closer to my stepdad, not that we weren’t in the first place, had a fun time with the family at Ness Gardens (rain notwithstanding), got to see a football match for the first time in years (it was Cambridge United, not Everton), and saw more Space gigs than you can shake a stick at. The last gig I saw was on Halloween in London, and after talking to him backstage, Tommy Scott got me to come onstage with him for The Ballad Of Tom Jones. We both hammed it up, and afterwards, he gave me a hug and told me I’d done the song proud, while Franny Griffiths smiled at me and Phil Hartley also gave me a hug backstage, and the audience were great. I still can’t quite believe it happened.

On the down side, my best mate moved to Oxford, I had a horrible panic attack at a Space gig, my mum went into rehab, I stopped going to synagogue because choir stressed me out, and I had to deal with problems at work, delusions and paranoia. A good deal of it is to do with Space. I find some of the band very hard to read and worry that they dislike me and do not appreciate me coming backstage, although Franny did say at the Hebden Bridge gig that he was cool with it. Then again, they haven’t told me to fuck off, Franny actually got somewhat irritated with me when I called myself a ‘dumb whore’ and told me to stop putting myself down, and the one time I did get kicked out of the dressing room, all the other fans who were there got kicked out too as the band were getting changed, which is fair enough. I also rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism. It’s not a case of being starstruck; I know Space are only human. It’s more a case of worrying a lot about appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and how other people might see me.

Communication is a problem I have in general, and when I’m able to gather my thoughts more coherently, I’ll blog on it, because sometimes it’s like trying to navigate my way through a forest, blindfolded. I’m not always good at expressing myself, I can’t always detect nuance and like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, I instantly suspect the worst of people and find it hard to trust others. I have to remember that just because some people hated me behind my back, and were only afraid to tell me how they really felt to my face because they knew I was mentally ill and feared I would flip out, does not mean everyone is like that.

I have plans for this year. I’ll be going to Space in March, at London, Liverpool and Manchester, and aim to get over my fear and paranoia. I’ve also got Nine Inch Nails and Primavera Sound coming up – I’ll be going back to Barcelona – and I plan to go down to Cambridge for my birthday, as well as visiting my auntie Chris, my dad’s sister, at the end of this month. I may well be going to Berlin as well – I haven’t decided yet. Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the unpleasant experience at Schonfeld Airport.

Also, I had a bit of a meltdown at Christmas when I got into an argument with my mum. She wants to get me a cleaner, as I have trouble taking care of my flat. I admit I have mixed feelings about this; I’m worried some of my friends will hate me for it and call me a spoiled brat, and I feel guilty for not being able to clean as much as I would like. I admit it; I am not a tidy person. I put cardboard and plastic in the recycling bins, I cook and wash the dishes, I change my sheets weekly and do my laundry regularly, I hoover, I clean the lav (again, not as much as I should), but it’s not enough. I haven’t cleaned the skirting boards, I barely wash the floors or dust. Mopping makes my back ache, as does any work on my knees. I think it’s a case of feeling like I can’t be that bad, that I’m not disabled to the extent that others are and I’m privileged and it could be a lot worse…and then the tiredness hits and I can barely think straight and I just want to crawl into bed. There’s a lot of internalised ableism and foolish pride going on as well. I’m still ashamed to admit I need help in some areas. When a lot of your friends are mentally ill and/or more understanding than most people, you become so used to that world that you almost forget how the majority of people see you. Cutting my arms and pouring boiling water over them at work seems normal to me, as does throwing up in the toilet after a binge…but to other people, it can come across as a bit scary.

I’m staying on the Venlafaxine for the time being. I’m not 100%, but let’s be realistic, I’m probably going to be on meds for the rest of my life. Still, I have some control over the delusions; when the Liverpool fans on my Facebook and Twitter sneer at Evertonians, I have to force myself to remember that it’s not personal and they’re not trying to get me, for instance. Hopefully it will get better. Fingers crossed.

October 2, 2013

It only takes one chocolate bar

First off, I should probably put a warning on this post. If you’ve ever had problems with an eating disorder, you might find this post triggering. Proceed with caution.

For reasons I’m not going into, out of respect for my family, addiction’s been on my mind recently. The other thing that prompted this post is the fact that I’ve recently been having difficulty breathing, and my chest hurts. After going on Google, I figured out I’d pulled my chest muscles from purging, and that was what was causing the pain.

I have an obsessive personality. I obsess over people, books, manga, bands.  My obsession with Space is one I need to keep a careful check on, as it’s caused me a lot of anxiety lately. I sometimes wonder if having an obsessive personality might overlap with an addictive personality; there’s the same kind of all-or-nothing quality in both cases. I have to go to as many Space gigs as I can and buy as much stuff by them as I can and back when I was a kid, I’d buy every magazine they were in that I could get my hands on, and I was in the fan club, and there were other, more embarrassing aspects of it that I won’t go into here. In the same way, when I’ve gone through phases of being obsessed with my body, I’ve counted calories and gone to the gym and pushed myself till I hurt. Even yesterday, I felt like a failure because I was only in there for 20 minutes and I had to get off the bike because my arms and legs were literally shaking. The last time I went, I was in pain for days.

I had a phase around 2004 where I was barely eating. I’d have an apple for lunch and things like two sausages on a plate of spinach for dinner, and I’d give up sweet things. That all stopped, luckily for my mum – who was worried about me – when I went back to uni. I was thin for a year, then I got put on Citalopram and my weight shot up. Looking at old pictures of myself made me want to cry. I missed being thin. I had to tell myself that being fat and relatively stable was better than being thin and cutting all the time and wanting to die, but when Mum was having a go at me over my weight, and when I looked in the mirror at the mikveh when I converted to Judaism and was ashamed of my gut, I wondered if coming off the pills might be an idea.

Food and I have a complicated relationship. I am a comfort eater. When I am stressed or unhappy, I comfort eat. When I’m going through a particular bad patch, I binge and purge. I have been doing this on and off for about half my life – I remember throwing up in the sink in my room. I can’t even remember what started it. I did it at school, I definitely remember that.

It only takes one chocolate bar, one biscuit, one packet of crisps on a bad day. You think, “I’ll just eat this thing.” Then you think, “Another one won’t hurt.” Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole pack. You feel disgusted at yourself. You run to the toilet, fill a glass with water to help, shove your fingers down your throat, and vomit and vomit until your stomach starts to hurt and only bile is coming up. Alternatively, you’re out with mates, and they’re having pudding, so you do as well, and then you immediately start to feel guilty and it’s toilet time again, and you wonder if your friends know what you’re doing.

I know vomiting doesn’t help. Believe me, I know. I’ve started to suffer the side effects. Besides chest pains, after purging I get an irritating cough – apparently ‘bulimics’ cough’ is a thing – a sore throat, and damaged teeth. That’s not to mention the watering eyes and bad breath, and having to clean my toilet, wipe down walls, wash my hands, check that there is no telltale puke in my hair or on my hands or face or clothes. Bulimia is not pretty or glamorous. It is, frankly, pretty disgusting.

I tried Slimming World. It barely worked. I may go back on if and when I have enough money and willpower, but it is going to take a hell of a lot. When you’re stuck in bad eating habits, it is hard to get out. Add to that a chronic condition that makes exercise potentially debilitating, and you’re fucked. I sometimes wonder if addictive personalities run in the family. I’m not the first person in my family to have had an eating disorder, or at least symptoms of one. There have been alcoholics in my family. I don’t think I’m in any danger of becoming an alcoholic; I don’t drink these days due to my meds, which makes Space gigs awkward (at the last one, I came very close to having a full-blown anxiety attack in front of Franny Griffiths), and I’m not a big fan of alcohol anyway. I’ve done drugs, and although I did enjoy MDMA, I never got addicted to it (the novelty would have worn off, for one thing). My addiction, let’s be honest, is food. I am overweight, in a society that hates fat people, and I am stuck in a horrible behaviour pattern and I want to get out of it, believe me. Sometimes you think, “I’m going to change, I’m going to give this up and I’m going to eat this instead and do yay amount of exercise,” and for a few days it lasts and then you have a bad day at work or you’re PMS-ing and it’s back to square one. Again, and again, and again.

As I type this, my lunch is in the oven – it’s a salmon steak, a couple of potato waffles, and I’ve got some homemade salsa in the fridge made of avocados and red onion and tomatoes. I know I will keep it down. I tend not to vomit that kind of thing. Even I have my limits.

November 24, 2010

From 20 to 40 to 20 again

Filed under: mental illness,self-injury — kankurette @ 9:08 pm
Tags: , ,

As I’ve said before, Aspergers and mental health problems are, for me, two sides of the same coin, a beast with two heads. They feed each other. My paranoia, my anxiety, my social difficulties and everything else are amplified when I’ve forgotten to take my meds, and I think Action Palestine are putting posters on trees as a warning that they’re coming to get me, or that my colleagues are all ganging up on me. It’s a pretty awful combination. Throw ME into the mix as well and you have added brain fog and achyness and fatigue and dizziness and yada yada.

I’ve had the latter since last year and it’s not letting up. An ex-colleague suggested I get my white blood cell count checked. Been there, done that. Then again, he also claimed I had Postviral Fatigue Syndrome, which – as any other ME sufferer who’s been through the ringer will tell you – is an old name for ME. Recently, work has been pretty hellish, given that I had to work a double shift on Monday to get over two hours’ worth of case notes typed up for my boss to read. Granted, it was a big case, and it took three secretaries to type the damn things – go team! – but by the end of the day, all I wanted to do was take some painkillers, have a bath and a sandwich – I was too exhausted to wash my hair or cook – and sleep, sleep, sleep. I took yesterday off as I don’t get paid overtime – I take time off in lieu – and spent most of it recovering. I still am recovering.

I also spent a good amount of Monday’s shifts crying. Partly because of the case itself and partly because I was so scared of making a mistake or not getting everything done in time. When I have a backlog, I get stressed, and when I get stressed, I get ill, and round and round we go. Unfortunately, with the stress comes unsavoury thoughts. This is not the first time I’ve sat at my computer and thought about knocking back the bleach we keep in the toilet, or making a noose out of the pretty pink ribbon we use for briefs to Counsel, or smashing my glass and ripping myself to shreds with the pieces. But I didn’t, obviously. Partly because I wondered who would clean up the mess, and partly because I managed to keep it together and get back to work.

I wonder how much of this is due to the decrease in meds. I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason I went back down to 20mg Citalopram was because I thought, “I gained a load of weight when I upped the dose. If I cut the dose in half, maybe I’ll lose weight.” Pharmacology fail! I am still somewhere between 79 and 80 kilos and not getting thinner. It doesn’t help that I can’t exercise because I’m too tired half the time (yes, I know, exercise makes you less tired, but oddly enough that isn’t the case with me, and if anything I get that pesky delayed recovery thing where you think you’re going to be OK and then – kaboom! the fatigue kicks in) and because of any change in routine being hard to keep up. The routine in question is my diet. I am gradually trying to cut out bad foods, but old habits die hard, although at least I’m not back on the Exlax again.

I’ve been suicidal at work before. One of my colleagues hated me, and countless times I wanted to go into the toilet and off myself because I just couldn’t cope. Being constantly subjected to someone who makes it obvious she doesn’t like you can have that effect. Every time I’ve attempted suicide, the motive has remained the same: I have pissed someone off; I am a bad person; they would be better off if I died; I’m going to kill myself.

Maybe I’m being impatient, but you’d think the meds would have kicked in by now. I don’t like fucking with my body’s chemistry, but neither do I like the uncertainty of knowing what dose to take. I also don’t want to change meds, weight issues notwithstanding, because of the withdrawal I’d have to go through, and Citalopram has been the best of three. Prozac was OK, but not quite what I needed, and Sertraline turned me into a sexless droid and made me bitter about the fact that I could not give my girlfriend at the time what she wanted. Citalopram helped calm me down a bit. Obviously, it won’t kill the Aspergers, but there’s no medicine that can, and I’m not sure how I’d feel if there was one, but that’s another issue entirely. It tones down the anxiety, which is the one thing I really need.

There’s also the worrying fact that recently, I was in bed when I heard a noise that sounded like a woman screaming and saying, “Help me”. I was too exhausted to get out of bed, but I lay there worrying, what if it was real? What if someone was being tortured and killed, and I was lying there doing nothing? And the screaming just went on and on, to the point where I didn’t know it was real, or if it was me, and I lay there wishing for it to stop, or at least for some confirmation that I would know what was real. I wished it was just my imagination, but then hearing the sound of screaming in my head is not really something I want. Particularly when it’s so clear and stark you almost believe it’s real and are that close to rushing outside in the first thing you can throw on.

Hopefully it was a one-off and is nothing to do with the meds reduction. I know it wasn’t to do with work because it happened before the case came in.

Oh well. So it goes.

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