Talking about being sad without giggling

The loss of Robin Williams is a sad one. Saddest of all I feel, for him. To feel so very low as that is quite simply one of the worst things in the world. I should know. I should preface this with a warning, I will write about suicide, depression, self harm and rape. I will not be oblique. If any of those things might upset you, stop now, go somewhere else. Or at the very least make sure someone is on hand to hold you.

When I was 15, my mum died. That made me very sad. But I was depressed before that.
When I was 14, a girl at my school, in my choir died. This made me very sad. But I was depressed before that.

I’m sure that I must’ve been happy as a child, but from the ages of about 11 through to now, i’ve had some or other degree of depression. There’s been a few good spells, but the bad ones have been longer.

When I was 11, I didn’t want to commit suicide, I just felt that if my family suddenly moved across the country, I wouldn’t much mind. We were on holiday in cornwall. My mum noted how much happier and more relaxed I was there.

That holiday, I tried to harm myself for the first time.I’d read about it in the papers, and I thought it was maybe something i’d like to try. I dragged the sharp edge of a broken off pop can tab down the length of my arm. It stung, and when I went in the sea it stung even more. I didn’t much like it.

When I was 13, I tried it again. I slashed my arms open with a razor, and then I learnt how to dismantle them, burning the plastic with a lighter until it curled and melted away, heady from the fumes in my enclosed bedroom.

I stopped, then started, then stopped again. I felt better. I felt worse. My mum died and a slow decline became a headlong rush.

When I was 15, I tried to kill myself. On more than one occasion. I took a handful of paracetamol and went to bed, I woke up in the night to be sick, again and again.

That christmas, I took all of my anti-phsycotics at once. I could hear my own heartbeat. I went to bed and lay down to die. I didn’t. I woke up elated, went into town in the clothes I had slept in, bought hair dye and started to look after myself for the first time in months. I had reached my very lowest ebb, and even though I knew that people cared for me, and that it might hurt them, I couldn’t see a way to go on. It is the saddest feeling in the world, knowing that you can’t cope any more, than nothing will make any of this right.

I got better. I cleaned myself up and left therapy. I was happy. For a whole, entire year, I thought that maybe depression and sadness were behind me. That I would look back on this and smile remorsefully at my foolishness. I moved away to uni. I got raped, by a stranger in a bar, I cut off all my hair so that I didn’t cut up all my arms, and then I did anyway. I cried. I stopped getting dressed. I stopped leaving the house. I stopped living.

I got better, slowly, slowly, and then it happened again. This time, I was on my anti depressants, they helped numb the pain a bit. This time it wasn’t a stranger. I left work. I stopped leaving the house.

I pulled it together, I felt like this was going to be my year, and no-one would fucking stop me. I got anxious, I got upset. I had another breakdown.

I tore up my arms for the first time in years and everything made me cry. I had panic attacks so bad my chest hurt and ached. I terrified my tutor when I told him I felt that I had to die so as to escape. I tried to explain to a lady from the samaritans that I didn’t want to die, not really, but that I couldn’t see another way forwards.

She talked to me. She talked and talked and talked whilst I sat on a pavement in waterloo and cried and hurt and thumped the ground. She talked until I felt safe enough to go home, to be near a road. I only left the tube there because it has the safety screens, I was so very scared of what i might do.

I’m happier now. A horrible cliche, a fucked up sad clown who works in the arts because it’s so goddamn romantic and correct to be mental and artsy. I take a little white pill every day and it makes my brain run on time. I have a girlfriend. I have two cats. I can see through the veil. It doesn’t stop me thinking about it though. Whenever anything goes wrong or if I walk past a bridge. I’m not scared of heights, i’m scared of myself.

People say it’s a waste when someone kills themselves. That’s not the waste. What’s wasted is their life. When you feel so sad and low that you know you can’t go on. You’ve lost everything. It all hurts, and to be taking up space and air makes you feel like a waste.

You aren’t, even if you don’t believe it in that moment. Just, remember this. If someone tells you they’re feeling suicidal, it’s a cry for help. A desperate scream for you to hold them and never let go. Because feeling that sad is so, so frightening. You can’t trust yourself anymore, you can’t trust anyone. So believe them, hold them, don’t let go of your sad friends, even if it’s a great effort. Even if you can only see them in the house and they haven’t washed. Help them. Don’t let them get that scared.

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On kink, human sexuality and the conversations we have inbetween handing out flyers

I’ve been at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014 for approximately forever now. I know this, because i’ve started having very intense, graphic daydreams about cuddling with my cats again. This is not a euphemism. I’ve also had my first can of Relentless Rockmonster Bull. This is.

Last night, we went flyering. For those of you who don’t know, this is a practise of very complex littering, where groups of people take small bits of paper, and shout in the faces of other people until they take them, move with them, and then drop them on the ground. We do it dressed as Owls.

We found ourselves on a break between queues of people to bother last night, and for reasons I can’t hope to articulate, we got onto the subject of kink. Whilst we were generally agreed that what people like to do in their spare time is none of our business broadly, we were somewhat intrigued.

The following question was raised: “How do you find out you’re into ‘X’?”

And i’ve been thinking about it ever since. The thing is, i’ve got a theory. In much the same way that you just sort of know your sexual orientation, I think you probably just know your kinks? Like, when you’re having those first awkward dreams, you don’t necessarily go: “I must fantasise about attractive members of the opposite sex to myself having ordinary vanilla sex”.

You might do. That’s cool. You also might not.

I also suspect to an extent, you probably do have things you find out along the way. That ill advised stairwell snog with your best mate that makes you realise you’re a little bit more bisexual than you previously thought. The girlfriend who pulls your hair hard when you’re kissing and you find that a bit more exciting than you might have previously realised.

The thing is, that, unlike sexuality, we don’t really talk about it yet. I know it’s always going to be awkward saying to a partner: “I’d really enjoy it if you choked me a little bit whilst we snog” or “I really like the idea of pissing on you how do you feel about that?” because there’s a fear of rejection! It’s not “normal”. But what even is normal anyway? And also you should totally ask because think how much you’ll enjoy it and how much they might if they enjoy you enjoying it.

But I digress.

The main thing I feel is that we don’t choose what we’re into. We just realise. Some people realise that what gets them off is ladies with big breasts, some people like bodily fluids. Unfortunately some people like things that aren’t allowed, like children or setting things on fire. I don’t think it’s their fault. I do think they need help. No-one would choose to like those things, in the same way that in an average, slightly hostile, heteronormative society no-one would choose to be gay.

Maybe that’s just my feelings though. I’d love to know what other people think.

Shortly after this, we digressed into making poo jokes, before going back to work. Flyering does that to a person it turns out, especially when that person is very tired, dressed as an owl and still working at 2 in the morning. Happy Edinburgh.

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My Mum, by Misha aged 21 and 3/4’s

My mum was not an extraordinary or special woman. She was not supremely clever, or beautiful, or generous, or giving, or kind, or any of those things. She couldn’t act, or sing, or dance, or even really swim that well. But she was my mum.

In fact, she was scared of water, hated showering because it got on her face see. She had no boobs to speak of apart from when she was breast feeding me and my brother, and she claimed they were a nuisance. She didn’t wear a bra. 

She had a twisted spine and a third shoulder blade bone in the centre of her chest, giving her a funny, hunched sort of appearance. But, at least as far as I knew, it didn’t bother her. She dated, got married, had children, was loved, beyond all measure.

She was the middle child, an older sister and a younger brother. When he got cancer she was secretly relived that her sister was a better marrow match to be a donor. But who wouldn’t be? She wasn’t supremely brave, she was human. Her Dad died, shortly before her wedding. The last time Coventry City Football Club won anything of note. Years ago. Before I was born. Shortly before she married me Dad. Her brother gave her away at the alter.

She always said she changed her name because “Anker” was shorter and easier to spell. 

She was not what you’d call sympathetic. And i’m not either. It comes of being raised by a nurse and a man with no real concept of a normal pain threshold. I once went swimming with a broken arm for that reason. But I suppose I don’t respond right to pain either. I didn’t notice it had broken.

She would spit on hankies and dispense wet tissues for my cuts and scrapes, and when I got older and the cuts became deliberate, she was there too. She understood. She took me shopping for long sleeved teeshirts, bandaged my arms and then spread a rumour to my friends parents that I had eczema and needed wet bandaging, just like my little brother.

She made countless costumes, for fancy dress parties, the village carnival, world book day, halloween and sometimes just because I  liked dressing up. She stood for hours in the rain whilst I learnt to ride (although so did my Dad too) and would always pick me up when I got homesick on sleepovers. Something i’ve still not quite outgrown.

She wasn’t perfect, she drank a bit too much, smoked like a chimney and had an appalling taste in books. She fell asleep during films. She convinced my Dad to name me after a character from a Danielle Steele novel. 

With her last words she asked for her children, and then when she knew we were okay she became calm. Perhaps, somewhere, in the tiny spark that was still her, she knew it was okay to die if we were safe. Sometimes I wish we hadn’t been so that she might’ve held on a little longer, not left us. Not that she had a choice. Sudden brain haemorrhages don’t work like that, but I can imagine.

I’ve wished, so many times that I got up earlier that morning, that i’d spent more time with her, told her i’d loved her. If i’d only known. But you can’t know. 

It doesn’t matter now. Time has passed, nearly 7 years. I don’t miss her every day, not now. Not because I don’t still love her and miss her with all my heart, but because i’m a big grown up girl with a life of my own. I’m moving on. It’s what she would have wanted. Instead I save it up, and sometimes, on special days. Days like today, I let myself hurt a little. Grieve a little. Miss my mummy and all that she stood for. 

She wasn’t perfect, or cool, or super feminist (although she was a massive hippy with a CND badge, she voted Thatcher out of female solidarity and misplaced youth). She used to let me blame her when I didn’t want to do something, and would always side with me when it was right to do so. She was there for me. And I miss her. 

 

She wasn’t special. She was just a mum. But she was my mum. And I loved her. And that’s really all that matters.

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What we talk about when we don’t talk about rape

We don’t talk about rape. we Talk About Rape yes, but we don’t talk about it. 

Does that make any sense?

We talk around it, we make allusions sometimes. Like, “is it ok to make that joke?” “I think it’s funny” (allusion: I was raped, i’m saying you can make a joke about it, but i’m not saying that out right it would make things weird). Or “yeah I had “an issue” with a colleague”. (allusion: he did something unspeakable and to say it would make this conversation weird)

Sometimes we talk about it in the abstract. We talk about Facts and Figures and How It Is Just Awful Isn’t It? That Anyone Could Think To Do That? It’s okay to talk about it in the abstract, hypothetically, academically. We can consider the horror carefully, from a distance. Not having to imagine the awful, heart wrenching, sickening, terror. Not having to imagine that happening to someone we know and love. 

This is of course true of many kinds of atrocity. War, suicidal depression, loss of a loved one, an awful car crash, child abuse, mugging. So why is it then that some of these things we can talk about and others we can’t? The right sort of person will even make jokes, gentle ones, punching up, you can joke about anything in the right way I think.

But I’m stuck on rape, and maybe within that grander heading, child abuse; it’s the same thing. Is it because we don’t talk about it? I feel like in people’s mind’s it has become the greatest social taboo. Worse than the “c-word” (cunt, there, I said it, just words). I feel like we need to talk about it. 

We need to talk about rape. Not to Talk About Rape. There will always be monsters, human monsters who know what it does to a person and choose to anyway, like those who kill or maim or any number of other terrible things. But what about those who just didn’t think? The Saturday night date rapists of “well she wasn’t complaining”. 

(It doesn’t mean she was consenting either, maybe she was too scared to say no, maybe she was too drunk, maybe lots of things).

I would like to hope that the more we talk about it the more people will be believed, but I don’t hold out much hope. (Deep tissue bruising and you’re still probably lying). 

That’s why I talk about it. Maybe too much. I want to desensitise people (for want of a better word) so that it becomes a thing that happened once and isn’t a problem now, but doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable thing to explain. (“Oh she’s fine now, she was raped, but she’s fine now) Like a car crash, or the loss of a loved one. 

We’re getting there, with mental health. We’re allowed to laugh that everyone we know is taking something to get them through the day, and aren’t these new drugs really great? Fuck, i’m allowed to make jokes about the misfires in my brain that treat everything as a “hey, best go and kill myself!” No brain, you dropped an egg stop over reacting. I’m allowed to talk about when I was 14 and self harming and how my mum responded in the best way possible. Bandaging me up matter of factly, buying me long sleeved tee-shirts in summer colours then telling my parents friends I had excema. That’s ok now, it wasn’t before, but it is now! Progress! 

So that’s why I keep talking about it, because if I can say “Hah, funny thing happened today, I found out someone I know is still boycotting the company I used to work for because my colleague raped me” then it doesn’t stall the conversation completely. 

And because, I really, genuinely hope, that if I can keep talking about it, then it can be a thing we can overcome together. I’d hope against hope it never happens to anyone else I know, but if it did I’d want to be there saying “hey, it happened to me, I came through, it gets better I promise it does.” The same as with any other misfortune. 

So don’t be afraid, don’t be startled when I talk about rape. I’m not blaming you, i’m not trying to upset you, i’m not asking you to do anything. I’m just a human being who is talking. 

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Hash Tag Twitter Silence

The following will contain awful spelling and grammar; and not just because I’m hungover but because its also being typed on my phone. Apologies in advance. 

 
#twittersilence has become an interestingly devisive issue. Is it good, is it bad? Is it letting the trolls win or showing them up as twats? Quite frankly, have they even noticed? Has anyone outside if our small right on lefty liberal bubble noticed? I don’t know. 
 
As I tweeted the other day, the issues that inspired this have something deeper behind them. We’re it not typed on my phone; I’d drop in some screen grabs here. As it is, here is a brief summary.
 
Rape threats are bad, but the mentality is worse. The thought that people out there know how much lasting damage rape causes (because they’d have to have thought about it to realise why a tape threat is just that, a threat) and still want to say these things? That’s a terrifying mentality.
 
I also feel that #twittersilence is an example of feminism gone wrong. Victim blaming tells us it was our fault (spoiler alert: it’s not, ever, wee your fault, no matter what they say). Feminism? Well Feminism tells us we’re big strong girls and boys who can look after ourselves.
 
The two often come together to make you ignore the fact you were just really, really unlucky to have your drink spiked, or that maybe they were bigger than you or threatened you or had a knife or any number of things. 
 
Another thing about #twittersilence. It’s not just women who are raped and threatened. It’s maybe a majority compared to a minority bit can we please not discount other people’s experiences?
 
Currently it seems to me however that people are using #twittersilence to bitch and fight. Which is really not the point at all.
 
Sod that, lets all do #twitternice and make the world a little brighter.
 
(Normally I’d post a link here to some rape crisis centres etc, but instead I will say two things. 1. If you think you’ve been raped then you have. No-one else is inside your head to know or dictate your feelings. 2. If you’re scared to google for help, chrome incognito can be accessed by control or command shift N, and leaves no browsing history)
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21 things from 21 years of living

So Ian Martin did 60 things and Delilah Des Anges did 30 things but I am still basically a child so here is 21 things.

1. It is fine to be unashamedly enthusiastic about something, it doesn’t matter whether that thing is dinosaurs or old books or comedy or collecting perfume bottles, never let anyone tell you otherwise.

2. Chocolate bourbons are the best thing you can get for under a pound.

3. Spend time with the people you love whilst you can. This also goes for pets.

4. If you think it was rape, it almost certainly was. The police force in your area however, will probably need more convincing.

5. Relatedly, don’t wash, save your clothes. I know you probably want to shower all of your skin off, but I promise you if you can wait it will help.

6. If you’re so drunk you can barely stand, do not put roller skates on, it will not help you.

7. You do not have “a migraine” or “the flu” you are up and about, not in bed and whimpering or rapidly making tracks towards being in bed and whimpering. You have a bad headache or a cold.

8. Life is much too short to do something you hate. If you can find a way to stop doing the thing you hate without endangering your livelihood, then do. If not, make plans.

9. It doesn’t matter who you do or don’t want to touch bits with, you can still lead a happy and fulfilling life.

10. Always accept if someone offers to do something nice for you, buy you a drink, dinner, babysit your plants etc. It will benefit you, and the other person has the nice glow of “doing good”.

11. University is not the be-all and end-all. 

12. That said it can be great fun, pick carefully, or take a year out and see. I dropped out once before settling into one I liked. I should be graduating now but i’m back in first year and it’s great.

13. Having another pint and eating rice for a week is almost never worth it.

14. Someone will always think you’re really old or really young, this is true at any age.

15. Learn to drive at 17, it’s easier then, and it’s immensely useful to be able to.

16. Do a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, equally you’ll never have a real day off again because your job is your hobby and it becomes one massive busmans holiday.

17. Do stupid things when you are young enough to get away with them, shave your head, move to London, wear a leopard print coat.

18. Wear things that make you feel comfortable. Who cares if they’re not “for” you?

19. It is only a walk of shame if you let yourself be ashamed. Clearly you had a bloody great night out.

20. Swear copiously, creatively, and often. But not infront of the kids.

21. Remember, someone out there will think you’re hot. My mum had a twisted spine, an extra shoulder blade in her chest and no boobs to speak of. She married my Dad and had two kids, so I don’t think anyone will care in the slightest if you’ve got a mole on your back. 

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It’s Just a Phase

This is an idea that has been rattling around my brain on and off for a good three months now. I have constructed witty and scathing versions whilst showering, only to have forgotten them by the time i’ve put some pants on. I’ve argued eloquently on bus journeys and ah, forgotten it all again in the walk up to my flat; and so what better time to finally put finger to keyboard and write about his, during the long dark Sunday of Christmas.¹

The thing is, Christmas is a time to spend with your family, and therefore for lots of queers² a time to spend having endless arguments about whether or not it matters to anyone else who you like to touch bits with; or not, as the case may be. 

This obviously can be quite upsetting, (I am lucky that my family couldn’t give a flying toss what I do with my clothes off), and often leads to the much hated idiom “it’s just a phase”. I can’t think of anything else which engenders quite so much hate in the general LGBTQI&etc&etc³ except maybe perhaps the term “bicurious”. 

The often bizzarre estrangement of the bisexual is another argument for another day though. 

The thing is, phases elsewhere in life are just that. You’re perfectly allowed to have that phase in your early teens where you thought that Madonna was the greatest thing since sliced bread, or where you dressed all in black and spoke in monosyllables. You have questionable haircuts and items of clothing that everyone around you secretly wants to bin. You have bad boyfriends and good girlfriends, you sleep with inappropriate people or you don’t. It’s a phase.

And yet it still seems largely frowned upon to experiment with your sexuality as well as sexually. The eternal argument for the homophobic of “you’ve never tried it” is true. Surely we should applaud anyone comfortable enough with themselves and their own body to try out anything and everything they think might make them feel good? Within reason obviously and with the usual caveats of safe and consensual experimentation.

I realise the problem here is in being recognised as having made a decision  and not having to fight the idea that it’s a phase. Ask your average queer and they’d be fine and dandy with people trying new things out, so perhaps it’s the phrasing. “It’s just a phase”. 

But then maybe it all is. It’s just that some people are having a much longer phase than others. Like when you finally settle on what you like to do, wear, listen to, eat etc and that is largely how it stays until you kick the bucket. 

It’s all just a phase. 

¹ If Sunday’s are the long dark tea time of the soul then Christmas holidays are the extended Sunday of the annual week. A long period of doing sunday type things, like seeing relatives, eating too much, going for walks, being bored and the shops being shut. 

² I use queer here as an umbrella term, I know some people dislike it but I like the idea of it.  

³ Facetiousness is a terrible vice I know, but seemingly every time I check the acronym has gained a new letter to make sure every spectrum is represented, as though we might forget our trans or intersex bretheren because they aren’t in handy capital letter form. So sue me. (please don’t). 

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