Does anyone else who suffers mental health problems feel bored when there’s no crisis? It’s good not being suicidal or erratic and stuff, but it’s so illogically tempting to go cold turkey on medication just so something will happen.
My life is the calmest it’s been in such a long time, despite big things going on around me. Instead of my usual meltdowns I’ve been the calm at the eye of the storm.
But I’m painfully bored.
Borderline personality disorder is often likened to being on a roller-coaster. The problem is, as terrifying as rollercoasters are – they’re also exciting. The adrenaline rush makes them addictive.
I wouldn’t wish mental health issues on anyone (much). It isn’t pretty like in films. It hurts when your parents find tissues covered in blood from when you self harmed, or seeing the scars on your stomach turn purple when it’s cold. It hurts reading the morbid quotes you texted yourself as a reminder of your sins whilst in the throes of cold turkey (‘eternal damnation!’).
Dealing with mental health issues is like an eternal search for peace, but once things seem remotely peaceful you squirm and start thinking up ways of creating havoc. The future doesn’t seem exciting, because finding that happy place feels impossible.
But you keep trundling on, because maybe this time things will be better.
Last week we said goodbye to an old friend far too soon. Lucy was really supportive of my writing, so I hope she wouldn’t mind me sharing this.
Lucy was diagnosed with a brain tumour during our first year at university. After being sent straight to the hospital by an optician, having complained of blurred vision and headaches, her life changed forever.
That was over six years ago.
I admit I wasn’t a great friend when Lucy got ill. I didn’t check in as often as I should have, but the ‘what ifs’ are mine alone to live with. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the times I did get to spend with her over the past year.
She told me she’d wanted to have as many new experiences as possible, so I took her to the North Wales Burlesque Festival. I told her someday I’d be up there, and I’m sad to think she’ll never see it.
We also went to her first music festival – Festival Number 6 – based in the bonkers Italian style village of Portmeirion in North Wales.
I had gone fully stocked with neon paint, glitter and fairy lights. I was appalled when Lucy said she didn’t like glitter, and briefly questioned our friendship, but she did wear my fairy lights in case I lost her in the dark.
One of the most intimate moments I had with Lucy was wondering through the woods with a bottle of vodka in the middle of the afternoon. I asked whether she was afraid of dying, and we talked about it for a long time.
We were having a lovely time, but I don’t remember ever feeling as angry at the situation as I did on that day. She couldn’t believe what was happening because she felt so well. The only thing that hinted at her brain tumour was that she could get lost easily and needed help finding her way around.
She told me how people kept calling her brave, when really she had no choice in the matter. But I am proud of her for achieving so much when other people might just curl up and shut the world away.
The best case scenario, apparently, was another four years. This was excellent news to me – she’d be here a minimum of four years and not a day less – and surely a cure would have been found by then, anyway!
We caught up on normal girl stuff – I needed to know every single detail about her boyfriend – and I sent her to give the burger boy my number. We had a cracker eating competition with her friend Kevin, and when the rain became too traumatic to handle we went to my friend’s grandmother’s house for a hot shower, which Lucy was eternally grateful for.
We headed back to the festival in our freshly dried clothes, Lucy delighted with her idea to put carrier bags inside her leaking wellies. She said she would buy us lunch, and the outrage she expressed on learning that a portion of fish and chips would cost £10 (‘TEN POUNDS???’) was priceless.
Re-reading the blog post I wrote about the weekend, it feels surreal that she’s already gone. If I had realised that seven months later we would be saying goodbye, I would have made an effort to remember everything we said (and possibly put the vodka down).
Then there are the older memories. On a French exchange trip, we stayed with a miserable elderly couple who only fed us dry pasta, overcooked carrots floating in water, and canned hotdog sausages. In our room we found a swastika emblazoned book and were horrified to realise we were definitely probably living with Nazis.
The day after I heard about Lucy’s passing, I was at the BBC in Cardiff for work experience. On my way out the door I had grabbed any old notebook – this one hadn’t been used since 2011 – and a page fell open with the words:
‘Good things that have happened to me this Christmas:
Lucy saying “I’m just happy I’m still here.”‘
I just about fell off my chair. I was transported back to Beaumaris town square on New Year’s Eve with all our friends, when Lucy said those words as we watched the fireworks. I will never forget it.
Lucy left us on Sunday March 19th. Not being able to say goodbye is difficult – I visited a day too late – but I’m glad she died surrounded by family.
That week I was at my friend’s grandmother’s house for the first time since last summer, and I could imagine Lucy curled in front of the fire wearing Nain’s dressing gown. It seemed surreal that an old lady was still here when Lucy wasn’t.
When I see the little green dot pop up on Facebook to signify that her account is active, my heart stops for a moment as I convince myself it was all a mistake.
I wish I had profound words to share but I’ve been struggling to find any that seem right. Nothing I write will be as good as the post Lucy herself wrote. I remember being so proud when she asked me to help her set up a blog.
I can’t go back and recall every single moment together, because life doesn’t work that way. All that’s left to say, I suppose, is that I’m so very proud to have known Lucy and am grateful to her for reminding me to make every moment count.
Last night in Waitrose I spotted my A level Welsh teacher. Having finished school 6+ years ago, people tend not to recognise me. But I was made up when she knew exactly who I was! Imagine my mortification when I couldn’t remember the name of this woman who had taught thousands of kids across the years.
I told her I’m a writer now, and she was delighted. She remembered I’d been a good writer at school. I felt a huge glow of pride being able to tell her this. Okay, so maybe I don’t always get paid to write about the most exciting things (boilers, DIY, carpets) but I’m doing the only career I’ve ever wanted.
I won’t lie, 2016 has been tough. I hit rock bottom and spent 12 days on a psychiatric unit, and a few months later got picked up by police with the threat of a section. They were humiliating experiences that I still find hard to think about. There have also been a lot of problems at home, which I haven’t shared here.
And of course, there’s George Michael’s death. I’m generally unaffected by celebrity deaths – the last one was Steve Irwin – but I was terribly upset about poor George. I remember desperately wanting a George Michael CD one Christmas and Dad grabbing one from Asda and hiding it under his coat in an attempt to hide in from me, terrified of being pulled up by security. I decided a long time ago that Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go would be played at my funeral for the lolz. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate George nabbing the title of most ironic death of all time from Steve?
So, that’s the grim stuff out of the way! Here are some of my favourite memories and achievements:
I performed burlesque with my troupe several times, including three performances in one weekend at Threshold festival. Two years ago I would never have been brave enough. I’m even working on my own tooth fairy inspired solo!
I made a speech at a very dear friend’s wedding, after a whirlwind year-long romance. I hadn’t known Kairi too long, but she stayed up late into the night talking to me on the phone as I had a meltdown on a secure ward, and I felt the need to share what a wonderful person she is with her new family. As someone who is terrified of public speaking this was a big deal! We turned our dance studio at the back of our beloved 81 Renshaw into a secret garden wonderland. Doesn’t she make the most beautiful bride?
I graduated with a Master’s degree in Screenwriting, gaining a merit despite my ups and downs thanks to some wonderfully understanding lecturers.
I’ve dabbled with fire performance for a couple of years, but this year I picked up new skills that suit me better, including body burning and fire licking. If you’re in the Manchester area, Tinika over at the Manchester Fire School is a brilliant teacher (and heaps cheaper than the one down in London). I performed all on my lonesome at interactive art event INKbeat* in Liverpool and was dead proud of myself – and dressed as a humbug, no less.
I met my beautiful boyfriend at Festival Number 6 in September during a Craig Charles set. I asked if he wanted a snog and the rest is history!
What I’ve learned
2016 has taught me that a select few friends who have your back no matter what are far more valuable than many randomers. There was a point where I felt the need to cull a lot of people from my life for self preservation purposes – a need to close a chapter and eliminate everybody who would remind me of it.
New Year’s resolutions
My resolution every single year is to be kind. Although I try to be a nice person, when jealousy or insecurities rear their ugly heads I find myself thinking bad thoughts. I’ve said and done lots of things I regret. I could say my resolution was to lose weight, or win the lottery, but if I’m not a kind person being thin or having money won’t make me happy.
Thank you to everybody who has read my blog this year and supported my writing even when I lost faith in myself. Thank you to my parents for making the 4 hour round trip to the hospital every day. Thank you to the random stranger on the Merseyrail train who told me I was really pretty and didn’t try to hit on me…
So at 10:30am I’ll be graduating with a Master’s degree in Screenwriting. To start with, let me explain how much I really, really dislike mornings. I’m contemplating staying up all night to make sure I get there in time.
I’ve spent several years getting to this point: I studied Welsh and English at A level, then a Creative Writing degree, then a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design because, according to my CV, I wanted to ‘gain a more thorough understanding of the production process’. And now, finally, we’re here.
I was so excited to start my two-year course. All was going well – I was getting 60+% grades, which at Master’s level qualifies as a Merit.
…that is, until March, when I ended up in the nuthouse. Since March, I’ve felt like a deflated balloon. I just stopped caring. It’s been a couple of months since I received my results, which I still haven’t opened because I don’t want to face the guilt of dad spending £4,500 on a degree that I barely managed to pass.
I had so many good ideas inside my head, but what came out on paper was half-arsed. I don’t feel like a master of anything.
I’m sad that I’ve let myself down. I’m nervous to see my lecturers because I let them down. I’m annoyed at myself because I was supposed to be more, but instead I’m only just making enough money to eat through my writing – forget rent, and the general cost of being alive. And I’ve had a bad week, which prompted me to scratch my arms and I don’t have a long sleeved dress to hide them.
I went to the pub with Dad, and tomorrow I know I’ll be okay, because I don’t have a choice. I’ll keep applying for jobs I might get rejected for, and keep writing about boilers and safe sex so I still have the right to call myself a freelance writer.
The one thing that comforts me is this blog. Right now I should be dying my hair, ironing my dress, finding unladdered tights, and maybe checking what grade I actually got for my degree. It reassures me that I’ll always be a writer, because all I’ve ever wanted to do is write. I’m guessing around 10 people will read this blog post, but that’s okay, because it will be out there in the universe, existing, regardless.
There are plenty of traditional Welsh gifts out there. Love spoons, slate coasters, salt… but to be honest, as a 24 year old female who isn’t a grandmother I wouldn’t be that impressed with a spoon, no matter HOW MUCH?!?!? it cost.
Instead, here’s my pick of Welsh-inspired Christmas gifts, which prove that Wales can be cool…right?
I once had a fictitious Facebook profile named Welsh Chick Issues. Then Welsh Girl Problems came along who was much funnier. I catch up with her posts on social media when I’m feeling homesick, and now she’s got some lush merch on offer. I actually bought the ‘Tywysoges’ jumper a couple of months back.
I met author Siôn back in 2012 at the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Awards in Swansea (shudder). After I read aloud my work he came over to tell me it was funny, so obviously I liked him immediately.
Siôn yn dysgu’r bychan sut i gyfarch Saeson
Siôn is himself a highly entertaining writer, unfortunately even more so than me, and I can’t wait to read this collection of essays, short stories, cartoons, poems, comics and a recipe for cawl. Nice one mun!
I visit Wales’s first chili shop in Beaumaris whenever I need a present for Dad. The owners are fab and customers are free to sample the huge range of products available, and conveniently there’s a legendary ice cream shop situated across the road.
I like the Cheeky Girl, whereas the boyfriend prefers the Bad Boy. Reckon we’re a bit wrong for each other if you ask me.
The chili marmalade is surprisingly moreish, and there’s even chili jewelry.
I would say you’re more than welcome to buy me this for Christmas but to tell you the truth I impulse bought it at the Electric Mountain gift shop in Llanberis several years ago. Tidy.
If you’re wondering what else I’m giving this Christmas, Mam’s getting this vaguely overpriced but had-to-have-it bunting by Elements Crafts (£15), whilst I bought soap containing world-renowned Anglesey Sea Salt for the boyfriend’s mum (£4.50 wrapped), in the hopes she’ll like me cos I’m exotic. And for Dad, an album by the true love of my life Meilyr Jones, partly so I can steal it.
Even if my suggestions are too ridiculous for your tastes, I hope I’ve inspired you to shop local.I’m a firm believer that unless you’re gonna put thought into presents, you may as well not bother. I love searching independent shops for Christmas gifts, especially around Beaumaris and Betws y Coed.
Now that I spend most of my time in Liverpool, it can be lonely without anyone to speak Welsh and discuss sheep with. I personally would love any of these gifts to remind me of home.