This blog post has had many titles: On Hardening My Heart, On Refusing To Quit, On Defriending And Blocking, etc etc etc. Eventually, however, I have given it the above title, because that is how I feel at the moment.
First of all, please allow me to say a huge thank you to everyone who read my last blog post, and for all the lovely comments and messages I’ve received here, on facebook and on twitter. Thank you also to everyone who is continuing to support me throughout this rather peculiar phase in my internet life (I have become more guarded than usual, and taken actions that I thought I never would in the last few days). I can only say that my real life at the moment is also equally, if not more, peculiar, and I really hope that things get sorted out soon.
I have stayed away from twitter for much longer than I intended, and have not, as I said in my last post that I would, responded to the lady who made the initial tweet. Last Saturday night, I seriously considered giving up my internet life completely, and returning to spending more time staring at the TV instead.
I wrote the above two paragraphs several days ago. I am still struggling desperately with twitter, and with facebook, and particularly with blipfoto. I shall now try to explain why. Forgive me if I don’t do a very good job. I’m not really up to it at the moment, and this blog post will probably be unedited. I owe you all some sort of explanation though.
After I wrote the previous blog post I received a message on facebook from somebody, which, in essence, said the following: my expectations of the twitterverse as a safe place are unrealistic, I have problems, I have blamed her friend (the lady who sent the first tweet/DM) for all my problems, I have referred to myself as the aggrieved party in the incident with the lady who sent the tweet when in fact that lady is mortified, she says she has sympathy with that tweet in that she likes to follow people who make her laugh or are interesting, my “friends” are not doing their best for me by providing sympathy and should instead tell me that I’m being over-demanding and that the world does not revolve around me, real friends would tell me I’m being an idiot, I would provide support for other people too if I were any kind of a friend to anyone (with the implication that I don’t – sorry friends, I apologise for being so crap and useless), being around people who are miserable is no fun and I shouldn’t be surprised if people have run out of patience with me, my blipfoto post for 4th February was “horribly nihilistic” and blipfoto was not an appropriate place to share such things because it is a site about photography, have I ever heard of CBT (something which I find horribly patronizing, given previous blog posts), she suggests I share less on the internet because I wouldn’t expect group therapy in the real world and shouldn’t expect the internet to provide me with any such help, and finally tells me “I hope you get help” and that I shouldn’t blame other people for my distress.
I immediately unfriended and blocked this lady on facebook. I also had to unfriend the original lady – not because I didn’t want to forgive her and become friends again, but because I am afraid that the lady who sent me the above message will get to me through her. I also abandoned my twitter account, set up a new, locked, account to try to keep in touch with a few friends (I’m sorry if I haven’t yet managed to contact you – I’m trying, but so short of energy), and changed my name on blipfoto.
However, none of this has helped. Things are still getting worse. I also fear that in my search for solace from all this I have done irreparable damage to a very precious and treasured friendship with a real life friend who is also very ill and unable to cope with me at the moment.
I cannot answer all the points the lady made in her message to me – I simply don’t have the energy or enough tissues to mop up the tears that writing this post is generating. I would have linked to a blog post by someone else that was made in response to an incident that occurred last week and referred to the support that the internet can be when people are in mental distress, but the person who wrote that post has had to take it down because she has had an overwhelming response to it and simply doesn’t have the time to deal with what it has generated. I try very very hard, when I have the strength, to support anyone who needs it in any way that I can. Sometimes, however, I need people to cut me a bit of slack.
First, of COURSE I have heard of CBT. For goodness sake. I am an intelligent informed woman who has read dozens of books and articles on my condition. I point you towards “On Being Bonkers” from July 2009. It is only by employing CBT techniques that I am able to get out of bed most mornings, that I am able to force breakfast into me although I feel sick, that I am able to steer the car towards work rather than back home, that I am able to keep going at all on a lot of occasions. You wouldn’t suggest to someone with a broken leg that they might like to get it set in plaster – why assume that people with depressive illness are too stupid to have researched their condition? And, for information, CBT is not available on the NHS to me, and my psychiatrist considers that I am already well-enough versed in its techniques that it wouldn’t necessarily be helpful to have more. I can’t afford to pay for it in any case.
As to the real world. Would I go into a pub and have a meltdown? Well, yes, and I have done on many many occasions. I have ended up out in public many times in a terrible state. I have left numerous restaurants and sat on the pavement outside shaking because I struggle to eat out in public when I feel scared. I have broken down in the middle of a big party of several hundred people, halting a barn dance and causing my distressed father and best friend to have to pick me up and take me out and comfort me. I have sat on the floor in Sainsbury’s crying by the Frosties. I have collapsed on the floor of a train, been violently sick, and then screamed and pulled at the (fortunately electric, rather than the old fashioned handle type) doors to try to get off. I have been lost out on the street, unable to see because the lights are too strong and the noises are too loud. I have stood and sobbed in front of a class of 11 year olds because I played a chord wrong on the piano.
On every single one of these occasions, people have been helpful and sympathetic. Even people I didn’t know. The man on the train, who helped a vile and messy me to get off at Greenwich station and made sure I was OK before he continued his day, the woman in Sainsbury’s who wanted to know if I was alright, even the class of year 7s who coped with their Head of Music disintegrating before their eyes.
As to blipfoto. At the moment I cannot even look at the site, because it makes me feel sick. I tried, when I got home from a trip away on Friday night. I looked at one friend’s blip from the day, and the top comment was from the woman who sent me that message. I logged off straight away and closed the tab on the browser. I’m sorry blip. As for my “horribly nihilistic” post, I was going to say that I was terribly sorry to have spoilt this woman’s fun, to have disturbed her comfy life and ruined her internet experience, but I’m not. What I am sorry about is the two friends who read that post and were seriously worried about me to the extent that they both e-mailed me and left numerous text messages and missed calls on my phone because they were so worried about me. I’m sorry to have put you through that. I’m sorry for my father and stepmother who read the post through my facebook wall (they are both friends of mine on there) and were extremely worried, knowing that I have tried to take my own life in the past and fearing that I’d do it again. I’m also sorry for my poor husband, who was having to cope with all this in the middle of organizing his gig.
What I have finally realised this morning though, is why that message has done me so much damage. It is agreeing with everything the illness is telling me. I have a loud voice in my head telling me that I am a bad friend, a miserable person, an idiot, a plonker, a worthless and wretched apology for a human being. I think often how much better place the world would be if I had never been born. I know that I am a failure, that I am nearly 40 years old and unable to support myself financially, unable to produce any children, unable to hold down anything other than a part-time clerical job (and even that with difficulty, and only with the extreme patience of my colleagues). These views I have of myself are, of course, only partially true and are mainly caused by the illness that pervades my mind. Ironically, these are the very feelings that I have to use CBT techniques to fight against – the “Automatic Negative Thoughts” that follow me everywhere. This woman, who is so keen that I “seriously consider CBT” has reinforced those negative thoughts a hundredfold. I am now fighting them, and trying hard to think of all the lovely things my real friends and supporters have said to me, in order to try and re-establish some sense of self-worth.
So, I have shared even more on the internet. Partly because I owe everyone an explanation, but also because I want people to UNDERSTAND. I don’t crave sympathy, but understanding. I have defriended and blocked for the first time ever, to protect myself. I do refuse to quit in my quest to talk about mental illness and the issues it raises, even if it means exposing myself to criticism. I cannot harden my heart – it’s like a jam without enough pectin, or a custard that hasn’t been heated enough – it will never harden, it just isn’t that sort of heart.
For all the strife that this whole episode has caused me, I am particularly glad of one thing. I received a message on facebook from a person who said how much my Feb 4th blip had helped her, how comforting it was to know that there was someone else who knew what it felt like to feel like that. I was also very touched by a comment I received from someone who said that even though we just looked like little tiny pictures on twitter, behind each one was a person, and those people really care. These things have stuck in my head.
The other thing I’m amazingly grateful for is the Wonderspouse. The week that all this broke he was speaking at a conference on mental illness at the Royal College of Psychiatrists – alongside Alastair Campbell, who was saying how mental health issues should not be brushed under the carpet. He had a massive audit at work. He organized a book reading / gig in London. All this while working full-time, attending my psychiatrists appointments with me, keeping up his own writing and internet work, cooking all our meals, looking after the cats, and getting up in the middle of the night to make me tea and mop up my tears. I really don’t know how he’s still standing – the man is a marvel.
As to the woman who wrote the message, I don’t know whether she will ever read this post. If she does, then I would beg her NEVER to send a message like that to anyone again. If I was giving her the benefit of the doubt, then I might, just, be able to say that she was being “well-meaning”, although the tone of her message suggests otherwise. Yes, the patronizing tone made me angry, but whatever bitterness made her write it could have cost someone who didn’t have a Wonderspouse on hand a lot more than it cost me. I wondered why the lady who sent the original tweet/DM felt the need to say that my tweets were “getting on her tits” and didn’t just unfollow me quietly. I wonder even more why this second woman felt the need to harangue me as she did. She doesn’t have to look at my blips or read my blogs. If you really want to stick to “nice pictures” and “fun” on the internet, then so be it. I cannot, and will not, brush my true self under the carpet and put on an act to entertain people online – it would be untrue to myself and my beliefs.
Furthermore, I do believe that the internet is, like real life, a place full of lovely supportive people who are generous, loving and helpful. I don’t think it’s unrealistic of me to hope that people who I do regard as friends will bear with me through the rough patches. I gladly do the same for them, helping wherever I can.
I said in “On Being a bit Bonkers” last July that I didn’t wish to make this blog about mental health issues. I still don’t, but have had to write this post by way of explanation, and maybe to work through issues that are still outstanding from the whole incident. I’m also going to take some time off the internet. Feel free to comment on this blog post if you like, although the Wonderspouse is insisting on monitoring comments before I read them. He cannot take the risk that the work being done by my GP, psychologist, psychiatrist, and himself can be further undone by anything that might hurt me. I am simply too fragile at the moment. I shall probably take at least a week off twitter and facebook, although, by the time you read this I shall have left details of how I can be contacted in both places for people who do want to get in touch and don’t have any other means. The “Ears” blog is on hold for now, although I shall continue to keep a record of what I’m listening to (not very much at the moment – I’m having to sleep a lot, and am staring at the TV quite a bit too). I’m not even thinking about blipfoto for now. It’s simply too painful.
My mind feels rather like it needs renovating at the moment, a bit like this:
I’ll be back when it’s sorted and strong enough to cope with whatever gets thrown at me and when I’ve got the rest of my life together. I just need some time and I hope that you’ll understand, and forgive me this rather frank blog post. If I had any choice in the matter I most certainly wouldn’t elect to be miserable, to feel sorry for myself, or to have such a black day as inspired my February 4th blip. To choose such a life really would be madness!