Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Drawn by early 20th-century commercial cat ill...

Drawn by early 20th-century commercial cat illustrator Louis Wain near the beginning of his mental illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I went along to my course with the Baptists last Thursday…there were only three of us there! I think the others had forgotten to say they couldn’t come. Anyway, it was good – a Jeff Lucas course, which I enjoyed. I really appreciate having serious conversations with people in real life about faith, and it isn’t something I get all that often. Not that the people I see at church don’t talk about God – its just that I don’t generally see them except on Sundays.

BelieversBrain came up in conversation, as I mentioned I was up for an award (‘cos, you know, I’m quite excited!) so I gave them the web address if they want to come and read.

I’m in a difficult situation regarding the blog, really. On the one hand, I think that I could at least try to get Christian publications whether online or offline to publish some of my writing, which I would absolutely love! On the other hand that would almost certainly mean revealing my full identity. My surname is unusual – there are three or four people in the world with the same name as me. Plus the UK Christian world is rather small. So if I start using my real name, for instance in a piece of writing or if I win this award and Premier use my name, everyone is going to know. Which leaves me with a dilemma.

On the one hand – I am not ashamed of being bipolar, I am not ashamed that I struggle with self injury. I am proud of my work on BelieversBrain, and feel I have something to offer, re the whole being a mental Christian thing. I would dearly love to just embrace it and try to do some sort of activist work to reduce stigma against mentally ill people in churches. My circle of close friends are well aware of my difficulties, and have seen me ill many times.

On the other – the people at church (& the vicar) don’t know. My family, bar my parents, don’t know. Once I have told people I can never put that genie back in the bottle. The two people I’m closest to in church are charismatics, and I have no idea how extreme they may be. (I am wary of charismatics, due to the victim-blaming some indulge in, particularly with those suffering from mental illness). They may reject me, or judge me. So might the rest of the congregation. I might discover people have a whole load of negative stereotypes about people with mental health problems, ranging from the “you just need to pull yourself together” to “you are being punished for being extra-sinful”. They could also treat me like a china doll, assuming I must be protected from anything that might make me depressed. There is an outside chance that they might think I must be violent, aggressive or dangerous.

Really I just want to be treated like a normal person, as I am now. Yet if I am ill I might behave in ways that need understanding, so perhaps I am wanting special treatment after all.

The other concern I have is that I am trying to explore with my vicar a possible vocation to the priesthood. I say trying, because I have not spoken to him (aside from saying hi at church) for some months. I am concerned that if he finds out about the bipolar now (as opposed to me telling him when I know him a little better) that he may simply say that I am unsuited, and that is my future up the creek.

I think was troubles me the most is that I can never take it back , once it is told. And yet I say to myself that I shouldn’t be treating my mental illness with such shame, that it is nothing to be ashamed of. And how can I advocate acceptance by Christians of Christians with mental health problems if I am not open and honest about my own problems outside the confines of the net? But I stand to lose a lot…

I really am troubled about this, and have little time to decide (the decision about the awards is coming soon). I have been praying, but cannot discern a clear answer. It seems like it is just up to me, and I’m scared…

Well, I’m sure I will think of something. Sorry to get serious, but this is something preying on my mind at the moment. I always have the option of using a pen-name for my writing, which I may well do. It just feels like not being honest.

In other news, my cat has spent the entire day asleep on my bed, and she’ll surely grow roots into the duvet soon!

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Woo-hoo and hoorays and stuff

English: An IKEA Billy bookshelf, 80x106 cm, f...

English: An IKEA Billy bookshelf, 80×106 cm, finished in birch veneer and with the optional CD rack at the top. A extra shelf is leaning against the right-hand side of the bookshelf. Svenska: IKEAs bokhylla Billy i dimensionen 80×106 cm i björkfanér. Inkluderar CD-insatsen som var tillbehör. Ett extra hyllplan lutar mot hyllans högersida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to Edinburgh! I’m visiting my friend there from tomorrow for a few days. A few days of drunkenness, no doubt!

My friend Shirley has been my friend since university, in fact she is my sole remaining friend from my time there. She was with me when I developed bipolar disorder, when I was suicidal and self harming and taking overdoses, and when I was a bit manic and talking nonsense. And she is still my friend. Even though I piled the crap on her by being so unstable, even though I was undoubtedly a royal pain in the arse who hurt lots of people, she is still my friend. I cannot repay her for the friendship she gave me then – and the fact that we have maintained a friendship since, when I’ve been well as well as ill.

She is my only friend who is a Christian, although becoming less orthodox than I am now. Not that that matters to me! She is my only friend who I can discuss spiritual matters with, and she knows a great deal and holds a lot of wisdom about God. I really like that I can talk about that kind of thing with her, and I don’t need to watch my words in case I offend her, or accidentally speak heresy, because we are comfortable enough with each other to disagree, and still be friends.

I’m excited! It’s been a while since I last saw her. Last time we went to Amsterdam, which was good except that she was quite tired and slept a lot (after some pot-taking) which was not ideal. I think next time we go away we will go to an all-inclusive resort somewhere sunny, and pootle about doing whatever during the day and drinking at night. I think that will suit us both.

In other news I have been building flat-pack furniture with my dad. Sadly I am very bad at this. It is really frustrating because, although I understand how to build the furniture, I simply lack the wrist and finger strength to actually do it in a safe way! Like my mum says, she wouldn’t trust any car that she had changed the tyres on because she is not competent to tighten the nuts up properly.

That’s about it. All excited now, and I’m going to have a lovely time!

See you when I get back.

Moods and Moving

English: This photo illustrates smoke in a pub...

English: This photo illustrates smoke in a pub, a common complaint for those concerned with passive smoking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I have finally got the internet back!

I moved house on Tuesday, which was horrible. It still isn’t very nice, as we’re not unpacked yet! The next day I went down to London to stay with a couple of friends.

This was a bit of a mistake. As you know I have not been feeling 100%, and then moving house and travelling the next day seems to have done weird things to me. Anyway, I saw my friends, which was lovely, and we went to the pub for the evening. They had work the next day so they lent me some keys and said I could come back later. What did I do? I went and had far too much to drink, sat up late into the night with the landlord’s daughter, came back to their flat and was too drunk to figure out the lock, and ended up waking my friend at three in the morning. He was, obviously, not very happy about that.

Next day I was in the flat by myself, and proceeded to smoke like a chimney, further upsetting my hosts, neither of whom smoke. (I did have permission to smoke, but they were not expecting me to smoke so much!) As a result I don’t think I am their favourite person right now!

I can’t remember a great deal about my trip bar those moments, as it happens, which leads me to think I have embarrassed myself in other ways but my mind has mercifully hidden them from me. I am really irritated with myself. How could I have been so thoughtless and inconsiderate? I love my friends, why didn’t I treat them with respect?

I, at this point, have to stop myself from thinking that I’ve blown it, that they will hate me forever, that I am a bad person who has forever fallen from grace. With me, you  see, there is a drive for perfection which, if I fail in any way, makes me feel like a horrible person who deserves nothing, not even to exist. I am aware this is a problem. I also know that my friends have been my friends for some time, that they have seen me when I was really ill, and therefore a pain in the backside, and are still my friends. This voice of self-criticism, of self-hate, is really irritating, as well as being the root of my mental problems.

With regard to faith, on the one hand Christianity teaches that we really are not good enough, that we never can be good enough, but on the other it teaches that we assume goodness, that when God looks at us he sees the perfection of Christ and not our own troubles. That we should strive for sinless living, but that he is there to catch  us when we fall. I have trouble accepting God’s forgiveness, accepting God’s acceptance of myself. At heart, and for all my head knows differently, I strive for works-based righteousness, to use the “Christianese” term for it, I strive to be good enough for God. And that I can never be. I wish that I could lay aside this quest for perfection and live, knowing I am “good enough”, a good enough person, a good enough Christian, good enough for God and that is all that matters really. My mother once went to a course where they talked about being a “good enough” parent – and that stuck with me, that we can try, and we can torture ourselves when we fail to meet up with a standard of perfection, but if we can learn to accept that we are good enough, that we are trying our best and doing what we can, then we can be more content. I tend to think I should be like that in my faith life as well.

And in general just be able to chill a bit! The trouble is that I don’t know how to silence that drive, how to drive out that voice, how to just let go, and relax.

Over the past few days I have been feeling strangely anxious – partly because of the move, and partly to do with London, I think, and somewhat down. Nothing too bad, but of concern given how well I have been for the past year. I hate it when I get the anxious feeling in my stomach but don’t know what is causing it. I really am guessing that it is the move/London which is causing me problems, I don’t know for certain. I was going to see the psychiatric nurse, but I am a bit worried. You see I am hoping to persuade my psychiatrist that I do not have borderline personality disorder (or, as it says on my notes, emotionally unstable personality disorder) and I am worried that if I admit to illness, even such a slight one as I have been having, that that very slightness will be seen as emotional instability rather than a minor variation on the bipolar scale, as I believe it is. So I am avoiding her, and hoping it will go away on its own. Maybe a bad decision, but who knows.

In the meantime I am going to try relaxing alternatives, baths and suchlike, and, of course, reading the internet!