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!

Woman-flu

Downtown Edinburgh

Downtown Edinburgh (Photo credit: Extra Medium)

Well, I had a nice trip up to Edinburgh, spent several nights chewing the fat with my old university friend. Talked about everything under the sun and drank enormous quantities of lager. Quite impressed I managed a conversation at all, really!

However I am back in the North East and have come down with a cold. Now I remember, Shirley was getting over a chest infection when I saw her! So now I am grumping round the house complaining bitterly about feeling ill.

I am a wimp when it comes to (physical) illness. If I strain a muscle there is much groaning, when I have a cold I sit around looking sorry for myself. Right now I am feeling ok though – I followed my mum’s advice (mums are useful) and had a bath, which seems to have temporarily resolved the achy muscles, and the rest is lemsip!

As for what I’m doing now…I didn’t make it to church on Sunday, because I felt absolutely shattered after getting back from Edinburgh on Saturday. I did think I might go to Evensong, but the only time I’ve been to that I felt completely bewildered throughout and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing/saying/singing at any given time!

I’m doing a course on Thursday evening with the local Baptists – my church doesn’t do that kind of thing, unfortunately, but the Baptists do (and their courses are full of young men!) Apparently it is a Jeff Lucas one – so was the last one and I enjoyed that so it should be good.

I am still prevaricating about going to London for the award ceremony – I would like to go, but lack the funds. I could use my savings or my credit card, but I think the parents would be less than pleased about that! I might ask mum if she could sub me some money. The trouble is that it is £119 for the train ticket, then about that again for every night in a hotel. I would like to go for 2 or 3 nights, so it will be expensive! I have friends in London but it seems the height of rudeness to ring up and say “I’ve been invited to an award ceremony, for something you are not interested in and only one of you could come along anyway, can I come and stay with you?” My friends are not a hotel! (Also, it would be really cool to just walk into the old pub and surprise everyone!)

We shall see. Need to get a move on though, as if I’m not going I need to tell them sharpish.

In other good news I randomly won a Bible through the Woman Alive facebook book group thingy. I am being lucky at the moment! I like winning things. I am also slightly obsessed by Bibles (I have many many many different types and have a disconcerting habit of feeling and smelling the bindings. I have found that people are embarrassed if you do that in public, for some reason)

My room in my new house is now almost ready, I now have an absolutely massive desk! And a filing cabinet so I have somewhere to put my degree/A-levels and whatnot in.

On the subject of ideas, which I was opining about recently. I have discovered that my fancy new Bible software is so good that I think I could produce at least a few blog posts about more general Christian subjects (i.e. not mental health related). I think I might just do that, I think. Though Believer’s Brain would always be my priority.

Anyway, that’s that. Apart from one thing – why does no one comment on Believer’s Brain? I see in the stats that people are reading, but no one says anything! Or presses the “like” button! Am I writing crap and no one has told me? Am I boring? I need feedback!

*walks away grumbling*

Too Much Time

Gospel Graffiti II

Gospel Graffiti II (Photo credit: Peat Bakke)

I have too much time on my hands. As I discovered recently, working full-time made my mood change, and not for the better. I am still struggling with guilt that I left the job, but when I saw a psychiatric nurse today she said that it is a good sign that I could recognise a potential problem and take action, before having a serious episode. I suppose she is right in a way as I have never managed that before, always carrying on until I become ill and have the whole nurses coming round every day thing.

It was a productive meeting, actually. We talked about my mood swings that I’m having at the moment and came to the conclusion that it is probably to do with the whole working/dipping then moving house thing. She suggested that I get some more of my “home comforts” set up as she thinks that I may be someone who needs certain objects in order to feel secure. That sounds like I need a comfort blanket or something but I do feel better with familiar things around me and, of course, many of my things are still in boxes and the house is not quite home yet. I am particularly looking forward to getting my pictures back – I have a large frame with lots of photos of my friends in London on it, a piece of the pub carpet (!), a poem that used to be on the pub wall, several crosses of differing types and some religious posters.

At least I have Sammy, my skeleton. And Freddy, my skull.

Back to the original reason I decided to write this. I have too much time on my hands. I am feeling quite active again and would like to do something. I have here, and I have Believer’s Brain, which I absolutely love writing, but I fancy doing more. Not on the same subject (mental health & Christian faith) but similar. I’m not sure. My interests are quite narrow, mostly being in the Christian side of things. I can’t write fiction well, not since starting medication 10 years ago. I would quite like to do something more evangelistic, or something aimed at youth. I’m thinking internet-based and writing here, due to the whole shyness thing, but I’m not sure what.

I had, once, a website that drew on the parallels between the vampire myth and Christianity (yes, I know, the vampire legend is about the perversion of Christianity) and tried to make it into a “surprise them with the Gospel” thing. Though I’m not sure that that would be effective and might lead to people being annoyed. Though it was fun to write…

I don’t know…but I want to do something. Blogging is harder, because you have to update regularly. I would quite like to give advice to people. That sounds like I’m up my own bum and think I’m great, but I would like to use what wisdom I have to help others, and the people I can imagine being able to help are teenagers, particularly those suffering mental health difficulties and/or those who are Christian. I can give a more nuanced approach than many of the “one size fits all” Christian online advice places – for example highlighting that there are Christians who do not adhere to a conservative viewpoint, and presenting their views alongside those of conservative/evangelical Christianity.

I’m just thinking out loud here, but it would be interesting. Will have to think some more…

Cloudy with a chance of rain

English: Family of Great Crested Grebes. Two a...

English: Family of Great Crested Grebes. Two adults and two chicks sitting on a parents back. Other parent bringing fish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, some good stuff and some bad stuff. Good stuff being that I am on the shortlist for an award which is pretty cool, that the house is coming together, albeit slowly, and I am about to volunteer at a street pastor-type thingy in my local town. I’m just waiting to be told when I’m working there.

On the down side…had a bit of a row with the parents. I don’t know why, but all this week I have been finding it difficult to wake up, and difficult to get myself out of bed. It isn’t anything physical, but a sort of bone-weariness and confusion that I normally associate with periods of depression. Yet, outside mornings (and frankly, early afternoon too) I am fine, my mind is clear and my mood fairly normal. So I don’t know what is happening. In any case, my parents find it really difficult when I won’t get up in the actual morning. They worry that I am ill, they worry about my missing my medication, and they don’t know whether they should talk to my psychiatrist. Unfortunately that mood in me makes me irritable and stubborn. So, the more they tell me I should get up the more I say I will not, we end up having shouting matches when they say things they don’t mean (which I later use to torture myself when depressed) and I say things I don’t mean either. It is true what they say, I behave childishly – in part because I view them trying to get me up as them treating me as a child. I do tend to think that, at 31, I should be able to decide what time I go to bed and what time I wake up. I find the level of attentiveness of my parents a bit overwhelming at times, although I know it is out of love and I would miss it if it were suddenly withdrawn.

So I argue, and I say horrible things, and they say horrible things and we all have a dreadful time. And it is my fault. Past a certain point I become perverse, and I seek to annoy as much as humanly possible, so that they will get angry and say horrible things and then I can confirm to myself that “they don’t really love me”. (I have written a piece about this very thing on Believer’s Brain) Of course, writing this now, I know perfectly well that my parents love me very much, and I them. I am neither a terrible person who is hated by all, nor are they tyrannical people intent on babying me. But that mood makes me a horrible person, and a bad daughter.

Sounds like I am blaming my behaviour on my moods, and not on myself, but I know it is me and I bear the responsibility for my actions. The fact that I have a mental illness…well you can’t be tempted by something you don’t, however secretly, desire.

I must love my neighbour, and honour my parents, a lot more. What I find hard is that we are so close that we can all push each others’ buttons, and a bad word from them means more to me than from others. I am actually close to them, very close, and dependent on them for my emotional well-being far more than is probably healthy. I am also dependent on them monetarily, and it is because of them that I am able to lead a comfortable life on benefits. I have much to be thankful for. I just need to realise it more, and try to behave to those who I love more like I would behave to a stranger, or even to someone I disliked. I can be polite and fairly friendly to people I don’t like very much – but for some reason I hurt and wound those who I love the most.

I need to get over this. I need to grow up.

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!