Feeling Rather Good

Heart of Midlothian on the Royal Mile in Edinb...

Heart of Midlothian on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Shows the mosaic and one of the brass markers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I went up to Edinburgh for the conference. I wrote about it here: mental health + faith conference. I had a good time. Went up on the Friday, stayed at the Travelodge on Rose Street (nice and central, but somewhat noisy. Not too bad though. Could have done without the couple having noisy sex!) That first day I had a wander, went to the B. McCall Barbour bookshop (link takes you to a page on their history, they are not online). I love that shop, even though I vehemently disagree with many of their books. I first wandered in when I was a divinity student in Edinburgh and I was told of this fundamentalist bookshop. And they really are fundamentalist – they believe that any other Bible than the King James Version is wrong, and of Satan! They sell a range of books from highly conservative authors on the inerrancy of the Bible, the dangers of the occult, Islam, gay people and women in leadership. So, you see, not quite my style.

You may wonder why I go? The answer is simple: the brother and sister who run the shop are absolutely lovely. Really sweet elderly people who are genuinely interested in the people who come to their shop, always pleasant, never ever preaching to me even though it must be obvious given the trousers and piercings that I am not wholly in agreement with them. They always ask what I’m up to and we talk about God – because despite our differences we are all Christians, and they do love the Lord. I once got what I consider to be my greatest compliment from the lady in the shop, when she said she thought I would make a good minister (I think she thought I was a candidate for Church of Scotland ordination). Coming from someone who thinks that having a female minister is the road to hell, this was quite a compliment! I always try to visit them when I go up there, and I do actually like some of the books they sell. I buy the extreme stuff (and the Jack Chick things) for amusement, but many of their books are fine – highly orthodox and usually written for a popular audience. I may not agree on the hot button issues but they have some excellent books on grace, on faith, on the Bible, and I have just bought a book on Christian counselling from them which I think might be interesting.

Anyway, after going there I went back to the  hotel, put my stuff away (I also bought a rather fetching tartan bag) and set off for a wander. After a detour to Pizza Hut (very friendly staff) I went up to the Royal Mile again for a drink. I went to the Scotsman’s Lounge, a place for which I had a strange obsession when I was a student, but it was very busy and there was no where to sit. I tend to get paranoid that I will fall over if I am standing with a drink and there is nowhere to put the drink down, I don’t know why, so I just had the one and moved on.

I went to the Jolly Judge, up near the top of the Mile, which was a delight. That was my local pub when I was a student as New College (the divinity school) is just beyond it. It had changed a bit but still recognisable so I had a few in there. I didn’t talk to anyone, they probably thought I was peculiar because I sat with a smile on my face remembering the fun times I had in there. I played a pub quiz, we were called Stackroom 2 (because that room looked like you could get murdered in there) and once my friend Drew came and unfortunately had brought his work with him. He was a taxidermist so him bringing out a dead bird was a bit odd. I also remembered the time that Simon, a ministerial student, was writing his first sermon in the pub and got us to help him!

Then I went to a slightly dodgy pub next door to the hotel. It wasn’t that bad, just a bit of a sports bar so I wouldn’t normally have gone in. Had the slightly amusing experience of sitting there and having a girl come up and say “Are you gay?” which I thought was a bit rude…it turned out she was actually saying “are you OK?”

Then to bed, and up early the next morning. As I said, I wrote about the conference itself on the other blog. After the conference I got the bus back to Princes’ Street, dumped my stuff (had a little rest in the hotel) and went to meet my friend Shirley and her mother. Because I had a little sleep I didn’t meet them for dinner (I went to McDonalds, which wasn’t very nice) but found a nice pub. Well, it was lovely, we sat and chatted, and I had a great time. I was a bit concerned to find that Shirley is under the weather physically, and also depressed. Her mother said that that night was the first time that she had admitted having it, so I tried to persuade her to go to the doctor, but she hates doctors so I don’t know whether she’ll go. Hopefully.

After they left (both a bit knackered and haven’t been 100% recently) I went back to the slightly dodgy bar and stayed there, chatting randomly to people for the rest of the night. Then sleep, and back off to where I live in the morning.

So I have a bag full of interesting literature (there was some at the conference) and no money, for I have spent all my benefits money in a few days. Which is a bit unfortunate, but there you go.

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!