Merry Christmas Eve! And welcome to my new website. I’m very excited about it and hope that you will enjoy it.
I wanted to write a blog about mental illness. Hmmmm doesn’t sound so christmassy. You might be wondering why I’m writing about mental illness instead of kittens and bows and cinnamon etc. Well!.. Let me tell you why! I went to see a play that my friend was in last week at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington called Pure O. Pure O is a manifestation of OCD. (The play was brilliant by the way) And it provoked some thoughts in me…
(Here is a description from Wikipedia about some of the “Common intrusive thoughts/obsessions” you suffer from if you have Pure O
- Responsibility: with an excessive concern over someone’s well-being marked specifically by guilt over believing they have harmed or might harm (either on purpose or inadvertently) someone.
- Sexuality: including recurrent doubt over one’s sexual orientation (also called HOCD or “homosexual OCD”). People with this theme display a very different set of symptoms than those actually experiencing an actual crisis in sexuality. One major difference is that people who have HOCD report being attracted sexually towards the opposite sex prior to the onset of HOCD, while homosexual people whether in the closet or repressed have always had such same sex attractions for life-long. The question “Am I gay” takes on a pathological form. Many people with this type of obsession are in healthy and fulfilling romantic relationships, either with members of the opposite sex, or the same sex (in which case their fear would be “Am I straight?”).
- Violence: which involves a constant fear of violently harming oneself or loved ones or persistent worry that one is a pedophile and might harm a child.
- Religiosity: manifesting as intrusive thoughts or impulses revolving around blasphemous and sacrilegious themes.
- Health: including consistent fears of having or contracting a disease (different from hypochondriasis) through seemingly impossible means (for example, touching an object that has just been touched by someone with a disease) or mistrust of a diagnostic test.
- Relationship Substantiation: in which someone in a romantic relationship endlessly tried to ascertain the justification for being or remaining in that relationship. It includes obsessive thoughts to the tune of “How do I know this is real love?” “How do I know he/she is the one?” “Am I attracted enough to this person?” or “Am I in love with this person, or is it just love?” The agony of attempting to arrive at certainty leads to an intense and endless cycle of anxiety because it is impossible to arrive at a definite answer
The play covered a lot of these issues. The main character and his “disease” battled his fear of thinking he was a pedophile. He brushed past a school girl and believed he had sexually abused her. He would have a thought about rape or murder or being sexually attracted to a child and then start to worry that he was a rapist/murderer/pedophile. With Pure O a lot of the time you will have a thought about something and then worry that the thought alone incriminates you. I remember being saved once by a poet called Brendan Mcleod that addressed this issue (although i had no idea at the time). He’s a canadian poet and I had seen him live a few times. He introduced the poem by saying why he had written it and that it was his first time performing it. And that he was terrified. A group of his friends who were also writers had had a bet, whoever lost the bet had to write a poem about their biggest fear. He lost. The poem addressed the issue of having dark thoughts, thoughts like stabbing a baby. It was his fear of having those thoughts and whether this made him a terrible person. I think I must have been about 16 at the time and hadn’t really addressed these sorts of issues with my friends before. I was so relieved to hear this poem! To hear that having bad thoughts about people, especially children doesn’t make you terrible! Everyone has crazy thoughts but it doesn’t mean you want to act on them or that you enjoy them. It was so good to know that I wasn’t some kind of sick fuck and that I wasn’t alone. It was an incredible confession that I hadn’t even had to share.
My other personal experiences of OCD have cropped up in my life when I am stressed. When I have too much to think about I start thinking about my personal life and freaking out about myself and what I do wrong and what I haven’t done and whether I’m making the right choices and worrying about why I’m scared of what I’m scared of and if that makes me a bad person and if I’m ruining other people’s lives because of my own insecurities. I have panic attacks in the middle of the night and can’t sleep. Then in the morning I try and be productive and do things to make me feel better. I then get caught in a trap in my mind. I’ll have a thought and then I think oh I shouldn’t think about that, then of course I can’t think of anything else and having that thought stresses me out. I try so much to stop having the thought but usually it will get worse and worse and more graphic and horrific. Then I’ll be walking past the oven and I’ll think, I need to straighten that tea towel otherwise someone will die. Absolute nonsense I know. But I straighten the tea towel because I’ll think “Well I know it’s not true but it’s not worth the risk really is it and all I have to do is straighten the tea towel.” This happens most days with things that most people worry about, checking the gas, checking the lights are off, checking fluffy’s cage is shut. I’ll check I’ve done all those things before I leave my flat, I’ll start to leave the flat, start locking up, then check again just incase even though I know I have already. Then I’ll lock my flat, get in the car drive down the street, stop the car, drive back, unlock the flat and check again just because I have to. So annoying.
When I was really stressed in 2009 I went through an extreme phase of doing this. I was at the vets one day and was told that fluffy needed to be spayed to protect her from the risk of cancer when she’s older. They said it was a risky operation because she is such a small animal and immediately I started to well up. I left the vets and walked into a shop next door with a friend. I starting sobbing uncontrollably. I was telling my friend through sobs how “I just really love her so much”. And then I cried again when I told Ryan at home that night. He left to go on tour and I cried even harder when I rang my mum and told her. I started absolutely having to do all the little things that came into my head. I was a total slave to it. Because if i didn’t the thought was “fluffy wouldn’t be ok during her operation if I don’t do it”. I then had a conversation with someone about how I didn’t want to be vegetarian and the next morning I was vegetarian. If I didn’t eat an animal then fluffy would be OK. It made perfect sense and it also helped me control the other thoughts. I didn’t have to straighten the tea towel because I was vegetarian. I am well aware of how much that makes me sound like a crazy person. Anyway this continued and fluffy went through her operation and was fine. I don’t really believe that the reason that fluffy was OK was because I am vegetarian. (I do a bit) And 2 years on I am happily not eating animals. I went through a year of desperately craving meat, if someone else told me they were thinking of going veggie I’d be like “bleurgh vegetarians gross, why would you do that? please don’t it’s horrible” or waking up in the middle of the night NEEDING! a double bacon cheeseburger from burger king. Eventually the cravings went away and now I am very pleased, every time I see an animal, I think “aww I’m glad I don’t eat you”. Also knowing how much personality a bunny rabbit has freaked me out. I was like “woah people eat littler cuter furrier people, that’s so wrong! imagine all those extra friends you could have if it wasn’t stuck between 2 slices of bread or digesting in your gut right now”. So yeah I like being veggie.
Anyway I’m not saying I’m Pure O or anything it’s just that this play reminded me of all these little mental tricks that we play on ourselves and where it can lead us. I think it’s really healthy to talk about mental illness. Because it is TOO hard to deal with on your own. I’ve seen people get seriously fucked up because of mental illness. It can destroy lives and relationships, depression is horrible and you need to get help if you feel like you can’t control your own mental ticks. Don’t be scared or feel like you’re alone or crazy or a weirdo. (Well maybe you are a weirdo but that’s ok, the most interesting people I know are weirdos) But if it’s starting to hurt you or the people around you then you should try and seek help and listen to the people that you trust and that love you. Try not to think they are against you even thought it might feel like they are. And remember it’s a really difficult thing for people who aren’t going through what you’re going through to understand. I have worked in the past with teenagers who self harm. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. It is not a way out of your pain inside, that will still be there. It is the emotional side of things that you need to try and work out. And there are groups and charities out there that help people get through this sort of thing. Like the Wish Centre in Harrow for example – http://www.thewishcentre.org.uk/index.php
Check out the Sirius Project for help in local areas and free/low cost treatments outside of the NHS http://www.siriusproject.org/charities.html (Or just google search ‘self harming charities local area’ it if you’re outside of the UK)
I thought I would write a blog about this kind of thing at Christmas for a few reasons. One is I have had a lot of personal experience with it and it is hard to deal with and comforting to read other people’s experiences. And two because it’s Christmas and everything is supposed to be amazing at Christmas. The smells, the colours, your family and friends and loved ones all around you, getting presents and eating and drinking and watching christmas episodes of The Simpsons! It’s a dream. But in reality even though we can enjoy all these things, we can’t help it if the shit hits the fan even during such a joyous time. (love being able to use the word joyous, obviously just because it’s christmas) But seriously it can be depressing when it’s cold and dark outside and you feel lonely and shit about yourself, it can make you think crazy things and act in a crazy way. And that’s OK, unless you start hurting yourself or someone else. And then I would urge you to seek help. If you cannot face doing that then here are some suggestions for ways in which to stay positive during winter.
1. Make Playlists of all your favourite songs. Try and make them upbeat and positive, songs that make you feel good about yourself and strong! Here’s mine..
No Doubt – Just A Girl
Hole – Violet
Patience & Prudence – A Smile & A Ribbon
Hunx and His Punx – U Don’t Like Rock n Roll
The Cribs- Mirror Kissers
The Strokes – Last Night
Bikini Kill – Distinct Complicity
Shuga – Sugar
Supercute! – Supercute!
Eve – Who’s That Girl?
The Shangri La’s – Great Big Kiss
The New Pornographers – Letter to an Occupant
The Ronettes – Be My Baby
Electrocute – Sugar Buzz
Tiny Masters of Today – Hologram World
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Date With the Night
Slow Club – Giving up on Love
Brigitte Aphrodite – I Dream Myself Awake
Smoosh – Rad
2. Make something crafty. I copied something that I saw on telly (Kirstie’s homemade Christmas!) And I made this material heart thing (See pics above!). You could make stuff and sell it on your own etsy store like my friends Jay and Siobhan – http://www.etsy.com/shop/Knitnhealthy
Being crafty makes you feel good because you are satisfied with having created something…DUUUUH!
3. On that note, Write a song! Pick an instrument you are interested in…at the moment I am focused on the bass. You can try Guitar, Keyboards, Ukulele, anything. You can buy super cheap keyboards on ebay that make fun, weird and dated sounds but are great for recording! They are also so easy to use.
Writing songs is a good, fun and satisfying way of expressing what’s inside your head. It makes you feel A LOT better! And you can write songs even if you think you can’t, just don’t be scared to give it a go. And the more you write the better your songwriting gets.
4. Write a Diary. Just get it all out, you don’t even have to re-read it or look at it ever again but it feels so much better when it’s out.
5. Make To Do lists. Writing to do lists and ticking off what you’ve done is probably one of the most satisfying things in the world.
6. Bake. Bake bake bake! cakes, tarts, biscuits, bread, whatever. just bake it. it doesn’t have to look prim and proper either, it can be “rustic” and covered in sweet or savouries cheese/olives/chilli / cream/sprinkles/edible glitter!! Wrap it in gingham and put it in a basket and it makes a cute present to bring round to a friends. You could end up as good as pop bakery one day! www.popbakery.co.uk
7. Knit. You can buy wool and needles in your local charity shop for cheap and make a scarf for your bunny. (See pics above!)
8. Watch the following movies…
Harold and Maude
Miracle on 34th Street
A Muppet Christmas Carol
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (The original!)
Marie Antionette (A visual dream of amazingness)
National Lampoon – any one of these movies
The adventures of Milo & Otis
The Addams Family
Scary Movie – so dumb i love it
9. Buy cheap frames from charity shops, usually all the good, broken up, golden, old looking ones are really cheap because people tend to think they are old fashioned and that people won’t want them. But I love them! Frame your favourite pictures/drawings/photos, it makes your wall look so much better. (The frames in the pictures above were only 5 delicious pounds from a charity shop!)
10. If you can muster the energy then tidy your room/house, it sucks thinking about doing it but once you’ve started and finally finished you will feel so much better. If not then leave the house! Visit a friend, go for a walk, to the pub, get an afternoon tea. The fresh air will help, being around mess is so depressing either way.
Well apart from that you should have a super amazing wonderful christmas filled with food and loved ones and christmas specials. I hope you do!
Keep an eye out for news about my new material, gigs, a third record and other nonsense that spills out of my brain.
Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year. I think 2012 is gonna be good.