Sunday, 27 January 2013

Early morning.

Tonight is one of the fleeting kinds of nights that I have that I remind myself that I am so glad that I am filled with love, and not hate.

I am so glad that I keep looking for the best in people, despite how many times they fuck me over.

I am so glad that I fall in love again and again and again, no matter how many times my heart shatters.

I am so glad that no matter how terrible I am feeling, to a degree, I can almost always understand, or at the very least sympathise, with whatever someone else is going through.

I am so, so, so glad, that I have come home at 2.30am on a Monday morning, not crying tears of sadness, but tears of sympathy. 

You will get better, I will get better. Eventually this will all be a bad dream. You deserve to be loved, and so do I. I cannot be that for you and you cannot be that for me, but one day, it will happen. 

There are brighter things in this world than empty tunnels, and there are happier things in this life than meaningless days after days. People are what matter and people are what make it worth it. 

"The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet." (Nikos Kazantzakis)

Monday, 21 January 2013

Blue Monday.

Every Sunday, along with millions of others around the world, I check the PostSecret website. I save every postcard on my laptop, and I usually post a few ones on my tumblr, too. And today this one made me think. So I thought I'd write. It's the back of a card, so if you don't know what I'm talking about it might be best to visit the PostSecret website first to see the other side of the card.

With every medication, there are side effects. And the strong the drug, the stronger the side effects (well, for some people, anyway). I've been on quite a few different drugs and had a number of unpleasant side effects, so much so that in the past I've contemplated coming off medication altogether.

I think I was about 17. I'd been on medication for a few years at that point. I remember being in CAMHS, anyway. I don't know what I was talking about, why I wanted to come off it in the first place, but I was depressed and saw the drugs as making what was a cognitive problem worse. Then I wanted to come off them again, last year. I remember Sylvia's reply, it went something like, "So you're depressed and frustrated and you want to come off the anti-depressants because you feel like that will help? In what world would coming off the anti-depressants make sense?" I was 19 and stressed and depressed and constantly terrified and didn't want to have to deal with these horrible problems in front of me. I was sick of the fact that no one around me was going through it, I was sick of the fact that my peers' biggest worries were essay deadlines and making it in to class when I was trying to unblock my head, figure out why I was making myself depressed and try not to top myself in the process.      

Today is 'Blue Monday'. I'd never heard of this before, but apparently it's the most depressing day of the year. So far today I have managed to wake up, showered, handed in two essays, made birthday presents/jewellery, and watched a lot of 24. This is considered a very successful day for me. 

So what I wanted to say, or rather, ask- was it worth it? Are the side effects worth it? Are the hours (and money) spent in therapy worth it? Is it worth losing what feels like a huge part of myself, my identity, to try and keep myself safe?  

Every single damn tear and word needs to be worth it, because we are living in a world that does not care, a world that will let us fall and ignore our screams for help. It needs to be worth it because we need to change this world, change it for the better, change it to make it worth trying to survive. 

The last few weeks have shown me more than ever that we are at a critical time in the fight for the rights of disabled people in the UK and Ireland, one of a thousand problems I could easily list. We need to mobilise students to fight for the rights of those who are deliberately silenced and deliberately ignored. We need to use all the tools at our disposal, whatever they might be, to make sure that this fight does not go unheard and unnoticed. I am a disabled woman student and I am being let down, every single day, by the voices in Stormont, Westminster; even in places as close as my students' union and university. Where the hell has the compassion gone? Where is the anger? No one is going to start the argument for us- we need to do it ourselves.

Monday, 14 January 2013


It's currently exam season. The library is filled with people. There are empty Boojum bags all over the cafe. Coffee sales are at an all time high. Facebook is covered in worried/angsty/stopped-giving-a-fuck-just-let-them-end statuses. 

Usually I'd be freaking out along with everyone else. I've never taken exam stress well. Well, at least I don't think I have. I tend to perform well in exams, and even though right now I'd say that I don't think exams stress me out BECAUSE I perform better in them.. I remember having a conversation with my mum about this a few months ago and she stared back at me with disbelief- I'd clearly forgotten how ill I'd been as a result of the pressure last year, and that doesn't surprise me. Your mind blocks things out, at least mine does. It blocks out painful memories, and as cliched as it sounds, it's true. Because I came out of last year with a 2.1, I seemed to have forgotten how bad I was around exam time. This is the same thing that happened with my GCSEs and my A Levels. And of course, I promptly forgot how ill I was during those exams too, because I came out each time with good grades. 

Things were so bad last year I considered dropping out of university entirely. Then I told myself to wise up, because it wasn't like I had a part time job or anything I could do for a while.. I'd literally be going from university to nothing- which is what is definitely needed in some cases, but I didn't think I was ill enough to have the only thing I 'do' be therapy. I'm used to being busy all of the time. I just know I wouldn't have been able to do it- although saying that, I do think I should have maybe taken a few gap years before coming to university in the first place.

Because of the new medication and the short term medication I'm on at the minute, my memory is fucked. Short term memory, that is. So I wouldn't be able to revise (psychiatrist's words, not mine- I actually initially thought they helped me revise, just because they cleared my head). So then I decided to try to do essays instead of exams. And for once in their lives, my school were actually relatively good about it all (my school in the university- ever since I've arrived at university I've had to constantly jump through hoops in order to get what I need disability wise, in terms of provisions etc., it's been an absolute fucking joke) and it got sorted pretty quickly. Instead of three exams, I'm writing three essays. 

The first two are done, and I've just begun working on the third. I had roughly a week to do each of them, which factored in time for bad days etc., and I knew I'd be alright. And so far, I have been. This is the least stressed-out I've been around exam time, ever. Even though I can't remember specific details of exam times in the past, I know that much. I've so far stayed on schedule, and gotten the first two essays done within the first fortnight, leaving me a week for the third. So technically, everything should be grand. 

I'll give you another account of the last three weeks. Whilst everything has stayed on track (to a degree) in terms of my university work, my health is all over the place. I've lost weight, because I keep forgetting to eat- which then makes me scared I'll revert back into old unhealthy habits in regards to food, just because I've remembered what it's like to lose weight. I either sleep little or too much. When I started my newest medication, I couldn't even pour a cup of tea without spilling hot water everywhere, my coordination was so bad. Sometimes I've lay in bed for fourteen hours because I don't have the energy to pull myself up. I've ran back, literally and metaphorically, to ex-boyfriends, because whenever I get lonely and depressed I try to remember where I ever found any source of comfort or affection and try desperately to cling back at it. Each day I've spent in the library, I've had to take some form of tablet to help me concentrate enough to do work, and then worry about the stares I get when I lift out said tablet to take it. Then it makes me sleepy, so I have to have caffeine to make myself wake up. It's a vicious cycle- especially because amidst this, I've forgotten to eat a meal, so my energy levels aren't what they should be. I come home to an empty house (my house mate has caught the horrible virus thing that's going around and now that her exams are over it's understandable she'd rather be at home), turn on the heating, and sit in bed freezing for a few hours before I take more medication and send myself off to sleep. I keep looking down at my hands in disbelief, I just can't see them as my hands any more and I don't know why. And whilst trying to manage this, I'm also trying to do three essays, do what I can for NUSUSI, and battle with my university and students' union in regards to provisions for disabled students amongst other things.

It is exhausting. 

But it's half past midnight, and I'm not exhausted, even though I had to get up early today for an appointment, because I think I remembered to have breakfast but I don't think I managed lunch or dinner, and there comes a point where a lack of food gives you an odd manic energy that you can't quite explain. I've told my doctors about this, I'm doing all that I can university wise, and I was a little worried they would try to admit me this morning at my psychiatrist appointment, so the fact that I'm writing this is in itself a good thing- what an odd thing to be proud of on a Monday night. 

But it's Monday, and it's over and I should take my tablets soon so that I don't sleep for the entire day tomorrow. I wasn't admitted and I can't make a meeting I really wanted to go to tomorrow morning, but I suppose I can live with that. I have to, I don't have another option.

Friday, 11 January 2013

February 2012 - February 2013.

As most people are aware, I'm open with my mental health problems. Very open, in comparison to most people I know. And whilst it occasionally has it's problems, for the most part I haven't had anything bad come of it- although of course this may change whenever I want to get a 'proper' job and employers start Googling me, but whatever. Anyway. 

In the last few weeks, I've had more than a few people come to me (friends, acquaintances, sometimes people I have on Facebook after meeting them once or twice) looking for advice/support on various mental health issues. Anything from where to go in terms of looking for counselling services in their university, to asking how I manage to remember to take medication everyday. It is whenever things like this happen that I remind myself that for all the negativity that comes with being so open about these problems/issues/illnesses/whatever/etc. I have, if it means that people I don't know can ask me about the aforementioned things, it has to be worth it. 

And this leads me to the actual point of this post. Almost a year ago (sometime in February, but I can't remember the date- oddly I can never remember the dates of these things) I tried to kill myself again. I took a lot of tablets, and quite frankly it's a miracle my liver managed not only to withstand it, but come out relatively unharmed. I seem to be one of the lucky ones, seeing as after a couple of attempts like this, I haven't seen any long term damage. Then again, I'm still only 20. Seven years isn't a long time, maybe I'll experience future health problems as a result of all of this. But, similarly with my smoking, I don't worry about that sort of stuff right now. Making it from one day to the next is enough, for now. 

Right now, unfortunately, I am not in a good enough place to say 'I am glad I did not die'. I know that it is a good thing. But right now, I am not very well. It would be hypocritical to say that I am entirely happy and optimistic about the future, when I am not. I am functioning, to a degree. My stability fluctuates. I have to keep forcing myself to eat because I keep forgetting to be hungry. Sometimes I still need to push myself to get into the shower, to go outside, to leave my room. And I'm attempting to write three essays in the middle of this, too. But no matter.

These things have happened in the past year. They would not have happened, had I been successful. 

NUS and NUSUSI have been huge for me. It sounds wanky and cliched, but particularly in the last few months, these organisations have been a lot more for me than 'just' a student movement. The last few months have been terrible university wise, but I was able to try to keep focused on the fact that whilst my degree is apparently my biggest priority, whilst I'm in university I can also contribute to something much bigger and much more important than myself- trying my best to help the millions of other students in the UK and Ireland. I know both organisations have faced their fair share of criticism from all over the place since I've been involved, but despite our differences (whether they be political, or on how best to do x, y or z.. etc.), I know that I amongst a wonderful group of people who are united in the same cause and are throwing every piece of themselves into it. Meeting these people at events and meetings and committees and protests and conferences just makes it feel all the more worthwhile. I feel privileged and blessed to be involved with such wonderful and talented people, and so grateful for the lifelong friends I have made as I've gone along.

I finished my first year of university. I managed to NOT try to kill myself a few more times at the end of the academic year; which was by no means an easy feat. I had my heart broken, and subsequently learnt from it, even though it was easily one of the hardest things I've gone through. I moved into a wonderful flat with a best friend and remembered what it was like to have a home again, once the misery that was halls was over. I became friends with some excellent people, people who now count as best friends, as family. I travelled; I've been over to London a few times, I've been to Bristol, I've been to Berlin. I've discovered some more wonderful writing, some more incredible poetry. My room is covered in postcards and pictures from trips, galleries, museums, little bits of inspiration I've came across, birthday cards. I've found new music to listen to, I've played music with my family, I've taken up practising in the music rooms at uni. I remembered what it was like to be well enough to learn and to read and do all the things that I'd forgotten I could do, because being ill clouded any hope I had of ever feeling like my former self. I've had a visit from a wonderful friend during the summer I met on the Internet a few years ago, and we have become close friends since. I've had drunken nights in ridiculous clubs and hilarious mornings after, I've had days sitting in the sun doing absolutely nothing and nights spent sitting up till 3am playing board games. I've had few, but significant, moments when I am doing nothing, something ordinary and everyday and suddenly feel overwhelming grateful for this life I've been given. I've turned 20; I've made it to my twenties when I thought I would kill myself before I got there. I've embarked on a number of art projects, some completed, some lie unfinished. One is up on my wall. And even though I don't specifically look at it when I'm feeling particularly bad, I know that when I made it I wanted to remind myself that eventually this pain will be in the past. Eventually it will be behind me. I may suffer from health problems for the rest of my life, I may always remain on medication, I may be in therapy for a long time- but the hardest years, the loneliest years, they have to be behind me. They have to be because I can't believe otherwise. I would drive myself crazy- waiting for the next slip up, waiting for the next bout of depression or incident that lands me in hospital. The worst has to be behind me because there is nothing sadder than a 13-year-old child trying to kill herself. The worst has to be behind me because whilst no amount of art or writing that I produce as a result of being ill will ever make it worth it, I have been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people I am lucky enough to call friends. And people make it worth it. Or rather, they make it sufferable. 

Above all, I've survived. And I've gotten through. And I'm on the other side, despite how cloudy and uncertain it may be. And in the end, that's what matters. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

It is one of the dark times. I cannot explain and don't have the energy to explain, so this will do it for me.

Depression is humiliating. It turns intelligent, kind people into zombies who can’t wash a dish or change their socks. It affects the ability to think clearly, to feel anything, to ascribe value to your children, your lifelong passions, your relative good fortune. It scoops out your normal healthy ability to cope with bad days and bad news, and replaces it with an unrecognizable sludge that finds no pleasure, no delight, no point in anything outside of bed. You alienate your friends because you can’t comport yourself socially, you risk your job because you can’t concentrate, you live in moderate squalor because you have no energy to stand up, let alone take out the garbage. You become pathetic and you know it. And you have no capacity to stop the downward plunge. You have no perspective, no emotional reserves, no faith that it will get better. So you feel guilty and ashamed of your inability to deal with life like a regular human, which exacerbates the depression and the isolation. If you’ve never been depressed, thank your lucky stars and back off the folks who take a pill so they can make eye contact with the grocery store cashier. No one on earth would choose the nightmare of depression over an averagely turbulent normal life.

It’s not an incapacity to cope with day to day living in the modern world. It’s an incapacity to function. At all. If you and your loved ones have been spared, every blessing to you. If depression has taken root in you or your loved ones, every blessing to you, too. No one chooses it. No one deserves it. It runs in families, it ruins families. You cannot imagine what it takes to feign normalcy, to show up to work, to make a dentist appointment, to pay bills, to walk your dog, to return library books on time, to keep enough toilet paper on hand, when you are exerting most of your capacity on trying not to kill yourself. Depression is real. Just because you’ve never had it doesn’t make it imaginary. Compassion is also real. And a depressed person may cling desperately to it until they are out of the woods and they may remember your compassion for the rest of their lives as a force greater than their depression. Have a heart. Judge not lest ye be judged.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

I remember the day of my last appointment.

It was snowing, it was cold. It was the year no one made it to my eighteenth birthday party, save the few who managed to trek there. I decided to bring my camera. I needed to document everything, to keep it all, somewhere, I knew my head wasn't enough.

I took photographs. Of the chairs. Of the posters on the walls, of the cup of tea I'd been given, of the waiting room. Of his room. Of the pictures on his walls. Of the drawings done by children that he'd put up. Of the paper he would buy everyday, just to see what 'the other side' were up to. It was snowing and it was grey and it was nine in the morning. 

It was cold. I still have the scarf I wore, I got it for a birthday years ago. It was cold and it was grey and I was saying goodbye to a place I had spent an hour every week in since the age of 13. I still can't quite get my head around how I ended up there, what happened. I was a baby. Thirteen is a child. 

I needed to remember every detail. At the time, I didn't know how much I would need to remember it all, but I do now. The purple walls and the green carpet, the videos in the waiting room and the crappy TV, the files and the whiteboard and the other things I needed to remember. 

I looked so sad when I was eighteen. I was eighteen and hopeless and in love and falling apart and trying to keep myself together long enough to get some A Levels out of me, before it all imploded again in a matter of months.

The things in my bedroom at home haven't changed. The same things are on the walls; the same drawings, the same photographs, the same pictures. It is lonely to think of them now. They seem from someone else's life. 

I have spent too much time drunk and scared and looking for something I still haven't quite found. I don't know what it is. I know I haven't found it yet.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Life is nothing more than a series of moments, haphazardly stitched together to form some sort of unusual story. 

And it is the people within these moments that make a life what it is. 

It should not take an accident or a failed suicide attempt for you to realise the importance of the people in your life. Tell them while they're still here. While you've got the chance. 


Friday, 4 January 2013

Productive days, lonely nights and little lifts.

My productive morning and productive afternoon and productive evening didn't turn into a productive night, but what was initially a depressing night turned into a hilarious one with a few texts laughing at the ridiculousness of my life with a good friend.

Sometimes the simple things are actually quite effective. All you need is a good friend and the fact that you've had a few awkward morning after walks home.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2012 #2.


Moving into Ashley, the disastrous first day and the great weeks that followed. Sarah's birthday, the meals out, the wonderful beautiful meals out where I worried about the cost rather than the calories. Falafel burgers and cocktails. Niamh's birthday night out, endless trips to Limelight and too many walks home from wherever he was staying that month. Alcohol, nights out, afternoons sitting in the garden smoking. Having the best time in the flat, happily living with a best friend and the best bed I've ever slept in. Beginning to work in NUSUSI, learning more everyday. Saying goodbye to Sylvia, the woman who saved my life more than once. Beginning to think I'd be able to cope on my own. Up and down, always up and down.


Forfey, camping and alcohol and taking photos and having the best time. Missing Heather and the Forfey of years ago. Tanya visiting, wonderful Tanya, having the best few days and becoming so close. The day trips, times at the beach, wearing whatever I wanted and finally not caring. Trying to get a job, failing, depression and tears. Seeing old friends on nights out. Caoimhe's birthday, the drunken night and the horrible walk home which ended with two strangers saving my life. Coming to terms with what was happening. More so, my inability to deal with it. 


University starting again, finally. Union, the drunkenness and the walk home the morning after. Bristol and the UK Feminista Conference, meeting Kelley and the start of a great friendship. Meeting so many incredible women and garnering support for the movement back in the north. Telling horror stories about our lack of access to reproductive health, feeling miserable and lonely and that the fight was too much. Remembering why we keep trying to do what we do, regardless of what they say about us. Seeing BJH, Sam and the beginning of us. Planning Berlin.


Ronan's birthday, nights in instead of out. Taking care of him. Wrestling with the ever internal battle to keep reminding myself that I was a girlfriend, not a therapist. Berlin, having the best four days. The city that seemed sad. The museums and the beer and the cheap wonderful food and the incredible people we met, sitting on the airport floor eating chips and drinking beer before going back to reality. Halloween that didn't happen, trying so hard to be understanding, seeing that it was wearing me away. The NUSUSI QUBSU referendum, friends caring who never used to, being called baby killers on the street. 


The SDLP Conference, the essay I managed first. Meltdowns. NUS Demo 2012, flying over for Women's Committee and meeting the most incredibly diverse group of intelligent women. Reminding myself that this was why we do it. The depression, the anxiety, essays gone to shit and classes missed. Blurry. Few photos, few outings of any significance, few memories save the ones mentioned. Blank. Depression.


December. Break up, the end of that. The end of the year. Turning 20, the disastrous weekend that it turned out to be, the tears and the depression. Letting go, entirely, of those who did nothing but ruin me. Saying goodbye to any hope of reconciliation. Days spent in bed, tears, anxiety, classes missed. Appointments cancelled and shite doctors and dealing with a university who seemed determined to put everything in my way. PostSecret, Dublin. Tears the entire way through. Meeting my hero, the one upside to what had been a terrible week. Home, family. Rest. Kittens! The best few days in what was a terrible month. Coming back, more appointments, new medications, seemingly stable. A new year's eve spent with good people, a new year's day spent with good friends. Welcoming in the new year tipsy and lonely, unsurprising. 

As a whole, this wasn't a very enjoyable thing to write. It didn't feel nice to look through photographs of people who are no longer in my life, and it didn't make me happy to try and remember the few happy times in between the dark mess that was most of my year. I have some wonderful friends and family in my life and have had some wonderful experiences this year, but it just doesn't feel like the good outweighs the bad, unfortunately. Which is a shame- because if the bad hadn't been so bad, then it might not be so. The good is good- travelling, meeting some amazing new people, NUSUSI, NUS, working, The Gown, simple drunken nights out in Limelight without a care in the world.. but it doesn't quite cut it. It doesn't quite make the dullness in any way more shiny. We are in a new year, but we still have last year's problems. Nothing has changed but the date. I managed to stay out of hospital, to stay in university- but it is difficult to list these things as things to be proud of when you know you are capable of accomplishing so much more. 

Maybe I am being too harsh on myself, maybe I need to give myself a break. Maybe finishing this post after a day working in the library wasn't the best idea. But that's what it's like. Sometimes I am lucky and have days when I feel like myself again, it is usually then that I decide to write it down, to document it. But there are the days in between, the days unseen to most people who know me. I've stopped saying 'I'm fine' when someone asks me how things are- I've stopped caring if it makes them awkward, I've stopped caring if it wasn't the answer they wanted to hear. Things aren't fine, and I'm not fine- so I won't pretend to be.

It feels sad to leave this post in this way. But I can't think of anything particularly uplifting to announce about my year, no matter what I've learned and the experiences I've had, it has been a bad one.