What Not to Say to Someone with Bipolar

Are you still taking your meds?

The weather is so bipolar rn.

OMG my friend is SO bipolar, we’re always arguing.

Wow, you’re so moody.

Well you were fine yesterday.

Cheer up.

We all get down.

Have a nice bath.

Try not to worry so much.

You just need to get out more.

Snap out of it.

Oh I’m a bit bipolar too!

It’s just all in your head.

You’re just doing it for attention.

Wow, you’re dark.

You don’t need medication, you need nature / yoga / aromatherapy – delete applicable.

It hasn’t done Stephen Fry any harm.

You never know, it might never happen.

Oh like Stacey from Eastenders?

Are you sure you’ve taken your meds?

Think positively.

Chin up.

Smile!

Stop being so negative.

Happy mums have happy kids!

Get a grip.

Well you sound OK.

Man up.

Stop being so selfish.

What have you got to be so unhappy about?

Oh I read an interesting article in the Daily Mail about bipolar, it said –

Go take some happy pills.

 

What to say to someone with bipolar:

It’s OK.

Same here.

I’m here if you want to talk.

I understand.

Write it down.

Do you need anything?

I know.

Do you need some help?

I’m not going anywhere.

I’m listening.

The Quiet Ones Have the Loudest Minds

Generally when I meet people for the first time I’m all awkward and completely forget how to behave when I’m around actual human beings. I start to panic that when they look me in the eye they’ll be able to see all my secrets, steal my superpowers and notice that worst of all, I only managed to get mascara on one eye this morning before leaving the house in a whirlwind of book bags, permission slips and tangled hair. My voice shuts down completely, it’ll get stuck halfway up my throat and surface as a shaky whisper. I like to think it makes me sound profound or mysterious, but truly, I just sound like a have a bout of tonsillitis.

It seems that the majority of mums (and dads, obvs, we’re all equal here) take to the whole socialising with their children thing like a fish to the proverbial expanse of wet stuff. You sometimes catch a glimpse of us awkward ones, slinking around the parameter of the playground or baby & toddler group, pretending to be really into what our kids are up to (or the next imaginative way they’re trying to maim themselves or others). We’ll be looking anywhere but directly at other people. Anywhere. Oh, hang on, I must now look really intently at my phone for the next few minutes, brow furrowed, swiping that finger with purpose, I tell you. You are reading business emails, those deadlines keep whooshing in and dammit the FTSE has just dropped 100 points.

What? They don’t need to know that you’re simply trying to catch a Magikarp on Pokemon Go and that you have no idea how to work your 4G.

Don’t forget the dramatic sigh for added effect.

Thing is though, you might see us awkward folk, desperately trying to go unnoticed. Some of us performing the school drop offs and pick ups with the expertise of a ninja, speaking to no one, especially avoiding the Glam Mums, straight in and out, and in a puff of smoke – they disappear. Some being less fortunate and run in with the school PA (ya know the one, the mum who makes it her personal business to run everything yet isn’t actually on the payroll), with a homemade cake in her hand, “Excuse me, the rules do state that the children aren’t supposed to ride their scooters or bikes within the school grounds. Just so you know.”

We may be quiet. We may be awkward. We might say the wrong thing or laugh at an inopportune moment. Hell, we might even have leftover tear stains behind the bug-eyed sunglasses or hiding our quivering hands within our pockets. We could have an occasional tick and our hearts stop momentarily as a child screams, a baby cries or once we realise that we really can’t deal with crowds.

You might think we’re mental. You might even say it out loud or via a loaded glance to one another.

And do you know what?

We probably are.

Postnatal depression affects one in eight mothers. Not to mention causes a tidal wave of destruction for their partners, families and friends. Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK.

My name’s Cas and I’m a bit mental. Various acronyms have been thrown around in my presence – PND, OCD, PPD, PTSD, plus the good old depression, major depression and neurotic depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in my head and most of the time I’m floating on a rollercoaster of antidepressants and mood stabilisers.

The quiet ones are all coping, somehow, hanging on by our fingernails. We’re battling stuff we could never say out loud, even if we were able to put it into words coherently.

And Repeat

A year ago, to the day in fact (thanks to that smug little animated dinosaur that prances onto my phone to merrily remind of my annual failings each and every morning) I wrote this post. It was nothing special, but the point is I could’ve written dozens more exactly like it. The ominous assessment, the dreaded GP review, the painful therapist appointment. Where the texture or tone or composition might be slightly different, but they’d still essentially be a snapshot of the exact same thing.

Me, perched on the edge of a padded chair that’s too low to the ground in a grey room, panic racing through me, eyes darting methodically. The generic box of tissues. The certificates on the wall. The grubby mark on the wall by the door. My fingernails. Dust motes dancing in the ever decreasing sunlight creeping through the vertical blinds. The ill-chosen printed artwork on the wall. Back to the tissues.

And repeat.

The doctor / therapist / psychologist / psychiatrist (delete applicable) absent-mindedly twirling to and fro in their swivel chair, fingers poised over their keyboard and mouse, ready to type unknown words I can’t see or churn another prescription out.

I ask for help. I say the things I don’t want to say. I nod silently.

I’m handed another prescription with a disingenuous head-tilt, complete with what they’re probably aiming for as empathy in their tired, slow eyes. I’m given instructions to call 999 if “things get bad”.

I leave.

I go home. I hide in my bed. I refuse to speak.

And repeat.

This well-trodden and anti-climatic routine led to “things getting bad” with a crescendo of me having a breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital last summer which I’m only starting to process now. Apparently, a breakdown isn’t a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not the excuse to surround yourself with inspirational quotes and self-care and cross your fingers really hard that the same thing won’t happen again.

It’s a huge, ugly, jagged event that towers above everything else, where you start to remember things Pre-Breakdown and Post-Breakdown. You can’t talk about it because, well, if you’ve had a breakdown, you’ve got it out of your system now at least, yeah? Now let’s change the subject. There’s no “Sorry about your breakdown” cards. You’re just surrounded by concerned eyes watching you when they think you’re not looking, an avalanche of *hugs* and more dissatisfied appointments in grey rooms.

In the Post-Breakdown haze, the local crisis-team visited me at home. Although, they weren’t really the proper crisis team, I’d have to wait months for that, these people were more the mildly problematic team. I didn’t want to talk to them. I no longer trusted myself and felt if I said a trigger-word, they’d be sectioning me. They intimated that I might be dealing with more than just your common house depression.

The words “personality disorder” seeped through before my defenses shot into the atmosphere. I didn’t listen to another word they said.

The private psychiatrist I paid over 150 quid to see for fifteen minutes, shrugged off the suggestion while my other half saw a chance of getting somewhere, a breakthrough and I refused him it.

I didn’t know what to think, who to trust, denying that anything was wrong. The words, the lingering, leading questions were invisible rain, sinking through my protection, my clothes, making me colder and colder while I pretended it was OK as my teeth chattered and my skin was covered in goose-flesh.

Until one night, I told my best friend. I told her about the exhausting, unpredictable switches in mood. The compulsions. The sensory overload. The panic I felt at being asked if I was OK, because honestly, I had no idea. I told her the seemingly tedious details. I told her everything.

She’d asked questions, she’d said the scary Personality Disorder words, she asked if I was sure I was just dealing with depression, but it was OK. I realised then that it was alright to listen to other people’s opinion and myself, that a personality disorder didn’t have to be a terrifying unknown.

From next week I’ll be going back to the grey rooms with the dirty marks on the walls. I’ll be asking to be re-diagnosed, for a second opinion. Most likely I’ll be nodding silently, leaving with a prescription pressed into my palm and not much else.

And repeat.

Secrets

From a very, very young age, I’ve learnt that mental health is something we do not talk about. Ever. Unless it’s in a small, quiet room with someone whose name starts with Dr or you’re paying someone by the hour, just so you unbottle all the junk messing up your grey matter until the next appointment comes around.

It’s been hidden away.

Sordid and shameful.

Secret.

I was never allowed friends over to play or have tea with or make dens with when I was little. In case they saw something. My mum’s bottles, scattered over the carpet, empty and silent. Or her hoarded, collected mess. They’d know, and that simply wasn’t allowed.

As I got older, and I began my own epic journey through the NHS and assessments and therapy and “Tell me Cassandra, have you any traumatic memories from your childhood?” My mum would take me, keen to coach me on what to say, what not to say and “Don’t tell them about my drinking.” Before the door was even closed behind me and the counsellor and I’d located all the exits in my mind and where they kept the ever-present box of tissues, without realising it, I was already keeping secrets. Don’t mention this, don’t tell them about that and never ever mention the gin problem.

Although I write openly (possibly too openly) about the state of my head on here, I still struggle very much in real life. It’s wrong. We don’t go there. No one needs to know. Keep it schtum. And on and on and on. I’ve lied to taxi drivers when they’ve asked, taking me to strange buildings in the late evening, instead of just saying, “Oh yeah, I’m going to therapy.” I’ve come out with preposterous lies, “I’m going to a yoga class.” Or “I’m having acupuncture.” Like, seriously, FFS.

But.

Something’s shifting.

The pills I’m currently taking, the ones that make it impossible to function in the mornings, the ones that leave me 20 minutes in the morning to wake up as a grumbling, growling mess once Noah’s sat on my head and said rather urgently “Mummy… The clock says eight, two, zero…” and get my shit together and deposit him to school, avec lunch bag, book bag, suncream applied and teeth brushed. Yeah? Yeah, those ones. They’ve shat all over my “must never be late, must never be late” mantra. They’ve flung my at least sort-of-pretending -to-be-holding-everything-together out of the nearest window.

They’ve left me pretty naked. No amount of Bobbi Brown Under Eye Concealer can save me. And a “Whoops! Woke up late!” said in the jolliest tone you can manage while your mates pass you in the opposite direction, somewhat bemused – just doesn’t have the same effect four fourteen days running.

I did the unthinkable the other day. Seeing the usual gaggle of mums gathered around the school gate, having already dropped their children off, I almost fell to the ground into an army crab crawl to the nearest bit of shrubbery until they left. I tried. But Noah didn’t join in. Instead, I was forced to hope my literal bed hair was mistaken for stylishly dishevelled and camouflaged any coffee stains upon my clothes rather artfully with my scarf.

Once I’d done the mock hurrying into the playground / eye roll and “Come on, darling, quick quick!” and saw the kid into his classroom, I made my way back to the gate and all eyes fell on me. “Everything OK?” and then there was silence.

Before I knew it, my censorship button still asleep, I said it.

“Oh, just the new antidepressants I’m taking. They’re making so drowsy, I can’t wake up.”

Just like that.

Twenty six years of secrets, of keeping the truth hidden away. Of smoke and mirrors and biting my tongue.

Gone.

The silence that followed felt like an eternity.

But do you know what? Nothing happened. No one screamed or ran away, or gathered their pre-schoolers into their petticoats, shielding them from the mental case. Nothing happened at all.

It was OK.

The secrets were dispelled, the mystery revealed and somehow, the world didn’t end.

I (Don’t) Wanna Be Sedated

Morning. Bedroom. Waking up.

Rationality: Oh. It’s 8.20. Shit.

Irrationality: FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. We’re doomed. DOOMED.

R: It’s OK. It’s cool. Erm. Yeah. Let’s just get dressed, grab some biscuits and run out the door.

I: NO! It’s all fucked. I’m fucked. I’m going to have to go to the school office and see the judgey receptionist AGAIN and they’re going to give me that LOOK. They KNOW. They KNOW I’m fucked up. They’re going to start asking questions and they’ll see that I didn’t brush his hair properly or iron his uniform and they’ll remember that time I forgot to bring in his reading diary and I REFUSE to give him a bag of crisps on the way to school for breakfast.

R: No, no they won’t. We can get there in twenty minutes. It’s fine. And they’re breakfast biscuits innit. Totally allowed. It’s fine.

I: It’s not fine. Nothing’s fine. He’s going to be THAT kid. The one everyone gives the side eye and feel sorry for him for having a shit mum.

R: Oh shut up, no they won’t.

I: LOOK! LOOK AT HIS HAIR! It looks like I’ve backcombed it, not brushed it.

R: Come on. Let’s go.

I: Er…

R: What is it? What now?

I: I can’t move. The new pills. OMG, OMG, OMG. Something’s happened. My body’s made of lead. Has someone filled my veins up with sand when I was asleep?  I’m stuck like Neo in the Matrix when he goes all slo-mo ninja.

R: Oh FFS.

I: I TOLD YOU WE’RE FUCKED!

8.46am. Outside. Walking.

R: Can you go any faster?

I: I AM walking fast. Look. Look at me go.

R: You’re staggering a bit, dude.

I: DON’T TELL ME THAT.

R: OK. Don’t worry, we’re nearly there.

I: We’ve been walking for EVER – OH SHIT, WHERE’S HIS LUNCH BAG?

R: Oh Christ.

I: Oh no. I can’t make him have school dinners, he won’t eat them, I can’t take the guilt. And I’m not sure I can talk without slurring to the receptionist so I can explain. Why won’t my body just work?! This is like walking through concrete. Can you see a dart anywhere on me? Have I been tranquilised?

R: We’ll sort it, honestly.

I: Oh shit, look. Parents. Fucking loads of them. WALKING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. They KNOW, they totally KNOW.

9.03am. Outside school gates.

I: Dude. That was way too hard.

R: You’ve done it now. We just need to get you home somehow and do it again in a few hours.

I: Oh sweet Jesus, no. No. No. No. I’m staying here.

R: What? You can’t stay here for six hours.

I: It’s going to take me six hours to walk home. I’m totally staying here.

R: Well could you look less… Drunk? And weird? And not sit in a bush?

I: I’m just going to take a little nap.

R: What..? NO! We’re going to get arrested! We’re outside a SCHOOL. You can’t just sleep in a hedge outside a school.

I: Aha, will the police take me home though?

R: *says nothing*.

I: *snores*.

R: Fuck.

Intruders

*unexpected, sudden noise*

What the shitting hell was that? I think to myself while I shove my face through the curtains in a fashion I think is completely stealthy and surreptitious. Once I’m satisfied that there’s no one lurking behind the rubbish bags on the street, I go through the house and do the same at the back door, taking particular interest in the pop-up tent and trampoline. There could be a cackling maniac on the loose, hell-bent on invading people’s gardens at night to frolic on their play equipment while the owners sleep, totally unaware.

But nope.

Nothing.

Oh God, what if they’re in the house?

I close the curtains again, lock the doors and creep upstairs, my back flat against the wall, because ya know, that’s what they do in films, right? The cat joins me, squirming around my ankles, she knows some shit’s going down too and spurs me on.

I bypass my own bedroom, the constant low (yet somehow deafening) snore emanating from within would surely put them off hiding in there and head straight to Bean’s room to prize the door open.

I’m met with nothing more than snuffly grunts while Noah writhes around his bed, sweaty and fast asleep.

Checking under the bed only to find the usual devastation of an entire castle scene, Playmobil men decapitated and bodies strewn everywhere, like Game of Thrones for fucking five year olds, I admit defeat and head back downstairs, making sure everything’s locked and arm myself with a toy light saber for protection. I sit on the sofa and somewhat shaken, resume what I was doing when I was startled by the unexpected noise.

I press play on the TV.

And THWACK – it hits me, straight between the eyes. (I mean this figuratively, obvs, the flashback of the sound, not the axe belonging to my imagined intruder.)

I was laughing.

Out loud.

A sound I didn’t recognise. A sound I’ve not heard properly for over a year. A sound I’ve tried to fake and force unsuccessfully a gazillion times, when really, it’s the easiest sound to make naturally.

Something completely innocuous on TV actually managed to wheedle through the barriers and caused a good reaction in me, rather than making me feel worse or causing me to think about how things should be, how I should be.

The pills, it’s the pills. Is this me or is it the pills making a beta 2.0 version of me? The guilt of all those times when I should have been able to react normally, and smile and nod and laugh at the funny bits when Noah’s talking to me about school and ninjas and poo.

For a brief moment, I consider grabbing the small white box stuffed with blister packs of the little intruders and flushing them down the toilet. Hating them a little bit for giving me something in just three weeks that I haven’t managed alone in over a year.

I pause the TV again, another sound, my mouth gaping open to listen better for a moment, and I realise it’s Bean, giggling in his sleep, muffled into his pillow, dreaming.

And that’s the moment I know I couldn’t. That I couldn’t deprive my home of another second of laughter and silliness, of my son never being able to remember his mum laughing, only the same stretched smile with dead eyes.

That’s when I let the intruders stay and put down the fucking light saber that was still gripped in my hand.

If You’re Still Here

Dear Cas,

I don’t know how else to write this, because it’s just not something I can dress up with clever words and descriptive imagery, it’s just what it is. I get through the endless seconds and minutes by thinking to myself that it won’t be forever. I’m not referring to the current tantrum being thrown before me, or the rain, or the shit day that stretches in front of me all the way to the horizon and beyond. I mean this. Being here.

The thought of just thinking about it is too much, because it quickly turns into a ferocious whirlpool of it won’t be forever, I don’t want to be here, fuck – that’s so messed up, I know – but I don’t know how else to cope, I really don’t, you need help – seriously, I know I do – but how? My ribcage tightens. My head floats and floats until all I can do is stare and remember to breathe occasionally. My body begins to shake violently as I swim through a haze of shame and anger. Anger at myself. At all this time wasted and lost and totally gone forever, and all I have left is blurred memories where everything merges into one mass of chaos.

A monochrome painting, still wet to the touch on canvas, shaking hands, smearing the brushstrokes, until the black and white dissolves to grey.

I’m writing this because, well because unless I sit here and pretend you’re a real person, alive and reading this in 25 years, I can’t imagine how I’ll ever get there, to where you are now. I cannot picture the future. It’s just not there. I can’t commit to anything. An outburst, a breakdown, an attack or a bog standard world ending moment, can happen in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, and rather inconveniently, I cannot see them coming and they knock me sideways as much as anyone else unlucky enough to witness me crumbling into something I just don’t know or understand.

The other stuff that should be grounding me, making me see, giving me that purpose, that fight, just isn’t. It isn’t working. I wish every single day that they made me want to stay, more than anything else. But they don’t.

It’s perpetually behind me, right on top of me, whenever I have a moment of OKness, it’s hovering, telling me I’m being fake, that I’m mimicking how I think I should behave. That the words that come out of my mouth and through my fingers don’t mean anything more than what drifts through my head – absolutely nothing. It tells me that what I do or don’t do today doesn’t matter either way and that it won’t be forever.

And I need something, anything to believe that I’ll eventually be where you are now, in 25 years, hopefully with enough fortitude to read this and realise how far you’ve come because nothing else is working and I’m so tired of this constant carousel of making progress only to realise that not a single thing has changed at all. The meds, the talking and the nodding along to everything that they’re all saying to me.

So ya know, if you’re still here all the way in the future, a little sign would be good. A space postcard made from stardust or whatever you lot are using in 2039 would be good. Or a pet unicorn. Just something.

Your 26 year old self,

Cas

Circles

Thursday Morning:

They search me, they trace their hands up my sleeves to ensure I’m not hiding anything. They ask what’s in my pockets before forcing me outside, into the back of their car. I feel eyes watching me from every window, the immovable sense that I’ll be some gossip for when their husbands and kids get home.

They take me to A&E. They follow me to the desk and again, everyone’s watching me, trying to work out what I’ve done to have police escorting me. They put me in the special room I’ve seen so many times before. For criminals, for people being abusive or violent, for drunks. We sit there for hours. On the hottest day of the year, no windows, the heat rising and I can’t remove my sweatshirt because they’ll see what I’ve done.

It’s a blur. They ignore me, they talk amongst themselves, listening to their radios and commenting on the accident that’s being reported and go on to talk about RTA’s they’ve been to where they’ve had to scrape people off of the road.

Thursday Afternoon:

It goes on for hours, and then they’re gone. More people come and eventually go again.

“What happened this morning before the police brought you in?”

“I don’t know, I don’t remember.”

Again, and again, the same forms, the same questions, the same cold, blank expression from the person asking me, the same tiny box of tissues being handed to me in an attempt to clean up the mass of tears, and the unshakeable feeling that this is never going to end.

The hours pass. They clear the A&E bed and room of all equipment so I don’t attempt to garrotte myself with a blood pressure pump, a nurse sits with me the entire time and closes the paper curtains so no one has to see me sobbing uncontrollably. I ask to go to the toilet, she follows me and tells me not to lock the door. I’m not allowed to use the phone. We return to the bed, she tells me I can sleep but I ignore her and sit bolt upright, watching the blue curtains for shadows approaching, waiting for someone to come along and tell me this was all a terrible, ugly dream.

Another doctor arrives. We go through the questions again and he asks what I want to do, I tell him I want to go home and he says that’s not possible, it’s not safe for me yet. He says I need to go to another hospital for the night, a secure mental health unit to be assessed properly before I can go home. I ask what the other option is, hoping there’s some way out and he answers simply –

“We’ll have to section you under the Mental Health Act.”

Thursday Evening:

I’m taken in the back of an ambulance to the other hospital. I can’t see where we’re going, I don’t know the hospital. I don’t know who I’m with and it all feels so, so wrong. We arrive at the hospital and start going through a series of locked doors, as many doors are locked behind me and the paramedics as are opened before us. All too soon, we’re there. Locked in.

They go through my bag, taking away my glasses and phone charger, they fill out more forms. The woman keeps telling me I’m really tearful when I’m sitting there still, completely numb and for the first time all day I don’t feel like crying.

The rest is a blur. I’m forced to sit with other patients in a lounge area because the dorms are locked. They offer pills I don’t know and I refuse them. I’m told I might be lucky enough to see a doctor for the assessment tomorrow. Eventually I’m allowed to sleep. In an empty room, with the lights on, and a opaque window that won’t open.

Friday Morning:

I’m allowed to see the doctor for my assessment. Except, it isn’t an assessment. They tell me I’m going to be OK, they nod enthusiastically as if I’m supposed to join in, they tell me my family’s supportive and that this was just a blip and that I can go home.

I leave the procession of locked doors to be the outside world, without any money, without my phone as it’s out of battery, without a single phone number or leaflet, or what I should do if it happens again and without the slightest clue as to what happened to me to cause the events of the previous morning.

Disclaimer

This post was going to come with a trigger warning, but then my head went on a tangent about how using the word trigger as a warning, a safe word if you will, for people who are likely to tread beyond the line of OK stuff to think about, is possibly not very well thought out.  Ya know, a word synonymous with guns and dangerous stuff. A cross on the door, do not passsuggestive stuff awaits. People who come up with names and words and meanings, try harder, this one definitely needs some work.

So… Yeah. That thing which means this isn’t suitable if you’re a in a bit of low mood. Whether it’s in the mentally ill sense or you’ve just found your washing machine pissing water all over the kitchen floor etc, maybe go to Google and type in funny cats. Or pugs. Pugs are the new funny cats, right?

Anyway, on with what actually got me out of bed to write at 2am.

I’ve been laying low on the old blog front. The social media front. The typing shit into boxes with 140 characters front, the taking photos of my breakfast / cat / dancing child front. All fronts essentially. It’s been massively, stupidly frustrating. And it’s taken me months, yes actual months to work out what the fuck is up with me. In that sense I mean obvs, I’m still not entirely sure what is generally wrong with me.

Truth is, a year ago when I started pouring out this stuff that’s been polluting my head for so long, I wasn’t speaking to anyone. The world beyond my publish button was nameless and faceless other than some edited, anonymous-ish avatars and alter egos mostly containing the word Mummy in some form or other. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t think I ever wouldknow anyone from this so I could go about my depressive ways, spout some shit that had been clogging up the main frame and continue and no one would be any the wiser.

I was like a Banksy of blogging.

Only totally unknown. Uber skint. And I’m fairly certain that the smell of spray paint makes me vomit.

Look, that worked in my head, OK?

Fast forward a little and somehow, almost in spite of myself, I appear to have actually made some friends through this strange life I made on the internet through blind frustration and loneliness. This blog isn’t anonymous anymore, and for fear of making people worry, upsetting someone with speak of ugly depression stuff, the suicidalness and Lord knows what else I can verbally throw up when I’ve overdosed on coffee. Where I’d protect my family from this stuff, I’d run to these blank white pages to get it the fuck out, I’m now kind of in the same position again.

And yes, my head isn’t a pillar of rationality or sense. I appreciate I can be blowing this past the bounds of proportion. And there’s a huge arse positive in amongst this. I do see that. I truly do, it’s way way out of my comprehension to understand it fully, but I know it’s a good thing.

It’s akin to where you’d put on a brave face for the postman, or your neighbour, or fuck it, anyone, the glazed smile, the Oh yeah, I’m fine and the drawn breath, the time standing still as you wish, hope and pray they don’t see what you’re desperately trying to camouflage with teeth and a chirpy tone of voice.

I feel I’ve been doing that online. And if I can’t force it anymore, I’ll shrink away for a day or a week until I can force it a little bit more.

In a meandering, round the houses way, what I’m getting at is, I suppose this is a disclaimer for the stuff I need to start saying again. That I’m fine, that I won’t be putting my head in the oven – scrap that – my oven is totally broken and my head won’t fit in the toaster, I just checked,  so it’s all good seriously.

I need to drop the façade and take it back to the old skool. Or the erm, ya know, mental health unit.

Signs of a Struggle

Dear Cas,

It is I, your twenty-five year old self sent from the future to impart my wisdom. Yeah it’s all a bit confusing and awkward. I can pretend to be a fairy godmother or some mystical apparition if you prefer, maybe even don some fairy wings to make this all more visually exciting? No? Whatever. I know you’re not going to want to listen to me, you don’t listen to anyone, I know that cos I am you innit and I’m more than aware of your pain in the arse tendencies.

Just bear in mind what I say and trust me a little bit. Please.

I was going to write a long lists of dos and dont’s, ya know, since I’m all wise and shit. But other than one – PUT THE TWEEZERS DOWN WOMAN, YOUR EYEBROWS ARE NEVER GONNA GROW BACK FFS – I’m not gonna do that. I suppose it’s sort of expected of someone in this position, the Disney version of things, that when we’re in the midst of complete and utter shit, that someone will float down from up above, hold our hand and tell you everything is going to be OK, make sure you do this, avoid that bloke – he’ll mess with your head, don’t forget to do your pelvic floor exercises, eat more greens, blah blah blah.

But I can’t do that.

Yeah you still feel shit more often than not. Stuff is still hard, harder than it should be. There are times when even just existing is too much to deal with. You will wonder when you’re gonna get given a fucking break sometimes, when you can politely take your plate away, place your hand over it and say “That’s plenty, thank you.”

You’ll still withdraw like a petrified hermit crab. And you’ll continue to blame yourself for well, pretty much everything. There’ll be times when you’ll wonder whether you’ve made any progress along this dark tunnel, that maybe you’re stuck in front of a rolling background but you’re not actually getting anywhere at all.

But do you know what’s different now, mate? Now there is laughter, there is love surrounding you like you’ve never experienced before, and yes, that’ll bring its own problems obvs, nothing’s ever simple is it? You won’t know how to accept all this good stuff, you’ll think you don’t deserve it. But it is here, all over the fucking place, it’s tangible and jumping on your face at 6am on the dot every morning.

I can’t tell you how to get from where you are to where I am, or tell you the shortcuts or how to avoid the shitty bits. I won’t pretend life is gonna be all unicorns puking up rainbows and daisy chains, it’s not, it might never be, I don’t know. All I can tell you is to keep going, persevere and never stop, because what you’ll find in ten years will be worth it, it’ll be far from perfect, believe me, you’ll spend days getting shit on your face and spending hours getting silly putty out of your son’s hair and hiding behind the fridge door to cry for a moment FFS, but it’ll be real, I canpromise you that.

There is nothing wrong with you, and you are not broken. Nor is there an evil little gremlin in your head, messing with your thoughts and jangling everything around. You are how you are, you will learn to accept it as a part of you.

I know the words may mean nothing, but I hope they stay with you in some way at the back of your mind and that you trust me. It will be worth it, the scars and echos and signs of a struggle will always stay with you in the shadows but there is good stuff waiting for you, Cas.

The reason I can’t tell you how to get from A to B is because what if I were to fuck up the road? What if you missed the man you now share your name with? What if you never met? Or had your son, the tiny person that essentially saved your life and gave you an anchor? There’s simply just too many things I could mess up for you if I were to give away the surprises your future has in store, and yeah I could divert you from the pain and the ugly and the boring stuff, but what about these two beautiful people who are now you’re life? I’m sorry dude, but it isn’t worth the risk. You will make it through, you will get to where I am now with a slight sense of accomplishment to have made it out of the dark of your teenage bedroom and to make just the tiniest of imprints on the outside world when it never, ever felt possible.

You will get here Cas. I promise. And it really, truly will be worth it.

Now lose the tweezers and write a letter to Magnum demanding they make pistachio flavoured ice cream stat.

Your twenty five year old self,

Cas

x