So, it’s been a little while since my last post here. Predictably, the novelty of being able to walk again has somewhat worn off… When I first heard about the excellent blogging and mental health-themed project A Day in the Life (courtesy of my dear friend Black Dog Runner‘s appearance on BBC Breakfast), I decided on balance not to take part because I was busy working and plotting the second half of my book. Cut to a couple of weeks later. Where I live has become a building site. I’ve had trouble getting hold of a client about some work I’ve done, for which payment basically means the difference between my Christmas being able to happen and not. And there was a “person under a train” incident at the station on my way home from a day out at the weekend, which….*sigh*….Basically, things have come crashing down around my ears (metaphorically, although literally looked possible at one point…) and I’ve been reminded how fine the line between “Woohoo! Life! I can do this!” and “Waaah, I want to hide under a blanket” can be. As later today I’ll be attending the Mind Media Awards 2014, and rooting for BDR (as well as My Mad Fat Diary, by the awesome, funny and lovely Rae Earl), I thought I’d throw together some of the questions/sore points/discussion points that I come up against regularly around the subject of mental health and wellbeing.
- How to square my teenage difficulty relating to Generic Womanhood with what I’ve learned as an adult I immediately identified with this very insightful post by feminist blogger Hannah Mudge, thinking I had exactly the same struggle relating to the same kind of people. As I thought about it more, I then wondered, is there really such a thing as “generic” womanhood or just a collection of archetypes? And how useful is it to think of people in terms of archetypes when things like mental health and disability know no archetype? As a white, middle-class, home-counties woman with a Durham degree, a scarf collection and a MacBook bought with inheritance money, I’m pretty much the archetypal Media Woman. Alas, unless you know exactly the right people and you don’t feel perennially shit and awkward, being the archetypal Media Woman is of pretty limited use to you when it comes to actually earning a living in the media… Also, when I was younger, I used to think nobody was like me as far as brain chemistry was concerned, and that if people were [insert superficial quality], they couldn’t possibly identify with me. But since I started talking about mental health/dyspraxia/the two together, the number of people I’ve met across different backgrounds who’ve been touched by either or both is staggering. That girl at university who was the life of the bar? Bipolar. The chatty Generic Woman in the temping office? Self-harmer. The braying CEO being interviewed for a profile? Dyspraxic/dyslexic. The smiling writer who goes to all the swanky parties? Bereaved by suicide. Or a survivor of it. And so on it goes. Again and again, the greatest comfort derives from realising that people you think have really got it together haven’t by a mile.
- How to deal with the nagging sense that – despite the above reassurance – my friendships might never be quite all that healthy. Hang around with people who are a lot like me and there’s the worry we’ll drag each other down, and that they’d rather be with someone they have other things in common with than a moderately diffy brain. Hang around with people who are a lot different to me (older, married with kids, and generally more “Normal”, by popular – highly problematic – definition…) and I might put them on a pedestal or struggle to be understood/make myself a priority, which isn’t healthy either. Another thing I struggle with due to a certain youthful experience is the idea that anyone who seems overly senior or functional is just being friendly to me out of benevolent pity. My brain hasn’t entirely latched onto the fact I’m 30 years old not 18, and people no longer talk to me just because I’m a young ‘un and they’re too polite not to.
- How to properly sort my career out, for goodness’ sake I’m currently self-employed, which means I’m essentially the boss of me. The problem is, I don’t like me very much quite a lot of the time. The alternative is to find a dys-friendly job, which, if it were easy, I would have. Also, if I’m not well enough to run a business, I’m no more likely to convince anyone I’m well enough to work for them and do my job properly…
- Whether work and life are de-sensitising me, and the implications of that. Once, a long time ago, it was a massive deal if someone told me anything remotely personal. Now, people do it absolutely all the time (both online and in person), and I can hear virtual strangers talk about incredibly intimate/difficult things and react as though they’re talking about their sandwiches. I once did a phone interview with someone who, as I was about to wrap up, told me she’d stabbed herself with a kitchen knife while six months pregnant after finding out her boyfriend was married. And I thought: “Be nice. But be professional, be professional…” And I was both, I think. But it was a tough measure.
- Whether or not it’s healthy to overthink Based on a friend who perennially did so being dead, I would say not. However, my book and various other things and people wouldn’t exist in my life without such a tendency, so it’s a tough call.
The good stuff: For nearly a month now I have been sleeping well, managing not to take my laptop to bed and even managing a little light reading before bed (as opposed to political reading as novel research). These are all Really Good Things (it would be amazing if we all got paid extra for sleeping well, like you got extra marks for spelling, grammar and punctuation in your GCSEs…)