So it’s been a while, indeed a “yonk,” as we used to say back in the day. A lot has happened and a little has happened and I guess what comes next is mainly therapy for yours truly as much as for anyone to actually read, so forgive me if the following is a completely self-indulgent load of nonsense.
The last time I was on here, life was looking up: I had had an operation to remove my little cysty friend and I was recovering, discovering the unadulterated joy of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. #DontFuckItUp (#ITotallyFuckedItUp).
So, what happened next?
I think the biggest thing which has happened is my long-suffering other half buying a house. If I could give everyone a massive piece of life advice, it would be this:
Never buy a house.
It is literally one of the most horrifically stressful events that comes under the category of “normal things people do”.
It needn’t be but apparently in order to sell a property, one must either be terribly fickle or a gigantic arsehole (you can choose your preference on this one) and definitely a misanthropist.
To cut an extremely long tale short, we lost 5 properties due various combinations of the above, we lost 4 properties after having our offers accepted, 1 of which was the day before exchanging.
Now a normal person might have a little cry, be a bit angry and then chalk this all up to experience. I, as you may have gathered, am not a normal person.
Cut to crazed Tillyflop, marching down the road in her pyjamas to “speak to” the owners of the property in a bid to convince them that actually, they had not changed their minds and did not want to stay at the property. I have absolutely no idea what I was planning to say to them, exspecially as it was 3.25 in the morning and they lived a good eight miles away from my flat (I managed five miles until Mr TF caught up, so at least I got my step count in! Every cloud and all that…)
And so began the gradual unravelling of my brain.
This is not something I generally talk about as it’s not a part of my make up that I am very proud of. However, I do feel that it’s something which does need to be shared.
It all started innocently enough – experimenting with face paint during rehearsals and then wearing the result on the way home whilst laughing maniacally (literally, it turns out):
I then started getting a nagging feeling that a series of disasters and accidents were somehow my fault, and kept finding “links” which “proved” that I was responsible for these tragic events.
Also on the other hand, I started to believe that I had magical powers and could control traffic lights and delay trains if I was running late.
All of this would have been a great short story but unfortunately it was my day to day life, to which I could not rewrite the end.
The final straw came in December 2014 – we still hadn’t moved, six months after our offer was accepted due to… wah wah wah, (I’m still not sure what the hold up was, even now), our old landlord needed us out, as we had been told to give notice by the TERRIBLE conveyancing solicitors who then promptly – did nothing and almost lost us our flat, plus £9000.
I don’t recall how it happened but suddenly, I was awake, in a field in Eden Park, about 3 miles from my house. I was wearing my pyjamas and I had no idea how I got there and I was cold. I also had no money or phone or keys. I have never been so terrified. Maybe I had been kidnapped by aliens and then dumped as a terrible specimen of humanity, but my filthy slippers stated otherwise.
In order to explain this, I must take you… TO THE DICTIONARY!
Dissociation: In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience.
Dissociation is commonly displayed on a continuum. In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defence mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including boredom or conflict.
Basically I was kinda sleep walking but I was actually awake (which is good cause I crossed a fair few roads there!) my brain just couldn’t handle this stress and felt like a calming walk and it was damned if it was going to let my body stop that from happening!
This was a positive turning point, as my husband awoke to find me gone and called the police, who were actually rather marvellous. They insisted that I was seen by the local mental health team (who to say are overstretched is a terrible, terrible understatement) and they checked back with me a few days later, which did wonders – a phone call can make all the difference.
After a few months of therapy and some new medication I was back to being level and just about functioning as an adult (there is only so much I can blame on bipolar, guys) and I had a wonderful 2015 filled with joys that I didn’t know existed.
I worked with some of my very favourite people, (Foolish People to be exact), on a show which headlined Wilderness Festival, and we rehearsed outdoors for two months, which also did me no end of good as well as just being lucky enough to create some wonderful magic with wonderful people. They got me to sleep IN A TENT! At a POPULAR MUSIC FESTIVAL!!!! (For those of you who don’t know me, Margot Leadbetter is my spirit animal) and I actually had a jolly outstanding time.
I also had found a new favourite pass time – decorating my flat!
What could be more joyful than finding a colour of paint that makes your bedroom feel like a cosy, tranquil hidey hole? Or a warm, fluffy (yet very cheap 😉 )down duvet. Or getting bored one afternoon when your husband is out and painting the living room wall navy blue? Or making sure that there’s a place for everything and everything in it’s right place? Or making sure the books are ordered by theme, or maybe colour, or maybe height? Or ordering your nail polish by date of purchase? Or using a ruler to ensure that all the magazines on the table run parallel to the table’s edge? Or spending 3 months finding the perfect Christmas tree baubles or…
I think you get the picture.
I needed something to channel my energy into, a new project, a new purpose.
And it came.
We had thought that it wasn’t possible, after trying for almost 18 months with no success and had sorta given up by now, so we were both overwhelmed by the joy of it all, as were our families.
But in the back of my head was terror. Absolute terror that I was going to fuck this up somehow (sorry Ru), I had recurrent nightmares of just about every shitty possibility there possibly was but tried to push it to the back of my mind (it’s quite easy to do in such an empty space).
All we could of was wait for this scan and be extra careful.
But that little nagging terror stayed right there, masticating upon my ear.
And it was absolutely right.
There was this harrowing, disconsolate noise which I couldn’t quite place. On and on it went, seemingly endlessly. It scared and disturbed me deeply, I just wanted it to stop.
And then all of a sudden, I realised that the noise was coming out of me.
I lay on a trolley, my hands gripped fast to my face – if I didn’t look at the monitor, this couldn’t be true. But it was. The sonographer looked panicked and ran to fetch a different piece of equipment to afford a better look. But I knew this was no mistake – there was nothing there, just an empty sac, too small, too misshapen to do its job.
I couldn’t even look at Mr TF, I couldn’t bear to see his disappointment that I had let him down again.
I don’t remember anything else which happened in the hospital, lots of calming reassurance that this was nothing I had done or not done, that one in four pregnancies end this way (WHY DO I HAVE TO BE IN THIS SHITTY ONE IN FOUR TOO?! Why can I not be in the three in four, one of the normal, biologically sound people, just once? I am already in a one in four exclusive club of misfiring brains, can I not be left out of this club? Would this be too much to ask? Or am I just some gruesome statistics experiment?)
What I do remember is what a gift Mr TF was/is. We had a lot of waiting to do and so we went for a walk and he just did the only thing I needed him to do – hold me and tell me that things would be fine, it would all work out, it just wasn’t our turn this time. He didn’t force me to talk, he didn’t force me to have a sit down and a chat, he just walked with me and we loved – we even laughed.
Let’s not forget, he’s going through this as well, so the fact that he took his time to do that on this darkest of days is something I will always remember and be grateful for.
More talk was had and I went out to see my friends, who I had gathered to deliver the good news (ha!) and they were wonderful too. I am so very lucky to have all these great people in my life.
It sounds corny, it probably is corny but people who get you and don’t mind the fact that you are having terrible day and are sitting bawling in the BFI bar in the middle of the afternoon, very much looking like this:
Are an irreplaceable treasure. Hold on to them and love them with all your might because they are worth 56 times their weight in diamonds. FACT. Extra points if they feed you miniature pasties. Triple extra bonus points if they lose their shit and wave a baby around when a famous person they fancy walks past.
I’m going to leave out the next part, because it’s horrible and gory and that’s not what this is about, but safe to say that A&E find my humour “deeply unsettling” as opposed to funny.
And then I was ok, genuinely a-okay. I carried on with working and living as if nothing had happened, with the odd glitch here and there.
Until I wasn’t okay.
I’d had a good day, I was going to a workshop, I was having fun in the rain in London – one of my favourite things to do.
I realised I needed my oyster, (even as a crazy person I have my pass ready for the gate – take heed Match man!) and promptly realised I had been pickpocketed. I mean, I can understand stealing a travel card – but a used lipstick?! I have cold sores, if you’re reading, Thiefy McThieverson. #PersonalHygiene.
My brain started to melt into mush, the floor started to give way. I had to lie down. I couldn’t move. The nice station guard came and made sure I was okay and opened the gate for me and gave me a leaflet explaining how to get a new card etc etc (Thanks, nice Old Street station man!)
However this was the:
I needed to get away. That’s literally all I could think about, this was too much – I needed to get the hell outta dodge and make a new start in a new place and a new set of people around me.
And like the arse I am, I decided I would copy the shit out of Bonny Prince Charlie and run away to Skye. (I have actually always wanted to go there but not necessarily under these circumstances).
By the way, I am totally singing The Skye Boat Song here, please feel free to join in.
At this time, I was cycling so rapidly through emotions I was breathless, almost. One minute weeping, one minute livid, one minute hysterically laughing. I dumped mr TF by whatsapp (stay classy, duck), I tried to leave my job, I deleted whatsapp and blocked all texts and calls on my phone.
It was pretty terrifying, especially as I felt that this was all happening to someone else, like I was sitting next to myself observing what was going on, a helpless bystander, if you like. I am sorry to everyone on my tube and train journeys home, BTW. I must have freaked you all the chuff (get it – trains, chuff? No?…. *tumbleweed*) out.
I had also lapsed into selective mutism, so I was incapable of verbal communication – thank god for my wheel of emotions!
It’s a bit like Wheel of Fortune, only without the theme tune, or any real incentive to take part other than to find out what the crazy lady wants.
Thankfully the situation was “contained” (by Mr TF) and I managed to last until my perinatal psychiatric appointment, which had accidentally (but very thankfully) not been cancelled as it should have been.
In the next 24 hours I found three very helpful things:
- Mr TF (obviously);
- Ruby Wax’s Sane New World stage show, which has now finished but she is doing a new show, Frazzled, which starts in a few weeks. It is very funny but really, really informative and helpful – there is a forum in the second half, which was wonderful and I am pretty sure there is in this too;
- Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. I am late to the party on this one, I know but this is a beautiful book and a helpful book. I think everyone should read it and bask in its resplendent loveliness. It made me cry. With joy and its was actually me crying this time. It woke me up from this horrible dream and showed me that life isn’t always going to feel like a sandpaper bike saddle. Read it if you haven’t, please do, it deserves to be read, by you.
The perinatal psychiatrist was fantastic and started sorting out a crisis plan with me. She should have by rights refused to see me, given the above but she didn’t. In fact she talked with me for two hours and then told me that I was ill and she felt I needed to have an intervention, then explained what this meant. In the space of four hours, I had seen three other doctors, had a new set of medication given to me and another appointment booked for the next day.
They were wonderful. This isn’t me wanting to be political here but the NHS saved me twice in the space of 3 weeks in two very different ways. I am so grateful for this.
So here we are, on the meds and on the mend, under that watchful eye of the Community Mental Health Team and with a few more appointments for proper therapy and grief counselling.
I feel like me again and I feel a slight tinge of hope that I haven’t felt for a couple of years. I can do this, we all can. Maybe we just need to watch out for each other a bit and stop these silly colossal expectations of ourselves.
I was inspired to write this because of the experience I had and also because I watched The Not So Secret Life of The Manic Depressive, the follow up documentary to The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which is what raised my suspicions that I might have bipolar in the first place and realised that the more of us who speak up about our experience, the more help this will give to those in the same situation.
Thanks for listening, I don’t half go on.
Miss Tillyflop xxx