(I wrote this post in early 2015, but never published it. I just read it for the first time since saving in drafts. Even though my life has changed immeasurably – I now work full time and my partner recently moved in – it is still relevant.)
This morning, I woke up with a clear head and a dawning realisation:
It’s time I learned some self-discipline.
For the past few weeks, I’ve had a run of waking up drained after just a few hours’ sleep. I usually end up dragging my duvet downstairs onto the sofa and dozing in front of daytime TV. When I’m fully awake, activities include researching random subjects on Google, posting on Facebook, sometimes not getting dressed until the afternoon. My little house is starting to look a mess, my bed has gone unmade for days and downstairs has descended a little further into chaos. I haven’t written anything for months. I started to art journal and then stopped again. I’m eating too much, too often and all the wrong foods. I plan to exercise every day, then fail to get off my expanding backside. At the moment, this is too big a part of my life. I know for a fact it doesn’t have to be the rest of it.
I’m honestly not lazy…I’m at my happiest when I have a project to work on and something to achieve. I am easily distracted though, especially when self sabotaging thoughts begin to knaw at me. I hate the days I spend sitting in front of programmes I barely glance at, phone glued to my hand…Though just occasionally, the seemingly pointless information I gather whilst trawling the web has a purpose. Off the back of listening to Tricky’s 2008 album Knowle West Boy (After being in Bristol visiting friends the weekend before) I searched his name on Google and found a Guardian interview from 2010.
He had just released Mixed Race, and was talking about how he had struggled to make sense of his life. The darkness he still felt in his mind after a harsh and violent upbringing I was a big fan of his in my late teens, the album Maxinquay was a large part of my life’s soundtrack from then into my 20s. I didn’t find out until later that was a tribute to his late Mother, who took her life when he was just four. The whole Trip Hop scene fascinated me through the 90s – I felt drawn to the South West, thinking it a place full of the sinister and unknown. Though I’ve always tried to stay away from physical violence (I’ve only ever fought in the times where I’ve needed to defend myself) None of us can help it when our thoughts stray to into murky water. I more than identify with those unable to put the past to rest, having spent years looking for somewhere to be accepted. It felt as if I was spending my life on the run from my hometown, but it turned out to be from myself. Finally, I settled in Nottingham seven years ago. Like Tricky, my adult life has been fairly nomadic. The locations he has lived in have been far more glamorous than mine however! In reference to living and working in the USA, he said
“The thing is,” he says, “you have really got to be disciplined in LA. And I found that hard.”
Just one word has circled my mind since I read it: Disciplined. This is often the case when a page or article resonates with me. I read quickly and take away the parts I can apply to myself. Or WANT to apply. It’s made me realise that I’ve been lacking in it for far too long. I’ve lived much of my life in chaos, constantly moving on. Quick to forgive, forgetting nothing but the most valuable lessons that needed to be learned. In friendships, relationships and my working life alike. One particularly forthright manager described me as
“Lurching from crisis to crisis!”
When I was called into an inevitable meeting to “Discuss my performance” typical of my early working life. These usually resulted in the termination of another temporary contract. It’s true, I did come up with some increasingly elaborate excuses for my lateness and absences. Burst pipes, collapsing ceilings. IBS. I was too ashamed to admit my own thoughts sometimes held me prisoner even then. Each excuse was met with increasing cynicism and disbelief, until the expected happened and I was let go. I kept working, hounding agencies, pounding pavements. Updating that CV. I’d just rented the first place of my own I’d ever had and was damned if I was going to lose it. One thing I had in abundance back then was energy! So personally, I think the way she described my situation was wrong. Nothing as negative as that. As in all lives, terrible things have happened, followed by the amazing, the indescribable, the tedious and the in between times. We all deal with such changes in our own way. Some people thrive, some sink and others carry on regardless. I happen to have a condition which skews the way I look at the world and relate to people. I under and overreact to situations. Sometimes the gravity of a situation doesn’t hit me for days, weeks or even months afterwards. I am not Borderline Personality Disorder however. I HAVE Borderline Personality Disorder. I also have naturally dark brown hair and freckles, a tendency to gain weight around my middle, a lot of creative talent but a godawful singing voice (It’s not true that all Welsh people are blessed in that way! Come to one of the local bar’s Heavy Metal Karaoke Nights and hear me belting out Cherry Bomb or Dead Prudence and I’ll prove it!) These are the components which make me up. And many more besides.
In short, I need to knuckle down and get a grip.
I hear this in my Mother’s voice, circa 1994. I was going through decidedly more than the typical teenage angst. Even though it would be 24 years until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I knew there was something wrong beyond rampaging hormones. At this stage, I only self harmed from time to time. It was the preoccupation I’d always had with my fluctuating weight which should have caused more concern. I’d been bulimic for around a year and was finding it harder to keep it a secret. I really didn’t care about getting help, more that nobody found out and gave me grief. My parents dismissed it as “Silliness” and even put my state of mind down to my taste in music. I know they regret this now. Our relationship has been fairly easy to heal…It’s myself I struggle with the most.
It’s time to move on and make something of myself.
That statement has an ominously parental tone too. Though it’s the fact that taken until the alarmingly ripe old age of 37 to reach this epiphany scares me more. By this time in life, so many of my peers are settled in their lives. Families of their own, homes and cars. Established careers and good prospects. I honestly don’t envy them. Bitterness and resentment, honestly what’s the point? I’m already running the gamut of mixed feelings about life as it is. Why add more negativity? I just want to find a point in my own life where I’m able to take even a little of that for myself. At the moment, I’m a bit too unstable to hold a job down. My moods swing dramatically and I am terrified of making mistakes. When I’m able to behave consistently, I work hard. I’m organised, conscientious, loyal and empathic. I started to work as a Personal Assistant almost two years ago. I genuinely loved my work to begin with; assisting people with mental health issues and physical disabilities to live independently. Time passed and circumstances changed, not for the better. I found my own problems were triggered and began to resurface. I returned to call centre and reception work for a brief period of time. Due to the winter virus’ flying around my immune system took a battering (A surprise repercussion of changing from working one to one with people!) I became physically ill, lost my temporary contract and had another mental health episode. It was horrifically depressing to find myself back to square one. I gathered up all the determination I could and returned to my GP. Though it has taken since January to get this far, I’ve been referred to the local Personality Disorder Network. I was assessed in June and have an appointment in September to discuss my treatment options. The wheels of recovery grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small. The only option will almost certainly be group therapy (I lost my place in one to one psychotherapy at the beginning of 2014. I was trying to get rehoused and kept missing appointments) I’m apprehensive…One course is an introduction and takes place over 12 weeks, the more in-depth course 12 months. I will need to stick at it, and I’m notoriously bad at that. I always used to put it down to laziness. I recognise now, sometimes I have days where I am genuinely unable to leave the house. Through fear, sadness, anger at the past, my thoughts churn and curdle in my head and my stomach starts to hurt. But despite knowing the cause now, I still need to learn to push through it. It’s a means to an end. Perhaps some day I can have the career I want, find fulfilment and feel worthwhile. I don’t care much about wealth or material things. A home of my own, animals, a car,. Maybe a holiday every year. Modest ambitions by most people’s standards. When you count yourself lucky to still be here, they mean a lot more.
So I’m going to begin at the beginning, and start small. A page in my art journal a day. A Blog post per week. Stay busy, keep my mind distracted from what has gone. Who knows where it will lead me? After all: The Future Is Unwritten.