Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shoe of the week

Since finding this new confidence in my creative abilities, I seem to be more successful in them. Nothing at all has changed except in the way that I view myself and, I presume, the way that I sell myself (said the tart to the vicar).
It makes you ponder on reality though doesn't it? A very clear perception of your abilities, may be clearly wrong.
I briefly wondered there as I wrote that, whether I was not in reality short and dumpy, but in fact tall and leggy and bound for a career as the most youthful burlesque artist of my generation.Woman posing with feather boa Having conducted the reality check test with my friends and neighbours, it seems that I'll have to let that one go (, no dear reader.... tempting but far too predictable..)
I do know that indulging in anything creative helps me enormously (is it just my mind today or what?)  I am far more grounded when I paint or write or make..The habit that I am trying to get out of is of leaving those things as treats. My train of thought goes...I will do that after I have washed the doors down, cleaned the bathroom, chiselled the mouse droppings off the chicken kievs and coralled the flies into the downstairs toilet, that sort of thing. The flaw in this plan being that since I loathe anything that involves organisation or domestic chores, I never do, do those things that I love. This leads me to chase myself round and round in circles, kicking myself up the arse for being a bit crap but never, ever doing anything that remotely feeds my soul and I still don't have a tidy house.
But after 40-odd years of doing things one way, it takes an awful lots of training your mind, for it to even begin to think of doing things in a different way. .....
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Imagine for a moment, that my mind is facing oncoming traffic by driving a motorbike, on the wrong side of the dual carriageway in its underwear. It fears slowing down, turning round or stopping for fear of being flattened by a 'Mums Go to Iceland' slogan attached to a juggernaut. My current task is to hit the safety helmet of my mind with a mallet enough times that it begins to get the impression that it needs to lie down, then I scoop it up with a shovel and dash across to the hard shoulder where it can turn to face the right way. Thus far, that's all I can manage although I am assured that  motorcycle leathers and driving lessons are available for students in the advanced mind bending class (I bet we're all very glad that I'm managing without medication)
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So, now that you and I have fed my soul a little... where's that lasso? view details

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No Tornados please, we are British!

Thought that you might like to see a letter I wrote to Stephen Fry in a weak moment:-
Dear Mr Fry
I confess straight away, that until today, I had never seen your website, nor read your tweets.

(I am suddenly reminded that 20-odd years ago I used to chat up long- haired young men in student unions, with some success, by offering to tell their future through ‘reading’ their shoes).
In fact I hadn’t read anyone’s tweets except that of my friend Monty, who signed up to Twitter one night in 2009 when there was nothing on the telly and wrote ‘For some reason I’ve signed up to Twitter, here is my Tweet’ , and hasn’t written a thing since; perhaps because his singular entry sounded like a literary speech impediment.    
I further confess that I bought your autobiography 2 weeks before Christmas, at which point I was given another 2 as presents and despite the copious copies, can’t get past the first few pages of any of them-not even if I remove the dust jacket and think naughty.

However there have been many times in the past 6 months that I desperately felt that I’d like the chance to talk to you. I recognise(d) this as very odd because I do not know you; do not feel that I know you and do not assume that we would like each other. On the other hand, you do seem a nice chap, a clever chap, a creative chap and a funny chap and I think I might be all those things too sometimes, apart from the ‘chap’ bit.
The bigger picture of me is that I am in my forties and was diagnosed with Cyclothymia, in January although I had known I was bipolarish since September... I won’t go into my feelings of frustration with the medical profession up to that point and since, or of a life that I feel that has been half-lived but I wonder if those are familiar feelings for you too?

The gist of the meeting with the consultant psychiatrist was that since I had not been hanging by my bra strap from a giant cornet whilst kids bought Mr Whippys in my shadow, then they had nothing to offer me unless I tried to do away with which point they’d send someone round.
I just wanted to ask you how long it took for you to get onto an even keel after the diagnosis? I am making huge strides in integrating both sides of myself and have successfully limited a recent manic phase but then had a complete meltdown in a passport photo booth in Morrisons!
Forgive me for rambling, but at the minute, the knowledge that I have it at all is causing its own problems. Beforehand, there was always the possibility that this would be the last time it ever happened.
Pre-September, the highs were wonderful and joyous and carefree, now they are treated with suspicion, mistrust and caution. I miss the euphoria of believing that I can change the world through the power of Underwater-Knitting- although I do believe that they’re thinking of allowing it into the 2016 Olympics in any case and that Skipton has some real talent in that area.  

My psychotherapist is fabulous and I simply wouldn’t have coped (nor even known about my condition) without her. However, not even she knows how it feels to try and reign-in a tidal wave and that’s why I have succumbed to the temptation to write to you. I imagine that you are in a place of acceptance and less fear? How long did it take to get there I wonder? I really want my life to start and not to sit here grinding my teeth and fretting.
The plus points are that I have always been creative but had little confidence in the quality of what I produced but I feel that with this diagnosis, comes the probability that I am good at stuff and I am allowing myself believe so at last. Oh the liberation!
Forgive me for I know you are neither a doctor, nor Oprah and I am doing a good job of supporting myself really, but in any case, you are a ledge to rest on in the glacier of my mind when I see how you are managing to control the condition.
I will aim for that.
My very best wishes in all your endeavours

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Catherine wheels to Tornados

I used to liken my Cyclothymia to a catherine wheel.
I was once invited to a Guy Fawkes party in a lovely garden that led down to a river. The chap who was hosting it, nailed the catherine wheel to a tree then watched in horror as it jumped off its perch, whizzing and fizzing and firing its violent colours like a six shooter backing out of a saloon . Mien host chased after it, along the riverbank, in safety goggles and a V-neck sweater - attempting to bring it to justice with the aid of a long stick. I have rarely laughed so loudly and so long and when the suggestion that I might be bipolar arose, in my intial relief at an explanation of my life, I saw myself romantically as a catherine wheel. I was a gentle maverick, a children's entertainer, a rogue firework-sometimes getting out of hand and briefly dangerous but always entertaining and wonderful to look at.
In the months that followed though, as I hit my ups and downs with a new awareness that I found frankly quite terrifying, it struck me that unchecked, a catherine wheel could cause much damage and that I could cause more. I seemed to be housing a recurring tornado.

I have always loved extreme weather; growing up on a very severe coast line, fun for me was walking along the seafront when the waves were so vast as to overpower the sea wall by several feet and crash over the recently abandoned car park on the other side. I adored the drama of it-the power of nature; the feeling that it could snuff me out any minute, but that it wouldn't bloody dare.

As a result, I love the sea although, at the same time, I am more terrified of its vast power than of anything else. Thundestorms are another favourite; always torn between common sense and exhilaration when thunderbolts are thrown through the air and that delicious grumble of the gods invites you to party. How I long to go outdoors.... and so often, I do.
In retrospect then, it doesn't seem such a surprise that I ricochet constantly between the horror of fear and the freedom to be out of control. When did it all begin I wonder?
Now of course I realise that I am a tornado, not a catherine wheel at all. I sometimes -but not always- get a bit of a weather warning and ooooohhhh the excitement. I soar on that excitement, I see the tornado start to build and I feed it with glee, whipping and whipping it round like a spinning top until it has such a momentum that there's no stopping it. I am an awesome sight-mighty,powerful, intelligent and I do not suffer fools gladly-all are ripped from their place of safety and tossed aside. I am bright and witty and everyone is drawn into my atmosphere. I do not rest, nor sleep but go along my clever, clever way, taking all that I want and showing the world how it's done. I draw admirers from everywhere, everyone wants a piece of this phenomena. I can spin forever!

 Yet in the back of my mind I know that this isn't how it ends, that the spinning will stop even when I don't want it to. I panic and struggle but sure enough, the cows and double decker buses get harder to lift and the debris starts to slow me down. I look for a man with a stick to help, but he has got bored now and wandered home for his dinner and after all, people have jobs to go to. I try only choosing light things to fling about me, but all the time the energy is being discharged ; something has popped the Tornado like a balloon but it is me who deflates slowly until finally there is nothing by quiet and calm immobility and a sense of disorientation.
But the worst is yet to come, once the tornado of my soul has been snuffed out altogether and I look around, the horror of the decimation is revealed; the carcasses of friendships and reputations and time with children are strewn everywhere and I am completely spent and exhausted with a need to sleep and an inability to think. But even this is manageable, because I realise that when I do start to think, it won't be pretty. I am my own newscaster reporting on untold damage. I do not pull any punches. Apocalyptic is my style -I am a sensationalist after all.
But I have been thinking...thinking that if I were constantly a gentle breeze-neither a hurricane nor stagnant water- I think I'd find that less tiring.
So, welcome to 'The Tornado Files; One woman's observations on how it feels to accept herself and the strategies she's experimenting with to pace herself.'... it's a working title :)

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