Archive | June, 2012

Plateau

One of the things that I wanted to write about on this site was recovery and what’s involved in the recovery process. This is what I couldn’t find when I was looking for it. I found plenty about how to handle being very ill. I found plenty about how great it is to be in recovery. There was next to nothing about how to get from A to B.

So I’ve been thinking and thinking about what to say about this, but so far I’ve got nothing. I’ll have to work it out for myself first I guess. Unless anyone has any ideas?

At the moment I’m pretty much half way between where I was and where I need to be. I’m not feeling crazy all the time, I can look after myself again, take myself to the shops and whathaveyou, but I’m stuck at how to go any further than that. I’m not sure how to make my life bigger again.

I’m scared of being around sane people again, and I couldn’t really tell you why. I think maybe I’m scared I’m not ready, and that if I get back out there it’ll all go wrong again. I don’t know. I suppose I’ll figure it all out eventually.

Emma Forrest

Your Voice In My Head – Emma Forrest

Title: Your Voice In My Head (Autobiography)

Author: Emma Forrest

Publisher: Bloomsbury (Kindle Edition)

Date of Publication: 2011

Number of Pages: 214

Review

Your Voice in My Head was the first book by Emma Forrest that I’d read but I enjoyed the way she writes and finished it in one sitting. This took me a little by surprise given  the reviews I’d read when it first came out last year, which luke-warm at best.

I eventually bought it while searching out writing about madness, trying to find something I could relate to. And I found it in this memoir. Forrest’s narrative of the struggle of her ‘better angels’ against the turmoil and self destructiveness of her mania and depression felt very honest and recognisable.

The book is ostensibly about the author’s relationship with her psychiatrist. She describes how he teaches her to heal herself, and the loss she feels when he dies suddenly of a cancer none of his patients ever knew he had. It is also about her family, her illness and her grief she experiences over the ending of her relationship with a man she describes as her Gypsy Husband; the love of her life.

I’ve seen this book described as self obsessed. And perhaps it is. But Forrest’s self obsession is more of the kind that seems impossible to avoid when you’re fighting a battle for your life inside your own head, than that borne of shallow vanity.

On the first reading of the book Forrest’s tendency to name drop without naming names – she describes meeting on an aeroplane ‘the greatest playwright of our generation’, whose ‘talent looms over anyone our age who wants to be a writer’ – did seem self-congratulatory. However, the second time through these passages seemed to jar in a different way.

Having said of Bad Boyfriend she has, ‘no idea why he was ever with me. He thought highly of my breasts. And…that’s it, I think. They were high. He didn’t want to meet my parents.’ She goes on to describe being disappointed that Dr R is concerned, rather than impressed, when she begins ‘seeing a writer who is almost as famous for his tumultuous private life as he is for his award-winning work.’

It’s paints a picture of a woman who measures her self-worth through the eyes of other people, and particularly her partner. He’s very impressive, she seems to be saying, so I must be impressive too, right? Or else he wouldn’t want me. It’s more saddening than annoying.

Then there are the passages at the end of each chapter which are given over to tributes to Dr R by those who knew him or whose loved ones were saved by him. These don’t always work in the context of the narrative that has proceeded them, but they are all touching and positive glimpses into the life of the good doctor. It seemed like a generous gesture from someone who is supposedly her own sole obsession.

For all that this book has melancholy themes, it is not a depressing read. Forrest’s memoir has as much warmth and humour as it does misery.

She begins by introducing us to her parents, who she paints as adorable people throughout.

Her mother will not read the novels of Colm Tóibín because she isn’t prepared to say his name to other people once Forrest has told her it’s pronounced toe-bean.

And her father, ‘once got a credit card saying ‘Sir Jeffrey Forrest’ because American Express was dumb enough to send him an application form with the statement ‘Print your name as you would wish it to appear.”

Where she does show us misery Forrest is insightful and detached. When telling us of her thoughts of suicide, building up to her attempt to take her own life, she manages to frame the experience in a way that might speak to those who have known this kind of pain;

“Do you remember the scene in Goodfellas where Robert De Niro keeps telling Lorraine Bracco ‘There’s a dress for you in that warehouse room. That one. Go on. Just go in there.’? And she knows she’s about to be killed, so she doesn’t go in there? The thought of suicide tricks you in there with sweet talk and even though you know you’re being sweet-talked, and you know what lies in store for you, it’s a room you want to go to anyway.”

Ultimately though, she experiences recovery. There’s no quick, clean, fantastical fix, she walks a long, messy road to find it, and she stumbles along the way. But neither the death of Dr R, nor Gypsy Husband’s sudden departure cause her another suicide attempt, she teeters on the brink but she carries on. ‘Time heals all wounds’, as she says, ‘And if it doesn’t you name them something other than wounds and agree to let them stay.’

I would recommend this book to anybody who is trying to care for someone has a mental illness but is struggling to understand what they are going through. Forrest provides a vivid illustration of the descent in to madness, and particularly of the mind of someone who self harms.

I would recommend this book to someone is mentally unwell and would like reassurance that they’re not alone. As that’s what I found here.

And I would recommend this book to somebody who just wants to read an autobiography that is very well written. Forrest is a talented, funny and engaging writer.

Alternately you could just wait to until the film, for which Forrest has also written the screenplay, comes out next year. It is to have Emma Watson starring as the author and Stanley Tucci as Dr R. I couldn’t find any mention who they’ve lined up to play Colin Farrell, who is, apparently, the movie star, GH. Although I did read of rumours that they’ve tried to persuade him to play himself.

L’Oreal Paris Glam Shine Miss Candy in Pink Treat

I bought this on a whim in Boots. It was pretty, and shiny, so it appealed to my inner magpie.

It comes in a cute little bottle, the top and lettering are gold and set off the two-tone, gold-flecked gloss inside.

It’s £7.69 for 6ml, and L’Oreal claim that one application will last for six hours. Which it might, so long as you don’t eat, drink or kiss anyone within that six-hour period. Otherwise, I found that a pot of tea and a jubilee gingerbread man were enough to erase it all in about five minutes.

It’s pretty while it lasts though, and is both glam and shiny, as the name suggests. And admittedly I have never needed to touch it up so long as nothing’s passed my lips. The Pink Treat is a shimmery, baby pink which is great for a night out, though would probably be too much for a day in the office.

The gloss feels nice and soft, like a moisturiser, rather than tacky, as some glosses can be. And my hair doesn’t seem to be drawn to it like a magnet, which is always nice.

I also like the heart-shaped applicator which makes for easy even coverage.

All in all it was a pretty reasonable purchase.

 

 

The Cult of The Family

“People are pretty forgiving when it comes to other people’s families. The only family that ever horrifies you is your own.” ~ Doug Coupland

I find myself becoming increasingly irritated by the cult of the family. I don’t mean the Charles Manson variety. I mean the nuclear family, the extended family or whatever it is that you mean when you talk about your family.

It’s not that I have anything particular against families in general, so long as they’re not like mine. It’s just the status that’s given to them by so many of the people I come across that irks me. And the clichés that come along with them. You know, friends come and go, but your family will always be there, that kind of thing.

The kinds of people who tend to subscribe to the cult of the family are often the same people who will tell you that nobody has more than a few real friends. Another ridiculous cliché.

I was prompted to write this post by one of those people. Something I read to the effect that, if you were to think about who you could ask to do a favour for you, such as drive you to the airport at 5am, if you’re honest with yourself you’d struggle to come up with two names.

I strenuously disagree.

The last time I needed taking to the airport at 5am, the guy that drove me was someone I’d barely heard from for three years except to exchange seasons greetings and happy birthdays. And I can name at least ten people, who aren’t relatives, who’ve told me they’d be mad at not being called the next time I’m contemplating suicide. So I know I’m not just being delusional.

And I just don’t think that bleak assessment holds true for anyone else I know either.

If you don’t have many people you could turn to, I suggest it may say very little about other people and their propensity to care for others and more about the self fulfilling prophesy that you’ve entered into.

None of those ten people I just mentioned would describe themselves as ‘family oriented’. That’s not to say that they don’t care about their families. Most of them do, and the ones that don’t have families who really aren’t worthy of being cared about. It’s just they haven’t set a limit of their family circle as being the be all and end all of their capacity for valuing other people.

Bob drove me to the airport, mainly, because he’s a nice guy. And nice people do things for other people. But if you go through life believing that there’s no point helping anybody because nobody will help you in return, then people are less likely to help you. Not because other people aren’t nice or helpful, but because you’re mean.

A similar principle applies to the cult of the family.

Now, my family are not a cult that anyone would want to belong to. My father was physically, psychologically and emotionally abusive towards me until the day I decided to cut him out of my life. My mother often joined in because she blamed me for making him that way by being born. And my sibling just isn’t a particularly nice person. All three of them have made it perfectly clear to me that my problems are just that, mine, and that I will never be able to count on them for anything.

Consequently, I have a more meaningful relationship with the guy who checks out my groceries nearly every day than I do with anybody who happens to be related to me.

But when I’ve dared to mention this to people who like to consider themselves devoted to their own family, more often than not they’ve admonished me for speaking that way. “You really shouldn’t because your family are the only ones you can rely on to be there when you really need someone.” – They’ll tell me.

I’m sorry, really? The only people I can rely on. The people who abused me. Well, that’s just…great.

The problem is that these people are in denial. They cannot accept that my family would behave in that way because they believe that The Family is sacred, and perfect, and mustn’t be denigrated.

The same people will often ask me, ‘Well, what did you do? You must have done something. You must have been a really bad kid.’ The fact that I really wasn’t a bad kid, that I didn’t do anything to provoke it and that’s why I call it abuse, just doesn’t compute with these people. They won’t hear reality because it goes against everything they’ve organised their lives around believing.

Just like cult members.

I certainly wouldn’t go to those people if I needed somebody, for fear of being told to go and ask my family instead. And you know what, I wouldn’t be there for them either. Or even for the family folk who do believe in my own kindred’s failings. Simply because they make it quite clear that they wouldn’t be there for me – because I’m not family.

I’ve eventually drifted away from any friends I’ve had like these because, ultimately, they weren’t worth keeping, weren’t worth investing in. No relationship can become meaningful if the other person is convinced that it can’t work that way. Why bother trying?

But what should it matter if friends come and go, anyway? Surely the quality of any friendship should be measured by where it’s at today? No matter if one or both of you changes, or even if life just gets in the way.

The people who have kept me alive today, are the people who have kept me alive today. And that’s valuable. Tremendously valuable. Irrespective of whether they were here yesterday, or whether they’re still going to be there tomorrow, or the next day.

Similarly, there are people I could once have called upon to do anything for me who haven’t contacted me once while I’ve been struggling this year. And that’s okay. It was what it was, and now life has moved forward. We all grew as people and now those friendships don’t fit the same way. It doesn’t mean they weren’t good while they lasted.

Life is change, and movement, this applies as much to relationships as it does to anything. If they don’t grow it’s not healthy, and even if they do grow, they could still die. You might as well embrace it, after all, you never know who’ll be free next time you need to get to the airport at five in the morning.

Additional Reading:

A Conclusion (thrivingisthegoal.com)

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