… don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.
So clearly, if you’ve been following along at home, 2013 hasn’t been a good year for me. I actually started getting sick in 2012 but it was this past March I was admitted hospital, had to stop working, and generally kind of felt like I was losing myself and my mind and everything that mattered to me.
My physical illness wrecked me. It took my health and my strength and my job, which I thought was my identity. Eventually, it took my confidence and my positivity. It left me stuck at home, alone and in pain, day after day after day. That’s enough to get anyone down.
Luckily, after some months of what can only be described in my memory as white noise – a period where I couldn’t get out of bed without throwing up, where I couldn’t start the computer without having a panic attack, where I couldn’t sleep or eat or really do anything on my own – I found a foothold.
The foothold was this blog, and the people that read it. I think maybe there’s some derision around the word “blog.” Sometimes I’ve been guilty of describing it to people as “my website” rather than “my blog,” because blogs aren’t anything special, are they? Anyone can get one. You just sign up and start writing. That’s not serious journalism. That’s not a credible passtime. No one asked you to do it.
For a long time, I figured it was a bit like (‘scuse the phrase) pissing into the wind. Was anyone really listening?
And as much as I would like to say that I never check my stats, that I really don’t care if I’m a lone voice yelling into the wilderness, that I’m just doing this for me – it’s not true. I’m not, though it certainly helps me to do it. I’m doing this to reach people.
And I’m so incredibly honoured that so many of you reached back.
Like I said in a previous post, I’ve been asked why anyone would bother to read Writehanded. You guys responded. Your responses were the best thing I ever read in my life. I’m not exaggerating. It’s not hyperbole. It’s true. I was so overwhelmed there wasn’t a bit of me that knew how to find the words to say thank you – and I am never without words.
Being sick is incredibly isolating. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. You withdraw because you have to, to survive. But in the end, withdrawing is what gets you. Connection feeds us. We need other voices, we need support. That’s not a weakness. Asking for it is brave.
I am lucky that I turned a corner enough to be able to use Twitter a little more, to txt and email a little more, to write a little more. It saved me. You guys have been there, through everything.
The last four months in particular have been pretty damn rough. Changing medications was not helpful, and really I just got so over being so sick, I couldn’t face it anymore. Being ill for so long is… exhausting. I stopped fighting. I lost hope.
I’m a bit ashamed of that. And I am definitely ashamed of the nights where I have worried you all. My only defence is: I was not myself. I was in so much pain, physically and emotionally. I wish it hadn’t been that way. I feel incredibly vulnerable, and also incredibly blessed, that I shared it, and that you were there for me. I want to encourage others to keep sharing, as hard as that is.
Respite and other options
I want to talk a little bit about Respite. There’s a lot of stigma around options like this, and maybe that’s why they’re not talked about much – but I had no idea such a thing existed.
It’s kind of the place between being at home, and being admitted to the psychiatric unit. You’re not safe on your own, but you don’t need to be sectioned.
After I was referred to the Mobile Community Team for Mental Health by my doctor (I didn’t know they existed either – check your DHB website, there’s one in most areas, and here are the crisis numbers to reach them), they set up access to a psychiatrist and psychologist, and they suggested that I go into Respite for a few days. It was totally voluntary.
I think the fact that I did volunteer shows how far down I was, because a year ago I never would have accepted it. I would have thought I was going to (excuse this) “a loony bin,” (sorry, that term is ableist, but I grew up with it and it was a very real concern). I would have worried frantically about what my employers, my friends, and my family would think. I still did, a bit. But I explained to them where I was going. And I knew I needed to go.
In Nelson, the Respite House is called Kotuku, and it’s beautiful. It’s a restored old villa in the middle of nowhere. It has room for four guests, and is staffed by people who have experienced their own challenges. It’s funded by the DHB but on private land. I had an antique writing desk in my room and 24 hour access to a massive art room. The lawn was filled with sunshine and chickens. My meals were cooked for me. Sounds a bit like paradise, doesn’t it?
It helped heal me. I needed company. I needed a break. I needed to relearn some coping skills.
I also learned that there is a lot more mental health community support in Nelson than I thought there was – which I found quite surprising, considering the current funding situation. In addition to MCT, there’s HBT – Home Based Treatment, which is a section of MCT which supports in-home visits. There’s also Compass, a peer support service (this is Nelson-based, I’m not sure if other cities have similar).
I’m getting support I’ve never had before – physically, emotionally, psychiatrically, psychologically. I didn’t know I could, that it was there, that people really really want to help. So I just want to tell you: you can too. Asking is not easy. I know this. But you can. We can.
All I want to really say here is, I found the hope again. I got lost for a while. I became my wounds. I’m still battling, believe me. I live in pain. I’m living with and without drugs, both of which are equally challenging. On many days I am completely exhausted. I still don’t know why my symptoms are persisting, or when I’ll be well enough to go back to work.
It felt for a while like time stopped still. Like I was just stuck on my couch, watching life pass me by. The truth is, I have learned more this year about my own identity than I ever would have healthy. I’m only just getting a handle on what makes me me and what I’m capable of – and that’s a bit exciting, actually.
I’ll make myself puke if I get any more emotional or offer anymore positive platitudes. I think you get the picture. I think you see the progress. I think you know how grateful I am for you.
Yes – you. The person who stuck with me long enough to read this. That’s solidarity, right there.
Let’s go kick 2014’s ass.
Some pics from Kotuku.