thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (Default)
posted by [personal profile] thefairymelusine at 05:33pm on 25/05/2009 under , , , ,
Good things:
I cut my hair. I didn't do it myself, but went to an hairdresser, and I now have shorter hair, in a vaguely Enid from Ghost world bob but with a fringe. The fringe is currently blonde. Soon I will be paid and then it may be hairdye time. Or I may retrieve the hairdye from James and then it shall be blue and blue black. And then blue and some other colour. (I am thinking bright blue and bright pink, possibly with some blue black, and I may add purple if I have any left.)
I have a boyfriend with blue hair. This is exciting. (also, you know, he's pretty wonderful in respects other than hair.)
I wrote a poem and had the guts to read it out in front of people, and that was not the terrifying hell I was expecting.
The weekend was awesome. Poetry and drinking until the early morning is win.
Madmen is also awesome, and if anyone can make me a Madmen icon I would be pleased (preferably Betty.)

Things about which I am not sure:
you know how you miss when I was completely melting and regularly blogged about my constant changes in medication and the side effects. Another anti depressant has been added to my meds, citalopram, and there's a possibility of a mood stabiliser as well, once my mood is, well, stable. I'm having a slight meds freakout, which I'll write about later.  (The whole it seems to take a lot of stuff, including stuff other than meds, to make this go away and that scares me and sometimes I have depression freakouts along the lines of maybe I'm fine really and just need to pull myself togehter, but that is majorly stupid, because I am doing as much as I am able.)

Going to go and write Maelstrom characters now.
thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (flowers)
A few things that happened in the last few days which have irked me. and about which I think I can make a more general point.

I had to write a bio for the play reading. This was it:
thefairymelusine has written two and an half plays, one of which is being performed at the (NAME OF FESTIVAL REMOVED) this May. She began to write plays when on courses at the Royal Court Young Writer's Programme and somewhere along the way discovered that she wants to write plays that change the world, preferably in a three act structure. Two years of her perceived path of life (academic school, good A levels, university applicant) being periodically interrupted by spells on psychiatric wards have given her a fair bit of time to write, redraft and do  a combination of internships, depressing paid jobs, part time study and strange running jobs on performance art projects (such as trying to catch an ice cream van on a housing estate on the Isle of Dogs to get the ice cream man to distribute small cones of nuts to the audience of a performance art piece on the history of the area). All of which she is told will help her writing.

I personally quite like that. It touches on my life, and things that affect my writing. It is of course reductive, but bios always are. My family came to see the reading, and the following day I recieved a text from my mother. It said I shouldn't mention the dull jobs or mental health problems, as I "risked being pigeonholed as a writer with mental health issues". It also said I should focus on wanting to write.

Now, there are two issues with that. The first is that it should not be a problem to be a writer with mental health issues. It should not be a problem to be a secretary or librarian or teacher or business person with mental health issues. It shouldn't be an issue, and it shouldn't be stigmatised. I deliberately didn't talk about certain things in the bio, and possibly I should have, or should at some future date (suicide, self harm, psychosis) because those felt too personal. But it is a significant part of my life and it really, really does affect my writing, and sometimes I write about it or related things.

Now writing is possibly one of a few areas where it is unlikely to adversely affect your career if you have mental health issues. Aside from that, the whole issue of pigeonholing yourself. You make yourself vulnerable to pigeonholing and categorisation when you write. You reveal various aspects of yourself when you write. Really, it doesn't matter what's in your bio, because much of your weirdness, oddness and prejudice will be there, in the text or on stage. And therefore revealing a bit more, which possibly helps give context, or is just amusing, doesn't matter.

The second thing just made me despair of general expectations. The first was that one of the mental health professionals who works with me is pregnant, and has to limit clinical contact with patients owing to a risk assessment. The problem being not that she can't work, but that contact with people with mental health problems is  automatically dangerous. This does make me sad. The team who work with me are good, and aim to help people live the life they were living before they had problems. Both the people who work with me have despaired of the stigma around the issue. But the same team assumes that all the people using their service have to be considered as violent and unpredictable. Or, I don't know, possibly they thought it was contagious

There's another thing, but that's more to do with writing and general expectations of people regardless of health, so I'll leave it to another post.

thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (Default)
I have recently started occasionally watching television news. This generally gives me a sense that I need to disinfect myself and turn the television off as soon as possible, as well as filling me with a great deal of righteous anger.

There was a story, one of the perennial stories, about someone being stabbed by a mentally ill man who'd recently been released from hospital. The story repeatedly used "mentally ill" as shorthand for dangerous, the only context they gave for the attack was that he had an history of "paranoid schizophrenia" and the gist was that's it's too easy for mentally ill people to be released from hospital.

There are a few issues there. There is the use of "schizophrenia" and especially of "paranoid schizophrenia" as automatically being a danger to others  or the general public (how many times do there need be awareness campaigns about the fact that mental illness is far more likely to be a danger to the person suffering from it, or that they are far more likely to be in danger generally). The fact that schizophrenia is an outdated term which covers far too many conditions and symptoms to be an effective term. The general assumption that mental illness is dangerous to the general public, and that any form of psychotic disorder is especially.

I was already thinking about this before I saw this particular story. I have to get sick notes this week, and I've been advised not to put my full diagnosis on them, because of the fact that they're going to my employer and university. My full diagnosis has changed somewhat over the years, is only not schizophrenia because of the aforementioned outdated term thing. Currently it is psychotic depression. The depression largely characterised the last episode, but the obsessive and shattering nature of it was quite close to my experience of psychosis, as was the irrational nature. Also, mentioning the fact that the previous two episodes had involved psychosis is possibly a convenient, although equally bad, way of conveying the seriousness of this. I'm probably going to agree, and let the notes be written just about depression, although that presents its own pitfalls and misconceptions. But by doing that I am buying into the fact that psychotic illnesses are not something we talk about, are not something that normal, employable people can have.

Make no mistake, I think this was a tragedy. But it was a tragedy that was either just a tragedy, unavoidable, or a tragedy in the same way that people killing themselves after contact with mental health services. Mental health services do need improving. But the main improvement they need is better care and attention towards patients. And can we please stop this bloody tiering of mental illness into, effectively, people who are a bit low and people who are dangerous, and the stupid stigma around both.

That was less eloquent than it should have been. But I am very angry. Expect more on this.

thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (Default)

A friend of mine recently wrote in a magazine about make up, and how she dislikes it because it promotes an illusion. She wrote “I don’t like make up because it makes me beautiful- or rather, when I wash it off, it stops me being beautiful”. I can see the point, but would quite like to argue another side.

I have always enjoyed dressing up. At school I didn’t have a uniform and, as my confidence and happiness went, for various reasons, I dressed up more. My father told me to act confident to trick myself into being confident, and I tried it. And dressing up didn’t stop the panic attacks or the crying fits, but it did make me feel that bit more like me. It made me feel like me, someone who thinks Revelations is a laugh and that one should change the world in a three act structure. I dressed to characters, not as much as some people, but I would dress playing my idea of a pretentious sixth former, or Faustus, or a mannish Edwardian intellectual, or just someone wearing an evening dress I didn’t always do it, but it would lift my mood, and make school that bit more bearable. It would make me feel like I wasn’t the girl who was shaking and crying.

 I stopped dressing up for school during my most serious bout of mental illness (late 2006 to early 2007). I was overtaken by despair. I cried through lessons on the Aeneid, when I felt remotely able to attend. I came to believe that I had lost my soul and intelligence, everything essential to my self. I was sectioned wearing washed out, shapeless black clothes, with one book in my bag and hardly able to write, or express myself.

 In hospital there are certain shorthands you use to tell yourself, and doctors, that you’re functional, because they are unlikely to believe you. You go to meals, tidy your room to the extent that there is little sign that anybody lives there, try and do things, and in my case put on make up and style your hair, even if that is just brushing it. It shows you still care about your appearance and are still somehow engaged with the world. And, with my sometimes awful styles of make up and hair in hospital, it is a form of dressing up. There are limited opportunities to dress up in hospital. Your clothes are generally limited by both the desire to appear sane and the fact that other people chose the clothes you have with you. But make up is a way to be you. Death curls and red lipstick with mad spinster/Edwardian intellectual hair(piled on top of your head) the first time, eyeliner the second, copious brightly coloured glitter eyeshadow this time. Because I am original and funny and creative, I am the person my friends know and I will remind myself I am that person. And that person is sparkly/gothy/a comics geek/wants to be Christabelle LaMotte. That person is all those things.

My friend wrote that gothic make up made her feel like a little girl playing dress up. But there is nothing wrong with playing dress up.

 Because dressing up is not about how you look, solely. At later dates I will regret the photos online, but there have been times I’ve needed the mad spinster hair and cravat, the faded ten quid H&M evening dress, the pink boots and purple hair. It’s not only about presenting a front, but being that front. Pretending to be you. And sometimes you need props or reminders. It’s not just make up or a suit jacket, part of it’s having a notebook and a fantasy novel, a decent supply of pens, a feeling that all this will be terribly funny written down and people calling you the name you call yourself in your head. But glitter and an exciting coat help.




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