Dear Cheated On

This post is for the reader who came to my blog using the search term “can a mental illness cause a man to cheat”. Don’t worry, I don’t know who you are. I don’t even know if you followed my blog once you got here. But I hope that this post will reach you.

I don’t know your story and I don’t know your partner’s but I do know this: mental illness or not, your partner does not have the right to hurt you. Mental illness is not a “free pass” to do as we please to those we love or to those who love us.

Perhaps you are searching for a way to explain away a recent betrayal. I can understand that only too well. Regardless of the situation please know that your partner is not more important than you. Your emotions and needs are just as important as his. And you need to take care of you.

Living with a mentally ill partner can be exhausting and emotionally demanding. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to need help. Its okay to need give-and-take. It’s okay to need. If you need to talk about you and how you can cope with your partner’s illness please seek out a counsellor or a support group. Please value yourself as equal to your partner. Never let another person devalue you or reduce you to a secondary character in your own life story.

Dear Cheated On

You and your carrots can FUCK RIGHT OFF!

I take antidepressants. Two of them actually. Every day. Morning and night. Do you want to know why? They get me out of bed and they get me into life. They are my flashlight and my high-vis jacket, my survival tools in my ongoing battle against the dense, grey fog that surrounds my brain. I use them to break free from the confusion and stride towards the road ahead, flagging a little from the exertion perhaps, but seeing the way forward and powering on without fear. 

So tell me I’m the pharmaceutical industry’s bitch. Tell me I’m weak. Tell me your story about how you cured yourself using only glo-sticks and cucumbers. Go on….I dare you! 

It seems to me that there is a counter-productive and dangerous trend emerging. A trend towards distancing oneself from the “weak ones”, i.e. those brainwashed by the pharma industry and too feeble-minded to even know it. Those who seek to medicate. Those who gladly hand over their hard-earned cash for the sweet relief of psychopharmaceutical intervention.

Depression survival has emerged from the shameful shadows of it’s past, to a time when it’s acceptable for it to be worn like a badge of honour. Honour being defined as having overcome “that nasty episode” by channeling your inner strength. And vegetables. And vitamin shakes. And jogging. And hypnosis. And whatever other bullshit you want to peddle as long as it doesn’t come in pill form. Or have to be dispensed by a person in a white coat.

It seems pretty clear to me that none of the following are acceptable responses to an article where somebody has BRAVELY publicly declared their mental health difficulties:

  • The pharma industry makes a trillion bazillion dollars every year from people dependent on anti-depressants and it’s all a big ruse and you are just part of it you sad bastard
  • My mother’s cousin’s sister had depression and then she went jogging every day and now she is fine and owns a ferrari
  • I thought I was depressed but then I realised it was my lifestyle, so I cut out all gluten, sugar, alcohol and liquids and now, living on sunflower seeds alone, my life has never been better

And yet every day I read these inane comments. The discussion turns away from the bravery of the author, the stigma meaning we even need to label the author as such and the ways in which “normal” people can better understand and help those of us in difficulty. Instead, we turn in on ourselves and we ostracize those who medicate and we criticise their choices, with each person trying to outdo the other to tell the anecdote that *proves* the non-medicinal way is best. And we need to STOP. We need to stop right now. How can we expect the world to stop judging us when we can’t even stop judging ourselves?

You and your carrots can FUCK RIGHT OFF!

Do I Need CBT?

I hit rock bottom on Saturday. Slammed into rock bottom more like! I didn’t see it coming. I had a pretty lousy Friday that ended in a fight with my boss. Saturday morning I knew I wasn’t right and on opening the door after a massage appointment my hallway presented a very clear choice: right to bed or left to life. I chose bed. And that’s where I stayed.

Poor Mr Moany hasn’t ever seen my rock bottom so I think it came as a bit of a shock to him. It has to be said though, he dealt with it impeccably. I told him “pretend I’m not here” and that’s exactly what he did. I felt no guilt about not partaking in entertainments or chats, because he got on with his weekend and left me to myself.

On Sunday I felt it better, thankfully. It had been a hit & run attack rather than a full blown episode. So much better in fact, that I looked at some CBT online and sourced a therapist. Which brings me, ever so round-about-ly to the title: do I need CBT?

I don’t hate myself. I don’t think I’m a failure or an idiot. I don’t berate myself so much these days for not being perfect. My old therapist and I spent a lot of time working on acceptance of self and I like to think I do okay in that sense. I have learned to cut myself some slack and even on Saturday I allowed myself to just accept the dark clouds and “go under” knowing that I would come out again. I accepted the shitty day knowing it wasn’t forever and didn’t feel weak for not having the ability to turn it around.

I say my boyfriend is a saint to put up with me, but rather than negative-talk that’s realism. On the flip side, I also know I bring a lot of positives to his life. I describe myself as crazy, but in jest. If I lose my sense of humour it really will be time to give up! In fact, I don’t think my illness has anything to do with my crazy. My brand of crazy is more about being kooky than ill.

So I don’t know if I need CBT. But the thing is, I don’t really know where else to go on this journey. If it is a journey and not in fact my destination. Perhaps this is my life. Perhaps there is no “one day”. Perhaps this is as good as it gets. If it is, that’s okay. It’s the what-if that’s the problem.

Do I Need CBT?

An Apology to Ruby Wax

Last week I gathered in the London Jewish Cultural Centre with about sixty other people and bargained with my mind to open itself. Who knows, I thought, there might be something in this. And if not, we’re close enough to the door to escape early to the pub on the corner. My mind was most definitely not open, it was barely even ajar, and so I could not have been more surprised by the next hour if Freud himself had made a ghostly appearance.

The smartly dressed woman with the trademark cackle who sat in front of us was not the “Brand Ruby” I had expected. Instead we met an intelligent yet vulnerable woman, who was not afraid to share herself and her story with a room full of strangers. We met a woman whose eyes hinted at depths of suffering, despite her outwardly chic appearance. We met a woman who had crawled back from rock bottom and turned her genetic lottery card into a winning ticket. A ticket not for money, but for the accomplishment of making sense of the darkness and helping others find their way towards that same light.

At times I, similar to many of my fellow “1-in-4″s in the room, glimpsed snatches of myself on that stage. At times I felt almost as if I was facing a woman who was, quite possibly, one of the few people on this earth who “get” me: a thought contributed by one audience member who volunteered “you know me better than my husband of 25 years”. For an hour I felt less alone and more understood than I have in years. And all without me speaking a single word. I found the comfort and solace others find in a church. The air hummed with solidarity, empathy and shared but unspoken pain. When you spend your whole life pretending you’re “fine” moments like that don’t come around very often. And when they do you grab them and wrap yourself in them like a giant snuggly blanket.

I don’t know why I’ve resisted Ruby for so long. When I discovered her illness, active campaigning and studies I dismissed them as publicity. I scoffed at the idea of the firecracker I remembered from TV being capable of serious depth and despair. And for that I am truly sorry. Depression doesn’t operate on a class system. It doesn’t care if you are famous. And I more than anyone should know that the public you might be so very different from your true self as to be a totally different person. My perception of Ruby was based on limited media exposure many years ago, a person she herself admits was brash and aggressive, a symptom rather than her personality. This perception led me to dismiss her contributions as unworthy of my attention all these years later. Now I find myself looking forward to a quiet day when I can curl up with her book and spend another few hours in the comforting company of my newfound kindred spirit

An Apology to Ruby Wax

I Love Myself

After reading a great post on Serendipity this morning I’ve been pondering the questions posed at the end of it:

So … how much have you changed from the person you were in your late teens? What, if anything, do you do completely differently? Do you like the person you’ve become? Are you trying to change? Do you fit in? If you met the young you, what would you tell yourself?

I love being 30. That was my very first thought on reading the questions. It’s funny, I can’t truly explain the shift in my thinking but there has been a significant change in Mina since I entered this new age bracket. Or perhaps it’s down to a combination of things other than age; the death of a parent, a lost love, friendships re-evaluated, travelling the world, finding “the one”, moving to London. Who knows. I think I’m very much still evolving into the person I am destined to be but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been on quite a journey thus far.

These days I find I am comfortable in myself for the first time in my life. On a “high” level I know that I am a good person. Friends and lovers have come and gone: I can attribute this to the changing tides of life. I don’t find a common ground in a group of strangers: I find it to be disappointing but nothing more than a tiring evening. I find myself in a politically-oriented discussion with nothing to contribute: I chuckle to myself that if the conversation turned to Austen I would be the one holding court. I no longer attribute these occurrences to some defect in my self. I’ve learned to give myself a break. 

On a “lower” note, I wear yoga pants that may or may not in fact be pyjamas, when I run out for my morning coffee. I just ordered a pair of bright red wellies for the winter rain and last week I finally went all the way and got the pixie cut I’ve been lusting after for some time now. These are all quite superficial things but in this case, the outside has come to reflect the inside. These days my outside reflects an internal self that is far less bothered by the opinion of strangers and far more self-loving than ever before. I have even come so far as to realise that, in my own way, I am beautiful

And so, to the questions:

Do I like the person I have become? Yes, yes I do. I’m not there yet of course, I doubt any of us every truly stop evolving, but I can stand before you today and say that I am happy with the progress I have made so far. Mina: she’s okay! 

Am I trying to change? Of course! I want to continue this evolution, I want to continue to fight my dysthymia and I want to be ready for whatever challenges the world throws at me next. But if this is it, if this is “me” then that’s okay too. I reckon that I can get on quite well for the next 50 years or so with this person.

What would I tell my young self? This is a tough one. When I was younger, I figured the day would come when I would love myself because I would be different…a “better” me. Today, I love myself because I am not different. I am essentially the same me that I was when I was 12 years old, lost and alone, struggling to find my place in the world. Except now, I’ve learned to love that me, to value her uniqueness and to accept her flaws. I would tell my younger self: don’t wish to be different, learn to love yourself for who you are, because one day I promise that you will realise you are already a person worthy of your own love. Of course, if I told that to my 12 year old self she would roll her eyes, turn up her East 17 tape, and go back to dreaming about the future blonde, skinny, genetically re-engineered Mina!

I Love Myself