The Arrival of A Body Made of You

A Body Made of You is now available to purchase from Penned in the Margins here: http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/, or alternatively from Inpress here: http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/a_body_made_of_you_melissa_leehoughton_i022254.aspx. It will also be available to buy from Amazon and Waterstones, but it’s better for me and the publisher if you buy direct. Also, it is faster, secure and reliable.

 My book launch will be on Saturday the 23rd April at Nexus Art Cafe on Dale Street, Manchester from 7.30. There will be readings from the lovely Manchester writer Annie Clarkson and the wonderful Liverpool poet Michael Egan, a fellow Penned in the Margins poet. You can buy Annie’s book, Winter Hands, her first collection of prose poems here: http://www.shadowtrain.com/id100.html and Michael’s first poetry collection Steak and Stations from Penned in the Margins here: http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/?p=967

While I’m here I’d like to take the time to thank John Siddique,  David Caddy and Chris Hamilton-Emery for writing endorsements for my book. It was kind, generous and greatly appreciated.

I’m waiting patiently for my books. They went to my neighbour this morning while I was out visiting my grandfather, and now my neighbour is not in and I have to wait! It’ll be wonderful to feel the weight of it in my hands. It will be real. It will feel like an achievement when I can hold onto it. The book started in 2009, with a project I embarked on: interviewing and corresponding with people and trying to write poems for them, that might resonate with them or feel like a gift. I just wanted to connect, I wanted to write things that might mean something quite directly to another human being. I went into hospital at one point, on a psychiatric ward in Chorley, and I took my manuscript with me, I remember carrying it around, as though I was scared someone would steal it or it would be lost. It meant such a lot to me, I had over a hundred sketches and poems. I didn’t just want to steal from people to create poems, I wanted to create poems almost as though I was that person. On a few occasions I felt that I had achieved that some degree. I wanted to be a voice, a medium. The main reason I began the book, the portraits, without any real end in sight, and certainly no ideas of publication at the time, was that I am so infatuated with other people, their stories and their experiences and I wanted to indulge that part of me. And I wanted to try and express all the beauty and all the horror and the complexity of knowing someone and revealing someone, in turn revealing more about myself. And the truth, essentially, I wanted to make truth.

But don’t we all want that. I really hope that people buy my book and that people enjoy my book. I’m very nervous about reading from it at my launch, so fragile it has always felt to me, actually having a bound copy might help it feel more robust. I will feel a bit like I am slowly undressing as I read these poems. They are revealing. And they are every word spoken from a place even I am not wholly comfortable with.

I will be being interviewed by writer Nik Perring, (who has just been longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize), over on his blog  http://nikperring.blogspot.com. Coming soon. Tonight I’m just desperate to get my hands on my first copy of A Body Made of You! I can’t wait!

Do tell your friends about the book, and let me know what you make of it!

And thankyou so much for reading. x

 

Praise

I give mental health services hell, I complain and I moan. I realised recently that I have been in services most of my life and maybe it is hard for me to ‘go it alone’ now. I have also had to keep in my mind that we should think ourselves seriously lucky to have any sort of mental health provisions in this country, and pills and drugs. So many people I have met have an ongoing conflict regarding medication. But realistically, if you need it and it helps you should be grateful for that respite. All drugs have side effects and health implications but if you weigh it up and the benefits outweigh the side effects (which I know can be so awful), then you have to just try and be thankful. I have spent my life coming off and on medication and I would do anything to not have to take it for various reasons but in plenty of other countries in the world I would suffer, and I probably wouldn’t have survived as long as I have. It was hard enough with that support, hospital beds, nurses, doctors, psychologists, social workers. Every day I am thankful to be alive, enjoying my life with my children and my husband. I know, inside, that I was living inches from death for so many years.

Don’t suffer needlessly.

So when I have these gripes about services or individuals (I have had so many negative experiences) I have to try not to be angry these days, because I couldn’t have got here without that help. I am a creature of quite high principles and moral standards unfortunately, I am probably a hypocrite sometimes! I thought that today I would try and praise all the people who have helped me get to this place, the best place I could be in and managing to live and love and experience joy without elation and sadness without depression.

The first thing that springs to mind while I’m sat here writing is to thank Betty and Neil for donating a new laptop so I could continue to work. It has been invaluable to me, and was such a generous gift.

Going back, I would thank Fowad, who nursed me when I was fourteen and taught me how to play pool when I was severely depressed and who I waited for to see him drive up in his banged out purple porche listening to Smashing Pumpkins full blast. He has remained a friend throughout my life and his kindness got me through some very difficult hours and days.

I thank Jos for telling me I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. That one sentence empowered me. I thank him for accepting me the way I am and for teaching me how to play the guitar and about good music. I thank him for not giving up.

I thank Beckie for getting me through the night on the worst days of my life.

Alex has been a wonderful friend and has stuck around even when I can’t have been easy to get along with. She has given me love and friendship unconditionally.

My mum has talked and listened and listened and talked. I could never apologise enough for the hell I have put her through but she remains there, faithful and strong and wise.

I thank Jade for showing me what it is to truly love someone. For all the happy memories and the courage and the bravery and the unforgettable friendship that I would go through all over again in an instant, bad things and all. I would do anything to have her back now but I accept that she is gone, and I will always love her.

I thank Elizabeth for saving my life. I thank her for being my little light at the end of the tunnel.

Luke gives me hope.

Steven. Steven is the love of my life. I cannot see life without him. I thank him for sticking it out. For telling me I’m the most beautiful woman in the world every single day, for being so devoted that I never have to question anything. For giving me this beautiful life, miles and miles away from the places I could have ended up. For making me laugh and laughing with me.

I thank Eli Regan, Tania Hershman, Susannah Rickards, David Caddy, Sara Crowley, Tom Chivers and many more for supporting my writing.

I thank Annie for being gorgeous.

I thank Darren for listening.

I thank Russ for being there during crisis.

I thank Dr. Moosa for being consistent and for trying every possible means to get me better. For patience and for genuinely caring.

And there are more. When I was having Luke someone told me that the pain is easier if you are grateful. If you say thankyou to everyone around you as they help you through your labour. I took this on and it works in everything. Being grateful isn’t weak, it’s a powerful tool to have. I’m not always grateful, nobody is all the time. But I catch myself thinking all sorts of things I don’t want in my head and remind myself to be grateful for what I’ve got and what I’ve achieved. This isn’t positivism or some claptrap advice, it’s just about taming human nature and directing your focus at something warm as opposed to something unstable. If you begin to think of all the things you are grateful for, it literally never ends…

Only The Tip Of The Iceberg…

This morning I attended the depot clinic where I get my depixol antipsychotic injection every Wednesday. The nurse I see there has been making me feel bad. One week she ‘forgot’ to close the blinds so people could see me outside. One week she was telling a student nurse that sometimes thin people come to the clinic and she’d need to judge for herself how deep the needle should go, but that she didn’t need to worry about that with me. Last week when she asked how I was feeling and I said I felt low she said, what’s up with you is it the anti-climax after Christmas or are you just not keeping busy enough? This week I told her I was better because I couldn’t be bothered and she said, there, you see, everyone has their ups and downs, that’s life. The most condescending thing you can ever say to a manic depressive.

It’s not just at the depot clinic. I was referred to the Community Restart team a while ago for someone to come and see me to help me get access to local community etc. I said I’d do it but I really didn’t need them to come round. When one of the women got here she immediately started to comment on what a nice house I had, how big it is and what nice possessions and ooh you have a piano and it’s better than my piano and ooh a nice telly. Each time she came round it was the same thing, with a frowning kind of, how can you afford to live like this… as though I should have nothing, I should be living in an untidy house in disrepair, my house should be full of rubbish, I should be swimming around in my own filth. I really should empty the bins out all over the floor before they arrive. I felt as though I had to justify myself, we won the telly in a fantasy football competition etc. Of course, I’m mentally ill, mentally ill people should have nothing, should not have better than what anyone else has got, should fail, should be bullied into attending inappropriate community events and should be suspected and should be the underclass. Should be phoned up and checked up on to make them feel completely useless.

No?

I feel degraded. I feel like the system has swallowed me up and had its fill of me and is about to spit me back out. There’s a pyramid system of allocating care now, the more stable you are the further up the pyramid you go until you go back to being under GP care. This is wrong, people with bipolar can go from being stable to manic in days, not weeks, can dip and keep dipping to the point of suicidal thoughts and those with a history of them will experience them very early on in onset of a depressive or mixed episode. This isn’t something you can go to your gp about. My care-coordinator must have hundreds of people in her care and admits that a great many are scheming their way to benefits and aren’t ill, and a lot don’t really warrant a care coordinator. So people are getting pushed out of the system. At the moment I am prone to thinking, well I don’t really need their input at the moment. But the nature of my illness is that it is unpredictable at times, erratic and  severe. I don’t want to have to work my way back through the system the next time I need its support, which is to be honest, almost a certainty. And people who don’t know will say if you expect something to happen then it will. People with bipolar know that you don’t get off scot free just because you take a load of pills and drugs that paralyse your system and do things to your brain that no-one’s really sure of. Some people are lucky, but most aren’t. Even medicated, moods break through and stress and life events can set the rollercoaster rolling again at the drop of a hat. It is almost impossible to drug someone and ‘level them out,’ most people end up having to function below ‘normal’ in a mild depression. There are people more vulnerable than me that won’t get the right help, because they don’t realise when they’re ill, because they come off and on medication and don’t access treatment because there is no-one there to help them do it or tell them when their behaviour becomes a problem. There is no easy solution. Continuity of care is a must. It is possible to get on the right track but it has taken me fifteen years to reach a period of reasonable stability. A lot of people don’t survive that long. People with mental health problems are stigmatised and are degraded and let down and I’m sure it is easier to get away with than most other branches of medicine.

 But I have to be grateful for the time being and suck it up and put up with this stuff. I have been feeling low, and it has been hard for me, but I’m not edging toward any extreme at the moment. I can feel it when it’s really hitting, and it normally collapses in a matter of days when I’m heading for a major depression. I know a lot of people in the profession desperately want to help, but there’s so many government targets that have to be met and real care is becoming so scarce. There aren’t enough hospital beds when people really need them, that is unequivocally true. The Crisis Team was an attempt at saving money but in my experience and from what I hear of other peoples’ experience, it can’t replace hospital admission and in too many cases lets the patient down. I can’t count how many times I felt let down by them. People not turning up, people not wanting to get involved after a self discharge, the phone ringing and ringing and no-one there to pick up, or someone at five in the morning when you’re high as a kite telling you that anyone can live off two hours sleep a night or to just go back to bed. They can’t intervene successfully.

I have had good, positive social workers/CPNs and I have had appalling ones. I have had care and support and I have been left reeling from bad experiences. I have so many things to complain about that I barely have the will to even start. Unfortunately for professionals who are doing their job, these bad experiences often far outweigh the positives. When I think about complaining, or voicing my opinion like this, it is like coming up against a giant in a boxing ring…