Turbulence

I walk every day, with Charlie, we go to the memorial park where there’s a great open basin of inky sky and you can see the moon and the stars and it’s so beautiful, all the lights in the distance and the quiet and the rain. The cenotaph is lit up pale blue at night and there’s the poppy wreaths all laid around it. Walking is good for writing. If I take myself out when I feel stuck I usually find that lines come back to me, and I walk around dissecting them and putting them back together in my head.

I’m not going through a great period with my work. I am having a better day today but this week I have been quite unwell. It’s not a patch on an episode but I’m shook up by some highs, and agitation and apathy and racing thoughts, and I can’t sleep without 15mg of zopiclone which I had managed to halve. The medication masks a good deal of it really. And I tell everyone this medication is so good, it helps so much, but I am living with so much in terms of side effects and to think of myself on this stuff for the rest of my life more than depresses me. I feel buried under it. Writing hasn’t been the same. At the moment I can’t concentrate well and I have no patience. If my mood starts to escalate I find it hard to distract and feel too fast and it’s scary. It makes me wonder how the hell I ever coped with so many full blown manias, and depressions. My worker says I’m a manic depressive, I’m going to have moodwings, but right now I feel so fragile and I’m switching rapidly from anger to apathy.

I went to a reading group at the library yesterday. I wanted to go but they were quite a rowdy bunch and I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think straight and I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t breathe. The leader kept asking if I was alright in a concerned way. I wasn’t alright, and I didn’t contribute anything. I decided to avoid all stimulation for a few days, apart from the kids, and see if I can calm myself down and nip it in the bud. So here I am, not working, not writing, and finding it hard to do anything, reading, housework, because my mind keeps taking off.

This is it. This is what it’s like to live with the illness. Even strong major tranquillisers, two types of mood stabiliser and sleeping pills can’t quell all the moods. Some are just simmering inside me, and I can feel the battle I am having with them. I know that everyone has moodswings of some kind and that’s life, but these mixed symptoms are very distressing. To think of how high I used to go, all the hallucinations, it terrifies me to think that could ever happen again, but the likelihood is that it will, at some point. For now, I just have to keep a lid on things, the group has opened me up to feeling vulnerable again, and although I am determined to stick with it I am not entirely sure that it will help or just make me worse.

One very inspiring blog I’ve been reading is Forgetting the Time, Annie Clarkson. Annie is a writer and her blog is very unique and intimate. Her most recent blog on mindfulness is a great introduction to the practice. She writes beautiful prose poems and stories that are bittersweet and sometimes fragile, and always a joy to read. This is a link to her page:

http://forgettingthetime.blogspot.com/ 

Charlie is bugging me for attention. I am going to go and read an anthology of love poems, straighten myself out, get a hot drink and try and work through this.

x

PS You can get hold of a copy of my latest book of poems by Chipmunka Publishing, a mental health publisher by following this link:

http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1748

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New Book Out!

This week I started group therapy. It’s almost completely user-led so I’m sure it will take some getting used to, but I’m going to stick with it for the next couple of weeks, at least. It’s good to be reminded that there are other people out there suffering the same diagnosis, listening to them, responding, generally feeling like other people can understand. I felt vulnerable at first but it was easy to open up. I sat with my name badge on and as we all took turns introducing ourselves I said, without any idea of what I was about to say, My name’s Melissa and this is the first time I’ve been stable since I was fifteen. And I got so choked up I didn’t think I’d be able to stay in the room. And I haven’t been able to cry for a year, so all of it was like a huge accumulation and it just had to be released. I couldn’t believe what I’d said, and the truth in it was just too much to take. But saying it to people who all nodded their heads and understood. Well it was so much more than what I’m used to, and it was so welcome.

I’ve been writing more fiction, some of which is ok, and have been enjoying working with characters and plots. My new Chipmunka book, Bite Your Tongue When You Give Me My Name came through the post this morning, it looks really good, shiny black paperback cover with a beautiful image by Eli Regan. All the work was written at various times when I have been ill, and I have tried not to censor it. The book is charged £10 plus postage, and will be available to buy from virtually every online bookstore you can think of; Amazon, Tesco, WHSmith, Blackwell’s. I must add, even though it’s twice as much, buy the paperback, the ebook is just for promotion but is nothing like the finished paperback as I had a lot of time to work on it afterward.

I’ve been incredibly happy. Drowsy, sleepy, but happy. I’ve been listening to y la bamba and reading Emily Dickinson, Lachlan MacKinnon and Elaine Feinstein. I’ve been sleeping so well, I’ve been eating well, I’ve been feeling well.  It’s not very interesting is it, stability. I’m joking.

Here are some quick links, take a look if you have five minutes

http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1748  Paperback Bite Your Tongue…

http://yesbutisitpoetry.blogspot.com/  Christodoulos Makris muses on the form.

http://www.we7.com/#/music/  Free music streaming, radio, very cool if you’re desperate to listen to that one song you seem to have misplaced.

http://pennedinthemargins.blogspot.com/ Tom Chiver’s blog site for Penned..

http://susannahrickards.blogspot.com/ Susannah Rickards, whose new short fiction collection has just been launched, winner of the Scott Prize..

http://www.theshortreview.com/  With Author interviews and exclusive reviews of short story collections, a comrehensive guide to short fiction collections.

So I’m going to get on with a story I began yesterday…

x

Why I Write

A poem I’ve always loved by Stephen Dunn, Happiness, is particularly poignant for me at the moment:

Happiness

A state you must dare not enter

  with hopes of staying,

quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle

  that doesn’t exist.

But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above

  the crocodiles,

and its doors forever open.

I am happy. I don’t know how I got to the castle but I did, and the crocodiles are nowhere to be seen! I don’t expect it to last, after all I am a manic depressive and it’s never been in my nature to be purely happy. I think I am contented though, and I think that will last because things lately are so much easier, and I love my family and we are having a lot of fun.

Something I am finding very difficult, however, is how to explain to people what it means to me to write poems, to read poems, to understand poems and to be an author. I don’t know many writers personally, I’m very much cocooned in my own world, my own castle. I find that people most often want to know if you’re making money or expect you to have done and are therefore puzzling to them because you are poor. I try to tell people that there’s no money in writing poetry and that it isn’t the point, but if not for money why would I waste so much time writing poems that aren’t even worth pounds? I never talk about this with anyone, it seems indecent for me to have to explain my art to people who have never even read a poem since highschool. I am feeling the tension about the book for next year with people who have just got the wrong idea. There’ s no wealth, no fame, no success worth having, and it cannot be achieved as a primary goal if you love to write. You write because you love. You write because it connects you to ideas, and readers, and life. You write because you are concerned for life and take interest in the minutae and have a huge heart. You write because you don’t know what else to do. It doesn’t always work, it doesn’t always mean anything at all, but you do it because you are human, and you want to feel human and you want to make an expression of humanity. You make a commitment to humanity when you write it all down, you make a little pledge with the world and with your emotions. You get somewhere, you explain things to yourself you would never have arrived at without poetry and thought. It is deeply pleasurable to write, when it feels right it feels amazing. You hold it all in your mind and in your body and then one day something snaps inside and you say, that’s right, and you put it all down, all that tension, all that language. It’s more often that not disappointing, because most things you want to say are so difficult and basic English doesn’t do them justice. But that spurs you on to try. How can you create poems and want there to be any other reason than you can’t stand it when you don’t write and you love to think that way and describe life and love in that way. This is not naivety, this is what I’m up against. I have the mental health team employment support coming round on Friday. Do you think they’ll be at all interested? They will get me a job at tesco in a flash. Even I, with no self esteem whatsoever, knows that I’m worth more than that.

And you are still wondering if I will make any money. Well it’s hardly vanity publishing but I assure you, the money is not even close to being worth anything to me, if indeed I sell any books, which I’m quite sure is not easy.

I wish I could say how much it means to have my work accepted and published. It is a justification, it is an honour, and it is a happy dream, you have always liked to think that your work would be liked and would be wanted and would be valid. It’s very hard to say what that means. It’s not about vanity, it’s about acceptance and belonging, it’s about being part of something really energetic and new that makes a change from being in your little house with your little notebooks and your little voice. And of course I always wanted to connect with others, I just found it easier to be alone. I feel like I can now call myself a writer, instead of always replying dimly,’ I’m a housewife.’ Screw housewife. I am a writer.

There’s been some setbacks with the schedule for Bite Your Tongue.. so I will announce as soon as it is available. I’ve been reading another Chipmunka writer’s memoir, Victim of Dreams, by Jeremy Gluck, who has a huge amount to say and to offer to anyone wanting to read an expressive account of mental illness. He has a distinctive prose style and is a unique voice on challenging mental health issues. Buy his ebook and help fight the stigma.

M x

Happiness

It’s my husband’s birthday today so I’m going to cook him steak and then coffee syrup cake with cream, and a giant chocolate birthday cake. I know the way to a man’s heart alright. He’s 32, four years older than me. I feel a lot older than I am, feel like so much has happened. When I’m thirty I want a proper party. I’m not letting it go by quietly, oh no.

Lately I have felt happy, like I can’t remember feeling. Genuinely happy, genuinely alive and well. I was talking to someone I’d only just met the other night, a psychiatric nurse, and after I’d told her little bits about medications and things she said that she wouldn’t rather be me. She said she wan’t giving me sympathy just that she wouldn’t be me. I felt as though she understood. I said, it has been hard. I wish I knew more people. I’m so isolated, I have more friends on the internet than in real life, and they are truly wonderful people, writers. I wish I could meet with them more often.

I’m waiting for my new book, Bite Your Tongue When You Give Me My Name to arrive on my doormat, and it should be any day, and will be available in a couple of weeks. I have to stress that the paperback is far better than the ebook as I had more time to work on it, so do consider buying the paperback, as it is full of poems, plenty to get stuck into and has excellent cover art by Eli Regan.

My lithium levels have shot up and I’m feeling ill, constant headaches, dizziness and nausea. My dose has dropped to try and see if it comes down. I’ve had some really awful effects when it’s been high before, because I was taking Ibrubrofen for a cold and had no idea it would raise my lithium level. I couldn’t walk straight, I was dizzy, I started to slur my words. It does worry me, all the medication I’m on, that I could progress to other health problems because of it, but I have my bloods done very regularly and the people at the clinic are keeping on top of it. I might be discharged soon, I see my psychiatrist soon and he can see how I’ve progressed. I’m better, I’m staying well and I feel positive that I can keep things under control for the forseeable future.

I had a trip to London on Wednesday for Alexandra Gallagher’s debut exhibition at the Brick Lane Gallery. Her work was based around the theme of Northwest memories and she was giving out Blackpool sugar dummies, which people were sucking, which was nice. There was plenty of interesting work there, painting, prints, sculpture. Alex’s work went down well and she sold two pieces. I finally got home at two in the morning, it was a fantastic night. You can see Alex’s work here..

http://www.agportraits.co.uk/

You can also contact her on facebook.

My head is banging. I shall go and make a birthday cake!

Ta ta x

Sweet, sweet September

September is simply beautiful. The sun comes up with a chill in the air so you have to button your coat and the sunshine still brightens your eyes. I’m ready to wear boots again and walk the dog in the dark with my hands in my pockets and my collar turned up. It’s also the saddest month for me, bittersweet perhaps. When the rain comes I want to get soaked through with it I’m so tired of central heating and wearing old cardigans and hair that takes ages to dry and skin that really suffers the cold. Okay so we’re not there yet, there’s still time for the winter chill to really set in. It’s my favourite time of year, I feel as though I can retreat, I can step back and look at things. The year gone, the year to come and all of this hurtling past and the hurt you get in your throat when you realise something’s not forever.

Genius or Not will being going live in the coming months, a web based writing project with some of the finest talent around. I have to say that so far it has made me feel acutely vulnerable, writing 20 lines and publishing them whether they are indeed genius or indeed not. I wrote every day to start with, but have picked pieces out, which I don’t think are magnificent specimens of language at all. I’ll just have to wait and see what readers make of it!

My book, Bite Your Tongue When You Give Me My Name, a collection of ‘early’ poems will be available in paperback in the next week or so. Don’t buy the ebook version as it now differs radically from the paperback version. The book contains crucial moments in my poetry writing, loosely confessional writing and charts a personal writing journey, looking back and challenging the moment. I wanted Chipmunka to publish it as they are a mental health publisher and all of the work in the book was written whilst unwell, I am a manic depressive and I’ve spent the majority of my life ill. I have been stable now for six months after taking an antipsychotic depot injection once a week. I never saw my life without bipolar before but I’m painfully real, everything is acutely clarified and real.

I’m going to be part of a medical experiment in November, beginning to look at ways to treat bipolar, by being part of therapy groups and seeing if they help my recovery. I’m looking forward to it even though I know it won’t be easy, having to talk about how the past few years have been and face up to it all again. I’m not so optimistic as to think I won’t ever have another episode, but I can see me being well for the forseeable future at the very least. It’s still amazing that I can say that.

One thing the depot does that might sound strange is it prevents me from crying. I have emotions but often they feel choked back. I don’t feel that I can show emotion like I used to. It also gives me a lot of prolactin hormone so I don’t have any periods and I have side effects that I take pills for, like uncontrolled movement. I get so drowsy I can fall asleep sat up but I use some of the side effects tablets when it’s bad because they’re kind of uppers. The thing I hate most is that it makes you put on weight and believe me, try and hard as I might it’s near impossible to lose. I also take Lithium and Lamotrigine and Zopiclone, the former two as mood stabilisers and the latter to get to sleep. When I try to sleep with the Zopiclone I don’t sleep much but the sleep I get is filled with the most horrendous nightmares that wake me up stone cold. I think I’ve been taking it that long my body doesn’t know how to get by without it and I am dependant on it. I have always had sleep problems. The Lithium and Lamotrigine can make me throw up all night if I don’t have a bowl of cereal when I take them, and get to bed pretty quickly and get to sleep before they start to make me sick. It’s all very glamorous I assure you.

My son’s just finished his first two weeks at school, and my daughter is in the last year at primary school. I write while they’re at school and when they’re home it’s an endless assault course of ironing and cooking and washing and keeping in line. I don’t mind it. I’m a recluse with a big imagination and I love poetry.

My latest review of Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect stories can be viewed at www.theshortreview.com

My Chipmunka book Patterns of Mourning can be published from www.chipmunka.com Please note that Bite Your Tongue When You Give Me My Name will be available in 1-2 weeks and is best bought in paperback if you check in in the next couple of weeks

My upcoming yet untitled book will be upcoming with www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk which is well worth a browse, they are oozing new and established talent and promote both written and spoken word.

Thanks for dropping by!