Have I actually developed neuralgia, though?

Underneath my left eye I have developed a twitching pain spasm. My eyes are not bloodshot or particularly watery, I haven’t got a bruise or done anything to it, it goes away for hours at a time and because of all these things it is deeply worrying to me.

I don’t usually google my symptoms, but I had to this time because I was genuinely unsure whether to go to the doctor or not. Can you legitimately turn up at a doctor’s office and say “I have a pain, sometimes, that seems to have no effect on my life and appears to be caused by nothing? By the way, I am a diagnosed sufferer of anxiety and depression, so it all might be in my head.” Apparently I probably have diabetes, multiple sclerosis or shingles – which is surprising, since the internet usually tells you that you have cancer. I was all ready to ignore cancer and read the other stuff, but it turns out you don’t have shooting face pains for no reason, and that they’re right about it usually being the left side.

I am sort of refusing to accept that it is anything. I believe it to be psychosomatic until it hits me, when I am convinced I have some kind of grotesque infection that will result in me losing an eye. Sometimes I think there is a tapeworm living in my eye and eating it from the back, but even when I think this I know it is ridiculous. I don’t want to go to the doctor about it – what will I do if it’s nothing and I have to just live with it? What will I do if it’s something and I have to deal with it? I have decided an appropriate compromise is to go to the optician’s. I don’t need new glasses so they’d better not tell me that my prescription has changed, but at least I can be sure they will take an x-ray of my eye before they tell me to go away.

Anyway, here is a beautiful play about health and love and possibility and the futility of human life. I saw it in London with Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong, and it is truly wonderful.

The Importance of Rest Day

Today, I am tired. Dog tired, tired of life, tired to my bones… all the kinds of tired there are. That really scuppers my plans! I wanted to go from work to university tonight and spend hours in the library, bashing out one of my essays until I had at least doubled the words I have at the moment. I had planned for today – hard graft. Saturday – up early, hard graft to the finish. Friday – swim and sleep. Sunday – run at the essay for my other module (which I have started, and have researched for, but need to begin writing more than a skeleton and quotes). Monday – more of the same.

I’m having to sit and think of things to be proud of myself today. They are there: I have actually got tonnes done at my work, stuff my line manager and another staff member asked; I am ready to get back and blitz it for the afternoon. I have tidied, helped several students and changed a display. I made it to work despite grotesque struggles with public transport (y u have a fire at Regent’s Park station, TfL??). I have achieved things, things that needed to be done and things that nobody else would have done.

What I am going to do now, for the sake of my physical and mental health (as well as my stress levels) is move rest day to today, and remind myself that I am not wasting my life, I am not shirking, that it is more productive to banish the tiredness now and work on my essay tomorrow. The importance of resting has been something I have not recognised until now, and it makes me feel lazy and like I will not deserve the meagre grade I am destined for. But I am so sleepy I just spelled ‘meagre’ and ‘grade’ wrong, and it is more productive to have one day of rest and one day of amazing work than it is to have two days of substandard zombie work.

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This is me today. I have managed to alphabetise things and sort out very important orders and tidy despite wanting to crawl into a cold lake, hooray.

To-do (today!):

  • Send off application for DREAM JOB (it’s already been proof-read by three people, I can do no more).
  • Swim. Just a half-hour swim is SO manageable.
  • Eat a healthy evening meal.
  • Post an instagram.
  • Avoid politics, social planning and controversial discussion. Probably no facebook.
  • Get an early night!

Meet Josie Benitez.

Last night was my last session of therapy, for the time. Hallelujah, I am cured! Freed from my demon mind!

Yeah, as if it works like that. It’s just that NHS psychotherapy services (which I am INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL for, don’t get me wrong) are seriously underfunded and understaffed, and I was only allocated six sessions of talking therapy because that’s all there is. If I want to continue I will either have to pay, or visit my GP to try and cadge six more free sessions (which will be my LAST allocation of free sessions). And I think I do want – need – to continue.

Yesterday was a really difficult session. Normally* I walk into therapy trepidatious and out again with a lightness in my step, but yesterday I got the bus home whilst seriously turning over the implications of the session in my mind. I’ll spare you the details (this is a blog, not the fucking Eat, Pray, Love manuscript), but it was a big revelation which connected several of the themes I have talked about: my anxiety is because I don’t think I’m good enough. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But it’s so, so complicated: bourne from the dichotomies in my personality and what society expects of me is a deep-rooted and complex anxiety that I need to be better, which I justify by being obsessively ‘rational’. It’s a really difficult thing for me to admit, to articulate; it’s going to be even more difficult to get over being so hard on myself.

The biggest thing to come out of this whole course of counselling is the suggestion** my therapist made that I ought to name the niggle in the back of my head, the voice that tells me any aspect of myself is insufficient, so: meet Josie Benitez.

It was surprisingly easy to think of the name. When I was much, much younger, and I had just begun to seriously write songs and poems** I signed them with a flourish of a signature that was not my name: Josie Benitez. I liked it in italic, beginning with a large J and ending with a long-tailed Z. Josie Benitez wrote the lyrics to two albums and illustrated them with stylistic stickman drawings. Josie Benitez was a wannabe, wanting to be famous, older, prettier, edgier, appealing in some undefined way. She wrote about drug abuse and had a MySpace page where she claimed to be from Vegas and put up a capella songs (she was friends with Katrina and The Waves, Jefferson Starship and Alt-J and coded her own profile. I miss MySpace). I chose her as the name for my demon inner voice because she is part of me. Josie wants the same things I do, but bigger, and more populist. Back in those days she had my handwriting, but neater; she had my singing voice, but better, because she practised (in the bathroom, in case my parents came home). I picked the name then because it sounded glamorous and exotic and like somebody I wasn’t. I picked the name now so that every time ‘her’ voice comes into my mind, I can tell myself that I am enough. I am.

Do therapists have to make you cry before they feel successful? Do they have to make you so shocked at your own thoughts and feelings that you break down? Is that a stage of Jungian analysis? If it is, I’m nearly there. In my last session I didn’t cry, but I was so agitated that I couldn’t keep my hands still or meet my therapist’s eye until the end.
To-do:

  • Move Hive.com items from basket to wishlist. You cannot spend £600 on books and Mighty Boosh DVDs.
  • Go swimming on Friday night, in what was the therapy timeslot
  • Clean makeup brushes!!

*historically? since it’s over now

** it wasn’t a suggestion, it was basically a command, but friendlier

***I wrote my first song at six years old, and consistently wrote short stories and the beginnings of play and film scripts all through my childhood. At the time I’m talking about, I’m probably about fourteen.

Is self-denial the key?

Last month I gave up booze, and managed pretty much a whole month.

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(I won’t lie, I don’t know who that woman is. She is from google. Because ‘score!’)

I gave up booze because all my social life revolved around booze, and I became very angry when drunk, and I was getting very drunk very often. I was using alcohol as a crutch or a coping mechanism, and I think my friends have moments of that too, so weren’t too worried about me. I went through a similar phase about two years ago, and that phase had some dark moments, some losses and one hell of a gain that made me stop and look around. I didn’t like myself in that moment, and I have not liked myself when drunk this year, so I stopped because I knew I could make it better.

In addition to saving a tonne of money (who knew?? that all my money is spent on booze and food??), I got my mind in a nice(r) state AND still managed to stay friends with my fellow boozehounds (yay! love you guys), so I can go back to enjoying alcohol and company without spiralling downwards; I’m still doing the things I love, and remaining capable of both hard work and love.

Now I’m wondering about chocolate.

I know! What did chocolate ever do to hurt anyone?! It’s not a psychoactive substance, or a depressant, it’s not expensive – it’s a nice treat.

I’ve been really interested in the effects of nutrition on mental health – mostly because I do actually like to cook, partly because my boyfriend is Italian and wants me to eat in a more mediterranean style, and I have seen it working, in an anecdotal-evidence kind of a way, as well as an actual evidence kind of a way. I feel better when I a) eat healthily and b) don’t eat badly*. And I want to feel better.

I’ve always found it easier to give something up entirely than to monitor it or restrain myself. The booze detox was because I couldn’t drink moderately but I was still drinking a fair amount of the time. With chocolate? I can eat a sharing pack to myself, with ease. I throw it in my grocery basket as a treat and end up eating before my housemate is home and I can share. The thing that I keep turning over in my mind is that the night before the sick day that brought all my problems to a head (for better or for worse), I ate a whole tub of ice-cream. I think I may have made a sundae, and put little chocolates in it as a cute little treat – and then my inability to resist made it into a binge where I polished off the lot. This is maybe not the end of the world in a usual state, a bit of a decadence that shouldn’t happen too often and means you work harder at the gym, but I can’t help thinking it was like picking at a scab that then bled profusely.

When I became a vegetarian, I learned that when you remove a food from your life completely, you crave it for a short while and then you stop wanting it. Meat tastes strange to me now, and (mostly) smells repulsive. I’m not expecting that to happen with chocolate (I was never much of a carnivore), but I do expect to not stop at the chocolate displays in the supermarket and get to a point where a Yorkie bar tastes cloying.

This is not deprivation. I mean, it is – I clearly eat more chocolate than I’d like to admit – but it’s not punishment, or denial. There are still plenty of delicious thinks I can eat (and not even in the sense that raw vegans or Gwyneth Paltrow claim that healthy food is just as good as crap) – there are still plenty of processed, junky sweet treats that are not chocolate, or chocolate-flavoured, or cocoa-based. My favourite ice-cream was always strawberry, my true vice is biscuits, and I would prefer good cheese to chocolate at almost any time. When I eat chocolate, I am giving myself instant gratification, leading to me wanting MORE gratification, leading to a spiral of self-hate, bad health, and bad nutritional stimulation of my brain chemicals. Until I can learn to just not overdo it, I’ll have to give it a miss.

Isn’t that right, Tom**?

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*As an actual human with an actual real life I assert the difference between being actively healthy and not unhealthy. Not unhealthy is when you eat pasta with a nice homemade sauce but maybe too much of it and you put cheese on top. Healthy is hummous and carrot sticks.

**If you haven’t seen Tom Hiddleston and Cookie Monster, you should watch it. It’s a real treat. I ship it.

To-do:

  • Clean makeup brushes
  • Write covering letter for DREAM JOB, which is available
  • Try not to point out the amount of time this was posted after Easter chocolate went on sale.

Nerina Pallot’s birthday, artist-ism and studies

For today’s post I’m going to link you to this lady I am a fan of, because I want to give credit where credit is due. Here:

here.

(I hope this link works. Please do tell me if it doesn’t.)

Because yes, Nerina, yes your wonkiness does speak to me. And this was just another piece of wonky, because (as chance would have it, because I became a fan when my family saw you support another musician and my dad bought all your albums) I am currently in my reading week at that same university, studying the same course (according to the all-seeing eye of Wikipedia, at least), currently trying to sweat blood into a poetry collection having just worked out what I’m doing(ish); simultaneously trying to write essays (actually mostly trying to write essays at the moment to be quite honest), AND trying to maintain ordinary relationships and work a normal job, because I do quite like this living-in-a-house, eating-food stuff.

Being so busy I don’t have enough time in the day to make a cuppa is killing me with mental numbness and tiredness and fog, but I haven’t been physically tired and mentally excited in a while. This morning when I walked to work, I felt good, I felt ready to go. I felt like I wanted my purpose back. Maybe it’s just that the sleeping pills are working. Maybe I realised that there’s only one of those things I can walk away from. You told me what I needed to hear this morning, and I’m grateful.

Happy birthday. I hope you get a filofax. Keep putting your secrets in the songs. x

(Here’s the same lady singing round the corner from my old house, the one I lived in when I decided to get real and live alone in a garret and read and write to my heart’s content. It did not last.)

Four Weekends.

I have four weekends until my next uni essay is due in. Two bank holidays. One evening of plans in all of that, and yet… I am irrationally worried that I won’t get my work done. The anxiety is creeping up on me like a sitcom kiss, present in all my conversations like a season finale, making the hairs on the back of my neck rise at the slightest thought of anything I ought to be working on.

The problem is – and that is if this can be called a problem – I care. This is the first thing in my life that I have felt really driven to succeed at, the first that I have felt that it is possible to succeed whilst actually wanting to. In my mind, that has manifested as a demon that whispers ‘if you fail it’s your fault‘. I know I’m capable, but I’m scared of finding out I’m not. When that’s combined with ambitions for a top grade, normal job/social life pressures and the fact that everybody else I know graduated years ago, it stops being just about procrastination and getting my fucking act together, it feeds off my poor brain chemistry to cause crippling inertia and several interconnected and irrational fears.

meta-chart

Essentially, what anxiety is telling me to do is cancel all my plans and curl up into a ball. That part of my brain wants me to cancel my plans so that I can work on my essay, whilst knowing full well I will not be able to work on my essay in this time due to mind being all over and regrets and fear of failure and mania. Fear of incorrect citations is new, and I’m not super sure what to do about it, other than ignore it and check it at the end.

Usually what I do in this time is go to the library – you can’t watch Drop The Dead Donkey re-runs in the library because people would glare at you, and it’s much more compelling to work than it is to stare off into space so I end up getting (some) work done, even if I’m not in the right frame of mind. But the library is closed for Easter, and it’s cold in my room and easy to be distracted.

If anybody has any motivation tips, I would really appreciate it. This is my big bug-eyed first-world-problem demon, and I need to stab it in the neck.

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Whilst I was writing this, the friend I was supposed to be seeing tonight cancelled our plans and gifted me a free evening. To work! At my nice clean desk that I tidied yesterday! Yes! Work! I wanted to see the friend not the theatre production anyway.

Everyone glamorous is pretending. For sure.

What do you pack when you go and see your parents? I always have to make an effort when I go back to Leicester as you never know who might see you. I always sort-of hope that after my years ho-ing with no-hopers and the (obviously) small-town bullies of my youth (b27693fbfcc0322d045d706d193829b3_sparkly-snowflake-clipart-1-snowflake-clipart-gif_420-300) I will run into somebody – anybody – I know, whilst looking like The Girl Who Lives The London Life. I want to be smart and distant and distinctive and too good for people who thought that was weird for those exact same reasons in the past, and Leicester is a small enough town that it might actually happen. So what I pack is a full arsenal of makeup, my nicest (distinctive) clothes and some niche, difficult books. Also stuff I want to leave at my folks’ place, as I very rarely go back, and I invariably forget something major and have to go to Superdrug (this time – deodorant, last time – tootbrush). I am not the queen of packing.

Glamour is hard – my back is bloody killing me from sitting in the back of my dad’s Jaguar, and it was so windy my Grand National hat kept nearly blowing off my head. My skin is bad now and I already have a noticeable chip in my nail polish (did I seriously used to paint my nails every two days? Eurgh, what grotesque effort). But the glorious thing about the times I do this is that being petty like this is marvellous for imposter syndrome: when your only aim is to look like the platonic form of you, it’s easy to remind yourself of everything you want to be, all of the aspects of your own personality that you’re proud of, all the weird knowledge unique to your interests. Damn, you thought my interest in old movies was something to make fun of? Check out my film-noir hat. Oh, you thought I was too intelligent for my own good? I hope you see me reading academic interpretations of difficult poetry. You thought I was a loner? The truth is I was always aloof, and I’m more interesting than you ever were.

The truth is what, though? Achievement of the day (possibly of the week, not sure, it’s early days yet) is coming to work. The fact that I’m here sticking labels on Holly Bourne novels is a fucking miracle. But there’s also a fucking dope photo of me that I made my mum take, though, so I’ll count the week as a success. As long as I look like I’m glamorous, nobody knows my life is held together with double-sided sticky tape, and in that moment I didn’t care, because I was showboating everything I wanted to be to people who didn’t appreciate me when they could have. Hot damn.

You should try it.

TO-DO:

  • Clean makeup brushes
  • Listen to an album that sounds good to somebody that wasn’t a teenager when I was
  • Apply for more jobs
  • Put one foot in front of the other

(In case you do want to listen to a band that was cool when I was 15 and never since, try this. They’re also on B&Q adverts. I’m not sorry.)