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Where to go now?

I think we are all in awe of Anji’s last post and for her bravery in sharing her experiences. Hopefully she will feel able to update us all on her situation in the future, but in the meantime are there any issues or experiences that you: our blog readers, would like to share with us, or would be interested in us covering?

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A Plea For Help

Thanks everyone for your support on my “coming out” post. I’ve been overwhelmed by the niceness. You guys rock!
Like I said, I am going back to the UK. Yay for me! I’m leaving my parents house (hopefully forever) to become an independent, grown up woman and to make a life for myself! Isn’t it exciting? What an adventure! I’m fricking terrified to death!!!

When one moves somewhere, it’s generally useful to have somewhere to move to. So here it is.

I need help in finding somewhere to live.

I thought I had nothing to lose by asking you, kind readers, for some help. This is not something easy for me to do. It’s one of the reasons why this post has taken so long. The last time I was in a similar situation and asked for help from people whom I thought cared about me, I found indifference. In the end, I discovered that help can come from the people you least expect. Which is why I’m giving this a try.

I was thinking on moving around London, but it’s not written in stone. On the plus side, I will have a higher chance of finding a job, I’ll be closer to the airport (kind of important if something happens and I need to run away; also convenient for visiting parents), and I’ll be where everything seems to happen. On the other side… well…, London is, after all, a city, and I’m a creature of the wild. If it were up to me, I would live in a little cabin in the middle of the woods. (Though with internet connection).

I can only afford a room in some flatshare / houseshare. Ideally, I would be sharing the place with a bunch of feminists working to bring the Feminist Revolution. The second best scenario would be sharing the flat / house with nice people, but living somewhere close to a bunch of feminists working to bring the Feminist Revolution.

I’m already trying the “traditional” intertube approach of placing an ad in Spareroom (and others) and contacting people that way. But it’s particularly difficult when you are living abroad. And besides, I would much rather share a place with people I have something in common with.
I have some savings but I’m not rich, so rent price has to be, ehm, moderate.
I’m not picky. Really I’m not. I know things are gonna be tough for me when I arrive, that’s OK.

So…

If you know of someone around London with a room to rent out…
If you know of someone somewhere else in the UK with a room AND a job…
I you’ve heard something from someone…
If you have any advice for me…
If you have any words of support…

Please contact me, either through comment or mail at:
beyondfeminism at gmail dot com (without spaces)

(I know these are difficult times; that we are in a recession and all. But I am not happy where I am right now, and I really need to leave, like, a year ago. If I could wait until things got better, I would. At worst, I can always come back.)

(Cross-posted on my blog)

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Madness Radio

I wanted to let you all know about the radio show Madness Radio: Voices and Visions From Outside Mental Health“, especially their last programme Depression and Oppression with Alisha Ali which focuses on women of colour. You can listen online or download the programme by right clicking where it says “Rt/Ctrl-Clck download” (sneaky!).

Enjoy!

PS: Guys, get on with the posting!!! This place could use some attention! (This goes specially to those of you with comment-approving powers)

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Go On, Laugh it Up

Working in retail allows you more social observation than most people think. You meet all kinds of people from all walks of life. And occasionally you meet people who life has screwed over drastically, people in need of help. I’ve seen people stay in the shops I’ve worked at for hours, pretending to look, just because they’ve got nowhere else to go. I’ve had conversations with people who have nothing to say but just want to have someone else talking to them. And I’ve seen people who seem to have hit bottom and I have no idea how to help them.

I work in a shop that sells jewellery and ornaments from Asia. When I went into work today, my boss immediately told me a story. A man had come in a few hours earlier, in a state. He was crying and babbling and apparently trying to pray to our wooden statues of Buddha. When approached, he flinched away from the staff and kept trying to pray. He then proceeded to remove all of his clothes and then started hitting his head against the floor hard enough to draw blood. At this, my colleagues called an ambulance and then the police who came and took him away. I was shocked, to say the least. In five years of working in shops, I had never heard of or been witness to any behaviour as extreme as this before. But then I heard about the public’s reaction to this man and it was enough to make my blood run cold.

Apparently, people stopped to stare, laughed, pointed. One man even tried to take a picture (!!!). For the rest of the day, we had people coming in, asking after the guy, often sniggering. A few people tried to make jokes which were met with glares from all of us. Eventually it stopped but it got me thinking: We’re in serious trouble.

“This is the way, I suppose, that the world will be destroyed – amid the universal hilarity of wits and wags who think it is all a joke.” – Soren Kierkegaard.

That is one of my favourite quotes because of how true it is. And when it comes to mental illness, it’s so true it’s painful. I remember the night I broke my hand. I was lower than I’d ever been before in my life. I smacked my fist straight into a wall and then fell to the floor crying in the middle of a city centre on a Friday night. I remember laughter, jeers, taunts. I was totally lost, panicking and alone. If it hadn’t been for a great guy who came along and helped me up, I’d have probably stayed there all night, watching people walk past, laughing. “Cheer up, love, it might never happen!” And then subsequently, all the doctor’s appointments… “So how did you do it? A wall? Well, that wasn’t very clever was it! Ha ha.”

At that time I was in the middle of a depressive episode. The man in my shop earlier today was obviously not well. I don’t know what happened to him. I hope he eventually gets the help he needs, but something tells me his future isn’t good while things are the way they are. Back in Jacobean times, it used to be common practice to go to the local asylum of a weekend and pay to laugh at the freaks. As far as I’m concerned, we might as well do the same today. As far as dealing with mental illness goes, there is no greater test of public opinion than the sort of event which puts someone in the spotlight and today, while people hid their grins behind their hands, I felt like crying. We’re so far behind where we need to be.

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needy psychotherapy

my psychotherapist is really needy.  or maybe thats just what i think of him.  hes always breaking in to whatever im talking about to ask if im “really” referring to our sessions.  its all i can do some days not to laugh.  other days i want to scream at him, are you not fucking listening?  im talking about *this*, not about *you*, okay???  his whole job is just to sit there and listen and to sometimes ask me questions or give me an alternative view that i can ponder to make more sense of stuff.  not to try and relate everything i say to our sessions as if i didnt and dont have a whole fucking life of bullshit to work through so that our sessions dont even register on the very edge of my radar in terms of interesting stuff to think about.

i went last week in a high mood, all ready to move on with my life, tidy up, complete some stuff.  this week im feeling down and angry and fed up.  i might shout at him tomorrow and im nervous about that prospect.  im full of energy but only negative, itching for a fight really, ready to tell some people exactly what i think of them.  these moods always get me into trouble, just so belligerent and self destructive, ready to take up those offers of war and really win.  and i know where all that leads and im scared of myself, really.  scared of what destruction im capable of.  so i mostly withdraw and hide and that just makes me even worse.  once i saw somewhere someone describe feeling like a wound up spring, ready to be set off any second and not be able to stop or even choose a direction.  thats appropriate for right now.

its a head doer being like this.  this is when i most wish i was normal.

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Sunbathing In The Rain

Summary

Sunbathing In The Rain is one woman’s amazingly honest account of her depression. Written in just four months, Gwyneth Lewis tells the story of her struggles throughout her life and gives a positive message to those of us feeling too weighed down to cope. The book is set out not as a self-help guide, but as an outline of the steps she herself took to overcome the disease. In this way, the book is very different from most books about depression: it doesn’t put pressure on you to try and ‘fight your way out of depression’, but rather lets you sit back and read some gentle, honest and sometimes humorous advice:

Don’t join a gym for the first time in fifteen years

…While fighting off a bout of depression in Oxford in the 1980s I decided that I would be all right if only I joined a trendy gym and transformed myself into a muscular sylph. I should have been warned off by the kind of girl I saw in the changing room, but I was still into self-deception at that stage… In my sweats and huge T-shirt I now felt humiliated as well as depressed… Of course, taking exercise when you’re depressed can only be helpful. But deciding to join a trendy gym in that state is more likely to leave you unfit and broke rather than just unfit, which is what you were before.

Her story is bold and uncompromising as she goes through her life, detailing her mother’s depression, her anger at her father, her years alone in America, her career as a poet and her marriage. I found her description of everything very vivid and she uses some brilliant images to create a real sense of what it is to live with depression:

Under the duvet, an internal ice age had set in. I had permafrost around my heart. This is what dying of cold must be like, once the numbness has started.

And what it is to recover:

This previous year had been arid and difficult but, at the same time, in its midst, I’d felt a completeness and freedom that was totally new. For the first time, I was fully present in my life, not distracted. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything…

Pros

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you’re really going through it, the only thing you should focus your energy on is getting a copy of it. It is a massive help to be reading such an honest account of what it is to be living with depression, when you are too weighed down by it to do anything else.

Her take on depression is that:

If you can cope with the internal nuclear winter of depression and come through it… then, in my experience, depression can be a great friend. It says: the way you’ve been living is unbearable, it’s not for you. And it teaches you slowly how to live in a way that suits you infinitely better.

I find this refreshing in the current climate of everyone rushing around trying to make their lives better instantly, and our quick-fix-approach GPs, ready to throw pills at you should you even mention the word ‘depression’. With her descriptions of being unable to move from her bed, and her evaluation that actually it is OK to be feeling this way, I found myself crying in relief at most of the book. If you are one for punishing yourself for feeling depressed, this book is a huge weight off your shoulders.

I also find her honesty very helpful. I have never before read an account of depression in which it didn’t feel like the sufferer was trying very hard to prove they were ‘getting better’. As she says in the book:

… we’re natural liars and we get things wrong. It’s so easy for the internal commentary that forms how we live to become a forgery… By knocking you out for a while [depression] allows you to ditch the out-of-date ideas by which you’ve been living and to grasp a more accurate description of the terrain.

I think this is exactly the right attitude to have, and exactly the right way to talk to people about their own depression. Some might argue that this merely allows you to be self-indulgent and ‘wallow’ in your misery (a popular phrase wheeled out by many people I have encountered). As far as I’m concerned, you don’t know what it’s like to live with depression unless you know. Gwyneth Lewis definitely knows.

Cons

There are not many cons I can suggest. This book has pretty much everything you need, including advice to those supporting depressives through their illness. The only thing I was grinding my teeth about slightly is that Gwyneth has the loving support of her husband, both emotionally and financially, which allowed her to take as much time as she needed getting better. As I’m sure you know, most of us don’t have that kind of luxury. I know I still need to get up for work/uni in the morning or I lose my income and can’t afford food/rent/bills let alone the weekly therapy I do. It would be nice to have someone I could depend on in this way, however I’m not likely to stumble on them anytime soon. But as this book is more of a personal account than an actual how-to guide, I’ll let this go.

The Feminist Slant

This book is not overtly feminist, but I did find the account of Gwyneth’s marriage to be fascinating. Her eventual decision not to have children, and her inner turmoil, made for interesting reading when considered with her depression:

I expected to feel great because we’d been brave enough to make the decision but, as time went on, I felt worse and worse… I began to wonder if we’d made the wrong decision. Any decision about reproduction strikes at your very core and a huge amount of social pressure equates motherhood with virtue, caricaturing childless women as calculating, selfish harridans.

It raises a good point about the pressure on women to conform to societal norms. How much of an impact do these things have on women already living with depression? Statistically women are more likely to suffer from depression than men. With the pressures on women in the world today, sometimes it’s easy to make the link.

To sum up

In my opinion, this book is staple reading for anyone going through an intense bout of depression. It is funny, often beautiful and very, very moving.

If you liked this, try:

I’d highly recommend checking out Gwyneth Lewis’ poetry, even if poetry is not something you normally read. I would personally recommend her collection, Chaotic Angels. Read the poems at the very end, Keeping Mum: II. These deal specifically with her experiences of depression. Powerful stuff.

Chaotic Angels

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Book reviews?

I’m almost at the end of my university work and I think I’m going to find myself at a bit of a loose end over the summer. I read more than I could possibly know what to do with so I wonder if anyone would appreciate me writing a few book reviews every now and then? I tend to choose books that resonate with me, so I’ll be sticking mainly with female authors, female protagonists and plots which involve feminism and/or mental illness. What do you all think? It would be really useful for me to keep up with the writing over the summer, else I’m likely to completely stop until September!

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