Tuesday, 20 January 2015

On Anger

[Content warning: this article contains references to depression, anxiety, and self-harm.]

Sometimes I will make little quips about how angry I get. They vary, but the gist of them tends to be the same: I have to be angry, or I will just stop. I say it with a smile and a shake of the head, but it's not a joke. Not really. My anger powers me. If I wasn't angry, I don't know what or how I'd be.

Anger is an energy. Sometimes this energy manifests in me another way. I have a lot of feelings, and I feel them strongly. They could be excitement, or joy, or crushing depression, or unbearable anxiety, or something else entirely, but they are coins. If you turn them over, anger is most often the queen's head you'll find underneath.

I don't know when it started. My parents insist I was a happy child, though that's not what I remember at all. All through school I was an outsider, and it didn't take long for my misery at this to turn into resentment, which turned into rage. It was worst when I was a teenager - a simmering pot of sadness and fury that could bubble over at the slightest provocation.

Back then, and for a long time afterwards, I would send my anger outwards and hurt the people close to me, or I would turn it inwards and hurt myself. With the benefit of life experience (and no small amount of psychotherapy), I have gradually learned that it's best to express it - to channel it in ways where it targets no-one, but floats into the atmosphere and disappears. That, for me, is the only way to deal with it without harming anyone. If I keep it inside, it becomes depression and anxiety and threatens to explode out of me, burning anyone it touches.

So I talk, and I write. Sometimes I'll turn it into acerbic wit, and sometimes I'll leave it as it is, incandescent and untouchable. Bright flames are hard to look at, I know. Many people accept my anger happily. Some even love it. But other people tell me that it's too much - that I feel too much and they cannot bear it.

That's what they tell me, anyway. What they mean is that I say too much, and they will not tolerate it.

Often it is to do with the things I am angry about. Usually, it's some form of injustice. I hesitate to call myself an activist - I feel this term makes my actions sound more meaningful than they are - but I talk freely and openly about the injustice I have experienced, and I freely and openly express how much I deplore injustice against others. I am not one to mince my words. I swear, I use strong phrases, and I avoid euphemism. Some people find this intimidating. Some simply find it objectionable - often, I suspect, because they perceive me as a woman, and women should not be as strident and forthright as I am. Women should bear injustice against themselves with good grace, and be calm and measured in their defence of others. Emotion is weakness. Robotic logic is strength.

Fuck that.

If I become aware that I am harming someone, I will stop and moderate my tone, because the entire reason why I express my anger the way I do is to stop it from hurting anyone. But if it is the strength or the existence of my feeling that offends you - if your eyes are sore from staring at the fire - then I have nothing further to do or to say for you. My feelings are mine. They are valid, and a lot of the time they are worth hearing. By silencing me, you are telling me that your comfort is more important than my well-being, and I will not stand for that. Not any more.

My voice is my healing, and I will wear my words like armour to protect myself and the people I love most. You will not buy your comfort with my silence.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

In with the new

For the last couple of weeks, I've been blogging over at Halfway Out of the Dark, which I set up as a support blog for people who - like me - find the winter holidays challenging. And I remembered that I quite like writing. And I'm quite good at writing. And it was nice posting to a schedule of sorts. So this, the new year, seems like a good time to revive a blog.

I've never really been that good at sticking to a theme, or a specific schedule, so I'm not going to try. I'll be aiming to post roughly once a week, on the topic of whatever has intrigued me or made me cross in the last 24 hours or so. Maybe that'll build into a schedule and a theme, and maybe it won't. It's an adventure!

Expect to see posts about subjects including, but not limited to:
- Mental health
- Disability
- Music
- UK politics
- Italian politics
- Makeup
- Football
- Slice of life

Since I can't really be bothered to plumb the depths of human existence at gone midnight on a Tuesday, let's talk about new year's resolutions. I've just done a post on HOotD about this, but HOotD isn't about me, and this blog is.

I've quite a variable attitude on new year's resolutions. I very rarely keep them, so some years I make them (thereby setting myself up to fail, because I go in with the mindset that I'm not going to keep them) and some years I rebel and don't bother. I think I made resolutions at the start of 2014. but I can't for the life of me remember what they were.

The other thing is that I tend to decide I am going to Overhaul My Life and Make Everything Better on a semi-regular basis - usually when I'm entering a hypomanic phase - so the only thing that distinguishes new year's resolutions from any other kind is the timing. And it just so happens that I'm skirting around a hypomanic phase at the moment, so I threw out a bunch of stuff I was no longer using over the weekend and have been desperately trying to force myself to use my paper diary. Every year I buy a paper diary and every year I leave it mostly unused. I don't know why I keep beating this particular dead horse, especially since Google Calendar runs my life and helpfully beeps at me so I don't forget things. I guess I'm just a sucker for stationery. My 2015 diary is bright orange and I've been colour coding everything I write in it, because my inner 12-year-old insists on that sort of thing.

I've also made some tentative resolutions. You're reading one of them right now, and the others are divided into categories, because I'm a grown-up now and grown-ups organise everything, including their new year's resolutions.

I spent most of 2014 as a support worker in sheltered housing. When I say this is how I spent most of 2014, I mean that upsettingly literally: when I looked over last year's Google Calendar trying to remember how I'd spent my time and what I'd been up to, I realised that I had spent most of it at work. Whilst I was a bank worker, and thus technically free to take up as few or as many shifts as I wanted, I am a workaholic and terrible at saying no, so I ended up working 50-60 hour weeks on a semi-regular basis. This would be punishing enough for someone who does not live with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and an as yet nebulous long term mental illness; I live with both. I left my job in November before it could kill me.

In 2015, I am looking for a job with regular hours that I can stick with for a good couple of years. I don't know for sure what that's going to be just yet, but I have a few ideas, and it should be interesting to find out.

For those who might not know, I'm a classically trained singer and a depressingly amateur pianist. I sing with a semi-professional choir, which I love, and I've taken up piano lessons after a seven-odd year hiatus. My musical goals are to continue to sing with the choir, to sing solo in public at least once, and to play piano at a jam night.

I also write my own music, which I'm hoping to record in the next month or so and to perform live in the first half of the year.

At the ripe old age of twenty[mumble], I live with my parents. In 2015, I am hoping to not live with my parents any more. I also hope to get my driving licence, and to be Financially Solvent and self-sufficient.

My biggest Adulting challenge is trying to establish a routine. Since I am currently not in work, and my Nebulous Mental Illness makes habit-forming something of a challenge, I find it exceptionally difficult to find a routine and make it stick. So this is going to involve trial and error, a lot of patience, and being much kinder to myself than I'm used to. Bring it on.

My health is not an easy thing to plan for. Around this time of year, most people seem to be talking about making changes to their eating or exercise habits. For me, this is tricky. I already eat reasonably well most of the time, so aside from making more of an effort to eat three meals at more or less the same times each day there's not much to say on that score. Exercise? This morning I did two loads of laundry and changed my bedding, which put me out of action for the rest of the day. After a three hour nap I was just about able to cook dinner for myself and two other people. This, incidentally, is by no means a particularly bad day. In theory, regular exercise will help manage my fatigue and increase my strength and stamina. However, when you know that exercise will probably be the last thing you can do in a day, it's much easier said than done.

With this in mind, I'm taking a "what I can, when I can" approach to exercise - aiming for once a week to begin with - and resolving to learn to pace myself better (which is tricky with my mental health condition, but I'll persevere) and to be assertive in demanding the right treatment and care from relevant health professionals.

With my work schedule, I seriously neglected my hobbies in 2014. Even music was difficult to fit in - I was so drained that I missed a lot of choir rehearsals, and it was rare that I found the energy to do a useful amount of piano practice. Social events often got cancelled due to illness. However, some of my fondest memories of last year were plays and concerts I went to, so this year I intend to do lots more of that. And there's this here blog, of course.

Why is music separate from hobbies? Music isn't a hobby. It's much more integral to my life than that.

This has actually been one of my biggest success stories of the last year. In 2014 I met a ton of delightful and interesting new people, made new friends, and started a relationship. I couldn't be happier with how that went - especially in the last two months - so my resolution for this year is simply to build on that. I want to develop my existing friendships, make more exciting new friends, and enjoy my relationships.

Wish me luck, friends. I've got a lot to do!