I’ve been intending to write this for about two weeks, but simply couldn’t be arsed. Truthfully, I’m probably only being arsed today as I’m procrastinating – this, whilst an intended exercise, is in many ways an attempt at avoidance of putting a pitch together. Ideas surge through my brain cells like a bullets through air, but unfortunately those brain cells don’t send those same neural signals to my fingertips.
To be frank, money issues aside, I don’t care that much at the minute. Insofar as I believe in the concept – which is actually not very, but whatever – I’m quite happy at the minute. Such an admission must come as an utter shock to those of you that have known me in the long-term, particularly in the days before I started writing here and was blathering a constant stream of negativity via a typographical fog horn elsewhere. It comes as a shock to me, probably most of all. My absence from this blog is symptomatic of not being at the soul-suckingly low points of the past – it was rare for me to not blog for more than a few days back then. Now though, rather than writing about life…well, I am living it.
Quite a lot has happened since I last updated this site properly. It’s been nearly three weeks since group therapy ended, and I’m very pleased with how it all went. The conclusion between both the therapists and the three remaining clients was that the process had been of significant value to our lives; John in particular was describing himself as gymnastically vaulting around “on a trampoline” by about week 18. Cathy hadn’t done quite as well; I know that for a few weeks she even needed support sessions at the centre, and had been put on either new or higher medication. However, she agreed quite definitively that our work had still benefited her. On the other side of the coin, Jane never did come back after the altercation in week eight. That was deeply regretted by all of us on one level, but it turned out that perhaps our ‘batting off’ her had been a hindrance; after she left, we did end up discussing ourselves and our difficulties more, and deeply examining same. Things felt more free-flowing and natural too, I thought. I feel like a bitch for saying that, because I did honestly like the woman, and was horrified that she felt she was ‘pushed out’ (which, objectively, she wasn’t, but I can understand why she perceived things that way), but there you go. I can only tell you my truth.
Robert, the ‘main’ therapist, was off for a few weeks due to a bereavement, meaning that Ellie had to conduct the group herself. I had initially been rather perturbed by this, as she seemed almost to be Robert’s pupil (actually, when I was in individual therapy, he told me that although she’s an experienced therapist [in the humanistic model, if I recall correctly, but I could be wrong], and that she’d be bringing this to the group, she was “learning” about psychodynamic practice). Despite this, during the weeks of Robert’s absence, she impressed me a lot. More or less by definition, her approach was entirely different from his, but in unwitting defiance of my reserves about non-psychodynamic approaches, she acquitted herself well. I retract my former concerns about the woman.
Honestly, though, Robert was never entirely your traditional blank-canvas psychotherapist either. He was very forthright – in the group, but particularly in individual therapy – about how he felt about things, clients (me) included (“I’ll really, really miss working with you,” to exemplify). So when Ellie came out one week and said that she thought the three of us were “remarkable” people, and that it had been a “privilege” working with us, it didn’t feel ‘wrong’. Indeed, it actually made me feel sad that the woman, and the others around me, wouldn’t be permanent fixtures in my life.
Except that it (hopefully) hasn’t turned out quite that way – or not entirely, anyhow. The ending was awkward, as these things inevitably are. In the penultimate week, John expressed his terror about how we’d leave each other – did we shake hands politely and run? Did we hug? Formal, informal, warm, reserved? It was a concern that had been permeating my mind too, especially since – and here’s a thing I didn’t expect when I started the process – I desperately wanted to stay in touch with him and Cathy. It was clear that despite his fondness for us, though, John wanted to draw a line under the whole thing, and who can blame him? The entire point of therapy is to stop needing therapy, is it not, and why hold onto fragments of it when it’s achieved that goal? In the end, he didn’t come to the last week; I suspect this was due to his worries about the aforementioned (and again, he can’t be blamed for that – both Cathy and I considered not going too!), but in his defence he has a very demanding job that could well have been responsible.
In a perverse sense, I was relieved, despite the fact I really liked and respected him. I knew he didn’t really want to remain in touch, and yet I wanted that of both of them. I suspected Cathy would be receptive, and if that were indeed to be the case, then it would be nauseatingly ungraceful to ask for her contact details whilst trying to give him some means of non-participation in the ritual. His not being there obviously bypassed such awkwardness.
In the end it was Cathy that asked me if I wanted to remain in touch, though as I told her, it had been on the tip of my tongue to offer the option to her. I was really pleased about this; it would have been a huge shame (from my perspective at least, and she seemed to agree) to have ‘lost’ her. We have a lot in common, despite the fact that she’s old enough to be my mother; the whole mental health crap, related long-term unemployment, general commonalities and worries. So we swapped numbers, hugged and parted ways – but only temporarily. I’m seeing her on Monday! As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, by the time one reaches nearly-30, making new friends feels like something of a rarity (someone responded with a link to this excellent piece in The New York Times, which pretty much sums the situation up), and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to find myself doing so – or, more specifically, to find myself doing so with someone that wants to share a friendship with me.
Anyhow, that’s not all I’m doing on Monday. I mentioned before that I had finally filled in an application for a voluntary job, and that it was, most a-fucking-ssuredly, going in the post the following day. Well, it did most a-fucking-ssuredly go in the post the following day. I think I win the universe for this action. About two weeks later, I was sitting in the Volunteer Co-Ordinator’s office with ID to go through Access NI PoVA checks, and giving an impromptu interview. Six or seven weeks after that, I was back there signing contracts and discussing training opportunities. I think I win the multiverse for these actions 😀
- To staff MindWise information stands at local health fairs;
- To give educational talks to local community groups/schools/church groups;
- To act as a ‘greeter’ at MindWise organised events;
- To be interviewed by the local press/broadcast media on topics relating to mental health;
- To supply ‘personal stories’ and be willing to have all or part of them reproduced to raise awareness of life with a severe mental illness;
- To maintain a marketing resource at Regional Office.
You don’t have to do all of these, and by the same token, you can (with the right additional training) take on further duties. So what of me? Well, I’ve already engaged in my first assignment (listen to Jane bloody Bond there), which was assisting the Volunteer Co-Ordinator, Elaine, at a health fair last Friday morning. The Man sent me a text message that afternoon asking how it had been. When I wrote back informing him that it had been “good,” he seemed genuinely astonished; he expected me to have been preposterously (and unnecessarily) timorous and to therefore have found it “okay” or “not too bad” or whatever. As it was, I actually did enjoy it, and suffered very few, if any, nerves. It was a lovely pursuit from the point of view that it gave Elaine and I the opportunity to get to know each other better (it’s not easy to do so when in an office talking shop, although I had determined that she was a really nice girl from those meetings), and it also felt good to be doing something. Well, I didn’t do a lot, but I did manage to tell a few groups of people about the organisation and encourage them to take copies of the magazine (WiseCraic – the title made me laugh 🙂 – which is available online here) and information leaflets. Result!
As a Media Volunteer, obviously writing will be one of my tasks, so hopefully I’ll get a few pieces in upcoming magazines – indeed, as we chatted, Elaine asked if I’d like to sit on the editorial committee. I terrified the purple shite out of my CPN by describing this conversation in operatically dramatic tones, convincing her I had turned down the opportunity. Ha. Of course I hadn’t! I’m not going to refuse an offer like that – who in their right mind (er…well…) would?! Further, in general discussion about the organisation, Elaine revealed that because volunteers are so important to them, that they actually sometimes sit on interview panels (for paid staff, which I think is a brilliant idea). She said that if I was interested, I’d be more than welcome to put myself forward for this as an additional role – but she said it almost in passing, because it’s not directly related to what I applied for, and a day or two’s interviewing can apparently be a tedious process. I think she was honestly surprised (and glad) when I said I’d really like to do it. As I put it:
I’d like to get involved as much as possible, because I really value what the charity’s doing – and I think it’s a case of getting out what you put in. The great thing is that I can hopefully benefit the organisation, whilst it mutually benefits me.
I mean that from a couple of perspectives. Obviously, there’s the CV-enhancing point, and having personnel-related experience is always a superlative thing to have no matter what job one applies for, but it’s really not as cynical as just that. Mainly, I feel vaguely useful again, and that can only be enhanced by contributing as much as I can (within reason, of course, and MindWise seem extremely accommodating about how much time one invests and when). But there’s also a genuinely altruistic element to this; I do value what they do. I’ve never been in the position to use services such as those they provide, but with my history of enduring, serious mental illness I strongly empathise with the experiences of their clients – and now that I’m a little better, I’d like to use whatever talents I may allegedly have to help people in that hateful, emotionally extinct boat.
So, my first bout of training is on Monday before I meet Cathy. I’m heading to the local college for some media training – a local journalist runs it, and it involves learning how to speak effectively for the radio and TV. I rather indubitably have a face for the former, judging by a recent stint I had sort-of on camera, but I’ll nevertheless get a DVD of my performances which should at least prove…interesting. At the end of the month, I’m going to the general volunteer induction, and there will be various other courses that I’ll have to do too. A couple of excellent future opportunities may be ASIST and mental health first aid courses. Having worked in the mental health voluntary sector in the past (I actually worked in staff development, funnily enough), I know that these are really valuable programmes. I also know that personally: when I was experiencing the worst of my suicidality and psychosis, those around me – through no fault of theirs – didn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t have known what to do; not a chance.
As a result of all of this – not only the wealth of training opportunities, but also meeting people again, and the senses of self-worth and ‘giving something back’ – I’m feeling really positive about volunteering. I just hope that I can give as much to the charity as it looks like it might give me.
It isn’t all sweetness and light. Oh yes, readers; I do have to end on a negative note – I’m not some born-again optimist, you know. Sod that. Seriously, there’s no chance I could go back to actual employment at the minute; part of what makes volunteering ideal is that it’s so flexible, in a way a paid job can almost never be. This work inability is somewhat troublesome, because I’m financially destitute (I have £9.18 in my bank account, and God knows how many current debts). Mind you, if I’d just fucking do that pitch I mentioned at the start of this post, maybe I could get paid…but you know what I mean. A ‘standard’ working life isn’t possible right now, despite the general positivity currently extant in my life. I’m acutely aware that I’m still mental; I’ve not been sleeping well at all for weeks (to the extent where 15mg of Zopiclone is not even adequate soporific provision), and that is at times affecting my mood. Also, you’ve got to love the potential rapid cycles of bipolar disorder; this morning I would happily have ceased to exist, but come the afternoon I felt great, despite my levels of fatigue remaining pretty static (not that you’d know it from the length of this dross. I really cannot stop when I get started, which makes my occasional freelancing and, in all probability, the writing portion of the voluntary role a little awkward). I’ve also developed a really bad back problem in the last…two? Three?…months, which I’ve been fervently trying to ignore, though I’ve finally caved in and booked an appointment regarding same with my GP. There’s a zillion little things too.
But I’m coping, and hopeful.
God, I hate sounding so positive.
A note to the lovely people that read this blog, and whose blogs I read. I’m sorry I’ve been utterly remiss in commenting on your posts lately, and on responding to those left here. You know it’s not that I don’t care; it’s been a combination of being relatively busy, eternally exhausted and suffering a sense of internet-related malaise. I promise you that I still read everything, and think of you all a lot. ❤ xxxxx
Something that randomly amused me during the composition of this entry. WordPress now offers the ability to insert ‘recommended links’ to certain words in a post. Bizarrely, because I only used the phrase once, ‘warm [and] fuzzy’ was one suggested tonight. Out of curiosity, I clicked it, to find that it inexplicably linked to the Wikipedia entry for transactional analysis. An understandable connection to my musings overall, but I must admit that I’ve never felt a warm, fuzzy feeling when considering the fundamental philosophies espoused by Eric Berne and his adherents.
Anyway, aside over. Enough. Goodnight.
Picture credits: for images one to three, see outgoing links. Image four is my own work.