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In Light Of Recent Events

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…by which I mean the US presidential elections and Trump winning, but also Brexit, Tories, and the looming possibility of a National Front president in France…

I wrote a facebook post. It’s aimed towards progressives, the left-wing, you know, “our people”. It’s about how we talk to the ones we think of as Them, as opposed to Us, and how we are harming our own cause.

“So I’ve been thinking, and I’d be grateful if you heard me out.

The Trump presidency has come as a shock to me, but then I was also shocked when the Tories were reelected, and Brexit shocked me, too, so maybe I was asking for it by not changing my expectations of the world. I don’t think I’m alone in surrounding myself – online and offline – with mostly progressive people and causes, because I want my online experience to be fulfilling and not a cause for anger and anxiety. This is good for my mental health, but it feeds into the illusion that most people are progressive, well-educated, well-informed, and inherently good.

And yes, this is an illusion. I’m not going to go into whether people are inherently good or bad – I don’t have time for philosophy right now (some other time, I promise). But in case you, too, have been labouring under the delusion that most people want equal rights for all races, religions, sexual orientations etc., it’s time we faced the truth: we’re a minority. Most people are misinformed, terrified of progress, and easily manipulated by mass media and whichever politician shouts the loudest.

Which means that it is up to us – the progressive minority – to solve this problem. And we’re not going to manage it the way we have been – by shouting at them, accusing them of racism, sexism, homophobia, unfriending them on facebook and trying to silence them the way they’ve tried to silence us. Those tactics won’t change how those people vote.

So here’s what we have to do, and I know you’re all going to hate this as much as I do, but it’s really the only way we can make any sort of change to how *society* thinks on an *individual* level:

We have to engage.

We have to start a discussion, and that means listening instead of just talking at people. We have to let go of the need to be right, to prove them wrong, we need to let go of this Us vs. Them dichotomy – because that’s what the politicians want – and convince Them that they are Us, because they are. We are all citizens, we will all be affected by whoever is in power.

We need to figure out WHY people voted Trump. For real, this time, not by dismissing it as pure stupidity. We need to find out what people are afraid of, and help them understand our point of view without trying to impose it on them. We need to convince them that they might benefit from understanding our point of view, and for that we need to befriend them.

And for that, we need to stop getting angry at other voters.

I know. This is the bit you hate the most, it’s the bit I hate the most, too. It’s not fair. We have the RIGHT to be angry – I’ve shared so many feminist posts about how telling women to “calm down” about equal rights is the equivalent of telling them to “shut up”, and that’s true – and the same goes for any kind of minority, because we are the underdogs and we’ve had to fight for our rights and we still have to, but HEAR ME OUT OK?

I didn’t say you had to stop getting angry. I said you have to stop getting angry at *voters*. Because if you get angry at a voter, they will get defensive, feel legitimized in their beliefs, and withdraw from the conversation. And they will vote Trump. Or the biggest fearmonger. That’s not what we want.

Don’t get me wrong here: getting angry at politicians is still ok. It’s even recommended, because no matter what their beliefs are, what they want is your vote. So save your anger for protests and rallies, and also for companies. Consume differently and let companies know why, because that’s how progress happens on the scale of big businesses and politics. Our anger has power there.

But individuals are different. Don’t get angry with voters. Don’t vilify them. Remember that they’re human, and humans are complex. Engage them in a discussion. Several discussions. Listen, find out what their fears are, what motivates them, do your research so you can present your own point of view, be intellectually honest and be compassionate, because that shit’s contagious.

Now this is the part where I admit that I don’t even think I’m capable of taking my own advice. You all know I have a history of anxiety and depression, and I know that a lot of you have similar mental health issues, or worse. I’m not saying you should all go out and “convert” a bunch of right-wing strangers no matter the cost.

But see that racist uncle you wish you could unfriend, or that guy in class whose sexist jokes make you uncomfortable – talk to them. Engage, listen, empathize, explain, and if you still don’t agree, tell them it’s fine, that your relationship is more important. Maybe try again next time, maybe not. It might not be necessary. The discussion you just had might be the start of a slow chain reaction whereby that person starts seeing progressive arguments in a different light. You can at least be the start of something, even if you don’t see the end result.

Of course, it won’t always be that easy. There are trolls and flamers and people just looking for a fight in all walks of life (including on our side, by the way, and you should call them out because they’re not helping). You might get insulted, unfriended, banned, blocked, threatened, and yeah, all this can be enraging and terrifying, and in that case you need to take care of yourself and unfriend, block, call authorities etc., whatever you need to do.

You might also end up responding to their provocation and getting angry and defensive yourself, and that’s understandable, even if it’s not ideal. If you think it’s worth it, you can go back later, apologize for getting defensive, explain why, and maybe they’ll understand this time.

But don’t you be the one to start a fight. Start a discussion. Check your anger. Listen. Read between the lines. Let’s open peoples’ minds. Even if you don’t change them, you’ll also be opening yours.

Sorry for the long post. Thanks for hearing me out.”

NaNoWriMo 2016

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Why is it that the first year where I have a perfectly valid excuse NOT to participate in NaNoWriMo (aka – a soon-to-be-1-yr-old child), I get all psyched and inspired?

Ok that’s not true, last year I had the excuse of having said baby due literally on the 1st of November. She ended up only coming on the 7th, but believe me when I say that being 9 1/2 months pregnant does not predispose the mind to creativity. It’s like you’re already too preoccupied with creating something else.

The year before that, I’d just started studying to become a kindergarten teacher (getting pregnant put a stop to that, thank god) and was overloaded with work.

The year before that, my cat died. I cried for a week and got very depressed with being unemployed after that.

The year before that… I had no particular excuse. I was living in France, in my own flat with the cat that died a year later, working as a nanny, in a long-distance relationship with my now-baby daddy (that made no sense, YEAH ENGLISH). I could have done it then. When was that? 2012? Shit.

But then, I wasn’t part of the whole NaNo community thing back then. That was the year I introduced my boyfriend to the concept of NaNoWriMo, and he, instead of just vaguely attempting the challenge on his own like me, decided to go out and find his local NaNoWriMo group, and they became friends, and now we’re thinking of moving in with some of them. That’s how awesome NaNoWriMo is, it brings antisocial introverts like us together so we can all be silently absorbed with our laptops of an evening without feeling lonely.

NaNoWriMo has changed my life, even though I’ve never actually completed the challenge. Never even gotten close. Every year it encourages me to attempt another novel, reminds me of how much I love writing, erodes at my perfectionism, colours my dreams. It reminds me that, even though I love doing other creative activities like playing music and singing, drawing, crochet – the thing I most love, that really makes me feel alive, is writing. Creating a world, characters, plot. It’s not that I always have these wonderful stories in my head and writing relieves the need to express them. The stories unravel as I write. Inspiration comes with writing. Most of the time, I have to consciously decide to write, and then the story begins to unravel in my head, like a cloud of colour against a fuzzy dark background of everyday things. It’s the most amazing feeling.

I feel like I’m at my best when I’m in that inspired state. And I want my daughter to see me at my best, so I guess that’s also a motivator. But mostly I just want some of that sweet, sweet inspiration back. Mmmm.

An Atheist’s Guide To Prayer

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In case you’re reading this a good while after the incident that inspired today’s post, it is the 15th of July 2016 and last night in Nice, France, a truck full of weapons careened down a walkway full of people gathered to watch the national holiday fireworks, killing 80 of them and injuring more than 100.

I’m tired. So tired. Exhausted. I think you are too, and that’s not a good thing because it means they’re getting to us, which is what they want. Fuckers.

And I know what you’re thinking, seeing the title of this post. No, praying won’t bring those 80 parents, siblings, children, lovers and friends back to life. It won’t help the injured heal from their wounds, either. Note that if you happen to believe the contrary, good for you. But I’m an atheist, and in this post I’m addressing my fellow atheists.

There is something to be said for prayer, and that is that it helps process difficult emotions, such as anger, grief and fear. The rituals surrounding the act of prayer are comforting, and prayer itself brings solace to the mind and provides an opportunity for introspection. I’ve heard it said that religion is the peoples’ teddy bear that we need to grow out of, but I don’t see the harm in needing to be comforted once in a while. We’re not superhuman, and the world is a scary place.

I’ve been thinking about my relationship with religion for a while. I think it started six days after my daughter was born, just after the Bataclan attack in Paris. I looked down at her sleeping face and wondered, what sort of world had I brought a child into? And I felt profoundly guilty and scared. I saw the hashtags #PrayForParis and felt a bit lonely, too. If only I could pray, I thought, and feel like it was making a difference.

Since then, though, I’ve come to the conclusion praying does make a difference. It’s just a very, very subtle difference in the mind of those who pray, and yet it’s important: it’s a form of psychological rebellion against forces that are trying to terrify us into submission. It’s an act of love – you pray for someone – in the face of immense hate and destruction.

So I want in.

The ritual I chose was Wiccan, because that’s the religion I followed for years as a teenager, but any sort of ritual – religious or not – would have done fine, as long as it’s familiar and comforting. I removed a bunch of paperwork, and cleaned the little chest of drawers my mum painted with a pentacle and gave to me for my 17th birthday to use as an altar. I rummaged inside the drawers and found a mirror, a tealight, a broken heart-shaped rose quartz given to me by a lovely family of Americans we’d met years ago, an incense holder and some frankincense, and a tiger-patterned feather I found in a forest once that probably belonged to a pheasant. I placed the candle in the center, the incense vaguely towards the south (I dithered a bit, wondering if incense was more air or fire and then remembered that it didn’t matter), the feather in the east, the rose quartz in the north and the mirror in the west. I lit the candle with a match because it felt more ritualistic than a lighter, and lit the incense with the candle flame. I sat cross-legged in front of it all and clasped my hands together in my lap.

Then I just sat. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply the way I would while meditating, but instead of focussing on some inner light, I thought about terrorism. I imagined there would be orphans – 80 victims, there have to be – and thought, too, about the mothers who had lost their children, which is what I fear the most. I thought about the rage and the grief that would consume them, and I let the sadness wash through me, dwelling on it for a bit. I imagined myself as one of the victims. My control freak of a brain tried to imagine all sorts of ways in which I could have escaped death by being just a bit more vigilant, just a bit quicker than the others, but this time I told it to shut up. None of those people wanted to die last night, any more than I do. I’m no better, no quicker than any of them, and if I’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time I’d have died just like they did, and it wouldn’t have been my fault for not being quick enough. I’d just be unlucky.

As I confronted the reality of death, and my inability to control when and how it comes to me or my family, I expected to feel fear. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d have a panic attack, which is why I was breathing slowly. But instead I just felt glad to be alive. I felt like making the most of being here, with my family and friends. I wanted to enjoy what I had while I had it, and so doing, shout a big Fuck You to the shitstains that are trying to destroy us.

And I wanted to share it with you. If I hadn’t taken the time to do this little ritual, then I’d probably have spent the day feeling crap. It might have ruined my weekend. And sure, that’s nothing compared to all those whose lives have been taken, or ruined by the deaths of their loved ones, but it counts because it’s what they want. They want to ruin our lives, bit by bit, to wear us down, to make us fear one another and lose all hope. Fuck that. Let’s pray. Or at least, let’s each sit down somewhere quiet and take a few minutes to think about how this has affected us, and how we’re going to react to it. Let’s be sad for those who died and who lost, but let’s also be glad it wasn’t us, yet. And then let’s decide not to let them win, at least not in our own minds. It’s a tiny, tiny difference, but it’s a start.

A youtube channel you might be interested in is The School Of Life. They have some very interesting videos on religion, including this one:

Dixit as therapy

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Hi guys how’re you great that’s awesome now listen listen LISTEN

I’m doing therapy right now. I’m not going to tell you why (though I should think it’s obvious by now that I’m in quite regular need of therapy, so this is definitely a good thing) but I do want to tell you how. Specifically, I want to share with you a technique my therapist used today help me talk about a traumatic event, using… you guessed it, Dixit cards.

DIXIT CARDS AS THERAPY YOU GUYZ

I am so excited about this.

She handed me two extensions of Dixit cards, there were about 80 cards. She told me to pick a card that represented the situation I was currently in. Once I’d picked one, she asked me a series of questions:

  • Could I describe the card to her as though she couldn’t see it?
  • What did I want to ask the characters? (There was always a character representing me, I don’t know what she’d have asked if there wasn’t)
  • How did I think they would respond?
  • How had they gotten into that situation?
  • What would I say to the characters?
  • Etc.

She also asked a few other questions about what was going on on the card, but she did not ask me to explain the real life context that the card represented. In fact, she insisted that I avoid explaining, and speak only within the metaphor of the card. At first it was a bit difficult, but once I got into it, it was actually quite fun.

Next she asked me to pick a card representing a future I’d like to see come about. Once I’d done that, she asked me the same questions, plus others linking the two cards: how had the character from card 1 end up becoming the character in card 2? What would the character in card 2 say to the one in card 1?

Finally, she asked me to pick a card representing a past event that had marked me, one that had in some way led me to my present situation in card 1. I picked the worst event I could think of, because that was what I’d intended to talk about today anyway.

At this point I understood why she’d insisted in speaking only in metaphor: it meant I could talk about the event without actually saying what it was. I didn’t have to go into detail. I didn’t even have to explain. I just had to talk about it through a shield of story.

She asked me the same questions, and I answered them, one by one. She asked me how the character in the past card had become the character in the present card, and what the future card character might say to the past card character. I answered, thinking carefully about each response, and feeling a little bit like I was cheating my brain. Wasn’t this supposed to be painful? It wasn’t entirely comfortable, but it wasn’t the opening-of-Pandora’s-box-full-of-tears I’d thought it would be, that it had been in the past when I’d talked about this same thing plainly.

It was the first time I’d ever talked about it without crying and feeling shitty for ages afterwards. In fact, it was the most fun I’d ever had during a therapy session. I’m actually looking forward to the next one.

Afterwards, in the car ride home, I felt a bit panicky. Part of my brain was like WHAT DID WE JUST DO AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH and another part was adamantly insisting that this was CHEATING, it couldn’t be this simple. Where were the tears, the pain? Did it work? Was I now the future-card-me?

Of course I’m not, that would be too simple. But I realised that I’ve somehow gotten this weird idea into my head that therapy has to be a form of confession, and in order for it to work, I have to be an emotional wreck by the end of each session – at least at first. Like the therapist is going to give me ten hail mary’s at the end of it and then I’ll be free forever of whatever it was that’s been holding me back all these years. But we said in the beginning that therapy isn’t about getting rid of bad memories, but about learning to deal with them, and to find lessons in them. It’s not about pain and sacrifice giving way to redemption; it’s about finding tools to live a better life with the baggage I’ve got.

And one of those tools can be metaphor. It reminds me of a thing I saw on TV once, where a therapist was asking a young child to show, using dolls, what her abuser had done to her. I always thought that this was just a way to get a mute child to express the unspeakable, but it’s also a shield: in this sort of game, it’s not the child being abused, but the doll. It sounds like not much, but when you’re describing a traumatic event, talking about it in the third person or representing it using things outside of you can help you put a mental distance between yourself and the event. Enough to look at it from the outside, without as much fear and pain as with plain description, complete with accompanying flashback.

The order in which she asked for the cards is important, too. The present card is a kind of warm-up, allowing you to get used to talking entirely in metaphor, without explaining. The future card then establishes where you want to go from there, and introduces the kind of person you ideally want to become as a character in the game. By the time you arrive at the past card, you’re used to talking in metaphor, and you can use the ideal future character to talk to the past character. In my case, this helped me understand my present situation better, because the future character ended up justifying the past character’s transition into the present character. This allowed me to forgive myself for not getting out of my present situation sooner.

ISN’T IT GREAT??!?!

I don’t think my therapist will mind me sharing her technique. I doubt it’ll affect her in any way, as you really do need a therapist to guide you through the game (although I suppose you could try on your own or with a trusted partner “for fun”… don’t blame me if it gets heavy and awkward though).

Besides, I’ll also be recommending her to any of my local friends who ask, because after only two sessions I can already state that she’s by far the best therapist I’ve ever had.

I’m still not crying. I don’t think I’m going to. But I feel open, without feeling vulnerable. It’s very… freeing.

Speedy Cultural Analysis

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gendertroubled

For this assignment I chose the poem ‘second language/ first heartbreak’ by Meeni Levi. Meeni Levi is a young belgian writer/poet and zir work can be found at meenilevi.tumblr.com. Ze is also due to release zir first poetry collection ‘Skinny jeans’ in may. I chose this particular poem in order to explore and explain the concept of naming and the power a name has over its subject.

The poem deals with a queer subject matter, describing the incongruity between assigned language and the self.  It also queers common assumptions about first languages being the ones we are most comfortable in and most able to express ourselves fully. Instead, the poem presents the subject’s second language as the medium with which they can describe their own identity and connect to their authentic self.  The poem’s narrator also expresses the desire to be recognised as a subject in their native language and…

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#WorldPoetryDay

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My favourite poet is an agender 18-year-old from my NaNoWriMo group, whose talent in poetry has not yet ceased to amaze me. http://meenilevi.tumblr.com/

Before I met her, though, my favourite poem since I was ten was the following by Grace Nichols:

With Apologies To Hamlet

To pee or not to pee,
That is the question.

Whether ’tis sensibler in the mind
To suffer for the sake of verse
The discomforting slings
Of a full and pressing bladder
Or to break poetic thought for loo
As a course of matter
And by a-pee-sing
End it.

Childbearing: the ultimate creative act

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Or that’s what I tell myself. There must be some reason I haven’t been able to write about anything but babies and shitty pregnancy symptoms for the past year. Right??

You can find what I wrote about that on Pickles and Muffins, which is a blog I started because I couldn’t suffer through three months of horrible “morning sickness” (=> bullshit false advertising, a more accurate title would be “your body attempting to turn itself inside out through your mouth”) and not complain write about it.

I’m back to occasionally thinking about other things, though, so I have updated the Who Is This Crazy page somewhat, and I’ll be posting a few things as soon as I get time to type them out.

I could have posted pictures of the many, many scarves I crochet’d during my second and third trimesters, but I didn’t because my brain basically went on holiday for a year.

Speaking of brains going on holiday, I quit school. Teaching is not for me, I was right and everyone else was wrong so HA you can all shut up about it now. Crochet has become my go-to thing to do when I’m not doing anything else, and I have a shit-tonne of wool to use up, so you’ll be able to see what I decide to do with it all here in the weeks to come.

I have also recently acquired a library card (*GASP* WHY DIDN’T I HAVE ONE BEFORE?? The answer is that we lived too far from the library and couldn’t be arsed taking the car to get there). Our library has a big-ish collection of books in English, hardly any of which are fantasy, or by authors I know. I’ve therefore decided to take a massive leap out of my comfort zone and read all of them, including the large majority of crime and romance novels, and review them here.

I’ll be interested to find out how long it takes for me to “forget” this particular resolution.

The first book is by Alex Abella, a crime novel entitled “The Killing Of The Saints”. Between the kid and my current obsession with crochet, it’ll be a miracle if I finish it.

I’ve also sort of maybe decided to dye my hair blue. I’ll let you know how that goes.

My First Hallucination, or How To Make Your Boyfriend Panic

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I may have mentioned that I’ve been feeling the pressure since going back to uni. Depression has abated, only to be replaced by increased anxiety, including barely-controlled panic attacks, mainly on the morning bus or during morning lessons because I really do hate mornings just that much. Did I say I was going to see a doctor about it? I can’t remember. Most of my working memory right now is taken up by Piaget and Developmental Psychology.

I’d contacted what is basically the equivalent of a school counsellor with the panic attack problem, and we made an appointment for last Friday. Then on Thursday evening I got sick of having this cough that I’ve had for like three weeks now and which has been preventing me from sleeping, and since I was going to see a doctor anyway, BF suggested I tell him about the panic attacks, and I’d already decided that if someone wanted to give me anxiety meds then I might as well take them while we’re waiting for BF to get a job that can pay for me to have therapy again, so I did.

The doctor is a new doctor. He’s a little bit patronizing, but generally nice, he listens, and he’s not stingy when it comes to handing out prescriptions if he thinks you need it. Right now I’m still on antibiotics, cough syrup, paracetamol and that gross sea salt stuff you put up your nose that works like a charm only with a lot more gagging, and that’s just for the cough/cold.

For the panic attacks, he recommended that as soon as I have the money, I go see this collegue of his who does hypnotism, because apparently I look like I’d be very susceptible to that (which is actually quite scary when you think about it). But in the meantime, he prescribed anxiety meds. One to take each evening before bed, and if ever I felt a panic attack coming on I could put a half-pill under my tongue. He also insisted on giving me a little plastic bag, even though I’ve been managing fine (-ish) with just a scarf over my nose and mouth and pretending I feel sick. I don’t want to use a plastic bag because then everyone in the bus will know I’m hyperventilating, and then I’ll have to explain, and whenever I start talking about it I cry, and I hate crying in public. So when he said not to hesitate to take a half-pill when I felt an attack coming on, I thought, great. I probably won’t even need the bag or the scarf.

When my boyfriend saw the meds, he said “Wow.” And he got this worried look on his face, because apprently he’d already taken those particular anxiety meds and they basically knocked him out. I thought, well yeah, that’s normal, I must have a sleep debt several days long by now. I only had two lessons on Friday morning and then my meeting with the counsellor, and then it would be the weekend. And I mean, I had to revise and work on my NaNo novel and all, but health comes first, right? Right. So I took the pill on Thursday night and went to bed. Before I went to sleep, the boyfriend asked me how I felt. I giggled, because my basic overall feeling about everything right then was that I didn’t care much about anything. Then I went to sleep very, very quickly.

I slept like the dead. It was great. Having to get up at half six was not so great, but never mind, I’d sleep on the bus. When I got to the bus stop I found a 17-yr-old classmate and casually told her that I was on anxiety meds so I might fall asleep, and she should wake me up if I didn’t wake up when we got there. It’s worth noting that very, very few people in my class know I’ve ever had panic attacks, or been depressed, and practically nobody knows that I still suffer from anxiety, because admitting it means having to explain and talking about it makes me cry and I hate crying in public. I think she didn’t really know how to react to this information, and it was like half seven for her too, so she just nodded.

I didn’t fall asleep on the bus, but I did almost trip quite a few times on the walk from the bus stop to college. I kept bumping into tables and people when we got into class, and even though it was music, which is one of my favourite lessons, I wasn’t very reactive at all. By the time we got into Maths, I was having trouble staying awake. In fact I might have fallen asleep through the lesson if we hadn’t had to group up to create a preschool-adapted math activity. There was a lot of noise, a lot of interrupting, and I couldn’t follow any of it but I was expected to participate, and gradually it started to feel like that Russian prank video where they put a metal pot over the guy’s head while he’s sleeping and bang spoons on it and yell to wake him up, only sort of more constant, and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster, and I could feel the neckline of my top strangling me even though it wasn’t touching my throat…

The doc had said not to hesitate, so I slipped one of the half-pills I’d prepared the night before under my tongue. It worked, of course, though even as I was taking it I wondered what it would do to me, if the whole one from last night was knocking me out this much.

The lesson ended. People left. I stayed, because I had my meeting, and ate in the classroom. Or tried to. I took one bite of my cheese and egg salad sandwich, gagged and spat it out. So it was one of those days. Ok. I ate the yoghurt and the apple and bought a packet of gingerbread slices from the vending machine, and wasn’t hungry any more. I sat on my own and tried not to cry. A class delegate came in, I jumped and concentrated on my food, hmm-ing a greeting. She left. I tried to pull myself together. It was nearly time. I went down to the counselling room.

There are like three teachers who look just like each other, and the counsellor is one of them. I told her everything, through tears that I’d known were inevitable. She was very nice and understanding, and she gave me some phone numbers for therapists that are either cheap or reimbursed by social security, but as I’d suspected, it wasn’t really her role to help me with this particular problem. She’s really there to help people with learning difficulties, disabilities, or difficult circumstances (like the few girls who get pregnant every year) to keep up with their studies. I couldn’t stop crying, and when she said that it looked to her like I was still depressed it occurred to me that perhaps taking the pressure off, medically, had put me back in depression. Pressure – de-pression. That’s how it always works with me.

Well, fuck.

I dried my eyes, pulled myself together somehow and left. I was elsewhere. I was really very absent, and it occurred to me that I should take care when crossing roads, and that I was glad my campus is mostly pedestrian. When I got to the bus stop there was still half an hour until my bus came, so I sat down to wait.

Five minutes later a girl sits down next to me with a Lush bag. I stare at the Lush bag. I can smell it from there. Suddenly I want something from Lush. If I get something from Lush, it’ll make this whole day worthwhile. I ask the girl where the Lush shop is, and she tells me, and I jog off for some impulse shopping.

I haven’t been to Lush in over a year, since I left France. I’m so out of it that I walk past the shop before the smell of it entices me back. I wander in, listen to the nice lady do her talk at me, then tell her I have a budget of no more than 5€ for a present (I don’t mention that the present is for me), because even when I’m heavily medicated I remain a stingy and paranoid, thank god. She shows me those fizzy bath things, and I spend a little while sniffing them until they start making me sneeze uncontrollably; then I buy the first one I can grab. They give me a little free sample of solid shampoo and I am ridiculously pleased. I leave the shop, return to the bus stop, realise I’m ten minutes late, and ring my boyfriend to come and pick me up. He tells me to wait for him in the car park, so I find a wooden stool to sit on and wait.

There are lots of dead leaves on the ground. When I stare at them for too long, they start moving in my peripheral vision, shifting gently back and forth like waves in the sea. I frown, focussing on the moving leaves, and they stop. It’s ok, I think just an optical illusion, like the ones you see on the Internet. I try again, staring at one point but watching my peripheral vision. It starts again. I stop it. Start again. The movement seems to shift closer to me, and I wonder what will happen if I let it reach my feet, or the stool I’m sitting on. I stare again, and this time I let the shifting get wider and closer, until it’s at my feet. I swear my feet are moving. I can even feel a tiny stone being displaced underneath my shoe, and hear it scratch the ground. Am I the one moving my feet without realising it? I let the movement reach the stool. It feels like I’m sitting on a boat, or a swing, or a hammock. It feels peaceful. It occurs to me that I should probably be worried about this. I don’t care much.

Boyfriend rings. He’s waiting at the other car park. I abandon my vision and walk over, watching out for cars. We bicker about which car park he meant, I start to cry. He hugs me, we get in the car. I cry all the way home. I curl up on the sofa, then he walks me to bed (it is 4pm), and the next thing I remember is waking up there the next morning, fully clothed.

I slept 14 hours. On the way home he called my name eight times before I answered. I told him not to worry about the hallucination. I wonder how I appeared to the counsellor, or the Lush saleswoman, or my classmates, but I don’t remember any of them acting any different towards me than usual. I think what really knocked me out – on top of the meds – was fatigue.

Needless to say, I’m not taking them any more. Yesterday was spent at a write-in, alternately working on my novel and doing coursework. I’m still in picky-food mode, I still had to go to the loo to cry last night. But I’m feeling more myself today, whatever that means. Tomorrow I’m going back to the doctor’s to try and find an alternative solution to the panic attack problem – one that doesn’t involve hallucinogenic tranquillizers.