The Pearl

I went into the cafe that helps homeless people on my local High Street today to say hello. It’s run by a team of Christians and they evangelise from time to time on the street.

I haven’t been in for a few weeks and so it was a good opportunity to catch up with people. One of them, Billy,  was somebody I’d never met before and he had a little story to tell.

Billy told us that he’d recently learned how pearls are formed within oysters. He told us that when an oyster is irritated by a grain of sand or something similar it begins to cover it over layer by layer forming a pearl as it goes. It covers the irritant and makes itself less irritated.

Billy thinks that Jesus sends irritating people your way so that you can learn to change from being irritated to being beautiful. He also thinks that when you die you have become almost perfect and will live forever with Jesus.

Irritating people make me laugh at and I feel sorry for them. They don’t make me less irritable or place a pearl of great beauty in my soul.

Perhaps I’m not as holy as Billy or perhaps I’m just more rooted in realism.

“Friends”

Two of my friendships have ended during the pandemic. 

The first was at the start of the first lockdown and the second in recent days. Neither person seemed to have realised the the relationship was over until they pushed too much and I pushed back with a strength that they didn’t know I had.

I think it is no coincidence that both are conspiracy theorists and bullies. When you believe blindly in something you tend to be unsubtle in all your communications; Emotional Intelligence measures zero.

One is convinced that she can cure cancer by positive thinking and that it is caused by stress while the other is convinced that there is a worldwide network of famous people who are paedophiles and practice satanic rituals with the children that they traffic.

I have been addressed stridently in my home by both of them because I disagree with them and, let’s face it, any person capable of reasoned thinking would disagree with them also.

Both are emotionally abusive with their partners. Whatever these men do it is not good enough and never will be. One meekly accepts what is said and the other is beginning to kick back. I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that both men use drugs in more than a recreational way.

Of course I am to blame for both friendships ending and neither women understand why. Neither have notice that I’ve ghosted them on social media either. Big egos eh?

K has declared that she forgives me for my “little ways” – she forgives me for being me.

Recently K has said that she thinks I’m being less than understanding about her mental health as she’s currently living apart from her partner. She has no understanding or willingness to try to understand how it has been for me to live with severe Bipolar Disorder since I was in my early teens (I was diagnosable at 16 and it is thought that I had been ill since I was 13). I have been suicidal and I have attempted suicide. At times I have had my pills given to me by my GP on an almost daily basis to lessen the chance of an overdose and had police officers I have worked alongside within communities take sharp knives from my kitchen so that I can’t self harm. Just because I refuse to indulge the fantasy that her experience is comparable to me doesn’t mean that I lack compassion as is her accusation but that I think temper tantrums pale into insignificance.

Friends? Yeah.

Anxious about anxiety

I have regular check in appointments with my GP. Every four to six weeks we talk on the phone and I tell him how anxious I am and he tells me that I appear to be coping better than I am. He is right of course except since I last spoken to him things have changed.

I was unnerved by the potential COVID pandemic right from the start. I would walk to the local shops chanting within myself,”This virus will not get me, I refuse to die from it.” I didn’t realise that by that time I’d almost certainly had it and survived but even now that anxiety doesn’t subside.

Over the course of the pandemic I’ve been increasingly fearful. I watched waves reach stupidly high peaks, one person I know has died and his wife has suffered health problems because of his death.

There are people I feel secure being with and places that I also feel safe being but there are far more than I don’t. I’m not sure that I want to start hugging people next week though no doubt I will. I don’t want to go back to the old “normal” I want to have a different normal even though my life could never have been described as thus.

I want to go to London but the stupid people who want to demonstrate about their liberty being stolen from then scare me witless. There are friends and family I want to see but I can’t see it happening soon.

I’m afraid of going into one of my local shops where I bought a magazine every week because it’s a long and narrow shop with no room for manoeuvre. If I can’t manage to use a shop like that then what chance have I of travelling for reasonably long periods of time in an enclosed space. And the tube – forget it!

So this year I’m staying at home or at least within the city. I’ll start with short journeys to nearby towns to build up some confidence. I’m going to go to Bath even though I can’t stand the place because it’s a 12 minute journey on the same train that takes me to London and that will give me a realistic idea of how safe it is.

My mantra has changed from refusing to catch and die from the virus to refusing to let it kill my life and part of my mind. Onwards I go one way or another.

The art of kindness

I had a nightmare recently in which a group of Christians were expressing their “kindness” towards me. They walked into my flat without invitation, caused a flood, brought my inadequacies to my attention and then left leaving me to clear up their mess.

Their interpretation of kindness didn’t match my needs. They stripped me of my coping mechanisms and replaced them with “better” ones. This kind of false, if well-intentioned goodness, endows a sense of unworthiness.

Twitter “kindness porn” is prominent at the moment. 

People with “Be Kind” in their bio aren’t always the kindest people. One “blue tick” is telling people to be kind and increasing his follower numbers. Oddly enough he’s got a book out at the moment.

As the hackles are rising on your back I will make this bold statement: only people who are on the receiving end of a gesture get to say if it’s kind or not.

A random act of kindness is something that happens to you not something that you perform.

As often as I can I make donations to my local food bank and cafe for homeless people. I do this because I’ve spent time on the poverty line when there were no food banks and have spent a lot of time in my adult life in insecure accommodation. I give because I want to express my gratitude for the life I have now and perhaps ease the way for someone who needs a bit of a helping hand. If my actions are perceived as kind then I can’t help but be happy about that.

Kindness is important but it’s not the giver who decides on what is or what is not kindness, it’s the recipient.

The flavour of the month is hysteria

Since I had my first Covid vaccine in February the way I feel has begun to change and it’s not the positive change that I’d hoped for.

I felt a real sense of hope the day I had the vaccination and cried with relief at the idea of being able to go and see friends in other towns again. It felt as though even though there will never be an end to the pandemic there could be an end of a kind in sight.

Lately I have been sitting at home and regularly feeling hope followed by despair and hysteria bubbling in my throat. I’ve mentioned this to a few people and they’re feeling the same way. We’re now in the second year of the pandemic and things may not change the way I need them to this year and it feels like things will never change.

Travelling on trains for short journeys or a few days away has always been one of the safety valves which help me manage Bipolar Disorder and it has been taken away from me. I stand at my living room window and watch trains travelling to and from the station up the road while I yearn to be on them.

Because one of the major tools in my box is missing it’s causing things within my mind to not work quite as they should and, for the first time in a year, it’s the Bipolar Disorder that’s causing problems and not the inner anxiety about the pandemic. Perhaps one is feeding the other now but debating that is pretty pointless.

I have been finding it harder to cook and even harder to tidy up after myself when I have cooked. I’ve been missing the timings while cooking and some of the food has tasted dreadful. I used to cook for a living so when such a basic skill falls away it devastates me.

In the past I have fought against the ready meal route as people tend to look down on those of us who feel that there is no other solution available but this time it’s a solution I’m embracing.

Ready meals have got much better in recent years and because nutritional information is now printed on the packaging then it’s much easier for me to keep a track on what I’m eating.

Today I have bought a condenser dryer to help myself when it comes to laundry. I am enjoying the idea of being able to wash, dry and put away clothes in one day instead of the several days it takes me now because I have to iron most things.

At times I hate the insight that I have in to my illness and the way I have to live my life but at other times, such are these, insight helps me to make simple decisions. As for travelling and the pandemic, all I can do is the same as everybody else is doing – wait, see and dare to hope.