As part of my mission to promote mental wellbeing and creative self-expression,Duncan Foster, who is a producer and musician of the Affinity Triangle & novelist based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire wrote this enlightening, charming & candid portrait of his childhood, & how being able to express himself in negative and in more positive creative ways helped him. I want to thank, Dunc for making my job as an interviewer far too easy.
The Affinity triangle is working on multiple projects in the next upcoming week. I’ll feature them on my website.
In Dunc’s own words ” I write & produce all the music for The Affinity Triangle, sometimes featuring instrumentalists such as Liz Dever on the Violin. Although the latest release from The Affinity Triangle is a Dub Remix of the preceding release, An Saoghal Stuthach (the material world). The song has been remixed by Dark Optics a World/Dub/Triphop producer & an old schoolmate of Dunc’s. Dark Optics is also releasingmusic featuring The Affinity Triangle, the words of Dunc Foster on a track called Pilgrimage. The two hope to collaborate more in the future
His music is described as folk-pop, pop, melodic dub ( with other mixes).
Before going into this I just wanna say that I’ve had lots of fun in my life & found enjoyment in my experiences & in the people I have connected with, my family & friends who I love. Talking about issues which have a negative effect on mental health is gonna draw me to talk about my own little struggles on the path to my current situation. Everyone has different levels of privileges & disadvantages. I’m not comparing my personal experiences to anyone else’s.
Daisy: Duncan doesn’t dwell on the past. It does give me a bit of context. I am conscious that reliving these emotions can bring you down. I think it important to know /identify what you see as negative to your mental health can work in your favour because you know what triggers you and you can start to formulate an action plan to protect your privacy & to assert your boundaries.
I was a free & creatively expressive child. I grew up in a small house with a big garden in Handsworth, Darnall, East Sheffield with my Mum & Dad, an older brother & a younger sister.
We used to draw & craft & make plays & games in the garden. My parents got me & my brother nylon string guitars when I was about 5 & we made our first band, no chords…
We moved to Matlock in Derbyshire when I was about 10 years old & for me it seemed to go downhill from there for a long time… I was a sensitive being & still am, likemost people I assume, until we develop ways of dealing with ourselves & the world around us for better or worse, either accepting & developing or numbing & repressing. I used to write stories & songs & create worlds & games throughout my childhood & teens, back then it was a way of escaping but also I was exploring my experience through creativity.
My brother got a 4-track digital recorder when I was about 12 or 13 & I started using it. We had a bedroom band with a couple of mates but never played outside of it, I recorded my first album ‘Prosaic Mess’ on my own & didn’t show many people, too anxious about their reactions & it made me feel so vulnerable.It was a screechy 13 or 14 year olds voice trying to sound gruff like Kurt Cobain with drum loops from the 4-track & Grungy guitar riffs & bass lines. I was now hooked on creating tapes & album song lists, working out artwork & filling books with scribbly pictures & obscure lyrics expressing my teenage angst & confusion.
My Parents were struggling with work, marriage, drinking & their drawn out break up affected all of us.
The house we’d moved into in Matlock was bigger than the house in Sheffield but it was never decorated, I used to slide down the rolled up carpet down the stairs for the whole 9 tears we lived there. I lived in the attic room where I painted on the crumbling plaster walls & punched holes in them through to the eaves.
This became my sanctuary where I experimented with my identity, my self-expression, my creativity & my exploration of intoxicating substances.
My mates would all gather there along with my little sis’ & sometimes my big bro.
I had severe acne throughout my teens & grew my hair to cover it, I pierced my own ears, I drew spirals & flowers on my t-shirts & all over my stuff, shredded my jeans & sewed all sorts of stuff to them.
There was nothing to help explain the pain & frustration I felt at this age, I believe we pick it up from all around us with our sensitive beings & we carry it with us from trauma, whether ancestral trauma,
family trauma or mations on my dad’s computer. I never really thought about what I was doing it for at the time, I just had to do it, I had so much energy & emotional fuzz inside me & questions & sensations & reflections of the world around me & the things I heard about, that it all had to go somewhere & I dread to think what I would’ve done if I didn’t have my creative nature which my parents encouraged & I thank them for that.
If I wasn’t creating stuff I was out on the streets on my skateboard using my body.
Like a lot of youths with unstable homes I didn’t now how to manage my drug habits & keeping up with my parents drinking was enough to set me off on a self-destructive path, I don’t blame them for that as they were facing the same oppression & the beginning of the same social pressures that my generation is facing now along with all other types of problems that we face in the world on a daily basis.
Everyone has different opportunities in this world & I’m more privileged than a lot of them so I’m not complaining but just because the opportunities are potentially there it doesn’t mean we’re taught or we know how to make the most of them or even realise they are opportunities or privileges, especially when mental health isn’t talked about or dealt with.
So mapping out our experiences & the different energies at play which have an effect on our hearts & minds can really help us to realise why we struggle & what can be positive or negative in our lives & the most progressive ways to deal with it all.
I carried on making music & album artwork year after year, just for myself, it gave me s
couple of days later I got it checked out & the twig had pierced my eardrum & dislocated all the tiny delicate bones which vibrate & send the messages to my brain for hearing. I was finding it impossible to socialize or concentrate on anything, the tinnitus was so intense & my hearing was half missing.
I couldn’t sleep because of the sound & the feeling of dread & every time I started to drop off, screaming dark spirits engulfed the left side of my head & I woke trembling in fear & confusion. I couldn’t enjoy anything for a long time & nobody really understood, I couldn’t communicate my pain & experience & there was nothing for outsiders to see except me twitching out & looking depressed.
I was already more of an introvert than extrovert & this caused me to sink deeper behind my own skin.
My brain slowly got used to my damaged ear & hearing & listening slowly became possible. I had 20% hearing in the damaged ear last time I got it checked, & the tinnitus remained, like a constant reminder, billions of tiny angry voices screaming at me from inside my ear, warping & ringing with different frequencies, turning into words sometimes & shouting at me, really freaking me out. Loud noises would make it crunch & squelch & do all sorts of distracting & nasty stuff.
The lymph-vessel behind my bad ear would pulse intensely & swell up giving me headaches & dizziness. I’d constantly be trying to pop my ear & trying to crack it with jaw movements or just giving into its distraction & fading into it staring into nothing. My mates didn’t believe that there was anything wrong with it, I became full of self-doubt & lost a lot of confidence.
I managed to pull myself out of my self-pity enough to get my sen together & went inter-railing round Europe with a couple of mates & my brother which helped give me some vitality back. I took a little nylon string guitar & got properly back into writing songs which I recorded when I got back, on the same 4-track recorder. The music I produced now was more subdued, still with beauty but sorrowful.
All my mates went to University but I couldn’t relate to any of the courses so I became a self-employed dry stone waller in Derbyshire.
I had found academic subjects pretty easy but none of it meant anything to me. I remember saying to one of my mates, “why can’t there be a science of life? I’d study that.”
I loved the work & being outside all the time, writing songs & ideas for films & stories in little books while I worked but had no understanding of running a business or managing money or myself.
Without my creativity to focus my mind I would’ve only have dark & sinister thoughts pounding my head, loneliness can really mess you up & I felt like I was being surrounded by dark spirits & energies. Matlock wasn’t a good place to live for me, you are looked down on for being ‘different’, there aren’t any opportunities or support for creative people.
The only outlet for the art I was producing was local open mic nights which I slowly build up the confidence to perform at & this gave me more of a reason to work on & refine my songs & performing skills which gave me more purpose creatively & really helped to lift my spirits. Throughout my early twenties I spent a lot of time alone, not really connecting to anyone properly except through taking recreational drugs & drinking, I didn’t have a computer or a smart phone so I didn’t have the internet & didn’t get into connecting online until much later. But somewhere down there I started seeking for whatever was missing, through my creativity I felt like I was touching the edges of it, whatever it was that was lacking from my understanding of life.
I found a book in a bookshop while waiting for a bus back from walling near Bakewell, called ‘the human touch’. I was looking for something to start making sense of the creative ideas I was having & feeling but was afraid of religious looking books. I didn’t read much of it but it blew my mind & made me realise that there were other creative people with different ways of perceiving reality & I felt less alone.
One concept from it stuck with me, ‘the great theatre of space & time’, I took this idea & wrote a film idea based on it & songs inspired by it. I had just read Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ & was inspired by this to write the story about a traveller who hears rumours of this great theatre of space & time & tracks them to a coffee shop in Amsterdam.
The idea was that the owners had found a formula to the big bang & therefore were able to simulate it, moving backwards or forwards in time through a computer simulation, but by smoking a specially grown weed you could tune into the system & travel between dimensions or multiple universes. It was like a hippy version of Alex Garland’s ‘DEVS’ which came out this year funnily enough.
I feel like this was the beginning of my spiritual seeking & evolution, I only needed a tiny bit of information, a slightly different perspective & it was like the sluice-gates were opened & possibilities came gushing in.
If you have a kind & wild creative heart but suffer from loneliness & depression in a spiritually & creatively stagnant place like Matlock in Derbyshire (or probably most of the country…) then the easiest thing to do is self-destruct. An opportunity came up for me in West Yorkshire where my Da’ had moved to, he’d settled into a new life & after suffering from depression he was going back to teach again for the money, even though it was part of the reason for his depression, the pressures on the curriculum & not being free to teach properly.He’d been working for British Waterways in West Yorkshire & had bought an empty narrowboat after him & my Mum split but couldn’t afford to keep it much longer. So I managed to get a job as the lock-keeper on Tuel Lane Deep Lock in Sowerby Bridge & rented my Da’s empty narrowboat in the Marina at Todmorden, which I made homely with wall-hangings & fairy lights & a blow-up mattress & electric heater.This was an amazing escape from the gloom of my existence in Matlock & even though loneliness & booze were my friends it was a step in the right direction & a sense of adventure & change helped me to keep my creativity flowing & therefore my head from imploding.
I saved up to go to Australia & took my demons with me for a year of adventure with music & meeting people & letting myself go crazy with mind-bending acid trips & creative epiphanies on the other side of the globe, ignorant to the state of the culture in Australia (but recently went back with my head screwed on to see it with open eyes & feel it with an open heart).
I didn’t last long back in Matlock after returning to Britain before the darkness crept in & I got myself into some awful states & situations. So I left back up north to Manchester where I crashed around for three months before finding a shared house, knocking on doors for charity fundraisers ‘Home’, which helped crack me out of my shell. From Manchester to Germany to work at a travelling medieval beer festival, then hitch-hiking North Spain & South France with a good friend. People take the piss out of us ‘hippies’ for ‘finding ourselves’ while travelling around but it is a real experience which helps us to get closer to our truths if we are willing to listen & acknowledge the symbolism of the experiences, & to just find out how we react in different situations (recently I walked with a mate from Matlock to Hebden Bridge wild camping over four days, it was physically & mentally challenging & spiritually empowering & the closest thing to a pilgrimage I’ve done. I recommend this wholeheartedly).
Everywhere I went I took an acoustic guitar, I’m self-taught so I learn through my own song-writing & exploration of patterns & ideas so people are always either disappointed that I can’t give them an oasis fix or blown away by my originality. Playing the guitar with no constraints is such a therapeutic practice & one which I will always value, the process of writing a song is always insightful & rewarding, flushing out trapped emotions & finding a wholeness where everything can flow satisfyingly.
Having this community of creatives was so good for me. It allowed me to have a real purpose to my art & an audience who actually cared & wanted more.
I still had lots of mental health issues, still suffering from my damaged ear & problems with drugs & alcohol & went through a big wave of deep paranoia through this time. I think it was all a bit overwhelming, I didn’t feel up to date because I’d been alone for all those years, I thought I was being left out of the bigger picture & everyone was in on something behind my back, smartphone technology freaked me out.
It all sent me off the wall. I pick up on so many little nuances, expressions & body language & symbols in every day experiences & during this paranoia I was hyper-aware & didn’t know what to do with it. The writing was the only way of dealing with it, it was like I was writing my way inside, in through my mind & communicating with my subconscious, searching for my soul which I hoped would have some answers ( definitely more questions & deeper understanding).
I was struggling with my damaged ear while playing loud music too, it took me a while to discover earplugs & by then I’d done a bit more damage than I needed. But either way, rehearsing & playing gigs & getting feedback for my creativity was keeping me going but still, we had no mentors & had no idea how to manage this band or ourselves.
Through my upward struggle with mental health, it was like I delved into the core of my creative self & found a way to bring all my creative ideas together & out to the surface. I called it The Affinity Triangle & developed this concept & my ideas over the years as a solo project. It was a big overwhelming project which I kept trying to simplify into something tangible, something I could work with & interact with & use to connect to other people.
I kept it on the back burner while dealing with the band & everything else going on in my life.
The Tiny Minds finally got our album mixed to a listenable standard after 3 years of having it recorded, struggling with money & organisation. We got some attention from a small label in Leeds, Dance to The Radio, who put one of our tracks on a vinyl compilation & got us 3 support slots with the pigeon detectives, the best gig was at The Leadmill, Sheffield to around 900 people which is still one of my favourite half hours of this life of mine, the crowd loved us & playing songs I wrote to a willing audience dressed up with my hand-painted peach guitar will always stick with me.
The band split up due to fall-outs & creative differences & not having a manager not long after. Since then I have been developing The Affinity Triangle, as much as it is possible to work on my creativity while still being a slave to the system, squeezing it in the gaps of free time. Being an artist who doesn’t come from money in this society is extremely difficult. It’s a full-time job on top of the job you work to survive in the system.
The role of an artist in society is totally undervalued, we are used & abused, art is a huge part of everyone’s human experience, it is our connection with spirit & soul & the invisible things. It teaches us valuable lessons & takes us on journeys to discover parts of ourselves we would otherwise neglect, it reflects our times & shows us visions of the future or ideas from the past. Our perceptions of art are personal, it can reflect our inner worlds so we can better understand ourselves & what we need, to enable us to spiritually evolve & become better people.
In a small thriving community like a tribe, the role of the artists is respected & honoured & they are encouraged & supported in exploring their art as deeply as possible for the good of all the people, as it is naturally known that art is an essential part of the community & vital to the spiritual & mental health of its people.
I feel a big responsibility to never give in to the pressures of this soul-sucking society, I will be an artist for the rest of my life & develop & explore my art as deeply as I can take it, for Peace, Love & Truth.
I am developing an interactive storytelling game, I have finished writing my first book which is a fable inspired story & the first part in a trilogy for people of 12 years & over, the songs I am writing, recording & releasing now are inspired by the concepts & characters in the story & reflect its environment. The process of developing & creating all these ideas which are all intertwined is my spiritual exploration & evolution. I didn’t know about spirituality of any kind until the last eight or nine years when I began to seek it out.
It is always going to be a personal journey but through creativity & development, we can share & inspire other people to find their own way. It is not an easy thing to have feelings & experiences & conversations about something which is taboo in our culture, & often we can feel like outsiders, especially when the majority is sucked in to the religion of ‘modern science’ & technological progression & dogmatic atheism, or the major religions such as Christianity which are just an older means of controlling the masses, but there are people & communities & events which support us on our spiritual explorations.
There is also so much fake spiritual stuff out there too & so much extreme religious dogma that people can be easily put off & mistake creative spirituality for dogmatic religion.
My creative journey & development leads me to research all sorts of beliefs & possibilities & helps me to develop my own ideas about existence. The more I develop it & understand myself & my place & purpose in the world the better condition my mental health becomes, creativity can be a process of nurturing & through it we can learn the values of love & respect & empathy & the symbiotic nature of life, I become more positive the more I explore, my fascination & wonder only grow & I want to find the best way of sharing this experience with other people.
It gives me purpose & a reason to stay healthy & in tune with nature & the universe. I live creatively in every way I can & I’m always learning. I forage for food & plants to make tea from in order to balance the bacteria in my gut & maintain a strong immune system, amongst all the other many health benefits which nature & plants have to offer.
I eat a vegan diet & love cooking, which I have always loved but nowadays I make food-based more on how it makes me feel rather than just the taste.
I practice yoga & breathing & meditation & mantra & speak to my ancestors, all of which helps me to deal with my tinnitus & social anxiety. I approach life with compassion & wonder & a feeling that everything is possible, I believe in everything, existence is multidimensional & it’s all happening at the same time, from billions of different perspectives, which are all a part of the whole as we, ‘existence’, explores itself.
Life is amazing & it can be a struggle sometimes but if we let our hearts be free then we can find positive connections & create better realities. I have faith in the infinite possibilities of the great mystery. All this means that my problems are no longer real problems, there’s always a solution & I live in the moment & deal with them.
I can clearly see now that it was spirituality which was missing from life as a youngster. Education meant nothing to me because there was nothing holding it all together & giving it purpose. The subjects were segregated & meaningless, everything was just about being a part of the system & getting a career to work for it & make money for it. Life is about finding truth wherever we can uncover it & spiritual creativity is my way of doing this.
Duncan Foster has published his debut novel.
I’ve always been skeptical about accessing services such as Samaratins however since I’ve been actively trying to help myself become mentally well again, I reached out via email to find uot more about Samaratins.org and what services they can offer me – I thought I had to be suicidal to get in touch with them.
I’m currently building up a post crisis plan and contingency plan with the Mental health team – my psychiatrist, my Psychiatrist community nurse and support worker and other services in my community to get back on track. I thought I would share my experience on my website blog. This is how it went.
I emailed Jo ( all volunteers are trained and called Jo) to ask for further information. Jo got back to me to ask me for a bit more background and gave me a link to the samaratins.org website.This is what I had to say.
It sounds like you and your CPN are doing great work together.
Samaritans is a 24/7 listening service. We are currently available on the phone, email and by letter. Can I suggest for a more detailed definition of our service you visit our website www.samaritans.org.
Is there anything you would like to talk about tonight, is there anything worrying you or is there something you would like to share with us about how you are feeling?
Erm… well, I have been a long time service user with lengthy inpatient and outpatient stays in the hospital for bipolar, EUPD and chronic anorexia.
I tend to go in a cycle with how I escape from my thoughts and emotions instead of regulating them.
I’m in that place where I’m highly
Motivated to get to the place I was in from 2013- 2017
I achieved more in those few years than in my entire lifetime,
Apart from my career in travel.
I have a lot I want to do with my life and pass on what I’ve found out to help others.
I’ve volunteered my heart out up until 2016 because I was studying my BA at the time. I fought social services, my family and my 9-year-old daughter’s paternal father in court for 16 months. On the 05 may 2015 I addressed the judge myself and she was and is discharged into my care with full parental responsibility & she is a phenomenal child. I can’t believe she is my child.
I was never going to get married nor have children until I hit my 30′ s. Both just seemed ” to happen”. Many traumas and bad relationships, abortion and boom! By the age of 36 married and one 6-year-old.
My eating disorder has always been a big problem for me.. I’ve been starving myself or self-medicating for most of my life.
In 2017 my body nor my mind could take on everything I set out to do. I was volunteering 5 days a week 9- 5 pm. I was asked to do my WRAP co-facilitator course to do workshops; I had completed the first year of my MA 60 credits and a post-graduate in the humanities with high merit. I had been married for a year. My gran died a horrible, drawn-out death over 3 days in March 2017. I had to decide to take my aunt off life support because my Mom didn’t know what to do. My aunt died in our arms( at hospital snowed under morphine a few months later). I had to support my mom who is ill at times and be “there” for her.
My weight was getting low and it gave me a huge buzz. It’s the best high ever. No drug compares in my opinion to feel my bones protrude or the scales getting lower or that power I feel.
Unfortunately, I started self-medicating with illicit substances and I ended up doing one of my worst suicide attempts in March 2018. I insisted on carrying on with the final year of my MA. I had split up with my husband ( we are back together), My daughter was more or less living at my mom’s place more than she was in her own home. Most of the time I didn’t want her to see me out of my head, or out of control.
I was a single mom & My mom reported me to social services in 2018 within two weeks and then went to Miami for 5 weeks for a break! I received my lowest mark to date and I decided to end it. My mom had a hunch because that night I didn’t want my daughter at home with me.
Anyway, 9 hours in ICU and my Mom ( who was once part of my daughter’s care support package that I discovered and used as to persuade the judge I could look after my daughter with the help I had my daughter to look after and I carried on self-medicating and I had to go through a core assessment with a social worker’s (alone this time and I reached out my child’s school for support stop my child from being thrown into a highly flawed social care system. Twice in that year. Mom rang them again when my daughter was at her home.
I made an appointment with the doctor and I walked to the surgery. My mom was complaining about taxi fare etc.. I was hyper however the doctor ” made” my mom ring social services again. Back to 2018
My psychiatrist said I was in psychosis and I think the only reason he didn’t section me is that… I don’t know. He has known me for 15 years! I had my child to look after… I’m still not sure why he didn’t section. I think my then C.P.N. stuck up for me and I was put onto fortnightly injections to show compliance. The side effects were terrible. My mom took me to the hospital to take another medication to counteract the side effects before leaving to go abroad.
It was a rough couple of years from March up until 2019.
I was self-medicating daily I’ve (never been on heroin, or crack or ketamine.
I was in toxic relationships.
I didn’t care about my weight then. My nose was falling apart and I was losing my daughter to my mom at a fast rate.
I still wasn’t dead!
I took a really big overdose in Feb 2020. My former care co-coordinator didn’t think my cries for help were serious. My friend kept me awake on the phone. He wanted to call the ambulance. I begged him not to because of my daughter.
I got back with my husband in early 2019.
We had to get an injunction on a guy I allowed into my life. We weren’t good for one another. I seem to attract men who need me for finances or something…
I need them to be assholes to me to make sure that I can never trust my husband. The one man who has never disrespected me in 9 years and I’ve done a lot of shitty things to him
In May 2020 I had had enough.
I had been studying suicide manuals I found on the internet and decided to follow the overdose step by step guide. I ended up in a coma for 5 days and wired to tubes for a further 5 days in ICU.
For 2 months I was on a high. I was self-medicating on my Eating Disorder again. My mom and I have always clashed I was living with her trying to get away from a home with bad energy.
It didn’t work out with my mom and my daughter and my cat and my husband living at our current home. She threw me out in front of my daughter and as an excuse, I don’t know
I became stuck in my old habits. It was that or my eating disorder. My choice. My mom threatened to take me to court over my daughter numerous times for my drug use. I lost a lot of time with her my daughter.
I lost confidence in my mom Abilities again.
I was spending crazy amounts and stopped caring again. I have reached out to every service in my area and say I’m too complicated. My issues are too ” complex”.
I asked for a new care coordinator ( June 2020) and she saw me in crisis mode for 2 months. In Sept 2020
I put on 1 kilo ( in my head or physically. I was self-medicating so I had stopped bothering about scales.
That day I did something I haven’t done since I wad 17 years old.
I’m 39 in November. I stabbed my right-hand breast repeatedly and my inner thighs. Then bought 2 scales.
I then tried to jump off a well-known bridge for suicide attempts the same night.
My psychiatrist sent two psychiatrists to assess me to under the mental health act section 2 1981. .I think.
Earlier that day,
I walked out of his office screaming at my psychiatrist to discharge me from the enhanced team for people with severe Mental health input.
What was the point in taking prescribed tablets alone when I have been knocking on every door for DBT and therapy?
I spoke frankly with the assessment team and I wasn’t detained
I had a massive blow out 6weeks ago..
My mom had taken my girl away 1 day after we had discussed a plan and strategy and the boundaries and goalposts were moved according to my mom’s mood and demands. I decided f *** it. I was in a bad way and then I fought my mom for my daughter. I got her CPN involved, school. I told her secrets to my family. I betrayed her because I wanted my baby girl back.
She’s been home with me for just over 2 weeks &our bond is good. She is back into a good routine. I’m loving our bond, her age, her interests and her love.
I’ve thrown me into various therapy apps to get better, recovery apps, happy apps, registered to do volunteering again. I’m writing on my website again.
I’ve added a music blog to my website -it focuses on music artists I find and interview them on their career, creativity and thoughts on Mental health and their own experiences. My next feature is ready to publish by early Nov.
I’ve signed up to do loads of volunteering skill courses – peers mentoring etc…
I’m redoing my WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan
Learning DBT on my own.
. I haven’t used illicit substances for 8 weeks and I am higher than I have ever felt.
I’m starving myself again. I don’t like it, hunger, the dedication it takes. I do like the highs and my BMI is down to 17.1. I was living at a 19 – 20 BMI from 2018 until now…
. I’m happy because I’m investing my time in my family and buying us things. It feels good.
I’m mindful of how much I drink because of calories and I can’t drink like I did when I was using. I become ill. I have a protein shake usually 2times a day.
. A few microwaved mushrooms, cucumber( not microwaved) and microwaved onions. And celery and herbal tea to snack on.
I’m very active. I love to keep busy.
Mentally and psychically.
That’s a bit about me.
I don’t know what else to say.
I’ve managed to find a charity who let me have 10 zoom conference counselling sessions for survivors of rape, trauma and sexual abuse. My last session ends next Tues I have rescheduled 3 times!
I don’t feel suicidal and haven’t in 3 weeks.
I don’t have time to ruminate or think about self-medicating in an illegal way. People don’t leave me alone for too long and at this point, I don’t feel suicidal. I feel insanely high on my Eating disorder I’m on a high because I am making positive changes & I have had to cut out my family to be the mother that she deserves and I deserve to be.
I received a lengthy reply with positive feedback back at 3 a.m. this morning. It was an email that served as a soundboard to affirm what has happened and what I am doing with my life. I found it a positive experience I would urge people to use this service even if they don’t feel suicidal .
I remember my first meeting with a mental health charity to collaborate and co-facilitate an anti- Stigma workshop/group that This is what I have been wanting to do for some time and here I am achieving my dreams. When I was back -institutionalized in an Acute ward with Anorexia and Bipolar in 2005. I think that personality trait to help others and organize groups has always been in me.
was am a nightmare patient.
I always refused bed rest and focused my time on doing things like raffles to raise money for a charity shop connected to the Retreat,in York. I ended up raising over £100 in a matter of days with a BMI of 14.5. so about 41 kilograms. , 90 pounds – I’m nearly 5.8.
In other clinics- I was tube fed and restrained -often by up to four nurses.
That is a whole other story and debate.
I met another man who is/was a barrister and he had a complete breakdown. His wife had been cheating on him. I met an artist who expressed her unarticulated pain by painting. I met a woman who had been fighting Anorexia and OCD all her life and who taught me how to put a Christmas tree up.
I had forgotten.
I didn’t know what life was and what it meant to live.
I met a few ladies, not on my unit -The Acorn unit ( the name pun has not gone over my head). They expressed their pain through cutting and self-harm.
Nobody played games. Although some of us, from time to time would get hold of paracetamol and other shit and overdose to liven the humdrum mundaneness of life in an acute ward. I once got caught out on weigh day with fishing scales attached to my paper gown. The staff was quite taken aback with imaginative ways we would come up with to avoid putting on weight. These girls were hardcore. I met so many people.
I met a girl who terrified me. I could tell she had been in hospitals all her life. Her family could absolve themselves of whatever guilt they felt towards their daughter by puttting her in private clinics and the problem was dusted under the carpet.
I had started the process and recovery of eating again and putting on weight. I couldn’t cope. I developed another way to cope, for at least 4 months my day consisted of:
making a coffee
eating more chewing gum
make a cup herbal tea
smoke a cig .
I was on this loop for24 hours /7 days a week -for 4 months.
I was driving myself crazy in a way that was unfamiliar to me. The nurses tried to lock me out of the communal kitchens and one night I flipped out when they tried to grab me so I started throwing stuff around.
I wanted them to help me. The girl who initially terrified me came into the kitchen and sat down on the floor with me and held me for over an hour while, I shed tears for everything I can remember.
All the emotions attached to those memories I had pushed aside. None of these people was violent. We were trying to be understood and to understand ourselves.
I met a young girl with schizophrenia -she dressed like a Goth. Always had headphones in her ears. She was trying to silence the voices. She had been coping well up until her Mother passed away and like any normal person she was traumatized by it and her mental health went a bit off balance again. She was trying to make sense that her mother is dead. She was grieving.
One night a new guy arrived on the scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had that charisma of the kind of guy I always seemed to attract. His eyes were full of spark and mischief. A person you would want on your side. We became friends. We spoke a lot. He did a very Titanic thing and drew a picture of me. Fully clothed. I can’t find the picture to load up. He was still going through the DT’s. I will live with my memory of how the picture looked- possibly very trippy. Ha Ha.
Barry was only staying for 10 days before he went to ‘a dry out clinic further up the coast. I don’t know what happened inside me but I didn’t want him to go.
He was a lot older than me but we did everything together.I got him painting again. I know he had just got out of prison but he was so talented. I begged the nurses and psychiatrists to let him stay.
‘Look! Look! how talented he is! He needs help from you’.
Our last night before we parted ways. We sat in the smoking lounge and watched ‘Pulp fiction’. I know this may make some people reading this go .. erm………what?
I lay my head down in his lap and he played with my hair. For me, the act was more like a father gesture. I suspect for Barry it could have been different.
He wrote loads of letters and planned to come to visit me. The nurses censored my post and turned him away.
I often wonder what happened to him.
I get angry that just because he was an in and out of prison for many reasons- he was denied the rehabilitation that I received. He had issues. I am no innocent.
I feel he could not have benefited from a recovery type community setting rather than prison. It’s not my place to say what he did, I don’t want to remember.
It would have ruined the fact that I found feelings inside me. I could laugh again, I could cry. I was real. I felt like a human being and not some freak with Anorexia. Anorexia took second place and I wanted it to always take second place. I felt real.
So back to the Anti-stigma workshop, I am doing. I can’t wait. I have a passion. I have the drive. This is my new chapter. I did have a beautiful picture Barry drew of a dragonfly but I guess moving around a lot means that I have lost other precious memories. I am finally in a position to help other people. I’m not letting this opportunity getaway.
Who is this lady? She is elderly, yes. A grandma,a mother a sister, an aunt, a great grandmother. I don’t know. I have forgotten. Hang on a minute… Aaah yes there was this one time that I was sat in her house -plush, ‘propre’ , stylish and I couldn’t sleep. I kept on getting up to go to the cupboard on the far right of la cuisine that housed all the gigantic Cadbury’s chocolate. I ate and I ate and I ate some more. I always seemed to be able to eat more.
I didn’t it like it when she bought the dark kind. So bitter. So classy, so not me.
But back to la cuisine. Footsteps pander lightly behind me. I turn and look around and I look into the eyes of a lady with pure class-sans maquillage. This seems to counter my non- class evolved youthfulness. The lady asks me a question ‘Ca Va?
I’m expected to answer with the same ‘ca va.’ but it is something like 3 am in the morning. Obviously ‘ca va’ is not appropriate for this setting.
I don’t know why I can’t sleep, I confess. I’ve shoved a load of pills down my throat in an effort to be like the one whom I shall refer to as the Manic depressive. The lady sits me down and makes me a Sleepytime tisane – . Good herbal shit. We sit at the kitchen table with our ‘Sleepytime’ tea, I can’t remember what we talked about.
I have a habit of forgetting things, you see. It is so frustrating. I go back to bed feeling cared about. Why didn’t I feel grateful then?
No regrets. Have no regrets. Okay. I try not too. I wish I had paid more attention, then maybe I wouldn’t forget so much.
I can hear her laughter in that loud roomy part of my brain, it’s threatened me it will become a real auditory sound that knocks me sideways with fright turning me into a paranoid wreck.
I have to remember that laugh. She used to laugh at my jokes. She loved me. She told me she loved me all the time.
She also loved another – another woman-my mom. Angelic looking, graceful, naive and I don’t know – wonderful? This lady helped me out with the angelic-looking lady. Yes, I remember, one poignant night, the angelic-looking manic depressive and I had a vicious fight. I took a braai fork to her neck. I was fucking going out to drink and get strung out on drugs and Miss Manic Depressive could mope in her stupid illness and fuck right off.
Well, she took that big FU literally. We had this stock of prescription pills that could take our local pharmacy out of business – bad joke- that’s why I rely on comedians for such amusements (Omid Djalili and Gabriel Iglesias being two of my favourites ). Nothing like a next-day hangover and a shrill ringing phone to make me grab a handful of downers. I’m not ready for the sunshine just yet- maybe not ever. The lady on the other end of the phone wants to know if the manic depressive is okay. Of course, she is ok……
I turn over
…but she isn’t. She is one tunnel turn away from death. I need some Rohypnol and valium and I need that lady on the end of the phone.
She says she is going to get the next one hour flight from JHB airport to Durban and I need to get the manic depressive to a hospital. I don’t have health insurance. I’m 15 years old.
A cocky shit who obviously knows it all but nevertheless in my narked upstate I somehow manage to get the angelic Manic Depressive a space in a run-down public hospital in Africa – in a- I kid you not – broom closet. Sick people were lying on the floors, covered in congealed blood, in the corridors of this hospital. So I count my blessings that we had some type of room and a bed.
The lady meets me at the hospital. It’s touch and go. We are rooting for survival on this one. Black tar leaks down out through a tube from some part of the manic depressive’s body.
She is okay- stable.
She is in a coma.
The Lady transfers her to a more upmarket private hospital. She has the master card. We spend the night next few days at the Oyster Box hotel – in a chalet. She takes on me and my two cats. Lilac and Mocha- and we all sleep in the same bed united by our love for the angelic manic depressive one.
We don’t know if she is ever going to walk again. I mean it was an overdose with powerful intent. No, pithy cry for help as some believes a suicide attempt is. The angelic manic depressive has a new name angelic, rapid cycler Bipolar.lady in The other lady is my grandma- as you probably have figured out. We go and see her every week. She broke her hip back in Feb 2015 and can’t walk anymore.
Okay… so that happens with a lot of old people. Yeah, but this lady, my grandma has been stripped of her dignity, identity, memories, and she can’t remember she can’t walk. She is stuck on a loop – every few moments she tries to get up and screams in frustration when she can’t. This lady sitting in the middle is my relationship with someone I love who has Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
I know I’m not writing something fucking profound but she means something to me and her family. She is living a world with no faces, no colour and the world speaks another language to her. How is she meant to interpret all this shit?! People talking. Loudly?
Other elderly people not moving- crying, shouting, fondling themselves to remember that they too can feel. My Chronic Anorexia 10 stone self could envy my grandma’s current weight. 5 stone if that. She forgets how to eat. Imagine that?
What type of existence is this?
This is where I get political. Let people die with dignity.
I signed up for the campaign years ago. Who is this lady? She is so much more than she looks. She has had a life people probably can’t even dream up and a life where people would also be horrified how she survived such heartache, ( love is the answer here, folks) but for today we can’t go back into the past too much without forgetting. I don’t want to forget, not today. Those two memories I can hang and frame in the gallery of my mind. They are mine. No one can take them away from me but Alzheimer’s can. Dementia too. You know what really makes me sick about all this? When a person with these illnesses die, Alzheimer’s and Dementia don’t take the credit. The diagnosis of death is usually a secondary symptom. How twisted and messed up is that?
Does she remember her husband? Where does she go?
I should have been a Neuroscientist or something. I want to know what is going on in her head and fix it. All clichés but they are my clichés for today. Can you believe people are being diagnosed with these maladies at as young as 25 years of age?
I would rather choose to die than have everything taken from me. Would my Grandma say the same? I wish I had asked her.
Me: ‘So Gran, let’s talk about something so morbid as to how you would like to die.. ‘
I’m putting it out there. Me? I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want to feel pain and I don’t want to not be understood. That is not living that is stuck between two perverse worlds. I want my family to pay the ferryman and for him to take the money and take me along the river Styx to Elysium and let me die with dignity.
Information on the dying dignity campaign http://www.dignityindying.org.uk
There are many types of Child Abuse
Emotional Abuse can be hard to spot and is easy to miss the signs.
- humiliating or constantly criticising a child-
When my Mom was in a Domestic Violent Relationship with my ex step father he would constantly tell me I was chubby, too clingy.
- threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names
- making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child
- blaming and scapegoating
My ex -step father would shout at me for wanting to be close to my mom. He would drag me into my bedroom -my mom would stick up for me and she would get the brunt of my tantrums, clinginess, my eating issues.
- making a child perform degrading acts
- not recognising a child’s own individuality or trying to control their lives
- pushing a child too hard or not recognising their limitations
My ex step father’s idea of teaching me how to swim was to grab hold go me, jump into the swimming pool and stay under the water until I thought I would pas out. He would do this as a joke in front of his friends and laugh at me for being so scared. I was 5 years old
- exposing a child to upsetting events or situations, like domestic abuse or drug taking
My ex step father used to beat my mom up regularly because she dared to challenge him for cheating on her constantly ,for getting a 15 year old pregnant. He was always high and there were always parties going on with strange men and women around. I used to try and defend my mom until I became too afraid. I used to barricade myself in my bedroom. I would wait until he came home from work and hide under the bed.
- failing to promote a child’s social development
- not allowing them to have friends
- persistently ignoring them
I felt like my life was irrelevant. I wasn’t worth anything. I remember having an argument with my mom. She was struggling with her Mental health and the abuse. She came home from work when I was 5/6 years old. I was dressed up in her wedding dress and having fun. She screamed at me to get out her room .She was crying, I didn’t want to be away from her. She locked me out of the room because I started to have a tantrum. I went to the kitchen and got a knife out of the drawer and went to her bedroom door and yelled I was going to stab myself if she didn’t open the door. No reply. I heard her crying. I felt alone and that I couldn’t help her.
- being absent
When I felt helpless and angry. I would act out. I would binge on food, wet the bed conrantly and go and sleep with the dogs in the kitchen. I recall one day feeling so worthless and useless that I couldn’t make my mom better or please my ex step father that I packed a suitcase falloff toys and clothes. I needed to get away. I walked down the driveway (to my child self -it looked like I was walking a long way from home), When I reached the end of the driveway I looked left, right, I looked across the road and I thought to myself: What do I do now? I prayed that a car with two nice people would stop and pick me up and take me away from where I was. That didn’t happen. I had to accept my defeat and I walked back up the drive way angry. No body knew I had disappeared and I didn’t get the attention I wanted.
- manipulating a child
Manipulation can be so subtle. I recall a time when my mom had found out about another affair that my ex stepfather had. He turned up from work with a puppy for me. I was over the moon.
- never saying anything kind, expressing positive feelings or congratulating a child on successes
- never showing any emotions in interactions with a child, also known as emotional neglect.
SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE IN OLDER CHILDREN
- use language you wouldn’t expect them to know for their age
- act in a way or know about things you wouldn’t expect them to know for their age
- struggle to control their emotions
- have extreme outbursts
- seem isolated from their parents
- lack social skills
- have few or no friends.
EFFECTS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE
- wanting attention or becoming clingy
I never wanted to leave my moms side. I refused to go to school. I would have tantrums and do anything to be heard.
- not caring how they act or what happens to them
I became a child who started walking home from school on my own from 5/6 years old. I remember a group of older boys pushing me about and touching my breasts and vagina.
- trying to make people dislike them
I didn’t feel very likeable or good about myself so I pushed people away from me. I didn’t feel Could trust people and even today I will show people the worst parts of me to protect myself.
- developing risky behaviour, like stealing, bullying or running away.
The first time I stole anything was a 5 rand note from my mom so I could buy myself and people in my class sweets at the tuck shop. My ex step father refused to allow me to eat sweets because I was too ‘chubby’. I ran away from home many times as a teenager to get away from my mom when I was a teenager and my Nan and my Dad who refused to acknowledge me. I didn’t want my family to dictate to me. I didn’t want them to tell me they knew what was best for me. I wanted to escape and drugs and being around strange men seemed like the right answer.
EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROBLEMS
- feeling, expressing and controlling emotions
- lacking confidence or causing anger problems
- finding it difficult to make and maintain healthy relationships later in life
- higher levels of depression and health problems as adults compared to those who experienced other types of child abuse.
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
- mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts
I went on to develop serious mental health issues. I developed social anxiety from a young age. My first suicide attempt was at 12 years old
- eating disorders
I became obsessed with my weight. I couldn’t deal with my weight issues and I started taking diet tablets at the age of 15 years old. I abused cocaine and mandrax and ecstasy -any drug to stop me from thinking about food. I used to demand my mother take me to doctors to prescribe diet pills for me even though I was thin. I had huge problems and I eventually developed Chromic anorexia. I was sectioned twice in the U.K. In 2007 I develop Bradycardia. My BMI was 14. My weight was 39 kilograms. I wanted to die.
I don’t know why I felt the need to cut my legs in my Nan’s kitchen when I was 12/13. I didn’t know how else to express myself. When I lost my virginity to a guy who had left his ex and promised to date me and be with me. The next night his ex, myself and him herein his car and he chose his ex over me. I flipped. I couldn’t deal with the pain, the headache and I cut myself with a bottle neck and became uncontrollable.
- language development
- problems forming healthy relationships.
If you want to help some one who is being abused in all its forms or to help some one who is self harming.