BACK LIVES MATTER

Some information.

Notes:

  • Keep the topic alive. Continue talking about it, posting about it, and unashamedly calling out all and any racism without hesitation.
  • Regarding trends: do keep the hashtags living. However, do not share posts on any platform that are not informative or useful. This includes “blackout” or “muted” posts: the point of this is to silence non-BLM content from being overshadowing what is happening. If you choose to post these, refrain from using BLM hashtags, as it only floods them and hides what needs to be seen. Tags such as #amplifymelanatedvoices help show your support without blocking important information outlets.
  • Be informed. Never stop learning. Never stop paying attention.
  • Do not share images or names of protesters. This is a safety precaution, not an Insta post trend. They will be found and charged.
  • Practice self care, and assist others in theirs. Racism is trauma. Notice black friends and strangers alike, and show them indiscriminate kindness. Black mental health matters.
  • Be loud. We will not be silenced. Tell everyone. Share every useful resource you find. Sign petitions, donate, and protest. We will be heard. 

Petitions:

Donate:

Donate (Australia based charities): 

Protests in Australia:

Further resources:

You have a voice. Use it. 

Part VI | Love

Part VI | Love

Trigger warning all things psych ward.

Come Monday morning, I feel sick.

My head continues to spin from my medications being switched, upped, skipped, and halved by the daily. Being forced to stay awake until ten to pop more pills seems to be my own personalised form of torture, much like eating mystery calories in a room with twenty strangers, and being unable to go for walks, only seeing the sun when I’m willing to sit in a haze of other patients’ cigarette smoke and coughing.

I’m feeling restless. The group therapy, psychologists, and every other promised facility has been put on hold, and although the pills they give me help me maintain my sleep, my nightmares have only become increasingly vivid, graphic, and inescapable. I wonder if I’d be better off pulling all-nighters than suffering through my demon-infested REM cycle.

However…grotesquely cheesy as it may be, there’s one thing that works.

In the first ward I stayed in, my love could visit for four hours at a time, during which we’d fit in my lukewarm and watery “curry” dinner, the latest Slapped Ham videos, and for me, a nap in his arms. Now, only thirty minutes being up for grabs per-day (although the nurses definitely pick favourites, and often have him stay for an hour), I’ve felt too guilty to “waste” our time together by being asleep.

On this particular evening, my love holds me as I cry. I let it out…all of it. He wipes away my tears, brushes my hair so gently my skin becomes laced with goosebumps, and tucks me into bed with my Pusheen sleep mask and Netflix playing on his phone. With my head on his chest and his fingers in my hair, I fall asleep by 6 o’clock.

He kisses my head before he leaves.

“So,” said the nurse as she led him to the door, “Did you work your magic?”

“She’s out like a light.”

I don’t awaken ‘til morning.

Patients and nurses alike have told me so many times that I had something special. “I came to check on you and saw him brushing your hair”, one said to me. “That one’s a keeper.” 

He is home. 

Part V | The gang gets analysed!

Part V | The gang gets analysed!

Trigger warning — all things psych ward.

Easter Sunday

One day spent in silence has promptly led to another, my Sunday spent curled up in bed, only leaving my room for medications and more green tea. An unintentional rant to my beloved arranges my thoughts enough to give my afternoon nurse the TL;DR.

“I’ve been out of my comfort zone for a whole week straight. I’m tired, I’m scared, and I miss my own bed.”

He listens with genuine sadness in his eyes, nodding in understanding. He reads the room (i.e I wish to be alone and cry in peace), reminds me he’s there if I need anything, and leaves me alone with my Netflix and books.

 

For whatever reason, I’d never previously considered taking a “mental health day” whilst in a psych ward. It’s a term so often explained in relation to work that it’s easy to forget my place of employment isn’t what needs escapingit’s illness.

Over many years of drearily pressing on, I have come to terms with the fact that mental illness doesn’t go away…we just learn how to wrangle, manage, and deal with it.

In other words, “recovery” isn’t a finish line.

It’s survival.

After dinner, I fall to pieces. I cry for an hour to my beloved boy, who spends his daily visit brushing my hair, kissing my forehead, and holding me in his arms as I weep. It feels as though only minutes have passed by the time he has to leave.

I have felt so far from at peace for so many long days…I can ignore the toll that it’s taking no longer.

I am perpetually surrounded by strangers, being checked on by nurses every hour, on the hour…even when I’m asleep. I’ve no private place to scream or cry, and COVID has made certain of new rules against taking leave or going for group walks. Group therapy has been canned ’til further notice, and any remaining mental health professionals have scurried home to celebrate some first-century Galilean having risen from the dead. The tomb is empty, hallelujah, etc. More chocolate, anyone?

Aforementioned virus also prevents me from having more than one visitor, period, thus I haven’t seen a loved one other than Sean for a week. I’m forced to eat alongside all of these strangers, at set times each and every day, with no control over how my food is prepared or what goes into it, as well as report how much I’ve eaten each dayall things incredibly triggering. It’s really not the hospital’s fault in this case, but fuck…can’t I catch a break?

Being the empath I am, I see the agony in the eyes of other patients and I feel it in my soul. I hear them crying, screaming, begging the world to slow down, and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. It hurts to see so many kind faces and know that we’re all here for the very same reason: because we didn’t want to be anywhere.

Every part of me is trying to be strong; to eat my meals in full, to not argue when they ask me to eat sugar when my blood pressure is low (which has been always, sans panic attacks), and to tell the truth when a new doctor arrives and asks me to re-list my diagnoses and trauma.

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

(J. R. R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 1954.)

The novelty of bestowing all my responsibilities upon another has worn off. The respite has been beautiful and so, so needed, but I’m getting desperate to take back control. It was a loss of control that landed me here in the first placebeing trapped in isolation with no end date in sight, I was terrified. Now, the scenario is repeating, as our cyclic universe is known to guarantee. My days tick by emptily, hours spent wondering when I’ll next be asleep in my big, cosy bed, four cats and my beloved curled up around me.

Try as I might to nap, I’m not even able to sleep at my usual hour. Night medications aren’t dispensed until 10, no exceptions.

I miss home.

I miss blankets that don’t smell like hospital, being able to see the window from my bed, and feeling safe in my own space. I miss choosing when to socialise and when not to. I’m so, so appreciative of the nurses that have helped me, for every little thing they’ve done…but my heart is saying I need to move on.

I’ll be safe at home.

An intermission

An intermission

This is a success story.

Last night, doped up on a quadruple dose of quetiapine and patiently awaiting temazepam’s sleepy wonders, I expended my every last iota of energy on writing a Facebook post. I asked for whatever my loved ones and strangers alike could manage, be it loose change or spreading the word, and created a birthday fundraiser for Lifeline.

I awoke this morning not only to an inbox bursting at the seams with love, kindness, and well wishes, but to my $300 goal already surpassed. Over breakfast it broke $435. It’s been less than 12 hours.

I have received messages from those I barely know, Tinder matches I never speak to, acquaintances I haven’t heard from since primary school, and dear old friends with which I’ve unintentionally lost contact.

He’ll never boast, so I’ll do it for him: the first donor was my Dad. One hundred and fifty dollars.

I fucking cried.

Thank you.

Update: the number has since surpassed $800. There are still some days left to donate. Every cent counts.

Part IV | Inescapable

Part IV | Inescapable

Trigger warning — mentions of depression, suicidal ideation, self harm, eating disorders, personality disorders, and all things psych ward.

Good Friday.

I’m awake at 5:30 as usual, all sleep assistance thoroughly drained from my veins—50mg quetiapine, 30mg temazepam, and all the cement-bed, waffle-blanket cosiness in the world still insufficient for a 7am sleep-in.

I sit by a beautifully rainy view of the courtyard, my notebook and a dandy chai before me as I study ye olde linguae Latinae.

A sense of calm washes over me.

Finally, peace.

Soon, 8am hits and the day begins: the scent of fresh toast and butter fills the air, the lounge soon bursting with laughter, prescriptions, and the checking of vitals. Banter among patients teaches me who is a mother, a lesbian (“reformed wife to a husband”), a smoker, or indulges in a little too much Diet Coke (now a chance for me to show my gratitude for yesterday’s score), as well as who is Catholic, Jewish, or just celebrates Easter for the chocolate. I decide to bite my tongue amid the sharing, doubtful the situation calls for my enthusiasm re: Satanism, witchcraft, and the occult, but they appreciate my company nonetheless.

This is the first time I feel any type of “normalcy”. I talk the morning away with my newfound friends, laugh along into my cup of black coffee, a dichloramine-scented blanket wound tightly around my shoulders. It goes unnoticed when I return my breakfast tray to its place on the trolley, food soggy, cold, and untouched.

It’s not until later that reality hits.

I chat with a doctor in the interview room, and the post-discomfort adrenaline is all too quick to settle.

Words flood my ears that my mind has always worked so hard to suppress—self harm, suicide, sexual assault, BPD, anorexia. The eating disorder I spent so long shyly excusing as no more than recurrent fussy eating, I’m now forced to be openly and adamantly aware of. Before I can think up a viable reason for them not to track my nutritional intake, I’m handed a menu to write up my “safe foods”, multivitamins and levothyroxine now added to my morningly bundle of pills.

The doctor leaves, and I fall apart.

I think about Autumn, my favourite season, being wasted on hospital grounds. I think of my cats, my friends, and my family. I think of my upcoming two year anniversary, the one I’ve begged staff to promise I’ll be discharged for, and the concept of spending it alone. I think about my birthday five days later, the celebration COVID already caused me to cancel, now emptied of Black Forest cake and horror movies with my family…I think of age 23, eating flavourless custard, not a Blink-182 reference in sight.

What if they don’t think I’m well enough? What if I’m not well enough?

I’ve always known my mental illness was damaging. I’ve endured the loss of relationships, schooling, and a great deal of my teenage years caught firmly in its grasp.

But being reminded of the fact has never hurt more.

I didn’t want this for myself. I didn’t choose it. I was genetically predisposed to be the bearer of these illnesses, which have coincidentally been worsened by a collective of bullshit trauma. I didn’t ask for any of it. The truth is, I’m fucking terrified.

It feels as though the earth is crumbling.

Part III | Books in bags

Part III | Books in bags

Trigger warning — all things psych ward.

I sit in the communal area of the mental health unit, staring blankly at the coffee-stained paper cup I’ve maintained for four days straight.

“Do you recycle these?” I had shakily asked the nurse in the emergency department, cradling diazepam in a tiny polypropylene beaker.

He scrunched his nose. “I wish I could say yes.”

“For the sake of my mental health, then, I guess I’ll pretend that you did.”

I’ve since winced at every plate, fruit cup, and dining utensil I’ve touched, shuddering at the sight of banana peels laying in the same bin as scrap paper and soft plastics…oh, the woes of a mentally unstable environmentalist.

After days of rejecting soy pudding (the fridge is now piled high…you’re welcome, late-night snackers of the ward), and nights of either sleeplessness or temazepam-fuelled slumber, I’ve been informed it’s time to take my books and slippers elsewhere. The mental health system is flawed—oh-so fucking flawed—but I sheepishly agree to their urging, knowing that a different setting, more specialists, and group therapy might be in my best interest.

The girl I felt I’d semi-befriended arrives at the exit beside me, and I’m dazed with a sense of relief. Fuck being alone in this.

I hand her a folded page from the same colouring book I’d lent her—thinking I might never see her again, I had coloured it and written some words of encouragement. She smiles.

I barely hold back from puking as we enter the elevator, agoraphobia sending panic screeching through my (aptly named) nervous system. My breathing hitches as I stifle my gags, my body convulsing for the entirety of the car ride.

In a weak attempt at distraction, as well as some kind of necessary heroism, I tell the “Are you autistic?” nurse about a new patient who’d been relentlessly abusing every patient in the ward—screaming at us, hurling shit across the room, and point blank insulting our looks, clothes, and illnesses whilst the hospital staff watched and did nothing.

“She has problems,” he responds.

Yeah…we all do.

Said nurse that I appreciate but am not necessarily fond of leads us to the entrance, offering us two rounds of hand sanitiser each.

“We can’t use the outside entrance because of COVID, so we’re going to have to walk through most of the hospital to get there.”

I briefly regret sporting my Kmart-bought monster slippers, but soon remember Maya Eshet’s Pearl and her cosy assortment of pink, fluffy, pony-related…well, everything.

It helps.

“Good thing I wore my walking boots,” I say, earning a laugh from my co-patient, and follow them up the staircase.

With shaking hands and twenty eight teeth very nearly ground to dust, I finally arrive. I’m shown to a room with a wall of shelves with a built-in desk, a whiteboard and marker (that would later be wreathed in hand-drawn roses alongside a love letter from my significant other), and a slightly less cement-hard bed to sleep in.

Although my first hours are spent dry retching into a puke bag, it’s not long before I’m laughing along with my newly assigned nurse, making jokes and bitching about my old GP’s ineptitude regarding all things mental health. She takes my height at 161cm (and here I’ve been calling myself 163…) and arranges a specially made vegan dinner. Some (actually spicyfuck yes!) pumpkin curry and befriending strangers (via yelling at television game shows) later, and I find myself actually smiling. Here feels less like a cell for the mentally disturbed, and more like a home for those who just want to find their fucking feet.

It’s the little things: chatter between patients wearing their waffle blankets as shawls, sunflowers and carnations in vases atop round tables, dotted with unfinished puzzles and half-read books. I sip green tea by the courtyard window and soon help myself to a Diet Coke from the fridge, labelled “Free 2 Good Home”. Maybe the shit show isn’t so bad, after all.

Part II | Not a Netflix original

Part II | Not a Netflix original

Trigger warning — all things psych ward.

I run this blog for several reasons—to journal, yes, but that can be done in any old notebook. The importance of publicity, to me, is sharing: breaking down the stigma, becoming a faceless voice on the internet that’s unafraid to get into the nitty, gritty, ugly shit, telling strangers and loved ones alike that they’re miles from alone in this. It’s okay that your life doesn’t play out like a movie.

For the first few days, I felt as though I were a zombie. I didn’t know the date, disoriented from coming in late on a Sunday night and remaining sleepless until Monday, during which I did nothing but snooze. It’s taken all of my current brain power to realise that being awoken Monday evening led to my first meal in over 24 hours.

Time became slow and distorted, much like it had when I’d initially found myself off work, apart from friends, and cornered into self isolation (oh COVID, you are truly agoraphobia with a gun). Days fluttered by as I decayed beneath the sheets, only it didn’t flow like some beautiful time lapse; there was no sweet music and not a pink sunrise in sight. Minutes felt like hours, hours like days, and days like an entire lifetime each.

My medicinally induced slumbers were restless and agonising; I’d awake from nightmares already lost in a panic attack, haggard silhouettes lurking in corners, brittle fingernails tapping incessantly at the underside of a creaky wooden bed frame.

I had wanted to get myself out there; to socialise, engage, and find comfort amongst the cell-like concrete walls. I wanted my experience to be like those slice-of-life TV shows or nostalgically written journal entries, quirky characters and funny memories; adventures garnished with happy endings.

I couldn’t.

After the sheer intensity of emotions that had been battering my brain, I had become numb. Food was tasteless, books were boring…symptoms I’ve become used to after many a repeated cycle, but unwelcome feelings nonetheless.

Many silent breakfasts came and went, each other meal being consumed (even if only partially) atop my solid mattress, blinds closed and doors locked shut. Comfort in confinement, I had thought to myself. The silence was both eerie and deafening, the buzz of 7 News being an equally shitty alternative.

Bad vibe.

As days went on, I faced my fears and made a friend. Not in the sense of “Hey, I’m Shae, what’s your name?”, but rather sheepish smiles and coincidentally adjacent breakfast trays.

Young and beautiful, seemingly dealing with burdens not at all unlike my own, I offered her whispered greetings on the daily, alongside all the comforts I could think of—eating together, borrowed colouring books, or the spine-chilling act of talking about it.

She accepted the books.

The only other patient I spoke to was a young lad, an artist with a steady hand and the vocabulary of a dictionary. He unscrambled the 9-letter word on the whiteboard in seconds as nurse and I stared, eyes wide with disbelief.

“Impotency.”

I loved the way he accepted little wins such as this: hands stuffed in his pockets, demeanour silent and smug. It was the only time he seemed okay with just being him.

“What’s it mean?” asked the nurse.

He shrugged.

Being the person I am, I described it in detail.

Part I | Limn Girl

Part I | Limn Girl

I wrote a lot of words in the psych ward.

When I say “a lot”, I’m talking thousands, and when I say “psych ward”, I mean the home I’d implicitly hated, yet still, am both heartbroken and frightened to have parted with.

I’ve cropped my delirious prattling into slightly smaller, more palatable portions (sans the shit bits), and split them into several parts. I’ll be posting them all over the next few days.

As always, thank you for reading.

Stay safe, love bugs.

Part I | Limn Girl 

Trigger warning — blood, self harm, needles, and all things psych ward.

I sit in silence in my temporary home, jumping out of my skin each and every time a door latches shut, a nurse peers at me through the doorway, or I mistake the protruding wall outside for a truck barrelling towards my third-story window…which, for some reason, is often.

I don’t think it’s news to anybody who knows me, but I have this undying urge to romanticise everything. I often consider it a good thing…but at times, it becomes nothing short of toxic.

I try to romanticise my recovery. To-do lists scrawled in cursive, aesthetically motivational Pinterest boards, and poetic blog posts about my scented-candles-tarot-and-crystals-drinking-honey-soy-chai-by-the-fireplace “self care” days. And, it works. I feel proud of myself when I’ve made a tough phone call, or worked an eight hour shift, just to come home and write about how “worth it” it’s going to be. It gives me that sense of accomplishment that doesn’t always come naturally.

My downfall, however…is my inability to drop it. I’ve trained myself so irreversibly to promote self love, growth, and moving forward that when it comes to the ugliness of mental illness, I forget to drop the facade. It’s damagingnot just to me, but to my readers, friends, and family. I guess I’ve always felt that if I faked being fine, I’d feel it. But even now, tucked safely away in the mental health ward, I’ve been lying: hiding bits food that I’m too scared to eat, telling nurses I feel fine as they take my vitals, staring at my skyrocketing blood pressure. Even knowing they’re here to help, that they “get it”, that they’ve dealt with far worse than a wee panicky lassie such as myself, and that they’ll offer me diazepam at the drop of a hat. And the cherry on top? It still feels like I’m faking. I don’t really need to be hereit’s just for the attention, right?

Classic personality disorder shit.

Last night was—typically—a lot. Psychotic episodes, screaming, a patient banging on my door at the ripe hour of 2am seemingly for the fuck of it…said screaming and banging then triggering another patient’s panic attack, shortly followed by my own, and oh, how I wish the spiralling had ended there. My room being adjacent to the exit, I’ve a front row seat for every attempted escape, reluctant admission, and security interference that goes down…every night means dinner and a show.

Despite it all, it’s not so much my own fear that worries me: the first thing I asked today as they took my vitals was if everyone was okay. Am I even allowed to ask that? I’m not sure why I keep getting up to help when I know they’re just going to send me back to bed, as always.

The reality of psych wards, whilst incorrectly demonised by many, is still not a pretty one. I wasn’t taken by the hand to find a cosy, pillowy safe haven, but instead was granted a mattress seemingly made of cement; something less than enjoyable post-peeling the bloodied pyjama shorts from my thighs. I cried in my Mummabear’s arms as they gave me a tetanus shot, and bit my lip so hard it bled when they later took two vials of blood. The meld of quetiapine, diazepam, and the memory loss-inducing delirium of dissociative anxiety were not nearly enough to quell my fear.

As I write I’m covered in deep bruises, skin pale with malnourishment, slashed thighs burning no matter how I lay.

I feel inhuman.

They give me lactose free butter and milk with every meal. I still haven’t the heart to tell them that the introduction of lactase does not, in any universe, equate to vegan. One nurse saw my World of Warcraft shirt and asked if I was autistiche wasn’t trying to be funny, but it came off just as uncomfortably. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if the outside world still exists…did it ever?

I miss outside. I miss my cats. I miss eating meals that taste more like food than water. I miss sleeping not to the sound of bloodcurdling screams outside my bedroom door, but to my beloved’s sleepy murmurs as he tells me that he loves me.

Nevertheless, here I sit, knees-to-chest on a stained and grimy hospital chair. I ponder those who came here before me: the tears that were shed, hair torn from scalps, hallucinations stared at in horror. I wonder whether others have seen the same things that I do—gaunt silhouettes in corners, pale faces pressed against foggy glass. I wonder if they’ve heard the same whispers, or those sickly disembodied voices.

It’s all a little weird to think about.

Songs that feel like spending midnight drunk and alone on an empty highway

Songs that feel like spending midnight drunk and alone on an empty highway

Set your soul free.

  • The Ringtones — Greenwich Village
  • Limn Girl — Closed Captions
  • Joji — Medicine
  • N u a g e s — Dreams
  • Clams Casino — I’m God
  • Bonjr — It’s Ok, You’re Ok
  • Sleep Party People — I’m Not Really Human At All
  • Son Lux — Easy
  • Shiloh Dynasty — I Know You So Well
  • N u a g e s — Closer
  • MRKRYL — Something Like This But Not This
  • Flatsound — Hummingbird

Quicksand

Quicksand

As I sink into the swamps of depression once more, I’m feeling bewildered. What usually comes in waves of fog and dark clouds feels more like quicksand; it’s not dark, nor gloomy…it’s suffocating, hot, like being locked away in a furnace.

Maybe it’s just the anxiety.

With a hundred remedies tried and tested, at the ready for round seven hundred and sixty eight…I’m exhausted to say they’re just not fucking working. I’m staring bitterly at my glass of effervescent pills (minty rat poison-tasting motherfuckers), half wanting to laugh at all the times I’ve gone to bin them, and half wanting to cry because I know what’ll happen if I do. (As if the social stigma, side effects, inspiration culling, and costliness weren’t enough, the pharmaceutical gods continue to berate me: yes, malevolent beings, insist I sip your mouldy herb elixir like a fucking Negroni.)

The world feels strange. Streets and shopping aisles are empty, offices are on lockdown, my friends are losing their jobs, quitting their studies, unable to pay rent…the entire world has come to a standstill, and yet, it keeps turning. I’ve been too overwhelmed to even write: I lay in bed day in and day out, staring at blank screens and listening to junkies be arrested outside my window. I’ve tried so hard to make this house a home: spices in jars, herbs hanging to dry, the glow of my salt lamp, a Dusk peach candle, and many, many crystals and Aēsop goodies…I’ve even stuck my hands in the barren dirt of the communal vegetable garden, praying to the skies my bare fingers wouldn’t snag a needle. A lot happens around here.

But, this is where I am. I’ll keep picking fresh limes and rosemary, kiss the cats on their noses, and wander my way to work with my earphones in and my boots tied tight. As opposed as my heart is to inner-city living, it does have its benefits.

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