new blog!

Hey,

I’m making a new blog, HERE, where I’ll be posting stuff about music and films.

I’m going to keep posting here about mental illness and mental health and stuff like that here, but I’m going to try to be a little more professional about stuff and maybe not share some stuff I’ve discussed here before, or maybe I will.

Anyway.

If you’re into music (most specifically, emo, emo revival, pop-punk, that sort of thing), please take a look. I’m also going to write there and here about the intersection between music and mental health. A lot of the bands I listen to talk about mental health and stuff like that with a rawness and an honesty which I love, and so that’ll be featuring as well.

I’m also interested in the prevalence of mental illness in subcultures; I flitted between goth and punk and emo in the way I dressed (and this was proper, Warped Tour type emo, including arm warmers) and I think because I was obviously “alternative”, and part of a subculture where self harm was perhaps seen as fashionable and morbidity was the order of the day, I missed the signs of an obvious mental illness. So might talk about that too.

Thanks!

Advertisements

REVIEW: The Menzingers/Lemuria, The Haunt, 9th July ’17

 

menzingers
The Menzingers; photo cred @Archersongs

 

I held up a liquor store | demanding topshelf metaphors…

So last night we went to The Haunt down in Brighton to see Lemuria and The Menzingers, and I can honestly say it was one of the best nights I’ve had in recent years. The Haunt is tiny, and as Lemuria’s Sheena Ozzella noted, seems to live up to its name; its grubby mirrors and low ceilings make it seem slightly spooky. I love it and I especially love that they use the font from Twilight. 

I’d checked out a few songs by Lemuria before we went, but I didn’t exactly know many of the words. They were playing a lot of songs from their debut, Get Better, which is ten years old. The songs grab you with their vulnerability and openness and brilliance; these guys don’t take themselves too seriously and seem to delight in the mundane, and that for me is a very good thing, to take simple ideas and make them sparkle like this. One of my favourite songs was Lipstick, with its plaintive musing on kisses: “you use your lipstick as an excuse not to kiss me”, Sheena sings, and that short line has a clashing sibilance which contrasts beautifully with the plosives and overall is a work of linguistic and musical beauty. I also loved the last line, more than anything, of Yesterday’s Lunch, which mentions the “critic” who “wants to be a writer” – and isn’t that relatable! – and then turns to the sad but probably true fact that “you’ll never feel successful until all of your friends fail”. This almost sounds like a Smiths lyric really, and I love it. So overall, Lemuria are great, and this album stands the test of time.

Before gigs I always get a ridiculous churning anxiety that I’ll forget the words, but this time it was different. I mean, I was nervous, but even though I’ve only recently listened to The Menzingers there’s something about their songs that resonate so deeply with me that it wasn’t a problem. But they started with Your Wild Years, and I knew the words well enough to shout them, and then they played Tellin’ Lies and Obituaries and at this point I stopped worrying because these songs are songs you have to shout. And in a crowded tiny venue when everyone is shouting there is nothing better than the feeling of all being together and yelling along to Bad Catholics about communion and secrets. They talked a bit about 2000trees, which I would have given my right arm or maybe both little toes to go to, which was cool.

The Menzingers are loud and poignant and maybe hopeful, and one of my favourite lines by them is the “tangle of thorns” in the relationship talked about in I Don’t Wanna be an Asshole Any More and I can’t quite put my finger on why but there’s something there that can be untangled, I hope. And Lookers makes me nostalgic for stuff I’ve never experienced, which is the hallmark of any good song, I think. But these songs make me feel like time is getting away from me, and out of uni and into the real world it all seems to be moving very quickly.

I think my favourite song of the night was probably Tellin’ Lies, of course, and even though I’m not even twenty-two it and its concerns about everything being “terrible” – and “where we gonna go now that our 20s are over?” – haven’t quite hit me yet, it makes me not want to waste my twenties but also not want to worry about wasting them, and just concern myself with living them. With this album, The Menzingers joined Beach Slang in what Pitchfork called post-30 punk in their review, and this set was so good that I was worrying about it ending, and the sound fading. It’s probably not that deep or maybe just anxiety but I didn’t want them to ever stop playing.

There are no easy answers to these worries about growing up and aging that permeated After the Party and a lot of the songs on the setlist, of course, but when the songs are this good it’s hard to do anything but sing along.

 

REVIEW: ‘Outsiders’, Gnarwolves (Big Scary Monsters)

This album came out today, and I’m on my third listen. First impressions: it’s very good. Second and third impressions: it’s still very good. Trying to pick some standout songs is hard because as soon as the next song kicks into gear it’s instantly a standout, but I’ll try.

Gnarwolves are actually somehow the only band I’ve ever seen live, and they were great then; strident and earnest and all those words that get trotted out for reviews of pop-punk these days. Some words just fit. But this album is a slightly different beast from the rest of their stuff, still earnest and still raucous but more introspective. It’s slightly darker, and it seems somehow older, more mature. It makes me think of late nights in cars with my friends when we are seventeen, but looking back at that from twenty-one. I think I’ll be playing it on late nights with my friends for years to come.

It’s perhaps lighter than I expected, which isn’t a bad thing at all. For me, a standout song is Shut Up, punk rock with a heart, which includes the lyrics “I’m afraid of all the versions of me that live inside your head”, if I’ve heard that right. And I suppose we can all relate to that, the personas we put on for other people, and how they fit together to make a weird sort of jigsaw of the people we have, at various times, wished we could be. It’s introspective, self-aware, but despite its somewhat serious focus, Outsiders isn’t afraid to muse that “every song starts the same, pathetic lines or parody of real life”, on Channelling Brian Molko, which makes me want to go and listen to Placebo again, as well as being a great song in its own right. Talking to Your Ghost is brilliant, and sad: “although I know it’d do me no good, I would,” it tells us, surely one to sing along to, slightly drunk, in a room with sticky floors.

But my favourite song – which is a hard choice – is probably Argument, which again has the raucous choruses and drumming we might expect from Gnarwolves, but again has a darker resonance than some of the stuff we’ve heard before; “if I can’t do anything right, what the fuck am I supposed to do now?” it asks (again, if I’m hearing that right), and well, we can definitely all relate to that.

Outsiders is naked honesty and emotional nudity, set to brilliant tunes, from an incredible band. What’s not to like?

life hack: don’t be depressed, but here’s how to vaguely function if you feel it approaching

The thing about depression is that it doesn’t give a damn if you’ve got a dissertation to write or kids to cook for or a dog to walk. Life doesn’t stop or slow no matter how much you might want it to, and there are things that you have to do even if all you want to do is stay in bed and watch the same episode of telly again and again because you’ve not got the energy to put the next DVD in.

On tumblr I see a lot about how “self-care” is usually thought up by non-mentally ill people, or neurotypical people. Suggestions like “drink enough water” and “get outside the house” are mocked frequently and I used to mock these ideas too, until I was hit with the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced, so bad I completely withdrew from my friends and housemates. I thought there was no way out. I thought that was my lot in life now. Medication did nothing. Therapy did nothing.

But: life didn’t stop. I wanted it to, of course. But it carried on – deadlines and bills to pay and showering. Showering seemed infinitely complicated, as did cooking and washing up and tidying my room. Opening the curtains seemed to be almost impossible for a while.

I began making lists of all the things I had to do, which seemed so overwhelming another few days were spent with my head under the duvet.

But making lists was the start of recovery. I had to break down tasks like you’d instruct a child – turn on the shower, wait for it to warm up. Put the shampoo in wet hair. Don’t think about drowning yourself. But eventually, I showered. I opened the curtains. I even tidied my room, opening the back door and letting the winter cold in and almost feeling slightly alive again when I was freezing. You get tired of feeling empty.

Those were the easier things. You have to prioritise. I label tasks in green, blue and red from easiest to hardest, and try to do at least one easy thing. When I’m depressed – which comes around usually in winter – I have learned to prepare for it. I know the first thing I’ll do is leave my curtains closed and live in unnatural light or even darkness for days, so now I force myself to open the curtains and make my bed in the mornings. Learn to recognise the warning signs of an impending dip in functioning or mood.

This is long and rambling. Getting things done when you’re depressed is bloody difficult. You need to prioritise with tasks you need to get done. Easy to hard, and then do the easy ones first. Tick them off as you go and feel proud even if it’s just opening a window.

You need to drink water as well and it sounds like neurotypical nonsense – like water can change the chemical deficiencies in a brain – but hydration helps you feel less tired. Eating decently helps my mood, as does sleeping enough and at the right time of day. Therefore, I do these things to prevent depression because for me that can trigger it. Exercise, and getting outside, and seeing my friends also help prevent me becoming depressed – not always, of course. But it helps a lot.

And lastly: if you need help, there is no shame in asking. There is no shame in begging and pleading, and you might have to in order to get the help you need. If you cannot function, cannot shower or eat or sleep or whatever, there’s no point trying to open the curtains. You’ll need more help than just self-care.

tl;dr

  • learn to recognise warning signs and look after yourself
  • prioritise tasks from easy to hard and do the easiest first
  • some things can be put off til you feel better; a job or your education is not as important as your mental health and life
  • if you need more urgent help, ask for it

burning ambition and the intense need to be: bipolar and the real world

Note: this was in my drafts from my last manic episode and it’s unfinished because I have no idea what it’s talking about. But here, have a laugh:

 

The first thing you should know is that my current score on the Young Mania Rating Scale is 42 and that my doctor has said I’m manic. I disagree, but it is what it is and there is no point trying to hide that fact since the point of this blog is to try to be more open about things. Strap yourselves in.

I have stopped sleeping, more or less, which gives me lots of time to think and plan and try to marshal my sprint-finish thoughts into something coherent. I am going to need to rewrite this lots because my mind is leaping from thought to tangential link like a salmon on speed. My thoughts currently are focused (somewhat) on the future, and the nature of ambition. I was an ambitious child, determined to do a thousand jobs and excel at all of them. I’m ambitious now, but priorities for me have shifted somewhat.

Lots of millennials struggle with this, the dichotomy of the way we were raised. We were told we could do anything and be anything, and the world seems to becoming more cognizant of various civil rights struggles and adapting (in part, and not enough for the black men murdered by police in the USA, for example). But as our opportunities have increased it seems our ambition has fallen; a post on Tumblr seems to illustrate this very well.

tumblr-pic

Over 300,000 notes for this millennial ideal, which is simple and peaceful and not particularly ambitious; it seems power and money and glory are no longer things to which we should aspire. This quiet, easy sort of ambition rejects all that – and actually, given the current state of the housing market, might be more ambitious than it seems. But for me, that would not be enough.

It might be nice to have a tiny flat of my own and some pot plants and a window seat, but I dream of castles and gold and statues. I spend a lot of time drafting my own Wikipedia page, or at least I do at the moment. A simple life is unappealing to me because I grew up wanting more than that, more than a sun-warmed white wall and a cat. A cat would be nice, of course. A lion would be better. I struggle to be kind about the lack of ambition so many seem to display because I know why millennials cannot expect to own houses by the time we’re twenty-five, and we cannot walk into the jobs that baby boomers found easily, and we have mountains of debt. I know all that and still it half-sickens me, the thought that I could be anyway near meek enough to accept “going to the grocery store” as a fun pastime. I hate food shopping. I want diamonds and chandeliers and a stable full of Lipizzaner stallions. I want the world on a plate or on their knees. I want prayers. Glory and gore.

Or is that rude?

 

 

 

a longing for the divine: autumn and madness

It seems traditional for me to go mad every autumn. There is something about the turning of the year and the swelling of the fruit, that fecund smell of apples almost turned to cider on the grass, the mists hanging low in the valleys, the leaves burning brighter than the bonfires, that sends my mood up. Like the last flourish of the dying summer, the blackcurrants shrouded in spider-webs, my psyche calls to the skies. The birds overhead, wheeling southwards in chevrons across the bruised-peach sunset, cry back to me. The dawns break for me and me alone, casting the world into amber. I am hunted and haunted by the ghosts of the spring-time; nests moss-soft and splintered. The mistletoe gathers on the trees as if a druid will walk out of the forest to gather it, and the stags clash and clatter their antlers in dew-damp parks. And through this glut and glory all I can do is marvel at the colours, how every splinter of sunlight is stained-glass and holy, how the teasel-heads wave in the wind like the principal violinists of an orchestra, how the waters turn cold and restless over the rocks, how the wheat-fields turn to sheared stubble and the crows haunt and hunt the mice yet to hibernate. All I can do is close my eyes to the city and see the land beneath.

I know I am manic. My thoughts are clanging, and leaping like salmon. Sleep has become impossible, and a waste of time; I am close enough to see the Catherine wheels spark in my mind and smell the cordite, the singed flesh. I have started walking out into the world, as far as I can go within the city, in search of birds and tree-trunks and mushrooms and mist. Mercury the trickster-god, the poet, has reached into my pockets and poured out all my marbles, and some slipped under the bookshelf and I might not get them back. And Odin, Óðinn, god of frenzy and knowledge, has covered my eyes with his cloak. I turn my face to the skies.

I am slipping into and under the skins of these animals, walking their well-trodden paths through the bracken and silt and stone, sleeping curled in their holts and dens and sets. I am more than human right now, or perhaps less so; perhaps I am more harmonious than many people are these days. The hills call to me, and the mountains howl, and the wind that bears down on the crags and crevices of Snowdonia is the same wind that lifts my hair in a sudden breeze down by the canal, and when I close my eyes at the right moment I feel myself rushing over lonely hilltops and sea-shores and quiet pathways carved by long-lost rivers. The chalk downs, the limestone pavements, the peat, the clay; with every step I sink deeper into England’s history. If the cliffs could talk, and the gannets, and the trees taller than human ambition – if fire could whisper and roar and water gurgle into words, and the wind keen more than coldness, and the earth could speak: how would we answer? The barriers of this world, the limits of what we can be, are melting away with the dawn’s light creeping across the horizon. We are all fire and flesh and blood; every person on this earth is close to me and I am hungry for their lives, their hope and healing.

I swoop and soar. Freer than a bird and not yet fully fledged, my future is waiting in the wings for me, and it is time – soon, it will be time – for that next act to begin. I am tired of being held down, like an eagle with clipped flight feathers; I was made for this. The divine is not in cold churches or asceticism or candles; the divine is in all of us, in every atom of our bodies. Perhaps this is why I have turned to the pantheon of former gods, their mysteries half-lost but their words and ways still stronger than steel. We are all capable of this illumination. We were all born to more than our bodies would have us believe.

through the looking glass: growing up and growing angry

“Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye 

4th September 2016 –

I was one of those people who never quite expected to grow up any more than my favourite characters, who were always fierce and sulky and kicking out at the world just as I was. To reach the impossible age of twenty was never part of my plan, which (when deeply depressed) mainly focused on scowling in scuffed Doc Martens and then dying as dramatically and tragically as possible. Morbid kids become morbid adults, or so it seems, and even if I do not quite feel grown-up yet, I am. I am.

I suppose I wanted to become part of that pantheon of angsty teenage protaganists: Veronica Sawyers from Heathers, Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, and Julian from Less Than Zero. Most of the characters from both The Virgin Suicides and Girl, Interrupted as well, of course – all the fuck-ups, the drinkers and chain-smokers and suicidal people, the addicts, the disasters all appealed to me in a way that worried me somewhat. I saw myself in reckless people and their mistakes, the mercurial of mood, the characters with sarcasm and bitten fingernails as their only weapons against a world where they did not quite fit. I suppose now I can identify that they all have mental health problems, which explains a lot, and also explains my tendency to self-mythologise. Except I made it to twenty, when these characters remain frozen perfect and still messes at eighteen or sixteen or some vague age where you can pretend you don’t brush your hair to be rebellious.

This has meant I’ve had to grow up quite a lot, and quickly. It’s seen as a bit odd for an adult woman to throw temper tantrums or to smoke purely to try to kill yourself a little faster. The world has different expectations once you can drink and fuck and vote. But then, of course, there’s the 27 Club, that gallery to self-destruction as an art form sanctioned by the NME and of course by the teenagers who daydream of heroin habits as the hallmark of the tortured artist and not the hallmark of the tortured anyone. I suppose when people talk of the romanticisation of mental illness this is what they mean, but this has happened forever; we have always worshipped the sick since consumption and even now we love to watch celebrities self-destruct for the tabloids, we devour them on talk shows and laugh at the chewed-up spat-out poor sods who go too far with their coke problems.

Sometimes I am not sure what this world wants from us. Especially from young women, for whom recovery from this sort of thing is more difficult. We laughed at Amanda Bynes, and Britney Spears was an easy joke for years, and Lindsay Lohan is still seen as an easy target and one we love to attack again and again. Robert Downey Jr is seen as inspirational (which, to any addict, he probably should be) but Britney is a byword for instability, still. Winona Ryder’s shoplifting story is still mentioned with a slight eye-roll, even Edie Segdwick – so long dead, now – is seen as a spoiled rich girl. A girl, still, even though she died a woman. The celebrity culture thrives on these stories; happy marriages are boring and tee-totallers are dull unless falling off the wagon and out of nightclubs, and so many people (of any gender) who have these problems, these mental health issues even if they won’t use that term for it, are seen as immature. But then on the flip side, people who use their fame for good – Emma Watson as an advocate for women’s rights, and Angelina Jolie as well – are seen as try-hards and fame-hungry.

I do not know what the world wants from us now that we are adults.

like a wasp in a jam jar

“what goes up must come back down,”

you do not listen; birds are meant to swoop

and soar between extremes and your freedom

is feather-light on your shoulders.

//

awake now for three days and the world is

shaking like your caffeinated hands and

your feet that tap and tap the floor

and your fretful too-wide eyes

//

a blizzard of words blankets your

too-quick speech and drowns your thoughts

darting from topic to topic like

a kingfisher flashing from rock to river.

//

you drink and smoke and fuck and

there is no tomorrow, no consequences

but the rush of your heartbeat in your ears

and smoke-heavy strangers’ kisses

//

the sun is too bright and the world is too loud

with its shouting and sluggish thinking

and you are holy and the pavement is glittering

with secrets whispered like prayers

//

and this world is not made for prophets

like you with your dancing thoughts and

your eyes that can see for millennia

and you are frighteningly free –

paranoia, depersonalisation and derealisation: the unholy trinity

So, been up mood-wise for a few weeks. Maybe closer to a month, actually, euphoria and racing thoughts and wasting money as per usual. I’ve been earning money though, so that’s alright. It feels like there are no consequences, except part of me knows that there are always consequences. I am sleeping for a few hours a night and pacing pacing pacing my carpet, and praying. I pray with such fervour that I shake sometimes, on my knees for hours or minutes. Time is moving strangely. I know how Christ felt in the desert, how time stretches and twists, especially when you’re faced with temptation. And I am not hungry, and I know how he resisted, and they must have called him mad.

The world is getting away from me, or I’m getting away from the world. It feels like everyone is watching me and reading my thoughts and maybe using me as a conduit for their thoughts. I have not been sleeping much and when I have been sleeping my dreams are strange and far-flung, maybe more like visions. Actually, I’m not sure if I’m awake right now, apart from that my blood feels more like lightning. What’s it they say – blood will out? I feel the blood of my ancestors burning in my veins with their madness and strangeness; my siblings cannot feel this. Their eyes do not see beyond this world, which is where I am looking half the time. Sometimes I look into the next world and sometimes I just stare through tables and walls and people like they’re not there. This world, the corporal world, is bright and bold and gaudy, but muffled somehow. Muted, perhaps, is a better word. I am looking at the cars and houses and books and they all seem to be a beautiful Wes Anderson film. I am looking through glass.

I feel slightly like the universe is perhaps expressing itself as me, and my body is too weak and frail and mortal right now to contain all its complexities. So I write and write and paint and paint, blistering my fingers, as my head is swirling the drain and rhyming every odd word. When people speak to me their words reverberate for me, echoing and rippling and looping like a ticker-tape spliced with parts from a dictionary. And not just English words; my mind is babbling in French and Spanish and German. Obviously, revision is somewhat tricky like this.

It will all be okay, right? This is real, this is real. It has to be real.

 

summertime sadness; self-harm, scars and our bodies

” …occasionally I wished I could walk through a picture window and have the sharp, broken shards slash me to ribbons so I would finally look like I felt.”
~Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

I have been thinking a lot recently about my scars. On my left arm, they start pale, almost the same colour as my skin. Then down a little further and they’re red and raised and harsh. They’re violent and jagged. The full force of my self-loathing in the instances in which I hurt myself always shows up once the scars have healed. I still hide them, most of the time, under long sleeves and bracelets and refusals to ever, ever go swimming. If people do see, they usually ask me. I tell them the truth, without coating it in blackness or sticky-sweet recovery jargon, and they always look awkward afterwards. I suppose I feel the same, feel their eyes burning into where the skin is reddish-purple like a blood-soaked sunset. Even with my long sleeves, my armour and disguise, I feel exposed and raw. A beetle, skewered by a long pin and pinned to a board, and all I can do is wriggle under their gaze. This feeling is getting slightly better, however. I want to feel the wind on my skin.

I used to think they had a certain twisted beauty, a sort of memento mori like a bruised peach or the too-gentle curves of animal skulls, but now I think they are just scars. I attached all sorts of mystical rationale behind it; to feel more alive, I told myself, as I wished half-heartedly to die. Or I’d shrug and play it off as a tortured-artist thing; the pain of life for me was too much. The quicksilver shift in my emotions from the deepest joy to the blackest rages and then to the hottest anger, and I was left playing hopscotch between these states and clutching a razor blade, a kitchen knife, a shard of glass. I have tried to delve into the reasons I did it, and carried on with it even as I cursed it, and I think it was perhaps a shoddy attempt at being able to visualise how I felt about myself. That I deserved scars and blood and the stares of strangers, their faux-sympathy and pasted-on smiles. Or maybe it was just that desire I have to feel the world in all its agonies, to hurl myself into anything and everything and come up bloodied from it. The marks of the world, on my skin. It is wrong to call it art and irresponsible and silly to think of it as artistic expression, but I think in a way it was something not too far from that. Or maybe it started as that, and then became a helter-skelter downwards spiral. Everything else became impossible. Smoking and drinking were to me another form of self-harm, so I smoked and drank more than anyone else I know. I saw what the world did to my skin and I wanted to erase all that from my mind.

“You begin to forget what it means to live. You forget things. You forget that you used to feel all right. You forget what it means to feel all right because you feel like shit all the time, and you can’t remember what it was like before.”
~Wasted, Marya Hornbacker

I have not cut myself in a long time – March, by my reckoning – but, just as the sea will always crash back to the shores, I suspect I will return to that in times of crisis. I hope not. I hope this mostly because I want to wear short sleeves next summer, despite the scars. Maybe even because of them; I’m open about mental illness and my experiences, and to hide these most obvious signs perhaps is telling me that I’m not as accepting as I’d like to be. I was scared for a long time about showing my arms in case it upset somebody else and set off that burning shame and burning need to hurt themselves.

I try
to kill myself in small amounts,
an innocuous occupation.
Actually I’m hung up on it.”
~The Addict, Anne Sexton

Any scars invite curiousity. People ask about surgical ones, and shudder when they imagine the scalpel and the operating table. People see mine, my obviously homemade scars with their twisted edges and dark, dark centres, and wonder: knife, or blade? Or was it glass? Is she still doing it? God, she must be fucked up – and to anyone who has self-harmed themselves, it’s triggering. That gunpowder flashpoint bangbangbang like your heart when you want to do hurt yourself never quite goes away. It’s like the obviously eating-disordered body, like my body when I was sick. You gasp at the bones or the yellowing skin and greying hair, you sigh at the way the scar jolts and judders its way down someone’s arm, but some small sick part of you misses it. Or at least, I find that when I was ill, somewhere in all the pills I took must have been a seed which has taken root just under my ribcage and reached up into my throat and constricted my heart, because it feels like I’m being squeezed by something with thorns, when I see evidence of somebody else’s mental illness in a way that is similar to mine.

My body is a confession, a reminder, a constant companion to the ex-anorexic or bulimic who sees dieting magazines lauded as Bibles and feels that old flash of shame. My scars might spread from my skin to someone else’s. I worry about this. My body is marked by the violence I have done to myself, all the wars that I’m still not sure if I lost. But, to simply say that I should hide away my body and cover my scars and hide all evidence that I ever had an eating disorder is to admit something about how society reacts to illness, and especially to mental illness. It is no secret that stigma is a constant, gnawing problem to those with mental health problems. We have all experienced this, in some form.

There is no easy answer. I would hope that in showing my scars, I can do a little bit to not only make myself an obvious port of call for anyone struggling, but I can also show neurotypical people that I am much more than “just” a mentally ill person. My self-acceptance is such a hard-fought thing, as is my self-esteem, and I want to be at peace with every version of myself. Even those parts of me that I don’t like so much; the messy, stroppy, sloppy parts, the jealous and the angry parts. The self-loathing, self-destructing vicious parts. My scars mean that I cannot ever really ignore these parts, which is good; like overturned stones revealing a whole world of wriggling creatures, those parts must be exposed, examined. In a strange sort of way, I want to demonstrate to people that I’m working on it.

I do not want to compare mental illness to physical illness, since doing so often ignores the nuances of many chronic physical illnesses, and the stigma faced by those who also (like us) have invisible illnesses. But we should see self-harm as a symptom more than anything else. It is a bad way to cope with the world. I have yet to really find a better way. But I want to be positive about my body as it is, without romanticising or abasing my scars. After all, they’re just spaces where there used to be a slightly different type of tissue. They have no great mystical power; they’re not a sign of weakness, but not necessarily a sign of strength. They’re just scars.