Last Sunday, I made my first contribution to a zine. I went to a zine-making workshop; part of a series of events connected to the Sick! exhibition – an exhibition about living with invisible illness created by…artists living with invisible illness. It was really fun and very therapeutic, and that was just the chat! I am not really arty (as in, I can’t draw), but zines don’t have to be about drawing, writing is good, and collage, and all sorts as long as you can print it on paper/card. I enjoyed creating my page for the zine but the best bit was meeting other people living with a wide variety of invisible illness (although anxiety and depression seemed to be a common theme, alas) and sharing our experiences. I felt less like an alien when I went out than when I went in.

It is ridiculous, really, because I read stuff about chronic and/or invisible illness all the time, I know lots of people (at least online) with congenital heart defects and others with anxiety and depression (more of them in real life, some of them the same people) but I still find myself feeling like I’m the only person going through such things. I guess it’s those ‘dark night of the soul’ moments (if only they were just moments); it’s very easy to feel alone when you’re in the slough. Since I went to the zine-making workshop I’ve tried to think of the people there who were such excellent examples of how to live with chronic illness and take inspiration from them to get through some difficult moments. It has helped.

Anyway, here are some pictures of zines and zine-creation:

INTRA, where the action happens!
A selection of zines for inspiration
How to fold the paper to make a zine
Pages from the finished ‘test’ zine
My page for the zine

In a very small way, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for years – make some art out of my medical records (photocopy of an ECG as background). I hope the page is OK – I think I should have done the writing and the background as two separate pages and then the risograph is used to put the pages together (see picture with stick person in, above). But I expect Xtina can make it work, somehow, for she is a printing genius!

Thanks very much to Xtina, Zara and everyone at INTRA for a lovely, creative, and useful morning.


“That was a bit silly”

So said my mum, in typically understated fashion, when I told her I’d decided to reduce my anti-depressant medication (on the GP’s advice) last week. I suppose she was right – it was likely to be (and indeed was) a stressful week; I never find spending time with my family very easy; plus Mr C had gone away so I would be looking after B mainly on my own, which I find quite difficult and tiring. My only rationale for deciding to reduce my medication last week was that I had run out of the higher dose tablets. Not particularly well thought through. I was obviously feeling quite optimistic at the time – the irony! Added to the usual stresses of staying with my parents and being without Mr C, my mum and I caught some sort of sickness bug. I think B had it as well, but only very mildly, fortunately. So all our plans for visiting various places went out the window, although they might have done even had we not been ill because the weather was so awful. It was like winter!

B in winter gear! June 3rd 2016

Anyway, predictably enough, much of the week was horrible due to my mental state (as well as everything else, see above). I was angry, miserable and hateful, and ended up by shouting at my poor mum at the station on the way home (just when you might have thought it was safe). “It was bad.” [This is a quote from Modern Family, which I would love to find a GIF of, but haven’t been able to so far.]

Having said that, we did manage to have quite a nice time at the farm park – B particularly enjoyed feeding the animals –  and we saw some dinosaurs at the market, which she also loved! I think B probably had the best time of everyone overall, so at least that’s something!

My confession to my mother re: my medication started a potentially interesting discussion about ‘normal’ brains and ‘is there something wrong with a society where 1 in 4 people has a mental health condition?’, but I was on my way out of the door at the time so we didn’t get very far with it. I asked her why my brain is so weird (I thought she should know),  but she said she thought I was at “the normal end of the spectrum”, which I queried, as surely if I’m having to take medication to function properly that’s not normal, to which she gave the 1 in 4 statistic. [NB: It’s not that (as my mum thought) I have a problem with taking medication to treat mental illness]. I’m just not sure that it’s OK to have a society where a quarter of the population has a mental health condition – and if (as my mum argues) it’s not about this society (i.e. the statistic is consistent across time but it was just that fewer people were diagnosed in the past) then what is it about human beings that makes us so susceptible to mental illness – is it a biological thing or the way we’ve ‘made’ ourselves – i.e. nature or nurture? Anyhow, I’m not sure that being 1 in 4 actually counts as ‘normal’ – the norm is not the 1 it’s the other 3.

But we come back to the eternal question: what is normal? I think the neurotypical/neurodiverse labels (I like labels, sorry) are helpful and allow for more shades of grey than labels like ‘normal’ and ‘weird’, although I am quite happy to label myself as weird because that’s how I feel a lot of the time. Weird, different, alien. It’s not just the sadness and badness, it’s the feeling of disconnect from the rest of the world; the inability to enter in to it, not being able to follow the rules, not ‘getting’ it.  That alone makes me a bit cross…and sad and bad…and you can see that vicious circle approaching…

So, last week wasn’t all bad – perhaps Saturday’s start-of-a-conversation will pave the way for future mother and daughter chats. My poor mother. And we did have a nice time with the goats:


Also, thanks to @constntdreamer for listening to me ramble on!