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Posts tagged ‘the fear’

Creative Writing: Illness

Now as you might gather from the title, the creative writing that follows was difficult to write, harder to edit, and has been almost impossible to share. While I do on occasion write happier poetry, a lot of this writing was done, at least in draft form, while I was experiencing the worst parts of my illnesses. Which generally means I am not able to think of the positive nuances of being chronically sick. I promise to try to write more of that stuff soon as it’s not all bad I guess. Again,  I welcome critique but please especially with this, be gentle with the criticisms.

I will say that I was inspired to share this stuff because I finally watched the documentary ‘Unrest’ by Jennifer Brea. It’s heartbreaking, empowering…it might not be an exact match for my experience of ME but it’s an experience and seeing something so raw and true meant the world to me. So go and watch it, it’s on Netflix.

Filled

They say pain isn’t forever
Suffering comes and goes
But when hope fades and faith disappears
What else can fill me?

Symptomatic

Fog
It comes like treacle
Moving slowly, so slowly
Until suddenly
It’s swallowed everything
Fog
It devours
My memories, my speech
My own damn thoughts
My words
Fog
Closing in, growing thicker
It steals my understanding
Of how the world works
The very basics
I want coffee, but how do I do that?
How do I finish my sentence?
Was I even talking?
Fog
How can I find my way
When the shining guiding light
Is absorbed?
Fog
Chokes me
That goddamn fog

P.E.M

When it hits
And it will hit
It comes hard, it comes fast
The sheer weight
Drags you to the ground
Hooks and barbels
Pull
You should’ve expected it, should’ve planned
But fuck pacing
Push on
You can make it
The sofa is soft, cushions and blankets
Should make it better right?
That dead weight
Not just pulling now
But pushing
A collapsed ceiling, weighted down
It hurts, it aches, it kills

When it hits
And it will hit
It comes hard
It comes fast
Flare

(PEM stands for post-exertional malaise and is a driving characteristic of ME)

Chronic

Always there
I open my eyes and you’re there
My longest relationship
Never wavering
You won’t leave
Who am I without you?
These days I struggle
To even remember
My ever-present companion
I’ve tried to break up
But you always come back
I don’t fight hard enough?
Maybe
Maybe I’m tired of fighting
You’re there
Closer than my shadow
Growing larger
You strike my body
Inside to out
Inflicting
Chronic

Seesaw

I heard once
That bipolar is like a seesaw
Like in a children’s playground
I can see why they believe that
What goes up
Must come down
Hell, maybe I’d agree
If that seesaw
Went up to a burning star
And fell down
To the Underworld
Up. Down. Destruct.
Also
That seesaw?
Put it on a roundabout
That’s what they don’t tell you
It’s up, down, side to side
Loop the loop
Bipolar
It’s a whole damn fairground.

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Sharing Creative Writing – Poetry Edition

If you read my last post, you’ll have seen I shared my first piece of writing probably since I was still in education. Well I’ve shared a short story, and now I’m doing the only thing harder: sharing my poetry. My insecurity around this is super really high so if you aren’t into poetry that is still very raw then I’m really sorry for this tangent of content. But this is important to me, as is mental health awareness and outreach, as is talking about science, and gender, and feminism. This blog might be a bit of a jack of all trades but that’s probably a good summary of who I am!

So here’s three that I had typed up from my writing book. Enjoy and please let me know what you think (if you’re gentle!)

 

Storm A’Coming

Weather alert, flooding warning
Thunder and lightning, weather storming
Sky outside bitter & grey
It must end soon. We pray
Rumble above and a flash of light
Clouds rolling faster, gods shout and fight
It darkens further, yet it’s early day
Animals restless to go out and play
I make my way slowly outside:
I dance in the storm
Cry in the rain
Lose myself
I refuse to hide.

Process

Cold blank nothing
Glaring whiteness
Cursor beating like a cursed heart
Write write write

On it blinks like a mockery
Hours wasted on “research”? Please
Social media, nothing nothing
Writers block, head in hands

Type type type
Write write write

Beats of a drum
Demanding, do it now
Work time now
Complete me

Life

Is there life in a graveyard?
I’m not trying to be funny, or witty
But why else erect stones and monuments
If not to draw out the living?

Some columns have fresh flowers
Cards and pictures lined up too
If nothing else they brighten up this space
Until they collapse and are washed away

In a graveyard of course there are trees
And grass and birds and insects
These lives don’t understand the rules and expected behaviours
Ivy pulling on stones, cracked, lying broken

Is this life surrounded by death?
I’d suggest rather the opposite
Though we will pass and what we know will pass
Life, whatever it is, will find a way

© Kathy Hadfield 2017-2018

Sharing My Creative Writing For The First Time!

So I have done something that I find pretty scary: I shared my creative writing! Now I have to admit that I have been to a writing group but sharing within a small group of writing enthusiasts but with people I didn’t know is something I just find so excruciatingly difficult. I’m scared I come across as cliché, immature, or just plain bad. However,van amazing LGBTQIA+ writing group called The Wilde Ones started up where I live and I just had to give it a shot as I wanted to be part of a community again.

Now in this vein of trying to be ‘confident’ I thought I’d try some of my short stories and poetry on this blog as I like this space. I’m going to post my short story The Necklace (below) as it came 3rd in The Wilde Ones’ first ever writing contest and thought I’d take the plunge.

Let me know what you think! Can you recognise what I drew from in terms of inspiration? Can you guess what I’d been reading at the time of writing this? Ask whatever you like, but please be as kind and constructive as you can.

The Necklace

She told her to never put on the necklace.

It didn’t hit her immediately when she arrived home from work, though when looking back at this moment, memory has added a sense of dread and unease that was scarce felt at the time. After putting down her bag and coat, she headed straight for the kitchen and put on the kettle, as per her regular Monday to Friday routine. The only out of the ordinary thing was the large bouquet of flowers she’d picked up. Although they were to celebrate their one year anniversary at the weekend, the actual date was today, so she had picked up her favourite flowers, tulips, on the way home from work. The shock of violet was vibrant against the monochrome tissue paper wrapped around them.

“Olivia, want tea? Coffee? Livs?”

There was no response. She looked at her watch, thinking that it was unlike Livs to not be home by the time she arrived. It was at this moment she saw a mug of tea sat on the kitchen table. It was lukewarm to the touch. A running joke between the couple was about how she frequently forgot about her hot drinks, but Olivia? Never. She loved her drinks burning hot, and would refuse to drink it if it was even remotely cool. That was when she started to feel the first tingling of concern. She was often prone to overreaction but with the time, and the drink, no message…she was feeling rattled.

She started to head upstairs, flowers still in hand. Who’s to say she didn’t feel well, maybe she went for a lie down and fell asleep? As she reached the top of the stairs, she looked down the landing and stopped dead. Her own family portrait, in its antique frame was hanging at an angle.

Oh Olivia, no. I told you about this because I thought you could handle it! Thoughts continued to race but eventually the pounding at her temple downed them out completely.

With nervous sweat starting to gather at her hairline, heart in her throat, she strode towards the painting and looked behind it. Sam steeled herself against what she knew she would see, and opened the family safe. Empty.

The flowers dropped to the floor, never to be given.

She got out her phone as she walked towards the bedroom she shared with Olivia. Had shared. Walked, not ran, because she knew what she was about to find. Speed would do nothing to help, not now. She called an ambulance, gave the address, and said they might want to send the police, and hung up. Then, she selected her father’s number, who answered on the third ring.

“Hey Sam, everything OK? Your Mum and I are just sitting down to-“

“Dad. She found it.”

Olivia was lying crumpled on the floor of the bedroom. Her once beautiful, twinkling eyes were dull and wide open in terror. Raw and angry welts at her neck were clear even from the doorway. They were clearly fingernail gouges, desperation obvious despite Sam not being able to see the skin underneath her own nails. Sam knew the drill. The distress was clear on her Olivia’s face and the clawing would seem to indicate something stuck around the neck, though her throat lay bare. Again, Sam was unsurprised, though the repetition of events did nothing to ease the broken feeling in her heart. The necklace that Olivia, her Livs had found, ignored the warning, had tried on in front of the mirror, that damn necklace, Sam knew it would be back in the safe by morning. As if nothing had ever happened.

“Olivia found it Dad. I really thought she’d make it, that we’d make it. It’s our anniversary today, she should’ve been safe by now!”

“Not necessarily, love. When was the date, the time even, of the night when you kissed and decided to be together?”

Sam looked at her watch – that her early anniversary gift from Olivia, was still ticking, still alive when she was gone started to bring grief-induced rage until she saw the time. Rage retreated to be replaced by a growing numbness. 17:56

“6pm Dad. If she’d ignored it’s call just 5, 10 minutes  longer…” Her voice fades. The unspoken words clear as day.

“I’m so sorry sweetheart. There’s always next time, I’m sure that time they’ll pass.”

“Yes Dad. Of course. There’s always next time.”

She’d told her to never put on the necklace. She’d always told them.

 

© Kathy Hadfield 2017

Bipolar & Me: Part 1. Introduction

OK so this is not easy for me to do,  but I’ve been wanting to do it for a while. So I’m going to write a series of posts about mental health. My mental health. Specifically what mental health struggles I have.

First things first: surprise, surprise, I have bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

You may have seen Stephen Fry’s latest documentary on BBC “The Not-So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive: 10 Years On”. I watched the first documentary 10 years ago, before my own diagnosis. I’m trying to hunt it down to watch it again to see if my perspective has changed since receiving the diagnosis. From what I can recall, it seemed the follow up documentary was more of a depressing watch, there didn’t seem to be much hope portrayed for any of the bipolar sufferers depicted, including Stephen Fry himself. While I have only been officially diagnosed myself since ~March last year, I thought I would try and offer my own personal perspective on the diagnosis process, the medication, and the resources I’ve found available to me through a series of posts.

I have to admit, I struggled watching the most recent documentary. I found that a lot of what was said resonated with me and I understand that it needed to show the truth of living with this disorder. However, I think it really could have benefitted from showing just one person coping, one person managing their condition to balance out the rest of the quite depressing situations. I am by no means in control of my illness as it stands, and I’m still trying to work out how to manage it with my CFS/ME. It is exhausting. But I have found a medication that works for me, which is phenomenally beneficial (I will go into this in a later post). I’m able to stay more balanced and when I do have episodes, my lows are less low, my highs less high. I am considerably safer than I used to be. I am also fortunate in that it doesn’t make me numb, it doesn’t make me a zombie. I am still working full-time in a fast, stressful industry that I love. I have blogged before how I am so lucky because my employer is so patient and flexible in how they let me work.

I wish others with ME, others with bipolar could be able to do this. Many with these conditions have to work part-time, if they can work at all. I reiterate: I am incredibly lucky, and it is something I’m going to have to keep fighting for every day of my life to keep doing. But I am doing it. And I think that someone newly diagnosed with this illness would benefit from knowing that it can be possible. Hence these posts on “Bipolar and me”.

See Part 2 for my thoughts on the illness itself, dispelling some common misconceptions and just trying to fill you in on what living with bipolar really means.

Graduation: Where do we go from here?

Apologies for the delay in my blog- it has been one hell of a time recently and not in a woohoo! way. Reports, being poorly and the second half of my dissertation module…it’s a busy busy time.

It is a shame I started this blog in my final year as I keep thinking of things I want to write about but I just have so much to do! I have only just come to realise that I have just under 3 weeks of my undergraduate degree left. I now feel slightly nauseated, especially as I still have coursework deadlines and revision season looming…

Add to that the ever-present knowledge that I have to keep filling in applications for PhDs, for graduate schemes, for funding, for jobs. I know that this summer, I will be unemployed most likely (though my fingers are firmly crossed for the applications I’ve sent off/interviews I’ve done).

That’s the climate we’re in now and whereas the other summers I’ve known uni will be there in September. God knows, I wish I could be applying for an MRes or MSc but I just don’t have the money, so I need to follow different routes to hopefully get to the place I want to get to.

As a graduating biologist, there are many routes I could go down and that’s going to be the main body of this post or it’ll just end up in me talking about being in something of a blind panic and if you wanted to read an incoherent mess of babble then you’d be back on Facebook.

Now.

NB. The pros and cons are what I have heard of others opinions. I don’t want to insult anyone’s jobs/future career choices!

INDUSTRY

This is a large area of recruitment for science graduates and that makes sense. There are a variety of different areas for all interests, from pharmaceutical research to agricultural.

There are large numbers of graduate schemes to ease you into this new environment from university because let me assure you, it is a very different experience. I have some industrial experience at a cell line manufacturing company and the volume information you needed to take in and the hours you needed to put in were astounding. If you are working with cells, you work around the cells, so you work when they dictate you work, which meant that there were staff coming in on weekends, on evenings, on weekend evenings! But this is not the case at other companies, but going from your university hours to 37.5+ hour weeks, every week is a lot more exhausting than you will expect.

There are pros and cons to his area of work. The pay is good and the opportunity for career progression is immense. You will get to work with a variety of companies so there is the opportunity for a lot of networking as well as carrying out work and research.

The con is mainly that you are not in control of what you research and there is the potential for some to feel restricted in the area of work you’ll be doing.

PhD/Academia

 

So the big draws of industry I just mentioned? Don’t be banking on those straight into your career of research scientist and academic. A lot of PhDs are funded to some extent at least, though that often only applies if you’re interested in the ‘right’ area of biosciences. There are large funding bodies like the BBSRC and the MRC who fund a lot of the medically beneficial research but that is absolutely not saying that there aren’t studentships for animal biology, plant sciences and all other realms but I’ve been told there aren’t as many (please correct me if I am wrong!). The benefits obviously include you getting to choose the area of research you go into, you direct it and follow it from the beginning to the end. The pay is different depending on the studentship but I very much doubt that is why anyone goes into undertaking a PhD. You need to have the passion and the drive for it. You have to motivate yourself; it’s your project after all, your results at the end of it.
Also, having a PhD put you in excellent stead if you eventually want to leave academia for, say, scientific publishing or editing.

Health

In the UK, the NHS offers the NHS Scientist Training Pathway that is highly competitive and a tough 3 year course. If lucky enough to get on it, there are a whole number of specialisms for you to choose from (though you can only apply for two) from microbiology to genetics to reproductive sciences, there’s something to interest everyone. Some roles are very much lab based but others, like Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Sleep and Reproductive have large patient contact aspects as well. Over the 3 years, you work throughout your department, learning a variety of laboratory skills which you will be assessed on. You will also be working on an MSc degree at a university that the NHS has accredited. At the end of the course then, you have 3 years full time work in a hospital/clinical setting and a masters funded by the NHS.

I can imagine you can see why it is so competitive.

Other!

Obviously, many science graduates don’t go into either of these options, as a science degree sets you up well for many areas of life! There are graduate schemes in all areas that respect the work ethic and knowledge from a strong degree, there’s obviously teaching which is especially important for sciences at the moment, even though biology is seen as one of the more popularly subscribed sciences, there is still a huge demand for teachers.

There’s going into health and safety work for councils, helping with policies…in fact, let’s face it, you could do anything! Not everyone who enjoys and has an interest in science wants to do it as a career. Fortunately, at university there are graduate talks from all sectors and careers fairs and the Cv clinic to make sure you have the best chance at getting into your graduate career of your choice.

If you can think of something I’ve missed out, please comment!

What do you plan on doing once you’ve left the status of student?

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