An Excerpt From ‘How To Wear Odd Socks’ -Murder In Eltham

The latest instalment of my quarterly series, How To Wear Odd Socks is now available on the subscription site Channillo, and is called Murder In Eltham. It centres on the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the wider context in which that crime occurred.

You can read the whole series by becoming a Channillo subscriber – something which directly benefits the writers of the work you enjoy.

Here are two excerpts:

“But, despite all that previous bloodshed, it was the 22nd April 1993 that seemed to change everything. A tipping point was reached. I have never been able to adequately explain why Stephen Lawrence represented the tipping point, and not any of the victims that went before him. There had been a conviction in the case of Rohit Duggal, and indeed one in the case of Rolan Adams. But Gurdeep Bhangal has spent decades knowing that the man who almost killed him escaped any kind of consequence – that he could be walking down any street, at any time, and may even come face-to-face with him again. Why the nation was not rallied by that injustice, I do not know. Perhaps because – despite having a carving knife thrust through his bowel just inches from his spine for the crime of protecting his family’s livelihood – he still kept his life? Does his survival make the crime any less outrageous?”

 

“So no, I had little joy at the news of a conviction in the case of Stephen Lawrence, whose life was taken yards from my front door two decades ago – I simply hoped that it would bring the Lawrence family some semblance of comfort. For me, the experience of living in Eltham during that time had a vast impact – shaping the way I interact with the world, and with others. It also had a detrimental effect on my mental health. It exposed me to the horrific duality of society – in which we are all encouraged to skate along quietly, while just below the surface, monsters draw blood for their own twisted purposes.

“It gave me a crash course in white privilege – knowing that, in Eltham at that time, I was actually a good deal safer than many in my peer group, simply because of the colour of my skin, provided I kept my head down and didn’t rock the boat. It fed into my paranoia, with the idea that those who are supposed to be protecting us, might actually be working against us. It booted my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder into overdrive, with me constantly checking physical security, and repeatedly washing my hands – as if trying to scrub the hatred off, in which the whole town felt steeped. It also showed me, in no uncertain terms, what male violence looks like.”

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Online Psychiatric Research Study with California State University

I have recently been working with Stephanie Price at California State University – San Marcos – in her work to develop a new scale in psychiatric assessments, for people with diagnoses such as Borderline Personality Disorder and depression.

The study is now moving into a new phase, and I was asked to share this invitation to participate in an online research study.

If you are a resident of the United States, are over 18, have a psychiatric diagnosis, and are interested in participating, please check out the details below.

California State University San Marcos

You are Invited to Participate in an Online Research Study

Scale Validation Survey (IRB Code Number: 893513-1)

A new scale is being developed for people with various psychiatric diagnoses including depression and borderline personality disorder. The purpose of this online study is to test the validity of the scale among people from diverse backgrounds. It is hoped that this work will lead to further research and potential clinical applications. This online survey will involve completing a series of questions for approximately less than 45 minutes.

You must be at least 18 years old, fluent in English, a resident of the United States, and diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder to participate. You are not eligible to participate if you participated in our recent interview study.

To participate in this online research study, please visit:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FV7MTFL

To learn more about this research study, please contact the researcher, Stephanie Price (price049@cougars.csusm.edu), or the advisor, Dr. Heike Mahler (hmahler@csusm.edu).

Borderline Personality Disorder Series Excerpt: The Wobbly Web

I write a quarterly series on the subscription website, Channillo, entitled How To Wear Odd Socks. It is an autobiographical story about events that have shaped my mental health, the manifestation of my Borderline Personality Disorder, my diagnosis, and my move towards sustainable recovery. Chapters from various life-stages are interspersed with a practical view of the illness itself, and methods of management.

The latest chapter is now live on the site, and details the key features of Borderline Personality Disorder, comorbid conditions, and the ways in which it all intersects, in a wobbly web of the mind.

Here is an excerpt from that chapter, which hopefully contains some useful information, and provides an idea of what you can find in this series.

In the early days, I could sometimes be heard bemoaning The Tight-Rope Walk – feeling that without intense concentration on my part, to maintain proper mental balance with every single step, I would be sent hurtling to the ground, only to have to clamber back up and start again. In time, I took to describing BPD as being the ball in a pinball machine – where the slightest tap could send me bouncing off the walls in a hundred different directions, with no idea where I might land, emotionally speaking.

The common denominator between these two very different characterisations of this chronic illness is a lack of control. Walking a tight-rope, I felt I could only control my own level of concentration – and willingness to get back up after falling. Whatever it was that was coming to knock me off course was out of my hands. Pinging around an emotional pinball machine suggests an even greater loss of control – because the ball is literally thrust into its chaotic movements by somebody else pulling a lever.

This is interesting, because it reflects the relationship between a person and their triggers early on in the process of treatment and recovery. In a mental illness characterised by emotional dysregulation, triggers are key, because these are the things that relate most to the central issue, and provide an opportunity to regain control of your psychological situation. To be clear, in the early days, triggers were my mysterious enemy. Today, heading into my late thirties – and being six years into meaningful recovery – triggers are the tools that help me maintain mental stability. They are no longer something of which I should be fearful, and are instead, something I can harness to improve my mental health.

This change in perspective comes with investigation and therapy. When spiralling into a pit of emotional turmoil, and when being told that there is something wrong with you, the first question we are naturally inclined to ask is, “Why?” Why me? Why now? While, at the time, they feel like futile and pointless questions, they are actually the starting point for getting better. They are the initial, instinctive inquiries of a mind that seeks to heal itself.

The tragic irony is that, in BPD crisis, we are unable to see this fact. We are unable to see anything clearly, because the conflict in our heads is so loud, it clouds everything. This conflict spawns from dichotomous thinking, in one or another – if you’ll excuse the pun – and this is a key feature of Borderline Personality Disorder. It is the thought process that leads to extreme emotional reactions, because it is essentially an inability to see compromise, or a ‘middle ground’.

Dichotomous thinking in BPD is often referred to as ‘splitting’, and sometimes as ‘black and white’ thinking. It means that there is a difficulty in merging the good and bad aspects of the thing we are thinking about – whether that is an object, a situation, an environment, an experience, or a person and their behaviour, including ourselves. This is the BPD feature that is often highlighted as being the main cause of the pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships displayed by many people with Borderline Personality Disorder, and is also an example of automatic thinking.

The thing about ‘splitting’, however, is that it is a fairly comprehensive defence mechanism for people with BPD. For us, social interaction is fraught with danger. Leading Borderline Personality Disorder researcher Dr Marsha Linehan often describes a person with BPD as being like a person with serious burns trying to function in day-to-day life. We are vulnerable in interaction, because our protective outer layer is seriously damaged. On a bad day, any interaction is painful, and has the potential to cause complications. It is hardly surprising, then, that extreme reactions occur, and that we might seek to instinctively protect ourselves by rejecting a person, situation or thing the moment we spot a potential hazard on the horizon. Conversely, if something seems to be soothing and distracting, we might well embrace it for all we are worth, just to enjoy the respite – however fleeting that may be.

This is where investigation and therapy come into play. If we woke up one morning with full-body second-degree burns, and faced a lifetime of all the associated complications that come along with that, we might wonder where those burns came from. Discovering the source of the injury would not make those burns magically disappear, but it would help us avoid being burned in the future – because further burns would be potentially catastrophic. At the same time, different burns require different dressings. We must find the cause, to treat appropriately, to help that protective outer layer heal. When burns heal, that outer layer might never be the same, but it sure does feel a lot better – and helps keep us healthy.

When you are diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder, the most common treatment option discussed and recommended is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. This is an off-shoot of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and was developed by Dr Marsha Linehan in the 1970s. The reason for its popularity in relation to this particular illness is its areas of emphasis. Like CBT, DBT works largely by changing automatic negative thought processes – but DBT also specifically addresses ‘splitting’. By combining the more mechanical aspects of emotional regulation found in CBT, with processes of mindfulness, awareness, acceptance and the testing of reality, DBT has proven to be among the most effective methods of managing Borderline Personality Disorder in the long term.

What is revealed, during the determined undertaking of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, is the realisation that nothing occurs in a vacuum. Extreme emotional reactions occur as the result of triggers, these triggers have causes, and throughout it all, the mind as a whole is trying to protect itself. Our mind has the natural desire to survive and, like any other organism in nature, will seek to defend itself. Sometimes, the strategies developed by the mind become so problematic that this becomes a self-defeating process, and suicidal ideation begins to occur. Sometimes the noise of the mind being unwell, and trying to defend itself becomes so unmanageable that substance abuse develops. These are cause-and-effect situations created by the state of the mind, and so, in order to right the ship, it is necessary to understand how your specific mind is operating.

This is how I came to stop regarding my BPD as The Tight-Rope Walk, or The Pinball Machine, and in fact stop picturing it at all. Now, I picture my mind, and imagine it to resemble a giant spider web – for the purposes of management. The web of the mind has beauty and order, and is incredibly strong. Although its presence is generally discreet and subtle, it is a wonder of structural engineering, and often, literally, holds things together. Now, a web constructed in a Borderline mind has some often unusual points woven into it at critical junctures. This is where comorbidity and triggers come into play.

The nature of the web means that any vibration – at any point on the web – is felt across the whole thing. But, depending on where the vibration begins, it has a greater impact on some areas than others. There are also very effective safety mechanisms built into the web, to prevent it suffering too much damage. Too big a step on the wrong point will cause that thread to snap – sacrificed for the structural integrity of the larger part – and the web consequently changes shape, causing all those critical junctures to shift to a new position, creating new areas of intersection.

To understand how the web is best handled, we must map out its structure, and learn how each intersection relates to the whole. We must be aware of the safety threads, and accept that the web will always be susceptible to wobbling – but that proper care and attention can limit the possibility of excessive damage. Like webs spun by spiders, each mind-web is unique, and specific to the individual – and my description here is my own. As people with BPD, however, there are likely to be common features at various points. The way that they intersect is dependent upon your own triggers and experience. For the purposes of demonstration, though – and to fully inform the way that I respond to incidents in my own story – let’s take a look at my web, as I have mapped it out for Borderline Personality Disorder management…

How To Wear Odd Socks is an ongoing Borderline Personality Disorder project, of which The Wobbly Web is the fourth chapter.

Read My Channillo Series For Free This Week!

You can read my Channillo series for free this week, as I have some bronze membership gift codes to give away.

Channillo is a serialised literature platform, featuring all forms of writing, from all kinds of authors. It is a subscription site that offers three levels of monthly Channillo membership. The bronze membership package allows you to subscribe to up to 10 series of your choice, and the free gift code provides this membership for three months.

Ordinarily, a bronze membership costs $4.99 (already a bargain!) but the nature of the site means that you can switch between whichever series you like, whenever you wish. Different series release new content at different times – daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly – which means that you can actually ‘chop and change’ to try countless different series, all with the minimum membership level – giving extraordinary value for money. And with these gift codes, you get three months for free.

I currently have 2 series on Channillo – both reflecting my passions, and build upon the work you’ve been reading here, on this site.

How To Wear Odd Socks: A quarterly series exploring my experience with Borderline Personality Disorder.

You just put them on, right? Oh, if only it were that simple.

This is the story of how I learned how to wear odd socks, via secluded gothic towers, the NHS, World War II air raids, gang violence, terrorist bombs and plane crashes.

No wonder I’m exhausted.

Feminist Flicker: A fortnightly series decoding sexism in movies. I have thus far covered films such as John Wick, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, Ant-Man, Avengers: Age Of Ultron, The Switch, and Panic Room, among others.

Meet The Feminist Flicker. She may not have any super-cool gadgets, and she may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – but, she can decode even the subtlest sexism in any given movie, with her Feminist Flicker-Vision.

It is an unfortunate, but inescapable truth that sexism in society is supported and promoted by sexism in the media – especially movies. Indeed, even the most beloved of films can sometimes be unmasked as a hive of insidious misogynist messages.

But fret not, dear reader. Just as Morpheus revealed the nature of the Matrix to Neo, so The Feminist Flicker is on hand to expose the truth to you – by decoding sexism in movies, one film at a time.

Please consider giving Channillo a try, as it is a great way for writers to share their work, and for readers to access fantastic content, in a flexible way, at bargain prices. Contact me via email, or through this site, before February 16th 2016 if you would like to take advantage of these free gift codes (one per user). I have a limited number available, so I am distributing them on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Thank you for reading.

 

The Latest Instalment Of BPD Series ‘Odd Socks’

The latest instalment of my series, Odd Socks, is now available to read on Channillo – the serialised literature subscription website. Monthly subscriptions to the site are available – the lowest of which is $4.99 (£3.40), and allows to follow any 10 series of your choice. Odd Socks is currently released quarterly, which means you can read it, switch it out for another series, then switch it back for the next release. It’s a reasonably priced, flexible way to read the work.

Here are some excerpts from the latest instalment:

“So, there we were, The Psychotherapist and I – sitting down, once a week, to get to the bottom of my newly diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. Employing the technique of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, our sessions were like exercises in mental cartography, in which we attempted to map out the landscape of my mind – identifying obstacles, and avoiding traps. The one thing we never addressed, however, was the big question – what lies at the end of that road? That was for me to investigate, and discover for myself…”

“This, I learned, was the very essence of the challenge. I imagined myself to be a modern-day Indiana Jones – edging my way warily through my own internal Temple Of Doom, trying to anticipate the next swinging axe that would inevitably descend to knock me painfully from my feet. The content of the inner chamber was clearly of the greatest importance, if its access routes were so diligently sabotaged. And yet, I had no way of knowing what I would find in there. What could possibly be lurking behind that final, well-guarded door? “

You can read more from this instalment on the subscription site, Channillo, here.

 

Odd Socks – A New Literary Series About Recovering From Borderline Personality Disorder

As promised, my new literary series, Odd Socks, is now live on Channillo.

It’s the story of becoming unwell with Borderline Personality Disorder, and getting better, through understanding the illness, and learning to manage it. It’s told against a backdrop of global, national, local and personal events, interspersed with chapters detailing my understanding of how the various aspects of BPD intersect and impact daily life. I intend to release chapters quarterly.