This is one of my harder blogposts to write, because though I talk – a lot – about the impact my mental health has on my day to day life, and has done for a while, I’m pretty sure that this is the bit no one really understands, causes the most…misunderstanding and I hope, because I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, they can’t relate to. If you didn’t know that psychosis was a feature of my mental health diagnosis, or didn’t understand if you’d heard it mentioned before now, please…don’t start changing your opinion of me. That’s the biggest reason those of us with serious mental health issues aren’t as open as society needs. Because we lose people.
It was so hard to write in fact, that I didn’t, for a day. So, you’re not imagining it, this post went up a day late.
Sensitive child, with imaginary friends
I wish I could say that I know things would have been different now versus 30+ years ago, when I was growing up, but I’ll add this disclaimer to the beginning of the post. Currently, the mental health crisis, and in fact, the whole NHS service crisis, caused by politicians, is going to result in more young people growing up in various states like I did. My family did their best, and a lot of what I now know to be ‘just not right’ was ascribed to me being a sensitive, empathic child with a high intelligence. While I’m not saying that’s not true, I do feel that the fact that I wasn’t caught as autistic, or having issues with sensory processing, or possibly even ADHD as a child and teen says a lot about how the school system is ill-equipped, in a standard setting, to recognise that intelligence and mental health ‘quirks’ don’t always go hand in hand. I have a very high IQ, but, here I am, at 44, and I basically live a life that is safe for me thanks to my partner. I’m not saying it’s not because I can’t work, because I can and I do, but…I’ve had to build a job around my health, and right now, I’m at a bottleneck and don’t like it.
I grew up on a ‘working class’ estate (in quotes, cause I hate the terminology) in Edinburgh. By the time I sat my Highers, I was really struggling with my mental health, and it was basically ignored by the school. Hindsight being what it is, I was already becoming isolated and a bit insular, but I wasn’t the most popular girl in school, and was in fact bullied for most of my life, and…along with other incidents, the things I took comfort in – everything in my imagination – began to twist.
I’ve always seen and heard things. Always. But as an adult, those things became more violent, and more inward aimed.
I’ve addressed this a few times on Facebook, but…I hear and see one specific person. When I’m having a really bad day, she can distract me enough that she can convince me the house is on fire, or that people are coming for me with knives. But even on my ‘good’ or ‘neutral’ days, she’s there. She’s shouting at me now, for writing this, reminding me that I’m in a house on my own and that I’m on the top floor, and anything could happen. She…she’s always been there. Always. Whether she’s a manifestation of the things I think about myself, or something else is pretty much up for debate, but…I’ve never known a time that I can’t hear and see her. I’ve tried antipsychotics, and they don’t get rid of her, they just dull down the constant anxiety I live with (and hadn’t actually realised wasn’t supposed to be there until I asked after a trial on meds), so I find it easier to maintain a facade of not listening, and not reacting.
It’s hardest in situations where I’m either not in control, or there’s a lot of noise – especially loud noise – and motion around me. Which is why, I think, even my GP is surprised that I like LudoSport so much. And I’ve noticed that my best days are when I’m focussed on Petrichor (other post today, she’s my blade), and just doing what I’m told, rather than trying to keep track of everything and everyone. My BEST days are when I can wall her off for a bit, and do the things I love without fear. Tempus, my other half, supports me in finding those slots, but those days really are few and far between.
The best I can do to manage ‘her’ is to remember mindfulness, breathe, and try to ground myself.
No one knows unless I tell them – or they see me react
I think the most surprising thing about having any type of psychosis, even though it makes perfect sense if you think about it logically, is unless you tell someone, they don’t know. But… I’m going to explain why it’s surprising from, well from my point of view. Maybe others that live with similar (and again, I hope you don’t, it’s horrible, wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy) will agree, but if you live with psychosis for long enough, it’s normal to think that it’s real. If you’re so used to it being real, it’s…surprising that no one realises that you’re reacting to that, not something else. So, I understand why people are surprised when I talk about psychosis in such…steady and measured terms, but I still marvel at the idea that I’m the only one that actually sees her. That no one knows unless I let on.
And that’s the biggest issue with psychosis, after the physical and mental effect it has on those of us with it.
I bet, if you didn’t know about what I deal with, you see me a little differently now. And that’s ok – we always change how we see, and feel and think of people. But…I know that people will always wonder if I’m so unstable that I’ll hurt them – or others. Because that’s how people with a psychosis are portrayed. Whether it’s a component of schizophrenia and those cluster of diseases, or standalone, like mine (well, not really, I have CPTSD, Anxiety and other issues), I know that people see me as the media portrays psychosis.
It’s why I wrote run girl run. That’s a shared ‘R’ on Friday, because that’s my big news this year.
Like any other mental health issue though, instead of believing what pop culture portrays, think about me when you hear ‘psychosis’. If you didn’t know about it before this post, think about what you thought of me back then – I’m sure ‘funny’, ‘intelligent’ and ‘caring’ featured in there somewhere. That’s far more important than my mental health issues, because I still am. It’s important – and stigma breaking – to remember that label just means that I need extra help sometimes, that I’ve got an underlying reason for being a bit nervous of certain things, and that I’m no different from the Kai you knew going into this post.
I guess, as I’ve spent the last month planning everything, that I didn’t realise how serendipitous this week would actually work out.
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to spend a few hours just…soaking in the natural beauty in an arboretum called Batsford. Batsford Arboretum is one of those places that I’ve been, again and again, to relax. When I lived in Edinburgh, I wasn’t far from trees, water, nature (Colinton Dell), so when we moved, it was kinda hard for me, because though we still lived on the outskirts of towns, it wasn’t as easy to get to places as it was. I do have my front yard, and back garden now, but it’s been difficult to really get at the pretty, nature based things I love.
Recharge, reset, renew
I use my time in nature as a recharge, a reset and a renewal. I love trees and greenery (I’m lucky too now, that my office has a little space for greenery. I’ve got a bonsai tree and a hydroponic plant above my main writing shelf, and it’s just the best thing in the world to look at. When I’m really struggling too, my partner often takes me into a park or out to a place where I can just spend time surrounded by trees and other stuff. And, we’ve got four ‘go to’ places that we really love around there. Crickely Hill, which is a park nearby, Robinswood Hill, which is also nearby. We also love to go to two local Arboretums – Batsford and Westonbirt. And we spend *a lot* of time there.
So, yesterday, my daughter needed photos for her college work, and I spent the afternoon just…enjoying the blossom trees, and the magnolias. I’ve got some photos, I thought I’d share them today 🙂
First, the magnolia tree we found. It’s not one I’d ever seen before, with the branches growing straight up. It’s gorgeous.
Super slowmo chill
One of the things I’ve taken this time is some super slow videos of the waterfalls too.
What do you think? Peace, quiet, tranquility and a lot to see this spring 🙂
Just under a year and a half ago, I took part in a discovery class which changed my life. And I don’t mean that with any hyperbole. I mean it literally.
I have, as i’ve mentioned, CPTSD, anxiety and I’ll talk a little about psychosis later in the month. It’s also something I talk about in ‘Run Girl, Run’, which will be on my other blog later in the month.
How I joined…
(I’ve talked about LudoSport before a few times on my blog, so you may already know some of this)
Lockdown was, I guess, sort of the normal point of my life for the last five years, so 2020 wasn’t the shock it could have been to me. In fact, the only thing I really missed was going out for coffee with friends, and gaming with friends, which were not regular things. We stopped attending the cinema, but again, it was something I didn’t miss. My world was basically, Tempus, my kids, my cats, and I was even pulling away, I guess, online. I saw my family occasionally, when they visited us, and we visited them, but, I lived a very isolated life. I’d run Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo, as I could, but I didn’t like to leave the house. At all. I’d go see my psych for treatment, and even then, by lockdown, all that happened was that I was living in a world where everyone in the UK was, basically, doing the same as me.
We both came out of lockdown looking to do something about our health. In my case, I went along to the discovery session to see what Tempus was talking about, because I fully expected not to enjoy it. But I did. A year and a half (nearly) later, and here I am, an Initiate, moving through Form 2, looking forward to the summer and more training, and then hopefully Form 3. I don’t duel often, but Thursday, unless I’m sick, is reserved, always for LudoSport. And if I’m sick and not contagious, I still often try to attend. Even if I can’t train, watching everyone lets me absorb so much.
We train, to our own needs, year round. We compete in the UK, and internationally (well, I mean ‘we’ as in the Academy. I rarely compete, because it’s not what I enjoy. And, honestly? That’s also ok. I don’t compete as much, but I go along and I provide help. If you know my role in the indie author community, sound familiar?) 🙂
That was October 2021. By December 2021, we both joined the Order of the Tempest, Clan Siren. We joined an amazing community, with so many wonderful people. Our Order, in Bristol, is the home of the current UK champion (our co-Rector and a good friend) and we’ve had several UK champions before him from our Order. More locally, there’s an academy in Cheltenham, Order or St Luke’s (who were not running when we started, and but we do join them for duelling when we’ve got time), and then there’s Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. There are more hopefully coming, as, there’s now a push to train people to open academies.
A special community
I wanted to be clear on this – LudoSport isn’t pretending – it’s a controlled, rules based, safety oriented contact sport. It’s an all over workout. It’s great fun. And yes, it does really involve lightsabers. But, I think what makes it for me, more than all of that, is all of the people I’ve met. From the team at Bristol and those that I train with, and out visitors, but beyond that, there’s so many nice people in the UK, and those that I’ve met from the international community. And I did say ‘they changed my life’. There’s the easy stuff I can point to is that I’ve gone from 110lb, to 95lb. I’m a bit more confident and can do stuff that I’ve not been able to manage for years – I can go into shops and I can talk to people again. I can go off and grab my own little bits and pieces when others need to be somewhere. I can sometimes even leave the house to go for a walk, and frequently do go outside to the shared lawn near our house and practice with my saber. It might seem like small things to others, but… I even managed (mostly) to battle at Reignite the Light this year. For someone that, at one point, refused to leave my bed, and was told that I’d be untreatable, I think this is huge.
And while I know a lot of what appears (including in the Times, recently, for our international ‘Reignite the light 2.0’ tournament) is about the lightsabers, the thing I want to talk about in LudoSport isn’t just the fact that we get to duel, and are learning an interesting, engaging, FUN sport, but that they’re so good to us while doing it.
LudoSport is all inclusive. Doesn’t matter what you’re comfortable with, you can do everything that you can, and accomodations are made to support you. And just saying it like that isn’t…quite…enough, I guess. It doesn’t explain how caring and supportive everyone is. When I’ve had a bad night at training, whether it’s been because I’ve managed to ‘trigger’ myself (as in, something has made me unsettled, or I’m having a bad day because of my mental health and it hasn’t improved while training, the distraction hasn’t worked), or because I’ve just had an uncomfortable night in general (cause honestly? Any sport that you train in can just not be great, as in, it wasn’t a good, optimal day, you couldn’t feel good about what you did…all of that), and we all check in with one another. Our clan chats are hilarious, and as an Academy, we’ve been to a concert together. And, honestly, part of the ‘community’ is Porksides. Social events, sometimes after tournaments, where we all eat, meet, socialise together and hang out. There’s international tournaments, and a week of training in Italy, during the summer, for those that want intense practice, but…it really is all about what you want to get out of it. And, I guess, what you put in.
Would you like to join in?
I’d love to see LudoSport explode and give everyone a chance to enjoy it. I love the community and feel that there’s a lot that can come of it. I don’t know if it’d work as therapy the same was as it does for me, but I am talking to people about that. What I do know is that we’re a good community – the world over – and there are academies opening all the time. And the discovery sessions are a great way to get into it. If there’s not an Academy near you, keep an eye on LudoSport UK (for the UK) and LudoSport International for the rest of the world, because we’ve just had a batch of technicos train, to teach others to run an academy. The UK is running a class soon, while I’m sure there are others running elsewhere.
Let me know if you’ve got questions – if I can’t answer them, I’ll tag someone that can, and let me know what you think?
Wanna see some EPIC combat? Check out the pages, watch out for when we announce tournaments, and have a look around. I’m only at the beginning of my journey with the sport, and I’m in my 40’s, so it’s not just for young people either. Give it a try!
(With thanks, as ever, to my LudoSport community, who helped me put this post together, gave me the graphics, and the links to use. You guys rock!)
I actually do a lot for fun. From writing and blogging, to LudoSport (which I’ll be blogging about later this month), gaming (tomorrow) of all sorts, reading and gardening. I also do lots of crafty things, from using my Cricut, diamond paintings, knitting and learning now (or trying to learn) to crochet, cross-stitch, and I’ll be learning to make macrame creations. I’d love to learn to do resin artwork too, but it’s on my later list, cause there’s only so many hours in the day.
Fun, or downtime
While I used to struggle with this, downtime is one of those things that I now specifically schedule for. I write as a job, but I also love writing in general, so I count that as work AND play. I also blog, because I like sharing information, and giving people the support they need.
I exercise in the garden, and at LudoSport, and I enjoy going for walks in gardens, and Arboretums and in parks and forests. I love nature in general really, and it’s nice to spend the time with my family. I also meditate (again, I’ll write about that) later in the month, and yoga. I also collect various things – dice, artwork from games, books, and FunkoPops.
I also have models for my games, and my computers, and consoles. I enjoy spending time with my family, and love my cats. Most of my stuff though, is included in my awesome banner. See what you can spot 😉
I’m doing two posts today – C for Cats, and C for CPTSD. In the early 2000’s, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I went through a period of needing medications, which sorta worked, sorta didn’t. By 2014, after losing a job I loved, I really didn’t have an easy time of it. It led to a lot of issues, eventually, with my mental health treatment and that’s a whole other story, but it also led to me being given to a team that finally decided I might have Complex PTSD.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by prolonged or repeated trauma. This trauma can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.
CPTSD is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it’s more complex. People with CPTSD may have trouble regulating their emotions, trusting others, and feeling safe. They may also have difficulty forming relationships, holding down a job, and feeling good about themselves.
The symptoms of CPTSD can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
Flashbacks and nightmares about the traumatic event
Avoidance of anything that reminds you of the trauma
Negative changes in mood, such as feeling hopeless, numb, or helpless
Difficulty trusting others
Feeling isolated and alone
Changes in physical health, such as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue
If you think you may have CPTSD, it’s important to see a mental health professional. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for CPTSD, but therapy can be helpful. There are also many self-help strategies that can be helpful, such as mindfulness and yoga.
A personal view of CPTSD
Many people pick up CPTSD for abuse as a child, and while that’s technically true of me, instead of it being familial abuse (I was *very* lucky to have a loving extended family that raised me with my mother), I had issues, instead, with my peers. I was bullied, badly, until late high school. And while it used to be believed that bullying was character forming, honestly? Though it made me who I am now, and some of that is really interesting and there’s a lot about me that I think was formed by my issues with my mental health, and it’s not ALL bad, some of it is. I don’t blame the kids I grew up with, I don’t blame the teachers who thought it was ok. It’s all pretty…blameless, right up to the last couple of years, and even then, I write most of it off as ‘we were kids’. Because that’s the truth. Even when we weren’t…we were.
How it affects me
I’m not entirely sure how to explain how my mental health is, but the last few years have been an exploration and a start to untangling, on my own (after two AMAZING years with Dr C and M, at Avon House). Well, I say on my own, but my family and friends have helped, a lot. But I’ve done a lot of work, I think. From mindset to trying to teach myself to trust people more, to working on my anxiety…it’s a whole ball of stuff. But, I’ve got some of the standard issues which arise from CPTSD, and a couple of non-standard ones. Anxiety, and issues with seeing and hearing things are my major ones, but I struggle with understanding if people are angry or upset. I also struggle with isolation, depression and more.
That said, there’s a lot of things that I’ve also learned. I have a great mindfulness program that I follow and I meditate several times a week. I’ve got my coping mechanisms, and most of all, and as I’ll talk more about in L for Ludosport, I’ve got an in person community that I exercise with, and they support me too. Plus I’ve got a tonne of friends online. I’ve spent the last few weeks and months, especially working through the information that I’ve got and I’m writing about it now. That I’ll be talking about in R, on Booksbykai.
I’ve struggled, and might struggle again in the future, and my mental health will waver, but I’m learning, and working through it. Like being mildly autistic, CPTSD is one of those things that I’m actually comfortable with now, though I do admit I fought quite hard at first.
Some days, I have to do two posts for the day, but when I do, it’s because I’m equally passionate about each topic. Today, I’ll be talking about C-PTSD (mental health), and I’ve also got my cats to talk about. Cause they’d never forgive me if I didn’t give them a mention, at least. And in a way, they’re interlinked. I think the cats keep me grounded and sane. They keep me company when there’s only me in the house, and give me something to focus on. Plus, I’m pretty sure the studies on purring at least have some evidence, even anecdotal, in our house.
A short history of cats to date
I was raised in households with cats (for a little while as a small child, then when we moved into our homes in the Cotswolds), birds (always), and dogs (till I left my mom’s). I’m used to having pets around. When we moved to the Cotswolds, I was desperately lonely, and we got Kushka, aka Office Cat. If you go to that post, you’ll see what a doll she was, but despite our best efforts, she died in 2013 from a massive chest infection. We’d adopted her and discovered she had a permanent Upper Respiratory Infection. Kushie was, though, a gorgeous cat. And super smart. And bonded to me like nothing on earth. I held her as she slipped away.
She was, quite frankly, one of the most incredible cats I’ve ever met. I could tell so many stories, but she is the reason my press is called what it is.
But after we got the house sorted out, and cleaned everything that we could, we adopted our current girls, Haley and Eiryss.
We lost Kushie end of February, after six years with her. After we worked out what we needed to do to clean the house to ensure any cats we adopted next wouldn’t catch what she had. And then we went looking to adopt again. We were lucky to get Kushka, who was an F4 Bengal, as an adopted cat. And unless there was a compelling reason, I don’t think we’d adopt a brand new kitten, and instead rescue. But, given how hard we found it losing Kushie so soon, we chose to look for much younger cats. Luckily, we found Hercules and Missy. The woman we adopted them from was a cat fosterer who had to stop having cats because her asthma and allergies were getting worse, and she couldn’t manage that anymore. Hercules (aka Haley) and Mischief (aka Eiryss) were just under a year when we took them on. Haley was hand-reared, while Eiryss was bought to keep her company. They’re both very different, very sweet and very cute.
Spotlight on Haley
Our gorgeous Haley is white and grey, teeny tiny, even now, and is very much a cat that loves comfort most of the time. Shockingly though, if either of them are catching anything (which is rare, and they’re belled), chances are she’s the blood wee maniac that’s getting birds. She loves comfortable, fluffy blankets, sunlight and the best food. Her favourite toys involve feathers and ribbons, her favorite spot is on my daughter’s knee. In fact, in one of the photos, she’s stolen one of my daughter’s oldest teddies, Scruffy. She looks innocent, but honestly, she’s devious and uses her ‘cute’ to her own gain. Which is adorable.
Until recently, Eiryss was a very active cat. She spent most of her time outside, and isn’t particularly…lapcatissh. Though she’ll climb on Tempus, my other half and beloved, and will cuddle on her terms, but is a very independant, very loud cat. She adore all of us, I’m her favourite at barbeques, where we make her salmon (well, we make my salmon, and she and I share), and she gets to enjoy that with us. Every night, she’ll chase us to bed, so she can get cuddles before going to sleep, and has taken to interrupting my other half’s calls to climb to her spot on the windowsill, in his office. While both of them are very intelligent, Haley has a sly kind of intelligence, while Eiryss is…more direct. She loves pom-poms and dry food (we joke that she thinks she’s an astronaut). Her favorite spot is where she’s photographed, on the windowsill in my office, or our bed, or on top of the bookcase outside our room. She is more adventurous, I’d say, of the two of them. As the summer comes in, we’ll see how she goes, but both of them are slowing down a little.
(most photos (c) Artenapan, a few of them myself or Tempus, my partner)
And that’s the girls
If you like them, they do, of course, have a Facebook and Instagram, though we’re pretty bad at updating them. (well, no, I’m terrible, Artenapan is great at it).
These are my girls. Let me know about your pets, please?
That sounds like so much fun! I love games, especially RPG. Haven't played with a group in a few years.…