Would You Rather: Contemplating Medication

I had never considered whether I would prefer boobs on my feet or boobs on my hands until my friend Sandy asked me at a party one night. As a master of the game ‘would you rather’, she will not accept a monosyllabic answer, but rather a carefully considered response including arguments and counter-arguments. The premise of the game, as I am sure you are aware, is that you must choose the least worst option from a choice of two things you, almost certainly, would rather not. Despite the cringe levels reaching nipple inversion, the recoiling shiver is also one of delicious relief that it is highly improbable that you will ever encounter this choice in real life. The game has become a lot more serious sitting in Dr. Axis’s office.

One thing I will never understand is why the chairs in psychiatrists’ offices are always so low to the ground. Even I, who, coming in at under five foot five, is used to some distance between mine and the speaker’s face, find that Dr. Axis towers over me in these sessions. It creates an uncomfortable situation, similar in feeling to when you notice a spot on a speaker’s face, shiny and ripe to burst. You know neither where to look or what to say. But here she is, waiting for me to confirm my approval. Yet the decision she is asking me to make requires more consideration than a debate on whether a special-made bra for boob-hands would be available on the NHS. You see, over the last fortnight I have been experiencing ‘overvalued beliefs’. These are obsessive thoughts that are precursors to delusional beliefs. My psychologist, Louise, responds so calmly to my bizarre habits that it is hard to imagine anything more than an apologetic ‘oh dear’ to escape from her lips were she to see her house consumed in fire. I had hence hitherto considered her unable to express concern, yet when I described to her my adamant belief that I was Joan of Arc reincarnated, she labelled it as ‘worrying’ and advised strongly that I see my psychiatrist.

Clearly, I obliged and have ended up sitting here hunched in the low chair, picking the skin around my thumb nail, a habit I have picked up from my younger sister. I consider the proposition as carefully as if my answer were to be scrutinised by Sandy. I know a barely audible, shaky ‘yes’ has the power to change my life, but for better or worse I do not know. In the past, I have reacted strongly to medication changes. Each mg increase feels like I’ve downed a bottle of vodka, resulting in what I consider the World’s Worst Hangover. Worse than the night when Catherine and I learnt that rum is the same strength as vodka, four cocktails in. The evening which is also referred to as the Curious Incident of the Pringles in the Night-time. With hangovers, you go from being a genius while drunk, inventing salt and vinegar alcohol, to the next morning crawling on the floor picking up tiny fragments of crisps, where presumably someone had tried to crush them into wine the night before. I say presumably, because I can’t actually remember. I do suffer from blackout memory whilst I am psychotic, but what I can remember is the absolute euphoria before the hangover. The technicolour euphoria. And in that moment, I’m special. Not the oh-darling-I-love-your-drawing-of-your-mum-as-a-worm-slash-wardrobe special, I mean chosen-by-God special. I mean knowing-every-secret-of-the-universe special. But I realised early on that nobody wants to stick my delusions on the fridge door. When choosing whether to be on medication, you must consider everybody.

Which would I rather: technicolour fantasy or dull real-life? I have come to a decision. I turned to Sandy and informed her that after some thought, I have plumped for boobs on my hands, since the idea of standing on my tits makes my nipples concave in repulsion and, moreover, I think I could become a positive role model for the free the nipple campaign.

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pride and fight: London Pride is Ableist

I had been looking forward to this day for months. And I do mean months of planning, preparation and counting down the days. Finally it was here: Pride. Pride in London 2016 had been my first Pride, only a couple of months after I’d come out, and the experience was the most self-affirming event I have ever had the privilege to be part of. I had wept tears of joy for most of the day: I had found my community. Hence the unbridled excitement for 2017. 50 years anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in some parts of the UK seemed like even more reason to celebrate.

My experience this year was certainly one I will never forget… for all the wrong reasons. For an event that  is meant to be all inclusive, I struggle to call that in the slightest. Think of bi-erasure and white dominance here, but there are some fabulous articles on that by people with better knowledge than me. I am addressing another problem: London Pride is an ableist space.

I repeat, London Pride is an ableist space.

I was attending Pride with four good friends, four of us with mental illness disabilities and one with physical disability POTS. As the Parade started, everyone started moving towards the barriers to watch. I noticed one wheelchair user, for whom people were happy to move out the way, but not to give up their space so the person could see the Parade. I did not see any other disabled-bodied persons at the event. My group were originally stood at the edge of the crowd. We couldn’t see anything yet, but reassured ourselves that we would be able to see the taller floats.

Then more people started joining behind us. Suddenly, we were in the middle of a crowd. This is when I started to panic and, as Voice Hearers will know, this is also when your voices start to panic. Ezra started yelling hysterically for me to get out and the other voices harmonised, an orchestra of screams in my head. As we tried to escape the crowd, people were reluctant to move and stood their ground. I cannot describe the utter fear that I felt. Utter, utter fear.

Isn’t Pride supposed to be the place where everyone should feel at their safest? I will would be grateful if people in the comments could suggest how to make the experience more disabled-friendly, so that I can compose a letter to Pride in London organisers.

Peace and Love

Elliot

Take five: Common Myths about Schizophrenia

I was diagnosed with First Episode Psychosis two years ago. The most well-known psychotic disorder is Schizophrenia and I have many symptoms of this illness, but I have avoided further diagnoses and instead prefer to call myself a Voice Hearer. But it seems no matter what name I give it, people have many misconceptions about what it actually means to have psychosis. So, here are five common myths that I will bust…

  1. I am angry

I am not angry. Well, sometimes I am, but isn’t everyone occasionally? What I am trying to say is that psychosis does not equal angry i.e. psychotic rage. This is the most frequent time I hear the word psychotic or ‘psycho’ being used, for example the psychotic ex-girlfriend who logged into your Facebook account and demanded ransom, or the guy who went total pscyho on you when you bumped into his car. Yes, these people are annoying. No, these people are not psychotic. Unless, of course, they also have hallucinations or paranoia. The ratio of angry ex-girlfriends to people diagnosed with psychosis for some reason don’t match up though.

Bottom line: please don’t use psychotic to mean angry.

2. I am violent

Thanks to the media, schizophrenics are portrayed as ‘the bad guy’. They’re more often than not featuring in crime shows as the serial killer. Voice Hearers are very rarely shown to be non-violent, everyday citizens. Statistics show that schizophrenics are much more a danger to themselves through high self-harm and suicide rates, than to members of the public. Add in the danger of being a victim of crime, and you can see that psychotic persons are more likely to be subjected to violence than be a perpetrator.

Bottom line: please don’t be scared of psychotic people as we are no more violent than a neuro-typical.

3. I have split personality

This is a big ‘un. Schizophrenia, although literally meaning ‘split mind’, is not the same as split personality. Psychosis is a condition where you can have hallucinations, such as hearing voices, have delusions and maybe experience paranoid and disordered thoughts. This is entirely different to having multiple personalities. The voices in my head are separate to me, and I am able to maintain my own personality throughout.

Bottom line: please remember that schizophrenia =/= split personality disorder.

4. I want to get rid of my voices

This is an incredibly personal decision and down to the individual. Personally, voice hearing is a part of my identity and I have a good relationship with Ezra and Emily, my two main voices. Emily comforts me when I am upset and protects me during panic attacks and flashbacks. Ezra provides insight into my fears and enables me to process my emotions. Aside from that, she is very witty! Therefore, I am happy to keep my voices. Others are not and medicate them away, but this is entirely their choice.

Bottom line: please respect my choice to keep my voices.

5. I cannot recover

When people hear the word Schizophrenia, they think of screaming people in straight jackets. They cannot believe that someone as boring and ordinary as me could be a voice hearer. The truth is that most psychotic people are walking about living ordinary lives. With a combination of medication and talking therapies, psychotics are able to recover. Remember that recovery does not necessarily mean that the person gets rid of their voices entirely, but usually means that they can live autonomous and happy lives.

Bottom line: please do not pity me, I am living a fulfilled life.

I hope this has got rid of some misconceptions about psychosis. Please feel free to comment or email any questions you have about this.

Peace and Love

Elliot

Some of us in the gutter are looking up at the stars: Coming Out To Grandparents

Recently, Amazon recommended me Get the Guy by M. Hussey. Despite his glowing recommendations of being “the hottest dating expert on the scene”, I somehow doubted that this book would have anything to offer a person in a stable relationship with a woman. Since then, I have been wary of so-called personalised recommendations. I was proved wrong, however, when Spotify recommended me Good Guys by MIKA. Having been a fan of MIKA as a teenager but not hearing much from him since, I was intrigued. Even more intriguing was his question that he poses in the song: where have all the gay guys gone? This refers to the gay role models he had in his youth.

The LGBTQ representation on TV is like a slice of cheap bread: white and thin. Not to mention young, abled, cis-gendered and often male. (Of course there are exceptions; I am generalising.) Throughout my coming out journey, I have had to look elsewhere for my role models. Luckily, I have several openly out LGBTQ friends, who have supported me through my ups and downs. Without them, I would not be where I am today, and for that I am grateful. They lead by example of what it means to be proud of who you are. After coming out to my parents a year ago, and being a veteran of both London and Brighton Pride, I thought I was proud to me too.

There was just one hurdle left: my homophobic grandparents. Their views on anything LGBTQ was an exclamation of yuck, a shake of the head, followed by a lecture on how it simply isn’t right. I would tilt my head down to hide my blushes and prayed they wouldn’t notice my flinching lest they suspect I am ‘one of them’.

First I stumbled out the closet then I was pushed. A nonchalant Facebook comment last weekend opened the barriers to a flood of relatives, many of whom I forgot even owned a computer, let alone frequent social media, congratulating me on my Coming Out. My mum looked at me grave faced and said it’s time to tell the Grandparents. I composed my email there and then, and pressed send after several anxious re-readings.

I didn’t sleep well that night. Nor the next. Nor the next. It was three days before my Nanny rang me.  The conversation was awkward and not entirely successful. She still cannot believe that I am a homosexual and thinks that I will soon meet a man and everything will change. I would ordinarily be offended by this standpoint, but I know that this is her way of coping with the news and that she is trying her best to be more liberal-minded than her upbringing instructs her. Despite all the homophobic and heteronormative mindwashing that she has been subjected to for years, she concluded that she still loves me and that will never change.

Coming Out is scary. I was reminded that this weekend, but I have realised that the thought of coming out is actually the scariest part. My homophobic grandparents surprised me, not to mention my ‘traditional’ parents and elderly relatives. Over these last couple of days, I have felt so much more confident in my own skin. I can truly be me. That being said, if you don’t think it’s safe to come out, be wary. Maybe now isn’t the right time. That doesn’t mean you cannot get support from the community, for example the internet is an amazing place full of LGBTQ forums and websites with links to helplines.

In answer to MIKA, us queers are out there living our everyday lives. Each and every one of us is a role model, whether we actively speak up on behalf of our LGBTQ siblings who cannot, or simply take the hand of the person they love.

Be proud of who you are, because I am sure proud of you.

Peace and Love

Elliot

Knowing me, knowing you: An Introduction

Expectations. Let’s say you haven’t met me through my blog. Let’s say you met me walking down the street. You would have very different expectations of me than you do now. For starters, I ‘pass’ as straight, white, cis, able. This privilege means you barely look twice at me as I pass you, talking on the phone. You return my smile sweetly and move on.

But what you don’t know is there is nobody on the other end of the phone. I am chatting, not to a friend, or even myself: I am chatting to the voices Emily and Ezra who live in my head. Ezra, my oldest voice, has been with me for eight years now.

I see, this is where you sit bolt upright and perhaps start feeling uncomfortable. There’s no need. I am still the same person you were happy to smile at not two minutes ago. The truth is, though, that people do feel uncomfortable when I start talking about my voices openly. Some people still feel uncomfortable when I tell them about my partner. Society is moving in the right direction, but we need to be talking about these so-called taboo subjects to break down the stigma that surrounds them.

I hope, with this blog, I can reach a few people to let them know that is okay to be different. More than that, you should be proud.

So, welcome to my Mad Gay Agenda. I hope you find something of interest, even if it is simply hope.

Peace and Love

Elliot