Letter #41 from UPIII

english

english

Recieved 27th September 2018

JVA Köln, 16th September 2018

Dear comrades and friends,

In this letter I would like to share a story about my old flatmate, who I will from now on call "Ace" - not his real name, but he knows who he is - and myself - I hope he doesn't mind.

TRIGGER WARNING!!

It's still early as I write this and I haven't slept much so it will probably be a complete rambling mess but I think it's an important story that highlights the meaning of "option three" so I'm going to try and write it anyway.

Before I begin the story I'm going to quickly mention (I'm sure I wrote it somewhere but I can't remember if I sent that letter) that I often have awful nightmares and don't sleep much because of them.

Not sleeping makes me stressed. Being stressed makes the nightmares worse. It becomes a downhill spiral very quickly because I'm too tired to be awake but too worried to sleep. It's horrible.

Let's picture this problem as a giant angry bull with two sharp horns, ready to charge from the middle of an arena. Then there's me, standing not far away, thinking about what my options are.

How do I get out of this situation without catching myself on on of the horns? (sic) Can I get out of this without getting "injured"? What do I do? What are my choices?

From what I can see at first, there are two options available. I pick a direction - left or right - to jump when the bull charges. I choose willingly or I run and the bull chooses for me. This is the same police mentality of "two options, the easy way (choose one) or the hard way (run and we choose for you)."

The left horn is I go back on medication. It didn't work any of the previous times I tried (and there were many) and on one occasion - because they made me feel nothing and took away that little voice that says "perhaps this is a bad idea" - I found myself on a dirt bike revving the engine and headed straight for a tree.

If someone wasn't sitting behind me to take control and steer the bike away, I would have hit the tree (with them) at a speed that very likely would have killed us. And, because I felt nothing, I got off the bike and laughed.

So not the left horn then.

The right horn, the other logical conclusion, is I go to therapy. Been there, done that, coloured in those shitty "where do you feel your emotions" work sheets. I guess it works for some people, but none of it worked for me. It just made me feel worse and worse and like a massive failure of a human being.

So not the right horn then, either.

I need to find an option three.

Which appeared as three choices.

The first was refusing to enter the arena with the bull. Which basically means I ignore the problem and hope it goes away. It might work for a while but it's not a real solution.

Next choice.

The second is I could try to sing the bull to sleep. I could tell myself "it's okay" and try to distract myself to put off dealing with the issue. So, again, not an actual solution.

Next choice.

The third is I could throw sand in the bull's face  (this isn't a real bull and even the idea of it hurts me but I couldn't think of a better metaphor than a bull. So let's just move on), which for me would be to tell someone what is on my mind and what is going on in my head. 

I once did this and ended up in front of a psychiatrist who told me I was schizophrenic, depressed, had borderline personality disorder and anxiety. Wow! Then I got thrown in a locked psychiatric ward for over a week after I was given "two choices: either you willingly check in or we will take you". Where's the choice? There isn't one, I just let the bull choose for me.

When I got out I did the research. None of these labels felt like they fit properly, like a pair of shoes three sizes too big. I could wear them, sure but they didn't feel right.

I fully understand there's a lot of shit going on inside my head and that there is something very wrong in there, that doesn't fit into "normal" which is why the psych probably put me away. I know I'm fucked up, I don't need someone to put a label on it for me to know it. But I'm at peace with it. I've learnt to live with it.

As someone once said to me "more often than not you're going to be stuck with your mental issues for life. Nothing is going to fix them but you can get  better at dealing with them. It never gets easier. You just get better at it. That's what therapy is supposed to do. Not fix the problem necessarily, but teach you how to handle or deal with it."

At first this super upset me. You mean I can never escape this? I'm fucking stuck with it forever? I'm stuck with the left horn or the right horn or three non-choices?

So here's me, out of options and choices and hope. Well shit.

Now I can tell the story.

After some long consideration, out of all the "choices" the said one - telling someone - started to look like the best one. Or I guess the least bad anyway. So I did tell someone, but this time I told someone who wasn't going to (immediately) call me crazy or send me off somewhere to make themselves feel better and who was actually going to listen to what I had to say and be sympathetic.

Ace.

And he did listen. He took me very seriously. He checked behind doors for me even though we both knew there was nothing there. He let me leave the hall light on if it was a bad night. He didn't complain (much) about me sleeping on the couch during the day while he worked on his computer because it made me feel safe. He never called my worries or fears childish and didn't treat me differently because of them. He accepted them and did the best he could to make me feel comfortable. He accepted all of this as part of me.

He even went a step further and came up with a third option I hadn't thought of.

Why don't you jump between the horns so you are on top of the problem and not avoiding it or injured by it?

And between the horns was him giving me a little used iron bullet cosing which he (proudly) said he shot himself so it was a "part of him" or something and I could therefore tell anything in my head that was trying to fuck with me that it was also fucking with him too. And nobody fucks with him.

The craziest and best thing about this is it worked. Better than I could have dreamed of. I could sleep. No more nightmares!

Jump between the horns. Find your option three.

This also reminds me of a story I once read about a very successful business person who had this incredible fear that they had left their hairdryer on at their house and that if they didn't go and check they had switched it off, their house would burn down. So several times a day they would drive back to their house to check they had switched it off. It started ruining their life. They couldn't focus. They were losing clients at work. They were going to be fired.

One therapist suggested they do a dance after they turned it off. So they would remember they turned it off. The therapist said they were more likely going to remember the dance than the act of turning the switch off. It's a good theory.

A friend of mine does a dance of sorts to remember if they have locked their doors at night. It doesn't have to be a big thing, just a little hand wave or two step or something. Enough to remember "ah yes! I did lock the doors/ turn the switch off/ whatever!" It works for my friend, but didn't for this business person. They couldn't remember if they did the dance or not so it didn't change anything. It wasn't their option three.

There were a bunch of other suggestions given to them too; set up a camera so you can check with your phone if you've turns it off, unplug the hair dryer, ask someone to check for you, just remember, don't have a hair dryer, set an electricity timer ... dozens of choices to try  and be their option three. None worked.

Then their Ace presented their jump between the horns. Take the hairdryer with you to work.

It worked! If they had a panic on the drive to work, they could look over to the passenger's seat - and there it was, not burning the house down! It's been left on, it's with them! At work they kept it in their bag. They could just look over and see the cord, whenever they were worried! It's so simple. So easy. How had no one thought of it?

Because we’re all different. Your between horns probably won't be the same as someone else's. And that's okay whatever works for you, even if it seems silly, dumb or stupid. You do you. If it helps, it helps.

I wish I had the bullet casing with me right now, but I have to make do so my between the horns at the moment is the yellow/ grey cat/ lion. It's a lovely little distraction imagining them chasing the things from my nightmares away or sitting on the bed next to me or just being "something" I can offload what's on my mind to, as I've done for a while.

The part of me that (tries) to look after me. Please self care today or remember to eat or when did you last have a glass of water? I'm better at looking after other people/ animals than myself so it works. If it helps, it helps.

Obviously this has not been so easy to keep up lately because I'm so exhausted my brain doesn't have the energy. I'm too tired to keep the idea of the warmth and love and protection alive. Some days it's not so bad - I can imagine a giant lion chasing all the dark away - but sometimes, like at the last visit, I feel like I'm carrying around a lump of grey asking someone to give me a little hope or energy or warmth. Give the lump a bit of life.

As I write this it's not too bad. i can imagine a little grey kitten. It's been an okay day, not good, not bad. I drank water. i ate. I didn't sleep. I'm stressed about what's going on in Hambi.

I want to be there so baldy my heart hurts. I hate being stuck here doing fucking nothing knowing you're all out their being evicted and abused by the cops. Nothing would change if I was there but I'd feel like at least I'd be doing something.

I hate this! I keep hoping beyond hope you're all okay and safe but then I hear "activists taken, trees cut, treehouses cleared". No no no! Fuck! let me out! Let me help! Gahhh!!

The fight is not lost though. Not until the last tree cannot be saved, until it falls. It doesn't matter what anyone says. As long as there is resistance. As long as you are fighting. As long as you have hope. As long as you hold onto your faith and belief that your actions mean something. Keep your head up (or I guess down if you're hiding) and keep going.

That's all I have the energy to write for now. Hold on everyone! Keep going! You're doing great! I'm sending lots of love, energy and hugs (if you want them). 

STAY BRAVE. 

<3 UP III

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