On Being Creative, A Mother & Bipolar


mental illness

The Poverty Line

I haven’t been sure whether to write about this. It’s intensely personal, embarrassing, exhausting and is contstantly stigmatised. But I was explaining the situation for the first time to a friend and thought perhaps I should blog it.

To try and arrest the stigma, maybe. Anyway, here it is.

My family and I are living below the poverty line.

We receive £198.00 per week (thank you, tax payers) for our family of 4 out of which everything has to be paid. Food clothes, school meals, electricity, gas, BB, mobile bills, kids clothes. Everything.

The boiler broke in October last year and we can’t, obviously, have it fixed. So this winter has been interesting – we all stayed in bed as much as we could and took extra Vit C but it’s not been the most fun I’ve ever had. The children are majestic in their ability to surf everthing thrown at them.

Love does help enormously in these situations and though we’ve had some bitter, hateful rows practically hissing through our teeth at each other (I had no idea how colourful and creative my profanity could be) I can say I don’t think I’ve ever loved my husaband more.

I hear so much anger at the welfare state and I can only talk about how grateful we are for the help. Without it we would be absolutely up the creek.

How did we get here?

Well, the fall from grace is surprisingly easy as it happens.

We lost a lot of money over some bad choices and bad luck.

My husband had a breakdown and can’t return to his profession because teaching played a huge part in it. He is still too anxious to work.

He isn’t always well enough to look after the children (3 and10) which means I can’t take a full time position so instead I’ve have started an independent press that should pay dividends soon.

And we both have pretty hardcore mental health issues.

That’s how easy it is for a family to end up under the poverty line.

How is the poverty line calculated in the UK?

This calculation is used throughout Europe, and is taken to mean households where the income is 60 per cent or less of the country’s median household income, which in the UK is currently around £25,000. So, if your household is bringing in less than about £15,000 a year, you’re in poverty.

We are receive a little over 10k with the tax player’s generosity.

I had never given it proper thought – it’s been tough, of course, but seriously, living with Bi Polar and all it’s interesting variables has made me grateful for the good days, the stable days, the present days.

I am also grateful  for Stirling Publishing and all the help and support I’ve had from writing community. This is year should be amazing with our BAME anthology and Lesley Glaister’s, Aprha’s Child, being published.

I thank God! That I’ve enough ambition to have the energy to pull this off although there are days when I can’t raise my head to do more than a few lines of editing.

My publisher, Unbound, and my amazing editor, Scott Pack, are very understanding but I am continually frustrated with my own lack of consistency.

This post isn’t about pity or sympathy or ‘poor us’.

I’d like to think it’s more about finding yourself in a situation one day that has no resemblance to how you had envisaged your life.

It’s about saying ‘Sod it’, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given gifts – lets use them. Banishing those ‘I’m a middle-aged woman will anyone take me seriously’ thoughts and keep on creating opportunities until you pass out at night with your toddler snoring in your ear.

Most of all it’s about support. All the people that I’m involved with on social media, in real life, in publishing, in writing who have never seemed to doubt I could do these things.

I thank you for that.

We are underneath the poverty line but poverty is not defining us.




Sometimes, I come off my meds and it can be for varying reasons. But the one that never changes is my visceral need to ‘feel’.  My medication is wonderful stuff.  It keeps me from being actively suicidal or embarking on high-risk behaviour (you know, the fun stuff).  It keeps me fat.  It keeps me flat. It keeps me slow.

So sometimes, I stop taking them to feel again and this is what it’s like.  This jagged, blunted cycle that I am for the rest of my days and nights.  Dedicated to all of you who know what even some of this feels like. xuntitled-crazy

I Will Not Be That Woman



Not today.

Even when the Isar

rolls so cool and deep

and I could wade and

wade ’til sleep.


Not today.

When I have the tablets

in a drawer

in a box

winking chalkily at me.


Not today.

When the church tower soars

and it’s bells toll out

a seductive beat

for me to fly to.


Not today.

for me the oven,

the blade and bath.

I shall not meet

Sylvia by God’s

own hearth,



I leave a legacy

of love, of life,

not regret and guilt

for my bairns to


On the inner darkness and writing fiction.

Last night I watched, ‘Amy’, a poignant biopic of the young, troubled jazz singer who died at 27.  As I watched I became acutely angry with her parents who saw the signs so early of her mental distress – and chose to ignore it.

And then I remembered that my parents had done something very similar. Not out of malice or even ignorance, just a supreme indifference to me, their massive disappointment.

My darkness comes from a four-decade battle with Bi-Polar Disorder. It has been an intense, exhilarating, intrusive and at times, quite terrifying ride and I don’t expect it to ever change.

With my mood cycling, it was impossible to hold down a job.

I was a junkie, bulimic, anorexic and a cutter. I was sexually vulnerable, unconventional and, instead of getting a secretarial job after finishing school (yes, really), I chose to get a portfolio together and managed to find a place at Art School.

It was intensely embarrassing for my parents and their colonial backgrounds because I wouldn’t stay silent about my illness. I was supposed to be humble, to be grateful and to be quiet.

Instead, I wrote about it, had messy breakdowns and several stays in the high profile Priory and Nightingale clinics in London.

In my manic phases, I would hitchhike across London at 4.00 am, sleep with countless men and women, involved myself in the Kink scene because they understood me. Here were the outcasts, the misfits, the beautiful perverts. It was like living inside a wonderful carnival with the freaks and the geeks, tops and bottoms and the best excuse to wear corsets.

Unbelievably, my depressive cycles were even more dangerous. I became almost comatose, staying in the same clothes for days. I ignored the intrusive phone and the battering at the door by frightened friends or bailiffs looking for payment. I shunned food, sunlight, and society. Smoking endless packets of cigarettes until my lungs became raw with the punishment.

My flat was full of dust and sticks and dog fur and I was a low budget Miss Haversham. Books were piled everywhere like colourful Pisa Towers, lurching towards the floor.

Sometimes, I would crawl to the bathroom and read the shampoo and bath oil bottles, taking comfort from the nurturing advertising and chanting desperately, ‘it will pass, it will pass’.

I was suicidal on a daily basis, cutting my arms to relieve a terrible pressure that sex, drugs or music were unable to mask.

I couldn’t read, but worse, I couldn’t write.

There were endless years where I just didn’t care. I was happy for that overdose to come, for my heart to give out, for my body to be violated. I was in a station waiting room holding on for Death.

The irony is that I am a naturally optimistic woman but the darkness and the ever-present struggle to stay sane because of my Bi-Polar, seeps into every aspect of my writing and gives it flavour, colour and I hope, credibility.

I fish in the blue-black depths of my characters – I raise their shadows and make them sing. Celebrating the murderous, the psychotic, the jealous, the rageful, the black, white and red of them.

But I wonder if darkness can only exist in our work if we have experienced it, either personally or by association.

I put this question to some of the writers’ groups that I am a part of and only one, Elvis P. (a devilish moniker), said he utilized his imagination entirely to write about darkness, as he had not had any personal experience with it. Overwhelmingly, the consensus was that ‘Yes!’ writers used their own darkness to access their character’s flaws and to breathe the bad to life on their pages.

In conclusion, I think I can say that I do access my own darkness quite naturally to nurture the flaws in my characters. It can be a deeply painful, cathartic and even mischievous experience. When Amy Winehouse wrote her Black to Black album every lyric, every breath was homage to her emotional and physical decimation.

I can only give thanks for the fact that I am still here, medicated now, healthier, happier and to my great surprise, a devoted and loving mother.

As I accepted my darkness and my illness, my writing improved. Just as if it was an injured hawk that had been given the gift of flight back, despite its brokenness.

My darkness is profound in its pain but it is also my friend.

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