Normally I wake up early and I’m ready to kick start my day, but this morning I didn’t have the energy to get up, so I lay in bed longer.  Finally, duties call, and I got up to take Maria out for a walk.  Then I went to the doctors and asked the GP for hormonal imbalance tests but was told there wasn’t such tests and was advised to make an appointment for a smear test.  Afterwards we could take it from there.  I found it hard to believe that hormonal imbalances couldn’t simply be tested.

Afterwards I went to the library to pick up a book about PTSD, it’s called ‘The Body Keeps the Score’, by Bessel Van Der Kolk and was recommended last week by a wonderful BBC journalist, after she interviewed me.

I cooked myself a healthy dinner with lots of salad.  And I published my first blog post from this journal.  

So that was four positive things I did for myself.

But then I didn’t brush my hair and I made a commitment to myself some weeks back, that I would brush my hair every day … which I’ve only managed a handful of times.  I think that commitment is too hard … I shall drop it and think of another one that’s more realistic … like cycling forty miles each day.  Mind you, I cycled most of twenty countries with no hair brush! lol

I have wanted to blog about mental health for some time now.  To break down stigma but also, I had a strong feeling that I was meant to embark on this journey.  I set up the new Ishbel Holmes website and then chickened out.  Fear of what people would think of me and worries that blogging about mental health would present limits on my professional life, set by others, because of stigma. 

But the flame inside me grew much bigger than my fears.  Plus, the longer I had returned to Scotland, the more I came across highly capable and successful people struggling with their mental health in silence – a secret hidden from the world because of stigma.   

The first blog post I published involved two embarrassing admissions for me … one that my mental health had went to shit and also that I had called the Samaritans.  I dunno why I worried – over a thousand people read my blog in the first hours of publishing it and messages of support, encouragement and acceptance came flooding in, along with stories from people experiencing similar things … my readers had taken away any fear I had.

I went to bed satisfied that I’d had a good day, focusing on the positive steps forward I was taking. 

I read the preface of ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ but was so tired I fell asleep.  Maria was in her deluxe bed, which she loves so much, next to a radiator in the living room, but I knew the next time I woke, she would be lying beside me … possibly snoring.  I remember when I camped in tiny campsites at the beginning of walking the West Highland Way … tents crammed in next to each other and there’s Maria snoring like a trooper and everyone assuming it’s the human not the dog.  Then god forbid anyone who made a night time trip to the toilet … Maria would be sitting to attention and barking from inside our one-person tent.  I decided it best that we wild camped the rest of the way! 

Awoken from my sleep, I bolted upright in bed at 12.50 am … Maria was sitting upright too and growling.  I immediately panicked.  The front door.  Someone’s trying to get in my front door.  Think Ishbel, is it locked?  Yes, its locked.  Okay no threat from the front door.  My heart was thumping, and senses heightened to the peaks of the Andes … I listened …. a man was out back, trying to wake the neighbour downstairs by throwing stones at his window and calling his name.  I could hear him drag over a wheelie bin, standing on it for leverage.  I hoped whoever it was fell inside the bin.  Maria’s growling grew louder, and I brought her in closer and cuddled her, telling her it was okay.  A few moments later, I heard the bangs of the security door out front – someone was trying to kick in the door of the close.  I leapt out of bed and straight out into the close in my pajamas and bare feet – a big tall man, who looked like the walking dead from his drug addiction was wobbling about. 

“Do you know what time it is?” I asked.  The man looked at me … “what?”  

“Do you know what time it is?” I repeated.  Damn, I forgot to have an angry voice … he thinks I’m genuinely asking the time.  “I dunno,” came the reply.  

“Well its one a.m. in the morning and I’m no having this ….”

“I’m really sorry it’ll no happen again”  

“How did you get in the close door?”

He made a motion with his shoulder, “I just gave it a wee shove.” 

“Well dinnae do that again – I’m no having this – all the noise – all the shouting and swearing,” The man, struggling to stand upright, could tell the best way out was to keep apologizing and promising it would never happen again.  

I got back into bed wide awake, heart pounding.  Right Ishbel, calm down.  Heart still pounding.  There is no threat Ishbel, it’s over, calm down.  Deep breaths.  But it would be a few hours before my heart stopped racing and I could go to sleep again.

I wondered if I hadn’t had the experiences when I was younger, would I go straight into flight or fight mode the way I had?  Or would the chemicals reset and bring me back to equilibrium quicker?  Many years ago, when my life was bad, that sort of thing would have been a genuine threat.  I can’t remember this, it only sounds familiar to me, but when I was 18 years old people kicked in the front door and I was held down while my boyfriend’s place was robbed.  But that was the unsafe world I was in back then.  I knew I was safe now, but I didn’t feel safe.

I suppose my high alert began not long after I moved into my new home.  A nine year -old boy was trying to get into a flat downstairs to ‘batter’ the boy who lived there.  I told him to leave or I would call the police.  The boy threatened to take a saw to my throat and then threatened me with his mum and dad and that all my windows would ‘get put in’.  I didn’t call the police because I knew this boy has been terrorizing adults and kids in the scheme for years and the reality never changed, even with police involvement.  But after that, I didn’t know if his parents would be a threat, so when walking through the estate, I was always ready to protect myself.

One day my buzzer went and when I answered, it was the unmistaken ‘gone too far with the drugs’ voice of a female asking to get in.  I put down the handset without answering.  The buzzer went again and again.  Maria was agitated.  She gets stressed easily from her time on the streets.  Perhaps we are very similar, Maria and me.  I threw on my trainers then flew down the close stairs – I could see two women outside and I pressed the exit button so I could tell them to stop buzzing my buzzer as I had a dog.  But the two women tried to push past me into the close.  I told them they were not getting in and to stop pressing my buzzer.  They just continued to push through me.  So, I pushed the both of them right out the close door, and told them to go away, all the work men outside had stopped working and were looking on with open mouths at the commotion.

There are days when I don’t hear a peep from downstairs.  But regularly, when there are lots of people in the downstairs flat, they are all shouting and swearing and arguing with doors banging, which can go on for hours, sometimes all day.  It makes me feel uneasy.  Well, more than uneasy.  I go straight into fight or flight mode and my body tenses up and my heart races.  A couple of weeks ago I was giving an interview over the phone for the Daily Express and all I could hear in the background was them lot fighting lol   

To be honest I don’t know how to sort this problem.  I genuinely love my home, I painted it all white and went for a minimalistic look, to be the perfect setting for writing my next book.  I made a beautiful office, where I sit at a big desk and write, looking out to rabbits playing in the park, beautiful big trees and now that springs here all the daffodils too! It’s only one aspect that isn’t good … as described above, but I suppose because of my past maybe it affects me more?  Perhaps if anyone reading this, has had a safe life, could let me know if they would be affected this way or not?

Thanks so much!

Ishbel xxx