Alumni

#TogethernessThursdays blog post - Isabel Biggs

Alumna Isabel Biggs (English BA, 2019) created the blog post ‘The Post-It Plot: Micro-Journaling During Lockdown’, to help those suffering with mental ill health during lockdown. Isabel has kindly consented to us sharing her blog post in full.

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In her own words, Isabel created the blog post “during a period of personal mental ill-health that occurred before and during the coronavirus pandemic. I have a passion for writing and desired to express myself in this condition by writing little journals on post-it notes until I had accrued a pile of ‘life’, both dark and light. In a period of mental ill-health my thoughts are disordered and fractured, so I felt that the most effective way to depict this was a visual one.

It was both therapeutic and explanatory. I hoped everybody could find something in it while our world is in a state of uncertainty, particularly those suffering from mental health issues like my own. My design was about providing an image of life during this time to promote understanding and ultimately, unity with our fellow human beings.

The sun has graced us with its presence today. The clouds resemble impressionist paintings in all of their elaborately blurred glory. My dog, Claude, is clearly dying for a walk as he flies up and down the stairs, stealing our socks and flinging them around as his frustration mounts. It is another day in lockdown, and I am in the precarious situation of feeling peaceful yet delicately teetering on the cusp of all-encompassing reflection.

Living with physical and mental health issues during months of lockdown has created a constant emotional flurry in my mind. Before the whole of the UK went into quarantine I had been on a personal lockdown since January due to daily and nightly dissociative seizures derived from my latest diagnosis of Complex PTSD, in addition to my pre-existing conditions. Over the past several weeks I decided to document some of this and have been writing ‘micro journals’, little snippets of life, on post-it notes.

After I collected a hefty pile of post-it notes I rearranged them by adhering them to random spots all over two of my bookcases so they formed both horizontal and vertical lines. I have now transcribed these lines and created a series of ‘streams of consciousness’ which are written here, and are designed to represent my state of mind over this time.

The randomness of the order and sudden flitting from one thought or emotion to another, often completely unrelated, from happiness to sadness and all in between, is an image of these thought processes. Excuse the uneven tone, but that is what it has been like existing in this state throughout several months of extremely insular living. Here they are; I hope these examples of the ‘flurry’, the relentless whirlpool, are illuminating. And so 2020 goes on.

MONTHS OF ISOLATION

WITH DAILY DISSOCIATION 

EYES CLOSING 

WALKING UP WALLS AND ACROSS THE CEILING 

THE WORLD IS WILD 

AND I WAS DESPERATE FOR MY EYES TO OPEN

ONLY TO SEE 

TRAGEDY

 

Why all the internal rhymes

All the vowels that reside inside

…I have a problem and need help

And a life!

*Face palm*

 

Family and friends, my Medical People, church events, an online baby shower or BBQ… through these lazy days of Zoom. July 4 has arrived in England - but is freedom truly in view?

I have tasted it as seizures diminish, and fidgeted with the rest of the country too

Scratches in my mind alter the colours of this time

When will I see you

 

Writing more letters 

Sent my film off to get developed

Happy high 

Manageable flashbacks exist!

 

WE DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE IN PAIN

 

My order from Pen Heaven is coming tomorrow!!!

 

Maybe the serious me was the truthful me 

and those crazy days 

were running away

 

I will never go on a cruise,

my escape instincts would be

thoroughly thwarted

The boat could be thunderstruck

Everything would be theatricalised

Thematical thingamabobs littered throughout

I need more therapy

 

IT IS NOT JUST ME WHO CARRIES THESE THINGS

THE WEIGHT IS ALSO ON ALL THE HANDS THAT LIFT ME UP

THOUGH THEY WOULD SAY I AM LIGHT AS AIR

I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY PEOPLE

AND THEIR TIME

AND THEIR LOVE

 

Script came 

Bought more packets for the stack 

Trying to be normal takes measures that are not normal for the human body

Once again I am in recovery

BUT

The last few weeks have really turned it around!

 

Something storms my head

and then REFUSES TO LEAVE

For days on end

it invades the screen

Etched on my eyes

Blinking does nothing

Inexhaustible stalks of thought

Flowering

 

CLAUDE BARKED AND GOT ME UP AT 4:30AM 

I THINK HE’S ACTUALLY TROLLING ME NOW

 

They need to make these post-it notes bigger, I’m practically scrawling over myself

 

I kept being told I had changed 

A decade migration 

I am not sure if it’s the complex PTSD

Analysis has kept me dwelling

When I want to think of so many other things unrelated to me

I am a different person 

H says I’m more ‘pensive’ and ‘tough’ and this makes sense 

So much too much

Now get. out. of. my. head.

 

I KEEP WATCHING GHIBLI AS IT IS A PURE PLACE 

OVER AND OVER AGAIN 

WITH JUST A LITTLE BIT OF SNARK

I NOW KNOW THE JAPANESE WORD FOR ‘IDIOT’

 

Was Shrek 2 really that good?

 

It went dark today 

Moody, broody English day

More boredom

but the backdrop is dramatic

Like a reckoning is about to come

But it will most likely only drizzle

The sky is mocking me

Its defiant insipidity

(oxymoron)

(emphasis on moron)

 

MY GOODNESS, I WAFFLE

 

Don’t be a misery guts, Biggs

 

UPDATE: OVER 3 MONTHS OF CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN IN THE UK

6 MONTHS OF PERSONAL SEIZURE-RELATED LOCKDOWN 

BIG NEWS - NO MORE DAYTIME SEIZURES!!! 

NEXT STOP IS ERADICATING NIGHTTIME SEIZURES 

CHURCH IS PRAYING 

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

EXTREMELY THANKFUL 

THIS IS A MONUMENTAL DEAL

 

These post-its keep falling off the shelf 

Not sticky enough

My desk faces three sets of windows and I can see everything that happens in the street 

A big tree 

Lots of Amazon deliveries 

Poodle crosses 

Leisurely conversations 

Shopping bags that clink 

I am Jimmy Stewart without a broken leg or a secret plot to observe 

Who needs one when I can gaslight myself?

 

EVERY DAY I WAKE UP AT 5 OR 5:30AM 

OR WHEN CLAUDE STARTS BARKING 

IT’S 9AM AND IT’S ALREADY HALFWAY THROUGH THE DAY 

WHEN IS LUNCH

 

Ruminating about ruminating

the cycle

THE CYCLE

The curse of introspection

The merciless reflection

A perpetual detention

 

Walked Claude through the forest

When he jumps into long grass he’s like a hovercraft zooming through the green tendrils 

But what about the crickets? 

He’s getting frisky with other puppies and is just generally manic, enjoys dirt

I enjoy scaling the forest myself, climbing trees, getting stuck, but happily

The air is fresh, I can breathe

 

I am not using mindfulness apps they give me panic attacks 

Counter-productive 

How much do self-help voice actors make?

Maybe I’ve missed my calling 

Not enough prescriptions in the world, I’m panicking a lot lately 

Anxiety in the chest and can’t bear people

 

Changed the film in my camera after getting my previous prints back 

Very happy thrills of thrills 

Actually really excited

 

Don’t get me wrong, it was also fun

Past things could be tough

But even those corners were dulled

By certain laughs/loves

 

AGAIN NO SEIZURE LAST NIGHT! 

NO SWEAT OR STINK 

I AM ONE FRESH LASS

I WOKE AT 5, NOT EVEN MAD

 

Trauma anniversaries

They’re mental and emotional torture

My adversaries

 

Went on the tube, and it is the same as before

Except for the masks

And all the signs 

And the small detail that there is almost no one on it 

I am not worried I will dissociate! 

Life without daytime dissociation is a new, brighter dimension

Forest glades

All the rest… sweetened away 

 

Walked Claude, actually managed to get through it without him being inappropriate with other dogs

Sniffed noses that’s all 

Less muppety! Slightly!

 

I’VE BEEN GETTING COFFEE FROM THE LOCAL TWICE A DAY WHICH IS GOOD TASTE AND GOOD CHATS

DIAMOND FACES BLACK GLOVES

BUT TODAY IS TOO HOT AND HAD A PANIC ATTACK

FEELING FRAGILE

FIRST IN A WHILE

I WANT TO COME BACK

 

SKIP AD

 

Church on YouTube in an hour 

*hour has passed*

Pastor talked about Psalm 8 and God’s majesty 

Very uplifting very inspiring 

Brain unfreeze

 

TIGHT CHEST 

TIGHT CHEST 

RIB CAGE CONTRACTING 

HEART EXPANDING 

VENTRICLES HARDENING 

CONCRETE EVERYTHING

 

For the first time in a long time, I did not have a seizure last night!

Hallelujah!

 

It’s a small life, in some ways

But I’m living it

 

You’re not the only one with a vocabulary, Boris

 

THE EMERGENCY MEDICATION HAS EXPIRED 

FLASHBACKS NOT AS MANAGEABLE

 

Getting a haircut in two weeks!

I will no longer look like something out of Macbeth

 

Drinking is different now 

Am I still that girl 

I want to stop this incessant reflection 

Can it, Hancock 

Too sad, 17 is sad 

Except then I met S

 

Watching one of my favourite Youtube channels where one guy makes videos about all of Tolkien’s works, from The Silmarillion to Lord of the Rings, even to The Unfinished Tales

They’re extremely detailed and I’m learning so much about where the elves came from and all of their shenanigans with Morgoth (and his orcs) and the dwarves and the humans and the Valar and the Silmarils and EACH OTHER. They’re beautiful but truly, the drama

Eating it up, of course

 

NOT SURE IF I HAD A SEIZURE LAST NIGHT AS NOTHING WOKE ME UP

NO PROFUSE SWEAT, I DID FIND MY PYJAMA BOTTOMS ON THE FLOOR IN THE MORNING THOUGH 

EITHER I HAD A SEIZURE OR I AM SICK OF MY FASHION CHOICES

 

Writing another letter to a friend I miss 

Let’s talk about imposter syndrome 

Why do we not feel like what we look like sometimes

 

Lorelai is a jerk 

and Dean 

and Rory 

and yes you sound jealous

 

NEW SCRIPT IS STILL NOT HERE AND I’M WAITING FOR THE BATS TO SUBSIDE 

GOT A NEW BROCADE BLAZER THOUGH 

WRAP ME IN GOLD THREAD UNTIL THEY GO AWAY

 

Just heard about the grief of

somebody I used to know

It has been several years but I am crushed for them

I can’t think about anything else, it’s fused to the fibres of my mind

I get fixated

All day, all the time

Why am I so self-centred

I only ever wanted the best for your life

My prayers are for you tonight

 

WATCHING HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE FOR THE 15TH TIME, AT LEAST. IT’S POURING WITH RAIN OUTSIDE AS THE HEAT FINALLY BROKE

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME

CHILD HOWL JUST SWALLOWED A FALLING STAR

AND HONESTLY IT MAKES COMPLETE SENSE

IT LITERALLY GLISTENS

 

In Middle Earth the beginning of the world was a song

There is something kind of beautiful about that

About life being music, like WE are music

 

 

I have 10 tote bags in a pile and 5 are from Daunt Books

Another is a sturdy navy one with ‘emotional baggage’ written on it

And yes, it is my favourite!

 

I AM LISTENING TO ‘THE DOUBLE CLEANSE PODCAST’ AND THEY JUST LAUGH AND TALK ABOUT SKINCARE AND HONESTLY IT IS A GOOD TIME.

 

Let’s talk about spiritual growth 

I’m not going to be me from 10 years ago 

It’s my backbone

 

It’s not too late

 

M just introduced me to k-pop and I’m not mad

 

I GOT DIAGNOSED WITH COMPLEX PTSD BY A NEUROPSYCHIATRIST 

GOOGLE IS JUST A TOOL FOR MASOCHISM 

I DO NOT HAVE BORDERLINE 

IT’S OKAY, IT’S A GOOD DAY, EVEN WITH THE RAIN!

 

I am looking for the best Japanese/Korean sunscreen 

Being sick has made my consumption more specific 

Blah blah blah self-care blah 

 

JUST WENT TO THE DENTIST AND THE LEVEL OF PPE MEANS IT’S LIKE BEING IN AN OPERATING THEATRE, BUT BEING EXTREMELY CONSCIOUS OF WHAT IS GOING ON

HAD SURGERY TWICE AND APART FROM THE POST-OP GROANING AND DROOLING IT WAS BLISSFUL UNAWARES 

THE NURSES RULED

THEY ALWAYS DO

 

New role of Portra 35mm film coming 

Keen for more portraits 

Even my camera is sick of landscapes 

More sunlight through the trees!!!

 

When I was a kid my favourite book of the Bible was Proverbs

Now I read Psalms over and over

It’s the full spectrum of emotion

 

IT’S 35 DEGREES

I DID NOT MOVE TO THE UK FOR THIS

SPEAKING OF

IT’S EXACTLY 7 YEARS ON THE 4TH SINCE THEN

7 YEARS OF HOME

 

It’s 10 years ago, but this time I leave 

This time they REDACTED in earshot, and I leave 

And the others care, this time

 

I like writing mediocre poetry 

Not good, not bad 

But very cathartic

 

I have nine separate completed colouring-in cards 

It’s adult colouring-in, okay?

Creativity is a way to get through the day/keep me sane etc 

(Relative)

 

I need to stop looking at Twitter in my sleep

Clumsy sleepy thumbs keep ‘liking’ things I wouldn’t ordinarily

Slightly concerned I look like a terrible person

Irony is I don’t even personally use Twitter

Toxic echo chamber

A merciless commander

…and bad spelling

 

TALKED TO S - MY MENTAL HEALTH NURSE - ON THE PHONE 

A SOFT PLACE TO LAND 

SPEAKING AGAIN IN FOUR WEEKS 

‘IF YOU SAY, “DON’T THINK ABOUT THE PINK ELEPHANT”, WHAT WILL YOU THINK ABOUT? THE PINK ELEPHANT.’

 

When Rory cuts her hair and starts going to Yale it’s the beginning of the end

 

Therapist said to not write about trauma, but write light 

Like light fiction 

Maybe I should do this but with pieces of a story

And more alliteration 

Always

(See what I did? I crack myself up)

 

TWO YEARS FROM 30 AND NOT THAT WILD THING 

NO ONE SAYS, ‘WOW YOU HAVEN’T CHANGED AT ALL!’

BUT H SAYS THIS IS MORE AUTHENTIC, THAT WAS DEFENSIVE

MAYBE

 

A majestic car is across the street 

The people stretch in their underwear in front of an open window 

Curtains please

 

panicpanicpanic

 

CLAUDE IS EATING A BONE ON MY RUG

HE HAS NO MANNERS

SOMETIMES I FORGET THAT HE’S A DOG!

 

The key (in the short term) to dealing with distressing memories in the every day, doc tells me

is distract distract distract

not dwell dwell dwell

I’m getting better at it!

Slowly!

 

Was lying in bed

Thinking,

I would be nowhere without the women in my life

I always wanted to be B when I grew up

We are bonded

Have you ever thought about how ‘bonds’ can be things that imprison a person OR

they can be things bringing people together, in love and solidarity?

It’s the same word, but one means loneliness, and the other the opposite

(Although sometimes I think you can feel both at once)

But I’m blessed to have the latter with these women

Always

I am not imprisoned

We are not imprisoned

 

MY SKIN EXPLODED

 

Still having therapy once a week, but by phone

I miss us drinking coffee while I sit in a big yellow chair and talk about my feelings

but it keeps me afloat

One of the people and treatments to whom and which I owe this life

It has been a blessing

I thank you

Over and over

 

I need to re-read Patti Smith’s Just Kids 

Concentration continues to be an issue 

Hence micro-journals with nothing profound to say 

Not the idea though 

Sometimes the void is the point

 

This is turning into a project within a project 

‘A Post-It Project: Micro Journaling in Lockdown’ 

Insipid name 

Will probably use it

 

I sent colouring-in to the Ps 

They are special

 

THE DAYS ARE SLOW BUT THE WEEKS FLY BY

I WROTE AN ESSAY ON ‘WHAT IS TIME?’ LAST YEAR 

CAN’T REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT I SAID… SOMETHING ABOUT ‘HUMAN INTERPRETATION OF NATURAL PATTERNS’ 

‘SUBJECTIVE VERSUS OBJECTIVE TIME’ ETC ETC 

TOOK A MONTH TO WRITE 

COULD NOT THINK STRAIGHT 

 

REDACTED threatened REDACTED

Flippantly 

My nausea will not cease

 

JUST BOUGHT A BUNCH OF MOCHI AND ALOE VERA TEA 

INSIDES CRYSTALLISED

 

I have wanted to thank you for so many years

Feeling less bruised

So

I’m

thanking

you

 

I sent off my film to West End Cameras and might get it back by the end of the week 

It’s full of portraits this time 

Sometimes I feel pretty, other times gargoyles

 

Writing/photography/different types of art 

Walking through nature with D and the dog 

Sunny afternoons, cool drinks 

A WhatsApp away from all the love in the world

Feeling that despite all the sadnesses

I’ve got it pretty good 

In 2 months I turn 28

And you know what?

It’s not a waste

I am not a waste