I don’t have a huge number of long-term friends, so I consider Missy to be one of my oldest and most valued. Having grown up on opposite sides of the same village in Hampshire, we have fairly similar backgrounds, our families moving in the same circles. Missy is a character to say the least, and I view her as the perfect example of conquering life’s hardships with both grace, and fierce determination. Having suffered through an abusive relationship that left her retreating in to herself, she became the target of depression and a severe eating disorder.
About five years ago I was on a walk with my mum and we were on one of the country lanes where we bumped in to Missy. It had probably been a few months since I’d seen her last, but the physical changes to her were dramatic. She had shed weight and – as someone who was always naturally slender – she was down to a size I wasn’t even sure was possible for a grown woman to get to. What shook me most was how my girl had become distantly shrunken, compared to her usually striking appearance and attitude. It was no less than heart-wrenching to watch.
When I first met Missy properly it was on our first day of college, she was sat right at the back of the bus in the middle of the row, and I nervously made my way to join her. Expecting to be shunned away I was instead greeted with a Cheshire Cat grin and open arms. We talked for the entire journey – although I had no idea what was going on because I was too caught up by her yellow eyes; a colour I’d never seen eyes be before. I tuned in when the topic of Susie came up, though. A girl I’d been in a play with a few weeks before, and who Missy vehemently hated (I still have that picture with her face crossed out, Missy) and who naturally I now hated too. Missy was the kind of cool girl you needed in your life.
Our shared passion and the foundation of our relationship was definitely drama. We were both involved in a lot of theatre classes – did it help you through childhood and adolescence in any way?
‘I escaped through Drama. I was really, really quiet at school – to the point where I couldn’t even answer my name in the register.’
I can hear her sipping on something whilst on the phone and ask her if it’s tea or wine –
‘It’s water actually! I am constantly sipping on tea though… I do love a good cuppa’
I think back to when Missy’s profile picture on Facebook was with her and a Marmite mug. I go to check, and see that she, in fact, has a lot of profile pictures with her and a mug of tea – including her current one where she’s sporting a t-shirt designed by her Sheffield-born boyfriend. I stalk her social media for a while, wondering if I should get a t-shirt in black or white. Definitely black.
Missy’s boyfriend isn’t the only artistically talented one. In fact, Missy has just sold a few of her vibrant paintings – portraits of celebrities she admires (to be honest, they’re usually celebrities she fancies… James Dean being the constant variable). I ask her what art means to her, how it can help:
‘with depression, concentration was my hardest thing. My mind was wandering and restless. Stuff you enjoyed before, like programmes and books – you just don’t give a shit.’
Art for Missy is therapy: a way of soothing the anxiety and focusing the restless mind. I personally always described depression as ‘extreme boredom’, so when Missy said lack of concentration was the worst thing I was in total agreement with her. I told her how she was a lady of wise words – ‘wise words… can you put that in there about me? Make me sound really clever’ she giggles. I grinned slyly, ‘sure’.
The conversation migrated to the lack of focus in the mind, to irritability – with the wind being number one on annoyance scales: ‘you start shouting ‘can you just PISS OFF’ at the weather!’
Missy now works in mental health, looking after the moderately to severely ill. She works within the community, mainly caring for people with Bi Polar Disorder and those suffering with personality disorders. When asked if she’s enjoying it you can hear the jubilation in her voice as she discusses how each day is different, ‘you never know what it will be like on the other side of the door […but] it’s rewarding and you do get to have a laugh’.
So, has working within this industry helped you in any way? Or has it made you feel worse, such as if you know you can’t help a patient?
‘Doing what I do now has really helped me. It makes me realise that my life is not that bad, it gives me so much perspective. I am so lucky. And no, you have to take it a day at a time – you work on people’s goals so that you have something to work towards and achieve. […] knowing what they’ve gone through, even if they have their issues, you just think ‘you’re doing so well’ ‘
I take a minute to process how Missy has become infinitely more positive since she started this job last October. I can see what she means as well. I was feeling sorry for myself (tonsillitis) just before our call and just listening to her talking had already restored some of my energy. I saw a maternally protective side to her that I hadn’t seen before, and i’m not surprised to learn that her employers are recognising she’s something special.
The conversation shifts to smoking, and how Missy thinks she wouldn’t have picked the habit up if she hadn’t been mentally ill (she’s given up, don’t fret). Similar to art it was something to focus on, something for your hands to do. ‘The NHS is smoke-free, so imagine you’ve just been sectioned, you’re locked in and you can’t have ciggys’ she pauses then adds, ‘being on a ward with no fags… that’s scary isn’t it?’. This is just the Missy I know, capable of empathasing with people on the intricate complexities of situations – the things that wouldn’t strike concern in other people.
Missy apologises for her ‘excessive’ swearing and for becoming sassy, which confuses me because 1. I swear more than her, and 2. since when was she not sassy?
‘Have I always been sassy? So weird when people tell you stuff about yourself you don’t realise. Anyway, i’ve been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and it’s just made me so sassy, like, bitch!!’
As positive reflections go, Missy will definitely be a hard girl to top – but I expected nothing less. I think we can all learn from her that we need to remember how every day is different, and it’s about trying to relax and not predict what will happen next: ‘there’s good and bad days’. I catch myself smiling as I write this, because this girl sure knows how to flip a bad situation. Missy, you never fail to have a genuine and honest approach to life, and your naturally hilarious character provides comic relief for many. I, for one, am very appreciative of this
– not of how Northern you’ve become though.