The end of DBT

 

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It’s all over. Sixteen months of Group Therapy. I met fifteen people over that time. Two of them left after a month, one after two weeks. Last month one person died. Of the people who stuck it out, well I like to think I made some friends for a short while. But those friendships are now ruined because two of them became hospitalised a few months ago and I wasn’t strong enough to support them through it. They weren’t very forgiving. Maybe a little, but not enough for things to repair. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Pathetic stuff’, ‘playground bullshit’. I nearly killed myself because of it.

The DBT group gave life a focus. Every Tuesday I’d walk to the train station, take the half hour train ride, then walk to the city hospital. I had homework; purpose; diary sheets; a reason to interact with human beings without feeling threatened, or worse. And now that the end of the group has come I don’t really know what is going to happen. I mean, next Tuesday I’ll see my Psychologist – and I think there’s some meeting with my Psychiatrist coming up, plus I still get visited by my Community Psychiatric Nurse – but the end has come and I’m feeling a bit shell-shocked.

The summer is ending for sure. I can’t keep fooling myself that I’ll write forever. I am not good enough and I’m only kidding myself that I have the slightest bit of talent for it. One thing I learned quickly is that, in my case, there is absolutely no correlation between mental illness and some creative spark. I got suckered in. I can’t write. SO….now what? My gut instinct is to close the curtains and keep the doors locked – stay away from people, they are trouble – and let the rest of my life wash over me. This feels like a sensible answer right now.

I’m sad. Yeah, fuck it, I’m sad. OK? DBT has been an interesting journey and I’ve learned some skills that have helped me with some of the more basic low level shit I have to deal with. But in the end, the things – hallucinations, emotional overdrive, self harm, paranoia, fear, self-loathing – which prompted the whole intervention in the first place are still there like they always were.

And self-indugent moaning on the internet like this is an appalling symptom of the needy and self-doubting hellbroth of it all. There is nothing like it. I was contributing to the World at one point in my life, now I’m sitting in the early morning light trying not to cry, scared to open my front door. What’ll happen in the end is a random guess. Right now – 6.21am – at this desk, with the trees on the hillside behind the house rolling in the wind like a mean sea, I’m lost.

Peace

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“In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I… And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there’s a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots.”

Р Hunter S Thompson

 

A mantra to live by if ever I read one. And, yeah, I read a lot. But I also run amok from time to time in BPD-fuelled periods of terror far from the overarching ethos of the above statement. Peace…. it’s all I dream about.

My Psychologist asked me about peace and happiness once – a prerequisite of the simple gauges for human well-being. I thought about it and got concerned about not offending her, so tried to say the right things in case the hammer dropped, then came to the conclusion that I’ve touched on happiness in spells but peace has always alluded me. I guess it’s hard to feel truly peaceful when you’ve tried to kill yourself…..and failed. It’s a bit like taking a wonky photo, then realising you’ve got the Delirium Tremens in perpetuity. Not that I’ve ever had the Tremens in its truest form, you understand, despite hitting the booze from time to time. You get the point, I hope, even if I don’t.

“My ideals have got me on the run, towards my connections with everyone,” sings Bill Callahan from the Bose speaker on my desk right now. It’s an August evening. The rain has stopped and the air is still. It’s just getting dark. It’s a peaceful time, or would be for anyone who wasn’t feeling full of the same oily bag of emotional rags in their head. People underestimate peace; the feeling of being truly alone and happy with that feeling, or of being with people and feeling an empathetic warmth which covers you better than heroin ever did. Of never being afraid of the next second. Peace is all I want.

I have no reason to be out of bed – I live alone, it’s getting late, I’m out of ideas, and sleep is a relief – but I suppose there must be something driving me out in the ether to type this, try to convey something, or even just take another breath. There will be no self harm tonight despite the urge, and the clock will not tick further toward an end nobody close to me wants to see.. No. It’s not tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll get up, tap at this keyboard, and regret being alive again, while I try to find my own personal high spot to distract me from the truth of it all. I will dodge Bigfoot, the paranoid thoughts, the self loathing, and the confusion. I will pray to something for help, and listen for any answer. I’m not religious, but I’ll hedge my bets with any deity I can put my finger on; never discount the happy smiles on the faces of people with true faith. They may appear dumb, or easily led, but they know a little about tranquility and happiness. For that, they have my respect.

Peace to all of you.

 

 

Studied…

 

orange ufo

A great orange ball of fire in the sky. It was a little after midnight in the English countryside; just a small village where nothing happened. I’d been drinking and I’d been talked into walking a girl my age home, the long way round.

There we stood, drunk, on the lane near the church in the dark. She was going to get her brains fucked out – that’s what she’d told me earlier anyway. She’d picked me for the job and at first I was going to help her out, but we’d continued drinking and now all I wanted was to be the only one who crawled into my bed. She was pawing at me in the warm night. I saw the orange light high up above us. It was behind her as her face got closer and her hand went down to my groin. I stopped her and pointed up at it.

“Probably the Steelworks,” she said. “Come on… screw me.”

I pushed her gently away and kept looking up at the thing in the sky. The Steelworks were at least ten miles from us, but nothing they ever did sent a ball of bright orange light up into the apex of the night, right above us, kind of moving left, right, bobbing around up there like it was floating on a calm sea. “What is that fucking thing?”

“It doesn’t matter, baby,” she reached for my trousers again. I moved her hand away. The orange light was burning now, fierce, maybe growing in size, kind of like it was heading straight towards us. I thought it could be a flare, perhaps. But then, wouldn’t it be dropping to earth? Shit, I was too drunk to think. Plus the girl was proving tough to handle, groping at me and trying to lick my face and get her tongue in my mouth. I got her to walk on down the lane towards the lights of the road. Near the bottom of the hill I turned around again. Yeah, the light was still up there. We watched it for a minute more, then it wobbled like a spinning top and zipped off across the sky, getting smaller quickly and vanishing upwards, outwards, away from Earth.

She wasn’t interested. She was trying every trick she knew to get us to fuck. I didn’t need sex, or her, I needed acid or a good sleep. I kissed her goodbye on the cheek and made sure she took the right road back to her house, then I walked home. What was it up there? Aliens? In bed, I thought about the meaning of it all. We were eighteen. We knew less about human life than any being from outer space. All I knew was how to get out of my head. The rest was just details. She’d had plans, but I’d ruined them. If Aliens had come to watch the show, I disappointed them too, even drunk, dumb, full of cum and the yahoo of youth.

I asked around but no-one else had seen anything weird that night, though they all wanted to know how she’d been in the sack. I had a harder time convincing my friends that I hadn’t fucked her than getting them to understand I’d seen a UFO. Sex sold faster than Aliens back then.

Thinking back I can see the orange light in my mind even now: bright, kind of watching, utterly out of place high up above the church. I never saw anything like it again. And, despite a few more of her attempts, I never did give her what she wanted. Almost all of my friends did though. It was that kind of a backwoods place.

What if it really had been a UFO that night, studying the two of us, travelled millions of light years to see the beauty of the Human race. All they got were two stumbling drunks, one of them highly sexed, both confused, going through a mating ritual that didn’t go anywhere. I know why they left – they had seen enough of Humans. They gave up on us. We’d been filed away in a small drawer somewhere under the heading: Waste of time….Destroy. That, or they returned each Saturday night like Peep show voyeurs to the lane by the Church to watch the show all over again – each time to completion – starring her and some other poor sap too drunk to take his gaze from her ass in the starlight. A simple act of faith in hormonal drive; our reason, ultimately, for being.

Valium-gate

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The old lady tugged at the locked gate. She knew she couldn’t get through it but her dumb stubbornness kept her trying.

Inside the house, barely seven feet away, I sat at my desk next to the open back door. The afternoon sunlight was coming in to the dark house through the doorway and the small window nearest the shaking gate.

“Ben…… BEN….are you in.”

I was in alright. I’d been in for a week or more. Hadn’t left the place for a second except to post a card. The CPN had been round that morning. She talked sense, but those types of conversations make me tired and confused. Sometimes they leave me feeling sad. The old lady knew none of this.

[cough]….[pause]…..”BEN……are you in?”

I sat there motionless. I could see through the window to the seven foot tall gate and the trellis at the top of the fence next to it. The old lady was looking at me from the gaps in the trellis. For a moment there was a confused look on her face. She tried again “BEN.”

I was an hour into a diazepam haze. I sat vegetating in front of my laptop watching shark attacks, old World War One footage, and Donald Trump, breaking off in small doses to work on the book. It was a smorgasbord best left undigested while sober. I was trying to concentrate on terror – someone else’s for a change. My central nervous system appreciates being depressed from time to time and given another intense focus. Valium¬†creates a buffer for long enough to cope with emotional pain – anybody’s. And if you want to see terror and emotional pain in the eyes of another, watch Donald Trump rallies. You can spot the eyes in the crowd every time. Least I can. Like lighthouse beacons being switched on on a clear night. Forty miles of ever-widening beams from awakening racists, realising for the first time the boat is in the wrong place and heading for the rocks. Unmistakable.

Horror after horror out there in the world. Inside the house in the comforting arms of medication there was more of a fighting chance against it all. Just me and the deadening thoughts of an overactive mind. Close to flat-line: the only place to be in confused times. And these are confusing times, make no mistake. We live in an era where everyone is the enemy and the only survivors will be the people who can’t fit in. The old lady was an enemy just a surely as anyone with their finger near a trigger.

I looked up at the window again. The old lady had gone. On my gate she’d hung a white plastic bag. Beans from her garden.

She was eighty four. Lonely. She was simply saying thank you for the birthday card I’d put through her door in my childish writing. There was no way she could have known the war that was being fought in increasingly shallow breaths at my desk. She was just collateral damage.

When I woke it was dark.

The gate was still locked. It’s best that way.

 

 

The search for comfort.

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Rome..

There isn’t much to say about the outskirts of Rome except that the part I saw was arid, run down, and full of graffiti. At the airport, policemen stood around in a group, hands on guns, caps at a jaunty angle, not interested much in security at all. Laughing and joking and pushing each other around in mock fights. Some of them stood to one side posing, looking dashing for the girls, pistols swung out away from their bodies so the handle made a perfect place to rest one hand and achieve the right effect. You either played the cool fool, the joker, or pouted your way through the afternoon shift. But you looked your best whatever; the only mandatory part of being a Rome policeman.

The route north from Rome is dirty too. All soundproofing/security fences to deal with the crazy locals cooped up like rats in any number of crumbling apartment blocks. Bad spray paint tags are everywhere and expressways tangle and run choking around almost every single block. And no-one seems to be around.

It’s hot. There is not a car, or truck, or bus, or even wheelchair, anywhere that is not dented in some way. No, Rome is not a city of love.

 

Perugia…

She was easily forty – could have been sixty. Plastic surgery, filled lips/tits, and blonde hair and tan made it hard to tell.

The young guy at the table with her wasn’t her lover. They were close, maybe mother and son, but they had trouble. She was switching between quick one line phone calls, laughter, to eyes welling up. I heard her say ‘The first two million is up front, but I’m scared.’

The young guy offered to make some alterations in his apartment. She’d have her own room. He would install a security gate and a camera entry system. He said she’d be safe then. She didn’t look convinced.

You could see by the way her face was lined that she’d probably been scared a lot in her life. The tiny dress and kitten heels and the Rolex watch were all ploughed into those lines one way or another. She’d earned them, but she hadn’t earned what she was running from now. You could tell that things had just got serious for the first time. Life was on the line.

Outside the little ristorante in the Via Ritorta with the overhanging stone balconies and tables with pots of lavender on them, things were not ok. He was trying to help but you could sense she knew he was coming up short. She kept on tapping at her phone but there were no good solutions coming back. She’d gone away – run away – to this town in the baking August sun but she hadn’t thought the next step through.

Around her neck were several silver necklaces. One held a Maltese cross, another a Kabbalah pendent. She was obviously big into protection, like she needed every bit of religious vengeance she could buy. She toyed with the necklaces as she ate cherries and spat the pips out discreetly into a semi-clenched fist.

You could tell the waiter wanted to fuck her. It was all she needed. She waved him away with a look that had been given and practiced a lot over the years. He didn’t need a second hint.

She gave her companion her card to pay the bill. They left the restaurant a little apart. They both knew the drill. She turned into the main square with no real sense of purpose or, I suspected, hope. I finished my wine. It was still cold. When I left I walked slowly. I haven’t the same enemies right now.

 

Begging…

Is begging the worst thing a person can do to get money?

Discuss.

Or don’t. Just ignore it and move on and feel better.

Three times today I was asked by three different people for money. The first was a Romany woman – age unknown – who I’d seen for the last few days. She was always in the same place – the bottom of the escalator system into the ancient underground caverns beneath the town. She was always in the full sun. I felt for her.

At the start she’d cursed me when I didn’t toss any money into her cloak. That pissed me off. The next day, the leg she’d ‘lost’ had grown back and the other one was gone – prop crutch still there. It didn’t get much use. I had wished her luck. She didn’t want luck. Luck didn’t mean shit in this heat. But this morning I gave her money. She smiled and said some prayer that I’m hoping will work for the two euros it cost me. Or that it’ll cancel out yesterday’s curse.

The second beggar was still drunk. Large, afro-haired, decent clothes. He mistook me for an Italian but when I passed back he’d sussed I was English and ripe for fleecing. ‘Hey man. Please. I hungry.’ I told him I had problems too and he changed back into Italian, cursing, swearing, stinking of booze, wild and angry.

The third beggar was older, fat, bald, drunk, and swaying as he sat on the marble steps of a building in the old town. He cupped his hand with no conviction and muttered something with a bored expression on his sweating face. I was rude to him. I said I needed money too, and that I always felt one wrong step away from where he was, or worse. He didn’t respond. I was his hundreth lost cause that hour and wasn’t worth the trouble.

I’ve worked with the vulnerable, the poor, the abused, sex workers, heroin addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, the hopeless, and some of those labels have applied to me. Some still do. So I have some empathy, right?

I judged all the three beggars today with no empathy at all, just pure fat, pathetic, apathy. Even anger at the gall of someone in need to ask me…..ME…..for a few cents. Fucking awful behaviour. Thoughts of everyone and everything I hate. But I hate me the most.

Who cares if the first beggar gave more money to an abusive husband who puts her out there every day? Who cares if the second beggar, and the third, drink a litre more cheap wine tonight because of my spare change? Am I Saint or sinner either way? Does it matter?

Questions. Too many. And I don’t feel like I’m succeeding today in my ongoing journey to become a better human being. One beggar got slightly less money from me than I spent at lunch on a glass of cold beer in a decent restaurant near the cathedral, where fat white folks gorged on truffled pasta. The other two moved on to whatever lives they have. None of them, though, deserved to meet me today. They deserved more.