Car Conversation

How do you go about telling someone you almost killed yourself last week? Yeah, I know, ‘Almost’. Define Almost. And, while you’re at it, get the fuck off of the internet with your self-aggrandising bullshit, Ben(jamin).

Well, as someone who’s followed through with those thoughts four [4] times with genuine focus in the past eight years I think I’m up on the subject enough to enter some kind of discourse. OK, none of this means you have any emotional involvement in what I’m writing – none of you know who I am, and fewer than that number actually give a shit anyhow – but I think it’s a topic worth getting into. Especially as times are tough considering the focus shift of my Therapy. Things are up in the air, mixed up, and my thoughts are too occupied with the past and the negative aspects of my life. The Professionals in my life think I am at increased risk. They are right.

Well. What do you say to someone when you’ve had a near miss? ‘Err, by the way, I nearly killed myself last week.’? Do you sit them down, hold their hand, and gently talk through the thing over a glass of wine and many tears? What’s the pro-forma?

In this case, I just blurted it out while driving the car. ‘By the way, I nearly killed myself last week.’ I wasn’t trying to be cruel, or really trying anything at all. It just happened.

The reaction, at first, was silence for a few seconds, then ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘I didn’t want to pile that onto you.’ Which was a truth. In fact, it was the truth. The only truth. Who wants to heap that kind of emotional pile of utter shit onto anyone? I didn’t, I never have, and I still don’t. I’m not a guy who makes cryptic attention-seeking phonecalls, or sends messages of angst, or writes suicide notes. Suicide is a personal thing, all heightened emotional state, solitary, Me v the Universe. I never want to involve others. I’ve been told by Professionals that this is dangerous, because it points to me really meaning it. Goddamn right. I meant it every time.

Where does that leave us? Well, in some respects it means your opinion of me has fallen. And it possibly means the same from my partner’s perspective too. I don’t know for sure, I don’t want to ask her, or you. Too many heavy conversations like that aren’t anyone’s idea of fun.

The subject of suicide is never welcomed by anyone, like an incoming missile, or a wayward step on a cliff top. Even out here in the ether. For that, I apologise. But here we are anyhow. Words written. Cat out of the bag. As grim as it is, this is my Truth and this is the way of things right now. Some people fight Wolverines for a living. I fight self-inflicted death. And I hate myself for it.

Despite all of the above, I felt a little better once the silence returned in the car – just like I feel a little better for typing these words.. She knew the truth now, hard as it had been to say, and the World had lost one more appalling secret.


Karma in the Dark

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Fine music coming out of the speaker on my desk. Drizzle outside. Cold. Last night was another night of bad dreams and ominous feelings. All switchblades in the dark and a presence waiting for me at the top of the stairs. In situations like this – 3am in a dark and creaking 200yr old house – there is only one way to confront your demons: head on, and with no regard for the consequences. Make a bastard fight of it. As usual, the stairway was clear when I jerked the bedroom door open, naked, ready to face whatever was out there. Could have been the medication – might always be the medication – but I thought the place felt better, calmer, after I’d done my bit of minor heroics in the night. The vanity of fighting, and beating, something non-existent isn’t lost on me, even at my age. Pathetic.

Rain drips off of the honeysuckle in front of the window. Damp green everywhere in view. Ivy choking trees on the hillside a hundred feet away. The first baby birds of the year hide in overgrown flowerbeds, puffed up and downy, unaware of the fight in here a few hours ago. Cowslips poke through the lawn that I should have cut yesterday instead of sitting here bashing on this keyboard. I have the choice of going to the Buddhist Temple in a couple of hours, or stay sitting here drinking Lady Grey tea and being ineffectual. I haven’t been to the Temple for over a year, and my Buddhist principles have lapsed to the point where I have no compassion, calmness, and at the moment I’m eating anything that can bleed. Fuel for bad returns on my life investment. Source of the root of the thing? After all, the deal is you get out what you put in, right? Too many bad deeds builds payback.

Another cup of tea. This fucking incense stick won’t light. More bad signs from the powers that be, up there dishing out judgement and orders. This headache thumps. My pullover needs washing. The burn on my hand hurts. The World heads towards crazy Wars. Thoughts racing now. Is this my punishment? Maybe, got to be kinder to myself/others and build up the cosmic balance sheet. Inescapable Karma.



The Crime Scene

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All change at the Traveller site this morning. I’d walked up the hill in the rain, avoiding eye contact with every single gawping motorist who passed me by. Exercise is good, I’m told to do it regularly, but I nearly passed out doing my press-ups this morning. I guarantee that if I’m not eventually found slumped over this desk one day, I’ll be found prone on the bathroom floor in the face down position of a final failed press-up.

The site was empty. The Travellers had left the car park at the bottom of Black Rocks. Destination unknown. Maybe they’re setting up in your garden right this second. I’d admired their camp when things were up and running, and I’d walked through the middle of it a couple of times with a cheery ‘Hello,’ that always went unanswered. There were fighting Cocks, dogs tethered to cages, polished milk churns, artificial grass, and brand new BMWs. Never any response, though. Now all that’s left are the ashes of a large fire and a smashed up caravan, minus wheels. I guess some poor dosser (read – slave) took a beating before his caravan was trashed. His boots were still there, neatly positioned under the entrance. Door was open, inside wrecked. I wondered where he was, I mean, there are a lot of places up there to hide a badly beaten man where sniffer dogs would struggle to operate. What had he done to have his home taken from him?

In time they’ll be back – most likely around the same time next year. I won’t ask any questions when they do finally turn up. Prudence, and all that. And my body is better found at home than never found at all. With that simple statement I’ll leave you to find your own entertainment: maybe walking through Traveller sites, or hiding the body of a slave. Who knows how some people get their kicks in the privacy of their own illegal itinerant camping grounds in the woods?

Now the rain has stopped. The house is warming up in the dirge of mid Spring. It’s medication time. In a few minutes it’ll be weird enough in here for this morning to be forgotten. Maybe tomorrow I’ll read about some poor dog walker making a grim discovery that I side-stepped today. Life’s like that.


Distress Tolerance

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Distress tolerance. Explain it without getting any more distressed, if you can.

In simple terms, Distress Tolerance is this: Put up and shut up. I got taught all the tricks in eighteen months of DBT. Yesterday, and today – nearly 36 hours now of heightened emotional distress – I had cause to try out the techniques up close and personal. The cause isn’t important – to you – but the general ending was the same as always: I am hateful and pointless. Thoughts like that eat away at your core. Sometimes, before I realise, I’m hurting myself badly. Cause and effect, and all that. Diazepam helped yesterday. And now I’m sitting at my good ole desk without a clue what to do today and how I’m going to cope. My hands are shaking. Thoughts are incoherent. I feel like I’m coming to the end of my usefulness. There is rising panic as I’m typing.

Anyone else would forget all this bleating and just get on with life. Fuck it. I’m taking some more diazepam right now.

OK. Slurped a poxy 5mg tablet down with some tea. Takes a while to kick in. Feeling less shaky already, ten seconds later. Placebo effect for sure. Funny how stupid humans are.

I was working on some nightmarish character thing ages ago – a scene where I’d observed people (in real life) and given them fitting names – and I’ve just come across the papers near where I keep my meds. Here are some of the characters:

Pig Nose, Drunk Copper, Old Dusty, Mean School Mam, Old Flyboy, Dead for 50 years, Tailor Crippin, Bobble beret hell, Dick Watson, Press Pass, Kipper Tie, Sgt Porky, Drowned Hat, Sexual Shopkeeper.

My God, what was I thinking? Writing isn’t my bag. OR is it? I mean, I have no other bags to speak of and there was that book deal I couldn’t follow through on. All that money up front, major publisher. Dead in the water thanks to me and my mental fragility. I suppose it only goes to rubber stamp a pre-existing belief I’m incapable of anything at all; washing up right, cutting the grass, looking smart, being helpful, being useful, writing, life.

Some people take time on their blogs, and I enjoy many, many blogs out there, but mine is always stream-of-consciousness bullshit with no care taken at all. It’s lazy and it’s turning into an exercise I’m thinking of stopping. Pointless.

But, hey, that’s today. Right now. And as this diazepam starts to kick in – feel the slight glow in my head – the perception might change.

The truth is, mental illness isn’t kooky or creative. It’s hard to communicate effectively when you’re like this. I’m not the only one, I know. Just sitting here in the morning sun it feels like I am. I’m a wreck of a man; ghost.


The boy on the Island

Cigarette butts and splashed ice cream on the pavement below, screaming from the gulls overhead, a little blonde-haired boy hiding up high in a tree watching the clouds and praying for dinner time to never come around. The island sat in its muddy bed and hardened in the sun. That summer felt longer than the others.

Inside, another argument was booming around the large house. Things were going to be bad around the kitchen table when it came to eating later. Gritted teeth, fists coming down hard on the pine top, me sitting there waiting for death. I never knew what started it. I was just sure that I didn’t deserve it. I mean, what kid really needed to feel that level of terror. None. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances, the spark on the fuse. I guessed it was a hungover adult mind regretting my conception in the first place, but truth is it could have been anything. Sometimes it seemed like there never really needed to be a good reason. Things just happened out of the blue, catching fire quickly, ending up with me being the dog to kick.

Down by the beach the tourists ate cheap ice cream from the grey concrete parlour which smelled of mice and also sold plastic beach toys – nobody ever really successfully played beach tennis. Or made their shitty kite last more than five minutes before the onshore breeze shredded it like newspaper. Beach huts lined up facing the sea and families from London sat in the relative peace of tea brewing old England comfort and made jokes about fat people in bathing suits. The English coast. Tea, tins of lager, sandcastles. Sand giving gritty new meaning to cheese sandwiches. Beat the metropolitan fug of warm summer. Bracing sea air. Happy times for many. Happy faces.

I’d walk along the sand and shells imagining I could go live in a beach hut forever, or leave with another family and take my chances in London. I searched for weird stones or the flotsam on the high tide mark. Fishing floats, old bottles and, one time, some syringes and empty pill packets behind a sand dune. I played on the mud flats when the tide went out. Sticky grey goo, staring out at the nuclear power station across the water.

Back up in the tree I lay on my back on a heavy limb and the clouds hung delicate above. I turned my head with every noise that came from the house. There was no getting away from it. Sooner or later I’d be in there, right in the eye of it all. Confused, scared. Maybe I’d be punished, too. I made a promise to myself that it wouldn’t always be this way. Eventually the sky closed in. I found out years later that I had learned to dissociate in times like these. It dulled the terror. Made survival easier and stopped any crying. Crying got you nowhere.

A door slammed. More shouting. Somebody growled, then screamed with rage.

The holidays. Same format every year for the grown-ups: Time off work. Parties with rich sailing buddies. Drunk. Headaches. Aggressive arguments. Punishment. Regret. The slightest slip-up from me and that was it, bedroom door would come crashing open, followed by gritted teeth, shaking up above me with rage, fists pumping.

The night came soon enough. Dinner had been tough but there were no words, just the normal red-faced anger and noisy crashing crockery. That night, in bed, the house creaked as it cooled. I turned off the night light and stared at the darkness. There was no sense that I’d gotten away with another day, no relief, just the knowledge that tomorrow would come brooding and ready to spark off without warning. When you’re young you think these things will be repeated forever. The drip drip drip of fear. Constant adrenaline and self-protection. Terror. Faithlessness. Suspicion. Hatred. Anger. Sadness. Completely cut off from the positive normal emotions of a seven year old. Sitting alone in the treacherous currents created by fucked up adults who should have known better. On an Island.


In the Village

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Here in the morning candlelight. Grey outside. Gypsies have moved into the area at the bottom of the rocks up from my house. The villagers are scared but I walked through their caravans and couldn’t see why. Polished milk churns. Fake squares of grass outside immaculate doors. Smiles. No fear.

I failed yesterday to convince my CPN to mediate with my Psychiatrist to get me on an experimental LSD microdosing programme. Nice try. At the end of her visit I thanked her for always taking the time to listen to my bullshit. I wished her luck and a peaceful weekend away from the crazies. When she left I locked the gate and took my meds. And prayed up high to something. Same words every time – ‘Stop the wars, the killing, hatred, spread love, care for the frightened, protect my loved ones, protect me.’

The prayer failed. War is still rank and carefree, missiles and bombs, and people burned alive in cages like rats for reasons I can’t make sense of. Humans stink, and the lock on my gate outside isn’t ever going to be strong enough to stop the stench and the terror from getting to me in here.

Is anyone out there, or is everyone in Subway reading facebook on their IPhone? Kittens falling over. Dogs laughing. Hideous motivational quotes dreamed up by assholes with no sense of shame or reality. Banter and the shitfest of unsophisticated communication rammed down throats till you can’t speak for yourself any more without saying ‘So,’ at the beginning of every sentence. A stolen and copied verbal tick. The right language to be in control and self-assured. Using the accepted verbal cues. These things are vital if you want to fit in – if a banal communion is your goal.


I ask myself: what can I do?

A: Nothing.

Train of thought gone. Concentration fucked after, what, 312 words. Awful.

I’m going back to staring out of the window and watching for something that’ll never turn up. Blasted on meds, keeping a lid on it all in this tiny village high up in the British hills, dodging my elderly neighbour who only wants to talk. And to stop feeling lonely too.


The Express

The dark Express Train runs towards us, unstoppable, belching gas and fury. Grey steel, fumes, high pitched engines. There is a grim acceptance of its arrival at the head of the last chance of any peace in our time. Deluded hordes rush towards the tracks, cheering – some out of fear and lack of self-control. Others throw themselves under the greasy wheels. Too many victims to bury in single plots. Screams and wailing and no-one has any idea where to turn to get away from people pushing them forward. Hope finds herself some morphine in a kitchen cabinet and sucks it straight up into the syringe. A quick push down into the barrel, then cold up the vein pumping higher towards the heart. Killing the scene outside for a moment. In the offices of the Elite there are nervous jabberings from underlings in dark suits. More importantly than the swathes of bodies building up in side streets, falling where they taste the blast, jobs are on the line.

And so my morning began. So all of our mornings began.

I sometimes find the news a difficult thing to wake up to. I’d like to say I can avoid it, but I have become a junky to the machinations of terror that are building up around the World at the moment like a huge vortex. In my case, this morning, the precipice we all stand on has driven me to start my anti-psychotics again. I’ll take the blend of fuzzy dullness versus the anxious perma-state of anyone with any real knowledge of what’s going on. Right now, the ignorant are to be envied. There are some things you can’t unsee – like two sweating fat men in suits saluting hordes of frightened soldiers, dreaming about their own respective legacies, and lunch. Two ludicrous haircuts, an ocean apart, driven by madness and the spiky throb of an ego too swollen and rabid to give the owner any rest at all.

Out in the Universe, different eyes watch and wait, appalled. The petri-dish experiment has begun to eat itself and turn into blackened mold. The spores must be contained at all costs. Wiped out completely. Incinerated in industrial ovens. Proof gotten: humans can’t be trusted. A+B=Death (every time).

Ahh, the mental blanket of flupentixol. Metallic taste in my mouth now. Energy sapping. Dull thoughts blunting the needle sharp points of terror aiming at my brain from the images on the screen. Outside, a cat tries to get into my food waste bin. He’s got problems of his own.






The Club

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Last night I dreamed that Neil Young showed me around his farm while a platypus chased feral cats into a dark lake. It had a strange kind of beauty. I’m not really into Neil Young, but he was there alright, staring deep into my eyes from under the brim of his black hat. But that’s enough of listening to my dreams. There are only a couple of things more boring than listening to other’s dreams. Hearing about their holidays is one of them. I can’t remember the other, but I won’t burden you with any more hatred today. We have enough of that to coat the world in a six inch thick bloodied soup.

I am alive. Was close at one point last night, but I made it and now I’m sitting here half typing and half watching a Robin pecking at my window like he’s tapping out a morse code message. I wish I could understand him. I’m groggy from the meds, but I don’t feel so bad or mixed up. This is time to grab with both hands and make use of. The clock is ticking – I hear it when the music stops to move on to the next song – and my heart beats slowly today. Built to Spill are on the speaker. The yellow flowers directly outside are a little more vivid, alive, and I don’t feel disconnected from them.

When I have a near miss I’m always surprised by the lack of care about it the next day. I mean, these things are pretty large events for anyone yet I’m thinking about it with too little regard. I guess it’s like anything in life: too much of something takes the edge and the feel of it away. You become conditioned, blasé, over-familiar. In time maybe I’ll break down and let it all wash around in my head and get to where it can be dealt with. I’m not looking forward to that day, should it ever arrive. Who would? Some people choose not to swim with sharks. And some will be lucky enough to never see the sea at all.  It’s how you stay alive to tell wild made-up stories on facebook about how great your life is.

But we’re not that naïve. You and I know the truth. Anybody who has seen the same jumping off point as I stood on last night understands the true horror of simply being alive. It’s all fins and dark water, and rip-tides pulling you from the white beach into somewhere you hadn’t planned on being, ever.

No. We are the initiated. We have gold card membership. I’m not going to apologise for it, either. This is a select club. We are picky about who joins, and for what reasons. This is for all of you who – no matter how hard it was – turned around and made it back.


Trauma #3

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Day following weekly Trauma Therapy session #3. Me and my Psychologist raised our voices to each other. I felt vulnerable again. I don’t like it.

There’s not much to say about today. I walked for a while up onto the Black Rocks, then down the incline and along the canal and back up through my village. Locked the garden gate, the back door, drew the curtain. Lit some candles. Sat and watched YouTube videos of no use at all. Vacuous bullshit. Got confused, then sad, then at risk. Took a diazepam and decided to channel it all into something productive – and here it is, for what it’s worth.

My Psychologist thinks I’m beginning to show some form of compassion for myself and I’m not used to it. This is an alien concept to me. She wants me to grieve for my lost childhood. I don’t know if I can. And I don’t know if I deserve to. I’m washed up and sometimes things are better left high and dry where they finally rested. No storm ever got welcomed twice. Not for me, anyhow.

There is grey in the sky outside, chill wind. The view from my desk is the same little window looking out towards the hill up into the nature reserve. The scree slope is bare and featureless. Moss lumps cover fallen trees. Pigeons sit high and fat and pretty up in the scraggy beech trees. The world is springing back to life with no hang-ups from yesteryear. It’s all to play for out there. Inside, the calm plays a flat-line in my brain and slows down the typing and the adrenaline.

I hurt. I’m sad. I’m confused. There is a kernel of something deep down there, but I don’t know what that means. I’m trying to forget I have enough codeine to do the job – board the respiratory escalator going down. These are times where you either fight or die.

Obscene faces in the News. Horror and appalling humans wherever you look. No faith in anything. Hubris gone. The jumping facial tick of the liar. Viscous pools of the all consuming grey goo of all our futures. Seal resting out of place on the beach. Huge lightning storms. Trips into the past.

No. Not today. There may be a right time, but this isn’t it. Music booming from the speaker on my desk. Tie yourself to that melody. Lifeline in the April air. What does any of this mean? The words are garbled again. Reading back – made me laugh, all naïve and ‘pray for me, people of the World’. Hope springs from the most unlikely sources doesn’t it. Too confused to write now. See you all tomorrow when this will all be another shitty memory to swirl in with the others like mixing black paint. Up, up, up, into the challenge of another mixed up day. No change. No sympathy, please. See you tomorrow after my cockroach soul has survived its three hundreth nuclear attack.


The Ghost

On a bus, everyone can hear you scream. And everyone can smell the stench of shit on board – whereabouts unsure, animal provenance unknown, situation unclear. So it was this morning on the 9.44 to Bakewell.

The girl opposite me stared down at her phone the whole way, neck arched over, head hanging heavily on the ligaments. Three middle-aged ladies talked about a fourth who wasn’t with them. They hated her. She didn’t know, but now I do.

The sunlight splashed in through the safety glass. I was tired. At 4.13am a drunk couple had woken me up arguing in the street outside my house. I couldn’t make out the cause, or the solution. It took a while to die down in the dingy orange of streetlight mock safety as they walked down the steep hill away from my home. I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Dawn hadn’t yet started. I did my ritual – downstairs, sockets on, cold drink from the fridge, heating on, back upstairs for a piss. It was a normal weekday morning. There hadn’t been any nightmares, no groans from the ether, no religious visitations. And I hadn’t even begun to consider my mental health. Too early for any of that.

About ten seconds into relieving myself, a penny flew through the doorway and onto the floor of the bathroom where it rolled around and stopped near my feet. Just like that. Seemingly thrown out of the gloom at the top of the stairs. I stopped pissing and said ‘Hello,’ like there would be anyone, or anything, replying. It seemed the polite thing to do.

I don’t believe in ghosts – I believe in mental illness – but I picked the penny up warily and turned it around in my hands. The coin was real enough. I’d seen it fly through the air, too, then watched it roll round on its edge and stop at my feet. I wondered for a second if I had an intruder. Nah. No-one would be that desperate – not even a glue sniffer would be getting many laughs from breaking into my house, especially if they knew I lived there; kicking a rabid dog in the dark is nobodies idea of fun. What threw the coin?

I tried to remain calm, and manly. I was on my own, so screaming would be ok. I didn’t make a sound, but I did clench my fists as I walked over to the top of the stairs and looked down. I half expected another penny to be thrown at me out of the darkness. I have watched horror films; I know the way these things go. Before you know it, there are winners and losers – and men with sedative drugs and a van. And nobody believes your story. Downstairs, the house was quiet. I went and took my medication and thought about faces pressed up against the window, and mocking laughter, thumps upstairs, a rap on a wall, until I felt the warm glow of pharmaceutical exorcism.

The first light over the hillside clawed into the night but I kept the lamp on anyhow. Hedging your bets is always appropriate in every given situation. Dog tired. Confused. Unsure of who makes the next step. An hour passed; merciful daylight and increasing traffic outside, all unaware of the supernatural battle going on: good v evil; the paranoid guy with no answers still clutching a penny in his hand like a dead rat, watching for movement.