Carnival

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The day of the Carnival. Not a non-white face in sight in the soup of countrified, rural, middle class, smugness. In a marquee the noise was ramping up to a point where people next to me had to strain their throats just to tell each other about how lucky we’d been with the weather. The piercing shriek of parents telling children off cut in and out of the air. Slicing a biopsy under the plastic canvas.

A man in a red tracksuit, my age, flat cap on back to front, walked slowly down the marquee from the tea counter. He was carrying a cup of tea and some cake on a blue tray, which was shaking violently, as was he. His whole body seemed cursed by essential tremor. He sat down and continued to shake in his seat. Most of his tea was pooling on the tray bottom.

‘Jesus…..everyone staring…’ he muttered, before turning round to someone on my table. ‘People must think all sorts about me,’ he said. He was right. I thought he had Parkinsons, or some other degenerative brain disease, and was just trying his best to live normally before he couldn’t even walk. He shoved the cake up to his mouth, barely getting some in before the tremors smeared cream around his cheek. He sighed and turned away.

The noise built up into a great cone of no escape. The vibrations pulsed through my brain. My head thumped, my heart started to race. I’d forgotten to take my tablets. I started to panic. People were speaking to me, I was sure of that, but none of it – even the parts I could hear – made any sense. The election, somebody’s ex husband, another woman reeling off the names of all the people she’d slept with: her husbands brother, uncle, best friend, neighbour. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something sinister going on. Like the knowledge we were moments away from an enormous meteor strike, or a biblical flood. God was going to start things over. He knew humans had gotten out of control.

I broke free and took a walk around on my own, watched some captive bees for a while. Those dumb insects, I thought. Trapped so easily in that Perspex with each other. All interweaving and breaking their backs for what? Going nowhere. I hoped for a message from my friend to lift the emotional fog. It arrived. I sat under a tree and breathed. And smiled. A dog display carried on in the background. Tired sad-looking dogs jerked about on leads. Whistles shrilled, signalling something or other. Some dogs believed what they heard, one ran away across the carnival and up the road to who knows where. It had seen the chance to escape and taken it.

At the pub later someone told me the guy with the tremors had been found in a catatonic state only last year. Total nervous breakdown. Unable to speak, move, acknowledge anybody. The shakes were being caused by a withdrawal from his meds. He was a topic of conversation for many. Everyone had an opinion on where it all went wrong for him, and some doubted the facts. But not me. I bought it all when I looked in his eyes. He’d seen hell. And it wasn’t over yet. Takes one to know one, I guess. Not that I’ve ever been catatonic, but I’ve tasted that fruit. Plus I was currently starting to have my own twitching, headache, thoughts racing, first throws of my own medically engineered sense of loss. He deserved better from the community he lived in. Don’t we all?

The day was a write off until the very end. I lay shouting at the Foo Fighters on tv, then laughed a lot messaging a friend. She made me smile, and a feeling of completely natural non-chemical warmth fuzzed out from my chest until I was sure I looked like the kid from the old Ready Brek adverts. A forcefield against the worst of things.

 

The Karma Instinct

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Right wrist swollen. Hot to the touch. Four hours of broken sleep thanks to a dog barking outside, then a neighbour coughing up the first cigarette of the day at 6am. The horsefly which bit me on the wrist yesterday is laughing hard from the place insects go to when they’ve been crushed to death. I felt the mouth pieces pierce my skin with a sharp jab. Now whatever bacteria was on that evil proboscis is breeding under my skin and causing me to fear things flying around right now. Every fly, or moth, is an animal trying to hurt me.

This constant state of fear won’t last. That’s the lie I tell myself, anyhow.

But beneath the fresh hell of another animal trying to kill me, I feel happy. It’s funny the effect people can have. Even from a distance. Thanks to my friends visit I now have a beautiful set of thoughts to return to when I want them. Like a good, righteous, film. Or the best album I’ve ever heard. Play and repeat, and love the feelings.

More Redbush tea. There’s no caffeine in it. And maybe that’s showing, because I’m 169 words in to this and I don’t know where I’m going with it. I keep returning to those thoughts. I suppose I’m allowed. I’ll take it as Karma, maybe some Cosmic payback.

You don’t turn your back on feelings like these. Not if you’ve learned anything about how the Universe works. Or the consequences of ignoring an instinct.

Plain sight

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The blind guy had a white stick and was being helped onto the train by Station staff. ‘Step up here, sir.’

He tentatively put one foot onto the train, then the other, waving his stick, looking into the blackness, his eyes going in all directions, not seeming to see anything. She lead him to a seat and helped him into it. I was pretty sure by his mannerisms that he was totally blind. He looked just past her shoulder when he said thanks. Stared off into the back of the seat in front of him.

After a few minutes the train went through a tunnel and I wondered if the blind guy had any light perception at all. I turned around as we exited it. As I got a look at him he seemed to catch me and, for a moment, looked right at me the way anyone would who was being stared at by someone twenty feet away on a train. Then, as if he remembered something, his gaze moved to the window. I watched him following the sight of a herd of cows, turning his head a little to watch them as we passed. How blind was he? I needed to know if he was conning us. Like it mattered. Like it was my business to find out. The jaded and judgmental thoughts of someone coming back from therapy with too much to think about.

My Psychologist had just told told me she thought I was lonely. Hard to take in. I don’t feel lonely. We agreed that I would try to make some friends, just to test out the fear I have that they’ll hurt me, or they’ll find out how horrible I am and the whole thing will collapse they way it always does. I was hating on myself on the train, sitting there judging that poor blind guy. Taking the nastiest possible line of thought. The feelings made me feel sick. I took out my meds and necked a couple, hoping they’d sedate me enough to get off the train without upsetting anyone. Which worked.

An old friend from 25 years ago is coming over this weekend. I haven’t seen her in all that time. I’m nervous. My therapist says this is lucky, and to use it as opportunity to prove myself wrong. To show myself that people can really like me. All I know is that deep down I’m right about myself and she’s just doing some psychological back-slapping. Expensive cheerleading. It’s what you do – positive encouragement, compliments, ‘don’t kill yourself’ – in order to try and shift the balance in people like me. I rate her ability to keep focused despite our arguments on the subject. Her face flushed red with frustration and anger this week. I wouldn’t do her job, just like I wouldn’t tie myself to a chair and watch twenty hours of back to back shark attack videos.

Time has taught me it’s much better to keep myself secluded away, where I can’t form appalling thoughts about blind people, and where I can’t do any damage to folk. Where my vile form can’t be mocked by strangers in the street. Where I can’t be laughed at. Where people won’t work out what I’m really like. I like my Psychologist’s optimism and pig-headed take on my diagnosis, but the walk with my old friend won’t be anything other than showing someone I once knew that I am even more awful than all those years ago; a massive let down; a dreadful mistake. Even if my friend is blinded by the yahoo of our shared youth and memories of good times long gone, the truth of my ravaged personality disorder is in plain sight.

 

Problems

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A day of mixed problems of varying seriousness and effect.

Firstly, my 85yr old neighbour is living in a perpetual state of stress because someone’s bin got vandalised yesterday. It took ten minutes to calm her down. I stood in the howling wind and rain in a pair of shorts and t shirt outside her door as she took her time telling me the fine print details. By the time I’d told her to go back inside and ring me if she was worried, I was soaked to the skin. I just know this isn’t over. I am completely at her mercy right now. There is no reasoning with someone that old. The only solution is to hide and ignore her shouting over the gate for me. Which, of course, I will never do..

Later this morning I got a text from my GP asking me to ring the surgery. It took all of five seconds for me to realise they are trying to kick me off of my codeine prescription. The dosage is poxy – 15mg four times a day – but it’s enough in these days of opiate paranoia to become a blip on a doctors radar. I’ve nursed that prescription for years. And I always only ever use half the prescribed dose, meaning the time between repeat prescriptions goes a long way to proving my ability to maintain a sense of restraint and control over the codeine. This doesn’t seem to have got me very far. A week on Friday I’ll know for sure, when I’m deep into an argument in a doctors room with some poor sap who knows me less than you do. I’m not knocking their obligations to a patient with codeine, diazepam, and pregabalin prescriptions – it’s just common sense – but justifying the codeine is going to be tough. Truth is, it’s genuinely needed, but this won’t go far in the cold light of the surgery on Friday. Ever tried to prove pain? It’s tough. There is another little withdrawal looming on the horizon. And freshly opiate-free synapses hurt. Trust me.

The General Election is tomorrow. I won’t be doing my usual drunk/medicated vigil in front of the tv screen into the early hours, shouting at the screen and pledging my allegiance to Satan if only he’d suck back the souls he rented to the Conservative Party candidates. It’s an exercise i recommend, especially if your neighbours can hear you at 4am on your tenth Red Bull and vodka, wired up to the political mainline like an electricity sub-station. People who hear that kind of behaviour never want to engage you in conversation about politics ever again. But I’m driving for four hours at 9am on the next morning so I’ll just go to bed and grind my teeth until the savage dawn awakens the next chapter of Austerity, Cuts, and Right Wing death squads. What the fucking hell have we become? It’ll be a fast and dangerous drive because my mood will be terrible. There is no chance that Labour will win. Anyone living in hope is delusional. People in the UK are either rich, hideous, and scared, or poor and too apathetic to rise up and care about how many times they get kicked in the balls. And the latest terror attacks have rubber-stamped Theresa’s victory. The majority want someone punished and they want it done with excessive force. Doesn’t matter who, just as long as they aren’t White and we don’t get to see them putting out the flames on their children’s backs. Jeremy Corbyn is too empathetic for this country of revenge-hungry beasts. We are at War. And Jeremy admits he wouldn’t press the button. It’s just common sense, and I applaud him for it, but the average voter doesn’t want to hear about taking backwards steps; about being weak; the chance for peace. They want blood and for someone to guarantee they can live their life on Facebook without giving a thought to anyone else other than clicking ‘Like’ on a random acquaintance’s holiday photos. X-Factor, Dance-Off, Bake-Off, Fuck-Off TV, rammed down semi-alcoholic throats at the end of long boring weeks in a dead end job, hating everyone. It’s the British way.

Jeremy will lose. Maybe not by a crushing defeat, but by enough for him to walk away into history as the man who should have proved the UK had some sense of hope for the future, if only enough of us had had the guts and the brains to stand up for peace.

Problems, eh. You’ve got yours and I’ve got mine. Right now it’s time to put Kurt Vile on the stereo and try to calm down. Maybe smoke a joint. Let it all pass. I mean, these are dangerous times. Someone like me doesn’t need to add their own foul twist on an already evil brew. By Friday morning we’ll all know just how fucked that brew can get us, and the hangover is going to take an eon to shift. Maybe it’ll never leave us.

Sunfish

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Another dawn start – nightmare woke me up again. Can’t remember the details, but I do remember going to bed drunk. Somewhere a doctor is sighing and stating the obvious about alcohol and sleep deprivation. Is four hours sleep over two nights enough? That witch Thatcher apparently only needed half an hour every night suckling on the blood of infants to function properly. Is this normal? Am I becoming one of the undead like she was? I’m tired, but too full of daylight to do anything about it. I’ll be assimilated, or put under the curse without any fight at all. My lips hurt. My arms ache. I’m half zombie already. Finish me off.

Now it’s therapy day/time in two hours. My Psychologist will make mincemeat from what’s left of my psyche like a threshing machine going through a ripe harest. If I’m not on the top of my game then therapy is a one-sided exercise full of arguments and anger. Last week we examined our relationship and I told her to fuck off. She’s only in the room because she’s paid to be. That is the bottom line. She disagreed but in that windowless room we both knew she was wrong. Goddamn this tiredness. And I’ve got no pick-me-up meds to tip the balance. I’m dead in two hours. In that comfy chair by the table with the tissues on it I’ll give up and roll over. A bloated mentally dead corpse, gibbering and taking her through really shit bits of my life. Flapping around like a beached sunfish. Brain shrinking. Skin cracking.

I have to sleep tonight before I start getting weird(er). High and dry is no place to be.

 

The Funeral

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The grimy church doors were open. They’d been closed ten minutes before. Now the coffin was back in the hearse and everybody was out on the pavement. The service was over, apart from burial in the hole I’d seen the gravediggers working on yesterday a little outside the village.

Whomever had died wasn’t well known, or appreciated. Barely twenty people stood outside the church, dressed in black suits, black dresses, or a token black neck scarf or tie. No-one seemed to know each other. I stood across the road and watched for a minute or so. I was on my way back from the doctors with enough codeine in my backpack to kill me and you easily. I thought about my own funeral – as people do when they see someone else’s. I tried to count up the people who’d be there. About eight. A couple more if my partner’s friends came to support her. Would it matter? Did it matter to the dead person today? I doubt it. I think most people have a handle on what their tally is in life. Mine is low. I’ve earned it. It doesn’t bother me.

There was nervous shifting weight from foot to foot outside the church. People didn’t know what to talk about but I caught ‘Nice service,’ from someone over the sound of the traffic. Maybe it had been. Most people kept looking at the floor and jingling coins in their pockets, or rearranging purses, touching hair. The hearse drew away up the hill to the graveyard. A car full of five people followed. Faces looking out of the windows. Memories recalled, and a vicious new one being forced upon them. A body in a box. The dour, grim, funerary rites, lies told in church by someone standing there in front with a  heavy book. A great, religious, eulogy of faith and bullshit. Not everybody who died was wonderful. Trust me.

My CPN is due this afternoon. She’ll hear all about it. And now, so have you.

 

 

Don’t rock the boat

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Someone had burned the destroyed Traveller caravan up at Black Rocks. The wooden posts nearby were badly charred and the ground was covered in ash. The Council had cleaned it up. In a year or two you won’t be able to tell.

The weather is good, mood is Euthymic (yeah, I had to look it up too) and right now a big fat Wood Pigeon is strutting about outside the back door like he owns the place. I’ve hung the washing out. I have a meal to cook for my tea – chicken and dumplings. I should really be vegetarian. I’m a fraud. I’d list the recipe (my own) but I’m not open to extra mocking and derision today.

The woman in the local shop short changed me by £5 this morning. I only realised when I was halfway up the hill. I kicked myself but, ultimately, it’s karmic payback for the time I managed to get away with buying eight beers for £3 due to another woman in there fucking up at the till. I walked away quickly that time. Bargain, I thought. So how can I feel bad about this morning’s bounce back? I can’t. Caught by the Universe.

And that is all. Not really worth taking the time to type, or read. But here we are, at the end of a normal, mundane, uninteresting post. I’ll take that over chaos and misery. Give me Normal any day. Sometimes the boat isn’t rocking, and the fins in the water are absent. Don’t knock it.

Carried

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Carry me.

The words blasted out over the PA in the Opera House. The Levellers were on stage. Good Folk/Punk music. Honest singing among the middle-aged crustys of yesteryear. The audience looked like a Geography Teachers away day. The New Age Traveller scene is dead. Still, in memories and in the eyes of the people around me, the words and attitude resonated.

Songs of opting out, fucking off the establishment, freedom, the devastating facts of heroin use, alcohol addiction in wasted council estates. All delivered with conviction to us dancing in our opera seats. I wished I was younger. I wished all the people there were younger, too. A movement could’ve started on the back of the attitude their songs had if it all had taken place today. All we needed was a focus and a cause, and the balls to see it through. But The Levellers, and standing up for freedom and social RIGHTs, are irrelevant now except to the old people like me who were there before the Criminal Justice Act riots. The gig gave me inspiration, I wanted to buy an old coach and go drive it somewhere [deja vu…why?] and make a difference, opt out of the grim human race. Hang about with like-minded people who gave a damn if the planet was being destroyed and the poor stomped on. Pipe dreams.

After the gig ended we walked past a hotel. A wedding reception was winding to a climax. Sweet Child O Mine coming from ‘Billy Klub’s Mobile Disco’. I stood and watched the scenes through the windows of drunken suits doing earnest air guitar and trying not to fall over in pointed tractionless cheap shoes on the carpet dance floor.

Outside the entrance a pool of Wedding vomit slicked the pavement by a row of  parked cars in slanted slots to make good use of precious space. Someone in a hired waistcoat was pissing against one of them.

More power to The Levellers and everything they thought they could do to change the World. I enjoyed hearing the words that I thought few people ever considered. For a couple of hours I didn’t feel alone in the imaginary – and real – struggle out there; that I wasn’t the only one who knew the score. I was carried along by sadness, hope, togetherness. Just for a moment, we could change the world. Fleeting, maybe, but better than handing back a sick-stained suit this morning.

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.

 

 

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.