Bombshell

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Ant people. As the blind, stumbling, hairless, disorientated, people who survived the closest to the Hiroshima bomb were called. Ant people. Charred skin. Wondering why.

Today on the radio I heard two men arguing about Nuclear weapons. One guy just didn’t want them at all. He figured the World was better off without them and without some city somewhere being one computer glitch away from disappearing in a cloud of unimaginable horror. Ant people.

The other guy talked about protection, as if he was under some constant threat, calling from under his kitchen table. Too much anger in his voice, as there always seems to be in the voices of people wanting more guns, more bombs, more sharpened teeth. More ant people.

The radio moved on. People were going to Mars. Billions of dollars would propel them up into the vacuum and give the poor fools who volunteered the opportunity to drink each others urine for months on end. Fighting off cabin fever, psychotic urges, and the type of panic only the really insane feel on any regular basis. Trapped like rats in a chrome watering can. Gnawing frantically at each other out of fear.

But so what, eh? Who cares what I think. It’s raining outside for the first real time for a few weeks. The foxgloves are bowing heads under the weight of the water but their flowers are lifting the dull day. Perfect form, colour, standing out from the crowd like my beautiful friend.

I have therapy tomorrow, then a visit by my CPN on Thursday. There’s a lot to talk about.

Know your place.

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The kid was screaming in her pushchair. Really letting loose. High pitched. No words, just the air-splitting. I drew level along the path. It was a beautiful place. The father turned to me and said, ‘Morning,’ then shrugged his shoulders and sighed, nodding his head towards the screaming.

‘Good fun?’ I asked. He didn’t answer.

It took thirty seconds to walk to the corner of the viewpoint. It’s a popular place to scatter ashes but I couldn’t see any fresh ones down below. And no new flowers. Down the trail the young girl was still screaming. Dad had had enough. He leaned his face right under the cover of the pushchair and screamed back, inches from her face, ‘SHUT UP, POPPY. JUST SHUT UP. NOW!’

It did the trick. She stopped at once. Adult aggression had overridden whatever reason she had for screaming. She knew her place in the scheme of things and now she understood that adults are big, powerful, and threatening. Would Dad forever be a symbol of hurt and hate? She could see rage, twisting his face as the spittle flew from his mouth. I’d seen it at her age, too. Many times.

I walked the usual route from the viewpoint down the incline and back along the canal. The crowds were out but most of the people I said ‘Hello,’ to as I walked along didn’t answer me.  At the end of the canal, tourists grouped like muted bees around the car park. Pastel shades of mail order outdoorsy clothing everywhere. Kids paddled around in canoes. Ducklings floated around near the rushes. Typical Bank holiday scene from any English beauty spot. Solitude for the masses. I sat outside the café in the sunshine. Drank a diet coke. Took some diazepam. Thought about why I’d had an urge to kill myself yesterday. Two women at the next table talked about ‘Immigrants’ being The Problem. They were wrong.

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 Drunk

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9pm Last Night – And so it came to pass. I was drunk in a village pub with a rich ex-Olympic Heavyweight Wrestler whom I’d never met before. His ears were two ravaged lumps of gristle and his nose had been broken a few times. He was heavy set, fierce looking, about 50yrs old. I’d made the mistake of talking to him at the bar. Now we were five hours into the drink and talking about what made Boxers tough. Why any of that mattered does, right now, remain a mystery. We talked and laughed loud, like you can when you know there isn’t a single guy in the place who would be crazy enough to interject.

At a table behind us, a guy who owned the local Mystical Crystal shop seemed different when I glanced at him over the top of a beer. I looked again. I hadn’t seen him for a month. His face. Fuck. From both corners of his mouth ran a downward line, making him look like an old ventriloquist’s dummy. His grey hair was the same, same black leather jacket. But his chin was gone. Removed. A big fluid-filled bulge the size of a grapefruit was gathered on one side of his neck underneath his left jaw. He sucked on a drink with difficulty, holding the glass in both hands and taking great care as his top lip drooped on down into the beer. Jesus. The poor fucker. I guessed it was cancer. I tried to picture him with his jaw back in place, but couldn’t.

I left late. Drunk. Made it up the hill with my missus, then into bed and spent the night in bad dreams cut with wake-ups to go and piss. In the morning my head felt like a thousand cacti were rolling around inside. I felt old, sad, and couldn’t stop thinking about the Crystal guy and his gone chin. He was feeling much worse than me this morning, I knew that much. I made toast, drank tea, tried to avoid the News on the TV, realised I’d run out of Pregabalin and wouldn’t be able to get more until Wednesday. Meaning the headache’ll just get worse until then. Another shitty little withdrawal to do because of my own incompetence. Problems. Problems. But not like Crystal guy. Nowhere near.

What can I learn from this? Anything? I’m not taking up MMA, or smoking, for sure, but is there any deeper point to any of last night? I guess I’m still too hungover to work it out and, man, my head is really starting to bang. There but for the grace of…something something? Is that the message? Don’t count your chickens? Don’t stare at recently disfigured cancer sufferers? Don’t engage in tough-out booze sessions with Wrestlers who talk wildly about the plans for their next birthday party – midgets serving drinks from silver trays, unlimited champagne, indoor pools, horror – and accept the invitation? O Lord, what foul things you showed me last night, and what lessons I can’t figure out today, or maybe ever. Give me guidance…….  No answer. No spiritual direction from anyone or anything. Next time the dumb thumb of fate grinds me into situations like this  I’m calling on the ghost of Bill Hicks. He’ll know what it all means.

Oh, and I’m giving up drinking – again.

Reptile

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Upwards of a thousand things with staring eyes hiding in every corner in here. Quick moving. Just outta sight. Some with legs. Others with wings, skin, feathers, slug-like oozing behind where they hide. Some mornings are like this. One minute you’re watching a programme about Preppers, the next you’re under attack. It’s the familiar tale of fragile psyche versus the shit truth of human existence. And the knowledge that all the problems of the World cannot be solved by lighting an incense stick and gibbering some words about poverty, war, protection, love. No, No. I lit one anyway. A hopeless romantic.

I’m too fragile at the moment. Skin too thin. Watery blood, unable to function without prescribed meds. I’m clogging up my arteries with shitty food and sedentary living.

‘There’s only one way of life, and that’s your own.’ Music good and loud.

I’m ravaged by years of booze and medication. Is that the Way of Life they were referring to? I fucking doubt it. Those poor deluded freaks. Sure, living outside next to a river, smelling woodsmoke and playing guitar seems, on the face of it, appealing, but it’s a pipe dream. Want to taste freedom? Want to know if you’re really free? Trying doing something for any length of time without money. Think as hard as you can. I do. It’s impossible. Sure, you can sit still, but that land you’re sitting on better be owned by you. It’s all about ownership. Paying in to the system. Paying in is vital to maintain the status quo. As soon as you stop paying taxes the Government want to know why. Fuck, I even got threatened with court action for refusing to put my name on the electoral register. And no matter what bolts are on my doors, the Government have the means to smash them down if they are in the mood. They represent the money every one of us has in our pockets – and is duty bound to hand to some utility corp, or taxman. Every inch of the UK is owned by somebody paying in. They don’t like people who don’t agree with the same way of doing things. They used to hang Witches around here.

As you can see, today I am a paranoid mess. I don’t want an Apple IWatch, or a Nissan Car, or to eat something called Pappa Johns. I’m not even sure what type of food Pappa Johns is but the guy in the tiny bit of advert I’ve just seen is enough to put me off. He is freakishly dark-haired – greasy hair, tight skin, weird grimace smile – and untrustworthy looking. Is he selling cheese? Burgers? I don’t want to look him up on the internet. One glimpse of that hideous reptile face is enough for me today. He looks like he’d suck the last pint of blood from a road crash victim before the Emergency Team turn up and have to keep him at bay with high voltage defibrillator pads. What is going on?!

Yes. Today is hopeless already. [9.26am BST] See you when one of us blinks first.

 

 

 

 

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.

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 you love 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.

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.

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.