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.

 

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 Crash – Manic to moron

 

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My CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) has just rang to tell me my new Psychiatrist – 3rd in a little over a year – is not a man. That is good news. I don’t like men. Not in a ‘I just don’t like them because they irritate me,’ kind of a way, but in a ‘He has to have someone in the room with him,’ sort of drama. This extra care is due to my angry outbursts and the things my Psychotherapist has told him I tell her in private. It’s how the system works and I’m ok with it. This way everyone, including myself, are safe from injury or heavy jail sentences. In truth, if the wrong things are said I could very well be threatening in a small room with me between an over-picky male Psychiatrist and the door. No sense of safety when you have to come through me to escape. None at all.

But it’s all ok.

I just came in from picking up my meds then on the way back I watched a line of cars stop on the road, drive carefully around an old lady who had fallen on the tarmac, and carry on their journeys. She needed help, laying struggling, then still. Two office workers were helping her but she was just an irritation to the drivers passing wide, glaring. No help in any eyes that I could see. Not even sympathy.

I’m beginning to crash now from the manic bit that has plagued me for the last twenty four hours. It’s been a midly fast ride this time. No self harm though, which is good. Not even the thoughts of my neighbours drilling into my walls to listen to me watching pornography, or speaking to myself. No special reasons to be angry, or frightened. Just lots of cleaning and moving furniture and writing crazy half-truths and rabid discourse on Donald Trump. I hate him more than my neighbours, but they are within easy reach and he is three thousand miles away behind a wall of gung-ho security men. Things are as they are for a reason.

I guess.

 

Dressed for Suck-sess

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My latest Psychiatric Assessment landed through my letterbox yesterday. My initial response is to get frustrated before I even open the obvious NHS envelope. I always want to rip the paper up before I’ve read the words. I see the image of a huge rubber fist bounding out of the envelope on a powerful spring. Every time. Nothing good ever comes from opening a Psychiatric Assessment. Personally speaking.

I’d been hiding from the Meter Man all day since he pounded on the front door in the morning and pushed through his card. I know the design on the card is meant to confuse and reassure in equal hateful measure. It’s a trick of the psychologically-graded Corporate trade. But my Meter Man always strays away from the script; he writes his own messages “I’ll be back tonight,” or “PLEASE….I really need to gain access.” One time I caught him trying to scale the seven foot gate at the back of my home. The battle always ramps up. Yesterday was an opening shot in the latest one, by someone with more powerful friends than I have.

The Psychiatric Assessment was the usual shit: “Objectively angry…. subjectively aggressive…. paranoid strongly held values…” Nothing to see here. I laughed off his assessment of my appearance – “Reasonably kempt ” – and filed the papers in a tray on a sideboard marked “Brown Mushrooms”. He was right about most of the stuff he’d said, as usual. But he wasn’t on the mark with his assessment of my appearance. Old clothes, ragged, crumpled, straggly beard. He was just being kind. Maybe that’s because he’s leaving next month. Or maybe he just has low standards. Or, just maybe, he’s telling the truth? Hard to tell with these people. They are always dressed better than me.

As it got dark I lit the three candles on my brass candlestick. It’s harder for people like Meter Men to see me through the window in the gloom. And mirrors don’t work as well. I popped out some tablets. Sipped at some Heineken. The Meter Man would be at home sharpening his arrows, preparing. He would saddle his iron war-pony and regain his strength before setting out on the plains of my small village with dreams of my scalp.

Next morning I closed the curtains and waited for the banging and pleading once more. It had been a tough, mostly sleepless night. I looked in the mirror for the first time in ages. Nah, the Psychiatrist was wrong. It’s hard to be kempt when you’re hunted.

Hallucination music to dance to

 

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Woke up to the music again. 3am in my small bedroom, headache, eyes focussing on the spiral dark swirls in the air.

It had been a blue sky day. Couple of beers in the afternoon. And some tablets. Or vice versa.

I reached for the water bottle and slugged on it until my mouth didn’t feel as dry and poisoned. The dark demons watched. The music played.

When I first started hearing the music – about a year ago – I thought it was my neighbour watching his tv. The sounds were muffled and far away, just a deep bass beat at a sharp staccato tempo. Bit like a shitty Drum and Bass track. But my neighbour is nearly seventy years old and the only noise I ever hear from him is when he comes in at 12.30 every night and throws himself, drunk, into his bed. I sometimes hear the gentle rhythmic banging of his head board as he masturbates. I lay and wonder who he’s thinking of.

But then I started to hear the music outside of my house, in other places. Unmistakeable. I hear it almost every day now. My Psychologist and Psychiatrist say the music is a harbinger of bad times or a direct response to stressors. They ask me if I know enough about it to know it’s not real. They ask that a lot. I answer them with ‘Yeah,’ but sometimes it’s hard to tell. The sinister jukebox in my head whirls on free plays in the early hours and I go with it from time to time. Keeping in touch with reality is hard when the music hums along in the pitch dark. I wait for the voices, but they don’t show too much. Their first weapon is that bass. They only talk when things get even stranger – and, yes, that’s possible.

Auditory hallucinations rip up what you thought you knew about yourself. They conspire and prey on you in weak and vulnerable moments. You are powerless. I sometimes marvel at it, but mostly the experience is repulsive and terrifying. I always feel like the music mocks me, like I’m one dance away from clapping for invisible flies. Eternal private dance. Weirdest of the weird.

This morning. Fog outside – real this time. Cold Autumn air. It’s quiet. Sore head, more tablets. NO noise except from my stereo speakers. It’s 4am. I’ll stay awake all day and bet on sleep tonight like an idiot at a casino wheel – too drunk, too many wrong decisions. Sounds of vomiting from the marble stalls, needles and crushed cans thrown down in the parking lot. Laughter and screaming, neon lights and the sound of living. Vacuous, dull muzak, all of it.

I hear something.

Attic womb

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The skylight opened. I reached out with the glass and poured the piss out onto the sloping roof. Along the street, people were cutting the grass or washing their cars. The place was a Toytown full of people who didn’t know anything and had no desires other than to be the same as everyone else, only just that little bit better.

I’d been living in the attic room for three months. She had the two floors below. I’d get up, go to work, come home, take food up to my room and shut the door. I fantasised about running off into the world – becoming homeless, free, away from her and the bullshit. The relationship was fucked. I was in a job I hated, and she’d signed me up to some scheme where, right then, I owed something in the region of £45,000 to banks. I’d never seen a penny of it. These situations are easy to get into if you are vulnerable at the time but they don’t last. They always move on to their next phase: you lose.

I wigged out on codeine, fentanyl, booze, and thought for too long about how I wasn’t just trapped in the attic, but in life full stop. Man, I was so ill up there. I took at least one overdose; Tramadol for sure one time. Pupils as big a saucers for the whole of the next day, confused. But it was good to be alone in my room all the time, even waking up from an overdose. She was out fucking some other guy on a regular basis anyway. Said he had a huge cock. All I knew was he was about five feet tall, wore leather coats, and kept tarantulas. She told me when he fucked her in the ass she would cum and cum until she thought she would pass out. She was kind like that. She’d bellow up the stairs that she was going out. I knew what it meant. I was relieved. At least she wouldn’t try to get me in the sack.

I suppose I was meant to feel jealous. I felt nothing at all about much at all in the attic.

High up in the rooftops I could watch the sun rise, hear the birds scratching on the tiles. It was sadly beautiful up there. I only left it to work, shit, bathe, and get food. I just didn’t want an excuse to leave the room if I didn’t have to. Solitude and mental illness….oh, and the drugs and alcohol. Resetting to point zero. That’s what I called it. That’s how I justified it.

She left after a vicious argument – I can’t remember what about – and that was that. She would be the Spider Guy’s problem now. All I needed to do was to fend off the Banks who were trying to get the money back that she lost for me. Then get my mental health back to somewhere near functioning. Tough ask. Actually, I don’t think it ever really recovered. I had two serious overdoses in the following two months. Shit like that doesn’t leave you easily.

In the attic there was something foetal going on. A re-birth of sorts. Snug and warm and trapped and with a lockable door. My head sometimes looked out of that skylight and wondered what was over the hill. If I’d ever get to a better place than this.

When I finally moved from the house I got a tiny flat just up the road. No skylight, no attic, no central heating. Two windows with the blinds always drawn, blocking out the desperate sobbing of a guy newly sacked from his job. I dodged the bailiffs and the knocks on the door from anyone and everyone. It was always dark in there. Dust, diazepam, late night television, xbox games, lining up tablets on the dirty table and wondering if I had enough to do the job. Crazy nights of opiate withdrawing, crashing around the flat ripping drawers out of their holes, searching for forgotten codeine to take the ache away. Nightmares, screaming in the early hours covered in sweat while, twenty miles away, she was being fucked in the ass for the fiftieth time that week and telling him lies, like she used to tell me. That poor sucker. I felt for him.

At the end of the summer I was barely alive. The room turned from a womb to a cocoon. Indefinite period of gestation, or mutation, or metamorphosis, or simply  still birth. Which one it’d be was anyone’s guess.

Meds

There is a misconception that ‘drugs’ are a street thing; wares only worth taking if someone in a flat in Doncaster has managed to sell you them after a few nervous minutes at a door with beefed up locks and the growl of a bull terrier. This is not true.

But you knew that.

For the Psychiatric patient – those unlucky few with a DSM-5 approved diagnosis – street drugs can be a familiar part of symptomatic self-medication, but it is the word Medication [Meds] and their particular, legal, drug family which we’re more familiar with. Although the word is different and the purveyor is licensed, any Med user is simply trying to relieve something they can’t deal with: toothache; chest infection; cancer; opiate addiction; hallucinations; anxiety; a shitty life . There is a med for most things. And money to be made whatever side of the legal fence you are on. You say drug, I say med…let’s call the whole thing off. There’s a song in it somewhere for all of us.

I guess I’ve probably forgotten a few of the things I’ve been prescribed over the years to treat some of the symptoms of my Borderline Personality Disorder, but here’s my list anyhow:

Venlafaxine, Citalopram, Diazepam, Tamazepam, Zopiclone, Lamotrigine, Phenelzine, Tramadol, Amitriptyline, Carbamazepine, Propanolol, Pregabalin, Quetiapine, Resperidone, Olanzapine….

Jesus… Now I’m looking at that list… And I know it’s not complete… Many, many meds, all of them sucked down (can’t remember being hypo’d, but I could have been) and then washed into my blood and up towards my brain to do untold permanent damage. God….I don’t even want to begin thinking about that.

But before I start sounding ungrateful, I can tell you that from time to time meds have saved my life. Nothing tastes as retrospectively sweet as Crisis Team Diazepam, for example. Truly life saving. And now, after years of Lab Rat experience, I’m erring towards a sympathetic stance when meds are on the care plan agenda, instead of discounting their effectiveness and misusing them for a self-medicated leap into the unknown. OR to get high. Yeah, yeah, ‘getting high’..I know…it’s just another way to deal with symptoms, but here and now isn’t the time or place to open that pill packet, if you get the metaphor. We are talking about the right way to use meds: professional, controlled, symptomatic relief – ambitious, but the only way forward for me nowadays.

As you’ll probably have worked out by now, meds are powerful things. You may have recognised some of the ones in my list. You could even have taken some of them from time to time – prescribed or not. Who knows what wild world you’ve lived in? You are not alone. The meds are strong, yeah? We know that much at least. Most have side effects, and some have some really bizarre ones. While taking Phenelzine I couldn’t eat cheese, or drink red wine, or eat smoked meat (not a euphemism). Think that’s bullshit? Well, I did too at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Disneyland. The rest of the day I thought I was going to die, while my face and arse became nothing more than evacuation chutes for anything in my body that wasn’t strapped down by ligaments or internal organs.

Olanzapine saw me put on three stones in two months. Tramadol gave me Seratonin Syndrome – check out those pupils… no laughs…  Fun times..

And meds don’t cure-all. There is no magic tablet for BPD, just a series of ‘go to’ meds to tackle some of the symptoms in a tight spot. There is no med to stop you hating yourself, but there are some that can make some of the resulting actions less likely. Others can help you sleep, or face a trip to the shops, or lessen the chance of a fight. And, of course, not every med is effective for every BPD sufferer; what I’m prescribed right now might not touch the sides of someone else, or it may cause them to walk like a drunk, or see Bigfoot…again…

I’ve always found it a  little ironic that powerful CNS depressant meds can be prescribed to a group of people who – according to the stats – are one of the most highly self-destructive groups of psychiatric patients known to man or beast. Take a tip from me (though I’m usually loathed to give out tips to anyone – I mean….who the hell am I anyway): never have too many meds at home. Experience has taught me that walking to the chemists like a naughty schoolboy to collect your meds every day for six months is no fun. And the ‘other’ alternative doesn’t bear thinking about on this sunny afternoon in the Derbyshire Dales…

For me, meds mean help and, occasionally, drooling down my chest. But they also mean I can access treatment and put the BPD world slightly further away. Ultimately, they mean I can get well. And I don’t even have to go to Doncaster.