Risky Choices

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‘Didn’t add up. Forgot to carry a zero.’ – Carry the Zero, Built to Spill.

Last night was all muggy, breezeless in my bedroom. I kept waking up and staring into the heat. If it hadn’t been for a weird snake nightmare injecting some tension into the early hours then it would have ranked high as a bad waste of time and life. Sleep. Or a grim waking sleep – like a zombie heated paralysed old man lying there with no sign of the thin yellow curtains moving. No sounds outside either. No traffic. No vicious Owls screaming death threats into the hot air. Just the fuzz of unfamiliar warmth. Like a badly tuned old tv set.

Therapy hadn’t been great. We picked over the walk with my old friend. I told my Clinical Psychologist that it had had a huge effect on me. She told me that perhaps it was because I had realised I had an emotional connection to someone. And that now I was feeling scared I would ruin it. All the typical Borderline bullshit. Then we talked about my childhood for the millionth time. This is an easy task, on the face of it, but whenever I leave that room I find my thoughts don’t settle for a couple of days. This time I cried in there. I wasn’t expecting it. She didn’t know where to look, and she appeared sad and close to crying too. Her face turned red, she kept putting her hand up to her eyes. I apologised.

‘Ben, there is something missing between your emotional connection to the past and where you’re at now. Your friend coming over made a tangible link to a time many years ago – opened an old door. We need to go back more often and find those missing pieces, even if they hurt. You have to choose to stop wanting to die, or not.’

She said my friendship with my newly discovered old friend should be nurtured. I panicked, but then my old friend makes me really happy. She’s like an Angel without the job rules. Too good for those mentally deficient Hyenas lording it up in Heaven. I think if it had been anyone else I would never have gone through with the whole thing from the start. It’s a big risk. What happens if I ruin it? If she walks away? I was getting anxious just thinking about it. When you meet someone that great in your journey through life you kind of stand back in awe. Then worry about fucking it up.

But enough of futuristic emotional pain. I’ve had enough pain already this fine morning. A horsefly bit me on the wrist while I was watering the garden. I watched the sucker land, then felt the sharp jab of needle mouth parts. It moved too fast for me to slap a kill down, but kept at me, trying to land again. I let it, then crushed it on my arm. I looked over the body carefully. The horsefly had made a simple choice and lost.


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.



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Anyone else look forward to social events like they look forward to being gored by a bull? I’ve got the pain coming today. It’ll be administered at my partners friends’ house in the next village.

I’ve already been told off yesterday by my partner for not taking my tablets and for having a meltdown on Saturday; I’m a bit all over the place at the moment. So, the writing is on the wall, and the ley-lines and hexes are all intersecting on her friends home this afternoon, with its pretty garden and borrowed marquee. The rain will help to dampen the moods of my dining companions. Fuses will be short and nervous glances will shoot at me the second someone mentions politics, or mental health, or death, or…just about anything where the topic can turn serious – which is just about any topic as far as I’m concerned.

The opposing team include a right-wing lizard of a man, a drunk social worker, a tetchy support worker and her cattle farmer husband, a former head of a social services department, her stoner partner, an ‘I’m wacky’ old people’s services assessor, a registered mental health nurse – recently disciplined for punching a patient in a mental health unit, the hosts (nervous and highly strung teacher and insurance salesman), and my old friend – the only one I have left. He will provide the only sense and safety in the whole thing. I genuinely am ramping up with high anxiety right now. Those people are out to get me and I don’t have a hope in Hell. Judging on past experiences I’ll either take too many meds prior to getting there, or drink to much. I’m not popular sober, but whacked on tablets and/or booze makes the whole thing much, much worse. Anything could happen. At the very least I’ll be a huge embarrassment to my partner in front of all her friends. And they will ask her, in text messages afterwards, why she bothers with me. It’s a good question – and one I ask myself many times more than they do – but I can’t bear to think about it right now. Got to keep the anxiety on just one threat. One is enough today.

In three hours I could be walking home in the rain, covered in my own sweat and slime. Soaked and slithering away from what most other people enjoy; it’s just a party.

The Midnight Monster

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It had been a bad night again. Not down to the meds this time. I think I’d fallen asleep around 11pm, laptop still on next to the bed. The air was hot from a day in the heatwave. The stone house had retained the warmth and was releasing it slowly, cooking me. A dog barked, waking me up. I kicked the duvet off and lay there on my back, naked, the dog barking and barking out the back somewhere. The thing wasn’t happy, wherever it was. There was aggression in its voice.

Behind my house is just miles of countryside. Probably ten miles in a straight line from my back door to the nearest house in that direction. It’s quiet, and sometimes you can see the Milky Way up there, and those fools in the Space Station. Noise around here means you should be alert. Noise doesn’t herald anything of any good out here. You learn to take notice of sounds when the nights are usually deep silence.

From over the hill the sound of Sheep baaaaaa baaaaaa, bleating and concerned. I got up and looked out of the window expecting to see a flock of loose sheep behind my house, or the pack of Wolverines chasing them. Nothing. I scanned around but the place looked still. Getting back into bed, I grabbed my Mag-Light torch, and wondered if it was worth going downstairs to get my axe – kept by the back door in case of emergencies – but I reckoned I needed more evidence and reason before I introduced a large sharp steel blade to the night. I turned off the laptop and fell asleep.

3am – I was woken hideously from a dream about riding Bill Gates around a Horse Track. Something had let out a yell outside. The dog barked again, scared, yelping. Silence, then a terrifying scream, something so cutting and bizarre that I reached for the torch without thinking. No animal I’d ever heard could make a noise like that. There it was again. A high pitched, blood-curdling shriek that sounded like it ended in a laugh. I lay there, heart beating faster, waiting for it to yell again so I could judge how far it was from my home and, more importantly, my open windows.

I thought of Bigfoot. Shit, he’d be able to climb into my upstairs windows without much effort. I imagined myself being dragged outside like the Skyscraper scene from King Kong, naked, flailing weakly as I was carried off into the night. No point worrying, I told myself, things will take their course as they always do. I waited until it was starting to get light. Nothing. No more screams, no more barking. I sensed a change outside. Birds were starting to sing, the darkness ushered out by the promise of another fine day. I got up and drew back the curtains knowing whatever had been terrorising me had gone. I was right. A beautiful dawn, orange sky, green trees, dewy grass, monster-less. I had survived another attack. In calm, rational, early morning serenity I made my way downstairs chuckling to myself at how stupid I’d been. Light makes even the worst coward braver than he was when he couldn’t see what was coming. Was any of it even real? When you have a psychotic mental illness that question is one you ask yourself a lot. And you learn to appreciate how much of a target you are. There are many monsters out to get us, real or imagined. In the dark there is no difference between the two.



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Hello. Yes, I think that’s the right tone for the start of this thing. Hello. As you sit on the bus, on your sofa, on the toilet, walking in the street, bashing the steering wheel in a traffic jam home from a job you hate, whatever/wherever. Hello still stands. It might not be reciprocated – and I doubt it is – but it’s a free offer from me. Take it.

Medication taken today: Pregabalin (found a tablet down the side of the sofa – yeah, desperation), Codeine, Flupentixol, diazepam, ethyl alcohol.

Is that ok?

I doubt it. But it feels good. And, yes, I know that alcohol isn’t strictly a medication. ‘Self-medication’ they call it. Not gallons of the stuff, just a couple of cold beers while I’m typing and watching a guy spraying some noxious weedkiller on the hillside. He’s wearing a blue boiler suit. The chemicals must be a real doozy. Can’t get them on the skin or his curly hair’ll fall out and his testicles wither and shrivel up like walnuts. But no weeds, eh. It’s no wonder I haven’t seen a hedgehog for ten years.

But that’s all superfluous. The world is swinging now under my own chemical intervention. Bad synapses cut off at the pass by GABA-inducing, serotonin pumping, actions from the tiny tablets and swigs of Heineken. No weed in me, yet, hoho. I’m High. This old desk has never felt better. The little red keyboard – bought as an add-on because the laptop keyboard is shit – is soaking up the heavy finger stabs. Just a great slab of forgiving plastic meat.

This hubris in here won’t last. I’m not that high.The first rule of any real chemical user is you know this is the one great truth: things never last. For now, though, don’t begrudge a guy surfing on the warm wave of his own personal understanding of neuropharmacology. The beach is golden and inviting, and the water friendly and shark-free. It beats the sharp rocks, fins, teeth, and rusted steel of any other given day. Tomorrow I’ll know different, as always, but while the sun is out and the dopamine flowing I’ll take this ride until the offshore breeze ruins the wave sets.



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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.



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.