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.

 

Walk through this

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Along the disused railway track, dawn sun and ghost chuffchuffing and furious imaginary steaming sounds from the engine shed at the top of the mile long incline through the woods. The view point was empty. Flowers on the ground by the edge, sheer drop, hills stretching into the distance. Down below over the other side at the base of the wall I could see a small pile of ashes in the meadow, a loved one’s final wish to remain up here forever. I know what human ashes look like – white grains, tears, too few to possibly have ever been a person. I was stressing about the weekend, not thinking of death so much, but still panicked and reached for the tablets in my rucksack for calm, still breath, wobbly walk, fuzzy logic, peace.

The sun broke clear on the towpath along the canal and back into my village in the clear air of a middle England morning, leaves beginning to break free of glistening buds in the sky above, spring, wild garlic scent, doubt, fear, self-loathing, no confidence, end it all?

Back home, music on, change into old nightshirt and sit at this desk with the birds outside hopping and feeding on the mealworms I’ve given them, waiting for the afternoon and the sunlight through the windows in front of me. There is no focus, nothing but the grim sense of doom and a fight against the jumbled thoughts collapsing into one another, whirlpool, oil slick.

The screaming brakes of a truck splits the music and howls into the distance down the hill and into the junction by the tiny collection of shops, heading out out out and away from the gravity of living up high and in danger. There is a whisper in here, in the dark corners, a mocking voice starts up and tells me I am worthless. Strung out, heart pounding, clueless and directionless, no response from me except to nod my head and accept all the confusion. Dead pan. Waiting for something.

Relative Wealth

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‘Last night I had such a good time. Now there’s a price to pay. A night for kicks, now the sun’s in my eyes and I feel so weary today.’ – From ‘Close my eyes’, by Ride

Yesterday I got drunk for the first time in two months. It happened after I read the back of a fifty pound note. Really.

On the back of a British Fifty pound note are the pictures of Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) and James Watt (1736-1819). Both men are famous for being business partners who improved and widely distributed steam engines. Their particular area of expertise was in how to make people redundant off the backs of mechanisation. They were profit-driven and serious about where the direction of the British Empire should be heading – upwards, outwards, trampling everything under the heavy golden jackboot of whichever Royal was on the throne. Money was to be made.

There are two quotes under their names on the back of the fifty pound note. These read-

‘I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have – POWER.’ And ‘I can think of nothing else but this machine.’

Chilling stuff. I read it and stared at their faces looking out at me from beyond the grave, cravat neck ties and puffed cheeks, magenta with Bank of England Dye. A timeless evil that I would have to spend to get rid of; accumulate more stuff, eat more, drink more booze, get fatter, thank you. Disgusting. I read the quotes over and over. Before I knew it I was several drinks in and sinking.

Money equals power. And power will bite you on the ass as soon as look at you sitting semi naked at a writing desk on a hill somewhere wondering why you have a fifty pound note in the first place. In my case the note came from my mother. She’d snuck it into my rucksack last week without me knowing. It was to say thank you for looking after her. She seems to have an inexhaustible supply of them.

I hate my tie to money. I hate our tie to money. There on my desk they lay, Matthew and James, glorifying money, power, selfishness, progress. And here I sit, old and tired and hungover, wondering if they can both help me get blotto today to forget about it all again. This is lesson #1 in life: don’t think. Ever.

But let’s forget history, and the inhumanity of the human race. Let’s forget poverty and the appalling disgrace of the human condition. It’s sunny today outside and I have a crisp £50 note to use. I have Wealth.

Attack

Robert Pamperin was eaten by a Great White shark off the coast of California back in the late 50s. His last words were to his dive buddy, shouted at the surface: ‘Help me!’ Then he was swallowed. Imagine it. That is a moment in time imprinted forever on the two people who witnessed it and lived to talk to the newspapers about the ‘thrashing’ and the ‘crimson water’. I have tried to kill myself four times but even at those points of emotional distress I’d never pick Pamperin’s method of death. Not in a million years. Which is why suicide attempts, in my case, were selfish and weak. I sought a slow trip into unconsciousness, then respiratory collapse, followed by a gentle stopping of the heart. An easy way out with no jagged teeth and no thrashing. Cowardly. I know Pamperin didn’t commit suicide, but you get the point.

OK, so I lived and, I suppose, forty little white tablets and a load of alcohol can have the same results as a ton of marine animal with serrated teeth and a vicious blood-lust, given the right circumstances, but one way equals savage misadventure and other is simply pathetic. In the jaws of too many opiates and benzodiazepines there is no screaming, or panic. You just eventually close your eyes and drift away. There is nothing you can do. No shouting for help, or gouging at the beast’s eyes with a diving knife. You just accept the choice you’ve made and are thankful for it.The rest is up to fate. In my case, the first three times I hadn’t taken enough medication to kill me – though it did damage my liver – and the last one I survived because I threw up when I was unconscious, after ingesting enough meds to kill two or three people. I’d made sure that time, so I thought. And when I woke up, 36 hours later, and realised I was alive, I sobbed that I was such a failure I couldn’t even die properly.

Is there a moral here? Is there anything of value at all? I don’t know. I guess I can safely say I’ll never put myself in the position where I can be eaten by a shark, but that’s not a moral choice, that’s just a preference. There’s not enough control in the final seconds of being consumed by an animal; too many vague parameters. And, speaking postmortem-wise, it’s better to be slumped on a sofa than be shitted out the ass of something huge and hard to capture. People/family need closure even if you’ve got yours when the hammer dropped and the lights went out for the final time.

I won’t be swimming off the Californian coast today, or any other day, but my own pathetic, selfish, Great White shark attack could be at any time. I have the meds (my shark) and the soupy sea of a mental illness. It’s just luck or the random direction of a blood slick in the current that decide when the jaws bite down.

Take care out there all of you.

See ya at the Gun Store..

There were times I am retrospectively thankful I didn’t have access to a gun. Lots of times. In fact, those occasions haven’t stopped. I have sat in utter rage, resplendent with tremors, grinding teeth, clenched fists, tense muscles, and wished I had my finger on a trigger and a quick route to someone’s house or place of work. Then there were the other times when I was just so very sad that I wished I had a .45 pointed at my head. Boom. All hurt gone forever. Whichever way you look at it, firearms are something which wouldn’t have enriched my life in a positive manner.

But I heard yesterday that Trump signed a Bill making it easier for people like me (people with mental health problems) to go out and buy a gun in America. Why did he do that?

I thought about the answer to that question this morning but I can’t fathom an answer which isn’t about Satanic Cults or some warped attempt to ethnically cleanse the USA. Nothing made sense. Guns on streets tend to kill folks when wielded by normal people, imagine the scene if a hundred thousand pretty mentally ill people all had an M16. Blat blat blat on every street corner, or lonely bedsit, or simply in a living room while the kids are asleep upstairs; one small sentence hastily scribbled on the back of a shopping list to explain why to the people who would want to know.

Trump has enabled a lot of death with that one signature. I can almost feel the death creeping over the Atlantic and oozing into my pores right now. It’s gun metal gray, and it stinks. The whole thing reeks of Eugenics.

I guess at my worst I’d have been on several killing sprees if I’d have been able to get away with them, and I’m positive my brain would have been blasted onto an off-white ceiling leaving rich hues and dripping bloody stalactites. I’m serious. Big things happen with collapsing mental health and guns. Ask a history teacher. They are one of the worst combinations imaginable. Much worse than macaroni cheese and sausages. They are a recipe for grief and death. Guaranteed instant results every time.

There are few things to thank modern politicians for, but living in a country where guns are hard to come by is one of them. Small mercies and all that… But this is the UK. Today in the US people with mental health problems already have a gun and some of them will die, or kill others, or both. Now the future is much worse for the Nutters, and the innocent bystanders, thanks to Trump. But we’re only the loonies, after all. Heading straight into Hell. See ya’ll at the gun store.

The last ride

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By then I’d switched to lemonade. There had been a point twenty minutes earlier where I thought I might tip over the edge completely. Booze can do that to you without a seconds notice. One minute I’m there, the next I’m gibbering to somebody about how Tyson Fury once punched me in a Belgian forest. The lemonade tasted shitty but my head wasn’t freefalling anymore, despite the conversation.

I don’t see this friend all the time, but enough to know he’s still there for me – and for him to know it’s reciprocated. In fact, he is the only friend I have left after years on the BPD treadmill. The others could only take so much, and I don’t blame them. This friend is a guy I’ve known since we were young. We grew up in the same small village in the North of England; totally flat lands going right over to the boulder clay ridge where a Steelwork town belched into the skyline. It was all under-age drinking and smokes of hashish up at the churchyard until we could get into the pubs and get really legally wasted. We were the village fuck-ups, polite and well-meaning, but always on the look out for ways to get out of our heads. We’d gone through cheap sherry, hash, speed, LSD, even lighter gas, and I was pitching in and out of irregular heroin use.

We ended up separately after we got to our mid twenties – I married and started work in a prison, and he drifted from job to job, got with a girl, bought a house, and had a baby. In the end we both got fired, fucked up, and divorced, quite independently. He ended up in rehab and I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office. Fun times.

About five years ago we got back in touch in a good way and we’ve seen each other fairly regularly ever since. Through a quirk of fate, despite me moving away from the village, he now lives pretty close to me.

This night was a get-together with our partners. We were enjoying it. He’d made me cry again with laughter. Now we were arranging his stag do (I am the Best Man).

It was going to be fairly simple. I’d found a remote recording studio for us and his band to stay at. He’s a great drummer. I play guitar. We’d spend maybe five days recording whatever we wanted. On the shore of a Scottish Loch we’d play our hearts out, talk, laugh, and get a little drunk maybe. It would be a liberating and cathartic week for us both. But talk had turned to what to bring.

It started out with clothes and food. We’d take booze, for sure, and a little weed, but now we were on to serious enjoyment. He thought for a moment and then said he’d like to take some cocaine with us. I didn’t ever have a problem with that, but he did. Then I heard myself offering to stockpile my codeine and pregabalin, even my diazepam prescription. Before we knew it, the drug bag was growing and we were both wrapped tight up by the prospect of one last blow-out up there away from civilisation. The last ride of the junkie brothers.

“I’ll be found slumped naked on the loch shore with a semi-on in my hand,” he said.

“Man….this could be the best week of our lives.”

“Or one of us has a stroke.”

We laughed. We would be ok. It always was. Outside I told my partner that she had nothing to worry about. I said I had always believed in picking the right people to get fucked up with – people you can trust in a tight spot – and he was the only one left. We’d been there enough to know the way if one of us got lost. There would always be someone tending the light at the end of the tunnel.

And I forgot everything of the last twenty years; every tear and moment of distress was gone. Things were no different now to the yahoo of youth all those years ago. We were the same people as back then anyhow, weren’t we? There was no danger in a drug-fuelled trip into the past. There had been no consequences before. The drug gods had been kind enough to erase all the hurt and the terror now they were getting closer on the horizon again. We were old hands. Lead on. Nothing could be simpler..

Peace has a price

Yes. It was me half an hour ago standing in the street offering to kick the shit out of two delivery men. I kind of want to say it was their fault – one of them mouthed something at me when he thought I wouldn’t stop and deal with it – but ultimately the thing lands with me. Their faces dropped when I came back and started shouting. They didn’t fancy the job. Luckily.

I was all ready to fight there in the street. It was pathetic. An aged Rocky carrying on like a gorilla in the winter sunshine while cars stopped and people took out their phones ready to call the cops. The men locked themselves in their van. Terrible scene.

I left and raged to myself for a while, then remembered I hadn’t had my medication. I stopped the car again and put on the radio to take a breather. They were talking about the costs of medication in the UK. I’d never considered it, I just go, present my card, then leave. So I looked it up when I got in – taking the meds first with large gulps of cheap sugar-free energy drink. I don’t drink those kinds of drinks but I figured that I couldn’t get more high.

Here are my meds and their cost to the NHS for a years worth of my dosage:

Pregabalin – £772.80p

Codeine – £59.04p

Flupentixol – £55.00p

Diazepam – £3.18p

My total yearly medication cost = £890.02p

Cheap? Expensive?

Life saving, life-affirming, comforting, numbing, safety net, painless, calm, helpers…all of them. I’d say they were worth every penny.

And now I’m going to relax as those tablets kick in and I leave the threat mode and enter the world of flat-line. No emotions for me for a couple of hours. Saved again until next time. In a while all I’ll feel is guilt, and that can lead to self-harm sometimes, but it’s less destructive to the community at large. Safer to be unsafe sometimes, weirdly.

The Pro

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Her bulbous nose was booze red. Without it she’d have been attractive. I think she knew this because she was dressed to compensate in revealing clothing. They say you always end up with a mirror image of yourself, and that was sort of true in this case because her partner had an identical nose. But similarities stopped there; he had a huge underbite and a large lower lip that drooped and made him look like he was slobbering.

There was a storm outside. The pub was almost empty. They were sitting eating a cheap meal when I came in and sat at the next table. People were talking all around us and sometimes they’d join in. They knocked the alcohol back quickly, as I did. There is nothing like a booze rush in the early afternoon. It beats all other times of the day, even in winter when you have to sit inside and where the conversation is less easy to escape. She finished her wine in maybe three gulps and sent him back to the bar for more. He lisped the order through his jaw with its slobber and smiled without a break until he sat back down.

People engaged them, mainly her, in shouted conversation from the bar to the tables where we sat. She laughed it up, despatched advice, or reprimand, and moved silkily in her chair as if to hypnotise the guys pouring the cheap lager down their throats who were watching her out of the corner of their eyes when they weren’t plucking up the courage to shout something amusing and throw it her way. Even the landlady’s tits weren’t enough to turn the heads today. They bounced up and down behind the bar with flicked blonde hair crossing over them and caressing their milky cleavage. It was for nothing. The bulbous nose held some form of spell over the crowd.

A woman in old dirty white trainers came into the pub and the tone changed. She sat with the silky woman and started to cry. I heard snatched phrases “Dead…. Too many times… Funeral… They would only give me paracetamol but I need more to help me… he was expected to go but I need drugs.”

I guessed it was her father who had died. Silky woman had an arm around her and was saying things like “If you ever need me….” Her words fell like royal favours out of a golden carriage.

“I know you will, Deborah, you’re the kindest person I know,” the crying woman said. She stared straight ahead and shook. They talked for ten minutes more then the crying woman finished her orange juice and left, walking unsteadily, twitching at something unseen by anyone else, ever. Deborah laughed a little.

She finished her drink, got up out of her chair and passed me by, draping a hand on my shoulder and leaving it there, moving her fingers a little as some kind of signal. The eyes from the bar watched with jealous expressions. Then she moved off  with her slack-jawed partner, wiggling her peachy ass as she walked down the length of the pub.

Somebody plucked up the courage to ask me if I knew her. I didn’t, but I felt knighted by a serious pro lush who’d been around long enough to know what buttons to press on old drunk guys with nothing in their lives except alcohol and the thoughts of maybe, coulda. Dreams in the guiness haze.

I sat on my own and drank and popped tablets until the storm died down outside. Had I had an horrific glimpse of my future? Sitting in pubs and bars waiting for scraps of body language or half-meant words to be tossed my way for me to use masturbating later, drunk? What was Deborah’s purpose? Did she care? No. She was too good at what she did to care. Caring meant you wouldn’t carry on that way; that you’d be so disgusted in yourself you couldn’t bear to be that way. She was a throwback to gin palaces and dive bars near freeways, truck stops, seedy 70s discos, and the wrenching coldness of the human condition. I wondered what had happened to her to make her that way.

Eventually I got drunk.

 

Muse(less)

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“Deep in our hearts we know it: that you weren’t much of a muse, but then again, I weren’t much of a poet.” – Nick Cave

A relative of mine knows Nick Cave. She knew his son, too, before he threw himself off a sixty foot beach cliff with his 15yr old head full of LSD. Mind expansion is one thing, but drug-induced suicide is another. For every good part of any drug there is always the flip side. The cannabis brigade lobby anyone within earshot about the healing properties of weed, but then again, looking under a microscope in a lab somewhere someone in a white coat is watching smoke-related cancer cells mutate. You pays your money and you takes your choice, eh.

My relative says Nick is a twat. I’ve never met him.

 

I walked yesterday for an hour and a half. I didn’t meet a single soul for an hour until I saw a local landlady jogging along the canal with her two dogs. She had oversized headphones on and wore a shiny black bodysuit that I tried not to look at. At the end of the canal I passed the cottaging area filled with the nervous sexual tension of middle-aged men waiting for a transvestite to turn up and make a good go of things in the toilets. Even in winter some people can find comfort in a remote toilet block with someone who’d never turn them down. Or tell a wife.

The main feeling today is I’m out of ideas.  A while ago I started to jig together a loose book form to sell on amazon kindle, but I’m apathetic and still lacking confidence in anything I write. I mean, there is nothing more self-indulgent than writing about your mental health – like I’m doing here. It’s boring, clichéd, and riddled with hyperbole. You struggle sometimes in life too, right? Why have I got it any different to you?

I don’t. We’ve all cried at overwhelming sadness, and we’ve all spent the dark hours of the pre-dawn thinking about the past, or the lack of future. It’s a commonality of the human condition. So why would anyone pay to hear my bleating?

In time everything I’ve ever done, including these words right now, will just be lost in the ether with no reader or anyone to understand why I’m writing them in the first place. I’m ok with that.

Shit….. Self doubt is a real bummer. See you when the mist has lifted.

Polar opposite

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‘Out of the blue and into the black, they give you this but you paid for that.” – Neil Young

Strange start to the day. I dreamed that Mark E Smith had died in the early hours, then my drunken neighbour’s headboard started to knock on the wall again. Another alcohol-fuelled masturbation alone in the dead of night.

Then the news this morning: a team of women are about to walk to the South Pole. This is an incredible feat and worthy of either praise or derision. They’d dressed them up in little pink jackets like the female gang from Grease. It didn’t suit them. They were doing two hours of training a day in Norway; a  group of female British army soldiers, all organisation and clipped speech with few vowels. The reporter looked cold, but out of all the questions he could drill down to, all he wanted to know was how they’d go for a crap out there in the snow. I’d never considered it.

“We build a little wall, then a hole,” one of them said, “then we scoop up the poo in a bag and carry it with us.”

What? Had I heard that right? Three months of scooping up your shit into bags and then carrying it along like Santa until you finally get rescued. What happens then to the shit? Jesus Christ…. These things play on my mind. Eight women pulling sedges full of their own shit is not an image to stay with you if you want to enjoy your day.

I imagine that the realities of walking for months in a blizzard are worse than the magical story sold to the participant on expedition sign-up day. Polar Bears and nuclear submarines are in the north, leopard seals and UFOs in the south. And always the freezing cold. Nobody needs that kind of challenge. Not me, anyhow. There is no fun in sleeping outside where the wind howls and where a thin layer of nylon won’t stop nature if she really wants your blood. The frozen wastes are littered with the bodies of goofy explorers who tried desperately to prove they weren’t failures in life, generally. I have the edge over them in that respect: I realise I’m a failure and I can accept that fact. It’s knowledge like that which has kept me alive so far and out of the jaws of an eight hundred pound Polar Bear.

The day is breaking now. Dawn is here. I’ll be walking today, too. No shitting into a bag for me. My walking is prescribed by my Psychologist. It’s a time honoured way of creating the right chemicals in your brain and of not dying from apathy. I’m sure there’s plenty of research about it somewhere. What’ll happen today is anyone’s guess. I’ll start out with good intentions and, if I’m not careful, I’ll end up trying to have a fight with anyone and everyone, or hurting myself. The least that could happen is carrying my own shit behind me – which, of course, metaphorically speaking I do.

The savage owls have stopped screaming in my garden, the sun is up. Might even be a nice day. Walk carefully out there, my friends.