Le Sourire

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Heart beating hard and fast. 2am. I kicked off the duvet, stared at the ceiling again, and tried to focus my thoughts. I could almost see the feeling in the air above me, all around the dark room, moving just that tiny fraction out of phase with everything else. You could squint and maybe you’d catch it for a second moving quickly out of the corner of your eye or right ahead of you disappearing, fading quickly into the stone window frames. If I didn’t know better I’d have said it was a spiritual intervention or message. Religions have started on lesser foundations.

And over it all, that feeling thumping, cossetting, working deep inside against the grain of everything I’ve ever known. Call it what you want. This thing has power.

When I finally woke up, the sun had started to aggressively pound into the hillside, a dog was wailing, and my head moved quickly through the gears from early waking numbness up into that feeling again. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. I took my meds, swallowing them down with cold water, and went into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror over the wash basin. My eyes were red, I looked old, fat, ravaged by years of bad experiences. I told myself this was only a dream. No-one could really be that crazy. I soaked my face, grey beard and all, in the sink and lifted my head back up to the mirror. Nothing had changed at all except the water running in great globules from the straggled edges of my face. Then I thought of those images stored in my brain from the night before, the things that were said, looked once more in the mirror, and couldn’t stop a smile.

 

Panda

 

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She was talking in a softer voice. And she had leaned forward towards me. By then I was staring at the floor, breathing heavier, letting the tears find their own path. She kept going ‘Ben, this is the sadness that you have to feel, and to get to know. It’s ok.’

My mind was jumping from childhood images, to recent events, to hopes, and then into the overwhelming void of all of our fears and horrors. It was an overload of such harrowing proportions that I stopped being able to see anything in the beige room clearly. Only the sound of her soft voice encouraging me, telling me I was ok, kept me free from disassociating into that secret place I’d found when I was little. I used to be able to choose the entrance point, the length of stay, and the depth, but now I’m sucked inside without a choice. I could feel the unseen hands on my shoulders. She kept talking. I guessed she knew what was going on.

After a while I looked at her. She was flushed pink in her thin face, unsettled, it seemed like what I had said and how I’d reacted had resonated with her. ‘Can you hug anything when you get home…a teddy, pillow? I know it sounds stupid, but try.’

I nodded my head but had no intention of following her advice. I glanced at her again, she seemed sad too. I thought of how stupid I looked – tears still wet on my face, trying to breath calmly – and apologised. Most people do when they’ve come out of a crying fit in front of another person. I guess it’s because we all know how it feels to see somebody in distress. Watching someone cry is difficult viewing.

I drove home feeling emptier than normal. I pushed the accelerator down harder than usual, drove fast and careless, skidding the car around tight corners. I was trying to get out of the fug, just to feel something. I made a vague plan to hurt myself when I got back.

When I finally came home I locked the back door behind me. I was heading for the kitchen and the knife drawer. That’s when I saw it, looking at me from a shelf. Just as I’d left it. Old as me, nose squashed from all the hours and days and years of being held tightly in times of trouble. Keeper of all my childhood, comforter, the only friend I’d had in dark times, now just an old bear sitting in my little old house gathering dust, kind of forgotten.

I walked over to it, laughing at my own stupidity, then picked him up and held him like I did when I was just a blonde-haired boy who never knew if he’d die tomorrow. I hadn’t hugged that bear for thirty years. He knew what to do, he didn’t ask me anything, didn’t judge, just quietly listened. I forgot about the knife and put him back down on an armchair. He still worked.

 

Face upwards

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All the moments in my life – the Sunday morning grass cutting and washing the car, the shitness of working in jail, the sad knowledge of the wrong marriage, and the drifting years since – led up to a deep breath moment in a windowless room yesterday.

I’d never felt so alone.

My Psychologist handed the phone back to me. She was watching me for a reaction. I put the phone on the empty chair by mine. No-one spoke. She was eyeballing me, really trying to look in there.

‘What do you want me to say?’ I asked her.

‘You say whatever you want to, Ben.’

I couldn’t think straight. The lights flickered. Someone walked past outside talking loudly. She was tapping on the laptop balancing on her knees. More typing than usual. Whatever she had planned for that hour had gone completely off kilter.

She was trying to help me.

‘Are you taking your medication?’

‘Fuck off….of course I am. Don’t try and bring this thing down to meds.’

‘I’m not. It was a simple question,’ she said. ‘Do you think you’re being appropriate? Are you behaving in the right way? Are you scared? Boundaries?’

‘Yeah,’ I answered. ‘Yeah to all of it.’

And there it all was before me. That’s when the whole rotten lot lurched into technicolour view: my wedding, years and years of drudging mediocrity, something missing. Images of it all, every single moment of hurt and boredom, and now the overarching realisation I’d been alone through everything. No connection to anybody; old jigsaw. Left in a drawer forever and forgotten until the bits I missed turned up. I never expected to come across those pieces.

But I’m getting confused. It’s early. Light is starting to hang on the raindrops outside. They are falling in a random pattern that looks like it’s weaving in and out of focus just to make things feel worse. I guess it’s what I deserve. In a moment I’ll stand outside just to feel the weather on my skin. I’ll turn my face skywards. I might say some form of prayer. Don’t know who to. Don’t know why either. Just feels like this is one of those moments where a prayer couldn’t do any harm. I’ll try to be mindful of the precious feeling of being alive, watching thoughts passing like the drops of rain rolling right now from the leaves in front of me.

 

 

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.

 

Scared

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Two hideous full size voodoo dolls – one white, one black – were sitting in the corner of the room. Leering smiles. One male, one female. My partner ran out of the room screaming. I woke up sweating, heart beating more than it should when you’ve taken diazepam and are expecting some sleep. It took a while for me to shake the image and the terrible sound of my partner in a state I’ve never wanted her to be in. I don’t mind me being the focus of some unworldly force, but my partner doesn’t deserve an inclusion into that sort of unholy scene. I try to protect her when the sun is out and when everyone can see the danger coming. I enjoy it, to be honest. But in dreams the whole thing is taken out of my hands, I guess it’s why I sleep badly. When I calmed down a little I put the light on and lay in bed wondering why I’m being singled out. I’m an obvious target, but I still think there are better candidates out there for multiple sleepless nights of sweating terror. After a while I went for a piss, but even in my bathroom I had goose bumps all over my skin still thinking of those dolls watching with their dead eyes.

Now it’s 5am. Raining heavy. I’m missing therapy today. Things, generally, are confusing this morning – I’m bored, tired, frightened, lost. I thought at one point last night that I’d found the key to everything: I’ve been cursed. Some voodoo spell has been enacted on me, maybe in a previous life, and has followed me into this shitty incarnation. I wondered about making a witches bottle and burying it deep in the garden to ward off the curse. I haven’t done it yet, but I might. Stupidity doesn’t feel so dumb when you’re scared.

The previous owner of the house lived in Africa for a while. And she had died in my bedroom. Was she responsible? Was the curse focussing in on the wrong person now she’s gone? Will it return tonight with the sound of far away drums? Shit…. All the problems of the World are boiling down to the stares from two voodoo dolls in a dream. Terrorists, Trump, bodies blown apart, all reflected in those unmoving faces. It’s pathetic. Self-indulgent. I have a simple nightmare and it feels like a bomb has dropped in here. I’m quivering like a soaked bird on a telephone line.

-Now my therapist is texting me – she’s mistakenly put an X at the end of a message.

Send me prayers. Send me money. Send back my sanity.

Thanks in advance.

 

 

 

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.

 

Surf

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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.

 

Don’t rock the boat

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

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

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

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

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.