Fine Print

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Someone told me that you should just write. Doesn’t matter what it’s about – choose the first thing that comes into your head. I followed that advice for years. Even sitting doing paid gigs for magazines/websites and PR companies. Mostly the advice proved to be good. Only one Editor refused to print something I’d written without ‘Major fucking changes to the way you are blowing smoke up the ass of the W.B.C.’

Today I’m finding it difficult. Really difficult. Worse than psychotic episode brain-freeze. Or gibberish. Shit, I liked the gibberish. Reading the ravings of someone deep into a paranoid belief the neighbours are all police officers makes for fun reflection when the dust has settled. I’ve written high, low, hallucinating, starving, puking, hungover, and when it’s been so cold that the olive oil in my kitchen has frozen. But not today. There is no coherent thought I can drag along on the back of. Well, there’s one, but it’s so consuming that I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out.

My Psychologist and I argued on the phone about how I deal with this. She’s worried. Kept asking me about my propensity to self harm. Wanting to assess the level of danger. I could hear her typing things down carefully as I spoke. ‘No……honestly, for fuck’s sake, I’m safe.’ One answer like that is usually enough, but she must have asked me four or five times over twenty minutes. Same answer, same typing. Same thought, over and over and over. Same face, same smile, same laughter.

Music on now. Loud. Someone told me it’s all about grounding yourself in times like these. I guess it works, mostly. Maybe a quick prayer will help?

Okay, God, you fucking owe me. Let’s not argue about that, eh. We both know it. I’ve borne enough bullshit and hurt to last me from here until you high-five my hand warmly as I ride through those big gates on a Raleigh Chopper. Time for that re-birth you’re always banging on about in those pamphlets that come through my letterbox infrequently. Forget the gibberish about dinosaurs and homosexuals. That stuff isn’t important. You’ve lost your way a bit concentrating on things that don’t matter. Give me this one fucking chance to feel good.

There. I told you this thing would be incoherent. But at least whatever being is tending the eternal campfire up there now has the fine print in black and white. Spiritual proof, if you will. Maybe you can write your way to anything if you let it just flow?

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Know your place.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

In the Village

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Here in the morning candlelight. Grey outside. Gypsies have moved into the area at the bottom of the rocks up from my house. The villagers are scared but I walked through their caravans and couldn’t see why. Polished milk churns. Fake squares of grass outside immaculate doors. Smiles. No fear.

I failed yesterday to convince my CPN to mediate with my Psychiatrist to get me on an experimental LSD microdosing programme. Nice try. At the end of her visit I thanked her for always taking the time to listen to my bullshit. I wished her luck and a peaceful weekend away from the crazies. When she left I locked the gate and took my meds. And prayed up high to something. Same words every time – ‘Stop the wars, the killing, hatred, spread love, care for the frightened, protect my loved ones, protect me.’

The prayer failed. War is still rank and carefree, missiles and bombs, and people burned alive in cages like rats for reasons I can’t make sense of. Humans stink, and the lock on my gate outside isn’t ever going to be strong enough to stop the stench and the terror from getting to me in here.

Is anyone out there, or is everyone in Subway reading facebook on their IPhone? Kittens falling over. Dogs laughing. Hideous motivational quotes dreamed up by assholes with no sense of shame or reality. Banter and the shitfest of unsophisticated communication rammed down throats till you can’t speak for yourself any more without saying ‘So,’ at the beginning of every sentence. A stolen and copied verbal tick. The right language to be in control and self-assured. Using the accepted verbal cues. These things are vital if you want to fit in – if a banal communion is your goal.

So.

I ask myself: what can I do?

A: Nothing.

Train of thought gone. Concentration fucked after, what, 312 words. Awful.

I’m going back to staring out of the window and watching for something that’ll never turn up. Blasted on meds, keeping a lid on it all in this tiny village high up in the British hills, dodging my elderly neighbour who only wants to talk. And to stop feeling lonely too.

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.

Fight

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Trouble is brewing. In a post-crisis diazepam haze yesterday I worked for a while then got sucked into YouTube and watching the opening blows of an impending Traveller war in the UK. Big scary men brandishing sunken-knuckle fists, talking quickly in Irish lilt, threatening each other in bizarre home videos – ramping up the violence, shaking with rage, shouting – while the people of the annual horse fair village of Appleby sleep less soundly in their beds.

A guy didn’t show to fight another guy. In the dark of a bad quality phone recording at night a stocky man in a balaclava ranted his piece to camera while waving a sawn-off shotgun. Then somebody called Tommy Joyce offered to dig up the recently deceased wife of another Traveller and fuck her in front of him. I stopped watching after that. I have too many wars of my own to get wrapped up in grave robbing and necrophilia.

I’m finding things difficult right now. It started yesterday at the high point of a long walk up into the hills. I wondered if I just had too much to look down on in all ways up there. Too much to view, with all the bad bits mixed into the good parts. Reflection and contemplation are supposed to be good, but I can’t stand it. Hence the panic, then the tablets. I felt so small and unable to change a single fucking thing in my life. I don’t know what I like any more, I just know what I hate.

Just read all that back.

What another load of self-indulgent whinging.

My CPN is due in a few hours. I’m lost and today is another write-off.

Some say that people enjoy wallowing in fragile mental states – that mental illness is whacky and kooky. Not me. It’s ruined my life. I am tired of fighting it all. I feel beaten-up, sometimes I’m bloody, too. I punched myself so many times last night that my stomach feels like a bag of minced steak. There is no air in here, the music playing in the background is the only thing that’s tying me to being in the present, able to type; got to stop looking up at the treeline and wondering what’s watching me.

A bad day. Things aren’t working out. Confusion. Marble works and mice, dugong swimming, help, Cortez the Killer, bright yellow flowers outside the window, apple blossom, grey skies, shark attacks, the eventual grey goo, mocking laughter, and a whirlpool up high above me, drawing me up.

 

Cogito Ergo Sum

I never dream of being rich. Sometimes I think it’s because I’m happy with my poverty – less cash equals less ‘things’ and less stress. Less stuff means you have more time to think and feel that you’re alive. Cogito Ergo Sum, you see.

But enough about old French Philosophy and Latin phrases you can hang a noose on. These things aren’t helpful on the wide plains of life when a posse is closing in and you are riding a lame horse. Anyhow, Rene Descartes didn’t live for a single second longer because he realised he could prove his own existence. And neither will you.

I guess the real reason I never dream of wealth is that some day I’ll inherit it. The safety net is below me at all times. It’s an ugly truth and, actually, I’m not proud of it. But being crazy is easier when you go all the way – suicide attempts, symptomatic check-boxing, poverty, loneliness, alienation. In my experience you either go all the way in and accept the whole smorgasbord of mental illness, or you are derided by everybody. It’s easier to make snide comments behind the back of someone who’s half functioning than it is to mock someone laying in a pool of their own blood and vomit. Am I right? Of course I am. I’ve been there, I’ve lain there. Nobody laughed at my suicide attempts, but they were lining up beforehand to crack jokes. I suppose people got the proof from me that they needed. Didn’t make me feel any better either way.

OK?

Where does that leave us?

I’m not sure. I was alright about this whole thing until I started to think about waking up staring down at my own vomit. The stuffing has been knocked out of me now. What was I talking about? Wealth…yeah that was it. Seems so fucking stupid in the scheme of what is going through my head at the moment. The screen is blurry, mind isn’t still, body is itching to move out of danger. Yet I’m still typing. Bizarre.

Medication. That’s the key here. This post has turned from something bad to something worse. That is the way of things, generally, as it goes. There must be a DBT skill somewhere at the back of my mind. Nope. Can’t think of it.

I need to go out into the sunshine. Take a moment to think. Ground myself in the knowledge I’m alive. I guess Descartes was no fool after all.

Trauma Therapy

My old Clinical Psychologist is back. Today was our first appointment for a year. She’d been off to have a baby. She said I looked well and that she was glad to see me. It was a small lie but I took it anyway. Nobody can really enjoy sitting all day listening to shit like I come out with, but I like her. Savvy people are hard to find, in my experience. And she is savvy, despite what she has to go through at work. It hasn’t dulled her intellect or her soul. I’m thankful for it.

She’d heard about me breaking a couple of my own ribs a couple of months ago by punching myself. She didn’t even blink when I talked her through the moment. It’s things like that which give you a clue to exactly how much pain and anguish people like Psychologists get to hear on any given day. I don’t blame her for it. And I don’t envy her.

We are starting something called ‘Trauma Therapy’. It’s all about digging through the cesspool of my past and finding the really stinking, rotten parts. She warned me it’d be tough and that it might test our relationship. I told her I was ready for it – I mean, how hard can it be to relive the bad things you’ve been through and have replayed again and again for years? She told me it might raise my propensity to self-harm and my suicidal ideations. I told her, ‘So what?” and she sighed. I guess it’s hard to get across to the uninitiated exactly how little regard people like me can have for ourselves on any given day. Elon Musk wants to go on a tourist trip to the moon, and if he gets back without being fried into tiny microbes by the 3000 centigrade re-entry phase then he’ll never adequately be able to explain how it felt to look back on the earth. I guess that’s as good as any analogy for what I’m trying to say.

But I’m glad my old Psychologist is back. She’s a highly intelligent woman with a good sense of humour. If we’re probing the depths then I can’t imagine anyone I’d want to guide me through the whole foul mess more than her. It’s not something I’d do for a living, but then again not everyone can be a circus clown, or the president of the USA… Oh, wait..

So, here’s to the future – or at least the next year – digging through abuse and childish nights of terror and torture. Here’s to the loss of my childhood.

It’s codeine time. I think this is about the right place to stop typing.

 

 

  • Painting by Anthony Caruso.

Sharkfin Blues

https://a4-images.myspacecdn.com/images03/28/d7755866091a4c51b907ae17cffe2513/300x300.jpgGareth Liddiard

Depression. Solid gold bottomed out bummer. Black as the eye of the night. Never thought I suffered with it myself but I guess that’s because there are other more complicated things thrown in the bucket along with it. Like lack of sense of self….or sense of time and place. Throw in that shitty music I hear when I’m stressed, and the hissing voice that tells me how bad I am, the odd hallucination, and we’re almost there. Fun times.

But depression is something that people find debilitating. I looked down my nose at the depressed at first when I found out what my diagnosis was (Bipolar, then Borderline Personality Disorder) because I thought in the league table of being fucked up I ranked highly. I didn’t want to, it was just how it felt for a long, long time. But all that has changed. Depression is no better or worse than me, you, any Psychiatric diagnosis going – except maybe the Paranoid Schizophrenics who can’t be left in a room alone for even a minute. I guess they have the edge over my shit.

Like I said, I don’t have a true handle on the clinically depressed, because it ain’t me, but I think I know enough now to say I don’t envy them. Maybe their road isn’t my road, but at least I can see where it is on the map now. There was no epiphany, no single moment of realisation, just a gradual growing respect for those who can’t see the way past the edge of the foggy gloom. I’m taken on rocket rides through a series of emotions, out of control and intense, but just to feel sadness and nothing else….man…

There are so many of us out there whispering our stories out into the hurricane, blown away before they reach an ear. I’m one of them sitting here just writing this, but don’t give it a second thought. Do what you have to to get well; feel better; stay afloat. We are all we’ve got.

Like usual, I can’t explain myself properly, which I will punish myself for at some point tonight.. Love to all of you who struggle with the things in your head that don’t work as they should. We are many, and we are brothers and sisters in one mixed up battle to find some good in being alive. It’s the key to everything.

The final words on the subject are from Gareth Liddiard – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvFKQrlaIfg