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.

 

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.

RIP

Where were you when? Another dumb-ass question of the human condition. Ha! This can be used to explore any given fraction of time, anywhere, personalising any point in your take on History. I suppose it’s how we find our own longitude and latitude on the map of things.

I wasn’t alive when Kennedy was assassinated, when Neil Armstrong touched down in a Hollywood studio, or when Hitler gave himself a dose of the Final Solution. But…. I was alive during 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the Miner’s strike, the death of Kurt Cobain, and, now, the suicide of Chris Cornell. I watched the second plane hit the tower live on TV while at work in a Category A prison, and I lived in Yorkshire during the worst parts of Thatcher’s demolition of the Mining industry. These events aren’t things I was ever personally involved with, I don’t own them or their emotional output. SO why do I feel like some of them left a mark?

When I heard Chris Cornell had hung himself I froze. Why? Ok, so I always loved Soundgarden. I know that much. Cornell’s lyrics and voice resonated with me on many occasions. I took acid listening to Superunknown, sat stoned trying not to go too deep into Black Hole Sun. And I rocked out to Soundgarden’s wall of guitars and that screaming-cutting voice many, many, times. I have all their albums. I still listen to them from time to time. And when I do, I turn the volume up. I admired his creativity. And now he’s dead. Why did the news make me so sad?

I’ve come to the conclusion that his suicide hit home with me because I’ve been there. Unsuccessfully. I know the level of self-hatred and sadness it takes to push the button, or tie the noose. It’s so powerful and disturbing that it actually hurts physically to recall. I felt for Chris Cornell not because he was a sort of hero, but because I was him. He just got to see it through while I got lucky. I can’t sing, I’m unattractive, I can’t write music, but when I heard about his death, just for a moment, we were connected. We knew something the others didn’t, no matter how hard he tried to put it across in a song.

 

Car Conversation

How do you go about telling someone you almost killed yourself last week? Yeah, I know, ‘Almost’. Define Almost. And, while you’re at it, get the fuck off of the internet with your self-aggrandising bullshit, Ben(jamin).

Well, as someone who’s followed through with those thoughts four [4] times with genuine focus in the past eight years I think I’m up on the subject enough to enter some kind of discourse. OK, none of this means you have any emotional involvement in what I’m writing – none of you know who I am, and fewer than that number actually give a shit anyhow – but I think it’s a topic worth getting into. Especially as times are tough considering the focus shift of my Therapy. Things are up in the air, mixed up, and my thoughts are too occupied with the past and the negative aspects of my life. The Professionals in my life think I am at increased risk. They are right.

Well. What do you say to someone you love when you’ve had a near miss? ‘Err, by the way, I nearly killed myself last week.’? Do you sit them down, hold their hand, and gently talk through the thing over a glass of wine and many tears? What’s the pro-forma?

In this case, I just blurted it out while driving the car. ‘By the way, I nearly killed myself last week.’ I wasn’t trying to be cruel, or really trying anything at all. It just happened.

The reaction, at first, was silence for a few seconds, then ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘I didn’t want to pile that onto you.’ Which was a truth. In fact, it was the truth. The only truth. Who wants to heap that kind of emotional pile of utter shit onto anyone? I didn’t, I never have, and I still don’t. I’m not a guy who makes cryptic attention-seeking phonecalls, or sends messages of angst, or writes suicide notes. Suicide is a personal thing, all heightened emotional state, solitary, Me v the Universe. I never want to involve others. I’ve been told by Professionals that this is dangerous, because it points to me really meaning it. Goddamn right. I meant it every time.

Where does that leave us? Well, in some respects it means your opinion of me has fallen. And it possibly means the same from my partner’s perspective too. I don’t know for sure, I don’t want to ask her, or you. Too many heavy conversations like that aren’t anyone’s idea of fun.

The subject of suicide is never welcomed by anyone, like an incoming missile, or a wayward step on a cliff top. Even out here in the ether. For that, I apologise. But here we are anyhow. Words written. Cat out of the bag. As grim as it is, this is my Truth and this is the way of things right now. Some people fight Wolverines for a living. I fight self-inflicted death. And I hate myself for it.

Despite all of the above, I felt a little better once the silence returned in the car – just like I feel a little better for typing these words.. She knew the truth now, hard as it had been to say, and the World had lost one more appalling secret.

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.

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.

Round One

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The first Trauma therapy session was a mixed bag. I like my Psychologist – she’s very intelligent, empathetic, and doesn’t mind challenging me when she thinks it’s appropriate. It’s a good therapeutic relationship. She’s excellent at her job. the problem is not with her, it’s with the subject matter. For an hour yesterday I reeled off a few examples of things which happened a long time ago; shrugged them off like nothing, like I’ve always done. They are stories which I won’t go into right now but the script will be familiar to many. They fall out of my mouth like an alcoholic telling a room about the time he last got drunk. It was easy. It’s always easy, and yesterday felt no different while I was going through the details – actually saying the words.

My Psychologist stopped the horror stories at the end of the hour and asked me what I was going to do afterwards. I told her I felt like getting drunk so I didn’t have to think about what we’d just talked about. That, or take more pills than usual. I had a headache and I was telling the truth. I expected a tut and a metaphorical slap on the wrist, but she stared at me for a few seconds then said: ‘This therapy is not an intellectual exercise. This is about feeling and how you feel in the time between sessions. Now, it might be the case you feel awful, but you need to sit with it and watch those feelings with the mind of an inquisitor. Why do you feel like that? Got it?’

I got it alright. But I walked out of the hospital and into the sunshine feeling pretty good that the process had started. I felt positive. The world was going to get better. I got in the car and tried not to think about what we’d talked about for the past hour. I would drive to my girlfriend’s and enjoy my evening with the family, path to healing started. The good feeling lasted about twenty minutes. Then a cold, unfamiliar type of anger began to rise up from the inside of my chest, stone-faced, primal. I could have murdered somebody, anybody, if they gave me the slightest reason. The coldness of it shook me. I stopped at a garage and bought booze, knowing I hadn’t got my psyche right to do what my psychologist asked and just watch the emotion. Things were too far gone for that. Medicine was needed. Under the counter. Off-prescription charts. Safe old obliteration.

At my girlfriend’s home I felt safe, but there was an inner something that had woken – one of the old monsters I’d shut away for many years. He/it was back. I marshalled it into it’s box with some beer and codeine and locked the gate. I didn’t want to feel that old hurt. There, in plain sight for the first time, was a glimmer of the root of the thing.

Good Therapy is powerful, so they say. This, I now believe to be true. Where it ends is still a mystery, a bit like a Prizefight or a Primal Scream record. This is just the start, chillingly. Already I feel punch-weary. Round one to the past.

 

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.