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.

 

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.

 

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.

Vulnerable

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My God.

No, not that one. Or any one, for that matter – except maybe the entity I light an incense stick to most mornings and think of my grandparents, my sick mother, and my partner, before turning to face the sky outside and praying for all war to stop. Does that count?

But, to the point: trauma therapy is tough; tougher than probably anything I’ve ever done. Facing down a hundred upset prisoners was a breeze compared to an hour a week in a small room with an intelligent Clinical Psychologist and trawling through things I’d either forgotten about or kept hidden. This week’s revelation was spat out by me at the end of the hour, hands shaking, trying not to sob – ‘OK, I feel vulnerable…. There. Done.’

I hadn’t said those words ever, to anyone. I’m a tough guy. I like to think I am, and when the chips are down that might well be true, but there is something else within touching distance beyond the blue veil of time and the brown curtain of finely honed bullshit. I saw it with my own eyes. I’m vulnerable; still a frightened child terrified in his bedroom, waiting to be killed. Seems like what I thought was all wrong. I didn’t shake it off as I got physically bigger, it just stayed there and festered, and got rotten.

This whole rotten mental health thing is a crock of shit. No redeeming features and no way out at the moment. I’m reduced to bleating; humourless; unable to appreciate anything I do or have ever done. No point to any of it.

Here I sit, at my old desk by the window, in the light of dawn, morose, belt too tight, glancing out at the foulness of nature. A horror film monster. Old and ripped off.

Hohoho, eh?

The power of talking therapies. Done right they are more potent than any drug I ever wolfed down with a six pack of Heineken. The tricky bit is finding the valuable parts. And if you are not careful, before the sun has risen up over the rocks, you could be sitting pressed up against the window, like me, spectating rather than participating in life. These are the two choices I have today, right now, maybe forever.

See you outside.

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.

 

Open the Gates

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Let’s go.

Time to sit at the keyboard and type out something. It’s cathartic, ok. This is purely for my self-indulgent benefit. Isn’t it always: everything we do. I mean, even Mother Theresa got a kick out of the happy faces in her hospitals. Yeah, I know, Theresa had some supposedly dodgy financial dealings and some say she lived in luxury most nights when the Nuns robe got tossed on the marble floor. What’s that saying about power corrupting? But you can’t deny she felt good saving a life. Who wouldn’t?

OK. This is jumbled up again – don’t know the reason. I’m starting my first Trauma Therapy session in two hours. This is process I’ve not really been looking forward to, and it’ll last at least a year. My Clinical Psychologist has warned me that we may fall out, I might start to hate on her, and that I may feel more suicidal than usual. I guess I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them. I don’t have many other choices if I want to get well/normal/stay alive.

Yesterday I got drunk again; kind of crept up on me like one of those imaginary Big Cats people believe they see in British Woodland. Nobody expects to see a panther around here, and those that do are mocked. I join in with the laughter even though I sometimes see Bigfoot. One person’s cryptozoology is another’s psychiatric diagnosis, I guess.

But enough about terrifying animals lurking in the shadows. Talk like that will get us nowhere on this fine morning. It is the start of spring, the wild garlic is beginning to scent up the riverbank and the change in heat is palpable outside. There is a new feel to the dawn today.

Trauma therapy is moments away and it is possible the process will change how I feel about today/tomorrow/yesteryear. The whole thing could feel like being attacked by something large and unfriendly; I know the mind has a way of keeping dark beings behind close doors. Where they should be – or where I’ve learned to zookeep the worst of them. I try not to feed them but now they might actually be released from their cages to wander freely over my psyche, biting, shitting, roaring. Who knows?

When the gates open I won’t be ready, but I’ll be waiting anyway. What choice do I have.

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.