"You have wonderful insight." It's a compliment, but a backhanded one. It's saying that you have the mental capability to recognise that you are ill, and that some of the experiences of your illness are not real. In other words, you are coping. I tell you something though, it doesn't make the experiences any less disturbing. I don't know where my insight comes from. Perhaps being an atheist since I was six and a determinist since I was fourteen had something to do with it. When I was eighteen I formulated my private theory of brain-function, that stated that sensory stimulii passed through the Imagination before they got to the Intelligence. Phenomenology, I suppose you could call it. It certainly helped explain to me why grey winters blazed with colour during arguments on walks with people - I simply had more of an imaginative faculty... ha ha bloody ha. Fine joke on me, eh? It took until I was twenty-six before I wondered if things weren't quite right up there - if the way I saw the world and behaved in the world that I couldn't grow out of were something other than simple fancifulness. (After all, everyone runs around the house talking and singing to themselves in the dead of night, don't they?)
The thing is, if you don't believe in ghosts, and if you don't believe in voices from the ether, and if you don't believe in lions on the garden path, then when you see or hear them you bloody well don't believe they are real - you intellectually accept you are having a hallucination. Is 'insight' simply another word for 'education', 'common-sense', or god-forbid, 'intelligence'?
The lion made my pulse rate soar so hard and fast I was worried for my heart to be honest. But within seconds I knew it wasn't real. The mental assurance was there; the body took some time to catch up from its panic.
The point, or prick of this post, (briefly referring back to the Joycean title, which means 'prick of conscience'), is that if I have 'insight', then why the fuck am I wasting the time and the money of the NHS? Ok - I'm a wreck, and and fuck-up, and a quivering pile of shite at the moment - but I can still THINK, and still WRITE, and still put THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE. Why on earth is it all still so difficult?!! A day without desperate tears will be welcomed. At least the increase in the drugs has slightly cooled off the burning in my frontal and medial lobes.
Enough - I wish I had coherence again - but the coherence of immediate thought and synthesis comes at the price of a head of fire - and my head is so tired - it's a cinder on the stump of my neck.
Kudos where kudos are due, it was this post at Mental Nurse got me pondering.
Other stuff. I noted with amusement that on my poetry site when checking the stats to see if anyone had ever visited, that someone had happened upon it by looking up "[my forename] + [my surname] + death". Larf a minute...
Psycho-family, taxman, fucking ex-clients who've lost their paperwork on the scrounge, irritating guest for a ghastly coffee morning, screaming kids, exploding head, shuddering limbs, enforced lie-down, and now just general vibration and ghastliness.
I try to put myself together one brick at a time, sometimes think the edifice is nearing completion, but then the next day the bricks are all on the floor at my feet.
OC: You damned fart-brain. I knew you'd choose a ridiculous and archaic name.
OC: Same goes for that.
OC: Boring. Forget it. Call me Zeus, if you must have a classical reference.
LS: Am I damned, then?
OC: Damning presupposes judging. Judging presupposes freedom of choice. I don't know.
LS: Am I damned or not, God damn it?
OC: I wish you wouldn't keep using those terms. But yes, I suppose you are. Your only consolation is that you at least have reached the end of the road, and behind you the road you came on has vanished. But since you're on no-road, you're free of roads and all the traffic regulations and the rest of it. Although you can't go anywhere, you could say that you can go everywhere, for there is nowhere. And nowhere is everywhere.
LS: Are you sure there's no way forward or back?
OC: From nowhere? From knowing yourself as a meaningless bundle of electro-chemical charges? As individual as a speck of void in the void? Don't make me laugh.
LS: Well, fuck you then, if that's all the help you can give.
OC: Well said. Let me put it another way. In the beginning et cetera. Let me move on to the interesting bit, and excuse me using this tatty old myth again. Man ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Or he became conscious of Himself. All fine and dandy. Before then, he was not conscious of himself. He was Himself. After that fateful apple, he became not himself. Before he only knew Now; after, the innocent Now was efficaciously smothered in its cradle by Since and What Next? But I knew Man would slowly - oh, so very slowly - wander along, knowing more and more, until he knew the truth: that everything he knew was illusion - that he could not know anything. Sex was a consolation, of course. That's as close as you'll get to remembering where you once were. - Where was I? Oh yes. You've discovered that your knowledge is nothing, and that you've lost the possibility of being what you are... Which is, of course, living in the Now. My advice is to have lots of it.
LS: What - Now?
OC: No, not Now - sex, you fool. But basically, my advice is forget it all, forget everything. All these books, forget them. Especially in your day and age, when every little jumped-up journalist wants the biggy bildungsroman to burst the gusset of his boxer-shorts.
LS: For a god, you don't seem very concerned about your creation.
OC: Now that is something I don't understand. Why does Man persist in thinking that I'm not being Just if I don't make everything lovely and happy in the end? You don't expect your novelists to make everything turn out right for the sake of their characters? Who knows if the characters in books experience existence as you do in relation to me? Is it fundamentally unjust for a novelist to commit atrocities on his characters? If you can demonstrate that that is so, then I would accept your point.
(shamelessly snaffled from a letter - sorry about the formatting - life is too short to rectify WordStar conversions)
I just had to go to the hospital. I just jumped up to grab a book which was by the sofa, and I put my hand down on the arm of the sofa with all my weight behind it, not noticing the needle that was stuck in the sofa arm. That was clever of me. So now I have the broken off blunt end of a needle firmly stuck in either the tendon or the bone of my hand: I won't know until the X-ray department opens to- morrow. Great. So, what I have to do tomorrow is this: i) Go to casualty again. ii) Wait. iii) Get my details. iv) Take them to the x-ray dept. v) Wait. vi) Get x-rayed. vii) Wait. viii) Get the x-ray, and take it back to casualty. ix) Wait. x) Get a doctor to slice my hand open and take the needle out. xi) Wait. xii) Get told I can go home. xiii) Finish making my viola.
They stuck a huge bloody bandage on it, though there's only a tiny hole. The needle broke off inside the hand, about 5mm of it, (the eye bit and a bit more), so there isn't any sticking out. It doesn't hurt, unless I move the tendon or the bone in certain ways: typing seems to make it hurt a bit, so I'm trying to avoid using that finger, but habit is habit, and I use my third finger a lot.
Amazing really, yesterday I stuck my sharpest, most wickedly honed gouge into my other hand! But that was just a deep big cut, the sort where you can see the insides, but nothing serious. And the day or so before that, I was just saying how pleased I was at the lack of damage I'd done to myself on this course!
Shit, my hand hurts now: there must be a nerve or something nearby, it's sending shooting cramplike pains up my arm and back! I think, if you'll forgive me, that I'll call a halt for now, and continue (assuming they don't amputate my arms tomorrow) tomorrow. Time for a camomile tea and bed.
Well, I was at the hospital at 8.50am on Monday, picked up my papers, went to the x-ray, went back to casualty, and was being seen by a doctor and looking at the X-ray's by 9.30. Amazing! I was extremely impressed at the swiftness and efficiency of the NHS. No longer would I mock and prophesize dreadful waits of indescribable tedium. The health service was quick, helpful, and eager to please. The next ten hours were to shatter my illusions.
The x-rays showed the eye of the needle firmly embedded in the 3rd bone from the top of my right ring-finger. About a centimetre of needle was in my hand, sticking from the bone like a broken branch from a tree-trunk. They gave me a tetanus, and the Korean doctor (who incidentally, looked just like Oddjob, from the James Bond film 'Goldfinger') hummed and hahhed, phoned some other doctors, scratched his head, and said he was too chicken to try removing it. He said I'd have to go to Grantham hospital, if I wanted it out. 'Very well,' quoth I. So they said they'd phone for a hospital taxi. Like a fool I said, 'I can get the train if you like?' But they shook their heads kindly, in the manner that people assume when dealing with the masochistic or mentally deranged, and told me the taxi would be ready to pick me up at half-past ten. Then the doctor told me that they'd probably put me under general anaesthetic at Grantham. This took me aback.
So I ran home, wrote a brief note to K, told a friend down the road that I was going for an op, and may be some time, etc, ran back to the hospital, got picked up and taken to Grantham. I was a little bit nervous, it not being every day that one is put to sleep for a glorified splinter. Little snatches of rhyme kept passing through my head in the taxi:
If I should die, Think only this of me: The town in which my bones are laid, Gave birth to Mrs T.
Got to Grantham, and gave the receptionist my x-rays and the letter written by the Newark doctor. She sent me to WARD FIVE. (Pause for creepy modern music: 'No! No! Not Ward 5! Anything, please! I beg you! NOOOOOOO!') The ward was full of old men with hip replacements. It gave me quite a turn. It smelled bad. Sort of death-smell. Like hospital wards in fact. After a moment, I realised it was the Orthopaedic ward (where bones are buggered about with).
After getting confused with another receptionist, I was shown to a bed amongst the Old Men. I sat on a chair next to it, and continued reading my book (Le Morte d'Arthur). Never have I been so bored. Hours of tedium were interspersed with pretty nurses asking me questions. There are two types of nurses. There are the wonderfully nice ones, who smile coquettishly, tease you, enjoy being teased back, flirt amiably, and are generally pleasant company; and and then there are the appalling ones.
They are the ones who as soon as you do so much as transgress the NURSE-PATIENT relationship by no matter how little - such as asking them how they are, after they've asked how you are - give you a stare of milk-curdling, courage-withering, blood-sapping, heart-stilling, penis- shrivelling detestation. The Ward-Sister was one of them. They are the type who seem to think that people in hospital are ill, and not there to say things like: 'Oh, I'm not so bad myself. How are you this fine day?' She got her revenge on me anyway.
This is how. I had been sat in my chair for four hours, and with the knowledge that I might have an operation, had not drunk anything since 8.30 that morning. I got fed up waiting, and decided to go for a brief walk and a fag. I knew the operation wouldn't be for two hours at the least. Also, the Old Man in the next bed had just been having the most excruciating-sounding physiotherapy on his knee-joint. It went: 'Ckkkrkrkkchchhchchchkkkrekkakkekuuk.' Lots of times. And he went: 'AAAAAAAAAAAHHH urg, urg, urg.' Lots of times. I had had enough.
I got up out of my chair, and pleasantly remarked to him that I was going to 'Stretch my legs.' Of all the damn-fool things to say, I ask you. I just wasn't thinking. He gave me a non-look. So I went and explained to Herr Grippenfuhrer Ward-Sister that I was going for a walk, and how soon should I be back. She ignored me for a while, then after I'd asked her a couple more times, told me that I could go for a walk, but to be half-an-hour at the most. So off I went, had a brisk stroll down to the river, smoked a couple of fags, and went back in. I had been twenty minutes.
On getting back to my bed, (pausing only to remark to the Crap-Knee-Old-Man that it was nice to get out for a walk!) Sister came up with a bundle of white things. 'Get those clothes off, and put the theatre clothes on! Here! Robe. Pants. Hat.' I looked at the pants and at the hat. It took a while to discover precisely what part of the body each item was intended for. So I stripped off, put on the robe (ties at the back, but all the ties were broken except for one at the neck) and pants (like sweaty plastic tissue paper). I refused to wear the hat until the last moment. And ended up sitting there by the bed in this rigmarole for three hours.
Eventually, a sexy nurse came along, and commiserated with me. I decided to lounge in bed, as by then I was frozen. I tried to sleep, as the hand had kept me awake all night. By this point I had been awake for 27 hours. But I couldn't sleep. First it was visitors, who shouted and were jolly to the Old Men. Then it was food, the smell of which turned my stomach inside out. Then, later, it was more visitors, then more food, etc...
The hours dragged on. It got to about seven o'clock. By now it was obvious that they couldn't fit the operation in that evening, so I'd have to stay the night, and hope that they'd be able to fit me in the next day. And then probably stay another night for observation! What a great night out, I thought, happily. I'm really enjoying myself, I added, a smile of contentment breaking over my features.
Just then, as I was giving up hope, and feeling very glum, an Arab doctor and an African nurse (male) came up. 'Let me see your hand!' I showed it, and quickly showed where the needle probably was, and how I thought it could be easily removed if they just made it press against the skin, and cut just there, and pulled it out with some pliers. (Indeed, when the last nurse had asked me if I wanted anything, I asked for scalpel and pliers.) The arab doctor pressed and prodded. I said I didn't mind if it hurt. He nodded. 'Very well! We'll do it now! Nurse!' And they pushed my bed to another room, despite my protests that I was perfectly fit to walk (if not decent!).
Here cometh the good bit. The Operation. First the doctor snappishly made the nurses run around for various knives and cutting implements (billhook, chainsaw, etc...). Then he said, 'I'm going to give an injection to you. It will hurt very much. Ha ha! Is funny, needles to help remove needles! Ha ha!' The injection didn't hurt really. Just a little. He made me hold my arm up in the air for five minutes, to let the blood drain out of it. 'So that there isn't blood everywhere,' he said. And proceeded to put a very tight pressurized tourniquet on my upper arm, which completely constricted the blood flow. (Ouch). 'If you feel pain, tell me,' he said, and proceeded to take a knife.
He cut down using a series of little flicking cuts, of which I could only feel the gritty sensation of the edge cutting the tissue fibres. Then he cut a little to the left, and the right, searching for the broken end of the needle. Then he got his pliers. The needle was very securely jammed in the bone. The pliers kept slipping off, and he ended up leaning his entire weight on my hand, working the needle back and forth to loosen it, and tugging with all his might, grunting and sweating and cursing in Arabic.
Anaethesia is a strange phenomenon. It doesn't remove sensation. Rather, it translates the sensation of pain into a slightly different, yet still as fierce and intense sensation, which I can only describe as an immense pressure. It is as if nerves are alarm bells, and although the anaesthetic stops you hearing them, you can still feeling them madly shaking themselves off their fixtures. In other words, you know it hurts, but the feeling is slightly different to normal pain, so it's easier to put up with. But my hand still felt as if it was being pulled up into a long cone of pseudo-pain, with that bone and the needle stretched to the apex (like the dentist, but worse).
Then, with the most vicious, savage and triumphant grin I've even seen on a fellow, he held the bloody eye of the needle up to the light. Then he took the tourniquet off, and the sensation of the blood rushing back down my arm was lovely. It was exactly an orgasm of the arm. Then the wound started pissing blood everywhere, so clenched a tissue for a while. Or tried too: my fingers couldn't quite feel what they were doing. I made a crap joke about pins and needles, and thanked the doctor, who rushed off, as another car-crash victim had just been brought in.
The nurses put a suture in. Most badly. They said to leave it a week, and go to the hospital to have it removed, but it was coming undone today, so I pulled it out, and it's fine. Then, I refused to be pushed on the bed again, so I walked back to the ward. (Pushed to the op, walked back from it.) And into my clothes, and then, delight of delights, K and P turned up to take me away, to food and drink and fags! Hooray hoorah!
And so endeth the epic of the needle in the finger. The moral of this tale is don't fall on needles.
And this morning I woke up calm, down, but only halfway, though with a dead brain. And stayed so, most of the day, apart from losing it and gesticulating and mouthing off at someone speeding through the village in the rain while I was walking number 2 son to pick up number 1 son off the school bus. I was shaking with anger. He was going to stop but then sped off again when he saw my face. But I soon calmed down again. And had a lovely evening with the family, and after a while my consciousness seemed to wake up, and now I'm feeling alert, calm, and ... what is the word? ... normal? Cherish these days!!!
Wish me many happy returns for tomorrow today. Night all.
What is the future? Days when that thought: "I want to be dead" has to be pushed away as the irrational reality that it is? Days when the ferocious mood puts me through the wringer? I look back and try to remember the last time I was absolutely happy for more than a few days. Early 90s? Earlier? Ever? It's just going to carry on, isn't it? The same old shit, up until the time when the end happens naturally. Must become an aficionado of shit, in that case. Smile on the rack. For the sake of the children. Damn it - I'm down when I'm up and I'm down when I'm down, and damned when I'm down and up and down and down.
The early nineties were the end of my (mostly) joyous euphorias. It all went downhill steadily from 92. Around 2001 I thought I had cracked it - thought I'd learned how to cope responsibly. I'd actually held down a job for 2 years! Working for someone else!!!
So I set up my own business in competition, started an MA, and a family within the space of a couple of months. I kept the facade shored up for six years by sheer willpower and increasingly strong drink. And now I'm back in the same fucking mess I've always been in.
I'm putting this down because I'm trying to keep my brain working. If I let it stop I'm fucked. It might stay up, it might not.
1971 - Born, eldest
1972-4 - Father pub-absent. Remember the rages and beatings. And the lock on my bedroom door. And shitting myself because I couldn't get out to get to the toilet.
1974-6 - Family split up for 1st time. Lived with grandmother for 3 years.
1977 - Mother got together with stepdad-to-be. Moved in with them. A fair few beatings, but par for the course really, for those days. He was a very patient man who couldn't handle things sometimes.
1984 - Grandmother died. My mother in all but name. My mother told me the true story of why she split up with my father, and the 3rd party involved that she ran off with. At that time, she had just got back in contact with him again. Things escalated over the next couple of years. Suicidal at times over the next few years. Parents concerned.
1987 - Family split up for 2nd time. Moved to E with stepfather.
1988 - Flunking A levels, rock climbing, planned to murder father of my youngest brother (see following year for reason). Wrapped kitchen knife in tea-towel, walked to station, saw sense obviously.
1989 - Left home, moved back to C, rented a house with a friend. Had 10 jobs in space of 6 months. Depressed around Feb - youngest brother born - one of twins, other had died when Mother was kicked in the stomach by the father. April - pretended I was Moses - walked around in an orange sheet for a month. Sat on roof of house for couple of months. I didn't find this behaviour strange, and nor did the other people I lived with. That said, the place we rented we filled up with tramps and needy types who needed a roof. Charity. Depressed in May - locked myself in my room for 2-3 weeks.
1990 - More jobs, various places of abode. Ended up living rough under an oak tree for 3 months during the summer. Started an overdraft. Read hundreds of books from the library. No recollection of depression. Wrote novel about 100,000 words. Met K. Found a kindly landlady and lodged with her for next 2 years. On dole.
1991 - wrote day and night. Novel - 150,000 words, poems, short stories. Read til my eyes bled. Occasional depressions. Got all my friends and acquaintances involved in ridiculous play one Christmas. Disaster!
1992 - Thought I was going to be Lawrence and Joyce combined. Wrote around 500,000 words of a Big Novel. Load of rubbish. Up and down. Got bee in bonnet about doing the world's longest rockclimb in one go - about 9 miles around the coast from Brixham to Dartmouth. Set it all up, left food and water caches all the way round. Attempted it. Realised it was a ridiculous idea. Depressed for a while after, but not too bad. Moved back to E with K when she started her degree.
1993 - Learned fiddle self taught to standard good enough to play in public in six months in bedsit. Didn't leave the house or do anything else. Writing.
1994 - Writing, and playing fiddle, gigs. K says I was generally depressed most of the time over these years. I don't recall.
1995 - decided writing was a mug's game - decided to become next Stradivarius. Got place at N for 3 year dip in violin making. Generally a very intense and frantic time. Lots of music. Lots of people, parties, etc. Ups and downs.
1997 - Spring - wrote two long letters over couple of weeks to friend who was on vso post in china. About 20,000 words. Content of letters were not 'appropriate' to the regime at that time. He got into a spot of bother for a day or so. Also wrote 160,000 words of plot for yet another unwritten novel. K wanted to leave me. I didn't know why at the time. She didn't. Summer - v. depressed. 6 - 8 weeks. Down to 9 stone. Almost got docs involved.
1998 - Finished course at N. Got married. Set up on my own back in C. Depressed. Decided to buy a boat (70' narrowboat) and live on it after "sorting it out" har har har.
1999 - Ditto - violin making - mostly in slough of despond interspersed with brilliant flashes of varnish receipes and making.
2000 - Friend offered me some work with conservation company for a couple of weeks for a break. I stayed 2 years. Remember throwing myself into work. Became a foreman after few months, running projects by myself, no bother from the bosses.
2001 - Ditto, set up my own business in competition, started MA, started family, all between Sep-Nov. Depressed Dec-Jan.
2002 - Very up and down. Business slow to pick up. Stressful. MA depressed me - I studied sustainability issues for a few months. Not much light in that tunnel. A born. Started drinking to get to sleep more in earnest than over the previous five years. (I think we finally got rid of the boat at this time... thank the Lord...)
2003 - Up and down. Dreadful family holiday in summer - bad screaming rows with mother. (No, not rows, I mean BAD SCREAMING ROWS trapped in a Bergmanesque setting for a week.) Winter - depressed in Spain over xmas with K's family. Fucking crap time. Locked myself away in our room for most of a fortnight.
2004 - Same old story. Apparently I was hell to live with Jan-May. We moved out (were living with mother in law). She couldn't bear me in the house, I learned later.
2005 - Late autumn - completely alienated a major practice I used to work for. They were asking unreasonable things of me, so I told them what I thought of them. N born.
2006 - Can't remember much. Depressed in Jan (but isn't everybody?) Dreadful violent argument with oldest friends one time. Very low after. Quite manic over Nov / Dec.
2007 - Very stressful project on xxxx. I can't believe how meticulous and professional I was for two months. At the very end, I nearly threw myself off the top of it. Depressed in bed for couple of weeks, and very low key for month after. Autumn. v. irritable. Very up and down. Stopped drinking more or less Nov/Dec due to imminent new baby.
2008 - Had been getting more and more manic over Dec. Went black manic a few days after baby born, and for various other reasons life became hell, mixed state worse than I could remember. Smashing head on wall, punching myself in the face, trying to claw my eyes out, etc, etc. K thought I sounded odd on the phone. She called the docs.
I despair of these damned medications. Valproate 750mg isn't enough, 1000mg is too much. The difference between a head of flame and being in the car crusher. I'm sure it's not as simple as that. But why don't they make a 125mg pill?!!! Or perhaps I should alternate days of 750 and 1000? Worth a try, because otherwise it's back to the drawing board.
Of the eighty statues spread over five tennis courts of vertical area, you know every fault of each of them - you know the history of interventions for each, by heart, and you pluck it out and speak it as fast as you can.
Their brains cannot take it.
Slow down slow down slow... down...
You've been imbibing information faster than you can think. Take pity on the professionals... the architect, the surveyor, the consultant, the assistants... they are trying to keep up, and they are beginning to feel stupid - you can see it in their eyes, and so you want to compensate... but the more you try to add extraneous detail to the narrative, the worse it gets...
They expected a report of about 20-40 pages. They got more than 300. But it was accurate. It was a true record. It was a flower that never flowers in these modern times.
The ambiguity precipitates A simultaneous interpretation: Venomous row, or smiling mutuality - Both coexist. One chooses how to read: Creates the text. A “fuck off” may be said With hate, love, laughter, boredom, charity - Who cares? it's the ultimate facility In selfish discourse: Final text is all
Me Me Me Not too healthy, If you ask me, Which you won't, C'est la vie.
I feel demeaned beneath your recognition. There is no recognition. Anomie Is solace, anguish, comfort and brutality.
I wander down the sunny avenue Delimited by breezy cypresses: It's tedious to be unrecognised.
Think I'm on your hook again? You're quite mistaken. I'm sitting above the river Looking down at You, fishing, Looking down at The seething water The fictitious fish Banal bloodsport.
Listen, the sun's out and I've brought a picnic: Damask picnic cloth Laid with exquisite delicacies, An ice-bucket woven from spiders' webs, A basket of glass shards to cut meaning with -
The bluebells are ringing The beeches shout with green fire The harpies roost click clack click In their branches. With their Typewriter eyes They are out-staring the sun.
Has he got his hands, that man, On his whole loaf again? Use it then, rustic pain.
Here is no river, just slow streams of words The digits, fingers, bytes, teeth, Ones, noughts, and naughts, are null and void. The chablis and the strawberries are fake.
I'd give my right bra-cup, said Penthesilia For seven endless, hot, wet cups of tea -
There is Yellow sulphur flowering In the samovar. Incorporate idiocies, Phantom gestures, Obscene absences - Fumigate. Fumigate.
Odysseus unstrings the washing line Limply adorned with sullen, empty dresses.
We've used up all the air, I'm going to step Outside. Perhaps you'd care to join me? No? We yellow cowards do not dare reality. Have it your own way; if so, fare thee well.
Articulating the sour Disconsolation is dull too. Enough, enough, enough.
The world is click-clacking shut, The sun is out. The spring is here.
Feel rather ashamed of the last posts. Too me me me. Let me follow up with something about my forebears instead :-)
Paternal Grandfather. Interesting fellow. Flew in WWI, various occupations afterwards, pub landlord, professional gambler, got OBE in WWII, became a CofE Curate. His uncle attempted to shoot his mother (great great grandma), and a sister took the bullet and was killed. I remember him as a kind man, and so does everyone else, although he was occasionally prone to rages.
Paternal Grandmother. Anglo Irish, staunch Catholic. She aged 3 and her brother aged 1 and 1/2 were put by their mother on a boat from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Liverpool, tickets sewn to their lapels. She neglected to tell anyone on the boat, nor on the other side of the Atlantic. My grandmother was brought up by an aunt. When she met my grandfather, she misread his handwriting, and thought his name was Ruehard, which she found fascinating. So it begins.
Maternal Grandfather. As a boy, his mother let his hair grow long. His father who was old-school, fought in the Boer War etc, decided he was a cissy. WWII he was in the RAF, groundcrew for planes. He counted left ears at crashes. He earned his Empire Medal for dragging the whole crew of a bomber out of the plane which was on fire, and the firecrew wouldn't go within 50 yards of the plane. (The officer he was with earned a DSO, but that's the class system for you). Oh, and his dad refused to go to Buck Palace to see the medal awarded, because his son was a cissy. Later in the war he flipped in India, and took a whole trainload of Indian troops off to fight the 'enemy' wherever they were, because he felt we weren't trying hard enough. Invalided home, and spent several spells in the asylum.
Maternal Grandmother. When my parents split when I was 4, I lived with her (and had on off for a year previously) until I was 6. I think of her as my mother. She spoiled me rotten, was fussy, distracted, but thank the lord, normal. She was a housekeeper for 30 years, so I had the luxury of growing up in a gorgeous house, albeit in the attic! Hot water bottles and the chamberpot were the order of the day. When she died in 84, the last of my grandparents to die, I was emotionally orphaned, if not technically.
That will do.
Hmm. Better not start writing about my parents, eh? :-)
You've only tried to kill yourself in one form or fashion a few dozen times over the years. You smoke like a chimney, and drink like a fish. You've beaten your head against the wall so often your head has got used to its new shape, and the plaster needs mending everywhere. But you turned down the offer of the hospital when they told you how horrid it would be. You've just become a good statistic for some govt study. They got me on their description of the food. They spent 30 minutes with a severely distressed suicidal person after the assessment telling me (selling me?) how crap the food was in the local mental institution. Should sales techniques really be allowed at these times? The system sucks. It is no thanks to the NHS that I am alive now since that bad time in January/February. They came round once a day or so to find out if I was dead. That is the truth of the system of the Crisis Team - staffed by idiots in general. "Do you find what goes up must come down?" ... "Is it like a rollercoaster?" ... "Have you been having dark thoughts?"... [expletive removed].
Edit - I was ranting last night. All the above is probably completely unfair.
Extra edit: thank the stars and moon and sun for friends.
Woke up jittery to the sound of the recycling men - one chap was gibbering and hollering like a loon. SO told me later the neighbour saw him, and he had a big afro, so I forgave him, because my waking mental image was of a skinhead football supporter.
Then the CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) came round. He was flying. We did each others' heads in for 90 minutes, and I think he got some benefit out of it. Ok, I got a bit too. Strange how the therapy equation works both ways just like algebra. That sounds mean - he's a lovely chap and his heart is in the right place. In other words, I intend to stay in contact socially whenever we part professionally. (Further more, he thinks the Cotswolds have the aura of "a sick dog's turd" too!!! It's not just me!!! It's my carers too!!!) *
Then a pal who had recently ripped his face off came round to deliver a large trampoline. Heart of gold. Gave him lunch (soup) - his jaw broke in seven places. The valproate combined with my cold is still making me nauseous, and when he started describing what needed to be done next, complete with detailed closeups of his poor broken teeth and metal strappings etc - I lost my lunch to be short.
Then the kids did my head in for several hours. Eldest came home full of testosterone, and a brand new trampoline in the garden didn't help. Both parents lost it at one moment or another.
Evening.... a little quiet time. Then watched a film (I'd read the book years ago). Worth a watch, but the tacky scene where they were dismantling Trident made me blub. Oh, a child of the 70's 80's... We all (children) were resigned to dying any day. Children are far more canny than we think once we've grown up and hardened up. The nuclear deterrent certainly played a part in my development (together with the two divorces in the family), and the locked bedroom as a toddler, and the etc etc etc etc etc
Now - I'm just letting off steam. Should go to bed, but probably won't for an hour or so.
Apologies for the diary nature of this post. Should apply my mind and think of something interesting, but sometimes it all gets too difficult.
* - Footnote. Over the months my CPN has recommended lithium, benzos, and today beta blockers! For the record I was first on Quetiapine (Seroquel for you yanks) and when that got too horrible I stopped, and did reasonably for a month but then things got too bad again, and have since been on Valproate. I have an open mind about these pills now - it's too damn easy to cycle down down down and stop the pill and then feel better and blame the pill. Ach! Same old story! IT IS CRAP!
There was a post over at Terra Incognita's that touched on simultaneous shyness and extravertism. It put me in mind of a story.
About nine years ago we were throwing a new year's eve party at a very remote farmhouse in Wales. There was no road. No electric. No running water (apart from the stream outside). Anyway, about thirty people duly turned up, and we were all there in the candlelight, half of them knew each other, the other half didn't, and it really seemed that an icebreaker was called for.
Now I am often rather shy in company - often sneer at the people who have a me-me-me compulsion. I'm the chap who makes the joke of the moment to complete bafflement, and twenty minutes later when the goldfish minds have adjusted, the loudest person will make the same joke (and I believe full well it's not intentional plagiarism - purely unconscious) to howls of laughter, guffaws and peeing of pants etc.
Where was I? Oh yes, the ice-breaker. I just started dealing cards at people. Aces High Strip Poker. Of course everyone was game, and the game duly continued until all were naked. Except my SO - I'd been sparing her (cardsharp) - she was mightily pissed off I recall - (actually that could be rather revealing, my unrevealment of her delicious revealishness - mmmmm... leave that for another day).
Is there a point to this? I think shyness can be a natural defence against the manic streak (streak in both senses of the word). When I lift the lid, and let myself be uninhibited, then for goodness sake, uninhibited I am. It's when you have no grip on the lid that it all gets horrible.
p.s. I was stood in front of a roaring coal fire. The firelight shining through my dangly bits has become mythologized by the people there that night.
First off, yes, I'm lucky to live somewhere where there is provision made for people who get ill. Secondly, I'm lucky enough to have paid my stamps. Thirdly, I'm lucky that I'm blessed with enough intelligence and solid anger to persevere with the hoops and trials the system puts one through.
In brief, the saga of recent months: Nov - hypomanic, Dec - manic, Jan manic-mixed and the white coats got called, and the endless end of the rainbow search for the right pill commenced. Wasn't allowed to drive, couldn't get insured for my business (nothing has changed there to date). Applied for IB (Incapacity Benefit). (40 page form, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Doctor's Note).
Feb. Rejected. I'd forgotten (while mad) to pay my last stamp. Ok. Paid it. Reapplied. (40 page form, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Doctor's Note). They lost the Doctor's Note -I didn't know I had to fill something in on the back - I've never taken a sicky in my life. Ok. (New Doctor's Note).
March. Hurrah - was awarded it. New sick note please. (New Doctor's Note).
May. Then a letter came through: no need to get sick notes. They'd talked to the shrink and decided I was ill until I got better, whatever that means. Sounds like being written off temporarily if you ask me. Ok. Fair enough, I thought.
June. Another letter. Because I paid my last stamp late, they had to recalculate the start date of the entitlement. Please reapply. (40 page form, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Doctor's Note, plus lots of very angry photocopies of everything else). On top of everything, they've even changed the form, so no simple copying from the last one, oh no... Everything was in a different place, couched in different language. I'm afraid my 'ticks' were six inches long, there were several learned disquisitions on the ambiguous questions that required "yes or no" answers, various conflicting arguments scrawled by my SO and myself, but after all that the form was just legible, but in tatters.
So was I, to be honest.
July. Hurrah. Again. We need a sick note. SO did the honours because I had temporarily contracted rabies or something similar. With ref to your letter etc... etc... etc... (2 hour phonecall to a nasally-challenged voice in Cornwall of all places). She got it sorted, I think... She's a good woman.
To sum up: they do their best to make life difficult. Angry, agitated, flipping-out people, 40 page forms, and conflicting and deliberately confusing information do not make a pleasant summer cocktail.
After that rant, I repeat: yes, I'm lucky to live somewhere where there is provision made for people who get ill. I should count my blessings. But the number of people who would just give up must be huge. I suppose that is just what the mean-spirited, carbunculous spawn of de Sade are aiming for.
And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep; and if I weep, 'Tis that our nature cannot always bring Itself to apathy, which we must steep First in the icy depths of Lethe's spring Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep; Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx; A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.
~ George Gordon Noel Byron ~ Don Juan, Canto IV, 4.
It is thus that the few rare lucid well-disposed people who have had to struggle on the earth find themselves at certain hours of the day or night in the depth of certain authentic and waking nightmare states, surrounded by the formidable suction, the formidable tentacular oppression of a kind of civic magic which will soon be seen appearing openly in social behavior. - Antonin Artaud