The Inevitable 'Goodbye' Post

Not Dead, Just Sleeping…

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday, dear Confessions
Happy birthday to me!

Confessions of a Serial Insomniac began exactly three years ago today with the first incarnation of the ubiquitous About page. It seems fitting and right that it meets its pseudo-demise on its birthday. It’s a nice, round timeframe.

Those of you that are regular readers will have seen this coming for months. Indeed, I’ve discussed it with several of you over the last…I don’t know, eight or ten weeks, maybe more. My passion for this place – once overwhelming – has waned profoundly, and it would feel a disservice to the blog to simply abandon it, rather than tying up its loose ends.

There’s so much I want to say that I hardly know where to start. I’ll jump in, then, with practicalities.

  • I said in a recent post that I intended to discuss my new set of sessions with Paul on the blog. I’m not going to do that after all, for which my apologies are due. I’ll outline the primary reason for this later.
  • I never did finish my series on my aunt Maisie’s demise. Again, apologies for those of you that were mad enough to be interested. To be honest, although I could have made the further details of the funeral into an epic yet dull piece of prose, not much of note really happened. Her coffin was carried up the road a bit, the eight men underneath it bulking under its weight. I once again, inexplicably, envied my cousins’ comforting of each other. Maisie was buried, atop a hill, in the sunlight. I cried again, like the sad cunt I apparently am. We went to the tedious, oppressive wake (on which, ironically, Maisie would have completely thrived). The only real out-of-the-ordinary incident was to do with Aunt of Evil. After hours of successfully avoiding the accursed woman, she managed to catch me out whilst I was aimlessly talking to her brother-in-law, Uncle of Boredom. Long story short: although she apologised to me for “whatever it was [she] ha[d] done” (as if she didn’t fucking know!), I ended up apologising to her too! I raged with myself for weeks, because I had done nothing to the heinous witch to warrant any words of atonement, but then I remembered she’d gone back to USistan without my having seen or spoken to her again, and I settled a bit.
  • Twitter and Facebook. I’ll keep them both ‘officially’ open, I think – Twitter especially holds so much history for me – but I’m very unlikely to be updating or checking either. Don’t unfollow them, though (unless you’re sick of me, which is obviously reasonable enough); you never know where and when I may re-crop up…
  • Although I’m finishing my writing tenure here, I’m not taking the blog down; it’ll still be fully accessible. Many of the search terms over the years – and the regular readers I’ve picked up therefrom – have suggested to me that some people have actually found parts of this rubbish useful, or at least enjoyable (!). I don’t want to deny others the opportunity to explore it should they so wish, and in any case the domain name and hosting are paid up until at least January 2013, so they might as well be made use of.
  • You can still contact me, though I’ll be disabling the contact form soon and, as observed, will probably not be hanging about Twitter. Instead, email me at pandora dot urquharthuxley at gmail dot com. This arrangement will most likely not be permanent either, but it will bridge a gap at least.

Now then. I suppose I should try to outline my reasons for leaving this place, my much-loved home for three years – the place where I met so many amazing people, garnered so much support and spouted so much crap that offered a surprising amount of catharsis. As I sit here and write this, it almost feels like folly to quit; Confessions has brought me so much, and here I am rejecting it. I will mourn it, and do so profoundly; it has shaped my life beyond my wildest dreams during its course, so how could I not?

But I am not this person any more.

I think there comes a time in the lives of most mental people where they realise, or accept, that they are defined by something greater than their diagnoses. For the most part, I have seen my life since 2008 – and, to a lesser extent, since I was a teenager – as an experience which was shaped by my diseased mind and its treacherous idiosyncrasies. Of late, though, I’ve begun to think differently of myself. I’m not naive, and I’m not an idealist: I have a mental illness, and although that can potentially be managed, I will almost certainly always have it. My views have not changed so radically that I now see myself as someone who has ‘pathologised her humanity‘ or some such other patronising fucking nonsense. Nonetheless, ‘mental’ is no longer the first word jumping from my lips when someone asks me about myself.

I suppose I could adapt Confessions to reflect this – I could write about gaming, books, pubs I like, holidays I’ve been on. But it does not, in any fashion, feel right; this has always been a blog about mental health, and I feel it more apt to let it stay that way. So as I as a person move on, so must my blog.

There are wider issues than just this, of course. Logistically speaking, I don’t always have time to write here any more, at least not in the essay-ish style to which I’ve always been prone. Again, I feel it would be a disservice to the legacy of what I’ve done with this journal to modify my writing style to facilitate shorter posts; it’s just not what this all became over the course of its life. I’ve had it said to me by a few people that my longest posts – probably because they’re the ones in which I’ve become most immersed – are my best, and I’d rather be remembered for that than for something that just dribbled dry over time. At the risk of employing a vulgar cliche, as Neil Young (and, more famously, Kurt Cobain) put it, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Additionally, to quote one of my favourite writers who has also lately bowed out of anonymous blogging, I am tired of pretending. I’ve long-since hated the anonymity that this place affords me – not because I hate the persona that you all know as Pandora, for she has become an irrevocable part of ‘me’, and despite it all, I actually don’t hate myself (and am not sure that I ever truly did). It’s because I am not ashamed of who I am, of who I have become, of what I have, and of what I don’t. The matters discussed on this journal have actively required that I cloak myself behind a pseudonym, but, again, I no longer see myself as someone solely prescribed and designated as a victim of sexual abuse or vicious hallucinations. To that end, I presently don’t need my anonymity (at least for pursuits unconnected to this website).

The final straw was in therapy recently. Nominally, Paul and I were having a proper therapeutic conversation, though he did at the end comment that it had been a strange session. It was, because I was not properly in it. Thankfully – or not – that had nothing to do with fucking Aurora; it was me playing games with myself. To get to the bloody point, I was sitting there considering in detailed terms how I could frame our discussion in dialogue-driven, prosaic terms – did he raise an eyebrow here, did I sneer at something there? – for this blog.

That is not healthy. I knew right then that I had to stop writing here. Therapy is meant to be a life-enriching, remedial experience; it’s not fucking blogging fodder. In the sessions that followed, having made up my mind to close things down, we were able to do much more fulfilling work together.

Naturally, this has a downside; I am unable to express to A, for example, the kind of material covered in session. I regret that, but I feel that healthy psychotherapy is more important for all concerned than others having insight into the process as it happens to me. If that sounds blunt, please forgive me: my point is that if I am unwell (as, without adequate, concentrated treatment, I will be), then everyone around me is affected. That’s no more fair on them – and probably you, as a reader – than it is on me.

I am a horrendously jealous person – I freely admit it. When I log on to that bloody curse that is Facebook – I really should deactivate it yet again – I see people I went to school with having brats and developing the careers they always wanted. I’m not envious of the former per se because, as you know, I’m childfree. But I am jealous of them having what they want, and of their apparent happiness with their lives.

But, you know, when I think about it all in context, when I think of all I’ve faced and all I’ve done – or at least tried to do – it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

I didn’t have the best start in life, whether through social factors, chemical ones or ones relating to my own psychology (or, in my view, a combination of all thereof). I could have let my resulting mental illness fuck me entirely – and at times it nearly has, and indeed it still might – but I fight with every weapon my arsenal allows me; I actively try to help myself get better. I engage with all services available to me – psychiatry, nursing and therapy (indeed, I had to go out of my way to secure the latter, after NHS Psychology shat on my face, rather than lying down under it like I could have done). I co-operate with them all despite the fact that they – like almost anything – are not perfect, because I don’t want this non-life any more. I want that sense of contentment that those twats on Facebook appear to have.

Although I’m still ill, I refuse to tolerate the idea that I should stay on state benefits indefinitely. That is most indubitably not to say that mentals (or anyone else with a serious and/or enduring illness) should be forced off ESA and other benefits. Fuck the Coalition and their myopic, dangerous biases; our first concern as a society should be to support individuals who are disabled, ill and/or vulnerable, rather than lowering taxes for people who can afford to fucking pay for them.

Still, I ultimately want to be self-sufficient, despite the perhaps precarious position in which I find myself. It may not happen any time soon, but I want to, when possible, try.

I’m pragmatic enough to realise that my illness can’t be cured, merely managed, and as such although in an ideal world I’d go back to a more traditional job, I realise that it may (and only ‘may’) not be possible (or at least sustainable).

So, for now at least, I write. I consider myself a writer now, regardless of whether others think the title narcissistic or grandiose. This is partly why I don’t have as much time as I once did for Confessions; it’s sad, but it’s real. As my best mate Dan (himself a full-time staff journalist) discussed the other day, I’ve made genuine in-roads into turning what was once a vague fairytale idea into a reality. I’m talking to Editors, engaging with the low-paying but still useful services of guru.com and eLance, getting my (real) name out there…and I’ve applied for a voluntary job which will involve, if I get it, writing for the local rags about mental illness. Most of my writing to date has been in relatively specialist publications and websites, so writing for the papers – a more mainstream pursuit, with wider readerships – would be a welcome challenge, and indeed a useful addition to my portfolio.

Oh, and The Book? It’s back on :) I’m also half-minded to try and novelise this blog at some point, but that would be an immense piece of work – even harder than a random piece of fiction, because it would require endless re-working of Confessions, rather than putting a bunch of ideas down on paper and formulating them into prose. If The Book ultimately has any success, I may be buoyed to work on such a monolithic task, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

My writing ‘career’ may fail…but, again, I’m trying to make something of my life. It’s very difficult right now, what with not being fully well, and there are days when it’s impossible to face. There are days when anything is impossible to face. But I’m starting, and that’s got to count for something. If it goes tits up – yes, that’ll be disappointing. That much goes without saying. But I’d rather have that potential outcome than that in which I didn’t give it a damn good go.

And I feel a little better each day. A bit less depressed, a bit less despairing, a bit more positive, a bit more hopeful. My current medication cocktail, combined with an ever-excellent psychotherapist, has brought me closer to wellness than I’ve been in a very long time, despite the truly abysmal year this has been, circumstantially, so far. As I said way up above, I no longer see myself entirely through the lens of a mentally ill kaleidoscope.

In the years since my most recent breakdown, I’ve often cursed my psychic misfortune (aside from the fact that no, I still probably wouldn’t flick the sanity switch were I offered the option). Further, I’ve cursed this blog (sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes just in rage-fuelled piques). And yet…look what both my madness and my blogging have brought me.

  • A half-credible chance to use my afflictions to facilitate a respectable career, whilst simultaneously advocating for others in the same shitty boat.
  • Most importantly, I have met some of the most wonderful people in the entire known universe – people who (God/Buddha/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Richard Dawkins willing) will be lifelong friends.

Throw in the gratifying fact that I’m in a long-term – and, more crucially, happy – relationship with a loving, accepting partner. Multiply that by the other genuinely meaningful and life-changing friendships I have managed to forge throughout my life – Dan, Brian, Aaron, lots of people that are not close friends but that are certainly more than acquaintances. Minus the disastrously dysfunctional family, but add to the list a loving mother – something that not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

When I think about things thus, when I examine my life as though it were the Bayeux Tapestry, looking at the ‘bigger picture’ (I hate that fucking term) – well, I feel privileged.

And at the risk of repeating myself, in these circumstances, I find myself sometimes thinking, “do you know what, Pan? You ultimately did well, girl. You did well.”

And, for now at least, that’s enough.

Is this completely ‘goodbye’? Not necessarily. A number of you already follow another blog I write, and I will consider requests for the URL from others (email me as per the details at the start of the post, though please do not be offended if I don’t respond with the address; I don’t write exclusively about mentalness there, and don’t want it to become what this blog has). Furthermore, I may add the odd update here once in a very occasional while. And let’s not forget that when Maisie died, despite my pre-existing intention to wind down Confessions, I immediately gravitated here and ended up writing quite a lot; as it had been so many times before, the blog was my haven and lustration. Right at the top of this entry, I used the words ‘not dead, just sleeping’. So, when things inevitably go downhill again, or when some other life event once again sends me down the figurative shitter, this place could be resurrected. So do keep me on your RSS Readers and social media profiles just in case :) I’m not offering any guarantees, and I’m certainly not saying it’s even likely. It would be folly to rule anything in, or rule anything out, though, so there you have it.

Whatever happens, thank you for sharing this madness with me. Your support, tolerance, friendship, and even love has made my life better – and literally saved me on occasion. I’m pretty convinced I’d either be dead or much more seriously ill than I presently am had it not been for the amazing people I’ve met through writing here.

In the parting words of the Ninth Doctor: you were fantastic – absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!

Farewell, my loves. Cue trite, manufactured, but tackily appropriate song from (who else but?! ;)) Lunatica.

2012 Continues its Shittery, But Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Good evening (or morning, if you prefer). It must have been about three weeks since I last posted, which is pretty much a record absence for me in the almost-three years that I’ve been writing this blog. There are some underlying reasons, I suppose, but primarily my disappearance can be attributed to the usual culprit: that of crippling, fuck you anhedonia. I haven’t been as badly afflicted by the phenomenon since I was a teenager. I mean, depression always carries this demon in its clutches, that much is a given, but it exists in degrees. The depression that has blighted my life so far this year was, initially, relatively free from anhedonia and its cousin, avolition – I blogged quite prolifically around the time of Maisie’s death, after all. I gravitated here when that happened; as it had been, Confessions became my outlet, my place to vent, my catharsis and analysis. In the last few weeks, I haven’t felt that at all.

This apathy and utter dearth of motivation have been compounded by an exhaustion of a magnitude I cannot describe. I’ve been sleeping poorly, and waking early when I do manage to find slumber for a few hours – but it’s more than just that sort of tiredness, for I’ve lived with that for many years. Every step I’ve taken recently has taken the effort that I’d imagine normals would put into a bloody marathon. My head constantly droops somewhere down in my chest – giving the unfortunate impression to the cameras and any other onlookers that I’m orally pleasuring myself – because I have not an ounce of strength to hold it up. My mind is either blank, or thinking repetitive, monotonous, lifeless thoughts. I have, on many days, literally had to tell myself what to do: “move your left foot now, Pan. Good, now move your left. No, no, fuck, sorry! Move your right. Yes, right. Good. Left now. Well done.” And my body aches with this…something. Aches aches aches. And sometimes my mind joins it: it can’t even summon the energy to feel anything with my usual levels of desperation. It currently doesn’t feel raw pain, just like my body doesn’t. It just aches.

[Coincidentally - or not? - the last time I felt tiredness on this scale was back when The Everythinger was here in August. More thrilling musings on that later...]

Perhaps ironically, therefore, I think the depression to which I alluded has abated a little. I’m confident that were I to take any of the usual diagnostic tests that I’d still be deemed ‘severely’ depressed, but, again, it’s about degrees. I do feel a bit better than I did when I last wrote. This could be the normal cyclical run of my supposed manic depression, or it could be down to Lamictal. I mentioned last time that Christine was going to ask NewVCB to increase my dosage of the aforesaid drug; however, NewVCB adamantly refused. Her rationale was something that I didn’t entirely comprehend – something along the lines of not raising the dose when I was planning to cut down on Seroquel, which I think translates as “don’t let her get too used to the stuff just yet, because she’ll need a fuckload more when we start titrating the Seroquel down.”

Why, then, has the drug possibly made a difference? The reason is that effectively the dose has increased. Confused? Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but since I’ve been taking 100mg of Lamictal, that has (theoretically) meant ingestion of one tablet in the morning, and one in the evening. In effect, this has meant one in the evening only – ie. 50mg daily – due to the toxicity that is the infamous Seroquel hangover. Even when I had dezombified five hours later, I simply forgot to take the damn thing. Of late, however, I’ve taken to leaving a strip of the stuff on the bedside table, in order that it is the first thing I see each afternoon morning. With the sun rising earlier, I’m waking (assuming I’ve slept, which is not always the case) earlier anyway, so the morning tablet is taken at a more appropriate time, meaning that the stuff floating around my body is more regulated and less quickly half-lifed away.

So, that’s medication. What else? Ah yes. As reported in the last post, I’d received the brown envelope that all ill or disabled people in the UK fear most: that of a social security assessment form (an ESA50, in this case). I also noted that Christine has said she’d fill it in for me. When I saw her last week, she had indeed done so, the poor, lovely woman. Bless her.

Can you spot the impending ‘but’? To my regret, there is one. To be honest, she’d really written very little about my hallucinations and delusions, referring to ‘hearing voices’ or ‘feeling paranoid’ – and that was qualified by the hideous words of ‘sometimes’ or ‘on occasion’. I hadn’t the nerve to say this to her, but I felt that this wasn’t really an accurate presentation of the issues, so when an brought it home, I modified some of the content, and added stuff in. For example, it asks something like, “are other people frightened by your behaviour?”, and she had ticked ‘no’. I don’t agree with that; I know from experience that people find experiences of those like ‘They‘ deeply disturbing and, yes, frighhtening. Even some cheery ramblings of, “oh, look, that sign’s trying to tell me I’m beautiful!” sees neighbouring eyes widen in horror and concern. And something as ostensibly simple as a panic attack can have people shifting their eyes, crossing the street and then running like the hammers from hell.

By the time I’d modified that which I felt needed alteration, of course the form looked like I was trying to make my condition sound worse simply for the purpose of getting more money, rather than attempting to present reality. I therefore asked my mother to ring the Social Security Agency (SSA) and ask for a new form. “Whilst at it,” I instructed, “ask them why I’m actually being assessed.”

She responded a few hours later advising me that they refused to tell her anything and that I’d have to ring them myself. Cue fucking panic stations galore. Asking me to use the phone, as ever, was like asking me asking me to translate War and sodding Peace or Beowulf into Sanskrit. But needs must, so after perusing the SSA’s website in painstakingly close detail in a futile attempt to obtain an email address for a relevant member of staff, I took a deep breath and called them.

Naturally, this was not a simple process. At first the robotic female who ‘answered’ my call advised me, after talking frustratingly slowly through six years of patronising explanatory shit and in doing so costing me a lot of money, that my call could “not be taken at the minute. We are sorry.” (Read: “we’re on our fag break. Fuck off”). When I called back immediately, after listening to the same initial bollocks, Robot intimated to me that my call was in a queue. How surprising. “Please continue to hold and someone will be with you as soon as possible. Or, if you prefer to call back later, our opening hours are [x, y and z].”

I did not prefer to call back later, so held. Robot repeated the soft and still enragingly slow monologue about 100 times. Why the fuck do they use that voice? Are its lulled t
ones supposed to hypnotise you into compliance? If so, they’ve supremely failed. The only compliance they’ve evoked in me is a willingness to comply with the invoice I’m expecting from the people I sent round to break Robot’s non-existent legs (and yes, GCHQ, that is/was a joke and is not to be taken literally, seriously or as anything other than just a joke. OK?).

The real cunt, though, was fucking Vivaldi. Fuck Vivaldi. To think once I appreciated what I then found to be the majestic chords and melodies for which he was responsible. I swear to fucking God that I nearly rang Matt Smith’s agent to inquire about TARDIS rental. A trip back to 1677 to prevent the birth of the composer seems to be the only solution to this widespread problem; it’s always Vivaldi that is played when you ring any sort of call centre, and so it proved in this case. In between Robot came the first 30 seconds of (I think) Summer. Over and over and over. It would put a sane human being into an asylum.

In the end, the call itself was very straightforward. The girl was friendly, if clueless – when asked why I was being reassessed, she said, “um…well, I think they do this every year, I’m not sure though.”

“Even for people in the support group?” I checked (interruptive spluttering and stammering not included. You can obtain these with my all-singing, all-dancing in-blog purchase function, denoted by a button displaying the word ‘Donate’, at the bottom of this post).

“The support group?” The poor cow sounded genuinely mystified. “Uh…uh, yeah, I think so.”

It was a futile effort, so I told her I’d lost the ESA50 and asked if she’d send another. She cheerfully told me that this was not a problem, that she’d get someone to do it forthwith, and – apart from checking if Mum could ring on my behalf in future (yes; I just need to give details on the form) – that was really that. A simple, inoffensive, unconfrontational discussion that still left me hyperventilating. I wish I could overcome this fucking terror. My only other serious phobia is the old formulaic one of spiders and, as a general rule, that doesn’t interrupt my daily living. Sadly, if I ever want to work again – and I do, I do so much, when I’m well enough – my farcical and excessive anxiety about phones will significantly interfere with my everyday functioning,

Why should it? Why can’t people move into the 21st century and use fucking Twitter or email for their communication needs? Fuck phones.

I can’t believe I just wrote eight paragraphs about a phone call. I become increasingly ridiculous by the day, dearest readers. Moving on, I have now been back under the watchful eyes and perked-up ears of everyone’s favourite psychotherapist, the inimitable Paul, for three sessions. I will actually discuss these in more detail, though to my abject alarm, I’ve lost the notes I kept on sessions two and three. Now, the reason for my apprehension is to do with the fact that they could easily have fallen into the wrong hands, if I am in correct in my assumption that they fell out of my bag or something. However, I will admit to also being irritated for an altogether less ethical reason: I will not be able to record these two appointments here in the fashion to which I’ve become accustomed. Fuck’s sake. This blog has taken over my life. Incidentally, that’s something that actually came up with Paul – in session two? – but I’ll leave you veritably on the edge of your seat in anticipation of that. I’m sure you’re on the brink of self-immolation because you simply can’t stand the wait any other way. Burning ‘grounds’ you, to use modern therapeutic parlance.

What else? I suppose before getting to The Big Thing that I should apologise to many people on Twitter. I dip in and out of it erratically; even if I’m sending tweets, I am not necessarily reading others’ messages, or their @s or DMs to me. I often tweet by text message, and now have a quirky little iPhone app that allows me to tweet under this identity whilst being in another account. So it’s not that I’m ignoring you; I just don’t always see you. Every so often, I log in and see a few messages to me, and sometimes reply, but I’m pathetically incapable of catching up on everything. I don’t know whether this is social anxiety, increasing apathy, an identity crisis or just my being a total knob. Whatever the case, I’m sorry.

Right, then. I live in Northern Ireland, as most of you know. People on this island like to drink alcohol – a lot. Once a year, something comes up that seems to grant them complete impunity to engage in this pursuit: St Patrick’s Day. Perhaps it wil not shock you to hear that I loathe this occasion with a fucking passion; I have a pretty low tolerance for the obnoxious behaviours that many irregular drinkers display when inebriated out of their skulls, and I can’t cope the busy-ness around the place. This year, the event fell on Saturday past. A and I went out for dinner but had to come straight home, which is not at all common for us on that evening of the week. We’re usually in our local.

Anyway, the silver lining around the cloud of St Patrick (who gives a fuck about him anyway? He sounds like a bellend to me) is that A gets the day off (or gets it off in lieu when, as in this case, it’s at a weekend). Monday was therefore free, so we went out on Sunday to make up for our inability to do so the previous evening.

Exactly 51 minutes after we’d left the house, A’s phone started ringing. When he withdrew it from his pocket, we were both perplexed to observe that the caller was my mother. Thinking she was trying to get hold of me, but that my phone had lost its signal or something, I answered it (yes, yes, phone phobia notwithstanding).

The alarm was going off. If they can’t get hold of A or me, they ring my mother first, as she’s closest to our house, and then A’s mother second. A worked out the purpose of my mother’s call, and got ready to leave. I hung up and told him I’d stay in the pub; I would only hold him back by accompanying him (he’s a much faster walker than I am), and anyway, I reckoned it was a false alarm. That used to happen all the fucking time, to the point where I’ve wondered of late how the company responsible for running the thing had managed to improve their product so vastly. So A went back himself, advising that he’d call if anything untoward had happened. Otherwise, I supposed, he’d just return.

A few minutes passed, during which I caught up on some blogs on my Google Reader. In the middle of this, though, I was interrupted by a phone call incoming from my brother-in-law. Truthfully, at my core, I knew why he was ringing – but I let myself pretend that he was calling about joining us in the bar, especially given that he and A had exchanged a few messages about the outing earlier in the day. I duly ignored him.

When my mother-in-law’s name appeared on the screen of my phone, although I again tried to ignore the ramifications of this telephonic confluence of events, I really knew the game was up. This time I answered. She told me that they’d also called her and that my brother-in-law, who was at her house as it transpired, had called the police. In return, I advised her that A had gone back to the house to check that things were in order.

I’d only just hung up when A phoned. It wouldn’t be the last discussion via this medium that day…God, I wish
I believed in exposure therapy. I got a lot of potential practice with it on Sunday.

I knew as soon as I answered that he was horribly distressed. It doesn’t take a skilled conversationalist to decipher the first intake of breath before a single word is spoken; cheer, shock, thrills, anger – they and many more moods besides can be deconstructed in that split second. I’ve often heard parents say that when their kid reaches a few weeks or months old that they can tell by the ‘type’ of cry it emits that it wants x or y. Maybe this is a similar type of thing.

A’s gasp was one of shock and panic. Jesus Christ, I thought within the nanosecond left to me. Not again. We were burgled last only back in June, for fuck’s sake!

“They’ve taken the TV [42 fucking inches! In a heavily-populated terraced street!], the X-Box, the PS3, the iPad…” he was gasping. “They’ve smashed the door between the kitchen and the living room in…”

“I’m coming now,” I said. I hung up and called a taxi.

I could go into my usual level of detail about this, but it’s late and I’m tired. So…

  • The cops had been when I got home, but had apparently spotted some potential culprits, so legged it after them before talking to us and examining the house.
  • Without touching anything, I managed to piece together what had happened. The burglars – or, rather, a burglar – had crawled through the tiny window we keep open for the cats; I know this because it was completely fucked. Then he (and I use the male pronoun for a reason, which I’ll detail) saw the keys hanging up, opened the back door, and let his companion in.
  • They tried, I assume, to simply open the living room door – but, as we have done since the last burglary, we had locked it before leaving the house. They smashed the poor thing in with the Dyson, which was sitting in a corner of the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, they broke that too.
  • Entering the living room would have set the alarm off, and given all that they took and the bloody mess that they’d made, it was obvious that they knew the layout of the place. They couldn’t have got away with all that they did with the alarm (which itself calls the police) curbing their time had it been any other way.
  • They shoved the smaller items, which now seemed to include my old laptop, in bags, exited through the now-open back door, and onward through the gate at the back to the entry (which they’d also used the keys to unlock).
  • They hadn’t gone upstairs. Thank fuck I’d taken my current laptop up to the office; it was safe there. Curiously, they also hadn’t taken my Kindle. It was behind the door they’d smashed in, so perhaps they didn’t see it, or perhaps they didn’t identify it as a piece of expensive electronics because it was in its case, mimicking (to a point) a normal book.
  • Before we’d left, I’d deliberately moved the Kindle and A’s iPad out of view of the window. I neurotically checked the back door was locked about seven times, as I almost always do since the last break-in. Fat lot of good my caution did us.
  • The peelers returned. We were advised that they had taken two blokes into custody (hence my use of the male pronoun in reference to these criminals), and as I detailed my theory of their entrance to the female officer, her male colleague went to look around the back entry for further clues.
  • ….
  • …..
  • I am writing this post on A’s stolen iPad.
  • …..
  • ….
  • The policeman found everything out the back!
  • It seems that when the wankers were spotted, they unceremoniously dumped everything – or perhaps not quite everything? – and ran like fuck. But they were too late :)
  • The police were here for quite a while. In short, they took statements, got the forensic people in and liaised back and forth with their station colleagues. The girl from forensics was extremely thorough – much more so than any of her colleagues we’ve previously met (bearing in mind that this is the fucking third time we’ve been burgled). Although she didn’t say much, it did appear that she had got some evidence from various things.
  • The male peeler had been around the entries of the surrounding area, and came across a small but slick, and quite evidently new, flat screen TV – in a bin. He reasonably enough supposed that it would be unlikely to have been chucked out by its owners, and thus brought it round here briefly for the forensics woman to dust. He and his colleague also revealed that other burglaries had been reported in the area that day.
  • As the cops were rounding things off, the bloke said, “just to check, you didn’t happen to have any wallets here, did you?” We responded in the negative. He nodded, but added, “any foreign currency, no?” It then occurred to me that yes – we did have a wallet in the house after all. We go to down to the Republic every so often, and there’s always leftover Euros. A has kept them in a wallet in the kitchen for months. I relayed this information to the cop as I went into the kitchen to see if it was there. It was not. The cop asked how much was in it. “At least €50, plus coins,” I told him. “There was a €50 note in it; I’m not sure if there were additional ones, but there was definitely a fifty.”
  • I watched with interest as the police exchanged satisfied glances. The wallet with the Euros had been found on the person of one of the personnel that their colleagues had in custody. A couldn’t contain his delight at this wonderful revelation; he jumped up and down screaming, “YES!!!” with the peelers standing there watching. In later conversation, the man said to me that he’s always thrilled in cases like this – both for the victims of the crime, and for officers themselves. “It’s always really nice when we manage to get a conviction,” he smiled. Indeed it must be. They don’t get very many of them for offences like this.
  • After they’d left, I ran down the street to a lovely lady, the only one in the whole area we’ve ever really spoken to, who’d offered us tea when she first realised what had happened. I wanted to let her know what had transpired, and also to apologise if we’d appeared ignorant in refusing said tea. That was weird, because I have never been in a neighbour’s house since I moved in with A, and have only ever exchanged pleasantries and cat-related anecdotes with this woman before. But I appreciated her kindness, and enjoyed the tea and cake that she was decent enough to serve me.
  • I came back and joined A in the clean-up operation. There was glass everywhere. There were strewn bags, clothes and other assorted pieces of fuck also everywhere.
  • Thankfully, the cats were both safe. Srto Gato was here when A got back, and sat down on the sofa, right in the middle of the carnage, and went to sleep. Mr Cat was, however, nowhere to be seen, and we both worried that, twisted as these fucks clearly are, they’d hurt him. H
    e turned up about about an hour after I got home, which was a relief, though he did seem unsettled all evening. Whether he merely sensed our moods, or whether he’d borne witness to some frightening events, we are of course unable to tell.
  • Another set of cops turned up after 10pm, when things had got vaguely back to normal. They had brought the wallet, the €50s and the various Euro coins in separate evidence bags for us to identify as ours. Needless to say, we confirmed that they indeed were. The bloke said as he was leaving that he had “no doubt” that the case would come to court, though he added drolly, “and then they’ll get their 25p fine and get back to their games.” He stressed, assuming as he erroneously did that we completely lacked any knowledge of legal infrastructure, that things were out of their hands then. People can be imprisoned in Norn Iron for burglary, but it’s rare. Even when it happens, custodial sentences tend to be pretty low.
  • The worst thing in the aftermath of all this was that the house wasn’t secure; a bollocksed window and a cunted internal door require supervision. The upshot of that is that I’ve had to stay here when A’s been at work. I don’t mind that, but it does inhibit our ability to live our normal lives. Determined to buy fags before Gideon’s shite budget whacked the price of the vile things up by 37p per packet, I ran out at lunchtime today. In the half hour or so that I was gone – I dropped into a few food-ish places as well – I was panicking, panicking, panicking that the little cunts were out on bail (as they almost certainly are by now) and would break-in again as revenge for our part in their apprehension.
  • On Monday, A rang an “emergency” glass fitter and then The Everythinger (to whom I alluded millaria above). The glass people came out later that day, removed the window from its frame and stuck a temporary board up in its stead. They said they’d be back on Tuesday to fix the window itself. They weren’t. They weren’t today either. They eventually contacted A to tell him that it’ll be at least tomorrow, as they’re waiting on hinges. What double fucking glazing company runs out of hinges?! “Emergency” my arse. At least The Everythinger, who was horrified to hear we’d been burgled only months after he was here the last time for the same reason, is coming tomorrow (later today, whatever it is).
  • Hilarious incidental. The peelers speculated that the theiving scum were on a drunken bender as they went about the area pilfering what they could. As such, they nicked beer from our kitchen. In fact, the one bottle that was open seemed to have been drunk out of, thus meaning potential evidence. Anyway, the burglars were clearly pissed off, as evidenced by their smashing of a few of the bottles and dumping of other ones. This, we’re all pretty sure, is because they had they discovered that they contained Becks Non-Alcoholic beers :D Hahaha!

So, if it isn’t death, cancer scares, missing cats, depression, NHS cuntery (and the destruction of that already flawed system), a potentially impending financial desert (and the macro implications of that too), or other assorted nasties, it’s fucking burglary. Thanks, 2012. You’ve brought me the bleakest start to a new year that I can recall.

Yet, comparitively speaking, I’m OK, and thus must sound a note of optimism. Well, not optimism as such, but perhaps a little faith. Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Sunday, and I was very touched that the lady from down the street had offered the basic but important kindness that she did. The hard work of the cops and the generosity of this sweet stranger reminded me that sometimes when you see the worst of humanity, you also see the best too.

Thank you to Mental Healthy, their judges, nominators and sponsors for their very kind short-listing of this blog for the 2011 Mental Health Heroes awards (in the ‘Creative – Writer’ category). It’s a big honour to be featured alongside such people as the wonderful Kayla Kavanagh, her partner and carer Nigel, and the lovely Fiona Art, so thank you again :)

Anyone want to volunteer for TWIM or TNIM? You know you want to. Email me.

I can’t be arsed to proof-read this right now, sorry. It always mortifies me that my narratives could be error-laden, but I’m too tired to care as much as I should.

Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

A lot happened this week, but I have neither the time nor inclination to discuss it in detail. Perhaps next week. In summary: I saw Paul on Tuesday for our first ‘proper’ therapy session of the new stint. A bit of a weird dynamic was present – I babbled relentlessly, flitting from one random tangent to another rather than discussing anything remotely meaningful. Not that he agreed, of course; he opined, as he always does, that anything that runs through my mind (aside, perhaps, from “oh, look, the sun’s out” – though could that be read as an example of avoidance?) is worthy of raising in the therapeutic setting, and can give insights into my psyche. That said, he did admit at the end of the appointment that things had been a bit up in the air (I forget his specific terminology), and said we’d get down to some proper work next week. I await it with interest – but not at all without trepidation.

Last weekend I decided I was going to turn a corner of the kitchen into an office. I don’t think I can do much about it right now, but I think if I have a future, then I ought to have something to aim for – and I’ve decided that this will be professional writing. My dream: to register as a sole trader business, and make at least a part-time income from writing – and no longer have to claim at least some of my welfare benefits (I would like to think I could keep my Disability Living Allowance, on the grounds that the disability remains, but that in having my own workplace I don’t have to engage with general office tradition, which would exacerbate my illnesses). I know I’m capable of professional writing now – or, at least, I know other people think I’m capable, and that matters much more in this arena than my own self-assessments – and I’m building a few contacts. For now, that is all it is – a dream. A few commissions here or there doesn’t really mean much, but I’ve narcissistically (why is that not a word, spellcheck? Incidentally, why is spellcheck not a word when it’s the precise term WordPress uses to refer to this utility?) got it into my head now that I can achieve this if I don’t do myself in any time soon. When I mentioned the proposed office to A, he suggested that instead of setting it up in the kitchen, I actually reconvert our former study – lately, since the advent of The Everythinger, nothing more than a place for dumping stuff we can’t be bothered to sort out.

It seemed more palatable than the kitchen, admittedly: for one, it’s fucking cold in the kitchen no matter how long the heat stays on. Secondly, as I am not wont to be in the former study much, with a bit of re-configuration, it will feel more like an office than part of this house. Currently I do all my work sitting on the sofa with the laptop on my knee – but I do all my fucking about in this fashion too, and ergo it is difficult to associate the environment with work specifically. The study in many ways resembles – or will resemble, when I have it sorted – my office in my last job: small, but with everything necessary to get on with the task at hand. As such, I feel that I can ‘trick’ my brain into thinking that the proposed office will actually be a workspace, rather than a mere spare room.

We ordered a new desk, which arrived on Wednesday. I sat down to it last night and, aside from a few side panels that A had fitted, built the entire thing from scratch. It is (optionally) an ‘L’ shape, and has ample surface area, meaning that aside from the PC and laptop, I’ll have plenty of room to write by hand, consult the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, or study the professional writing course materials I bought several years ago.

All of that, particularly my suggestion about setting my writing projects up as a business, is a long way off – because right now I’m not a professional writer, but a professional mental. I even get paid for it! Though for how much longer?

As you may have gathered from the last couple of posts, things are dreadful. It’s at the point now where people are noticing: when I can no longer maintain a façade, then I know things are bad. My mother has even realised that the excrement has been liberally sprayed in the general direction of the thermantidote, and that is a tremendously dangerous sign, since I have always attempted to muster every last atom of energy my mind and body possess into convincing her that everything is fine (the reason being that she shouldn’t have to worry about me all the time).

As if things were not bad enough, therefore, when I got up yesterday morning and found an ESA50* form waiting for me, I thought I was literally going to have a heart attack – I hyperventilated so fucking much that I could see no way that my heart could continue to pump blood around my not-insubstantial body.

My ma immediately said, “we’ll take it to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.” Reasonable advice, to be sure, but she’d missed the point; the point was that, re-fucking-gardless of how competent the CAB may have been in the completion of the bloody thing, I would almost certainly still have to attend a medical examination with the fuckwitted social security agency. I know I’ve written in passing about one of my previous exposures to this immense trauma…where?…ah yes, here it is. (*This post also explains a bit about ESA ((which stands for Employment and Support Allowance)) to those of you outside the UK. Basically, it’s a disability/illness benefit – but it has two components that complicate it, which the aforelinked posts discusses). After that experience – and even regardless of it – I genuinely don’t think that I can go through another assessment of this ilk (or of any, come to that). Not any time soon; pipedreams or not, I’m still really ill. I told my mother that if I had to go through such an encounter, that I would end my life.

Fortuitously, I had an appointment with Christine in the early afternoon. Since the hospital in which I see her is close to the CAB, I took the form with me. I went in, sat down, when asked reported that since our last encounter everything was still appalling, uncopably (new word) terrible, and that “the icing on the fucking cake” had just arrived, at which point I pulled the ESA50 out of my handbag.

She shook her head in frustration – “everyone’s getting those bloody things!” – and I repeated my promise that if I was called to a medical I would commit suicide.

Christine said, “I’ll complete it for you. At least that will be a weight off your mind.”

“That would be brilliant, thank you,” I replied, “but won’t they still send for me anyway?”

She told me that she is getting the impression that the Social Securitcunts have been sending out the forms to weed out the few “scroungers” that exist in the system, and also to catch out those with a mild to moderate illness, who they (quite possibly erroneously) perceive as being able to work. She exemplified by telling me about a patient of her’s that has mild, borderline moderate, depression. “She’s been found fit for work,” Christine explained, “but honestly, Pandora, there are things she could do. Not everyone’s in that boat, and in fact most of my patients haven’t even been called to a medical, and these forms have been arriving through their letterboxes since the start of January.”

“Are you saying that you think I won’t have to go to an examination?” I checked.

“I’d make an educated guess that when I’ve finished with this” – she nodded with contempt at the form – “it’s highly unlikely.”

She smiled conspiratorially at me, but I pressed on with my concerns. She wasn’t saying definitively that I’d not have to go to the fucking thing, after all.

Eventually she said, when I had finished yet another monologue of social security-driven angsty misery, that if they did call me to an examination, that she and NewVCB would write to the bastards advising them that I would be unable to attend, as to do so would be “severely and dangerously detrimental to my mental health.”

I stared at my CPN in something akin to wonder. “Really?” I murmured in a small voice laden with disbelief.

“Yes,” she said definitely. “So don’t worry. I’ll deal with this, send it off to them, give you a photocopy at our next appointment – and if an ‘invitation’ letter turns up at your door, contact me, and we’ll make it go away.”

“Thank you,” I almost-sobbed. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

Christine dismissed my gratitude – not in an unappreciative way, just in the sense that she was happy to provide the service and information that she had – as part of her job. Then she said, “you’ll be horrified when you read what I’ve written. Try not to be. They need to hear the very worst aspects of your illness; yeah, some people could accuse me of extending the truth, but I don’t think that’s the case. The case is that all of what I am going to write has happened and even though you’re taking measures to control these things, the unfortunate truth is that they also have the potential to happen again…possibly at any point.”

“Why would I be ‘horrified’ that you accurately explained the most severe symptoms of my illnesses?”

She sighed. “The voices tried to get you to kill yourself. They tried to get you to kill your baby cousin. Cameras follow you wherever you go and GCHQ are obsessed by you. You’re endlessly suspicious of people, and are cripplingly anxious when you’re forced to be in any proximity to them. Some days you can’t get out of bed due to overwhelming depression. You have, at times, to be watched to make sure you don’t harm yourself. There will be occasions on which people have to remind you to take your tablets – or even make you do so.”

She paused, flicking through the form, then added that one of the key parts of the mental health section of the ESA50 was about interaction with other human beings. “Given the aforementioned symptoms, that’s not…er…well, it wouldn’t really work for you, would it?” Ah, the sweet scent of diplomacy.

We talked about other stuff. Paul. Writing. Mum’s cancer scare. Rhona’s operation (with which there were no complications but lots of pain followed by a hook-up to morphine, which was removed five days after the procedure and even then caused quite significant withdrawal symptoms). An increase in Lamictal to help me with this current vault of depression (she’s going to discuss this with NewVCB on Monday). The exact nature of how low I felt, not that I could quantify it in words. I was acutely aware that I was acting very differently around her from my norm; regardless of how I’m feeling, I usually witter on and on and on, engaging with her non-verbally too – often it belies the reality of my mental (ill) health, but it seems to come naturally around her anyway. This was completely different. I steadfastly avoided eye contact, one of their favourite observations, and apart from issues surrounding the ESA50, I didn’t speak much at all. In fact, to my abject horror and disgust, at one point I believed I looked like I was close to tears. I didn’t cry, thank fuck – I can’t imagine the shame that would have been wedded to that – but I suspect that Christine thought I was on the verge of it.

Anyway, she was brilliant. My current episode continues, and no doubt will not abate for quite a while – either more Lamictal will help, or the vileness of the low will end itself in some sort of cyclical fashion, or I’ll off myself before any improvement manifests. But for now, what would have been one of the most serious stressors this year – as if there have not been enough already – has been removed from my responsibility. I didn’t thank her enough, because I can’t thank her enough.

The only downside to her brilliance is that it makes me even more sad and distressed that thanks to non-sensical bureaucratic bullshit I may well lose her. Good mental health professionals like her, ones that actually seem to care about you, are sadly uncommon :(

I’m in a rush so haven’t proof-read this, for which my apologies are due to you. Please forgive the probable multitude of errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling in the foregoing. Thanks x

CPN Appointment

***Possible Self-Harm Triggers, Blah Blah Blah***

Saw Christine on Thursday afternoon for the first time late December. Explained all that had happened in the first few months of 2012 and how things are very, very shit. She seemed to be of the view that this is a depressive episode more generally, because of the self-harm in which I engaged before Maisie’s death (she views it as serious because I was trying to dig out the veins in my hands, and seeing if I could sever the tendons in my wrists. When I shrugged it off, she said, “you do realise that this isn’t…normal, don’t you?” I said that I didn’t know). All that has happened, of course, has not exactly helped me claw my way back up the slippery slope I’m currently navigating.

She was horrified to hear that, as I spoke, Paedo was sitting in my mother’s living room. I explained that the reason for his presence was my mother and the McFauls’ over-compensatory just because the matriarch is dead doesn’t mean we’re not still family! routine. Christine opined that this must have been very difficult for me. I said that I didn’t care, but I don’t think she believed me.

Complained about either losing her or losing NewVCB; went on a rant (well, insofar as I was able to speak) about how much the health service has failed me in the past, and just as it had started to get things right, it was cunting them up again. I must have looked particularly distressed at some juncture because she appeared to think I was about to burst into tears – “that’s really hit you hard, Pan,” she said, adding that the entire CMHT is furious about the changes – at which point I said that I do not do tears and that even when I’m sitting alone in the house and feel the ‘need’ to cry, I do not permit myself to engage in said activity because someone will be watching me through the clandestine cameras that follow me about.

Naturally, this remark piqued her interest, and she asked if I really believed it, or if it’s just a feeling. I said that I knew it was ridiculous – “maybe they were right when they diagnosed me with a personality disorder, it’s just that they got the specifics wrong; it’s not borderline, it’s narcissistic” – but that I believed it nevertheless. Cue the usual questions about voices and visions, of which I was able to truthfully say there are none.

Either way, she was extremely concerned about my levels of depression. I laughed (if one can call such a hollow, cynical sound ‘laughter’) and said that this was nothing. I know how bad it gets, and this isn’t it – even though it’s heading distinctly in that direction, and has been for weeks. Christine said that in a sense this was good – might I be able to ‘get it in time’, she wondered, if I wasn’t yet at rock bottom?  I shook my head. “By the time it’s got to this stage, it’s still gone too far to prevent it from getting to its worst. It creeps up on you so slowly and insidiously that when you get to ‘now’ – the realisation you’re spirally into the abyss – it’s virtually written in stone that the very worst of depressions will be upon you anon. Like a fixed variable in space-time.”

She kept asking me over and over again if I could “guarantee [my] safety”. I kept trying to make non-committal responses, but she wouldn’t let it drop. Eventually I said something along the lines of expecting to be alive at the time of our next appointment. She accepted that, but added that she wasn’t just concerned about my trying to top myself; she was also worried that I’d engage in more self-harm, and this time actually succeed in doing myself some proper damage. I stated that I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t do anything of that nature, but that I thought it was highly unlikely. As I told her, you need at least some mental vigour to engage in self-injury, and with each passing day I have less and less of such commodities available. Depression sucks out your very soul.

Christine nodded, but kept prattling on that my safety was the most important thing. Meh. Fuck my safety. Don’t fuck my safety. I don’t care either way. I was just glad that she let me leave without a shiteist crisis team assessment.

She wants me back in two weeks rather than the usual month. In the meantime, I am to contact her urgently if things get notably worse or if I’m running helium cannisters through price-comparison websites again. I said, “I know you always say I can contact you, but can I actually do so? Do you mean it?”

She seemed surprised by the question, and emphatically told me without breaking eye contact (which was odd, because I’d spent the entire appointment trying to avoiding looking at her – mental health professionals love it when you don’t engage in eye contact; it’s always splattered over your notes) that of course she meant it, that she wouldn’t have offered it had she not, and indeed that she wanted me to contact her if things get worse. ‘Get worse’ is a stupid phrase in context – of course things will ‘get worse’. But I think she means ‘really bad’.

I might take her up on it, assuming I can get out of bed.

End of terrible post, and of pathetic pity-party. Can’t be bothered to proof-read, for which you have my apologies. Love to all. xxx

Perspectives from the Mentalist's Partner (5): Thwarting the Downward Spiral

I should preface the following by noting that this post has not been written by Pandora. Rather it is a guest post by her partner, known to regular readers of this blog as A. The views expressed, needless to say, are not necessarily those that are held by the Serial Insomniac herself. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll proceed.

Over recent months, I have sometimes found myself wondering to what extent worklessness, quite independently of Pandora’s mental health issues, breeds the kind of motivational collapse that this blog so often and so effectively chronicles. The question seems particularly apt with the Coalition government taking forward very significant changes to disability support and out of work benefits.

Let’s get something straight from the outset; in raising this question, I’m not for one moment suggesting that Pan is in any position to work at the moment or that she isn’t deserving of the support that she currently receives. What I am asking is this: is being away from work for such a long time a contributor to the difficulties that now stand in the way of Pan resuming a ‘normal’ life? (Cue all the usual reservations about the word ‘normal’.)

In speculating on the life-deadening impact of worklessness I speak to an extent from personal experience, albeit not a long stint of same. When I completed my university education some years ago, I naturally went job hunting. I didn’t think I’d get anything quickly, and in the interim determined to enjoy myself, drink in (sometimes literally) the freedom that being away from full time study could bring. Without a care in the world, I could begin on any number of projects I’d always thought I’d like to do – writing some short stories, composing music, improving my guitar technique, learning to program a computer in a much less amateurish manner, honing my understanding of the world and its most important issues through wider reading. Sounded good. And yet I’d been warned that prolonged exposure to the dole could be psychologically debilitating. A friend of mine, a long term doleite, told of the fact that he had come to the stage where he couldn’t even be bothered getting up or having a shower on many occasions. I dismissed such thoughts; that was him, I was me. Nothing like that would happen to me.

Well, for my first four or so weeks of freedom, I was right. I had a whale of a time. No commitments. No pressures. I could go out when I wanted. I could stay up as late as I wanted for some deeply interesting all night philosophical conversations. I could catch up on series upon series of the good TV shows I’d missed, read good books, experiment with writing, compose bits and pieces on the computer, and so on. I could pursue what I wanted to pursue, all the while job hunting, attending a few interviews – not having much success – but oh well, time would sort that out, wouldn’t it?

Week five brought a niggling feeling that things were starting to veer off course. I’m obviously an impatient person, because by the time I’d reached this stage, the boredom had subtly, insidiously started to set in – and with it, the transformation of my motivation into molasses. That morning shower? Bah! Showers were for losers! [Pan - yes, they are. I'm actually scared of them, and since I am soooo awesome, anyone who thinks that showers are cool is wrong. Matter closed]. It could wait. Going to the shop to get milk? Black coffee would do just fine. Tomorrow, maybe. Getting up? Well, surely past midday was perfectly respectable. Maybe I could even practise some lucid dreaming! In short, postponement and procrastination gradually became the order of service, and with this development, the ebbing of creativity marched dolefully in step. Days blended into other days. Weekends were the same as weekdays. Friday afternoons weren’t the great escape they once had been. Time to do stuff was, well, just more time. And I had plenty of that, so why rush?

By weeks six and seven, my brain was beginning to atrophy. By week eight, I was finding it an achievement to force myself to take a daily walk into town – I’d even set this as a bloody goal, so pathetic was my motivation by this stage. That was the height of my ‘achievement’.

Luckily for me, I’ve always been driven by some sort of guilt trip which prevents me from giving up entirely – so far, at least. I continued the job hunting, somehow, and eventually secured a position.

But enough about me. The point I am trying to make is that worklessness – or so it seems to me – creates its own challenges which are generated separately from, or at least contribute in a separate way to, the challenges brought about by what I will call, for want of a less generic description, clinical depression.

I’ve now had this conversation with Pandora on a number of occasions. What part of her is unable to get out and about, to find motivation, to look for work, etc, as a result of her condition? And what part of all that is the result of being in the situation she has been in – without work, without what one might call external responsibilities – for around three years?

This thought process of mine should not be interpreted as a suggestion, as some would have it, that people struggling on benefits are necessarily work-shy and simply need a good kick up the backside. Do such people exist? Certainly. Are they typical? I doubt it. The long term unemployed who have lost hope need help back to work – a carrot and a stick, probably – but at the same time there are plenty of mentalists who, for various reasons, are unable to work, who want to work but are simply not currently in a place where they can do so at this moment. Let me put it like this: would you want your colleague having paranoid delusions, or bursting into tears/storming out of the office or off the building site because they can’t cope with what might seem an ordinary task? I have an acquaintance who sees conspiracies everywhere and who is working. Or was. Until he was fired. For threatening colleagues. On more than one occasion. Even after formal warnings. Because he erroneously thought that people were engaged in a conspiracy against him. He needed help. He ultimately couldn’t stay in work. He needs help now to get him back to a place where he can resume work. (That he fails to acknowledge this [I'd say 'doesn't realise he needs it'] does not negate the fact that he needs it.) I’m sure about this: a person like him should be nowhere near a workplace until he has had an opportunity to deal with – and be helped to deal with – whatever conditions afflict him.

I’m somewhat worried that the proposed changes to the system will fail to recognise cases like this; the medical assessors, as I understand it, won’t be specialists in the field they are assessing. Does that make sense? Not to me.

To return to Pandora’s case, and I can’t and won’t generalise about others, I still wonder how much her chances to get back to a ‘normal’ existence are constrained not alone by mentalism but also by having become stuck in a rut – through no fault of her own – for so long. Adjusting again to the concept of work, after the passage of a long time sitting in the house, will almost certainly be very difficult. It would be difficult for most people, I’d venture. For me, definitely.

So what’s the point of this post?

I’m not sure, really. I suppose I want to reassure myself, and Pandora, that a return to work will be possible, but I need to acknowledge that, independently of mentalism, it will be a gradual process, perhaps starting with some very light voluntary commitments and working its way up to some part-time, low pressure role. Eventually, of course, the objective will be a return to a full-time and, ideally, fulfilling career. You may have observed that Pandora is a smart cookie, and I think she’ll do very well for herself as a professional, provided she is able to reach a sound level of stability and find something that she really doesn’t mind (or, dare I say, enjoys) doing [which is all I've ever really wanted out of life].

I don’t have the answers, but would certainly be interested in the views of others on the ‘worklessness breeds worklessness’ theory.

You can follow A on Twitter at @TheNyarlathotep.

…And the NHS Cocks It Up Again

I had a psychiatric appointment on Wednesday morning. In terms of interaction with NewVCB regarding myself, it was fairly unremarkable. I apprised her of the various events that had occurred since I’d last seen her – Maisie’s deathseeing Paedo; the fact that the doctor’s bloody “surgery” screwed up my Lamictal script for several weeks; the kitten, Srto Gato, had temporarily (yet stressfully) disappeared (the latter two being stuff I’ve not ((yet)) discussed here); and that I saw Paul again.

Essentially, although she had intended to decrease my dosage of Seroquel at this appointment, she decided against it because of the fuckery of the last few weeks. She wants me to get back on some sort of even keel that involves a minimum of external stressors before pissing about with the stuff, an assessment with which I agreed wholeheartedly. I said, “in light of particularly stressful events that previously occurred with various personnel from [Hotel California], I was very, very glad to be taking anti-psychotics over the last few months.”

NewVCB understood. Although 400mg, the dose to which we are intending to reduce the Seroquel (at least in the short-term), had at one point prevented some of my psychotic symptoms, given that the last six weeks or so have been really shit, it would be ill advised to take any chances at the minute.

I did ask about increasing the Lamictal, however. I’m currently taking 100mg, and my internet readings have suggested the therapeutic dose is generally between 150 – 200mg. NewVCB disputed this, though; she said that 100mg is the usual standard in the (admittedly uncommon) circumstances in which she prescribes it.

“I’d prefer to keep it at 100mg for now,” she advised, “in part because you had a break in it enforced upon you, so it’ll take some time for you to entirely re-adjust to it. Thus it’ll take a few weeks to see its full effects again. Then, we can see.”

That seemed fair enough. In terms of the Seroquel, I said to her that I’d lost a lot of my appetite in the last, say, eight to 10 weeks, so at least in terms of weight gain, reducing the dose wasn’t as ‘urgent’ as it had once seemed. I told her that I’d read that Lamictal could sometimes cause weight loss, or at least a reduction in appetite, and she confirmed that this was indeed the case from time to time. She said she was pleased that this had been the case for me, not because she dared to opine that I had a plenitude of blubber surrounding all corners of my body (though clearly I do), but because she knew how annoying my weight gain had been for me especially when I’d been losing so much of my pre-existing fat until I started taking 600mg of this heinous drug.

And that was pretty much that.

Except that it wasn’t.

“Um…now, Pandora, there’s, er, something I need to discuss with you,” she said ominously.

Oh my fucking God. She’s leaving. Oh fuck! Fuck! Just when I thought things with the NHS were actually getting me somewhere! The incipient dread I felt as soon as each word of the sentence left her lips grew overwhelming very quickly.

“The NHS are changing things again,” NewVCB sighed.

Again?! [I can't find any posts on this, aside from my review of my first appointment with NewVCB, but it was due to NHS changes that my consultant was changed from (Old)VCB to her in the first place, and that was only two years ago. What the fuck? More bureaucratic - and no doubt costly - bullshit from the fucking NHS. What a sack of shite!].

She saw my face, and shot me a sympathetic glance. “I’m moving to [Big Scary Hospital],” she said. “Until recently, it was just assumed that I’d take all my patients from your GP’s surgery with me – but…God, this drives me to distraction! They’re re-drawing geographical boundaries, so right now I don’t know what’s going to happen. I may or may not be taking all such patients. I really have no idea at the minute.”

She was clearly frustrated by this fuckwank herself.

I drew a breath, then ventured, “Obviously – and I know you can’t do anything about it – I’d prefer to ‘stay with you’ if I possibly can.”

“I know. I know. I wish I could give you something more concrete at this stage, but I can’t unfortunately.” She shook her head and twisted her mouth in obvious vexation.

She continued by asking me exactly where my address was in the area, but although I could see her trying to mentally calculate whether or not the house was affected by the boundary change, she came up with nothing but a blank.

“When is this taking place?” I asked. “I mean, if I don’t move with you, will I see you again?”

“Oh, yes, yes – I’ll see you again in six weeks or so. This shouldn’t be happening until two to six months hence.”

I nodded, but something else occurred to me then. “Assuming for a minute that I do move with you. What about Christine?”

“Well. In the long-term, they’re planning on moving the whole team – whatever ‘long-term’ means. But it certainly won’t be any time soon, so if you come with me, you’ll have to get another CPN.”

FUCK!

“And if I don’t go with you..?”

“Then you’ll still have Christine, here, but you’ll be moved to a new consultant.”

FUCK!

This is so fucking unfair. Just when things were going so well with my psychiatric team. Having both a CPN and a consultant that you really like, both seeming to genuinely want to help you – that’s not at all common, especially in this bloody Health Service. And now, regardless of what happens, I’m going to lose 50% of that to a quantity entirely unknown. For all I know, the replacement for either the psychiatrist or the nurse could be fucking amazing – but my longer-term experience of the Psychiatric Service does not lend me to having a great deal of hope about that. Furthermore, even if the person were brilliant, I’m happy with things as they are. I like them! I like NewVCB and Christine! I want to stay with them both!

Don’t cuntwits like Mr Director-Person – who, as the head of mental health at the Trust, is at least partially responsible for this idiocy – realise that this kind of upheaval is likely to only increase illness, and therefore increase costs? That, as a mental, it takes long enough to become settled with members of staff – and that breaking that confidence and trust is likely to lead to breakdowns, misery and crippling anxiety?

Well, of course Mr D-P doesn’t realise that. He doesn’t realise anything about mental health, because he’s nothing more than a general manager, and always has been – he comes from a business-y private sector perspective, that isn’t even remotely tangential to mentalism. So no, despite all the fucking risk assessments they’ve no doubt claimed to have undertaken, he and his cronies have no idea what it’s like on the fucking ground, in the fucking real world, of someone with (a) mental health condition(s). It’s alright for him to sit in his inviolable ivory tower of an office, and play about with geographical lines on a computer (or, more likely, ‘getting his secretary to play about with geographical lines on a computer’ whilst he plays that little mini-golf game you always see executives figuratively masturbating over). It’s not alright when the ramifications of that feed back down to patients who are, as a direct result, going to suffer like fuck.

And nobody can do a damn thing about it. Fuck the Trust. I can’t for the life of me work out what it is that they care about, but it certainly isn’t their patients ‘service users’. Bastards.

Resuming Psychotherapy – Paul: The Catch-Up Sessions

So. I mentioned at the end of my post the other week that I was going to see Paul that evening. I know I’d brought up that fact somewhere before then, but I’m not sure if it was on this blog or elsewhere. Either way, anybody who is a regular reader will probably be aware that Christine, my CPN, and NewVCB, my psychiatrist – not to mention A, and in something of a bizarre juxtaposition, my mother – had been nagging and nagging and nagging me to contact Nexus to follow-up my resumed contact with the organisation at the end of September.

To that end, I emailed Nice Lady That Works for Nexus shortly after Maisie’s funeral (the ‘summary’ ((scare quotes because I don’t do ‘summaries’)) of that is coming, fear not). I’ve always wondered why Nice Lady had a tendency to respond very promptly when I emailed her outside of normal business hours; OK, so I religiously checked and, if necessary, responded to my work emails at 3am, but I’m not exactly normal. Anyway, it seems that it’s because they’re open later on some days of the week to accommodate people that, you know…actually work.

Nice Lady responded to my email by stating that she had put me on the list for “ongoing therapy” with Paul, inferring that a regular slot for same had not yet come up. That seems a little odd to me given that nearly four months had elapsed between my having contacted the organisation about a re-commencement of contact and my later follow-up, since the maximum amount of time allowed for Nexus counselling is six months – but it’s theoretically possible, to be fair. Either way, I didn’t really mind, and in any case it doesn’t matter; she offered me a meeting with Paul to discuss my “present circumstances” for the Tuesday evening. I confirmed that I would attend. It turned out that I saw him twice in the end – the second meeting being exactly a week later – but for the sake of this post I’m going to mash them together. Mainly because I can’t remember what happened in each, rather than the sessions themselves being inherently faulty.

On the afternoon of the first session, I sat in the house in growing discomfiture. I really did not want to go to the appointment, in the everyday, sort of micro sense. Of course, in contrast, I did want to go in a wider, macro sense; therapy helped me before, and things have definitely gone downhill since I left it last summer. The latter compelled me not to call (or, more likely, email) Nice Lady to advise her that I would not be attending, and sheer bloody will-power stopped me ingesting the beautiful anodyne properties of a Diazpeam, my rationale being that if I did not get the dosage exactly right, that I would not be able to converse in any meaningful measure.

I left the house stupidly early, in light of the traditional difficulties of finding a parking space that attending Nexus creates. I suspected that, at this time (6pm or something), things would be a lot quieter – but were they fuck. For once, as I drove around and around for ages, I thanked the twisted cosmos for granting me my time-keeping neurosis. It’s funny; I used to be late for everything. Now it’s rare for me to be anything less than 20 minutes early. I’d say I look forward to seeing how this pans out at my own funeral, but since I’ll be dead I’ll not be seeing too much of it, will I?

Anyway, I found a space. Eventually. I still had a few minutes to kill so I dicked about on my phone, hoping for a meteorite storm or nuclear bomb or some such to suddenly descend on my little town. No such force majeurs came to pass, however, so five minutes prior to the allocated appointment time, I took a deep breath, and got out of the car.

As I waited at the door of the Institute for someone to buzz me in, I wondered what in the name of actual fuck I was going to say to Paul. How did I greet him – this man who knew all my deepest, darkest secrets? How did I justify my return to him (aside from allusions to the badgering persistently quipped out by my psychiatric team)? How could I be sure that I could re-develop our erstwhile rapport?

When I entered, both he and Nice Lady were standing at the reception desk. I was horrified to feel the need to introduce myself; my hair has changed since I last saw them, but beyond that, there was no reason for them not to recognise me. Unless they’d just forgotten.

I don’t know why that surprises me, as I sit here considering the incident retrospectively. I am eminently forgettable. I might well have a not-entirely-pleasant history, but everyone Paul (or any other Nexus therapist) sees is in that boat. It’s what keeps him (them) in work.

Whatever the case, introduce myself I did. When Nice Lady sort of nodded, I went to go to the (hidden) waiting room in anticipation of Paul’s readiness. There sat a young woman. She turned to look at the disturbance I’d created in her quiet world, and our eyes met for a split second. I was struck, again, by how such a simple, brief action can engender a whole barrage of thoughts and questions and assumptions in one’s mind. Yet despite our brief unity, I felt disgusted that by seeing her face, I’d somehow intruded upon her darkest moments and, by dent of that, her privacy.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Paul suddenly piped up that “we [could] go in now, Pandora,” so I withdrew from the room, mere seconds after entering it, tripping over something in my rush to free the girl of my rotund self, thus making an even bigger arsehole of myself.

Well. 1,200 words and the session hasn’t even began yet. Is that a record even for me?

It was a different room from the one we’d spent most of our time in during our last stint of meetings together. As if I weren’t unsettled enough, that unnerved me a fair bit. I have no idea why, as I had been in the room at least once in the past – and anyway, I hadn’t even been in the Nexus building in something like nine months, so surely it was all due to be new to me again?

I spent the next 50 minutes garrulously rambling at Paul about fuck knows what, but here’s my best attempt at making some vague coherence of that.

So, how had things been since our last meeting, the man himself queried?

“Things have been…eventful,” I began, trying to sate my agitation by assuming the sardonic tilt of my entire body to which I am used to showing the outside world. I failed.

“Eventful,” I repeated wistfully, before launching into a brief monologue on just how things had been ‘eventful’. “Oddly enough, just last week [Paedo]‘s wife dropped dead. A while back, the cat was killed. I took up the [now co-]editorship of a popular mental health blog. I won a major award for my own blog then had a mini-breakdown. I’ve started writing more seriously – I’ve had professional pieces in One in Four and a major non-mentalist magazine. Though the latter is still about being mental, mind. The fucking house was burgled again. Oh, and I started taking a mood stabiliser on top of Quetiapine and Venlafaxine.” The one thing I completely forgot to mention was that my diagnosis – primarily borderline personality disorder when I last saw Paul – has changed. Not that it really matters, I suppose, since Paul is a fully paid-up member of the “EVERYTHING ABOUT PSYCHIATRY IS EVIL!!!!!1!!!eleven!!!11!15932!! GAAAAHHHHH!11!14!!seventeen!!!!” lobby. Indeed, when I mentioned the Lamotrigine, I noticed his characteristic eye-roll, however much he may (or indeed may not) have fought to suppress it.

When I’d finally shut my overactive gob, he sat silently for a minute, regarding me with a nebulous, enigmatic look that I eventually interpreted as curiosity.

I didn’t want to be the one to break the resultant silence, but neither could I meet such a piercing gaze. An old trait of mine when I’m nervous (or tired) is to play with a strand of my hair. I twirl it between my index and middle fingers, then release via a stroke of my thumb. Involuntarily – or at least unconsciously – said behaviour began again at this juncture, whilst my eyes darted from one form of nothing to another. The cheap non-descript carpet, the cracks in the walls, the blandness of the paint – any of it was better than returning his look.

“Why are you back?” he finally queried.

I took this as an accusation that I shouldn’t be back, even though it of course transpired in the course of the discussion that this was not the case. I didn’t admit this, however, and instead – after thinking for a bit – told him that I was sick of being stuck in this cyclical rut of madness. “I still can’t work. Being able to deal with people, losing my anxiety around them – that’s my goal. I believe that I was starting to get to that point when I left therapy with you before, but then it all went to shit.”

He said, “I remember telling you before that in an ideal world, we’d be working together for at least two years.”

I nodded in recollection. “Six months was a good start, but I need to build on that. Get things out of my system, work them out in my mind, delve deep for resolution. I can’t do it alone, and whilst a year isn’t ideal, it’s a damn sight better than nothing.”

In fact, in marked contrast to a lot of what I’ve written here before, I defended C. Not because C didn’t ultimately behave like a dickhead, but because whilst we were on good terms, I had at least done some groundwork with him. Would I have been able to walk straight into Nexus and own up to everything, had I not at least been able to raise it somewhere first? I doubt it.

“OK,” Paul said. “So you found that useful. Did you find our work together helpful, then?”

“Of course not,” I laughed with nervous sarcasm. “That’s why I’m back.”

He…I don’t know, he sort of guffawed at that. We then had a discussion surrounding the previous bout of therapy, concluding that part of its success had been that it gave me a ‘safe’ place in which to admit to my history of abuse, a circumstance in which that could be properly ‘contained’, which it hadn’t been when it was happening. A place where I was believed and not judged, with someone who was beginning to get past my endless intellectual prevaricating to the point where I might have felt a modicum of compassion for my former self. Remember the baby, for example?

Randomly, then, Paul said, “you told me earlier that things had been ‘eventful’.”

“Yes..?”

“The first three points. You noted that your aunt and cat died with a certain nonchalence, yet when you spoke of the award yon won, you almost spat the words out.”

“Did I?” I replied askance.

He raised his eyebrows in confirmation, forcing me to think back on what I’d said – or, more specifically, how I’d said it. I recalled that I had counted Maisie and Ms Cat’s demises off on my fingers, reducing them to mere footnotes of my life, though that is not how I saw either of the events in question. But of particular surprise was that I spoke of the award in tones of virtual disgust? How could that be?

“I was immensely grateful for and touched by that award,” I told him, puzzled.

He rescued me. “I didn’t think that you weren’t, but your tone suggested to me that…you know, death happens. It sucks, but it’s bad, and only bad things happen to you, right? The notion of something positive befalling you, particularly on a scale outside your immediate social circle, is alien territory.”

“I’ve won awards before,” I mused quietly, still avoiding his gaze (why does he stare so fucking intently? What is it with therapists and that…that device, that stupid, ugly, staring device, that they always employ?!). “This departed only in scale from them, I suppose, but what a scale it was. A ceremony, public recognition and a beautiful, shiny trophy.”

“You’re pleased with yourself,” he observed.

“Isn’t that oxymoronic? A minute ago you were suggesting that I was at best perplexed, at worst repelled, by it.”

“‘Perplexed’, yes, but not ‘repelled’. I think that you’re pleased you won it, but you still struggle with the ‘why’ behind that success.”

I certainly couldn’t argue with that analysis. How many times have I asked the following question of you, readers: “why do you like this blog?” On many occasions. And whilst I understand (and greatly appreciate) the responses you’ve given, I don’t – as Paul put it – understand the ‘whys’ of them.

He asked me a few more questions about it, and I answered honestly, as I had done with Christine (I can’t find any review of that appointment here. That was something of a fail. I can’t remember much about it now, but suffice to say she was thrilled to hear I’d won, and like Paul asked me lots of questions about it. That means that within about three seconds they can have gone from Mind’s website to here and read about themselves from my twisted perspective, which ((especially in light of l’affaire Little Feet)) is not entirely desirable. But anyway, if either of you are reading this, hello! I actually do like you both, if it’s any consolation in lieu of the general misery I spout here. I’m sorry if you dislike your sobriquets, but I had to anonymise you somehow).

Discussion moved on to Paedo – initially in the context of Maisie’s death, though we did discuss more specifics in the second appointment I’m coalescecently (spot the made-up adverb) detailing here. Since I have as yet failed to discuss the funeral on this blog, there’s going to be a spoiler here, and this is it. As we were leaving Hotel California that evening, I hugged Paedo – entirely of my own volition. So much of my own volition, in fact, that Paedo seemed surprised by the gesture.

Paul asked me why I had done this.

“Two reasons: one calculated, one…well, not calculated. In the first instance, I’d hugged most of my cousins and other assorted personnel, and it would have looked out of place had I not engaged in the same practice with him,” I blathered. “The second reason was that, whatever he’s done, the poor sod had just buried his wife of over 50 fucking years.”

“OK,” he replied in a very definite tone. “Fuck the first reason, that’s a load of bullshit [I don't concur, but whatever]. The second – that’s a very human act. That’s normal in the aftermath of a death, to extend your humanity to grieving individuals, and you’re far more human than you give yourself credit for. But was what he did to you human?”

“Well, the biochemistry of our species dictates that…”

“You know what I mean,” he interrupted witheringly.

I shrugged. “No. I suppose that it wasn’t particularly human.”

***Pointless Tangent(s) Warning – Feel Free to Ignore the Next Paragraph***

[This is an issue I have. 'Human', to me, is a biological term, referring to the last surviving species of the homo genus. 'Humanity', even in what others regard the "emotional" sense, is, again to me, a reference back to the race of humankind. The traits to which Paul was referring derive from personhood, the qualities of a person (er...obviously, Pan). I think that it's quite possible to be a human without being a person (and, arguably, vice versa: it's very easy to anthropomorphise animals); any of you that have ever been on either side of the abortion debate will be familiar with this position, but it's not confined solely to that arena. This isn't the time to get into any of that, though, so I'll say that no, what Paedo did (What Paedo Did. It sounds like a paedophilic version of What Katy Did - though, repugnant as Paedo's behaviour may have been, the retelling of it is ((hopefully)) nowhere near as boring as the reading Katy's "adventures" is) wasn't particularly personable. Call me an abuser of the English language, or a pedant, or whatever if you will].

***End of Pointless Tangent(s)***

***Start of Possible Triggers!***

For some reason, he brought up (a) the gang rape, (b) the related incident wherein someone threatened to cut off my thumb, and (c) the occasion on which I thought I was choking to death.

***Probable End of Possible Triggers, and Hopeful End of Stupid Bolded and Asterisked  Warning Things!***

He was making the point that these three incidents, at least in part, were ones that I remembered clearly. He also alluded to the fact I’d remembered other ostensibly silly details well too.

“But you don’t recall all minutiae of the abuse even now?” he checked.

“No.”

And, lo! A rearrangement of that therapeutic manta and how does that make you feel? came to pass. He said, “how do you feel about the lack of those memories now?”

Once more, I fixated my eyes upon the carpet. “Don’t know,” I mumbled onto my chest, like some sort of surly teenager.

“No False Memory Syndrome, no Munchausen’s Disorder?”

“Well, yeah, obviously. That doesn’t even require a question mark.”

“It’s still better to believe that you’re a liar rather than someone who went through this sadistic abuse.”

“I suppose so. What of it?”

“I’m just trying to gauge where you’re at psychologically. But for what it’s worth, and you probably know this, the timeline of an abused kid isn’t linear. Everything becomes so defragmented that the child has to ‘put together’ bits and pieces of memories, so what happens is – at least in your case – you get a general sense of what happened without it all being eidetic or palpable. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to hideous circumstances, and it means you’re not a liar or a faker. I think that has to be one of our goals in this process – to get you to really believe that heinous things were done to you. Or, at least, to dramatically curtail the strength and frequency of your doubts about it all.”

That seemed reasonable. ‘Reasonable’ in the sense of ‘acceptable’, rather than “yes, I think that’s perfectly obtainable,” so obdurate can my beliefs in my supposed falsifications be at times. However, in a discussion around the abuse that followed the above, I actually used the word ‘rape’ several times. In fact, I think I might even have said ‘gang rape’ at one point. I really couldn’t do that when I first met Paul. I could barely even say it to A. Does this denote progress? That the work I’ve hitherto done with Paul has had some lasting psychological impact, despite the fact my life’s not exactly a barrel of laughs?

There was a discussion of self-harm, felicitously catalysed by Paul’s opinion that “every scar on [my] body is inflicted by [Paedo]” (which belies the fact that I used to fall in the playground every day at primary school, despite the fact that on such occasions Paedo was, usually, over 30 miles away – but I’ll let that slide). I admitted to having tried to slit my wrists since I’d last seen him; I didn’t raise it here because it was an irrelevance, an idiotic act done on the spur of the moment to see how far I could go (this was the week before Maisie’s death). The intent was not suicidal, but borne out of an existential boredom – and beyond it, I’ve engaged in very little self-injury since I last saw Paul, if any at all.

So, then, Maisie’s death. Would it have been better had it been Paedo that died? Or would that have been worse?

“Who knows?” I shrugged. “I’m ambivalent towards the man, so my perception is that I’d probably not give a shit – but the mind’s a curious phenomenon, isn’t it? It could so happen that when he croaks it – and we think he will soon, given his formerly symbiotic relationship with my aunt – I regret the ‘words left unsaid’ or something twattish like that, and it screws me up a little more. I think it unlikely, but it’s possible. It’s hard to predict.”

Paul nodded thoughtfully at my assessment, whilst I remembered something that had previously been said on this blog.

I wrote in a recent post about how Maisie had always, for reasons seeminlgy unknown, had a grudge against her daughter Sarah. In the comments section, the very lovely CimmerianInk postulated this hypothesis on that relationship:

I have seen in past stories that if a daughter is being abused by her father, if the mother is more concerned with appearances etc., she ends up hating the daughter or at least they end up having a strained relationship with a lot of complicated layers. So, I wonder if Paedo ever did anything to Sarah. (I’m assuming that I remember correctly and Sarah was at home all her life with him).

You did remember correctly, CI. I actually think this is a very possible scenario, and it would explain a lot.

A brief piece of context: years ago, A and I were at the McFaul’s for some reason, and had been drinking. I became ensconced in the dining area with my mother and Sarah, presumably as that was the only room in the house in which one was allowed to smoke. Anyhow, the alcohol must have in some way ignited a spark of bitterness in me, because – in talking about my mental illness – I said something like, “you know, many people go doolally because they were sexually abused.” If I recall correctly, I raised my eyebrows at the two of them in a gesture of smug fuck you.

Sarah, without missing a beat, and without any hint of horror or surprise in her voice, replied, “there’s something there, isn’t there?”, at which point I realised my mistake in even raising the issue and wisely changed the subject.

I have often wondered in passing about her blasé attitude to my loaded comment. A and I had already discussed the possibility that Paedo may have abused her too (she was the only daughter, if that’s even relevant in paedophilia), but always in the context of “what if?” rather than in terms of Maisie’s relentlessly negative attitude towards her. But CI’s comment seemed to really ‘fit’ the situation. I told Paul about it.

Essentially, he concurred that this was a distinct possibility. He said, “she didn’t spot what was under her nose when all of this was happening to you. How could she not have done so? You would have walked strangely, you would have been withdrawn, you may even have been dirty and bleeding. And your aunt just didn’t notice? Or, could it be, that she didn’t want to notice – possibly, as your friend says, because she’s seen it all before?”

I felt a chill run down my spine.

“I feel uncomfortable with the notion that my aunt was somehow complicit in her husband’s behaviour,” I said carefully.

“Don’t you think they all were? Everyone in that house?”

“Well…not consciously…”

“Maybe not. It could have been entirely unwitting [though I have to say, he sounded distinctly uncertain about this]. But a child doesn’t know that. All she knows is that nobody’s protecting her from these horrors.”

“Well, OK – but if my cousin was abused, would my aunt not have noticed all the factors to which you’ve alluded in her? I know she wasn’t a perfect woman, but even I can’t believe she’d willingly let her kid be raped by anyone, never mind its father.”

He was evidently going to say something like, “you’d be surprised” – and actually, I wouldn’t have been, because I’ve heard of many mothers deliberately, and thus unforgivably, overlooking these things – but he thought better of it. As he himself would agree, he didn’t know Maisie, so could not know what she was or wasn’t capable of.

“Well, they could have been ostensibly unaware. The evidence does seem to support that the mother had an inkling, if her daughter was being hurt, but it may not have been conscious. It’s clear from what you said though that she resented [Sarah] greatly, and what you sometimes see is a parent somehow ‘knowing’ what’s going on, and then transferring their disgust and rage onto the child, under the almost psychotic justification that that child has ‘seduced’ their spouse or something. It’s actually not uncommon.”

It’s a frightening idea, but I have to say – it would explain a lot of the problems that have been inherent in Hotel California throughout my living memory.

Further conversations arose, but were not particularly consequential. I felt that I’d rambled like a fucking eejit throughout both sessions, but Paul assured me that my discourse had enabled him to further ascertain the current nature of my psychology. He thinks that, although for the most part I’m able to suppress it in every day life (not that he thinks that that’s a good thing), there is still a lot of raw, visceral, deep hurt inside me.

Indeed, that was probably the image I projected: even just being in Nexus made me feel…I don’t know what the word is. Headfucked. Filled with ominous dread. Anxious. Not scared, but…well, more than apprehensive. All of those things, but much more besides. I did admit this to him when he asked about it.

He said that it actually must have taken “a hell of a lot” of courage to make myself go there that day, at which point I intimated to him that I had seriously considered calling the meeting off.

“But you didn’t,” he (rather pointlessly) noted. “Don’t you think that’s courageous? That you want to fight this shit?”

I mulled that over for a few minutes – and honestly, readers, I think that it was. I felt a small slither of pride in myself for a few teeny-weeny seconds.

Our agreed goal, apart from that of trying to believe myself about the abuse, is to overcome my constant need to intellectualise and rationalise, thus continuing to develop empathy and compassion for Aurora/child me. He thinks that, at an intellectual level, I sympathise with her – but that, apparently, is quite a different thing. He is of the view that should this be successful, Aurora “will stop ruining [my] life, to use what would no doubt be [my] parlance.”

His parting line, before goodbyes, was that he’s “really, really looking forward to working with [me] again.” Although I was a bit of a wreck following the first meeting, I was at least reassured by the enthusiastic tone and sentiment of this final statement.

We’ll see. My psychotherapy with Paul should recommence properly in three to four weeks, which will certainly make for some interesting times ahead – but I know I’m with the right person for the job.

PS. I deleted that stupid ‘Fail’ post. You know I’m alive now, right?