Putting the 'Boxing' into Boxing Day

Christmas Day was surprisingly acceptable this year, in epic contrast to the nigh unbearable experience that was last year’s fuckery.  This was due almost entirely to two things: one, that the occasion was at my mother’s house, and not that of one of the bloody McFauls; and two, that only A and myself were my mother’s guests.  Perfect.

I lay in bed half the day, but upon my arising, the three of us sat down to open our presents.  I had little in the way of wrapped rubbish; A bought my car insurance for next year and a very generous £50 Amazon voucher, and my mother had given me the curious but welcome sum of £80 in cash.  Wrapped rubbish is nice – well, until you open it, usually.  I would rather have my car insurance and a few quid to save my dolescum arse for a week, thanks.

That said, the wrapped rubbish was, for once, quite good, and A and Mum seemed happy with theirs too, so that was the main thing.

Onward to dinner, followed by the customary lie-down and crap daytime film.  Then we played Scrabble until the wee small hours, finally succumbing to exhaustion circa 3am.

All in all, it was quite nice.  It seems that ‘quiet’ is definitely the way to go regarding this generally unpleasant occasion.

Boxing Day was not quite so relaxed – or, that is to say, Boxing Evening was not.  We had agreed to spend it at A’s mother’s, as A has never actually spent any Christmas or Boxing Day with her (not since before his parents divorced when he was very young, anyway), having always gone to his father and step-mother.  A’s brother Damien and, later, his mother Angela, kindly asked my mother to join us all as well, and I was pleased when she accepted the invitation.  I would hate her to have be alone over Christmas, as I know that she, if not I, attaches meaning to it.  She wasn’t going to the McFuck’s because of the atrocious weather – and anyway, I knew she’d have far more fun at Angela’s house.

Kind of.

Angela has been living with her partner, Ivan, for over 30 years now, and A’s two (technically half-)siblings – Damien and their younger sister, Lorraine – are Ivan’s children.  Ivan is a very strange man.  I generally like him, but he is…unique, let’s say.

Angela and Ivan are not like typical pensioners.  She looks about 20 years younger than she is, and they both party just like contempories of A or me, not those of themselves.  This means that Ivan drinks ridiculous amounts of booze on occasions like these, and invariably this leads to his getting over-excited.  Damien has his moments too, and theorises that both he and his father have ADHD.  When sober, though, they’re both fairly subdued.  Ivan is actually incredibly dull in such circumstances, and even Angela can’t be bothered with his desultory conversations and moaning.

Still, pissed, sober, whatever – he may be a pain in the arse and a tenacious debater at times, but meh.  I can handle it, and on previous occasions my mother has appeared to find Ivan amusing.  Certainly the other members of the family are good craic.  Off we went to their gaff at about 3pm.

Upon our arrival, Damien was already drunk, to my surprised amusement, and straight after dinner was sent to bed to calm down.  Ivan was ‘merry’, to use a euphemism of my mother’s, but in welcoming and comparatively calm form.  My mother is a Scotch whisky drinker, and he went out of his way to offer her tasteful versions of her favourite drink – sneaking a couple for himself, mind you.  The prognosis for the evening seemed encouraging, especially when Lorraine and her boyfriend Martin showed up.  To date, A and I had been unsure as what to make of Martin, who is relatively new to the family unit.  He had, on occasion, appeared off-hand, aloof or simply dull; however, on Boxing Day he wore a broad smile and talked amicably to the group, introducing himself to my mother with a courteous and even charismatic handshake.  The presence of his and Lorraine’s dog, Petra, and the family’s dog, Tommy, added an additional pleasure to the house.

Dinner was uneventful and civil, and in the immediate aftermath, we all retired back to the living room – Damien excepted as, as noted, he was ordered to sleep his early drunkenness off.  For a couple of hours several of us simply sat there like zombies, the combination of food and drink having tested all our physical resources to the maximum.  As always in these circumstances though, second winds befell us all, and soon a convivial atmosphere of “drink and be merry” pervaded the assembled attendees.

Ivan has a penchant for becoming fixated with a specific issue at a specific time.  When he very first met my mother and I back in 2003, the obsession was with the Hutton Report.  I remember well that he walked into Mum’s house, said it was nice to meet her, then without prompting asked her what she thought of the inquiry in question.  Not that I really watched it, because I think Ricky Gervais is a massive, massive cunt, and that his ‘work’ is deeply unfunny, but I remember seeing mortified facial expressions from his character’s colleagues on The Office when he had done something that seemed out of place or inappropriate.  My mother wore such an expression at the unexpected political discussion that was forced upon her that day.

This time Ivan had decided that he was a Christian.  I had previously been unaware that it was permissible for Christians to behave in the hedonistic way he is often known to do, but nevermind.  Facts don’t count in this universe, fuck that shit.  He deemed it appropriate to start a discussion on whether there was, indeed, a God.

It so came to pass that you had him and my mother on the side of light; Martin, A and myself defending atheism (or, to be strictly accurate, agnosticism, as we all freely admitted that we can never know for certain whether or not there is/are God(s).); and Lorraine and Angela expressing little more than ambivalence for the conversation.  My mother discussed her views fairly reasonably, but as you might expect, the now-utterly-pissed Ivan was rather less coherent.

A and Martin were cogent and articulate in the debate, and I got to thinking about how much I had previously misjudged the latter.  He appeared thoughtful, intelligent and calm under pressure, and the debate was actually quite entertaining for a while.

Eventually Ivan turned to Martin and said, “so what’s your opinion on all of this?”

Martin eyed him suspiciously.  “I’ve already told you what my views are,” he replied.  At least myself and A, and possibly Lorraine too, verified this.

Ivan refused to believe this, and began badgering Martin regarding his alleged deception – ie. Ivan believed that he was trying to lie about not having offered his position in the whole stupid debate.

Martin, quite fairly in my opinion, said something along the lines of it not being his problem if Ivan refused to listen to a word anyone else said, and the shit hit the fan.

I left the room at this stage to go and smoke (yes, I am disgustingly back on the things in an ‘-ish’ sort of fashion, and this was beginning to turn into the sort of night where cigarettes seem like a necessity), but even in the garden, at the other end of the house, I could hear the screaming – and the door was closed.  I couldn’t hear the specific words spoken (yelled), but I am told it went something like this.

Ivan: You’re talking shit.
Martin: No, you’re talking shit.
I: Who do you think you’re talking to?  Fuck off!
M: Don’t tell me to fuck off!
I: [Insanely] Fuck away off!!!
M: Do you want to say that again?!
I: Aye, fuck away off!!!
M: Would you like to take this outside?
I: Yes, I’ll fight you!
M: Right.  Let’s go then.

For reasons no one remembers, they didn’t go outside, but eventually Martin yelled at Ivan, “I don’t have to listen to this.  I’m leaving!” which was met with jubilated screeches from Ivan of, “yes!  Fuck away off!  Get out of my sight!”

At this point, A completely and utterly lost it.  Although he would admit to being very easily irritated, he very, very rarely gets angry – but on this occasion, ‘anger’ seems like a small word to use for the wrath that Ivan induced.

A said (screamed):

You’re a bloody disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself! That’s no way to speak to a guest in this house!  Do you want to start something?  I’ll fucking start something with you!

As he screamed all of this, apparently A was jumping up in fury, rounding “threateningly” on Ivan.  I’m almost sorry I missed it.

“Fuck away off!” Ivan screamed in return, at which point A said that he would, with pleasure, do so.  He left the room and slammed the door behind him, at which point he came to find me.

Eventually all of us, Damien and Ivan excepted, gathered in the kitchen.  Martin accepted that he had probably over-reacted to Ivan’s harrassment, and apologised to us.  “However,” he said, “I’m an adult and I won’t be spoken to like that, so I have to leave.”  This was unfortunate, I felt, but I understood his position.

A and I were very vocal in making clear that Ivan did not in any way, shape or form represent us, and Martin was accepting of it.  When he finally left, he joked that maybe we’d be able to laugh about the whole sorry thing one day.  I hope he is right.

In the meantime, Ivan had gone about telling his family that he didn’t care if he never saw any of them ever again, a sentiment that A was glad to reciprocate.  Damien, now arisen, was – along with his sister and mother – informed by Ivan that they didn’t pay rent, and should ergo get out of Ivan’s house.

The thing is – it isn’t Ivan’s house at all.  A took pleasure in pointing this out to his insane step-father, adding once more that he didn’t care if he never saw him again.

Ivan went back to the living room and slammed the door.  Damien followed him to see if he could talk some sense into him.

For a while, things were calm in the kitchen.  Mum, Angela, Lorraine, A and I sat about talking, smoking (not A), drinking wine and liqueur coffees and listening to music, and despite what had happened earlier, things were reasonably enjoyable.  Unfortunately I had to go into the living room at one point to get a bag I’d left there, and was stunned to find Damien pinning his father to the seat.  Ivan was screaming obscenities and a thousand curses at his son.

I rushed out and told the others of the development, and Lorraine went in to video the whole ridiculous saga to show to her father when he had sobered up.  He accused Damien of trying to kill him, A of the same thing, everyone of misunderstanding him, no one of telling him what their problem was, yadda yadda yadda.  He kept trying to push Damien off, in between his whining of “fuck off you cunt” etc, but Damien remained determined to keep him under restraint.  He never did say why exactly, but the inference was clearly that Ivan was threatening violence.

I remember Lorraine telling her father, when he claimed not to know what it was that he had done wrong, that he had “been a dick” to Martin.  Ivan claimed not to know what she was talking about.  Damien said, “I wasn’t here so I don’t know what happened, but I do know that you’re being a dick now!”

Again, Ivan pleaded ignorance as to why he was being thus viewed.

Relations we re-established briefly when he came into the kitchen and apologised to my mother.  I even decided to take a place in his company once more, though Angela, Lorraine and A refused.  However, when Ivan started criticising A’s behaviour once more, I stood up and walked out.

I have not seen him since.

In a way, some of the fun of the evening was restored because of the willingness of most of the assembled to not want the behaviour of one massive wanker to spoil things.  A, indeed, said that he was all the more determined to enjoy himself to spite Ivan, and so in the end the four women and one bloke – Damien never did re-engage with us – had a bit of craic regardless of what happened.  A, Mum and I left fairly early the next day, at which point no one had spoken to Ivan, who was quietly reading in another room.  We left without saying ‘goodbye’.

Angela rang my mother later to report that Ivan had left the house, though she reckoned he was only going to the shops.  I have no idea if that was indeed his destination, nor if he ever came back.

In the pub that evening, I asked A if he really meant that he couldn’t care less if he never saw Ivan again.

“Perhaps not 100%,” he admitted, “but I certainly feel no particular attachment to him.  I wouldn’t be that bothered.”

“After thirty years?” I checked.  “I know he’s a pain in the arse a lot, but this is the first time he’s been a complete tosser on that sort of level.”

“Not exactly,” A replied, reminding me that Ivan had had a large involvement in splitting up Damien and his erstwhile fiancée, Louise (long story short: Ivan knew Damien wasn’t as happy as he might have been, got blocked, and said to Louise’s face that her fiancé didn’t want to marry her.  She stormed off.  Damien ranted at Ivan and followed her.  They tried to salvage their relationship but split a few months later).  I had to concede this point, though A too conceded that Sunday night’s nonsense had probably been the most extreme manifestation of his step-father’s cuntitude.

So God knows what the real fallout from all this will be.  We theorised that perhaps Ivan wouldn’t even remember anything of what happened, what with his severe levels of inebriation.  But the rest of us remember, and indeed have a body of evidence for it.

You know, if he would accept his culpability and apologise, at least some of what he said and did could be forgiven.  I know that Martin wasn’t faultless and probably poured more than enough fuel on an already out-of-control fire, but at least he had the common fucking decency to acknowledge that, and say sorry for it.  I have been brought up to believe that it takes courage and some measure of altruism to hang your head and admit to your wrongs, and he did that.  If stupid fucking Ivan would accept that he screwed up too, maybe some of it could become water under the bridge.  But he won’t.  He will let his nose be severed to spite his face.

I would never be a person to demonise alcohol, for I enjoy a drink or eight myself.  But I think this incident, and other less serious ones in which Ivan has been strongly implicated, demonstrate how it can be a substance of which to be wary.  The thing was, Ivan had had (copious amounts of) wine, beer, spirits, liqueurs and, perhaps worst of all, whisk(e)y.  The latter, Angela and Lorraine believe, “sends him mad”.  My mother was reminded that one of my McFaul cousins is banned from drinking the substance for the same reason.  I had been trying to develop a taste for that particular beverage of late – it’s not a typically feminine drink, and not being a typical female it therefore appeals to me – but perhaps I shall rethink my plans.

Anyway, in my live reporting of this fiasco to Twitter on Sunday night, I mused at one point as to whether Christmases with my family were really that much worse than this.

I thought about this a lot over the last few days, and have reached my conclusion.

They were.  They always will be.  So give me this arseholery over jabba Maisie, paedo Paedo and their assorted dynasty of shite any day.  Ivan may have made me furious, but he’s never made me mentally ill.

Münchausen by Internet

Apparently it’s a form of Münchausen Syndrome, even if it’s not quite official (ie. DSM supported). Who knew?

Well…me.  Sort of.  I have direct experience of it.

I’ve always said I’d write about Hideous Ex, but lo and behold – 18 months after commencing my writing here – I never have.  Well, here you have it. Münchausen by Internet.  That was him.

People who have forms of fictitious disorders (the present name for that which was previously more commonly known as Münchausen) generally crave attention and, at times elaborately, fake illnesses in order to get it.  In proxy cases, the individual in question fakes or induces illness in someone else (and is therefore justly regarded as an abuser in light of same).  On the internet, obviously, lies about having an illness using chat, social media, or whatever.  Whether or not fictitious disorders are even real ‘illnesses’ is kind of unimportant (as it happens, I think they can be – but just because they can be doesn’t mean that they always are).  What is important is that anyone who is woven into a Münchausen-based ‘lie’ is an innocent in the whole matter, regardless of whether the disordered person can control his/her behaviour or not.

I was 14 when I met him online.  What shall we call him?  Something shit, something very shit, methinks.  His actual name was quite shit anyway (he was gratifyingly ashamed of it), so it’s not just about my internal bitterness.  OK, lets go with Mike Hunt.  He shall henchforth be known as Mike Hunt.  If that seems rather innocuous to you, try saying it out loud.

I met Hunt via AOL messenger; after all, it was almost compulsory back in 1998 that your inevitably primitive access to the internet was facilitated by this then-monopolous service.  I was 14; he was 20.  Before you start thinking it, no – this was never a sexual relationship.  It was romantic, yes, but never sexual.

A message from him popped up one day when I was pissing about on the AOL service, at the time finding it wondrous and new.  It’s funny how much so many of us take the internet for granted these days.  My 14.4K modem, which didn’t even perform at that speed, would be reviled and scorned by me and just about everyone else now.  I worshipped it then.

As I recall it, Mike Hunt got in touch because I was fairly local to him.  Through the course of several conversations online, we grew to learn of common interests too, and so it predictably progressed.  We chatted on the phone, and before I knew what had hit me, he had suggested meeting.  I agreed in principle, but for whatever reasons we ended up not getting around to making the arrangements at that particular juncture, so this odd friendship continued to develop in what seemed to me to be a different plane of reality.  Again, this is normal to me now; I form friendships online, and don’t think anything of it (other than to be grateful for it).  But it really wasn’t as standard then; it’s funny how much things can change in a decade.

I was sitting minding my own business one afternoon when the phone rang.  It was my old childhood friend, Louise (about whom I wrote here), who had been off school that day.  She was phoning to explain why; she was frequently ill, and in routine searches for a diagnosis, she had been subject to many tests.  One to do with her white blood cells had come back as abnormal, leading to extensive fears that this meant that she had leukaemia.  I remember that she cried down the phone to me, something she had never done before.  I sympathised with her as much as I could, but then this is one of the reasons I so hate the phone.  It is such an inherently false construct; if I had been with her I could have hugged her or something, but as it was all I could do was offer my support verbally, meaning that it sounded like little more than platitudinous space-filling.

Mercifully, though, a few days during which we kept in contact passed, and she finally phoned me to tell me that the cancer scare had been merely that – a scare.  As one might imagine, relief flooded all concerned.

At the time, as the internet was billed on an extortionate pay-as-you-go tariff, I would only go online three or four times a week (!!!).  That particular week, when I ran into Hunt on the AOL messenger thing, I told him of Louise’s cancer scare, and of how grateful I was that she didn’t have that most feared of illnesses.

After voicing his own gladness that she wasn’t suffering from the big C, Hunt wrote, matter-of-factly, “did I ever tell you that I have bone cancer in my right foot?”

He hadn’t, so cue horror.  OK, so I hadn’t met him, but aside from the fact I would not wish cancer on anyone, I had developed a relationship with this man, and I cared about him.  It was a nasty, sobering, heart-breaking moment.  I feel disgusted by this admission now, but just as it had with Louise, the revelation made me cry. Why did such awful things have to happen to good people?

I don’t see much point in describing the finer points of the relationship.  We met.  We got on extremely well, we were attracted to each other, it became a romance.  I foolishly believed myself to be in love with him.  For his part, he also charmed my mother and grandfather.  We did normal things – went for drives (in his car), watched telly on the sofa (in his student house), went for pizza.  It was satisfying, but delightfully ordinary.

The only problem was that, since I had met him, he’d moved from his local-ish-to-my-house abode back to his family one which was a lot further away.  He had the student house which was fairly close to me, but it was by this time the summer, so he was living at home, unable to afford the student-house’s rent without his two house-sharing mates who had gone God knows where over the summer.  This had the effect that if he was coming to see me, he had to drive a considerable distance, which aggravated the pain the cancer caused in his foot.  I felt dreadful that I was responsible for exacerbating his pain, and said so many times – but he insisted that it was more important to see me than to worry about “a little bit of pain.”

One afternoon in early August he phoned me and, salutations completed, asked if I was sitting down.  I hadn’t been, but did so upon his utterance of the question – no one asks that if there isn’t something bad on the way. Hunt explained that he’d been to see his consultant that morning, only to learn that his cancer had “gotten considerably worse.”

“What does that mean?” I asked him, a feeling of physical dread developing in my stomach.

He sighed deeply, and appeared to be composing himself.  Eventually he replied, “it means intense chemotherapy – or, quite possibly, amputation.”  He sounded simultaneously terrified and defeated.

How is one meant to respond to that?  For a few seconds, I simply didn’t.  I sat there in a state of mute, all-consuming horror, wishing I was with him in the same way I had wished I was with Louise when she had feared she had leukaemia.  I think eventually I must have said that I didn’t know what to say, other than that I was so, so sorry.

He rang off briefly, as someone was at the door.  He called back 10 minutes later and asked if I was OK.  Of course I wasn’t OK; I had just spent the past 10 minutes bawling my eyes out like a fucking baby, wondering how I would be strong enough to support him.  But survival mode kicked in, as it always does in times of (other people’s) crises.  I made myself into a talking cliche, and said, “we’ll get through it.”

It was the August of the Omagh bombing.  Hunt and I watched the coverage together, united in our complete disgust and despairing sadness.  His compassion for those affected by the bomb despite his own considerable adversities impressed me – well, of course one doesn’t need to have a perfect life to appreciate the suffering of others, but I suppose he seemed selfless in general.  He dealt with his illness quietly, though he limped a lot.  My mother once had a go at me for allowing him to drive so far to see me when I knew he was in so much pain, but as I’ve said, he claimed to feel that it was more important to see me than to avoid that discomfort. a How charming the sentiment seemed.

Things began to change in late September.  He became distant, withdrawn, lacking in interest.  He was back at university by that time, and initially I thought the combination of being ill and trying to study full-time was just getting on top of him – but as time went on, it became more and more apparent than he genuinely had lost interest in our relationship.  It was, in de facto terms, over.  I hid it well, I think, but I was devastated – particularly because he was cowardly enough not to contact me at all, leaving me to finally end things ‘officially’.

In response to my letter ending ‘it’, he wrote back thanking me for the good times etc etc, and stating that he was going into hospital in October, and that he had “never been so scared in all [his] life.”  I didn’t want to intrude upon his privacy when he had clearly didn’t want to have a relationship with me anymore, but nevertheless, I did want him to know that I would ‘be there’ for him, if he wanted, though this most trying of times.  I wrote back to this effect.  I received no response.

The date of his admission arrived, with both my mother and me chomping at the bit with worry and fear.  He may no longer have been my boyfriend / her not-quite-son-in-law, but you don’t just turn off caring about and being concerned for someone.  The day after his admission, she all but begged me to phone his parents.

I’d never met any of Hunt’s family; indeed, I was pretty certain that they didn’t even know of my existence.  As I understood it, they would have been disgusted by the age difference, and thus I could understand his reluctance to introduce me to them.  To that end, I was deeply, deeply reluctant to phone them.  I even said to my mother, as it turns out prophetically, “but what if it’s not true?  What if he’s not even in hospital?!”

She was enraged by my comment and gave me a right bollocking.  Eventually, I relented through a combination pressure from her and my own concern, and dialled the number.  Hunt’s brother answered.

“Hi there, this is Pandora, I’m a friend of Mike’s,” I said, uncertainly.  “I’m sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to see how he’s getting on in hospital.”

You can guess how this went, I’m sure.  The brother said, utterly perplexed, “sorry?”

I repeated my inquiry.

“Um…Mike’s not in hospital,” he replied, clearly still confused.  “Where did you hear that?”

I knew.  I just knew.  I could feel my reaction to that knowing begin to build somewhere in the pit of my stomach, but still I played the game: “maybe I got my dates confused.  I thought it was yesterday he was being admitted, but maybe I was wrong, sorry.”

“Admitted for what?” the brother asked.

“Chemotherapy.  For the cancer in his foot.”

To say that Hunt’s brother was genuinely stunned by this statement would be a gross understatement.  He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, and I think his first reaction was that I was completely and utterly off my rocker.  Eventually he said, “look, I need to discuss this with my parents.  Can I ring you back?”

I agreed.

I cannot describe the type of feeling that goes with uncovering this type of lie.  Think of your worst anxiety attack, your angriest self ever, the worst instance of shock you can imagine (the sudden death of a loved one possibly excepted).  Think of it all welling up inside of you into one unquantifiable morass of complete horror and infuriated disbelief.  Then multiply it by about 500.  Perhaps then you have a tiny modicum of understanding as to what it was like.  I have never experienced a sensation like it, either before or since.

As per his word, Hunt’s brother rang back – between the two phone calls, though, the father had called Hunt himself to ask him what the fuck was going on.  Apparently Hunt broke down and admitted his elaborate lies to his astonished parent.  The brother said that they were all outraged and could only offer their sincere apologies to me.  I remember telling him that I knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault other than Mike Hunt’s himself, but beyond that, I have no recollection of how the conversation ended.

My first reaction was to call a friend who had also sort of known Hunt online, though had never met him.  I told her what had happened, and she initially thought I was taking the piss – this. could. not. be. true. (Do you see a pattern here, readers?  That I’m always seen to be the bullshitter?!).  But I went through it with her point by point, instilling in her a similar though clearly less severe revulsion to the man and what he had done.

At some point – whether it was the next day or that evening I’m not sure – I checked my email to find a message from Hunt.  He was begging for my forgiveness and said that he sat in horror at what he had done and who he had become.  He wanked on pointlessly about how God would judge him at the gates of Heaven or some such religious drivel.  Curiously, he’d never manifested particular interest in Christianity prior to that. A fine example of using the concept of God to assuage your own sense of guilt and self-disgust, I should imagine.

I don’t recall my exact response, but I do remember that it was laden with disappointment and disgusted pity, rather than out-and-out fury.  That wasn’t necessarily an accurate representation of how I felt, but I figured it was the most appropriate reply; anger could, perversely I suppose, have made him feel slightly vindicated.  I didn’t want that.

I do remember signing off by saying, “I thought I had mental health problems, but my need for professional help pales into insignificance beside yours.”  It might well have been true at the time – but being put through the experience he put me through really, really fucked with my head and although as far as causation goes he’s only partly to blame for my mentalness, he was probably a strong catalyst for its somewhat dramatic development at the time.

The next day in school I was still shaking.  Those of you that have read my accounts of therapy with C may remember references to my holding my hand out in front of me to see how shaky, and therefore mental, I was. This dates to that day, that horrible day after I found out what Hunt had done.  I was sitting in English thinking about what had happened, when a girl with whom I didn’t even get on well asked if I was alright.  I lied and said that I was – why was she asking?

“I’ve never seen anyone shake like that,” she said, nodding towards my hand.

I followed her gaze.  It was really bad; it looked like I was insanely waving at something, except that the movements were vertical, not horizontal.  I had clearly unsettled my schoolmate with this, and frankly I was kind of disturbed myself.

It was a difficult rest-of-year.  Other revelations about Mike Hunt emerged (as if the cancer one hadn’t been enough), our dog had to be returned to the animal sanctuary, Grandpa was ailing notably (he died the following February), and I was beginning to realise that what happened with Paedo was actually sexual abuse, rather than some sort of everyday event that is a norm between uncles and nieces.  I was in despair at school too, but that’s still not a topic I’m willing to think about too much, because it was so empty and lonely, despite the existence of several friends.  I can’t bear the memories of it.  Just…it was a pretty dreadful few months.

The wonders of magazines, TV, DI Google and the advent of so-called Web 2.0 have enabled me to find out a few things about Mike Hunt since my last contact with him.  To my considerable regret, he won some prestigious award (along with a group of classmates) at university.  They invented some clever medical device, apparently, which I found vaguely ironically amusing.  If his lies tempted fate, at least he can maybe try to save his own life.  Also, he and his Dad were on some local bullshit do-something-daft-and-win-something show, wherein they were successful in their bid to win a holiday to New York.  This grated on me considerably, both because of the undeserved holiday and also because Hunt’s father had not disowned him entirely after his web of callous deceit.  I suppose I couldn’t reasonably have expected that, but still.  Anyhow, the next thing was that he got married to some innocent looking girl – I wonder did he ‘fess up to her? – but is apparently having an affair now, having been unhappy for some time.  Oh, and he’s a fanatical Bible-basher.  Riiiiiight.

Oh, and for the record.  Although Hunt fits the concept of Münchausen by Internet quite classically, whether he was thus ‘afflicted’ or not is irrelevant.  You don’t need to have a ‘disorder’ to do something like this.  You just need to be a cunt.

Benefit Claim Win, Life Fail

A minor modicum of good news amidst the current ocean of thick, virtually un-wade-able, shit. And, indeed, my second post on benefits within a few days; how odd.

I’ve had a brief look through the archives for a contextual post to this, and cannot find one. The best I can do is the review of this session with C – in which an altercation arose over the group of Employment Support Allowance into which I had been placed – but it doesn’t really go into much detail about the overall issue.

Money Money Money

So: context. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the replacement benefit for Incapacity Benefit (although as I understand it, those originally claiming IB still receive that instead). Full details on the nature of the benefit can be found on this site, but here’s a brief run-down anyway.

It’s awarded to people who cannot work due to illness or disability, so long as they no longer receive (or were not eligible to receive) Statutory Sick Pay, which one would get, usually, for the first six months of an absence from one’s job. After an initial 13 week assessment period, claimants are placed into one of two groups: the “work related activity group” or the “support group”. The former is where the majority of applicants are placed, and assumes that although their capacity to work is ‘limited’, there are certain things that they can possibly do to eventually move into employment. To this end, they make you go to tossy interviews and group meetings with Job Centre employees and other claimants to discuss what you can and can’t do. Great if you have social anxiety, obviously.

The support group of ESA does not require such interviews, though one can volunteer to participate in them should one wish to do so. I believe that eventually benefit reassessments to ensure one’s continued eligibility for this group are required, but I am not familiar with the specific timeframes.

Anyhow, the so-called doctor that I saw when assessed as to which ESA group I should be placed in decided that I had “bipolar disorder” that was apparently manageable, within reason. At that point I hadn’t really experienced more overt psychoses such as ‘They’, nor did I have the C-PTSD diagnosis, so obviously I didn’t declare those to him, but as well as having the BPD, bipolar II/clinical depression and anxiety diagnoses, I was having strong dissociative episodes which I did clearly mention.

He did not mention, at any juncture, BPD, major depression, social anxiety or dissociation in his pathetic report. I wrote to the Social Security Agency to complain, citing all of these issues, and requesting a revision of their decision. They wrote back and told me to fuck off. This was last August.

[Fuck. After saying I had no contextual posts above, I have just happened upon this post, which basically details what I’ve already written above. Well. I took the time to write the above, so it stays. It might save you reading the earlier rant anyway.]

Anyway, as I said, this was last August. I went to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to discuss an appeal on the decision, and they prepared a letter to the Social Security Agency (SSA) for me, which was acknowledged a few weeks later. Then…nothing.

Hoping that they’d simply forgotten that I would have to eventually go to these daft work interviews, I didn’t chase it up. Occasionally, over the last 10 months, I mused on what might have become of my case – but I didn’t want to draw attention to things by kicking up a fuss about how slow and incompetent they were, so I continued to keep quiet.

The silence was finally broken by the SSA on Tuesday, when they remarkably and quite out of the blue called my mother (my registered carer). Thankfully they didn’t want to speak to me, but to her; their enquiries related to how often I need to be supervised to make sure I eat, don’t self-harm, don’t try to throw myself off a 40-storey building etc.

My mother responded by informing the caller that such supervision was a daily requirement due to the nature of my mentalism.

“Daily!” the man apparently enthused. “That was the key word missing in her original report!”

This is complete bollocks, according to the legislation under which I was assessed and, in particular, under the section of said legislation under which I was assessed. I can’t be arsed getting into the minutiae of it, but the relevant statute is here if you’re bored so much out of your skull that you’ve never had a skull in the first place. I was only assessed under Part 5, and should also have been assessed under Part 6, where there is a lot of wank about disconnection from reality in the case of mental illnesses. I should have raked up half a billion of their stupid points on this, but daily supervision does not seem to be as key an issue as Mum’s caller had suggested.

Anyway, the bloke told her that, as she had confirmed my need for daily surveillance supervision to ensure my continued existence, that in all probability my appeal would be successful. “In fact,” he continued, “there’s a possibility she won’t even need to go to appeal, what with this new evidence.”

‘Evidence’. If my mother’s testimony is considered ‘evidence‘ by these imbeciles, why didn’t they bloody well ask for it when I first queried the damn thing nearly a year ago? Do you have to have a PhD in Fuckwit to work for these people?

So, to today. A letter arrived for me which I had initially hoped was from Mr Director-Person, who – I note with snide interest – hasn’t bothered his bony backside to respond to my latest letter. He hasn’t even acknowledged it with a two-line paragraph as he has done with previous correspondences, and neither has his Assistant Director acknowledged my application to sit on the ‘service user’ personality disorder panel thingy-ma-bobber. Twats. But, alas, that rant is for another time; the letter was from neither Mr D-P nor his AD. It was from the SSA.

And…

I HAVE WON! Yes! I AM VICTORIOUS. Hahahahahaha! Mwhahaha!

They are not sending the matter to appeal because the decision has been changed in my favour: I have now been placed in the ESA support group instead of the stupid work group. Result! (Eventually).

Financially speaking, this means only £5 more per week in my bank account (plus a good bit of backpay for the year I’ve not received it) – but it was never about the money. It’s mainly been an issue of principle – why should seriously ill people be fucked over like this simply because there’s a few scroungers in the system? – though a secondary concern has always been that I wouldn’t be able to deal with the silly work-focused interview required in the work group, never mind work itself. This belated but satisfactory result also means that I don’t have to go through the inevitable trauma of a social security appeal, which I understand can be utterly gruelling and ghastly.

Apparently, I will still have to attend a medical, which of course is rather gruelling and ghastly in itself. But Tuesday’s Bloke appeared to suggest to my mother that this would be a mere formality, being as he is satisfied that I am actually mental. I will make sure she is with me this time, though, not to mention a hefty dose of Diazepam (though maybe not? Seeming vaguely sane might not be a good thing?).

It’s timely, given that I am about to try and renew my DLA claim and given the DLA proposals of Tuesday’s budgets. I also read on Tuesday that Kate from A Tangle of Weeds had been placed in the ESA support group, and whilst I was obviously pleased that her ESA ordeal was over, with what seems to have been the result she needed, I felt a wisp of regret that I had been denied that same thing, which I clearly need too. But no longer 🙂

However

As Kate noted in the afore-referenced post, there is a downside to all this. I mean, I’m glad of the result of course – grateful, indeed – but it must mean that I am really, really, really mental. I read somewhere recently that only about 10% of claimants are put into the support group.

Sometimes I think I’m one of the most fucked-up people alive. I write very candidly here, but there are things I haven’t, and probably never will, share(d). Dark things, disturbing things – stuff that I think could shock the un-shockable. On other days, whilst fully recognising that I struggle with mental illness, I think I’m just on the right side of cope – mad, certainly, but not necessarily at the most extreme end of the wellness-illness spectrum.

The support group decision supports the former view. Said view is my more default position, indeed, but knowing that other people agree really drives the point home.

Still, I shouldn’t – and from now on won’t – grumble on this point. I can now avoid having to worry about being forced back to work before I am ready for same, and have a quiet satisfaction in knowing that my point of principle has been upheld.

That’s nice. But how are you, Pan?

Not fucking good. Not fucking good at all. For the first time since I met him in February 2009, I cancelled a session with C today. Admittedly, I’m physically unwell (my yearly bout of hateful tonsillitis would appear to have finally arrived), but I’m in the worst frame of mind I have been since January / February (when, if you recall, things were beyond rock bottom, resulting in a pathetic suicide attempt). The cancellation is a measurement of my utter despair.

The visceral compulsion to self-harm is so strong that it alone is driving me into minor dissociative episodes, though amazingly I have managed to fight the urges nevertheless. I really, genuinely don’t know how I managed to pull that off. Visions of my scalpel dangle seductively in front of my eyes. It reminds me of Macbeth’s infamous line, Is this a dagger which I see before me? (Act II, Scene I, Line XXXIII). Not that Macbeth stabbed himself with the dagger, of course – but he saw it and kind of lusted after it, just like I do. I want it so much, and I want to watch my own dark krovvy spurt gracefully out of me, taking my entire self with it.

So yeah – you might ergo assume that I am strongly suicidal as things stand, and you’d be right. Don’t want to exist, don’t want to be here…just want nothing. Sweet, beautiful, empty nothing. Permanent delicious unconsciousness.

It’s almost as if I feel some sort of spiritual enlightenment as regards fixating upon death. It’s like when you look at a stunning piece of art, architecture or scenery; the apparently perfect crafting and overpowering beauty is so profound that you find yourself moved to silent tears of awe.

I (kind of) face death and so, overcome by how exquisite it seems, awe is what I feel. I hate the word ’empowering’, but that’s what it is: knowing that none of this has to continue beyond a point of my choosing is hugely empowering. And, indeed, beautiful.

Time to deviate from such laughably ornate prose. I’m also having vicious, extreme nightmares – on the occasions on which I actually fucking sleep. I can’t bear the abject desolation of insomnia (see here), but I really don’t know if such epically troubled sleep as these nightmares produce is any better. They mainly relate to severe sexual abuse, though not at the hands of Paedo, nor anyone I know. This morning I got sectioned after a severely disturbing gang rape, wherein I’d been placed in an open coffin and forced to fellate four men, who then proceeded to pour acid over me. I was actually genuinely shocked when I awoke and found myself in my bedroom, and not in the psychiatric hospital of the dream (which was another vision of complete horror, though obviously in a different way to the rape). It was an intensely vivid, video-like little film of unconsciousness, with which I am sure Dr Freud would have had a field day.

I’m not particularly prone to nightmares in general, despite my unpleasant history. I have of course had them – haven’t we all – but they’re not normally that frequent. That I have had so many powerful ones this week indicates to me that this is part of my adjustment to my increased dose of Venlafaxine. It’s compounded, also, by an unintentional decrease in Quetiapine: I have loads of 300mg tablets from an old script, but have been unable for several days to collect one for my current dose of 400mg. My mother was meant to collect it today – but naturally forgot. Hmm. It’s my responsibility, I know, but then she did offer…

Anyway, ‘today’ is now ‘tomorrow’ and what was meant to be about 500 words is now over four times that, so I shall bid you adieu.

Happy Father's Day!

And so it came to pass that yet another Clinton Cards-induced festival of rampant commercialism took place in the Year of our Lord 2010.

What a pile of utter wank.

On the other hand, what an opportune time to note that…

Or, rather, he was a fucking wanker, as he met his (rather regrettably late) demise in September 2007.  I wish it had been years sooner.

So, V, you raping, attempted-murdering, wife-beating, daughter-hating, piece of rotting worm-food shit, I hope you’re having a really, really crap death 🙂

See you in hell, cunt!

My Family Suck

WARNING: Pointless, Childish Rant for the Pure Sake of Venting Coming Up.

If you have:

  • any sense
  • an aversion to cursing
  • a belief in blood being thicker than water
  • a hatred of gratuitous, not-really-emphatic bolding
  • or if you generally hate me for whatever reason

    then you probably shouldn’t read this.

If, however, you are my Aunt of Evil, Georgie, then you most indubitably SHOULD read this, cos I COMPLETELY despise you. OK?

    Nothing pisses me off more in the world than my family in the United States. Not because they’re in the US, obviously – I just use that as short-hand to distinguish them from the other lot of twats here. No, they piss me off just because they are complete and utter cunts from hell.

    The arseholes were not content merely to rob me of the money in my father’s will, nor has it been enough for me to tell them to piss the fuck off. Today I have discovered they’ve not only kept up a running commentary on me with my bloody mother, but they are responsible for something about which they lied to my face more than once when asked about it.

    Well, specifically my Aunt Georgie – the Aunt of Evil – is thus responsible.
    I have specifically told my mother, and I told Aunt of Evil (AoE) in the email I sent her telling her not to contact me, that they are not to discuss me nor my mental illnesses with each other at all. They’re my mental fucking illnesses. Short of circumstances under which I could be sectioned, it should be me who gets to decide those individuals that are party to the sordid details. Both of them said they would respect my wishes in this regard (though admittedly my mother tried to put up a fight first). Yet they have continued, sometimes in considerable detail.

    I know this because today I read a chain of emails between my mother and Aunt of Evil. Nosy? Clearly so (*vilifies self half-way to death*), but then my mother should not leave her fucking email client open at the fucking email in question when she knows I am going to be using her PC, should she?

    At one point, AoE blathered on about how she had been thinking of sending me a birthday “note” back in November. Her hustwand, rather sensibly and accurately, opined that doing so would “irritate” me so AoE said that (for once) she was taking his advice. Oh, and that my mother was not to tell me. (She didn’t incidentally. I wouldn’t give a fuck one way or another except that when I have asked her not to share stuff with this old bint, she has gone and done so anyway! Having said all that, I’m not angry with my mother. I wish she wouldn’t do these things – it exasperates me utterly – but she means well and doesn’t intend to cause any harm. I love her and feel sorry for her, so am not angry with her. Just cunty AoE Bitch of Satan).

    Then AoE states that she “regrets” her and her hustwand telling V, my ‘father’, to send me a birthday card when I was 21, as “it seemed to do more harm than good.” (A surprisingly accurate assessment).

    That may seem relatively benign, but long-term followers of this blog will be aware of the fact that my father was a complete cockhead who chose never to have any contact with me, preferring instead to contact the bottom of a bottle several times daily. I was mystified as to why, then – almost 20 years after I’d last seen him – the old dick would remember my birthday. I challenged AoE when she was next in Northern Ireland, and she looked into my fucking eyes and denied that she and her hustwand had anything to do with it.

    Cunts. Absolute cunts. They profess themselves to be Christians, but they are the most hypocritical, self-righteous, thieving, patronising, “we know best and you’re just the stupid bitch we know better than” group of self-obsessed fuckstains of evil bastardry upon whom my eyes have ever set (and upon whom I hope my eyes never set again, unless it’s when we’re all burning in hell).

    I had a good, very productive session with C (during which I told him!!!!! Blog on same to follow) this morning which left me in a good, if slightly self-satisfied, mood. The continued revelations about these cunts served to annoy me in the extreme and slightly spoil that, though I have mostly gotten over my frustrations by now (still wanted to rant though; they are still fuckheads). I had the most beautiful dream this morning that I was literally rearranging my aunt’s face. How prophetic it turned out to be.

    A and I were conversing about this matter a short time ago, a discussion in which I concluded that it was blithely amusing and perhaps ever so slightly strange that I hate Georgie / AoE more than Paedo (of course as you know I don’t particularly hate Paedo, but presumably I should). It does indeed seem bizarre. Here we have a woman who’s patronising, self-righteous and who encouraged the theft of my money. All bad, yes, but that’s up against sustained, long-term, systematic child sexual abuse. The latter, on paper, seems worse, yes?

    But really, nobody has ever rubbed me up the wrong way (if you’ll forgive the unintended but possible pun-esque play on words vis a vis recent mention of sexual matters) in quite the way that this woman has – and, crucially, can. I’m not sure about this, but I think I might actually hate her more than anyone else I’ve ever met.

    I want that to desist, however. I don’t hold to all the usual old bollocks that hatred is destructive and whatnot – my twisted mind tends to find it quite entertaining and amusing. It is a source of creative and wry energy for me most of the time. However, the fact that I hate her with such a profound and burning passion demonstrates the fact that, regrettably, I give a shit, if only in the most twisted and negative of ways.

    I want her to be a matter of utter indifference to me. In my view, complete and utter indifference is the biggest insult you can give another human being with whom you are personally familiar. That would be wonderful. But how is this ambitious state achieved? Gaaaaaaaaggghhhh!

    Sorry for this rant, but then it’s my blog so I suppose I am allowed to vent on it should I wish to do so.

      The Good Teacher

      Yesterday, I read a post by Borderline Boy in which he mentioned a school teacher to whom he was very close as a child. It reminded me just how influential one of my own former teachers has been on my life, and how grateful I am to that man for the kindness, interest and – dare I say it – friendship that he afforded me.

      My secondary schooling was, for the most part, bloody miserable. I was a misfit who transcended a number of different social groups, which apparently didn’t sit well with the majority of my supposedly influential peers (most notably the Rugger Buggers and the Hockey Sluts, as they were affectionately known to those of us that were the receivers of their opportunistic wraths). I had a couple of really good friendships – indeed, my two best friends from school are still my two best friends – but I was battling with a then under-diagnosed mental illness and suffering varying levels of verbal and emotional bullying, and with regret I must admit that supportive friends simply weren’t enough to ease the pain of the situation.

      Neither was one teacher, of course. But Mike, as I shall call him (later in our relationship we actually were on first name terms, so it doesn’t seem inappropriate), did give me back some faith in the school, which otherwise was either oblivious to or openly contemptuous of my difficulties.

      I first met him at the start of my third form (age 14) when I took up a new language which was his primary subject. I remember parts of the week in question very well; the first day back at school led to my first (recalled) major panic attack (still one of my worst ever). I’ll never forget the terror and utter helplessness of collapsing on the bathroom floor, gasping for breath and trying to bang the floor for attention. My mother, who had branded me as a difficult school-hating teenager, simply ignored me.

      I don’t remember how I overcame the panic attack, but I do recall later that day making my way to Mike’s room for the first time with a wariness about me that was not just predicated upon it being the first day of term – I was, at the time, scared of Mike himself. He was a formidable figure, physically speaking; extraordinarily tall, and pretty well-built. He (like most of the the rest of them to be fair) would shimmy about the corridors wearing those stupid pretentious “oh look at me and my degree” gowns that grammar school teachers seem to wear with infuriating frequency. His would fly out behind him as he took his giant strides, giving him an almost supernatural air of authority and power. He was, I thought at the time, the quintessential “don’t fuck with me” teacher.

      I was wrong. Very, very wrong indeed. The term “gentle giant” is sickeningly trite and cliched to death, but in this case it couldn’t be more true. He was just a lovely man – and unlike quite a number of his colleagues, he was incredibly passionate about his profession, and genuinely gave a damn about his pupils.

      It struck me right away, that first day in third form. I was also engaged immediately by his humour, feeling right at home with his dry and cynical but achingly quick wit. As soon as he opened his mouth to speak, a soft sort of indescribable but palpable charisma emanated from him, bouncing its way around the room and cheering up all but the most intellectually- and courtesy-challenged pupils.

      My depressions lingered, increased and crippled me during my years at school. My friends, for all their support, didn’t really ‘get’ it. I’m not saying Mike did – though I think he would have done – because I didn’t ever discuss the matter with him openly, but one thing he didn’t do that virtually all of my peers and most of the teachers did was judge me for my inability to be the best that I could have been. He didn’t judge me for missing so much school. He didn’t judge me for times during which I was evidently upset. How could he, I suppose – more often than not, he cheered me up, however temporarily.

      I went out of my way to spend more time with Mike than that which was allocated in my timetable. I’d drop into his classroom at lunchtime to talk. I’d hover around him in the bus queues. It even got to the point where I was hanging around his house (he was, not particularly intelligently, easily found in the phone book!).

      It became a complete fixation for a while; I was utterly besotted with the man. To be honest, in many ways it very accurately mirrored my current obsession with C except that, for a while at least, the attraction to Mike was a romantic one too. For the record, I now see this as some form of erotic transference. Was he a perfect example of my eternal search for a father figure (or at least rescuer) in whom I could trust completely? Almost certainly so, but there was so much more to him and to our relationship than just that.

      The ‘crush’ passed, and fortunately I managed to curb the obsession – in fact, it became a kind of running in-joke between us (he having been fully aware of how much I knew about him). There was much potential for (my) embarrassment given Mike’s knowledge of my obsession with him, but at the same time it was something of a privilege to share a secret with this man of whom I was so fond. He’d make a lot of references in class to things that seemed to others to be boring, meaningless or bizarrely enigmatic – but he’d turn round to me, raise his eyebrow a fraction and reveal a subtle but still observable hint of a smile. And I’d have to bite my lip so as not to laugh.

      Our relationship developed over the next few years. I stopped stalking him and started properly respecting him, whilst still retaining a strong (non-erotic) fondness. It became evident after a while that it was reciprocated; by the time I got to the point of taking my A Levels, I was (fairly affectionately) considered by the small sixth form class to thoroughly be the teacher’s pet. And I was. I really was.

      In some ways, despite the horrible nature of my junior and GCSE years, my A Level years were two of the best of my life. Some people had matured, some had fucked off, I was not forced to take a bunch of crap subjects that have borne me no use in my life whatsoever and, crucially, I managed to escape the clutches of one particular teacher who utterly despised me, and made it openly known. Mike, though, remained a constant.

      Sometimes our A Level class was not like a school lesson at all, and quite specifically it was often nothing to do with a foreign languagee. It was not unknown for us to play music, to drink tea and coffee and just chat, or whatever. A couple of conversations with Mike were almost always exclusive to me – discussions on politics or philosophy, for example. He and I would sit there and talk about these things, whilst the others would babble between themselves. Indeed, by the time I reached upper sixth, there were only three in the class and given as the other two were were both Rugger Buggers and regular skivers, quite often the class consisted solely of Mike and me. We’d have these most fabulous of intellectual conversations, ranging from discourse on the EU to debating the finer points of modern existentialism. It was wonderful, and incredibly stimulating.

      It’s not that we never did any work – of course we did. What I found to be the case, though, was that because of Mike’s easy-going charm and genuinely held interest in me as an individual, I was much more willing to work hard at his subject than any other. I was a lazy, ambivalent student all the way through school and university, believing (usually correctly) that my intellect was enough to see me through. But Mike’s enthusiasm was infectious, his pupil-centred approach inspiring. So I worked my figurative balls off for him.

      In some ways, that hard work paid off. For as long as I shall live, I shall never forget the day of my lower sixth speaking exam, which Mike conducted (and which was recorded for verification by the exam board). It sounds ridiculous to say that the day of a major examination – particularly an oral one, which was always the worst part of studying languages for me – was one of the best days of a person’s life, but in this case it actually, genuinely was. My memory of the actual exam is relatively skewed. I was coked up on fear and its resulting adrenaline, and although I had expected my nervous energy to dissipate instantly upon conclusion of the test, it didn’t. He had, you see, a penchant for teasing his students by prolonging the dramatic tension in such circumstances, and this was no exception. He enigmatically asked me to wait outside whilst he showed the next pupil in, thus causing me to live on my nerves a little more.

      It seemed like forever. Realistically, it was probably no more than five minutes – if even that – but it might as well have been half way to eternity for me at the time. Eventually, he joined me in the corridor.

      “Look, Mike, will you please just tell me how crap that was?” I begged him.

      He looked around as if he were some sort of spy vetting the area for bugging equipment or shady characters. Eventually he turned to me.

      “Are you easily embarrased?” he asked.

      I laughed in his face (rather nervously, mind you). “I used to stalk you at your home address,” I told him. “Do you seriously think I’m easily embarrassed?!”

      “Good,” he said. “Pandora, you have restored my faith in humanity.”

      “Huh? What do you mean?” I enquired, genuinely mystified, but almost before I could finish, and to my utter amazement (and probably in direct contravention of every rule in the stupid school’s book for that matter), he put his big arms around me and hugged me tightly.

      “You were fucking brilliant,” he whispered.

      I was stunned by his behaviour and his words, so much so that it took me a few seconds to reciprocate the hug – but reciprocate I eventually did.

      In the moments that followed, I accused Mike of trying to fob me off and making my “fucking brilliance” up to make me feel better, but he was insistent that my performance had been well beyond exemplary. He said if I even did half as well in the other exams as I had just done in the oral, that I’d be flying. He said a lot of things, all of which were positive.

      I felt as if I was on drugs. Is that what full blown bipolar mania feels like? It is probably the most elated I can ever remember being. I couldn’t help myself. I remember running around in this thrill of excitement telling everyone how fabulous Mike thought I had been. Most were delighted for me, though when I told my best friend D (with whom I then had a strange relationship, as he was going through an evangelical phase) he said (of Mike’s words to me), “was he being sarcastic?” Fortunately I can now view this response with amusement.

      I could go on about that day and the hangover from it for hours; it seemed to have been perfect, and I find myself smiling at the memories. But that’s enough of that particular self-absorption.

      The long and the short of the oral exam saga was that, despite it being marked at 95%, it didn’t end up making my results strikingly brilliant (I got a ‘C’ in my AS Level). All seven of us that were in the lower sixth class completely flunked the aural test, and to that end only three of us kept the subject on into upper sixth. Even though I’m sure Mike was disappointed, this exemplified one of the things I so loved about him: he never judged us for what was in effect a failure. In particular I was especially reprieved, because he knew that I had put such significant effort in and had tried to make a success of myself in his subject.

      Upper sixth was a nice year; (as stated) the class was so tiny that it was common to get one-on-one contact with the teachers (incidentally, Mike taught the vocabulary and literature elements for 11 hours per week, whilst his colleague Mrs M taught us grammar for an hour and forty minutes, and I often had alone time with her too). Aside from Mike I became quite attached to the native-speaker language assistant that we had for an additional forty minutes a week – his name was Freddy, and we shared many laughs (mostly in English, it has to be said!). I remember crying after my last session with him and making a tit out of myself in assembly, which immediately followed it.

      Saying goodbye to Mike after my last exam was even worse, of course. I’d known Freddy for a year; I’d known Mike for five. I took the exam paper up to him that day and we went through it together, mutually concluding that it (the writing element) could have been a lot worse. We swapped mobile numbers. We talked and philosophised. We predicted the results of the other two in the class (I know that’s bad, but it turned out that we were right!). The final bell went. We walked down to the bus queue together and chatted some more whilst I waited for my bus home. It arrived. I held off getting on it for as long as possible.

      But eventually the time came when I had to leave – both this gentleman, and this school which, despite how much I’d hated it, was at least a constant familiarity. Mike didn’t give a fuck what anyone else thought, which was wonderful; in front of all the children and teenagers standing about, and in front of a bunch of other teachers, he openly instigated a mutual ‘goodbye’ embrace, as I bit my lip to try and hold on to my dignity.

      We said our goodbyes, vowed to keep in touch, and I got onto the bus. As it pulled away, I looked for him out the window. He waved first. I reciprocated, with a regretful, bittersweet smile. And then he was gone.

      I next saw him the day I went to collect my A Level results. The vow to keep in touch had held true; we’d exchanged quite a few text messages over that summer, and I therefore knew he’d be there on results day. I had topped the class in Mike’s subject, though admittedly a big fat ‘A’ still eluded me. He didn’t care. He was just glad that I had tried my best, had easily got into my choice of university and, quite cheekily, that I’d beaten the other two 😉

      I’d taken him this card and a keyring I’d bought him on holiday, telling him that he was the world’s greatest teacher. He didn’t embarrass me by opening it in front of me, for which I am grateful, but I am also glad that I did actually bother to engage in this uncharacteristic sentimentality. Good teachers so often seem to go unrecognised in these strange times, and one that had so posiitively enriched my life deserved to be aware of how much he meant to me.

      We saw each other twice more – at the stupid prize night, and when I went into school just to say hello one day. Both of those occasions were in the few months after my A Level results, and are therefore over seven years ago. We did keep that promise of retaining contact for quite a while – up until I took my Masters course, in fact – but contact became more gradual and eventually tapered off altogether. Both of us are to blame.

      It is sad. We should both have made more effort, but life seems to get in the way no matter how genuine the original intent or how strong the underlying, historical bond.

      It is sad, but it was still such an incredibly worthwhile relationship. I have never encountered anyone else like Mike throughout my education career. The other A Level teachers – Colin, Mrs M and Mrs T – were all pretty good and very encouraging. The Vice Principal that everyone, except apparently me, hated, was one of the few that provided genuine support throughout my mental illnesses. My dissertation supervisor when I did my BSc was supportive and easy-going. I had two inspirational-in-their-oratory lecturers in my post-graduate course.

      But I’ve never developed a bond and a friendship with any one of them like I did with Mike. None of them cared quite as much as Mike did. None of them saw their pupils quite as much as real people as Mike did.

      So, our relationship might have fizzled out over time, but I will never forget the time he devoted to me nor the interest he took in me. I will never forget his dedication, his intellect, his humour and how much he actually cared. He knew something was wrong in my life, but he also knew that underneath it, there was potential and something to be liked, something that he could nurture and help develop.

      He has succeeded. I may have wasted my life and achieved little of real substance – but I am nonetheless a better person for having known him. I think of him often and sometimes still miss him a lot, but bittersweet as the memories can be, I am able to smile sincerely about the time together that Mike and I shared.

      Hilariously and Predictably Shite Response Letter from the Trust

      In response to this.  See also this update.  I have corrected a few minors errors in the author’s writing and have, as you will see, provided (italicised) annotated notes of the most rational and considered variety.  *cough*

      Dear Pandora

      Advocacy in Accessing Mental Health Services

      Thank you for your letter dated 17 December 2009 about accessing our mental health services.  I am glad to note that you have developed a good therapeutic relationship with the clinical psychologist involved in your treatment[,] but am sorry that our services have not met your expectations.  [My “expectations”?  My “expec-fucking-tations”?  No, you miserable old bellend, they are not my “expectations”.  They are my fucking needs and requirements!]

      I have received feedback from Dr C J confirming that he saw you for the first [time] on the 19 February 2009 and [that] after three assessment interviews an agreed treatment plan was drawn up that offered weekly treatment appointments and also an assurance that an end to therapy would be identified well in advance of a contracted completion.  Dr J [he is not Dr fucking J!  He is C!  I don’t care if this is an official fucking letter.  He is fucking C!] agreed with your view that some modest gains had been made during your contact with psychological services [aren’t I the fucking lucky one].  He also recognised the complexity of your difficulties and so sought additional input in the form of a referral in May 2009 to [Old]VCB, Consultant Psychiatrist [that should have gone through months beforehand, after a referral from my fucking GP.  Useless twats].  I understand that you continue to be seen by the psychiatric team [yes, after more upheaval, and when they can be bothered, which is really rather infrequently].

      At the time of your letter Dr J [FUCK] had made the offer of 24 additional appointments, which would bring your contact with him to an end at about the first week in June 2010, a treatment duration of about 16 months [actually, that is incorrect.  There will be 59 sessions, three of which were assessments, and four of which will be to end the process.  This gives an exact total of 52 therapy-specific sessions, which surely even in your clearly deficient brain equals a total of 12 months.  Fuck you.]. Dr J [fuck fuck fuck] expressed the hope that within these sessions, which would span approximately six months [my God, I would never have realised], [that] further work could be done that would help towards resolving, dealing with or managing your ongoing mental health difficulties.

      It is clear that you have a good knowledge of the NICE guideline[s] on the treatment and management of borderline personality disorder [Hmm.  You are telling me that I know something that I know.  That was a productive use of your secretary’s typing time].  Overall as the guidance states, the evidence base for individual psychological therapies in the treatment of borderline personality disorder is “relatively poor”.  Specifically, however[,] it recommends that brief therapies (under three months) should not be used.  Much of the guidance relates to provision within a specialist Personality Disorder Service.  The availability of twice weekly sessions, group psychotherapies and integrated team treatments [what the fuck?] are [sic] largely to be found within those highly specialist services [oh really, I had no idea Mr Director Important Person, thanks for clarifying].

      The <Trust in question> does not have such a service [aha, and that’s clearly the fault of the patient.  Nevermind the NICE guidelines saying in the absence of such a “service” that adequate generic therapy should be used.  Fuck you again], although we, along with all other local Trusts, are involved in the development of a regional approach to Personality Disorder services across Northern Ireland [wowee, I’m so profoundly impressed] and have recently interviewed for two specialist workers [two?  A whole TWO?  That’s extraordinary!  Congratulations sir!].  Therefore we are planning to develop our services to people with personality disorders [I therefore assume that I can take this letter as confirmation that these “services” will be fully accessible by me…?].

      As you state it is important that clients have access to a full range of mental health services appropriate to their needs.  We try [and fail] to ensure that needs are assessed in a collaborative way [hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!] that involves both clients and mental health professionals [well, then.  That has been an epic fail!].  I would encourage you [who the fuck do you think you are, my father?  Fuck you in triplicate] to discuss these matters with the two professionals that you currently attend [yeah, because I haven’t done that already.  Fuck you x4].  The Crisis Team provides mental health assessment and support outside 9am to 5pm hours in the working week, and can be accessed if appropriate through the out of hours primary care service [well, fuck me sideways with a broomstick.  I had no idea what the Crisis Team did, thanks for providing me with a lit pathway to therapeutic enlightenment.  Fuck you mark five].

      Dr J [FUUUUUCK!!!] has confirmed that you have continued to attend his sessions following the writing of your letter [what was I meant to do?  Fuck a goat?  Oh wait, that’s exactly what I was meant to do, right?  “The bitch is borderline, so she must be non-compliant with treatment and will instead go out and fuck anything to temporarily fulfill her emotional voids”]. I would hope [oh would you really?] that despite their finite nature you could still use the upcoming sessions to make progress.

      Yours sincerely

      Abject Twatfeatured Spetum-Faced Tosspot
      Director of Mental Health and Disability Services

      So.  He has succeeded in providing me with:

      1. A chronology of events.  Woohoo.  Obviously the stupid mental couldn’t possibly know that she saw these individuals, nevermind know in which order she saw them, even less what they said!  Particularly when she’s an immature, manipulative borderline freak. So thank you, Mr Important Director Person, you have made my life and mental health treatment complete!
      2. A commentary on the fact that I know what I know.  A tremendously useful and productive use of his time and mine; after all, I couldn’t know what I already know unless he told me, could I?
      3. Um…that’s about it.

      Altogether an epic success, I’m sure you’ll agree.

      The letter is dated 17 February (how it took him two months to compose the above I’ll never know) and it actually arrived at Mum’s house a good while ago.  I made her read it down the phone to me, so I was aware of its content, but I only collected it the other day, and had (until now) refused to look at it.  I thought that due to its high degree of pointlessness and its utter failure to assuage my concerns, that it would upset me considerably.  After all, this is about the cessation of my relationship with C, which is an incredibly traumatic thing to contemplate.

      However, when C asked about it this morning (blog to follow – big update on the beard!), I somewhat surprisingly found myself wryly amused as I reported a redacted version of its contents to him.  Therefore I’ve come home and written it up and am pleased to say that I still find it amusing rather than upsetting, probably because it doesn’t actually say anything.  OK, there’s maybe six or seven hundred words there, but it doesn’t actually – at any juncture – make any salient points at all.  It is a vacuum of a letter.  It is a nothing.  Empty space seems full relative to this page of black and white nonsense.  I’m glad it was printed on both sides of the sheet as I would have hated to see any more wood senselessly wasted on something so fruitless and silly.

      Given the amount of money this moron is paid, I should really be rather angry, as well as disappointed and lost as to what to do next.  Instead, fair play to him, as he’s given me a laugh…and, in fact, some hope.  If someone with such poor (written) oratorical skills and an intellect clearly directly comparable to that of an earthworm can rise to such a lofty position within a large organisation, then my dream job is surely still within my reach.

      In conclusion…FUCK YOU ONCE MORE, Mr Director Wankface Important Daft Person!