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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

Perspectives from the Mentalist's Best Friend

Good afternoon, loveliest readers. Following the success of A’s series of guest posts for Confessions on daily life with a mental, my best friend Daniel asked if he could add some thoughts of his own. Clearly I jumped at the chance to have these insights, so I fired him off a couple of questions, which, along with his answers, now follow. Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ Pan

What was it like growing up with a mental friend? Did you know how mental she was? Did you ‘get’ some of her weird behaviour? What, if anything, did you feel you could do about it?

An interesting question, because as a teenager, rather than consider my friend to be mental, I considered her to be interesting; as such, I chose to emulate her behaviour.

I remember running up and down streets carrying a curtain pole. I recall parading around people’s living rooms with a cushion on my head, making stupid noises. I was there when we walked home, unable to afford our bus fares [Pan – having spent our money on alcopops, if I recall], from the near-ish-but-far-to-walk-from large town (approximately eight miles, if my memory serves me correctly) – all the while pretending to be German, talking to every person we met in broken English. They were helpful in offering us directions and admitted that they had forgiven us for “the war” when we insisted on apologising for it (and yes, I’m still laughing about it now, perhaps 15 years later). [Almost literally pissing myself at that one. Ah, memories…].

Oh, almost forgot: we phoned teachers in the middle of the night pretending to aroused horses, cats and vampire bats. Good times.

This seemed to me to be completely normal, acceptable behaviour – and if I am brutally honest, it still does [agreed]. This is how we chose to spend our time and was what made us laugh as children. Of course, society may judge young people behaving like this as being weird, unbalanced and perhaps even dangerous – but this is certainly not how it seemed to be at the time.

But, in saying all that…I was also there the night Pan took her first overdose (I think we were 16). I recall watching her take the pills and I helped her mum force her to spit them out. I was still there that night in the hospital, when Pan informed the staff that if she were allowed to go home, she would kill herself. A sanctimonious A&E doctor curtly replied, “no, you won’t. Manics don’t want to kill themselves”, to which Pan calmly (bearing in mind she’d been hysterical only moments before) explained, “oh that’s interesting, because I do”. [I don’t remember this bit; I hadn’t realised I’d talked back to the supercilious bitch. Good.]

And in a moment of what should have been horror for any young person, that wry smile – infectious when around Pan – spread across my lips; here we had this suicidal teenager who, despite her suffering, still had the audacity and quick-thinking to look a doctor in the eye and calmly tell her that she didn’t understand a word of what she was talking about (though Pan’s mum was naturally mortified).

Who doesn’t love a bit of black humour?

But in all seriousness. I just went with it. When Pan got out of the hospital, we did talk through the issue that had upset her. But we never psychoanalysed her decision to overdose (on ibuprofen? [yes. That makes me cringe now.]). It wasn’t the sort of friendship we had then – again, because it was just normal for me.

If you knew me, you’d know I judge everybody. I can’t help it. It’s a cold part of an unashamedly bitchy streak of mine. I judge people on their clothes, their hair, their reading habits, what music they like, their accents, and the things they say.

With that in mind, the following may be surprising. I think Pandora’s the only person in the world other than my partner that I love unconditionally. As such, she’s one of the few who’s been immune to this cult of judgement – back in school, throughout university, and still today. For her part, she has never formed an judgemental opinion of me, despite supporting/counselling my countless foolish decisions. Perhaps these acts have been made because of some undiagnosed mentally interesting characteristic in my head, I don’t know; as such, either way, I have never formed any judgement on the way she thinks and what she does. Ever. And I never will. I can’t understand the exact thoughts in her head – and again, I probably never will – but I ‘get’ why she has them.

So – growing up with a mental friend? Every day was an adventure. Most days were fabulous. On a daily basis, Pandora painted my dull life with beautiful colours. No one has ever made me laugh as much as her. She knows me inside out – in ways that, almost terrifyingly, I do not know her [you do, my dear. Believe me, you do].

Did I know how mental she was? Yes. Definitely yes.

What could I do about it? Not a lot. But I hope I was one of the things in her life that at least didn’t exacerbate the problem. Although thinking about it…curtain pole/teacher stalking/rollerblading late at night/”Shinobi”-wise – I totally did, didn’t I? [Indubitably. But in the most hilarious and uplifting way possible ๐Ÿ™‚]

To what extent has a physical separation impacted upon your friendship with the mental, if at all?

I don’t like it very much. But I know “the mental”, as she so eloquently puts it, very well in different ways. Her blog outlines in detail what she is up to, so on a very cosmetic level I know how she’s getting on [or did, until I took an unannounced hiatus. Explanations and more for that next week]. And I understand a lot better now what she’s thinking. So that’s nice.

Fundamentally Pandora has always behaved exactly the same with me, so when I see her, we click back in. Since I have been away she has developed her relationship with A, who is now also a good friend, so it’s been great to get to know them as a couple and have – to an extent – a more traditionally ‘civilised’ friendship.

Mental wise? Her condition certainly seems to be to be more complicated now – but then, I read about it on a screen. If she were to talk to me about it face to face – and we have done so, on some issues – it is/would be no different to how she communicated things to me when we were children/teenagers. Still, this blog certainly allows us to have a ‘conversation’ (about mental health) that is often made more difficult in person. But I imagine that’s because of the context, therapy, drugs, triggers etc etc – inevitably, analysis of such difficult issues is more easily tackled in the written word, no matter how close the relationship.

How do you reconcile the teenager you knew with the depths of the person you now do?

Right – I have touched on this a little bit. But she’s very, very similar. Pan has always been deep, though perhaps she is much more considered now in how she speaks. I don’t witness her highs or lows, since I see her maybe only three times a year, usually in a public setting – so she comes across to me as the same girl. And often we will reminisce, so we talk a lot about us as children.

But now, what’s interesting to me is how rather than reacting angrily to her mental health difficulties in the way she might have perhaps done as a teenager – she actually uses them for something constructive. It’s quite inspiring actually.

Perhaps some of the people who read this blog have a certain schadenfreude about the terrifying thoughts that go through Pan’s head and how she reacts to them…But she’s really not a dramatic person. She’s calm, caring, thoughtful, considerate and although she does like the occasional bit of recognition for a job well done, this blog doesn’t exist to win awards or amass some sort of international recognition, or whatever. Rather, it’s to help three groups of people.

  1. Pan – to keep a diary of her progression and an archive of how she is feeling after certain therapy session and/or drug cocktails
  2. To help people like me who are ignorant about mental ill health understand that sufferers are ordinary people leading extraordinary lives
  3. To provide information and a forum for people who are suffering – so they know they are not alone.

She wouldn’t have had the balls to do this as a teenager – no one I knew would have, and most wouldn’t now. To take something like mental illness – something that can be so powerful and destructive – and harness it into something that has been described by influential types in the mental health sector as “beautiful” is, in my mind, the mark of an exceptionally gifted woman.

This side to her, although I knew it was there in ways…well. I don’t think I could have ever imagined from knowing her as a teenager that she had all the facets and experiences that led to the persona we all now know as Pan…Does that make sense? [very much so. I didn’t know this…entity, I suppose, of Pandora existed until relatively recently either]. The Ang Sang Su Chi/Eva Peron/Catherine the Great of the Madosphere? We’ll see [don’t be so melodramatic!!!].

The mental is, of course, mental. As a writing professional yourself – knowing that the mental narcissictally proclaims herself a writer – do you that think she has any realistic occupational prospects in this arena (be honest)?

Ok – she has won more awards than most well-known or full-time writers, and turns in copy that is tidier and requring less editing that the majority of journalists I work with.

But writing is a big job description.

The issue here is in confidence. I can only speak for myself in my own job. I have to attend networking events in rooms with dozens of suits I don’t know, attend dinners and sit at tables with people I’ve never met – and talk to them. I have to interview executives in their offices, over the phone, speak to PRs and have hideous corporate lunches – daily.

Pan would hate all of this shit. [I would…most assuredly, I would].

I had to write a 3,000 word feature once on bio-degradable microwavable packing (I can send you it to read if you want [I cracked up at this. Please send it. It sounds incredible!]) as a freelance piece when I was looking for a job – and I can’t imagine her ever doing this.

But, and I really don’t want to sound patronising here, she has a hell of a lot of raw talent and will dedicate herself to something – but only if she’s passionate about it.

I would LOVE to see her have a regular column in a paper or magazine, edit a serious mental health journal, or – dare I say it – write a book.

This is probably where the future lies – but I know she’s already talking to editors, making strides and breaking into the wider arena. I think there is a lot to be hopeful about. It’s just about planning a strategy and working to it, and I’m learning that Pan doesn’t necessarily tend to let things she’s terrified of stop her from doing what she wants, if she really wants something (although she doubted herself…MIND awards anyone? She was petrified of attending the ceremony, yet she threw caution to the wind and just went). [Very true – I was genuinely terrified of attending the event (fucking anxiety), but knew it would be a travesty, both personally and professionally, not to. I’m so glad now that i forced myself to go, of course – but I managed to get through my agitation and enjoy the night, in part, with Daniel’s help ๐Ÿ™‚].

And that, boys and girls, is a rap.

Can I just add here that I am touched and flattered and have a warm fuzzy feeling inside after reading all that Dan has written here. I know he loves me, but it’s always nice to be reminded of it. I love him too ๐Ÿ™‚ With a friend like Dan, and a partner like A (whom, obviously, I also love very much), I really have much to be thankful for. You two rock. ~ Pan

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 ๐Ÿ™‚
  • 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 โ‚ฌ50, plus coins,” I told him. “There was a โ‚ฌ50 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 โ‚ฌ50s 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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 faรงade, 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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

Cancer, Crohn's and Crappy Days

Someone please write Saturday’s TWIM for me (thanks to the lovely sanabituranima for writing this week’s TNIM at short notice). My head is too mushed to even think about This Week in Mentalists at the minute – it’s not just that I can’t face writing it myself; even approaching potential authors is a task pathetically beyond me right now. So please volunteer. Ta.

Firstly, may I refer you to the rant at the start of this post. I had written up a shitload of this entry, then went to look for some links to add into it, only to return to find that the WordPress iPad application had crashed in the interim. Granted, I should have learnt my fucking lesson the last time this happened and saved the thing frequently – but really. What is it with the device that hates my blogging self so? FUCK YOU, STUPID APPS.

With that out of the way…OK. Now. Me. Not dead. Well, not dead in the biological sense, but certainly without any form of the life-emitting spirit that I believe less cunty individuals refer to as the ‘soul’ (an amorphous concept to my mind, but then nothing much makes sense to me). Writing is not something to come easily to me right now, so Maisie’s funeral saga will have to continue to wait. Thank fuck I have no professional deadlines at the minute. So, in brief…

Monday

My mother had an appointment at the cuntspital where Maisie drew her last breaths. She had been recalled, rather urgently I’d add, to the dump after a recent mammogram, the implicit suggestion being that something untoward had been found.

Naturally, as if I have not been mental enough over the last week or two, this sent me completely round the bend with worry. I lay awake all night on Sunday night/Monday morning dilemminating about it, wondering what I could possibly do to maintain even the vaguest semblance of sanity – possibly of life – if Mum had cancer and died.

This panicked frenzy of morbid thoughts was not aided by something that I heard about over the weekend. About 10 days ago (from today) one of Mum’s closest friends, Lucy, had been taken into (the same) hospital after being unable to breathe. Her breathlessness was caused by a large lump in her throat, which her genius GP – on several occasions – had perceived to be an “infection”, for which he kept throwing her anti-biotic scripts.

Upon her hospital admission, predictably enough, the lump was found to be cancerous.

Despite the GP’s incompetence, though, the medical staff thought that they’d probably got it in time. They stabilised her breathing through her neck, and undertook further biopsies on the lump to see whether they would favour chemo- or radiotherapy as treatment. There was no, “we’re sorry, but you only have x weeks/months”. Despite being unable to speak, Lucy was apparently in cheerful spirits, passing convivial notes of communication to her husband Andy and other assorted family members. This was on Wednesday or Thursday of last week.

My mother contacted me on Saturday to advise that Lucy had died in the early hours of Friday morning.

Another death. Thanks, 2012, you’re really loving everyone in the Pandorian plane, aren’t you? Now, in all honesty, I was never close to Lucy, and my mother and her had, in recent years, not been the good mates they once were – but overall, for quite a while, she’d probably have been Mum’s second best friend. So whilst I wasn’t upset for my own reasons, I was for those of my mother. First her sister, now her friend. Who fucking next?

And of course, Lucy’s passing only served to reinforce my concerns about my mother’s breast screening. I tried to rationalise it. I tried to weigh up statistics and likelihoods of x and y in my mind. I tried “positive thinking”. Unsurprisingly, none of this did anything whatsoever to assuage my concerns – if anything, it only worsened them.

After the appointment time had long elapsed, I voluntarily rang my mother. Yes. I chose to use the phone; that was my level of concern. To my abject horror, she didn’t answer either her mobile nor her landline. I started catastrophising that she’d been admitted right away, due to the severity of whatever had been found.

As time passed with further no-replies, my apprehension turned into a full-blown mentalist panic. Should I ring the cuntspital? Should I go to it? Should I just kill myself now – why wait to hear that the fuckers accidentally killed her whilst she was in a scan or something?

Ridiculous, but real. When I finally saw her name jump up on my mobile, I was stunned and relieved (though still paranoid – “it’s one of the nurses or doctors using her phone to tell me that she’s dead”). As I answered it, however, I feigned nonchalance. My mother worries about me being worried.

This is what happened, as I reported on Twitter:

Mum has a mass in her left breast, spotted from a comparison of her recent mammogram and the one prior to it. They performed three more mammograms and an ultrasound. Apparently the mass spread out under pressure – which they claim it probably would not have done were it malignant – and the ultrasound was clear. So they are “happy enough”. It’s a relief…”

Yay! Great news! Surely that was the end to my panicked worry?

Not quite:

It’s a relief, but the tests were at the shithole hospital where Maisie and half the rest of the country die(d), so I can’t settle despite them giving what Mum described as “the all clear”. Paranoia, I know. Should just be grateful and relieved. I am, obviously, but catastrophising was/is always my default setting. Just hope that she really is OK.

I mean, there was a mass. Is an ultrasound and a mammogram sufficient to tell what that mass’s true nature is? I’m no oncologist – maybe it is. But the fact that they didn’t give her a biopsy or any such tests keeps my nervousness from abating entirely.

When I logged off from Twitter, I was suddenly overcome with a great sadness, as well as the severe depression and anxiety I’d already been experiencing. And I started to fucking cry again, sitting alone on my sofa. Pathetic. But then I remembered that the cameras were there and I dried the fuck out of my eyes and sat there pretending to be normal. Which was a fail, it seems, because A was struck by how palpably black the house felt when he got home from work that evening.

Tuesday

Up early to get Srto Gato to the vets for his neutering operation. Went back to bed upon return to the house and spent most of the day there. Dozed in a haze of non-sleep drowsiness for a bit, spent most of the time staring at the wall as the seconds languorously ticked by. Vets sent a message about 2pm to tell me to collect the cat about 5pm. Blocked number then called, but naturally enough I ignored it. For once, though, the caller left a voice message.

Turned out that, in the wake of our re-assessment sessions, it was Paul offering me “ongoing counselling” from Tuesday 28th February. He asked me to call the office to confirm whether or not this was suitable. I duly contacted Nice Lady That Works for Nexus and advised that this was fine.

But it’s not fine. I mean, I am glad to be going back – ultimately, psychotherapy with Paul was an enriching and helpful experience – but I’m dreading it too. Through no fault of his, working with him fucked me up on several occasions in the past. It’s the inevitable, gruesome nature of trauma therapy. And whilst it is, in the long-term, important that all the trauma and related issues are thrashed out, in the short-term it makes for a very difficult mindset. So. I don’t mind admitting it for once. I’m scared.

Went to get the cat, and forced myself to stop at the shop. Bought pancake ingredients and made A and myself two batches that evening. I’ve no idea how I managed to fight teh m3nt@Lz for long enough to be able to have done this, but whatever the case, I’m glad of it, and count my pancake-making as a win.

Wednesday

Mother phones. “Rhona McFaul is in hospital,” she tells me. “They’re doing her operation tomorrow.”

I mentioned briefly towards the end of this post that Rhona was being admitted, and that her husband was worried that said admission would be to the cuntspital where Maisie died. Unfortunately, that is exactly where she ended up.

Worry about Rhona. She is one of the McFauls that I like. The operation – to help relieve her very severe form of Crohn’s disease – is major. They were cutting out her entire large bowel, sewing up her rectum and attaching a colostomy bag to her stomach. Poor cow.

Go to mother’s house, as per weekly convention. Manage to maintain an utterly deceitful faรงade of pseudo-sanity to stop mother worrying about me. Mother asks if I will go with her to cuntspital to see Rhona before she is taken away to the gas chambers goes through the operation on Thursday morning. Agree.

Go to cuntspital. Wave after depressing wave of oppression and misery emanates from every atom of its building. Force self to carry on to Rhona’s ward. Ward is even worse.

Rhona and family – just her, her husband and their two children – are in surprisingly cheerful form. Rhona is having a blood transfusion and being forced to take ridiculously strong and foul tasting laxatives. Do not envy her one bit.

Why am I writing this in the present tense? This happened on Wednesday. This is Friday.

So, I didn’t envy Rhona at all, but was encouraged by the positivity she seemed to be demonstrating. We didn’t stay with them that long – it was only right to let her have her last time before the thing with her immediate family – but wished her well and told her daughter, Student, to keep in touch the next day to advise on how the operation had gone.

We returned to my mother’s, and I continued to exhaust myself with the maintenance of my “sane” faรงade until bedtime.

Thursday

At 3.30am I decided that I was evil and should ergo ingest about 60 Zopiclone. This was a moment of sheer idiocy, as I know full well that that sort of Zopiclone OD is unlikely to be fatal (to me, that is. I am not for one second suggesting that it is in any way not dangerous for others). Got up to get Zopiclone, to find that I only had three of the fucking little shits. It didn’t seem worth it, so I took one for sleeping purposes and abandoned my plans.

The rest of the day was uneventful, except for my mother’s worry at several points about not having heard from Student. When we eventually did learn how things had gone – quite late in the day, perhaps about 4pm – it turned out that the delay had been caused by Rhona being in severe pain straight after the procedure, meaning that she had to have an epidural and stay in the recovery ward for much longer than expected. Other than that, though, the operation apparently went well and there were no complications.

That didn’t stop my mother’s neuroticism, however – yes, I know, I know, I’m one to talk – instead, her need to worry fixated upon me instead.

“You know, Rhona might not have had to have such a huge operation if something had been done about her Crohn’s a lot earlier,” she said, reasonably enough.

“I know,” I replied, “it’s a fucking disgrace.”

“Yes,” Mum said, in that expectant tone she uses when there’s something more she wants to say, but she’s unsure as to whether or not she should actually say it.

I waited.

“You should really go back to Lovely GP,” she complained eventually. I asked why.

“Your IBS has gotten ridiculous. You can barely keep anything even down, and when you do, off you have to go, straight to the toilet.” This is true. So much so that I’m genuinely mystified as to why the fuck I’m still so fat.

“But Lovely GP and his colleagues have already told me that there’s nothing they can do about it,” I reminded my mother.

“Fuck that,” she said defiantly. “What if you have what Rhona has? They originally told her that she had IBS. It was only when she insisted that they examine her more closely that they found out she had Crohn’s – and now they’ve removed her bowel, and she’ll have to use that horrible bag thing for the rest of her life. Just in case, go and see him and ask for a referral. Please. Hopefully it’s not Crohn’s, but if it is, then the sooner they find that out the better.”

I think I’m as likely to have Crohn’s disease as I am to be sanctified by Benedict XVI, but I made the appointment, if only to put her mind at rest. Things are really bad IBS-wise, but nothing has helped – medication, removal of x and y and sodding z from my diet, eating the fuck out of fibre-rich products. Nothing changes it. There is nothing Lovely GP can do, save for referring me to a specialist. And then I’ll go through the trauma of having a fucking camera shoved up my arse to find that – surprise surprise – there’s nothing they can do, but have I tried a nice bath before bed?

Still. If it calms my mother, then good.

Friday

Sitting in bed typing this. Consider the following as a scale of depression: zero is when you are awake but so full of blackness that you can’t move and might as well be comatose. Five is hide under the duvets. 10 is being able to comb your hair or something. That means that something like 100 is feeling OK. I think right now I’m at about six. This is actually good, because the rest of the week was generally hovering at zero/one, with occasional threes or fours.

I don’t entertain the notion that I’m coming out of the depression, mind you (though obviously I’d welcome it greatly if I were). I still feel fucking awful, and although I’m not going to off myself (despite the Zopiclone wobble), I keep seeing helium, bodies flying off buildings, the usual cal, floating nefariously in front of my eyes like Macbeth’s dagger. But I’ve survived this long, so don’t worry.

(Can’t be arsed to proof-read this, sorry).

The Funeral: Part One

It was a day like no other.

Given her long-term health problems, I had often wondered what Aunt Maisie’s funeral would look like. For such an obstinate woman, she was remarkably popular – as, for reasons I don’t fully comprehend, the entire McFaul clan seem to similarly regarded. Perhaps it’s a rural thing; they seem to know everyone within at least a 10 mile radius, and know them well at that. Me, I’ve never even spoken to my next door neighbours.

Maisie’s funeral service was conducted at her home. Hotel California is situated along a dark and relatively quiet stretch of road a few miles outside a small town. As you approach, you crest a hill, which is about 1,000 feet from the house. As A and I rolled up said mount, with the unfamiliar-to-the-place Eimear following us, we were dumbstruck by the sight that greeted us.

Nearly an hour before the start of the service, a line of cars was parked from the entrance to the house right back to us. There were police cones on the other side of the road, in place to prevent mourners from parking there as well. I was stunned when I realised there was even a cop car, ensconced in which were two officers, waiting in preparation for the events about to transpire.

As I got out of my car, I shook my head in disbelief. Not that I care that much, since by that juncture I’ll be dead, but I wondered briefly if I could hope to have even a quarter of this turnout at my funeral. I concluded that this was, in technical terms, Not Bloody Likely.

We waited for Eimear, and as a trio duly proceeded towards the house. Strangely, the vast yard that surrounds it was mostly devoid of cars (save for those of the immediate family) – it turned out, of course, that this was to accommodate the hearse, and the mourners’ cars which would be arriving to cart Paedo, my mother and aunts, and Maisie’s vast entourage of descendants to the cemetery, its gaping six-foot hole for Maisie waiting patiently to be filled.

I made the initial mistake of trying to get in through the front door. There wasn’t even standing room in either of the two rooms onto which the small hall leads. Some random old git offered to try to shift people around in a bid to accommodate us, but I thanked him and demurred, deciding to go around the back. People were randomly standing about in the yard, most of whom could have been Lord fucking Lucan for all I knew them (or perhaps not, since Lord Lucan’s smug face is not exactly an image unfamiliar to the world). I ignored them, and shoved the back door open.

Fortunately for me, my mother was standing in the back hall. I was perturbed to observe Georgie, Aunt of Evil, standing in close proximity, but I ignored her and reached to embrace my mother. Praise merciful God/Allah/Dawkins/Flying Spaghetti Monster: my mother decided to come outside, and free me from the burden of having to stand in such a cramped and oppressive atmosphere.

Frankly, I remember few – if any – of the words spoken between us for some time. I think Eimear, who is what may be politely termed a ‘motormouth’, stepped in to speak of the various inanities of which she is usually full. I lit up a fag and stared at my (new) shoes (new shoes! NEW SHOOOOOES! Did anyone else like Twin Peaks?), desperately wishing the whole sorry thing would just be fucking over.

“Oh!” exclaimed my mother after 20,000 years. “It’s the ladies!”

I looked up, aghast. ‘The ladies’ is a euphemism for my mother’s golf club acquaintances. Aside from converse with Aunt of Evil, the last thing I wanted to deal with was these women. Some of them are nice, genuinely, but several conform perfectly to the traditional golfing stereotypes: gossipy, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, look-at-me-and-my-perfect-hair. There was one there in particular that, although admittedly she and my mother get on reasonably well, I felt was in attendance for the sole purpose of relaying events to her little cronies (Daniel: you know of whom I type).

Unusually, my mother was not horrified that these women had ‘caught’ me smoking (I’m nearly 30, for Christ’s sake!); not surprisingly, she had more important things on her mind. That said, we had been at a funeral of another member of the golf club – a good friend of my mother’s, actually – a few years ago when the subject of baptism curiously and inexplicably came up. As I went to proffer the view that this was a load of shit and that I was grateful that my parents had not presumptuously forced my infant self through the silly process, my mother kicked me under the table, and said, “oh yes, Pandora was christened in such-and-such a Church.” I remember shooting her a look of abject disgust and anger.

Anyway. As if this wasn’t going to be long enough without silly tangential musings. In the spirit of politeness and occasion, I made small-talk with a few of the assembled golfers (of whom, it turned out in the end, there were something like 10 or 12). When one, let’s call her Amy, pulled me aside and said, “Pandora. Congratulations!”, I felt the familiar tug of paranoid anxiety grip me.

“Congratulations?”

“Yes – you know, for your internet writing. You were nominated for an award for it, were you not?”

“Oh yes. That,” I said, feigning a casual shrug.

“Yes, that! Brilliant!”

“Thanks. I didn’t win it, mind you,” I lied. I looked into the woman’s fucking eyes and lied.

“But it doesn’t matter,” she returned, the cause for her emphasis of the word ‘matter’ being the source of some puzzlement to me. “Just being nominated…that’s amazing. Really well done,” she purred, continuing – as is her wont, to be fair – to overemphasise words of little import.

I smiled bashfully, and once again thanked the Flying Spaghetti Monster when someone else just then butted in. I know it’s my fault that Mum found out about the awards ceremony, but in the name of retaining my anonymity – or, more accurately, in the name of protecting everyone else in this so-called life of mine from the sordid truths of said existence – I wished with a fervent passion that she’d not gone around telling everyone she knows. Even the fucking McFauls know about it, and half of this fucking blog is about them!

My relief was short-lived, however, as Aunt of Evil exited the back door and proceeded in the direction of our little splinter group.

She came up to my mother, and prodded her about something. Facing her – literally facing her – became unavoidable. I took a deep breath and nodded at her. “Georgie,” I acknowledged.

“Pandora,” she returned nervously. “A.” At least she had the grace to be embarrassed. A muttered some sort of equally-anxious response.

And, for then at least, that was that. I waited a few minutes in order to feign a politic exit, then told my mother that I wished to observe Maisie’s body.

She led me in, fighting her way through about 4,028,374 (living) bodies, all gathered in one sodding room. She tactfully opened the door to where Maisie lay, and let A and I squeeze through it.

I mentioned in my last post in this series that when Mum and I had seen Maisie’s body at the cuntspital that she looked surprisingly alive, as though she were merely sleeping. I also said that I don’t normally think that about corpses. Here is where my more standard thinking in this arena came back to reality, slapping me like a wet fish around the jowls as it did: Maisie looked fucking horrendous.

The undertakers had tried to do her make-up to exacting standards, but the biology of death dictated that they would fail in their noble endeavour. Her lips, even through her lipstick, were black. Her chin, rigid as it was in its deceased state, seemed to sag beyond her head like some rancid piece of meat. She had one of those expressions that elderly people in care homes who are devoid of teeth are often seen to sport. I won’t say that I was horrified, because I’ve had enough exposure to dead bodies to know what to expect. But, despite having that awareness on a sort of intellectual level, I was…disappointed, I suppose. She looked so fundamentally unlike herself that I couldn’t help but feel sorry that this was going to be everyone’s last image of her.

Like I had in the hospital, I kissed her(/the corpse – it really wasn’t her) on the forehead, and mumbled something or other. I think it was something like, “sleep well,” which is a fucking stupid thing to say. I had, however, said it many times: Alter Ego was fawning around her Facebook account (in between a myriad of deactivations of same) uttering such things and generally behaving like a normal person who’d been genuinely bereaved. Am I bereaved? Was I? Yes, Maisie was a constant in my life, and yes, she was never personally unpleasant to me…but it was so bloody complicated. Do I, will I, miss her – miss her as a niece would normally miss her previously omnipresent aunt? I truly don’t know the answer to that even now, a month after her demise.

By the time we left the body, the service was almost upon us. My mother negotiated her way through the preposterous crowd towards the living room, from which the same old prick of a minister we’d met on the Wednesday was to conduct the service. I tried to get away, but my mother insisted that she wanted me with her, which was fair enough. Pursuant to that, of course, I wanted A with me, which wasn’t entirely fair on the poor sod: I’m not the only one in the relationship that has a distinct and, at times, overwhelming crowd phobia.

I sort of stood in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. One of Aunt of Boredom’s (AKA Maureen’s) two sons stood to my right, with some geezer I didn’t know in front of him. My mother was directly in front of me; Georgie was to her right. Beyond my mother, Suzanne and Student – Maisie’s granddaughters – sat on the edge of the sofa. I couldn’t see any of my (first) cousins, nor did I observe Paedo. But then, the place was that packed that spotting a cunting elephant wouldn’t have been easy.

Somebody thrust an order of service into my hands. Initially askance at this – we had to fucking sing?! – I melted a bit when I saw the picture they’d placed on the front of the document. It was a good photo of Maisie, insofar as such things exist. She was not, in her latter years, an attractive woman – but she looked so happy in this picture. More than that, she looked maternal, loving and – and it pains me to use this word – sweet.

It reminded me of the good things about her: her generosity, her understanding of the many difficulties I’ve faced (well. That she knows of..!), her willingness to put herself out for me (and my abject failure to ever return that favour), the silly yet weirdly (in retrospect) endearing way she’d always insist on you having “another wee cup of tea” before you left Hotel California. I looked at it, and tears pricked my eyes. As they do as I type this.

I tried to avoid looking at the image for the rest of the day, but I failed miserably. Every time I fought to avoid it, my gaze seemed to involuntarily fall upon it. And every time that it did, I felt that little more sad, that little more regretful. I could have done more. I could have been less negative. Yes, my aunt had bad streaks – but, like I am wont to do with many people, it struck me each and every time I saw her smiling face on that silly piece of paper that I failed (and fail) to see the good that was virtually punching me in the face. And I could have done more.

The service began with a desultory warbling of some hymn or other. For whatever reason, I can’t remember what that was; I do remember that proceedings ended with Amazing Grace, apparently a favourite of Maisie’s, but whatever this was I’ve no idea. In fact, aside from a few instances which I shall henceforth relate, I don’t remember a great deal of the service. Frankly, I don’t think I was missing much, but perhaps it is churlish to say that.

The minister prattled on about how we should be comforted by God’s amazing love and all the usual shite that the clergy bring out verbatim at funerals. He even sounded like he was on stage – on stage, and acting poorly. They (whoever ‘they’ are – not TheyThey‘, thank fuck) say that the sign of a bad actor is knowing that he or she is acting, and so it was with our dear friend here. I do remember that I actively didn’t listen to most of this, because (a) I don’t agree with a single fucking word and (b) I’ve heard it all, so many times, before.

As I felt his predictable little voice evanesce away from my ears, an odd thing happened. For want of fixating on something that wasn’t him, my mind punished me by looking at that bloody picture. And I cried. Not “wah wah wah! *sob sob sob*!”, thank…well, thank whatever you damn well like – but tears were there, in a relatively constant stream. The strangest thing about this was that, for possibly the first time in my life – my entire life, not just my adulthood – I did absolutely nothing to fight them.

I remember thinking at one point, “at least they’ll know I’m genuinely grieving,” though (a) I don’t know who ‘they’ were supposed to be (again, not They ‘They’, who would have found the whole thing terribly entertaining had they been in situ), and (b) as discussed above, I don’t know that I am genuinely grieving. Further, the thinking of such thoughts shows clear manipulation. If that was my view, then I wasn’t exactly crying for my own benefit, was I? I was crying for appearances. That is reprehensible beyond any measurable scale. In my defence, the tears were involuntary, but it strikes me that perhaps my failure to do anything about them was a cynical ploy. And that – using someone’s death to appear more human (despite my recent rant about that usage of that word – see me and my bloody self-contradictions/hypocrisy?!) – that sickens even me. Maybe (Old)VCB was right when she diagnosed me with BPD.

Ballrootvicar bollocksed on for three more centuries during which I continued to ignore him with stubborn defiance – but when I heard my mother’s name mentioned somewhere on the periphery of my hearing, I turned my attention back to the man. In whatever eulogy he was attempting to perform, he was mentioning the grief of those family members closest to Maisie. When he got round to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I saw the shoulders of both Student and Suzanne shake piteously. I shed a tear for them, briefly, then watched in some perplexity as Suzanne supportively rubbed Student’s back.

Deep breath. This is hard for me to admit, but I’m going to do it. I felt something that I’ve almost never felt in this sort of context; I felt envy. I envied their closeness, and lamented my distance from it. They are not just cousins; they’re properly family, which to them trumps all. However, more importantly to me, is that they’re not just cousins/family; they’re friends. For those fleeting seconds, I longed so deeply for the comfort and unabated joy of friendship, for ordinary platonic love. I have no ‘real life’ female friends, something that has never bothered me in my life to date. I’m not even sure that it was their shared gender and its more-customary-than-mine female expression (#feminismfail there, Pan) that bothered me; it was simply that I had no friends there with me. Oh, yes, Mum and A were there – but Mum had her own grieving to do, and much as I love A and feel that he is a friend as well as a lover, the relationship is by necessity different from pure, simple friendship.

Daniel lives in England, and even though he left Northern Ireland nearly a decade ago, I miss him every day. Brian and Aaron do live here, but – and mainly through faults of my own, I confess – I rarely see them. Neither of them would have come to Maisie’s funeral even if I saw them every day anyway, and neither would I have expected it of them. If anything, I found it a little odd that so many of Mum’s friends attended, yet here I am whining about having had none of my own.

Whatever the case, I envied my cousins(-once-removed) and their innate understanding of how each other felt, and though I could probably not be good friends with either of them – whilst I like them, and believe that’s mutual, we are too different to ever be close – I desperately wanted a piece of what they had that day, and was briefly overcome with the greatest void of loneliness I’ve ever known. It is often said that it’s eminently possible to feel despairing, gut-wrenching loneliness whilst in a room full of people. I have never seen a more quintessential instance of that dictum.

This is turning into an epic self-pity-party. To get back to the logistics of the event, at some point the random bloke standing to my right was invited to speak. It turned out that he was the “Pastor” from Suzanne’s Church.

Suzanne, rather unfortunately, is a Presbyterian. Any of you familiar with the denomination will probably have guessed where this is going.

He spoke with the casual but wholly palpable arrogance that I’ve always associated with plane hijackers about hell, fire, brimstone – and how an all-loving God will burn you in agony for an eternity if you don’t submit to his narcissism. Now, let me clear something up here: I know there are Christians that read this blog, and I apologise for any offence I’m causing in this rant. Despite not agreeing with you, I have nothing per se against religion, Christianity included: it is this warped, horrible version of it that grates on me so. I don’t believe in God, obviously, but if He does exist, I can’t believe that the fuckwittery of this brand of Presbyterianism can be true. A loving, benevolent force as exemplified through Christ is not the God of which these people speak. I wished, not for the first time, that I came from a Catholic background.

You know, that’s kind of amusing in a dark way. Factions of the McFaul dynasty are viciously (and contemptibly) sectarian – notably ScumFan, but not just him. I have attempted on innumerate occasions to convince the boy that this whole Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland is an absolute load of bollocks, and whilst he hears the words and occasionally makes vague gestures of agreement, he doesn’t listen. And that brings me to what I find funny about the whole thing: if, say, ScumFan happened upon this blog and read about what his grandfather had done to me as a kid, I don’t know what he’d do. However, if he happened upon it and saw the words, “I wish I’d been born a Catholic”, I can almost guarantee that he’d disown me. Pathetic, isn’t it? I love this little country, truly I do – but I detest that that will always be an entrenched part of its heritage.

Anyway, this knobhead Pastor wanked on and on with his bigoted bile, to the point where he annoyed me so much that I started making various small noises or fidgety gestures in a bid to get his attention fixated my expression of sheer disgust. He was so self-absorbed in his vile little world, however, that if I’d kicked him squarely in the nuts and screamed, “you’re a fucking wanker, you cunt!” into his face, I doubt he’d have even batted an eyelid in recognition.

During the so-called prayer that he conducted, I actually started muttering bitchy comments at him. You may recall that a million miles up the page I stated that one of Maureen’s sons, my cousin Marvin, was standing beside me, just behind this pastortwat. Although neither my mother nor the pastortwat seemed to hear any of my misgivings, evidently Marvin did; he looked up at me, caught my eye, and – gesturing to the pastortwat – rolled his eyes. I shot him a knowing grin, which he was quick to reciprocate. I knew that A, behind me, would be seething with boiling rage too, but I was so hemmed in by others’ bodies that trying to turn to him would have been like conducted an ugly 4×4’s three-point turn in a danky bedsit. In any case, due to his visual impairment, A can’t ‘do’ body language, so I had to settle on non-verbal vicar-bashing with Marvin.

After this particular twatbag had finally shut the fuck up, it was time for one more bloody prayer, this time with the bald-headed first bloke. I gazed wistfully into nothing in particular, making a pronounced point not to close my eyes nor bow my head. I never do, incidentally, but I made a concerted effort to make it obvious that day. To no avail, obviously, because the very actions in which I was not partaking were the very actions in which those whose attention I sought were.

Finally, the assembled congregation – all of whom I hope are non-choristers – ‘sang’ a tuneless rendition of Amazing Grace, and the service was over. 10,000 people milled their way out of Hotel California, and into the yard to await the next move.

Maisie’s children and grandchildren went to the coffin for one final look at their (grand)mother, and then her coffin was closed forever, and wheeled out the back door – the door she’d always used to access that house that she’d so loved so well.

This post has been exhausting to write, and – I’m sure – to read. Sorry for the heavy emphasis on introspection, but then, if I can’t navel-gazingly reflect on my own blog, where can I? To be continued as soon as I am able.

Death, Corpses, Wake-Like Things, Shite Hospitals, Fuckblah, Etc

This post is continued from Tuesday’s nonsense. Thanks to those of you that commented there – for once, I’ll actually try to respond some time in the next few days.

Wednesday: The Death (Continued)

So where was I? Driving to my mother’s house? Yes.

Well. I drove, and duly arrived without mowing down half of the Western hemisphere as my mother had apparently feared. As soon as I stepped into the house, I went straight into my now-renowned-by-A crisis mode. I’ve alluded to this somewhere before, haven’t I?…Ah yes, here it is. Don’t I have a good memory?

My mother was not alone. She has this friend from down the street who, whilst a pain in the arse in many ways (ways far too boring to go into), would drop anything and everything for the sake of my mother. After Mum had called me, Aunt of Boredom, and Aunt of Evil, she’d rung this woman (let’s call her Eimear), who stopped whatever she was doing and came to Mum’s straightaway.

My mother burst into tears whenever she saw me. She later revealed that she hadn’t cried at all when one of the McFaul dynasty had phoned her to advise her of Maisie’s demise, but she fucking wept when I came in. Cue long hugs, other forms of tactile comforting and several emergency cigarettes from me. I gave Eimear a tenner and asked her to get more fags for my mother, then asked Mum what I could do.

My mother expressed concern for Paedo and Maisie’s children, who were at that juncture presumed to still be in residence at the hospital. My Mum opined that Paedo would be distraught and ergo unable to drive home. So. I rang Hotel California. Yes. I was able to employ the usage of a phone. That alone shows my competence in a crisis.

I spoke to Rhona, Maisie’s daughter-in-law (wife of my eldest Maisie-born cousin, Chris. It gets confusing, I know). I offered to collect Paedo et al, but Rhona relayed the information that Kevin and ScumFan had made a dash to the hospital to collect everyone and their myriad of vehicular transportation. I had a brief conversation with Rhona about how stunned I was to hear of my aunt’s death, a view that she echoed. I let Mum talk to her for a minute, then sat down and considered my next move.

My mother wanted to go to the hospital, and then Hotel California; I stated that I would drive. My mother vehemently refused to allow this, instead stating that she wanted to drive herself. Eimear (now returned), A and I threw a fit about this – if she had expressed concern for my driving (see last post), then there was simply no way she could drive herself. She continued to protest – but she was out-numbered, and eventually gave in.

Just before we were about to leave, the phone rang. It was Merv, Uncle of Evil, calling from the States. Now, I am a bitch for saying this, I really am…BUT. Mum had phoned Aunt of Evil to advise her of Maisie’s death. There had been no response on the landline. My mother rang AoE’s mobile, which was successfully answered. My mother told AoE why she was calling; perhaps unsurprisingly, AoE broke down. Now here’s the bitchy bit: AoE was in the middle of a shopping centre when this call was received, and – being the twisted, bitter cow that I am – I actually found the image of her breaking down in the middle of a crowded place quite amusing. My strong dislike for AoE is well documented on this blog, but even so…what a fucking cow I am! What kind of disturbed, fuckwitted cunt finds something like that funny?

(Though in my defence, it wasn’t just me. When Daniel rang me to express his condolences, he agreed with me. So did A. They detest AoE too, and they are not ‘disturbed, fuckwitted cunts’).

Anyhow, Merv advised my ma that AoE was trying to get a flight as soon as possible, and that one of them would contact her with more details when they were known. This perturbed me somewhat; I always knew the day would come when Maisie would die and AoE would descend upon Northern Ireland for the funeral, and that I’d have no choice but to see her. Still and withall, I have had absolutely no interaction with the woman nor her arseholes since I severed contact with them in the Summer of 2009. She/they had been here three times since that, and I’d successfully avoided her/them on each of these occasions, yet here I was, reality slapping me round the face like a wet fucking fish, presented with the immediacy of interacting with her. Is Aunt of Evil my nemesis? Moriarty to my Holmes (notwithstanding Moriarty’s feeble presence in Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon)? It feels like that sometimes.

Wednesday: The Cesspit Cuntspital

Anyway, by the time we finally got to leave my mother’s house, nearly two hours had passed since Maisie’s last breaths. To that end, Mum was fairly sure that the family would have left the hospital and returned to Hotel California, but whilst on the road up to that formerly matriarchal domain, she told me to pull into the hospital anyway. I did.

A and I silently followed my shaking mother to the ward in which Maisie had been imprisoned. After brief consultation with a dismissive member of staff, it indeed transpired that the McFauls had returned home. However, a nice care assistant turned up and asked my mother if she wanted to see Maisie. My mother confirmed that she did. Nice Care Assistant asked us to wait in the corridor for a few minutes whilst they made the body look socially presentable “cleared things up a bit”.

I don’t know how long we waited, but the interminable nature of sitting there – looking at the depressing non-descriptness of the ward around us, the vapid expressions of the poor patients ensconced in the fucking bastardhole – meant that it felt like 20 billion eons. My mother sobbed on and off throughout. I did the whole supportive daughter thing as she did. Some cunts stared. I stared back with viciousness in my eyes and anger in my face. They looked away. Ha! Twatbags.

Oh God. This is over a thousand words long and I haven’t even got to the bit about the body. The delineation of the funeral might have to wait until a third fucking post. Maybe time to create another series? “Fuck – The Chronicles of Maisie’s Demise”?

Yeah. Anyhow. Eventually Nice Care Assistant (NCA) returned, and escorted my mother to Maisie’s sideroom. NCA was very kind; she put her arm around my mother and said words of quiet comfort to her. I take it she’s on the redundancy list then, on the grounds of incompetence at her job for not being utterly shit at it.

My mother and I went into the room whilst A waited outside, apparently being of the view that it was ‘inappropriate’ for him to be present. Maisie had been tastefully ‘tucked in’ under some well-tightened hospital issue blanket rubbish. She looked like she was sleeping, as my mother indeed commented. We both stared at her in some disbelief; dead bodies look dead. Fuck all that shite that people say about ‘being peaceful’ or yadda yadda; they don’t. That’s bollocks. People say that to delude themselves into some form of anti-grief condolence during times of mourning.

And yet, to contradict myself, Maisie didn’t look dead. Peaceful? Maybe. But more accurately simply sleeping.

My mother approached her and stroked her hair. She murmured some quiet words to the body – that Maisie had always been a good friend to her, and that she hoped she’d found “the peace [she] deserve[d]”. I watched as silent tears dripped off her chin.

This is Instance One of Pandora Being Crap.

Tears stung my eyes. MY fucking eyes. What in the blue fuck? I don’t do crying. Well, apart from when I see animals in pain or being mistreated. Not when people die, especially people who were far from faultless. It was partly out of sadness for my mother, who – despite ups and downs – had essentially been friends with this woman for her entire life. However, it was partly for my own reasons too, which shames me. I DON’T DO tears.

I could speculate at a couple of reasons. Yes, she was a manipulative old bag for a lot of the time, but (a) she was always very personally friendly and generous towards me, and (b) even if she hadn’t been thus welcoming, she had still been a major focal point of my life for over 28 years. There was never a time in my life when she wasn’t there. Well, not literally there, obviously. Despite her probable desires, she didn’t follow me about everywhere. But you know what I mean; for all my life, she was somewhere at least on the periphery of my existence. And now she never will be again; regardless of my reservations about some of her motivations and behaviour, that is still quite a dramatic loss. As I said just after her death, Maisie wasn’t just a person: she was an entire lifestyle.

My mother moved away, and asked me if I wished to interact with the corpse (to, y’know, paraphrase her slightly). I kissed it/her on the forehead, stroked its/her hair, and said something simple like, “rest in peace, Maisie”. I’m sure she was looking down feeling hugely touched by my poignant expressions of grief. Not.

As we left, I sort of padded her on the shoulder, then my mother ‘said goodbye’ (like Maisie was going to hear it), and we left the vile, disgusting, ineffectually-staffed fuckhole that attempts to pass for the major hospital in the region. Words to the wise, readers: if you ever happen to be in Northern Ireland, or more specifically in the region of this vacuous sewer, contact me beforehand so as I can remind you not to become sick or injured during your visit. We have some excellent hospitals, but this is not one of them. No wonder Maisie croaked it there; being admitted to that wankshaft dump is the Western equivalent of being caught peddling drugs and illicit snuff pornography in the far East. A death sentence. (Incidentally. Said hospital killed my grandfather, and A’s grandmother. Furthermore, Rhona, mentioned way above, is due to undergo a major operation. Her husband is not so much worried about the procedure per se, but about having said procedure there. I can entirely understand his position).

[Aside – I’m sitting typing this in my mother’s living room as she converses with a neighbour regarding Maisie’s death. By bizarre coincidence, just after I’d finished typing the above paragraph, my ma started telling her neighbour about the staff at the hospital. “They have a terrible reputation,” she muses, “but individually, they’re lovely.” Well, I never. Perhaps Mum was unwittingly on LSD that week; you never know what they put in the water here these days. Whatever the case, what is the use of ‘lovely’ in medicine/nursing? Only ‘good at his/her job’ is important in medicine/nursing, for Christ’s sake].

So, having left the hospital, on we proceeded to Hotel California. To my surprise, my mother kept her backseat driving to what is, for her, a minimum, though she made general discussion that avoided the surreal circumstances in which we found ourselves. Frankly, I had no idea why we were even going to Hotel California, but I wasn’t going to say that to my ma, and instead verbally batted back to her with responses to whatever conversation she was trying to make.

Wednesday: The Pseudo-Wake (The Wake-That-Was-Not-A-Wake-Because-Technically-You-Don’t-Have-Wakes-In-Protestantism-But-It-Was-Like-A-Bit-Wake-Though-Not-As-Much-Like-a-Wake-As-The-Wake-Like-Thingy-After-The-Funeral-But-I’m-Going-to-Call-This-A-Wake-Anyway-Even-If-It’s-Factually-Inaccurate-And-Even-If-I-Use-The-Word-Wake-To-Describe-The-Post-Funeral-Gathering-As-Well-Which-I-Will-And-If-You-Don’t-Like-It-Then-That’s-Too-Bad)

Just prior to entry into Hotel California, we got stuck behind some old git of a slow driver. I cursed and moaned and shouted at the windscreen in frustration – it doesn’t change the unfortunate circumstance, but it makes me feel better – but was further horrified when I saw him putting on his indicator to denote his intention to turn into HC. Hilariously, though, the entire front yard (which is not at all insubstantial) looked like the M25 at 5.15pm on a Friday evening. The old git had to go and turn his preposterously sized car and re-evaluate his parking intentions, whilst I winged my magical little beauty into a tight spot in the yard. HA HA fucking HA.

Hotel California was packed. Except for Maisie’s great-grandchildren, Marcus and Sean, their father, and two relatively insignificant step-grandchildren (don’t ask), everyone from the dynasty was there. Even a cousin or two (offspring of one of my late uncles or other) that I’d never met. The fucking undertaker was there, the people from across the road were there, some random cunts I didn’t even recognise were there, la la la. Typical Hotel California. The old git I’d been behind on the road turned out to be the minister of Maisie’s erstwhile church (‘erstwhile’ because, whilst she had purported to be a Christian, she hadn’t actively attended Church for years due to her ill health. Not that one needs to go to Church to be a Christian, to be fair to her. I never saw any major signs of it, but she could well have been personally spiritual rather than wishing she was still a member of organised religion).

Until the Saturday following this – the funeral itself, to be summarised (summarised? As if I’m capable of summarising anything) in the next post in this epic series of death – I have never, ever been so glad I smoked in all my life. After having quit for four years, I recommenced the habit some time around the end of 2010 – a foolish thing to do, one might have thought, and quite correctly so. However, I thanked (a) God(s) in whom I don’t believe that night that I’d started back on this filthy habit. A even lamented the fact that he didn’t (and doesn’t) smoke. Going out the back to indulge in cigarettes was the only escape from this crowded, oppressive atmosphere that Maisie, rather ironically, would have absolutely loved. Even though I didn’t imbibe a drop of the hard stuff at any point in which I was in Hotel California over the days following Maisie’s death, I think I got through more fags that Wednesday night and on the following Saturday than I did before the smoking ban on occasions when I’d had 28 pints and six shots down the pub. (That’s an exaggeration, by the way. I think I’ve only ever had as much as 27 pints and five shots on a single night out ;)).

The McFauls were talking to the undertaker about the funeral arrangements. The man was surprisingly jolly, which I found mildly amusing; I know this is their job, and that they deal with death every day, but surely the correct decorum is to at least affect sombreness? A and I stood beside the door like absolute pricks with no purpose. I fiddled with my nails; he stared at the floor. After 20 years, someone – Sarah, I think – noticed that we were there, and demanded that various McFauls vacated seats in deference to our presence. We kept trying to tell her that it didn’t matter, but in a stylistic homage to her late mother, she insisted that it did.

One newly-free seat was in the corner, beside the undertaker. The other was on the sofa beside a gaunt-looking Paedo. In an instant, I considered how I should play this dilemma; let A sit beside Paedo and keep myself away from him, or vice versa? I had already decided that A should take the corner seat rather than the one on the sofa, owing to his abhorrence of Paedo (as compared to my ambivalence) when Paedo himself caught my eye. He then gestured – by tapping the sofa in a sort of fond fashion – that I should occupy the seat beside him.

This circumstance did not worry me as such, but it did rather piss me off. Presumptuous cunt. Just because you decided to (literally) fuck me years ago doesn’t mean you should (figuratively) do so in the here and now, by trying to employ me as some sort of perverted support system. Rather than have the balls to ignore him though, I did my social duty and sat. I was careful about it though; I sat on the edge of the seat, and with my back to him. I pretended to take interest in the meandering words of the undertaker, even though the funeral arrangements were frankly none of my business. After a few minutes, I pretended I wanted to smoke, and left. (For the unimportant record, I did smoke, but the notion that I actually really wanted to was for show).

A and I stood outside in the dark with ScumFan. A discussion broke out as to the future of Hotel California, and I regaled ScumFan with what has seemingly become my mantra vis a vis this whole mess: ie. that Maisie was a way of life as well as a mere person (though I took care to proffer this view with language that I hoped ScumFan would understand). He agreed, and then voiced the opinion himself that Paedo was pretty fucked (irony?). His contention was that, certainly in the last decade plus of Maisie’s life, she and Paedo lived symbiotically off each other, and that the non-existence of one would surely lead to the non-existence of the other (to kinda paraphrase once again, claro que sรญ. Just a little. A teensy-weensy little bit. Not that much at all. Oh noooooo.).

I think this is a potentially valid hypothesis. Some of you may welcome it, some of you may not wish death on anyone. Me? I simply don’t give a fuck.

Cigarettes regrettably terminated, the three of us went inside. To avoid the hustle of the living room, A and I hovered around the kitchen. I was unsettled when Kevin came in and stood in general proximity to us: I had quite deliberately not spoken to him in over a year, owing to the fact that he had behaved like something of a dick. He had been being sick for about 10 minutes prior to this near-collision, owing to the shock of the situation.

My ma, having observed – well, not literally observed, for that would be grotesque – Kevin’s vomiting, placed herself in front of him and asked if he was OK. Kevin lied and said that he was. Everyone, A and I included, stared at the ground for a few expectant minutes, before Kevin burst into a Niagara Falls of tears (more specifically, a Canadian Falls of tears).

[Why am I writing this in such a facetious manner? Am I trying to over-compensate for something? Oh well].

Mum threw her arms around him and muttered what were actually not particularly comforting lines:

Kevin: I can’t believe I’ll never see her again!

Socially Acceptable but Utterly Meaningless Platitude of Response: There, there. She’ll always be in your heart! [*vomits*]

My Mother: No, nor will you ever again hear her voice.

Well, all credit to her for not spouting the same tired old bullshit. Kevin was particularly upset because, although he’d taken the Monday and Tuesday off work, on the understanding that his mother’s condition was improving, he had returned on the Wednesday. As such, he “didn’t even get to say goodbye.” I considered defending him on this point, on the usual grounds that he couldn’t possibly have known what was about to transpire, but that would have been utter hypocrisy given that I espoused the exact same sentiment on this blog the other day.

Instead, despite the disorderly relationship that Kevin and I had (not) shared in the preceding year, I kept my gob shut for once and sort of solidly gripped his shoulder as a means of expressing comfort and some level of empathy. He appeared to appreciate this.

I heard the undertaker leave with a cheery, “all the best, see you tomorrow!” as if he were meeting his mates at the airport the following day for an 18-30 holiday to Ibiza instead of bringing a dead body back to its former residence. At that point the crap-driver-bald-headed git of a minister remembered that he was religious and not just a drinker of other people’s tea, and decided to oh-so-poignantly “bring everyone together” in the supposed comfort of prayer.

I wanted to smite the old git. Which is not really fair, given that Maisie was sort-of Christian-y, and that many of her myriad descendants claim to be also – but meh. The self-righteousness of the suggestion that we could all find comfort in the fact that Maisie is “with God” both nauseated and irritated me.

He wanked on with his prayer for about 500 millennia before he realised it was a politic time to take leave of the little (huge) gathering. I tried to escape for a fag as he left, but someone saw me and made me return to the living room, so that I might say goodbye to him.

Why the hell would I want to say goodbye to him, and – more pertinently – vice versa? I was Maisie’s niece, not her Siamese fucking twin. As observed, I had absolutely no right to involve myself in the structure of her funeral service, which was the man’s primary reason for being there. Oh well. I suppose it wasn’t a massive chore to shake hands with him and wear a false smile. It was certainly a trick I had to pull off multiple times in the days that followed this one.

I finally got out for my smoke, made some smalltalk with ScumFan, a random cousin I didn’t know, A, my mother and Sarah, who occasionally decides to smoke one cigarette and who then doesn’t touch the vile things again for months. For some reason the smalltalk developed into a discussion of what, specifically, had caused Maisie’s death. None of us (namely, Mum, A and I) had been apprised of the details at that stage.

After coming back from a scan – which had apparently gone well, despite Maisie’s concern about such procedures (see somewhere in the last post) – she was brought back to the ward, and seemed fine. Paedo, Sarah, and two of Sarah’s three brothers, Chris and Robert, were there and engaged her in light conversation. Suddenly, however, Maisie went into a fit of breathlessness; Robert ran into the corridor and called a doctor, who – along with some nurses – came flying into the room, ordering the family out. By that juncture Maisie had started vomiting and, unable to sit up herself, choking on said vomit. The last thing Sarah saw as she was ushered out of the room was her mother’s eyes filling with blood and rolling back in her head.

When the quacks emerged from the room, Maisie was still breathing – but they basically advised the assembled gaggle of McFauls that she wouldn’t be doing so for long. As far as I can ascertain, she was, at this point, braindead. The McFs went back into the room and sat with her as she took her final breaths and quietly died.

It wasn’t a pleasant story to hear, and even typing it makes me slightly sad, despite the fairly bitchy tone of most of this post. Of course, in saying that, hearing it was nowhere near as bad as experiencing must have been for Sarah (and, of course, the others), and regaling it unsurprisingly upset her quite a bit.

Some time passed. Suzanne and Student tried to make conversation with us, but everyone seemed too shocked to partake in anything particularly meaningful. I managed to avoid Paedo, I managed to be shocked at Chris (who was clowning around as if at a child’s birthday party, rather than his mother’s wake-that-is-not-a-wake-but-which-I-am-calling-a-wake), I managed to employ the usefulness of smoking on a few more occasions.

When things mercifully started to die down, my mother – bless her saintly soul – asked to be taken home. For a few short minutes, I thought that perhaps there was a God.

The thing with leaving Hotel California is that when you check out (because, kids, you can never actually leave), you spend three geological eons attempting to make it even outside (and then you have to fight to get to the gate and out onto the road). This was historically because, as soon as she heard the slightest vague suggestion that one might be departing, Maisie would recoil in abject horror and demand that Sarah put the fucking kettle on and make some bloody sandwiches. Even if you got out of that – or, more typically, after you’d engaged in it – Maisie would rabbit on about something for ages to delay your sort-of-departure. I think the average time it took me to get away from HC when she was alive was probably about an hour. Possibly more.

I thought it was a phenomenon that would die with her, but then I didn’t consider the fact that the woman had only been dead for about five hours by this point, and they were all still operating on the deeply-entrenched Maisie-lifestyle. It didn’t take us as much as an hour to get out, but it was certainly a while. I played the part of Very Supportive Cousin and hugged a few people – Sarah and Rhona, I think; Kevin, I know (because it struck me how silly our little feud had been when put into this kind of perspective ((despite the fact he’d sort of threatened me)). Whatever the case, he seemed to genuinely be grateful that I’d come to HC, and he was perfectly pleasant to me on the occasion which I am so verbosely detailing, so I’ll forgive him. Grudges are stupid and destructive anyway).

I did not hug Paedo. However, I once again caught his eye as I was walking out the front door, and he regarded me with what was a forlorn, dejected sort of look. I felt guilty for a few seconds – the poor sod had just lost his wife of over 50 years, don’t forget – but then I waved at him and walked out anyway.

Wednesday: The Final Problem

We were about half way home when Mum’s mobile went off for the millionth time that night. It doesn’t ring much, either for text messages or calls, generally, so this serves as a small measure of what a big deal Maisie’s demise had turned out to be. It was Merv, Uncle of Evil. Over the engine of the car, Mum couldn’t hear a great deal, but the word ‘airport’ was bandied about a few times. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I knew Georgie (Aunt of Evil) would be coming anyway. It was only a few minutes later that I wondered why Merv, rather than Georgie herself, had phoned.

When we arrived back at my ma’s gaff, she returned the call. She was heard to ask Merv, in some surprise, the fatal question of “she’s left already?” A and I breathed a collective sigh of annoyance.

Mum finished her conversation, and came back to us. “Bad news for you, Pan,” she said. “She’s got her connecting flight, so she’ll be getting the transatlantic flight to Aldergrove [Northern Ireland’s main international hub] in about an hour, and will be there at 9am tomorrow.”

“Oh,” I pointlessly returned.

“Which means that I’ll have to go up there and get her, and…well, bring her back here.” She downturned her lips at me apologetically.

“That’s OK. We’ll stay here tonight, I’ll take A into work in the morning, and then just go home,” I said. “As long as you aren’t alone, that’s the main thing.”

“Are you sure?” Mum pressed. “What about your Seroquel hangover?”

I waved my arm in false dismissal. “Oh, don’t worry about that. If I get up early, it goes away for an hour or two and comes back later. So it’ll be fine. Honestly.”

She nodded in acceptance, and was about to say something when the sodding phone piped up again. This time it was Eimear, introduced a million miles in the far North of this post, who’d seen my car returning.

My ma prattled on about Georgie for a bit, then started waxing lyrical about how wonderful A and I were for supporting her, driving her to Hotel California, etc. I don’t take compliments easily, readers, and I don’t often hear them from the mouth of my mother. Once again, I felt myself fidgeting nervously.

To her credit, as we went to bed, she reiterated these points to both of us, suggesting that her appreciation was truly genuine and, to use a word I absolutely detest, heartfelt. I told her that she was welcome and, traumatic and hateful as the entire evening had been, I meant it. In respect of how grief can lead to insomnia, I gave her four Zopiclones, and told her not to take them all at once like I commonly did. She threw her head up, aghast, in response to this statement.

“I was joking,” I lied. She affected a polite laugh, thanked me for the sleepers, and kissed me on the cheek before retiring.

A and I lay awake staring at the ceiling for a bit. How the conversation came about I don’t recall, but at one point A asked me if I was actually personally affected by the loss of Maisie. I considered the question for a few minutes, before responding that yes, I thought I was.

This is Instance Two of Pandora Being Crap. Sadly, it turned out to be far from the last.

“I mean, it’s still surreal,” I began, “and I can’t quite believe it – but then that’s the point. Regardless of my issues with her, she’s always just been there. I think I’ve taken that for granted all my life, despite her well documented health issues.”

He told me that it was OK for me to cry if I wanted to. I scoffed at the suggestion, downed a few Zopiclone and rolled over. Before I slept, though, a few silent tears did escape. What a fucking failure.

To be continued as soon as possible. If you’ve actually taken an interest in any of this, dearest reader, then I can only guess at the levels of your masochism.