The Inevitable 'Goodbye' Post

Not Dead, Just Sleeping…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am not this person any more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, for now at least, that’s enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 façade 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” façade 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).

CPN Appointment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck the Welfare Reform Bill!

I’ve deliberately stayed away from the politics of welfare “reform” on this blog for quite some time, because it’s such a nasty fucking business. But given the heinous, subterfugal, undemocratic fucking bullshit that has permeated all circumstances pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill, recently and regrettably passed by the House of Cunts Commons, I can stay silent no longer.

A constitutionally and legally aware individual may well, at this point, cry, “but you’re in Northern Ireland! What the hell does this have to do with you?”

A reasonable query, since the WRB applies to Great Britain, not the UK in its entirety (does anyone know if it applies to Scotland? I really can’t find a definitive source telling me one way or another). However, I have a vested interest for a variety of reasons:

  1. Principle. This is fucked. The Coalition government are sending out a message of “we don’t give a flying rat’s arse what happens to the ill and/or disabled of this country”. More importantly, however, benefit claimants – who, according to the government’s own statistics, are 99 – 99.5% genuine in their claims – will be forced into poverty, homelessness and even death by the fuckwittery inherent in this steaming, fetid pile of bollocks. Who in their right mind can reasonably stand by, watch that happen and say nothing, regardless of how much it does or doesn’t affect them?
  2. I have dozens of friends – some online, some offline, some both – that will be directly affected by this. At least one of them has spoken tragically of how she would rather end her life peacefully than suffer the indignity of all that comes with being completely impoverished, as she would likely be if major amendments are made to UK social security. Obviously, I sincerely hope that she doesn’t kill herself, but I can certainly understand the rationale that has led to that line of thinking. In fact, the spectre of the WRB has already caused suicides. Or, should we say, murders?
  3. You’ll have heard the old adage that “when America sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” What you may not have heard is that whatever happens in Great Britain generally leads to the same happening in Northern Ireland. We’ll catch this pox: be in no doubt about that. My partner A works in drafting legislation (albeit in an entirely different arena than this), and some of his work involves adapting statutes from GB into workable legislation for NI. On most such occasions, this is simply revision, rather than significant modification. One might argue that as the Assembly starts to assert itself, this may start to change, but this is unlikely to be the case in terms of social security – and that’s even with the fucking Barnett formula! An independent Northern Ireland (whether officially or by extended devolution) could not afford to uphold its current finances, never mind better them. So, they will do what they’ve always done; they will copy Britain’s “welfare” laws, and the sick and/or disabled in Northern Ireland will be fucked, just like they will be on the mainland.

Why the Bill is a Steaming Pile of Horse Manure

Short answer: it will strip a very sizeable number of genuinely ill and disabled people of their only meaningful income – the money that keeps food in their stomachs, roofs above their heads and breath in their lungs.

Longer answer: there is so much. I would strongly recommend reading the blogs Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and Benefit Scrounging Scum for detailed, well-researched critiques and information. Sue and Kaliya (respective authors of the aforementioned journals) are two disability activist stalwarts who, despite their own profoundly disabling conditions, have fought steadfastly against this shit, even co-authoring the Spartacus Report which firmly shows the WRB up for the demeaning and threatening bollocks that it is.

In brief (ha!), and personally, though, here are a few issues.

  1. Benefits will be capped at £26,000. That seems like a lot – and to many, myself included (my benefit income is circa £10,500), it is. However, on a national scale, this could be An Issue. London has some of the most expensive housing in the UK, and arguably in Western Europe. If benefits are arbitrarily capped for claimants in that city, the place will be completely ghettoised, a la the 19th century and (backwardly-chronologically) beyond. This is because claimants will either have to leave London entirely, or move into geographically-determined social housing. Social housing becomes “council estate”-ish. People lack opportunities. The cycle of life on the line continues ad nauseum. Poverty, sickness, degradation and a slow, lonely wait for death abound. (Incidentally, this argument could have applied to Northern Ireland until relatively recently too; until the arse fell out of the housing market, we had ((after London)) some of the highest house prices in the UK. Things have come down a bit, and according to Ian Paisley Junior, only one person in Northern Ireland will now be affected by the benefits cap. But still; there are other people out there that this will affect, and affect horrendously. It demands our opposition for them alone).
  2. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will become “Personal Independence Payment” (PIP). On the face of it, that’s no big deal – a change of name, yes? No more and no less (despite the fact it’ll cost hundreds of thousands to re-brand the fucking thing, but let’s not split financial hairs, eh? It’s only people’s lives that could be saved, after all). Except that it’s not that simple. For one, there will be no ‘automatic’ entitlement for people with life-long conditions – say, folks who’ve had amputations, or people like A who have visual impairments. Clearly these are disabilities that one can overcome so easily, aren’t they?! They’ll all be fine in a year or two! On a related note, two: every claimant, existing or new, will have to undergo an examination by either the insidious, sinister ATOS (on the mainland) or the Social Security Agency (here). This will, despite an illness’s variation or otherwise, include re-assessments at regular junctures. I have already discussed why this is A Very Bad Idea Indeed, so see that post if you need further explanation (short answer: it will fuck people up). Three: DLA currently includes components pertaining to ‘supervision’. If, for example, you are too mental to take your medication as required, or to refrain from killing yourself during the night, you are considered to need supervision. This works in the realm of physical health too; let’s say you’re newly blind and need to climb the stairs to the bog or some such – you’ll understandably need guidance. Well, PIP will abolish any consideration of ‘supervision’, meaning that severely mentally ill people, or others with major disabilities, will strongly lose out.
  3. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will no longer be paid to young people with disabilities. Further, non-means-tested ESA will only be available for one year to any claimant (regardless of whether or not they’re still sick/disabled) – after which they can, presumably, go and top themselves to save the Cuntalition some money for fine dining in the Common’s restaurant(s). Of course, they claim that this is all fair and just, because people claiming this form of ESA are considered fit for work after a period of recuperation. Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Oh really? Assessments by ATOS and the SSA? Yeah. These fuckers really know how ill or incapacitated you are. After they (don’t) listen to you for 10 minutes, they throw some shite onto a keyboard, which, when processed by a computer that probably runs fucking Windows, then tells them that YOU’RE FINE. Seriously. This is the way these pricks operate. Again, I’ve ranted about this elsewhere – indeed, I’ve detailed my own personal experience of being shafted by a “medical assessment”, and how I had to fucking well fight, cunting my precarious sanity in the process, to be recognised as being ill – and to disprove the myriad of lies that the so-called doctor at the SSA had written about me, or told by omission. Furthermore, as noted in those posts, none of the medical “professionals” employed by the SSA/ATOS are specialists. So, effectively, they know shit all about psychiatry, gynaecology, gastroenterology, oncology, whatever. Yet they’re allowed to judge every aspect of your illness or disability to the point where it could affect the continuance of your very existence.
  5. This is perhaps tangential, but fuck it. Why is it that tax evasion is allegedly going on all over the show and glanced over, serving the usual gravy train of ludicrously well-off people, when all benefit claimants really want is a modicum of a life and a tiny dollop of dignity afforded in their general direction? And, at the risk of turning this entire post into a fucking cliché – what about the gargantuan minuscule salaries and bonuses of the wbankers that twatted the economies of an entire half-hemisphere? I don’t see the Cuntalition demanding capital returns from, nor demonising, anyone from these demographics for failing to do their jobs or do things by the fucking book…never mind for simply existing.

Aside From All That, The Government are Arseholes Because…

…the House of Lords hated the fucking Bill, and consistently modified many of its proposals. The reality of modern British politics is such that eventually, the House of Commons would probably have got the Bill through Parliament anyway – but why wait when you can be backhanded bellends about it?

The Lords is an institution with many, many faults. I could go into them here, but I can’t be arsed – and in this context, it’s not entirely relevant anyway. One positive thing about the chamber, however, is that unlike the Commons, it has a fuck of a lot more members that are (at least ostensibly) independent of any one party (people known as cross-benchers). The alleged reason for the chamber’s very existence is that, as appointees rather than elected officials, the members are often considered to be “experts” in their field: business, religion, law, and so on. Now, in practice, that may no longer be the case – but regardless, it remains true that the chamber is the upper house of the UK Parliament, and still has a significant role in the scrutiny of our laws. If its amendments/revisions/whatever to a proposed statute are completely ignored, it means that Commons’ members are effectively sticking two fingers up to a long established and constitutionally proper protocol.

And, vis a vis the WRB, stick two fingers up they did. In fact, as observed above, ignoring things at the Lords’ last possible reading wasn’t even good enough, oh no. They had to pass the WRB now. So, in an epic piece of subterfugal, self-serving, ethically diabolical cuntery, they used a little known and desperately archaic little device – “financial privilege” – to tell the House of Lords, effectively, to fuck off.

Ah, such efficiency. Such respect for the legislature. Such respect for fucking democracy, for the fucking country, for that country’s people. NOT.

I could go on and on.

But I won’t. The Welfare Reform Bill is unjust, degrading, completely unhelpful and downright dangerous, and if it goes ahead, lives of vulnerable, genuine people will at best be made desperately difficult, and at worst ended.

But advocates for the ill and disabled, such as Sue and Kaliya to whom I alluded above, said they would do anything and everything to fight this. The only possible way to stop this fuckwittery now is to stop its Royal Assent (ie. where the Queen signs the Bill off into law). You and I both know that’s never going to happen; even if the Queen thought seriously thought about it for more than three seconds, she would correctly anticipate the constitutional crisis it would create, and put her name to it anyway. Even so, call on her to withhold assent anyway by signing this petition. It won’t change a thing, but we must exhaust every single possibility – and one never knows. Her Majesty might impart some words of wisdom onto these bastards that are meant to be her “subjects” and our representatives – not modern fucking dictators.

I feel ashamed to be British. If the Irish Republic wasn’t such a financial fuckhole itself (lovely in every other way, of course), I’d be banging on Enda Kenny’s door right now, begging for citizenship.

In short: FUCK THE WELFARE REFORM BILL.

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 sí. 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.