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 πŸ™‚
  • 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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚

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.

Mind Media Awards: The 2011 Presentation, Part Two (The Full Version)

I Don’t Know Where to Start

So, in the time-honoured tradition of writers everywhere and everywhen (well, it makes structural sense, does it not?), let’s start at the very beginning (/ A very good place to start / When you read, you begin with A-B-C / When you sing you begin with doh-ray-me / etc etc etc. It’s kind of hard not to break into song when something like this has just happened to you).

As you know, I found out that I had been short-listed for this prestigious (to use Mind’s parlance) award back in September. That was astonishing; I know I’ve won awards before, but – at the risk of sounding arrogant, and I really don’t mean to – winning something online, however wonderful (and it is wonderful, and I’ve been truly delighted and grateful for every one) is different to being nominated for a full-blown ceremonial thing like this, complete with short-listers, judging panels, large presentations with hosts and actual, real, tangible trophies. But you must understand, because this is just a personal blog – how many millions of the things are out there by now? – I was utterly stunned to have made it into a shortlist, and truly never thought I could ever win something so huge. Why would I have thought that even possible?

Between learning of the nomination and going to the awards, I had time to look at the other nominees in my category. I already knew Dawn Willis – the fabulous author of News and Views of the Mentally Wealthy, which is not only an excellent blog, but a truly invaluable news aggregation resource in relation to mental health – and seeing her blog alone convinced me that I couldn’t win, because what she does is of much more value than me barking on about taking tablets and ceaselessly moaning about how crap my life is.

Then I looked at the other entries. The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a remarkable charity that is aimed at preventing suicide amongst young men. As noted on their site:

Men are three times more at risk of suicide than young women – in 2010 75% of suicides were men. But while smoking and knife crime make the headlines, suicide is the biggest killer. Most men who take their own lives aren’t in contact with any other agency, and don’t identify with much out there. When asked, what they indicated they wanted was practical, anonymous, confidential help from professionals. Which is why CALM was formed.

Not only does CALM run the website, but they also offer a helpline and ‘zones’ where they work with local authorities to give access to the project to vulnerable young men. According to the above link, they have been in Merseryside for 10 years – and in that time, suicides amongst the targeted demographic have reduced by 55%. That’s compared to a general UK decline of about 20% across the same period. How awesome is that? How and why would or could anyone deem me – a unpaid but nonetheless professional whinger – able to compete with that?!

Next up was the YouTube video on trichotillomania that had been short-listed…and I was bowled over. Wow. Go and watch it. Now. It’s quite long by YouTube standards – but once you’ve been watching it for a minute or two, you’ll no longer realise that, because you’ll be mesmerised under its spell. Go on, off you go. This dirge of mine will still be here for you to peruse when you’re finished.

Beckie0, as video-maker Rebecca Brown is known online, was only 16 (she’s now 18) when she made this short film about a relatively little known mental health issue. That in itself is remarkable – it takes a fuckload of courage to speak out so openly in the way that she has done, especially with the potential demon of peer pressure lurking snake-like around a young person affected by a mental health condition. Plus she has the insight and wisdom of someone so much older – which sounds like a patronising load of bollocks, but I do mean it in good faith. She is also charismatic and intelligent, and the video is technically brilliant.

So, I had three truly heavy-weight competitors. The judging panel was, in A’s view especially, made up of quite a few individuals whose primary expertise lay in televisual media, and to that end he and I both believed that Beckie would win the New Media category – especially considering her entry was so deserving of winning by virtue of its own merits.

I genuinely didn’t mind. I thought, “well, I’ll go to this event, and I’ll meet some cool people, maybe meet some contacts and get my name ‘out there’, blah blah blah”. As I’ve already discussed, it was an absolute honour to even receive the nomination, especially in memory of Mark Hanson.

Mark was a social and new media strategist for, amongst others, the UK Labour party. I’ll admit that I hadn’t been aware of him before I received the nomination for the award in his name, but after that I did look into his work – and it was extremely impressive and wide-ranging. Yet beneath what by all accounts was confident exterior, Mark suffered from anxiety and severe depression, and tragically killed himself in early March.

After his death, his widow Clare Francis and Money Supermarket, for whom she works, ran half-marathons for Mind, raising about Β£10,000. She wrote movingly about this on Mind’s blog, and I was struck by the strength she exuded in her writing, and that she’d also evidently been exhibiting over what must have been an unimaginable nine months.

Although I didn’t think for any more than half a second that I could win the award, had I done so, I would not have considered myself even remotely worthy of receiving something sponsored by such a remarkable and courageous woman in memory such of a talented and popular man. I still don’t see myself as thus meritorious – but that being said, I feel humbled and privileged that I did get it. It’s a privilege beyond anything I could ever have expected.

This is getting rather long (what a surprise that is). As you can see, in short – I genuinely, honestly did not think I would win. And neither did A – not, he opined, because he thought I was unworthy, but because to him I probably just wasn’t what the judges would be looking for. We also concurred that the amount of cunting fucking swearing on this shittery fuckwipe of a twatting blog found here was likely to preclude me from any real chance of claiming a prize.

A was so confident in these beliefs that he said he’d give me Β£100 if I did win.

I jokingly replied, “make it a thousand and we’re on.”

“OK,” he replied.

I paused for a second, waiting for him to laugh in confirmation that he knew I hadn’t been serious. However, the expected cachinnation did not duly transpire.

“I was taking the piss,” I explained. “I do not expect you to give me Β£1,000.”

He shrugged. “I’m not going to, because you’re not going to win it. And if, in the 99.9999999999th percentile chance that you do, then I will give you Β£1,000. But, again, it’s moot. You won’t get it.”

Believing utterly that he was right, I chuckled and moved on.

That is how much I didn’t expect to win this thing.

Monday – D-Day

I didn’t sleep well in London at all, even though we were staying in a perfectly reasonable and quiet hotel (albeit basic); I was waking about 3.30 to 4am each morning, and Monday was no exception.

So, in that morning’s early hours, I woke to the bleak blackness that only the sun’s downtime can bring. A was asleep, so I couldn’t comfort myself with the television (not that there’s anything comforting about BBC News 24, which is the channel I would have turned to, in this day and age anyway), and for reasons I don’t recall I didn’t check my phone until a few hours later.

When I did look at it, I decided to start my own personal hashtag on Twitter (the more general one being #mindawards) to discuss the awards ceremony; my intention had been to use it for ease of reference when writing a post about the event. It was to be comprised of the intended compendium of live, as-it-happened tweets, rather than this usual tired, ballbag-eric prose. Sadly, that idea fucked up in the end, but I’ll get to that later.

As I lay there staring at nothing, I could feel my muscles tighten, my stomach churn, my breath quicken. I willed fate or providence or the arbiters of bloody space-time to just make it Tuesday morning. Despite ramblings about 10 days ago which described how I was looking forward to the ceremony, I knew I’d be shitting myself come the day itself – but ‘shitting myself’ turned into a full blown oh fucking hell, I’m going to die right here, right now, in a dank underground room in an anonymous London hotel panic attack.

I got up and took a Diazepam. It didn’t work. I got up and took a second Diazepam. It didn’t work. Eventually, A woke up and, duly noting my restless agitation, advised me to take a Diazepam. I advised A that I had already consumed two of the aforementioned sweets pills. A shrugged (presumably knowing that I only take the things in times of great stress, his resultant opinion being that an occasional 15mg isn’t a huge deal) and advised me to take it anyway. I did.

And…lo and be-fucking-hold, it granted me some mercy and actually bloody worked. I don’t remember if I went back to sleep or not – I might have done – but either way, the next clear recollection I have was of going round the corner to get a pub lunch, and being pretty much entirely fine.

Away We Go

I could detail the ridiculous palaver I went through whilst I was getting ready, but if you’re not bored already, then the tale of my struggles to adequately attire myself would surely fucking kill you. So instead, after I had clad myself in my preposterous disguise, off we trotted to the tube. I kept glancing about me, fearfully expecting half the world to be watching the weird woman with the bizarre curly read hair and hat in bemused repulsion – but no one seemed to give a flying duck’s arse. Sometimes I love London – it’s such a diverse city that no one really has time nor inclination to care about someone looking ‘alternative’. If I wore what I wore that day here – and actually, I’d like to, because I was quite pleased with it – then I’d be subjected not only to stares, but to abuse by groups of teenage males who’d be much more amenable to me if they were peripatetic NPCs in Saints Row: The Third.

We took the tube to Borough and headed to a pub close to the Cross Bones graveyard, where Zarathustra (Z) of The Not So Big Society fame was due to meet us. Perhaps this is a good point at which to note that I was able to bring five guests. These were A (obviously!); Z (as noted); Carrie Holroyd, an activist with Young Minds and a freelance mental health writer that I’ve known online for some time; and my wonderful best friend Daniel and his lovely partner Craig.

The Before

To cut a long story short(er), eventually all of us – Carrie excepted, as she met us just before we all went into the auditorium – ended up in the National Theatre for a pre-ceremony drink.

Z asked me if I had crafted an acceptance speech. I looked conspiratorially at A, then turned back to Z and laughed in his face.

“Why the fuck would I?” I asked him, in all sincerity. “I’m not going to win the thing.”

Z furrowed his brow slightly. “I think you have a chance,” he replied.

I scoffed, and if memory serves me correctly, I might even have accused him of being somewhat delusional. Not anything of which to be ashamed, clearly, but still not cognisant of reality πŸ˜‰

When Daniel arrived, he almost immediately stated that I seemed really nervous. Curiously though, by that point, I wasn’t – or, at least, not consciously. That said, after a 15 minute fight in the woman’s bogs with the fucking high heels that I’d been idiotic enough to think I could wear for an entire bloody evening, off we trotted (stumbled in my case) next door to the awards venue, the Southbank BFI. Here anxiety threatened, briefly, to paralyse me (or catalyse me into fleeing – not that the heels would have permitted that, the evil bastards) – but in the end, I managed far better than I ever thought I would. I was a bit rambly at points, I know, and I’m pretty certain I made a tit of myself, but it could have been a lot worse.

Dan, having detected that perhaps now I was slightly struggling (I’ve known him for over half my life – other than A, I don’t think anyone knows me better), grabbed an angelic glass of red wine as it floated by, and thrust it into my hand. I sipped at it with relieved gladness, and felt myself gravitating towards a table where – although I couldn’t sit – I could at least stand with support and not topple over. Fucking Shoes. Anyway, I’d just stuck some crisp thing or other into my fat gob when a tall gentleman approached me, and asked if I was the person responsible for the Serial Insomniac blog. Trying my hardest – and failing – to swallow the stupid, calorie-laden piece of nourishment I’d just lifted, I responded in the affirmative, apologising to the man for eating with my mouth full. He introduced himself as Matt [Wilkinson], one of the judges, and told me – to my stunned delight – that he wanted to let me know how “brilliant” my blog was. I was really touched that he’d specifically taken the time to come over and tell me that.

Unfortunately, at that point the BFI staff were asking us to move into the auditorium, so I didn’t get long to chat to Matt, but he did tell me that the New Media category had been particularly strong (a statement with which I obviously entirely agreed).

The During

Having found Carrie somewhere along the way, all six of us strode forth into the classy auditorium (or, more accurately, five of us did. I tiptoed, wobbled and tripped my way in. As I did so, I seriously pondered whether I should take off the Fucking Shoes and throw them into the close-by Thames – but I swear the things are malevolently alive. They would have crawled out of their watery non-grave and come to avenge themselves by embarrassing me in front of all the assembled attendees at the ceremony). As we chose our seats, Z suggested I sit on the outside, “just in case” I had to get out to the stage. I rolled my eyes, but acquiesced.

As I said somewhere way, way up above, in the figurative Gods of this post, I had intended to live tweet from the event, but the reception was abysmal inside the plush and comfortable auditorium. I managed to send a few text messages to Twitter – one about the introduction given by Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive, another about the opening speech from Rebecca Front, the actress and comedian hosting the presentation. By some miracle of telecommunications, I even managed a few messages about the winners of both the journalism and student journalism awards. At that juncture, though, the telecommunication gods decided to withdraw their support. My phone decided it would absolutely not work at all any more, and as I was trying to piss about with the settings in the hope that I could force its co-operation, I dropped the fucker. Predictably enough, it was not good enough for the phone to fall merely in front of me – oh no, it fucking richocheted off the row in front of me and made its merry way off to Temporary Phone Oblivion. So ended my spurious attempts at live tweeting.

I can’t remember the exact order of the ceremony, because it wasn’t in the chronology listed in either the programme for the evening nor the online short-list pages. So, before I move on to discussion of the New Media presentation, let me say a few words (as if!) on some of the entries that I especially liked. Z has written a great post on this over at The Not So Big Society, and I agree with nearly all of what he said (the exception being the bits about me!), but I’ll offer a few views anyway.

Josh Jackson, who won the Student Journalist category, had made a remarkably touching and brave film about his experiences of depression entitled Suffering in Silence (which is now available here – go and watch it! I’ll still be here when you get back – we’re only 3,000 words in, after all ;)). The other two nominees in this category did seem excellent, but the very personal nature of Josh’s piece really struck a chord with me, and I was delighted when it was his name read out as winner. A few whoops from the audience confirmed that I was far from alone in seeing him as an extremely worthy recipient.

Victoria Derbyshire’s Radio 5 Alcoholic GP won the News and Current Affairs gong. As the clip of her show was played, I found even my cynical self genuinely moved by the content, and the implications thereof. Granted, the GP did most of the talking in that particular segment, with Ms Derbyshire only speaking at certain points – but to me that was the entire point. She knew exactly when it was appropriate to ask questions or add sensitive comments, and seemed to have an innate appreciation of how she should handle her words and tone. In her acceptance speech, she said that the team behind the show were still in touch with the GP, and that she was “working very hard.” I’m sure neither of them will ever read this, but just in case, I wish them both all the very best.

The Speech Radio winner was, again, a Radio 5 programme, this time looking at the life of Robert Enke, the German footballer who sadly killed himself two years ago. This too was a poignant and eloquent documentary, and it felt all the more tragically appropriate in the immediate aftermath of the awful news of Gary Speed‘s death. A Life Too Short highlighted the strains inherent in sporting professions, and how living in such a ‘macho’ world make it difficult for those affected to speak out.

And speaking of…well, of speaking out. There was a non-categorised, special award for doing just that, and I think we were all thrilled and delighted when we learnt that it was Beckie0’s superlative YouTube video that won that award. I had actually felt guilty about winning the New Media category in lieu of her, such was the candour and courage she displayed. So this was really well deserved, and I was thrilled for her.

I have no idea if Beckie ever did face any form of intolerance due to her condition – but if she did, I think we can rather definitively say that she had the last laugh.

So You Won It?

Yes. Weren’t you reading the other day?!

The very worst part of the evening, which in a perverse, adrenaline-ODing sort of way was also the most thrilling, was when Rebecca Front said, “…and now to the Mark Hanson New Media Award…”

I felt as if I’d been stabbed with a live wire encumbered with a form anxiety that would cripple even a wooly fucking mammoth. My pulse quickened, my mouth went dry and I could scarcely breathe.

Ohmygodohmygodohmyfuckingfuckinggod.

Why? Who the hell knows? It doesn’t make any sense to me, as – as was extensively discussed above – I thought I knew I wouldn’t win. So why would I be so nervous? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, especially given that until that point, save for the incident in the early morning, I’d felt surprisingly OK about the whole thing.

Anyway, Rebecca invited Donna Franceschild, one of the judges of the awards and a BAFTA-winning TV writer, to the stage to present the award. As Donna reached the podium, she advised – poignantly, and to my personal smiles – that Clare Francis, Mark Hanson’s wife, was in situ. She was asked to also come up on stage.

Donna then proceeded to read out descriptions of the short-listed entries.

My heart stopped beating.

I heard the terms “beautifully written”, “by turns heart-breaking and hilarious” and “essays” (I loved that one) bouncing about the room without really being sure that they were being levied at Confessions. Of course, there was a giant screenshot of this blog behind the stage, so I don’t really know where my confusion came from; perhaps it was some weird form of dissociative mechanism for dealing with the surge of adrenaline pumping through and suffocating every capillary of my body.

[Amusing aside: Mind’s PR company, Keystone, had asked me to send them screenshots several weeks ago. I sent them the profile image from the top right of the sidebar, which was published in the programme – but I also sent them a copy of the header, in which I had removed the myriad instances of words like ‘fuck’, ‘cunt’, ‘twatbags’ etc. However, when it came to the bit, they had taken a more recent screenshot themselves; although I didn’t examine it closely – I didn’t think to look at the time and anyway, I was hardly thinking straight – it seems likely that the ‘dirtiest’ words in the English language were visually blared out to the great and the good of the British media. How pathetic is it that I find this amusing? At 28, I’m still the most puerile person I know].

Donna read out the names of the rest of the nominees and their descriptions. I have to be honest here and admit that I don’t remember a word of what she said; my head was somewhere in a cloud-cuckoo land of waaaaghhh! The next thing I do remember, though, is watching – as if in slow motion – her picking that envelope up from the lectern. Time stopped as she opened it, and took a breath in readiness to speak.

“And the anonymous winner…” [my emphasis].

Anonymous. Who else was anonymous, Pan? It must have been someone…

“…of the Mark Hanson New Media Award…”

Maybe one of the others uses a pseudonym and I mistook it for a real name? You stupid cow, how could you have missed that?

“…is…”

GAAAAAAH.

“…Confessions of a Serial Insomniac.”

And time stopped standing still, and everything came into focus, yet simultaneously spinned around me and the world suddenly had colours, bright, vibrant colours, and applause, and people on my left-hand side (A and my friends, despite the former just having lost Β£1,000!) grabbing my arm and grinning madly and speaking words of excited congratulation. Some automated version of me through her hands over her mouth in a gesture of utter shock as soon as the words had left Donna Franceschild’s lips. I turned to my friends, my eyes wide with delight, with disbelief, with oh my God, did you just hear that, with appeals to their ears in case I had misunderstood what had been announced in some sort of warped narcissistic delusional hallucination.

Somehow, I clambered up from my seat and cautiously made my way down the stairs, towards the stage. Curiously, the only thoughts I recall going through my head at the time were along the lines of, “don’t fall, Pan. Don’t fucking fall.” Which I nearly did on the ramp up to the stage, thanks to the Fucking Shoes. But I balanced myself, and eventually found myself in front of Rebecca Front, Donna Franceschild and Clare Francis.

I don’t remember much about that; I remember that I was asked in whispers if, in recognition of my anonymity, I wanted to make a speech; I confirmed that I did, even though I had absolutely nothing prepared. Sorry for not listening to you, Z – you and Dan were right, you told me so, yeah yeah yeah, I get it. I remember slight confusion over whether or not to take the award and certificate or make the speech first. I remember standing at the lectern, seeing a mass of faces in front of me and shaking – but shaking because of the Fucking Shoes trying to murder me, rather than out of the terror one might surely have expected in such a circumstance (incidentally, I did a lot of public speaking at school, and was one of those rare people that enjoyed talking in front of an audience. I know I’m ridden with social anxiety these days, so it would seem odd if I were still thus comfortable, but strangely, I think I was).

I opened my mouth to speak…

It’s Just a Silly Blog

A videoed my speech. The sound on the camera is shit, but insofar as I could hear it, the following is an exact transcript of what I said.

Um, I have nothing prepared – I genuinely didn’t think I would win this but, um, first of all, thank you, and I must say that it’s a great honour to win this in honour* of Mark Hanson – I know [that] Mark was very well known in the social media world and, er, it’s particularly wonderful to see Clare here as well. Um…yeah. I don’t know why people read it – it’s just a silly blog [audience: polite laughter] – but I would like to dedicate the award to them [my readers] and I’d like to thank my friends, some of whom are in the audience here, and particularly my partner who[m] I love very much and who’s been wonderfully supportive during this rollercoaster [me: nervous laughter at the use of a world I loathe in this context] I’ve experienced…so, thank you all very much.

* I used the word ‘honour’ twice in quick succession, which displeases me. In the second instance, it would have been more appropriate to have used ‘memory’.

Nevertheless, for having prepared nothing – literally nothing – beforehand, it could have been a lot worse. Someone on stage – I think it was Rebecca Front – said that it had been a good speech. A number of others reiterated the sentiment afterwards. A later told me that he thought I spoke well, content-wise, but that I sounded nervous (I blame the Fucking Shoes for that). However, he claims – as he claimed of Beckie Brown’s speech also – that our surprise and justified nerves made our acceptances all the more endearing.

As I left the podium, an award and a tube containing my certificate were thrust into my hands. The award is incredible. Bright, shiny, reflective metal, heavy, perfectly engraved with Mind’s logo and font – and my details. MY details. Wow. Just…wow.

The After

The immediate aftermath of the ceremony was a whirlwind. Daniel, who was in tears, flung his arms around me and waxed lyrical about how wonderful he thinks I am which – even though I already knew that he’s sweet enough to think that, it’s still so lovely to hear. We stood and hugged for ages, before he had to dash off (thanks to the Budget the following day, on which he was up to 2am working. Fuck you, Gideon). I remember hugging Craig too before he left. It was only the second time I’d met him – the first only being the day before – but I like him. He and Dan seem to ‘work’ together, and I really hope their relationship lasts.

People, so many people, they came to offer congratulations, to offer interest in what I write, to chat, to be wonderful. I had to wait around in the auditorium for a few official pictures, and gave what were probably waffly, nervous answers to a number of questions the photographer, along with Clare, Donna and Rebecca, had been kind enough to ask. In my defence, the Fucking Shoes were conspiring to plot my (literal and metaphorical) downfall, and I was still on a nervy-adrenaline high, so if any of the four of you are reading this, sorry if I seemed like a twat!

Back in the lobby, I was advised by someone – I’m not sure who, sorry – that there had been a minor Twitter storm about my win. I felt dreadful that I’d not been able to announce it there myself as I would have liked, and I know that one or two of you noticed that omission πŸ˜‰ I believe that the madness started when Mind themselves tweeted about the result of the New Media Award and, subsequently, about my acceptance speech. As he’d left the auditorium, I know Z intended to announce it too, so even though I failed you, at least you knew πŸ™‚

I’ve apologised for this on Twitter, but lest you missed it: when I had a chance to check my client, I was completely overwhelmed with @mentions. Seriously, there was something like 100 of them. I know if you’re a celebrity that must seem like an infinitesimal amount even by the standards of fuck all squared, but for me? That was a lot. There was no way I could respond to them all individually so my only viable option was to send a more general tweet thanking everyone, in the hope that said everyone would see it.

I Met…

I met Dawn, who was lovely, gracious, flattering, and so wonderfully enthusiastic about social media, and the quiet revolution in mental health that blogging and Twitter are making. I met Beckie, who is every bit as smart and charming in reality as she is on YouTube. I met Dan from CALM, who was a really friendly and truly interesting guy, really (and rightly!) positive about the great work he’s doing. Watch this space for news of a potential guest post for the CALM site πŸ™‚

I met Taryn, Mind’s Digital Officer, who’ve I’ve known on Twitter since I reviewed Wendy Perriam’s Broken Pieces for them. She was great – bubbly, charismatic, full of good conversation. I met her colleagues Matt and Eve too – and guess what? They were lovely! I met several more of her colleagues later when I did a voxpop for them – more on that shortly – but I can’t remember their names and I feel awful about that because…yep, that’s right: they were lovely.

I properly spoke to Carrie, who was a delight, for the first time, mainly about the excellence that is Babylon 5 – however, our conversation was cut all too short by something or other, so I suppose I’ll just have to meet her again soon to make up for that πŸ˜‰ I met @YouMustBeMental, who had bravely come to the occasion on her own, but who was easy-going, great to chat to and all-round good craic. I met Mark Brown from One in Four (look out for my article rounding up blogs in its next issue), who was a gentleman. I met Liz Main, one of the judges who, by random coincidence, is married to a (relatively) local bloke that A and I have known on Twitter for months. Small world! I met Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive, who is nothing like the stereotypical stuck-up Executive type – he was, instead, friendly, congratulatory and thoroughly down-to-Earth. And I met so, so many more – and I haven’t a single negative word to say about any of them. I was convinced that there would be a few pricks who were a bit up their own arses, but seriously, if there were any such people there, I did not encounter any of them.

Perhaps most intriguingly, I also met one of the short-listers – I’m so sorry, but if you’re reading this, I never did catch your name…*blushes*…maybe you can give us a wave?! πŸ™‚ – and learnt some of the inside story.

It turns out that A and I had been partially correct that the language used on Confessions could have been detrimental to the possibility of me winning the award. The (guess what?) lovely girl to whom I was talking said it was actually a bit of a challenge to get the blog onto the shortlist for this reason. However, it wasn’t so much the multitude of ‘fuck’s and ‘cunt’s that were the problem – but more my penchant for what could be considered stigmatic nomenclature. For example, “batshit”. “Doolally” (Paul always liked that one, though). The self-directed commonality of “mental freak” and similar accolades. References to “catching the bus” or “topping oneself”. For the avoidance of doubt, my informant did not give me any specific examples of that to which was objected, but I think it was mainly that kind of thing. It seems that I ultimately got away with it because the references were frequently tongue-in-cheek, used satirically, or were self-, rather than widely-, directed. Also, I address the matter directly in my ‘About‘ page, stating that I can be rather crass at times, but that I do aim to break barriers and fight stigma. In a way, there is part of me that wants to reclaim these terms for the mentalist lexicon; the LGBTQ community admirably did it with, for instance, ‘queer’, so why not those of us that are mad?

Voxy-Poppy

As noted briefly above, at one point Taryn asked me to do a voxpop for Mind’s website, a proposition to which I agreed. This may seem like the most monumentally moronic thing in which an anonymous blogger could partake – but honestly, the disguise was goooooooood. I really looked nothing like my real self at all, so I’m confident that the video taken will not lead to my identification. After all, _why the lucky stiff got away with parading himself publicly for ages whilst maintaining his anonymity, and he wasn’t even trying to hide his real looks. [/gratuitous geek reference].

I felt that I muddled myself quite a bit in the first two questions of the voxpop, although the lady conducting the interview – yet another lovely person whose name I have, to my disgusted regret, forgotten – seemed appreciative of my answers. The third though, as verified by the observing A, went better. The question was something about the profundity of social media in the lives of people with mental illness, and I proffered my sincerely-held view that were it not for Twitter, and to a lesser extent blogging, I would be dead today. Fuck you, Nadine Dorries (not that I said that on tape, of course ;)). I know I wax lyrical about this all the time, but it does merit reiteration; Twitter is the best support group – and, by dent of that, therapy – that I’ve ever come across. Words fail here, so I’ll offer an inadequate but sincere ‘thank you’ once again.

The After-After

Things started wrapping up towards 10.30pm or so, and off back to the hotel headed A and I, saying our farewells to Z at Waterloo Station.

We got back, drained and exhausted, but thrilled and elated at the same time.

Knowing that I had won this thing, this thing that I didn’t feel I really deserved but about which I was nonetheless genuinely thrilled, was surreal. So surreal, in fact, that I started packing (even though we didn’t leave until Wednesday) and then went to bed, rather than gawking in awe at the beautiful trophy. It was only the next day, whilst sitting in a pub waiting for a brief but welcome meet-up with Dan, that I really felt it. As I said to A, I couldn’t stop thinking about the award and how unutterably and stunningly humbling it was that people actually like this nonsense and somehow see it as being valuable.

Because, Thank God, It Has to End Somewhere

So it ends – almost – here. In conclusion – what an incredible night, and what incredible people I was both fortunate enough to meet, and am fortunate enough to know.

So, as I leave this preposterously-even-by-my-standards post, let me do one more raft of thanks. I’d especially like to thank Clare, Donna and Rebecca for presenting me with the award. Thanks to Keystone – and, in particular, Jenny – for their organisation of the event, and especially for their efforts in maintaining my anonymity. Thanks to Taryn and the other digital folks at Mind for all their hard and valuable work, and to the BFI staff for running around with booze and food for us πŸ˜‰

Zarathustra, Carrie and Craig – it was an honour to have you there with me, and your support and congratulations were immeasurable to me. Phil Groom – not only are you a gentleman of the…er…gentlest proportions, I know that you were one of the people that nominated me for this honour, and I appreciate that more than you know. I appreciate you more than you know. @bourach – meeting you on Saturday was absolutely brilliant, and when I said this blog would not have existed in the first place but for you, I meant it. You won’t believe me, but I don’t care; I think you’re strong, smart, witty, and just generally terrific. And to all of my wonderful, supportive, passionate, intelligent and ever-entertaining readers – all the superlatives in this post and the award itself are completely dedicated to you. Thank you again. You really are teh absolute r0ck0rz.

If you’re eagle-eyed, or if you’re one of the personnel concerned, you’ll notice some glaring omissions here. Firstly, Daniel. I’ve known him for over half my life now, and although the Irish Sea has nefariously separated us for 10 years, the mark and strength of a friendship – a proper, loving, symmetrical friendship – is its enduring longevity and ability to ‘pick up where you left off’. That could not be more accurate in this case. Daniel, you’ve been a constant in my life for so long, and you have never once let me down. Also, you’re an idiot. A puerile, irreverent, off-the-wall idiot – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love you, you daft sod, and thank you for everything, always.

My mother will probably – by turns hopefully and sadly – never read this, but of course none of it would be possible without her. That she doesn’t know that I’ve achieved this makes me feel full of nauseated regret and woe – but I’d rather that than ruin her life, or even possibly endanger her very existence, what with the dark revelations that so frequently inhabit this blog. But lest she ever does read it, and lest anyone else be in any doubt, I love her very, very much and without her I would not only not be writing, but I would be dead.

And you, A. Thanks for the grand, Mister! (Yes, he really did pay up on the back of my ridiculous joke! Such an action truly makes me look sane). It’ll come in handy πŸ˜‰

Seriously. There’s no doubt that I’d be six feet under (or lying at the bottom of Beachy Head or something) without you and your unwavering support, companionship, private sentimentality and profound love. Maybe I don’t always show it, and fuck knows I don’t say it often enough – but I know I’m so, so lucky to have you in my life, and I love you to the ends of the Earth.

Over and out. (Finally. Well done to anyone that got this far. What kind of sad life you must lead to have read all of this. Similar to the kind of sad life I lead by having written it all. OK. Enough. Really. Gone now. Vanished. Bye.).