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.

CPN Appointment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s the point of this post?

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

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

You can follow A on Twitter at @TheNyarlathotep.

Fuck – Rows, Illness and Death

I accidentally published this post last night, titularly known merely as ‘Fuck’ – but I mistakenly hit the ‘Publish’ button several narrative eons too early. Sorry to any of you that got confused by its disappearance or whatever – I know there were quite a number of hits to it, so I feel like a bit of a dick. Sorry. FAIL!

Jesus. I don’t know where to start with any of this. Everything in the run-up to, during, and in the aftermath of, Maisie’s funeral was shit. I was shit, a circumstance that I will explain why when I’ve reached the correct chronological juncture.

So then, in order…

The Lead-Up

I had previously written a full-length post about some of the stuff that happened in the days and weeks that preceded Maisie’s death, but actually publishing it would feel rather disrespectful. I mean, I know I’ve made a point since she died of not making her out to be something she wasn’t, and I’m not going to discontinue that philosophy, but the level of detail to which I’m characteristically drawn really isn’t required in this case. Suffice to say that Maisie and Kevin (my cousin, her live-in son) had a massive row with Sarah (another cousin, Maisie’s live-in daughter) and ScumFan (Sarah’s son and, you guessed it, Maisie’s live-in grandson). It was so vicious that Kevin and ScumFan came to blows, though curiously Kevin – who, despite his mild-mannered exterior, has a propensity for unacceptable behaviour – later apologised to his sister and nephew. They accepted this, and duly said sorry for their part in the row. Maisie, however, would not let it slide, and in true Hotel California style, the resultant atmosphere was as thick as a combination of treacle and vomit.

I went to my mother’s house on the Thursday before Maisie died to find Sarah and ScumFan sitting there, having apparently been in situ since the Tuesday evening, their escape intending until at least the Friday night. Unkind things were said. Some were true and just, some were less forgiveable. It was more or less universally agreed that Maisie was manipulative (yes), that she always seemed to have a particular problem with Sarah – as opposed to her three sons and two-daughters-in-law – (yes in duplicate), that life in the house – at her behest – was frankly bizarre (yes in triplicate). But we also cracked a few rather unpleasant jokes at her expense, about which I now feel slightly bad. Not OMG I’m such an evil human being, burn me at the stake RIGHT NOW bad, because there were occasions in which she deserved a good parodying, and it’s human nature to pick up on a person’s faults and criticise them, even if you can also see the good.

But what I feel worse about is some of the bile I spewed here about the woman. In my defence, a lot of that arose in the summer of 2010 when she was incredibly nasty to my mother. I reacted with anger to this – rightly, I feel – but perhaps I went too far. Not that she’d ever have read it, but the fact that I thought (and wrote) such aggressive, bitter enmities – without at least later qualifying them – leaves me with a gruesome metallic taste in my mouth (or is that the Lamotrigine? ;)).

Anyhow, due to an engagement on the Saturday, ScumFan had to leave (along with his mother) on the Friday. Sarah especially was dreading her return to Hotel California owing to her mother’s behaviour during the week, and I honestly don’t know what happened when they arrived home. All I know is that on Saturday, my mother rang me to advise that Maisie had been taken into hospital.

One thing that’s important to understand here is that Maisie’s life completely revolved around being in Hotel California, or at least with 4,083,832 family and friends around her in some other ostensibly normal setting. She abhorred the notion of hospital admissions in the past so much that she’d have preferred to fuck up her health to avoid them. She was admitted several times over the last decade, but never once had she not steadfastly fought against the idea. On that Saturday morning, though, someone had called a GP to attend to her. When said GP opined that she should be hospitalised, Maisie did not resist in the slightest. This, my dears, is the micro-social equivalent of the Earth circling the Sun backwards.

Despite whatever had gone on between them, Sarah went with her ailing mother in an ambulance, whilst Paedo (and Kevin? ScumFan? Not sure) followed in the car behind it.

Her initial prognosis was a bit meh, but not – as far as could be ascertained at the time – by any means critical. In fact, at one point the quacks thought it was something as apparently simple as a bug (complicated a little by Maisie’s weight, respiratory problems and diabetes). Over the next few days, they did all the usual faff of blood tests, chest x-rays and so on. At one point, they wanted to do an MRI scan, but Maisie refused; her grounds for this were that if she had to lie flat on her back, that she’d not be able to (a) breathe and (b) get up again. If that sounds bizarre, be advised that for the past several years she had slept upright in a chair in her living room, because lying in bed would have had these results.

Anyhow, as the days went on, she had seemed to have been feeling better. ScumFan, apparently (alongside his mother) reconciled with Maisie, proffered the view that his grandmother would most likely be discharged by the weekend.

Alas, his optimism was to be short-lived.

Wednesday: The Death

A and I were intending to take another trip round the Emerald Isle from the Friday of that week until the weekend just passed. As such, I was intending to leave our cats with my mother on the Wednesday, stay over with her that night, and visit Maisie in hospital on the Thursday afternoon. At one point on Wednesday when I spoke to Mum on the phone, she initially suggested we go to see her sister that day; I demurred, however, on the grounds that “I [could] just go tomorrow.” My mother was seemingly quite content with that, not envisaging any great deterioration in Maisie’s condition. In any case, I found myself massively delayed by the sheer idiocy of Mr Cat, who didn’t bother to come home that afternoon (and, in fact, he only turned up 24 hours subsequent to it). Beyond being irritated, however, I was relatively relaxed. Herein comes the “…if only I had…” bullshit. If only I had put our cat-accommodation concerns to one side for one measly, poxy afternoon, then I could have seen Maisie one final time. Whilst that may not have benefited me greatly (although by the same token, neither would have been greatly offensive, Paedo’s probable presence aside), it would have made her day.

What ifs are fucking pointless, stupid and usually wholly irrational. I consider myself a thinking person, as opposed to a feeling one. So why am even I afflicted by this phenomenon? I’m not a normal human being; I’m a self-styled dickhead providing no service with plenty of sneer. So what the fuck? I mean, let’s get some perspective on this: the what ifs are not totally overwhelming my psyche or anything. I’m not so consumed by guilt and self-loathing that I bawl my eyes out every time I inhale, or that I intend to throw myself off the Si Du River Bridge (though that said, should I ever wish to leap to my death, the backdrop to that piece of civil engineering genius would encompass a pretty spectacular and dramatic scenery on which to fix my final gazes). But it is there, and it is there enough to upset me. ‘Disappointed’ is not a term I frequently use in a self-referential context, but it it is apt here. I’m not disappointed because I’m apparently not a robotic droid; I’m disappointed in myself for letting down this complex person that was, until less than a fortnight ago, my aunt.

Bah. This introspection requires a post of its own. This one was meant to be about the chronology and specific events of the last fortnight, so let me return to that.

I contacted my mother about 5pm to apologise for my lateness and to verbally pour scorn on Mr Cat’s inconvenient – and, I am convinced, deliberate and pre-planned – decision to jaunt off on an extended mission to find himself a bird (post-feminist double entendres, anyone?). She told me not to worry about it and to come whenever I could.

Less than twenty minutes later, she rang me again. For once, I am glad I answered the hateful, repugnant device that is the fucking telephone. Having not been able to support her in those brief, shocked, horrified seconds she experienced would have been tantamount to abuse.

“Pandora,” she gasped. “Maisie’s dead!”

“Oh my God,” said some robot somewhere, speaking in what appeared to be my voice. Maisie being ill was not uncommon; as observed above, being forced into hospital wasn’t unheard of either. And ScumFan – and Mum in some ways too – had either inferred or even explicitly stated that the woman was getting better. And now she was dead? What the actual fuck?

My reaction was odd. I wasn’t struck by anything like one would normally expect – no horror, grief, overwhelming sadness. Arguably, given my quietly fractious relations with the McFauls, one might argue that I could have felt relief, or at least a release. But I didn’t experience any of those things; instead, I experienced a strange, unpleasant rush of adrenaline that stung every nerve in my body. I suppose, retrospectively, it was a quite normal experience: that of human shock. At the time, however, it seemed weirdly inappropriate.

I don’t remember if I quizzed my mother on what had specifically happened. I don’t remember saying much, in fact, but then the phone call wasn’t long. I do recall that I told Mum I’d come over to her gaff straight away, but she urged me not to drive until I had A with me. Yeah, because someone who’s partially sighted and at least partially emotionally detached from the whole sorry saga is going to magically turn me into a slow but still competent Lewis fucking Hamilton (I’m sure A won’t mind me saying that; he says as much to me himself). What I did instead was drive to his workplace, pick him up, and then we set to going to my ma’s.

We hit traffic. I chewed my lip nervously. A fiddled with his phone as he apprehensively scratched at his face. Even the car engine seemed to empathise, emitting as he did a (quite probably imaginary) sound of churning, vague discomfort. I looked out the window at all the world-weary faces of the home-commuting rat-race. They returned my stares of empty sympathy with their own piteous gazes. The sky was dark grey, brooding ominously like an amorphous Edgar Allen Poe.

The setting was well and truly set for the following few days.

I’ll continue this tomorrow. I have to go and see Paul. Did you see that one coming, readers?! I shall attempt to explain and detail that over the next few days too.

Absolutely Damn All Squared

I’m still in the land of the living. Or the existing, as you prefer. I know I haven’t written anything in what seems (for me) like ages, but there’s not a great deal to report.

I had written an entire post and when I went to upload it, my WP application crashed. So I won’t bother to recreate it; I’ll just make the basic points I was initially going to.

One: voting is still open, until midday next Saturday, in the TWIM awards; just click here. Thank you to those of you that voted for me, thank you: I genuinely appreciate it. However, in the interests of impartiality, I’ve disqualified myself so the votes won’t count – but thank you anyhow. I still don’t understand why you read or like this blog. But that you do genuinely touches me, so thank you.

Two: I probably won’t be writing here much until at least January; I’ll try to do my traditional “what happened this year” round-up, but I won’t promise. For one thing, I’m very stressed (and also disproportionately upset – I so need to get a fucking life) about something I can’t (at least yet) discuss here. More importantly, I have a major piece of professional writing deadlined for 2nd January, and of course that will take priority over my usual garbling bollocks for here. So I have, for once, a genuine reason not to crap on on Confessions, rather than my failure to post being attributable to anhedonia, avolition or laziness (though I must admit to the presence of the former two nevertheless).

Also, please note that I will not be doing anything TWIM-related until at least Tuesday. I’m even temporarily removing the relevant email account from my phone!

I haven’t been on Twitter for days (other than to tweet the odd article via third party apps, or to text a random observation or something), and probably won’t be for…well, some more days. If you’ve @mentioned or DMed me, I’m honestly not ignoring you and will catch up before too long 🙂

Three: after seeing NewVCB on Wednesday, I am now taking 100mg of Lamotrigine. Unfortunately 50mg of this is in the morning, which doesn’t sit especially well with my daily Seroquel hangovers. On the latter, by the way, I am going to be a fat bitch for a good bit longer than anticipated because she NewVCB wants to increase my Lamotrigine dosage again in the new year, and isn’t keen on modifying two medications at the same time (which is fair enough).

Four: A and I are at my mother’s; we’ll spend Shitmas Day here, and then head to A’s father and step-mother’s house for Cocksing Day. It is a good way to spend Christmas, insofar as that’s ever possible, because it’s so delightfully fucking quiet . A pity about the cunt TV, but you can’t have everything I suppose.

Five: the important one. I may hate this time of year, but it doesn’t stop me from hoping that you don’t. For those of you that celebrate Christmas, have a very happy one. For non-Christians celebrating concurrent festivals, I’m sending equally good wishes to you too. In case I’m not here again before January, I’ll also take this opportunity to wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.

I don’t say it enough, but I sincerely appreciate every one of you. Thanks for your unending support and friendship. I do love you.

Be safe everyone, and take care.

Love

Pan

Initial Side Effects of Lamictal…and a Long Overdue Rant

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have been the unfortunate recipient of a number of tweets yesterday evening that contained almost epic levels of ranting. I had written an entire post for this blog on A’s iPad, which, whilst better for typing than our iPhones, is not as conducive to creating lengthy prosaic lamentations as a proper keyboard. Unfortunately for me, I’m in my laptop-phobia zone this week, and to that end only the iPad and the iPhone are safe for use (don’t ask for an explanation of this fatuity, because I don’t have one. Maybe I’ve simply grown to hate Windross so much that I fear even seeing it. Time to put Debian on the laptop, perchance).

Anyhow, I was a complete moron and decided to use the Blogpress iOS app to aid me in this ignoble endeavour. Just as I had finished, with the usual laughably stupid length of post completed, and went to save the entry – the cunting, fucking, shitting bastard of an application died on me. I lost every single word. I tried all the usual wank in an attempt to save it – close the app, turn device off and back on, etc – but circa 2,000 words and just over an hour of my time were lost to the dark realms of the e-ther (geddit?!) and try as I might to continue the rescue effort, the bloody thing just crashed, crashed and crashed a-fucking-gain. Shitting fuckery hell and bollocks.

So, iOS V users – don’t use Blogpress, OK? Not, at least, it’s been thoroughly updated and tested. It used to be a great wee app – it is, ostensibly, a much more fully featured blogging program than WordPress’s own. But at least (eventually) the latter fucking works. So that is where I find myself as I type this attempt at a re-write.

First though…

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST BUT I AM SO ANGRY. THE POST WAS ACTUALLY NOT BAD, UNLIKE FUCKING EVERYTHING I’VE WRITTEN FOR MONTHS. I WOULD HAVE BEEN FUCKING CUNTED THE FUCK OFF IF THE BASTARDING PIECE OF FUCKWITTAGE LOST A MORE CHARACTERISTIC LOAD OF FUCKING SHITEY CUNTFLAPPED BELLENDERY, BUT THE FACT IT LOST SOMETHING VAGUELY NOT COMPLETELY BLOODY AWFUL MAKES ME WANT TO SMASH THE LIVING BECHRIST OUT OF EVERYTHING. YOU CAN NEVER BASTARDING WELL REWRITE SOMETHING TOLERABLY BLOODY PASSABLE TO THE SAME PSEUDO-ALRIGHT LEVEL AS IT WAS THE FIRST SHITHEAD OF A TIME YOU FIRST BLOODY WROTE THE BOLLOCKFIST OF A FUCKING THING, SO WHAT FOLLOWS HERE WILL BE BACK TO MY USUAL DICKHEAD STANDARD OF UTTER COCK. FUCK TO THE ENDS OF ALL THE KNOWN BALLWIPED DIMENSIONS. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK.

Well, it’s been a while since there was a proper rant here, hasn’t it? And lo, I used to be the Queen of Rants in the Madosophere. But anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

I’m having some difficulty adjusting to Lamictal. Don’t worry, if you’re one of those odd people that may in some way give a flying arse about my existence, there’s no “FUCK I’M DYING” rash or anything. But the drug has brought me an insane level of fatigue (for example, I nearly fell asleep yesterday afternoon whilst playing Saints Row: The Third, which had delightfully arrived here early. I mean seriously, what the actual fuck? No one with even five per cent of a pulse falls asleep whilst playing Saints fucking Row!!!), my eyes have gone cross-eyed, my levels of forgetfulness that began with Venlafaxine (curse it) are amplified to objectively hilarious points of pseudo-dementia (cf. in people’s company a few days ago: “A, what’s my name again? Oh yeah. And, old chap, should you be so obliging as to advise me on the word one uses to intimate the device used to take a crap? Yes! ‘Toilet’. That’s it.”) and my regular migraine-level headaches are now even more frequent. The last point is especially irritating as, in off-label indications at least, Lamictal is used to treat headaches. Go figure, eh?

The exhaustion is not simply that frustrating but familiar kind of languorous weariness to which we are all often slaves – oh no, this is hardcore stuff, even by my own insomniac standards. It’s that kind of exhaustion that is like an gaping vault of oppressive darkness, sucking you in, dominating you entirely, screwing with your mind until it hurts but rendering you useless to do anything about it. It’s that kind of interminable, preponderant bleak tiredness normally wedded to the very worst of depressions – you know the ones I mean. That old familiar hangdog horror in which rising from your bed is not just a difficulty, but an impossibility. The old foe that leaves you helplessly staring at the wall, willing it with whatever mental faculties you have remaining to somehow show you some mercy and let you die. The old knocking on the door of the mind that reminds you that you have no escape, because you are utterly devoid of enough motivation to even end things yourself. The old living hell that seems unresolvable.

Normally such exhaustion and a depressive hell are thus united – but not in this case. It would be a lie to say that the tiredness does not impact upon my mood in some fashion, but for someone whose mental agility and body alike are so heavily enervated, I actually feel pretty stable in this regard. Indeed, Null thinks I’m high. As I was trying to write the original of this post last night (RIP), I must confess that I did wonder that myself; the style of my prose, whilst slightly better than my shitty norm, did have something of a manic quality to it (perhaps that’s exactly why it was slightly less rubbish than as is typical!).

Allow me to exemplify how OK I am, despite Lamictal’s nefarious side effects. I have exactly £1.06 to my name right now, and even that’s part of my overdraft – yet I am not panicking like an old lady denied her copy of her all-important Bella magazine like I normally would; instead, I’m tolerably riding the wave of patience until I get paid next week. It’s November, and I don’t want to run out and throw myself off the nearest bridge or towerblock. Indeed, even bastarding, fuckwitted, hateful, cunting Shitmas has been surprisingly kind to me this year: the hackneyed and improbably dainty ads for the accursed capitalist nonsense only began registering on my radar about six weeks in advance of 25 December, rather than the 12 or 13 weeks to which I am normally frustratingly used. And, next week, off I go to London, where I am short-listed for a Mind Media Award. I am excited, rather than entirely petrified, by this. I mean, of course I should be excited – but as someone with social anxiety issues which are, at times, very severe, it’s a surprisingly gratifying thing that being faced with being in such a busy venue with – dun-dun-DUN! – famous people does not scare the living bejesus out of me right now.

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Lest anyone think I’m in the midst of a narcissistic delusion of grandeur regarding the awards ceremony, no, I do not – not for half a second – entertain the notion that I could possibly win the award. No way. But it doesn’t matter; what matters is being there. It is enough to have the opportunity to meet some incredibly interesting and highly influential individuals operating in the arena of mental health; it is enough that someone, somewhere has considered this silly blog even worthy of mentioning in the same breath as some truly excellent anti-stigma and exploratory material; it is enough that I dare to see my name listed in honour of the late Mark Hanson, a stalwart of the social media world who suffered from horrendous depression; and it is enough that I have the opportunity to see some of my wonderful old friends and, indeed, to meet one of my oldest and most supportive online friends for the first time (so excited, bourach! :D). Although it would be beyond absolutely incredible to win, to be in the position I already am is more than enough.

So, although I’m fighting medication side effects from every angle, I’m doing relatively well. As for the side effects themselves – well, according to most of the literature on Lamictal, they will pass. Indeed, I already feel them abate, ever so slightly. As the days pass, my eyes will blur things a little less, my energy levels will increase a little more, and my headaches will revert to the mediocre but liveable standards to which I’ve long been accustomed. Maybe the current drug cocktail will, in the end, work for me after all.

What’s that you say, fair reader? “Oh dear God, Pan’s defining characteristic of cynicism has been lost?” No, fear not – I have not become so washed away by some sort of bright absolution that I have become an optimist. Christmas still sucks, the world is still a cunthole, I’m still an infernal misanthrope and I still can’t stand the sight of happy couples frolicking around the shops like some sort of silly vapid bunnies. I’m just a misanthrope that can’t stand the sight of happy couples frolicking around the shops like some sort of silly vapid bunnies who happens not to feel opprobriously atrocious for once.

If you don’t like that…suck it up 😉

(NB. I haven’t proof-read the above folks, sorry. I humbly beg your forgiveness for any poor turn of phrase, grammar, spelling etc, and I shall endeavour to correct such issues at my next available opportunity. Toodle-pip!).