Perspectives from the Mentalist's Best Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who doesn’t love a bit of black humour?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But writing is a big job description.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that, boys and girls, is a rap.

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

An 'I'm a Lazy Bastard' Post

NOTE: If you don’t like gratuitous swearing, don’t read this. Ta very cunting much.

If LittleFeet can succumb to the lures of a meme, then I happily can too 🙂 So this is my ridiculous take on the ‘A – Z’ interrogative delight that is currently floating around the blogosphere. It’s got me out of writing a proper post, and ergo I am quite enchanted with it. (That said, I intend to get back to proper writing tomorrow. I want to catch up on things with Paul – I have four fucking weeks to catch up on, and I want it all done and dusted. If you don’t see anything on Paul here by midnight tomorrow, don’t just feel free to berate me, please actively do so. Thank you, lovelies).

A = Age: 27. Though I routinely forget this information, and have found myself frequently asking A, my mother or friends what age I am. For someone as smart as I apparently am, I can’t even always work it out when I consider my birth year either – though, again, I’m quite wont to forget the year of my birth too. It’s probably a good thing, really. Being on the slippery slope towards the age of 30, especially when you’ve achieved fuck all of any worth in your existence, is wholly depressing. That said, I want to get my 30th birthday the fuck out of the way and then see if the following decade can represent something approximating the fabled state of ‘fresh start’-ness. I am not, however, considering this prospect with any significant optimism.

B = Bed size: Double. I do live with my Mister, after all, and it doesn’t seem entirely fair to relegate him to either a sofa or a floor – as a general rule, anyhow. Of course, once upon a time the minute spare room contained a bed, but that bed itself usually contained my brother-in-law. Since he has now become an alleged adult and got his own house and mortgage, his former quarters have become a study-cum-music room-cum-‘let’s throw all the rubbish in here so we don’t have to think about it’-space.

C = Chore you dislike: All of them. I almost never do any, and don’t have any intention of starting to do so this side of 2098. I don’t mind living in what objective observers may call a ‘mess’. What’s wrong with living in an untidy house? Who cares about a layer of dust here and there? I genuinely have no understanding of why these issues are considered to be of any worth to any person.

D = Dogs: What about them, other than that I do not have one in my current possession? I like them and would love to have one, but the house is very small and dogs need attention. To these ends, I have ultimately settled on cats for my non-human companionship. The cynical fuckers take care of themselves, for the most part, meaning I merely have to throw food and water in their general direction now and again. It’s a mutually convenient relationship.

E = Essential start to your day: Faffing about for 80 years, trying to convince myself that remaining in bed all fucking day is not a particularly good idea.

F = Favorite color [sic]: Purple, black or blood red.

G = Gold or silver: Silver. Proper silver, mind you; I’m thoroughly allergic to non-precious metals.

H = Height: Odd you should ask, actually, as in the course of mundane domesticity in the form of a cunted fridge, I had the tape measure out today. I’m an inch taller than I realised: 5’4″.

I = Instruments you play(ed): *shudders* I was coerced into attempts to play that most childish and pathetic of instruments, the recuntcorder, in my first year at grammar school. I was so tremendously terrible at it, and I was so utterly petrified of the demon-like teacher, that I developed musicitis on most Tuesday mornings, coincidentally (!) the time allocated for music for our class. Either that or I was highly strategic in allocating myself doctor’s or dentist’s appointments.

Ironically, I later joined the chamber choir, which was trained by the same teacher…and grew to be rather fond of him.

A has tried to teach me the guitar, but I don’t really have the patience for learning it (or any other instrument) any more, if I ever even did.

J = Job title: Useless Dolescum Mentalist Trampcunt.

K = Kids: Do you refer to those four-libmed things that emit high-pitched, irritating sounds that also run around the place flapping their arms about for no discernible reason, yet which manage not to get sectioned? *shudders again* No. Please keep these things away from me.

Seriously, even if I liked children (which, obviously, I don’t), I really don’t think it would be a good idea for me to have any. Mental illnesses are frequently observed in the offspring of headbins like me, and whether that’s due to genetics, environmental factors or both is almost irrelevant: the statistics are clear. Furthermore, A has a congenital eye impairment, so our poor phantom offspring would run an elevated risk of being both blind and mental. I don’t think it’s fair to inflict that possibility on it.

Disclaimer: that is not to say that all mentalists should remain childfree or childless. If one is stable, and if you’re not the selfish cunt that I am, then more power to you; I’ve no doubt that such people can be excellent parents. Ditto blindness – most of the blind/VI people I know lead very full and ordinary lives. The combination just doesn’t work for us, and even if it did, we don’t like screamers children.

L = Live: NORN IRON LEEK (translation: I say, dear chap, I must confess to residing in the disputed constitutional territory in the North-East corner of the island of Ireland, a fine and upstanding place for any gentile individual to frequent, har-har!)

M = Mom’s [sic] name: Mother. Mum. Yer woman indoors. YER MAWH! (Seaneen may understand. I don’t know if the rest of you will, sorry).

N = Nicknames: Pan. SI. There are also one or two that relate to my real name, but these are only used by my mates – A and Mum never are never heard to use them.

O = Overnight hospital stays: Three. One of which was when I was born, so arguably doesn’t count particularly. The other two were medical (as opposed to psychiatric) hospitalisations for the effects of overdoses; one, oddly the more serious of the two, was for one night only whilst they pumped the living fuck out of my stomach, and the other was for three nights. In the case of the latter, I have absolutely no idea why they kept me in for so long. I had inflicted almost no serious or lasting damage on myself, and didn’t even require stomach pumping.

The first night of that hospitalisation saw my best friend Daniel stay with my mother (he had been present when I took the overdose). Unfortunately for him, my mouse Freezing had escaped from his cage, and was latterly found to be inhabiting Dan’s spare-room quarters. I am grateful to him (Dan, not the mouse) though: he saved Freezing’s life. My mother ran about threatening to stand on the poor wretched creature, but Dan refused to allow it, and Freezing lived to fight another round of let’s-break-out-of-the-cage (at which point my mother returned him to the pet shop :().

P = Pet peeves: The following construction: It happened Tuesday. NO, IT FUCKING DIDN’T. It happened ON Tuesday! Jesus! ‘Tuesday’ is not a fucking adjective!

Other abuses of grammar. Reactionist wing-nuts. Holier-than-thou types. People who live in wilfull ignorance vis a vis mental illness and/or mental health issues. Politicians. The demonisation of legitimate benefit claimants, especially when weighted against the apparent legitimacy of pissing the world economy down the sewer and then being rewarded for it. Phones. Microsoft Windross. Spidey fuckers and other pointless human miscellany.

Basically – most things.

Q = Quote from a movie: No idea. I don’t watch enough films to find inspirational quotes in them. One quote that I love that was in a film – but which, if memory serves me, was garnered straight from the original book of same – was How art thou, thy globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil? It came from Alex, the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange (one of my favourite novels of all time), when he encountered an enemy gang-leader. I thought it was a hilarious insult, and I have employed it in verbal discourse frequently since I first came across it.

R = Righty or lefty: Mostly right-handed, to my regret (I do so love to be different), but I do have some tendencies towards ambidexterity. w00t!

S = Siblings: None. And I prefer it that way.

T = Time you wake up: At whatever time the previous night’s 600mg of Seroquel permits.

U = Underwear: None, normally, because I don’t leave the fucking house often enough. I sit around wearing trampy dresses with nothing under them and plod about all day like that. When I do venture outdoors, a t-shirt bra is a necessity. I’m ambivalent about cunt-coverers. If they’re clean, they’re suitable.

V = Vegetables you don’t like: FUCKING lentils. Fucking, fucking, fucking lentils. They are the spawn of Satan himself. Lentils are evil. E.V.I.L. They are disgusting and fetid and shouldn’t be allowed under the European Convention on Human Rights, as under Article Three of the aforesaid, they inhibit my right to be free from torture. The mere thought of the cunting curls of bastardry is decidedly torturous to me. In fact, I may consult a Human Rights lawyer on this matter. Lentils need to be made extinct, and we need to act now.

W = What makes you run late: Usually the cats dicking about, but also mentalism, claro que si. I used to be late for nearly everything, for which we can generally blame the epic failures of public transport. However, at present I am almost always early for appointments and related shit, because I have a marked tendency to over-estimate just how long it will take me to drive to them. Then I sit about in my car like a dick with no point for four years, trying to think of something more productive to do than vituperate about my poor timing on Twitter.

X = X-rays you’ve had: Two, or so I recall anyway. When I was 14, I fell on the stair and completely twatted my knee – 13 years later, I am still afflicted with the frustrating malady garnered back then. One night when I was maybe 15 or so it (my knee) went completely mental (metaphorically, you understand), so my mother took me to the Big Local NHS Shithole Hospital, where we sat as our minds slowly but surely atrophied out of our skulls for something like eight hours. Then some ‘oh look at me, I’m a Junior House Officer and I’m soooooooooooooooooo fucking important’ braindead bitch glanced at it for about three nanoseconds, sent it for an x-ray at the absolute behest of my mother, glanced at the x-ray for about half a nanosecond, then sent me on my not-so-merry way.

The second time was about two years ago, when I was having a pile of gastro-intestinal issues. I was sent for an x-ray at Big Private Hospital, where I was treated courteously and respectfully. A consultant in the area and a senior radiographer took time to analyse the x-ray (which, in the end, showed no blockages) before I was allowed to be discharged. In the wake of this, a kind and friendly nurse presented me with tea and a tasty scone with butter and jam.

Y = Yummy food you make: Curry with a capital arsekiller. I make ’em hot.

Z = Zoo animal favorites: Bats! I fucking love them. Also penguins; they’re so cute and friendly.

At the other end of the scale, I loathe and despise cows with even more fervour than I hate lentils (see ‘V’ above). The only purpose of cows is for them to be well-grilled on my plate. I bring their existence up because as teenagers, Daniel, my then-boyfriend Neil and I went for a walk on a route that circles the perimeter of a zoo. Even this zoo, fairly basic on a world scale, was not so inadequate that it required livestock as exhibits; however, we decided to confuse the punters about this. We hid in the bushes and cried “moooo! Moooo!” in the deepest, most bovine-like manner we could muster, and sat back in delight as all the little attending kids started shouting at their parents for “not taking [them] to see the cows, Mummy/Daddy!”

That I still find that anecdote amusing proves that I have never, and am unlikely to ever, grow(n) up.