mental health

The Unstartable

Eating my words
You chew with delight
Carving your bones through mine
Devouring my sanity.
To you they are all wasteful.
Pointless.
A din in your ordered world.
They taste bitter.
What’s wrong with you?
You say it so honestly
I believe it myself.
I did.
This lost bridge.
This gap.
This invisible nothing
Where the emotion should overwhelm.
That is where we end.
Because we can’t begin.

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Watching you give up

Watching you give up.
The saddest movie in the world.
The heaviest weight.
In the darkest pit.
All but you can see the light.
Blinding in its vibrant scream.
More unique than ever.
Bursting with flavour.
You are there.
Locked. Caged.
Covered in worthlessness.
Strapped with gutless hatred.
You guard your own fortress.
Unreachable.
Impenetrable.
The precious fortunes must stay hidden.
I know their wealth.
I know their unburdened brilliance.
I’ve seen them shine.
I can see them now.
Through that fearful glint.
Behind the defiant resignation.
Within that numb world.
Made by your own choice.
So many long to free you.
From this war only you can win.
Like the saddest movie in the world.
We are watching you give in.

I want to reach for you in your night
I want to hold you while you fight
I want to lick your wounds
And kiss the pain
Fill you with love
Warm the strain
I want to push you on when you fall
I want to push you over that growing wall
I want to nurse your grazes
So you can carry on
You can push me away
But I’ll never be gone.
I want to hold you up and show your worth
I want to shout it loud to all the Earth
This beautiful human
This creation of one
Stronger than before
Because they won.

Run away

Run away
It will fix itself
If you’re not there
Run away
Uphill
Away from the depths
Where it can only be worse
Which you cannot bear to explore
To confront
Too hard
Run away
From the you you most fear
That fatal truth
Too much to feel
Too much of a battle
Run away
From that waste of time
To higher ground
To the edge
To fall again

Beautiful Truth

Beautiful truth.
In all its heartless grip.
Beautiful life.
Fuelled by sadness and consequence.
Stoked by need and unknowing.
The elated numbness.
The joyful hate.
The high of the sickening fear.
The stabbing depths of the alone.
Pure.
Ecstatic in its freedom, dancing with sharp toes over a threadbare carpet of hope.
This beautiful truth.
That of no other.
This beautiful now.
Unsharable. Uncontrollable. Unpredictable.
Delicate and crushing.
Primer of pain and pleasure.
Until singularity, when everything makes sense but it no longer matters.
The last beautiful truth.
Alone and free.
The beautiful end.

Mind Wars

I’m spending this weekend with The Mother. I haven’t seen her in the flesh since March, seven months ago. Then I had protection in the form of other people. This time it’s just us two. The relationship between The Mother and me is a whole tortuous book in itself, so I won’t bore you with it. All you need to know is she’s a controlling person, and I have let her be that person with me. She does that through fear because of childhood things, exacerbated by secret alcoholic husband, which, in that context, makes it totally understandable. Now.

I can pinpoint the exact time I decided that I wasn’t going to be like I was anymore. I wasn’t going to take this shit from her. Or anyone else for that matter. I’d had a bad year. Most years up to then hadn’t been good, apart from the odd moment here or there after I escaped home and school, and the heady days at university when everything was possible. After that came a complete breakdown, but all good things have to come to an end somehow. I regained some stability with my OH for the last ten years, a home, and two cats. Thank fuck! However, all good situations have their evil side. The grass may be greener, but there’s still perennial weeds in there.  The home situation with an autistic step-son, his not so interested mother, and my OH had got out of hand. When I say out of hand, I mean it hadn’t been dealt with. None of it. It was impossible to when that part of our lives wasn’t within our control. We weren’t allowed to make the decisions. And, looking back, I don’t think we wanted to be making them either. Without the OH’s Asperger’s diagnosis it was difficult for us to communicate about anything properly. Like a cushion trying to understand a hammer.

It was a lonely time for both of us. I sought solitude, which then sought company in some of the best friends I’ll ever have. That’s what it felt like at the time anyway. Then, suddenly, all my friends had got boyfriends/girlfriends/lives all at the same time. I was left alone. Isolated. Again. [Insert boring record of not having any family at all other than The Mother and inadequate training in social interaction due to alcoholic father here]. So keen was I to not be lonely for the rest of my life I’d put myself behind others, be there without question, the best friend they’d ever had. I’d been there for them, and they just left me. Obviously, that feeling has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me. The way it felt, the injustice, the pain of rejection and forced isolation in the middle of a situation that was already unstable, was intolerable – and I mean intolerable, to the point of physical pain that had only one way out. I put myself out there more than I’d ever done before. Prostrate on the floor, metaphorical innards bared. And I got hurt, obviously.

Turns out that’s the best thing they could have done for me.

It was on an excruciating week’s ‘holiday’ (she called it this. I call it a week in enforced hell with en suite) in Cornwall with my mother that I decided I wasn’t going to put up with her or anyone else’s shit any longer. My innards healed over and put an extra protective layer of fixative on top. I physically felt it one of those long nights stuck in a converted barn in the middle of nowhere with my life long guilt giver snoring in the next room. Once that huge, ugly monster (of emotions, not The Mother. Although…) had been encased forever inside me things started to show themselves from the other side. Their shapes were different and their overpowering repression not so overpowering anymore. That’s when the ever present Rebel sitting at the back marched forward and said, “I’m driving this body now. Get out of the bloody way Anxiety. Shift your fucking fat arse Self-Doubt, I’m taking over, you can all fuck off!”

I’d felt Rebel before, but this time was different. Instead of Anxiety throttling her on the spot, Rebel fought back, hard. They tried to push Rebel out before she could strap herself in, but Rebel was too strong and had been ignored, crushed and bullied for far too long by the others. She has won nearly every battle ever since. Rebel was finally able to teach me how to have confidence in my own intelligence (knocked out of me at school, of course), that I could work this life thing out myself if I just put in some time and effort and really used this amazing (and controllable!!) blob of grey slime in my skull. Rebel appointed Stubborn as Mind monitor. Stubborn was strict about things, making me read things that really helped me learn about how this bunch of cells I call my body works. Stubborn made me stick with battling through the nonsense commercial (bullshit) self-help market and find the real information. I learned about my biology, my chemistry, how it creates those intangible things called feelings and behaviours and reactions, and how I can control them with this flimsy thing called Mind. Defenceless as Mind would usually be, Rebel has released its full force. Now that Rebel is in charge I’m allowed to have confidence in myself as a fully formed human person (to the point anyone can be approaching midlife crisis age). I care about what people think about my writing, the way I look, what I think and say, but at the same time I don’t. I know that I know how to know stuff (think about it), and I know that I know how to unknow the old and inknow the new (I make up words. Problem?). I am capable, in my own way. Different to everyone else’s way. Good.

Those friends? After I’d hit the bottom of the pit and struggled back out again some of them turned out to be actual friends! But the majority turned out to be not worth any effort at all. And that’s fine.

Of course Rebel has to have the odd holiday. We all need a rest. That’s when Anxiety comes back for a day or two. Or Self-Doubt, with the apprentice, Self-Loathing. But they’re only temporary staff.

Fear (Scribbling)

You Fear the moment won’t last and you Fear you won’t get the chance of it again.
You love because you Fear not being loved.
You love because you Fear you’re unlovable.
Every decision you make you do because you Fear you will miss becoming something you’re not now.
You Fear the regret, the shame, the broken-heartedness.
You Fear time, that it will wander by while you edge closer to the end.
You Fear the end.
The final silence, where you have no more opportunities, no muddle of choices, no more to make of yourself.
The end, where you are complete.
A product of your Fear.
To be forgotten by omnipotent time.
You Fear the pointlessness of your effort.
You Fear that what you thought to be futile actually is. You Fear hope for hope’s sake.
You Fear yourself.
Being alone, only with you, the self you Fear, the one you made.
You are to blame.

From this Fear you cannot run. It runs with you.
You are the factory. You are the instigator. The inspiration.
You craft it with your own body and your carry it with you like an unburdenable tumour.
It weighs you down on your already heavy journey, causing you to turn where you shouldn’t, seek refuge where you mustn’t, take you where you strive not to go.
It obscures your view and stains the maps you make.
It slippens your grasp and bloodies your tracks.
It rips and tears and keeps fresh the wounds, cuts deep the new, suckles and chews.
Nurturer.
Provider.
Murderer.

You are the devourer, the taker, the glutton of experiences.
You are the creator, the crafter, the twister, the giver.
You create wrong. You create pain. You create tangles and messes.
You scribble over time and doodle on delusion.
You continue to fail to make the answer.
Still.

STILL.

How heartily Fear feeds.
Would you deny her sustenance?
You want her to think you a selfish creature?
You would distrust her for yourself?
Feed the belly that feeds you.
Unable to uncreate.
How heartily she feeds herself.

You will never do it right.
It IS pointless, and continuous.
I am here too.
You ARE already the answer.
You are sharing in silence with a world of messes, and Fear allows no entry.
You are creating with another who is creating with another, and together you build the intangible elephant that groans with its lonely lack of acceptance.
Time, alone, listens to its only companion.
Which time is the one you’ll pick?
Will you recognise it when it comes?
Will you have killed too much of yourself by then?
How do you know?
How, when you are blind?

(You are never wrong, only scribbling.)

Conform! This is Education.

The current education system puts emphasis on bashing individuality out of those new to being human and instilling conformity. We are all grouped according to age, rather than ability or interests. We are told that deviation from the norm is not allowed and shall be punished. We are taught that only certain jobs, certain paths will deem you a successful person. We are battered and admonished creatively and mentally until we leave school at 16 having been transformed into some kind of Borg. Any intrinsic interests you had, especially creative ones, have been stifled into a little box named ‘hobbies’. Successful little you then has to decide what form your future success will take and then, at the age of 16 – barely alive yet – you must decide what trade you will do until you die. It makes about as much sense as an honest politician!

And so the mental stress begins. This is no kind of environment for creativity, let alone the fulfilment of a person’s full potential. Surely this is all back to front? How can a person possibly know who they are, never mind what trade they want to pursue, if they’re never taught about themselves, about what it is to be human, the differences, the reasons why, the psych of our species?

Why do we find it so hard to concentrate on understanding our inner psych? Well, we’re never taught to use our brains at school for one thing. In her recent Edinburgh show (soon to be toured in theatres) Ruby Wax talks about not being given a manual for life, for living, how to do it. She’s right of course. Where do we get taught how our brains work? Wouldn’t that be a useful thing to understand? The process of learning, for example. How people learn, how a human learns. How about how to teach someone else? Doesn’t matter what, just how to teach, following on from your understanding of how people learn, and therefore why people are as they are. Or why people get depressed, why people want to belong to groups, how statistics work, how to read a scientific paper, how to analyse text, a speech, a complex financial/emotional/political situation, how to deal with life! When will we be taught how to do life? When are we ever taught how to and why to think at school? I mean how to think in a broad sense. Thinking is the basis of everything, yet our brain is the least explained thing. This understanding, I would argue, is more fundamental than even A, B, C or 1 + 1 = 2.

I agree everything up to the end of primary school is useful: how to talk, how to add up, how to spell, how to write, all the basics of communication and physical doing. Everything after that only serves to break down your personality, stamp on it, ensure your confidence is non-existent and then attempt to build it all up into some form of acceptable human according to current societal values. How boring. What a really boring human race we have become. Of all the things we, individually, and therefore collectively, could be capable of and we deem success to be how well you fit in, how high your salary is, how expensive your car is, how much breeding you’re capable of, and the location in which you choose to exist. I cannot even bring myself to say this is living.

Is this why there are ever increasing rows of council houses springing up with eight month pregnant girls waiting eagerly to start their new existence, ever perpetuating their family definition of ‘success’ in a world that won’t accept a non-mainstream human into its ‘freedom for all’ arms?

For instance, when I was at that delicate stage in life, younger than I am now, I was interested and enjoyed writing and art. Full stop. But when it came to art at school I hated it. Mainly because I was made to draw/paint/batik things I wasn’t interested in. I loved to draw faces, still life, and horrific monsters. When I was ‘made’ to do painting I chose to make political statements about homelessness or the environment (not that I knew that’s what I was doing, they were just subjects that touched my heart). My drawings were good, and I enjoyed doing them. My art teacher was into abstracts, and so decided to label me in my end of year report as ‘a copier’ because when given the choice I would pick still life to draw during art lesson time (mainly because it was an accessible subject to do in a 90 minute time frame). My mother took exception to this by telling the not-long-graduated-from-art school-failed-then-did-teaching-certificate art teacher that perhaps if they took us out and showed us something different then we might be inspired. Even after the eighth trip to an art gallery I wasn’t that much more inspired than I had been previously. It had only served to tell me that I wasn’t as good as many, many others out there, so why bother? I’d much rather have spent those long six hour days, which consisted mostly of humping a rucksack round flights of endless stairs endowed with 18th Century fruit, drawing something I chose.

As it turned out I did draw what I chose. I did what I chose in art and in many other lessons. Even when I was excluded for three days as punishment for doing what I chose they put me in a room on my own and gave me artwork to do! Three days of heaven! I drew the most horrific skull I could for my GCSE submission (an apt word if ever there was), I suppose as a proverbial ‘fuck you’ to my scholastic superiors. I ended up with a B.

But to be honest the school had done its job. By the time I left I got the impression that I wasn’t any good at art or writing after all, or anything for that matter. I wasn’t submissively creative enough, I was a failure at even that, so I may as well give up hope of doing anything I’m interested in or passionate about. So I stopped being interested and started being scared of life, as viewed through the eyes of a failure (the bullying didn’t help either). It is only now, at 34, that I am really getting back into both things I intrinsically loved when I was a small human. Having wasted many years trying to please society, family, peers, superiors, gain friends, lovers, respect, I am now starting to feel comfortable and confident enough in myself to say if you don’t like it, fuck off; I like it, and that is all there is. And I’ve found that a lot of other people do like it too. People I never knew existed, my kindred spirits, near to me and far away. And thanks to social networking I can keep in touch with them and perpetuate my inspiration. Why didn’t I know of you when I needed your acceptance, when I needed your enthusiasm to inspire my confidence? Oh yes, I was at bloody school.