An Education

Once upon a time, my odd behaviour, strange way of thinking, and outrageous antics were endearing. Everyone loved me and my wild ways, perhaps even because of my wild ways. But now that most people have a greater awareness and understanding of mental illness, my behaviours are appalling, tragic, pitiful, dangerous, distressing. “Such a shame.

Once upon a time, it was funny when I climbed into a chest freezer in a supermarket because I was so tired and wanted to sleep and the shop was too noisy and I needed to be cold because I honestly thought my blood was on fire. “Omg you’re sooo crazy hahaha!” “What a nutter, you’re so funny!” “Lmfao I fucking love you, you crazy bitch!” “You are SUCH a legend!” If I did that today, you’d call 999, failing to hide the embarrassment on your face. You’d scuttle away from the “scene”, but not before telling the crowd of onlookers that I’ve “been like that for years.

The idiosyncrasies of mine that were once adorable are now utterly deplorable.

It’s funny how things change. Unfortunately, I haven’t. I’m still as sick as ever. But at least you’re educated about mental health now, right?

Originally published on The Magic Black Book as 010218.


I am, I am, I am


​I am a letter.
I have been sliced open
And arranged with all the others.
Bringing more bad news than good.
Sometimes lost,
Sometimes pinned to the wall,
Eventually finding the hands of the right person,
Eventually discarded and forgotten about,
Not worthy of being cherished
Or hidden in the shoebox
At the bottom of your wardrobe
To be reread on a rainy day.


I am a crucifix.
Believed in by many,
Feared by some.
Adored by the faithful,
Notorious to the faithless.
I can be your constant,
I can be your last resort.
You’ll either mock me or need me,
Possibly both.
My pained face hangs over your head
When you’re lying in bed,
And I will be there at the end of the aisle,
Watching you marry the wrong girl.
I might make you uncomfortable;
Or I may provide the greatest comfort
That you’ve ever known.
Or you can, you know,
Just wear me for show:
Don’t think about my meaning,
I am just an accessory.
I have the power to intimidate
And the power to forgive
And I can look pretty while doing it.


I am a vase.
Smashed into pieces on the floor,
Hidden from the parents,
Frantically reconstructed by a sibling,
Taped and glued and bandaged up,
Susceptible to further damage,
Praying that nobody notices,
Plotting excuses for when somebody does,
Playing the blame game,
Holding it together,
Knowing that it’s only a matter of time
Before the parents find out
And panic
And shout
And throw me out.
No longer functional
No longer beautiful
No longer pride of place
Just an ugly, broken waste of space.



Chris R-0315 Image by Christine Renney

I am attempting to forge a route that takes in all of my haunts, all the places where I have taken shelter after dark. The doorways where I have pushed back and stretched out and where I have slept. But there are too many and as I move between them, making my way back and forth, I feel disoriented and this sudden compulsion is now pulling me from the Centre or at least from the part of the City I have accepted as the Centre, a place where I have loitered and lingered. But my reluctance to leave seems to have deserted me and I am fleeing, but to where?
I am pushing against the City and it is dense and difficult to navigate. I look because I must but I can’t focus and I can’t see my way through. The idea of a Centre here, that it could exist, is inconceivable and yet I have conceived of it and somehow I have found my way. But how?
It must have been slow, my descent. So gradual that the progress I have made is all but impossible to detect.



​”Why are you crying, poppet?”

Because I am so devastated that there is no document that exists that can tell me every single bench I’ve ever sat on throughout my life, where that bench was and with whom I was sitting. I just need to know. I just want to fucking know.

“That’s why you’re so angry and upset? Because you don’t have a list of every bench you’ve ever sat on?”


“Look, I know you’re mad, poppet, all the best ones are. But you can’t be insane. Not here, not now. Not ever.”


“Ahh ah ah ah. Come on now. Settle, petal.”


1 a.m. on the Borderline

I leave his house without kissing him goodbye and hurry down the empty street. I hear him bolting the door behind me and I am glad to be alone.

I sit on someone’s garden wall and rummage around in my bombsite of a handbag for a working lighter before giving up and walking down to the bus stop, kicking the leaves up as I go.

I contemplate my desire to join the army, thinking that the army would be the best place for me, that they’d sort me out. Then I remember that I can’t join the army because I’m too mentally ill, I failed all the preliminary psych tests and they would never take me on even for office work because I’m a liability, a loose fucking cannon.

Plan B: become a florist. That’ll calm me down. But first I’ll have to prove that I can be trusted with scissors.

And so I stand there, on the borderline between Greater London and Hertfordshire, between sane and insane, between tired and wired, waiting for the last bus which may have already gone.

I shut my eyes with little effort: they are almost closed anyway, swollen from the crying. The mist helps. I make a mental note to ask my dad what the difference is between mist and fog but I probably won’t remember to do so as my brain is as good at retaining information as a colander is at holding sand.

All I can hear are faraway planes, fast trains and distant sirens. I wonder what tonight would sound like in 1916: deathly silence and the cawing of a crow. Perhaps, hundreds of years ago, I would’ve heard the stars shifting and the creak of the exhausted planet turning on its rusty axis. The rumble of a procession of boy racers in their souped-up motors jolts me back to the present moment and I remember that everything is awful.

Somewhere in the world a house is on fire. I can see it burning, I can see the family watching as their life goes up in flames. The children are screaming and the mother is weeping and the father wants to go back inside to rescue his Rolex. The smoke stings my eyes but that’s not why I’m crying. Not really.

The headlights of the bus appear through the fog and as I search for my ticket I am unaware that my dad has 19 hours left to live.


Affected minds


a glass place became a nice waste when driving her fist through she withdrew shards of herself, knives of reflection, betraying recollection, look away, look away, the van pulls up and takes you in muslin, you shall be wrapped and restrained with care, packaged into pieces and transported elsewhere

this place

antiseptic rest they call it

a hospital for affected minds

tired on the lint of life

some starve under careful watch, finding a banana, an apple, a lettuce leaf, too much, for stomachs wormed with trauma rebel their owner, food becomes anathema, soon the taste, the smell, the leer of lunch, packs a gutful punch of nausea and they would rather go without

some speak to people who have crossed over, from one branch of their mind to another and back again, in confused syllabi they spell out the murder of their intention, to lose on the warm waves, all sense of self and then fade, becoming sand, shells crushing shells until nothing is left

some wish to rectify the world and they are the most deluded, for their burning minds know no boundaries and believing themselves insightful they seek to turn the worshipers away from the fault line lest they fall and all together, collapse into the deep, not realizing it is they who do not fit in. See … the others, all along knew they were going to jump with faith, into the jaws of tune in, switch off and fake it

give me that injection to make me blind she often cried, when living became a hungered thing waltzing for purpose

take away this ache, forcing me to stay, awake throughout the sea-sick days, our ship will never dock, we will never embark, our journey covers all, who lie to themselves about why they wake up, switch on the radio, listen to the false news report inaccurate things and take it on the chin, tuck it under our belt, wear it in our hair, poisoning our being

we carry embryos of self-delusion like babies bibs to catch the drip, drip, drip of the medicated masses

we bear their children and coddle their rhetoric, babysitters to the rich elms of deception, blowing our house down

we are homeless in our worship, warm to know our way, but what if it’s all a fallacy and this just a game?