life, prosetry

Hard To Explain

I called him to say that I was just about to leave home, but that I needed to buy some smokes first and then I would meet him outside the £1 pizza shop in fifteen minutes, that I’m putting pineapple on my half of the pizza and that I didn’t give a shit about his fruit-can’t-be-a-topping argument because tomato.

I texted him to say that I wasn’t feeling too clever, that I really wasn’t feeling good at all, that I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t walk anymore, I couldn’t walk anywhere anymore, that I needed to sit down, that I wasn’t on this planet, that I wasn’t in my body, that I wasn’t anywhere, that I was nowhere.

He found me lying on the floor underneath the bus stop bench. He put his face parallel to mine on the ground. He said my name over and over and over again, each name feeling like a piece of gravel falling on me, all these little stones with my name on them crashing all about us, raining grains of grit, not hurting much but still hurting a little bit. He was there and I was there, and we were here but I’m not sure where.

My outer body was convulsing violently, my hair, my teeth, my nails, shaking, but inside I was still, I was dead still, but he couldn’t see that, he could only see that I was shaking worse than usual and that my eyes were full of cloudy tears and then we both heard my voice crack as I whispered, “I don’t know where I am.”

I was terrified but he was terrified-er. He scooped me up and carried me to his car, wherever it was, wherever we were, whoever we were. I remember that he put my seatbelt on for me and I told him not to bother: I think I said it out loud but it may have been a whisper and it may have never left my mouth. He double-checked it was secure and locked the doors. He said, “It’s my job to keep you safe.” I remember driving down roads I’d never seen before while tears fell without me moving, without me asking them to. I remember that I couldn’t move my legs, that I had set concrete in my veins instead of blood, that my shoes were anchors. I remember that I couldn’t speak, but that was fine because I didn’t know any words.

Some hours later I realised that I was at his house, tucked up on the sofa in my usual corner, wearing his big comfy clothes, with Only Fools and Horses on telly and a pint of water and my meds next to me. He was cooking Sunday dinner. I could hear him stirring gravy in the glass jug.

I dragged myself to the kitchen and stood in the doorway. He was startled when he turned around and saw me there. I quietly asked him what had happened. He said he didn’t know. I started to panic. We sat down and he told me:

that I was supposed to meet him at the £1 pizza place, that I didn’t show up, that I sent him weird texts about feeling unwell, that I wasn’t answering my phone, that he went to the shop where I buy my fags and Bossman told him that I was there earlier but that I looked drunk and that I walked down the road,

that he walked around the area looking for me, found me at the bus stop, the bus stop by my house, by Bossman’s shop, by my secondary school, by the station,

that I was really frightened because I didn’t know where I was or who I was or what was happening, that I was screaming into my wrists and couldn’t move, that it took 15 minutes for himself, two passersby and an off-duty nurse to get me to trust him enough to let him grab me from under the bench and pick me up,

that the girl under the bus stop bench wasn’t me, that it was someone else entirely, that I was like an orphaned child waking up alone in a foreign land, like a ghost of an infant, that my eyes were dead and didn’t recognise his face at all, that I didn’t seem to understand how people were existing around me, that I didn’t understand how I was existing, that I had no idea where I was,

that it was as if I was seeing for the first time the area that I walk through multiple times a day and have known like the back of my hand for 20 years, that I was scared of the buses and the people and the cars and the air and the pavement and the sounds and my heartbeat and my skin and my voice,

that he’d never seen anything like it in his entire life, that he thought I’d taken a meth overdose, that he thought I’d been smoking crack, that he thought I was possessed, that he thought I was going to die, that he thought I might kill someone, that he thought I might kill him,

that he thought he should phone an ambulance but he knew that being in hospital would terrify me more and make me even worse, that he will never forget the state he’d found me in, and that he’s quite frankly terrified of me but would do anything to get me to return to being the girl that he knows and loves.

I didn’t remember a single thing, apart from a minute in a car. I didn’t know what was real or right or wrong or true. I just didn’t know.

He said, “Look,” and pulled my sleeves up. Bloody great bite marks on my wrists, the back of my right hand, my forearms. All red and purple and violent and frantic, punctures in my flesh where my teeth fit.

I looked up at him and his eyes were soft and safe, like golden syrup. I knew then that I would always be able to find a safe place in the irides of his eyes.

“I’m scared of me too,” I said.

He hugged me, being careful not to hurt me, and then mumbled into my hair, “Do you want one Yorkshire pudding or two?” and I laughed and cried into his chest, unable and unwilling to make sense of anything in that moment, other than that one question.

“One and a half, please,” I said.


Original version of ‘Hard To Explain’ posted on 13/07/17 at The Magic Black Book. Revised version above for Hijacked Amygdala.

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art, life, prosetry

On Writing & Suffering

Pain depends on me to be its host:
suffering is the needy child,
and I’m the parent who never says no.

*

As long I write, the pain is necessary. If I stop, the pain becomes unnecessary, pointless, all for nothing apart from what it is, which is inherently bad. I am a hostage, and if I stop transforming the pain into something better I will essentially be throwing away all chance of survival: I will not make it out alive, merely allowing myself to become another casualty of a sinister, seemingly unstoppable higher power who tortures me daily even though I have nothing to reveal, nothing it wants, nothing it needs. The pain becomes sheer cruelty with no objective other than to destroy me. As long as I write, I stave it off, I delay my death day. The narcissist in me likes to think that my torturer is secretly looking forward to reading what I write next.

*

I don’t invite the badness but once the pain decides to stay, it becomes hard to turn it away. The pain of unhooking it from my skin is enough of a deterrent. Easier to let it stay: less bloody that way. So I turn it into something else – something creative, perhaps even something beautiful, or helpful. I try to, anyway.

*

I’ve been given a life sentence.
I’ve been punished, blacklisted, labelled evil.
But it’s not me. It’s not me.
I’m not the villain.
It’s my mind!
My mind is the guilty one.
I’m not the evil one, my brain is!

My decisions are not mine to make.
My actions are not mine to take.

Everyone called it “attempted suicide” but it wasn’t,
it was attempted murder, my mind tried to kill me,
it was my mind, it was my mind, not me!
My mind is the one that did it!
Why can’t you see?
Don’t you believe me?
I have proof.

*

And the evil things that it does to me, all that badness, I try desperately to turn it into something creative, into words on a page. All of these filled notebooks, all of these poems, all of these scraps of paper: the proof. The proof. The proof that I have suffered for two decades, against my will.

*

Writing feels to me like an attempt to prove my innocence. They all have me down as guilty and I’m stuck on death row. My execution date is drawing ever nearer and writing is my last ditch attempt to prove my innocence. It feels like gathering evidence from the confines of my cell and presenting it to my unsympathetic lawyer:

Look.
Look at how I’ve been tortured and beaten and terrorised.
See?
Look at all these years of misery.
You’ve got to listen to me.
I deserve to be free.
I’ve done nothing wrong.
My mind made me do it, made me do all of it, and all of the stuff that I didn’t do, too. They’ve got it all wrong.
Look at all this pain.
Look at it.
LOOK AT IT.

But it’s too late. I myself have been forgotten, and only ever remembered as mad, sad, bad. I stay locked in my cell, sharing a skull with the real danger, a bed with the real monster. I swallow my pills and eat my greens and am polite to those unfortunate souls whose jobs have led them to encounter me, the ones that are always unable or unwilling to help me, the ones who have written me off as mad, sad, bad, bad, bad. I play sudoku and collect smiles of pity. I keep writing and suffering, collecting my evidence. I suffer and I write, night after night after merciless night.

*

I dream of my grave and always smile when I see it. You dream of your name in lights, I dream of mine engraved on a marble headstone. Sometimes it says I died in 2008, sometimes 2015. It varies. The stone is always clean, polished. Someone’s been looking after it. Lush green grass has always grown over me perfectly, evenly, even beautifully; the first true natural equilibrium that has ever befallen me. The world is a better place. I smile until it hurts my face.

Upon waking from my latest grave dream, I reach for the box of evidence that is stowed under my bed. I unlock the box for the first time in a long time, so long in fact that I almost forget where I’d hidden the keys. Starting in 2003, I begin to read. Even though it is my own story, I am shocked at what I read. Look at all this pain. Look at all this trauma. Look at all this sadness. Look at all this writing. Look at all this suffering. Look at it. “Look,” I say to no one. “LOOK.”

*

My biggest regret is taking myself for granted. Appreciate your intelligence, your personality, your abilities, your beauty. You may wake up one day and find that your own brain has decided to take all of your goodness away.

 

 

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prosetry

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.

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prosetry

Wild Horses

​You mix my medication into a pot of strawberry yoghurt and instruct me on how to eat. Open. Come on. That’s it. No, don’t chew it, it’s yoghurt, just get it down ya. There’s a good girl.

My phone is ringing but I can’t locate the source of the noise. It hurts to move my eyeballs. You find my phone and see who is calling me: it’s the guy that you’re (quite rightly) suspicious about. You pretend you didn’t notice who called but I see your aura change colour and you exhale too sharply.

I start shouting about needing a cigarette. You find my cigs and lighter and slowly walk me to the balcony. You light me up and hold me back, away from the edge. I keep dropping my cigarette. I cry. I ask you where the moon is and you tell me that it’s up there somewhere but it’s hiding.

You carry me to bed and manage to remove the chandeliers that are threaded through my ear-lobes. I am suddenly aware that I ought to brush my teeth but I don’t have the strength and the idea leaves me as quickly as it arrived. I don’t know what day it is and I don’t care. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know where I am. What is this? I just need everything to stop. What is this?! I don’t like it. I don’t like this one bit. You magically produce a syringe of morphine. I am so happy to see you. I tell you that I love you.

You arrange my body into the recovery position and tell me that I’m safe, that everything’s going to be fine, that when I’m better we’ll go to the seaside, that I don’t need to apologise, that you’re here to look after me. I ask you if we can adopt some sugar gliders instead of having kids. I don’t know what your reply was, if you even replied at all, but I’m sure you would’ve said yes, of course darling, because you love me too much.

I remember you smoothing my hair and whispersinging the lyrics to Wild Horses to me until I fell asleep. Wild horses couldn’t drag you away from me. But I fear that my sicknesses might cause you to walk away, voluntarily, gladly, thankfully. That, or I’ll drag you down with me. Either way, it’s not looking pretty, and I am disappointed when I wake up with a pulse 28 hours later.

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poetry

The Swim

Immersing myself in the blues
that would usually make me sink
usually make me drown
I dive in, unafraid, brave
leaving depression in locker 8E
heartbreak standing naked and shivering
on the concrete edge, grief wrapped up in a towel
washing paranoia out of my hair and misery off my skin
with every stroke I am light and almost carefree
in this controlled, contained, waveless sea
pulsating frog legs
counting
breathing
in, two, three, out, two, three
it doesn’t matter who is faster
than me and my dwindling lung capacity
I am so very nearly free
inhaling chemicals in a legal way
tears made of chlorine not melancholy
in, two, three, out, two, three
no time to think, only to breathe
and push on, further, stronger
the girl sits upon her throne in the sky
the guy patrols the perimeter
with their matching red t-shirts
matching whistles
matching sports watches
they watch me
in, two, three
and guard my life
out, two, three
these strangers who exist solely to save me
they are employed to ensure
that I am safe
that I do not die:
I think that I need them everywhere
all of the time.

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life

Insane? Contain, Restrain, Detain

Knock Knock Knock Knock

*male voices*

Is this the one?

Yeah.

Knock Knock Knock

*opens door a fraction*

Yeah? What do you want?

We’ve received a call from a member of the public and a call from one of your neighbours expressing concerns about your welfare, can we come in?

What? No. You fucking can’t.

Come on. It’s just me and my colleague Jerry, we want a little chat.

No thanks, you’re alright.

Right, come on, open up now, there’s a good girl.

I’m fine, seriously, piss off.

*sighs*

We can do this the easy way or the hard way.

You got a warrant?

No, but we have reason to believe that your safety and the safety of others may be compromised. We can either chat to you here or down at the station, it’s entirely up to you.

I’m a smart girl, I’d never be stupid enough to invite filth into my own home.

Fine, get some shoes on and we’ll take this down the nick.

Wankers. You’re never there when we actually need you yet you’re always there when you’re not welcome.

Yep. Could you also bring with you a list of any medication you’re taking.

Nope, because that would suggest that I’ll be in your company overnight, which is definitely not happening.

We’ll see about that.

Bastards.

Right, get your coat.

I’ve pulled?!

*Jerry laughs*

*Pig #1 does not laugh*

Hang on, what the hell’s happened here? What’s all this?

Hair dye.

Hair dye?

Hair dye.

Hair dye, Sir?

Jerry, go down and get the first aid kit will ya?

Sir.

If that’s hair dye then I’m the Queen of England.

Don’t flatter yourself.

Right, I’m gonna need you step outside of the property please. I’ve had enough of your lip.

Oi, don’t you fucking touch me. My father always told me never to go off with strange men.

*death stare*

I need to get changed, you can wait outside in the corridor, I’ll be 2 minutes.

Nope. Don’t think so.

I haven’t even done anything wrong, just go away!

I’m not letting you out of my sight, sweetheart.

CAN YOU PLEASE JUST FUCKING FUCK OFF. I NEED TO GET CHANGED AND I NEED THE TOILET. UNLESS YOU WANT TO WATCH ME CHANGE MY TAMPON, YOU SICK FUCK! GOD, you people really are the fucking worst. Just back the fuck up and I’ll be out in a minute, alright?

First aid kit, Sir.

Ah, Jerry. Right. Tell me. How did you hurt yourself? What did you use?

I didn’t. Nothing. And I’m no-one’s fucking sweetheart, by the way.

Have you taken anything today?

Why, what have you got? Anything good?

Are you currently in possession of any offensive weapons?

My mouth.

Are you currently in possession of any item or items which you could use to harm yourself or others?

Wait. Yeah.

What is it?

My wit. It’s pretty sharp.

*Jerry stifles a laugh*

Jesus wept. If you don’t tell me right now I’m going to have to cuff you for your own safety and for mine. Hands out.

This is ridiculous.

DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT LOCKING THAT BATHROOM DOOR, GODDAMMIT.

I’LL BE ONE FUCKING MINUTE, MY GOD.

Right, I’m going to count down from 10, if you’re not out here by the time I reach 0 I am going to break the door in, right?

Sure.

10

9

8

Jerry, radio 6423 and see if they’re local.

Sir.

5

4

Tell ’em we’ve got a live one.

3

LAST CHANCE MISSY.

2, 1!!!!

Jeeeeesus, keep your wig on!

Right, let’s go.

But why?

Follow Jerry. Go on. Watch your step.

Wait, please tell me we’re not driving… your Cop Shop is 150 yards across the road, surely your motor would be more useful out patrolling the streets catching genuine threats to society?

Get in the car.

Wow. Met Police, saving the planet, one unnecessary detainment at a time.

Mind your head.

This is getting silly. I haven’t actually done anything wrong.

But you will, which is why we’re intervening now before you do any major damage.

That is utter bollocks. And I’m supposed to be the insane one, hahahahahaha, you mad, mad bastards.

Sir, is there any point of taking her to the station? Can’t we go straight to the hospital, let them deal with her?

Errrrrrrrm, yeah actually, I’ve had enough of nutters for one day: good thinking, Batman.

Sir. What do I tell Chief?

Uhhhh, pfffffft, the usual spiel: too many injuries to accurately document, urgent medical attention required, high risk psych, station’s too busy and understaffed to deal with her, blah blah blah.

Okie dokie, thanks Sir, got it, Sir.

Hey, can I go for a fag while you do your paperwork?

No.

Why not?

Because I said so.

Please?

Nope.

Bastard.

Have you got your meds list?

I’ll write you a full meds list and list of my diagnoses, plus the names and numbers of my uncaring care workers and unsupportive support staff if you let me go for a fag. How’s about that?

No.

Andddd I’ll give you the correct phone number of my next of kin?

No chance.

Hmph. Hey, has anyone ever bled to death in the back of your fancy little cop car before? “Urgent medical attention required” and yet we’re just sitting here in the car park doing jack shit.

Put pressure on it.

Er, I’m pissing blood back here!

You’ll live.

Yeah. Sadly.

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art, fiction

all that remains is the smell of orange 

Untitled

art by geoff mcfetridge

She counts the chairs in our dining room, one, two, three, four, five, six. She points to each chair as if unconvinced, her brow furrowed in concern. She circles the dining table and counts the chairs again and again. One, two, three, four, five, six. I lose track of her revolutions. My leg begins to cramp, where I sit on the staircase, crouched in the shadows. I feel cold. It is later than I thought. But she is almost done. She touches the backrest of each chair. She grows weary now. When she collapses in a chair, I will bring her tea. She will take it and I will wonder as I always have if she ever thinks about where the tea comes from

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