It’ll drive you mad!

God I was bored.

If you’ve got some idea of where you are and what’s going on, psychiatric wards are incredibly boring. An old timetable stuck to a wall told me that on Mondays there was a cycling group (organised by Alyssa), later on in the week we had yoga (headed by Alyssa), and depending on interest an art group (see Alyssa). I never saw any of this, or any sign of Alyssa.

What I did see was daytime TV through a scratched plastic protective screen, dog eared books no one in their right mind would want to read (make your own joke), and a selection of board games with all choking hazards removed, featuring such slogans as The great family game that’ll drive you mad!

I was bored and I wanted to go out, and as I wasn’t under section I was entitled to leave. Hell, I was entitled to discharge myself if I wanted.

“We’d rather you didn’t”

The nurses looked at me sympathetically but firmly. Naturally they appreciated that being stuck pacing a few rooms for days was frustrating. And of course, they explained, I was allowed to leave. Should I want to go for a walk then they certainly wouldn’t dream of stopping me. But still. “We’d rather you didn’t”.

I gave up in the end, sat down in the peeling-paint communal area and gazed through that scratched plastic screen at Location Location Location. Kirsty and Phil were helping Sue and Jeremy find a weekend retreat in Hertfordshire. Sue worked in hospitality and Jeremy in marketing. I was still wearing the jeans I’d been dragged in on, and hadn’t showered or shaved for days; there’s no point when you’re stuck on ward.

Besides, they take your razor.

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I would

If I could do it all again I would; I mean without the comedowns or crash or waking up stinking of bleach and cigarette ash, but if I could do it all again I would. I’d pull the lever on the slot machine and we’d always hit a win, I’d fuck you senseless bruised and blind and never have to think about the ticking clock in the waiting room and all the pills we ever swallowed

would be good.

I would, if I could do it all again I’d still stumble tripping from cubicle 3 we’d still have all the laughs I’m sure we had and good times I’m told we had and none of us none of this would ever go bad, we’d dance and forget we get old, we get sad. I’d still let ourselves lose ourselves in weekends and mornings and closed-curtain dawns, and one shot, two shot, three shot, floor. I’d still talk shit and you’d still nod and the bass would still beat our words out but I’d see you laughing and laugh, and we’d dance and I’d forget I was sad.

If I could do it all again I would all the freezing queues and skanky lines and dirty looks from beautiful boys, googly eyes and laughs about that time in A&E, and that other time

in A&E.

And we’d never have been to A&E. If I could do it all again I would. Pull the lever and always win and always mean my manic grin, we’d all trip and none of us fall and we’d fuck and sweat and all would be like it was if I could do it all over again, I would, if I could.

, slowly, mostly

Costa do good business from me at the moment.

After a stretch of unemployment and life on benefits, you appreciate the luxury of being able to go out for a coffee.

“You do have a job”, said the clinical psych the other day. “I know that right now that doesn’t seem to count for much, but it does.

Just having a job means you’re doing well”

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It’s a dangerous thing, when the rapids of hypomania crash against the granite of depression. The fury can tear a life to shreds, break a man’s bones and leave him bloody and maybe then bloodless.

It’s a dangerous thing, when you’re wild and carefree and cruel.

I’m not getting too bad again, I’m not. I’m not I’m not I’m not. I’m fine. I’m not. I’m fine.

I’m sat in Costa with a flat white and a laptop and Spotify. I’ve even got a job – a job! – so I can afford to sit in Costa with a flat white. I earn barely a whisper above minimum wage and I’m working far beyond my pay grade but I’m appreciated and get on with my colleagues which is the important thing really isn’t it? Aren’t I doing well? Aren’t I just doing fucking well?

Last year I was getting angry letters from the bank and attitude from the Job Centre. Last week I spent £500 on lightbulbs and speakers and now I can paint my rooms like springtime or twilight or heartbreak, and I can summon orchestras with words and the music is silk and crystal, the sigh of the ocean on sandy shores.

I’m fine.

I’m 36 and I’ve tried so hard I’ve tried so fucking hard to overcome this shitty screaming petulant demon in my head and yet it has slashed and burned and salted every fucking thing every single fucking thing I have ever tried to do or achieve and I’m just tired now you see, I’m just tired of fighting and tired of pretending it’s fine and tired of putting on a fucking smile and shrugging my shoulders and saying c’est la vie and now just give me the fucking petrol and I will burn this fucking world to the ground I will burn myself to dry white ash and I will laugh and I will laugh while I burn.

I’m sat in Costa drinking their ‘Old Paradise Street’ blend, named after the London street where the beans are roasted. I used to work by there, used to live by there, remember the coffee smell and the branded lorries. Old Paradise Street, one of those quaint urban euphemisms for ‘here be whores’. It’s in Vauxhall.

And I’ve got a job – a job! So I can afford to purchase kitchenware and throw cushions and mass produced prints allowing me to style a home as unique as I am. I want a two-cup teapot – traditional style – and have spied some espresso cups that are so me, although I would of course have to start drinking espresso. Yesterday I ordered a couple of table lamps which fit in perfectly with the naturalistic theme that’s developing in the front room. Last week I went online and gambled away a fierce number of zeros because fuck it it all amounts to nothing in the end and it’s not as if I’ll make it long enough to worry about the debts.

Sometimes I think it will be a pity to not see the girls grow up.

Sometimes it scares me that I think that.

It’s a dangerous thing, when the rapids of hypomania crash against the granite of depression. The fury can tear a life to shreds, break a man’s bones and leave him bloody then bloodless.

I hope I’m not about to get as ill as once I was.

I’m not. I’m fine. I’m not.

Rice paper

I’m not doing great. The world’s a scary place and right now I keep thinking of the kids, keep getting scared for them, for the future, their future.

Being scared don’t do anything, does it? Silly Phil.

Nor does ignoring it all. But at least ignoring it all you get to live a happy life. Get to live a life.

And I think too much about these things, get to thinking what’s the point, get to thinking those same old dark dark thoughts. Who wants to watch the world burn, after all?

I shouldn’t think those dark dark thoughts, I’m told.

How is it life can be so brutally real yet so rice paper thin?

In the terrible dawn of grief you see the world stripped bare of stories, stripped bare of distractions and you want to laugh, or scream, or beat your fists against the chests of other humans and howl that it’s all dust and whispers and all these lives we build up and tear down and worry and fear and hope over are just stories we tell ourselves to distract from the gaping truth that we’re all just words spoken briefly by the world then lost with breath on the wind.

The world at once so brutally real yet rice paper thin.

I worry over things I can’t change, I’ll never be able to change, watching a humanity careening closer and closer to environmental ruin and social destruction and I worry, I worry over the future my future, their future. Silly Phil.

Sometimes I can blot it out, it takes effort and a few magic tricks but sometimes I can, but not right now. Not as the world looks set to burn.

I’m not doing great. The world’s a scary place right now and I’m not doing great.


Phil wakes up.

His body lies in bed a while, eyes gazing at the door, the crumple of the pillow partly obscuring their view. The door is white. The pillowcase is white.

Phil wakes up.

His body lies in bed a while, breathing, eyes gently weeping. The breath is black. The tears are black.

Phil wakes up. Every morning.

Every morning Phil wishes he hadn’t.

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You don’t realise how ill you are, when you’re really ill; it’s the trick the devil pulls to convince you he doesn’t exist. You don’t realise how ill you are when you’re really ill, but at first…

At first you feel the ground slip, tremors. A low, low rumbling , a trembling. At first you know the world is lurching.

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Prologue II

I knew it was the paroxetine; I knew, but I didn’t want to admit that, because then the bliss could leave at any moment, the childlike and childish joy in my heart would be contingent on this daily capsule. I knew it was the paroxetine, but secretly hoped that I’d got plugged directly into the heart of God. That it would be as I felt; eternal, oceanic, forever and ever.

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