Horrorscope

“It always seems to be spring, with you”

Dad had stopped slicing potatoes for dinner and looked at me, old eyes wary and full of care. We don’t often talk like this – about this – but today it’s inescapable. Sent home from work, nearly to A&E. Out of a job, again. Bedraggled in trousers and a creased blue shirt, work lanyard still hanging from my collar. It had all been going so well.

“You’re right”

I’d been thinking the same. Past few years, it’s hit or accelerated in spring.

“Ever since you were 14”

Jesus. I’d not thought back that far.


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Why I meditate

zenAs I say, I’ve recently taken to meditating; every morning, sometimes in the afternoon, evening.

It’s been a month, more or less. Who knows if I’ll keep it up? I don’t even know why, initially, I started. I sure as hell wasn’t expecting it to do anything other than give me half an hour relaxation a day, half an hour ‘me time’. Half an hour sat like those slim white women (always slim, always white, always women) on the covers of books and magazines and in all the stock photography, with closed eyes and that irritatingly beautific expression beaming from the shelves and the screens and the pages of Yoga Today.

OK. I don’t sit like them. I am in some ways preternaturally flexible (hello boys), but I can’t quite comfortably manage a full lotus position – feet on thighs, pelvis square on the floor, stable, strong. I can drag my legs most of the way, and hold the pose out of sheer bloody mindedness while my  feet slide down and my ankles end up twisted at an angle that can’t be healthy (and certainly doesn’t feel it), and maybe even stay like that for a full 10 minutes while my legs go numb and my upper back starts to howl, but eventually I have to admit that I will never be a slim white woman.

Besides, I meditate zen-style. Eyes open.

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Other plans

It’s easy to get upset about things.

I know this is hardly a striking insight from someone prone to profound, paralysing depression. Still.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. And it’s easy to get upset about that.


It was meant to be redundancy, complete MSc, new and exciting job.

No, no, it was meant to be BSc, quit job, MSc, more interesting job.

No, no no no. It was meant to be move to London, get a job, have fun.

I mean, after the original plan had failed, that is. BA, job.

It was meant to be different, it wasn’t meant to be this. It wasn’t meant to be unemployed and skint and living with my family in my mid 30s. It wasn’t meant to be directionless and purposeless.

I didn’t mean to waste all that time and effort. And it’s easy to get upset about that.


Understandable too, I guess. But many understandable things are nevertheless unwise.

I think of suicide – when I think of suicide, which these days is rare but it’s a peculiarly hard habit to break – I think of suicide when I consider how much of my life I’ve wasted, which is a morbidly absurd line of reasoning. Life streams by, gentle, terrible, a single impossibly slim moment which somehow extends on forever.


I’ve taken to meditating.

I’ve dipped my toes into mindfulness based cognitive therapy before; that’s mindfulness rather than Mindfulness(TM), the latter being today’s fashionable false hope. But before mindfulness therapy was even a glimmer in Kabat-Zinn‘s eye, I was drawn to Zen Buddhism.

You try on personalities as a teenager. Try on beliefs and hobbies and ways of being, see if they’re comfortable. Drop and forget most of them, and I mostly dropped and mostly forgot all that hippy shit.


I meditate in the mornings, sometimes in the evenings. Sometimes my mind settles on my breathing with relative ease, other times it’s a butterfly in the wind. Sometimes I get frustrated at how I don’t settle, other times I don’t mind. Sometimes I breathe in and out, and in, and out, and it’s like I dissolve, the world blossoming and falling at once, every moment, endless. Other times I think of shopping lists. It doesn’t matter. The point of meditation, I’m beginning to realise, isn’t anything to do with meditation.


If only I’d been diagnosed earlier, if only they’d initially given me lamotrigine instead of citalopram, if only I’d taken my mental health more seriously, if only if only if only. I could have got the qualifications and the job and the money and the life you’re meant to have and enjoy rather than had years of tears and failure and now this, this, drifting, skint, jobless.

I walk in the park, most days. Pausing sometimes to look up at the ever changing sky, gulls wheeling on the wind, playing. Directionless. An impossibly slim moment stretched somehow into forever.

There are so very few ways, I think, that you can waste that moment. But suicide is definitely one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears all taste the same

I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose
I’ve been forcing myself not to forget just to feel worse
I’ve been getting away with it all my life

– Skin*, Getting Away With It

There’s this dumb saying, said with good intent; ‘you are not your diagnosis’. It’s one of those flimsy feel-good sayings doled out with affection and aspartame, occasionally erupting on Facebook and twitter. It’s cute and comforting I guess, I guess the intention is good and I don’t believe in Hell, so hell,  go for it, I guess. But it is bullshit.

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Back to life

 

Possible CW for suicide / sectioning


 

So now it’s autumn.

I like autumn; thick sunlight and brisk air, sweeping rain and sweeping skies. Daddy long legs and back to school.

I eat breakfast, read the news. Return to my bedroom and fire up the computer, open Gmail.

I could stay. I could just stay here. The sun is thick and the air is brisk and I could just stay away from the world for one more day. It would be so, so easy. My sick note runs from July ’til last week, but it’d be simple to get another one.

I’m scared.

Compose new mail.

To: Supervisor
Subject: I’m back

Hit send.

I’m scared.


 

The psych unit at Lambeth was relaxed, or as relaxed as psych units get. Wake at six, toast and meds. Breakfast at eight. Sit in a horseshoe, watching daytime TV. There was an enclosed outside area so you could nip out for a fag – Homerton hadn’t had one of those. At Homerton it was two fag breaks a day, morning and evening. Like that’s anything like a good set up for a high security male-only psych ward. I was glad for my muscles, in Homerton. But they weren’t needed in Lambeth.

People shuffle. People shuffle in psych wards; when I first walked in to one I thought, I thought ‘Jesus, these people are all smashed out of it’, looking at them shuffling up and down, staring into nowhere. But there’s fuck all to do on a psych ward, shit books and boardgames with half the pieces missing. You shuffle, up and down. Nowhere to go. Nothing do to.

Plastic cutlery. They’d go and get you a can of coke if you wanted, but obviously they’d pour it into a plastic cup for you before you got it. My stubble grew, I can’t do a proper beard, I just look patchy and scratty after a bit. So I did. Increasingly patchy and scratty. You can shave, but they’ve got your razor, then they have to sit and watch you do it. Fuck that.

Fuck that and forget the world, you don’t have to care, no one cares. It’s easy. Wake at 6, toast and meds. Morning TV and breakfast, plastic cutlery. The nurses will do a shop run, run for fags and crisps and coke. Sit in the garden, sleep on your bed. It’s easy. Suspended, above life, outside it. After being crushed nearly to death with worry, you find yourself, lose yourself, without a care in the world.

It was upsetting, and stressful, and so, so boring. But it was also easy. So very easy.


 

Rounds. Rounds in the psych ward drove me round the bend, a whole army of social workers, psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists and a consultant psychiatrist, ranged out so you feel like you’re walking into an interview. I wanted to tell them all to fuck off, didn’t they realise how intimidating this all was?

“How do you feel now?”

OK. Detached. Not suicidal, of course not suicidal; they’d plucked me out of my life and my cares and put me in limbo. It’s hard, really, to feel anything in limbo.

“You’re probably OK for discharge”

And so I was discharged.


It was strange, coming out of a building you’d spent so much time in but had never seen from the outside. It was too bright and too hot and, suddenly, August. I had little clue of where I was except I was within walking distance of home. My phone blinked the route, almost impossible to see in the glare.

Stopped at a newsagent; a double snickers and coke. Walking felt weird. The big wide world felt weird. Sometimes flat and sometimes too deep. Sounds at times jangling into one another, other times meeting and clasping like jigsaw pieces. I was free. I could do anything and no one could stop me.

I was terrified.

The pavement rolled under me, streets swinging by, my estate drifting into view. Key in lock, pull door just so, turn key, open door. Living room. I sit.

I know what’s in my bedroom. I know exactly where it is. I’d told them I’d got rid of it – I was bored on the ward after all, I wanted to stretch my legs, I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting rid of it. But then I was suddenly home, in a dim living room, knowing what was in my bedroom.

It wouldn’t work on it’s own, the LD50 was far too high, let alone the LD100. I’d need to go out and get something else which would synergise with it, but I could pick that up from Tesco. There’s a chilling efficacy in the plan in that it requires at least two substances to work; a nuclear launch sequence. Still. The tricky part was done with. It sat waiting in my room.

I didn’t want to. Did I? But I could. I could and I might. A world of possibilities, I could do anything and I was quietly terrified.

I disposed of it.

I was still scared. I was suddenly out in the world, and I could do anything. Far from easy.


This time around, I avoided hospital by a whisper. I didn’t want to go, they’re boring, so boring. I didn’t want the shuffling, the gazing into nowhere, the plastic cutlery and the interview sessions. I just wanted everything to stop.

I had nothing home to harm myself; it’d all been removed by my house mates. They were on orders to watch for any big packages which arrived for me, open them, check they weren’t a special kind of deadly.

It maybe wasn’t the best idea. The first week, there we’re dangerous moments; bridges, roads, rail lines. Eventually I kept myself inside.

Eventually I let myself out again.

Still. Still suspended, in limbo, outside my cares and concerns. Easy. My pendulum moods slowly slowing to a more genteel swing. And while I knew I couldn’t stay there forever, the temptation… no cares, no concerns; having no responsibility is dangerous, intoxicating. Sooner or later I’d have to come off the sick notes but I could get another one, I think, for now.


 

I don’t. I hit send. I go back into uni. Anything could happen, now.

I’m terrified.