Poems from my dark side

I have had a dogged period of depression for the last 2 years. Despite copious medications and CBT I am still struggling. Over the last two months I have started to write poems to help not only myself in a cathartic way, but others to understand where I am and why I do what I do.

These are they:-

Who Cares

The song says that
One is the loneliest number
If you don’t love yourself then
How can anyone love you
If nobody loves you then
Who will even like you
If nobody likes you then
Who will talk to you
If nobody talks to you then
It doesn’t matter who you’re with
If it doesn’t matter who then
Who cares how many there are
If it doesn’t matter how many then
Any number is the loneliest
If any number is the loneliest then
The song  is wrong
If the song is wrong then
Who cares? Nobody that’s who
If nobody cares then
Why am I here ?
If I don’t need to be here then
I won’t be for long

 

Bottom of the Pile

It’s hard to breathe at the bottom
When you’re last there’s nothing left
Along comes a new one
Down you go
There’s always a reason
Or maybe an excuse
Perhaps it’s like a human pyramid
Strongest needed to hold the  rest up
What happens when you’re tired?
When you can barely hold yourself up
Who comes to help you
Answer’s always the same… no one!

 

Escape

I am sitting here
In a house full of people
Feeling so alone, so empty
I’m missing my little one
But that’s not it; not the root
I don’t want to be here
I have to escape
Let me out of here……. NOW!

 

Demons

Inside my head were the numskulls
Little people controlling me
Operating my muscles
Digesting and walking
Sneezing and talking
Cooing and billing
Sawing and drilling

Then demons took over
Ousting the numskulls
Operating my muscles
Vomiting and falling
Screaming and bawling
Boozing and grilling
Stalking and killing

 

Waves

I lie here as the waves gently lap against me
Not greatly happy but then not really sad
From out of nowhere the swell rises and
Before I know it a huge wave washes over me
The salt stings my eyes and they tear
The weight churns my gut into jelly
Paralysed I lie here impotent to react
Not knowing whence it came or why

As the wave recedes I regain some dignity
My gut calms and my eyes wipe dry
My mind races searching for the source
It’s a portent – a disaster impending doom

Before I can begin to unravel this riddle
The swell begins to rise again
My eyes sting my stomach churns
Even before the huge wave washes over me

The doom, I must identify the doom
It has to be close to me deep down I must know
I search through all that is current
There’s enough for a book of three volumes

My mind has many switches and buttons
The large red one reads SELF DESTRUCT
It looks as if it has been recently pressed
Then I see the huge wave it washes over me.

I recover and search round the button
There must be a clue to what i’ve destroyed
I see pictures of someone smiling and laughing
Totally ignorant of what is to befall.

I desperately try and give warning
I scream at the top of my voice
Look out! A huge wave is coming
But the words come out all wrong

They hear me shouting and think it’s at them
Their smile fades and their face creases up
I realise too late what is happening
A huge wave misses them and washes over me

Once again I have destroyed something beautiful
I have let myself crush what is good
I am not allowed to be happy
I don’t deserve anything or anyone …… At all

 

The Dark Room

I am walking through the museum
Each room is full of display cases
Each case is full of items
Photos, Books,Videos and CD’s

I go to room 17 and play a CD
Hendrix blasts out and I smile
I flick through pictures; hair and flares It smells of weed and beer

I wander from room to room
Examining cases, flicking thru books
Smiling at some, frowning at others
Seeing how so much has changed

Not all the doors are easy to open
Some of the cases are falling apart
There are books with missing pages
Videos ghosting or overexposed
Up in the attic is the biggest room
Windows are dark and door locked
Eerie sounds emanate, flashes of light
It reminds me of a 60’s  horror film

I approach the door with trepidation
There’s no sign or number
But feelings of disgust and hatred
Identify the room only too well

Dare I open the door, take a look in
I look around , I am alone, it’s “safe”
Well my secret is safe at least
I can never be safe while I’m here.

I touch the handle, the door bows out,
My knuckles whiten as I pull it down
I am thrown back by a force so strong
That I am pressed hard against a wall

Darkness surrounds me, I silently scream
I see myself as I really am
Pus oozing, skin tearing, eyes staring
A snivelling mess a hateful lump

Memories flood me, each worse than the last,
I have left mayhem and death In my wake,
A traII of bodies as far as the eye can see
A smell so putrid that I gag as I slide to the floor

Some doors are best left closed
I think to myself as the bodies rise and
Shuffle towards me. A silent scream as
They surround and close in … suffocating me.

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Psychiatry over 6 decades – From a personal perspective

Part 1 – The Sixties

I didn’t even know that I had visited a psychiatric ward at the age of eight (1961) until around thirty five years later, when my sister asked if I remembered visiting her at Friern Barnet Hospital. We were in the kitchen at our mum’s just after I had had a home visit from a psychiatrist and I was telling my sister how much I feared going into hospital. I looked bemused, “the only time I remember visiting you in hospital was when you had that accident and cut your arms on the window”. Suddenly it dawned on me as she looked at me quizzically, “Oh it wasn’t an accident was it?”, she laughed at what must have been a series of realisations and changes crossed my face. “No” she replied, “and it wasn’t a medical ward either!”

My mind went back to those visits…..

My parents had told me that my sister had had an accident involving a sash window and had cut both her arms, we were going to visit her in hospital and that the other patients had injuries as well so I had to behave. We walked into ,to my eight year old eyes, a vast room furnished with scattered tables and chairs. People were sitting, standing or shuffling around, almost all had bandages somewhere, some of the women had close cropped hair. There were people in uniform, staff and others in outdoor clothes, visitors. Most of the patients were in nightclothes or even hospital type gowns, some barefoot, others in slippers. I’m sure I remember one or two with fresh scars on their heads, this may be possible as lobotomies were still being carried out in the early sixties. I remember thinking that this was not a nice place, certainly different to the TB hospital where I had visited my dad.

My sister seemed pleased to see us and sat and played with me while chatting to Mum and Dad. One of the patients started screaming and was quicky removed from the room by about four staff, I was about to ask what was wrong with her, but was soon stopped by the look on my parent’s face. The visit seemed to be over very quickly and after our tearful goodbyes we drove home in silence. I only remember visiting once more, but my sister says I went three or four times, I have a very handy blocking memory, so she could be right.

With the knowledge I have now I realise that this was a very low level ward, most of the people there seemed to be recovering from suicide attempts, although it could be that those with injuries made more impression on my eight year old mind. When my sister and I talked about it those thirty five years later, she told me of her ECT and what seems now an excessive use of drugs; we laughed when she was telling me about occupational therapy as they had tried to get her basket weaving, she refused without giving a reason and was given an alternative. Our laughter and her refusal was because we had grown up surrounded by basket work our dad had produced whilst in the TB hospital and sanitarium, we were both thoroughly sick of anything basket like!

I knew nothing of mental health stigma or discrimination when I was eight, but without realising it had seen stigma at its worst. I was deceived by my parents because they didn’t want people to know what was really wrong with my sister, she was strongly encouraged to follow the party line and being quite fearful of dad did so. As we talked in the kitchen we realised how much help we could have been to each other in the intervening years had we not been shrouded in embarassment saving secrecy!

Psychiatry over 6 decades – From a personal perspective 2

Part 2 – The Seventies

I had been at boarding school since I was eleven and had hated every minute of it until I reached seventeen in 1970, with hindsight I realised that I had been experiencing depression at various levels from day one. At seventeen I had made friends who had “got me”, appreciated me as a person and didn’t think it was fun to physically, emotionally and psychologically abuse me on a daily basis. In the Summer we all went to the Isle of Wight Festival, partly to see Hendrix, mainly to have a really good time. That summer was amazing, I had friends, attended festivals and gigs just a great time. Then September came and I returned to school! I arrived back full of hope of a good year, was starting my final year of A levels, University beckoned and I was genuinely happy for the first time in my life. Within two weeks it all came crashing down, I couldn’t concentrate in lessons, was unable to sit for more than ten minutes in prep (homework), shut out my friends and started hiding. A month into the term I had given up one of my A levels but that didn’t help, so I went to the Doctor.

It was a relatively new doctor, the previous one had never taken me seriously, but I still wasn’t hopeful of getting any help. I sat in his office and just cried… and talked and cried, amazingly he listened and appeared to understand. I was immediately admitted to the infirmary and given tablets (no idea what though). I spent the majority of that half term in the infirmary listening to music and talking to the doctor (amazingly regularly). I was taken up to London twice during this period, the first to see a psychiatrist in Harley Street, the second to the Tavistock Centre (I think) for psychological tests.

To this day I have no idea what the outcome was of either visit! I was accompanied to the psychiatrist by my dad, I went in first, then my dad was called in, then I was sent out. I never saw the psychiatrist again, my dad told me nothing and I never saw any notes. The doctor at school never even mentioned the visit, which in retrospect was odd and so unlike him. I guess that because I was a minor I had no right to know, my parents and the school were informed and that was all that was necessary.

I seem to remember both my parents came to the Tavistock with me, we were there all day, I took test after test including Rorshach inkblots (which was fun) and returned to school exhausted. I did get feedback, sort of, the next term, I was trying to get out of a maths test and the teacher said “we know you’ve got the intelligence to do this, at least that’s what we’ve been told”. At half-term I went home and came back to school and was treated as if none of the previous six weeks or so had happened.

I often wonder how things might have been different if someone had taken the time to sit and tell me what was going on. I don’t know if I was diagnosed, if they came to any conclusions or if the whole episode was a huge waste of time and money. Just perhaps, if they had discussed what was wrong, what I should do I may just have avoided the big crash. On the other hand… who knows?

Psychiatry over 6 decades – From a personal perspective 3

The eighties provided the fuel for my major explosion in the nineties, I had little or no contact with services but it was the decade which, with hindsight, could have alerted everyone, including me, of what was to come. During this decade I started the cycle of following good events, such as the birth of my children, with huge downs, almost immediately followed by a desperate need for change. So, during the eighties I changed job five times and moved house four times, I think I had about six different cars as well. It was also during this period that I started using money to self harm; I know that sounds strange, but I found that the adrenaline buzz I got when I had overspent and started getting mail and calls asking for the money, addictive.

Obviously my behaviour caused problems at home, the constant change, the money worries allied with bringing up young children caused intense friction; subconsciously I fuelled the friction as yet another bizarre way of self harming. Unfortunately this “self” harm had severe knock on effects to those around me which led to immense guilt and deeper downs. Towards the end of the decade I visited my GP on a few occasions but was unable or unwilling to express my problems. So I would talk about sleeplessness or stomach problems, the physical problems caused by my distress. He told me that I was stressed and that I needed to exercise more and improve my diet. Although this was sound advice for stress, my problems had far exceeded that a long time before. However unfairly, I came away from the surgery exceptionally disillusioned with the help offered.

The eighties are a mixture of very highs and very lows for me, generally I try and forget them. Even music, which is one of my greatest loves, didn’t move me, not sure if that says more about the music offered or my state of mind though!

Psychiatry over 6 decades – From a personal perspective 4

Part 4 -The Nineties

I have been dreading writing this and have put it off for a long time, but here goes!

The Nineties started with drinking and quizzes, I spent inordinate amounts of time in pubs emptying quiz machines and drinking copious amounts of beer. Had anyone suggested at the time that I had a drinking problem I’d have dismissed them, but looking back…. I had a serious problem.  At least twice a week my lunchtime drinking would start at 12 and too often end at 4 or 5 not quite managing to get back to work! Even worse I used to drive home, not something I would boast about or be proud of, I just did it. I had quiz and drinking cronies who I spent far too long with and who also had real problems with alcohol.

It is weird writing these blogs with hindsight and with the knowledge I now have of mental health and substance abuse, it never occurred to me that that my working and drinking patterns were an avoidance technique. I was spending more and more time away from home ostensibly to catch up with work, realistically it was to spend as little time at home as possible. So… I was avoiding home, drinking too much, sinking deeper into depression, although masking that from everyone including myself. When I was at home I wanted to go out and spent a fortune on day trips and presents for everyone, although I wanted to be away from there, I still wanted my wife and children to love me and tried to buy their love… sad and pathetic.

Unfortunately in order to pay for this “love” and my drinking, I was suing money that should have been spent on mortgage, bills and essentials and was rapidly building up debts. hiding letters and ignoring phone calls as the “collectors” came after me. This meant lying and hiding and generally being a complete arsehole to my family. Then something happened that in itself was really good but became the catalyst for all that followed I won a competition. So what? you may ask, well it needs to go in context.

One day I was sitting having a heart to heart with my wife, and I was trying to explain how I felt about myself. I described the feeling as being like an an onion, many layers but with no substance in the middle, like jelly or an amoeba, inconsequential. I could see the look in her eyes – contempt- no understanding – just pure loathing. She took the opportunity to tell me that she hadn’t married me because she fancied me or even found me attractive, it was because I was a nice person and she felt safe with me. Now I wasn’t even that person, I was a nobody, I was nothing, I was worthless, she confirmed every feeling that I had about myself.

At a follow-up discussion I admitted that I had never liked myself and felt that I was useless at everything that I tried and that just once I wanted to be the best, I can’t remember if she laughed outwardly, but the ridicule was obvious. Then a little while later a newspaper held a Trivial Pursuit contest, just up my street, it was to celebrate the launch of a new Genus Edition and each day you could call the paper and answer 5 questions as fast as possible over the phone. For the first time in my life I received a letter telling me that I had been the fastest on one of the days and would be invited to London to take part in the final of the Trivial Pursuit Championship of Great Britain!  This was beyond my wildest dreams, I was in the final of a National competition and on merit! To cut a long story short I won and as a result was in the papers, on the radio and on TV. I reveled in this and so enjoyed the attention and my 15 minutes of fame. In addition to an enormous cup we also won a 2 week holiday in Disney World, about a month before we were due to go, I received a phone call from P&O asking if I’d co-host a Mediterranian cruise with a Trivial Pursuit theme, they were willing to pay me and all my family could come with me as well! So in the space of a couple of months we spent a fortnight in Florida and then two weeks on a cruise around the Med. I was buzzing, my co-host was Fred Housego (ex Mastermind champion), we got on really well and spent many hours in the bars, devising quizzes and drinking… he and I had the largest bar bills on the cruise!

Then came the drop, from this enormous high it was back to reality, I couldn’t take it… it was the Isle of Wight all over again. Within a year I had taken redundancy as I wasn’t functioning at work at all and spent a year living off the redundancy payment convinced I could become a writer or make money from my fame… what bollocks, I drank more and spent all day on my PC inventing and playing games that I used as decision makers. There are two or three years all jumbled in my head, I know that I had the chance to settle my debts and get a new job and sort everything out, the computer games said no and that I’d make my fortune some other way.

I cannot remember too much of this time, I ended up working at a dodgy cold calling company selling non existent rate rebates. I was crap at it, I’d had enough.. as the inevitability of being found out about the money became closer as I hated every day of my life and myself with a vengeance my plan became clear.

So… in the morning I pocketed my wife’s unused bottle of anti-depressants, then at lunchtime I left work, visited six different shops buying various painkillers and a large bottle of Evian water and drove out to a local reservoir, found myself a place to hide the car amongst trees, emptied all the tablets into a paper bag and proceeded to take the lot, washing them down with water.

I woke up under a tree about a mile down the road, disorientated, stinking and having no idea how I’d got there.

To be continued…..

And now for something completely different

I thought I’d lighten the mood after my last blog and talk about my other passion – Music

I know I thought, my five favourite albums…..   talk about setting yourself an impossible task, it would be easier to get a real Disability Alliance formed!  I thought I’d start with a couple of my favourite artistes/bands easy Pink Floyd and David Bowie. So which album? For Floyd it had to be Dark Side, but then what about Wish you were Here ?  OK Bowie then, Heroes.. oh shit… what about Ziggy Stardust? REM was easier, Automatic for the People, the Who? Who’s Next, it’s getting easier I thought. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde.. no Highway 61, no Blood on the Tracks. This is bloody impossible!

My sons conned me into choosing my favourite band/artiste a few weeks ago by asking me a series of which one questions… REM or AC/DC ..hmmm  REM  REM or Bod Dylan…  aaaargghh  Bob Dylan… Bob Dylan or David Bowie… I was in agony… who to choose?  Bowie I replied. Bowie or the Who..  grrr will the torture never stop, how do I choose??  Bowie again I replied, then the toughie… Pink Floyd or Bowie… as my head exploded I screamed STOP!!!!   At that point I realised it had to be the Floyd.

I’ve seen Bowie and the Floyd about six or seven times each in each of their classic eras, I loved every minute of every concert, but the sharpest memories were definitely Floyd, although seeing Bowie perform in a pub stands out as one of my greatest memories. So Floyd it was, just and maybe on another day, it wouldn’t be….

So how does anyone choose favourite albums or bands or singers or tracks? For me it’s a mood thing, what to listen to is based on how I feel; today is an AC/DC day, yesterday was Leonard Cohen, tomorrow who knows? I have no musical ability, none whatsoever, can’t sing, play or keep rhythm but I can listen all day every day given the chance. I love live gigs, it almost doesn’t matter who I see, unsigned bands, old fogies from the seventies or the latest rock “sensation”. I was lucky enough to see Jimi Hendrix, I saw the Doors my daughter dragged me to see Boyzone with her(OK I did NOT enjoy that) . My taste is eclectic, from cheesy pop (if it’s bad enough) to death metal, so pinning myself down to five albums is impossible.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll try and produce a top 50 albums…. when I get time, when my head stops spinning, until then here are ten albums I love, but NOT my top ten….

Dark Side of the Moon

Heroes

Automatic for the People

Family Entertainment

Wee Tam and Big Huge

Parallel Lines

Never Mind the Bollocks

Nightmare

Hot Rats

Scott 4

Beggar’s Banquet

Who’s N ext

Arrgghhh  that’s too many, sod it I’m quitting while I’m ahead!

Discrimination amongst the discriminated?

When I was on a psychiatric ward in the early 90’s with depression I discovered that there was a hierarchy of mental illness. The psychotic illnesses were top of the tree with depression low down, but above those with addictions. This hierarchy was evident both amongst patients and staff. I realised that even those that experience most discrimination are still capable of discriminating. Since then I have met a huge number of people with physical disabilites,and amongst this group I have found a number that “don’t believe” in mental illness; even though a lot of people with physical illness experience mental illness and addictions.

I believe that “an arsehole is an arsehole” and that just because you have a mental illness or a physical disability you are not necessarily a “nice person” and are more than capable of prejudice. There are members of extreme right wing groups from both camps, so I really shouldn’t be surprised that discrimination occurs amongst these groups, especially when we are under attack.

Even I have been subconsciously guilty, especially when I was an advocate filling out the old DLA forms. I resented how easy it appeared to be for those with physical problems against those with mental health issues, I got upset at how much the DDA seemed to favour visible disability. So I know how easy it is to be turned against those that I should work alongside.

Governments have always exploited the fact that sharing the description of disability is not enough to bond people together and make a cohesive force. They exploit our differences, look at how they use the media to highlight scroungers on benefit picking out specific disabilities often mental illness or back problems. 

I believe that, now, at a time when all those with disabilities (the hardest hit) are under attack from our government  we should put differences aside and unite against our common enemy.