Got me on some medication

As of Friday, I’m back on the methotrexate/folic acid. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the side-effects again, and the thought of going back to spending the weekend wrapped in a blanket, simultaneously freezing cold and boiling hot, fighting down nausea and being more fluffy-headed thinking than usual is bringing me down. There’s already been so much sickness.

But what can I do? I made the decision to take the drugs.

So why don’t you slide

Earlier, S asked if I fancied a takeaway – curry from our favourite restaurant – and I agreed. Later he went out with a friend to buy some tools. They’re working on the basement beneath our flat, as technically that’s included in the rent. It’s currently filled with the last owner’s belongings; stacks and stacks of paintings, canvas, frames, lamps, chairs, books… Bob was a hoarder, and a painter. His work’s pretty good actually. Now he’s dead and his wife is in a nursing home (she went downhill very rapidly when he died), somebody has to clear it all. The basement is pretty big, taking up most of the floor space of the house, so it’s a mammoth task.

Anyway, while they were out I got a call from S. He asked me if I wanted to go to the restaurant with his mates instead of getting a takeaway.

Did I do the right thing when I said, “it’s okay, I’m not up to it. You can go along anyway”?

I wasn’t lying. I’m truly not up to it. I tried going for a short walk earlier, and by the time I returned, I was struggling to breathe and sweating like crazy. It’s been so long since I’ve had ‘proper’ exercise. That walk used to take me five minutes. Today, it took thirty.

Straight away S’s tone changed; the first time I’ve ever really heard it do so. He said, “oh. Okay. But we were going to have a takeaway.”

I shrugged him off, “it’s fine, I’m really, really not up to it. We can do it another time”.

He agreed, but… he didn’t sound happy. It’s only when I ended the call that I began to feel that familiar twinge of panic.

Image

Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god you fucking idiot oh god oh god.

I have never once done something (to my knowledge, anyway) to make S angry or disappointed. Unlike my relationship with O, I’ve managed to keep my irrational emotions in check; at least until I’m alone. I’m so determined not to fuck this up. I know it’s classic BPD to say, “oh, I love him so much, he’s my everything, I want to be with him forever” but all that’s got me in the past is a string of disastrous relationships and far too much bitterness. I almost have my head around that now, and the medication certainly helps me keep the more extreme aspects of my behavior in check. So while I know that these feeling might be BPD tricking me and that mental illness has a habit of making me cling to somebody like fuck… I want to believe this is real. I’m pretty sure I know, deep down, I love S with all my heart; how could I not? He’s the only man who has never condescended me. Who has never given me reason to suspect him of wrongdoing. The only man who I’ve felt comfortable enough with to let the mask slip.

I know I love him.

And now I’m scared.

scared-woman

So what did I do? I went straight for the Tramadol.

I’m now sitting at the kitchen table, trying and failing to calm myself with a joint. The urge to crawl into bed and hide under the duvet is overwhelming.

“Well, I had no confidence in my ability to dent another human’s life”

Sometimes it’s impossible to even think of a title to a post, let alone which words to use. Being stoned doesn’t help, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to cope today; it was either dope, or masses of co-codamol and a bout of self-harm. I figured weed was the safest option.

Where to begin? It’s past 2am, and I’m still furious from the orthopaedics appointment this morning. As usual, nothing was achieved – my consultant wasn’t even there, and I saw a junior doctor instead, who couldn’t do anything except repeat what I’d already been told at my previous appointment – and I’m furious. I’ve had enough. This officially isn’t fair, and I’ve stood back and let this happen over and over because I haven’t wanted to cause any problems.

Well, fuck that. I’ve been in constant agonising pain for over eighteen months. I can’t walk properly and need a stick most of the time. Ice? I can’t leave the flat if it’s even slightly icy, because I have no balance. I can’t sleep. I can’t exercise. It’s all I can think about, and even strong painkillers (which I’m doing my best to avoid, for obvious reasons) only take the edge off slightly. I’d gladly take back the colocystitis pain over the constant needles and cramps in my foot.

01pain

www.thechinchilla.com

I got home, and cried. Smoked a joint and ranted to myself for a while. Mentally calculated everything in the flat I could possibly hurt myself with. Considered making myself sick. Ate half an egg sandwich then threw it out. As it is, I haven’t eaten since; I’m hungry, but the gnawing feeling in my stomach is comforting. It’s… control.

I feel very out of control.

Since S came home from work, he’s been cheering me up immensely; so I’m coping okay. I haven’t taken any codeine, or hurt myself. Oh, the urge was there – I thought about it the whole taxi ride home – but you see… if I hurt myself, I hurt S too. It’s strange for me to feel that way, because in past relationships I’ve never truly accepted that my tendency to damage myself could have any effect on my boyfriend. It wasn’t that I was being selfish, it’s just… well, I had no confidence in my ability to dent another human’s life.

I don’t want to hurt S. He’s my world. I know I can’t care about myself, but I adore S. I assume that much is obvious from my past posts.

adore

danielleflanders.blogspot.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I go from here, and I believe my only option is to put in a formal complaint of medical negligence. As much as I’m tired of fights… I refuse to go on being treated this way. From the first time I saw a consultant for PCOS, right through to today, I’ve had sub-standard medical treatment and every single condition I have has been made worse by lack of action and misdiagnosis. I don’t think any of this is fair, and I’ve got to stand  up for myself at some point.

I confess

The drugs just aren’t doing it for me,
chemical sleep has lost its appeal
and I confess, I considered tonight
that it might be easier just not to feel.

To slip away, to take a bow,
Admit defeat and fall from my grace
and would you miss me, would you notice;
how long would it take to forget my face?

You forgot me once, you can do it again,
after all, this is only a release
breaking free from the prison we built together
in the hope, of maybe, one night of peace.

I confess, this is serious,
and if I had the strength I would leave tonight
I wish I was brave, that I wouldn’t miss you
that this time I could really give up the fight.

An empty bottle in front of me,
and pills I know I’ll never take
just further proof of my personal failings
evidence of the depression I could never shake.

Another scar to my collection,
a canvas I paint to remind me of you
to prove this reality was never a nightmare
but a waking hell, which I’m still going through.

I confess, it would be so easy,
Just a slip of the hand, just one step too far
but I’m not brave, I feel too afraid
to let myself go, to reopen these scars.

Yet I fantasise of how easy it would be,
for you to live your life without me there
I confess I think of setting you free
sometimes it’s the only way that ever seems fair.

If I left today, would you notice?
Would you realise, I did this for you?
If I slipped away past an exit sign,
would you see it as failure, or something I needed to do?

I try to remember every word you ever said,
the times you loved me, the times you were sweet
I confess, I want to forget
to make this easier for me to leave.

But how can I go when you hold me like that;
when you whisper so quietly only I can hear?
I confess, you keep me from dying,
from collapsing under the weight of my fears.

(c)

“Suicide” is a word I don’t like typing. It’s such a final solution, and the word itself makes me feel uncomfortable about the actions I’ve taken in the past. I may occasionally mention my flirts with causing my own death, but I try not to go into much detail because, in truth, I’m ashamed.

I’m ashamed to know I even tried, mostly over such trivial things. New colleges and threats of break-ups. Arguments with my mother. They seem such petty reasons but back then I couldn’t judge whether an incident was serious or minor, and everything felt like a horrific attack on everything I am. The panic and psychosis (for there was psychosis; hallucinations and imagined conversations) drove me into a ball of fear and confusion and, somehow, I decided that suicide was the only logical answer to a world of horror. 

Last week, a man lay down on the train tracks between my house and Z’s, and killed himself. I heard the sirens and saw sketchy details appear on Facebook, but I still can’t let myself accept that somebody was in so much torment that they felt the only way to solve it was to climb over the barriers as traffic waited at the crossing, and wait for the train to hit; somebody just a couple of roads away from where I was sitting was going through something most people never – thankfully – have to experience.

I find myself wondering what he was like; why he felt he had to take that step, and do something so damn final. I wish I’d had the chance to know him, somehow.

Unspoken

Sitting together and so far apart,
a thousand words unsaid and truths unspoken,
I never felt more alone, more out of place,
as I do tonight,
sitting by your side.

.
A bottle in my hand and a cigarette in yours,
I open my mouth but no words will form,
it all seems so trivial when I feel this broken,
when you’re sitting so close to me,
yet not here at all.

(c)

Writing about 2008 is more difficult than I ever imagined. On one hand, I almost feel uncomfortable writing about my past relationships now that I’ve been with S for eighteen months; I know he probably wouldn’t mind, but it must be weird for him to know I’m writing about my exes. On the other hand, it’s only now that I can see just how low I sunk; I knew I was falling apart but what I didn’t realise is that I’d totally cracked long before it got to this point. I can see that now. It’s difficult to think about. I acted in ways I’m not proud of and damaged my body god knows how much with handfuls of amitriptyline, tramadol, diazepam, co-codamol, small antidepressant overdoses to get me through the night in a dazed drug-fuelled stupor instead of having to deal with the reality of everything in my life going incredibly wrong. 

O and I… we stopped speaking one day. Conversation turned to bitter arguments and shouting matches. Slammed doors and a smashed laptop. Midnight chases down the street; it was always me doing the running. I just couldn’t face any of it. 

I remember sitting on his swivel office chair, gulping from a bottle of cheap peach schnapps and watching him smoke cigarette after cigarette, sitting on his bed and brooding. He threw me out that night. 

Of course, we got back together. We did a lot of getting back together. 

Maybe I’m just like my father: of psychiatrists and psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a general term referring to therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client, patient, family, couple, or group. The problems addressed are psychological in nature and of no specific kind or degree, but rather depend on the specialty of the practitioner.

Psychotherapy aims to increase the individual’s sense of his/her own well-being. Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building, dialogue, communication and behavior change that are designed to improve the mental health of a client” – Wikipedia

woman-in-therapy-session

In my experience, most mental health centres and hospitals look the same. Red-brick buildings with NHS-standard signs directing patients to different departments, a row or two of (usually blue) chairs in a soulless waiting room, and old copies of Lancashire Life stacked on a low table if you’re lucky. Mazes of corridors and doors which are always kept locked. A buzzer or bell to gain entry or allow exit. Sometimes the paint on the walls differs, but it’s usually a palette of beige, pastel green or pastel yellow. “Calming” colours.

They inevitably make me think of the contents of an unwell baby’s nappy.

Our local mental health centre is, handily, in my town. It was recently refurbished and is now very different from the brief glimpses I got when I was being hauled – twice – to a private room on suicide watch in my teens. Back then the entrance led to a huge staircase which dominated the entire hallway of what used to be a beautiful old building but which has now been added to so much that it’s lost most of its character. Now, the staircase has been remodeled and everything’s been painted an off-white. There’s lots of glass and bright posters. It almost feels like a primary school, except you’re always aware that there are people upstairs, being watched 24 hours a day in case they hurt themselves.

waitingroom

I sat with my mother, and waited. As my legal appointee, she has a right to accompany me to any appointments and while I usually try to wriggle out of it… sometimes I need her. My fear of going back into the mental health system after over a decade of let-downs and damage inevitably took over, and I know I wouldn’t have coped on my own. As it was, I had a small panic attack when I realised the psychiatrist was stuck in traffic and would be late; if I ever needed control, it’s when I’m about to open up my fucked-up heart to a complete stranger.

I was mildly surprised that the psychiatrist I saw was a young woman. I’ve become used to stuffy old men in shirt and tie, peering at me over their glasses and shrugging off all my concerns as being “down to my age”.

Another blue chair. Another desk, another patient file. I’ve done this so many times that I may as well just record what’s said and play it at the inevitable next appointment a few years later. You see, I have a problem sticking with things, and I’ve already spoken about how I find it almost impossible to be honest when faced with authority. When everything becomes too much I cave in and accept professional help, but I either pretend nothing’s wrong, or never go back. It’s as though I want to help myself, but the process is too frightening. Therapy means a loss of control and a need to be painfully honest; two things I find almost impossible to deal with.

I explained to the psychiatrist that I felt I was too old to still be dealing with all this, and that the mental health system has let me down a lot in the past. Picked at my jeans and stared at the wall as I detailed everything; the panic attacks, obsessions, paranoia, the total lack of self-esteem, the drugs, the painkiller addiction, the times in my teens when I relied on stolen bottles of gin to get me through the night, the self-harm, the bulimia. As I spoke, I realised that honesty was never going to come easy; although I was forcing the words out with all my strength, I still held back. However, my stumbling confessions were enough to confirm the diagnosis of BPD, and to earn me a referral for psychotherapy.

chickentherapyhut

Specifically, I’m on the 18-week waiting list for CAT Therapy.

Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) is a form of psychological therapy initially developed in the United Kingdom by Anthony Ryle. This time-limited therapy was developed in the context of the UK’s National Health Service with the aim of providing effective and affordable psychological treatment which could be realistically provided in a resource constrained public health system. It is distinctive due to its intensive use of reformulation, its integration of cognitive and analytic practice and its collaborative nature, involving the patient very actively in their treatment.

The CAT practitioner aims to work with the patient to identify procedural sequences; chains of events, thoughts, emotions and motivations that explain how a target problem (for example self-harm) is established and maintained. In addition to the procedural sequence model, a second distinguishing feature of CAT is the use of reciprocal roles (RRs). These identify problems as occurring between people and not within the patient. RRs may be set up in early life and then be replayed in later life; for example someone who as a child felt neglected by parents perceived as abandoning might be vulnerable to feelings of abandonment in later life (or indeed neglect themselves).

It all sounds like much of a muchness, and initially I was reluctant to even consider it. Most experiences I read online leaned very much towards the negative, and the idea of writing a “goodbye” letter to my therapist is an odd one; I usually leave therapy sessions by simply walking out and never coming back.

However, I’ve given it a lot of consideration over the past few days. Knowing CAT is a “cheap” therapy is a concern; does that make me a snob? I’ve decided that a minimum of eighteen weeks is a long time to think it through, and I do have the safety net of being able to leave whenever I want; I’m not being forced into psychotherapy. It’s my choice, and I think at least giving it a go is the right decision.

I think.

I hope.

_______________________________________

Attached at the hip – another oldie

Stars hung low in the sky tonight
Suspended by threads less fragile than ours
Street lights flicker and tobacco burns
A single light glowing in the dark.

The moon covered by a cloud
But hung by a rope, stronger than anything we could have made
Skin deep promises count for so little
On these nights by the windowpane.

A burned out joint in the gutter
A feeling of being anything but high.
Standing smaller in the dark than I’ve ever felt
In the dark, beneath the night sky.

The wind chills my fingers as I watch the road
Waiting for cars, but nobody comes
Just flickering night lights to pave my way
An illumination on all that I’ve done.

Lighting the shame, the guilt and the doubt
A spotlight upon my every move
Why can’t they see, this was only about me?
This was never about my feelings for you.

Stars hang low above my head
On threads made of promises, kisses and sighs
Threads hold us together, attached at the hip
Built of deception, coldness, heartbreak and lies.

(c) 2008

In absentia

It’s a strange feeling. Sitting on the sofa, listening to 4 Non Blondes, drinking coffee, and realising I finally made it. Knowing it took what felt like forever to get here, and trying to accept that I now have my own life. My own rules. My own independence.

Neglecting my blog, and everyone involved… it hasn’t felt good. The occasional tinge of guilt sneaks up on me, knowing that so many people have supported me for over a year and are still commenting despite my absence. However, sitting in the front room and seeing my belongings mixed with S’s… I honestly never believed it would happen, and real life has to take precedence.

Yes, we moved in together. I escaped; and not only do I have freedom for the first time in years, but I also have access to my own finances for the first time in my entire life. I got the bus into town two days ago – a feat in itself, considering how long it’s been since I felt brave enough to use public transport – and checked my bank account. Seeing money in my account for the first time since receiving my stepfather’s inheritance… you don’t know how amazing it feels. Knowing that, for the first time in twenty seven years, I am entirely independent. For the first time, my life is my own and not controlled by anybody but myself.

The past couple of weeks have been an unbelievable nightmare, culminating in a full-force BPD freak-out where I cried, screamed, howled, and eventually called a taxi to take me to S’s. I couldn’t cope with anything at all, and I admit there were a couple of situations where it looked like I was going to lose it entirely. I hit myself in the face. Toyed with a razor and a pair of scissors. Pulled a chunk of hair out, just to feel anything but the horrible pain inside of total loss of control. Stopped eating entirely for a week, living on strong coffee and the last of my dope stash, codeine; anything I could get my hands on to numb the fear just for a short while.

In truth, I don’t know how I got through it all. Trying to explain just how wrong everything seemed to go…it’s impossible. You can’t put such things into words.

You see, it wasn’t just the move stressing me out – although it really didn’t help – and my habit of not being able to cope with more than one thing at once really didn’t help. Quite why I decided to stop taking my medication for a few days, I’m not sure… I should know better, and can only assume that BPD was telling me I’d be better off without them. It’s happened often in the past but I thought I was over it, and had more sense now. Obviously not.

Within two days I’d gone back to the old ways. Panic. Everything was a disaster. The world was ending. Paranoia, beyond belief. Constant – and I mean constant – tears. The need for reassurance. Grabbing onto anything to survive. Laying awake at night hearing the slight whisper of the voices creeping in. Shadows and movement just out of my vision. Feeling victimised by things which hadn’t even happened.

I don’t know how I used to live like that.

Along with everything else I was trying to deal with – the return of fibro pain from not taking Lyrica or Celebrex/Naproxen, the tendonitis getting much, much worse, my mother freaking out over every little thing connected to the move – I finally got to the Biomechanics appointment which had been moved around so many times; I thought I’d never get there. Waiting was pointless though, as nothing was achieved. In fact, I may as well have stayed at home and abandoned any hope of help.

After months of waiting, after being discharged from physio after nothing helped, all the appointment involved was being told I need to do exercises to help the pain in my ankle and foot. In other words, I waited months – and worried – simply to be told exactly what I was told at physio. Told exactly what I already knew. I tried explaining that I’d had to stop the exercises since they were so painful but was simply told to do them regardless. Then, I was referred back to physio.

What is it about me? Why does nobody take me seriously?

I pondered this for a while after the appointment. There’s no denying that I’ve been let down by the NHS a ridiculous number of times; pushed from pillar to post, sent from one specialist to another, and always been made to feel like more of a nuisance than a genuine patient.

So I sat, and thought, and came to perhaps a controversial conclusion; that my past history of mental illness is affecting my treatment. I know this sounds paranoid – and it’s understandable that perhaps the idea of doctors refusing to treat me due to mental illness is something many would pooh-pooh as ridiculous – but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

You see, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that many see me as a faker. A chancer. Someone who goes to the doctors just to get attention and treatment I don’t need. Munchausen’s syndrome comes to mind.

It’s possible that some of my symptoms are psychosomatic; in fact, I know some are. Others however… you can’t fake them. It’s impossible to fake things like hair loss, swelling joints, jaundice, constant coldsores, endless urinary infections, weight loss, tendonitis, crunching knees and fingers, sciatica… all these things are real, physical symptoms, and have been proven to exist. So I can’t be faking it; doctors themselves have confirmed a myriad of symptoms and illnesses.

Yet… I’m not getting the treatment I’m entitled to.

Last week, I discovered something I’d never known, and it’s only served to confirm my suspicions. I spoke to my mother about accessing my medical records – she agrees that I’m not being treated fairly – and I found out that when I was seventeen, I was sectioned.

I never knew. Nobody told me. I assumed I was simply being ‘kept an eye on’ when I was stuck in hospital after a failed overdose, but in reality the truth was kept from me to protect me. I can understand why, but still… it’s a lot to come to terms with. I’ve always held onto the belief that no matter how crazy I’ve been, I’ve never been sectioned. Somehow that belief helped me cope. Now everything’s been turned upside down. A lot of my life has been a lie.

It’s a weird thought. I was sectioned, and never knew.

It makes me wonder what else I was never told. Just what my past involved. I know for a lot of my teens I was out of it, and couldn’t take much in except for the difficulties and problems I experienced, and I know I was often trapped in some form of psychosis; living my life in a bubble created to protect myself. There’s so much of my teens I can’t remember – medication, craziness, lack of sleep, lack of food, drugs, drink… it all blocked out memories – and it’s entirely possible that things happened I wasn’t aware of.

So much of my life has been pieced together from flashes of memory; some of which may not even be real. In truth, I don’t know half of what I’ve lived through. I just… locked it away somewhere.

They should have told me. I had a right to know.

Right now, I’m trying not to think about it too much. I have an appointment with my GP on the 9th, and I’m planning on talking about all my worries. I’m really not up to it right now – a lot needs to be done to the flat – but this needs to be sorted once and for all.

When the past gives me no comfort

Despite my attempts at being entirely honest and bare in this blog, I do hold back. I assume everybody does, to some extent, even in their most secret of diaries. You see, twenty seven years of life is a lot to fit into just over a year’s worth of writing.

At first, I thought running out of things to say and confessions to admit would happen quite quickly. After all, I haven’t lived for that long; most still seem to consider me a child, barely out of my teens. It seems that even after you grow up and become an adult, there will always be somebody older ready to condescend your problems by mentioning how much more experienced they are. However, thousands of words later, I’m beginning to realise I can’t possibly tell my story in such a short time and, if anything, I’m only just admitting to the tip of the iceberg.

Something I’ve learned about writing such a personal blog – which involves sensitive subjects – is that I have to be feeling in the right frame of mind to speak about certain things. Sometimes I have to be angry; I write best about self-harm when I’m furious. Others, I have to be bordering on falling back into the depression pit. Some things… I am never in the right frame of mind.

 

Like tonight. I would much rather curl up in a ball on my bed and smoke dope and watch E.R until the sun comes up, than write about all the anxiety which has been plaguing me. I’d much prefer distracting myself with pointless games than admitting to finding it really fucking hard not starving myself every time I try to lose just a little weight.  And I’m forcing myself to write because I know that if I don’t, I’ll keep doing it. If I don’t have to hold myself accountable, then what’s the harm in letting myself cut a few hundred calories a day, until I’m only eating half an apple and two carrot sticks? At least then less people would judge me. I wouldn’t have to worry about not being taken seriously anymore, because when I was thin… I felt better. I just felt better. More confident. People listened to me more. I wasn’t just a fat loser with a walking stick and too many piercings.

I’m tired, but I don’t want to sleep. I also don’t want to talk about the voices.

They’re not voices; not really. They’re more like obtrusive thoughts which feel like they come from a different brain. They barge in with suggestions and hints, and are impossible to shut up once they get going. Until a few years ago I believed they were entirely valid thoughts, and acted on them. After years of fucking up and putting myself in dangerous situations… I learned – through lots of self-therapy and even more medication – that they’re not my real thoughts. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean I can ignore them. They shout. Loudly. Demand my attention. Grab onto my brain stem and refuse to let go.

I wish I could explain the things they say, but it’s difficult to put into words. It’s bitter and spiteful stuff; reminders of my failings and every single time I said something wrong. They’re the ones who say that everybody in a room is looking at me, and that everybody I know is just pretending to like me out of pity. When I’m holding the lit cigarette in my hand and feeling helpless, they’re the ones who are shouting at me to press it into my arm. They’re the ones who twisted everything; who convinced me that I had enemies in friends and that others were out to hurt me. They made it all sound so real, and they still do. I just know they’re not a part of me now. Not a healthy part anyway.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say here. That I’m tired and need sleep, probably.

Out Of My Life

I saw J on Friday afternoon. Spotted his distinctive bright green velvet jacket out of the corner of my eye whilst chatting to my hairdresser. First impressions were that he looked sick; sick as in manic, and clearly off his medication again. I watched him waving his arms around while he rocked back and forth on his heels and talked to a man I’d never met before, his head freshly shaved under his wide-brimmed black hat. I remember that hat; it’s the one he bought and wore when he was starting to get psychotic. You see, J always wore hats, and very rarely took them off; even indoors. I assumed it was a security thing.

I felt a little sad. J put me through a lot, but I did sort of hope that after the last time he was in hospital – he’s been sectioned six or seven times – he’d finally take some sort of control, or at least his family would step in for once and make sure he took the medication, or at least stayed away from the conspiracy-theorists and criminals he spent the majority of his time with. I’m still unconvinced by the bipolar diagnosis – J fits perfectly into the definition of a true narcissist - but it’s nothing to do with me now. Did I somehow think that my attempts at helping would change almost twenty years of psychotic episodes and violent outbursts? I suppose I hoped it would, but clearly it made no difference at all.

 

A few years ago, we were both in the same place, mentally. He was running around inventing grand schemes to make millions, and I was lying on the sofa, a joint in one hand and a bottle of morphine in the other. He was snorting experimental party drugs and screaming at me if I spoke too loud or accidentally knocked something over. I was hiding in the house, terrified to go outside. He left for days on end, with no clue as to where he was going, leaving me with no gas, electricity, and – sometimes – no door key. I slept in his car rather than have to be in the same bed as him, because he didn’t wash for weeks on end, not even brush his teeth. Once we moved into the house his parents bought, I believed things would change. I stopped the morphine and forced myself to get help from my GP. When J was sectioned after shaving all his hair off and taking a Bible into a pub – shouting about Islam and the EDL – I promised to help him. I tried. I failed.

I watched him, with his scruffy beard and the brown cord trousers he wore every day, and wondered why our lives took such dramatic turns on the day I left him. J is forty two now, and still stands in the street with his odd mannerisms, wearing poorly-matched charity shop clothes and, obviously, still not washing. He’s still in the cycle of taking medication then, when he feels it isn’t working anymore, refusing all medical help and ending up right back where he started.

Despite everything I feel about our time together, I do feel sorry for him. He never had the support of a family who were involved with his psychosis. They just pretended it didn’t happen, and never visited him in hospital; preferring to go on holiday to Venice instead. He has nobody to make sure he takes the medication or at least has somewhere safe to be when he loses it. His ‘friends’ are all ex-cons, patients from the various mental hospitals, or religious and conspiracy fanatics. He has never been given responsibility – his parents willingly throwing money at his wild schemes and places to live – and I don’t think anyone has ever suggested therapy.

Sadly… J just wasn’t a nice person. His bipolar or whatever had nothing to do with that. Mental illness or no, he’d still have been a dick. Which is why I stayed in that seat, surrounded by the smell of peroxide, and eventually looked away. He’s not part of my life anymore. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he ever entered my mind.