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.


“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.

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.

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.



They’re all out to get you, once again.

“For a long time, I lived in an imaginary world. A world were everybody was nice and respected me for my invented talents and very unlikely beauty. As a child, I often spoke these fantasies out loud and the habit carried on into my teens, leading to a child psychiatrist assuming I heard voices. I didn’t; I just confined myself in a fantasy world to the point where I believed it all. I didn’t live in the real world, but in a false reality. What happened, only happened in my head. At some point, the childish fantasies became a psychosis and that’s when everything changed in my happy little world; I invented slights and insults, and became convinced that, rather than adoring me, everyone loathed the very ground I walked on. Being bullied in secondary school pushed me further into the fake reality and only confirmed (in my addled brain) my suspicions that everyone was conspiring against me.”

Psychosis is impossible to explain to anybody who’s never experienced it first-hand. Wikipedia describes psychosis as an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality“, and given that my fantasy world was as far removed from reality as it’s possible to be, that’s what I’ll call it.

Of course, I don’t remember what was real and what was simply imagined, so I can’t accurately describe exactly how my psychosis panned out. Although I now realise that certain torments and threats were entire fantasy, I sometimes wonder just how much of my life as I see it is just an illusion. I confess… I don’t like feeling that so much of my life was a lie.

I can remember sitting on my bed in the room I used to sleep in, and feeling convinced the entire world could see me. Not through cameras, but in their heads; I don’t know, some sort of telepathy. They saw me and judged me on everything I said and did. Sometimes I got dressed under the bedcovers, worried about everyone seeing me naked and laughing at my body. I would turn photographs and posters to the wall in case they were somehow a way of people watching my every move. At one time, I had hundreds of posters and, when stressed, would refuse to look at them in case they knew that I knew.

At no point did the thought occur to me that none of this was real or strange. It felt so normal that I never questioned it; you see what’s in front of your eyes, and what I saw may have been removed from reality but I saw it all the same, and had no reason to be suspicious I was living in a false world. If you see a cup on a table, you don’t think, “hey, is this real?”. You just accept that the cup and table are there. I accepted that the things I thought and believed were there too.

I’ve written before about how happy my years in primary school were, but I neglected to mention a few problems I had along the way. On the whole it was an amazing experience, and one I’ll always cherish –  I can still smell the cut grass on the school field which signaled it was summer – but it wasn’t always the rosy-tinted childhood I make it out to be. I suppose I haven’t felt ready to talk until now.

I have never got on with numbers. Basic arithmetic is the best I can manage, and I’ve done a lot of avoiding maths in my life. I still don’t have my maths GCSE; I wasn’t even competent enough to take the exam. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, something just stops the numbers processing properly. It’s like they turn to mush in my brain as soon as I try to solve all but the most simple problems. In the first years of primary school this wasn’t a problem because even I could understand that 2 + 2 = 4. What I didn’t reckon on was being introduced to basic fractions and decimals when I joined the junior classes. I couldn’t process them. They made no sense. I couldn’t accept that there was any rhyme or reason to any of it, and I began to panic. I started needing to pee all the time, and often used it as an excuse to escape to the toilets next to the classroom and hide from the numbers.

This is where things get cloudy. I have memories, but they may not be real. I have brief flashes, but I’m not entirely convinced I didn’t invent the whole thing.

All I remember is those toilets. Three small stalls and two sinks opposite. Tracing paper toilet roll. And somebody – somebody male – in those toilets with me.

His legs are all I can picture. Dark trousers and black shoes. That’s it. His legs. Nothing else.

It’s only a fragment of memory. A tiny second out of twenty-seven years of life. In the grand scheme of things it barely exists. So why does it follow me around? I just know that toilet stall is somehow important. I just don’t want to consider why.

The last two years of juniors is when I started retreating into myself. I started spending time alone on the playing field, picking daisies and throwing them. Once, I fell over and badly cut my hand on a piece of glass which had been sticking out of the ground. Instead of going to the teacher on duty, I stood and watched the blood. For a long time. I remember kids crowding around me, and a teacher wrapping a bandage around my hand.

By the age of eleven, I was inventing scenarios in my head which never occurred. I began to tell ridiculous lies; lies which were so obvious yet I was convinced I was actually speaking the truth. It’s hard to explain to somebody who’s never experienced it. Even though what I claimed was clearly impossible, as the words came out of my mouth I believed them entirely. When the bullying started, my beliefs became more and more outlandish; to the outsider it must have sounded like I was trying to make myself sound cooler than I am, but in reality I had no such plans. All of it – the invented boyfriends, imagined situations – were 100% real in my head. The people I created lived out their lives and, when something bad happened to them, I felt sorry for them. When one died, I cried in the history classroom, putting my head down on the desk and sobbing into my black blazer.

This is all so difficult to talk about. You just can’t explain something which was never there.

Sometimes the walls moved in one me. Loud bangs would shoot off in my head, as though there was a gun going off inside my ear. Music played when there was none. I saw figures standing just out of my vision, always watching me. I stayed up late every night, worried that somebody or something would grab me if I fell asleep, and I would stare at the reflections in my tiny bedroom television, convinced I could see people moving inside. Not once did I consider that tiny people inside my television might be quite an unusual event.

I knew, without a doubt, that my every thought was being broadcast somewhere. Where, I never quite decided; most likely to my enemies, the people who hated me most and who were waiting for me to put a foot wrong so they could point and laugh at my total inability to fit in with the social norms.

By far the worst aspect of being bullied was knowing that two desks behind me I was inevitably the subject of a caustic bitching session. This bit was undoubtedly real. I did experience name-calling and shoving in the corridors, but that wasn’t anywhere near the feeling of being totally ignored. I had a handful of friends but my increasingly wacky behavior - muttering to myself, writing poetry on wardrobe doors and turning up to class with my white shirt sleeves soaked in blood from where I’d hacked at myself with a razor – quickly drove them away and although we still hung out at break, I was suddenly being invited to a lot fewer sleepovers.

I skipped class often. Nobody ever missed me and I often whiled away hours in the toilets near the R.E classroom, locked securely in a stall far away from the door. I’d hear girls come in and chat about the usual mundane things. Once, I was sitting on the toilet seat and writing in the back of my English book when I caught my name in their conversation.

Yeah, she’s such a freak“.

From this point on, every word said to me was taken as a criticism on my worth as a human being. I scrutinised every conversion - looking for insults and judgement – and found that everyone, every single person I met, hated me. Total strangers knew my entire life story and looked down on me for failing to succeed, and even my own family were conspiring against me.. When my mother sent me to the child psychiatrist after I was found harming myself in school, I saw it as a direct attack. I was perfectly fine, she was the one with delusions.

Every session with the psychiatrist, I sat on a blue-cushioned chair and stared at the clock on the wall above his head. I counted the ticks. I looked at his ratty face and imagined throwing him out of the window just so he’d stop asking me how everything made me feel. I felt fine. I was okay. The world was fucked-up, not me, and I’d cope much better if everyone just stopped interfering with my life, thank you very much.

One day, he asked me if I heard voices. I answered honestly; yes, I did. And yes, they suggested bad things.

The voices… they’re not like a real voice heard inside your head. They’re more like thoughts – you don’t hear a thought, you think it – which occasionally pop up and, because it’s just a thought, you believe it.

The bad things? Killing myself. Killing my classmates. Going into  school with a kitchen knife and forcing the bullies to take me seriously for once, rather than laughing and making sly comments when I put my hand up in class. Once, I took the knife – a small one – in my schoolbag but wasn’t brave enough to use it.

I never thought that I was anything other than normal.

The psychiatrist said I was schizophrenic. I was sent to PL. They said I wasn’t. Nobody seemed to know why I was so removed from everything, other than I was experiencing some sort of post-traumatic psychosis. In one of the many counselling and therapy sessions, I was asked if my father had ever sexually abused me. I said no, of course he hasn’t; my dad may be some things, but he never laid a finger on me.

Nobody ever asked if someone else had abused me, though.

One lovely blog award, and some big confessions

lollipopsandrazorblades and lifeonaxis1 have both kindly nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award; a nice surprise on a day where I’m coughing up my lungs and getting through boxes of tissues whilst suffering with the virus from hell. Seriously, I haven’t been this unwell in a long time, and I’m cursing everybody I came into contact with last week. I’ve spent the past two days in bed, wanting to curl up and die. That the virus coincided with my little slip up is a particularly frustrating coincidence; I suspect it’ll take some time to recover.

Anyway, I owe lollipopsandrazorblades a huge thank you for my nomination; check out her blog for an amazing and humbling amount of honesty. Also, massive thanks to lifeonaxis1; she’s never been nominated for an award before and shares my reservations about award posts. Visit her blog, because she has some amazing words to say about the mental health system.

The Rules of Acceptance:

Thank the person/people who nominated you and link back to them in your post.

Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.

Nominate fifteen or so bloggers you admire.

Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know and link back to them.


Seven things

Writing seven things about myself is always difficult; when you write with the intention of being totally honest, there’s very little to confess to. What could be shocking or surprising enough? With that in mind, I’m going to aim for the mundane.

1. I realised today that I’m entirely stuck in the late 80′s/early 90′s. Not in the trendy “LOL I’m so retro” way, but in a nostalgic way I can’t bear to let go of. Despite everything which has happened, I did have a happy childhood until depression and anxiety took over. I grew up in a semi-detached house in quite a suburban area, and although my mother was possessive, I was happy with what I had. I remember long sunny days in the garden or cul-de-sac down the road, riding my sister’s yellow scooter and visiting the family next door to play on the Master Station with my friend Daniel. I have amazing memories of running across my primary school field in a blue-and-white checked dress and lace-topped ankle socks, throwing grass and laughing.

I know most have rose-tinted memories of their childhoods, but because I was so prone to curling into myself emotionally (I’ve always been shy), I found beauty and fascination in the most simple things. Primary school was an incredibly happy time for me, and I look back on it with fondness. Not only do I look back, but I spent a lot of time thinking and, most nights, dreaming of it. I watch old TV programmes from that time and listen to the music I heard as a kid, just to recreate the feeling of pure uncomplicated living. It’s been a long time since life was uncomplicated.

Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t a boy.

2. I love Erasure. And Bronski Beat. 80′s synth-pop and New Wave have always made me happier than anything else can, and I refuse to apologise for it. None of this is a secret or unknown, but wonderfully naff nonetheless.

3. Although I smoke cannabis for pain, I also sometimes smoke so much that I pass out; just to calm my fears. I know there’s a lot of controversy surrounding mental illness and dope, and all I can say is that I’ve known people who’ve smoked it all their lives and never become mentally ill. I’ve known others who have a diagnosed disorder such as bipolar who use it to control their manic phases. On the flipside, my ex, J, got no benefit from smoking weed; he was a stereotypical pothead and didn’t seem to understand that his bipolar got much, much worse when he smoked, and calmed down significantly when he stopped.

I wholeheartedly believe that all drugs are dangerous if used incorrectly, but if you treat the majority of them with respect, perhaps they can be a good thing. I don’t see a difference between prescribed medication and illegal drugs; after all, morphine can be diagnosed for back pain, but heroin (the same thing) is illegal. Codeine kills thousands of people a year. Addiction to prescription drugs is higher than ever, if statistics are to be believed, yet these addictions are far more accepted by society than addiction to illegal drugs.

Cannabis stops me having panic attacks. Stops them dead, with just a few tokes. Meanwhile, diazepam takes time to work and is highly addictive. Can kill you. So if I choose to use a class-B drug rather than benzo’s… is that so wrong?

But yes. Sometimes I smoke for the hell of it.  Because I like it.

4. For a long time, I lived in an imaginary world. A world were everybody was nice and respected me for my invented talents and very unlikely beauty. As a child, I often spoke these fantasies out loud and the habit carried on into my teens, leading to a child psychiatrist assuming I heard voices. I didn’t; I just confined myself in a fantasy world to the point where I believed it all. I didn’t live in the real world, but in a false reality. What happened, only happened in my head. At some point, the childish fantasies became a psychosis and that’s when everything changed in my happy little world; I invented slights and insults, and became convinced that, rather than adoring me, everyone loathed the very ground I walked on. Being bullied in secondary school pushed me further into the fake reality and only confirmed (in my addled brain) my suspicions that everyone was conspiring against me.

I foresee a blog post on this subject.

5. At the height of my bulimia, I ate food from the rubbish bin in the kitchen, shovelling damp biscuits into my mouth then throwing them up in a green plastic tub I kept especially for the purpose. I threw up in plastic zip-lock bags and hid them under my bed, surrounded by empty crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers. I ate, then drank handfuls of water from the bathroom tap so I was as close as possible to the toilet. Sometimes, I’d vomit when I’d only eaten a small handful of carrots, terrified of the calories seeping into my veins somehow.

6. Once, I had sex with a man who was in his mid-forties, because my ex-fiancé told me he wanted me to sleep with someone else. The whole situation is somewhat convoluted so I won’t go into every single detail. My ex-fiancé and I were fighting constantly, having drifted apart sexually and emotionally, and he started getting close to another woman; Ally, who he now has two children with. I took the phrase “sleep with other people” to mean “I want to sleep with other people”, and, in stupid desperation to hold onto a decaying relationship, I hung my engagement ring on a chain around my neck, swallowed what little I had of my pride, and ended up in bed with a balding man with a constant runny nose and the inability to finish without jacking off over my chest. I remember staring at a slight damp spot on his bedroom ceiling and realising I had reached the lowest moment of my life.

7. Every morning when I wake up, I want desperately to be back in my dreams. Not because they’re happy or interesting, but because they’re so familiar. Since starting on antidepressants I’ve had incredibly lucid dreams which all take place in the same fictional town. Over the years I’ve explored houses and run down streets which are more like home to me than any place in the waking world.

It’s difficult to nominate other bloggers for this award, since I’ve already nominated so many. The following links are to blogs I read for their honest content and because, in different ways, they inspire me.
The Secret World of S / ryoko861 / May I Be… / bipolarmuse / Jacqui Talbot / NZ Cate / My Ox is a Moron / whereimstaying / Resiliant Heart / Destination Girl / Displaced Housewife / lazyhippiemama / Word Flows

I’d love to say something about each blogger because each of them deserve recognition, but I’ve already written over a thousand words… perhaps the mundane confessions weren’t all mundane.

“They don’t know what’s going on inside your head — the mind-numbing cocktail of anger and sadness and guilt”

I almost lost it today.

Stupidly, I decided not to take my medication this morning. I was in a rush to get to my ultrasound appointment, and planned to take it when I got home. A few hours don’t tend to make much difference usually. However, this time I couldn’t control certain emotions and fears, and I really didn’t like it. Although I undoubtedly have BPD, most of the time it’s controlled by medication; I still panic, but can rationalise it if somebody doesn’t contact me (usually) and I’m not so prone to running away from stressful situations. I’ve been proud of the progress I’ve made in keeping the irrational fear behind a wall in my head.

Today though… I don’t know if it’s the heat, or having to get up early, or just sheer chance, but I freaked out. I got ready fine, put my makeup on, straightened my hair, put a dress on – signs I’m doing okay – but as soon as I got in the taxi, anxiety started building.

Paranoia. Panic attack. Psychosis. I don’t know what you’d call it. I become convinced everyone is staring at me and judging me unkindly; the logical side of me knows it’s impossible for a whole room of people to all hate me on sight, but logic means little when everything seems to be exploding and falling apart.

In the hospital waiting room, I decided a well-to-do woman sitting opposite me was staring at my face. Perhaps my hair or piercings. Maybe my choice of clothing; it all runs together. I started to panic and babbled at my mother about how much I hate hospitals, about the shabby-looking equipment and sullen staff. Anything to distract myself from the posh woman’s supposed glare. Looking back, I don’t even know if she was really looking at me. I could have made the whole thing up.

The building panic wasn’t helped by an incredibly rude sonographer. As paranoid as I was feeling, even I can’t pretend that he didn’t say a single word to me; wouldn’t even make eye contact. How difficult is it to say hello? I lay on the narrow bed while he totally ignored me, and I strained to make out the images on the ultrasound. I think I could make out the tendon; although what’s normal isn’t exactly something I can recognise.

I don’t even know where the results are going. I did ask – since I’m under both the care of my GP and Dr. B for the same issue – but I can’t remember the answer for the life of me. My head was so muddled at this point that I just wanted to get out, have a cigarette and cry.

I couldn’t go home and calm down though. My mother came with me to the appointment so we could shop in Tesco afterwards; so I had at least two more hours of panic to deal with. She spends forever looking at packages and going back and forth, and it’s not rare for me to kick off in the shop, but I’ve been doing well at controlling the rage recently. I just grit my teeth and force myself to get on with it.

In Tesco, I did well until the morning rush started. Suddenly the whole place was filled with hassled parents and middle-aged men fighting over barbeques, shoving their trolleys into the backs of my legs and blocking whole aisles with armfuls of children; all running around and screaming.

I quickly lost my mother somewhere – again, a regular occurence – and became panicked about not being able to carry what I’d already bought. Worried I’d never find her. I decided to distract myself by looking at contract mobiles (I’m considering getting a HTC Desire), and soon started thinking about the huge elephant which constantly stomps around our house; my financial situation.

In short, although I’m 27 years old, my benefits still get paid into my mother’s bank account. Why? I can only believe she’s using it to control me. She’s never allowed me to take control of my own money, although I’ve begged her many times.

When I finally found her in the vegetable aisle, I asked her if she’s going to “sort my money out”. I’ve been asking for over a decade, and got the same answer as usual: “Soon. Just let me get some stuff sorted first”.

An hour’s worth of panic and worry flew up into my mouth, and I started stammering at her. My throat tightened up and started to hurt. I wanted to cry. Scream. Punch somebody. I had to walk away feigning interest in the make-up section before I sat myself down on the floor and refused to budge; it wouldn’t be the first time. I wanted to run away and hide from all the strangers staring at me and judging my faults.

I’ve had two panic attacks recently; I don’t like to think it could be the start of something.

Bizarrely, I was saved from full-blown meltdown by bumping into S outside Tesco. Leaving to get a taxi home coincided with his lunch break at the hospital, and I couldn’t have felt more relieved. I calmed down immediately.

He’s like my own personal diazepam.

Depression – why opening the curtains can cause more suffering, and other advice

I originally planned to reblog this post, but after typing out a long response, WordPress decided to keep my reblog in a never-ending publishing state, then eventually wiped the entire post.

Picture this. You’re trapped beneath a safety-blanket of duvets and pillows. The room is dark and silent. All you hear is your breathing; and sometimes you’re not quite sure if you’re really alive. It feels like you’re wrapped in a big, dark spider web; you know something bad is coming, but you don’t even want to struggle or escape. Days and nights pass in a blur of half-sleep and daydreams. Time ceases to mean anything. You can’t remember when you last brushed your teeth; and it doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to.

Suddenly, somebody comes stomping in, full of cheeriness and attempts to gee you up. They flounce over to the curtains and fling them open, pulling the nice, safe duvet from you and exposing you to the harsh, painful light. Your eyes sting. You haven’t seen real daylight in a while. You feel cold and naked; the act of stripping away a blanket is, to you, a cruel and unusual punishment. The whole world can see you now, and you’re scared.  Tired, anxious, weary and scared. You just want to be left alone.

This is why pointing out lovely weather is annoying and pointless.

Depression is a cruel illness. It strips you of your ability to care or relate to anything around you. It fills your mind with emptiness – a saying I never understood until I experienced chronic depression myself – and it’s all you can do to blink without giving up.

My mother has a habit of trying to force me outside, into the garden. When she thinks I’ve spent long enough hiding in my bedroom, she’ll waltz in (usually while I’m asleep), throw the curtains wide with as much clattering and muttering as possible, and proclaim that, “you’d feel much better if you got some sunshine!”.

I don’t doubt that weather has a huge impact on depression. I certainly feel much less able to cope in the winter; making excuses about the weather being too bad to leave the house or see friends. However, depression is a very complex illness, and you wouldn’t expect a bit of sun to magically fix a broken arm. It won’t cure depression either.

There is one aspect of depression I have never been able to manipulate or control via medication; the urge to shut myself away from the world. Friendships have fallen by the wayside because there’s only so  many times you can refuse an invitation before they stop asking. Being shut away is a natural response to being depressed; withdrawing from everything and everyone can sometimes feel like the only way to save yourself. Retreat to a place you feel comfortable and secure.

As well-meaning as it may be to try to force a depressive out of their comfort zone in an attempt to cure them, what you’re really doing is tearing the safety blanket away from a very vulnerable person. You may call it tough love, but to the person you’re trying to help, you’re being cruel and unreasonable. They already feel low enough without feeling their loved ones are turning against them as well.

Depression lies. When a friend offers you advice on ways to cope, sometimes the depressed brain will twist the words to sound like an accusation; particularly in cases of borderline personality disorder. I’ve been told that bipolar can feel the same. This imagined accusation sticks with the depressed person and, over time, morphs into a huge monster they can’t possibly hope to tackle.

Going outside has long been a big problem of mine. In the past four years (give or take a year) I’ve gone from somebody who goes on regular long walks and trips to town, to an almost-recluse, travelling by taxi so I don’t have to deal with the public and wearing nondescript clothes so as not to draw attention to myself. Part of  that is due to living with chronic pain, but I know depression is at the root of my reluctance to be seen in public.

You see, I worry that everybody knows my secret. That they can somehow tell from my face I’m “one of those crazy people”. I’ve sat in taxis, listening to the driver crack jokes about our local psychiatric unit, and prayed he wouldn’t look me in the eye and realise I’m totally incapable of existing without daily medication.

I accept that trying to help somebody with depression is like fighting a losing battle. The nature of depression is that it convinces the sufferer that getting well isn’t an option. The concept of recovery doesn’t even exist; depression hides it from you.

This is why sometimes the sufferer lashes out either verbally or physically when you try to help them. It’s why they may turn their back on you and not contact you for six months when you give out a few well-meaning hints. It’s not that they don’t appreciate the advice or care about you; it’s that they’re unable to feel those emotions properly. Depression has dampened everything down, placing the depressive in a near-soundproof room. They may be able to hear you, but their lack of reaction isn’t because they’re being spiteful and ignoring you; it’s due to depression smothering them with apathy.

It’s natural to want to help those who are suffering, and mental illnesses are no different. However, unless you’re a doctor you wouldn’t try to remove a tumour; in the same sense, unless you really know what you’re talking about, offering advice to somebody entrenched in misery probably won’t work.

I’m not saying to abandon those who have depression. Far from it; there are other ways to help than mentioning medications and therapies you’ve heard about.

So, how do you help someone with depression? I don’t have the answers to that. Everyone is different, and depression is a wide-ranging illness often encompassing other diagnoses such as psychosis, paranoia, anxiety disorder, BPD, PTSD and bipolar. What works for one person might not work for another. However, along with not  wantonly opening curtains, there are some things which might help.

  • The urge to drag a depressive out of bed is probably huge. However, it’s rarely the answer. When somebody retreats it’s through a need to be alone;  whether rational or not. In the depths of a depressive episode, you shrink into yourself and ignore phone calls. Emails go unanswered. Often, the sheer stress of having to communicate wears the sufferer down so much that they retreat entirely. Obviously if you’re concerned for their safety this advice doesn’t apply; but as long as they’re not hurting themselves… sometimes they just need to get through it on their own. Keep an eye on them; don’t let them be entirely alone, but don’t pressure them either. It can be a long process to climb out of the hole.
  • It’s hard to help someone when they throw accusations in your face. Paranoia often tags along with depression, and it’s very easy to become convinced that those trying to help you are actually out to damage you somehow. My personal experience of it is that it’s almost a form of psychosis; suddenly everything and everyone are against you, and even the people who claim to love you seem to be trying to ruin everything. It’s not something you can just get control over. It’s easy to imagine enemies everywhere when you feel entirely stripped bare.
  • I shouldn’t have to say this, but having depression doesn’t make you stupid or lazy. Sadly, these views still exist. Telling somebody to “just get out of bed and join the real world” isn’t the answer; it just serves to  make the sufferer feel even less of a person than they already do. Ask someone experiencing a depressive episode if they feel like a valuable member of society; they don’t. They’re at the lowest point it’s possible to reach, and suggesting in a roundabout  way that they’re taking up space and being lazy isn’t what we need to hear.
  • On a similar note, saying “my auntie was depressed for a week and she did more exercise and it went away” doesn’t help. It’s condescending and patronising. We know our illness; we live with it every day.
  • Telling somebody on anti-depressants that you don’t believe they’re safe or work properly will get you nowhere. Those with depression need support every step of the way, not putting down for their choices. Often, deciding to take medication is the last straw of a very painful life. It can be incredibly difficult to get up enough courage to go to the doctor and explain your failings so you can be given happy pills. If they work for somebody, what’s the problem?
  • You don’t know how they feel. Even if you have depression yourself, you can’t see or feel their exact emotions; or lack of. When  you’re trapped in the depression bubble, nobody has ever felt as wretched as you do. That feeling isn’t from an excess of ego; you really do feel like nobody could ever withstand the pain and emptiness. Tell them if you empathise or relate – communicating with other sufferers can help enormously – but don’t try to convince them you know how terrible everything is.
  • Invite your depressed friends and family to parties, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if they decline. It’s not because they don’t want to see you; it’s because they don’t want to see anybody. Telling them they’d “feel better if they had a few drinks” may be well-meant, but it won’t help. They won’t feel better. They’re sick, and sickness can’t be cured by a bit of fun. Let them know you’d like them to be there but that there’s no pressure. Pressure to socialise is a very painful part of depression.
  • Don’t tell them they look tired. Seriously. Nobody needs to hear that.

The madness I have seen

I used to know a guy. Let’s call him Neil.

Neil and I met through my ex-boyfriend, J. They had been in a psychiatric unit together – J for bipolar/psychotic outbursts and Neil for schizophrenia – and when they were released J did his usual act of taking someone younger under his very unstable wing, acting like a “father figure” (his words, not mine) to Neil.

Although the schizophrenia was quite controlled with medication, Neil often heard voices, telling him to hurt himself and other people. His ex-girlfriend had committed suicide a few years earlier, and he never got over it. Still, he was a nice, gentle guy, too tall for his personality, apt to social bumbling and saying the wrong thing, but sweet and caring. We sometimes played D&D together, or talked about Discworld, or just chatted about every day stuff. I suppose I classed him as a friend; although, as I admitted, I don’t have a clue when friendship truly happens. He did text me sometimes and we chatted at parties and got on pretty well, so I went by that.

A couple of days ago, I read in the local paper that he’s been jailed for three years, for throwing lighter fluid on his brother while he was smoking.

I’ve had plenty of first-hand experience with the mental health system in England – mostly negative – and I can’t help thinking that, yet again, it’s let a vulnerable person down. Neil may have been given medication, but nobody ensured he was taking it; he was said to be “of no fixed abode” in the newspaper. Nobody made sure he went to his therapist appointmets, or looked out for him. Perhaps his family helped – they said they still love him and want to help him – but is it too little too late? Too many people just let the mentally ill fall by the wayside, letting the NHS pick up the pieces in an ineffective way.

I’ve seen so many people being seemingly abandoned by mental healhcare, left to fend for themselves and told to go away with a pill packet, and it makes me worry for my future, as well as that of others. If I have another breakdown, will those around me have the foresight to keep me from being sectioned? Or will they be sick of me falling apart on an annual basis, and lock me away for some peace and quiet?

Not everybody has to worry about this, I suppose.

In happier news, it’s been a long, lovely weekend. S took Friday and Monday off work, and so I stayed at his house from Thursday evening and we spent the time drinking white Russians and amaretto, watching Buster Keaton films, playing Worms on his computer, smoking in the garden and talking in bed. I gave very little thought to my decision to end my so-called friendship with O; I thought I should feel something, even though I stopped loving him a long time ago, but it just felt like a closed door.

It’s funny; O was the first person to suggest that S fancied me. We were in his car, parked around the corner after a quick night-time shag by the water treatment plant, and when he said that I just shrugged. At this point, I only knew S online; we’d never met in real life, and I had no indication that he found me attractive.

It did spark something in my mind though; the thought that perhaps it wasn’t so strange that I did like something about S, even though we’d never met. That maybe there was a reason why I looked for his name when I logged in to the forum. So, in a way, O tempted me into flirting a litle with S. He was the master of his own fate.

O and I…. it was a love story. He’ll always be the first man I loved, and I’ll always have fond memories of that short time we were blissfully happy. It will never compare to the story I’m writing with S, though.

The drugs REALLY don’t work

Six (I think) days ago, I was prescribed Celebrex/Celecoxib for my joint pain. Today, I’ve decided to take myself off it, after another sleepless night and a sudden explosion of anxiety, panic, worry, depression and something I can only describe as bordering on psychosis. I’ve had a constant stomach upset, heartburn, swellings all over my body, headaches, vision problems, nightmares, endless sweating, nausea, worse than usual fatigue and a total inability to function. The last few days have been spent almost entirely in bed, alternating between crying and feeling absolutely nothing. I’ve shouted and screamed at my mother for no reason. As I type, I’m rocking back and forth, trying to calm the irrational fear and expend the ridiculous amount of energy I have stored in my  body. I’m too exhausted to make use of the energy – which feels like I’ve overdosed on E without the happy side-effect – and nothing I see or hear makes sense.

Having finally let myself Google personal accounts from people who’ve taken it, I’ve realised that everything I’m feeling can be attributed to the medication. I don’t care that it was starting to help a little with the pain; if I have  to choose between relative sanity and painful joints, I’ll take the sanity please.

Of course, my mother will insist that I get yet another appointment with my GP to discuss it. However, I think if I have to walk into that waiting room one more time, I’ll snap entirely. I’ve been trying so hard to keep my shit together recently, and I don’t want to end up undoing all the hard work. Plus… I don’t think I can face yet another medication which probably won’t work, and might end up making me feel worse. Perhaps I can make it until April (when I’m seeing a rheumatology specialist) and just deal with the pain.

Six days is all it’s taken for me to become a quivering, sweating, angry wreck. I want to punch myself in the face; as barmy as I can be, that’s not normal. The only thing stopping me is knowing I’d have to explain the bruising. It’s difficult to make excuses for an injury when you’ve been bedbound for days.

This is never going to get better, is it? Life’s never going to get better.

30 Days Of Truth: Day 3 – Bipolar J.

Something you need to forgive yourself for.

Apologies for the length of this one. I suppose a lot needs to be said. I was going to use day 8 to talk about J, but I think it also deserves a place here.

As I’ve written about before, when O and I split up officially, we carried on sleeping together. Suddenly the tables turned and I was the third part of the triangle, instead of a main player. I wasn’t proud of my actions, but I confess I wasn’t entirely disgusted by myself either; she had done the exact same thing to me. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but I had no idea what else to do. I was clinging on by my fingernails to a dead horse.

While working at the bookshop, a new volunteer started. A short, scruffy man with a beanie hat and a Make Trade Fair badge. Quiet and self-absorbed, he seemed pretty affable. We smoked a couple of joints out back together, not really chatting, just standing in the early Spring sunshine. I soon got used to his odd ways – occasionally he’d fall asleep in the middle of the day or suddenly have to leave with no real excuse – because who was I to judge? I was having daily panic attacks behind the till at this point. I’d been utterly shaken by the breakdown of my three and a half year engagement, and I’d been drinking far too much for weeks. I was a wreck, often disappearing into the staff toilet for a cry or a panic. I started getting worryingly drunk on Friday night, often vomiting in the shop and going into incoherant rambles about the state of my life.

So I did what any sensible person would do when faced with an incredibly painful breakup, a confused sexual status, alcohol dependency and permanent fear; I seduced J.

It was predictably easy; depressingly so. All I had to do was flash a bit of side-boob and bend over a few times, and we were soon driving in his car. Within a few weeks of meeting, we were sleeping together. After the first time (which was, again predictably, disappointing) he asked me where we stood with each other; if we were lovers. I said, “I think so”, which seemed to seal the deal. To this day I have no idea if I was the only person he slept with when he met me, but I doubt it; I’ll explain why in a bit.

Suddenly, I had something I hadn’t before; a relationship. A weapon to wield against the heartache thinking of O and her together was causing me. I was having sex too! I had someone. I’m worth something. I tried not to think about J’s age (38 to my 24) and not to worry about him having bipolar. I heard stories about how he’d once walked naked down the main street, how he’d been arrested for violence, about his tendency to flip out. I suppose I just accepted it as being an inevitable part of my life; ending up with a guy who thought he was Jesus for six months of the year.

I want to say here that this is about one experience I have had with bipolar. I in no way believe that all people with bipolar act this way, or are cruel. J may have been mentally ill, but he also had an incredibly cold streak, which no amount of perfect mental health could fix.

I stopped sleeping with O. In my confused state, I thought it was the right thing to do, when in reality I’d already made a huge mistake.

At first, things with J seemed to be going okay. He was somewhat affectionate and certainly talked to me. The sex was awful, but I could put up with that. Certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been totally underwhelmed by somebody’s attempts. We did a lot of cooking and went to a few house parties. I was still missing O, but managed to somehow convince myself that I was in love with J. I was incredibly deluded, even I knew deep down that I was just trying to gain freedom and feel marginally better about losing O.

I think things changed when I moved in. We’d already had a few arguments, but again, I didn’t question it really. I was used to arguments at this point, O and I had been arguing for years.

I moved into his house on my birthday. His father brought my boxes and bags in J’s car, and it soon became clear we had a problem. Another couple lived in the house, and with my stuff the house became incredibly crowded. I was given a tiny, dirty cupboard on the landing to put my clothes in. No rail, no floor covering. I didn’t really have anywhere to store my CDs or books, but I was reasonably content; I had some freedom at last. The house needed decorating and was filled with suspicious games consoles, the constant smell of weed and J’s collection of frankly bizarre belongings, the walls in the hallway and stairs were painted a horrible baby-sick green colour and the kitchen and bathroom had no floor coverings, but it was better than lying in my bed at my mum’s, stewing in my own misery.

The other couple weren’t really my sort of people – he’d been in prison for GBH/burglary, she was an ex cocaine addict with a Hollyoaks obsession – but they worked during the day so we rarely saw them. J and I soon settled into a routine of sleeping during the day and staying up all night, getting stoned and watching Lost.

I quickly discovered a number of his habits, most of which were entirely undesirable. When we watched films or programmes, he would insist on total silence, rewinding DVDs and shouting if he missed a single word. Sometimes I forgot and casually mentioned an observation, which would be treated with derision and scorn. He picked his nose. He would start listening loudly to the radio when somebody was trying to watch TV in the same room. He tried to ban the other couple from using the television to watch anything J didn’t like; eventually, they bought another television and started staying in their room. You can imagine how uncomfortable I felt with this. I didn’t want to be the cause of arguments or unheaveal. I was doing my best to blend into the background.

And the conspiracy theories.

I didn’t mind it at first. I love a good conspiracy but very rarely see any truth or logic in them. J, however, fervently believed in every theory going. He was a great believer in the supposed New World Order, about Obama being evil, about every single person in government being privy to mindblowing information and who spend every moment of their days tracking every living being with spy cameras and microchips. I’ve always believed that a person should be allowed to think whatever they like as long as it doesn’t harm anybody, so I tolerated it and occasionally found myself agreeing with his views, probably because I was frequently stoned and ready to absorb anything fanciful. J listened to the Alex Jones radio show online every day. For the uninitiated, Alex Jones is, according to Wikipedia,

Alexander Emerick “Alex” Jones (born February 11, 1974) is an American talk radio host, actor and filmmaker. His syndicated news/talk show The Alex Jones Show, based in Austin, Texas, airs via the Genesis Communication Network over 60 AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations across the United States and on the Internet.[2] His websites include Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.com.[3]
Mainstream sources have described Jones as a conservative[4][5][6][7] and as a right-wing conspiracy theorist.[8][9][10][11]
Jones sees himself as a libertarian, and rejects being described as a right-winger.[12] He has also called himself a paleoconservative.[13] In a promotional biography he is described as an “aggressive constitutionalist“.[14][15]
Alex Jones has been the center of many controversies. Jones has accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing[16] and September 11 attacks.[17]

To me, Jones was a loud, obnoxious man, screaming into the microphone about the illuminati and government cover-ups. J thrived on it though, laughing out loud throughout the show at things I didn’t see a reason to laugh over. If we visited his friends, he would take his laptop and insist they listened too, pontificating about his obsession over an evil one-world government and corrupt society. This quickly became embarassing. He interrrupted conversations with comments about the Catholic church being a front for satan worshippers, and seemed oblivious to the stony silences which often followed, finding himself bafflingly hilarious. His views on people changed rapidily; one minute he all but worshipped the ground they walked on, the next he would be denouncing them as a paedophile or satanist. I became incredibly confused over who to trust and what to believe; I was vulnerable anyway, and wanted so dearly to trust somebody.

After a couple of months, J started going out all day without telling me where he was. We lived in a rough area of town, where stabbing and rapes have been known to happen. The house backed onto the club area and the side of the house had a dark alleyway running down it where sometimes I would accidentally kick needles from under old McDonalds wrappers and empty cans of Stella when walking to the shops. The house also backed onto housing for addicts, and the street had very little light to illuminate it. Alone more and more during the day and occasionally at night, I began to become paranoid. The amount of weed I was smoking wasn’t helping, and I frequently went out in the dark to buy co-codamol to calm me down or a bottle of cheap vinegary wine.

J never offered explanation or apology for his disappearing acts. It soon became obvious I had no choice in the matter and if I didn’t like it, I could leave because he refused to “be controlled by anybody”. Most days when he was gone were depressingly similar. I would get out of bed around 4pm, sometimes still wearing my clothes. Drank coffee (if there was any) and sat around smoking, playing online poker if J had left his laptop behind. I’d walk to the local shop to buy Rizlas and biscuits, and spend all night eating. Sometimes (if I could find my key) I would go out in the early morning, just as the sun was rising, and walk around the backstreets of the town centre, shuffling through empty kebab wrappers and smashed glass. I sometimes walked to the promenade and sat on the sea wall, watching the pale winter sun rise and sometimes collecting seashells and seaweed, which I kept in my handbag. I’d long ago stopped calling my mother regularly; things seemed grey and flat. I became agoraphobic and stopped leaving the house for weeks on end, only going out at night for tobacco.

When J would arrive back home, he would chastise me for inevitably being in bed, weighed under my various duvets and wearing my clothes. I tried telling him that I’d be much better if he just told me how long he would be gone for, but his retort was final; “I don’t owe you anything”,

The other couple living there had long since moved out, unable to cope with J’s behaviour any longer. Things came to a head when J left some magic mushrooms drying on a radiator, knowing his housemate’s young children were in the house. When confronted, he expressed his “disgust” that society was “so obsessed with health and safety” and that children knew what not to eat or touch. One of the boys was two years old. After that incident, he often demanded I back him up; how could I? Who the hell would leave psychoactive drugs in a living room when children were around? Still, I was tired, so I agreed with him. I couldn’t stand the shouting any longer.

On the rare occasions he was home, J’s behaviour was going from bad to downright crazy. Crazy by even my standards. At night he would sit in a darkened room, peeking through the curtains and scanning the road below, clutching a very illegal crossbow and a bag of ball bearings in his hand. He started carrying a hunting knife around, once opening the door and showing it to a couple of men outside who were talking; J suspected they were monitoring him. He did the same thing a few weeks later with a lump hammer, but actually threatened a group of people chatting. I would sit inside, waiting for the fight to begin, waiting for something terrible to happen. Somehow, it never did; J was terrifying when he was on one, like Jack Torrence in The Shining. He stopped washing and shaving, never changed his clothes, and soon perfected the wild man of the woods look. He took to wearing huge old glasses and refused to ever take his hat off.

Even in posh restaurants (he never took me, but we went for a couple of awkward meals with his very well-to-do adoptive family), the hat stayed on. First, he had a brown beanie with rasta colours on the brim. Then he changed to a navy woolly hat, even in hot weather. Finally, he stole one of my hats – a bright orange sunhat – and wore it everywhere with a green velvet blazer and stained cords.

Sometimes I would come home and find plates smashed on the floor and food stuck to the walls. He once threw an avocado (of all things) so hard that it left a dent. I’d regularly enter the living room to scenes of utter chaos; all the books dragged from my bookcase and strewn on the floor, J sitting among them muttering about buying infrared cameras for the house and setting up tripwires in the yard. If I moved a book to pass, he would scream “BE CAREFUL!” and complain my shadow was blocking his light. We were beginning to lead seperate lives – him visiting friends and driving around god knows where, me spending the day in a chemical sleep then staying up all night to watch charity shop DVDs and drinking coffee. When I heard him get up, I would pretend to be just going to bed, so I didn’t have to spend too much time with him. It wasn’t that I didn’t care for him – there was some affection – but I’d come to realise that, apart from weed and horror movies – we had nothing in common. We didn’t even have sex in common anymore; anything like that had fallen by the wayside long ago. I suspected he was sleeping around anyway, and the idea of being sloppy seconds didn’t really appeal.

For a while I was quite houseproud, fulfilling my dream of being a little housewife. I’d dust and hoover my way around J’s stoned, twitching form, sometimes even getting him to lift his feet up so I could clean underneath the sofa. It soon became clear that I was fighting a losing battle though; J started experimenting in the kitchen. First it was vitamin C syrup made from rosehips, to cure heroin addiction (“one teaspoon is a cure!”). He disappeared for days, and came home with a bin bag full of rosehips in the back of his car then spent all day boiling them, spending obscene amounts of money on sugar, electricity and gas. When the syrup was finally finished, he decanted it into bottles and set off around town, handing it out to addicts. I was left to clean, and something inside me snapped. For months I’d put up with his mess – I’m a messy person myself – but every day seemed to bring new levels of grease and dirt into the house. The kitchen work tops were covered in melted, hardened sugar. The floor was a mess of wrappers, stalks and (bizarrely) flour and coffee grounds. Every single utensil and pan in the house was sticky or thrown carelessly on the filthy floor. So I left it.

It became a regular routine; J making a mess, and me pretending to be blind to it. I wanted to see if he would eventually crack and tidy up himself, but he never did. So the mess got worse, my mood lowered further, and the house would often reverberate to the sounds of pans and plates being shoved aside, lest they interfere with his faux-scientific experiments.

Strange people started appearing in the house. A forty-something shrieking woman in a silver sequinned miniskirt barrelled in, clutching a bottle of Lambrini and a small, scruffy dog (“Señor Frostpots”), who she shouted at frequently. A young schizophrenic Pakistani guy wearing a green parka would sit in the corner and beg for spliffs, apologising profusely and sometimes walking out without saying a word. I found an overweight heroin addict asleep on the sofa. Hot knives were a regularity, and the sound of forced coughing became a soundtrack to my days. I spent a lot of time upstairs in bed, unable to cope with the flow of weird and wonderful coming daily through the door.

The house quickly became nothing short of a crack den. The room J held his nightly paranoid vigils in was a mess of half-empty coffee cups, various illegal weapons, notepads filled with ideas and security plans, clothes strewn about, a hole cut in the curtains so he could peek through without “being detected”. The bedroom (now entirely occupied by me; J slept elsewhere or on the sofa) was covered in a layer of cigarette ash, spilled drinks and books. I tidied it occasionally, but would come home to discover J had lost something, and had torn the room apart looking for it. The hallway was filthy and the hoover set on fire when I tried to clean the carpet. The bathroom still had no floor covering, the shower was going mouldy and frequently blocked up, and the toilet was a terrifying prospect. No amount of bleach would get it clean, and I seemed to be the only person who knew how to use a flush mechanism. The living room was grotesque; plates of rotting food were left lying around, attracting thousands of tiny black flies. J stopped paying for gas and electricity, pumping all his benefits into his increasingly strange and paranoid projects, so the washing up was often done with freezing cold water, and in the end I couldn’t face the prospect of yet another hour standing on a filthy bare stone floor, trying to scrub grease off cups and plates.

When J and I were in the same room, he would rant at me about his money-making schemes. It was always money; it seemed to be the only focus in life apart from the corrupt government. He became convinced that he could make money from machinima and spent all his weekly money on The Sims, Spore and clay to do stop-motion animation. Planned to build a studio with lights and an HD camera. I sometimes joined in, deciding something was better than nothing, but it soon became clear that each project was his baby and any constructive criticism or new ideas would be forbidden. His model-making (both on computer and with clay) was childlike and glitchy, but his insistence that he would be world-famous in a matter of weeks kept his enthusiasm going. J tried to recruit his friends to get involved, going so far as to assign roles to unwilling participants – stage production lighting, music, script – and would scream and throw a fit if told his ideas were unrealistic. This went on for a long time – occasionally switching to new ideas – until all his money was gone and he started borrowing off me. I stopped caring.

Things between us reached a head when we went to an all night rave in a warehouse in Liverpool. As soon as we arrived he disappeared, leaving me and my panic attacks to a large room filled with drugged-up strangers and flashing lights. I bought a couple of pills from a vaguely-familar skinny teenager with greasy orange hair, and sat in the corner, waiting to come up in a desperate attempt to enjoy myself. Any interaction with J appeared to be forbidden that night; I wasn’t allowed to speak to him and if I tried, he would physically turn his back. Walking towards him made him walk in the opposite direction. I danced a little, but felt uncomfortable considering I was high as a kite – being ignored was getting to me – so I went looking for J to ask why he was blanking me. I found him at the top of a flight of stairs, laughing with two younger guys, waving a joint like a composer and telling one of his many tales of being sectioned. He rolled his eyes when he saw me and asked me (loudly) to stop stalking him. So I found the chillout space, sat on a damp old sofa cushion and cried. Cried like a baby. I never cry in pubic. I was aware of people comforting me, trying to ask what was wrong, but I was inconsolable. Over a year of exhaustion and fights poured out of me. I slept in his car that night, refusing to come out.

We only went to one rave after that. Again, he refused to talk to me, and I spent the night sitting with a group of teenage girls, snorting keys of ketamine in the toilets and sharing mushrooms and speed with a hippyish red-haired woman who told me about her recovery from heroin addiction. I stood in the corner and breathed in balloons full of nitrous oxide, downing a wrap of MDMA with a bottle of vodka milkshake.

After that, we argued constantly. At the smallest provocation, J would start hurling chairs and kicking furniture. He never hit me, but his verbal attacks were far worse in a way; he’d call me crazy and repeat everything I said in a high-pitched sneer. If I had a panic attack, he would scream at me to stop crying because it was annoying him. And so I started walking out of the house whenever we argued.

We tended to argue at night, so I often found myself storming the streets at 3am, stoned and high on oral morphine. I’d stomp (sometimes shoeless) through the club area and make my way up by the big houses just out of the town centre. I’d walk past them, muttering angrily, fantasising about being attacked, and wishing I had the guts to walk up the driveway to one of those big houses and find somebody to pour my heart out to.

One day, J announced we were buying a new house – or, rather, his parents were buying him one – because the area we lived in was “too unsafe”. He planned to buy a restoration project and become entirely self-sufficient. The idea seemed incredibly unrealistic, but it wouldn’t be my money and I thought that perhaps with a change of scenery J would calm down and act like my boyfriend again. I fell in love with the first house we viewed.

For ‘restoration project’, read ‘total rebuild needed’. It was a large Georgian house on the outskirts of town, just approaching the rural areas. It had been owned by an old man, who kept everything exactly how it was, right down to the lead water pipes and original electrics. When he died, his brother sold the house on, cracks in the outside walls and all. The whole house sloped backwards. Chimney pots barely stayed upright. A window in the back room had been smashed and was covered with a piece of plywood. The carpets were black with dust and, when uncovered, hadn’t been changed for decades. Every corner was a cobwebbed spider haven. The garden was a wilderness of 6ft nettles, old trees, molehills and wasps nests. A garage filled with asbestos leaned on a right-angle. Still I loved it. I could see potential; the garden could be dug up and filled with vegetable plots and herbs and pretty flowers. The carpets could be rolled up and the original wooden floorboards (in perfect condition) could be scrubbed and sealed. The smaller bedroom upstairs with its little white fire grate and garden view could be my study and chillout space, somewhere for me  to listen to the music I wanted to and not J’s radio talk shows or faux-political comedy songs. His parents bought it, for £130,000. Straight-up cash, bought outright, no mortgage.

Once the house was J’s, I gave up cleaning, washing and even cooking entirely. I hated living there by now; I was almost always on my own or surrounded by people I barely knew. We had an attempted break-in. Someone was killed just down the road. There was an attempted stabbing less than a minute away. I had no money for food, and no way of washing my clothes. The washing machine broke, then the fridge stopped working. J didn’t clear it out, so I didn’t bother. He was spending most of his time at the new house anyway, sleeping on the floor. Every time he came home, we rowed and things got thrown, so eventually he packed a sports bag and moved into the new house – despite lack of electrics, heat, water or furniture – leaving me living on my own.

I stuck it out for a couple of weeks, existing on egg mayonnaise sandwiches from the supermarket across the road and redbush tea from one mug. I slept with the lights on, paranoid from the break-in attempt and all the weed and morphine mixing together. J came back one time and found me in bed, asleep in my clothes and surrounded by scrunched cigarette papers, empty co-codamol packs and a bottle of morphine sitting on a box near me. I’d spaced out for days, unaware of time passing or even where I was. He woke me with a heavy shake and asked me what “the fucking christ” I was doing with bottles of morphine. He threw all the bottles away. I lost my last crutch. At this point I realised I really needed to get out of that house; buying something stronger would be easier. I wasn’t afraid of needles. I told him I was going back to the new house with him, and he’d better get at least some water running.

We moved some furniture in, just a few folding chairs and a bright orange 70′s swivel chair with stuffing hanging from the sides. Bought a sofa from a charity shop and some huge oak bookshelves from the Salvation Army. We made coffee in a large pasta pan above a camping stove and ate cheese sandwiches. For a couple of weeks I slept on the floor, on an old sleeping bag, and eventually we got the old mattress from the house and we slept on that, usually at different times of the day. For a while J seemed significantly nicer – promising me my own working fireplace and some chickens in the garden – so I relaxed into the house, letting myself join in a few parties and conversations.

I’d always kept in touch with O, so sometimes we’d go for a drive to talk about our lives. I told him everything was perfect; I didn’t want to let on that I had been so unhappy.

Within a couple of weeks, one of J’s friends moved in; a young guy with a few boxes of CDs and death metal posters. He stayed in the (still windowless) back room and slept on a fold-out chair. Soon after, one of his friends also moved in, so they both took the second large bedroom upstairs. Around a month later, J’s parents paid for somebody to do the electrics so we could have lights (we’d been using tealights) and so J could use his laptop. The electricity shorted regularly, and huge chunks of the walls were torn out and never repaired. J told the fitter to rip off all the kitchen wall coverings and floorboards (all original, in beautiful condition) because he was making new ones with plywood. They never happened. I started putting pressure on about getting the plumbing done; we had running water, but no hot water or heating, and the old, broken lead pipes weren’t safe to drink from. J kept putting it off, saying he wanted to fit his own plumbing from eco-friendly pipes and use rainwater to wash in.

In time we bought a microwave and moved more furniture in. I started painting the walls of my study purple and pink, painted the bedroom a sky blue. My fibromyalgia was getting worse around this time, so I was permanently exhausted and in pain, but I concentrated on turning the all-but derelict shell into a home.

I bought my own chair, a beautifully upholstered straight back thing with chunky arms, and a large wicker basket to keep my knitting in. The housemates referred to it as my “throne” and started calling me the Queen of the house. Things weren’t too bad, considering.

J, a couple of friends, and I went to Infest festival. I had woollen dreadlocks fitted and a friend made a miniskirt for me to wear. Pretty much as we started driving to Bradford in J’s car, he kicked off. Traffic was moving too slowly. Somebody hadn’t indicated. He tailgated, swore, smoked and talked about his latest obsession; extreme right-wing groups such as the EDL. He was convinced they were taking over the world and his desire to attend the race riots going on in Bradford at that time was clear. We somehow got there alive and found our rooms in the student accommodation blocks. Drank and smoked a little, talked about getting hold of some pills or acid, got dressed and went down to see the first band.

Straight away, J started causing trouble. He pushed his way through crowds and started at people until they walked away. Joined in every conversation, bragging about his ‘film career’ and trying to start arguments about racism. He’d refused to make any sort of effort for the festival – everyone wore elaborate makeup and costumes – and hadn’t washed for weeks. Smoked a spliff indoors and got shouted at, but refused to go outside, shouting about human rights being taken away. I danced for a while, high on mushrooms and warm alcohol, but it soon became obvious that J had different ideas to me. He went missing.

Eventually, we found him in a stranger’s room, and we missed the band. He was snorting a white powder and shouting about nothing in particular. A man was trying to DJ, having set up his decks in the corner, and it was obvious it was a private party. J jumped around, asking everybody about the EDL and singing a song about the pope being a kiddy-fiddler over the music. I took a snort of whatever he’d had, braced myself and somehow got him out of there before the DJ punched him. Straight away he was into another party, sitting down and rolling a spliff as though he lived there. I stood outside with our friends, wondering what to do. We decided to go in, and managed to have a small party in their room with glowsticks and a tabletop of weed. After a while J disappeared again, and we let him. I was tired.

The next night (J hadn’t slept apparently) J and I explored Bradford a little. He took me to TJ Hughes’ and I bought a pair of black army boots, putting them on in the shop and feeling a little better. Then J dragged me into the town centre, to the line of riot police. There was a small group of EDL members behind a barricade, and it was all pretty underwhelming until riot vans and fire engines came screeching around the corner. J perked up and told me to film it for “the news, the real news, not the news the media wants us to see”.

That night we went into the main festival area again to hear De/Vision, who I really wanted to see. It was the real reason I was going to Infest in the first place. J wandered into the crowd and I took more mushrooms, rolling  them into a little ball and swallowing them with a plastic cup of vodka and Coke. Just when I started coming up and the lights were starting to flow nicely in front of my eyes, J reappeared and started dragging me away. Told me we were going to another party.

It just went so, so downhill from there. I went into so many rooms and saw so many strange – mostly angry – faces. J would pontificate and I would smoke quietly or pretend to be enjoying myself. If something was offered with a rolled up five-pound-note and a mirror, I took it; regardless of what it was. J kept going missing, but everyone we asked seemed to know who he was; they’d all had him shout about Islam in their faces, it seemed. I talked to a few people, but I was beginning to loathe every moment. It was getting harder to hold back panic attacks, and they were coming in waves. I hate crowds; why was I surrounded by thousands of total strangers in a University?

Eventually I let rip in a corridor. I’d lost J for the hundredth time and everywhere I went he seemed to be causing trouble. As he walked out of each room, you could hear a sigh of relief. People were getting angry. He was turning off people’s music and plugging his laptop in, making them listen to terrorist propoganda and religious debates. I was high, drunk, hungry and bewildered, so I did all I could – I burst into tears and sat on the floor – and eventually our friends found me and took me back to their room. I cried and drank warm beer, finally opening up about how much J was hurting me. About the house and all the times he’d ignored me or said something cruel. Jon told me about how J often offended him or spooked him out, and I cried some more. I just wanted to go home. One more search for J resulted in me finding him kissing a man, who was wearing stockings and a blonde wig. I went back to my room.

When J came back to the room the next morning (he still hadn’t slept; in fact he hadn’t slept for days) he appeared totally nonchalant, getting straight into the single bed and telling me to sleep on the floor so he could “get some sleep”. I refused; why the hell should I sleep on the floor? I was the one with fibromyalgia, I was the one who’d been abandoned in a strange place for two days. I swore at him, told him he was a selfish bastard. He said I was a drama-queen and attention seeker. At some point, he put his fist through the wall – he was aiming for my head but I ducked – and walked out, taking my key.

The drive home was a nightmare. Before we even set off, J decided he wanted something to eat. He actually got a Polish restaurant to open, just to cook a meal for him. We all refused to go in, saying it was ludicrous and we just wanted a sandwich or something from McDonalds. In the car, we sat in silence while he went off for over two hours. Jon started speaking about when he was ill, years ago. He had a form of split personality, and lost it for a while (Jon that is, not J) and all the way to the café in the car J had been tormenting him about his ‘other’ personality, laughing at him. Jon stewed in silence, then when J left, flew into a rage. Kept muttering “what a dick, what a fucking dick”.

J eventually came back with a box of disgusting-looking food, which he threw on the car floor in front of me. He said he’d been to see an “old rasta” to buy £100 of dope. What he produced was full of seeds and stalks, and had obviously been sitting in a drawer for a few years, but J started bragging about how he’d been let into the “rasta secret” and accepted into the community. Never mind that he was a short, skinny, white man with filthy long hair and comedy glasses; they apparently loved him. Driving back, J was incredibly erratic, swerving suddenly and overtaking without looking at the road. He was clearly still pumped up on amphetamines and mushrooms, and was babbling incoherently about terrorism and Jesus.He punched the horn and sang songs about Obama and the New World order.

The next day, J was sectioned, for the umpteenth time.

I was woken by the housemates knocking on my door. One came in and told me J was in hospital and had shaved all his hair off.

In A&E, he lay on a bed, wearing a black panama hat I’d never seen before. When he saw me, he started shouting how the nurses were stopping him seeing the mental health team. I tried to calm him down, but he got up and started stalking up and down the ward, banging on doors and spitting on the floor. I went to get a Lucozade, rolled a spliff and went outside to tell the lads to go home. It was going to be a long night.

I’ve managed to piece some of the story together. J drove to a nearby village with a bible in his hand and got into a fight in a pub over a remark about right-wing groups. He walked out, got his hair cut off, and paid a visit to our old manager. J spent all his money, got into another fight, and that somehow led him to hospital. He was physically unhurt but his mind had snapped. The A&E staff had called the mental health team but it would take them a few hours to get to the hospital and in the meantime I had to keep J calm and stop him upsetting the other patients.

By 6am, he was being transferred in an ambulance to the nearest mental health unit with beds available. I followed on in a car with the mental health team, as I was the only person they had to ask what was going on. He was taken to an all-male ward and I was allowed to say hello. Then they drove me home with a phone number to call to arrange a visit. At first J called regularly, often shouting about his parents being satan-worshipping child molesters but sometimes becoming lucid when the medication they had him on kicked in. He told me he’d get his parents to sort out the bills and sort the house out while he was detained. The first time I visited him, he spoke to me for maybe two minutes. The other 58 were spent pacing around the communal area, shouting at staff and insulting the other patients. I went back home and cried. Nothing was working, nothing at all. Everything had fallen apart.

I visited a few more times, but soon stopped. I felt awful for it, but the cost of the train, the anxiety of having to navigate two stations and a hospital, the exhaustion and the sitting on my own at visiting time while J went and stayed in his room got to me, so I began making excuses. He was allowed to call after a while, and he sometimes called just to swear at me.

I was put on sleeping pills and diazepam by my GP. I didn’t sleep at all. Stopped eating. Stopped calling or visiting my mother. All my money went on instant mashed potato, tobacco, amaretto and dope. After a month, the hospital decided that J needed to be kept on a section without appeal. Nothing had happened at the house – we still had no hot water or new pipes, we still didn’t have electricity in all the rooms. The floor was still missing in the kitchen. Small jobs got done occasionally; plumbers did manage to get a small amount of tepid water working after pulling most of the house apart for two weeks and constantly cancelling appointments.

My housemates went out drinking in town regularly, and would come in at 4am, shouting and turning deafeningly loud music on, bringing girls to stay the night, inviting friends around at midnight. I still didn’t sleep. In the daytime, they would both sit in the living room on their laptops, usually with a friend or two. I stayed in my bedroom, unable to face any of it. One night, I was disturbed by one of them trying to break in after forgetting his key, and he brought a couple of mates back with him. The music went straight on and they stayed up all night, right into the morning, shouting and laughing. I cracked and called J, told him I wanted them out of the house by tomorrow. He replied that “they were there to look after” me and they weren’t allowed to leave.

Again, I was stuck in a house full of strangers.

After nine days of no sleep, something snapped inside me. My bones melted and my body lost all energy. My tongue felt dead in my mouth, and my eyes refused to open. I broke, somewhere in my mind. A few days later, I was on the telephone to NHS direct, telling them I was afraid I was going to kill myself. I couldn’t breathe. My heart hardly seemed to beat. I took sleeping pills with codeine and amaretto, trying to keep afloat. I was called into the hospital and was made to fill in a form to determine if I was depressed.

After that, I slept for two weeks. Occasionally waking, but soon falling into a near-coma again. My clothes started falling off me. I drank heavily, smoked constantly. Pierced my ears with sterile needles from eBay, watching the blood splash on the bedroom floor. I dyed my naturally golden-blonde hair purple. O and I went for regular drives, and during one of them we found ourselves having sex up against a tree in some wasteland. I’m not sure how it happened. It just did. After that, we slept together regularly, usually in his car or in a derelict building. By day, we flirted via text messages. The attention was infectious.

J’s father often came round to deliver post and bring more of our belongings. He shouted at me over the state of the old house, demanding to know why I hadn’t looked after it, and getting red in the face over the ever-decreasing tidiness of the new house. Again, I’d started out cleaning and tidying, but I now had two other people’s mess to contend with, along with the empty cans and McDonalds wrappers their friends left. I explained to him that there was simply no room to put the furniture anywhere, and that having so much stuff just shoved in was stopping work getting done. I also mentioned the lack of heating and hot water, and bills which hadn’t been paid. J’s dad blew up at me, calling me “a silly little girl”, blaming me for J being sectioned, and said that all I wanted was money, and so they wouldn’t help out with anything anymore. Apparently, it was my duty to look after J and ensure nothing went wrong, so I’d somehow broken some sort of contract by allowing him to go crazy. He called me a stupid junkie and benefit scum.

I shouted him out of the house and told him to never come back. He replied that it “would be better for everyone” if I got out of J’s life, and out of the house because I’d “ruined everything”.

J was moved to the mental health centre in town, then finally released after three months.

Back home, he was calmer. Slept a lot. Took his medication. Truth be told, he was a zombie, but he was home.

Still, nothing got done with the house. The walls crawled with damp and the rooms I’d painted were covered in patches of black mould. Somebody else moved in. My CDs were stolen, my weed went missing. The house had become a free-for-all. J wanted to build a professional kitchen out of stainless steel so we could sell jam. He harrased local farmers, asking them about agriculture. The rest of the time, he slept on the sofa and spilled coffee grounds on the living room carpet. We had a Halloween party, but J had said something sniping to me earlier and I ended up staying in the bedroom. None of my friends turned up anyway. Nearly all had stopped visiting because of the atmosphere. Only Z seemed oblivious. That night, I told him I didn’t want to be his girlfriend anymore. He said, “okay, you can still live in the house”. No emotion. Nothing. Not even anger.

It seemed like a good idea at first, I would retain my freedom and move into my own room. So far, so good. It simply didn’t work though; I was being pushed out of the living room by J and his friends and was relegated to coffee duty. I carried on sleeping with O, and he began to make promises to marry me when he “escaped” his relationship and the baby was older. My mood continued to slide though, and I was panicking constantly.

One day, I came downstairs to find J asleep on the sofa. I had nowhere to sit – somebody had broken my chair – and I was exhausted. I just wanted to sit in my front room and read with a cup of tea, but J told me to fuck off when I asked him if he wanted to sleep upstairs now I was awake. I touched his shoulder lightly, and he roared at me to “get the fuck out”.

I did. I packed a small bag with a few items of clothing, my medication, some weed and a book, and called my mother. She paid for taxi for me to come home.

I’d had a breakdown. Not long after, I tried to walk into the sea but couldn’t even do that without wimping out. I was stuffed with pills and allowed to sleep all day. It was months before I could even leave the house.

I need to forgive myself for ever getting into that situation, and letting it carry on.