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. His websites include Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.com.
Jones sees himself as a libertarian, and rejects being described as a right-winger. He has also called himself a paleoconservative. In a promotional biography he is described as an “aggressive constitutionalist“.
Alex Jones has been the center of many controversies. Jones has accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing and September 11 attacks.“
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.