What we take with us

The world is ending, and life has become a whirling storm of memory. In a time when travel and socialization has become a memory as distant as the time we fell onto the hot asphalt of the playground and busted our knees, we find ourselves on an different journey.

One that we find infinitely more difficult than stepping onto a train, or trying not to let sleep lull us into eternity lest we miss boarding a plane.

At a time where the outside world is blazing with ‘do not cross’ tape, the mind turns inwards. Besides the odd excursion or adventure which consists of mingling around shops with others bearing no face or name, we find ourselves offered an epic trek inwards.

For some, the sudden turnaround has come as a blessing in disguise: the chance to relax, create and return to themselves. To uncover parts long forgotten, engage in new hobbies and evaluate what matters and where their own truth lies.
For others still it offers worry and chaos, particularly for those of us disabled and/or confronted by the immediate lack of proper mental health care. I could list petty injustices and fill books with stories of careless chavs who refuse to wear mask lest they find themselves unable to chug kangaroo piss on the bus at 9am (fosters is not booze).

Instead I choose to find myself at a crossroads, with two paths laid before me: I have a middle class support worker who likely drinks wine from boxes with dinner telling me that if I do not sober up, my care will cease. Yes, I am an alcoholic. I am not an angry drunk, nor do I stumble out of clubs at three a.m. or begin violent brawls.

I’d go as far to say I don’t drink as much as some, and far less than most. I detest being ‘drunk’ drunk and will put the bottle away when I am feeling tipsy and numb to the worlds and lives I left in my wake long again. That’s the root of it all: the trauma. The mental health services’ total inability to provide any kind of helpful therapy or a single drop of compassion even in a pre-covid era.
Their insistence that my drinking is the root of all problems when I was suffering with PTSD and severe social anxiety long before I turned to the bottle is condescending and to be frank dangerous. I find myself wondering how many of them return home to their McMansions in their high class cars and pour out scotch most could not begin to afford.

(I personally suspect my own support workers’ fondness for terrible boxed wine has deluded her into believing she can claim to be thirty two, while boasting of a career in mental health spanning two decades).

I sort of wandered off there.

I am of the belief that every person on the planet has a coping mechanism, and while some could be argued as healthier than others, too much of anything is toxic. Fact. The issue is that as the world falls apart and people lose their hope, those limits begin to blur. It begins with a small step and winds with us so far over the line we started from we can no longer see it in the distance.

I do not believe the judgement of those who sit on their laurels when they ought to be saving lives is helpful. You hear stories about the NHS heroes but I could tell you about people who’ve died of OD’s in front of everyone in the A&E. Of how a man who’d swallowed a box of rat poison was waiting for help twelve hours later. Of how, after my most recent episode they didn’t bother to put fresh stitches in or even bind my bleeding wounds. Instead I found myself tossed into the middle of town at 3am in a dressing gown, after I informed the nurses that if they were going to make remarks about psych patients ‘slashing themselves up’ they ought to do it in a voice more quiet than the pop music they had blaring.

According to the doctors, the ensuing investigation into staff conduct is causing pandemonium, as it should.

This pandemic has brought out the best in some, and the worst in most. At the end of the day, as we find ourselves in a period of self reflection there is but one thing to wonder: do you want to be remembered as somebody who stood up for yourself and others, or as one of those who behaved as a cat does with a bird?

When this is over and the dust clears, we will have changed. Immeasurably, irrevocably and not necessarily for the better. As the world turns and we begin to put it and ourselves back together, what do you want to take with you?

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