Detox and dreams (stream of consciousness incoming)

You never realize you’ve hit roads’ end until you run out of air and slam into the metaphorical brick wall that was always waiting beyond sight.
They tell you that your years of self destructive inclinations and the years spent wasted in all senses have paid off, as you began to value the idea of life.


That you’re damaged inside, that the next drink you take to quiet the voices inside could be your last when the stomach ruptures as a gorged larvae and floods the body with self made poison.


And you miss the poison.


Without it the colours are too bright, smells too loud. The world flip flops between being a place of wondrous beauty and a dark pit ready to swallow you once again. Your mind is set alight where before it remained chilled thanks to the bourbon or vodka; whichever was closest.
You recall every mistake, each word you could have taken back and the days you lost to the emptiness that is as comforting as it was frightening. When the dark times come you long for oblivion again, because oblivion is the absence of everything.


Regrets scrawled onto the stones in your pockets, you long to walk into the lake. Your body shakes and trembles despite the medication and the nightmares are once again vivid and very real. Each door in your head swings open in tandem to release the demons you’ve been hiding from since you picked up a bottle.


You consider the world that was and the world that is, and wonder at the years left behind and those you could not bring with you. You become aware of how short the days are and all endeavours become frantic and rushed, as though you’re in a steeplechase and the other horse is death himself wielding hooves as knives.


In the brighter moments you feel alive and for the first time remember the smell of snow; the feeling of cold water on skin, what it was like to be real and laugh and dream. Imagination begins to creep in, quiet, urging you to hang on to the pieces of the person you once were and find a way to patch yourself together again.


But it’s a nebulous thing, hope: the chemicals in your brain slosh the way the liquor did in a glass and soon enough you swing back into the darkness and the unending battle with an urge both painful and irresistible. You find yourself at opposite ends of the rope; pleasure or pain with no middle ground.


The non existent health service tell you that things will settle, then hang up the phone. Why ought they care or show sympathy after years of neglect and malpractice? Why ought they care when the damage finds itself done and you have become another lost cause. Another statistic, a name on a label one day.


So you fight to spite them. You fight to see a better day, to be better than you were before the world had stained you with indelible ink. Blood that won’t wash from your hands; the heart pounding panic each time a car backfires or fireworks go off for a solid half hour. The terror you feel that this second chance cannot last by any means, that you are as weak as they believe and will again succumb to the night that awaits within.
The darkest night is the one blooming within ourselves.


The only way it ever falls is via giving in or giving up. Others will call you a failure, tell you that addiction was a choice and you should have been strong enough to win battles alone. Such people lack empathy and life experience; they tend to live in a comfortable bubble and rarely do they stray from the ignorant sanctuary they’ve walled themselves into.


In some ways they suffer more than you, but the difference is that they brought such despair upon themselves. The only way to conquer an addiction or illness is to plunge through it, and the only way to conquer fear is via knowledge and compassion.


Whether you’re one day sober, one week into the hell of detox like me or you’ve been fighting for years you should be proud and know that you are not alone. You have slain a dragon while they were throwing stones from glass houses. You have found yourself burned and scarred, beaten down and bruised but the wounds will heal and leave you able to bear what they cannot imagine.


The only way to fail is to give up. To stop living, to fall into a spiral of excuses and squalor, to build a bubble of delusion around yourself and continue to repeat the same destructive patterns a lifetime over.


To grow and overcome, you cannot lay down and curl up at the foot of the wall that lies before you. You cannot go over it, under it or around. You have to find a way to punch through. It isn’t an easy road and it happens at a slow pace, baby steps that sometimes feel as though you are walking in reverse.


But there’s no other choice. You must find a reason and a way to live again for yourself, because nobody can save you or take the journey on your behalf. You can fight or yield, and there’s no other choice and no one else to do the work even in the darkest moments. You can have the most fantastic support network in the world and still have to do the heavy lifting: the majority of this battle is waged in the mind and heart, not upon a bloody field.


Find your reason, find your will. When you’re going through hell keep going, or fall and burn where you stand. Hold onto the glimpse of hope, to each sign of beauty you see. Do not forget the past lest it be repeated, but do not allow yourself to suffocate on quicksand of your own making.
This is a war, and not everyone will make it out alive. Wars are won with the will, by standing tall when your head is so heavy it may fall off. You will find no help in those who handle you with kid gloves, those who enable your negative thought patterns or accept your excuses. You must learn to master the art of self control and apply discipline to every aspect of life, and it is tiring.


You must learn to let go of those who wallow in despair and would drag you back into the pit that devours all with them: if you are devoured, you lose. All life has meaning and where there is a heartbeat there is hope, but you cannot save everyone and trying only leads to a vicious cycle of grief and destruction. Letting others go is never easy; change is always scary and the fear of failure multiplies itself when backed up by past misadventure. Be brave, and fight for yourself. Or fade.

Della.

Note: this is my second detox merry go round and I’ve recently had to cut a few people out of my life. It wasn’t easy but it was the right thing to do, as I’ve realized that the people we surround ourselves with tend to influence our beliefs and actions on a subconscious level. It’s a difficult choice but there is nothing shameful about doing so. We exist in a society where to let go is seen as callous and cruel, even if it means saving ourselves. We do not owe others anything: not our time, not our love, and not our energy. I am no longer going to allow toxic influences to impact my decision making process at such a delicate time, and neither should you.

When someone says they do something that hurts you because they love you, that is toxic.

When somebody values their feelings over the well being and safety of yourself, that is toxic.

When people treat you as a crutch and refuse to change it is exhausting, and it is toxic.

Do not be afraid or ashamed to cut the toxic elements from your life and reach out to surround yourself with better things. I’m very lucky to have the support network I do and I’m aware not all possess such, but change and growth require proactivity and interaction with people to find those who truly resonate with you and want you to be all that you can be. That’s what everyone deserves, but you cannot save others without first saving yourself and building fresh foundations from granite, not sand.

Do not feel ashamed to let go of what drags you back.

Another place

It’s strange to realize I’ve made thirty laps around the sun.


Anyone who’s known me since childhood could doubtless tell you stories of my mothers’ strange, and overprotective nature. That’s not to insinuate she was a bad person in the least; we all deal with fear and trauma in different ways, and her response to any danger was to cocoon me.
Either way, some of you know I had this thing about never making it past seventeen. When I grew up my brothers’ death shadowed everything at home until it felt as though the lights had all dimmed. People are unaware of how such a tragedy can ripple through time, and shape the years to follow.
Perhaps that’s why I was reckless and treated life as a frivolous thing: riding the most dangerous horses, taking the most treacherous trails on my fixie, free climbing. Standing upon the precipice of a piece of living history wound in stone and blood, and wondering what it would feel like to fly.
It’s been a strange year, full of hospital rooms and blood and fire. But it’s also been a year of reconnection, new communication a hope. A year where for every unkind word or sideways glance, a dream came true. For every local chav who shoots dirty looks, someone to converse and laugh with. I’m not a huge fan of new years’ resolutions as I tend to break them three minutes after midnight, but if I had one promise to make it would be to stand beside those who have stood beside me in my battles, and them alone.


Life is too short for fairweather friends and fickle blood that hasn’t bred true.


A year of misplaced trust, and the lessons learned. The mistakes I made and the falls I took only made me stronger and more determined to beat my illnesses and the opinions of others into the ground. I’m grateful to find myself in the company of the family I chose: from Moscow to Texas to Tenerife and India, from central London to the forests of Guam, you know who you are. The people who laugh and cry (and laugh until we cry) with me, who soothe me when I’m on one and the ones I worry about endlessly as it seems I am an anxious ball of hellfire and glitter if nothing else.
There are simply too many people to begin to thank in a simple blog post, but we came through the worst apocalypse ever the way we have done everything: in fabulous style, and if at times life was a mess we made it a glamorous one. The world may have tipped sideways, but we’re used to the vertigo. This pandemic will end as all things do, but the world will have changed.
People have changed.
Everything has changed.


In times like these the true nature of a person shines through, and the cruel and ugly have their own list. One thing I’ve learned is that karma is a bitch, and I wouldn’t want the punch some people have coming.
Putting the last year and all we lost and have to carry aside, in February I begin riding again on some of the finest native ponies in the country. In a way I’ve finally come full circle: in the midst of tragedy and fear I found myself after all, I think the silly cow was probably stumbling about in the dark looking a while. For the first time in my life I feel a sense of purpose, and I know what I want the future to look like and how to get there. It won’t be easy but nothing worth doing ever is.
It doesn’t matter, because I’m lucky to have found my tribe and I know that if I stumble into shadow, there’ll be a sarcastic Russian or London girl wielding a joint to drag me out again. The road ahead is a long one, and it climbs. I work on my leg each day, and it’s hell. I practise the violin each day, and it’s heaven. People build this idea of a perfect life in their head realizing there is no such thing: there will always be adversity, a problem to be solved or something to be conquered. It’s the nature of life.


I’m learning that the secret to a beautiful life is to revel in the joyous moments with wild abandon and let sleeping dragons lie. May this year be full of dreams and new endeavours, hope in the face of despair, sand in the face of fire. May we find something meaningful and pull together to put the world back together.
As for those we’d rather shove in a meat grinder?


As someone I love dearly said, ‘may the bridges you burn light the way’


– Della

P.S. My new collection, Dawn, is in the works so watch this space for tantrums and bad first drafts and poet neurosis!

Moving on (and out)

*A brief disclaimer: I praise the current actions and service of the police force in this post, but despite this the actions of the past are not erased. The actions they decided to take in the past (or rather not take) will not serve to bring the dead back to life, nor mend the wounds of the past.


Whatever they do now does not excuse past action/inaction and those broken by past incompetence and the inability of certain individuals on the force to fulfill the job description provided will have consequences that will not impact only this generation, but the ones to follow.

Last night things at home reached a breaking point and my father made the decision to toss both I and the puppy out. In summary because I refused to maintain an entire house when I only have the use of one room, I confronted him about allowing my brother free access to further traumatize me and had my own money transferred to my account.


I suppose it must suck to realize that a person is not your personal Cinderella, nor do they intend to repeat the mistakes of their mother and let you run them into the ground. He was angry that I had obtained audio evidence of him gaslighting me, saying horrific things relating to my PTSD then flat out denying them. I didn’t take the recordings with the intent to publish or extort and will not: I simply took the step needed to confirm that I was in fact not going crazy or becoming ‘worse than your mother’.


The depths people who behave in an abusive fashion will sink to in order to maintain some kind of control shouldn’t surprise me any longer, but here we are. I’m grateful for the conduct and humanity of the police, who listened to everything that has been happening recently and behaved with compassion. The less said about the psychiatric nurse in their employ who fled the room after she laughed at my eating disorder diagnosis and I informed her it was by no means funny, the better.
You cannot find good help these days.


Suffice to say that on top of other circumstance my housing application is being expedited, and I imagine come monday the phone will be blowing up with my psychiatrist and various other organisations. He was not the first to suggest I find my own place in the world but has been one of the most vocal, and my father spiraling out of control because I wished to have some form of stability and reliance upon my own has proven the doctors’ sentiments wise.


Of course it’s not a simple or easy matter. I haven’t lived alone in a long time and there are the practicalities to consider, but I no longer beat myself up over whether or not my father will be able to care for himself. I have sacrificed so much in the past year and a half, not least my health. I have put my physical recovery on hold and been incapable of resting. He has enabled me and enacted emotional abuse to the point of telling me I could have my detox meds or a bottle of vodka, and I know that I will never be able to get better or clean in this house.


As long as I remain, he knows which buttons to push and how to put me in a position where there is no good choice. He does this because having someone running around after him at their own expense is preferable to being alone, but I have always been alone. Aside from my own bedroom I am basically unwelcome in any other part of the house, yet it is a given assumption I will take care of everything.
Despite my brothers’ emotional and mental abuse, I am supposed to bear the brunt of it without complaint and he is given unfettered access to the house despite never lifting a finger nor contributing a damn thing to my mothers’ care or funeral expenses. Once upon a time I believed my mother crazy and paranoid: but I now realize how right she was. My father is a person who on the surface appears to be charming and caring and he retains that mirage, like the flat surface on a pond.


Until something that shatters the cool reflection happens and his sense of order and entitlement are disrupted. It’s possible that it’s not entirely his fault; he comes from an older world where women knew their places, and mental illness was something to be cured with electrodes and a long stint in the hell of the local asylum. He has spent fifty years having my mother cater to his every whim and tantrum, and now he finds himself without control. Perhaps it is even a natural response for him to fling himself against the bars of the cage he has built himself: if you want to be loved, you don’t do it by demanding everything of others and offering nothing in return.


You do not respond to emotional distress by walking from the room, because feelings make you ‘uncomfortable’ and then expect the person you have abandoned to do everything short of wiping your own arse. Care is a two way street. Will my dad be alright without me here? Who the hell knows. But battling physical and mental issues while trying to resolve yourself with the past, being embroiled in a huge police investigation while living with someone who makes terrible remarks about rape survivors isn’t it.


Trying to recover from an addiction and an eating disorder while living with someone who habitually throws verbal abuse at any woman who doesn’t live up to his size zero ideals, who buys you vodka instead of food and responds to every negative sentiment you express with ‘it must be the drink’ is not sustainable.


The fact is, he’s not my problem anymore. I’m no longer going to hold my breath under the surface, and suffocate to avoid causing unhappy ripples. I deserve a life and the chance to move forward and finally begin to heal, which is something I cannot begin to hope for here. I asked for some space, independence and a basic modicum of respect and in return I was shown the true colours of another. It’s not easy or simple by any means and the future remains uncertain for now, but it won’t be the first time I’ve had to move on or rebuild things.


This time I’ve learned my lesson, and whatever I build will be mine alone.

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?

Lenora

This will be a different kind of post.


There’s no instrument in the world quite like the violin.


For centuries it has found itself surrounded on all sides by mystique and wonder, and it seems only justified. Considered the most difficult instrument on the planet to master, looked upon with wonder and a ceaseless fascination that those who cause them to sing with an almost human voice have given perpetual motion to.


Yes, violins are wondrous creations.


While other instruments are subject to strict measurements and specifications, no two violins are ever the same. Luthiers have little regard for imposing such strict measurements upon their imagination, and why should they?


That is why every violin in the world sings with a different voice, bears a different weight, their curves and quirks as unique as we ourselves are want to be. There are boxy violins; slender violins; violins with narrow waists and flaring bell bottoms while others are more square. It could explain why so many of us become so attached when we discover the instrument that fits us best: each is one of a kind, after all.


To discover a violin that fits the player to perfection is as happening across a diamond in the muck. Not only the size and shape are important, but the tone. Some violinists prefer a rich, dark tone that no heavy mute can dampen (I have one such violin and do love him but he can be a bit brash for my tastes). Some prefer a softer, sweeter voice that echoes with sadness and melancholy, while yet others seek a middle ground.


For some violinists obtaining the perfect instrument becomes the pursuit of a lifetime; I’ve witnessed some play a dozen in a single afternoon, only to walk away empty handed. There’s something missing, a lack of expression and reflection they wish to portray via the elegant curved maple they cradle.


I have found my violin.


She’s Eastern European in origin, and has made the journey from the wilds of Vlad the Impalers’ country to my less than quaint corner of England. I am not a fan of bare maple as a rule; the darker the stain, the happier I tend to be. However my teacher sees beyond the material and understood what I needed. After two trips to the luthier, a setup including a new soundpost and handcarved bridge along with gorgeous wooden fittings to die for (I must thank Stuart Cooper as he is a true artist) she is home.


While classed as a 4/4 she is rather petite and very much in the baroque style; every inch the ladys’ violin so I suppose I must now endeavor to become a lady. While the shadow has a booming voice that commands attention and the strad Lucia has been softened by the ages, she falls between the two in a perfect harmony.


Her delicate size and shape and the well chosen chin rest mean she fits me as a glove; I could tuck her under my chin for hours, with or without shoulder rest. Her voice is plaintive and melancholy, with a touch of sweet sadness that brings to mind Tchaikovsky or certain pieces of Shostakovitch.
In short, she is perfect. I cannot thank my violin teacher or new luthier enough for enabling me to find my perfect partner in music: a violin is a little like a soulmate. When you pick up the right one it’s less a feeling of giddy newness and more a sense of returning home after a long absence. I could not be happier and despite the struggles of physiotherapy, psychotherapy and the other difficulties I face I walk into them knowing I have found the perfect friend to carry me from the darkness with sweet melodies.


If you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice 40 hours a day.

On healing and standing your ground

Home
I used to say that people make a home, and a house isn’t one if the ghosts that dwell within are unhappy. There’s power in land, though. Power in the memory of footsteps walked before upon the ground that shifts with time and perspective, as though every surface we move across is sand.
As Thomas Harris once wrote ‘our scars have the power to remind us that the past was real’. Sometimes the past isn’t an ideal place, and we heap the recollections we hold with layers of lace and cobwebs to blot out the darkness. In doing so we create pockets where yet more shadows may dwell, and we can only begin to dispel them, even exorcise them, by choosing to tear down the curtains.
Sometimes, the past is downright terrifying.
Fear given to us by whichever gods or universal force you believe in gifted as a tool, only to turn on us in our state of unparalleled awareness and rip out our throats. Yet only by confronting the things we have done, the places we’ve once been and the people we once were can we begin to gain perspective and take a step forwards.
Home is the place where you can stand with feet planted in a place where you faced the impossible and survived. You can run across oceans, get in your car and blaze into the night until the tank is empty but your heart will remain closed, and there will forever remain a sting of longing.
Home is closure and understanding. There are never answers to every question we bottle up inside; home is making peace with that fact as well. Home is choosing to stand your ground in the face of adversity and drawing hope from the darkest hour of night. Home is here.

Passion
‘Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally’- David Frost
Once I let grief and hatred blind me, and stumbled through life as though I were wearing one way mirrored glasses. The world could look inwards and see that I was on a collision course with all kinds of chaos but I had no way to see the violence or havoc I wrought; nor the hurt and blood on my hands.
Everybody hurts and grieves; everybody will fuck up and hurt someone else at some point. It’s unavoidable. Life hurts. Love hurts. The end of love hurts. The end of everything seems insurmountable yet we soldier on with those life has taken: those who walk behind, as shadows that linger in the sudden recognition of a piece of music or the sight of someone who, from a distance, could be them.
Life is short and death is even shorter: our strings could find themselves cut at any moment by capricious fate and her strange and twisted sense of humor. Most of us sleepwalk through life and hope, stumbling over obstacles the way a horse trips at the high pole, or a base jumper opens the parachute a split second too late.
Often with disastrous results.
We waste so many years attempting to make some sense of the world we’ve built, and convince others that we have some kind of wisdom or value to offer when what we ought to be doing is following a rainbow. Everyone has something they are wild for: music, travel, exploration. As long as we continue to watch the days slip by into decades and favor what is respectable and expected over the longings of our own heart, we will suffer in perpetuity.

Freedom
The truth that I’ve seen is that the paths we walk are as strange and varied as people themselves; life enjoys curveballs and surprises, and perhaps that’s the only true constant among us. No two artists will draw a landscape the same way; no two cellists will paint the air with music with identical flair.
Finding freedom and finding ourselves is an ongoing journey, and contrary to what the bitter and jaded will tell you, people do change. We shift as constant as the tides, sometimes stepping back into comfort and familiarity and at other times lurching forth into the unknown in search of adventure and hope.
The nature of humanity as I’ve seen it is curiosity, and I have come to the belief that our current state of mental distress and dissatisfaction is a direct result of the society we have built. In a culture where others ask nothing less than perfection and social media bombards us with careful, curated snapshots of others who seem to have it together it’s natural to fall into gloom.
What we never see is the full life behind the scenes, beyond the timelines and snapchat streams and even blogposts like this. I’d argue I’m something of a confessional writer but for the sake of example, I could be making it all up and nobody would be any the wiser. Celebrities idolized as the new gods have bad days like the rest of us.
They suffer and bleed, they experience heartbreak and grief and have endured their own share of breakdowns which may be why the great and the good seem to die so young. I can’t remain honest and claim to have sympathy, because their perpetuation of a certain image as perfection, unattainable for most, is quite literally the heart of everything wrong.

Mindful
One of the trends so many influencers, famous names and scientists give voice to is mindfulness despite studies that evidence it is capable of causing great damage. Living in the moment is a wonderful feeling, but we should not be spending fifteen minutes pondering the nature of a simple cup of tea or sitting in pure silence, trying to blot out the noise.
Yes, the noise hurts our ears and our heart in equal measure. The world is an overwhelming place at the best of times but if we are to learn to live in it and be capable of growing into the best version of ourselves we can be, we must learn to live with it. To be a part of the savagery and the beauty in equal measure. We must reconcile who we were once with who we are and learn from the mistakes made. Facing down demons is hard and change doesn’t come easy to any individual or society, but nothing worth anything ever is.
Mindfulness encourages us to blot out experience and the shadow self, as Jung referred to it, in favor of focusing on the now. If we are to shut the doors on everything that came before, forgetting follows. Where forgetting begins the door to ruination begins. This act of distraction therapy as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult feelings is a great scam: those feelings will return, and the longer you sit on them the worse the eventual explosion. As humans we are subject to a vast array of emotions, and we should feel all of them and learn how to respond in an appropriate way.
Mindfulness is a bandaid on a stab wound: sooner or later the blood will flow and so we must learn to stitch ourselves up sooner rather than later.

Flames
You can’t walk through a little fire without getting burned, and though some peoples’ scars may not be visible ones we are each riddled with them, a roadmap of our story. Life cuts through us the way a river reshapes the land, a violent and inevitable force with the ability to reshape even rock itself.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” — Khalil Gibran
The road to healing is one built on a bed of coals; it’s okay to be mad about it. When I re-broke my pelvis I found myself rocked to the core by how many people, both (now former) friends and strangers who would say ‘well being upset won’t do any good, you need to get over it.’ The idea that we must present a facade of good cheer and present a stiff upper lip is what landed us in this mess, and why mental illness is quite probably the greatest crisis our generation has to face.
It’s alright to feel: it’s alright to have a bad day, where you punch the wall until your knuckles bleed or scream into a pillow and demand the universe tell you why things are the way they are. What matters most is that when the storm has passed, you get up and try again. Healing is a unique process and for some takes longer, but as long as you refuse to give in or give up you’re winning.
Anger is natural; so is feeling bitter, particularly in the wake of a tragedy or traumatic event. The most important choice you will make is deciding how to channel it into something productive and beautiful, to build a towering fire in the darkness that those who doubted you cannot escape the glare of.
Meditation has its’ place, but don’t end up as a human being.
Be a human doing, and overcome the pain. Build a bridge that takes you to a better place.

On life and love

Trees
Humans never break. We may bend in the wind, and feel the tug of the violent air. We often find ourselves at the limit of flexibility, where snapping seems certain. We may become a victim of a lightning strike, and bear the scars of vicious rain.
Yet for each of our flaws and vulnerabilities, there exists a strength. Our roots go deep. Even parched of thirst and on the brink of madness, a spark of the self remains. A spark that lingers. It never fades: never to find itself snuffed out by mortal means, it can remain buried for years.
The spark is patient.
It endures.
While the storm of the world rages around it and we grow with the seasons, it continues to flicker. We may lose sight of the flame from time to time, but it still burns within us. There are a thousand kinds of pain in this life. The hollow emptiness and hopelessness accompanying empty cupboards. The gut wrenching sense of loss that accompanies the passing of someone beloved. The aching bite of guilt over decisions made long ago; the sting of remembrance that haunts us. The tiny, sweet hot moments of triumph that follow a fight for something.
The burning that accompanies us as we wander the battlefield, wondering if any of it was worth it.
The worst pain, the most common and that which possesses the same endurance as our spark: regret. It’s something universal to everyone, painted in a hundred different shades of intensity. Confusion and self doubt are its’ siblings, and it is the enemy of desire. How many fall beside the way because they feel to follow a dream is impossible? How many find themselves shattered by a relationship that’s become cracked as mirrors? Unlucky. How do we build new bridges?
Mistakes
It could be argue that our propensity to fuck things up is the foundation of life.
If we were perfect beings, there would be no lesson to learn. Nothing to overcome, nothing to challenge us. It could even be that without conflict and struggle, there would be no point to our existence. The meaning of life eludes us, as so much does. We roam life with unanswerable questions, and stumble from one curve-ball to another.
How we handle the inevitable heartache of all life entails is what will define us in the end. That’s not to say that it’s easy- it’s not, but nothing worth doing ever is. One day we land on this Earth with a finite amount of time to play with. What we choose to do with it remains a personal choice, but to squander it is becoming the norm.
Putting things off until ‘tomorrow, or whenever’ has become the new norm and I’ve been as guilt as anyone. Stagnation is comfortable and familiar: change is terrifying. Does it make us bad people? No, it makes us people. But it’s a heartbreaking thing to witness so many drift through life in a stupor. Mental illness is the greatest epidemic we’ve ever faced. Each year more find themselves with a diagnosis and prescription, the hope of a numb state.
I’ve been on that side of the glass, and it isn’t worth it. To watch the world roll on while you sit in quiet and hope time passes quicker is a tragedy. The spark still burns fierce, but you become distanced and everything else atrophies. You might as well be dead, because when you hit the pause button and give into the void, you’re somewhere between. Neither life nor death, but pale shades of gray to others’ vivid colors.
Limbo
I spent a year of my life watching wallpaper. So doped up on an irresponsible cocktail of mind-bending medication and weed that the idea of even being did not occur. Put in simplistic terms: I gave up. I stopped talking to most of my friends, refused to engage with the things I loved and suffered.
Society operates on the opinion that suffering is romantic, and gives rise to great art: achievements otherwise unimplementable. This is a lie. Suffering causes nothing but darkness: there are no epiphanies, no sudden realizations or moments of genius. Suffering is suffering, and that’s all there is. It could be said that I dug my own grave, and in some ways I did.
I was a slave to the idea of serving and pleasing others before myself. I found myself told by those with less than pure intent that to think of myself or my own dreams was selfish. That to pursue something for the sake of my own pleasure was reprehensible. The truth is, these people were also bent out of shape.
The old cliche of ‘hurt people hurt people’ often rings true, and those who would tear me down found themselves haunted by past failures. It’s far easier to force someone else to carry blame you’ve amassed yourself. It’s simple and requires no effort to tear another down into the grave with you.
Those who have never felt a sense of empowerment are so frequent to take from others.
That’s not to imply everyone who is down on their luck will visit their misfortune on others. For every narcissist, sociopath and mediocre human being there are ten kind ones who’ve overcome. They are humble, kind to the extreme and will throw themselves in the path of danger to protect the ones they love most.
Grief
My mother was such a person, and her death was a wake up call. Not so much the dying itself, preceded by traumatic illness. The months of losing her did not bring epiphany; nor did the first months that followed. When the heart is raw and bloody upon the plate it cannot stand to reflect or think of life.
When the bitterness and rage of bereavement give way to reflection, we breathe again. Our lungs, once shriveled as the November leaves, sooner or later inflate and begin to pump life and color. Where once there was sadness, hope blooms as does memory. With each memory comes clarity, and by figuring out the puzzle those we walk without have left us, we begin to build a road.
It’s not a linear process and there are gaps in the path.
Sometimes we jump, and sometimes we’ll fall.
The reality of this strange and tragic, beautiful world is that with each fall we learn. Our outer shells thicken while the spark remains bright and safe, cocooned by layers of scar tissue. We teach ourselves to fall better than before, to land and roll on our shoulders and emerge upright. Before we’d shatter both ankles. The lessons those who came before gave us live on, and give us the wisdom and strength to avoid certain pitfalls if we only listen.
The fall is in our nature, and it is an essential and inexorable part of our DNA.
A Roman general is often quoted as saying that he learned more from a thousand failed campaigns than a successful war. While we can assume the numbers exaggerated, the sentiment holds true. It’s only when we fall to our knees and find everything we knew stripped away we begin to finally know, and with knowing is understanding.
Love
When our outer shell has become as a tree pitted with age, stripped of protective bark by the wind, only the spark remains. We struggle only so that we may rise, the truth of our nature revealed. Because when the outside, the superficial has found itself decimated by circumstance or insanity, only the truth remains.
Truth is never comfortable, simple or easy to live with.
Loving yourself is not something mindfulness apps or others can teach: it’s not a reachable destination. We could live for a thousand years or longer and still suffer days of self doubt, of wondering and fretting. To do so is human. Self love and understanding is a journey, and it’s the longest we’ll ever walk. Even those we may look upon as heroes or role models have their flaws and insecurities.
We find ourselves in an age where perfection is in demand, and nothing less will suffice. The reality is that perfection is a falsehood and a worthy life does not spring from perfection or the ideals of any society. Any kind of perfection or transcendence is, quite honestly, born from love. If you find yourself motivated by shallow reasoning, you’ll become a hollowed trunk. If you give into bitterness and rage as I have done in the past, your roots will rot and refuse to draw in any good.
It is when we act in faith, love and a sense of compassion that we begin to bloom.
It can backfire and end with pain, but if we refuse to let that pain beat against us the way ancient trees withstand hurricane winds, we will become better. As a species we can often be savage and uncompromising; a herd mentality benefits no one. If you nurture the individual and let beauty and love into your life, thriving will follow.
None of this is easy.
Life is the hardest battle to win.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy.

On grief and time

Antisocial

The doorway looms, a portal to another dimension to terrify and confuse in equal measure. I find myself in that familiar limbo where my only companions are voices. Sometimes flashes of a past I am told I must escape. I lie to both psychiatric professionals and myself and fill our ears with the correct words.

‘I’m doing much better and only think of London on occasion.’

‘I rarely experience the urge to run without looking back now’

‘I have licked my wounds and find them beginning to heal; there is comfort in stability.’

In truth I long for freedom and the return of invisibility; were it not for my leg I’d be over the threshold in a heartbeat. I’d take the familiar journey surrounded by those harried, tired individuals. Those who spent their lives in a state of coming and going. Those who find themselves trapped in the cage I begin to understand.

To be young and alone again, with only boots and backpack. To regain the capability to vault fences, scramble walls and dive into the city beneath the city. To once again know her beating heart. To be free of all those who wish to greet me and talk about a daily life I still do not comprehend.

There is a possibility I am in fact broken, for peace eludes me. I knew it when I was another face in an endless crowd, and the nights were for roaming darkened streets. Days were for resting in the quiet of walls where others have long feared to tread. Hours spent smoking and watching others, dreaming their stories as they passed by. My head secure on the shoulder of a beloved friend as we waited for the day center to open.

Homelessness was horrifying, and yet a liberation of self.

Tasha

When I finally arrived home, she was there. The girl with the violin who’d give her life for another if asked. The girl who’d hand you her coat in the blistering rain, and ask you if the cold was biting.

I’d argue she was better than me, but that’s not saying much. In truth she was better than most and her spirit still haunts me. Each time I see one of my beloved violins freed of the case or hear a symphony, she’s on my shoulder.

Nine years is a long time, and she’d be approaching twenty six. She’d likely be touring the world with some orchestra but still make time to comfort friends. Existing in exhaustion but cheerful and full of life. I imagine with her schedule she’d never find the time to care for her skin.

Beauty routines and social niceties left by the wayside in favor of sleepless nights. I picture her in hotel rooms in soft light, pen in hand and ink staining face as she transposes pieces. The furrow of her brow and intense concentration that sprang from passion are vivid. I imagine her arguing with airline staff about the importance of her beloved violin. ‘If she’s not by my side, I’m not boarding.’ I can see her expression of stubborn consternation and worry in perfection.

But she’s gone now.

Nine years is a long time and when Tuesday arrives so will the fear. That as I grow ever older she slips further from my grasp. That I may forget certain expressions or quirks. As I grow, she slips away into a wasteland I am both terrified to visit, but scared to abandon. I attach myself to so few in this life, and she knew who and what I was.

I don’t imagine I do.

Fame

For both of us recognition was a symptom. She learned to revel in it; the applause would push her forward. She was a motor forever in motion. The adage of candles twice as bright burning out quicker than those content to flicker must be true. I sit here and postpone life, hoping against hope to wake and discover the familiar has returned.

I loathe others on principle but am bound by insecurity. Always the voice. Wondering if winning more competitions or successful publication will expose me to scrutiny. Life dissected by strangers in search of entertainment who cannot begin to empathize. In the modern world a sense of respectability is impossible to find. I realize that success will come with judgment.

Of both illnesses and past experiences: the road I’ve traveled will be a stomping ground. Those with no understanding of homelessness or combat will pass opinion. As a writer I am supposed to ignore such things: as an individual with PTSD and scores of lost sisters I’d like to hurt. Both myself and them, for retaining a comfortable existence. One where they have the time and energy to autopsy anothers’ choices in a nuclear environment.

I do not believe that statement to be hyperbole. The streets are a volcano waiting to blow, the homeless already frozen in ash for the most part. It’s so simple for the more fortunate to claim they chose such a life, and claim addiction as cause. In reality, it is more often a symptom. Something to black out the casual violence, the derision of others and horrors seen.

Though what would I know? I’ve had the middle class liberals who claim respect and act as civil servants piss on me in doorways. It has never taught me wisdom, but misanthropy in all its’ extremes.

Old

I could be ungrateful. In all my time following the rhythms of Londons’ beating heart with my boots, I never imagined making it this far. You spend long enough in a state of vigilance, find yourself exposed to so much violence, you assume the end near.

After failed suicide attempts and near misses too great to count, I find myself still lost. Even after a stint of death which lasted approximately seven minutes I remain in a state of loss. What do you do when the mental health offices no longer accept the calls? When your psychiatrist prescribes you the benzos on top of a drinking problem? When possible fatality is preferable to the doors in your head springing free?

How do you live when the most untrustworthy individual in life is yourself? I picture myself as a small child, before the streets and fires and all that befell me there changed the world. It’s impossible to return to a state of innocence, though Christians tell us otherwise. One day you reach a point of no return: where the crisis is every day, and normality is a foreign concept: horror.

You can stitch up a knife wound or plug grievous wounds without a blink, but bills and letters are a thing of anxiety. The brain rewires itself according to circumstance, and then refuses to be unbroken. No stability in the world, no comfort or routine can lessen the vivid nature of such a life. The psycho babblers tell you things will fade with time, but it is the biggest lie.

You grit your teeth and try to be another member of society.

You listen to unbearable small talk with patience.

One day you wake and long for a return to chaos, because you are incapable of anything else now.

Legends

You’re stuck in no-mans’ land, while battles rage around you.

As a poet I’ve always loved the works of Plath and Clare; as a human subject to the demons of my own mind I relate. It’s strange to imagine that if I survive the next year I will have gone further than Sylvia ever did, year wise. Not in a sense of literary prowess but with regards to a measure of time.

Life is something we have yet to understand.

We march forwards with regards to ‘progress’, but experience is universal. A man who lived three hundred years ago deemed brilliant finds himself boarded up. The psychiatric hospital he died in still stands, open for business. A brilliant woman not quite surfacing from youth puts her head in an oven due to domestic abuse.

For all our supposed evolution, the song remains the same.

I have become a cynic, of this I am certain: humanity will not change. We may make it to another planet. We may map the depths of the ocean and reach the edge of the galaxy. But at our core we will endure as strange, selfish creatures who are prone to violence, jealousy, rage. Revenge, selfishness, judgment.

I envy the animals and birds and fish, for they have no knowledge of such things. We are a species with a penchant for self destruction regardless of labels or diagnoses. From the moment we are born a battle rages: some of us walk through the fire. We hope it will give us strength, but in reality it takes a pound of flesh and leaves us growing tired. Others cannot bear the fight and decide to step off of the worlds’ wheel: I often wonder if they are the courageous.

I may have become too tired by the dance.