How My Dad Died.

Originally written in April 2007

I was asked in comments to write a story about my dad here.

The way my mind is working at the moment, I can only think of negative and horirble stories, doused in alcohol and soaked with sickness.

I have very few specifically positive stories of my dad. Plenty of lovely memories, but they are fleeting, small events like him making us Toasted Toppers or his insistence that Graham Chapman deserved a better looking boyfriend than David Sherlock.

Wedding Day

I’d never been to a wedding as a Grown Up. Nor a reception or any suchlike thing. The first wedding I remember was that of my aunt and uncle, Anne and Brian. Anne is a blonde model who appeared in speeding adverts, I’ve seen her in a bridal gown only once before, and that was on an advert on Ulster Television- “40 miles an hour!” with blood rolling apologetically down her dress. She used to come back from filming in England (“You’ve been to England?” we’d gawk at her) with those fat red dummy rocks in clutches for us. My uncle Brian is a big nosed, fresh-faced lovable man who has raised his three children to have quiet country burrs which is somewhat exotic to me when he brings them begrudgingly to their aunt’s house.

At the time I was nine years old and wasn’t taken to the wedding. My granny Molloy looked after me that day, in the only time she had ever been to our house. I remember her with her red slim face, which always looked like a warning triangle, taking my hand and us walking to the Dairy Farm, a supermarket near my house, where she bought me a pink keyboard. Then we went to the library where I proceeded to be kicked out as I was too fascinated with my first ever musical instrument. I managed to retain my dignity and my Asterix books, whereupon I rechristened myself Cacophonix.

That day I seemed to inherit a new family. At the wedding my mum met some of her family, The Mallons. Edna had a sharp tongue and fast humour, then there were her three daughters- Angela, Ceri and Michelle. Their ages corresponded roughly with the ages of me and my older sister. Michelle was the youngest so we were expected to get on. We were utterly different people so were never close.

So one wedding created a new family. The next was the day after my 18th birthday, the wedding of my uncle Michael to a quite well-to-do middle class girl called Fiona. Her family were much more respectable than our rough West Belfast one.

My uncle Michael looked like Damon Albarn. My sister Paula and I used to boast to our school friends about this. His fiancée was a social worker, tiny, buxom, blonde and beautiful. I first met her at a bedside vigil for my granda. I’d never met her before and remember feeling insulted rather than touched that she had come here while my grandad was so sick. In that respect, I’m quite traditional. For all my running-off-to-London, I believe in the family and find “outsiders” intrusive sometimes.

The wedding was in Bangor, and my dad was determined that we weren’t taking a feckin’ train that day. We got a taxi, god forbid, all of us piled into one black cab. He wanted us to be stylish, just as good as them, he said. But he was brimming over with happiness, as he always did when we were all together.

We found ourselves outside the church with a half an hour to spare and a bit peckish. “There’s a reception on later, Da,” says Michelle. Imagines of vol-au-vents, quiche, delicately decorated salmon en croute filled our minds.

But it would be hours before we had the chance to eat.

In our new clothes, we went to KFC and smeared ourselves with greasy chips and microwaved gravy. We sipped flat coke out of enormous buckets and liberally ate cold chicken.

We went at breakneck speed to the fancy Gothic church, stinking of fast food, gravy on our lips and the odour of old plastic seats sticking to our arses.

Twenty minutes later my other uncle Brendan (sarcastic, amusing vegetarian, much beloved of Paula, much resented by me for wrecking my carefully constructed house of cards) shows up, late and distressed and bangs on the window, Graduate style, to be let in. The priest shook his head and we all froze in horror and laughed as he strained to watch his baby brother getting married through a window, occasionally letting loose a fly of words that made the choirboys blush as he batted unruly twigs away from his face.

I wish

I could end the story there and that it would be Full O’ Larks. But of course with my dad in tow the day turned ugly.

He got drunk, completely pissed, and refused to be told otherwise. He was loud, embarrassing, abusive and disruptive. We ended up having to look after him, pleading, begging and crying.

I don’t think, until that point, his family believed us when we said his alcoholism was severe. But as the evening progressed and his behaviour got worse, I think it finally clicked that for all those years, we had not been exaggerating. Michelle, Paula and me were just exhausted, exhausted, humiliated and depressed, wanting to be a Proper Family out at their uncle’s wedding, instead of three ringmasters in the arena of my dad’s illness.

I have a lot of guilt concerning my dad. Not just that everything we did didn’t stop him from dying. But for childish things.

My mum and dad had prolific and devastating fights almost every night. My dad would eventually stumble upstairs, screaming obsenties. And my sisters and I would huddle in their bedroom and talk about how if we pushed him downstairs, we wouldn’t have to put up with it anymore.

We had many comical scenerios as to how we’d get rid of my parents. And they were comical, we didn’t actually want them to die but craved silence.

My dad rang me up on my 16th birthday. It was one of the periods he wasn’t living at home and I had assumed he was calling to wish me a happy birthday. Instead, he told me he was going to kill himself.

Sometimes I wish he had done. There were times when I violently wished that something, anything would end his and our suffering. I knew always that alcoholism was a disease and an addiction but it’s scant comfort when you’re in the living room with your little brother and sister trying to block out the crockery breaking in the kitchen.

I wanted something quick and painless and it would be over.

I was outside work once. At the time, a friend of mine was suffering from serious depression and they had rang me earlier to tell me they were going to kill themselves. This was sometime during 2005. I took the phone outside and tried to talk them down but I was petrified and shaking.

When Vicky died, I prayed to whatever gods there were that I would never have to go through it again. The stark memory of sitting down on the chair being told she had hung herself, the starker memory of walking down the forest the same night, vision blurring with tears, standing on the roadside we had walked upon destroyed me.

I got off the phone to my friend and lay back against a wall with a cigarette.

Suddenly, the image of someone calling to tell me my dad had killed himself flew into my head and took my breath out. All those times I wished it had happened pulverised me and I felt like the worst person in the world. The reality, the already-grief of his dying laid me on a fold up chair in tears.

I had always believed he’d get better. I held that hope to my chest, to my heart, to every minute of the day. I believed that with our help and willpower, he would recover and live to say, “When I was an alcoholic”…

The Reality of it

When it happened, I didn’t know what to do.

My dad had been in hospital for two weeks or so. It started innocuously enough. I was on the phone to my brother when he made a joke about my dad looking like one of the Simpsons. I asked him what he meant and he said, “He’s bright yellow”.

That night was a Saturday and I was alone in my flat. And for some reason, I got my mum on the phone and said, “I think daddy has liver failure”.

She didn’t really take me seriously so I told her I was going to call NHS direct. I described my dad to the nuse on the phone. Jaundice. Alcoholism and, in the background, his slurred voice.

I rang my mum back and told her I was calling an ambulance. I rang them in London and asked them to transfer me to Belfast. Rang them up and sent them to the house.

I was on the phone when they came. I heard my daddy protesting that he had an appointment with the doctor in June (it was the end of April) and that he was fine. I told my mother to keep trying and spoke to the ambulance staff, telling them I think he’s very ill and please make sure he goes.

He didn’t. He refused the ambulance and my mum called someone else, I can’t remember who, I think it was psychiatrist services. He finally went.

A few weeks passed. Phone calls here and there. I didn’t go home as nothing sounded serious. He was filled with fluid and had acute liver failure. I assumed he would get a transplant.

I had a holiday to Belfast booked on the 18th of May to introduce Rob to my parents. It had been booked for a while. I had spoke to my daddy on the phone and he was looking forward to seeing me and Rob on the 18th. He sounded fine.

On the 16th of May, while I was in work, my sister Michelle sent me a text saying daddy was dying now, right now, and to get home.

I called her, then called my sister Paula who was in the airport on her way back to London. She didn’t want to make a fuss so I called the nurse to make sure Michelle wasn’t being hysterical.

The nurse told me to come home.

Paula turned round and went back to the hospital. I had no money whatsoever and couldn’t change my flights. Jo and my boss at work started printing out train and flight times. I appealed on Livejournal for someone to help me get home. A friend lent me the money, I booked my flight, kissed goodbye to Rob and flew home.

I met my friend Tracie at the airport. She had some ham sandwiches and a bar of chocolate for me. I was filled with dread. I couldn’t, would not think of my dad dying. We sped down the long, dark, 10pm roads. I laid my head against the passenger window and stared at the greyscale countryside.

I met my sisters in hospital. I was not prepared for what I saw.

My dad was so clearly and obviously dying. I burst into tears.

When my grandad died, my drunken, grieving father shouted that the next funeral we would be at would his own.

I had not believed him. And here it was, his dying.

He was so afraid of death and that’s mostly what was on my mind. Did he know? A nurse leant over his bed and told us it wouldn’t be long. I was horrified, what if my dad heard? Was he afraid?

He was yellow and ancient and couldn’t breathe- he couldn’t see or talk and he was so clearly dying. I started crying as soon as I saw him, held his hand and tried to tell him I was here but I don’t know if he knows I was. I thought at least he would be able to talk, there was so much to say. He looked so different and my sister assured me he had only become this bad within the past 24 hours. Before that, he was able to talk and I hate myself for not going home 24 hours earlier.

We stayed the whole night in the room, holding his hand, talking to each other, going to the smoking room and watching his monitors. I’d bought him the issue of Kettering- I had thought he would be conscious enough for me to read him to him, he had wanted to read my Neil Innes interview, because he was a fan and he was proud. He’d gone round telling everyone I was interviewing him. I had been so hopeful he would be conscious. I desperately wanted to speak to him. Wanted to hear him say my name.

Michelle left to sleep and Paula left to smoke and I tried to tell him that I love him, he made no sign he’d heard, just groaned and fiddled with his breathing mask.

He kept trying to take his mask off, and we kept putting it back on. A few times he’d clutch his head, like he had a headache, like something so normal, a headache. He tried to sit himself up a few times. He tried to sleep.

He must have known we were there. He kept holding Paula’s hand while I stood on the other side and stroked his hair. It made him sleep. In his sleep, he said our names. All our names, his five children.

He said. And he did say, although my sister denies it, “I don’t want to die”. It could have been a trick of the ears but I am sure he said it. And my heart cracked in two.

He was obviously in a lot of discomfort but the doctor said he wasn’t in pain. He kept pulling out his wires and tubes- he was so scared of ending up like my granda that Paula told me he’d been pulling them out since the beginning. He always believed he’d be going home and on some level, so did I. I thought this would be a lesson, he would stop drinking and get better. I thought he was brilliant because recently he’d been sober more, and he was going into rehab this month.

Hours passed of him taking off his mask, falling asleep, waking up. The morning came, we hardly knew. About eight am or so we called our mum and asked her to come take our place for an hour while we ate something. We didn’t want to leave, we agonised over it but we needed something to eat. We expected to be there days, we were getting ready for it.

Before we left, Paula stroked his arm and said she’d see him soon. I kissed his forehead and told him we’d be gone an hour but we’d be back.

At about 8am, our mum came and we went home to get some food.

A half an hour later, the nurse phoned and told us to come back. We tried to wake our little brother up but he wouldn’t wake up. After some exhausted, frustrated screaming at him, he got up and smashed the china set my dad had bought for my mum.

We got to the hospital. Liam went to the toilet and we went up to the ward. Tacked on the curtain was, “NO VISITORS”. And my dad had died there, without us at about 9am on 17th May, a day before Rob and I’s visit. Aged forty seven, a month before his 48th birthday.

We howled. I had to go and find Liam and tell him. He was in the corridor and I didn’t know what to do or say. I just had to tell him that his dad died. How do you tell a fifteen year old that?

I remember standing by my brother and sisters and crying, I remember hugging my uncles, his brothers, and his mother, who had lost her sister two weeks ago and her husband seven months ago. It is not fair, I remember thinking that over and over.

A nurse came in and said, “Did he have a wedding ring on?” Nothing else- “NO” and then, “Did he have any gold teeth?” “NO” get out of my sight and she did and I hated her so much.

They took him away and kept hassling us saying they needed to do it now. We said wait because his brother isn’t here yet, my uncle Michael was on his way. Before they took him away we said our separate goodbyes and had our time with him. No-one will ever know what we all said, and I am glad.

They took him and we organised the wake at my grandmother’s. It was best to be there, it was his real home.

I slept after that and the next day Rob got here. We spent the next days at my grandmother’s. He met everyone in my family, except my dad. I wrote the obituary with my little sister and it appeared in the paper with many others, and flowers arrived and two big wreaths, “DAD” and “BROTHER”. I got away with much as a lot of my extended family and friends didn’t realise I was his daughter, so there weren’t many, “I’m sorry”s or tearful hugs. That hurt me slightly because I wanted some hugs but I had Rob, my sisters and uncles and brother and that’s all I needed, all we needed.

The coffin was in the room and they did a good job, he looked like my dad. I couldn’t understand why he was there, none of us could.

The priests came and went and on Friday night, Paula, Brendan my uncle and I stayed with him on his final night. We talked about a lot of things, not really my dad, and didn’t sleep. Everytime the automatic air freshener went off, we jumped.

The funeral was on Saturday and at first I didn’t think I could do it. My sister held my hand as we listened to the priest before they took him away. I couldn’t stop crying. I said goodbye again, I said I’m sorry.

My fifteen year old little brother had to carry his dad’s coffin.

On the way up to the church we noticed one of the men carrying the coffin had something written on his bald head and neck in green marker. He didn’t know he had it.

After the funeral, we went to the PD, a Republican bar my dad and our family went to often, and had a buffet and a drink. Since then, I’ve felt very little. I’d been sleeping in his bed and going through photographs, taking some and not taking others in the knowledge he’d kill me. But he isn’t here now and I can’t really understand how. As time wears on, the truth of it, the real truth of it, is beginning to dawn.

I don’t know what to do now. There’s years ahead without my dad but I still feel as though he’ll be back. I never want to remember him as that man I saw in the coffin. I hate Catholic services. I’m worried about the future for my mum and the kids. I’m worried about my granny. I don’t know what to do without my dad. He’s the one who understood us and helped us. He paid my rent once and bought our Christmas presents. He taught us how to read and ride our bikes and taught us how to write and taught us our history. He got me into comedy and music. I have all his David Bowie vinyls now, as promised.

The last time I saw him was Christmas 2005 and he had stayed sober, it was lovely. There is a photo of him in the bedroom, arms outstretched and smiling and you’d think he didn’t have a trouble in his heart until you notice his wrist, a huge gaping wound. He was not a happy man and that kills us. We tried. We love him so much.

My sisters joked we should put lots of IOUs in his coffin with him because he helped us with money when he got ourselves into scrapes. I wanted to put his comb in there with him. Paula could barely look at him but when she did it was to fix his hair. He would be mad at us if he’d known we didn’t shave his head for him.

The last October snowfall in London was in 1934 so I celebrated with my camera, a cigarette, a can and a complete stranger

Which probably indicates something apocalyptic about climate change but I don’t care.

I’ve just had one of those lovely experiences that makes me grateful for both life and London.  I have a big smile on my face.

Firstly, I should say that thanks to your incredible generosity (see a previous post for what was going on), I paid my bills (two yesterday, two on Friday) and had enough left over to pay half (one half being Rob’s) of a second hand camera.  That felt a bit cheeky but it was £verylittlemoney.  I felt like I’d lost a limb when I lost my camera.  Well, a finger, maybe.  So thank you from the bottom of my granite pebble heart for helping me out. Things are settled and back on an even keel now.  My bills being sorted is such a load off my mind, I had really been panicking over it and eyeing up things to sell (my body, for example.  A packet of crisps and a some cigarettes, in all likelihood.  But I like crisps.  It’s a fair trade).  I was going to post that yesterday but wasn’t sure how to crowbar it in between zombies and Kerry Katona. Thank you too for understanding how uncomfortable it was for me to make that post and being very tactful. And everyone seems to love Dead Set, even amongst my contrary circle of friends I have yet to see a bad word about it.

Secondly, sorry for yet another off topic post.  After an extremely traumatic fortnight, I’ve really needed a break from the intensely analytical mentalist posts.   I have a lot to talk about on Thursday (The Reckoning, oh dear), so it’ll be back to business as usual.  I’m sure that you’ve, er, missed the posts about mental illness?  It must be dull…not reading about it?  Really, what’s the etiquette for mental health blogs?  When people feel better and spend their days flicking through books rather than streaking down the street in their flimsy underwear, do they apologise for it?  It’s a tricky medium.

It’s bitter winter here now, and I’d had my thick drapes shut all day, warming my hands on cigarettes and strong cups of tea.  Then Rob called, telling me it was snowing.  I opened my curtains, and there it was, fat flakes storming to the ground.  When it snows in London, due to the heat of pollution, it’s just farty, feathery little scraps that dissolve as soon as they touch solids.  But this was proper snow.

I threw my coat on, without any socks, pulled my hood up and tore downstairs with my camera swinging around my neck.  I live on the Holloway Road, possibly one of the least picturesque locations in London, but it was beautiful, the snow was swirling around the street lights and I must have looked slightly odd standing in the street, laughing my head off, with my arms outstretched at 10.30pm.  The insurance with actually being mad is that you never mind if someone stares at you, you’re used to it. People were shuffling by clutching umbrellas, and then a man wrapped in a tartan scarf walked past, spotted me and gave this great, big beaming smile, and we looked at each other and laughed with pleasure.  I love the fact that snow brings the child out in some people.  (I know that at twenty three I am technically a foetus.  I find new nubs of flesh every day). Some people sneer at it, but fuck ’em.

While I was snapping and giggling, a blonde girl appeared and commented on the brilliance of the rare London snow.  I’d never seen or met her before, but it turns out that she’s my neighbour and lives next door to me.  We chatted for a minute, introduced ourselves and then made the snap decision that we should go to Highbury Park.

We were both fagless, since we’d just leapt out of our flats in the spur of the moment (and the streets were pretty dead), so she ran indoors and grabbed some cigarettes, then reappeared with gloves for me (my hands looked like cuts of meat) and some cans of booze.  Then off we went, smoking our fags and swigging our beer, looking like tramps.

It was still snowing by the time we got there, and looked beautiful.  Highbury Park runs incognito behind the main road into Finsbury Park.  It’s lined with expensive looking houses that belong in a Richard Curtis film and black Victorian streetlamps.  The snow had settled on the grass and cars and a few footprints muddied the white asphalt.  Our hands were frozen as we clutched our beers but only one other person was around and we were alone the haze, and the park was untouched.  Only the heads of the blades of grass peeked out The snow had started to lessen and sleet, so we would be the only people to see it like this, carpetted and lovely.

I wrote my name on a car windscreen (childhood habits haven’t left me; I also valiantly attempted a three line cock) expecting the alarm to go off and for us to end up sprinting and sliding home.  It was so quiet, and everyone had their curtains shut.

We were freezing so had to turn back onto the main road with cars slooshing by.  It was a drizzle by then, with people hurrying home.  We had a victory cigarette, wiping wet hair out of our eyes.  By the time we reached our doors, it has almost stopped.  We said cheerio and hurried inside.

I’m glad I ran outside and played in the snow before it disappeared. It’ll be gone in an hour, and it might not snow again all winter.  And what a lovely way to meet your neighbours.  It’s made me really happy, even though I’m freezing and I’m using the cats as slippers.

Here’s some blurry, excitable, shaking hand photos.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Continue reading

Dead Set / Pitchforks out for Kerry Katona

As I write, I’m listening to Gnossienne No. 1 by Erik Satie. I’m very fond of Satie, who is an incredibly imaginative writer, as well as a wonderful composer. However, the room appears to have shrank and, try as I might, I can’t seem to squeak out a crumb of humour as it’s playing, which is a disservice to the man himself.  My mind has been clouded over with Royal Dalton.  There’s something about classical piano pieces that render the listener hypnotically earnest. I couldn’t fathom a having a dinner party while this kind of music was on in the background. I’d imagine that even those not from England would lapse into affected Sloaneyisms. They’d voice opinions that they don’t even have on modern art, and I’d be stood there, out of my depth, wondering if its impolite to chain smoke in my own flat, ashamed of my Northern Irish accent that makes everything I say sound like a threat. I can’t ever say the word “knee” in any context because people stiffen and ask, “Did you say you were going to do my knees?” Jesus, of course not. I have family members to do that for me.

(I couldn’t have a dinner party anyway, unless everyone wanted to sit on the floor picking cat fur off their trousers and drinking warm Londis wine from an ancient cracked mug that was sprouting pale green downy fur).

Ah, Pulp! Much better.  

Yesterday, Rob, myself and my rather fetching facial herpes toddled down to Piccadilly Circus to attend the premiere of Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set. Some people had come dressed as zombies but I had no desire to relive the four days of utter discomfort in which I was so saturated in fake blood that I had to use a jack to prise my legs apart every time I got a spare second for a wee. I hung around in the foyer with my head in a trough of popcorn, occasionally having, “Oh, that’s her” moments when my eyesight wasn’t obscured by hot butter.

Dead Set is a short horror series starting tonight on E4 (watch it or I’ll burn your family) and gorily climaxing on Halloween. I had my reservations about it; the setup consists of the end of the world with what may be the last survivors battling for their lives in the Big Brother house. There’s the plucky runner, the bastard producer and the hapless housemates whom we hate on sight but then eventually grow to care for, or at least not break into rapturous applause when they’re ripped in half.

It could have been a compendium of amusing verb-noun swearing (“You fucknut! You complete shitbasket!”) self consciously signposted with clunky satirical swipes. As it stands, though, I’m surprised that E4- home of American exports like Desperate Housewives and uselessly frothy list shows- agreed to make it. It starts off as sharp commentary on the underbelly of television and then descends into brutal, kinetic gore. It’s relentless, tense, hopeless and genuinely horrible. With the occasional amusing verb-noun swearing. It also featured newsreader Krisnan Guru Murphy, who seems to be my generation’s Patrick Allen.

What always irks me about zombie films is that they never use the word zombie. If you’re setting a zombie film in 2008, then your characters would know what a zombie is. The skipping around it with “the undead”, the “living dead” and, “Oh fuck, it’s THEM!” is lost on me. Likewise, Dead Set followed the 28 Days Later school of shaky camera work, which is distracting and irritating because you can’t actually see what the hell is going on. Maybe that’s the point, but a few times last night I was confused when zombies poured in from nowhere and became a blur of blue skin and bad teeth while I struggled to grasp who, if anyone, they were eviscerating.

I really enjoyed Dead Set, if enjoyed is the right word for leaving the cinema checking the irises of people’s eyes. Oh, and if you want to see me in it, just look for a flash of pink hair at the end.  It was also a testament to the power of television.  I hadn’t had a fried egg sandwich in six years.  I’ve had two today.

After the premiere, we stopped by the aftershow party to sample its free bar. Through the glaze of wine I had more of those, “Oh, it’s her” moments. I haven’t watched a series of Big Brother in five years but I still recognise the housemates as most of them spent a while plastered on the front cover of Heat magazine. I strolled up to a few of them to say hello and they were all obscenely friendly and sweet, even though next to their blonde, designer litheness I felt like a full stop, given that I was dressed particularly badly at the time. I met Andy Nyman, who I admire an awful lot, since I’m a fan of triangle headed modern day witch Derren Brown. He’s about five foot five tall and I was quite grateful to drape myself across his shoulder for a photograph, feeling like I’d stumbled into the land of My People, those without thirty yards of legs separating their oxygen starved heads from the ground. I said hello again to the make up girls, the director and Charlie Brooker, and was quite flattered that they all remembered me, even though it was hard not to since I was sporting a pink mohawk and my breasts had been determinedly wriggling out of my dress all day.  They were also effusive and lovely.  I said hello to Kevin Eldon, too, who I can’t look at without imagining in a nappy (not a weird sexual fetish of mine, just something from The Day Today).  I don’t get star struck and generally speak to everyone in the same way but I was a little by Kevin Eldon.

Saturday was a good evening, too, being the first of two days in which I found myself pleasantly tipsy. I’ve actually been in a good mood throughout the weekend. Yesterday before going out I watched “Boy A”, in which a former child killer tries to rebuild his life, and cried my eyes out. It’s one of those dramas where you find yourself pounding your fists against the screen howling, “WHY? YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ALRIGHT!” and your neighbours ring the bell and ask if everything’s “okay”, and then you fall into their arms mumbling something about bridges. In my actual day to day life, I rarely cry, even if I’m very depressed. I’m one of those depressives who gets the classic “flat affect” rather than bawling. When I’m depressed, I look like this:

and my vocabulary extends to grunting and gesticulating. But sad songs and films make me cry like a twat. Even not sad ones. I cried when I watched Ratatouille. Something about a cartoon rat not being accepted by humans, I don’t know. It’s a METAPHOR isn’t it. Likewise, I laugh when I really shouldn’t. At my grandad’s funeral, the priest was straight out of Father Ted, dully intoning something or other about god. He occasionally hiccuped and kept referring to my grandad as “she” and I burst out laughing. When we were given the body of Christ (a wafer thin mint), it got stuck to the roof of my mouth and I was uselessly trying to prise it off with my tongue. It finally dislodged and fell into my hand with a tiny wet slap, so I had to shove it back in a swallow it. Regurgitating the body of Christ like a mother bird. Then I performed the trick that all Catholics forced to sit through endless masses in their childhoods know about; bow your head as though you’re overwhelmed with piousness and laugh into your lap. If people behind you see your shoulders shaking, they’ll assume that you’re so overcome with love that you can’t control your emotions.

You can’t do that in America, though. When I was there on an exchange trip, rather than pretending to pray on my own, they made me hold their hands in the air and stand up so I felt like we were in the Wicker Man and that the alter was going to split open like Predator’s mouth and reveal a giant wicker Jesus. Aged twelve and precocious, I had written an exasperated note to myself in the bedroom talking about how I didn’t believe in god anyway, and I had told them as much. They found it and subjected me to an angry tearful lecture. Ah, happy memories.

In today’s non-news, Twatty Britain has been dusting off its pitchforks and driving themselves into a judgmental (quite literally, in this case) frenzy over a TV appearance by Kerry Katona. She’s a singer and reality TV star that appeared on a magazine show called “This Morning”. It’s broadcast at about 10.30 after the Jeremy Kyle show so is therefore watched by those who like the sensation of being repeatedly punched in the face.

Kerry has manic depression and is being treated for it. This was the appearance:

To me, it’s immediately clear that she’s still under the influence of medication. She takes an antipsychotic (which are taken at night time) and got to bed late. It’s early in the morning and of course she’s still going to be doped up. I am exactly the same at that time since I also take an antipsychotic. In my past job, they thought I was an alcoholic as I’d arrive at 9am and still be slurring my words. You have to take that type of medication really early if you want to function in the morning.

Kerry even responds to the presenter’s tactless questioning by naming the medication she’s taking. And yet, even with this, she’s being lynched over here, being called a drug addict, alcoholic slut and bad mother. The video is on Youtube in different guises and each one contains a ream of astonishingly ill-informed, abusive crap. Here she tries to speak out and says that people are prejudiced against those with bipolar disorder, which, as we all know, is bloody true (and in every sense; we can’t do jury service and those of us with the severe form of the illness can’t adopt or foster or work within certain places like British defence organisations). And yet the article is still rollseyes. Even the more rational people who accept her explanation are saying that bipolar disorder isn’t an “excuse”.

I don’t have much affection for her given that she’s a vapid, frozen food hawking popstrel with the voice of a haunted five year old but I feel really sorry for her here and angry on her behalf. People are ignorant, and some of the abuse (like calling her a slut and slag over and over- isn’t it great to be a woman?) is like a bad day out in BBC’s Have Your Say (the internet home of, “Get back to work you fucking scroungers!”) and makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

As her protests aren’t really endearing herself to anyone, I’m expecting a sobbing Jade Goody-esque TV appearance sometime soon in which she apologises for somehing she didn’t do.

My Review of The A-Z Guide To Good Mental Health: You Don’t Have to Be Famous to Have Manic Depression

…and other such delights are available in the new issues of “One in Four” magazine. 

One in Four fights stigma and exclusion by challenging negative images of people with mental health difficulty, dispelling myths and increasing understanding.

Go and look, it’s the Bran Flakes of publishing, full of good stuff!  

For those who cannot be bothered to click the above link (and shame on you), this is what I wrote (the edited version).  

Oh, what I didn’t mention is that it had a foreword by Stephen Fry.  So it has a forward by Stephen Fry.

When I was first diagnosed with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, my well-meaning psychiatrist adjusted his geography teacher cuffs and penned an extensive reading list that he hoped would help educate me about my condition. I found myself lost in Waterstones, too nervous to ask the shop assistant which book would be most helpful. I skimmed the titles, sidestepping at least five Madnesses ‘, a few Angels and, worst of all, How to Love Someone With Bipolar Disorder , as though people like me were an exotic subspecies who required our cages cleaning out every two days.   There was also the bafflingly titled How to Survive Bipolar Disorder: What You and Your Family Need To Know , a book crying out for a Protect and Survive style television marketing campaign.

Continue reading

Libido

Cocks and boobs immortalised in tiny soaps.  I have no idea where I got these from.

It’s really embarrassing to admit to this, but…

Continue reading

The Motherland

Hello.  I’ve returned from the Motherland.  How I wish it were the Fatherland.

Belfast was great.  It was lovely to have us (my siblings, anyway) all together for Orlaigh’s sixteenth, which I still refuse to believe has come to pass.  I spent not as much time as I would have liked to with my siblings since I also wanted to briefly catch up with my three remaining friends there.  On Friday, I nabbed free food at Paula’s work and spent the rest of the day watching rubbish TV with her (which always makes me happy) and playing with her black Tonkinese cat, imaginatively called “Cat”.  Given that my cats are called “Boy Cat” and “Girl Cat” (and Hobbes, who lives with Rob), you can see the poverty of original thought that exists in my family.

My little brother, Liam, was there before donning his rags (not so much “glad”, he’s a crusty punk with a pungent yet not unsettling aroma) and heading out.  I have never met someone who is so confident in his appearance as my little brother is.  He is, naturally, gorgeous, as are all my siblings.  He knows it, though, but it’s disarmingly charming rather than irritating.  He kept me up until five in the morning to show me photos of himself.  An actual quote from him was, “Stay out of that mirror, that mirror is all ME!” It was tongue in cheek, but only just. If I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, my brother has some sort of inverse.

On Saturday I extracted myself from sleepiness in order to be a tourist in a warzone. I took my camera and my friend Stephen onto the Falls Road, my stomping ground when I was growing up, as I went to school there. The Falls Road is a working class, ostensibly left-wing Republican area, full of interesting political murals and daubings. My own politics- unsurprisingly, lie upon the far left, and I do correct those who refer to me as British, as I’m from Nationalist West Belfast and was raised with Republican ideology and the Irish language.

It felt quite strange taking photos of things that I used to see every day and think nothing of, but I always regret not doing so.  Here is an example; it’s one of the murals just past my school.

That mural depicts the Easter Rising (which is what Éirí Amach na Cásca translates to), and that building there is the GPO in Dublin, which was the site of the uprising against the British Army. It was unsuccessful, obviously, or else the “Troubles” would not have been.

For those interested in politics, murals, art, myself, Belfast and etc, I have uploaded a whole set of photographs that I took of murals, my old school grounds and my friend here at Flickr.  I am too tired at the moment but when I’m more awake I will write descriptions so you know what you’re looking at. For the extra nosey, I’ve uploaded two more sets- one of my sister’s birthday and one of photos of my old haunts in Belfast, featuring me holding some scones.  (I have been feeling especially hideous lately, but am putting these up for memory’s sake.  Please don’t poke the soft bits with sticks).

Continue reading

Inside the Iron Maiden

I don’t like self pity.  Least of all my own.

“Bravery”, in terms of illness, is will. If you don’t challenge your own negative thoughts, you lose.  The trouble with depression is that you tend to keep the thoughts to yourself.  Positive thoughts don’t squeak through.  There is no challenge.  You swallow up whatever your mind is serving you.  You have no allies.

It’s a shock, for a second, in the room, with its large windows spilling light onto a bricked up garden incarcerating spindly, infant trees anorexic from lack of sun.   My head is almost between my knees I am so slumped.  I examine the detail of my shoes, count the hairs on my hands, anything to pull my thoughts elsewhere.  The chair is comfortable, the fabric is blue with scratches upon the arms.  And then there is a human voice slicing through the inhuman one-

“It controls you, but it’s not all of who you are.  You are more than this.”

faraway-

“The voice is wrong”.

Quietness, for a long time.

“I know that depression is difficult and you feel as though you’re a burden on other people.  But that’s not why they stay around…”

It feels almost like a dream-

“It’s because of who you are, all the good things about you, because they love you”-

My head rises, a millimetre.  I feel like I want to cry.

“There are no good things about me.  If you could see their faces.  How disappointed they look. They are so tired of me, and I am tired too.  My family, my friends, Rob.  They don’t know what to do.  I have put them through so much.  I hate myself.  I make their lives worse.  So what is the point? I don’t want to be this way anymore.  I hate talking about this.  I hate it”.

“Has anyone ever told you this?  Has Rob ever told you that you’re too much for him?  Why would he stay with you if he didn’t love you?-”

“He is depressed now, too.  And the others”-

I almost break into sobs as I force this sentence out.

“Are so ashamed of me.  I am so ashamed of me.  I am useless.  I could have been so much more than this.  I fucked up everything.  Everything people hoped for me. This never ends.  It never will end.  For the rest of my life.  I could get better for a few months.  Maybe a few years.  But it will happen again.  It always does and it is so easy. What is the point?  Why don’t people understand that saying, “You’ve got through this before?” is not comforting?  It is damning.  How many more times?  I’m twenty two years old.  How much longer?”

“You have so much to give to the world.  You are more than this.  It’s depression that is telling you that you’re not. It’s not true.  When you get through this-”

I smile, for a second.  But it’s not what she said that made me smile.  It’s what I was about to say.

“There’s a building opposite my flat.  It’s high, higher than the top flat in this building.  And I see it at night, the gates are often open with people coming in and out.  I could get to the roof.  In the night, I could climb up to the roof and jump off.  It wouldn’t work from my window, I’d just break something”.

This in monotone.  We make another appointment, soon.

I told her that I am afraid to die but that I still find the thought of suicide comforting.   I told her that I hated myself for that as Vicky’s suicide, Brendan’s suicide and my dad’s slow suicide are, to me, the most painful experiences of my life.  I am angry at them and for them.  Still, I think about it constantly.  I am under no illusions, I don’t think I am going to arrange myself beautifully on eiderdown with a bottle of pills and a tearstained poetry book.  I don’t go in for that kind of melodrama. It is just an end to something that feels completely unending.

I need to view my illness as a separate entity or else I could not cope.  If it is just me, then there is no fighting it because I will never be my own ally.   So there is “it”.

Sometimes I imagine that my ribs are made of steel and that inside is my heart in a dull metal box.  It is like being locked inside an Iron Maiden.

The placid, public face that gives no indication of what lurks inside.  If you move, it hurts.  If you shout, no-one can hear.  How long for you can withstand it, with your eyes shut, pretending to be somewhere else.  When you open them, blackness.

The thing that almost wrecks me with sadness is that I don’t think I am this person.  It is alright to say that this is not the entirety of who I am but it is the most obvious, most recognisable thing about me simply because it is always there, when many other things are not. Things that other people might say are fundamental to who I am (my sense of humour, for example) are simply not there a lot of the time.  Because the one big thing that chips away at me is.

I think I might be an optimist.  So many bad things have happened to me, in my life.  I have forgiven everybody.  I am angry at people rarely and even then it’s easy for me to stop being angry. When other people are sad, I am there with my freshly baked batch of upside.   I still love people who hurt me, I probably love people who don’t love me back.  But I don’t mind.  Love is always positive.  I am funny, I think.  I think I have interesting things to say.  I see things in a different way than most people.

Am.  Was.  Might not be.  Definitely not at the moment.

I miss the “upside” of my own illness.  At least before it went to rot there would be times, wonderful times, of wallowing in sunlight, intense, glorious joy. But I can’t have one, or the other. If I have one then I will have both. The “happiness” needs to be natural for the depression not to exist.  If I had the choice, none of this would ever have existed.  My basis for comparison would be a happy day, and a sad one.  There would be no illness, there would never have been.  I’d never have met my CPN, never have been in hospital, never have been kicked out of college, never wrecked my exams after being off for six months, never have been so psychotic and sick that people thought I was fictional.  I don’t deal with this with “bravery”.  I want it to never have existed in me.

I am just locked inside. It is difficult to articulate this without melodrama. It is not sepia with my moon-toned face peering from a dusty window. It is just flatline. Dull. Very dull.  Dull voices that float through paper and glass.  Dull lights.  Noticing blonde hair.  And not caring.

%d bloggers like this: