Spiritus My Arse

When I was younger I was able to get through the worst of times by holding on to the possibility that better times might come around again. Now and then I was holding on to that possibility by a fingernail at best, but there was at least a shred of hope for future improvement.

This year I have finally lost all hope that things improve for me from here on in. This dreadful, soul-crushing, terrifying year has done what previous years filled with other traumas, tragedies and deaths did not: it has convinced me that my life, my health, my emotional stability and my spirit are all in terminal decline.

The spirit is the most damaging decline, perhaps. Those who are strong in spirit can overcome great obstacles; the weak of spirit barely find the will to stir their coffee cup. Hilariously, if you like hilarity, the word spirit derives from the Latin word for breath. When the heart cries for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found. Unless the spirit has a chronic lung condition.

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The Generation [Blame] Game

Do I not like Wednesday? Not much in the way of easy food I find appetising when unwell in the flat and I managed to screw up ordering an online shop by telling them to come tomorrow instead of today. When I realised my mistake on rereading their confirmation email some time later it was too late to switch to a spot for today. Which is a trifling issue, I guess. Or not, as I did not order trifle.

I might have been more focused had I not experienced an unpleasant exchange of messages with my estranged daughter who wanted to remind me she thinks I am self-pitying, toxic and the cause of all of her shit. I’m not denying I caused a lot of shit by my failure to be a father to her which may indeed make me horribly toxic. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t cut me to pieces to read her declaration that she hasn’t a single shred of love for me, even if I appreciate why that is. But I did feel a (self-pitying?) sense that in making me the only cause of her shit she’s toying with the same mistake I made with my own father. And, dare I say it, some of what she had to say would have been considered self-pitying if I had expressed it so evocatively. 

I don’t need anybody to point out what a piece of shit I am, I’m well aware of it and have been for longer than my daughter has been on this planet. I don’t desire people’s pity or sympathy for this observation, I would prefer to understand my dysfunction well enough to manage it more effectively. That seems as far away now as it did more than a quarter of a century ago.

It now seems impossible to write about my considerations of my behaviour without it looking like self-pity. I have no control over how others interpret my words or my intentions, all I know is I have my own opinions about that behaviour, past and present, and they are as objective as any subjective train of thought can ever be in anybody’s mind.

Ironically today’s exchange was initiated by my daughter contacting me to instruct me not to approach her at my father’s funeral. Fact is, I’m not well enough to attend which means I have not needed to delve inside myself quite as immediately to work out whether my attendance would have been hypocritical or a chance to start a process of forgiveness I did not initiate while he was still alive. It also means she need not have worried that the ghosts of my relationship with my father would force her to confront the spectre of her own father.

Instead I can just lie in my bed on Friday morning and pity the living fuck out of myself. Obviously.

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Crisis Talk

Crisis pushes the mind up against things it ordinarily tries to steer a path away from. Often this involves overwhelming memories of past crises and the traumatic impact they might have had. So one crisis fuels a recurrence of the worst effects of others, piling failure upon failure, dread upon dread.

If somehow we learn something about ourselves and the reasons we are so twisted in response to certain experiences then it might be deemed a learning experience. I don’t recall any of my official schooling preparing me to be frightened beyond my ability to function in order to gain knowledge. If these are the school rules I would rather stay ignorant and safe.

The playful, creative, cheeky, child-like being I once was has died beneath the weight of all this trauma. Brick by brick, crisis after crisis, too much has been piled on top of my previously free-range soul. I am trapped and broken, bleeding and waiting for the end; alone, as I always knew I would be.

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Not So Grand Tour

Only in sleep am I truly safe. Sadly, sleep is a commodity my increased sense of being unsafe makes extremely rare. I cannot settle at night. Exhaustion eventually takes me in the small hours, which in itself does little to make the sleep feel especially restful or to help me feel safe – if I need to be exhausted to finally sleep then I’m more vulnerable than ever.

I need food but have neither the energy nor the bravery to leave my home. Nor to ask anybody to help me by maybe fetching something for me. The weekend has broken my trust in all things and virtually all people. There are things I can eat, I just wish they didn’t require effort to make edible. I just wish I could stay in bed and somehow be nourished by osmosis. Or by a drip.

While June was the ultimate peak of this year’s dreadful torments, October is proving almost as ugly a mountain of agonies. I am no romantic poet, bravely embarking on some grand tour of psychological rises and falls; I am a declining soul at the very end of his tether. If the tether frays any further, the soul will fall one final time.

Irony is, I never wanted to climb Everest, whether it’s there or not. I just wanted a better life than the emotional nightmares of the past. Perhaps I am simply not worthy?

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All The Time Terrors

During this year’s sessions with my therapist it very much seemed as though we were unable to replicate the progress of the work we did in our sessions in 2017. I’ve mostly believed that this difficulty to continue where we’d left off was down to the physical downturn that has characterised this year, as well as the raw emotions the downturn has unearthed.

Nothing is every entirely wasted, I guess, as today I have been contemplating the discussions we had a few months ago about the differences between PTSD and repeated childhood trauma. I’d long felt that PTSD has not seriously been considered as a diagnosis for me but slowly began to see what she meant when she argued that my symptoms are a result of the repeated childhood traumas I was both subject and witness to.

The feral, petrified emotions I have felt this weekend as a consequence of my own physical problems and the unhelpful behaviour of a specific individual have left me feeling exactly as I did when I was a small child either listening to my father’s domestic abuse of my mother through the floor from my bed or experiencing it more directly. 

I end up on high alert. Any sound I cannot readily define – wind in the trees outside, irregular rain dripping through the guttering, people in the house above going to the bathroom – absolutely any sound at all becomes a signal of immediate danger. My stomach knots itself up into a space so small there is no reason or need to think about putting food into it. I shake, my breathing – never especially forceful because of my lung problems – becomes ever more shallow. My body becomes a battleground of weird and distressing sensations, pains and spasms.

What I long for is calm and quiet and an immediate end to the sounds and sensations driving this state of terror. What I cannot cope with is any further intrusion into the space defined by how far I can hear and see and feel endangered. This space is extremely wide, given that I am forever pumping adrenaline into my system, super-powering my senses and the range of their abilities.

And, of course, to be reduced to such a pitiful, childish wreck yet again not only makes me frightened, it makes me fucking angry. Why wouldn’t it? I was angry about it when I was a child but my anger, as well as every single other emotion I felt, was utterly disregarded by the person most often creating the fear in the first place. In truth I have never really wanted anyone to acknowledge I have a right to my anger, especially not now that I give myself permission to feel an anger that is righteous and yet a world away from my father’s aggression. What I do want and find so impossible to put across is the fact that I need what I needed as a child – for my terror to be accepted, validated, heard. I am already fully aware that my state of fear impacts on others and that they’d rather I could just deal with my shit like a grown up, but other people’s problems with my distress really don’t help.

I am the only one who truly validates my own fear. In relationship it is particularly difficult to co-exist with people who cannot properly hear, accept or respond with understanding to a state of distress I do not choose and can not control when I am triggered. Isolation is the only apparent coping strategy I have. On my own it is a tiny bit more possible to slowly define the random noises of inanimate objects that have been continuing my fright. It is slightly more likely that I will at least allow myself to feel what I feel with less shame and without pressure to manage emotions others find inconvenient.

And if I am alone then nobody is there to keep retriggering me – wilfully or otherwise – with their expectations of and shaming reactions to my behaviour or with their otherwise innocent noises of existence.

I’m still awaiting confirmation that I will be starting further psychological treatment which might offer a chance to explore some of the problematic emotional repercussions of this terrible and terrifying year. Until then I’m stuck with me, with isolation, with never entirely feeling safe in company, with not being able to sleep until the dawn rises because my state of high alert never ends and only true exhaustion grants me a few hours sleep here and there.

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The Ghost Monument: Doctor Who Reviewed

It doesn’t matter how many years I accrue on this planet, my needs from an episode of Doctor Who remain the same now as they were when I was small and hiding behind the sofa – does it make me go “Wow”? Does it make me laugh? Does it make me jump? Does it push me close to tears? Does the Doctor save the day?

While Jodie Whittaker’s debut last week was a superb introduction to the new lead and her band of motley companions, it did not quite tick all five boxes. Any Doctor’s first appearance has a bigger task to manage in that it must convince the audience the new person IS The Doctor beyond a shadow of doubt. With the exception of Tom Baker and David Tennant, none of the Doctors have rung those five bells on their debut.

Second episodes, then, are where I decide whether I’m going to have trouble working out a new order for my most favourite Doctors as time goes on and ‘The Ghost Monument’ had so many bells ringing in my head I thought I’d developed space tinnitus.

There were jumps aplenty on an increasingly savage planet that was two parts Pitch Black to one part London Underground (and thus slightly Troughton-meets-the-Brig). Biggest and best scare came when Epzo, one of the space race finalists, was assaulted by some cloth (way more disturbing than it might sound).

Whittaker herself is very funny but Bradley Walsh made me laugh the most, especially when dismissing Epzo’s anecdote about the lesson on life’s cruelty he received from his own mother by sarcastically muttering “Well she’s sounds triffic!”

Wow happened a few times, not least when Walsh’s Graham and his step-grandson Ryan (along with the other space racer, Angstrom) narrowly avoided being turned into jam by Epzo’s crashing ship. There was an even bigger wow but I’ll come to that.

Does the Doctor save the day? Well, duh! But she relies on input from her new found friends, especially once the race is over and Epzo and Angstrom have departed, leaving the Time Lady and the three human apparently stranded. Which is where the last wow and the brimming up with tears came in.

Of course it was obvious the Tardis would appear at the end, given we already knew that’s what the ghost monument really was. And when she did finally rematerialise and The Thirteenth Doctor strode inside to get her first glimpse of the re-fitted interior, I literally did a bit of a wow out of my real mouth and not just my brain place. With nods to the organic feel of Eccleston and Tennant’s interior but with a biscuity touch Matt Smith might admire and a sort of coral glow radiating throughout, it’s a world away from more recent, steampunk versions of the time travelling machine.

That in itself isn’t what almost made me cry, however. It was when The Doctor herself says “You’ve redecorated” and then walks around in wide-eyed wonder before offering up a touching subversion of a joke that’s been done about Tardis rejigs since the 1973 special ‘The Three Doctors’. The delay meant I knew she would say she liked the redecoration but the longer the pause extended, the more I welled up, like a tearful version of my reaction to the best Laurel and Hardy gags that see Olly smashed on the head repeatedly by bricks or some other unforgiving material, then the smashing stops, he looks grumpily resigned, maybe drums his fingers, then a final brick loudly thwacks his bonce just to rub it in.

Jodie Whittaker added nuance to her portrayal in this episode. The babbling mouth is obviously here to stay but now that she’s remembered who and what she is there were more dynamic shifts. Can’t wait for an alien to truly disgust her, given the cursory put-downs she threw at Epzo and at Art Malik’s race organiser, Ilin. Maybe the fact that the Stenza are clearly a villainous race we will reencounter across this season will provoke the rage of Thirteen at some stage?

So far, absolutely no rage from me. Me likey Thirteen. Who was the other guy again? And all the other guys before that?

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Day Terrors

A horrible, horrible weekend in which I have felt unsafe and unheard. As a consequence, last night I was unable to relax enough to sleep until dawn and my already battered body has slipped yet another level down. 

Aside from a very few isolated incidents and some fleeting moments with long-standing friends or family, this has been a hellish year. So much so that I frequently wonder whether I am already in purgatory. Or whether I died in January and this is my tortuous hell.

The apparent respite I felt when my pain medication was changed over the summer has deserted me. My experiments with allowing people close enough to help me if I need it are over as in several cases people have left me feeling unsafe and have not listened when I’ve said I needed them to step back again. Oh and there was that one case of the person looking for reasons to step as far back as possible before any had materialised – bad judgement calls on my part in various ways.

Which leaves me back where I was at the start of the year, unable to trust my own judgement when it comes to knowing who I can trust or what I am capable of managing day to day. And so very frightened. Because if I can’t trust my own judgement and I’ve been distressed by the actions of others when I was trying to allow them to help me a little then what remains of my existence is going to be spent in isolation, in pain and in frantic fear.

It never feels to me like there now remains very much of my existence to live out anyway. Something else I fear.

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