Tuesday, 28 August 2007


Trying to shoehorn myself into a life that was never made for me is what's done this; the nine to five, the full-time relationships, the expectations of parents weighing heavy on my shoulders that pushed me into this twisted, half-baked version of normality.

I am the proverbial square peg in the round hole, as I suspect many of us who do this sort of thing are, although to look at me physically you'd probably see it the other way around.

In my mind's eye, I am not this; some invisible number, churning the wheels of an industry I have no interest in or respect for. In that same mind's eye I am a writer, or a musician, an actor, a hermit, or a traveller with dreadlocks and a mangy dog - it would have to be a dog, as cats, I suspect, wouldn't take too kindly to a life of caravanning - and alone. Always alone, although I crave nothing more than the undying devotion of another human being and to undyingly devote myself to them in return. It's a perverse logic, isn't it?

But here's the thing. I am tired of trying to fit in where I simply don't; the crowbar is leaving marks that refuse to heal.

This is not where I belong, and never has been.

The time we have here is too short for the lie not to have to stop; by continuing to believe in it, I have achieved nothing except a succession of discarded jobs, discarded homes, discarded people, discarded dreams, peppered with vague, fleeting snatches of something approaching happiness from totally inappropriate sources.

What is that to look back on from the next life?

It's a damn short step from here to the Hatchery, and lining up for our daily dose of government-issue Soma.

It makes me angry - who the fuck is this omnipresent, invisible entity that tells us it is necessary to conform? Who is it that tells us it's wrong to stay in bed until our eyes flutter open of their own accord, or to eat chocolate digestives for lunch and a sandwich for tea, or to work all night and sleep all day? Who decides that it's frivolous to spend your life making love on the beach with someone who has eyes for nothing and nobody else, or that you must exclusively prefer one gender over the other, or that the only way to experience the riches that life has to offer is from behind a desk belonging to the person who makes money off the back of your misery while your life ticks away?

And why is it that we listen to them at the expense of our happiness and fulfillment?

Does it make you angry too?

It should, because we all deserve better.

Monday, 20 August 2007


Firstly, because I hate blogger's lack of being able to leave a response to an individual comment, and I wanted to make sure y'all see it: Thank you, Unreliable Witness, Bohémienne and especially Migraineur for the lovely messages you left on the last post.


In her short story 'The Harvest', Amy Hempel uses the following line:

"I moved through the days like a severed head that finishes a sentence."

I wish I'd written that. Not only because it's such a perfectly constructed metaphor (or is it a simile? I never can tell the two apart), but because it sums up so much of how I feel right now.

I'm in the wrong place - a toxic environment. I know it, and I feel it, and at the moment, there's nothing I can do about it.

What does this have to do with anxiety and agoraphobia, you may well ask? Well, the effect it's having on both is fairly pronounced. Every morning, the alarm brings with it that familiar feeling of dread curling around my insides, the one that makes me want to hide from the world until it passes. Except I can't. So I get up, and I move through the day. By the time I get home, I'm full of migraine, tension and anxiety, exhausted from dragging it around with me like a parasite, and all I can do is shut my eyes and hope that tomorrow, it will be better.

It's a bloodsucker that saps my energy, my life, my creativity; I can't form my thoughts into words. I can't write. For someone who loves to do so, this is unbelievably depressing. It makes me even more invisible than I already am.

I know that hinging your happiness and mental well-being on outside circumstances is a dangerous way to live but somewhere along the line, I think I missed out on the gene that allows me to find it within myself, although I'm not sure whether nature or nurture is the culprit. You see, indirectly, and through observation, I was taught that life is something to be endured, not enjoyed.

"Don't worry. It's only for life," they'd say.

About anything.

Seeing them now, just sitting around, waiting to die, brings about such an internal conflict; on the one hand, fighting with all I have not to spend my life like that, and the feeling of inevitability that my genetics will make it that way for me too.

And yes, the projection makes me angry.

All I can do is to not give up, to tell myself that something will turn up, that one day, I'll be where I belong, even though I have no idea where that might be, and when I am, all will be right with the world, and the parasite will die.

This is so black. I apologise. I'm just so tired.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Medusa Is Alive And Well, Apparently Living In Hammersmith

Sometimes, although admittedly not often, because generally this is seen as something to sweep under the nearest available carpet, someone will say to me "What's it like?"

You can't, after all, see it, like a leg that is broken or a finger that is bandaged, and the truth is like trying to describe yellow to someone who's never seen colour.

The long version is this: a belly full of writhing snakes, a pair of legs full of rapidly-setting concrete, a head full of static and the noise the radio makes late at night when one station starts to bleed over another; floors that undulate beneath you like the breaking of a wave across the bow of a ship and incessant thoughts that convince you that this time, this will be the one, this will be the time it kills you.

The short version, however, goes something like this: Fucking Hard Work.

Accept the anxiety, is what they tell you. Accept it, allow it to float over you and its effect will diminish.

Will it bollocks.

Most days, I try and parcel it away as just one little piece of my life, but there are days, like today, where this is impossible, where the above is relentless, and those days grate at my psyche like nails down a blackboard. I hate to be negative about this. I really do. But sometimes it's inevitable.

For various reasons, I've spent the last year or so half-immersed in the disability community. (I say half-immersed, because until I got involved, this was something I'd never thought to apply to myself - I'm still not sure whether I want to or not and so my toe is still only tentatively dipped in the water.) What I've learned from that is that there are huge amounts of positivity and normality there for the taking, but also that I envy the people who've come to terms with much greater impairments than this, and carried on with life out the other side. I envy them. How sick is that? I envy them because I'm not there yet, and because I don't know what to do to get there, and because every damn fucking day I want to press the button that doesn't exist and shut all of this off. I know that envy is a pointless, destructive emotion, and that acceptance is the key, but what if you don't want to accept?

Then what?

It shames me that I can't.

Forgive me for this badly-written, worthless post; it pains me and offends my sensibilities to be writing such utter rubbish.

File under "not knowing what else to do".

Sunday, 5 August 2007

The storm before the calm

What I think may be some kind of upturn started early on Friday while consulting a style guide and hacking my way through a badly-written government document.

It fizzed along my spine like the detonator on a cartoon bomb.

Because an attack is often preceded by an inexplicably sudden and drastic mood change, I began to prepare for the mother of all migraines.

So far, I am not banging my head into a pillow in pain.

At this stage I am trying not to focus too much on the explanations dancing their way through my head: Am I coming out of the other side? Am I starting to feel better?

Is this what normal feels like?


Two nights before, courtesy of an unexpected meltdown and a bumpy trip in the big yellow and white taxi with the green-uniformed drivers, I wound up at the A&E department of Charing Cross Hospital.

Finding myself at the end of the street before I called is how I knew it was coming.

When they arrived, they asked me why I was not a hundred yards down the road in my flat. I told them I had tried to get some air, but what I meant was "I didn't want anyone to see."

There were no blue lights, because there never are.

Until it was my turn to be evaluated, somewhere behind the woman in pyjamas resting a carrier-bag full of medication on her lap, they put me in a makeshift waiting room with the walls plastered bare.

Apparently, they're renovating too.

Because I had closed my eyes tight against the threat of rivulets of embarrasment, I knew that the Polish stranger sitting three plastic chairs away from me had moved only when I felt his arm around my shoulder. It did not matter that of his many words of comfort, the only ones I understood were "Smile, yes? Smile".


I could not tell you for how long I was there, only that when the lights became too bright and the leads became an annoyance and not a comfort, it was time to go home.

The old woman I passed on the way through the automatic doors was pushing a shopping trolley, her shoes made of plastic bags and the laces holding them in place from a material I could not make out in the half darkness, intricately woven with obvious care. I wondered if her smile was due to pride in her feat of engineering.

I thought of the shoes on Thursday morning, when the mountain seemed too large to climb, and forced myself. Got up. Left the flat. Went to work. Came home.


On Friday, I was at my desk before the clock ticked around to eight.


I have not told the story of the run-up for self-gratification; it is because I am cautious that this may not last, and if it does not, I may need a reminder that the situation is benign.

It almost feels wrong to be accomplishing some things, to be on top of others, and to have plans. The first draft of half of a short-story collection, for example, which even has a theme. The idea around which every one will be constructed is planted firmly in my head; they will interweave and reflect because that is how life works.

The tiredness now is of a different kind, of running on little sleep not because it eludes me but because it is not necessary; a tiredness born of living and breathing, and of making hay while the sun beats down.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Revenge? You decide...

Ladies and gentlemen: in the course of the past twenty-four hours, I have made a new, and very important scientific discovery.

I blame my trousers, for they were falling down at the time, and however you look at it, in no way can that be construed as anything other than a faux-pas of epic proportions on one's first day in a new job.

Here's how it happened.

I was looking for a safety pin to fix the broken zip. I failed, managing only to procure a large paperclip from the stationary cupboard in the hope that somehow - perhaps in some kind of parallel universe where errant clothing can be made to defy gravity by a small, rounded piece of metal with absolutely no fastenings whatsoever - it would do the trick.

I headed to the cubicle, locked the door, and placed my phone (because y'all know, it goes everywhere with me, in case I, well, start to die or something) on the top of the feminine disposal unit next to the toilet. A shinily modern, new-fangled, architectually pleasing toilet. With no cistern.

In retrospect, this was my first mistake.

Except it wasn't.

My first mistake was to not notice the slightly curved top of the disposal unit.

From the moment the slide began, everything moved in slow motion; a Hollywood voiceover of "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!" echoed around my head as I faced what was surely the ultimate exercise in split-second decision making. Because, you see, at the time, I was holding up my trousers.

With both hands.


My poor little Motorola. I did love it so, for it had a radio, and lovely earphones with a rich, full-bodied sound; it had also tirelessly rescued me from many a percieved agoraphobic emergency and now it, itself, had died. In a moment of overwhelming guilt, I realised that not only had I failed the trusty companion who had saved my sanity on so many occasions - I had consigned it to a watery grave.

A mercifully clean watery grave, I thought, as I rolled up my sleeve.


It was at this point that I forgot about my trouser dilemma, and frantically began to press the power button.

Hosed. Bogwashed. Ruined.

After a brief period of mourning - and the irritating realisation that in the time-honoured tradition of saviours the world over, its death was a needless one, because despite owning these trousers for close to six months, there was, apparently, a button I didn't know about - I decided that the journey home without backup was just too far out of my comfort zone.

This, then, is how I came to find myself, an hour later, walking into "Phones 4 U" - a strange, alien place, where I was faced with a bewildering array of handsets, a sudden influx of pushy sales assistants with bleached blond hair and diamante earrings (and that was just the men), and several life-sized cardboard cut-outs of their advertising icon, posed in various stages of the infamous hand-signal that would, were he not already dead, put Ted Rogers to shame.

I completed the transaction and left for home with my new sidekick - a Nokia - in tow. God, I hate Nokias. They're small, and fiddly, and irritating, and a technological expression of what is wrong with the world. But more importantly, despite being the cheapest in the shop, they're forty quid.


Checking that there was enough charge in it to cover the journey, I set off, annoyed at the outlay, but relieved at the familiar sensation of safety. I got it home. I plugged it in. I changed the ringtone to something that wouldn't make people stare at me on the District Line with a vague expression of pity.

With some help from a friend, I managed to turn off the infernal predictive text, not only because the T9 dictionary surely ranks as one of the most hideous, unusable inventions of the last decade, but because I refuse to be a part of the uprising of people making a mockery of the English language.

I even managed to set the alarm so that I could get up this morning and go to work, to recoup some of the expense.

So, as I switched out the light and settled down to sleep, it was with an overarching feeling of being quite pleased with myself. I, who cannot operate a video recorder and have trouble grilling sausages to a satisfactory conclusion because the cooker is 'too fiddly', had succesfully negotiated the acquisition of a new gadget and managed to make it work (and subconsciously reinforced a ridiculous safety behaviour at the same time - but we won't go into that).


This morning, smiling wistfully as I fished my dear-departed, soggy Motorola from my handbag to consign it to the 'slightly broken electricals that one day I will do something with' bowl on the table, I accidentally pressed the power button... whereupon the little bastard sprung into life, defiantly wishing me a good morning with its cheeky Motorola greeting.

So. That scientific discovery. Here it is. Don't spread it around now, but it is technically possible for an inanimate object to gloat.