A story with a beginning, middle and an end;
This story was written in late July 2015, in the middle of a long hot and difficult summer. For those who love me and who experienced this chapter with me I hope you understand why I bring it to light again for #mentalhealthawareness week. I am sorry for what it might bring up for you again. I hope it, well, I just hope it makes a difference for someone.
On August 8th of that year I was taken into emergency psychiatric care in France. The next ten days were the most difficult, the most frightening and the most beautiful of my life. Separated from my family and friends, alone in a strange world with nothing and no-one to comfort me. I tried to explain in my second language what was happening to me and where I had come from. I was not believed, and there was no-one to confirm my story. I was questioned in circles and then hypnotised by a French psychiatrist who later said to a neighbour his job was to get me into an even deeper state of psychosis and fear so he could make a diagnosis, get me sectioned by the courts and move me on to the next stage of care. He told my next of kin I may never come out of the system. They were filled with terror. I was strapped to stretchers and forcefully injected in the back of my thigh with a ferocity that made me scream in pain. Prophetic visions and anti-psychotic drug induced nightmares mixed and blended in my body like water and ink. Touched in the dark by strangers, wandering corridors filled with blood, I met the crazies. The ones society contains for their own protection and the protection of others. They are frightening, lost and beautiful. They taught me to love all of my species. We would do well to listen to what they see. They have something important to say. Young girls dancing to their own tune. Old men speaking in tongues. Broken hearted twenty somethings covered in tattoos that read “My knees bend only to God.” Musicians and check-out operators, lawyers and farmers. The dementia ridden old woman who held my hand and stayed close to me after I gave her my cardigan because she was cold and scared. Some people stayed away, some people came to my aid. Maniacs are frightening, I get that. The “Suicide Awareness memes of “I am listening” fall short when the time comes and we don’t listen because we are afraid. I am eternally grateful for those who were not afraid to be afraid with me. That time is now referred to as The Opus. This week and from time to time boxes of memory open up in me and healing occurs, normally through oceans of tears. Next week sees the London premiere of the film CrazyWise film in London for the launch of #emergingproud — a collaboration to bring charge to the mainstream paradigm that governs the way mental-emotional crises are diagnosed and treated. The conversation about our mental, emotional and spiritual world is evolving. I for one am glad of that. Posting this today, closes that chapter for me. The Opus is a thing of the past, its learning will continue way into the future.
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I wrote a long story this morning and sent it by email to three friends.
It was the most important and significant thing I have ever written. And I have written a lot.
But you won’t know that, and you won’t have seen it, because I have never shared it. And here’s why…
A lot was riding on that email.
The writing of it. The sending of it. The receiving of it.
In essence it was a story about a choice of Life or Death. My choice about choosing my life or my death.
Today, this morning. I wrote it in the moment instead of doing something else. It is raw feeling, my hands are sweating and up here in these tall mountains there are plenty of places I could go to make the ending final and clear. To stop the story right there and leave it at that. It’s the only thing I would ever do quietly.
No mess, no fuss. Just over.
If I choose the latter, that story is my own suicide note. If I choose Death, this post will be my last, not my first, written from a place of complete surrender.
It was not a small undertaking.
It took everything I had to get the words out and press the send button.
You see my words do not get typed into machines.
My words do not find themselves in some website for the broken-hearted or downtrodden and depressed. My words do not end up quoted and turned into pretty memes that scoot across the sky of the Internet like fluffy clouds of joy and wisdom. That is not where my words live.
My words live in ink and paper.
In a box. In my home. Somewhere solid that I can put my hand on. They live in notebooks that I decorate and journals I make myself. They live on scrapels of paper and bits of toilet roll. The back of a fag packet, in the sand on the beach. But you don’t get to see them.
And here’s why…
My words lie down in a gilded cage while the Lion who wrote them paces back and forth, feeling trapped and contained. Wishing she could turn into Bird and fly away. Flipping between violent anger and rage, frustrated and blaming, or just sad, helpless and resolved that this cage is where they will stay, and the Lion will grow old and moth-eaten, hidden from view.
My words — they belong to me and you will not take them from me.
You will not tell me they are foolish, or crazy or too complicated. Or that I haven’t said them properly. You will not correct me, talk over me, tell me to be quiet. You will not laugh at me. You will not tell me that there is no order and they do not make sense. That they are unconnected, that they are verbal diarrhoea — irrelevant vomit and other bodily fluids. You will not tell me that they are not thought through, that they are highbrow or naive. You will not tell me my words are impenetrable Intelligentsia or the words of a fool. In the cage you can’t tell me that they are insensitively spewed out into your space and that I take everyone else’s airtime with my external processing and my loud mouth and my excitement and my joy and my fear. You will not tell me that they are lies and untruths. You will not tell me all the things I have actually been told by people, by real people, not just by strangers but by people who love me, over and over again. You will not. I will not allow it.
Those words are my dreams.
They are my reality. And you shit all over them when I speak.
Fuck you, all of you who have tried to contain me. And fuck me for building that cage.
You frighten me with your careless words. And I submit to being scared of you and your tamers whip.
You destroy me each and every time you tell me that it’s all pointless. That we’re all going to die anyway, so why bother? And then I feel depressed.
You destroy me when you can’t even try to see how it’s all connected. How every single little thing that happens has an impact somewhere, on something, on someone. You bore me with your simplicity and your head in the sand.
It’s all self-centred, self-serving bollocks built around your hopes and fears. And you know it is. Just like mine is.
Open your eyes. Put it down, give it up and do what you are here to do.
(And YES, I am aware that all this makes me sound angry and a hippocrite and an arsehole and a wanker and a clown and anything else you would like to choose because I too can’t quite fathom how big it all is, how huge this Universe we are hanging around in really is. And so I too have to rely on words and pictures. And my words and pictures are just as right and just as wrong as yours are to me. Until we can all feel each other’s feeling and know each other’s thoughts, metaphor, words and pictures is all we’ve got to help us. Sadly.)
And I feel more than ever before that I must act. Because I am not OK with what is happening. Not OK at all.
I have been waiting for perfect. For it all to be right.
For the website I have been building to be finished and perfect and a safe place to write. Before that it was that I needed peace and quiet, beautiful things around me. Before that I needed a desk and a nice pen. Before that it was something else. All those conditions for writing and the excuses are all ridiculous now. Because in the Land of the Dead who take their own life there are no pens and paper, no internet, no novel, no bookshop, no audience, no world stage, no mission, no cause. There is no one to hear you, so they might as well stay unsaid. Alphabetti spaghetti letters of unfulfilled dreams. In a box, in a cupboard, covered in dust. There is no relief and release, a phrase we hear so often when we hear of the death of a friend or stranger by suicide. “They are at peace now.” Well, there is no peace here, in these mountains, let me tell you. There is only war.
After I sent that email this morning to those three friends, reading my own words, I had made the choice.
I chose Life. My words from the cage and that story and the telling of it made me choose Life over Death.
I chose to believe in myself and the things that I am here to do. I chose to accept and wholeheartedly embrace my mission. And the world’s response to the message I am here to deliver in my own special way. I chose to believe in myself. Just like I believe in all those people who come to me for joy, for someone who believes in them and the art of the possible. For all the people who believe that their life is worth saving just as much as this species and this planet.
I chose to give myself some of my own medicine. And write. Outside the cage in an unknown world.
I chose to set Lion free and see what animal she turns into when she has forgotten the cage.
So I made a choice, pressed the button and sent the email.
Then I had some coffee and a smoke. I was waiting. I was waiting for those friends to help me on my way. I was waiting for them to have heard me and to tell me “Well done! We love you.” I was waiting. Because people don’t ignore me. They can’t. Not even strangers I pass in the park or gangs of teens in burger bars. The Tale of Little Mouse has never been my story. And while I was waiting for that inevitable response, I decided to write my first blog post straight from the heart.
The website is unfinished. I’ve got loads of work to do. There are gaps and great holes, there are unfinished rabbit warrens where you could get lost and all manner of things. But I had decided to take the email story I had written and to use it to begin. It would stay there waiting until the website was ready for Google and for the world and for all the people who want me to be clear and succinct and to mean something to them. To all those people out there, hanging on my words. (Who I am fucking kidding? Narcissistic prick.)
How hard could it be? After all, I have helped many, many people start writing on the internet. I have made things for people, I have shown them a way. I have encouraged them and celebrated their successes and failures. I have told them what the internet means to this connected web of a person in this Connected Age. I have shown them the potential and the power. And they grabbed it with both hands.
Well, some of them did. Some of them are taking their time — just like me.
Then the world all kicked off again. The email went missing.
Like it had never been sent. I couldn’t find it. Servers down, iCloud backup searching.
“Where the fuck is it?” I said.
“Gmail outgoing server what?!”, slamming my fingertips into the sliding screen of the machine.
“Did it even fucking send?!” I was on fire.
Furious, spitting and pacing and throwing things round. The Universe conspiring to keep those words on the floor of that cage and Lion contained. After the anger, and in the real threat of more physical danger from the rest of the world (because even up here the world doesn’t stop spinning), I resolved that it was gone.
Lost forever. I couldn’t remember it and my friends would never receive it. It was written to the Gods and that was that. Lion sat back down in the cage as I cried, stooped shoulders, sighing with a lethargic, staying-put yawn and half-hearted scratch, flies circling her in the heat.
Then I remembered that my words made me choose Life over Death.
So I sat down again. And tried to remember the story. I really couldn’t — it was gone. So I just started typing. And I wrote this. And its better than anything else I could have said. The website will launch with it. Unfinished and messy, just like me. I love you, whoever you are who is reading this but I don’t care what you think, or how you might treat me.
Because this isn’t for you. It is for the animal in me who wants to fly like a bird. It is for Lion sitting in the heatwave the locals are calling Canicule* typing into the machine that causes me so much pain, right this very moment. It is for Lion birthed in the blistering sun of the summer of ’76. It is for Lion who I hope with all my heart to see shine with a bright light until she grows old and grey and lies down to welcome in Death.
And for the reminder that the story has no end;
- From Canicula, Sirius the Dog Star. The name Sirius is derived from the Ancient Greek: Σείριος Seirios (‘glowing’ or ‘scorcher’).
Project Semi Colon https://projectsemicolon.com/
https://www.morethaneverbefore.com/ — a call to move beyond fear and do the work together #gracemanifesto
First published on The House & The Hill July 2015.