Unchained Melancholy

Guts armchair

THE WRITER’S LIFE

When did the world become such a nice place to live in? It’s both a rhetorical and personal question. I can no more place my finger on the moment when things got this good, any more than I can identify the catalyst for my breakdown. I’ve written before about a latent lobe of the brain awakening and that is the best way to describe how I feel. I wonder if this is simply life as everyone else has always known it?

I’ve learned to think less about myself and more about those around me. Surely that ought to be instinctive and the norm? I seem to remember a time when it was for me as well but then I turned against all that was good and invented some new rules.

If I’d have been asked a few years ago, who among my friends would be those at the end of the tunnel, I must admit that I was in for a few surprises on either side. Those whom I’m closest to now though are my parents, my ex-wife and my children. I exploded the whole family and I really do not spend a day with the luxury of not being sorry. I’m glad I have them back; I’m pleased I made a new family with the remaining Pink Hearts; and I’m grateful that old family friends stuck around or returned.

I mostly find the positives in things nowadays, however hard that may be. What’s happened afterwards is the positive aspect of my breakdown which I try to hold onto. When you’ve been where I have, it’s easier to find positives in things. I wish I could get that over to the girls and their peers sometimes: they are so lucky to have been born when they were and will see much more than I ever could. I hope they’ll remember me. Just as I’m not selling many books, maybe I’m not telling enough. The more intelligent readership will get it all, fairly soon. The Perpetuity of Memory is due out in August: I’m actually going to hit a deadline.

As if proof were needed that I’m mentally ill, I had to attend a mandatory health check recently, in order to retain my PIP payments. I must admit that not only was it a less stressful experience than I’d imagined but it was actually rather a pleasure. I last had to endure the assessment process over two years ago. It then took around 18 months of lost and denied applications, before I finally found myself at a tribunal, seated before a judge and a doctor. At the end of that great battle, a legal and medical professional agreed that I was mentally ill. I do wonder how many like me didn’t make it that far. I knew a few who didn’t. I was made to feel so comfortable in the meeting that I confided in the assessor. I’m glad I did.

My core group of homeless peers and comrades – and fellow drinkers – included a heavyweight boxer from Poland and a Royal Marine: both are gone now. I was safe with them and others. I learned to fight better than I’d ever been able to before. Living on the streets, you have to learn that shit, live through the scrapes and not really want to talk about it. It hardens you.

I wonder if those I lost and others might still be around if they’d fallen into the system now, rather than when they did. I noticed in the application forms and at the interview that the whole process actually recognises mental trauma. Instead of being asked if I could physically complete a task, I was given the opportunity to explain how my condition affected my ability to undertake those tasks. Even though the process is still out-sourced to ATOS, my particular assessor was human. She seemed genuine when she stated that she would support my (re)application. Two years ago, I was ushered from the room with no closure, nor an opportunity to really speak. I was pretty fucked up back then but the system seemingly in place now might have made for an easier journey.

Still, I got here. Somehow. I don’t think I will ever be able to truly understand what goes on in my mind because, like all mentally ill people, I am unique. This in itself perhaps hasn’t filtered through the system but during the health assessment, I was at least allowed to feel human. At one point, I even became a little emotional: as I explained to my interviewer, being outside of my comfort zone (home) really stresses me. At the end, I offered that sometimes it’s nice to brave that which is outside because sometimes you can meet some really nice people.

We are an alien species, walking among you. We always were. When will people connect the dots? It’s all there, in my writing. Maybe I’m ahead of my time. Well, I’ll always be in the British Library. Maybe one day. Or maybe it’s the kind of knowledge which has to be buried like toxic nuclear waste, with those who interred it having to make educated guesses as to the language a pioneer may speak or understand. The answers are there: those of us who know them, just find it a bit hard to convey our thoughts. Talk to us and you too will understand what it’s all about. until then, it’s 42.

Perhaps with an IQ of 147, I assume that quantum entanglement and other science stuff, is as easy for others to understand as I find them? It’s really simple and I’ve already laid all the clues down. To spell out the answer would be to spoil it all for everyone who hasn’t yet made the leap.

I was asked if I’d ever been sectioned (no), or attempted to take my own life (yes, twice). I was asked if I’d ever sought medical intervention for my alcohol addiction and depression: Yes, and the conclusion of all involved is that the former hastened the latter. My assessor typed almost as quickly as I spoke but nowhere near as quickly as I can (touch) type, yet when I questioned her, she confirmed that she was keeping up. I asked to see what she’d written at the end of the session – a privilege I wasn’t aware of last time – and the signs are good that my application is being supported and that I ought to be able to continue this new life I’ve made.

With just a few exceptions, I now have all of the people in my life whom I value having, right there. That awakening in my brain is the love I’ve found but only because I’ve learned how others are capable of such immense depths of caring. It’s basic humanity and I feel human. I still wonder if this is life as everyone else has always known it, or something else.

I wonder what I might have missed out on. I weep when I consider all that I put friends and family through. Sometimes, I have been filled with such regret that I’ve considered sparing those people any further involvement with me. That would be too easy and selfish. Those people brought me back to life and I’m not going to let them down. I can deal with shit because life on the street makes you like that.

All of which is for me to contemplate some more and sow seeds in my fertile mind. I’m a science fiction, fantasy and horror writer. Having a fucked-up brain has helped me become that.

The Studio makes up for pretty much anything which could be wrong now. I’ve completely rewired the Cambridge Audio hi-fi kit and it works beautifully: like living in a room-sized pair of headphones. Right now I’m watching Britain’s Got Talent and I’m wondering two things: Why? And, am I a bit rare for weeping when I see or hear something of beauty? I’m also pretty much finished on making the laptop gift work as I want it to. The new typewriter has increased my productivity massively.

I shall continue to write, just so long as I have readers.

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