I haven’t posted a picture from the 365 self portraits I did for sometime.
Like all of them, at the time I did it purely for myself. This one was a bit of an ironic joke to myself. There was a particular issue bothering me and then I listened to the Smiths’ song. Bigmouth Strikes Again.
Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
When I said I’d like to smash every tooth
In your head
Oh … sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking
When I said by rights you should be
Bludgeoned in your bed
So, with the juxtaposition of the two things I shot this, as I say, meaning it to be an ironic joke. In fact, the thing that was bothering me was and is very far from funny. It centres round the lies of an ex that I have mentioned on here before. I was bothered that she had renewed her campaign of lies about me. Perhaps not renewed. I had just become aware again of an ongoing situation. The particular lies this addresses were the story she likes to put about that I used to beat her up. Two particular expressions come to mind. “He used to beat the crap out of me on several occasions.” and “He beat me to a pulp on more than one occasion”. These phrases paint a very specific picture. It just isn’t true. But it’s not a ver nice picture for someone to be painting. Especially to some of the people she involved. One of those people has since died. Before I had a chance to correct this picture. That saddens and angers me. Historically her lies have seriously impinged on long-term friendships. Which is also saddening and angering. Added to the additional sadness that these friends seem to have believed at least in part. There is also the issue that the liar was comfortable to say these things around these people.
I have attempted to address these lies with the person concerned. I have even cited these specific examples. She just says that she never said. (I know she did). You can’t even begin to deal with a person like that. Someone who knows that you know it is true they said them but just denies it. There is nowhere you can go forward from that. Although I do suspect that she no longer knows what is true or not. She has that ability, once a lie has been accepted or repeated, to believe it as absolute truth. She likes, also, to tell people I am totally crazy or mad. An easy target because, of course, I have had mental illness. But these are depression and PTSD. Crazy? At least I know what is true and what isn’t. It all calls into question a lot of other things. For instance, when we were going out she told me tales of abuse by a family member. I accepted this without question at the time but now I have to winder. More about that on a future blog.
There is another interesting thing. She threatened me, both directly and indirectly, with violence from her husband if I wrote things she didn’t like on my blog. Whether that actually bothers me is not the issue here. The issue is that SHE seems to think that violence is an option for her to use or threaten. It also implies very strongly that her husband is prone to aggression and violence. Under the circumstances quite an irony. I think that explains, to a degree, her need to demonise me.”Dark and dangerous” is also an expression she has used about me. Definitely a bit of projection going on there. This implication of his tendency is very much reinforced in documentary form from a different source on the web. A different but very damning source. I intend to use it in a future blog where I will deal with this catalogue of lies. It continues to affect my life and I have had enough of it. I will name and shame.
So, here is the ironic joke of a picture.
Posted in Mental Health, Photography, Recovery from mental illness, writing
Tagged abuse, betrayal, depression, friendship, lies, memories, music, poetry, PTSD, relationships, self portrait, trust
Another from 365 project
Hey now, take your pills and
Hey now, make your breakfast
Hey now, comb your hair and off to work
This picture was taken on the day I went back to work after a very long year off with illness. The words are taken from a song by REM called Uberlin. They seemed very appropritae. The album was playing as I got ready.
The song also has the words
I will make it through the day
And then the day becomes the night
I will make it through the night
These are appropriate too. There were many times when I was ill that this was a kind of mantra that kept me going. It still is in very dark days. Making through life one bit at a time avoiding taking negative action to stop it. I am reminded it was how I felt during the end of my time in the navy. During a time when I was suffering from ever deepening depression, was suicidal and was receiving absolutely no treatment. It became an ordeal in just keeping myself going, one day, one sleepless night, at a time until perhaps I might be able to make things better.
Posted in Mental Health, Music, Photography, Recovery from mental illness
Tagged depression, memories, pain, poetry, Portraits, PTSD, recovery, REM, self portrait
Another picture from the 365 project.
I remember my emotions and thoughts when I took this one very clearly.
The expression blood on my hands has a very specific meaning for most people. In part that is what this picture expresses. It has other elements too. There is the obvious reference to my own self injuries. There is also a link to one of the incidents behind my PTSD. At that incident I got blood from a few people on my hands. Also my own blood. It wasn’t until I was cleaning up that I noticed a number of cuts on my hands. That led to further ongoing situations.
Above all it refers to the accepted meaning of the phrase. To my thoughts and emotions about a beautiful woman and a beautiful friend. There was a time when I literally had her blood on my hands. A time of great trauma for her. She died some time later. Whether by deliberate design or through reckless lack of regard for the consequences of what she was doing. I increasingly think that ambiguity was deliberate on her part. To spare those who loved her the certainty that she had taken her own life. I always have this feeling that if I had acted differently during that traumatic time things may have turned out differently for her. People tell me I did enough. Sometimes I believe them but there is always that nagging thought at the back of my mind that I didn’t. Other times I just tell myself they would say that anyway out of kindness. There is always that inescapable feeling of blood on my hands.
(nb, there is no real blood in this photograph)
I haven’t posted for a while. A variety of reasons why not. So posting this to tick over really. Another old shot from my 365 project.
This was one of the earlier ones. I have used this location before for fashion shoots. I like the womb like quality of the niche in the structure which is a support for a bridge over the Thames. I’m talking about the atmosphere of the niche not the shape. This self hugging type pose was quite a common feature when PTSD was at its worst; often becoming a foetal position. The vacant stare into the middle distance was also a feature. The coke can? It just happened to be there. I like the juxtaposition so I left it!
One other thing I get from looking at this photograph is how much my appearance has changed recently.
I don’t believe in ghosts. Not in shadowy figures that suddenly appear out of the gloom. Nor in people who have died hanging around to watch over us. Which is not to say I don’t think there is something after death; just not that sort of in-between thing. Yet something that happened this morning makes me wonder.
On a train into central London. (Waterloo for those who know London). When I have been particularly ill with PTSD being on a train, especially a busy one, is something of an ordeal. The only thing I have found that makes it bearable is to plug myself into my ipod with noise cancelling headphones and keep my eyes firmly shut for the entire journey. It’s become fairly standard for me now. I haven’t been in a good place recently so it was essential for this morning’s trip. So it was, except this morning I got an urge to open my eyes at one point. We were stationary and I was looking at an obscured view of a large hospital that is on the immediate approach to Waterloo. This put in my mind the memory of an old friend. Then immediately, by association, another dear old friend. She has been very much in my mind of late. Through my most recent PTSD and depression and the processes and consequent actions of that. Especially she has been there these past few days because I told more of her story than I ever done and doing so has had quite a profound effect on me. All of which may not be especially significant. Except that I had my ipod on shuffle and at that precise moment the song with the lyrics I have copied below started playing. There is so much resonance there relating to that person. First, and most obvious, right from the first line; we watched more than one dawn together. Not literally from the gutter but figuratively it could be said so. Not a gutter of either of our making. I am tormented often by the thought I did things wrong (bad move) at that time. The lines about dear friends no longer knowing you is so relevant to me. It is something that, whatever the reasons for it, that hurts me deeply. It has certainly been very much at the forefront of my mind and a contributory factor in recent events that led to my hospitalisation. The verse about being stuck behind a door and shadows chasing you in dreams; so very relevant to PTSD. In my case a PTSD that relates in part to being trapped. The dreams and flashbacks are not true, of course, but they certainly feel that way. Then the last two verses, such a message of hope. A message I am trying to see but struggle with to a great degree at times.
Logically I think this is a coincidence even if a very big one. But a part of me wonders. And hopes.
You’ve been watching dawn from the gutter
Trading one bad move for another
It’s been a stormy night but it’s almost through
Friends you once loved don’t know you
Even your own eyes don’t know you
You think this whole world’s trying to bury you
But it’s not true
So don’t you say
There’s something in your core that can’t be saved
Cause it’s not true
And every atom of my heart is missing you
Well it’s OK to be scared when
You’re stuck behind a door that won’t open
The shadows in your dreams that are chasing you
They’re not true
So don’t you say
There’s something in your core that can’t be saved
Cause it’s not true
And every atom of my heart is missing you
The good will come through
I wish that you could feel it the way you used to
I wish you could believe it the way you used to
The way you used to
There is a river, a red river, it runs down my arm
Not much of a show really, I expected it to be more
It’s bright red, loads of oxygen there but it’s tired
It doesn’t need to find the back roads back to my heart.
I’m tired too, the chemical help, not enough really,
but just enough to feel that warm glow of possible sleep.
There are songs going through my head, how very odd!
Suicide Blonde “my song”, ironic to think of that now
I never understood that one especially given what we were doing
and now I’ll never know, not that matters very much
it’s just odd the things that you think at times like these.
On a day like today, that is lurking there too,
saying what I want to say about not being able to say
what I want to say. Oh, hello, all this and heaven too.
Is there really a heaven, it’s really a bit too late for
all that to be or not to be crap, so fuck off Hamlet
with your “too, too sullied flesh” and “whether ’tis nobler
in the mind” load of old arty farty bollocks.
(With regret, I hereby withdraw my application to be a
Sunday Times literary reviewer)
It’s not an intellectual exercise or some romantic
dissolving of the body and pain with it but a fight
against a body that through millennia of evolution
has an over-riding will to stay alive at all costs.
And now this red river is dropping into a much bigger,
much older river. Interesting how it looks mixed in the water
Should have brought a camera, never have one at times like this.
The water is dark, seems almost black from an oblique angle
I’ve never been particularly good with water I can’t see into
“Scared of swimming in the sea, dark shapes moving under me”
It’s cold too this water, I know that it’s very cold indeed
and angry too after a long, bleak winter. I know how it feels!
And, yet. And yet it is strangely inviting, almost offering
a warm embrace, a return to the womb. Now I’m at it
I’m coming out with all of the arty farty bollocks.
I know someone who has been pretty much along this route
I can see her in my mind, I can hear her voice, too long!
Finally, finally a communion of sorts.
I was sent an old picture today. One I haven’t seen since shortly after it was taken more than 24 years ago. I am on the right of the picture. It was taken at the London Fire Brigade training centre shortly after I joined. I don’t remember ever looking so youthful, or thin!
Looking at a photograph like this you haven’t seen for so long inevitably makes you look back down the years. At least it does me. Because it’s work related I tend to look at that perspective. 24 years in one job is a long time. One of the most striking things about this photograph is the old-fashioned look of the uniform. That tunic is the same as we used for firefighting at the time. I think it looked good but it was totally impractical and at times very uncomfortable. When working hard in a very hot environment a water-soaked, thick woollen tunic would probably not be most people’s first choice. A lot has changed in those years, not just the uniform. Some very much for the better but, as with all change, some one is not too sure about. My official title back then was “fireman”. That has changed too, in more ways than one. There are so many memories associated with that photograph and looking back over the years in the job. The times of the huge adrenaline rushes. Arriving, and being first into a building which is well alight and which people are trapped in is an enormous adrenaline rush and one I wouldn’t swap. The rescues of people from fire, smashed vehicles and trains, water and so on obviously stick in the mind. But also many smaller things that sometimes seem trivial but you realise afterwards mean a lot to the people involved. Then, of course there are the not so good things. Arriving too late to save a child, lying under a train and holding a person’s hand (one of the few unbroken parts of their body) and talking to them whilst they die alongside you; and of course, if you’ve read earlier parts of this blog, the bombs……
Yet, looking at this photograph is, for me, more than just a trip down memory lane of my time as a firefighter. I joined the fire brigade at the end of what was, in many ways, the worst year of my life. It was a year in which I met many people who became friends some of whom have come and gone (some permanently). Some of those people had a profound effect on my life and in one way or another some still do. But it was a year tinged all the time with great sadness and a sense of loss. Not just a sense of loss; a sense of being lost. I certainly lacked direction and was absorbed by the loss of something that had become unattainable. I often behaved in uncharacteristic ways and against strongly held principles. And I pined massively. When I joined the fire brigade I got a sense of direction and purpose and, in a way I hadn’t been able to before, largely forgot about my loss. This is all very relevant now. In some ways the past few months have been very hard and untenable. I can look at this photograph and try to see that things move on, that things can straighten out. It is an enormous effort but I can try.
Posted in Mental Health, Recovery from mental illness, writing
Tagged Bomb, depression, fire, firefighting, friendship, grief, guilt, memories, pain, Portraits, PTSD