What do you do when your roots
Have dissolved and broken down
And the soil that you grew in when you were small
Has become nothing more than dirt in some dirty town
When you list all the qualities that you despise
And you realize you’re describing yourself
And breakin’ someone up inside
Is your only source of pride?
(Apologies to Hogarth et al)
I am posting the screenshot below because it rang so many bells for me. Such an accurate description. Add to that the trick of lying to portray the victim as the abuser and you have the perfect picture.
This one was particularly hard to do on many levels.
Look at this, it’s me, walking away.
Look at you drowning, on display.
Every time I’ve dropped by, I’ve tried to say
The water is rising.
You don’t want to stay.
Posted in Mental Health, Photography, writing
Tagged depression, friendship, grief, guilt, memories, pain, poetry, Portraits, PTSD, regrets, self portrait, suicide, water
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)
Unusually for me I have extensively reworked the pice that was my previous post. To the point that it’s a new draft. Still quite rough and raw but I’ll probably stop fiddling with it now!
Well, I’ve always known you lie, some inconsequential
Some told in a moment of shattering consequence
I say always known, I mean nearly from first days at least
Held hostage to that very first lie, the one that really mattered,
that could have led down different paths
Hostage, yet blissfully unaware of that
Until the day you sprung the truth, that unnecessary truth
To rampage destructively through my life then
And through much of what was to come.
I know what many of those lies are, how they chime
I’ve heard them often enough over the years
In one way or another. I’ve learnt to live with them
How they make me feel, the sadness the effects on my life
The effects you dismiss as just one of those things.
But there is that one lie I’m tired of, so very
Tired of; and just will not have any more
That moment, that moment, oh that moment
That ripped so much from me, that destroyed so much
That changed so much then and disrupted
So very much of what was to come, that took my balance.
The pain, no not just pain, agony at times
Then that pretence that it did not happen, that lie
It happened, we both know it happened, can’t be helped now
But don’t pretend it is some sort of madness on my part
That moment that sent shock and after shocks through my life
(a neat analogy how the earth moved to often and too
Inappropriately, at the wrong time with the wrong people, then)
All that simply dismissed as some crazy figment of my mind
In order to ease your own path, no matter how unjust.
It’s easier to feel no responsibility or consequences for actions
For destroying something once beautiful, like pulling wings
From a butterfly, when you pretend it did not happen
Far simpler to apportion blame as if for random acts
To hurl accusation for all those consequential actions
For all that pain, for all the ongoing acts
When in your version, what caused it all never happened.
Dismissing all of those things with one cheap lie
Well, I say cheap but it’s cost me too much
And now I just won’t take that one anymore.
How I deal with that I don’t know for now, too hard
But I need to as part of the remedy for self destructive urge
Posted in Mental Health, writing
Tagged betrayal, depression, guilt, memories, pain, poetry, PTSD, regrets, relationships, suicide
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
I have been prompted to write this after overhearing yet another conversation in which the point that suicides are extremely selfish was being made.
I know I have made this point before but that argument completely ignores he fact that it ascribes to people an emotion they are no longer able to feel. Whatever has driven them to that point is an illness. It is an illness just like any visible illness but in many ways harder to treat. It involves very real pain but again a pain that can’t really be treated. Above all it distorts a person’s sense of reality.
I read this on an editorial piece earlier today. “A person who is about to take that lethal cocktail, turn the ignition in the sealed garage or lose their grip on a railing is a person who is lost, desperate and, as so many people with depression will tell you, feels like a burden and believe they are doing the world a favour.” This is true and a crucial point. From the person’s perspective what they are doing is far from selfish. It is releasing others as well as themselves.
My friend who drowned. It took me a long time to see it but what she did was actually a brave act. From her perspective which was the perspective of a person who was very ill. I saw what it did to people left behind. Possibly seeing that particular fallout is the only reason I’m still around today. From where she was in her very ill state she couldn’t possibly have seen that fallout. I also have to balance all of that with the knowledge that, when well, she was one of the most unselfish people I’ve known.