My mind isn’t a tangle, a tight knot with a loose end somewhere that if only I could find it and pull everything would be fine again. It’s an amorphous, dark, shifting soup. An end comes into focus, I grope for it and it disappears as easily as the sun does when I close my eyes. Clarity is an illusion; sleight of hand. It’s all a trickery.
I’m on one at the moment. As in right now, this very moment. I could talk shit for England. An hour ago I could have cut my arms in despairing loneliness and hopelessness. An hour before that I was on a massive high after a short trail run. Then it just hit me, a punch in the stomach to remind me and bring me down to the floor where I belong. I feel a painful absence, a strong sense of someone missing, like I’ve been cut loose but I don’t know why. I ask myself what I did, or do wrong and I can’t find the answer.
I can’t sleep, even though I know I should try. What’s the point, I’ll just lie here fidgeting, sighing, face wet with tears staring at the ceiling. Actually, fidgeting doesn’t really describe it. Throwing myself around in deep frustration is more like it. So here I am, thinking about crap and letting it flow through my fingertips. I’m trying to ‘censor’ myself, tidy up my thoughts by writing; but there’s a lot of shit in my head tonight that no-one wants to hear about – forgive me if I don’t make sense. I’m sure I don’t. I hardly know myself what I’m on about. I’ll change the subject.
I’m reading books about walking at the moment. Well they’re not really about walking in the usual sense, more like walking as a vehicle for something else. Long distance walking. They thread stories of who we are through the landscape, connect us with the past through geology and archaeology. With each step the walker seems to find a connection, a root growing from the past to the present. It’s interesting to see where that root comes up to the surface. Every one comes up somewhere different. I’m not just enjoying these books, I’m learning. I think that’s the interesting part. I know so little about the archaeological features that shape the landscape I feel like I’m missing out. I look at rock formations and I think about how I could use them as metaphor – but I don’t know anything about the geology that caused them. I look around me with the eyes of an artist, and not a landscape artist at that. My work has always been about relationships at the root: I look at the landscape as a way to understand relationships. Sounds weird, and like something that needs some unravelling. Or investigation. Or is one the same as the other?
I have a new project brewing, but I want to write something rather than make something visual. Well at the moment. And there, I’ve said it, it’s out in the open. I want to write. And not crap like this.
The wind’s getting up. I feel a little calmer. Sleepy. Maybe I’ll fidget less if I try to sleep now. I’ve got to be awake again in 5 hours. I wonder what it would feel like to sleep with someone curled round me for 5 hours. I used to love that feeling of security, touch, warmth. I just listen to the wind now. Goodnight.
I think of my footsteps in yours sinking in the sands one becoming another
It’s so hard to write when your mind is blank, when language has gone, when images can’t be put together and yet you know there’s something you need to express. You ask yourself what it is you want to say, who you want to say it to and you despair when you recognise there’s only a feeling that you fear no-one will ever comprehend.
It’s painful to watch the world. Not feel part of it, rejected by it, used by it. I am a black, hollow ache. I don’t have the energy or the desire to turn on the colour. Except to watch the red seep from my flesh. Reminding me.
I suffuse these words with meaning, my meaning. They sit quietly on my desk and I let their sounds and images gently swirl around my mind, where they already begin to form pictures. I can feel them rising.
Sweat was dripping from my forehead onto the sickly pink yoga mat below me. Heels pressing back into the floor, palms sinking into the mat as I push my shoulder blades down and my pelvis back. The downward facing dog reminds me nothing is easy, even if it looks it. At the end of the session we’re lying in the corpse pose and I’m waiting for the comfort of a blanket to be tenderly laid over me, but it never came. I cool down too quickly and the flickering fluorescent light in the low ceiling above distracts and irritates even through closed eyes.
Driving home I feel drained, heavy and empty. The inside of my chest feels like it’s dragging along the floor behind me. I wanted to feel energised and alive, instead my mood slumped and my body followed suit. My mind is just numb.
As the night moves on I become agitated, so restless I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m filled with visceral screams that push hard against my bones, but I can’t release them. I don’t know where they’ve suddenly come from, or why. These unfathomable swings in mood that I’ve suffered since childhood, are debilitating, unpredictable. Unbearable. In the early hours I pace around the bedroom. I sit on the floor in the dark pushing my back flat against the cold wall. I feel utter despair. Panic. It’s such an acute pain that rings on forever like a tuning fork, cold and hard.
Surely, if this life is about anything it’s about intimacy? An intense and reciprocal ‘knowing’ between two people. As everything around me, inside me, is stripped away by all but me I question who has known me, who I have known, who will ever know me. My despair rises to such an intense pitch that I feel I’m imploding. I have to make Art. Capital A. Have to. Imperative, not a desire. Drive, instinct. I have to find someone to connect with. Now. There is no other way. No other way to keep safe.
I’m walking down the valley now, in the harsh afternoon light, to the beach. My eyes barely lift from the path. My body feels like lead and my muscles ache from last night’s yoga. Amongst the fallen leaves I notice wind fallen hawthorn berries, scattered like polished jewels. And rabbit droppings. There’s still the odd cornflower lining the path, fading to brown, and the bracken is a crackling, deep, rich Sienna colour.
My legs are red cold. I deliberately wore sheer tights, so fine that I’d feel the cold bite through me. To feel something. I want to collect some sand, just a handful, and I’ve brought a zip lock bag to carry it home in. I feel the bag in my pocket, smooth and unnatural. The tide’s low, way out, and my footprints stay amongst those of the dogs’ and the scudding marks of balls their owners have thrown them. I wander down to the sea, aimless. My feet are wet, but I’m oblivious to any discomfort and watch, disconnected, as the wind blows spume over them.
Sand collected, I rub the bag between my fingers as I head back up the valley, feeling its grittiness. I have ephemeral thoughts about the grains being blown thousands of miles from here, that they’re so imperceptible no one would know they were gone or where they’d blown to. Someone else might pick them up in a new handful of sand and rub them, dry and hot, between their fingers. Knowing.
So. It’s the middle of the night, people are asleep, my son is asleep and I’m alone. I’m agitated and becoming distraught. I have to contain it. I have to. My son is asleep in the next room. I know that what I need I cannot have, and I don’t want to talk to a nurse on the other end of a phone line again: I don’t want my son to wake up to that. So through the tangled mess and building storm going on in my head I remember the Diazepam I kept, just in case. It’s past its ‘use by’ date and I’m on different medication to when I was prescribed it. I don’t think about that, it doesn’t cross my mind. I just know that it’ll sedate me and I’ll sleep. So I take a pill.
I know it won’t take long to have an effect, but what do I do while I wait? My thoughts are racing and I decide I have to write. I’m sitting in bed rocking to calm myself and I begin to type about an event a few days past, trying to distract myself from what’s going on now. I’m ‘outside myself’ and looking at me, and as the words come I’m searching for clarity. It isn’t there. I’m becoming drowsy. My eyes are closing and I realise that at last I can sleep. I hit ‘save’, close the laptop and I’m gone. In just a few seconds.
Next day I get a phone call. I hadn’t hit ‘save’, but ‘publish’. I feel waves of despair as I realise I published something I never intended to. There’s no title, no ending and it was just meant to be for me. With the click of the wrong button I’ve inadvertently made wonderful friends concerned about me. I want to delete it, but I know I won’t be home for another 8 hours or more, by which time there’ll be no point, because anyone that was going to read it already will have.
I don’t hide the fact that I have chronic depression and BPD, I’m not ashamed of being ill, but there are aspects of it, details, that I don’t share, or are between me and my cpn or psychiatrist. People don’t understand the despair, loneliness and utter hopelessness. There’s no reason why anyone should understand and I hope they never do, because I wouldn’t wish going through this shit on anyone. But sometimes when I feel as desperate as I did the other night, the only way I can try and make sense of it for myself is to write it. I’m just so sorry I was stupid and careless enough to publish it.
Thank you to everyone that has sent me messages, it’s overwhelming, and I’m so so sorry to have worried you. I’m sleeping a lot now. And hiding. Down a mine shaft. And I’m still not ready to come out. But I’m so glad and comforted to know that you’re there.
I haven’t slept. I can’t sleep. It’s 4:45am. I can see the lightening sky through the dirty-paned window tucked into the corner of the room. It looks cloudy, but there’s this small triangular space between the loops in the curtains that’s teasing me with a growing brightness. The branches I can see through the gap are becoming more defined every second. I’ll hear the birds soon, I tell myself.
Now I’m laying on the kitchen floor, head close to the wide open door, maybe wrapped in a duvet or a sleeping bag, listening as the birdsong builds and feeling the breeze brush loose strands of hair across my face with a gentleness I haven’t felt in years. I close my eyes and just feel, listen, drifting off into the serenity of dawn.
Well, I would be if I could be bothered to get off my arse and slope off in the direction of the kitchen. But my feet are like blocks of ice, and they’ve got no intention of warming up, and really, I’m just not sure I can bothered. Instead I roll restlessly into the sheets, breathing in my own scent on the pillow reminding me of absence, driving home heart-wrenching loneliness.
Longing for human touch isn’t an ache: you can’t get out of bed and take a pill for it. Everything you see, feel, touch – it all reminds you of how separate you are. It’s not the touch of strangers, friends, a child…a brief kiss on the cheek to say goodbye, a fleeting graze of bare arms as you pass someone at the kitchen sink that will ease this emptiness. Bleakness. I mourn the absence of heat from a lover’s hand as it rests, lingering on my hip, my sacrum. The absent minded stroking of my thigh and the prickling rise of heat through my own body, the smell of a man’s neck and the softest, lightest pull of lips on mine. I want the exquisite feeling of a beautiful hand on the back of my head, fingers pulling through my hair with certainty, pulling harder, more roughly with each passing moment. I want to bite into strong arms, feel skin under my nails. I want to feel connected, desired, loved, alive. What else is there that can give you this? I haven’t found it and I have a hopeless, empty desperation that I never will.
Daybreak. Still awake. Knots in my stomach. Exhausted. Flat.
“Now I wanna be your dog…well come on”. Right now I’d be anyone’s dog Iggy. I reach across the bed for the button and turn him off.
Far down here in the South West of England, Cornwall can feel cut off from the rest of the UK at the best of times. But when the wind howls and the rain lashes down for days on end being cut off becomes a reality, an actuality, rather than a state of mind. Cornwall is divided from the next county, Devon, by a natural boundary, a river that goes virtually uninterrupted from north to south. There are two main roads out of the county that cross this river, The Tamar, and both have been closed at various points due to the adverse weather over the last few days (60mm of rain in 24 hours and winds up to 65mph). Getting in or out hasn’t been easy. Rivers have burst their banks, trees have fallen and there have been numerous land slides. People have died. These are the worst storms we’ve seen here for 10 years, and there are more on the way.
The windows rattle with the pounding rain and there’s a strong draft coming in under the sashes. The loose-weave muslin curtain that covers the bottom half of the window, for privacy, flutters and raises off the window sill. It hangs there, aloft, as the wind relentlessly rushes through the trees outside. The cows are quiet, or drowned out by the sound of the storm; I don’t know which.
My feet tingle with warmth under the airy weight of the duvet. I listen and turn off the lamp. Nothing but wind and rain hitting the glass hard like small stones, erratically playing on the roof. It’s comforting. Glad to be inside, protected by darkness and thick stone walls. I feel most safe and secure when I’m in my bed and there’s a storm raging. There’s no-one alongside me to cosset, no-one to cosset me, which hurts sometimes. I curl on my side, and everything feels primal. And I’m alone, just listening, drifting away on a tide of sleep.
This little pillow is filled with roses. Well rose pot-pourri. And it smells wonderful. Just imagine popping it on the pillows on your bed and falling asleep breathing in the smells of a summer garden. Romantic nonsense? No! Everyone needs a little bit of romance don’t they? I know I’d like some. There’s been a serious lack of it around here for years 🙁 (It’s true!) But I digress. What do you think of the pillow? I made it for my exceptionally patient friend Janie (it’s a belated Christmas present) and I think she likes it, which is important! As you can see it’s an asymmetrical patchwork design with hand and machine quilting, some applique and embroidery. The small floral prints are from Liberty and the one with pink and yellow roses is from Tilda.
Are you wondering about the embroidered word ‘trees’? Maybe you’re thinking “it’s a bit random that bit”? You were? I thought maybe you’d be thinking that! Janie and I go for regular walks and I wanted to evoke something that might remind her of the beautiful places we’ve been, Trelissick in the autumn, Lanhyrdock in the summer…Miss P’s when it’s raining! (Slackers the pair of us.) And there’s a certain shade of green that she loves, so I included plenty of it here. And green, well it does remind me of trees…
I hope you like the photo mosaics I made too. They’re a lovely way of showing related pictures together, but I think maybe I need to take some better photographs. Or get a better camera, that might help. I wonder if the images are large enough too – if you click on them you’ll obviously see them full size, but I wonder if people actually bother to do that. Well people, do you?! You will let me know won’t you? I know I can be a miserable git but I really would like you to come back, so tell me what works best for you and I’ll give it a go.