Now in my previous post I asked the question why? Why do I have to live with this horrible bloody orange depression? Well in the past couple of days I’ve given it much thought and wracked my yokey brains to provide an answer. And I’ve failed. I just don’t know, and the fact that I don’t know depresses me, because I am strong and I don’t like failure. Some years ago while living in Yorkshire, I had a bad ‘episode’ and considered taking my life. But I didn’t, and this shit is living proof of that. The reason I didn’t was because I had love and support, love from my wife and family and true friends, and support from the NHS. Hence, in a series of CBT sessions after my episode, I was encouraged to travel, in the psychological sense, journey into my mind, into my whole life, take a fifty-year trip into self-examination, because in every examination one ought to provide some answers. Sadly, I failed that examination too.
Because looking back, I saw a happy child with a happy childhood, with loving parents and four older brothers. The house was a happy one, not rich, not poor, just happy, with full ashtrays and bellyfuls of banter and laughs. I was thinking of the beginning of the 70s, when I was seven in baggy-arsed trousers, sitting in the garden with my brothers, listening to the wireless. Cat Stevens, Matthew and Son. Inside the house, there was the day we got our first colour television, and how exciting was that? Then later there was a phone, two-tone green, which we all raced to answer when it rang, pushing and shoving and wedging each other into the hall doorway. There was the gay egg man who I called Pete the Puffy Poultry-man, coming every Sunday, the pop van that fetched cream soda, Tizer, Dandelion and Burdock, and on Thursdays there’d be the coal wagon and a blackened man with elephantiasis lugging sacks on his bare back.
Christmases would be special, and looked forward to for months, with crates of pale ale, cans of Double Diamond that worked wonders, Watneys Party 7s, and Egg Flip that remained unopened and turned to custard till it got chucked in the bin sometime the following June. Ads on the telly for Hi Karate aftershave and K-Tel records. We played cards for pennies and laughter filled the smokey air. Dad would smoke his only cigar of the year. The telly never went on until Morecambe and Wise. We’d all be given 45rpm records costing 45p; Mud, Sweet, the Glitter Band, T-rex, Quatro, Hendrix, and we all sang Sugar Baby Love and I Love You Love till the veins stuck out on our necks, all taped for posterity on a crackling reel to reel.
Amid all this there’d be the happy little baggy-arsed kid. And yet, sometimes, he felt a loneliness in a room full of men, a sadness in the laughter, only noticed by his mother, the sole woman in the house, most often to be found in the kitchen powerfully beating eggs, and happy with it. She asked him what was wrong and he didn’t know why, because depression was not spoken of, not diagnosed, not invented, and anyway so easily shrugged off because it was the decade to be happy. To have fun on his Chopper bike.
I’m not saying there were no bad things going on around the world, there were wars, there were strikes, there were winters of discontent. By and large, however, it was happy, an age where people, even us, were getting rich, yet an age of innocence still, and celebrated naivety, reflected nowhere more than in its music (glam rock, brilliantly-camp party songs by singers in flares and platform shoes) until punk gave it all a perfectly-timed kick up the arse with a Doctor Marten boot come 76. And I’d be listening to the Pistols now, not in the garden but in the bathroom, counting my pubic hairs and measuring my knob which rose gentlemanly to the thought of a girl I fancied at school. My brothers, by now, were already out driving Hillman Imps and shagging.
The 70s, for me, was all of that and more. Happy days which when I think about it, were some of the best days of my life. In fact, if I could, right now, I’d gather up all the good things that have happened to me then and since, all the success, all the travel (Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo, USA, the Bahamas, Africa, Moscow…) meaningful relationships, four beautiful kids, two beautiful grandkids, I’d gather everything good into a giant sack, and lug it on bare-back into the 70s, have a cup of cold coffee and a piece of cake, and preserve it all there for ever. This is not some wistful idealism, some simplistic lozenge of nostalgia. It’s just me, wanting to wash my hands of all the bad things that have happened to me and needing to cling on to all the fun.
So when did the fun actually stop? When did I grow so tired of this other thing I carry, this monster, this blood orange sack of shit? And who in his right mind fucking invented it? Just more questions the answers to which I do not know.
It’s not that I haven’t tried, and haven’t explored some theories and possibilities. Yes I’ve had success and yes I’ve seen the world and yes I’ve had love and yes I’ve enjoyed my children and still do. The boy in the 70s watching Play for Today with his mum because his dad worked nights, and Coronation Street, which he always dreamed of writing stories for, and many years later would write stories for, bloating his mum with pride. So is that I kind of achieved all I wanted to achieve? It’s true there isn’t much more I want to do. Travel more maybe, find a house with a large garden with chickens, definitely. Yet perhaps I don’t need to travel the world when the world is with me, when it’s in my apartment furnished with memorabilia and keepsakes, and perhaps now I have a roof over my head I don’t need to own a garden when I can go to Morrisons to see the egg man, gay or otherwise. And if so, if all that is true, is it that I no longer have ambition, I no longer have the drive, I lack motivation?
I think the answer is yes, and if I really work hard to explore down into the darkest tunnels of my head, I might also decide that, in fact, the ‘episode’ in Yorkshire some years ago is something from which I never really recovered. And by the way, I must stress that Yorkshire wasn’t the cause of the episode, the cause of the episode was down to many other things, some of which I alluded to in my previous post.
After losing my income in 2017, and living in a campervan and writing and writing, then becoming homeless and not writing and writing, I tried so hard to rebuild my life, with the help of the girl who made it hard for me in 76 trying to make it easier. So I started to write and write again, I found a home… but like I said, the monster moved in with me. And interestingly, the girl whose name is Miranda, said she found a picture of me in 2016, when notionally all was on the up again, yet the smile was on the mouth and not in the eyes. “You were not right even then,” she said. And she was right, because I was not. I was getting ill and would be getting iller, till seven weeks ago I began to write a pile of suicide notes.
In later posts I wish to chart that seven-week journey, to where I am right now. I want to thank all the very many people who’ve been so kind and supportive and I want to eulogise and analyse the professional help I’ve been afforded. I want to thank my wife, Miranda, my beautiful kids and grandkids, my many friends who really care, and the few who still want to fill my belly by paying to listen to me empty my heart. I want to examine all of that, and in doing so ask some questions about why the carers are so stretched, why the system struggles, and why I have to wait four months to get Access to Psychological Therapy? Yet more questions I’ll try to answer, if – or really I should say when – I get better. If I don’t, well like they say in all the soaps these days, “I’ll see myself out.”