You Don’t Have To Be Mad To…

Trigger Warning: mental illness. Don’t read on if you’re having a bad day. This probably won’t help you today. It’s also a bit self-indulgent in comparison with everyone who is really struggling today.

A white mug with "you don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps" printed on it.

I’m sitting here on my sofa, arse gently aching from overuse, or underuse, or whatever. It’s sore, is what I’m saying. So, I’m sitting here tapping away at my keyboard while my cat sleeps beside me. She is not an ‘on’ cat. There are ‘on’ cats, who must always be on your lap or your legs when you’re sitting down. They are on your head when you wake up at three in the morning with a mouthful of cat fur. They are on your case All The Fucking Time. That’s ‘on’ cats for you. No, Tilly is a ‘beside’ cat. She sits quietly next to me, allowing whatever is happening inside my head to happen there and stays in her place, one part of her back or her leg touching my hip while my arse gently aches and my whatever it is that is currently living in my head stamps its feet and shouts and screams and.

And.

But.

There is a pair of robins nesting in the ivy by our kitchen window. The kitchen in this house is unusual in my experience. It’s at the front of the house so that when I’m standing at the sink, I can see the postie or delivery drivers coming up the path to leave whatever it is they’re leaving. The robins watch them come and go and one of them, I’m not sure which, was absolutely not put on Earth to give a fuck about you or your opinion. It’s the most in your face robin I have ever seen. There are drug lords or medieval kings who would back off from confronting this wee psychopath.

I am not about to take the fucker on.

The self-isolation is definitely beginning to affect me. I have imagined a robin has psychopathic tendencies and I don’t think avian psychopathy is a thing, not a real thing anyway. I have had insomnia since the lockdown started and it’s getting worse. I am remembering more of my dreams when I do manage to sleep and to be honest, I’d much rather I didn’t. I am saving up all the daytime anxiety and it percolates through my brain in the wee, soulless, terrifying hours when the bats, the owls, the rats and the slugs are doing their thing outside. Or mostly outside.

I woke myself up with my somniloquence last night, my mumbling in whatever freak show was running on the I-Max inside my eyelids gradually getting louder and louder until the point I roused myself and I lay there, confused and bereft. Anne was still asleep next to me, as reassuringly there in the night as Tilly is during the day. At least I hadn’t woken her. That was a relief.

There are all the places I cannot go, too. All the small joys of life have gone. The cafes along Mill Road where I would sit for half an hour for coffee and cake. Bumping into a chum and having a gas for a few minutes. I know self-isolation is necessary. I know why I’m shielding myself away. I get it, I really do. I’d be completely fucked if I were infected. I am concentrating on the positives, like the constant presence beside me of cat or wife but it’s not always enough.

I used to see that zany mug, the one that says you don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps, you know, that one. I saw it everywhere and at first it was funny. Years go it was funny. Years ago, I didn’t really know anyone who was mentally ill. I’m not going to tell you about my first encounter with mental illness because it’s not my story to tell. It surprised me and upset me, just a bit anyway because when you’re that age just about everything that happens which isn’t about you doesn’t matter because it isn’t about you. Anyway, the mug thing and the mental illness thing. Do you remember when everything was absolutely mental! A night out, getting pissed and just about not getting into trouble was absolutely mental! Teachers were often absolutely mental! There was often someone in the group who was absolutely mental! It was just words and then I saw someone lose it and they were absolutely mental! And absolutely mental! wasn’t what I thought it was.

Maybe we’re back in the realms of the inadequacy of vocabulary rather than inappropriateness of response. Love is seldom what we thought it would be. It involves a lot less shagging and a lot more listening than I thought it would, for a start. That’s a really good thing, by the way. The language we use to describe emotions and values comes from a culturally limited pool. It’s like having to fix a problem with your plumbing when all you have is a cycle repair kit and half a dozen Ikea Allen keys. Only plumbers really have the toolkit to fix plumbing problems and only people who have dealt with emotional problems or mental illness have the language to express concepts which will make thing better.

I’m not really one of those people. I’m doing the basics. I work my way through the Headspace stuff to try to deal with my anxiety. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s working. I am aware of the negative thoughts and I am not falling into the old habits of not dealing with them but I’m not really going anywhere with it. I’m lazy and I’m not quite uncomfortable enough yet and there is always someone around for when things get bad.

It’s very quiet though. I can hear the blood running through my ears just under the now constant tinnitus. I’m going back in time again for a moment but do you remember when the test card came on television at night and they played music for a bit and then they started playing a tone, maybe because the music got a bit expensive? My ears are playing the tone from the test card.

There is nothing a long walk in the fresh air and plate of soup won’t sort for me now. I can have the soup, no problem. It’ll do for a start. In better but still indoor news, you can watch Alice Fraser’s absolutely brilliant show Savage on Amazon Prime and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do.

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Have You Lost Track Of Time?

To take account of our new reality, the days of the week are now to be known as Monday (because Mondays have always sucked and we see no reason for this ever to change), Tuednesday, Wedthursday, Kevin and/or Karen, TFIFday, Tomorrowday, Sitdownday, and That Day When We Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Going To Church Any More Day Day.

Months are also being renamed. We will now have Janruary, Febrarch, Marpril, Surprisingly Cold, Probably Won’t, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Lies, Boris (in thanksgiving for His miraculous recovery), Remember What Schools Are, Octdumber, Newdumber, Monthy McMonthyface and Presents!

The numbers of days in the week or months in the year are liable to change, possibly at short notice, for operational or cost reasons.

There is an outside chance that 2020 will be extended by up to eleventy-seven months if Priti Patel has anything to do with it.

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