Dear Diary: I have to hang up my keyboard …​

Apologies, I am a fan of the UFC, 4 years ago Welterweight great Giles St Pierre said, “I have to hang up my gloves for a little while ….” on Saturday he returned, won the middleweight title, the weight class heavier than one where he had been the unbeatable champion. He put his legacy on the line and rolled the dice one more time and won.

I may not have won 12 Welterweight UFC title fights, with 9 successive defences, nor have I secured myself a spot in any Hall of Fame, but, in 2017, I am very much my own champion, literally, I have a British Title to my name, and in overcoming the struggles of my medical condition, and being honest and open about my depression and battle with suicidal thoughts – not here I am sorry, but in my real life, where, it was important that while people saw me lift a trophy and some almost Rocky-like comeback they realised there was a very dark side and I was paying a very high price for that success.

I hope the battle was evident here, there have been many days where breathing only happened because it was a reflex, because had it relied on will, I would have stopped. The strain became too much; I withdrew from the Worlds, turning out to be a dodged bullet, and I withdrew into a dark place. The reality of life and future lack of change became far to much to handle, and even now, is not something I entirely want to contemplate. With more potentially bad medical news on the way and even a possible recurrence of cellulitis, I am, in truthfulness, out of fight.

I am therefore a little jealous of Giles, I wish that because of what is happening in my life I too could hang up my gloves or a little while. However, I am hanging up my gloves, competitively I have no plans to compete in 18, and in fact, my return to competition is entirely dependent on my training performance reaching a standard I have set, if I do not reach that standard, I do not return.

Professionally, I am retired from work for the foreseeable future, my medical condition is not under control to the extent that any employer could be expected to handle the amount of time off I would take, nor is it actually fair to expect work colleagues or an employer to deal with what happens during a severe hemiplegic migraine attack, and self-employment is beyond my work capacity at this time. That pressure is off, and I have had to accept that this is just the situation, I may have been working 2 jobs at 13, but that is perhaps why I am working no jobs at 45, who knows. I have to deal with it, and be thankful I am in a position where this is possible however tight and uncomfortable it makes the financial reality.

And I am not without a future, I had moved on, and while one project has to be dropped, I had other things that while I will have to do slowly I can do, and my wife’s career is going well with her working somewhere that values her and wants to invest in her development, so I can support her and do what I can to facilitate her success, this man is most definitely not an island.

So in the style of Giles St Pierre ” I have some thing in my life going on, and I have to hang up my keyboard for a while” …. dont use the R word ….

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Poetry Corner: Only Torment Can Fly

No demon today, the well is dry

Nothing but the anguish of an empty cry

Barren where only torment can fly

 

The angels they left, the devil cares no more

Death stares you down, the coward evermore

Only fear and terror take flight to soar

 

No shelter, no warm place of comfort and rest

No warrior, you failed life’s simplest test

Look closely at the misery of your very best

 

No place at Valhalla’s table, no ride in Elysium’s fields

There is no room for me in my Fathers’ house,

No echo in eternity, no final journey fallen on my shield

Dear Diary: Monday Recognition

I am up, out of bed, my wife gets me up and makes me breakfast bless her.

I guess forgetting to eat for three days may have given the game away?

I am here, doing that thing I do, except. previously in my life, I had stuff I just had to or my life would have collapsed. You know, no house, nothing collapsed. Now the problem is, if I do nothing, nothing collapses.

Nothing would change if I did nothing, the bills paid, my wife would get the shopping and pick up every bit of slack, and wouldn’t hate me for it. In fact, the more I deteriorated, she would worry and look to get me help, and do more to help me get better, being left to rot, would be the very last thing that would happen.

So how do I cope, I have nothing to do, no job left, everyone survives well without me, but I know I am not causing anything to miss a beat either.

The world really wouldn’t change, it wouldn’t miss me because it already doesn’t.

Dear Diary: You Can Never Hide

One of the great things about life is we can hide, work, family, hobbies, athletic endeavour combinations of those afford us wonderful opportunities to hide away from reality.

While we get away and pursue some noble and worthwhile goal to the applause of our peers, we can hide from facing something bigger, and more frightening than the challenge we tackle for the world to see.

But when the goal is achieved, the project is over, we instantly seek the next one to avoid the chasm and void of light where we know we face the truth we have been hiding from all the time, so we stay in the darkness calling light.

How long can we pull the trick of self-delusion, do we pull it at all?

Dear Diary: Proof of Something

If I am proof of anything it’s hard work doesn’t pay off, practice doesn’t make perfect and what goes around doesn’t come around.

In reality, you have to be working hard on the right things in the right way, it has to be perfect practice, life isn’t even remotely fair and the universe simply does not care at all.

Ultimately the world will neither miss me nor mourn my loss, I matter only so far as I decide that I do, beyond that, I don’t matter at all. I lack both relevance and significance. My existence continues in large part through luck and cowardice; mostly cowardice.

I live a life of pretend and make believe. I pretend what I do has significance, it matters, it counts, that somehow my life is worthy of something, that I as a person have value and worth. In my make believe world I am wise and knowledgeable and people look up to me and value what I say, they support me and believe I will succeed, that my endeavours valuable for my part I pretend along that my life has value with them.

I know, I am, sadly, and I wish I was not, completely aware, of the sham and masquerade.

I am playing along like it matters because it’s all I know to do, but I do know exactly what is true.

 

Monday Night Reflection: Nothing To See Here

It is difficult to reflect on a week, where, to my mind, very little of what happened is Mouse related. Mr Mouse, it would appear has not been busy. Where Mr Mouse was once busy sorting out and tidying around making sense of my world and doing a great job in the background of getting things done for me there is now space. Worse, a slightly sticky space bar is hindering my efforts, which is perhaps the problem.

At the moment all my sense are turned way up, sounds hurt, touches, tastes, they all cause physical pain at very low intensities, on a certain level, I am guessing this is what autism must feel like because input, is generally, not a pleasant thing. And life is all about input, sleep isn’t restful and tired, sick, nausea and generally feeling in pain in some way is what it’s all about. Creatively everything is dry, projects are dry, work is gone, nothing to do, no inclination to do it, and recovery has hit a wall with even physical progress coming and going. It has been another tough week after a tough week. So while the stats people could say the trend on the graph is positive, it is positive trend on trend, its a very slow trend and the negatives are big, the downs are big, the relapses are huge and the experience is anything but what someone would call fun.

It would be accurate to say, at least some, if not some large chunks of the time, I have started to feel more than just a little sorry for myself. Because, I am not going anywhere or getting anything done, and if I am making a little progress, one I can’t share it and two it is only back to a level far below the level I was at anyway before all of this started back in March. Imagine playing in an orchestra and then having to back and start grade levels, that is the equivalent. At the same time, the physical pain is intense and debilitating, my mind is working at a physically tiring level, so writing this is the mental equivalent of a workout when once it was easy to write and introspect. In fact, not only was it easy, it was a fun and helpful, now just writing an email to a friend is taxing and difficult as a task.

It is difficult because, I have to recognise that is, really, very early days. I don’t have a cast to see or a wound to see healing, which is a huge part of the problem, it is all happening in my head and inside where no one can see what is going on, and it is messing with my emotional and coping capacities as well as impacting on my personality. The impact is on how I see and feel about myself, there are suicidal thoughts and my self-talk is very negative, you could say I am depressed, but at the same time, I am not depressed in how I have experienced depression in my life previously. This is a complex awareness that I am two people existing in the same space at the same time failing to cope with the existence of each other. This is the stuff my Mouse used to handle for me, this is what I let my mind sort out in the background my focusing on positive goals and helping others. Those things do not work, I am tired, my concentration has gone and my memory awful, but of course I have not given up. The two, the depths of despair and abandonment alongside hope and optimism are together interwoven bound in single thoughts.

The past is the past, and this has happened, the future I thought I had, it is not the same, and where I had a plan, I do not even have a plan about how to plan anymore. I would say I am fighting, but I am, it feels, more trying to work out who the opponent is, before I start fighting back. So far it seems the opponent is me, or more precisely a me that has started to malfunction and is apparently going to start working again spontaneously. There is no fight, just waiting, which is perhaps, ultimately, why I cannot cope. Previously I have a process, a fight, something to do, and this time, all I can find is, wait and time does the job. Great, if you are on the express train, not so great for those on the slow boat. I think I didn’t get off the harbour here.

The purpose of reflection is to do, and that is where I am coming up blank each and every time, I have no do. So far, it’s do what I can still do, setbacks like getting food poisoning included, and keep looking for new opportunities and avenues to make progress, even if, so far, they have not opened up or become apparent.

Monday Night Reflection: Just Waiting on the Day

It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat down to write a reflection making sure I wasn’t being too focussed on the latest and the loudest, that I was looking for balance and feeling the need to avoid undue triumphalism because things had been positive for a good while and I had things pointing in the right direction.
I was hesitant because I was wary that the good can so quickly come crashing down, and because I did not want to gloss over the challenges of a very ordinary life and that I am not a particularly extraordinary person doing anything particularly unusual in the grand scheme of things. I want to inspire, if I inspire at all not because I am outstanding but because I am just like everyone else and I am trying in the face of the same stuff as everyone to keep on being better at life and being positive and helping others have a happy time and love the life they have, whatever that life is, and not some bullshit entrepreneur, internet guru, beach crap. Which, to me looks like hell anyway.

I guess I was right to be reticent, it crashed down, and I was not even up that high really, but down it came anyway. And I won’t lie, I am low, really low, not quite suicidal low, but I can’t say I haven’t considered it, I have, it wouldn’t solve anything so, pretty pointless as a solution. It isn’t worth the details, because people insist on telling me how far I have come, and yes, this true. What they miss is this not my first set back, or my second, this is 2017 and I have been essentially coming back from something big since June 2011, that includes a heart attack that I was just starting to feel was behind me and getting to feel I had some fitness returning.

I am broken mentally, it’s been 6 years of fighting, not for excellence, but for a shot at normality. I lost everything, and my second chance just got ripped away too. As coach DAmato says, it’s all about the six inches in front of my face, inch by inch, step by step because that is the difference between living and dying, but in the words of Coldplay, Nobody, said it would be easy, but nobody said it would be this hard.

Dear Diary: 20th February 2017

Don’t stroke the Mouse!

Mouse was rushed into hospital last Tuesday with a suspected stroke.

Nearly a week later all we can say for definite is that Thursday night his brain showed no sign of damage.

20 stroke like episodes later Mouse can barely move his left side or speak.

His NHS experience is far from positive but with every reason to be down my brave Mouse is still upbeat and planning new projects for when he finally comes home.

Mrs Mouse

Poetry Corner: Black Dog of Mine

It hurts, you know
This black dog of mine
I ache all over
In my very bones
My joints grind and grate
I am princess
Whose bed is full of peas

I try to tell people
It is not vague
Or in my head
It blurs my thoughts
And I forget
Nothing changes in me

Drugs haven’t worked
Vodka failed as well
Cannabis is bad for you
The doctors’ stuff is worse
I guess nothing is wrong
If there is no cure
Said it once, no one heard

Monday Night Reflection: Blog On

Every-so-often, I do look back at this Blog, read my squeeks and contemplate how things have changed. As the New Year approached I started to think about the future because material has been gradually accumulating, I even downloaded and printed out a blog planner, and started a blog ideas notebook just to help me on my way.

Any look at my archive shows that I started slowly; the issue was that I had started an abuse survivors blog, a valuable enterprise. I am not entirely sure I had any idea what that would entail or even if that concept had any real meaning. In all honesty, I really didn’t have a clue. As I came to review what I had been doing and think about what I want to be doing. It is fairly clear this is not a blog about how to survive abuse and has gotten further away from being obviously abuse related. I do, fairly often, feel a little guilty that my pages do not have links to helpline and resources, perhaps they should? I am not convinced that what I am doing here, and I because I did not really use any particular resources to get away or even really start the journey of dealing with my abusive past, I cannot personally recommend any particular resource. At the same time, I feel woefully unqualified to write any sort of how-to guide, I didn’t diary the journey, and I don’t think I have much to give on the practical side over and above the great stuff that is already out there.

However, while this blog is not an abuse survival blog in that it contains any practical guidance whatsoever, any resources or even useful links, it is a blog written by an abuse survivor. I had to explain this to myself, because this differential was far to apparently self-evident Which meant, when I thought about it, like many apparently self evident concepts, I did not see any immediate content of substance in that category. While a blog about abuse survival is going to explain itself quickly with its practical focus, a blog by an abuse survivor could be anything. I have seen those that are accounts, almost diaries of what living in an abusive situation was/is like for the victim. Without that central theme, the experience of abuse in real terms, not the rather glossy euphemisms that make it more comfortable, what exactly makes a blog, or anything, different because it was written by an abuse survivor?

In a sense I could be searching for my unique selling point; but there is something actually very different driving me to the distinction. By having the category, blog by a survivor of abuse, I am creating an explanatory framework which a reader can use to quickly locate any problematic material. Or in other words, when reading my material, and in that I have particular piece and poems in mind, knowing that their inspiration and root is in an abusive past explains what is going on so the reader can make sense of the world in which they suddenly find themselves. Hopefully, knowing the origin of the blog as part of my journey via the creation of a persona, Mr Mouse, who is in charge of trauma processing, and is a major part of the creative production team, gives context. It explains the lack of my favourite recipes, personal pictures and tells my reader exactly, I hope, what to expect.

Early on, I realised quickly that this blog had to be something growing rather more organically with me and so to be genuine would need to follow my journey. For me to be happy with this I had to have material I would be at least happy to show people. Looking at early postings I see mistakes and errors that make me cringe, I do not change them because the development of my skills is a core element of my creative journey. I am consciously developing my craft through reading and practice at a level that keeps the process enjoyable and spontaneous. Every entry is written on the move; I have no store house or prewritten material scheduled up to post. The closest I get is scheduling something written late for the next morning or separating up posts in the day when the have been produced at the same time. Monday Night Reflections often start the week before and come together over the Monday, where I schedule the publication time as a deadline to meet, other times I barely keep it posting on a Monday.

I guess I have been squeeking organically; I enjoy working on this blog. Ironically, if all I did was create for the blog I would run out of material to create for the blog because its not all stored up. To have a blog I have to live, to travel, to do life and do my life. My life – still a difficult concept to pin down too. Looking to the future, that is the problem. In blog life as well as life, I am happy where I am, the changes are really making what is good already better, making me more happy rather than dealing with problems. In my life I feel problems are either in process, or they are not able to be processed and I class as not in my control. If I cannot change or control them then I work hard to keep them out of my view and out of my thoughts or planning. I am contented with what I have, it is truly amazing on every level, and something the little council estate boy would never have been able to dream about. Which is another unique aspect, and another thing that gives me twinges of guilt.

When I read survivor stories too often the situation of the writer has broken away from the abuse at a huge cost, losing everything material and having to start a new life from the bottom. Something I identify with, although without children I cannot know the struggle that situation brings. More significantly than that tho, I had a means to support myself, at least in the short term. I managed to rent a beautiful furnished starter home only three quarters of a mile from where I worked. Although I had to sell my vehicle, I was able to finance deal one before it sold, so again my situation was significantly different. Finally, while it would be soon to say how even if we had a statute of limitation, I was able, in a fashion to generate enough of an income for me to keep going. Lucky for me the days of a meal every other or 3 days did not return and I could have the heating on. I firmly believe that my lack of material deprivation contributed massively to my ability to get through the situations I faced constructively; that and a well timed text message in my darkest days.

As I was declaring bankrupt I was already being welcomed into my new life, one where I no longer had to earn anything at all to be materially looked after, I was being gifted a circumstance that I had deeply desired, worked hard to create, but ultimately did not actually possess.

I cannot write a survivors story, there is nothing dramatic, in my mind, to tell. Detailing what happened with a blow by blow account would be a fruitless act of storytelling. Instead, I am focussed on building up.

Clearly, I am not using a reflective model here. This is what I have been considering, I have a blog, I enjoy creating and sharing, so I could just have a blog that is me sharing my creative output. That would be wrong, because I sincerely hope that I am adding something different to the picture. At the outset of blogging, I really wanted somone, even if it was one person, to know that there is a through, an other side to get to. Because I definitely felt that there was no end beyond continued darkness and suffering, that there was no through it for my situation. That darkness and feeling of despair was my path to suicide, I need to know there was a way out, any way out, when they were absent, my mind found the only left. Not healthy, not constructive, and not something I would want anyone to have to face. Statistically, I know that men in particular will make the same choice as me but unlike me will be successful. Suicide is the largest single cause of death for men between twenty-five and fifty.

From this I developed a mental manifesto, or a wish perhaps, but definitely a core message that drives me to keep blogging and around which my future plans are centred. I want to say that having an abusive past is ok, there is no shame, you are not alone. But also that trauma while it may haunt you, is not only faced by locking it away and never opening it again. Trauma does not go away if you ignore it, and that there are a multitude of ways of constructively making trauma something you live with without undue pain, suffering or distress. And that trauma definitely does not need to control your life and how you make decisions. However, at the same time that trauma needs to be constructively handled, it can also be a source of drive. Let your pain drive you to greatness is a cliché, but there is a hard-core truth right at its heart. For me, I write poetry exploring my feelings, I allow myself to relive emotional moments deliberately. I find, for me, this form of expression gives me back the controlling power. I also find the act of reflecting and facing elements I from my past helps me better marshal and rally my thoughts coherently. When I thing coherently trauma and reactive behaviours lose their control because they stop being amorphous scary unknowns. The spotlight I see them for what they are, the reality they no longer possess and the consequences they can no longer deliver. I believe that paralysis by analysis is a constructive tool and well as a destructive force.

Which leaves me with what was I thinking, and what are my plans. I do have things I want to creatively, I have already said that, and I want to share that, or at least some of that, and I have ideas of things I can do to enhance or add depth to this blog as an endeavour, while bearing in mind that blogging is not what pays the bills, and that while it is constructive self development there is more to me and life than what I can publish. Which at times, actually gets more difficult that it should, I tend to see creative finished product as the measure of my productivity and therefore my worth.

That is a practical answer, and is ducking the real question. When I think back at what I was intending to do when this all started, its clear I had no idea. I wanted to do something; no idea what, where or how. I wrote a few things and found myself in a black hole cornered with only one real direction available. I was going to be writing an abuse blog and spending hours immersed in creating a valuable resource, or I was going to be writing graphic reconstructions. Neither appealed, and I while I am confident I have the academic ability to produce a useful resource, the graphic story telling, not confident at all, and not something I would want to be learning and getting deeply into. What I did was open up, change things and then run with it to see what happened and did what felt right along the way. Very much how I had done things as a young man lacking purpose and direction, waiting for opportunities while working at something and moving along a road to see how the landscape would change. I feel it worked well, because, it was not as ambiguous as it probably sounds, it involved learning and working, and because I was open to suggestion, change and opportunity rather than making myself fit a certain model based on external expectations.

At the same time, I have grown into wanting this blog to have purpose a little more than being a repository. I sincerely hope that anyone who is going through a tough time, or is dealing with trauma, abuse or not, can draw constructively from what I have done to deal with what has been traumatic for me. I have felt that I can offer up the, if he can do it, so can I angle. Because I am not a superstar, I am not at a level far removed, and my attainment being accessible, I am able to be of a little inspiration. I would like people to enjoy what I do, spread a little happiness and find practical utility and insight through my contribution.