Totally Mental: A Week In Carnage. Day 5 Friday

Call me Ahab. Because I search for the white whale of peace. In the daily life of the mentally unwell, there is little of that, I fear.

This morning starts with a phone call that goes dead when the phone is picked up. Now, it eventually turns out to be a beneficial call from a friend; but this is little consequence to my disturbed state of mind. Immediately, it is ‘someone’ who wants to ensure I am in, so that ‘they’ can come and get me. At 0615 I am suddenly awake, alert, and frightened.

Once again, adrenaline courses through my system; once again panic takes hold, once again I frantically scan my past for anything that I could have done wrong in the past that meant I might be a suitable case for kicking in my front door.

My wife has not checked who it was that might have called. I check the call record on the phone the moment I get downstairs. That’s the difference. I have to know; she sees it, quite properly, as nothing very important.

On my Facebook page, an insightful comment from a good friend; many of the feelings experienced by the mentally unwell are feelings that, in a much reduced form, are felt by a good proportion of the general ‘well’ public. But in those with mental illness, they are magnified a hundredfold and distorted into something quite different; either as a trigger for a depressive attack, or a reason to panic and set up the whole unresolved physical/psychological stress cycle.
Something well worth pondering, as I wonder whether I should tighten up the blinds behind me, as, at present, even though closed, someone looking down can see through at that which I am typing.

There’s no one there, of course, but the damage is already done. The cycle of fear and worry has already started.

The cat, by comparison, snores contentedly beside me, blissfully unaware of the microcosm of mental nuclear bombardment my brain is suffering.

I need coffee.


Cat Junior makes a good point. Don’t worry,there are plenty more birds in the trees. And people feed you twice a day, and the cat flap gives you freedom. And there’s always Cat Senior to chase under a table.

I’m having a senior moment. I don’t remember using the word microcosm, above. At least, I hope it’s a senior moment.

1330hrs and the place is still. I have a huge supply of music on the computer, much of which I love, but I always ‘forget’ to put it on. The silence is very friendly; it should allow for peace, but today it allows for listening, checking. Hyper vigilance – a symptom of PTSD – is quite tiring.

For all this, I’m quite quiet myself. In half an hour I have my session with the therapist – a person very skilled in listening and very good at comforting. I generally leave far better than I arrive.
Also, I haven’t had much caffeine this morning, owing to a prolonged sleep on the sofa. Sleep is a good defence mechanism against anxiety. The cats – who believe I bought the sofa for them – were not impressed.

Pinpricks of hope abound. Hope lets in light and lifts the spirits in me. Up until a few years ago, I could not hope, I could not look forward with anything but, at worst, despair, at best, indifference.
Hope allows you to steer a course, rather than your boat drifting at the whim of tide and wave. It gives you back a rudder. I need oars, but a rudder will do for now. With a rudder I can choose, as now, to turn and face the oncoming wave, and surmount each small difficulty. People who do not have a mental illness quite often not only have oars, but a sail with which to trap and use the wind. Some have motors that allow for precise planning, and an ability not to be moved from their course whatever the weather.
Until they hit The Perfect Storm, when all becomes lost, and they don’t even have a boat. One in four will find themselves the victim of this cruel wave of mental shenanigans.

I’m going to be late for my appointment if I’m not careful.

Jasper – three-legged, one-eyed, no balls – eyes me wearily.

I have to go.


I almost had to laugh.
Readers of this blog will know that I have an aversion to helicopters. Not to mince words, my mind seems to think they might be watching me.
Returning home, I switched off the engine of the car, only to hear a helicopter overhead. Very near, overhead. Cursing my luck, I ducked, looking out the window to locate said helicopter.
I’m no great shakes at helicopter ID, but it was a sort of what I think of as an Apache Lynx attack helicopter. It was complete with strapped-on missiles at the ready.

I thought Crikey. They’re really out to get me this time ….

I can still laugh at myself. I can still laugh. Even at the things that frighten me or make me anxious. But if the DSS was sending photographers after me – they use private eye firms now – they would have a stack of them with me smiling. I would be found guilty of fraud, because, surely, a depressed person cannot smile or laugh? They equate depression with sadness. It isn’t. Not all the time.

My wife has done nearly three hours’ overtime today – unpaid of course ( NHS ). The anxiety was bad before she rang to say she was ready to come home. I’m still jarred by it now, a couple of hours later. And I have to go out and shop. Not a good combination.

I don’t like getting in a queue with people in front and behind me. I start to panic. So I mostly go through the self-serve checkouts.

I’m putting it off, but we have to eat.
I am fearful. It’s at these times my bum seems glued to the chair, sofa; and the messages to stand up don’t seem to get through to my limbs.
I can’t tell you how silly I feel about it. I’m nearly 57, of reasonable intelligence, and cannot make myself stand up to go shopping.

That’s life. Well, my life.
Beware, Tesco. Strange person approaching.

The cat sleeps, regardless. But there again, she does not know we are out of cat food too.
That might make her sit up and take notice. Or lick her bum, one or the other.


Now, see. Tonight I am alright. As far as listening/checking/fear goes anyway.
I’m ‘normal’ – which I wasn’t when I wasn’t ill.

This is the point at which I am ‘fit for work’.
It may only last – subject to circumstances – a few hours. I may be ok for the weekend. I’m seldom ok for a week at a time, but I enjoy it while I can.

I made chips, had some polish sausage inna bun, and watched a bit of TV.
We are, you know. I am. People with a mental illness. Ordinary people who are ill.
People with arthritis are ordinary people who only look out of the ordinary when you ask them to lift a heavy suitcase. Then, if they have arthritis in their hands, they are different.
Those with a mental illness are ordinary people who, when stimulated in the wrong way, become different for a while.

The cats are looking unimpressed with my transformation, possibly because they see things at a different level – theirs. They see someone who cares for them with a fierce love. Mainly fierce because I dote on them, as befits their status as gods.

I’m going to make this brief, because I want to go enjoy being well for a while.
Gather Ye rosebuds while Ye may, as it were.

Goodnight to you. And thank you once again for reading.


3 comments on “Totally Mental: A Week In Carnage. Day 5 Friday

  1. Hi Dad,

    I have been reading each of your blogs everyday and I’m glad I have. As your daughter (and one who lives relatively far away) I’m sure I mainly see the mask when i am visiting home, rather than the fear and torture you go through everyday just to achieve those things most of us take for granted. You would feel more pressure to put on this mask when I am home for limited periods to ensure I have a nice stay while I’m there, I would imagine. So it has been hugely eye opening for me to gain an insight into your mind for a few days, not only in terms of better understanding mental illness, but in terms of understanding my Dad. Thank you for that. 

    Love, Tami xxx

    • vetican2 says:

      My Dear Tami

      I had truly not thought of you or your sisters reading this blog; probably a good thing, as It may have made it even more difficult to write.

      Your comment was both welcome and moving; I confess that tears were in my eyes at the end of it. Good tears.

      Yes, parents – even those without a mental illness – do tend to protect their children, out of love, from the problems they face. It is not done to mislead, merely to shelter them from the worst of times, to allow them to grow up and find their own way in the world, unencumbered by their parents’ difficulties.

      Yes, things are still hard for me when you visit, but be assured that, while I protect with a mask the difficulties, the joy of seeing you – or your sisters – is very real, and not a practised act. The continued pleasure I get as you stay is both real and cathartic; though there is sorrow when you leave – we miss you all terribly! – the things I have done while you are with us make my life just that little bit better, and more easily coped with. You and your sisters’ visits are never a burden, they are a light in my life.

      That you should read and understand is a Good – as long as you do not let it bring you down. That you should understand what many other people with this illness go through each day is a Good. Take that with you and it will help you apply it to those you meet with such difficulties.

      I hope you understand that to cope with this illness means I am strong, not weak. Millions like me are incredibly resilient, terribly brave, and amazingly strong. We cope, and still function, we go forward just as those with debilitating physical illnesses do.

      I am proud to have you read this blog. I am proud to have such an insightful daughter. I hope it has not saddened you overmuch.

      You and your sisters never fail to amaze me.
      Thank you for making your thoughts about this known.

      Love, as always,

  2. This letter has brought tears to my eyes. You have a beautiful daughter and you are a most loving father.

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