This is England

I recently realised something. Something I’ve known for some time but chose to ignore. I’m burdened by the overwhelming, shameful realisation that whatever talent I may have been blessed with is slowly but surely ebbing away and I’m left with precisely nothing.

A talent for what, exactly?

Well, I’ve always, always, always wanted to be an actor. Can I act? Possibly. Or at least I pretend I can. And isn’t pretending the essence of acting? I mean, what is acting? It’s pretending. There you go. So there’s that. I’m a firm believer in it’s never too late or at least that’s what I tell other people. I don’t necessarily believe it myself but I suppose there’s a grain of truth there.

For example, Christoph Waltz was 51 by the time ‘Inglourious Basterds’ made him star, so perhaps there’s still a sliver of hope for me. But like most things in life, this requires a large degree of effort and I’ve come to realise that my concentration is practically non-existent and I’m very easily distracted. So in that sense – sadly, the only sense – I’m fucked.

I’ve never felt completely happy with my lot; always dissatisfied in some way (even in the most satisfying of circumstances). It’s always the grass is greener and unrealistic expectations. I am my own worst enemy. I figure I should be rich and famous by now. I believe there’s been a criminal oversight somewhere along the way and I should have been ‘discovered’ as an actor many years ago. But apart from a few months at drama school in my late teens – in reality, evening classes in a dingy town hall next to my former prep school – I haven’t exactly put myself out there, so the chances of being spotted by a Hollywood scout are relatively slim.

About the only other thing I’ve ever had an interest in creatively is writing – that I can do, though readers of this blog (both of you) may firmly disagree. So, with that in mind and, other than inconsequential online rambling, I’ve decided to write something. Something kinda cool. Again, I’d rather not go into detail for now but I’m both excited and daunted. I’m immersed in research at present but sooner or later, I will make a start and see what happens. In fact, I made a start several weeks ago on this mystery project but soon discovered that I was way, way out of my depth so I stopped and began to read up on everything I needed to know first. It could be something or absolutely nothing.

At least, that was the plan.

You see, despite rediscovering my dormant creative streak, I’ve found myself becoming very bored, very easily over the past couple of months. Thankfully, I’m no longer tempted to fill my time with spending hour after hour in the pub (last beer – Christmas Day). Though, if I did go back to my old ways, then at least it would be a change of scenery. Since becoming 99.9% teetotal, I must admit, some days, my life feels terribly mundane. That’s not to say getting pissed gave me purpose, but it did get me out of the house. Following my last post, there have been a few issues to contend with. Though ‘issues’ seems a rather inadequate word. Mind fucks?

For example, every time I fancy nipping out with my Nikon to take some photographs (which – due to being in constant pain, doped on painkillers or lacking confidence in my abilities – is not very often, if at all), either I suffer a full-blown anxiety attack or, predictably, lapse into ‘can’t be arsed mode’. I was due to meet up with an old friend recently and was really looking forward to it, but nerves and – for no apparent reason – an overall feeling of dread stopped me in my tracks. Then along comes the Department for Work and Pensions, who decided to ‘review’ both of my sickness benefits.

Let me explain.

For several years (and for a number of health reasons), I’ve been claiming ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment). A while ago, the government overhauled the application process. Previously, application forms would be completed and posted to the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions), together with a doctor’s letter as evidence, which would list a person’s health problems and declare them unfit for work. But the process was completely overhauled a few years ago and so now, once the completed applications forms for ESA and/or PIP have been received, the DWP employs one of three outsourced companies – Atos, Capita or Maximus – to perform so-called face-to-face ‘health assessments’ of anyone wishing to claim sickness benefits. There is little – if any – consideration for the claimant’s health problems. For example, if someone uses a wheelchair, they are still expected to travel to an assessment centre miles away and navigate several flights of stairs. If, through no fault of their own, the claimant happens to be a few minutes late for the appointment, then the DWP will automatically sanction all benefit payments until further notice.

The assessment questions are worded in such a way as to deliberately wrong foot the patient and enable the cancellation of their benefits, thus saving the government significant revenue. Over the past five or six years, these rigorous, dehumanising tests have caused monumental outrage amongst the sick and disabled community, especially since it came to light that all three companies pay a bonus if their employees examine a greater number of application forms per day. Inevitably, the introduction of financial incentives has led to numerous claimants’ health issues being overlooked in order to justify their payments being withheld.

Many people have taken their own lives rather than face an assessment or once their benefits have been withdrawn – The Guardian newspaper estimates, on average, there’s been eight suicides a month since the process began. I don’t wish to use this blog to preach politics, but the Conservative Party are a gang of cunts. When people are killing themselves due to government policy, then there’s something rotten in the state of Britain.

To be called in for an assessment and closely scrutinised by one of these companies’ ‘healthcare professionals’ (who, invariably, are medically unqualified in anything even remotely connected to health or disability), is beyond my temperament so, usually, I insist on a ‘paper-only review’. I complete and return the application forms to the DWP together with a stack of medical evidence to support my claim. So far, I’ve managed to dodge the bullet and been lucky enough (and eligible) to continue to be in receipt of both benefits. But with each assessment, my anxiety attacks are prolonged and, therefore, my mood dips lower and darker – so much so that I have contemplated suicide and self-harmed on a regular basis. Considering what happened with Steve, I’m thoroughly ashamed to admit this.

I can only tell you that, for me, self-harming is a release – a physical manifestation of my mental turmoil. Seeing the blood and feeling the cuts helps to extricate the anxiety from my mind. It’s a weird, dangerous practice and I don’t advise anyone to follow my example. We all have our own coping mechanisms, I suppose. Some better than others.

Why am I telling you this?

Over the past 18 months, I’ve grown accustomed to being more honest with myself. I think – fuck that – I know the main reason I kept drinking so much for so long was due to insecurity and deep-seated self-loathing. I’ve made a point of recognising and accepting my inadequacies and, consequently, I’ve learned to like myself a little bit more, despite relatively infrequent anxiety attacks (or at least I did until these latest assessments). This, in turn, has led me to be honest with others (within reason) and to discover who my real friends are. Whereas previously, I was too wasted to perceive the questionable motivations of disingenuous ‘pub friends’, now I’ve learned to appreciate and cultivate the friendships of sincere people. My beer goggles have fallen away and I see people for who and what they really are, for better or worse. I believe the basis for any significant friendship is honesty, kindness and loyalty, so good riddance to all those toxic, insincere, booze-soaked bromances I once held in such high esteem.

These insights have crept up on me during the past year and a half. As I’ve mentioned before, I never experienced a ‘moment of clarity’ and I hasten to reiterate that I haven’t given up alcohol for good – it’s more a case of growing sick and tired of being sick and tired. Plus the fact that alcohol very nearly killed me. There’s any number of healthier and more productive pursuits I can afford to spend my time doing and I only wish I’d realised that a long time ago.

It could be that confession is good for soul, but I feel it’s something more – in that I’ve learned to be relaxed with who I am. I’m not afraid to admit to my shortcomings and to broadcast them online and that’s got to be better than hiding behind a ridiculous alcohol-fuelled persona. Though, despite creating a blog, I’ve never particularly enjoyed talking about myself. That’s one reason I’ve deactivated my Facebook account. I firmly believe social media turns us all into attention junkies – as if the whole world revolves around what we’re eating or who we’re shagging. I guess one reason for writing a blog is to leave something of an impression on the world, rather than trying to be the centre of it. Or maybe it’ll help someone recognise themselves and their own struggles in life so that perhaps they don’t feel so alone.

My thoughts and problems are no more important than yours, but I prefer to help someone with their own issues rather than discuss mine. Having said that, this blog is a form of cathartic therapy for me, so if there’s a chance I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling better about myself for getting this stuff out there, then I’ll keep at it. Despite my reservations, we all need a degree of attention sometimes. I can feel my outlook on life and self-worth changing for the better. In the absence of beer, I’ve yet to find a better coping mechanism than blogging.

Up until recently, I believed that people – myself included – were too busy with their own lives to bother with another person’s problems. That’s the way it seemed to me for a long time. I’m generally cynical about people but a few months ago, a couple of longstanding friends and some lovely Twitter folk proved me completely wrong. Without wishing to sound like a martyr or too far up my own arse (as usual), I’m used to fighting my own battles, so their kindness proved to be both unexpected and deeply appreciated.

I digress …

The first time I was assessed for PIP, the ‘healthcare professional’ clearly didn’t bother to read the application form – in addition to all the supporting evidence I’d provided – and quickly denied my benefit award. I kicked up such a stink with the assessment company (Atos) and the DWP that the decision was quickly reversed. A few weeks ago, I went through the whole sorry charade again with ESA, where the award was issued for only six months – as if by some miracle my fibromyalgia will be all better by Christmas. Following a ‘mandatory reconsideration’, the award was extended to two years. Now I’m in the thick of it once more with PIP. Life is on standby, my appetite is non-existent and a good night’s sleep is the height of my aspirations. I can’t concentrate or bring myself to do much of anything because I’m perpetually anxious. My only source of income is being held to ransom by a physiotherapist. Ridiculous.

Why should anyone sick and disabled have to go through all this shit? It’s humiliating – as if we’re auditioning for entitlement and having to dance to someone’s tune to prove our worthiness. Claimants have to demonstrate the extent of their health issues – as if the diagnosis of a fully qualified GP simply isn’t good enough. Admittedly, there are those who lie through their teeth in order to claim benefits, but it’s the sick and disabled community as a whole that is suffering by being subjected to such intense suspicion and hardcore interrogations. We are all under the same umbrella of illness – someone with cancer is as guilty as another with learning difficulties and I can assure you there’s no comfort or strength in numbers on this one.

I see beauty in the world every day and I’m beginning to think more positively than I used to, but then along comes an anxiety attack which consumes all of that positivity within a split second and I’m left with nothing but fear and darkness swirling around my mind. I can’t function properly and I’m hesitant in every word and gesture. Anxiety makes me feel constantly on edge – as if every minute is the last one before entering the gas chamber. My thought process is firing in eight different directions all at the same time with lightning speed.

In an attempt to manage my anxiety (and brandishing a healthy pinch of salt) I’ve begun therapy. It’s very early days but I’m hoping it’s going to make a difference to my life in some way. I’ve tried it before but because I was drinking heavily and regularly at the time, there wasn’t much scope for improvement and I lost count of how many times I was told that alcohol (specifically, binge drinking) was the cause of my problems. They were right, of course, but now I have new challenges to overcome without booze hindering personal progress.

I feel I’ve created a far too negative snapshot of my life at present. It’s really not all bad. The lingering issue with my benefits will be sorted soon, I’m sure. I’ve booked a few photography lessons for the New Year and will shortly be treating myself to a new Hi-Fi turntable system, which lends me another interest to pursue. The benefits issue is always in the back of my mind, but my conscience is clear and I have the support of a local disability support group.

So, you know, don’t worry.

Come Back To What You Know

Choking back tears, I stumble wearily to the desk in my office and fire up the MacBook. Finding my way onto Google, I type ‘bungalows for sale Studley’, whereupon I’m presented with an assortment of estate agents’ websites. Clicking on ‘Right Move’, pictures of a dozen or so properties flash before my eyes as I scroll down the page.

Nope …

Too small …

Too expensive …

Too cheap …

Way, way too small …

Oh, bollocks. This isn’t panning out. But wait a second, why not Redditch? My old stomping ground of nearly 20 years. Yeah. My kinda town. Or at least, it used to be.

‘Bungalows for sale Redditch’

Hmm … not bad.

Too small …

Semi-detached? Yeah, right. No thank you very much.

Ooh … but what’s this?

And there it is: standing beneath a heavily overcast sky, a half built dormer bungalow nestled in a mostly average residential street beams back at me. On the surface, it’s nothing special but screams potential. This is the one.

After giving it the once over, Mum’s straight on the phone to the estate agents. Luckily, the house is still for sale but we’re told we can’t view the property until the building work is completed. Fuck that. Thirty minutes later (and after sweet talking the site manager), we’re standing in what will be the downstairs bedroom and I dash upstairs as Mum chats amiably to a builder. The main bedroom is enormous compared to the bloody broom cupboard where I’m entombed back in Evesham. Yep. Definitely the one.

We’re sold.

Selling our own house presents only a moderate challenge. Following zero interest and after quickly appointing a second estate agent, things are soon moving in the right direction. Three sets of buyers come and go – in addition to interminable legal wrangling – but by March 2018, the fourth and final buyer seals the deal.

Bye bye, Evesham.

On moving day – no joke – the sun shines brighter than it has done for months. I feel my whole equilibrium shift as my eldest brother drives me to our new abode. I’m no longer hunched over as if I’m trying to shield myself from everything. As the removal chaps come and go around me, I stand in the hall with my shoulders back and head held high for the first time in eighteen months.

Hello Redditch.

I’m not going to lie, there’s been some difficult times since the move. Crippling rheumatic pain (fibromyalgia) still blights my daily existence, though foolish pride prevents me from using the walking stick I acquired some time ago. A steady supply of (prescribed) codeine and morphine tablets continue to offer some relief and my overall motility seems to be improving. Considering how much I’ve abused my body over the years, it could be so much worse. Some days are better than others but it appears the better days are multiplying.

Behind the scenes, I am embroiled in something of a ‘financial dispute’, but I’m enjoying being me again, so I’m won’t allow anything to spoil my new lease on life. More importantly and for the first time since my early teens, I’ve lost all interest in living my life vicariously through someone else. I guess I’m getting to know who I really am and – rather than wasting time engaging in some deep, heartfelt journey into ‘self’ or any of that bollocks – I’ve learned to take each day as it comes.

Live in the moment and all that.

Neither am I swearing off all my bad habits or claiming to be ‘born again’. I’m not for even a millisecond suggesting that I’m over that period in my life. There’s still darkness in me somewhere and I would never want to lose that. It’s remains part of who I am. Indeed, it may present itself at any moment and I’ll be off again on the road to oblivion, probably for the last time. I doubt it. The point is, I have choice, and that’s the exciting part.

No, really.

I choose not to use up all my nine lives in one night.

I choose not to engage in self-destructive behaviour.

Have I ‘chosen life’? I suppose I have, yes.

There may be one particular friend of mine reading this right now who thinks that this is all bullshit and it’s only a matter of time before I trip myself up. They’ll say I’m fooling myself, being totally naïve, playing with fire blah blah blah …

To them, I say this:

I’m sincerely grateful for your concern and but please don’t worry. I’ve got this.

Do I care what people think? No.

Can it last? Yes.

How? One day at a time.

Nowhere Fast

Studley, mid 2016. My gastric health continues to improve and, somewhat unexpectedly, I’m not missing the pub at all. Unfortunately, I’m not as well as I’d imagined and persistent knee and back pain begin to blight my daily existence. The family GP – struggling to determine the source of this unexpected infirmity – eventually declares it to be a ‘body shock’ reaction to all the consistent damage I’ve subjected myself to over the years. Consequently, codeine tablets and morphine capsules become my constant companions – the latest in a formidable line of prescribed medications and no doubt further evidence of my addictive nature. Though without them, I fear becoming permanently incapacitated. At least two days of every week are spent immobilised in bed, drifting on a narcotic-induced stupor.

For the most part, I cope rather well with a constant stream of illness besieging my delicate frame. Every day seems to throw up – literally on occasions – a new imposition for me to contend with. There are other times when I simply break down sobbing, cursing my misfortune and declaring myself unfit for being. Mum remains a constant source of help and encouragement. How on earth she manages to cope with all of this is simply astonishing.

Occupying all this booze-free time proves to be a challenge, so seeking an outlet for a previously dormant creative streak, I decide to take up photography. I soon find it to be a steep learning curve but enjoy the process immensely. One thing that quickly becomes apparent is that I’m a slow learner, due to being easily distracted and having absolutely no powers of concentration.

Virtually every day, I reflect on Steve’s suicide and desperately try to recall any signs I must have forgotten, but there’s nothing. Try as I might, I cannot fathom any logical explanation. I analyse and obsess but an answer remains frustratingly unknowable, so I decide it must have been my fault all along. Then I blame others. Then I blame myself again. Then I try to forget I ever knew him in the first place. Bereavement – only the second instance in my life and hopefully the last – proves to be a whirlwind of emotions down the darkest of memory lanes. Grief bears no purpose and smothers without prejudice.

It goes without saying that I have too much time on my hands, but I’m fortunate in that I don’t seek solace in alcohol.  I rarely leave the house – perhaps fearful of bumping into any of my ‘pub buddies’ and thus having to provide a plausible explanation for my absence. Though anyone with a crumb of common sense would’ve figured it out for themselves. Strangely, the urge to drink myself unconscious appears to have vanished. In that respect, I feel blessed and for the first time in my life, I begin to enjoy my own company. Spending practically all of my time in the pub meant I was often surrounded by people, most of whom I knew. Now, left to my own devices, I learn to appreciate solitude and not being swathed by the endless chatter of others. An unfortunate consequence of this is I become more sensitive to noise – mainly other peoples’. In addition, I value my privacy above all else, so anything perceived to be a breach of that is met with extreme irritation and plans for fiendish retribution. I learn of Chinese whispers circulating the Lion regarding my absenteeism and worse still, I become the subject of deeply malicious gossip – my pet peeve. Certain so-called friends’ attitudes toward me turn toxic and multiple daggers pierce my back.

November 2016. A fresh start is required. With the house marketed and sold within a week, Mum and I decide upon a move to Evesham. It feels just far enough away from Studley and all my bitter memories. We purchase a charming bungalow tucked away in the corner of a new estate still largely under construction. At first, I welcome my new surroundings and the possibilities for a relatively new life. Evesham offers a level of anonymity that Studley could no longer provide. Oddly, the sound of nearby building work doesn’t bother me in the least. However, some of my existing ailments take a turn for the worse and brand new ones come into play. As the pain in my knees and back becomes unbearable, the daily dosages of both codeine and morphine are increased. I quickly develop a high tolerance to these medications, so I’m prescribed slow release morphine capsules as an extra combatant. These prove to be effective only 50% of the time. After a hastened X-ray, the new GP finally diagnoses the longstanding problem – medium bone degeneration in my left knee and fibromyalgia in my back and both legs.

Wherever I’ve lived, the focus of all friendships have begun in and centered around the local pub. All my remaining friends are either drinking buddies or former workmates who used to accompany me to a number of Worcestershire-based watering holes. Having swore off alcohol for almost a year, I figure the odd pint here and there won’t hurt. Quite frankly, I no longer enjoy the taste and my capacity for binge drinking remains a distant memory. It staggers me how much I used to put away and how often. However – and even though I should – I’m not about to declare myself teetotal. I’m far from perfect and happy to remain so. In my experience, perfection remains a tedious and overrated anomaly.

One cold and drizzly December evening, I make a beeline for the nearest pub – The Cider Mill – to hopefully lay the foundations for new friendships. Walking through the front door, I immediately feel ill at ease. This is not your traditional boozer. From the outside, it resembles exactly what it is – a two storey house converted into a pub. Inside (quite literally) the lounge, I am met with a range of hostile faces. I consider my general demeanour and if somehow a stovepipe hat has suddenly appeared on my head. For a moment, I imagine I’m in an old black and white western and I’ve just pulled up on my trusty steed outside a dusty saloon housed on some distant prairie. Upon my entrance, the piano player freezes and everyone falls silent. Without meaning to, the temporary fantasy causes me to smile and giggle to myself. This is met with further suspicion. Clearly, there’s a stranger in town. I’m reminded of that scene from ‘An American Werewolf in London’, where the two lead characters arrive at The Slaughtered Lamb only to be met with a similar reception.

Putting on a brave face as the hum of pub chatter starts up again, I make my way to the bar and order a pint of lager and lime. I recall this used to be my Dad’s favourite drink (when he rarely imbibed) and figure this can’t do too much – if any – damage. The barman eyes me nervously as he prepares my drink. Seated next to me is a rotund, greying fellow with a pockmarked face, dressed in overalls and who’s evidently been at it a fair few hours. I smile and am about to say ‘hello’ when he quickly averts my gaze and nearly falls off his bar stool in doing so. All around me, there are gatherings of oversize men and a conspicuous absence of females, though this is as far removed from a gay bar as is humanly possible. It seems everyone is looking in my general direction and whispering to one another. What the fuck is going on here?

After paying for my drink – the barman remains silent during the entire transaction – I take my first sip of alcohol in nearly twelve months and remain indifferent to the taste. Unlike all previous visits to a pub, I’m in no hurry to finish the first drink in order to proceed quickly to the second. I turn to survey my surroundings further and am surprised to notice several people are wearing house slippers. Others are in the now standard uniform of track suit bottoms, T-shirt and supermarket trainers. Near the exit, two scruffy teenagers are noisily playing pool next to a large birdcage that houses a number of budgerigars. I realise I am the only person wearing a leather biker jacket, Smiths T-shirt, skinny jeans and Converse Hi-Tops, hence something of a novelty. There is no-one I might consider an equal or anyone with whom I’d feel comfortable engaging in conversation, simply because there appears to be no point of reference or shared interest. The atmosphere is harsh and unwelcoming and I feel distinctly out-of-place, which is something of a first. I also realise that I no longer feel the urge to be sat in a pub, necking pint after pint for several hours. This is just not me anymore. Even if I were surrounded by a host of familiar faces, I would rather be anywhere but here. So I take a final sip of my drink, place the glass back on the bar (three-quarters full) and walk out.

Going forward, alcohol becomes an insignificant factor in my life, rather than the basis for it. It is a very occasional indulgence and any intake is kept to a bare minimum. My unrequited love affair with booze is finally over. I don’t claim to have experienced a ‘moment of clarity’. It’s more that I’m tired of slowly killing myself and paying for the privilege. Thankfully, I soon find other things to keep my mind occupied. I focus on reading and swiftly consume whatever I can: biographies, American history, anything to do with photography and – the enduring passion of my life – movies. From a very early age, films became an obsession of mine but one I’d abandoned in favour of the pub. Now, with renewed vehemence, I devote myself entirely to cinema, with photography and music not far behind. There’s still so much for me to learn when it comes to understanding and operating a camera, but I’ve taken to my new hobby quite naturally.

If anything, that night in the local should have rung alarm bells because after several months, living in Evesham soon proves to be the most demanding and soul-destroying period of my life so far. Despite no longer being enslaved to alcohol, the lack of a nearby decent pub means I haven’t made any friends. The local boozer has always been the epicentre of my chosen location. It’s where I’ve made lifelong chums and given me something to look forward to at the end of every week. As an alternative, I had hoped to join a local photography group, but the only one I’ve found is run by a recovering alcoholic, who has since moved to Dudley in the West Midlands. There’s the town centre pubs but, as with the majority of inner cities, they are a no-go area on Friday and Saturday nights, due to the numerous and overwhelming incidents of drunken violence. The pain in my knees grows significantly worse, so my daily intake of painkillers steadily increases. Anywhere of photographic interest is either too far to walk or it involves traversing up and down hills, which is completely out of the question. All of these factors combined play havoc with my anxiety and worse still, leave me feeling monumentally depressed. Low moods become an everyday occurrence and destroy any positive thinking I experienced upon moving here. Evesham has an odd vibe to it – several friends have corroborated this. The town lacks an identity and bears no sense of purpose. Everyone looks miserable and whoever I’ve tried to talk to has absolutely nothing of interest to say. The only explanation I can possibly imagine is that the town is cursed in some way. One senses an atmosphere of shattered dreams and thwarted ambition. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before.

There have been occasions when I’ve attempted visits to Studley and arranged to hook up with old friends, but Evesham suffers from the most appalling (and renowned) traffic congestion, so any journey to and from the area takes at least half an hour longer than it should, by which time (in my case) any enthusiasm for socialising has completely diminished. Upon visiting The Black Lion, I barely recognise anyone. It appears only a few of ‘the locals’ still visit the place on a regular basis and I often seem to miss them whenever I’ve turned up. Or perhaps, following the recent Chinese whispers, they’d rather have nothing to do with me? Rumours and gossip have always spread through the village with unequivocal haste. Equally, being burdened with a perpetual low mood has affected my overall equilibrium and sleep pattern. I look and feel consistently exhausted. There is every possibility that I’m still grieving but I hate myself for ever leaving Studley in the first place. Though my hand was somewhat forced, I should have stuck it out. Compared to Evesham, Studley was a positively glorious existence. I cannot bring myself to pursue much interest in anything and spend days hiding in bed, lamenting my lot in life and hoping to just fade away. I am moored in loneliness and despair.

Mum loathes our predicament as much as I do. Due to abnormally shoddy workmanship, the new house is riddled with faults, and she is forever on the phone complaining to the customer services department of the so-called building firm, Bellway Homes. The customer service manager – Chris Knight, a snivelling weasel of a man – seems to delight in whatever misfortune befalls us. Under normal circumstances, I’d confront him in person but I’m jaded and bereft of motivation.

Seeing Mum so desperately unhappy is mortifying and I blame myself for us moving here in the first place. At least the last few months in Studley were a self-imposed exile, whereas the isolation in Evesham is unavoidable. Every morning seems to bring another source of anxiety and the house creaks and moans, burdened by yet another fixture falling to bits. Despite my best friend taking his own life, the thought of suicide crosses my mind on multiple occasions – a mere handful of painkillers and all my troubles would be over. But the acute shame of previous attempts subdues the urge and tears stream from my soul as I ponder the irreparable torment my family would endure.

September 2017. One late morning, awaking from a turbulent night’s sleep fraught with nightmares and, practically on auto pilot, I shuffle from my bedroom to the office, slump down in the leather chair in front of my desk and switch on the Mac …