Reality Cuts

2018-03-02 07.11.15

I leapt up, startled, in the dead of night. I’d been dreaming of the past again, and couldn’t be sure whether the sounds I heard were mental and menacing or real and benign.

“The bastard’s in here – get him!”

The words drifted up to the first floor room where I stood, and tapped on the window. I recognised them instantly as the words of my tormenter from high school. What were they doing ringing so lucid, invading the truth and the now that I wanted?

I took on a fighting stance, just as my teacher had instructed. Feet apart and equally weighted, knees bent. My twin was wrapped in sheets, cowering in the corner behind me. I will protect you, I thought. There was a reason the sword was left for us in this way. I gripped it tightly and focused upon the muscles and strength needed to maintain the posture it demanded. My breath became deep and purposeful.

The words continued to scratch at the window, desperate to get in and meet my ears full-on. They were squeezing through the frame… I turned to face them and swiped the sword through the air in one clean movement, cutting the threats in two. They fell away slowly like feathers until they were nowhere to be heard.

I couldn’t allow my to guard drop straight away, for next there was a creaking on the landing outside my room. Footfall on floorboards, or the house choking? I wasn’t taking any chances and brought the sword down once again, this time in the direction of the door. But then I had the sensation that someone was in the room, standing over me. Someone unearthly and monstrous. My eyes wide in the dark, I couldn’t quite make a figure out, and dry tears stung from the strain of trying. With nothing to lose, I took another slash with the blade out in front of me and felt something drop into a heap on the floor. My twin rejoined me then, and in exhaustion we fell backwards onto the bed as one. Back to the land of dreams.

When the morning light came, my thoughts had returned to normal. There was a gash in the reality between my bed and the wardrobe where I had struck something. It was like a tear in a canvas, but not so neat as to hide the in between. The in between was black and full of eyes that glared, pulling me in. Azrael, they whispered to my bones. I remembered what my teacher had said though: leave the wound well alone until it is healed.

There were more cuts all over the house: far more than I could remember making. As I left for work, I stepped over the biggest of them all on the doorstep: the place where a bad memory had once been. It was gaping wide and as I peered in I saw thousands of twinkling stars. I resisted the temptation to touch them and walked away.

All of the cuts healed over the coming few days and a tension I had carried for many years dropped from my shoulders. I could feel tall at last. Never again would I think of the bully’s words; from then on they existed only as pixelated impressions in the peripheries of my mind. That was when I knew I was truly ready for the next lesson my teacher had to give me.

*****

For more unusual, contemplative flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception. Available now in e-book and paperback worldwide.

Erin – Robert Dickins

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Erin is a fast-paced novella written by psychonaut and editor, Robert Dickins. It follows protagonist Lije Baillie on an excursion to the Solpsycle festival with his friends, a cocktail of psychedelics, and some excess emotional baggage. Clinging to a warping, increasingly anarchic environment, he feels a darkness surging up within. It is something he isn’t admitting to himself: something only Erin can lead him to.

This book is a vibrant journey. It is a short read, but deceptively deep: something I didn’t fully appreciate until the very end when it left me contemplating. Dickins does a fantastic job of putting the reader right at the centre of the action, and I love his portrayal of a landscape I recognise:

“Grotesque, post-hippy caricatures are enticing me into their booths, trying to sell me sprawling colourful hats and baggy shawls, scratchy bags and day glo sticks. They want me to vanish as well; vanish into a cloudy, indistinguishable mass. But it’s impossible. I am lost and this is who I am…”

There are some laughs, some reflective chill-out moments, and some chaos. But Erin is more than that: it is an experiment in altered consciousness, not only for Lije but for the reader, too. There is a distinct impression that we are caught up in a trip: the gaps in Lije’s experience, a general confusion about the passage of time, and abstract sensory rhythms…

Continue reading “Erin – Robert Dickins”

The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost

If you haven’t read them yet, you might like to catch up with The Holly King’s Apprentice Part 1 and Part 2.

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For 6 whole days I practiced reaching the realm of Ain Soph without the Holly King’s aid. I was utterly preoccupied with the strange task that had been set for me; so much so that I did very little else. It was difficult at first, because I hadn’t a clue where to start, but with practice I found a method that worked.

The terrifying, foreboding doom that characterised my depression was like a shadow on the peripheries of my vision. I could never quite catch a glimpse of it, but if I approached with stillness of mind instead of chaotic thought and panic, it wasn’t nearly so elusive. So, I began to teach myself to shut down the offending thoughts at their root. It was as though some other part of me was persuading them to be discrete; convincing them it was a matter of life and death. It was like telling a child to stay quiet in the closet to hide from an intruder. Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost”

The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph

This is part two of a story that began here.

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

The thoughts of sadness remained at bay for a couple of days. I did some shopping, painted some pictures, and saw my friend, Fred. I decided not to mention my strange new therapist to him, though the autumn leaf pendant he had gifted me tingled around my neck.

Then, on the third day, the freight train of shadows I’d been expecting hit me hard in the face. I became sure it didn’t matter if I was alive or dead, and since every little task suddenly required energy I no longer had, thoughts of the latter were never far from my mind.

I felt trapped by suffering because it was in everything. I longed for some peace: to be some place where my brain wasn’t revving in mud. This is temporary, I reminded myself, it’s the time of year. I did some activities that have helped in the past: I showered, took a walk, listened to some eighties synth pop. I called Fred but he didn’t answer, so I left him a silent voicemail. You can do all of these things though, and somehow every episode of depression still feels like an unprecedented depth. It becomes harder and harder to believe it will pass, despite experience being on your side.

Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph”

How to Improve the Mental Energy Cycle

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One of the ideas that really stuck with me after reading Rebels and Devils recently, was Christopher Hyatt’s simple explanation of how we regulate our energy on a day to day basis, and how it affects our ability to live strong, productive and wilful lives.

‘There are four types of energy direction and two primary cycles. First, there is energised enthusiasm which in turn is usually balanced by deep relaxation – the second type of energy. This cycle is the fundamental healthy, creative, rebellious ebb and flow of life. Third, there is deep tension and, fourth, agitated tiredness. These last two are signs that the fundamental ebb and flow of life is disturbed.’

The third and fourth types of energy he describes are symptomatic of stress and an inability to cope, and they form the second cycle. He goes on to say that getting off this second cycle and switching back to the more healthy first cycle can be very unpleasant; most cannot do it and instead will seek a quick fix that has relieved their pain and discomfort in the past, even if it is only temporary. This often comes in the form of coffee, alcohol, prescription drugs such as painkillers and sleeping pills, illegal drugs or bouts of aggression. This cycle inevitably leads to addiction, depression or paralysing anxiety.

The reason I think the idea of the two cycles struck such a chord with me, is that it describes very well the method by which I once became trapped in a loop of depression and how I ultimately overcame it. I have since looked further into the mechanisms of what makes a healthy cycle, and would like to share some of my findings.

Continue reading “How to Improve the Mental Energy Cycle”

Fallen Standing: My Life as a Schizophrenist – Reshma Valliappan 

I first became aware of Reshma Valliappan (also known as Val Resh) from her blog here. She writes openly and honestly about mental illness, and offers online peer support via her Red Door initiative. She also raises awareness on issues of sexuality, and has spoken at several conferences.

Fallen Standing is a raw, personal account of the events leading up to her diagnosis, her experience of treatment, and her thoughts on how labels impact us in unseen ways.

When I read the introduction and note from the publisher, I expected this to be a lot more incoherent and without logical order. It takes the form of a series of e-mails, diary entries and letters written to a friend, mostly in first person but occasionally in third, but although the writing is a little rough in places I didn’t find it difficult to follow at all. The parts in which she simply writes down a stream of consciousness are among the most illustrative of the book, and are often very humourous too. There are also some wonderfully unique analogies and associations, showing that she is skilled with language but also prepared to be brutally honest.

‘(Voices in some cases only. Not necessarily applicable to all. Offer depends upon availability of dopamine stock.)’

Continue reading “Fallen Standing: My Life as a Schizophrenist – Reshma Valliappan “

Fragments of Dark: Jesse

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Depression is not a dramatisation of how you feel when you lose your wallet. Depression is falling off the merry go round; and broken, bruised and dizzy looking back up at it wondering why you were on it in the first place. Despression is not immediately jumping back on, because from down here you can see the rickety mechanisms and the shady characters that operate it. From down here you can see that the shiny paintings and smiling faces are easily peeled away to show the cold grey metal underneath. The mirrors are not true reflections. From down here you can see the open space, the trees and the sky. All these things move much slower, and the more the dizziness wears off, the more beautiful and attractive they become. The faces and the hands reach out and try to pull you up onto your feet, but instead you slowly back away from the fairground and melt into nature…

 

Fragments of Dark is a hand bound, illustrated zine compiling short bursts of creative writing about depression and madness.

Fragments of Dark: Al

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And the judge said:

“Reams and reams, book after book you have written. Haha! Everyone thinks they can write, everyone thinks they are good at it. Everyone thinks, everyone. Including you. You are not special, you are included in that ‘everyone’. You must follow the same rules, the same life path, the same script. Everyone thinks they are different, but they’re not. Now sit down.”

Who is the judge in any case? You, of course! Just like every other part in this damned play. You are just a pack of cards! Everyone is just a pack of cards. But how do you want to play? Do you really want to play your judge that way? Why not make your judge more attractive, more unique? Go on, give him a fancy costume, let him express himself! Have a flamboyant judge, a goth judge, a female judge, a baby judge, a fish judge, a water judge…

 

Fragments of Dark is a hand bound, illustrated zine compiling short bursts of creative writing about depression and madness.

Identity and Social Media: A Psychological Perspective

I left Facebook for a month and the world didn’t end. I had become frustrated by my own compulsion to connect electronically, and was convinced it was getting in the way of my productivity and personal goals. Being an introverted personality, I didn’t think I would miss the interaction so much and hoped I would become more focused and more emotionally available to experience the ‘real’ world, the here and the now. What actually happened surprised me. First of all very few people even noticed my absence, apart from Facebook itself which sent me 11 notifications in the first week prompting me to reconnect, which led me to question the authenticity of my friendships and of my contribution to the social group. Secondly, although I had more occasions on which I was available to write or paint instead of procrastinating and scrolling my newsfeed, a big source of inspiration was cut off. Convinced I was just adjusting, and unwilling to accept that social media was more important to me than I realised, I quickly became quite depressed.

Why this should be the case, from a psychological perspective, interested me greatly. Then when I logged back in, one of the first things I noticed was a quote from an unknown source:

If you want to know what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph

Given that much of my newsfeed was filled with selfies, it prompted me to think: do people in the technological age fear losing themselves? And my enquiry naturally progressed to: How does social media contribute to our mental health and sense of identity? Continue reading “Identity and Social Media: A Psychological Perspective”

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