On a train, sitting across from a nurse who is reading a pop psychology book. She is wearing ballet pumps and she has her legs crossed. She arches her foot until the pump is held on by her toes. I don’t have a foot fetish and wonder if this display is erotic.
It’s early October and very mild.
The withdrawal symptoms from escitalopram continue to be awful. My moods change frequently.
Strange day: walking to the station the air is still and the sounds seem flattened. It is very eerie: it’s the stillness, I think. And the strange light. On the train, the passing landscape disappears into the grey.
The mist is now lit red.
In Sheffield, people stop and look up at a red sun. Sahara red.
The world is off-kilter today.
I’m sitting in a café drinking tea. Suddenly, I feel an overwhelming sadness. I feel distressed and anxious. I go to the bathroom and take a Valium.
Doctor’s surgery. I feel anxious. My mood drops, I feel it physically in my chest. During my appointment I behave erratically, or rather, I feel I am being erratic.
October has passed quickly.
Hallowe’en: grey morning, mild. A chill wind blows half-heartedly. The train is too hot.
As I eat lunch in a café there is a girl with her boyfriend at the next table, she has her arms folded and is pulling her top further and further down, her breasts are almost exposed. I feel awkward. I get up and buy a Hallowe’en cake.
I rush to the station to get an earlier train. It leaves late. It’s sunny now.
The low Hallowe’en sun lights distant mist and makes me squint behind my Ray-Ban’s. The landscape is silhouetted against the sky. The temperature is starting to drop.
I feel empty today. I think I used all my emotion yesterday. I’m listening to Grouper but I can hear people discussing Kevin Spacey.
The sun has gone down now. The horizon is soft yellows and pastel peaches. Scott loves Jamie has been etched into the train window.
Out of the other window, the sky is blue-grey.
A flickering fluorescent light at Meadowhall indicates the presence of evil.
Hallowe’en 1991, Religous Education, the teacher Mrs Cockerell (not her real name) tells us about the Devil. For the first ten minutes, I think she is describing another of our teachers and I am amused. However, the talk gets pretty dark when she starts telling us about children who’ve gone out on Hallowe’en and come home different: distant and withdrawn, trapped between two worlds. Despite my apathy towards religion, I go home suitably terrified. That night I barely sleep.
Among the commuters waiting on the platform there are devils and witches. The twilight is bluey and strange. Trees and spires black against the sky. It’s cold now and I pull scarf tighter around my neck.
Yesterday, I was thinking about the dream I’d had a few nights ago of being shot in the head.
I was in Mallorca involved in some sort of espionage. I was shot by a man in civilian clothing while a man wearing an army uniform watched on. They were on opposite sides. I was slumped against a wall watching an exchange between them. After the men had left in separate vehicles, I managed to get to my feet, seemingly undead and entered a bar where I received help. I was taken in a taxi to the place I was staying, a disused farmhouse and I collected together my belongings.
At some point, I was transported to London. I found myself disoriented in an underground shopping arcade. People looked at me strangely and I had persistent pain on the side of my head where I had been shot. I wore a tailored grey suit and a black raincoat but I felt out of time from the people around me. Disoriented, I felt I needed to get to Euston station. I searched for landmarks I recognised but the landscape shifted continuously. At one point I was near the Barbican but couldn’t get close to it because I was frightened of the towers.
I managed to find my way to high ground. To the south, London stretched out below me and to the north, I could see Sheffield in the distance. I sat down on a bench feeling defeated. I don’t remember anything after that.
I don’t think there is anything to understand from this. The only reason it received more thought than any other dream is the fact I was shot in the head and this the only time I can remember this happening.
My escitalopramic dreams are often coherent, very vivid and absurd. Sometimes even the anxiety dreams play out like an absurdist suspense film. The nightmares can be rough, though.
5.51 am. A soft rain is falling sending icy air in through the window. The light is grey. The occasional car passes. I want to be asleep. The brown cat is restless.
I should give in and get up. I’ve been lying here awake for over an hour now.
I should have got up! I fell asleep and dreamed I was cannibalised! First time for that too!
Rainy day. Rainy night. Hardly seems like August. Although, for a change, the dreary weather hasn’t left me depressed more indifferent. Is that an improvement?
Blue morning. 5.53 am. I can’t hear the rain, just your breathing. The light is bluey through the curtains. I can hear the rain now on the window. Another rainy day ahead.
Should I get up? Make a cup of tea and some toast. Or should I try and fall asleep?
6.06 am. Simon’s sitting at his desk with a cup of coffee. It’s another night he hasn’t slept. Outside his fourth floor flat, the landscape is brightening, it is raining and the light is grey. He swallows the rest of coffee. The world is waking up and strangely he feels less alone. He looks out at the rain, the distant hills and cars heading towards town. He goes to the bathroom and brushes his teeth. He gets into bed. He knows he’ll wake up at midday feeling awful but there is something about this time just before falling asleep when everything feels like it’ll be all right.
I was sitting on the edge of the bed and felt like I was tumbling backwards. It was strange to see my stillness in the mirror. It felt like it took my brain a while to catch up with what eyes were telling it.
The sun is out. High in the sky. My window is open full and I can feel it hot on the side of my face. It pleasing after several grey days. It is blustery and the wind is swirling around my room disturbing my papers, revision notes and photographs.
I am back from getting my prescription filled at the pharmacy. I felt awkward as I sat waiting for it. I always do. Blue sky, some clouds, still blustery. I’m wearing lilac-coloured socks. I really like them, I’m going through a bit of pale purple phase. I bought three pairs of them but I wish I’d brought the rest. This is what I was thinking when I was waiting for my prescription to be filled.
Headache. I fear it could be a bad one so I take co-codamol. It has no effect so an hour later I take a propranolol. Half an hour later the headache begins to ease.
I went for a walk this evening, it was uninteresting. The sky was starry but not completely clear. As I headed home the moon was starting to disappear behind the hill where the observatory used to be.
I feel low tonight but I can’t figure out why. Probably more withdrawal symptoms from the escitalopram. The trouble with escitalopram is, on the one hand, I feel balanced and functional and on the other, numb and a bit slow cognitively. While it reduces my anxiety, it sometimes makes social interaction even more awkward especially when I get stuck in the middle of a sentence because the word I’m after has disappeared in the escitalopramic fog or I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. As someone who has always had a good memory, I find it both frustrating and worrying.
1.29 am. In bed, the fan is on. I’m wondering if I should put my ear plugs in, I like the sense of isolation they create. It seems pointless, you don’t have the television on and the fan isn’t disturbing me.
7.07 am. The room is cool, you would say that it is cold.
The sun is hot and my window is open full. There is some sort of work being carried out down the street. Very loud heavy machinery, the high-pitched scream of concrete being cut. Hammering. The sound of summer.
The room cools quickly when the clouds obscure the sun.
The brown cat appears at the window announces herself then climbs in while Elizabeth Taylor watches from my wall.
I dreamed of a vaguely familiar blonde girl with glasses. She sat next to me in a classroom and whispered seemingly intimate things into my ear but I couldn’t tell what she was saying, she laughed at my bemusement. We were surrounded by a lot of boys and I sensed hostility from them.
In another dream, I travelled to a house I used to live in. There was a girl there with short brown curly hair who I was told was a recovering alcoholic by a familiar man with long hair in a ponytail. She wore a floor-length Venetian red velvet night dress with a Mandarin collar. When the man with the ponytail left, she begged me to buy her a bottle of brandy. I felt bad because I wanted to, just to please her. I was both relieved and sad to get away from her.
2 am. Drunk on bourbon. In bed. The television is loud. I feel disoriented and strange. 2 am. 20°C. Summer. I am in limbo. I don’t know what to feel. How to feel.
I can hear the clouds moving across the night sky. Obscuring the stars. Obscuring the planets. Passing under satellites and other astronomical objects. I can feel their movement it comes in through the window and moves across my exposed face. It is cooling and soothing.
The television voice is loud. I don’t like it.
Thunder rolls. The sky is the colour of slate with a band of white where it meets the distant houses and trees.
When the rain has stopped I walk to the shop and buy a bottle of wine. On the way back the sun shines on the wet roads and pavements. My trainers shine so brightly they look like that ’80s music video. Each time I pass a puddle the reflection of the sun dazzles me. Clear sky above me now.
I have been cutting the escitalopram dose down for 5 days now. I would like to be able to function on the lowest dose by the time I restart university in September. I hope the reduced dose will combat a lot of cognitive difficulties I suffer with. Furthermore, the escitalopramic fog. Trouble is I am experiencing some mild side-effects from reducing the dose, sometimes, I feel a little disconnected and I’m getting brain shivers.
1.26 am. The whistling in my ears is unbearably loud.
11.01 am. Doctor’s surgery waiting room. The bus took ages. My head feels fuzzy. I have a dull headache. The world feels off today. The waiting room is warm and close. A man is debating with his toddler daughter whether seaweed is edible or not. She insists it’s not. But he explains it is and full of iron. She’s not convinced. She thinks daddy is being silly.
I feel strange: distant and disconnected. The flooring glitters, I’m not sure what the material is, something hard-wearing I suppose. My head thuds without much spirit.
The children in the waiting room all seem at ease. When I was young I always sat very still feeling very anxious. It all seemed very clinical, the tubal metal and wood chairs, the white tiled walls; my memory of it is a vast space of whiteness with rows of chairs laid out facing four doors which led to the doctors’ treatment rooms with a window-fronted reception between them. The receptionist would slide a glass panel (often brusquely) open to deal with patients. I think that this clinic has been demolished now. There was a pharmacy across the road with a large green tiled cross on the side, in the 1960s style. There were also public toilets near the entrance of the clinic and I hated passing them as they always reeked of urine, disinfectant and strange men.
11.32 am. Still waiting. The receptionist and a patient discuss the weather. It’s raining.
Drizzly grey Wednesday. Back from the doctors. I have just told you about my dream of being shot in the head so I won’t repeat it here.
The withdrawal effects of reducing escitalopram continue. Blankness and fog. My GP suggested I might be withdrawing too quickly, I think he is probably right.
The weather is depressing. Everything is fucking depressing. Grey. Grey. Grey.
This is a boring letter. It just moves the story forward.
It is raining. Night rain. The best rain. Not morning rain when you are sitting on the sofa eating your breakfast looking out at the grey pouring rain knowing you’ve got to go out in it and it’s going to be coming down all day.
Often I don’t mind being out in the night rain. I think usually it’s because I am going home, so getting wet doesn’t matter, it is something you can just experience instead of enduring. Also, there is less traffic. So little competes with the sound of the rain.
About 13 years ago, I remember walking home in pouring rain, it was around 2 am. The rain fell heavily and steadily the whole journey. I arrived home, around 3.30 am, drenched. There was a strange comfort in drying off, brushing on wet hair back off my face and putting on dry clothes. I fed the cats while my cup of tea brewed then sat at the kitchen table with the silence and the rain. Then, I went to bed, hair still damp, and fell asleep to Eno’s Music for Films.
No rain this morning. Bright sunshine through the curtains. I have a headache and don’t want to get up. But I keep falling asleep and having unpleasant dreams.
Sometimes the words come easily. Sometimes they are lost in the fog. Some words get so lost that my escitalopram brain decides I must no longer need them severs the path to my tongue. It is starting to do this with memories too. Is that a good or bad thing? Will these missing memories be restored when the escitalopramic fog has cleared?
I am lying in bed. I always seem to be lying in bed. The brown cat is lying with me. I can feel her warmth through the candlewick bedspread. I hear the tumble dryer, one of my comfort sounds. I remember at Oakbrook Road, before I had therapy, when I was anxious I would put the washing machine on and go and lie in the bath. The sound, the normal everyday sound, of the washer would comfort me. When things felt out of control as they often did back then those normal sounds would ground me. Other people need physical contact, I just need the sound of a washing machine.
It is early evening now. Outside it is still raining. The sound of car tyres on wet tarmac. The damp cool air coming in through the window. It smells fresh. Strangely, it smells like Sundays.
Sunday evening, alone in your room, outside it is raining, the light is strange, you sit at your window, bored, the KLF are playing on your tape player. A summer Sunday in the rain. You watch the cars, they are all distinct from each other, you can name each one, the make and model; if you were to see a photograph of these cars now they would all look very dated.
The light in your room is fading. You turn the light on and you watch your reflection in the window as you walk over to the bed, despite your young age, you are vain. You lie on the bed on top of the duvet you left on a bus in a dream the other night and you wonder what to do.
The setting sun is shining brightly through the curtains now, somewhere there will be a rainbow.