No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith

A chapter in my life has not just closed. It is more as thought the pen ran out for another page. I have left the Blind House – supported housing for the visually impaired and like Alice returned down the rabbit hole of this intricate city.  Rumour has it I have been banned when I intend to work with them in helping others. I crept away with no announcements, to swirl into back into London waiting for me. Real London. The move was a mild psychosis of seven days ripping tape and hunting for cardboard.

But I am away from a housing scheme that stripped my health and esteem and only looking back, only five days in, don’t recognise the person I was there. It was institutionalised so that disability was not a matter of needing new ways to do the things and reknow, relearn myself  but a sedentary swith off  of life force. Sound extreme? Tell me a housing estate where, in your thirties, people turn up unannounced at your doorstep with clipboards and passive smiles insisting you have to tell them everything from your toilet troubles to what you spent on food that week.

In a world of blind pilots, blind ballerinas I became mind fogged in a vortex of hanging around for a smoke (I don’t smoke) and feeling as though  a belligerent retirement had set it.

I turned up as fledgling circus girl and burlesque performer with nothing but a bag and a trapeze I had no place to hang.

I left two years later in a methotrexate daze with nerve damage, sleep deprivation, four extra stone in weight and claustrophobic loss of breath overy time I pictured the new flat. Next month I need my brain testing to check why there is nerve damage from such lack of sleep and constant sleep paralysis.

I grew up in fields. The only comfort of the blind house was its nature, it’s oak trees and fox cubs. I cried in the garden perched on the vegetable beds the last evening mourning my original flat there. the neighbour with dementia had gone above my vacant balcony, the drunk below long gone. I would never sip wine on that balcony again watching the sun set with the darling man below-but-one playing Jim Morrison and the Cure.

I wasn’t sad to leave the flat I had only been in less than three months before being told we all had to go. I was sad for the first one in the corner overlooking Richmond Park. They had found me a new place with tiny high windows and not a blade of grass.

The strange old men like school cliques set me jumping ship again. I sat in a taxi, numb, holding musical instruments. The cab driver made little talk.

The new flat is a real flat and not the 1960’s rabbit hutches. No one lingers outside to insult, to nose in. It has an old London looking front door, wood floors and thick walls. Days have been a rush since, a never ending to-do list.

London has fully gobbled me up again and I am just beginning to reawaken, to feel like an adult and not a patient again. The sounds of the neighbours on the stairs above are not the bangs of a scared old lady trapped with dementia. I can do what every I like without anyone needing to know again. You open the door and life is just there on my doorstep on the corner in such a stereotype of Londoness.

Everything gets to begin again.






The Suicidal Model in the Cafe

This is for the man in Pret a Manger, Hammersmith on Saturday afternoon who intended to end his life. Who I shouldn’t have eavesdropped on sat alone at the next table but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. And when it opened it couldn’t find the right words in the short time and I’m afraid I have only made it worse.

I want you know you will cope with what you are convinced you won’t.

You won’t believe that,  and I can’t explain how but I totally believe you can. When I pointed out I am on meds for life too, that I am going blind and disabled and would never be a beautiful model it was to say ‘You can get through this.’ You told me that was my choice but I didn’t choose disability or to lose my career as a performer because my body and mind became mush. Others chose that by denying me sleep so badly my nervous system may now be damaged and I have doubled in size. Losing the circus, my role and my stage at the cost of others will always haunt me. But there is too much in life that I like aside from my own predicament that makes me grab at life.

We all have our sob stories but as a total stranger it was horrid to hear you threatening to stab yourself to the man that tried to listen to you. You have him – he will be part of you coping for something that hasn’t yet happened. And until it does you have to look out not in. You have to see who is there because people are concerned for you and that’s because they see something in you that’s worth having you in their life. That sounds like bullshit right now, but even not believing it let it be a lie that sinks in until you do.

Find things, even minute, even down to just your jeans, that you like and are alive to like and make that thing swell in your mind until you add to it another little thing, and another until without realising time has passed, and you are still here and it wasn’t that bad was it because you had those little things in mind.

Now here’s some practical bits:

When I shouted you have to love yourself and you shouted back I do- it means that arm on the most beautiful body in that coffee shop doesn’t deserve being marked. Especially not to keep others away from you that at the bottom of everything just want you to be ok again and the boy they knew.

Most of your conversation I caught seemed to focus on you sisters opinions, what she has but right now you need to focus on the opinion of your self because I’m sure in there somewhere is something you would hate to never know or do again and you won’t if you’re dead. Strip everyone away that is part of the worry, just for a little while. Take them out of your thoughts, take yourself away somewhere you don’t need to think, someplace you can just be utterly you and focus on getting yourself strong again.

I keep joking I want to live with Tibetan monks in silence and wake to birds and gongs everyday.

You said your modelling business is ruined and that hit a nerve. It’s awful when you are ill or unable to function at your best and everything relies on you to be done. But YOU are more important than any business, industry, finances. Find contacts and take the difficult humbling step of telling them you need time out, you need to put work aside. You may be surprised at who steps up, how many will take over tasks for you. Build yourself an army so you can step back and take the pressure off.

And lastly, I can not imagine what a child losing their mother feels like but you have made it to being a beautiful, articulate man with a place in the fashion industry in London. You have already coped with what you are now saying you won’t be able to cope with again. You have done more that cope- you succeeded.

From now on changes may happen that completely alter what you do or who you know but you will get through  this. Because if a fat snappy loner in a coffee shop is riled enough to stick there nose in and tell you to keep going, imagine what those who know you want, even if they can’t say it and that makes you presume you are alone.

What is coping to you anyway? No one expects you to cope if someone has died, no one will think less of you if you ‘can’t cope’. You’re allowed to fall to pieces but it doesn’t mean there will not be a time when you come out the other side again.

Keep strong in a living person in this city.

I wish I could know what happens to you.