Of London: Illness and Writing, Back to Uni

Tottenham Court Road looks different now the rain has stopped, emptier, not so dense or fast as I remember. I have just seen my literature course leader for the first time in half a year about the never ending Vivien Eliot and writing as a response to illness. On a bit of a literary high as I know I don’t have the technique or ability to write it academically but as a subject I think I am actually on to something that other critics seem to have turned away from. In a literary sense illness, especially mental health is still something ugly to presenting a piece of writing as ‘literature’ and always needs to circumnavigate the bromide fuelled elephant in the room. Or it has to find something more worthy to make the writing worthy.

My tutor is the only person I have had a conversation with all week that isn’t a medic or therapist or support worker dealing with post sleep deprivation me. I am back on the B12 big needles and lovely nurse after my fatigue found a whole new universe of exhaustion.

Life has become one long list of medical appointments from the supported housing that takes no responsibility, not even acknowledgement of how it damaged my health and well being through ignored sleep deprivation and neglect of the elderly upstairs. Next week I am literally having my brain tested to see if there is any damage causing the sleep paralysis and hyper-sensitivity to noise.

Echo’s of the doctors of Virginia Woolf, Vivien Eliot’s doctors blame the ‘nerves’ it’s all down to nerve damage. I write of the damage of rest cures but I never got my rest and the manager of the Thomas Pocklington Trust thinks I made up the noise shocks of my neighbours dementia, the drunk singing ten hours straight, the ceilings shaking in the new flat. Maybe screaming ‘I thought I was dying, I moved because I thought I was dying up there,’ silenced her bullying patronising tone. She did nothing. They kept telling my there is nothing we can do about a woman with dementia alone every night for two years.

‘It seems everywhere you live you claim to be disturbed by noise.’

Then they say it must be growing up in the countryside, that I am not used to noise. My countryside was a house of 6, semi detached neighbours of varying amounts and ages on a main road. The fields became cramped housing estates. There was no noise because people actually went to bed at night. I grew up with people that went to school and went to work and went to bed at night. They were not mentally ill. They would not have been ignored if thery were screaming drunk, screaming afraid, screaming angry. I then spent 7 years living next t a dual carriageway before the mistake of the blind house.

But Thomas Pocklington Trust still insist I am the problem not their dismissal of mentally ill people. I love noise- I love fireworks and music and motorbike engines. I love the birds at dawn and foxes screaming. I love roaring crowds in stadium and thunderstorms. I can only write in noisy coffee shops in the blur of voices.

Hearing an elderly woman calling to be let out in the night, knowing you can help, can’t even get her to here you to get in and help, when it leaves you paralysed in the morning, inert in the afternoon, when you are then told the problem is in your head, in your preferences. That is when I don’t like noise.

The new flat lets me sleep more and the other flat tenants are nice. I wake early to the traffic and people in the street and it sounds as though I am outside but it doesn’t shock my like slamming doors and the thump thump of a walking stick against the ceiling, beating the radiator it thought was a door. So I am hopeful it will become o.k.

I ate chocolate for breakfast while phoning the council, the doctors and changing information. The streets were drying out walking the back way to Hammersmith bus station where the houses make me think of the 1930’s and people take their happy toddlers to nursery the bigger little ones to the primary school.

The glass elevator never works, always gives up on itself after I step in. I watched a man in the mall below hand out free cup cakes and I went the other way thinking there must be something truly significant in refusing cup cakes. In the bus que a police man, I thought was checking tickets for an unknown reason, was handing out leaflets on terrorism and a number to call if I suspect anything strange. Halfway across the Thames on the bus, saying my Wasteland T S Eliot lucky stanza in my head, the man opposite hollered ‘you son of a bitch.’ He was deeply lost to reality in whatever was on his phone screen.

My plan to get to uni early and get a knew card, write in that depressing purple basement of humming ventilation, ended in becoming soaked. I ate a Pret lunch with a backside like cold soup on a wet bench in Cavendish street. The route between campuses has always been guesswork but an old brick and sash cord window route of nostalgic city.

Every day since I moved from the suburbs I feel like I am in the first day on The Devil Wears Prada. I wake into the city pace that started the day long before me and calls me out into it. It needs energy and swiftness, a new walk weave through the intent bustle of everyone else trying to move the same. I feel I am living somebody else life yet still with no real reason to be in London, no proper income.

Before the grey mirrored block of uni two boys perched on a low window sill under the cusp of a windowsill above to share a cigarette in the rain. I pulled my coat around me with the missing buttons and climbed steps to shelter in the doorway of a mansion block. Sometimes it is forever a movie scene here.


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