Title listing of my blogs
We’ve all been a little bit obsessed with something at least once in
our lives I’m sure...A favourite toy at Christmas, or a new puppy or a kitten maybe.
Because it’s what you do when you love something – you show it some affection.
Only some people don’t know when to stop.
The first time he called me it was almost 1-ooam. I didn’t know that it was a “he” then.
I had no idea who it was, but I didn't recognise the number and so I let it ring.
Only it rang and rang, and it was a video call, which I thought was
really weird, because anyone who knows me knows that I hate anything
that shows my face, and so I sent back a message saying that they had
a wrong number...and that’s when it started to all go a bit horribly wrong.
Because he sent back a text saying “Hi Denise”
And officially became “a bit of a stalker”...
You see the phone calls didn’t stop. In fact they got worse. And I got
video calls and text messages several times a day. Every. Single. Day.
And I needed my number for work at the time, and so I thought that if
I blocked him then that would be it, which in all fairness worked -
for about a day...then he went just out and got another phone.
And another one and another one.
Until I was absolutely petrified every time my phone rang.
Because this guy knew me. I mean he really knew me.
He knew my name, he knew my number and he knew exactly what I looked like.
And friends told me to tell the police…but what would I say? What
proof did I have? A steady stream of unanswered calls from several
different numbers? A series of non- verbal conversations?
I didn’t even know this person…
Except that I did.
You see my friend had an idea - she took the original number that
he called me from, and she ran it through facebook.
And there he was.
In all his glory.
With his trademark jogging bottoms and his goldie-looking chain, and
his history of obsession with women he can’t have.
You see I met him in a homeless hostel, when I had to live there briefly.
He was in the room next door. Only I had to report him to staff
because he didn’t like the word “No”
And so I sent him a message with a screenshot of his face…and I told
him about the cosy chat that I’d had with his probation officer…
And this time, when I blocked him again, he didn’t call back…
My days become Groundhog Day.
I wake up, worry, drink and pass out. Wake up, worry, repeat… Everything else is a blur.
I no longer have “good” days. Now that Bear is gone they range from “numb”, “repetitive” to “really, truly, awfully shit.”
I’m struggling to function. Getting out of my head is all that I care about now, and it’s starting to take its toll on me.
My hair is matted and is starting to break. I run my fingers through to comb it but then start to pull it out instead. It’s not intentional; I was trying to make it look better. Instead I make myself look a million times worse.
I rarely eat.
I don’t have an appetite, and the more that I drink, the less able I am to keep anything down anyway. My clothes fall off me. I go from size 8 to size zero in weeks, barely noticing … getting drunk is all that I care about.
I check my reflection in the ladies. A hollow-eyed tramp stares back at me. For a second I think that there’s someone behind me, until finally I realise … the hollow-eyed tramp is me.
I head back into the bar and drink until I’m asked to leave. I should be embarrassed by this but I’m not. It happens a lot. I’m used to it now. I fall down the stairs as I try to leave. I don’t remember where I sleep.
The days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months.
I collect bruises and breaks like old ladies collect china. My head is full of white noise and a million shitty encounters.
“Friends” start to avoid me. I see one cross the street – pretend to be engrossed in some tatty old window display, blatantly willing me not to see her. It’s fine. She was never truly my friend anyway, but that’s another story…
I resist the urge to go over and tap her on the shoulder, just to see the look on her face. But I’m starting to withdraw. I don’t have those 30 seconds to spare. The off-licence beckons. She gets a reprieve.
I wonder what they think of me. The guys behind the counter, as I hand over some small change and head back out with my booty. The thought lingers for a second, but then I crack open a can and forget what I was thinking about.
I start to fall down a lot damaging my ribs, my face, my coccyx and my knee. I tell myself that I really need to steer clear of stairs. But then I fall off a kerb and hit my face on the pavement. I can’t steer clear of pavements, too. How would I get to the pub?
I tell myself to be more careful and nurse a black eye for weeks.
I go to my doctor and ask him for help. He tells me that he’s unsure as to what to do. That he took an oath to “do no harm” and that addiction is not a field that he’s familiar with. He doesn’t want to make things worse, he says. What he is telling me basically, is that he is not the guy to help me today.
I thank him for his time, Google the medications that I think I might need, go back to the doctors and get a prescription. Then I pick up my meds, attempt to guess the quantities and I try to do a home detox.
The tablets calm me. I think that this might work. But then I crack open a can and drink that as well swiftly followed by another, then another, until all of my cans are gone.
I morph into a zombie.
This is not going to work.
My life is a car-crash. I’m now running solely on alcohol and prescription drugs.
The man that I am involved with is vile.
He’s an alcoholic, too. One who doesn’t like women very much, as I quickly find out to my cost.
Our “relationship” involves him shouting, me crying, constant gas-lighting, total head-fuckery, and more than a smattering of cruelty and violence.
I hate him.
But I have nowhere else to go by now. My head is full of alphabet-spaghetti and I am totally reliant on him.
The penny starts to drop as he attempts to drag me up the stairs by my neck. As I manage to break free and make my escape, the thought crosses my mind that I really can’t keep living like this.
If the alcohol doesn’t kill me, then maybe this guy will. I think that he’d enjoy it.
The thought terrifies me.
It’s the wake-up call I need.
I pluck up some courage, walk shakily into a meeting and I beg the staff there to help me.
They take one look at my broken, emaciated frame and start the paperwork immediately.
They are throwing me a life-line.
I’m going into detox …
There are four main colours of people in here...Ashen, grey, yellow and orange. I'm one of the grey ones. Which means, that in the big scheme of things, I am luckier than most.
My friends Karl and Sam are variations of yellow. Both still in their twenties, their livers wrecked in a couple of years by drinking too much cheap sherry and cider. Sam is in a wheelchair when we meet. Liver failure is taking its toll...
Detox is harrowing, humbling and an absolute Godsend. In here I am cushioned from the madness outside that used to be my life. In here I can breathe. I feel safe.
I do everything the staff tell me to do to the absolute letter. I want to get well again as quickly as possible and I will do anything to achieve that. Obeying rules and sticking to the program comes before anything. I keep my head down and my nose clean, making sure that nothing and nobody sways me.
I take my meds, go to classes and try and learn new things. The girls in here help me to comb out my dreadlocks. I get my appetite back, endure vitamin injections and gradually I begin to put on some weight.
I read, pray, meditate. Sleep, do yoga, make jewellery. I make two tiny little figures out of clay and put them on my windowsill. They cheer me up when I see them.
There are 24 hours in my days these days. Without alcohol to blur the edges, I have a lot of time to fill. I make sure that I use it wisely.
I am focussed. Determined. “A woman on a mission”. Completely unrecognisable from the dishevelled, 6 stone scrap of nothing that was me when I got here barely two weeks ago. I am starting to look like a human again.
The other guys look up to me. They ask me what my secret is. I tell them that there is no secret. I just don't want to die.
It's a good motivation to get well. Several others follow my lead. A couple more make a break for it and climb over the wall. It hits us all hard when we realise that they've gone.
You get attached in here, form bonds, try and be strong for each other. Days like today are grim and a stark reminder that this could be any one of us if we take our eye off the ball for a second.
We are all new to this. Fragile. We need to remember that we are all in here for a reason...mainly because we have an addiction that wants us all dead. Going over the wall will speed up that process. I stay where I am... I am choosing to live.
A new girl is admitted. She OD's that night in her room. We all look on in horror as staff try to resuscitate her whilst waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
They bang on a door that no-one can open because the staff with the lanyards are desperately trying to save her life. I run into her room and announce that they are here. I try not to look at her face.
They wheel her away on a stretcher. There is a coat over her head. It's a horrible night for us all and a stark reminder of what we are up against.
I take this as a warning and work as hard as I can every day. When it's an uphill struggle I think about Bear. When I start to lose focus, thinking of him keeps me going and I get myself back on track again.
I go to meetings twice a week. AA and NA. Although not compulsory, the staff encourage us to go. I give them a try, but they don't really resonate. I prefer to tackle this in my own way. I'm determined to get my normality back the best way I know how and meetings on the outside are not part of my plan. I prefer to push my way forward alone. When I finally get out of treatment, it will be down to me anyway to keep myself on track. I'm fully aware of that...I'm just starting early.
In treatment I am picked apart, broken down, and then finally rebuilt. When I emerge from rehab 4 months later, I am older, wiser and, most importantly, sober.
There is no doubt in my mind that this has saved my life. I feel cleansed, renewed, reborn...I never want to drink again.
I move into a homeless hostel.
The walls are like rice paper, there are holes in the wall and the door has clearly come away from the doorframe on more than one occasion, but it's a roof over my head and somewhere to sleep. I am grateful that I have this much. There are people in this town with nothing.
I feel wobbly. Vulnerable. Out of my depth. I don't have any friends here, and the others in the hostel have their own demons to slay. I choose not to get drawn into conversation or ask too many probing questions. “Good morning” and “Goodnight” are the extent of my repertoire, unless I am speaking to staff.
The house is oppressive. The staff seem indifferent. I try not to spend too much time here and so I spend most of my days outside by myself.
My friend Sam dies.
It hits me hard. We went into detox on the same day but only one of us got to get our life back on track. He had a little girl. His family are broken...
There are pubs and clubs on every corner here. I can't afford to let my guard down. After everything I've been through, failure is really not an option. I've come too far and worked too hard to let this news break me.
I grieve for him without reaching for a drink. I know that I can do this, I just need a different kind of coping mechanism. One that doesn't involve dragging myself straight back to hell via the nearest bar as soon as I have a bad day.
Something easy, something healthy, something portable, something cheap. Something that I can turn to 24/7 when I need a distraction from my head and this shitty set of circumstances.
Nothing springs to mind.
Until I pick up a pen and then I start to write...
I write and I write and I write. About nothing, about everything...because once that pen is in my hand and I start to really focus, I don't stop writing until the noise in my head goes away and my soul is laid bare on the pages before me.
It saves me.
Because, although detox got me sober, writing keeps me sober.
At 3.00am in the hostel when the guy in the room next to me is losing his mind and shouting at no-one in particular through the walls, I write. At 5.00am when finally he sleeps, but there isn't a hope in hells chance that I can, because his outbursts have gone on for most of the night and I'm hiding in my room not daring to use the bathroom in case I run into him on the landing, I write.
When I too, start bouncing off the walls and getting cabin fever in here, or I'm particularly hard on myself for making such a mess of things and depression starts to threaten me again, I write.
I write as if my life depends on it; because to be fair, right now it really does. It's the only thing I have that stands between me and the nearest pub or off-licence and a complimentary one-way ticket to hell, and so I cling to this outlet like a life-raft.
Sobriety and my sanity are pretty much all that I have left at the minute and I'm not giving them up for anything.
I live in a hostel in a town where addiction and homelessness are rife.
It's on every street corner, down every alleyway and in every subway here. I am confronted with it on a daily basis.
Two more people that I was friends with in detox die. Several more of my friends from rehab sit begging or drinking on pavements. It kills me to see them ending up this way and I am reminded again just how lucky I have been, and how fortunate I am to have not become a statistic.
I have good friends and a healthy way to deal with my shit. These guys have nothing...unless you count cardboard flooring and cheap cider.
There is nothing I can do for them right now except to be kind and to write more.
Maybe, this way I think, I can start to change things...if nothing else, maybe one persons perspective.
I create an account on twitter and start to bare my soul on social media to an audience that I can't see. I pour my heart out about homelessness and addiction and how it feels to have poor mental health. How it feels to know that you are alive but at the same time, alone and invisible once the shit hits the fan and no-one wants to know you.
People start to follow me, to like and share my work, and their support and encouragement spurs me on and gives me purpose.
I realise that there are people out there looking for answers... who actually want to understand how that feels, told in a way that's honest and open, not sugar-coated or dressed up to fit expectations.
I write more. My work is hitting home.
I'm offered a magazine column, write for tabloids, other magazines, non-profits and for causes I believe in.
I find my voice and in turn ignite a passion in myself for education that I didn't know existed.
I start to talk.
I do radio shows and make podcasts. I talk about my battles with my head and about trying to fight an addiction that nearly killed me, my horrible, horrible journey and the strength and determination that I needed to find to enable me claw my way back from the brink of death and detox, to some kind of normality. I talk about nights on borrowed sofas and curled up on floors, nights running from horrible men who just wanted to hurt me and I talk about those days and nights where I was so lost and alone and terrified of what my future held that I just didn't want one anymore. That I wanted to end my own life just to make the madness stop.
I realise that people are listening.
And then I wrote a piece about my journey called “This is Depression”
A piece that becomes a film.
A piece that changes everything...
It's 3.00am and I'm struggling to sleep.
So I lie here in bed and toss and turn for a bit before deciding just to roll with it, heading downstairs and flicking the kettle on. I'll make a cup of tea I think... a good cup of tea solves everything.
I decide against some biscuits - I can probably do without the added sugar rush I'm guessing, and then I head into the living room where he's sat watching TV. He has a cup of tea in front of him...great minds and all that.
"I can't sleep" he says, giving me a sheepish grin, as I slide in next to him on the sofa.
I resist the urge to say to him that maybe the two bottles of wine that he drank before bed have got something to do with his insomnia, but I bite my tongue instead, and the words are left unsaid.
He has a drink problem, my boyfriend, in case you were wondering. Two bottles of wine before bed is not out of the ordinary...there are two bottles of wine before bed most evenings, as well as the pints and the brandys he drinks while he sits in the bar after work. "Unwinding".
Still, the New Year is coming he tells me. He'll stop in the New Year...
I just smile and I nod and I squeeze his hand, and I try not to worry about how old and ill he is looking, and then we both sit there in silence staring at the TV, because, well, really there is nothing left to say after that if I'm honest.
Nothing that I haven't heard before, anyway...
He's a painter, my boyfriend. He paints peoples houses.
He gets out his brushes and lays down some dust sheets and he glosses over stuff...
And then he comes back home to me, opens the obligatory bottle of wine, sidesteps the massive elephant in the room that has recently come to stay with us, and then we both do the same in our own house...
I never planned to be an alcoholic. It was never a goal of mine, “something to aspire to” or “one off the bucket list", and with my family background you would think that I’d have known better than to chance it, but the truth was that I didn’t know better, I needed the oblivion at the time and so it kind of just sneaked up on me. Within the space of around about two years, I’d gone from a fairly heavy drinker to an end-stage, totally addicted, alcoholic mess.
I ended up in hospital to “dry out" which rid my body of the alcohol that was slowly killing me, but not the demons and insecurities that plagued my head. I had no real support system in place, I had an abusive, alcoholic boyfriend who wanted me sick because then he could control me, and so, within a week I was back on the booze and the descent into hell began all over again.
Three months later weighing a tiny six stone, I was rushed into detox, and this time, finally away from him and the subsequent carnage and chaos that was surrounding me, I knew that I had a fighting chance of getting well.
For the first time in years I could breathe.
My days consisted of check-ins, group meetings, various classes and activities and three calorie laden meals a day to help me recover from malnutrition. I had structure and order and crucially no madness to deal with for the first time in years. I had a room of my own with my own bed and a bath, and for the first time in ages I actually felt safe.
I spent 6 weeks in detox, followed immediately by 3 months in rehab. I worked my arse off every single day to get better, and when I left I promised myself that I would never pick up a drink again.
3 and a half years down the line I’ve managed to keep that promise.
I started an on-line blog as therapy for myself whilst living in a homeless hostel, as a way to keep myself focussed and sober…and pouring my heart out on paper has helped me make sense of myself and my new sober life.
Instead of picking up a drink to obliterate myself, these days I write my way out of trouble. I blog and I podcast and I fill my time with healthier things and surround myself with healthier people. I limit negativity and my time on social media. I try to eat well and look after myself as best I can…and I share my story in the hope that it will inspire, educate and maybe give hope to others who find themselves staring into the abyss.
Three years ago I weighed 6stone 4 and looked like a tramp.
My hair was falling out and my periods had stopped. My body was shutting itself down in a desperate attempt to keep me alive. My clothes were size 0.
Today I’m 9 stone ish and a healthy size ten. My hair is thick and bouncy and my body functions normally again. To look at me today you would never guess the trials I had to overcome to get myself back to some kind of normality…I’m proud of the fact that you would never guess.
Read my story here justagirl.emyspot.com or watch a tiny film about that time @IsDepression_
Beautiful. Thought-provoking. Absolutely mesmerising… You know how sometimes we choose not to see things? A couple making a scene in a restaurant say, or some guy in the street maybe, asking for change; only we turn a blind eye because it makes us uncomfortable. We become engrossed in our phones, look down at the pavement, maybe even cross the street for good measure, quietly humming away to ourselves “la,la,la - sorry can’t see you…” as we quickly bolt and make our escape. Well you can’t do that here… because Vicky Moran’s incredible play “No Sweat” shines a spotlight so brightly on the subject matter that there is literally nowhere to hide from the truth. Which is that there is a LGBTQ+homelessness crisis…and it’s getting worse. No Sweat tells the stories of three, young, gay, homeless men, “Tristan”” Alf “and “Charlie”, who randomly cross paths whilst seeking solace in a sauna. It explores and exposes the underlying bigotry, bullying and relationship breakdowns that they face, whilst highlighting a series of hopeless faults and flaws in our called “support” system that not only throws them together, but also, without exception, manages to throw them under the bus. Denholm Spurr shines as “Tristan”, a relative newcomer to the dark streets of London. Lost, lonely, and completely out of his depth, he sleeps with strangers he meets at the spar or on Grindr for free in order to put a roof over his head. James Haymer is incredible as “ Alf”, a street-wise but self-destructive wrecking-ball, fuelled by suspicion, pent-up emotion, and liberal helpings of GHB as he spends his days and nights getting paid by the hour… but it is “Charlie” ( played by Manish Gandhi) who is, without a shadow of a doubt, the absolute shining star of the show. Forced to flee his native Pakistan because he is gay, his heart-breaking story of beatings and brutality, coupled with his fathers twisted attempts to make him “Un-gay”, made me want to cry. Broken-hearted and destitute, he hides himself away in the sauna whilst attempting to seek asylum here, only to be told through a series of increasingly ridiculous interrogations by the Home Office that actually he is “not gay enough” to be allowed to stay. Produced by Reece McMahon, No Sweat is an absolute triumph, managing to be both harrowing and enthralling at the same time. No easy task, when you consider the subject matter. The tiny, yet incredibly intimate venue, means that the audience is seated mere feet away from the cast, and this, coupled with Alex Berry’s ingenuitive portable set design, and genius finishing touches such as the scented “steam” from the sauna that gently wafts through the audience at times, is what helps give the play its eerie, immersive feel. But the thing that really sets this play apart, the thing that sits at the heart of it all, is the fact that all of the stories featured in this play are true. Transcribed by Moran from real interviews, given by real people hoping to expose the plight facing a forgotten generation of homeless gay youth. And they have done this in spades. So, go see this play…and then when you have seen it, go tell all your friends. So that they can tell theirs and then hopefully this play can get the recognition it deserves. Because it’s absolutely beautiful. 4 Stars.
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
I'm sat in the sunshine with an old friend.
And so I don't see that he's walking through town until he's right at my table, telling me that he's had a drink.
And those words cut through me like knives and everything changes in an instant, as the grim reaper himself takes a seat right in front of me, grinning like a cheshire cat, pointing at his scythe and mouthing the words "I've got another one..."