On Bowie.

Jan. 11th, 2016 04:34 pm
askygoneonfire: David Bowie in profile with a hat (Bowie Man Who)
What to say on such a sad day?

How to put into words the depth of a loss which affects no material change in my social circle? How to express all the things that stranger, that alien, that musician, that performer, that extraordinary star meant to me?

I woke up to text messages asking me if I was ok. Their sources were diverse enough that I knew it was not a relation. So I ran through the options in my head; Nicky Wire? David Bowie? David Bowie.  David Bowie.

Open twitter to read what I already knew in the pit of my stomach.  And laugh at the absurdity. David Bowie clearly cannot die.  How ridiculous. I spent all weekend listening to the new album. Nobody who made something so vital could possibly die. How ridiculous. Spent the weekend thinking about how Blackstar was like, and unlike Outside. Mulling over the imagery in Lazarus.

Got in the shower. Lost my breath to wracking sobs. Can't be true, is true, can't be true, is true.

BBC News channel, the only place to go when the world turns upside down. Is true is true.

But, united. The whole of my twitter timeline, text messages, messenger keeps pinging, all of my facebook feed.  All united. Saying "surely not? He means too much to us all.".

At first I couldn't understand why his illness had been kept secret, but it is better this way. We'd have mourned him for a year and a half whilst he was still here. Brutal though today has been, it's clean. 

_ _ _ _ _ _


David Bowie pre-dates the Manics, as my obsessions go.  Like the rest of my generation I met him in Labyrinth. But I'd always known his songs; I remember playing with space station Lego, singing Space Oddity to myself, over and over again when I was 4 or so. But it came together in 2002, I bought Heathen after a rave review in Q and added it to Hunky Dory of my shelf. For 3 months in 2005 I listened to nothing but The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  I waxed lyrical about his acting skill, and his dick, to a friend, when I got thrown out of a party for being too drunk and made him watch The Man Who Fell to Earth with me.  I went to Berlin with Station to Station and The Next Day in 2013.

I saw him live, his last UK show, in 2004 at the Isle of Wight Festival.  It was beautiful.  Perfect, actually.  He came on after England lost at football in some competition or other. Made a quip about sharing his initials with David Beckham. Launched into his set.  Turned around the mood.  Turned around the festival.  The sun went down as he played and when he went off stage, at the end, the woman near me shouted "we'll scream until the sun comes up".  As we walked back to the campsite there was a buzz.  People babbled in disbelief at what and who they had seen. I overhead two lads talking; "we saw him! The Thin White Duke! I can't believe we saw him!".  

I can't believe I saw him.

I knew I was not straight when I was young, perhaps 14 when it started to come into focus for me.  I remember asking my Mum, when I was 16 or so, if she liked Bowie.  She said "I did, until he said he was bisexual and then I went off him". And I remember that going to my very soul.  Bowie was with me, my Mum was not.  I clung to him. Immersed myself in Bowie's otherness.  I was sure my Mum would go off me, just like she had Bowie, when she knew the truth of me.  When I finally came out to my Mum it was with reference to that conversation; "would you hate me if I was bisexual?".

She didn't hate me.  She doesn't hate Bowie any more either. She told me today the news hit her like a punch to the stomach.  I think my sexuality and feeling accepted, and my Mum's feelings about Bowie will always be all tied up together for me.  

When I started reading autobiographies I felt a new sense of connection.  His brother had schizophrenia, before his sad death.  And that shaped who Bowie became and how he moved through life. A few people quote him as saying he feared he would lose his mind.  I know that fear. I am shaped by that fear.  Nobody who has stood so close to madness, to schizophrenia, can feel anything else.  My brother lost his mind when I was 11.  And then again, and again.  And by the time I was 16, perhaps earlier, I had no greater fear than losing my mind.  Still don't.

I took comfort in knowing Bowie shared that.  It changes you. It pushes you on.  

How far can you push yourself before you do? How does the free-wheeling, top of the roller-coaster moment feel? Who else can you be? Why be one person? If you have nothing to lose but yourself then it's time to let go of that tight grip of who you are and explore everyone you could be.

And look what happens when you let go, look what happens when you reinvent yourself, casting off each shell as you outgrow it. 

So he can't be gone, can he? It's just the latest reinvention.

Ouch.

Mar. 1st, 2015 06:29 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Had a fairly dreadful couple of weeks.  I'm still not sure if I was going through a downswing/having depression or had a particularly nasty virus or, most likely, both but today I woke up feeling OK.

Spent most of week of 16th Feb laying on sofa feeling knackered and, on Wednesday, dashing to uni campus for an emergency GP appointment because I couldn't catch my breathe.  Mystified GP concluded it was either weird virus causing breathlessness, or some peculiar presentation of asthma, either way I was prescribed an inhaler and used it frequently for about 4 days before symptoms tailed off.  The nurse who triaged me asked if it could be anxiety and I said I didn't feel anxious and she was happy with that but I really don't know if it was anxiety or not.  It wouldn't be the first time I've had all the symptoms of anxiety without consciously feeling stressed.

That weekend was my best friend, Becky's, hen do.  She's not into the pink wings hoopla, and we travelled up to her home town of Oxford to take over the pub she and her friends used to drink in as teenagers and get squiffy.  I was apprehensive about the entire thing but it turned out to be a lovely weekend and I felt I got to know my fellow bridesmaids which is nice ahead of her wedding in May.  It's a bit of an odd group as with the exception of 3 wives and girlfriends, I am the only outsider to join their friendship group since they were at school.  I went to a wedding of another couple from this group several years ago and was the only person at the wedding who wasn't either a family member of the bride and groom, or had gone to high school with them.  It's quite a compliment, and they are a lovely group, but it can feel a little strange setting foot in a group I've only been connected with for 12 years, when they have known each other for closer to 20 years.

Last week I continued to be utterly, utterly exhausted.  My parents visited on Tues and Weds and due to my teaching schedule at uni I only actually spent one day with them even though they were here for 2 nights.  It was nice and I didn't get aggro as I so often do around them.  

Thursday and Friday I was desperately sad, and slept for hours and hours across those two days and nights.  On Friday morning I realised that my building sadness over the last two weeks was due to a subconscious awareness that it should have been Lu's 30th birthday.  Instead, of course, her sister, mother, and friends, all experienced - to different degrees - that gnawing sense of pointless loss for the day.

It shouldn't have been this way.

And then I learnt that Leonard Nimoy had died and I went through the peculiar distanced grief which comes with the death of a celebrity you've had such a deep, life-long connection with.  Star Trek has shaped my imaginative world since I was god knows how old and watching Star Trek TOS on my brother's knee.  Spock is what Star Trek TOS is all about.  And Nimoy was Spock.  He put so much of himself into that character and raised the entire show above the realm of cheap sci fi into the force for good and hope and dreams I know it as today.  I adored his appearances in the Star Trek reboot-movies and I can't quite accommodate the idea he, and his special aura, are gone from our screens save for re-runs.

Saturday was hard too.  I was still exhausted, still feeling the paranoia and anxiety I associate with a particularly brutal downswing.  Forced myself out of the house to Asda which was very nearly the end of me.  Home again for the evening, sadness, introspection.

And then, this morning, I woke up before my alarm and didn't feel exhausted.  The fog has lifted and my brain can think.  I've been accepted to a conference in Ireland in June which may well make a lovely holiday (if I can get funding from the department to go!) and I cleaned the flat and tidied the detritus of a fortnight of inaction. And then I made dinner, wrote some emails...I came alive again.

And I remember why I get up in the morning and why I speak to other human beings and why life keeps on turning.

It's been an awful couple of weeks.  I want to weep for my past self, because I feel bruised from the sadness which has been following me around.  It hurts.  And it scares me every time it comes back, and every time it won't leave.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I find you in the strangest places.

Sitting against the window in the sun on the train from Birmingham to Melton.  In the face of the girl in the queue for the Manics last week. In an echo of teenage lust for David Boreanaz in the first episode of Buffy.

In bluebells and in fat, ripe, purple cherries.

It's good to see you.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Had a bit of a meltdown this week, ended up throwing myself on mercy of supervisor about the impending deadline (Monday) that I was definitely going to miss.  He took one look at me and said I should take a month off from PhD stuff and just focus on teaching (which right now is taking up 3 days of my week, oh my is it time consuming!) I'm not willing to flat out stop work on the thesis, but I am abandoning attempting to write anything for the next couple of weeks and just catch up on transcription.

I keep trying to do little things to remind myself how far I've come (like downloading a programme that counts the words in multiple word documents and discovering I've transcribed 242,000 words so far) but mostly I feel I've just taken on way too much this year.  I'm teaching which - based on feedback today after a lesson observation - I'm doing well, I'm organising a fortnightly seminar series with external speakers, I'm organising a big internal conference, I'm thesis-ing, I'm teaching on a Widening Participation programme, I'm still travelling around the country interviewing.  

It's a lot, by any standard.



Today would have been Lu's 29th birthday and it hasn't been as bad today as I feared - the beginning of the week was me bursting into tears a lot - I think lingering sense of grief and over-worked brain combined in emotional ways.  This morning I had Hepburn's I Quit stuck in my head.  I was boogying around my flat getting ready whilst singing, laughing, remembering jokes and singing to it when we were 14, then I left the flat and somehow my own silence overwhelmed me and I got a bit teary, then I smiled again remembering something else.  Her not reaching these birthdays brings things into sharp focus - I feel such a sense of loss - her loss, her family's loss, her friends' loss.  



I've decided to pursue private therapy at same clinic I went to previously here in Brighton and have an assessment appointment next week on Friday.  The following Monday I finally have my ultrasound guided steroid injection - I'm properly worried for potential pain after last time's agony but I also have cautious hope it could either resolve issue, or reveal a structural issue which can be resolved in another way.  My supervisor recently had 3 slipped discs and upon hearing I was also awaiting treatment to resolve chronic pain redoubled his entreaty that I take a break.  God I hope this injection fixes it - I'll even take steroid flare again if it subsides to no pain.

So, life.  Painful and sad and odd, but sometimes still beautiful - like the tiny break in the cloud today with sunshine crashing down around the pouring rain.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 ..."How drunk?"
"Good and drunk"
- Holiday (1938)

"Yes, I very much need a drink. Will you buy me one Fred darling?"
"Sure"
"Only promise me one thing. Don't take me home until I'm drunk. Until I'm very drunk indeed"
- Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Got a message tonight, from a girl I was friends with at school. It said "have you heard about Lucy? xx"

And I knew, immediately, that she had killed herself.

And she has, apparently.  I say apparently, I've managed to work out that it was somewhere between the 16th and 18th of December.  The funeral, Tumblr tells me, was on the 3rd of January. Nobody told me.  Told us.

I can't find an obituary. I can't find a mention of it on the facebook pages of mutual friends.  I have messaged her sister and her best friend. Begging them to tell me if I have misunderstood.  I sent those messages about 2 hours ago. As time goes by I realise that I haven't.

I knew she was having a hard time, she also has cyclothymia, but she'd had them before and she was posting on twitter again a bit at the beginning of December.  I thought just last week that I hadn't heard from her/seen her online for a while and maybe I should send a message. But I could only think of trite bollocks, so I didn't. Forgot about it.

We were close as close can be in school. She drifted away from me and the friend who messaged me tonight when we went to upper school.  She got into Wicca, we got into indie music.  But a couple years later we got in proper contact again. And then, after 4 years of uni we properly got back in touch and had a catch up.

Then I got a phone call from her about 6 months later; "can I come and visit you in Brighton?"
"of course!" I said, "when?"
"tomorrow?"
"......Yes! of course!"
And she came and told me she needed to run away. And we ate pancakes at Becky's house even though I don't like pancakes and we went out gay clubbing. And she drank Becky's absinthe and threw up in the sink.

A couple of years later, same phone call, same answer. And she came, and we drank and we saw and we did.  And it was good.

She was the only person I knew, for many years, who adored Spaced as much as I did. We used to quote it to each other all day at school the day after it was shown. It was always during Food Technology lessons that we got down to it.  Years later, I quoted Spaced to her again, and she got the reference immediately.

She wanted to be a medical illustrator.  She was turned down a little over a year ago.  I asked her not long ago - last month maybe? - if she was going to try again to get on the course and she said yes and that she felt she'd improved dramatically since then so it was for the best she had been turned down as it focused her on improving her drawing.

She turned into the adult I expected her to.  Free willed, spirited, vague and passionate in the same breath. A fashion butterfly, an artist in all the ways she told me she would be when we were kids, and we camped in her back garden. 

She is the reason I read Terry Pratchett.  At school on World Book Day we had to dress up as a character from a book. She dressed up as Magrat. She was the very embodiment of her.

Last time I properly spent time with her we went to Tate Modern. And then to the pub.  It was a good day.




I'm sure there's been a misunderstanding and she's just run away to Paris again.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I was 15 the first time I experienced a bout of depression.  In its course, it cost me my friends and my confidence.  Every bout since has, one way or another, cost me something too.

I 'realised' when I was 15 there was no point in anything, so I stopped talking and doing much of anything.  It all just felt....pointless.  My friends begged to know what was wrong, then they bargained with me to reveal my secret, then they got angry at me.  When I 'came out' of it, as it were, they asked again.  'Nothing to tell', I said - I felt like my realisation was too awful to share, too absolutely true (like in the Radiohead video!) so I kept it to myself.   This made my friends more angry.  And then, one day, they cornered me, all 4 of them.  And they yelled at me; said I was paranoid and selfish and annoying and worthless and demanded I apologised to them for being those things and upsetting them.  I refused, cried, shook and just asked for them to accept the absent answer.  But they couldn't, or wouldn't accept that, so they stopped being my friends and for a while I had no friends at all.  And that was kind of crap. 

I feel like every conflict which has ever arisen between me and those around me as a result of my lurching in and out of depressive periods in the 11 years since then has merely been a more subtle, refined version of that argument.  In essence, it's always about the same things; my inability to answer, my being awful to be around during those times, their frustration, and our mutual miscommunication.


These days manic periods provide me with the feeling I am managing to make connections, build bridges and improve my lot.  Frequently, in the cold light of day/non-mania, I realise I am just as socially ineffective during these periods and surely more annoying as I dominate conversations and babble away, laughing at my own jokes and interrupting everyone who tries to make a comment.  Predictably, this recognition of who I have been over the past few days/weeks brings with it renewed despair and depression.


This Sunday gone I felt it all falling away from me again, just like it did that very first lonely, disorientating time when I was 15, and in fear and panic I deleted my livejournal (for the first time in it's 7 year history, I might add) and my facebook account.  It may not have been the best way forward - socially - and these may not be permanent changes, but in the frantic anxiety of the moment it was, and remains, the right decision.  A couple of people have passed on messages that some people were worried about my sudden disappearance which, thoughtlessly, I didn't consider or anticipate and for causing that concern I apologise.  Right now, I need to run a little.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Conversation with my housemate led me to scramble under my bed and pull out my travel box. Therein I found the picture of me hugging a koala. And I found the photo of you and your koala.

I opened my travel diary. Let the pages flick through my fingers. Let them stop flicking quite at random. Do you know where it stopped? On the day we collected your resized ring from the jewellers. Monday 7th May 2007. We went to the Chinese Gardens, right in the centre of sydney. There was a Russian waitress. Like every Russian we met whilst travelling she was rude and angry. We went for an engagement dinner. It was at Cafe Otto, just down the road from our YHA hostel. We tipped 11% and were their best customers all night.

Has she bought you a ring yet? Are you planning a date? Do you still think of me? Still miss me. You must feel something, you still read your friends page, but there's only me and Chris on it.

Are you hoping I'm happy or still miserable? I'm still in love with you, I don't know what that makes me. Stupid, probably. Honest too, I said I'd never stop loving you. It's been 1 year and almost 3 months.

Valentines Day was hard. I thought of you. Of how happy you were when I showed you into our rose petal strewn bedroom. Did she do something better? Did you feel your heart swell?

Tell me you still care about me. Even a little bit. Send me a text or an email, pretend you accidently sent it to the wrong number/address. I won't reply. It'll be like it never happened. Much like Monday the 7th of May 2007.
askygoneonfire: rat hiding in sofa cushions (November the 9th)
My rat, my other rat,Dangerous Beans, the one who climbed into my hood and licked my hair when I got home in floods of tears at 2am on the morning of the 1st November after making the decision to have her sister, Hampork, put to sleep had to follow Hampork today.

On Thursday night I took her to the vets for what I thought was conjuncitivitus, the vet said it wasn't but that her breathing was raspy and she may have an infection and I took her home with some antibiotics to give twice daily.  On Saturday night I scrutinised her face as in a glance it looked a little swollen, couldn't see anything much so concluded it was just a trick of the light.  Last night she had a very clear and very large swelling on her jaw.  It looked and felt exactly like the abscesses which Hampork had had.

I took her to the vets this morning.  The vet said, given her sister's history and the fact she has got worse since being on antibiotics meant there was nothing to be done.  He proposed she was put to sleep immediately, before she began to suffer.

I have to do the very best for my girls.  Heartbreaking as it is to see her go from healthy to....that in the space of a few days, it was the right decision.

Of course, none of that makes it any easier.  I got home to an empty cage.  I have nobody to cuddle, nobody to give me little rat kisses and chirp in my ear.  I have nobody to grieve with.  I have no warm furry welcome when I get home at night.  Nobody to fall asleep on my tummy as we watch tv and squeak grumpily at me when I move to get a drink or go to the loo.

This has been one of the worst years of my life.  Everything fell apart utterly on November the 28th last year and it's been one thing after another since then.  But through it all I've had the unconditional and absolute love of my two little ratties.  And now they are gone.

I can't imagine how things could get worse.  Form suggests that, somehow, they will.

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askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
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