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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm feel rather peaky at the moment, so can I rely on you all to read my semi-dramatisation of my experiences of Derealisation ? For my ego's sake. And please be honest in your criticism, just because I've got leukaemia doesn't mean you have to jump up my arse with praise. :wink: It's a in a strange format because this forum doesn't seem to allow double-spacing, as pubisherscum demand, so paragraphs aren't indented, just spaced with a blank line. Anyway, here it is: (4 parts seperated into single posts)

Forgetting to Breath. A Novella by Martin Horton. (c) 1993.

Part 1

The soul shall find itself alone,
Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone,
Not one of all the crowd, to pry,
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Edgar Allan Poe - Spirits of the Dead

Here I am, scrambling over the boulders that litter the steep slopes of Goat-fell, Isle of Arran, with a skull full of steaming pus. It sloshes around my head like burning acid in a rusty can, seeping through my glands and ventricles with vitriol and purpose. I'm here because I'm chasing a girl of my latest desire up the mountain, or at least I should be, but the smothering embrace of a phantom hinders me, evil on its breath. The mountain tilts but I;m still standing. The clear water streams that trickle down the slopes reverse their flow but find their way to the sea. The sails of the boats in the bay far below flutter in the brilliant sunshine and taunt me with contempt. My phantom, my demon, rises from his gutter, stinking of shit and menace, from the depths of my uncertainty where I had, temporarily it now seems, bound him with my hope for life. I try to ignore it. Look at the girl, the beautiful girl, skipping over the rocks ahead of me, giggling in the warm Scottish sun, casting a coy glance back at me and urging me to follow.

Look at the girl, rasps my demon. Ha ha ha ha. I stop for a moment, on the pretence of admiring the view, and it would be a quite magnificent view for one not as willing to accept the inevitable terror as me, and close my eyes to confront the demon. He's in the shadows, pure iniquity dancing behind my eyes, reluctant to show his putrid face. Ha ha ha. Open your eyes. Look around you. Look at what you've done. I obey, of course. I haven't even begun the fight.

The world outside my head defies me. The mountain is a blemish, the girl an outlandish tube of flesh and bone, the lush heather now alien razors which seem to be straining towards me with threat on their mind. Seagulls circle above my head, looking like nothing I have ever seen before, yet intimately familiar; memories briefly forgotten drifting in the wind. This wind, this breeze, feels like the caresses of an ancient wickedness, looking for a way in, probing and whispering vile promises of reality. A plastic bag smeared with the demons vomit wraps around my head, choking off breath. Look at the girl. Where am I? I know, yet I'm lost. Utterly, profoundly lost. Lost in a world of bickering alternatives where everything I've always known is swathed in a cloak of foreign authenticity. Only my revulsion for melodramatic ideations saves me, I feel, from shattering into shards of multicoloured mess.

Where am I?

"Come on Martin", the cartoon girl shouts.

Please help me, I think. "Ok, coming," I reply, in a voice I,ve never heard before. I stumble into her embrace with a grin of operatic hysteria on my face, wondering, perhaps eager, that now is the moment that I finally sink into the pool of schizophrenia. Is this is the inevitability that I,ve been heading towards all my life? If madness is quicksand then I'm up to my f------g neck, my horse has collapsed from exhaustion and the harness has slipped out of my hands.

With my head burrowed into her chest she kisses my forehead and I forget to breath. Now, at what should be the best of times, the demon shows his face. It's me. My god, it's me.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Part 2

If you drink very much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is almost certain to disagree withyou sooner or later.

Lewis Carrol - Alice in Wonderland

Everything is crumbling, collapsing, rotting. The panic I feel beggars description. I'm in trouble but nobody knows why, least of all me, despite hours scouring the library for some wise old tome that might come close to recognising how I feel. The finest example I found was this:

Derealisation: This refers to the experience of things or events outside of the person seem unreal. Familiar objects seem strange or unreal. Depersonalisation (what? it is not mentioned anywhere else in the book) and derealisation often occur together and may arise in almost any mental disorder, but are most commonly found in schizophrenia (oh yes - drive that last nail in the coffin of my sanity, Mr Demon) and hysteria. It is a distinctly unpleasant experience. No shit Sherlock!

That was it, under the heading of 'Basic Concepts'. In a psychiatry book of six hundred and seventy four pages, not counting the index.

To my student peers I've seemed sullen, excitable at inappropriate times, tearful, unable to explain the chaos I feel swirling around me (actually the chaos is within me - like certainty has been sucked into my head and deposited like a sack of powdered diamonds in places I cannot reach - outside is silence. Deadly silence. Unmoving. Waiting but alive with intent. Unnatural.), but as I'm not skipping down the road covered with my own shit or howling at the moon, their concern is vague, watchful at best. Reality slips further away each day and my demon stalks me all the time now, I'm never alone, although I eat, sleep, shit, read, laugh and drink as I've always done. I sometimes feel like lost helium balloon, bobbing along, detached, swept along in a slipstream of strangers. As I go to bed at night I'm absolutely convinced that total lunacy is lurking at the dawn of each new day, and somehow disappointed when the supposed ignorance that psychosis brings with it fails to arrive. I listen for voices yet hear none. I try to imagine bleeding eyes and other horrors staring at me from the dark corners of my room, but they're not there. I examine my thoughts with the same scrubbing vigour as I brush my teeth, searching for examples of delusion or unnatural fantasy. Nothing, but perhaps it's just a matter of time.

So what is wrong with me? Have I felt like this all my life, but just haven't recognised it? Does everyone feel like this? And if so, does that make me a coward - or worse? Was I insane before? Am I that stupid that I've never noticed? I remember as a child thinking, or pretending (does it matter at that age?) that I could shoot fireballs from my fingertips and influence the thoughts of others with 'brainwaves'. Of course I now know better, so was I sane then and insane now? Is this unreal world a secret being revealed to me, just because of one puff of weed?

A month on from that seminal moment, that single solitary toke on some stale skunk and I've developed a plethora of obsessionial ruminations. Rather I see them as post-it notes whirling in the wake of my demons tempest, which he sticks to my cortex whenever I dare not to agonize for more than a stroke. Schizophrenia and all the terror that it might bring, of course, written in twenty foot letters is his favourite, losing control up next, with images of me sitting in an asylum somewhere sucking mashed apricots though a straw being kept for special occasions, like the long awaited sexual liaison with my girl from the mountain. Oh yes, don't think that just because I've entered a different world I haven't been capable of wooing some stunning, venerable, remarkably witty female. On the contrary, I've chased her with increased fervour on the pretence that some teenage rutting on some flawless flesh might block out the strangeness around me. I imagine that precious coupling with the same expectation as the brave captain awaiting the discovery of King Solomon's Mine, yet like the erstwhile captain, after finding the glittering jewels, watching with despair as a stone door slams shut behind me. Like him, I have no hope of escape, forever trapped in a sinister damp tomb. Except, unlike him, I didn't have to fight savages or cross bone-dry deserts. I just inhaled some smoke. I'll swap lives, if he's game.

Rationalisation only makes things worse, believe it or Ripley not. The more I twist and turn in bed, sweating like a vicar in a brothel, urging my logical self-importance to find some way out of this clutter, the excuses I find to stay trapped become ever more ingenious. What is left? Suicide? Perhaps I should embrace the demon and together we might spawn little droplets of understanding that I can hide when he's not looking and nurture them into the old me. Problem is, I don't think there is any of the 'old me' left. I feel like a human crust with a filling of mud.

No, there seems to be only one realistic alternative. And that is to fight. My selfishness for things not yet lost is intact.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Part 3

But I have dreamed a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Skye,
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I.

Scottish Ballard - The Battle of Osbourne

I am not a brave man. Never have been and I continue not to be. At the time this sickness first struck me I was nineteen years old, full of false bravery and hormonal bravado, but to all intents and purposes - a frightened little boy. How could I, now a man who would vanish like a zephyr in a storm at the first sign of trouble or confrontation, even begin to defeat my own demon?

I have graduated from university with a moderate degree, split up with the mountain girl, drifted around the country with the paltry remains of my student loan, foolishly putting off the moment when I have to return home by moodily walking the deserted seafronts of Cornish resorts like some unknown Poe walking across Highgate contemplating his own insanity, and frolicking drunkenly in god forsaken bars until I was told to leave. I had managed to quiet the demon during this time by using these distractions you see, as I kept reassuring myself I wasn't ready to fight. Coward. But even then, I worried obsessively about why I couldn't sustain and happyness for more than a few minutes. An hour at most. I could accept the downsides of life if there were more upsides. But it seemed to me there was an imbalance. It was most their downsides or dull grey areas. But now is the time, I have no choice; I have to return to the place that was once the haven of normality, home.

Home. The word filled me with trepidation and joy in equal measure. The greatest fear, of all the fears I have faced, is that home will have become a house of mirrors, a grotesquely distorted fa?ade created by my demon to exacerbate my suffering. The joy is that home might banish the filthy stench that trails along behind me like a putrefying pied-piper. Except my song is of self-pity and dread, and nobody is bewitched by that particular tune. They either cross the road at first glimpse of your haunted eyes or tell you to "Pull your socks up." I guess that is why small children felt loss more deepy; in some visceral way, as they remembered death.

But one final time, one last distraction. I had met a young woman in a cider drinking contest one unusually sunny day. We got chatting, as drunken single fools do, and it soon became clear that she had barked up the same wrong trees that I had. I arranged to meet her the night before my train home, in a bar, of course, settled in a cove behind a abandoned funfair. I hear you laugh. I did too. The only more worthy place would have been stretched out on a table by a Spanish Inquisitionist, having salt rubbed into a open wound. But it suited my mood and hers too, I believe. Romance doesn't usually find itself in places like this. Dusk perhaps, on a beach at the Caf? Del Mare, listening to Nimbus, but not here. All I needed to complete the illusion of deliberate melancholy was the Mystery Machine and a talking dog. Well, at least I could play the part of the shambling coward.

The bar was called the 'Witches Den'. Stop laughing at the back. The reason for this was because of some local legend that the cove that was now inhabited by the bar was once the den of a black witch, and all sorts of evil would befall those who, to quote a sign above the bar, 'Spent less than ?10'. But apart from that it was a typical English pub, full of slot machines and damp beer mats. The girl, Kate, wasn't even fashionably late - much to the infuriation of my demon, who was continually attempting to attract my attention. I had developed the habit of saying to him, in my head; "F--k you bastard". Once I accidentally said it out loud in a KFC full of happy children with colourful balloons, so I resolved to ignore him totally till this meet was over.

Kate wasn't the glum Goth you might expect. She was a pretty little thing, but with a dangerously high forehead and a nervous gait, but lovely company and very funny. Until that is, after hours of drinking and my increasing hope of a fumble, the conversation suddenly, and I mean suddenly, turned to mental illness. It transpired that Kate had taken one too many tabs of acid in her youth, and was now suffering what she called 'Depersonalisation Disorder', a real diagnosis. Great, I thought, someone for my demon to f--k. But as she continued her rather garbled story I came to realise that it sounded remarkably like my own experiences. So I wasn't the only one after all. I even felt a little ashamed that I had the presumption to think I was. I was intrigued, despite my demon, now roused, knocking at the fringes of my awareness and filling my guts with panic. I recall the conversation like it was yesterday, if you'll forgive the clich?:

"Yeah, after the initial trip was over, I just started to feel odd," she said, taking an unhealthily large gulp of gin and tonic. I noticed she had started to sweat. I noticed that I had started to sweat.

"Was it a bad trip?" I asked.

"Not really, quite mild actually."

I nodded sagely. "So, er, what do you mean by feeling odd?"

She laughed, a truly savage but sanguine laugh. "That's the million dollar question. I couldn't describe it to anyone. It was like everything was two dimensional, flat, without colour, like I was looking through a fog."

I nodded again, eager for her to continue. My demon started to drown in beer.

"Like everything seemed, well, unreal." She frowned at me. "Does that make sense?"

I nodded with such ferocity that my neck started to hurt. She paused a moment and took a more dainty sip, eyeing me carefully. "Well, apart from my doctor, you're the only one who does."

"Look," I said, "I've had the same feeling."

She looked sceptical. "Really?"

"Yeah, at university, after taking some weed."

"Weed doesn't hurt," she said dismissively.

I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time. Anger. "Oh really? Well I went through a year of f-----g hell after smoking weed. I still am, in a way."

We leaned back on our chairs and surveyed each other. She can't have possibly suffered as much as me, I thought, yet as I watched her expressions changed from scorn to concern.

"You're crying," she said.

To my astonishment, I was. I hadn't cried since that fateful night at university. My only emotion since that day had been anxiety. Anger and now this, within moments of each other. She leant forward and touched my hand.

"It's ok," she said. "It's ok."

"Sorry," I sniffed.

"Don't be sorry." She smiled at me and added; "You know, our problem is that we aren't mad enough."

We sat in silence as I pondered that last comment, while the noise and revelry in the pub carried on around us. She stroked my hand.

Don't except a happy ending hereafter. There were no moonlit strolls alone the beach, no soulful expressions of empathy or union. We drank for a little longer, with a few reassurances that 'everything would be alright', and went our separate ways.

In the dank guesthouse that I was staying in I packed my things for tomorrows journey home, got into bed, and sobbed till the pillow was wet. I savoured every single tearful drop. My demon, for the first time in four long years, had vanished. As I drifted off into a drunken sleep I thought the fight was won, but unbeknown to me I'd only landed my first punch.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Part 4

Not without hope we suffer and mourn.

William Wordsworth - Anecdote for fathers

It is now ten years now since my fight with the demon begun. I have discovered the pleasures and pains of Valium, the sweet, incredible relief that it can bring and the reliance that it can demand. My demon is still with me but in another form. He's less tangible, a vapour that clouds my vision from time to time, but the Derealisaion has gone. Gone. Never, from experience of alternative distress, to return. I'm still prone to panic, battle scars from the fight if you like, the most titanic battle I've had to endure, but I can live with that.

You know by now that I'm not a strong man, but I've won. I don't care who hears it, I've f-----g won. Perhaps I'm just lucky, but I don't consider ten years of torture luck. It was my fault, so it was my fight. Sure, from time to time I get angry that the war has left me neurotically exposed, but the worst is over I know. Before the fight I was a 'normal' man, and I have changed, for sure. In good ways sometimes, as I deflect life's smaller irritations with a shrug, but in other ways not. I have other demons excreted by the first, his dying spore if you like, but I'll fight them in the same way. Put simply, they will not deny me the right to life. I spit in their face. It's the only way I know how. Medication has helped me from time to time when my will fails me, and I am thankful for that, but in the end when you realise the demon is you; it is impossible to run away from yourself.

More recently a lesser demon, a coward as I was, got the better of me for a time and encouraged me to suffocate in melancholy and to attempt to take my own life, on the pretence that I had wrecked my life though drugs, booze, and a failed marriage. I succumbed and the demon failed, again. Perhaps it was luck but I'm still here. And like the moment on the mountain, I'm still standing, and I'll be f----d backwards by a blue whale before my demons get the better of me. It's not going to happen. I don't fear a hall of mirrors. I live in a home of my own making.

Since that night when the demon awoke, in no particular order, I have found and lost love, sincere heartbreaking love, swam in the warm Caribbean seas at night with earthshine on my face, watched meteors sail over my head while drunk on Absinthe, sat mesmerised looking at a Rubens in the London National Gallery, found the courage to live abroad while resisting temptations that might feed my demons inclinations (ok, on occasion I've been more than tempted!), feared for my sanity while on cocaine, peered into Mount Etna's steaming caldera, drunkenly chartered boats though Dutch islands with a party of happy companions, danced at my wedding in the forests of the Chilton Hills under a neon spray of fireworks, jumped with joy when my nephew called me his 'favourite uncle', cheered in the millennium in a daze of ecstasy, kissed the dark brown thigh of an Italian girlfriend in the shadow of the Pantheon, been hospitalised with acute panic, lay in freshly mown grass as a thunderstorm raged overhead, lost my home and job and friends, woke up with Megan, a delicious Irish work colleague, as we both washed down MDMA with champagne then walked around Amsterdam zoo sueaking with fear at the perceived lack of cages for the lions, walked the streets of Pompeii, captained a team of mates to defeat a previously undefeated team of footballers on a balmy autumn evening, fought for a unknown woman's honour and lose in blur of my own blood, sat in Mandela's empty cell, slept rough in the snow tens of miles from home, rode in a helicopter around the Manhattan skyline, read my own poetry at a Halloween party, drunk myself senseless at the Munich Beer-fest and spent a night in a German cell, jumped into a Cambridge river after graduation, felt sorrow but understanding when a woman I got pregnant decided to abort, flown across to New York in First class, comforted a dying dog, buried a dead blackbird chick, read Dickens by candlelight, cried at my friends funeral a week after we had both been clubbing in London and wept when his daughter asked me to be her 'new daddy', drank chilled rose water wine in a Sicilian bar, heard my mother say she was proud of me, dreamt of my own house on a magical fjord, and lay in bed, content at last, at peace. Not because of these experiences, but because my demon was gone. Well, inert at the very least.

This is the life of an average man. And if I, crowned coward of the west and the most average of men can do it, then I'll meet you all on the beach at Caf? Del Mare and we can share our hope for life. Sorrow in our case is a wasted emotion.

And on that beach, waving goodbye to the sun as we dance around the fire before the party begins, I'll look around to check that we are all smiling.

Yes, we're all smiling.

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I am so sorry you are sick, Martin.

I think you are highly talented. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I hope you are writing lots more and perhaps will be published soon, if you haven't already been.

You have a marvelous way with language!


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When I saw the topic's title I remembered something that was happening: I was actually forgeting to breathe. A heart-doctor said it was because of stress, nothing to worry about.

My poor English doesn't give me the luxury to understand what you wrote. How have you been doing?

Awesome read - got any more?

The last one just made me cry (Although my anxiety hit me very, very hard last night so that may have made me more susseptible. Not that I'm complaining, it's supposed to be good to let it out. I do feel a tad better...)

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When I saw the topic's title I remembered something that was happening: I was actually forgeting to breathe. A heart-doctor said it was because of stress, nothing to worry about.
That's weird. I sometimes forget to breathe as well. It's good to know that it's not anything to worry about.

Also, Martin, do you plan on making a book? I'm sure it would be really good.

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The last one made me cry also! All of it i love. I think you are incrediblly strong. U have a beautifull way with words and i hope u keep up the writting.

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Big up.

Thank you for your kind words. I've written loads of stuff over the years, and have one completed novel (A Tranquil Breez) that, 2 years ago, I was a gnats wing away from getting published, but it never happened. Since then I've sort of given up, and just write for my own enjoyment. Posted a new short story that I wrote at the weekend at my sisters house, Tangle Man. Enjoy.
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