Geek in Thought

Confessions of a Functioning Depressive

This year I finally went to therapy for depression. I’ve made leaps and bound in recovering and now I’ve had time to reflect. I want to share what I’ve learned.  

The following series of blogs are things I’ve learned from suffering through depressive episodes and I wholly appreciate that everyone’s different. But if anything I write can help another person out going through a similar thing then I want to write it.

If you are going through a bad time, reach out, say hi. I’m always open to having a chat.

The following gets deeply personal, sorry about that. Hopefully they’ll be nothing too uncomfortable.

***

They say one of the first steps of recovering is admitting the problem, and for me it was the most upsetting.

Without going into detail I found myself in breaking down a lot.  Getting upset, finding myself in uncontrollable tears, crawled up on the floor.  And worse of all, not a single person knew about it. Worse still, this wasn’t the first time in my life I had been like this.

The first experience I had was over 12 years ago.  I had failed high school, failed sixth form and found myself in a job that was making me miserable.  I fell into the wrong crowd in a small town and was made to feel like my life was going nowhere in a world where mental health issues were still considered taboo.  

It sounds awful but I was feeling sorry for myself.  But I’m not here to tell people that depression is cured if you just stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Your feeling sorry for yourself because you have depression. Once that’s recognised you can start healing.

I digress.  I ended up taking drugs, and getting drunk at 11 in the morning, working a bar job and getting to a point where I was being disowned by friends and family. And for good reason. I was a mess and it was all self inflicted and for no real reason.  

At the time I felt I couldn’t get out of the spiral.  I was sinking deeper and deeper, my life rolled out in front of me in one large sheet of sepia. It was bland, uninspired and I would never accomplish anything.  I drank, I took drugs, I passed out. I woke up, I did the same again.

I hurt a lot of people.

Then something happened.  First, a dream: I was an old man kicking a cane that fell over a clift, I went with it, falling into a pit of nothing. Then I got a call from my grandma.  An Irish woman who had an abundance of love. She never called me before. I was at my worse, in a spiral of self destruction with no sight for tomorrow.

And she kept talking to me while l I wanted to do was get off the call.  ‘Ok Grandma’ I said while I was wanting to hurry back in to bed.

Then there was an awkward silence.  And she lingered on the phone not hanging up, stern and waiting for something.  And then I said it:

‘I love you, Grandma’.

.

.

.

“I love you too, Ben’. She hangs up. I break down in a storm of tears I had never experienced to this day.

Someone loved me.

After everything that I had done. After being so destructive.  I actively pushed people away. After making my family actively resent me, after embarrassing myself to a point of no return, putting my reputation through the mud.

I had an anchor.

Someone loved me.

And it’s what brought me back from the brink.  Step by step, I pulled myself up, brought myself back together. Putting back the pieces of my life I thought I’d lost.

I took an access course, I went to University (try telling that to a 15 year old me), I travelled. I went beyond the sepia gray world I saw before me and I added colour to my future.

If I’d known I was going through depression maybe I wouldn’t have sunk so deep.  Maybe if I hadn’t had someone there as my anchor I would have drifted away entirely.

That’s a happy end to one story. And it was the worse occasion in my life where I suffered from it but it was not the last time.  But more on that later.

So here are my first things you should know and hear if you’re going through depression right now:

Someone loves you.

There’s hope.

Stay strong ❤

Advertisements

Mandrake

Victoria never talked to anyone. Sometimes she would glance across the street in barest acknowledgement but she never made conversation. She carried herself like she was better than everyone. Maybe it was her background; her private education, her wealthy family.

She lived in her manor, which was as large as a boarding house but severely neglected. One wondered where all that wealth was spent. It was a mystery.

Outside, the manor grounds were overcome by nettles, shrubs, spiderwebs encrusted with dead insects. The iron fencing around the manor had started to corrode – the metal was rusted, brown and orange, flaking apart like dried candle wax.  

Every evening of winter, when the winds were chill, and bones turned cold, a large fume of smoke appeared from the back chimney of the manor. My daughter, Elizabeth, found it fascinating. It was nothing like other houses, nothing like the mills, or the coal mines. She had seen the men coated in black who crawled from the pits; the rows of women threading in unison. But that rancid smoke filtering into the sky – it was magic.  

It hit the sky, putrid, poisonous, filtering into the clouds, separating and becoming one with the heavens. Elizabeth’s imagination turned the thick spitted smoke into insects, crawling on the roof of the world.


‘Watch out for the spider lady! She lives in the webs.’ Elizabeth pointed as smoke unravelled across the horizon.

‘Each one is a soul, a victim caught in her web.’ The smoke drew closer to the schoolyard, twisting and spiraling as if turning into a palm, then a fist, then a claw. ‘When it gets inside you, you become possessed, and walk into her webs. It’s her toxin. She’s coming to get you.’

As if on cue, the smoke would flume from the mansion, dark, black, charred and poisonous as it spread.


‘Look, the spiders are escaping!’ With that, the children ran away at Elizabeth’s taunts.

Every evening I looked for the spiders in the sky, the insects on the roof of the world, because I knew it brought Elizabeth joy when we searched for them together.

One day, the acrid smoke ceased to bellow. My gut turned. My concern did not lie with Victoria, but the lack of smoke in the sky, which created a dense weight in the air.


I wondered if I would ever see her after that. But no sooner than I had the thought, she appeared. She crossed the newly cobbled street in the last hours of a dying evening. I noticed how her clothes seemed to fit her differently. She struggled to stay on her feet. Her legs were damp, and sickly grey water dripped on her shoes as she walked. Victoria pushed past me, knocking me into a wall. She glared back at me as if this shocked her. Her eyes were worried and strained, her face gaunt.  

I never had a desire to help her before but something overcame me.


‘Victoria, you need some help.’ I offered. But she had already left me and hurried down a nearby snicket. I ran after her, pushing on against the strong gusts of the chill evening wind, but her black hair blurred with the shadows, her dark pinstriped dress became one with the night. It was near impossible for me to follow her.

When I turned the corner, she had disappeared and was nowhere to be seen. I thought it was there that I’d lost her trail. Then, as if cursed by a colour, by a black mirage, a midnight black feline crossed my path. I was locked in a labyrinth of noir, darkest shadows camouflaging her path from me.

The cat was startled by me, and scurried away. In its haste it knocked over empty bottles of ale stood by a beggar’s bed of greasy cloth scraps. I clenched my nostrils with my fingers and edged further down the path. Amongst the shadows there, I saw Victoria.

Her head hung down between her knees and she appeared to be cradling her body, softly rocking to and fro. Blood covered the cobbled ground, leaking from underneath her skirts and trickling between the cobblestones towards my shoes. I stepped back, my boots already sticky with the dark heavy blood.

She raised her head to stare directly at me. In the weak moonlight reflected by a disused, cracked mirror in the alley, I stared back at her.

She was pale and close to death. I began to reach down to her but then hesitated. I was afraid I would hurt her more. I felt my chest drop and become paralysed just by the sight of this now fragile woman I had so envied. I saw then that this wealthy woman was lonely, alone in a village full of people who did nothing but glare at her with jealousy, and children who were relentless in their teasing, singling her out as a witch.

I tried to speak, urging myself to say something to comfort her, but as I tried only my hot breath escaped from my lips and disappeared. I stepped away, out of the alley and into the open air, away from the horror of her.

In the lamplight of the evening turned night an officer took a final puff of his cigar. I hurried to him, as if chasing towards courage. I gripped his hand, towing him towards the snicket. When we got to where I had left her, she was gone. No trace remained apart from a shallow pool of blood.

We stood alone with the pool of blood. But as we moved closer, something there stirred.

It was oddly, and awkward, the shape of a mandrake, shrivelled and still.  I felt draw to it, as if I was pulled closer by its silent words. Then I gasped.

The way it laid still.

It was a baby. A lifeless newborn.

Lifeless. And that’s what horrified me, I felt for a moment it was alive, and it was crying, I swear on my heart it was crying for its mother. It’s eyes were small, looking as if they had been painted on by the point of a needle. It’s body was shrivelled in such a way that it appeared wrapped and distorted by vines.Its eyes were small, almost painted on by a needles end. Its body shrivelled to such a degree that it was in twisted vines, as if it had sprouted from a bulb.

Its mouth was open as if in pursuit of food, only to be met with the emptiness of air. Never to know the bliss of breathing.

Victoria had not cradled her knees, but this child. The one she had just lost.

****

From Professor Brunet

I heard a thud on the door. It carried on, echoing past midnight. The hounds woke, startled, in turn they woke the rest of the damn house. To hear a knock on the door was unusual, especially at that hour, but what made it more unusual was how quickly the hounds stopped barking. So with the sudden intrusion and the absence of noise from our dogs, I threw on a robe and walked to see who had decided to disturb our peace.  

Who could it have been who had managed to gain the trust of our dogs, for it was not the foxes or the stray hares.  My wife Priscilla and the children had found the silence disturbing and chose to gather by candlelight in the living quarters. There was comfort in the company.

The hallway opened out and had plenty of room, it had an oval shape, and stretched, the stairs spiralled into the above chambers, and the living quarters were in an open space across from my study. I always found it relaxing to see the children play while I worked.   My wife and two girls played checkers in the living quarters while I dealt with the visitor.

While the thud consisted I was in no hurry to answer.  I had an odd feeling that only bad news awaited by answering the door.  And yet the thud persisted. Ringing through the hallways, dancing through the corridors thump thump thump like a chorus of heartbeats reaching out of the chest, thump thump thump like a marching band in unison, thump thump thump like a steam train on broken tracks, awaiting to be derailed.

I found the courage to open the door, holding on to the brass handle, it was cold to the touch.

I slowly turned it.

I was met by a man, his fist held high as if he was to add another thud. His face was sullen, it sank in such a way that one would think it was being sucked by the core of the earth, his eyes were bloodshot and travelled inwards, away from whatever tried to look at them.  There was a smell of dried ale, as if it had caught on his clothes and become trapped there, and a oddly clean fragrance, as if he had spent time with a large amount of soap, and a peculiar smell of tobacco that lingered upon the evergreen.

I was suddenly aware of the man’s size. He was over six feet, and towered over me.  If it were not for his hunch I would have thought he would be much taller.

We stood in silence.  

‘I’m cold, Daddy.’ A tug pulled on my sleeve and that small voice was oh so familiar. My daughter had sneaked away from her mother to be by my side.

‘Back inside dear. I won’t be long.’

And to that the man brought himself inside, following my daughter like a ship to a light.  His lips were blue and frozen while his actions held authority.

He pulled out a large box, one that had been used for cigars, and opened it. It has been nested with hay and nursed inside was something pruned, the figuration of an apple that was left to rot in the sun.

‘Is it what I think it is?’ Came the man. His first words to me, demanding, and straight to the point.   I looked at it, examined it. Instantly I understood why the man had been so sullen.

I may have thought this was some abomination not of this Earth. It’s deformed, horrifying in appearance, almost human like, with its roots sprouting from its body, they almost resemble fingers, do they not? Where did you pick up this abomination?’

‘It was found near the city in a pool of blood.  An abortion perhaps.’


‘I would not fear, it’s nothing to worry about. Many mothers abandon their young these days. You see if they feel it’s twisted in some way, and this thing was, it is tumorous, undeveloped, high chances to be dead at birth, well they tend to take action so they save it the pain of existence.’


‘So there is… no chance… it could be saved? Will it take root? Should I bury it?’ the man said.


‘Burn it.’ I was direct. ‘You can never be too careful with these things. I’m not a superstitious man but curses have been known to come from cursed creatures.’

The man turned to leave, stepping from my porch and mounting his horse. He ordered it with a sharp word, and cantered down the pathway, disappearing into the dead of night. He took his silence with him, the usual sounds of night seeming to leak back into the world once he had gone.

My wife was asleep with my daughters cradled in her arms.  One by one I took my daughters to bed, the limp bodies pressed against mine for heat and comfort.  Climbing the stairs, the floorboards creaked and the wind gusted through our chamber halls. Finally, I returned to my wife, the candlelight was weak and flickered wildly for life, creating shadows on her rose coloured skin.  I kissed her on the forehead to wake her.

She murmured something absently as she hooked her arms around my neck. I carried her to our chambers, allowing my mind to clear of the grotesque creature that was to haunt my dreams later that night. I left the candle to die alone in our living room. The irony of life lost in a living room I thought. How fitting that was.

****

From PC Burgen.

. From being a boy he would return on his adventures with some tropical gift,  neighbours would visit to see what he had brought me. They were so unusual, even to this day, I have yet to see anything close to their designs.  Things like trinkets, toys, cloths. Items full of colour they could suck out the grey of the fog. It’s odd isn’t it? How effects can have some a large impact on your youth but as you look back you struggle to remember what it had been that held your affection so dearly.  

There are a handful of things that I still remember.  One, a chess set. The pieces were so carefully carved, made of ivory, the white pieces were soft and smooth to the touch, while the black pieces were made of ebony, the pieces were so dark I would often feel I was falling outside the Earth when I looked at them too deeply.  I was fourteen when I received my last gift from him. He handed it to me in newspaper wrapping with a bow tied around it, as I removed the paper it revealed a box of cigars.

The box itself was the most colourful thing I’d ever seen. The patterns, the shapes and colours were of a style I’m unable to explain.  Some would say it had a feminine appeal about it with its purples and oranges and soft pinks but I thought differently, it reminded me of the colour of sun through a pane glass window. Light that was neither inside or out but trapped inside a cage for a man to admire.  A majestic bird caught by hand to become a trophy much like a boars head.

There were 20 cigars inside, and I would smoke them on special occasions, and one I was to save for if my Uncle ever came home. When I first  tried to smoke the things I choked, the tobacco was strong and I had not been used to the way they were supposed to be inhaled. My Uncle spent the evening showing me how it was done, you see you’re only meant to inhale so far and not let the smoke reach your lungs.  Holding the smoke within your mouth and then exhaling so not to let it slip down your throat. After a few practice puffs and some explanation I was finally able to smoke them, and did so throughout the years, only using my Uncle’s special cigars when the occasion called for it.

I had one on my eighteenth birthday, one the day my youngest sister wed her husband, I even gave her spouse one that we shared over an evening meal, one was used on the evening of my fathers funeral, and there were others. What’s important is that they meant something to me.  I was down to my last cigar and with my Uncle unlikely to return I thought there was no better night to light it than on my final beat. I had been offered a new job caretaking a school, a job my wife had encouraged me to take. So as a start of a new chapter, I lit lit it and I smoked it just as my Uncle Jeremy showed me.  

On that night I took my final puff from my final cigar and put away my Uncle’s cigar box safely into my jacket.  Throwing the butt away a wiley woman approached me, from the off I could tell something was not quite right. She had seen something disturbing, quaking as she approached me. The woman, she called herself Maria, hurried out a long explanation to me about a neighbour with an Eastern European name, began with Victoria ended with a name beginning with an F. Francistein, but I could be mistaken. Maria pulled my jacket, toeing me along like a childs toy.  Forcing my head into where the baby lied.

Of course it was easy to disconnect, it looked nothing like a baby should do, and if it’s all the same I’d rather not go into the details.

I examined the area the best I could.  The lady who had given birth to this thing had continued bleeding as she went away.  Maria on the other hand vanished into the ether, after she left I collected a handful of hay from a stable close by,  packing my multicoloured cigar box, that had lost some of its vibrance through the years, carefully, I lifted the still child and placed it inside, giving it a final place of rest. It wasn’t graceful, but it was something important to me, so I hope whatever this child was called will appreciate my gesture.  I did think for a moment in the gloom, I’m pretty sure my Uncle would of liked what I did with it.

The trail of blood would not have been noticeable to an untrained eye, it was small splatters, similar to a nosebleed overspilling from a handkerchief.  There was a locked hatchet on the floor that must have led to a cellar, I opened it up and then the trail went cold. Inside the splatters of blood ended, I shon my lamplight down and a tunnel appeared below.  Although there was no specific trail, I thought best to pursue it.

There was no blood to be found down there. I shone my lamp around in the small, cramped space. The feeble light revealed a tunnel. Although I had lost the scent, I thought it best to continue my investigation down here.

The tunnels were unlit and my lamp struggled to stay lit as the air become thinner the more I journeyed through.  I must have walked a good distance before I reached the end, and to my disappointment, it led nowhere. It looked as if it had been walled over.  I inspected the gaps in the wall for an opening, tracing my fingers over the walls.

Then it was cold and pitch black.  I stumbled for my lamp but rather than the iron cast and glass that I was expecting, there was leather, it was a shoe, with a very large and frightening man attached to them.

***

The Butler

I was to assigned to look after Lady Victoria as she arrived in England, her family knew few people here but it was the most ideal place for a woman of her stature to have an education. The Frankenstein’s lineage goes very deep into the Lithuanian monarchy, with marriages and children it is very unlikely that she will need to go home to the motherland.  

My earliest memory of Victoria was when she would play with her dolls, our housekeeper made these porcelain wonders, and gifted them to her on her birthday every year.  She would line them up on her bed every morning and put them to bed every evening, in drawers, in shoe boxes and whatever would become a makeshift bed for her. It’s a sad thought looking back.

It’s funny how she always had a fondness for dolls, for small, child-like things.

She was in tears as her water broke. She had told me she thought there was something wrong and her eyes were harrowing, as if to warn of its birth.  I was confident I knew where she may have gone. Victoria had an obsession. And as she stormed off into the cold night I thought there was only one place she could have gone.

The hobby began innocently enough.  She would rescue woodland animals, nurture them back to health and free them into the wild. But when she was unable to recover them she began… experiments.  First she tried to insert organs from rats into cats, to see if they would be compatible, and there was a time I discovered a wing, several eyes in brine, and a piece of sewing string, and I dared not ask her what she had planned. Her mind is one of a kind, brilliant, but perhaps misunderstood. I admired her creativity above all.  

It was the stink that caught the public’s attention.  The smell of rotting carcasses, of chemicals burning flesh, and the substances she used were most certainly toxic.  Eventually, the complaints became so severe we created a basement.

She became fascinated with physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, classic art and combined them all to create something profound.  Over the years the wood animals were replaced with lab animals, and then lab animals to — more on that later. However, I must say it was fascinating.

Victoria had instructed me to obtain her child for burial.  She had been too distressed. Poor thing. Within a span of 5 years she has had 3 miscarriages, a burden I wish on no one.  Her last was the most tragic, she continued to buy baby clothes long after she lost it. Days upon days she brought home tiny garments to be filled by a small body, a tiny human that would one day grow to be a member of society.  Much like a tree from a simple seed, however not all trees sprout, as were the case of my Lady Victoria. No matter how hard she tried.

The baby garments filled her the guest bedroom and were pristine, some in blue, some in pink.   I almost hadn’t the heart to remove them. But when I finally had the courage to return them to the sellers she didn’t seem to know, instead, she fixated on her work, occasionally filling the room with more baby garments.  She soon stopped when she got pregnant once again.

The officer was easily overcome with a bash straight to the cranium with my nightstick.   Luckily for me he was very willing to be knocked out, he even had his head in the right position.  

And now here I am. Recovering her child.  I took her to a nearby doctor in the guise of the officer, my rouse was to appear horrified, but in truth, I hoped I would find some redemption for the poor thing, but it appeared that the more she tried to birth the more malformed her offspring became.  I stood in the cold, the brisk air shocked my neck, making me aware of the dead of night I was in. I pulled up the dirt from the ground, it had frozen and chunks were covered in flickers of ice, and once a suitable hole had been dug I buried the thing. I dared not return it to its mother.

And before I left I remembered the name she wanted to call it, yes. And so as I pulled the soil over it’s minute grave I whispered into the soil ‘goodnight Charlotte’ and I returned to Lady Victoria.  Unfortunately, she had already begun to attempt to inseminate once again. Poor thing.

Eulogy for Dad: ten years on

We were all wearing black. For the most part I was sat down, resting my head in my hands. Whenever I looked up I saw the same T-shirt over and over again. Printed on the back it said “Escape is just the beginning”.  

After he passed away I spent two weeks away from work in bed watching TV and crying whenever a father had to say goodbye to his children, or whenever a father figure was even mentioned. The best way I can describe my experience in those few weeks is a void. A black panel in a comic book with jagged lines of white showing where the light should be. It looks interpretive and nothing is as it should be.

Dad was full of stories. Once he talked about the Bradford riots in the 80’s (my mum once joked that she didn’t mind my dad having to work the riots because the overtime paid for our family holidays…).  He was taken to court because one of the rioters sued the Police force because he hit him with a baton. My Dad’s response to the judge? ‘He hit me first!’

When he was on patrol one night he picked up a man for suspected drink driving.  They took him back to the police station as he seemed suspicious – the man had an aura about him Dad just didn’t trust.  After being interviewed, the man was released due to insufficient evidence. That man’s name was Peter Sutcliffe. He would later come to be known as the Yorkshire Ripper, caught and sentenced for life for murdering 13 women and the attempted murder of several others.

I used to fall asleep on the sofa while watching sci-fi like the Outer Limits. I’d wake up in my dad’s arms as he was carrying me to bed. I remember him being interested in sci-fi, aliens, or anything that gave an alternative view of the future. It was a contrast to who he was in his day-to-day life: grounded, practical.  A true Yorkshireman.

He was the sort of person whose purpose was to make sure you were ok. He was a provider not just for material possessions but for peace of mind.  Sheltering me from the chill cold air in a long queue, seeing me frightened as we slid down a waterslide together and pushing out his elbows to stop my shock, taking me to Media museums, catering to my interest in television and film, buying my notepads to encourage me with my writing.  We were a million miles apart but he never stopped wanting the best out of me, out of all of us.

One of my earliest memories of him was with his beard and hair greying.  There’d be a couple of cans of Colt49 in the fridge, his leather jacket on the coat hook.  The patrol car would be in our front driveway and whenever he was sat in front of the TV I would find my way up into my parent’s bedroom and I’d pull out his police helmet, letting it fall lopsided on my tiny head.

He seemed larger than life.

Dad wanted to see how much he could do for himself. Building patios, BBQs, and converting our attic into a bedroom. He built a makeshift stand for my bed because I wanted it to be the other way round. Later he would find an interest in gardening, pointing out the names for flowers I never knew had names.

With time and distance memories become hazy, voices fade, and the images you have become muddy.  In ten years a lot of life happens. I wonder what he would have made of the advancements in technology. Would I have tried to have an interest in rugby and football to try to connect with him more?

I know he’d be proud.  Not just of me but of all of us.  His pride was the one thing that stood out to me more than anything.  It beamed straight into you so you know you’d done something right. The more you did your own thing the bigger the sense of pride he had.   He was a firm believer in doing your own thing, and not letting the bastards grind you down.


That was Dad.

He is missed.

 




 

The Deafinite Response

The first time I ever put in a hearing aid it felt like I had experienced a 6th sense. Something like a third eye.  It was always hidden yet in plain site. And it was horrible. No one wants to speak to ghosts, and no one wants to hear everyone’s thoughts. So why would I want to be able to hear absolutely everything that happened around me?

There’s a short cartoon that stuck with me for a long time in Drip Drippy Donald (1948)  Donald Duck struggles to sleep. And if you haven’t watched this before please do so as it’s still very funny.  As continuous events prevent him falling asleep, but especially a while a tap drips, and with the dripping that becomes an increasingly irate Donald struggling to sleep.  The tap never finds new and innovative ways to keep him awake.

I have never had this problem.  My sleep at best is disturbed from an open blind, but never a dripping tap.

But it’s the best way I can convey why those little noises become so obtrusive in your everyday life when you spent your entire life never hearing them.  

I found it a little uneasy that everytime I picked up a piece of paper it was so prominent in my brain.  Footsteps were elaborate. Doors were louder. The wind suddenly had a character in its sound. To be millennial about it: I was woke.

And these are just the peripheral reasons why I don’t wear them day to day.   

So when I tried using them at work I thought it would cure all my woes. I’d finally hear what all those awesome conversations were about that were just out of reach for me.  But it all felt useless. The outside conversations people love to dip into I was either not interested in or I could never focus on the words when I needed to. They weren’t my ears I was listening from.  There was a wall there, it was as if I was climbing over to see the grass but I never on the field.

And of course, there’s the hearing aids themselves.  I was given two of them, as technically both my ears are knackered. I remember I would put them in, take them out, stare at them.  Interestingly, whenever you insert a hearing aid you hear a whistle. So I would insert them, hear the whistle, take them out, put them back in, hear the whistle. Rinse and repeat.  It was a new toy I was fascinated with, something I would need to work out as an extension of myself.

But it became increasingly difficult.  They become easily lost, expensive to replace, and expensive maintain.  Batteries are not as cheap as you hope they will be, and more importantly, they recommend that the batteries are changed every day.  That’s a lot of batteries (environmental reasons alone, that’s insane.)

As generous as it is to have hearing aids on the NHS and through Specsavers respectively, it still cost £60 for a replacement, and that’s a basic hearing aid.  If my level of hearing was extremely poor I’d have no choice but to pay out of my pocket for a basic human requirement. You are given a box of batteries free when you’re first given the hearing aids but then it’ll cost you.   (This is more a reflection on the state of the NHS now than it is a jab at any of these services, as we’re lucky to have what we have, but I feel there’s an agreement that money’s there for the NHS that just isn’t being inserted into it.)

But there’s more to it than just battery life, and easily lost hearing aids, and a lack of budget for the hearing aids from the government (although that does lead into my next point).

The quality of hearing aids provide a basic function and don’t provide for life in 2018.  It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me that about 80 percent of my day is spent listening to music.  I’m not the world’s biggest expert but I am passionate about it. So when I don’t have a hearing aid that compensates for volume in a music venue, through speakers, then it just makes me feel like a robot that only hears everything through an auxiliary port.

What that comes down to is lifestyle and wellbeing.  If a device you use is unable to allow you to go about your life in the way you did before, then ultimately it affects lifestyle and mood.  For me I’d rather listen to music organically (as organically as you can through earphones and headsets,) I’d rather not have to listen to the sound of dripping taps, or linger to the words of a mundane conversation about the weather. I like my bubble of murmuring voices that blend together as if it’s a prelude to a greater album. That’s been my life so far and until my basic human requirements are completely jeopardised I will be staying away from them.

Unfortunately, it’s said that hearing decreases more rapidly without hearing aids. Similar to eyesight. If you don’t wear the right prescription you are more likely to lose your sight faster. But I’m on the mindset that the disintegration of my veins between my ears and brain will at least appreciate the ignorance of knowing what I don’t know.  With that in mind here’s a song about disintegration:

 

I’m Being Deafly Serious

vGE8nZJ.jpg

Background information for anyone who’s wondering. I’ve officially been ‘deaf’ for 3 years, finding out after a heinous employer was becoming increasingly frustrated with me for not hearing her.  And I beat myself up, because this was a regular occurrence throughout my life. I mean I could hear her? Couldn’t I? I just couldn’t quite make it out, so I let it go. As I had so many times in my life, trained myself to let that shadow of a sound fall out of my eyesight as it was not worth the effort of chasing the problem.  

I believe my mind trained itself to tune out whenever there was ‘shadow noise’.  So when in groups, or classrooms, or offices my brain would go into autopilot has it had so regularly done because I would never catch anything that was going on.  Often looking at people with a really dumb smile agreeing with whatever they had said, only to realise they had said nothing to agree with.

The point I’m making is that ultimately it affected my confidence. Subconsciously at least, especially throughout university and high school.  I felt I wasn’t getting much out of lessons, although I knew I was learning from what they had to say. What was the missing link? And each time I would go back and back again to the same thought process: attention issues, shadow noise.  Don’t look directly at the problem.

In literature, they call this ‘slipstream’.  You see something in your sight but you choose to not acknowledge it because it’s a problem you can’t deal with (homeless people are a good example of this).  So although I felt there could be a problem I would talk myself out of it “the earphones are probably broken, you’re tired and you’re imagining it, the television is so quiet, I’ve always liked things a bit louder. It’s just a preference.” Is it a preference Ben, is it, it it really!?

I was never bad enough to need to read lips.  And I’m jealous that people can. I’ve never felt smart enough to learn to sign language, and even if I did learn I know very few people who know it so it would just mean making new deaf friends. What’s wrong with the ones I have now I ask? And besides all these points my hearing isn’t terrible.  If it was a tank of gas it would be just under half empty. It would get you far but maybe not all the way you wanted it to.

So just after my thirtieth I finally took the plunge to get them checked.  The doctor said I had twisty ear canals (that’s a thing apparently).

More background information: When I was 18 I went swimming and some kid dropped his goggles at the bottom of a deep pool.  I dived fairly deep to fetch them for him but as I came out of the water I went totally and utterly deaf. If we still want to use the gas tank analogy here, the warning light just came on and you’re caught in heavy traffic on the commute to work.  It was pretty bad. People yelled at me and I could not hear them at all. I was that way for 2 weeks until they syringed my ears. And syringing sounds a lot worse than it actually is. So when I didn’t think I was deaf it’s because for 2 weeks I had experienced a whole other level of what it was to be deaf.  It wasn’t all stubbornness.

Anyway the doctor told me to get have my ears tested. They sat me in a medical phone both while the sound of wind blew while different pitches of beeps played in my ears.  It was quickly apparent my right ear was shit.

MRI scan time. My heart goes out to anyone who has ever had one.  If ever I experienced anything close to an alien abduction it’s an MRI scan. The noise and claustrophobic experience of it all was harrowing. Think a coffin with bright white lights while someone plays Bomb sirens: the musical in your ears.

Results weren’t great. It came down to my right ear being below average and my left being just about average.  It’s a strange feeling receiving results to confirm what you already know. One on hand you now know that the cause of your hearing loss is not twisted ear canals, water in your ears, wax, but a real medical condition.

I should mention what the cause of the loss is. Those who know me, and even those that don’t tend to go to the obvious reason: music.  Well curses on all of you, you’re all wrong.

No, my hearing didn’t leave me because I was standing too close to the amps at gigs, and yes, I always had my music on loud but it wasn’t what led to my loss.  It was in fact just a shit genetic problem. I apparently was given a bad hand, and I’m not talking about that third thumb I was born with (whole other blog post there.) Apparently, the nerves that connect from my ears to my brain started to deteriorate, as commonly seen in old people. And before you say it, knock it off, I’m only 33 *crawls into fetus position and enters existential dread*

Life is only ever seen through the viewpoint of oneself. With this in mind I tend not to be too tough on myself for not noticing it sooner.  How would I know that my hearing was bad if that hearing was all I ever knew? Perhaps it was always as bad as it was but somehow I slipstreamed,  leaving the shadows in the light rather than casting them back into the dark. Perhaps there’s more I’m not seeing now that I’m blocking out. I’m not sure if I’ll ever will see it, but I know I’ll be listening out for it.

 

A Father-Son Revisit to Monkey Island.

I first visited Monkey Island with my Dad. I remember seeing 11 discs carefully laid out on the right of the keyboard.   He would slot them in seemingly at random. Whatever he was doing it looked special and at the time the most impressive thing I had seen since was the Walkman. So to see so many discs being used in one game was genuinely impressive.

With three older siblings it was never going to be easy for me and my Dad to bond. But having something to talk about helped see past the father figure and to see the person underneath. Sure, it wasn’t football or rugby, they were activities for the other kids in the family. Me and Dad, we were the wannabe pirates. On a journey of swash buckling and problem solving that would bring together father and son to take down the evil pirate, LeChuck!

So for years it bothered me so much that he completed the game without me. We had gone through so much of it together. And what especially bothered me was how so close to the end we were. With Guybrush was trapped in LeChuck’s grasps, we were so close. It was almost a way of him saying ‘if you want to reach the end, you’ve got to work for it.’

It wasn’t until another 20 years later when the game was released in HD that I played it again and finally completed it. And for a moment, while I was working out the puzzles, I was briefly in the mind of my Dad. It was an uncanny.   He had died over 8 years ago and here I was, revisiting his thought process from over twenty years ago. For a brief moment he was still alive.

Years later, before he died and when I was in High School, I remember my Dad looking at my fingers nails, and showing me his. We were both biters, with our fingernails nubbed to the bone. It was a vein attempt at trying to find something in common with one another. He lived miles away from me and the brothers and he wanted that one thing to show me that I was his son.

But the bottom line was that we were drastically different people with very different minds it was almost impossible to find that common ground. And then I think back and realise we did, at least once. It was just was on Monkey Island.

Superman II: It Sure is Windy, Zod

The Richard Donner Superman films will go down in history as the benchmark for other Supermen films. He established a tone and identity for a hero what could have been easily too camp, too patriotic (he’s patriotic but it’s not over done too much), too easily forgotten. Instead, he used cinematic landscapes, a orchestral soundtrack what hits hard and is familiar and well remembered and instead of creating a super hero film out of studio wants and profiteering what could have been discarded as it came, he instead created a stylised film in its own right.
Part of what made the films so great was the inane attention to detail, each scene was so carefully thought over there was a watermark left where you knew every idea was thrown at it. Sometimes this attention to detail pushed the film into a canon of films what stood out above the rest, other times however you get the impression they wanted to just make a Hollywood summer blockbuster and literally threw everything they could think of into one scene, this is about the latter.
So when a normal filmmaker needs to establish its windy, they may go ahead and use the odd trick in the book. Alas, this is a Donner film and as such when a group of Kyptonians blow air, there’s going to be more than one way to show that the winds blowing.

1. Flying Cardboard

Nothing says windy like flying paper.  It’s used in virtually every following scene, I imagine the thought process behind this was ‘if there’s no flying paper how will they know? Perish the thought they think it’s only mildly windy!’

2. Flying Wig

Because dammit, sometimes flying cardboard isn’t enough.  We don’t need to question why the woman with hair is wearing the wig and the bald man is happily showing off his magnificent scalp, nope, we just want to see some whooshing locks.

3. Upturned Umbrella

There’s just something about the upturned umbrella ever since Gene Kelly sang Singing in the Rain, although this guy really doesn’t seem to realise that he could just let go of that umbrella. Kudos for the dedication.

4. Homeless Guy Predicting the End of the World

You see, not only is it really windy, it’s also General Zod making it windy.  This is the end of the world!  What strikes me about this more than any of the others on this list is that there are people who don’t have the ability to even stand up and there’s a car sandwiched in cardboard apparently totally able to keep his balance.

5. Chicken?

Because not being able to eat deep fried chicken is the epitome of windy… right?

6. Ice Cream in the Face


Let’s not ask why this guy was eating ice cream, or better yet why he just bought ice cream when Superman was clearly struggling to defend Earth right outside wherever he was, or why he hadn’t even taken a lick till there was a man conveniently placed next to him.  This is what’s called movie magic at its finest, nonsensical and slapstick.  I am impressed at how well maintained that ice cream as postured itself after being flung from gale force winds.

7. Flying Cars

What kind of Hollywood blockbuster would Superman be with a car flying into another car then into a building? Not a very good one.  We can tell things are getting serious!

8. Flaming Car

Did you not just see the flying car? Now there’s another car… but on fire.  Things are heating up.

9.  Man on phone I: Setting the (dial) Tone

The dedication on this guy is excellent, this guy should get his own film, anyone should get their own film to be this dedicated to stay on the line during turbulant winds an invasion of evil Kryptonians with power breathe. Kudos to you sir.

10. Man on Phone II: Wrong Number

Like all good films the Man on Phone deserved his own film in a film, of course our original protagonist was wiped out only moments ago to pass on the torch to this individual. Nothing will stop The Man on Phone!

11.  Man on Rollar Blades?

Dude, I don’t know what kind of person throws on a pair of skates when Metropolis is going to Hell, but you’ve got my respect for your dedication to your trade.

12. Lots and lots of Blowing

I mean look at him go. Just, look at him. You go, Nod!

And that’s only the tip of the ice burg.  Jokes aside it really makes you appreciate that in this one minute and thirty second scene they composed at least twelve different ways to show that it’s windy, to represent how much terror the evil Kyrptonians possess.  Flicking though and screen capturing these images were a pain, because they were so close together, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments all aimed at a slice of entertainment.  There’s a lot to be learned from the Superman films, not at least because they put more care and effort into even the minute details but because they laughed at themselves and urged others to laugh.  Superhero films are becoming far to serious, and are forgetting that the most value aspect of their being is to entertain.

Fearing Dr Robotnik

Dr Robotnik was once a threat.  He was a person who you waited for, the person who was next to impossible to win against when you found yourself against him with no rings.  The classic games are so far behind us now that it is easy to forget he was once a formidable foe.  If you were introduced to him via any of the new games it is something you would never know.

He was not just a shadowed figure who only appeared at the end of the game once his minions had failed he was there to battle you at the end of each zone, he did not want you to succeed, he did get his hands dirty, Dr Robotnik was a bad ass who has now turned soft.  The dark Saturday morning Sonic cartoon (not the ‘Adventures of’ but the self titled version) depicted in the future is a prime example of this.  In it you get a glimpse into why he was such an intimidating threat, he would wipe the memories of all of Sonics family and friends and turn them into mindless robots, he was evil, he was the main character of that one horror movie that gave you nightmares.

They should have never softened or made Dr Robotnik into comical relief, having your main villain as the same person who lightens the mood of a game is contradictory and it is a bizarre and haphazard move.   They should not have been afraid to keep him imposing. Children can handle being scared; many times, they thrive on being scared, in fact, why not encourage them to be scared then get them to play the game to conquer game that caused them to be frightened?  Who wants to work tirelessly hard throughout a game to defeat some bumbling enemy who acts so incompetent he probably would fail on his own anyway?

The entire purpose of the original games dedicated themselves to beating one evil scientist who turned helpless animals into to menacing robots of destruction.  Quite simply you were just a hero.  There was no personal motivation for doing the right thing, the right thing was just something that you did,  and if there is any moral lesson you want to be teaching children it’s not beat the bad guy because he’s kidnapped your girlfriend but beat the bad guy because he is a bad guy.

In the new generation of games they seem to either keep Dr Robotnik out of the boss fights entirely or put him inside some over sized machine where he is miles away from Sonic, he is further than arms reach away.  He’s become more cowardice, less enthusiastic, it’s almost as if Dr Robotnik is just going through the motions and has given up entirely or has somehow lost the will to put up much of a fight.  Nothing else was as satisfying as watching his flying pod burst into flames, it was rewarding, it gave a sense of accomplishment.  You were never just beating a game, you were being a hero; you were defeating a fear.

Post Navigation