Category: Life Stories


There's nothing like a choice of tie to define sanity...

I was just sitting on the harbor wall gnawing on half an uncut ham when an old man walked past on the street above. The bemused look he gave me made me wonder if eating ham without first cutting it into thin slices was some kind of social faux pas I was unaware existed.

It made me feel a bit like a stray dog. I wondered if I might be crazy. You know, like one of those old bearded men crouched under the flyover and sucking the blood out of his socks. I’m sure that sometimes I probably look a bit crazy, but that’s not the same as actually being crazy, right?

Crazy hobo guy needs your help

Yet I worry that maybe my attorney was right. Maybe I might actually be crazy. How would I know?  I mean, he managed to get some disreputable head shrink to state that I was crazy as part of some legal gambit, but that’s not the same as actually being crazy, right?

So I tried a little research. Looking about on the internet, particularly personal blogs, it seems that nearly everyone is declaring that they’re crazy in some way. The meaning of crazy varies wildly between individuals.

So, if I might be crazy, let’s have a look at my options:

For some people “crazy” means that if the quality of the conversation at the bridge club doesn’t improve next week they may actually have to use a four letter word (in the privacy of their own car, on the way home perhaps). Well, fuck that.

For others, “crazy” means that they had one more beer than they intended on Friday night and missed the bus home. Maybe they had to get a taxi. Whew, crazy night. I mean, taxi? In this town? You could have saved six euro if you’d walked.

For some brave people, crazy is fighting serious mental conditions. Crazy is struggling through each day in a disorganized mess and taking pills to try to counteract the effects of the other pills which they’re taking because they don’t have the confidence to argue with the profiteering doctor that prescribed them. I guess this one requires a doctor, so clearly not that kind of crazy.  I sometimes struggle to get through the day but it’s more likely that I’m just drunk or hungover (or both).

It seems the most popular however use of “crazy” however, seems to be referring to rather formulaic, repetitive faux quirkiness that, if anything, is so entirely normal it’s painfully dull. “You don’t have to work to help here, but it’s crazy”.

You don't need to be crazy to work here - but we'll make you eat your fucking dumb sign...

At first I thought that finding all these other crazy people was a good sign. Maybe it means that my worry that I might be crazy is just a sign that I am actually rather normal?

But then I looked about a little more and I realized that most of the people who are saying “Oh, I’m crazy!” don’t mean it at all. They really actually mean: “I’m a bit dull, but I want to appear quirky and exciting somehow.”

You're clearly not insane - you can't even pull a silly face, you have to let a cartoon character do it for you...

Those with actual troubling mental conditions aside, people who say they’re crazy are often about as bland, uninteresting and unexciting as people can be.  They’re not the ones sitting on the harbor wall chewing on a pound of meat, they’re eating at McDonalds. They’re not the ones trying to look casual walking along the beach at 5 am wearing nothing except a stolen raincoat and a pair of bright orange stilettos; they’re sitting at home watching T.V. wearing a T-Shirt that says “I’m with stupid” and hoping people think it’s ironic.

... and I forgive you for wearing that stupid shirt

These are the kind of people with nine to five jobs that they don’t really like. These are the kind of people that argue over whose turn it is to clean up the dog shit. These are the kind of people that eat at the same fast food restaurant every week because it’s kind of familiar. These are the kind of people that go to church because they go to church.

I was thinking… what’s wrong with this picture? Why would I want to be like these people? Why would anyone want to be like that? Is there something here that doesn’t quite fit?

There's something in your world view that I don't think you've taken time to consider...

Then the realization hit me. I was wrong. They’re right. They really are fucking crazy. They may be in the majority across a lot of Europe and North America, but that doesn’t mean they’re not crazy; they’re totally bat shit insane.

I remember a story about a guy who decided that the whole world was crazy. He built a circular wall and declared it the wall of the asylum. Then he lived in the middle of the circle. I can’t remember if he ever went in to visit the crazy people in the asylum but I suppose I’d have to find the original story to find out.

Still, the idea seems like reasonable one. I haven’t got the real estate to build me an actual wall, but in any case I’m declaring the lot of you certifiably insane and you can all go live in your asylum. If anyone wants out you’ll have to convince me you’re mentally sound enough to be released…

Choose life.   Choose a job.   Choose a career.   Choose a family.   Choose a fucking big television.   Choose washing machines, cars,   compact disc players, and electrical tin openers.   Choose leisure wear and matching luggage.   Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics.   Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning.   Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.   Choose rotting away at the end of it all, in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarassment to the selfish fucked up brats that you spawned to replace yourselves.   Choose your future.   Choose life.   I chose not to choose life.   I chose something else.

Suicide: A beginner’s guide

The world need's action!

The trouble with suicide is that it’s always being attempted by untrained amateurs, usually when they’re not in the right frame of mind to be trying anything quite so serious or dangerous. In fact, it’s almost a given that if you meet someone that has first hand, practical experience in the field, then you can be sure they’re not very good at it.
I think part of the problem is that many people turn to suicide when they’ve already failed at pretty much everything else. If you can’t get anything else right, why assume you can perform a decent suicide? I suppose at the time they just don’t care that much, which just adds to the problems.
I’m going to look at the most popular reasons for making an attempt. I figure if you’re not in one of these reasons, then you might as well not bother at all.

  • • Star crossed lovers
  • • Revenge
  • • Feeling a bit sad at the moment
  • • Incurable, terminal, and painful illness
  • • Being danger to others

Star crossed lovers

Without you, I'm nothing
This one is pretty common, particularly in works of fiction. People who lose love or for some reason can’t be with the one they love decide that the only course of action left to them is suicide. Romeo and Juliet are probably the most famous examples of lovers that can’t be together deciding to take their own lives, but they’re not the only ones. Loreley is supposed to have thrown herself into the Rhine on the same kind of premise and I’m sure there are plenty of others.
While this kind of juvenile behavior is often painted as the height of romance and somehow noble, the truth of the matter is that it’s just plain stupid. Romeo and Juliet were a pair of whiney, self centered, overly dramatic children who managed to kill themselves out of dumb luck more than anything. I for one was glad they were dead; at least it shut them up.
The point is that no matter how it might read in a romance novel, dead bodies are never romantic or beautiful. If Shakespeare had described an accurate scene, in which the two dumb teens vomited and shat themselves before curling up on the floor like rodents to die, I’m sure people would be put off the romance of it. But I suppose that’d spoil the mood of his story.
In conclusion: If you think you might be considering the star crossed lover approach, just give it up – have a cold shower and go out and meet someone that’s not stupid enough to poison themselves.

Revenge

I figure this one is more common than people want to admit. This is where someone does something nasty to you and treats you wrong and so you decide you’re going to be all dramatic and kill yourself.
“I’ll show them!” you think in a fit of righteous fury “they’ll be sorry when I’m dead!”
Actually, they probably won’t; at least, not half as sorry as you’ll be in the seconds before you die.
If you’re thinking to yourself that revenge isn’t the reason you’re considering it – then check everyone you know – are you doing everything in your power to make it as painless for them as you possibly can? Have you considered all the shit they’re going to have to deal with? I’ll tell you this: finding dead bodies is not a pleasant thing to do, particularly if it’s someone you know. Imagine each person you know is the one to find you all cold and urine stained in the corner. If you feel even slightly vindictive about the trauma that person would suffer – then there’s a little bit of revenge in your reasoning. To be honest, if it’s a revenges thing, you might as well go the whole way – why not get a tattoo on your face that says “I did this because my brother beat me at scrabble” and then hang yourself from his bedroom light fixture?

.... and I wanted diet coke, damnit
If that idea sounds stupid, it’s because the whole premise is stupid. Killing yourself to hurt someone else is about the most stupid thing you can do. If they really do hate you – then they win. And if they don’t hate you then you both just lose. The people you seek to hurt aren’t responsible for your life – you’re the one that has the most to lose. Just give it up – go create yourself a better life and beat them by just being happy.

Feeling a bit sad at the moment

On the bright side, at least we got ice cream
I guess this is quite common too. People get depressed or blue and decide that they don’t really like being depressed. So they hurt themselves. It’s a bit silly really because being depressed in a temporary state. I’ve been sad before. Sure, it’s no fun being sad and sometimes you just want it to be over, you don’t think you can take it anymore. Turns out that you can. You can clear things up and be happy again. Unless of course you kill yourself. In which case you just stay sad. Maybe you make some other people sad too. Maybe nobody cares. But you are responsible for your own happiness and it’s there when you want it.

I’m not going to say you can just decide to be happy one day and it’ll just happen. I know that’s not the way it goes. However I will say this: It does get better.

When I say “feeling sad” I mean any number of states of emotional  trauma. This covers sadness, guilt, shame, and even fear. Sometimes you might be so afraid of something that dying seems less scary that facing whatever it is that really scares you. Hell, there are some things that I know I’d rather die than face. Yet, I figure that fear can be overcome. You don’t want to fold out as a coward, and whatever you’re guilty of, it’s done now – being dead ain’t gonna help.

Incurable, terminal, and painful illness

Some people are in constant and endless physical pain with no hope of ever being healed. Usually they are very old and have lived well and decide that now is the time to move on. I think you’ll know if you’re in this position. Pain is scary and it can make life feel like a burden. I’ve never been in quite that position, so I can’t say how I’d handle it – but I can say this: I have been injured to the point where I didn’t think I would recover. I lay in the dark in terrible pain and wished it could be over more quickly. However, I did recover, and now I’m glad I didn’t take action based on that wish.

Being a danger to others

Some people just know they’re dangerous. In their calm rational moments they fear that they’ll later lose control and hurt those they love. These kinds of people are, luckily, pretty rare. Most people are pretty good at not hurting others, just getting on with life in an orderly fashion. Those that can’t play gently are usually locked up for the good of everyone else. But if you knew you were that person…. If you knew you were that loose cannon…. What would you do? You could invoke the higher purpose clause – kill the one in favor of the many. But even if you decided that it was the right thing to do – could you do it?

If you're gonna shoot yourself in the mouth, you might as well be half naked, right?

I figure that everyone has thought about it at some point in their lives. I don’t mean, actually seriously considered it. Just thopught about it. Has the thought ever crossed your mind, just in passing?

A moment of clarity

I remember the day I first realized that I had a drinking problem. What? Two hands – one mouth? What kind of fucked up anatomy is this?

Kitty has a drinking problem

In the middle of a hot summer in the mythical land of Belgium I woke up in a pile of stinking garbage. I was down a narrow back alley in some small town I’d never heard of. The heat was oppressive and the air was still. For some reason it felt like someone had put a railroad spike thru my skull. Twice. My throat was pretty dry and sore so I picked up what was left of a bottle of vodka and rinsed my mouth out. When I rubbed the aches out of my muscles (sleeping in garbage can leave a crick in your neck), I noticed that my hand came away wet and red. Uh oh…

Being a drunk is a bit rubbish....
Ah… home sweet home…

It took a little investigation to discover that, although I had blood on me, I wasn’t cut. I don’t really remember if I considered that a good thing or a bad thing at the time. My shirt was ostensibly white; the dark staining was really obvious. I took off the shirt and used the material as a cloth to clean the blood off my jacket and skin. Then hid the stained rag in the trash and put on my jacket. I zipped it right up to the top to hide the fact I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Walking up the street was really uncomfortable, the jacket was hot and the sun was unrelenting. I walked in the shadows, partly to try to keep cool and partly to keep the light from stabbing my eyes out. I took the bottle of vodka with me and sipped it as I walked. It’s one way to cure a hangover.

I remember a middle aged woman, bulky and wrapped in cotton, pushing a little wicker shopping basket on wheels. She paused to glare disapprovingly at me from the safety of the other side of the street. I didn’t even have the energy to glare back.

Then I noticed a cop car had inched alongside me; He had slowed right down. There were two cops sat inside with peaked hats with little silver shiny bits on. The car’s wheels rumbled on the cobbled street and their heads slowly turned in unison to keep me in view. I remember thinking, oh fuck.

I was too messed up to do anything. I hadn’t even noticed them approaching. I was suddenly scared. I realized they’d probably bust me. Then I’d either get jailed or worse, deported. For the first time I saw that I was too messed up to take care of myself. Too weak to run, to drunk to think, too blind to survive. That’s the point I realized that I had a drinking problem.

Is that police car watching me?

Now, with a little hindsight, I’m sure there were a few other little clues that came before that moment, but nothing registered until that point; that instant of realization. Two cops in a car, one with one hand resting on a holster and one hand on the handle to the car door; both watching me stumble. That’s when I knew.

The cops drove right past me and left me standing, shaking inside. I made a decision right then to get my shit together; to make things better. Drinking was making me slow and soft – body and mind. They say you’re 80% water – I was probably 80% proof.

It sounds pretty dramatic – but I reckon those two cops probably saved my life. I have oddly conflicted feelings about that.

The trouble with being dead is that it spoils your good looks....

Of course, cleaning up my act didn’t just happen overnight. It’s not like I haven’t touched a drop since that day. In fact, I think that very day I drove to meet up with an old friend, got completely drunk and behaved in a way I’m surprised he ever forgave me for. But that’s beside the point. The point is that it took quite a random event to shock me into noticing that I was in trouble.

So why is that? Well, I figure that it’s hard to see the things that you do that are self destructive. You rationalize your behaviour. With alcohol in particular it’s a vicious cycle, because the more you drink, the more whacked your rationalizations can be because you’re too drunk to realize.

I’d been having trouble sleeping and found after a few drinks I slept more easily. So when I was tired and couldn’t sleep IWait.... did that snake just twitch? drank. Some days I really couldn’t sleep and so I just kept on drinking. Vodka is one of those subtle ninja drinks that sneak up on you. You take an inch and it tastes like nothing much (unless you have cheap shit – then it tastes like licking a gas tank), then you get that warmth for a while, then it’s gone. It’s not till about half an hour later that you start noticing you’re getting drunk. That means that if you stop drinking when you’ve had a bit too much – you’ve got another half an hour of drinks still to catch up. That’s probably a lot too much. The drinking made my sleeping worse until I couldn’t sleep at all – I just drank till I passed out, then when I regained consciousness I just did it again. It was pretty much a way of life.

I thought at first that the only reason that I managed to get that far gone was due to being on the road alone so that there was nobody to shake me out of it. But I’m not sure that’s true. If anything I think having friends round you can make it worse.

I once lived with a guy called Ed who also used to drink a lot of vodka. At the time there were quite a bunch of us all living in collection derelict buildings. Often when times are hard the drink flows a little more easy – I guess because you need to just blow off steam, get drunk, and forget your troubles a while. Ed drank more vodka than anyone else. He was well known for it. So, you know what the guys did for his birthday? They fitted an extra tap in his room, connected to a long copper pipe up to the roof. Then they stole sixty litres of Russian vodka, filled up a barrel and hooked it up. It was pure vodka on tap. At the time it was funny. He laughed. They laughed. Everyone had a drink. Sometimes I wonder what kind of friends would provide vodka on tap to a borderline alcoholic.

What Johnny didn't know is that they had swapped his whisky for cat urine...

The answer is easy. Pretty much anyone is capable of that. Why? Because your friends are not responsible for your drinking. Your friends are not responsible for your life. Come to that, the social services are not responsible for your life, nor the doctors, or head shrinks, or counsellors, or family, or whoever else we might find to prop up our fucked up world view. It’s a hard fact to learn, but there’s only one person who really, honestly gives a shit about you. You know who that is?

You.

You’re the only person that cares. Nobody else.

If your life is mess, nobody really cares. Your friends may help you out if you ask; your family may help you out even if you don’t. But they’ll probably only help if you’re fighting hard yourself. They can’t fix your fucked up life if you won’t fix it yourself.

But how can you try to fix it if you haven’t noticed you’re in trouble?

Quite simply: You can’t.

So what can you learn from this?

Well, firstly you need to keep an eye on yourself. Take a moment right now. Are things going in the direction you have chosen for yourself? If your life isn’t the way you think it should be, just know this: You can never blame your problems on anyone else. No one cares if your life sucks and no one cares if it isn’t your fault. It may not be your fault – but it’s your problem and you’d better deal with it.

Once you’ve done that, maybe also look to those you love and see if they might need a shake. You can’t be responsible for their life, or for their fuck ups, but maybe you can be two cops in a car. Put one hand on your holster and one hand on the door handle; just drive by.