The path to madness - the start - Psychotic Depression
Posted by nhalliday
23rd Mar 2015

The Story

They say that everyone has a story in them; I used to romanticise about stories.

Amidst the black oak beams and whitewashed walls of The Sportsman, the homely village pub; huddled by the traditional fireplace; sharing a pint or two of foaming ale; I recall old, and not so old, boys telling colourful stories - normally more than once - that captivated me.

Old Ted’s tale of The Siege of Malta and proper hunger hiding a single slice of bread under his shirt as the German Navy prevented fresh supplies; Army Neil’s Mountaineering exploits with twin tools (ice axes to us mortals) on the mighty North Face of Ben Nevis in Scotland’s icy winter; Colin`s tales from the States of red hot chilly sauces and even hotter strip bars. And many more. I listened to them all. I just loved stories.

And all I ever wanted was my own story to tell.

It didn’t have to be the biggest or the best; superlatives were not required, but it did have to be interesting.

Well I think I have my story. But, ironically, I wish I hadn’t.

Mine is a story of “psychotic depression”. Probably best described as a cautionary tale without the guaranteed happy ending. In spite of that I think you will find it interesting, it might even help you and, in some cases, might change your attitude towards Mental Health. Living it changed mine. So persist and read on.

Cowboys and Indians

I used to watch Cowboy and Indian films.

Cowboys and Indians. Goodies and Baddies. Sides. It was obvious who was who. It was obvious which side you wanted to win.

I want you to imagine; Cowboys and Indians. Not just what they look like, focus on what they do and what they stand for. And pause.

Maybe you imagined a small circle of wagons, families on a frontier, defending themselves against a primitive, savage threat capable of scalping.

Maybe you imagined migrant tribes, at one with nature, defending themselves against an invading European force.

Regardless, and I repeat myself deliberately, sides. In your imagination you will have known the sides and you, almost certainly, will have known the side you wanted to win.

Now imagine that life is Cowboys and Indians. In the office or factory you know your enemy and you know your friends. Battles and certainty. And I am certain that you would be prepared to fight your corner. To fight for your side and yourself.

But then imagine that you wake up. You look around and cannot tell the Cowboys from the Indians.

No matter how hard you look or study, each face has a confusing ambiguity about it. It is not pleasant. Maybe you get to the stage where you challenge them directly with questions to ascertain allegiances. But they don’t tell you, and smirk. They know.

This is a sign that it has started. A lack of insight.

And then you realise it’s even worse. You cannot tell if you are a Cowboy or if you are an Indian.

Which side are you on? Which battles do you fight? Who do you attack? Who do you defend? And when?

More confusion. That before long builds into something else. And you are walking around in a total, fucking, living nightmare.

All, and yes that means all, the Cowboys and all, and yes that means all, the Indians have joined forces and have one enemy.


They will kill you. In their time. In their way. And you will suffer, like no-one has ever suffered.

And you won’t complain. Because you deserve it.

Welcome to the psychosis that affected me. An illness that can seem so savage that death seems a preferable alternative.

An Example

I entered a small, atypical, Café on Ely, High Street. A pair of clean cut Arabs stood behind the till area. Dressed immaculately in chefs white uniforms with caps one worked incessantly preparing food while the other guarded the counter. The guard looked up, and gave a faint smile.

I studied the menu, realising I needed to pick something cheap and sustaining. Having spent the last four nights sleeping rough, with the sole protection of an ex-army bivvy bag, in sub-zero conditions I was bloody cold. I ordered the tea, knowing that it and just sitting in the café would warm me. I was letting in weakness, making myself look stupid. If I`d brought a stove and had a decent sleeping bag none of the expense would have been needed; the man by the counter smiled. He knew.

He offered to take the tea to a seat. He knew I was incompetent and guilty. He would prove that incompetence, prove that I needed to be served, prove that I was not capable of helping myself. I passively took a seat and the man pointedly placed the tea on the table. He smiled, again, and called me Sir but the expression indicated insincerity. Then he turned and walked away whistling, revelling in my obvious discomfort. He was about to become a star.

I was being filmed. How? I was honestly past caring. I just knew that I was. And the footage was being shown to everyone. And watched by everyone; the ultimate Big Brother. Demonstrating the kind of person that I was. Weak. Not British. Stupid. Not worthy.

Guardedly, I glanced up at the television that was attached to the wall in the corner. It was BBC Morning News, a male and female presenter sat comfortably on a chair. They were talking to celebrity film stars about proposals to enable a more equitable form of payment in their industry. My inner voice made connections, “Inequity, you get what you deserve. Weak. Fool. They mean you.”

The second feature related to Democracy Day; The Houses of Parliament had opened their doors to commoners for the first time since the Magna Carta. The reporter stood and interviewed two ladies outside the House of Commons. This was fact.

In my imagination, that seemed so real that I acted on it, those commoners were people I knew. My family, close friends and representatives of the village that I lived in, those old boys from the pub. The feature did not mention the names of the commoners but I knew. By inference. And why were those commoners in the the Houses of Parliament? My mind made the links in milliseconds. There was one reason, or one person.
Why? In my mind, those commoners were there to help instigate an immediate change in Common law that would allow a nationwide, man hunt that would result in my slow, symbolic, ceremonious, public death. It only takes one person to change the course of history, I was that person, I was about to become an enemy of the state.

The report didn’t mention this. They knew, they were making me sweat.

The links in my muddled brain continued on their own, by now making more obtuse connections, the Pope had sanctioned this act. They had religion on their side. All religions. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. They would take my eyes - one by one with a red hot poker. And they would take my teeth - one by one with pliers. And they would continue – in a medieval fashion - torturing me in a dramatic fashion until I died. I was a man who had unified a country, who had unified nations, who had unified religions, such was the extent of my crimes and sins. I was an enemy of states and creeds. The use of the plural is deliberate.

I sat and, slowly, sipped my cup of tea savouring the warmth. My expression remained deadpan but inside a cauldron of negative thoughts brewed. Certain of my imagination, certain of my fate, but uncertain of when.

I decided to go to London. Where they were. This was my first decisive act in four days.

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