He did free tattoos, was getting better at doing them, would I like one ?


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Whoa!.”
What’s the most surreal experience you’ve ever had?


My most surreal experience was a particular moment when I was in a psychiatric ward. Being there had felt surreal, but in a fuzzy detached way. More unreal than surreal.

I had been in this ward for a few days and was encouraged to go out on a trip to a local coffee shop in a  minibus with other patients. I was very compliant and just went along with it all in a bit of a daze.

I got into the minibus with a group from the ward, we were all there in various states of distress / confusion / fear, I had not really spoken to anyone yet. The person next to me a man in his early twenties started chatting to me.

He had been kept here for 6 months for absolutely no reason at all and the consultant was the devil
– ok well we have different perspectives here…
He did free tattoos, was getting better at doing them, would I like one.
– that was very kind……

I had a sudden moment of clarity and presence. What was I doing here – how did I get here. This man was clearly seeing the world very differently to me and the others in the minibus all felt equally alien to me. This was my surreal moment.

The thing is, it was surreal when seen through the eyes of someone from outside the ward. I momentarily had used outside, ‘normal’ eyes. But the feeling of being an outsider, not belonging, not safe. I have experienced and recognised that back in the ‘normal’ world many many times since.



…. A bit of a Trigger Warning here……

I don’t condone self harm, this post is an attempt to clarify why I do it. To myself and anyone that chooses to read this.

Some films like Source Code or The Matrix play with the idea of alternative realities and asking which is ‘real’.

-Spoiler Alert – for Source Code.
The protagonist experiences life in the ‘real’ world but we discover that all is left of him is a damaged torso and a head kept alive in a box so that his brain can function. The brain is unaware of this.

So what does this have to do with self harm?

Well, I do suffer from depression, it has been quite extreme. I can see now that the darkest times have been when my experience of life has been in the ‘real’ world. Vague shadows flickering at the edges of my ‘perfect’ life.

Only in hospitalised in a psych ward did I have the realisation that my real life was the brain’s construct, that really I was damaged in many ways. That might not sound very positive – but actually, seeing myself as having been ‘damaged’ in some way explained why life felt the way it did. It explained why I felt so awful when I felt pressure to be happy.

So actually I felt permission to be sad, depressed, unhappy. I could also find some element of self love when I could see myself and my experience in the context of early trauma.

But I find it hard to hold that permission for long.

I sometimes cut myself.
In the moment that I start to cut I suddenly can see that I am that head and torso in a box, very damaged and suffering. It is clear I have reason to feel as bad as I do. I take myself seriously for that brief window of time. Ironically I feel my most sane at the moments when I am doing something so damaging to myself.

It may sound crazy and you may wonder why I can’t hold on to the ‘sane’ view of myself and know that I do feel pain, and have reason to, all the time. But the habits of a lifetime are hard to break. For the moment I have some unhealthy strategies. I have to be very pragmatic, what does less harm, self harm or suicide ?

Put like that, self harm is the least bad option.



In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

I had a bout of depression a few years ago, was hospitalised. It never really left, now I live alongside the depression better. I can’t say I’m happy, but there is a depth to life that there wasn’t before.

I had a very interesting meditation experience at about this time. Everything was so weird and intense, my mind was all over the place.

This experience was so blissful. A sensation of feeling pure love. Not coming in my direction, but from me. Most of my life I spend craving love, but for once I felt I was radiating it towards everybody and everything in general, it didn’t have a specific target. It was the most pleasant sensation I have ever had. It also felt like something that I had always known but perpetually forget – so familiar, how could I not remember this every minute of every day.

I had a sudden memory of being 5 years old again standing in a garden and feeling happy in the uncomplicated way that children do. They know the simplicity of love. It was so clear to me that this was my default setting and I had just forgotten it. It stayed with me for days.

I would like to say that I was permanently changed for the better by this experience – but in reality I forget. How crass is that ! My neuroses and fears cloud my memory.

Just sometimes it comes back to me as fresh as that day, utter joy, utter love.

Invisible pain

Years ago I was a patient in a psychiatric ward.

I was a ‘well behaved’ service user, not problematic to the staff. I quietly planned my suicide from within an open ward. I couldn’t believe that nobody could hear the noise from inside my head. Psychiatric nurses even mistook me for a doctor one day as I visited a friend I’d made in a nearby ward (large psychiatric unit). I didn’t realise until my friend mentioned that she was supposed to be escorted at all times by a responsible adult and they’d thought I was a doctor !

Bad practice issues aside, I’m sure there was some protocol about ID missing there, what really struck me was, “Can they not see that I’m a patient!” That was the first time it struck me how invisible depression can be. I’m not sure how I thought they could read my mind….. and guess what they couldn’t.

How many of us don’t realise that people can’t see our anguish, so used to covering it up that it’s not conscious hiding anymore but habit.

So my thoughts today – find someone you trust and tell them what you’ve been hiding.