Paul Robertson’s story of mania

I have a huge swelling feeling growing in the back of my head, reaching forward in grasping fibrillated and soggy claws. I know this feeling, frenetic as it is, coiled and sprung and filled up with sand. It is MANIA jumpstarting my head and collapsing into itself like a singularity or a sandcastle or a limestone blow hole. I love it and cherish it at the same time as despising it and feeding it my wants and desires and lust to make it bigger and nastier and more of itself as it swells. There is nothing to it but what I have invented and scoured from the crusty sides of my eyes but it exists with strength and yes futility that I can not help and can almost touch.

I AM filled up with it though in twitchy and hyper accelerated mannerisms and cigarettes smoked too fast with dark music always always in the background. And I’m so tired f*cking sick of it wish it would go the f*ck away out like I always dreamed of being able to control it and switch it on to the times when it’s wanted and fun for one and all. Wish I could eat but can’t huh that’s prey for my meat than the other way around, and it hurts me just to keep breathing sometimes when it’s sharp and red so red like a blow to the head huh. Oh yeah ah huh right now for f*ck’s sake. I must say this I have to spit it out though I don’t know that I really want to see it all laid open like a finger on a slide. I was committed first time in – voluntarily no I sure didn’t want to go there. I asked the psychiatrist filling in forms if she wanted to have sex with me and took off my shirt and lay on her desk and told her secret things about the stars. I couldn’t accept it because I believed that I was smarter than the people who committed me, and I still f*cking do. I did put blades in my arms and I did want to die far more than I wanted to live I did cut In school when I was twelve years old I sat in class and cut my fingers with a pocket knife. “Paul, what are you doing?” “Is this some kind of f*cking trick question?”

These things are real, they exist in my messed up and inaccurate memory but they ARE still there. And for a moment a singular pervasive short-lived killing moment memory floods every sensation that I have. Twitch lurches across my face like a wire hook. Brilliant so bright but hard to see. I remember I do some weird party no idea how I got there kissing and groping some old woman while huge old men did lines and watched me with ugly wasted eyes. Running thru the forest afterwards blood streaming down my face didn’t know where I was how I got there it was the middle of f*cking nowhere and it sure felt like the end. Beaten to a pulp but wild with energy and painting my face with fingers full of blood I felt like I had slid into a Bosch painting. I remember my face swelling I think some guy had hit me with a BAT. They stamped on my head while I lay in the road and fractured my eye orbits apart from other things I had deep black under my eyes for a YEAR. And I stood in the trees in the woods spinning around and around and laughing before I sat quietly by myself found my knife tried to write my name in my arm with cuts. Woke up in the dark with ANTS in my wounds everywhere my face swollen up like a sick balloon. No idea where I was; none. Started running and kept running. Memory fades in haze.

A few days in hospital the normal kind I walked to the bottle shop every day with IV sh*t sticking out of my arm. I remember oh yes different time (time is a sickness) I woke at the beach some kids standing over me saying LOOK AT ALL HIS CUTS before I pushed them away and vomited into the sand. Found some girl some night and tried to show her I could draw by smashing a bottle and carving a face, my face, into a table in a café. I put a beard on it and it looked like Jesus and I f*cking laughed so hard and laughed and laughed. I stood in the street and hit the wall with my hand until I could actually feel it; I think I broke my wrist not sure it stopped me from being able to play guitar without being drunk for a long time and of course drunk, drunk, drunk I was most of the time anyway. Ah yes oh, helpful Policemen to whom I would not give my name; I told them I was Zarathustra a Nietzschean reference I don’t think he GOT. They chased me down the street and I couldn’t stop laughing until they all crashed me to the ground and I punched one with my broken bleeding hand and spent some time screaming in a cell and throwing myself at the walls.

They let me go somehow and at court I got to plead INSANITY which I also thought was pretty f*cking funny or rather do now as I could not raise rage from my heart, black blackest humour finally swamped by massive doses of anti-psychotics. Broke my guitar and held it like a baby in the street for hours and wept and wept and wept. So many girls I could never EVER remember they were going to rescue me each one – had all my catch phrases worked out “wake me when the war is over” and something about drowning men and a head full of Shakespeare quotes. I couldn’t believe they worked every time but OH YES THEY DID. Sometimes I could not make love to them I was too drunk I think who knows more ritual phrases morning ones were “where am I?” followed by “who are you?” (Insert snarl/grin/panic.) I started drinking one afternoon was sure I didn’t go out or see anyone but woke up in a pair of dirty women’s underwear. I was at a palatial house with a goddess and threw up in her spa. Don’t know her name I don’t think I did even then. Winters were the worst always lost and drunk and cold always wet and so f*cking far to walk in the rain. Crashing twisting in fear and self-loathing, detesting, despising, abhorring leper outcast unclean. And so goddamned SICK pathetically grateful for whichever nutcase girl was looking after me and holding my long dirty blonde hair out of the bucket. “Why do you hate us all Paul? Why do you do this?” “I don’t hate anyone. I have never hated anyone. I am the avatar of dismay. I am the boiling man. I am just too selfish to die.

One of my good friends threw himself from a building and I stayed drunk for weeks. An old and loyal friend fought me in sneering drunken fury, both so full of poison that we could not even form fists. Neither of us spilling heart’s blood whilst we fought, so young and so completely ridiculous. Drowning men. My ex-girlfriend spat in my face that day. Tried to catch a bus and buy vodka with blood running everywhere again from my own cheap knife the despite boiling inside me, rage a crevasse of pathetic sadness and grief for myself. For Andrew. For all of us feeding from ourselves eating our own venom until it bubbled and frothed in our mouths. I didn’t know where I was just f*cked it all up and sullied the memory of a good man. Lost and wandering and crying f*cked up and such a fool, such a fool so damned my scalding hell heated the slippery corners of my eyes. He was the funniest f*cker I have ever met. Such waste.

Sad Sickness

Fevers of blame and despair. Spreading between us like Andrews’ beautiful young body across the cement. I miss him still. No note. His mother’s shuddering sobs shall not leave my memory and spilled in echoes over my ruin as I catalysed the manufacture of my own disgust. Got so used to casualty wards where I would wake up (“seemed euphoric” I read on the chart) with stitches and no idea how I had got there who had taken me. Hit on the nurses, once one reciprocated I couldn’t f*cking believe it. More psyche wards again and again I always liked the schizophrenics they were, at least, as mad as me. Locked wards psychotics everywhere screaming at night.

The half hour or hour or whatever the f*ck it was we were allowed to wander around outside our cells, the men all of them except me, every one, ALL hung on the wire fence, heads at odd angles staring out, fingers through the chicken wire. Razor wire at the top. I remember I had a chance to get out and go to the open wards an interview with three guys running the place. I looked forward to it for a week or something I don’t know the haze too thick, chemical dust deep – I do remember the longing it I thought my articulation would save me again. I hoped and hoped waited got visited by three girls had tried to destroy with the holes in my heart, cutting arcing guilt betrayer that I was, liar, storm of pain my touch and words a plague of emotion.

They didn’t come back I think the number of doors with locks scared them though they all tended to think it was PRETTY F*CKING ROMANTIC. I was tanked on some hardcore drugs I have no idea what. Varieties of thorazine the zine family yeah, a chemical lobotomy the pain whirling inside, a thrown running power saw spraying meat but no expression nothing connecting, shut out of my own body. Got to the meeting and I opened my mouth in front of these psychiatrists and I could not SPEAK. Too wasted oh wasted yes but not in the fun way that’s for sure. I could SHAKE though and I could drool cuz I couldn’t get my facial muscles under any sort of control. So I stayed there for another week or more weeks who the f*ck knows? Hated being there so I longed for squalor ethanol sex attention. Filled instead with drugs and shakes and sobriety. Polluted with chemicals worse oh f*cking worse oh yes than my own toxic liquid destruction. I DARE YOU TO FIX ME!

They had this thing where some poor lost mad b*stard would stand up and say the THOUGHT FOR THE DAY after our group meetings with people rocking in the corners. They were all so f*cked up most of them could barely speak some not at all others never shut up but they only spoke to people who were not there. I stood up and quoted Shakespeare for ten minutes. Midsummer night’s dream I think I thought it was nice and cheery for everyone. “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains such shaping fantasies that apprehend far more than cool reason ever comprehends. One sees more devils than vast hells can hold, that is the madman…” Got out and stayed on the drugs like a good boy but kept drinking and kept cutting. All the f*cking useless things did was excise my personality make me impotent make my hair fall out make me fat make me slow and make me HATE. Worst of it was I could not react act my speed acuity lust passion poisoned memory gone awareness gone focused to an angel point into pure hissing SHAME. That I was born in a f*cking PARADISE of love and that I had flared brutally, violently bright. I knew history enough to understand that we live in a utopia of humanism; I knew enough LIFE to know that I had been born raised loved and somehow STILL WAS by the most beautiful minds hearts and hands. Mother. Father. Sister. Every kindness I had repaid with failure. I deserved every torture I could devise to inflict for betraying them so deep and hard, those who threw everything anything they could find to save me into the pyre of my f*cking excuse for a life.

Shuffle along undead NOT LIFE PAIN but undead don’t fall and weep with acid logic with scalpel reason undeniable distress killing my father see his eyes watching me tear myself to pieces. Hooks of my own hurt see it in his shoulders slumped he has given up I hurt him so much he is dying ahhhhhHHH. Raised with passionate care, soft hands, sweet voices singing in the night care and care and care such a beautiful boy oh he is so beautiful the boy the betrayer the monster the liar the drunk. Guilt an endless sun clawing every sense every thought and it was RIGHT it was TRUE the only thing I had ever done was break the bones in the hands that held me. Eat the life deserve this worse such a coward mouth red and sticky and still Life eater


I was still ALIVE why was I alive? Lost six months or a year and a half I don’t know managed to stop taking the meds they were killing me faster than the alcohol. Had a mad and stupid psychiatrist on a power trip: here, take some more STELAZINE Paul I can see that you are still vaguely capable of constructing a sentence and your hair hasn’t ALL fallen out yet. Better up the f*cking dose. Came off them then withdrawals and hallucinations my best friend told her she was a an evil b*tch as I finally saw it her black heart so putrefied it was pooling behind her eyes. But I had never looked outside myself pity ME I pity YOU b*tch. I was too mad to f*cking SEE that was the f*cking POINT.

Stayed as far from my family as I could I could not look at them the only way of course to keep their lives clean of me. Tried to fix myself went further and more mad and more mad and further faster it was still better pain beats lifelessness pain beats brain-death. Starved till the weight fell off me, wasn’t hard couldn’t afford to eat anyway at least my F*CKING HAIR GREW BACK.

Rapid cycling, oh so real after the fugue and it all slid back to me so fast skeletally thin and quicker than the rest… doing stupid stupid things wandering alone and manic. Euphoric drunkenness a cool ocean a delusion of relief honey sweet. Beaten up again and a few more times finally worked out that I could to run away. Did gymnastics drunk on the edge of a cliff; on the roof of someone’s house. Took stupid crazy girls to the lifeguard tower at the end of the pier at the edge of the beach in the middle of the night whenever it stormed. I waited I knew I took them whoever whenever it rained and howled at night and I could smell ozone. They liked THAT, I told them it was a full moon each one I told them a f*cking ritual they always said how can you see through the clouds?

I went to clubs broke with no cigarettes and talked women into buying me drinks or just stole them; would walk around the room asking for cigarettes until I had enough to last me till morning; waking up where? Slept in a bus shelter, at the train station, in a construction site, in the bush on the doorstep of display homes and once in an actual for real DITCH. I remember a shared rental house where I painted a six-foot self-portrait on the wall in blue and RED. I painted crows for eyes. Four houses in six months ending on the street again. Drank everything I could find oh yeah cooking sherry vanilla essence and f*cking AFTERSHAVE.

Used to love writing NO FIXED ADDRESS at social security called it social obscurity antisocial insecurity told then I had a job interview at a leprosarium. I went there wearing a trench coat in the middle of the day in the middle of summer blood saturating the wool right to the edges sopping wet with it and trying so hard so hard to fill in the forms without it running down out the sleeves with my hands shaking so much I kept knocking the page onto the floor. Must have worked I woke up a few weeks later lost them all; all those weeks were they weeks? Got a sinus infection; reminder of humanity and mortality had to go to the hospital said hi to the staff in casualty. Remembered the nurse I slept with she turned white when she saw me and would not look again. High as a kite I waved at her and grinned oh such smiles. The infection was in my upper sinuses and about to get to my brain all those long drunk walks in the rain I guess.

Was still high even through the pain and told them I liked their xray machine because it looked art deco’. They f*cked it up and hit the vegus nerve (the spelling is correct and the pun is clear – did I find that funny subsequently oh what do you think???) and I went and died on the operating table full cardiac and respiratory arrest wish I could remember that but I guess it would have HURT. No light at the end of any tunnels no light anywhere too cynical for a religious experience. Was so weak had to wait three days before I made it to the bar, was straight out in a f*cking wheelchair to smoke still high flirting with my face all swollen from the surgery like a freak like a lunatic of course. Went back to squalor and starvation. My best friend finally had enough and hit me and tore the skin from one side of my nose, though I had provided him with so many women after they realized just how f*cking crazy I was and turned to his arms even though, then, he was a speed freak and a pot head and an alcoholic just like me. He is a good man. It took so much to break him from the love and bonds and fierceness ferocity of our friendship. But I found enough. Wasn’t even LOOKING. Wartime syndrome before that us fighting the world so hard of course no cause for us.

I ended up staying at my other ex-girlfriend’s place. Tried so hard and stayed straight for three weeks; I think it was subconscious – conscious I f*cking KNEW that that was what I was doing – preparation for the biggest and ugliest and least sane that I ever was. Sleeping with my x-girlfriend and my current girlfriend and my ex’s flat mate and some girl (girls? lost days before I found my way back still high and getting higher) I found at some club… drank everything in the house and this was the time when I decided actually picked; CHOSE to go as mad as I could. Push it and see what was on the far far side. I bought a bottle of brandy and hung it upside down in the fish tank the fish’s name was Death he was left from my friend who jumped. Painted and drawn figures of me I had done all over her walls I know AT LEAST SHE WAS A FAN. She kept them all around her mirror twisted b*tch she once talked me into cutting my wrists; f*cked all five of the guys I knew. I sure as hell didn’t care. What was that to me? Moving UP the scale wild chattering flitting out of my mouth so many quotes inappropriate walked into a glass door and fell down hurt my damned nose again. Didn’t eat didn’t sleep.

Sick by now of punching holes through windows doors and wardrobes drew a lion and a witch on one I wanted more wanted to find the other bits delusions and voices I KNEW were waiting in the back of my mind: Fuseli’s The Nightmare I thought he was a genius until I read his prose inadequate and nothing never should have become a part of history. Spitting words snarls and more and more cuts appearing razors eaten. When everyone has hidden everything sharp in the house you can chew through a safety razor and there it is you have your sharpness in your hand; though you WILL cut the hell out of the inside of your mouth while you do it. That’s ok though huh? course it is blood covered teeth mean their words more and there are so MANY to say.

Going up and up. Could feel it in the base of my spine. Could feel it in the back of my head and behind the redness of my retinas. A black storm; black as coal black as pitch blacker than the blackest witch. Rapturous fascinating terrifying spinning with immensity and weight and clouding my vision with red. A nightmare of power that I could TASTE. By the time I was halfway there I was speaking in riddles and rhymes… glossolalia. Told people about the tower of Babel – babble – about the storms in my mind told them again. Told them about how Poe died in the street how that was me how I was already dead how they were fever death dreams. Temporal distortion ooh I loved it soaking each moment into me feeding on the surreality breathing out mind sickness absurdity hell. Things would slow down for me and I could watch others in a different world in a different time. I could lace a sentence with jokes and references and then I would just wait to see who if anyone got what. Movement so free easy lose my hands shaking so much I could hardly hold the bottle slippery from the f*cking fish tank but I was so STRONG. My skin burning hot to the touch could feel myself heating up. I was careful I drank only enough and not more I wanted to see where it would take me not pass out. I was never as mad when truly drunk it was the day after for me and I held to that state some part of my mind relentless and deliberate.

Nursed and cajoled it intoxicating; tempted and caressed felt it shattering over me a glass club smashing inside my head. And it worked. All the things blood-mean and suppurating inside all coming in concert, allegro evaporating like the ground beneath me. Tactile: Like when the plane hits a hard gasp of oblique and swift air and the whole thing shudders and jerks like the thin and absurd metal that it truly is. Like the handstand I held and held at the cliff edge while tens of metres below insects stalked across hard, hard stones. Like when my arms shook above them as the ethanol poison sucked my strength from me like age; and I quivered and shrank before the realisation of my deadly wish. Like the painless smash of a steel toed boot hitting my cheekbone before the nerves fire and the my mind reels and shock stabs across the awful clarity that I feel. Ocular: Suddenly starred and flared before failing and tricking as a fall into strange dislocated darkness. Like snapping awake sitting up in terror as my mind sparks and flashes into waking – sickening before the horrors as the nightmare’s steel shod hoofs strike their chords in the streets of my dreams. As my awareness and memory grind into sobriety and I turn my head and see that I have no memory of where I am and that I lie amidst squalor.

As my stinging blood-veined eyes tell me that I do not know the woman lying next to me, that she is old beyond her years and that there are bruises across her back that I know I could not have inflicted (could I? Never hit anyone even when they were hitting me.) That her face has been wrecked by an addiction that was perhaps similar to my own and my glance flicks onto a dirty crib next to a broken lamp. Olfactory: Like the scent of the first girl that I ever wanted jerking and snapping my body in a chill wash of icy lust. Just like this, the impossibility of it. Sliding across and through me a thrilling tear in ancient harmonies that are irresistible, fantastic and alien. The chastity of that moment, eyes squinted shut as I realise that I will be wrenched back to this moment for the rest of my life by the trace of that scent – soap and deodorant, young female sweat. Innocent and potent, devastatingly sexual Like the stink of drying blood, stale spirits and alcohol sweat as the poison seeps through the sprung steel rigidity of my starved and swollen flesh. The acrid common stench of failure. Pure in the twist and twitch of nausea. Gustatory: the foulness of my own foetid breath, the 2% of alcohol expelled through respiration regardless of scrubbing my teeth until they bled. The taste of a thousand turns and turns of acquiescence and surrender. Isolated quantified and rarefied, bitter and sick. Auditory.

Like when I was 12 years old and walking through the park with my sweet stupid beagle called Nudge. She helped me as I began the true fall and went mad so quickly after I first left home. She was young and wildly happy to be in grass as only a dog can be. In this simple but intensely real utopia I heard the first soft sibilant voice. And then another over my shoulder breathy in my ear. I knew they were impossible as I stood in the gorgeous spill of deep yellow afternoon sunlight. It lit the floating pollen into pale gold in a slow turning dance.

They spoke my name. I was in a wide grassed park, soft and richly green in the blazing colour of a child’s sight. An ordinary, happy child. A child frayed and decayed and raging, flailing at the edge. Another small corner of my youth kindness, natural and known as breath for me for my own hands before the madness took them. l was loved and I loved and loved. The voices only a small fright. Only a little.

Had already inherited my father’s scepticism as he turned the world from a vast mystery into smaller and smaller pieces of information with careful and brilliant clarity for his only son and his only daughter. Pieces a brilliant young girl and a quick strange and solemn boy could understand. They spoke to me. They told me I was an angel. Had been an atheist since I was ten. Didn’t understand until then completely what that meant, but I knew of God and I knew of my father’s clever careful words. Knew he did not believe in angels. Like boys, mad or sane, across the seething swarming teeming planet, for those with fathers who even began to try to succeed in the immeasurable task of raising a man – a father is a god. In this my father safeguarded me and saved me perhaps from being immediately branded and subsequently tortured by the psychiatric profession. His dispassion – operating on the cat on the kitchen bench “You see these things, Paul, we have them inside us also. They are the machines that make us live.”

Talked to the voices when I was alone, but knew somewhere that they were me. They made little sense. I ignored them. They returned every few years, ringing louder discordant and shouting as I began to drown in the verdant misshapen growths of self hatred wrapping my heart. Never lent credence to what they say, tactile hallucinations far more distressing than disbelief and rationale reasoning poor in the compulsion of trust in my own touch. Hard to walk when your sense of touch is screaming to you that you knees are bending 90 degrees the wrong way. Have hallucinated since 12 or 11, most craven raving suffering madmen I have known who have consistent hallucinations have a great deal cringe wish distress with delusion. Paranoia fills every space in their lives crippling fear. My worst experiences in anxiety a nameless and reasonless monster in every sense in the most true most ancient most real f*cking TERRIFYING and inescapable horror. I will choose pain over fear. Always. Never could believe never became paranoid hallucinations pure and not building into unreason I AM NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO BE HUNTED AND OBSERVED.

They whispered in my ears and I listened. They kept me awake and sometimes it would sound exactly as if dogs were barking by my ear, and my name hissed over and over to me as I began to doubt. Never acquiesced never ever gave in and began to believe in the hardness of breathy hallucination only that I was worth nothing a fever of trickery swimming through thick stinking mud holding pain like it’s a gun or a talisman or a glyph. All of this mass mutilation of reality hit my senses one by one blow upon blow the sh*tty student house I was in was stripped away. Happened quickly, I know that is true, but it felt slow All this a swamp a stamp a landfall a whirlpool the ground giving way fall the fall the FALL the most real vertigo. The moments all of it blazed branded into my brain. And then black and it just went on and on there was no respite no total separation no coma of numbness the cancer of self hatred eating growing through every break and twist in the real.

The dark inside stretching forever into the distance and I was blind with fear I knew that any more and any longer I would never come back. Nothing within that mass swinging tumult could take me away from the pain of the moment that I was in THERE WAS NO RESPITE immolation the only constant pain loathing purified rarefied. It was mixed state in extremis I could feel it crashing into abjection sobbing before whirling and flying back up and this was where fear began and slowly took over. I accelerated into full mania knew that was where I was going but as I raced into it my memory stopped. Five or ten or twenty minutes later I came falling down and everything in the room in the house was smashed I had no MEMORY from each. New cuts my wrists ripped open blood pouring from them and from the opened veins in my elbows. It KEPT GOING. I couldn’t stop had let Cerberus from the leash and all three heads were nuzzling my brain. Up into a blackout pure and down into despair and desperation and for the first time mortal fear, terror of death at the hands of me as memory-less puppet, the mannequin marionette unknown. Not my hands, someone and something else another me trying to kill me.

This is when I knew terror. I knew that if I did not stop I would do it. Never come down cut my throat but get it RIGHT. I didn’t know what I WAS as I went up into it. A rotation at intervals of twenty minutes fear crossing my heart squirming in my gut white pale with it went to look in the mirror face covered in blood I could see in the broken shards. No memory, just the knowledge that I wanted to die and was capable of doing it. No understanding of whom I was or what I would do. Clarity slipped a tiny splinter but pure and real and I found the phone and went back to hospital. Voluntary and afraid. That was the last time only in the sense of the completion of its extremity. It took me four more years before I stopped drinking and finally tried in my heart’s core in my heart of hearts to heal. But that was the key. The epiphany.

The Answer

Is that there really was none. Whatever redemption I have found it is driven by that fear and that terrible knowledge. And by will. By WILL. I will never give up the responsibility of sanity is MINE as much as I can choose I will choose will force it shredding strength as it returns and returns and returns, exhausting inevitable, seasons of pain I will NEVER stop fighting. At the edge, at the corner of Nietzsche’s Abyss, there is only really death. Post script. Still here. Sober for eight years. Paint for pain, write for release. Sing for absolution. To me there is no meaning to life other than that which we give it; that we apply to it. We INVEST meaning into our lives with our time, with our efforts and with our love. And there is no succour in madness. I have inscribed on my cigarette case “tempus fugit. Memento mori.” “Time flies. Remember you will die.”

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