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A Disclosure

A Disclosure

Vorschau lesen

A Disclosure

Länge:
331 Seiten
5 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jan 19, 2018
ISBN:
9781370069774
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

The long autobiographical essay, "Madness" is the first-hand, darkly comical account of the development and subsequent management of the author’s paranoid schizophrenia. The story, "Next of Kin" is about a local government officer, Ellie Roberts who organises public health funerals (or what used to be called paupers’ funerals). On visiting the flat of a deceased woman, Nnedi Alabi, she discovers in her ramshackle belongings a novel manuscript that she reads and enjoys. The text resonates with her because she is also in an interracial marriage. Moved by the story, she and her husband decide to send the manuscript of The Day the Ship Sailed to a publisher. The story, "A Transformation" features the winner’s speech of a transgender woman, Janet Frost, who has just been awarded a woman’s prize for fiction in 2022 sponsored by a vodka company. Janet uses the opportunity to assert her transgender personality: “I was a proud man and now I’m a proud woman.” Janet also recalls the ways in which she wanted to be a woman when she was a boy and the antics she resorted to during her boyhood and beyond. The story, "An Apology" is a brief duologue between a writer and the fellow writer who enslaved his Muse and thus stole his once mighty stock of inspiration. Can he forgive the robber? The story, "The Life of Riley" features a seventeen year old student, Marcus experiencing his first love while the saving of the world from the protestant work ethic. His mother and granddad feel the need to give him some much needed advice. The novella, "The Word Thief" is about a crusty old Irish novelist, Billy Carson, whose writer’s block and literary slothfulness prompt him to become a creative writing lecturer at an adult education college in Manchester. Billy’s life becomes complicated when he decides to covertly plagiarize the novel of an apparently ailing and slightly strange student of his own. The story, "A World of My Own" is a piece of miscellaneous stuff that is also an abandoned abortive attempt at a diary by the author. It’s a bit of a literary duck-billed platypus. The novella, and title story, "A Disclosure" features a computer hacker turned gaming industry billionaire called Ben West who seeks to destroy a VIP paedophile ring. He must also battle his own inner demons relating to child sex abuse. Can he persuade his old and new lovers that he is trustworthy? The story, "The Big Secret" features a narrator who believes that bits of his future life have been seen by everybody else on the planet except him. He explores the implications of such a situation such as the apparent loss of internal privacy. The novella, "Up To No Good" features, Edith and Dan, two people in their late fifties who meet up at a Manchester bowls club. Edith is a sprightly widow while Dan is a handsome, charismatic man from Kent. They fall in love but neither of them senses the ulterior financial motives of the other. Blinded by their late flowering passion, they explore themselves sexually following their initiation into online pornography. But who is fooling who? The novella, "Two Good Lads" features Tom and Rob who are seventeen year old students from Fleetwood. Rob’s sister, Lauren gets sick of them falling in love with TV presenters and weather-women so she challenges them to have a contest whereby they compete for the attention of a ‘real’ older woman, her best friend’s sister, Alison. Instead of a date they have a rowdy game of ‘battle of the sexes’ pitch and putt featuring Lauren as well. Alison decides to call the contest an honorable draw so the two lads try again when they have afternoon tea with Alison. But are the two callow lads’ dubious social skills up to it?

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jan 19, 2018
ISBN:
9781370069774
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

John Flannery was born in 1963. He was brought up in Manchester but he now lives in Fleetwood. John studied Housing Studies at the University of Westminster and graduated in 1992. He decided to become a writer of fiction in 1986 but he did not start writing in earnest until 1995. In 2010 he self-published a collection of short stories entitled Toby's Little Eden and Other Stories that was greeted by a huge tidal wave of public indifference that still overwhelms him to this day. In 2012 he self-published a small collection of short stories called Our Little Secret and Other Stories. He has also published a collection of stries entitled Our Little Secret and Other Stories, a debut novel called God's Gift, and a novella called The Place. In September 2013 John published a novella called Billy Atherton. In November 2013 John published another novella entitled Joshua's Withdrawal. They are all published on Amazon Kindle.


Buchvorschau

A Disclosure - John Flannery

A Disclosure

John Flannery

To the many victims and survivors of child sex abuse especially the ones who didn’t make it through

Contents

Writer’s Note

Madness

Next of Kin

A Transformation

An Apology

The Life of Riley

The Word Thief

A World of My Own

A Disclosure

The Big Secret

Up To No Good

Two Good Lads

Writer’s Note

This book is my third collection of short stories. It is my most autobiographical collection so far. This is quite an important admission because from the beginning of my writing career I have always believed that anything too autobiographical was nearly always amateurish. Some writers purge themselves of their crudest autobiographical material early on in their writing career. Very young and excellent writers can do it in their juvenilia. I didn’t have this luxury. Paradoxically I’ve never feared self-exposure in my work but I’ve got a few secrets that will die with me. The material in the short stories and novellas range from the very daft to the very dark. The novella, and title story, A Disclosure was written with the guidance of the excellent book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers by Christopher Vogler. I was already aware of Carl Jung’s concepts of the collective unconscious and archetypes which Vogler says influenced him in his own writings. Vogler was also influenced by the book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell which also influenced George Lucas when he created Star Wars. In conclusion, I think this collection of short stories is my best work so far. Even within the darkest of material there is an impulse to entertain the reader. I hope you enjoy it.

Madness

Those who the Gods want to destroy they first make mad.

There is some dispute over who minted the quotation above but whoever it was they were dead wrong because I’m still alive…as at 21 December 2017, anyway. How I got to this position of being reasonably mentally stable is a long and complex story that may not be fully comprehensible in a textual form. Music is supposed to be a higher art form than prose so perhaps only some kind of music, the music I can’t make myself, can reveal the challenges that I faced when I descended into insanity sometime in the early 2000s. There might even still be challenges ahead of me. If I stopped taking my anti-psychotic medication (Amisulpride) I could relapse into the remorseless waking nightmare that included a car-kicking psychosis that I will describe later on. The journey is yet to end so I can only provide you with an interim report. I must pause here to pay my respects to the ones who didn’t make it. My immunity to suicide gained by my sister’s suicide when I was eleven and she was eighteen helped to prevent me from that fate. I’ve been through the trauma that suicide inflicts on the members of the family left behind but I still can’t condemn the ones who didn’t make it. It is not the easy way out for anybody closely involved in it. I’m writing this text for two reasons apart from the basic hope and urge to make a small amount of money from it. Firstly, my madness is the most important and complex event of my life to date. Retaining a modicum of sanity and good sense, God willing, will probably be the biggest achievement of my life. I’m struggling to explain the inexplicable. The second reason is more altruistic. My hope is that somebody with a failed or failing sanity will be helped in some way by reading my own story. But will I be able to prevent a single Saturday Night Suicide? Excuse my hubris. The truly psychotic souls reading this text might see it through a distorted lens. They might see me as some kind of demon who has invaded their mind, body, and soul. They might even want to kill me! I’ll take that risk with a defensive sentiment; don’t do me harm: we are brothers and sisters united in madness.

My moments of clarity are thanks to a precious gift of insight. My insight is my ability to have an awareness of my own psychosis and its absurdity; whatever reality is. I’ve got a handle on it when part of me is in danger of flying off the handle. I can analyse and describe what has happened to me with clarity and honesty. This insight may have saved my bacon during one or two of the psychotic episodes that I will recount later on. My need to write fictional prose is inextricably linked with my mental health. My damaged mind didn’t give rise to bad prose. No, it gave rise to no prose. I was blocked and, into the bargain, I began to believe that somebody out there was deliberately blocking me by using some kind of malign telepathy. I might have a stab at who those scoundrels were later on. There came a time when it was impossible to write anything whatsoever because all my physical and mental energy was devoted to micro-managing my madness. It was a case of concentrating on my survival literally from minute-to-minute. I would apparently sit there quietly and harmlessly watching the telly with my parents but inside I was actually fizzing with insanity. There will be more about my Telly Terror later on as I was told my a mental-health pro that this phenomenon of malign messages flowing from the telly is quite common in paranoid schizophrenics.

In 1996 I returned to my parents’ home in Fleetwood from Norwich where I had gone in search of the time and space to write fiction and search for my muse. I found her. I hoped that the novel I wrote in Norwich entitled, Value For Money would be publishable and that a sitcom I was working on about the ground staff of a Manchester golf club then called Arlington Park G.C. would introduce me to the waiting world. I was quite messianic about my writing ability and prospects. Nowadays, nearly twenty years later, my ability and experience are only just catching up with my ego and ambition. Back then I craved validation and recognition for my work like most tyro writers. I had given myself six months in which to establish myself as a writer…yes I know that was stupid because, as my younger brother pointed out, it could actually take six years or more to do such a thing. He was right. Thus I was another unwitting victim of hubris. I worked and fretted so intensely that I made myself ill. My stomach, always my Achilles’ heel, and general nervous-system ailed me greatly. After every writing session I would feel empty and raw yet a little bit exhilarated. I was abusing my mind and body with overwork. I was also abusing the muse that I had discovered in Norwich with very high levels of stress and anxiety. Ultimately she got her revenge by punishing me with a long, hard dose of writer’s block. Novice writers should avoid muse abuse at all costs by working at a sustainable pace. They should write smarter not harder. Having said this, there is also a role for a rhino-charge first draft whereby you hit a daily quota of words no matter what but only if you are young, strong, fit and healthy in body and mind.

At some point in the late 1990s I began to fear that my work was being monitored by people outside the house; people like the Russian secret service. Even Mother Nature began giving me crude warnings that my writing was being scrutinized telepathically. Whenever I settled in front of my word processor to write some fiction then the local dogs would begin to bark crazily. Also, the seagulls would begin squawking and generally freaking out as they do when they are protecting their fledglings. Owing to this animalistic cacophony, I was the one who was silently freaking out. The seeds of my Telly Terror were sewn during this period. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when apparently random people on the telly began to pass comment on my fiction using secret codes and hand gestures. At this stage the ‘messages’ were mostly benign and I shrugged them off in a sceptical, common-sense fashion. Eventually, however, the messages began to be very critical of the quality of my prose and also rather malignant. It was as if everybody and everything was shouting me down; stop, stop, stop. Even some of the photos in the daily papers began to feature celebrities giving me what I called ‘cancer eyes’ whereby they would be staring at me while wishing cancer on me in order to stop me from writing my terrible prose. A famous actress used this trick once in a photo in the paper. Her deathly stare sent me into a panicky trance and I scalded myself accidentally as a result of such fathomless idiocy. Another strange but rather comical phenomenon began whereby a local wood pigeon, or a hideous chanting coot as I imagined it, would begin to cry out: ‘No bullshit! No bullshit! No bullshit!’ Even just thinking of the phrase, No bullshit would distract me or even stop me from writing. So simply thinking about writing fiction would trigger off the stop, stop, stop command. If I detected a burning odour outside the house I would assume that somebody was literally burning my novel. If I saw somebody smoking then I would assume that they were symbolically burning my novel.

I slowly began to regard all this flying shit as my reality. By some kind of magical means there were some people, locally or on the telly, who could judge my performance and pass comment. So how can they do this to me? The only rational reason was that I was somehow projecting my prose to the outside world. I began to assume that there must be some kind of ‘Overmind’ above reality in which such communications were possible. The Overmind seemed to be akin to the psychiatrist Carl Jung’s idea of a collective unconscious which is over and above our day-to-day reality. Some people would have much fun with this apparent realisation but I was very concerned that engaging consciously with all this shit was like dabbling with occult forces and therefore not a good idea. But the pressure on me was remorseless so battle lines were drawn and I steeled myself to keep writing no matter what happened to me. Even one word a day was enough for me to believe that the bastards and bitches out there could stop me from writing my fiction. They might be able to delay me but they would never, ever stop me. This bolshiness could be regarded as admirable to some people or very foolish and dangerous to others. Was it a big mistake? To my mind, no. I was compelled to write whatever the hell I wanted. I was a driven man. I was in uncharted territory.

I fell into the habit of collecting all my scribbled ideas into a Friday typing session. But all the stuff described above prevented me from enjoying my creative process. Having said this, when I wrote something undeniably ‘good’ I would be proud of myself and felt a surge of satisfaction. But the blockages soon began to take hold. Given that I was somehow projecting my work into the outside world, into the Overmind if you will, I therefore wasn’t suffering from writer’s block but I was actually experiencing performance fear or, as it used to be known, stage fright. The occult can, of course, be used and abused. I began to perceive that not everybody was an enemy. One afternoon I was watching the racing on TV and the late trainer, the great Henry Cecil used the following sentence, It’s like having an exam every day. Even though I’m definitely not a horse these words hit home to me. I should therefore take off the pressure I had put upon myself and enjoy the strange situation that I now seemed to be in; albeit by accident not design. But I began to fear the people on the telly who appeared to be using dangerous occult techniques against me. As a reaction to this I gradually went from being a lapsed catholic and agnostic to a true believer. I turned to God. This was rational. It was the best decision of my life.

I couldn’t just sit down with a pen and paper or fire up Microsoft Word and breezily write away with gay abandon. I had to steel myself for a battle. My conscious mind was now increasingly hostile territory so God only knows what my unconscious mind was like: a cess pit of loony catchphrases; irrational fears; fear of the bad vibe merchants and their bad faith; a general psychotic negativity. Another constraint on my creative output was my tendency to develop intense psychotic symptoms if I worked too hard at my prose. It was a delicate balancing act holding back my ambition while looking after myself. I was vulnerable. It was not a car-kicking level of psychosis just disturbing thoughts and Telly Terror. The general vibe was: ‘They are all trying to destroy me.’ My anti-psychotic medication and age (44 in 2007) also reduced my creative power. Remember also that striving for high quality in any form hurts you. Consistent, long run high quality can be brutal on the body and mind. The great middle-distance athlete, Seb Coe has described that fact of life in his interviews. It is my belief that writers are athletes of the mind.

I thanked God after every writing session, good or bad! I sensed that some people out there were calling me a coward, a shithouse, and yellow even though I was just waiting for my full creative power to return. I saw and felt this abuse. It made for some very dark days and nights. It went on for years. I call them the lost years. My mind was failing me and the internal tension was unbearable at times. Sometimes I had to fight the urge to bang my head against the wall or at least punch it. I was a very considerate psychotic; I would only punch internal walls so as not upset the neighbours. Self-harm didn’t work for me; there was no feeling of release. The great novelist, Anthony Powell stopped writing during World War II to concentrate on being an army officer. When the second Iraq war broke out I couldn’t see the point of writing frivolous fiction when death and slaughter was going on. Although I was a civilian I felt like I was at war both internally and externally. Actually the distinction between internal and external can be blurred when you are schizophrenic. The external ‘idiots’ who followed me and taunted me felt like they were actually internal. The dividing line between my actuality and my delusions was very flimsy. Whatever was my real actuality I was getting extremely fucked up. I even developed reader’s block. I used to be a person who could read and concentrate for hours on end but then I couldn’t even face a book or concentrate for more than a few minutes. Luckily I could half-heartedly surf the Web but my general feeling was one of strictly enforced inactivity. Was God teaching me patience? I thank Him that this phase of my illness was only temporary because I need to read and write; it’s what I’m here for. Going from being a graduate to feeling almost like an illiterate person was very hard to take.

The six month deadline that I had imposed upon myself came and went without comment from neither me nor my parents. I had done a second draft of my first novel but it now remained unread in my wardrobe. It was a victim of my inability to read or concentrate for substantial periods. A third draft seemed futile and insurmountable. The missing years continued but there were, however, brief and rare glimpses of creative sunlight when I concocted something small but good. It felt like the big creative wheels were turning for me. There were moments of inspiration there was also a huge, psychosis-inducing inner tension during this phase of my life because I was living off my pensioner parents. This situation was not sustainable. It was against the cosmic laws of the Universe. It was out of order but I refused to either claim benefits or get a job. My parents didn’t pressure me to change the situation but I sensed some unsaid pressure from my siblings. I had got it in my mind that to sign on the dole was a cosmic mistake. I envisaged my unknown, unseen enemies gloating outside the Jobcentre if I signed on. This would be a huge and humiliating failure for me. The feeling that many people were queuing up to watch me fail as a person and writer was very powerful. Sometimes it was if the whole world was willing me stop writing. It was rejection on a cosmic scale.

Something had to give. Something had to break; it was my own mind. As my old sociology lecturer once said, a decade before this occurred, the start of a recovery is actually recognizing that you’ve got a problem in the first place. I was refusing to myself that I had a problem with my mental health. I suffered in silence…unless, that is, I was talking to myself. I strained to appear normal. I couldn’t accept the very strange truth of my actuality. The psychotic impulses started to get stronger, more frequent and increasingly spectacular. One morning I ambled into our back yard and kicked in the shed door for no apparent reason. I felt nothing. It was as if somebody else had done it. I sheepishly returned to the house and told my dad what I had done. On the surface he didn’t seem to concerned because such mindless, violent behaviour coming from me was so out of character. My parents and I became experts at pretending that there was nothing wrong with me or my situation. I was not signing on, paying income tax, national insurance contributions, nor the council tax. With regard to the latter, a woman from the council tax department turned up at our front door one day in order to enquire about my situation. My elderly mother answered the door. My first instinct was to hide from the council tax woman but eventually I showed my face and she asked me why I wasn’t claiming any benefits. I can’t remember exactly what I said but I did get angry when she told me that my state pension would be threatened if I didn’t start paying national insurance contributions. I knew about this fact of life but I chose to ignore it. I was happily living in a fool’s paradise. I think she went away bewildered by my lackadaisical and maverick behaviour. Perhaps she concluded that I was simply crazy. I was, but a deeper psychosis beckoned. They were stopping me from writing but who were they? Psychotics have only enemies.

I gradually began to suffer from bouts of extreme agitation whereby I would become hyper-sensitive to movements and sounds outside the house. By this time I was virtually housebound. The inner tension would just build and build. There was no release from it. Sometimes at night I would stare into the darkness of our back yard convinced that there was something out there. It wasn’t human. It was just some kind of invisible, malignant entity lurking in the darkness, waiting. I had the ability to just sit silently watching the telly with my parents while my undiagnosed psychosis ripped chunks out of me. All I could do was hunker down, let time pass, and wait for the hyper-sensitivity to go away. Not for a second did I feel the need to seek medical help. I was still me. I was still John. I didn’t feel the need to label myself. It didn’t have a name. It didn’t have a label, yet. In around the early 2000s the world around me got really weird. As the late, great writer Hunter S. Thompson once said, When the going gets weird, the pros get going. But in my case it wasn’t the writing pros who got going. It was the mental health pros who were about to get going in order to mend my broken mind. My days of riding the literary tiger seemed to be over. The crisis point was getting closer. There would be no more rhino-charge first drafts for John. Basically, the unmistakeable truth was that the outside world, the world outside my brain, was being affected by my thoughts and actions. It felt as if my mind was broadcasting to the outside world via my writings. This simple core idea has many implications; so many in fact that it is probably unfathomable. My reality was totally fucked. The fucking fucker was fucking fucked!

I want to make a few general observations about the day-to-day experiences of a mad lad. When you are deeply disturbed and house-bound your home becomes an army obstacle course of your madness. Every room in your home is redolent of your sickness. The whole house feels sick. Your surroundings are enervating. The environment itself is attacking you. It bites your ankles all the time. Sometimes I couldn’t distract myself from the anguish because of the reading and writing blockages that mentioned earlier. I had an attention-span of around five seconds. Insanity uses live ammo like the SAS in the Killing House. Psychosis doesn’t just want to annoy you; it wants to kill you. You and, sometimes, other people. You are deep in enemy territory 24/7. But after a few years of relative mental stability your mind becomes more of a child’s adventure playground. It is primarily benign but it can be dangerous if you become complacent or make a basic mistake with your footing.

Sometimes it is hard for schizophrenics to distinguish between their medication’s side effect such as lethargy and the symptoms of the illness like anxiety, moodiness, and generally feeling very strange. Some poor souls can’t handle feeling exhausted and depressed all the time so they stop taking their medication erroneously assuming that because they no longer feel aggressively psychotic that they have been cured. This is a big mistake because they relapse and fall ill again. My psychiatric social worker once told me that they call this phenomenon ‘the revolving door syndrome.’ It’s a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. Risking a horrible relapse into psychosis like this shows how dreadful a medicated schizophrenic can feel. I would forget to talk to my parents and just sit there like an empty shell who just wants to go with the flow. I was put on the anti-depressant called Sertraline. It helps but I still feel down and anxious most of the time. The end result of taking the various medications is to lose two or three seconds of my attention during conversations. This leads to pauses that make me feel like somebody of low intelligence. The sedation does, however, reduce over time although I still catch people who are conversing with me looking at me strangely because my mind is being slowed by medication.

When I was referred to the mental health pros, that is to say a psychiatrist and psychiatric social worker, I was very naïve because I assumed that I would be offered some kind of psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy. Such treatments are colloquially known as a ‘talking cure’. But these things don’t seem to be provided by the NHS unless you are a very high priority. In a sense, and ironically, talking about your madness only helps if you are talking to a mental health pro and not members of your family. It was virtually impossible to confide to my closest relatives as to exactly how insane I was becoming notwithstanding the darkest days of my deepest, undiagnosed psychosis when I couldn’t keep it secret because I was misbehaving in public. More on that later. Their ignorance was bliss…happy days. There was a transitional phase between my extreme antics and a relatively stable period when I had some ‘distance’ from myself and my schizophrenia. I suppose that I could have talked with my family about my madness in general terms but they didn’t ask and I preferred not to raise the subject. Let sleeping dogs lie. I didn’t want them to know exactly how insane I was. To this day I’m still quite wary of discussing the minutiae of my madness; which is ironic given that I intend to self-publish this text. To me, self-exposure is easier when I’m using the printed word. On one occasion, however, the psychosis got the better of me when I was watching the telly with parents and gran. Funnily enough the flare up wasn’t caused by anything appearing on daytime telly. I simply told my mum, dad, and gran that I was experiencing a very strong urge to punch the living room wall and swear profusely (some cynics would say that this was a perfectly natural response to daytime TV). Thankfully my family members didn’t panic. I think my mother said something like go ahead and punch the wall if it makes you feel better. But I knew from experience that there is no release from these feelings. Eventually, after half an hour or so, the urges became bearable and we carried on as usual.

I’ll give you some examples of my strange behaviour that occurred before I sought medical attention. The first one occurred during a period when I would become more and more agitated. It felt as if a strong malevolent force was either pulling me

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