Thursday, 29 October 2009

Back on earth

I'm back. It's still autumn. It's still warm and the roads are carpeted with leaves. It's quite beautiful really. Stunning. I'm lucky because I can take the dog for a walk and see other people that I recognise as other dog walkers and the shop and stall owners who know us and we can meet and greet. It stops me from being invisible. Of course I'm still invisible when I'm dog-less. I think that Zach needs to be less invisible, although I suppose he'd rather be invisible if it means that no one knows him as the 'nutcase' of Ladakh.

We've reached terra firma again. It's reasonably firm. I'm not too sure what damage he's done to himself this time. It's taken a toll of him. He's quite exhausted and unfit. He still looks quite well though. He says that he's taken all the meds. He's not sweaty and he's eating. His conversation is constrained. I think that he's making an effort not to inject any 'Zachisms' into what he says to me. The stuff he knows that I dislike with a vengeance having to listen to. He says that he'll give the music one last try. So there's insight there. He still wants to do something abroad though. He says that London is bad for him. Absolutely. But to work in the mountains? In the altitude again?

Ideally, Zach says, he'd like to find something to do every day. Keep himself busy. See people. But what? Does anyone have any ideas? There's Oxfam in the High Street. They want volunteers for some hours a week. But is that any good for Zach? He would like to take some courses. He said that he'd go to the local library to see what was on offer. The inherent wishes are there but the motivation to get up and go is something else. I wish that I knew the answer. Again it's how much do I get involved? But if I don't, could he do it himself?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Greetings from 'the Land.'

I must apologise. I'm away. In 'the land', among the sun and the palm trees and the absolutely azure Mediterranean and having a sublime time. It's nice because I can try and switch off. Sam is with me and we have seen Beth in situ and she's fine and having the best moments of her life. She asks about Zach in a tangential way, almost as if she doesn't really want to know. And I understand that. We're returning to what I understand is a cold and noisy London on Monday night and the blogs will recommence from then on.

We hear from Zach when Sam calls. He's been to see his GP but decided against the drugs counselling and has stopped the medication that's supposed to eradicate the need for opiates. He said that the pills were giving him terrible side effects. Don't opiates give you 'terrible side effects'? Quite frankly I would have thought that some side effects, thus negating the need for heroin. would have been worth while. But then I wouldn't have started along that route in the first place...

To some extent I'm quite despondent about Zach's future. He says that he's taking all the Bipolar medication. Maybe if he continues to do so, then the need for other forms of highs will be prohibited by the fact that he's 'balanced.' However, he's not of a mind to want to be 'balanced' at the best of times. We shall have to see.

In any event, I'm going off to enjoy the sun for the next couple of days because I know that next Saturday I won't be able to walk along the shore, watching the dogs and their owners having a whale of a time at the dog beach, or the gays on the gay beach or the orthodox on the orthodox beach. I won't be able to sit outside a beachside cafe and drink upsidedown coffee or ice cafe or eat humus and techina and tiny salad in freshly baked pita or pungent black bread. I won't be able to watch the cyclists and the skaters and the runners and the walkers. I watch the surfboarders and the windsurfers and wonder how they have the termerity and bravery to stay atop the waves. I'd drown. And noisily.

It's not a question of it being a dreamlike quality and reality hitting back when we get back 'home.' I'm saving it all up and will bring out a memory each time that I hit the blackspot when it all gets too much and imagine that I'm still here. And Zach will have to deal with that.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Doomed to repeat those errors again

The sun is shining now. When we walked on the Heath this morning, I had to cover myself in my burka-like hood so that I wasn't a sodden human being. The dog dragged his bedraggled body along the paths. He doesn't like getting wet but unlike ex-dog he, at least, doesn't avoid puddles. I hate the wet. I live in the wrong country for walking dog. I went out at the wrong time. Now it looks like a summer's day again. When will I ever learn?

Indeed, do we ever learn? Why do we keep repeating patterns of behaviour, as if past experiences were part of an amnesiac's brain? This can be extrapolated globally, cif. the UN. But on a macro level we appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

We saw Zach on Wednesday night. A birthday dinner with Sam's mother. A nice evening. Zach was quiet. Controlled. An improvement over the weekend when he was, evidently, elated. He says he's taking all the meds but I'm not too sure about controlling his addictions. I hope that his mind will control his urges in that direction. But from past experience I can't say that I'm too hopeful. I know that he wants to but doesn't the desire far outweigh the hope? He needs to accept the right help. I can't see it happening though.

Are there times when we meet ourselves re-walking the same paths that we have walked before? Would that there be something new. Something positive. Only time will tell, they say. Will it?

Monday, 12 October 2009

And so we begin (Again)

An endless line of cars stretched into the short term parking at Heathrow. Saturday night. Around 6.30pm. Probably, apart from the 'red eye', the busiest time of the day. All the flights arriving were from the Middle East, the Far East and Africa.

You would never have believed that you were in England. The terminal was heaving. Thousands of passengers. Most of them alighting from flights as diverse as Oman, Lagos, Jakarta, Delhi, Yemen. A crush besides the barriers. Families vying for positions close to the doors from whence their mothers, fathers, siblings and friends pushed their trollies and buggies. A couple in full African regalia were pushed along in wheelchairs. They looked like the king and queen of an ancient African state, glistening with gold, diamonds and bright red lipstick. Another young woman in a burka appeared alone with one child in a buggy, another toddling at the side and a baby grasped around its middle in a pink all-in-one. She looked exhausted and sad. There didn't appear to be anyone with her apart from the children. But then where was her baggage? Presumably her husband had gone along in front but I couldn't see him.

We both peered around looking for Zach. He'd texted us on someone else's phone to say that the plane had taxied to its spot and was about to stop. Then I saw a lone white face waving towards where I was standing. For a moment I didn't recognise it. Then I realised that it was Zach! How well he looked initially. He'd put on some weight and didn't look gaunt and haggard. His face had filled out and he'd had his hair cut well and was wearing a clean and elegant purple linen shirt and new jeans and shoes and bag. He hugged me and, I thought, gosh, he looks older. Like the 30 year old that he is...

A return car journey. A meal locally and an analysis of how Zach presented himself psychologically. There wasn't really too much that we could talk about because he was still somewhat delusional. A coup in Ladakh. A Chinese take-over. The entire area overrun with Chinese soldiers. A trek to a lake through 'enemy controlled countryside' where gurkha soldiers aided him and from where he was accompanied back to Leh on the back of a motorbike. Of course it had nothing to do with his state of mind that he took himself off without provisions or water. He met only the best people. How much of this is true? It's so difficult to determine. We took him home. Much appreciation for my cleaning and happiness to be back in London but after we had left he took himself off to Camden with a friend...

The problem is that Zach now wants to revert to how things were before but without the attendant heroin. He's happy to take the medication that obviates the need for opioids and the meds that should control the mood swings. He'll even take some of the anti-psychotic medication that will help him sleep but for how long is anyone's guess. He's been prescribed a cocktail that should really make a huge impact on his life but he's still resistant to lithium and, I do believe, has discarded it already.

Yesterday evening Zach came around for a quick visit full of plans. He's got some insight into when he's warbling on and when he's talking complete nonsense. He says how much he liked the psychologist and that he wants to continue their sessions online. He's still not well though. Maybe he has what is called a 'mixed state.' He's elated but, I believe, quite depressed. How the mood goes over the next few days is something that we shall have to watch. It could go either way. If he stops sleeping, stops taking the right amount of medication or starts smoking weed, then I'm not hopeful. Maybe he should have stayed in hospital longer. Maybe we were too impatient to bring him back here.

More interesting times.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Phew! Return returns and stressful situations

Zach is coming back tomorrow night. I can't say that I'm excited about it. More like stressed, enervated, anxious. He's excited about it. So much so that Sam was worried that he was spiralling again. That's all we need. Another reprise of 2007. Weeks in hospital, then return to London and a squat among the market stalls in Camden. I can't see that we'll get any help from the NHS. Zach's been 'out of the loop' for the last two years. No CPN (community psychiatric nurse) has ever been doled out; the social worker disappeared off the scene. The hospital psychiatrist left his post and no one has bothered to contact Zach. Great.

The past few days have been spent waiting for the man from the electicity company to come back and switch on the lights. I got a parking ticket for that. Four hours backbreaking cleaning. The bathroom and kitchen look far less squalid now. I kept on looking for ratty but he didn't show his face. Maybe the smell of cleaning fluid and bleach frightened him. It was a new experience. I don't think that the kitchen floor had ever seen a mop before. I doubt that it will again but I left it behind. No doubt if I go back in six months it will still be in the same place.

Apart from dust and discarded cigarettes and ash, there wasn't too much to clean in the main room. The poor plants had mostly died. How can you kill a cactus? Poor sad things, all wilty brown leaves and crumbly earth. I tried to revive them but my Hippocratic skills, learned when I started my MSc at Imperial, were weak. Dosing them with water only created crators among the scorched soil. Maybe he can leave them outside in the rain. They need tender loving care.

The bits and pieces of groceries have been put away. The kitchen and bathroom almost shine but I wonder for how long. Other friends ask their cleaners to clean their respective kids' flats. I don't know if I could do that. It makes sense but then he'll never even lift a wet cloth to a tea stain in the knowledge that L. the clean will come along and make it pretty again.

The psychiatrist has sent him home with two weeks' meds. The psychologist has given him her advice and directions as to how best live his life. Ragesh is making his way back to Nepal, no doubt having made a friend for life. But at what cost? And the wonderfully kind men from the High Commission have extended their friendship. So rare among the various embassies and high commissions and consulates.

We'll be at the airport to see Zach among the crush of bodies on the New Delhi flight. Once again. How many times? He says that he's bought new clothes. That we should be 'proud' of the way he looks. That he wants to continue 'some' medication. I can't bare the thought of the extended conversation. The one that's been ensuing for twelve years. The thought of relapse makes me breathless. Then I think of the man with no arms and legs. It's not THAT bad!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Worry-men and inspirational talk

There's an old parable about the 'worry-man.' From place to place, village to village, shtetl to shtetl, he goes around with his long wooden stick. In each village they come out to greet him and he shows them the stick and asks them to tie their worry to it. After half an hour it's emblazoned with worries. 'Take one!' he tells the people. 'Take any one. Any one that doesn't belong to you!' The villagers look at one another. Can this be true, they ask one another. Can we take someone else's problems, anxieties, worries?

One villager steps forward and pulls off a piece of paper and the string attached from the stick. Another one follows suit. Then another and another. Each person takes a new worry. Something that they hadn't had, something that they didn't want. They look at the writing. They look at each other then, after some seconds, stealthily they tread towards the worry-man, while he regards them with a short smile around his lips, his eyes beady with intelligence.

'I'm not sure that I want this one,' a tubby woman tells him. 'I've enough worries of my own...' She reaches up to where she had initially tied her problem. 'I think I'll keep it. If you don't mind.' On and on the villagers untie their problems. Half an hour later, they walk back to their houses, crushing the paper between their fingers, throwing it into the fires that burn in the blackened grates. The worry-man continues onwards, towards another village, another shtetl. Who needs someone else's tsuris, or worries, when you know your own?

I watched a short video yesterday about a man who was born with no arms and no legs, apart from a fin attached to what must have been a stump. A torso with a head. A young, handsome man who goes around to schools and colleges, talking about his particular tsuris, making the point - not necessarily elegantly - about things being far worse than you think they are. You wonder how on earth he manages to pee or scratch his nose, shave, eat, move from school to school. He's supposed to be inspirational. Your weight gain or your insecurities or your cancer or insanity are nothing compared to me! Yes, they are inconsequential if it means that the alternative is to have no arms or legs and to be reliant on a host of people to do the basic, basic things.

So I guess that I'll stick to the insanity on my doorstep that permeates my existence. I don't want someone else's problems. The worry-man can sleep peacefully knowing that I won't tie my problems to his wooden stick. Although sometimes I do dream differently.