Breaking the fourth wall

One of the things we love about being away on holiday is the feeling of complete detachment from reality back home. That's the whole point of it. Detachment. Escapism. A rest to refresh and rejuvenate and forget about work, bills and the London Underground. Sun it up, party, eat well drink well,'s everything but home. The part that hurts is returning. You think in some misconstrued way that whilst you had the time of your life that back home things have somehow moved on when usually nobody actually notices you were gone and nothing has changed. Within a day or two of returning to work, you're back to mundane normality, consumed by routine. What is usually lost as you work yourself back into the routine are some of the moments of clarity you found yourself possessed with whilst swimming around in a pool or drinking an ice cold beer in the hot-tub. Epiphany's a plenty, but only if you remember to pack them in amongst your shorts and t-shirts.

Now by losing them (those moments of clarity), it might be the case that when you're back home the deeply philosophical musings don't hold actual weight back in the real world. So they become instantly worthless whilst you go about doing what you've always done in that oh so comfortable bubble you live in until it's burst next time you book a week abroad.

In my case, I've simply decided that there is not enough honesty and transparency in who I am. To myself. It's probably something that hardly warrants sharing. This is a Spurs blog, I blog about Spurs. But this is my blog and instead of conforming, biting my tongue and generally appeasing part of my audience because I feel obliged to do so - I shouldn't. I'm uncomfortable with it. I require change so my focus is never lost.

This is not to say I spent my holiday thinking about social networking and blogging. I spent time thinking about family life and my past. I guess having this blog allows me to chronicle anything I wish to throw at it, I just don't wish to do so half as often as I should. Reading Vertigo (John Crace) also brought back memories, crashing down on me with hefty reflection. Crace cites his depression and how Tottenham Hotspur was something he still anchored too during his lapses. Some how football transcends. We simply can't turn away from it even when losing ones mind.

Not to delve into too many of the details regarding the holiday, but the main reason we were out in Lanzarote was because my missus sister was getting married there. What with it being a wedding, there was drama. Masses of drama. It changed my opinion on certain people and also gave me perspective parallel to my life that I did not have before. Hence all the deeply philosophical thoughts I had when I wasn't on baby duty.

So what relevance to the Spooky persona and blogging has my week long break birthed? Life story time...

In the five or so years leading up to 2006 I was fighting something I didn't understand or wish to ask others for help on. That was the first problem. I'm naturally not an open person, I don't tend to make very good first impressions and it takes me a while to find that comfort zone to be relaxed and myself. But even then, I probably wouldn't share anything with you that sat outside socialising, music, football etc. I don't open up to family and friends - even best friends - so if there was something wrong, nobody would know. So in those five years I continued this pretence that my head was screwed on when it wasn't. When surrounded by people I knew I could act it out, when alone I had to find things to do to keep me occupied.

Travelling with the Spurs away support and spending hours on message boards were ample distractions in attempting to fool myself and others. I gradually started to slowly slowly detach myself from my closest friends and spent more time clubbing with people I hardly liked because it was an easy way to gain access to drugs. I didn't have a single relationship in this time period leading up to 2006. I'm talking about actual relationships here, because anything with emotion meant grafting. Far easier to just f**k and the internet was a glorious way to meet people with the same mindset. Two or three different people per week, every week (give or take) for almost two years. I'd boast about it if it wasn't so tragically lonely (in hindsight). Sure, it passed the time and populated the hours leaving my head in an unscrewed position, never wanting to notice and no inclination to do anything about it.

With every passing week, I was further away from the person I should have been without the relentless pretence and superficiality.

Friends wondered why I was so distant (I practically lived within 500 meters of three of them), never venturing out. Family had similar concerns. But there I was, smiling and pretending, no one dared to question me. I continued to live in the moment, as two people. The first being the one person people saw at work and around friends/family (when I bothered to make an appearance). The other was equally fake spending money on hotels, powder and pills whilst holding down any remanence of the real me, trapped deep inside with no want to escape.

The façade began to crack. Mainly because I could no longer handle the excess. I had spent near enough 50k (accumulating to almost 100k in the end in amongst other spending) on getting f***ed and being f***ed. Or more to the point, making sure I didn't face it head on. I started becoming resentful of people showing concern. I gave up on the sex because meeting people in hotels and other locations started to drag me down, it felt like too much of an effort and I could no longer stomach the talking.

I stopped going out altogether (other than work which started to become a major struggle) because I couldn't face it. I had no zest or energy to be around anyone. And yet I still found myself at White Hart Lane, probably because I had somehow convinced myself that being there was like being surrounded by people who would not focus on anything but the football. Which was always the case. It was a safe environment. I tricked myself into believing this was proof, the fact I was at the game, that there was nothing wrong with me. Work continued to degrade. The cracks had reached the brickwork and the foundations were about to collapse.

The paranoia leading up to the event in 2006 was unlike anything I had experienced prior. I've been on a dance floor in a club surrounded by gargoyles and followed by black helicopters, but dark and twisted trips on hallucinogenic drugs and the proceeding come down is one thing. This was altogether something completely different. No matter where I was and what I was doing, I felt I was being constantly watched. Not in some clandestine sort of way. Just this unexplainable fear that they knew I was living a lie and that they were waiting for me to implode. I felt I was under constant scrutiny when spoken to, even when walking down the street. Standing in a queue in the post office took monumental effort. Even picking up the phone to talk to someone. Anything where I had to confront other people. All too much to handle.

Those cracks were now becoming obvious to those close to me at work. Easy to hide from friends and family, not so easy when spending eight hours in the office.

I had panic attacks, but brushed over them as just being nervous rather than an ever growing fear. Further embarrassment followed, again, mainly to do with the paranoia and not being able to adapt to simple work tasks. Embarrassment was replaced with anger. I started to lash out (verbally - although I also had fits of rage usually involving punching walls and trashing furniture). At home, I was struggling with sleep more so than ever. Night terrors and sleep paralysis when my eyes did happen to shut, insomnia at all other times. Which meant sitting up all night thinking about it all, attempting to somehow keep up that pretence but unable to do so. I had myself for company and I could not handle it. Gone were all the distractions.

Eventually, I was sent home from work. I don't know what it was I said or did, but it was enough for my manager to ask me  to best take some time out. That weekend, I left home the one time, to go to Upton Park and watch us lose 2-1 to West Ham. I even found time for food poisoning that evening. I was not eating well, so it's laughably ironic that the one time I do I get sick off it. More so considering half our players were equally sick that morning. I returned to work only for things to progressively get worse very quickly. I was given a phone number, asked to call it, then see a doctor and get signed off from work.

That's basically the moment of the event in 2006 that finally had me in that escape hatch ready for launch. Sadly it took a breakdown for me to propel forward. Spent the best part of a year off work, numb on anti-depressants and beta blockers and talking to a psychologist/psychiatrist (I forget his title). I remember one moment during the process of being signed-off when a doctor (he was to assign the case to said psychologist) asked me how I was feeling. A stupendously stupid question if I'm honest. What exactly and how exactly am I meant to react to that? I was obviously f***ed beyond the point of standard sanity, looked like sh*t and he wanted to asses me by asking for my opinion on how I felt? That's the opinion of someone who spent years avoiding the truth, other than the activities that played out to aid that distance between the lie and reality. I told the doctor I was paranoid. He told me I could not possibly be paranoid if I was admitting to being paranoid.

"A truly paranoid person does not claim to be paranoid. They simply believe they are being followed or watched or that someone or something is out to get them".

It was an open invitation to lash out and I did, stating that he was also in on it and that nobody not even someone assigned to help me was willing to help and that he was simply part of the laughing crowd staring at me from the corner of their eye. Or something to that tune. I guess that was enough for him to get the ball rolling on treatment.

The sessions with the psychologist went well. Took a while. The problem when you hide behind a persona created to fool not just others but yourself is that you end up having to lie in order to protect the actual lie. Took a while to break through the various layers.

He told me to continue to follow football and to continue to write and partake in forums. Which I did. This helped because I was then asked to write down how I felt and it was an easier way to convey certain emotions that had been trapped for so long. Even if it (football/forums/blogs) all felt as inconsequential as anything else in my life at the time, although football was a distraction and so was writing about it - and in both instances, the only two things that any sane person would parake in (compared to how I was behaving at all other times).

I continued to cheat actual genuine social participation, face to face. One step at a time. Once I was able to write down my thoughts, I progressed from there and was able to talk up front about them. I continued on the prescribed drugs. I even made a breakthrough outside of the treatment, admitting to my parents (my mother more so than my father) that I was off work. She asked if it was a breakdown, I answered yes and never quite went into any details. She never asked. She was simply there for me. It was enough for me to be around family. It was the first time in a long time I felt I wanted to be and was comfortable in doing so. I continued to work through what was required to get back to normality, whatever that was meant to be.

Eventually I was back at work, healthy and drug-free as well as more adaptable to being around groups of people. Not so much cured, but in more control than I had ever been. Without the compulsive lies and expensive life-style.

I meet my missus soon after. Have an 18 month baby daughter. I'm still a paranoid person, I'm fully aware of that fact. I guess its easier to tag it as having a nervous disposition. If I'm completely and utterly out of my comfort zone and beyond something I can't control I'm still prone to losing it with an additional panic attack cameo. I continue to be a difficult person to get close to, but that was always the case made worse by the difficulties I had. Everyone has some type of sh*t in life they need to overcome and my experiences make me neither unique or special. Just another number in the system.

So why the transparency? Always said I write for therapy and that I do so for myself and hope others will enjoy my sometimes raw, fractured and never perfect musings. During the times when I was locked up inside my own home not wishing to breathe the outside air, I sat sometimes in front of a computer and punched away at the keyboard. Another distraction, but one that helped me in the end. I've never quite presented myself with closure in terms of my online existence. One or two people that know me will read this and will find themselves in the know for the first time. I apologise that talking straight, face to face, is something that's not quite been a possibility as I've always struggled with words if they are not written down. I'm hardly the most articulate in spoken form. And it still remains a struggle, as cited many times, to open up when in person.

So gone are the credit cards, the loose women, the whores, the class a drugs, the hallucinations and insomnia, the crippling paranoia and the rest of the depressive crap. My life is my family and football is my escapism. Music and porn the safe way to escape further if required.

I opened up in the end to the right people that allowed me to fix myself, much like I'm opening up now via this blog. Could not give a f*** about the stigma of admittance in the public domain. I wanted to share this and that's what I've done and don't require patronising or a pat on the back. This is simply for the people who have dedicated as much time reading this blog as I have working on it. That epiphany I had out in the sun was to simply be true to myself and that's something I've almost lost my grip on very recently. Almost. Nothing ground breaking that epiphany, but in practice, it is.

If you've got this far, thank you. John Crace, thank you too.

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