I have a catastrophic falling out with my close friend in recovery and switch my love addiction to God and the local Priest instead

 

I return to my house in Kensal Green having recovered from bulimia but not having recovered from OCD
Image by Matthew Black   http://ow.ly.XporZ

So I ended up back in my house in Kensal Green in West London in October 2010, bereft after my ejection from my perfect family. Unable to be on my own after living in a commune of 9 people, I had acquired two lodgers, one who I knew from 12 Step Fellowships and another I had found on the internet.  The recovery lodger had anger issues – she exploded when I explained we were sharing the house with a civilized and extremely sociable family of mice. As a result of her deep seated mouse-o-phobia we soon had a falling out so she left after a month. I replaced her with a nanny I found on the internet, who arrived with a gerbil I thought would get on with the mice. I was now living with two complete strangers who, after a short period of time, I realised I had nothing in common with. Now I was away from the womb of my perfect family, my OCD had got worse. I would repetitively check the garden doors and windows, as well as forensically searching for serial killers in my (tiny) laundry basket and (full to bursting) chest of drawers. The serial killers in my house had an alarming propensity to shrink to the size of  G-string or even vanish into thin air. The lodgers were bemused by the OCD. But I was just trying to come to terms with living on my own without being surrounded by love. The only one who understood was the gerbil, who also had OCD, and would rotate around on his wheel 5 million times a day.

Although the lodgers (apart from the gerbil) had seemed perfectly normal I soon realised something was amiss. One of them was so filthy that it was impossible to walk on the floor of her room because of a tsunami of clothes and shoes. She would also leave half eaten plates of food lying around her room. For someone with OCD such as myself this was intolerable, as I thought the house would become infested with cockroaches. I had a total phobia of cockroaches as my extremely expensive boarding school had been infested with them. The mice, of course, were my friends. After even my cleaner complained I had to email her about the mess but she still left food lying around so the situation was tense. Having done almost a year of intensive re-parenting therapy with Mei Fung Chung, my emotional age had shot up from that of a two year old to the incredibly advanced age of a child who was leaving primary school.  The therapy had literally re-wired my brain transforming me from the messiest person in the world to domestic goddess Anthea Turner.  I reacted badly to the lodger’s filth as, based on my previous mess, I interpreted it as a sign of deep underlying mental health problems and possibly an eating disorder.

On Christmas Day 2010, I was horrified to discover that the lodger had brought alcohol into my house. I did not want alcohol in my house and had specifically advertised the house as alcohol free. When the two lodgers returned from the Christmas Break, the atmosphere was poisonous. Both of them started bitching about me in French, which they assumed, being a stupid English person, I didn’t understand.  Of course, after a lifetime of studying French, I did. Eventually I threw them out, leaving me temporarily with no income, as the tenants had left my rental property. But with my new found efficiency, I soon re-let both properties.

The next two lodgers I found were a dream. I had Chetna, an accountant, in the loft, who I got on very well with and a male Polish architect who was perfect. Not only was I very interested in architecture, because of all my building projects, but he was fascinated by the novel I was writing about addiction and kept wanting to read it.

I had continued to write the novel obsessively, starting at 5am and finishing at midnight.

I write a novel about addiction with my ex-armed robber boyfriend as the drug dealing hero at my house in Kensal Green

I had completed a first draft by May 2011 which was a gargantuan sprawling mess of 250,000 words. For the first time, in May 2011, I did a course on novel writing, realising that I’d embarked on writing a novel with absolutely no clue how to do it. I realised it would have to be completely re-written.

Few news events penetrated my obsession with the novel. But I did notice when Osama Bin Laden, founder and leader of Al-Queda had been killed in an American military operation in Pakistan.  After 10 years of hunting him, America had finally got him.

As well as managing my properties better, it was a sign of my increased togetherness that I started to get my tax returns in on time. In 2005 I told the Inland Revenue that I couldn’t do my tax return as I’d been in a “cocaine psychosis.”  “Oh” they said, “I suppose your record keeping wasn’t that good then.”  In 2006 my psychiatric unit wrote to the Revenue saying I was simply “too disturbed” to do a tax return. I was exhausted from ironing leaves at 3am. But in 2008, for the first time in ten years, I got the return in on time

The situation between me and Fred, the ex-armed robber, was still highly charged with him telling me he would “always love me.”  Of course I couldn’t forget him as I was writing about him, albeit in an idealized way, in the novel every day. I was still desperately close to him and felt I loved him. But, haunted by the dream in which I’d been writing my name in my blood after he had attacked me I was torn, not quite trusting him.

My friendship with Sarah, from “Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous” had continued after I’d left her parents’ house. But amongst all the love and support there were spikes of hostility from her and criticism of my recovery. Totally broken,  I had joined Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous after the breakup with Fred in January 2009.  But she was disapproving as I would go to Slaa meetings with my cleavage showing.  How else would anyone see my phone number tattooed on my breast? We were both competitive, but the fact is that I was winning the competition. I don’t know how I would have reacted if the boot had been on the other foot. We just didn’t seem to be able to resolve it. Because I was dependent on her, I wasn’t able to express my anger at all. But after I felt, mistakenly as I later found out, that she was rubbing my nose in it about a man I’d been interested in who wasn’t interested in me I wrote her an email saying I didn’t know when I wanted to see her again.

This falling out was devastating for me as, since the break up with Fred, she had become the most important person in my life. She was my soulmate in recovery. I really didn’t feel I could live without her. My relationship with my father was distant at best and I was barely speaking to my family in Jamaica.

Just after the split with Sarah, I saw a very tall incredibly good looking dark man standing outside the tube station in Kensal Green. Excitingly he seemed to want to talk to me and I realised he was handing out flyers for a course on Christianity in a local church. More interested in the priest than the course I promptly turned up to the opening session. It was difficult for me to listen to exactly what he said as he was absolutely gorgeous so my muff motor was going like a runaway train. But when he raised his arms to the Heavens talking about the Glory of God I thought, “you’re so hot I would believe anything that came out of your mouth.” Instead of becoming a Christian, I decided I would take a swifter route to union with God by marrying the priest instead. I had fervid fantasies about having sex with the priest, naturally to save my soul. I told everyone about my new fantasy but was devastated when he turned me down with some excuse about a wife. Cementing the rejection, he brought his marriage certificate and wedding pictures into the next session. I fought back tears, sniffling in the corner as my dreams of reaching Salvation through saucy sex with the priest bit the dust. As he was so attractive I have a feeling that the session with the wedding certificate was to discourage fantasy addicted love addicts such as myself from fixating on him.

Still, I decided I would finish the course as the puddings were great. I wondered if there were any other Christians who were as hot as him. Probably not or the aisles of churches would be full of screaming teenage girls. If he was the Pope, the whole world would convert.

Unfortunately, from an Evangelical perspective, the Bible was not the book I was most interested in. I had completed a second draft of my novel, which was 100,000 words shorter than the first and looked like a novel rather than a plate of scrambled egg. And after showing it to Sarah and another brilliant friend from “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous,” I had sent it off for a manuscript appraisal to the Literary Consultancy.

The exciting news was that the Editorial Director of a major publishing house, who was a friend of my cousin Miranda and had met me several times, had said she was interested in the book. I was to send it to her as soon as it was finished. I received the book back from the Literary Consultancy in December 2011, recommending a major re-write. This slightly dashed my hopes that they would say the book was brilliant but realising I knew almost nothing about writing a novel I set about doing just that.

Sarah and I had been out of contact for months, which had been very painful. We arranged via email to meet up at Christmas for a chat. But when I went round to her flat, eager to see her, she wasn’t there. She had stood me up. I was devastated. I limped back to my house, practically in tears.  I had a miserable birthday, spending it with one friend. I think she was upset by my email and wasn’t ready to meet me.

The battle with my family in Jamaica to get the loans my mother had made them repaid was continuing. I had appointed a new set of lawyers in Jamaica to represent me in negotiating a settlement. It was complicated because my family in Jamaica were arguing that most of the loans were payable to my mother’s estate – as my aunt in Jamaica was the only functioning executor she was both debtor and recipient a clear conflict of interest. This made negotiating the Settlement tortuously difficult until I eventually persuaded her to resign as executor. Everything was dependent on this bank that my family in Jamaica were building on land they owned in Kingston. They had mortgaged everything they owned to get hold of the capital to build the bank and, when the tenancy was finally in place, they would be flush with cash for the rest of their lives. But there were endless delays in the bank that was taking over the tenancy releasing the funds. I wondered if I would ever get the money.

After sporadic contact between Sarah and myself we had decided to try to give the friendship another go.  But after a couple of weeks she said she wasn’t ready and ended it again. I was distraught and, when she wanted to re-kindle the friendship again, said I would never forgive her if she dumped me again.

Despite looking like the Settlement with my family in Jamaica was going to fall apart they unexpectedly lodged the first instalment of the money with my lawyer in Jamaica early in 2012. Although if I’d added up the capital and interest of the loans, there would have been a lot of money outstanding, I was cautious and put forward a modest sum to settle the loans. I thought it was better to get something rather than nothing at all. I was advised by my British lawyer to take the smaller sum that had been negotiated rather than going to Court.

When I’d sent the covering letter and synopsis about the novel to the Editorial Director of the publishing house she’d responded straight away and seemed very interested. Every second that I wasn’t phoning and emailing my lawyer in Jamaica I spent slaving over the novel.

Sarah was trying to set up her own business and was organising an online conference, a Webinar about technology her specialist area. She’d put all of her savings into the venture and if it didn’t succeed was going to have to leave her flat. Hurt that she’d dumped me so recently I didn’t go round to her flat while the webinar was online. It turn out badly and she had to rent out her flat and go into lodgings.

Just as she was miserable, in fear of losing her flat for good, my finances were improving markedly causing further antagonism. The Settlement went ahead and my family in Jamaica lodged the second instalment. I wondered whether I should buy another flat with the money I was getting and started shopping online.

After Sarah had to move out of her flat she asked if she could come to stay at my house at weekends. But I said no, allegedly because I was working on the novel, but actually because I didn’t quite trust her and didn’t feel ready to have her to stay.

The 2012 London Olympics were a major excitement to me as, being completely unable to travel because of my increasingly severe OCD I decided I would spend the money for a holiday on Olympic tickets instead.  I was unable to leave the house for even a single night as I thought the house would burn down and be burgled if I did. I was obsessed with the women’s gymnastics, as all the participants were so short, and the sight of these tiny women doing these incredible moves was the best possible medicine for my short person complex.

I attend the women's gymnastics final at the London 2012 Olympics surrounded by the Canadian team

I went to the semi-final and then hovered by my computer, waiting for tickets for the final to come up. Eventually they did, front row seats too, but the website kept crashing when I tried to put in my card details. I got the tickets but the next day, as I was about to go, I decided that the fact that I’d been unable to enter my card details was a “Sign from God” that terrorists were going to blow up the gymnastics final.  I was terrified, phoning round all my fellowship friends, as to whether this “Sign from God” was something I should listen to. My friend who is schizophrenic convinced me I was being paranoid so I went to the event. It was one of the highlights of my life and afterwards, when I was surrounded by tiny gymnasts, I had the incredible rush of feeling taller than I had ever done in my life.

After this massive buzz, I was just about to deliver the novel, full of hope, and Sarah was supposed to come round to supper that night. Instead she phoned me and said that she needed a “break” from the friendship, she didn’t know for how long, and that she couldn’t be in contact with me anymore. Shocked I tried to get further explanation but she said she couldn’t discuss it and ended the conversation.

Bereft, I wondered what I was going to do with my life. Sarah had been more than a friend, we’d spent every weekend together, spoke on the phone every day, she was practically like my boyfriend. I loved her more than anyone. When I’d split up with Fred I’d had her to hold my hand. But now I was left alone with no one to turn to.

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Next week: during a building works crisis during which my head feels like a bomb has gone off inside the ex-armed robber comes to the “rescue”

I struggle to deal with the wreckage of my relationship with the ex-armed robber but eventually find perfect happiness with two mummies in a beautiful Edwardian House in North London

I struggle to deal with the building project on my house in Kensal Green because of my mental health problems and the domestic violence I'd experienced with my boyfriend

My friend Sarah from “Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous” came to the rescue after the break up with Fred. “You can’t sleep in that house,” she said, “come and stay in my flat.”  I slept on the floor of her warm cosy sitting room for three months, barely able to set foot in my house as I was so upset. The house was even more of a ruin as the builders had knocked down a load of walls and then, annoyed they weren’t making enough money from the job, walked off. I scudded round the shell of the building that used to be a house wondering what I’d done, the wreckage of the house mirroring my life.

Fred, who’d moved into a pub in nearby Ladbroke Grove, was desperate to get me back saying he loved me more than life itself. But he stopped short of apologizing and taking responsibility for hitting me saying he “was just trying to calm me down.” Apparently the whole incident was my fault as I’d been screaming abuse at him. I recognised this argument as typical of men who engage in domestic violence – a situation I hadn’t realised I was in until he actually hit me. But still I loved him, was dependent on him and couldn’t let him go. Every time he came round to collect his mail at the building site, (he was stubbornly refusing to change his address), we would fall into each others’ arms tortured and crying, saying “I will always love you.” We spent one night together in the ruin that had been our home but I was too frightened to sleep in the same bed as him and slept upstairs in the loft.  I had a dream that he had killed me and that, as I lay dying, I was writing his name in blood on the kitchen cupboards. I never spent another night with him in the house again.

Now that Fred, my “perfect mummy,” had turned out to be as bad if not worse than my real mother  (who I thought was going to kill me as well) I transferred my mummy addiction from him to Sarah and her mother. Because of financial problems, Sarah had to move out of her flat so we both ended up in her parents’ house in Willesden Green, in North London.

38 St Gabriels's Road London NW2 4SA where I lived with the Friedmann family who looked after me during my mental health problems.

This was a huge, fabulous Edwardian red bricked house with beautiful white wooden ornamental balconies and woodwork on the front, an original mosaic tiled floor that dated back to 1913 and a fourteen foot high stained glass window on the stairs.  The garden was huge, teeming with flowers and had a hundred year old apple tree that Sarah’s parents would sit under, holding hands.  But Sarah’s parents, a homeopath and a Porsche garage owner, could not really afford to live in the house and were renting out the rooms to lodgers. I was given a tiny room above the kitchen, which had a wonderful view of the garden and apple tree. The scent of home made biscuits, cakes and bread filled the kitchen every day – unfortunately I could not eat them because of my eating disorder. The vegetable patch was heaving with potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, courgettes and strawberries – all the vegetables in the house were home grown with love.

I spent ages talking to Sarah and her mother in the kitchen. After 39 years of searching, I had found what I’d been missing all my life, my perfect family and my perfect home. “You’re like my daughter,” said Sarah’s mother, fanning the flames of the mummy obsession with just what I wanted to hear. “You can stay as long as you like.” But the psychiatrist at the Prison View psychiatric unit warned me against this path. “You will never replace the mother you never had,” he said. “You should stop trying to do it or you’re going to get hurt.”  “That’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to me,” I said and burst into tears. Of course I could replace the mother I’d never had, I was doing it with my new perfect family.

Although it was agony for me to go to the house in Kensal Green, I had to continue with the building project to finish the house. In fact I hardly went there, mentally broken by the break with Fred. Why I chose this intensely difficult period to start messing around with my psychiatric medication is a testament to the strength of my eating disorder. I was in pieces, and under 8 stone but decided I needed to lose weight, so started cutting back on the anti-psychotics.

Then I made what I considered to be a “mistake” with the building project by getting the plumber to do something that I thought had caused a leak. Mistakes were a loaded word in my world as remember my mother had died, tortured for her last years, because she made the wrong decision on an operation. The response to this mistake was of course completely normal (for someone in a psychiatric unit with 5 spare personalities) I attacked my arms with a carving knife cutting them to shreds. The voice inside that had made me self-harm then said: “for a fuck up as bad as this, cutting your arms isn’t enough, you’re such a failure and a joke you need to kill yourself. “ So overwhelming was the compulsion to kill myself, I felt like a demon had possessed my brain forcing me to die.  Every time I left the house in my car, the demon started whispering to me, crash the car, end it all your worthless can’t you see. I recovered briefly, getting rid of the lethal voice inside my head. But then made another “mistake” on the building project and hacked away at my arms again. “This is really bad,” said Fred, looking at my arms criss crossed with scars, “you’ve never done anything like this before. The demon’s voice came back again, “you’re a pathetic worthless piece of shit stop fiddling around with cutting your arms you need to cut your throat.” I was about to go back to St Chillin’s, the psychiatric hospital where I’d detoxed, to try to sort out my head. But instead I was looked after by Sarah and her mother in their gorgeous Edwardian house. Terrified by my reaction, I have never self-harmed since then.

38 St Gabriel's Road London NW2 4SA where I lived with the Friedmann family

Sarah had introduced me to the food programmes of Eating Disorders Anonymous. I started to follow one of their food plans, which basically involved cutting out sugar and high fat food. This had a dramatic effect, ending the bulimia that had plagued me since I was 13, as the trigger foods that I had binged and purged on were now eliminated from my diet. The last time I made myself sick was the end of July 2009. I have never made myself sick since then.

Despite my increasing recovery around food, I still could not let go of Fred and we limped on, basically together. But with the support of Sarah and her mother, I gradually moved towards leaving him. I felt I could never really trust him again. I asked him to move all his stuff out of the house in Kensal Green, which he said was “devastating.” I then rented the whole  house out, moving all my things into Sarah’s parents’ house where it was impossible for him to stay. Despite this he kept hanging on desperate for us to get back together.

In the meantime, I went abroad for the first time since my mother’s funeral. The OCD had reared its ugly head again so, terrified of a fire in Sarah’s parents’ house, I spent six weeks  scanning 20,000 documents. I then bought 15 fire proof chests which were also guaranteed against storm, lightening and alien attack, putting my papers in the chests. As there were nine people living in the house the chances of a fire taking hold were infinitesimally small. But as a further precaution I gave a copy of all my most important documents to Fred. This was slightly unwise given his 500 a day fag habit.

After I got back from the holiday, to the “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous” convention in Barcelona, Fred and I drove down to the country side to buy my first car. I decided that the Mini Cooper, white with black stripes, was an even better accessory than the Chanel bag I’d picked up at Heathrow on the way to Barcelona.  Over  excited by the car purchase, (only a house was a bigger shopping hit), I shagged Fred enthusiastically in a four poster bed in our hotel. This convinced him that we had a future together, and he said we should get married and have kids, although I did not really think we did. I was keeping him hanging on too fearful to be alone.

As soon as  I got back from buying the car, I started working full time on my novel about addiction,  which had a drug dealing “hero” inspired by Fred. The central character was based on myself, a journalist who had crashed out of her career because of her cocaine and alcohol addiction. I had written a couple of pages of the novel in 2007 but now started on it in earnest, deciding I would complete the first 100 pages by Christmas.

Sarah had been urging me to go into therapy, saying I had too much childhood trauma for the AA 12 Step programme on its own to work. Sarah had become something of a mentor for me in recovery and I tended to follow her advice. I started looking for a therapist but was turned down by the first two therapists I approached who said I had “too many problems” for them to treat. I was sponsoring a woman in “Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous” who also had borderline personality disorder and was very disturbed. The whole thrust of the sponsorship was to try to keep her out of hospital as she had regular suicide attempts and self-harm.  My sponsee told me about the Bowlby Centre in London, where they practised attachment therapy, re-parenting the client and said they were treating her successfully. I thought, well if they can treat her they can definitely treat me, and gave them a call. After an initial assessment, I was referred to a half Chinese therapist, called Mei Fung Chung in December 2009. We bonded immediately and the therapy I had with her would totally transform my life.                                                 Sign up for updates on this blog

With the increased support from her, at the beginning of the next year, I was finally able to end things with Fred as he kept shouting at me and slamming down the phone. I realised he hadn’t dealt with his anger issues at all and that, until he did, I couldn’t trust him not to hit me again. But I still carried on with the novel which Sarah and another friend said was “wonderful.”

Just as the final break with Fred came, a snake in the grass emerged in my perfect family. Their heavy drinking son, jealous of my relationship with his mother, tried to have me thrown out saying “it’s me or her!” Battered and broken by the break with Fred, if they’d thrown me out, I would have had a breakdown. They didn’t which I was eternally grateful for. They’d also, very kindly, removed all alcohol from their house, which had been stuffed with bottles of champagne, after I had a wobble in my sobriety and was worried I would pick up and said I couldn’t live in a house with alcohol.

I upped my therapy to three times a week but there was a major problem with this: I had to travel on the Tube in the rush hour which, after the 7/7 bombings, was incredibly traumatic for me. At least once on my way to therapy, I would have to leap out of the tube as I received a “Sign from God” that someone was going to blow up the tube. These signs were subtle and seemed to be noticed by only me: a sneeze, muttering, reading, someone wiping their nose, I was convinced the tissue was a detonator. I would first make my way to the end of the carriage (thinking that getting as far away from the bomber as possible would enhance my survival rate) then would swap carriage at the first opportunity. The fact that none of these suspected bombs actually went off in no way dented by belief in the efficacy of these “Signs from God.” My therapist said I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In the meantime, my battle with my family in Jamaica to get the loans my mother had made them repaid had entered a whole new level. I now appointed lawyers in the BVI to pressurize the Trustees to recover the loans. It was vital that the loans were judged to have been made by the Trust rather than my mother personally, as I was not entitled to any money from her estate until I was 45. The Trustees rejected the idea that the most of the loans had been made by the Trust and said they would pursue only one small loan. However, my family in Jamaica refused to repay them this loan saying it had already been re-paid.

I was struck by the terrible earthquake in Haiti that killed over 300,000 people. Surrounded by people in 12 Step Fellowships saying they were being looked after by their Higher Powers, I wondered what had happened to the Haitian people’s Higher Power.  He seemed to have nodded off on the job.

Nonetheless, I was somehow being looked after in recovery. Fred had helped me through my mother’s death and now Sarah was by my side. She also spoke fluent Spanish, loved Spain and Latin America and had felt out of place in the UK as a child growing up. We became incredibly close, she kept saying I was her family. That summer was a long slow idyllic bath of mumminess as I spent endless hours in the kitchen with Sarah and her mother.

But when their son was around I would wake up at 4am shaking and terrified that I was going to be thrown out. I thought I felt unsafe because he was drinking in the house. But actually it was a throwback to the terrible childhood fear of being cast out by my mother.

As the Trustees in the BVI had been unsuccessful in their attempt to recover the loan from my mother’s family, I had appointed lawyers in Jamaica to try to get the loans repaid. My mother’s family said they were poised to sell the house in the development they had built and could therefore settle the loans. But the sale fell threw at the last minute and they withdrew from the settlement. I wondered if I would ever get the money.

That wasn’t my only problem. Having said that I could stay in their home “forever” Sarah’s mother suddenly decided she wanted to sell the house. At first she said I could come with them to their new home, but then, anxious of the potential conflict between their son and me, said I would have to leave. I had rented my own house out for a year, so was scrabbling around homeless, desperate to find a place. Eventually, I persuaded my tenants to move out. But although I had my house back I was devastated, my perfect mother had thrown me out.

As I left the house, I took a last look at the rhododendron bush in the front garden, laden with giant scarlet flowers. A pair of wild parakeets, their bodies radiant blue, their combs and tails yellow as daffodils, had landed on the ornamental balcony on the first floor.  My perfect family and my perfect home had gone.

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Next week: I have a catastrophic break up with Sarah, my best friend in recovery, and turn my love addiction to God and the local Vicar instead.

 

 

Armageddon with the ex-armed robber

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So everything was sorted. Fred and I moved into the family house in Kensal Green in West London, preparing to have a baby.  Of course the house had not been modernised since 1865, had no kitchen and was riddled with damp. But I was desperate to take on a massive building project to distract me from my troubled feelings around my mother’s death. After my father arrived (and fell through the rotten stairs) he gave no endorsement of the house but said it needed “a lot of work.” Yes I said briefly looking up from my rabid internet shopping for prospective fixtures and fittings for the house. We had embarked on an exciting new project to create a family home.

Cementing our feelings that good times were ahead, at the end of October 2007 my mother’s executor, my aunt Beverly, transferred another chunk from my mother’s estate to pay off part of the mortgage on the house.

One downside, when we’d moved in, had been the frequent planes flying overhead. And in art therapy at the Prison View psychiatric unit I had drawn a dramatic picture with planes crashing into the house.  Little did I know that it was the London property market that was about to crash, which had a major impact on my mental health. My relationship with Fred also had serious engine trouble.

As soon as we’d settled in, the dynamic between us changed in an unpleasant way. Fred had been happy living in the flat in the dry house that didn’t belong to me, but now he had moved into my house he started to feel out of control. Despite his sensitivity to my mental health problems, he was a macho man whose ideal scenario was to be in charge. In all his previous relationships he had been the one supporting the household, while the woman provided his “dinner on the table” when he came back from work. Soon after we moved in, he began to speak to me in an abusive way, telling me to “shut up” and, on one occasion, calling me a “stupid cunt” in front of his family and friends. My baby fantasies ended up on the same dusty cobwebbed shelf as my fantasy Oscar as I decided I didn’t want to have a child with someone who spoke to me in such a disrespectful way.

Despite this fairly sensible adult decision, the replacement mummy fantasy persisted. So I spent most of my time behaving like a (very clingy) two year old clamped onto Fred’s knee and calling him “mummy”  “Don’t call me mummy…” he would bark in his gruff Cockney voice, “you can call me Daddy instead.”  But my relationship with my father was so difficult I definitely didn’t want to call him that. I would phone him 9 times an hour, like a toddler whose been given a phone, and he would answer the phone every time I called. This was perfect love, I thought, the attentive mother I’d never had. He became confused when I was acting like a two year old but still wanted sex saying “you can’t behave like a baby and be horny at the same time.”  But that’s exactly what I was a horny adult baby.

As it became clear that there had been a least one very large loan from my mother to her family in Jamaica, which hadn’t been paid back, my anxiety rose.  Unable to deal with the difficult financial situation around my mother’s death, I became obsessed with the building project on the house. I spent 20 hours a day online, not getting dressed or eating, checking out fixtures and fittings such as polar bear shaped baths. Instead of spending five hours getting ready to go to the psychiatric unit, dripping in designer sunglasses and fake designer bags, I would shuffle there in a tracksuit not bothering to brush my hair. Fred said “you always used to look so good, you don’t look good any more.”  Both in my using and in my recovery I had always been obsessed with my appearance, I was just as addicted to looking good as I had been to cocaine. Now I was so obsessed with the house I didn’t care.

Washing became infrequent for both of us, with ludicrous excuses as to why we couldn’t have a bath.  “The tiles in the bathroom are the wrong shade of mauve,” I said, “they’re so old fashioned they make me feel like a ninety year old”   He would claim that he had a new form of psoriasis that was allergic to water.  And his 50 a day fag habit still continued, accessorised with 100 cups of coffee. This gave him the most disgusting halitosis which I referred to as “the Death Breath.” I literally couldn’t kiss him without gagging and needing a gas mask to protect me from chemical attack.  With this general filthiness, sex dwindled down to a minimum, we barely bothered to touch each other in a sexual way.

Nonetheless, I tried to fit in with his picture of a perfect housewife, making sure there was always dinner on the table when he came back from work, and doing all his washing. Being a proper Cockney his favourite dinner was chicken tandoori.  Setting aside my feminist principles, I did all the housework. But no matter how hard I tried to be the perfect wife, he was still aggressive towards me.

One event that did penetrate my obsession with the house was the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, after a political rally during the election campaign.

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Aside from my feminist joy at a woman being the head of a developing country, particularly an Islamic one, I also felt connected to Benazir as all the Oxbridge graduates at the BBC kept talking about their days at University with her.

When I finally decided to graduate from Oxford (20 years late) a big day had been planned with my father and cousin Miranda. These plans hit the skids as Fred and I had a massive row on the morning of the ceremony and practically split up. I was shaking and in tears for most of the graduation, in the fabulous baroque surroundings of the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford. In keeping with Oxford University’s distain for the modern age, the entire ceremony was in Latin. The pictures afterwards show me, Fred and my father all smiling uncomfortably trying to paper over the cracks in our relationships.

Encouraged by my new sponsor in “Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous” I came off all psychiatric medication in January 2008. This was against the advice of the psychiatric unit. I was alright for a few months. But when I was faced with what I saw as financial apocalypse, as the tenants abandoned my rental property because of an imminent major building project next door, I fell apart. I lived in a state of total terror thinking every day the scaffolding would be erected next door and I wouldn’t be able to rent the house, losing all my income. I was in such a state of hysterical anxiety that death seemed preferable to me so I would wake up at 4am every morning planning to kill myself. I was walking around in such an agitated state that people would come up to me on the street asking to buy crack.

I had no awareness at the time but my fears of financial apocalypse were determined by my mother’s behaviour towards me as a child. Every time she threatened to throw me out of the house, ignorant of the fact that the government looks after stray children, I thought I would end up starving to death on the streets. This gave me a deep seated fear of annihilation that was triggered by financial problems that was later diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It wasn’t just me that was facing financial apocalypse. So it seemed was the entirety of Western capitalism.  I was struck by the TV images of desperate savers queuing to get their money out of former British building society Northern Rock. This became the first bank in Europe to be taken over by the state as a result of the 2007 sub-prime mortgage crisis.

But with constant plans to kill myself because of my own financial maelstrom, I had to go back on psychiatric medication. This decision was described by another woman in “Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous,” who had no knowledge of my mental health history, as “completely unnecessary.” I came face to face with what I consider to be the worst aspect of 12 Step Fellowships, their attitude to psychiatric medication. I never spoke to her again. I was aware that other people in the fellowships had been advised to come off medication by their Sponsors and had gone on to kill themselves. Luckily, I did rent the house out, calming my anxiety slightly.  And in the end the building project did go ahead but was smaller than originally planned.

Back on medication, I was able to move forwards with the building project on my own house, and became obsessed with various details of the project. Possibly connected with this, the abuse from Fred escalated. He started throwing things at the walls and, when I locked him out of the bedroom one night, kicked down the door, saying “don’t fuckin’ lock me out of the bedroom again.” My friend Imran, who was back in my life after years apart as we’d had a   reconciliation, kept  popping around to the house. This was much to the disgust of Fred, who couldn’t stand any competition even though Imran was gay. Imran asked me if I was sure that Fred would never hit me. I said “no I’m not sure at all.” Imran looked shocked but I was so dependent on Fred there was no way I could let him go.

Just as we were gearing up for the building project on the house, the property market in London collapsed leaving me with a house worth significantly less than I had paid.  I saw another house online that I decided I should have bought instead.  My reaction to this was rational – for someone who still had 5 spare personalities and was being treated at a psychiatric unit. I became consumed with an obsession to kill myself by pouring petrol on myself and lighting it and, at the same time, burn down the house. This was linked to another attempt to reduce my psychiatric medication. Fred, who had previously been so understanding about my mental health problems, did not relish the thought of being burnt alive in his bed and said: “you need to see a psychiatrist. Now.” I went back on the correct dose of anti-psychotics and the desire to burn down the house went away.

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My struggle with my family in Jamaica to get the loans my mother had made to them repaid was continuing. Her family had wanted to settle them via a property in a development in Jamaica they were building which I didn’t want.  But just as we seemed to be reaching agreement on a cash settlement the Trustees of my mother’s Trust in the BVI said there had been another very large loan which I hadn’t been aware of that, they said, had been registered with the loans office in Jamaica. I upped my figure for the settlement but it was still nothing like the total amount including interest that was owed. But my mother’s family pulled out of the settlement reverting to their previous position that they would only settle the debt via a house. Nonetheless, as my house was barely habitable with a kitchen that was only just big enough for a mouse, I pressed ahead with my plans to modernise it using the money I already had.

After starting the building project in 2007 with some dope smoking Jamaicans who were probably more likely to burn down the house than me, Fred and I decided we would find a contractor who would not be chilling out stoned while the house was pulled apart. I found a friendly Bulgarian called Tim, doing a loft conversion on another house on the street and employed him to do the job.  We were on an insanely tight deadline to complete the loft conversion as we found out at the last minute that the planning rules were about to change dramatically. If we didn’t complete the loft by October the 1st 2008 what we were building would be illegal and half of it may have to be knocked down. So the project was conducted under a massive amount of pressure (I stopped sleeping and going to the loo) with only just a few weeks to finish. Luckily we got it done at 11.55pm on the 30th of September, five minutes before the planning rules changed, and had an (alcohol free) party with the builders to celebrate. We then gutted the rest of the house.

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Desperate to save money, as the house was worth so much less, we decided to stay in the freezing building site while the works were carried out.  There were no ceilings in most of the rooms, five foot craters in the floors, and live electrical wires hanging everywhere, including over the shower . This did not enhance our feeling of happy families.

One upside in my life at this point was the election of Barak Obama as the first black President of the United States. I swelled with pride at the thought that a black (or even better mixed race) person was taking over the most powerful job in the world. A lifetime of being told by society and my family that black people were inferior shifted a bit.

I spent the Christmas of 2008, with Fred’s mother and daughter on their council estate in South London. I vowed that it would be the last time I spent Christmas on a council estate, now secretly yearning for the grand Christmases of my childhood.

For the first time in my entire relationship with Fred, I went on a girls’ night out in the New Year. I was with my new friend Sarah from “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous.” Sarah and I had met at the women’s meeting when I was thrown out of rehab in June 2005 and had become extremely close, a relationship Fred detested. I said to her that, although I was unhappy with Fred, there was no way we would split up as I was so dependent on him.   I came back home at 1am, nervous about being so late and immediately launched into an OCD frenzy. I spent two hours polishing the mirror radiator in the loft surrounded by the ruins of the house which was a total building site.

The next morning, knowing I had a big day on the building project and had got in late, Fred set my alarm for 6am leaving it next to my head on the pillow to wake me up. “Did you do that on purpose?” I said, shaking, as I crawled exhausted out of bed. “Yes,” he said, “you woke me up last night.”  All the anger that I’d suppressed when he called me a cunt and a bitch, smashed things on the walls and kicked down the door, exploded out of my mouth. “You fucking cunt!” I screeched. “how could you do something so fucking spiteful!”

“Don’t you dare call me a cunt!” he said picking up a coffee table and slamming it against the wall.

“Well if you’re going to fucking start smashing things you can leave right now!”

“Oh yeah?”  he said picking up my new printer and shattering it on the floor.

“What are you fucking doing you fucking moron, that printer cost over two hundred quid!”

“Don’t call me a moron!” he said and slapped me in the face. I jumped back stunned into silence, but couldn’t pause for long. He grabbed my phone and hurled it at the wall, cracking it into pieces.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I shrieked but he was off charging down the stairs.. In the bedroom my favourite star mirror was waiting invitingly above the bed. He grabbed a chair and swung it at the mirror trying to smash the glass.

“Stop it!” I yelled, grabbing the leg of the chair and putting myself between him and the mirror. “I love that mirror I’m not going to let you destroy it.”  I was terrified by this outburst and hoped that one of the neighbours would hear me screaming and call the police. But no one did. I was alone with a raging purple faced man I barely recognised.

He rushed towards a bronze terracotta sculpture of a black man I’d lovingly brought on the plane from Jamaica. I shot away from the mirror and put my hands out trying to protect the statue. “Don’t touch the man,” I hissed. “You know I can’t replace it.”

He grabbed the glasses from my face and stamped them under his foot. “Fuck you!” he said “I’m leaving now!”

He tore down the stairs and shot out the door. “Don’t fucking well come back!” I said “You’ve tried to destroy everything I love in this house.”  Reeling and too shocked to cry, I had a cup of tea, wondering how on earth I would get through the day.

An hour later he came back. “I want my passport” he said. “Going somewhere?” I said sarcastically. “Just give me the fuckin’ passport.”  I gave it to him and he left.

I limped through the day, shuddering and shattered, trying to focus on the electricians and the building work. I don’t know how I made it through that day. It was one of the most difficult of my life. I must have summoned up reserves of strength I didn’t know I had.

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I slept alone in the wreckage of the house that night wondering what on earth I was going to do with my life.  My lover, soul mate, mother, new best friend had gone.

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Next week: I struggle to deal with the wreckage of my relationship with the ex-armed robber but eventual find perfect happiness, with two mummies, in a beautiful Edwardian House in North London.

Despite behaving like a two year old and calling the ex-armed robber “mummy” all the time, I decide I want to have a baby and we buy a family house. 

I continue my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction but not from my mental health problems in particular my addiction to finding replacement mothers. Despite this I decide I want to have a baby and buy a family house in Kensal Green

I started 2007 with various exciting new projects, trying to fill the vacuum left by my mother’s death.  My obsessions with the leaves and the mobile phones had morphed into an all-consuming fixation with having a baby. Still full of self-hatred about my appearance, I didn’t want to have a baby that took after me, with brown hair and brown eyes. I wanted a blue eyed little boy who looked exactly like Fred.  I knew the baby would have afro hair but I was hoping it would be blonde.

At the psychiatric unit I spoke of nothing but the baby for at least three months, which my therapist said was “a total fantasy.” I went to dozens of ante-natal classes, though I wasn’t actually pregnant. In my carpentry lessons at the unit, I slaved over building a crib, which collapsed when I took it home.  I told them that, although I had experience of laying floors at 2am, daylight diminished my carpentry skills.  My psychiatrist said me having a baby was  “a very bad idea,” as “what would happen to the baby when your obsession moves onto something else – like a pair of sunglasses?”  There were warnings from the psychiatric unit that if I did have a baby social services would be involved.  None of this dented my enthusiasm at all, I had found the man of my dreams (well I have to admit I would previously have thought he was the man of my nightmares as well) and the logical next step was having a baby.  Fred wasn’t so keen, saying he was still a penniless student and that my obsession with the baby was as sensible as my previous fixation with ironing 5,000 leaves at 3am.

In an attempt to re-start my writing career I had decided to write a novel, a tragi-comedy about addiction, with a drug dealing “hero,” inspired by Fred.  The character wasn’t the same as Fred, they had different life stories and backgrounds, but Fred was my literary “muse.”  The female central character would be a journalist based on myself who crashed out of her career because of her cocaine and alcohol addiction.  Her family would have multiple addictions. Preoccupied with the baby fantasy,  I wrote a couple of pages of the novel and put it down. But I started making notes about my shenanigans in rehab the year before, and the crazy residents of “Lunatic Lane.”

Later in the year, my more successful rival, J.K.Rowling, published the fastest selling book of all time. This was the last instalment in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which sold 15 million copies in 24 hours. I had to be content with a fantasy Oscar for a screenplay I hadn’t even written.

I had sold my flat in Maida Vale the year before, thinking I could put the money in the bank and move into my house in Notting Hill, living on the interest.  But financially confused as ever, my calculations as to how much I needed to live on were totally off. So when I had the money in the bank, I found there was no way I could live on that amount.

I was still battling with my aunt in Jamaica to try to get some money from my mother’s estate, despite the draconian provisions of my mother’s will. I was furious with my mother, but, luckily, was able to work through my feelings in my art therapy sessions at the psychiatric unit.  If I hadn’t had those art therapy classes, where I could express my rage, I would almost certainly have relapsed or fallen back into depression.  Depression is, after all, supposed to be anger turned inwards.

Having battled with severe depression since the age of 13, caused by my parents’ abusive behaviour, the depression had suddenly lifted after I left rehab.  This was, I am sure, because strangers such as Ama and Suzanne, the heads of two of my rehabs, were so incredibly kind to me that I felt looked after in a way I had never done in my life. Also I had never had so many mummies in such a short space of time. Although I was still pretty crazy – my phobia of dog shit making me leap like a frog down the street at night to avoid any unlit (dogshit-concealing) patches. But my life was coming together and I was surrounded with love.

My mother had set up a small Trust in the British Virgin islands whose main beneficiary was me. As the money from my mother’s estate in Jamaica was not forthcoming,  I applied to the Trustees in the BVI to lend me the money to buy a house. Fred said he thought I should buy a family house in London as that was the best investment in the long term. He was fascinated by property and his great ambition in life was to buy a house.  We would sit around watching property programmes on the telly which in Fred speak were programmes about “Pro-pa- ee.”  The news at that time was dominated by the disappearance of angelic looking 3 year old Madeleine McCann, which was to become the most heavily reported missing persons case ever to appear in the British press.

I started looking for houses online 20 hours a day, my email inbox clogged up with emails from Findaproperty.com.  All the energy that had gone into the leaves, the mobile phone, the fake designer bags now went into the house. I was even more obsessed with Findaproperty.com than I had been with eBay, this was compulsive shopping on a Titanic scale.  I lost weight, glued to the computer for days at a time, eating a carrot a day. It was better than ecstasy. I barely spoke to Fred, certainly not about anything that didn’t begin with H and end with “ouse.” At least I was more aware this time. When I’d become obsessed with building a house in Notting Hill in 1999 I’d been blithely unaware that it was because my mother’s health was deteriorating.   But this time I was fully aware that the purchase of the house and the baby was a reaction to the hole left by my mother’s death.

At first I was looking in Notting Hill but then, moved further afield visiting various cottages in nearby Queens Park.  Viewing the cottages was a roller coaster as, although idyllic and adorable, there was something drastically wrong with all of them. Thus one was next to a 24/7 brothel  where you could “buy one get one free,”  another had a neighbour whose garden was piled so high with dog shit you would need a diploma in mountaineering to get to the top of it. The final one, where the neighbours were OK, was dark as a subterranean tube tunnel in a power cut.

I started to look in Kensal Rise and Kensal Green slightly further from Notting Hill. The houses were much bigger and lighter and, compared to Notting Hill, very cheap.

Finally I saw a house in Kensal Green that had a unique selling point, a fabulous roof terrace that had been at the house for years. The owner was a florist and the roof terrace was heaving with flowers. As I walked along it, I thought I can do an amazing loft conversion at this house with a door leading onto the roof terrace.  This would be the master bedroom for me and Fred.  I checked out the neighbours, none of whom were running a brothel or a dog shit factory, and began to move forwards slowly with the purchase of the house.  I was struck by an absolute certainty that this was the right house for me.

Fred said the area was a bit dodgy but I brushed aside his concerns. The only problem would be that I couldn’t get back to Notting Hill on public transport so I would need to drive. Once the purchase of the house became dependent on me passing my test, I became obsessed with the test. I made 500 pages of notes and listened to the driving instructor as if the slightest second of inattention would result in instant death.

After studying for 5000 hours, I blitzed the written test and then had to go for my practical. Unlike my first test in Jamaica where I’d shot straight through a red traffic light, almost ploughing into a juggernaut, I was meticulous in following all the rules and passed my test first time. I say first time it was the first time on an automatic car I had failed the test on a manual umpteen times, leading the DVLA to put me on a list of “Top 10 Most (Un)wanted Drivers.”  I was now able to forge forwards with the purchase of the house.

Before I did this I had to check with Fred that he was coming with me as there was no way I was leaving Notting Hill on my own. “Of course I’ll come,” he said hugging me, and the deal was done. I asked God for a sign that buying the house was the right thing to do. And I thought I got a clear one:  after much persuasion, my aunt Beverly transferred the first $US50,000 of my mother’s estate to help me buy my home. It arrived the day before I was due to exchange.

Fred and I celebrated our move with an amazing shag at the Notting Hill Carnival. Not only was the earth (literally) shaking because of the speakers, my lady parts had an ecstatic mini earthquake of their own. Little did I know that I was buying the house just as cracks were starting to show in the global economy as one of the world’s worst ever financial crises was about to begin.

We were full of hope as we moved into the house, which I hadn’t shown to my father in case he had vetoed it.  Everything was set for this new phase in our life, we now had a family house and were going to have a baby… What do they say about God laughing at our plans?

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Next week: Armageddon with the ex-armed robber as we move into a family house to create a perfect nest to have a baby.

 

 

 

 

100 Word Writing Exercise – my life changing recovery from OCD

 

Christmas at Cheddar Gorge Youth Hostel Somerset England in which I have massive steps forward in my recovery from OCD. I overcome my OCD phobia of sharing plates and cutlery with people without the implements being sterilised also overcome my OCD fear of the house burning down not scanning any documents before I went away and didn't check the wardrobes for serial killers another OCD fear

The crumpled paper and tinsel meant the end of a triumphant Christmas in which I’d had several earth shattering steps forwards in my battle with OCD. I have managed to go on holiday with people I barely know and share cutlery and plates with them despite the absence of a Proton Particle Purifier (aka “dishwasher”) to kill the imaginary terminal illnesses they might pass on to me. I’ve been to the doctor 15 times since I’ve been back but have been assured, after a battery of tests, that my broken toenail will re-grow. He did diagnose me with Hypochondria Type B, which I fully suspect is a terminal disease.

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