Tag Archive | illness

Life: The Masquerade Ball

Since August 3rd I have been on a Contiki group holiday travelling from Los Angeles to New York.  At the beginning of this article, I am in a hotel abutting the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida.  For most people, this state of events is ideal and has the potential for wonderful times and indescribable adventures.  Sadly, as you will all have picked up by now, I am not most people.  Neither my brain nor my heart will permit me to compute the idea of a month of such glee or merriment.  I simply cannot stress enough just how frustrating it is to me that I so desire to join in the fun and have a great time with the new friends Pippa has made (for reason I address myself in 3rd person here, see..) and yet, there never comes a time when control of the requisite organs to appreciate my situation rests in my hands.  My illnesses are constantly usurping my power and forcing me to conceal the true madness behind the mask (yes, I am a Phantom of the Opera fan!).

The Pippa I was before I became medicated and up-to-a-point subdued and diluted would have been standoffish and shy to a fault, but eventually she would have found her feet and met her lobster (Friends has been playing on the coach!).  Sadly, the Pippa who survived assault and constant mental, emotional and physical abuse with scant comfort to punctuate the suffering, attempts to fit in and finds her lobster but buckles under the strain of being so constantly watched and masked in front of strangers.  That is what has happened in the midpoint of this wonderful trip that has been eagerly anticipated for years.

Precisely halfway through my sojourn abroad my mood took a nosedive.  My sleeping hasn’t been too bad, which can sometimes lead to depression, yet just before a wild night in NOLA (New Orleans), most of which I do not recall, I felt as though I had no reason to live.  I had just seen the most beautiful natural sight I’m sure I’ll ever see: the sunset over the bayou in Louisiana from an airboat floating on calm waters.  I’ve included one of the pictures I captured of the moment that nearly brought me to tears but though it is a cliché thing to say, you really did have to be there sitting at the front of the boat with spray hitting you and showing you just how alive you are at that moment in time.  I felt free and alone in a crowd.  It was perfection.  There was no pressure, there was no suffering, there was no thinking or living.  There was just being.  I thought it God’s gift.  Sadly, as I have previously said, the greater the gift from God, the harsher and greater the payment owed to the Devil.  The Devil took his payment in full not three hours later (even Faustus had more time to settle his debts!) when I determined to drink my way down the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  It has been said that I was “drinking like I didn’t want to live” and I am forced to agree with my travelling companions.  I did not want to live.  Life will never be as perfect or easy to deal with as it was on that boat in the middle of the swamp seeing a spectacular sunset, and somewhere, subconsciously, my broken brain told my broken heart that both should go down after a high like that and then my entire system was in agreement that Bourbon Street would be a location where I tried to die happy rather than England where I have attempted to die miserable many times.

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Louisiana Sunset

I remember the entirety of Bourbon Street, including the bulimic attack I had during a helping of gumbo.  I even remember being cogent enough to request the Uber to take me and my two friends back to our hotel.  The last thing I remember is getting into bed at probably about 2am, but after that, I have no clue what befell me or my roommate, though I am told I was a very abrasive drunk.

Drinking like I didn't want to live...

Drinking like I didn’t want to live…

Since then, I don’t know if I am almost disappointed that I am not dead or if I am just reacting to the poor opinion of me that the other passengers now have, but my mood has refused to be improved.  Despite my proverbial inhalation of my SSRIs and antidepressants, my bulimic attacks have not slowed up or gone away and I cannot get into the spirit of the trip as well as I was before I grew tired of wearing the mask that showed the rest of the world the portrait of a sane person, while beneath there resides a broken, bat-shit crazy bitch.

When I am back home, I wear a mask to a certain extent with people I do not trust or have only just met, but when you are spending a month in the company of the same people and without resorting to Facebook and Instagram stalking – something I refuse to do with my time – you have no idea who they really are as much as they cannot tell who you are.  When it’s a fortnight or less, it’s not so bad because I can keep it together (more or less…) for that duration of time, but I’ve never had to maintain a constant mask for over four weeks and to paraphrase the great Tennessee Williams, I’ve never had to depend on the kindness of strangers for so long.  It’s exhausting and it made me think about how often I don the mask and thereafter how long I wear it in the company of others.

I have since made up my mind and decided that none may know me as long as I live, save my children and the only love of my life.  They are the only ones with whom I feel – or will feel – safe.  As such, I wear a mask to all others to protect myself from being further broken and rendered unable to show my face to those who have to see it, who deserve to see it, who must see it.

Anyway, I’ll leave you all with that thought as I sit watching my roommate get ready to go to a club in Miami Beach that according to a club promoter I am too ugly, too big and not sufficiently “Miami” enough (yes, I am using Miami as an adjective that’s how low my self-esteem is currently, that without the mask I’m still too warped physically for the world that the Grammar Nazi in me has checked out for the night!).

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

20-08-2015

In Memoriam

On Saturday March 21st, 2015 I had the great honour of giving a tribute at my late Latin and Ancient Greek teacher’s memorial service.  He was an octogenarian when he retired and, indeed when he taught me for my GCSE and A Level exams.  Though he was a private man who mostly kept himself to himself and his humour in check (before pupils, at least it seems!), Mr David Horton was a genteel and amiable soul to write about and to recall in front of – I believe – a hundred or so ex-pupils, former colleagues and old schoolmates.  Two others preceded my brief eulogy, including one of Mr Horton’s first Classics students whereas I was his last proper Classics pupil at Chigwell School.  Mine was the shortest reflecting the time in which I knew the man himself but I am led to believe it had a measure eloquence and wit about it…a tall order considering that only a few hours before I was throwing up and passing out in a bathroom, bruising my arm on a cleaning bucket in the process!

I find social speaking and public speaking nigh-on impossible now, but to speak for such a man, a teacher I hold up as the best example of what I should aim to be, was a privilege had I passed it up, the nightmares truly would have never stopped.  For those of you who deem that last statement hyperbolic, even if you did not know the person intimately, when you feel the loss of a hero or admired figure whom you know you will spend the rest of your life emulating and trying to replicate in the hope of being just as good but knowing full well that you’ll be lucky to be a third as good, your mind does seep through the cracks into the darkness percolating below.

So, I can truly say I will miss Mr Christopher David Horton and I will forever treasure the gift of learning and knowledge he gave me during the final years of his long lifetime.

And now…I have recorded below a 98% accurate transcript of my speech, should you be curious, should you be needing it someday.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Now, I have many memories of one of the greatest inspirations to me, David Horton, all of which come from my Ancient Greek GCSE lessons where it was just him and me in a room in Radley’s Yard during lunchtimes, or band rehearsals and concerts where he would play the trombone, or even A level lessons where he taught a class of three pupils about Tacitus and the uses of the gerundive – a tough task, which I can now fully appreciate as a Classics-Teacher-to-Be – and finally, the chapel services where he played the organ.

Before I launch into an encomium, I would like to just share one anecdote with you all that in my view sums up the man that was David Horton.  Let me take you back to my GCSE year when Mr Horton was around eighty and I was the only student of Ancient Greek.  He used to teach me unseens and prose composition, two of the things I found most difficult and therefore made for difficult lesson time.  Now, back when I was a less PC and tactful person, I just had to tell Mr Lord that I didn’t want to have Mr Horton as a teacher anymore.  When he was shocked to hear this, he asked me why I didn’t want a teacher willing to devote his lunch hour to teaching me, my answer was that during that hour, only the two of us were in Radley’s Yard.  This worried me because I was scared that if Mr Horton had a heart attack I’d be the only one there with no idea how to help.  This did make Mr Lord laugh but he informed me that Mr Horton was still driving and teaching so he would be around long after I took my GCSE’s.  What I was not expecting was that this exchange reached the ears of my Greek teacher and all he could do was laugh and in the next lesson told me to pay more attention to my genitive absolutes instead of his health.  A classicist’s humour but a good sense of humour nonetheless…

I could relate the intricacies of the lessons, and how I’m pretty sure that Mr Horton knew every word in the Ancient Greek and Latin lexica, but that would be a poor tribute for the man who had higher value than the syllabus allowed.  For, it’s not the learned Tacitus or the grasped past participle which is what I remember from Mr Horton’s time as my teacher.  The inspiration and fond memory came from the incredible life he lived, spending as much of it – as I believe is almost humanly possible – in Chigwell School both as a pupil and subsequently as a Classics master.

I asked Mr Horton once if he had a favourite student and – not entirely to my surprise – he replied that it is the current Head of Classics, Mr Chris Lord, who was his pupil when he too was at Chigwell.  As both attended the same college at Oxford and then returned to this unique school to teach Classics, I cannot help but see Mr Horton as the beginning of the pathway that is guiding me through my life and that is the greatest gift any teacher or anyone for that matter, can give a fellow human being or student.  Thanks to the role Mr Horton played in my life, showing me that teaching can be both a career, a vocation and a lifestyle choice, I am now on track to be a Classics teacher.  I will conclude by saying that Mr Horton was a substantial part of the Classics teaching staff at this school and because of his example, his life’s work for Chigwell School, I am finding and making a way to one day carry on the tradition he began here and do it the justice he deserves as a superlative teacher and it is an honour to speak about him to all the people who came today to remember him, which is more of a testament to his memory than my words could ever give.

Finally, I will offer some words by Cicero, seeing as this is a memorial service for a Latin teacher: vita mortuorum in memoria est posita vivorum.  That is: the life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living.

Thank you.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

24-03-2015