Chapter Four - Finland 2008
Almost as soon as I arrived, it became apparent my ex had only invited me back so she could rake furiously through our past. Unsurprisingly, her love had turned into hatred and loathing. Once, she baked a blue cheese pie and announced that I wouldn’t be getting any. A grim comedy arose when my children tried to sneak some to me.
I hoped my ex would read PAM because I hadn’t told her much about the disturbances in my childhood and youth, but she only flicked through it disinterestedly, so I thought I should explain verbally instead. I began by describing how much violence there was in my early life; how frequently I was beaten, both at home and at school. My ex said – “you probably deserved them all!” – so I refrained from elaborating.
I was reluctant to go out because I was afraid my infamy may have followed me to Finland, so I became trapped within the toxic atmosphere of my ex-wife’s flat. As time passed by, in a deeply humiliating manner, I began to feel so wretched that thoughts of suicide returned to haunt me. I tried to hang myself in the bathroom where my daughter had died, but I couldn’t go through with it then either.
Although I had described my infamy to my ex, I didn’t make too much of a deal about it because I thought it would destroy all chances of reconciliation. I even agreed with her when she suggested I was being paranoid, and reassured her that feeling uncomfortable leaving the house would pass in time. I told my ex what had happened in Britain, when mum had called a doctor, and begged her not to do the same.
One afternoon, while I was having a nap, and dreaming I was sitting in an armchair, my youngest daughter ran across the room and jumped into my lap. She looked really happy and said – “hello dad!”
I was overjoyed to see her and said – “hello!” – and then, rather bluntly, yet with great elation and relief – “I thought you were dead!”
Just as she was busy explaining that she wasn’t, I was woken by my ex-wife, who said – “Martin, there’s someone here to see you.”
After I had described my situation to the doctor, she said – “sounds like you need a holiday!” – and left. My ex looked somewhat disappointed, and I; greatly relieved, I suppose.
I uploaded PAM onto Lulu.com and a now defunct writer’s site called Authonomy, using my ex’s computer. I was coy about my identity, and had the user name of ‘Anonymity’. I realised it wouldn’t be long before my identity would be revealed though, despite the nom de plume and omitting as many details from the book as I was able, such as the names of people and places. Although those who read PAM seemed to like it, I began to understand it may not have the power to change the world, so a deep sense of uncertainty began to envelop my lofty ambition.
After some weeks had passed, my ex asked me to leave, but I didn’t know where to go. I had gone off the idea of becoming a farm worker in Hungary. A kind hearted person on Authonomy said I could live in his apartment in the south of England until I found a place of my own, but I didn’t want to go back to Britain either. Feeling as though I had exhausted all of my options, I thought I would book myself into an asylum. When I considered the last sentence of PAM, which I wrote with a considerable degree of seriousness, I wondered whether I was fulfilling an unavoidable destiny, or had written my own fate, and whether I would always have a choice in the matter when I considered my first commitment to an asylum.
I had never taken medication, and had always felt reluctant to do so, but I had pretty much given up on life, so I decided to take whatever the doctors suggested. I was prescribed an antidepressant named Ketipinor, sleeping pills called Tenox, and a sedative and beta blockers, the names of which escape me. The antidepressants knocked me clean out. And when combined with the other meds, I experienced the most vivid dreams I had ever known. In one, I sailed upon a boat with my Brother, on a wide river flowing through a multi-coloured landscape of unrecognisable colours. We were talking openly, while eating mangoes and other sweet fruits that healed our spirits.
I was in the asylum through my own free will, and wished to keep it that way, so I behaved quite normally, which was something I was well practiced at, regardless of my actual frame of mind, and helped considerably by the effects of the medication, which left me in a pleasant, zombie-like state of consciousness, once the initial knock-out effect had worn off. I didn’t feel happy or sad; just an unusual and novel sense of balance and calm. I was quite delighted when I was told I could take them indefinitely, and decided I would take them for the rest of my life.
After five weeks in the asylum, a doctor told me I had to leave. A social worker found me a room in The Salvation Army Hostel for Men, where I lived for five months before being offered a flat on the outskirts of Helsinki.
Although I could describe the many people I met in the Salvation Army hostel, I’m not sure they would wish me to. So, all I will say is I remember them to this day. The laughs, the sorrow, and the sense of camaraderie we shared, and hope they remember me with fondness too.
I stopped taking medication while living in the Salvation Army, because I started to feel decidedly odd. My children noticed my character had changed too, and said they didn’t like it. In fact; they said they were scared, because I wasn’t the person they had grown to know. So, I began smoking weed again, and found I preferred my old method of dulling the sorrows and absurdities of life, despite experiencing some of the side effects, occasionally.
I didn’t see my children so often while I lived in the Salvation Army. I had hardly seen them in well over a year, and sensed we were drifting apart.