Some days, everything was okay. The house allowed me to get on with life and outside was less threatening. Sometimes I was suicidal. And sometimes I acted on that.
The one thing that saved me was writing. I started to produce a web-comic – very basic art as I’m not much of an artist – but as a result of that I was offered work helping to set up a graphic novel company. Working from home, I produced, edited and commissioned a number of books, contributing as a writer to some. But my focus changed and I started to write novels and poetry. One of the people I met via publishing also wrote poetry and between us, we put together a contemporary collection that featured poets from around the world. When the book was published, we hit the top of the Amazon books charts, briefly outselling John Cooper Clarke!
This boosted my confidence enormously and, with some trepidation, I managed to leave the house on my own – after many fraught trials. I couldn’t get far on my own before panic set in but I could get to the local coffee shop and supermarket. I began to feel even more confident just by being able to function ‘normally’; doing the things that people do. I met people, formed friendships and even, would you believe, had fun!
I looked to doing something more and made enquiries about doing an MA in Creative Writing. I sent a portfolio and suggested that if I was successful, I wouldn’t want to start until the year after, giving me about fifteen months to prepare myself and get used to the train station and the journey, get familiar with the town. The university was thirty miles away, so this was to be a huge undertaking. They got back to me and gave me a place on the course, but somehow hadn’t understood that I wanted to start in the following academic year and told me I started in three months time. I asked if I could defer and they said they’d prefer it if I started earlier.
Three months later, and after an intense programme of re-learning how to travel on my own, I started the MA. I didn’t miss a single lecture, something I’m enormously proud of, but it wasn’t without its problems. Every lecture drained me, the travel more so, and even though there was only one four-hour session a week, it took longer and longer to recover from the stress of being outside.
When it came to writing up, I got a few months at home again, and although I had begun to feel more comfortable, having tasted outside again I wanted more.
I passed the MA with distinction and was later told by my supervisor that I had received the highest mark of any student since the course began. So, I wondered about doing a PhD.
I pitched a research subject and it was accepted.
But I was still having problems with being outside, and unable to get any more help from counselling.
So I made a plan.