The Art of Self-Destruction

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Mental Health | Posted on 17-09-2011

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In which Dan questions whether he’s a sociopath.

I lost one of my best friends the other day.

She didn’t die, although based on the way I’ve reacted to her being cut so wholly and abruptly from my life, it feels as if she has. I lost her because I told the truth, and in so doing betrayed a secret she had entrusted me with. I firmly believed — and for the most part still believe — that I did what I did to help her. That it was my duty as a friend to do it.

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Penknives & Poetry

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Mental Health, Writing | Posted on 27-01-2011

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Penknives & Poetry

“It must be exhausting having your mind.”

– The only person to ever describe me accurately.

Elliott Smith – King’s Crossing
(essential listening while reading this)

When Elliott Smith’s girlfriend found him standing in their house with a kitchen knife in his chest, making no attempt to save himself and leaving no explanation but a Post-It note begging God’s forgiveness, people were quick to accuse her of murder.  They’d had an argument, she’d left the room, he’d committed hara-kiri – this didn’t seem a plausible or rational explanation for plunging a knife into your chest.  Twice.  A record producer ‘confirmed’ these suspicions by saying that Smith had contacted him only a week before, asking him to mix his new album.  It seemed illogical (nay, unbelievable) that someone who was making plans – who had aspirations, intentions and good reason to live – could have committed suicide.

This is how most people see sadness: they rationalise it, and in so doing show that they are undeniably strangers to it.  They look at taking your life as if it were some pencilled-in event up on the wall alongside the next PTA meeting – a fate reserved solely for bankrupt, divorced drug-addicts.  They can’t fathom the idea that at any given moment a person with a perfectly happy life would just drop everything to close their eyes forever.  They look always for meaning and never at feeling; never accepting that maybe the deceased acted on impulse, or were just tired.  They think about what these people were feeling, but don’t feel it.  I mean, sure: they know heartbreak, grievance, disappointment and loss – everyone does – but the people who ask these questions haven’t danced with depression; haven’t been consumed and scarred by it and emerged the other end – heart pounding and eyes wider than they’ve ever been.  Aren’t even familiar with the concept.  Most aren’t.  Most don’t know what it’s like to be in control of your life one minute, coping as best you can through whatever means necessary (cigarettes, words, people, pills) and then, often for no more reason than a stray comment, thought or fleeting feeling, feel the emotional balance inside yourself tip; the axis of your mind upturn, and suddenly find yourself staring into nothing but your own insanity.  To know what it’s like to have two, warring sides to your mind and to finally give in to the wrong one.  You’d have to be insane to understand it.

*

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Confessions of a Proofreader

Posted by Dan | Posted in Mental Health, Pedantry, Rants, Writing | Posted on 31-10-2010

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The manager squinted in my direction.

“So… what exactly is the problem, sir?”

“The apostrophe button,” I repeated, more firmly this time.

“It’s broken?” he enquired.

“It isn’t there.”

He stared intently at the telephone, a baffled expression crawling across his face.  After a few moments of careful scrutiny his eyes returned to me, nervously.

“Just to confirm, sir, when you say apostrophe you mean…?”

I sighed a little and raised my hand.

“The little flying comma thing,” I elaborated, tracing its outline in the air with my index finger. The manager relaxed a little, foolishly thinking we were now on the same wavelength.

“Ohh, you don’t need to worry about those anymore; this is the new model.  Much easier to use. Just click on ‘symbols’ and it brings up a list of all the different faces…”

He’d lost me completely.

“Faces?”

“Yeah, you know… ‘emoticons’.”

As he said the last word, his thumb and outer fingers balled up while the remaining digits formed those cringe-worthy animated quotation marks, and I wondered if my earlier display had made him think all punctuation had to be acted out for greater emphasis.

He held the phone up to demonstrate. The screen contained a disjointed amalgam of brackets, commas and hyphens which – if you craned your head in the right direction and closed at least one eye – faintly resembled a set of faces.

“So you see,” he continued confidently, “there’s nothing wrong with it; they’ve just phased out the apostrophe key because the faces now come pre-assembled. You can have animated faces, audio and picture messaging–”

“Do you mean to tell me that the only way to type an apostrophe on this phone is to insert a smiley face and then delete its mouth and eyes?”

“Well,” answered the man, puzzled as to why I was so insistent about this matter, “or nose and mouth. Depends if he’s winking.”

There was a long silence.

“I’m afraid I need a phone that will let me use apostrophes for more than drawing smiley faces.”

“But…”

I gritted my teeth and dreaded the words I somehow knew were coming.

“…why else would you need one?”

*

So this is me: emissary of the downtrodden apostrophe; Grammar Nazi; pedantic prick. I’m that guy who holds you up in the queue because he feels the need to tell the checkout girl that, technically, the sign on the express lane should read ‘Ten items or fewer’. The precocious little sod who berates you for saying ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’ or who just can’t keep it to himself when he spots a lowercase ‘i’ or a hyphen where there should clearly be a dash. My ideal job would involve travelling across continents with a red marker pen, thwarting linguistic injustice wherever it lurks, be it billboard or subtitle. I place linguistic ability above every other quality I look for in my companions, and could not even consider dating a girl who doesn’t read or can’t spell properly. And while it may seem so, it is never a masochistic decision to become hated by those around me; it’s a compulsion that has gripped me since the day I learnt to read, and has shown no sign of relinquishing its grasp ever since.

Let me tell you how it started.

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