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 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 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.
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”