Category Archives: Uncategorized

I’m heartbroken, I’m angry.

I’m heartbroken.

I’m angry.

Fucking angry.

I am sick and tired of reading about death by suicide. Of self harm.

Because it’s wrong? Because god doesn’t approve? No.

I’m angry because it’s an indicator, an indicator of an individual’s distress. An indicator of the state of mental health both individually and collectively. Of broken hearts.

I’m sick of seeing homeless people on the streets of a supposedly caring and financially stable country, of child poverty in a privileged Western nation.

I’m not a professional in mental health but I have my own experiences and the stories I hear. My own suicidal thoughts and self harm have always been deeply entwined with shame…the internal voices saying I’m not enough, a failure, unlovable. My grandfather took his own life due to the shame of financial difficulties. Shame has driven friends to overdose, shame led me to overdose.

I struggle daily with shame and fear, that I’m not enough, that I’m a failure because if I wasn’t Given To Live would be a bigger ‘success’, I’d be fitter, slimmer. I’d be able to make the calls that terrify me, I’d stop freezing out of fear. We’re asked to succeed to be deemed enough. But what defines success? It seems to be money, achievement, looks.

For someone struggling with mental health success is often getting out of bed, washing, meeting a friend instead of cancelling, eating a good meal, sleeping, compassionate self talk. These aren’t small feats, sometimes it’s all we can do for ourselves. These are among many reasons that GTL works the way it does, works with mental health, works to honour and value the people we take to shows no matter their experience.

We need help collectively. Kindness, compassion, empathy. Why aren’t these part of school curriculums?

I’m heartbroken.

For those who take their lives today, who self harm, for the brutalised part of me that still struggles.

I’m heartbroken I live in an affluent country that loves to tell others how to live their lives but our streets are full of homeless humans, that has an absurd level of child poverty, that has its children taking their own lives.

I think it’s time we took care of our homeless, our children, our mental health, our suffering. Until we do that we really have no right to tell others how to live.



My Commitment, a Gift: a desire to reacquaint and recommit to my own self, my own journey, my descent to soul.

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do –

determined to save

the only life you could save.

The Journey ~ Mary Oliver

After a life filled with traumas, both child abuse and self inflicted I spent years making love with my soul. Dancing into to journey soul with delicious willing, drinking my own tears knowing they were a salvation and realisation, a freedom unlocking gifts, empathy, compassion from a soul hardened and protected from the deep griefs of betrayals to many to count, too old to remember when the first arrived.

And then this journey, this utterly exquisite unraveling started to slip away as life, my head took over once again. Slowly. At first barely noticeable, I have to work, earn a living, drifting away from soulwork. My soulwork. I stopped writing, my connection to Spirit, my place to fall in love…with life, myself, my journey.

Trust slipping as I veered away from a path that, at times, ached with the joy of both beauty and grief. The so important griefs of our heartbreaks, both small and those seemingly there to kill us. I forgot to meet them, instead chasing them away as for five years now or maybe me barely has a tear traced my cheek. Those tears that bring me freedom, breath, peace, quiet. Chased away.

I know how to chase away the grief and betrayal. I learned early, I had to – no one would listen to my tears, let alone say yes! Yes, this is yours, your soul releasing and learning from your grief. No one said that with the tears of grief comes the space for tears to celebrate beauty and joy.

I’ve lost me over the last few years. I’ve also been close to death needing a heart operation, before that I did die, briefly, due to an overdose. Shortly before my heart operation I walked, in a daze of despair and desperation, in front of a truck wanting to die only change my mind at the last moment.

I’ve so, so many wonderful and destructive ways to run from me, my journey, my descent to soul. Necessary as a child, teenager and even into my adult years. Then, I’d shut down totally to survive. Alcohol and narcotics aiding that survival, killing me at the same time. Rehab has let those go. Today, since I started to run again from myself to diversions are no longer alcohol and narcotics but binge watching tv, sugar, excessive coffee, inertia, excessive eating. Fear and shame lock me into patterns, destructive patterns lock me into fear and shame. I’m afraid of my shame, ashamed of my fear. Eat, smoke, distract myself, become small, smaller, die inside. Too dead to cry the tears of my death inside. To afraid to face myself.

Paradoxically I love life. I love my life and what it could be if only I could meet my fears, visit my shadow, the shadow part of my psyche that holds me in this place of inertia. What’s in this shadow? Love, grace, courage? Greed, envy, anger? This is why shadow is shadow, until we visit we don’t know.

I am a bundle of nerves daily, brought on by sugar, nicotine and caffeine. I know these are no longer useful to me. I know how afraid I am to face the need to let these go, afraid because I’m ashamed as I believe I will fail.

To write as a practice, to face my fear and shame of not knowing how to create a better, healthier Given To Live. Ashamed that I won’t pick up a pen, that I don’t exercise, that I’m addicted to avoidance. I’ve lost my voice and courage.

Writing this is my gift to myself on my birthday, my 51st. A gift that is a prayer, a payer to ask myself to remember to comfort of prayer and this too is discipline. A disciple that has given me so much and provided evidence Spirit exists so clearly on a Vision Quest and in Sweat Lodge only a fool so afraid of beauty as I am would dream to ignore this truth.

I simply need to remember, to remember to trust in the truths I’ve learned. That alone I can’t live this life soulfully. That simply I’m afraid and that the last time I was utterly afraid and lost, in a treatment centre for over five years I found to speak with Spirit. This led me to trust and understand I’m not alone. This took me on a journey I would never swap, drenched in tears, breathtaking beauty seen in mountains, bugs, winds and people, both of this world and others.

I need to remember. That this journey is my way, my way home, home to me, to myself. I lost my faith, my trust, my courage.

If the Spirits, my Spirits, are willing to to be generous today, to me, I ask you to remind me that I am worthy of my life. That I can live a life of service and I ask for your support on this journey, to humble myself knowing I’m merely a wretched human and ask for your pity and guidance, your strength and compassion knowing I only have this one precious life.

I Just Want You To Say Hello.

Say hello, that’s all.

Just say hello.

A simple hello. Look me in the eye and say hello.

Please. Please don’t pass me by or cross the street. Your whispers to your friends breaking my heart. The looks of disgust reinforce what I’m starting to believe, that I am no one.

I may be homeless but I’m just like you. Flesh, blood, human. My heart beats and breaks, so does yours.

I may speak to myself or look a little crazy to you.

Do you use that word crazy about me? Do you? They say a homeless person’s mental health starts to go after three days on the streets. Some of us got here because of our mental health issues. So please, next time you think of calling me or my friends crazy, don’t. We’re just calling you Pearl Jam fans. You’re people who’re going to a concert.

I’m a person who lives in a shelter or on the street or in my car or a disused building. Even so, I’m a person even if you might forget that sometimes.

Please say hello. Even ask me my name, I do have one you know. It’s not the drunk, the bum, that fucking tramp, get a job you lazy prick. I have a name.

Just like you.

Some of us drink, use drugs, that’s why some of us got here, others use it to get through the day.

Most of us would love a job, some of us are too beat up we can’t. But with care, compassion and patience we may be able to work again. My buddy up the street knows all about tech stuff, I don’t I’m older but I used to love working with cars. The lady over there, she was a waitress but the place closed down and she couldn’t find another job, then the bills, the rent…anyway, you know the story. Or do you? Or are we all just bums? Did you ever stop and talk to one of us and find out how we got here? You know a lot of us were abused? You knew that.

A day of shame, hopelessness, hunger, grief. A day spent looking down, a day spent waiting for it to end, to turn into night to hopefully sleep. A night of rest, maybe somewhere dry and safe. Sometimes we get pissed on by drunk people but that’s ok, they’re on a night out so getting drunk is acceptable and who cares, I’m just a bum and it was only for laughs.

I might make it through the night. If I do I might find some food or somewhere to wash. I forget I don’t wash because when I remember the shame is so great I want to die. I don’t want to stink. None of us do. The guy who lost his good job and couldn’t pay the mortgage, then his wife left and he slept in his car thinking there’d be another job but there wasn’t. The lady whose husband beat her and no one did anything and she ran away to nowhere because it was better than beatings. She wants to wash. To sleep in a bed. The booze gets her through the pain, the terror. She hasn’t started working the streets. Some do. They all hate it. We’d all love a wash. Oh to soak in a hot bath then sleep in a bed with fresh sheets. I remember that. It’s been a while though.

Just say hello. Please. Find out my name. Take ten minutes before you see your band, stand in line for a tshirt.

Go to your show. Have a great time. These shows might change our lives, that band you love are doing so much. But I still need to be seen, it won’t happen overnight. See me as human. My heart beats like yours, breaks like yours.

I have a name.

Do you have the time to find it out, to treat me as a person before you go to your rock n roll show? Before winter comes and some of us die from the cold.

My friend used to go and see your band before he had the breakdown that lost him his home. He tells me he couldn’t get out of bed for weeks and lost his job, depression really hits some people hard. He says sometimes a crowd at a Pearl Jam concert all scream hello. We laugh and say imagine if just one said hello today, just one stopped and didn’t walk on by.

Can you be that one? Please?

I do have a name.








I’m Tired

I’m Tired.

I’m tired. So fucking tired.

I’m tired of reading about another death by suicide. Knowing that for each one I read there are hundreds I don’t read about, knowing that so many people are suffering.

Tired that mental health is massively underfunded in this country yet we can spend billions on bombs.

I’m heartbroken that we’re taught to say nothing when we’re hurting by a society that prizes false positivity. A society that, on the whole, would rather we ignore or bury our wounds than listen to them.

As a young man the only thing that would stop the fantasies of killing myself were drink and drugs. I couldn’t tell anyone, I got fired from a job because my performance dropped. It dropped because it’s hard to do paperwork properly when I’m wishing I had a gun to shoot myself with. I couldn’t tell anyone I lived with so I suffered in silence. Then I drank and used to quiet the torturous scenes playing in my head. And this was a pattern. Use something, anything to stop the visions.

I’m tired of meeting people who have asked for help but are put on waiting lists. Tired that a broken heart isn’t taken as seriously as a broken finger because it can’t be seen.

There are many reasons Given To Live exists. One is to tell the hurting they matter. Because so often that’s what we need most, to feel like we matter. But when we lose our voice and don’t speak our suffering we likely won’t feel like we matter. We have to feel safe, have to know the listener won’t dismiss our story. Our broken hearts brake that little bit more when we hear…oh, that’s not so bad…I had it worse…count your blessings, there’s others worse off…put your big boy/girl pants on…the list of platitudes is endless. And they each hurt.

There is more mental health awareness than before. And there needs more. Much, much more.




Not Everyone Is Dreaming Of A White Christmas.

(This was written in December, with the snow and freezing conditions in the UK today this still holds true. And does every day.)

I’m on my way to meet two young people to let them know Given To Live is taking them to a show. This is what GTL does, tries through live music to make someone’s world a better place.

It’s a two train journey, over three hours travel each way. And it’s cold. I’m cold. Waiting on platforms I overhear people saying…my god it’s cold…its sooo cold…it’s freezing.

It really is freezing. And the countryside looks fantastic out of the train window, cloaked in white. And while I nip out to buy a warming coffee in between trains I see a young man sat motionless wrapped in a sleeping bag.

And I remember when I was homeless. It was summer, a warm summer and it still was chilly at night. It’s not like going camping when you’re looking for a safe doorway or car park. A safe space where no one will abuse you, attack you, piss on you because it’s a laugh on a night out.

Homelessness isn’t all drink and drugs. And even if it was wouldn’t you want something to take away the desolation? Some say it’s a choice…can you imagine how terrible a life must be to make that choice?

I’m going to be cold again when I get off this train. Then I’ll be picked and into the warmth of a car and taken to the college where the two young people are. I’m looking forward to writing the story, which I’ll do in the warmth. I won’t be afraid, humiliated, desperate for a place in a shelter that won’t have room for everyone who needs it.

This post won’t stop homelessness, won’t stop those who will freeze to death from dying. But maybe you can buy a sandwich or a hot drink.

Just as importantly you can look a homeless person in the eye and say hello, trust me it really makes a difference being treated as human. Maybe you’ve a spare jumper, coat, sleeping bag you could give away or donate to a shelter.

Not everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas.

Sea Lions

Sea Lions.

The sea lions barked and shouted.

Played, pushed, lay peacefully and sniffed the air deeply.

The sea lions fought for position, to be the boss.

Fought to impress a lioness.

They shouted with full bellies, not worrying about the two legged watchers taking in the scene of nature at play.

Watchers who daily poison the sea lions world, daily dump toxic loads, daily lay murderous traps of discarded plastic.

Finished with barking, strutting, playing, sniffing and loving the sea lions slept.

Slept in front of the watching humans.

Arrogantly intelligent humans that aren’t smart enough not to destroy the world they live in.

I have wished for so long, how I wish for you today.

Dad died a couple of weeks ago and was cremated on Tuesday. 
He was my hero until my journey into rehab and therapy opened my eyes. Opened my eyes to seeing that things that I shrugged my shoulders at because they’d simply been part of my life became real. Then therapy asked me to grow up, to mature and I accepted the question and became conscious. Not fully or perfect but awake. And this in turn created a chasm between me and my dad; and my family what little there is. 
What I’ve realised this last few days is there is nothing in a relationship if it’s just a script. I loved my dad, I loved how our sense of humours were perfectly in sync. But the conversation never went past him. Never went past sport and gambling, past his stories about him and pretty much everyone had him as amazing. 

He did do some truly awful things to me, both as an adult as well as a child. But as this week has passed and I’ve wondered, felt, mused upon things I realise the biggest heartbreak is I never knew him. I knew Tom Pugh (both Toms but not named after him) but not Tom. I knew dad but not a father. His masks were so fierce no one got in. Sure, some sentimental tears about my mum and grandfather but that was it. 

Tom Pugh died the day he fell, drunk, and broke bones in his back in the summer of ’14. He was no longer able to play tennis, no longer able to be the sports star with his stories (he played cricket for Gloucestershire, won God knows how many racquets tournaments), no longer able to be the mask he’d worn for so long. And he had no idea how to be Tom, to be human. 

I went to see him a lot early last year. In the end come May I didn’t bother and never spoke to him again. I knew he was going to die, knew I wanted him to. For me and for him. All last month I kept wanting to call but I couldn’t, I didn’t because I knew it would be just the same and my heart would break a little more. Although it’s only now I realised my heart was breaking each time we spoke. I’d get angry, frustrated, sometimes I’d hurt. But it was so usual my reaction was the same pretty much every time. 

I wondered why did I go and see dad so often last year? The answer is I wanted to be able to love him and him love me. And he couldn’t allow either though in his own way he tried by leaving a note a couple of times. In the end we had one fight too many and I gave up. Maybe I shouldn’t have, maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I hadn’t he’d have written a note that said I love, the actual words. He never said that. 

I wish I knew then that was what I was doing. I’d have simply told him I’m there because I want to love him before he dies. But I didn’t know consciously. And I’d walk in alone. No support or understanding from my very estranged brother and sister, no wife or partner to say take a breath or coax the tears at the end of the day. I didn’t really do very well but I tried. I’ve a long way to go. 

I went to see him on Monday in the funeral home or whatever it was. I’m glad. I could be honest and vulnerable without him answering back and, to use one of his expressions, smashing me to smithereens which is what he did. I told him I loved him, which I’d forgotten in all the hurt, and I wished he’d once said he loved me or he’s proud of me. And he should have been proud. Yes, I did some really shitty stuff in my life when I was using and drinking. But without any help from my family I got myself back. Back after being homeless, many overdoses, suicidal, depression, back to living. But he never wanted to know, always changed the subject if I tried to bring it up. 

And it’s so confusing because I only have his script, his masks to miss and I got so tired of those so long ago. Then I miss what could have been, what should have been and it’s hurts so much, so very much. 

I loved him, I just wish I could’ve found him. Even once.

The Man Of The Hour Has Taken His Final Bow. 

Dear Dad, 
You died on Monday. Thoughts arrive in waves, usually crashing with grief. Not a grief of what I’ve lost but rather of what I never had. I had a dad but never a father. And I needed a father more than anything.
You never once told me you loved me. Not once, not ever. Yet you happily told me a number of times how you wish you’d hit me harder as a child. So I’d learn my lesson which is in fact your speak for you wish you’d beaten me into submission so I’d never challenge you or stand up to you. I remember the first time you told me that you wished you’d hit me harder. I felt sick. So sick I had to stop myself from throwing up while on the phone to you. 
You’d fail to see the irony of the fact you hated that as a six year old I fought you not to get beaten as you’re telling me to take it like a man, yet you praised me for being gutsy on a sports field. I guess guts only matter as long as it suits you. 
I have no idea who I’ve lost here with you dying. Certainly not a friend or a father. A dad I guess. 
I hated your racism, sexism, misogyny. It’s what I was brought up with. You passed it onto me and I’ve done so much to try and heal this. And I’ve had to learn to apologise and accept I’m wrong because you certainly never showed me how to. You never said I’m sorry. Not once. Or admitted a mistake. I thought this was how to be, how a ‘man’ was. But you’re wrong. An apology is something beautiful. Yes, to apologise we choose to make ourselves vulnerable, yes this can be hard but it shows the other that we truly value them. 
How I’d have embraced an apology or admitting you’re wrong. Even once. 
You know, it wasn’t ok you owned a brothel. No! Whatever you say it’s not ok. Nor was taking me there as a child. 
It wasn’t ok to ask me to give an affidavit against my mum when you wanted to get custody of my brother. You had no right to ask but at 17 and a clueless dutiful son I said yes. And broke mum’s heart. A heart that was already breaking enough. You don’t ask a child to betray their mother like that. But you didn’t care as long as you got what you wanted. I think of this often and how much I hurt mum and I know she never forgave me. I’ve done some shitty things in my life but that’s the worst. And you asked me to, forced me to. 
I tried hard to love you. Tried even harder to be loved by you. I wanted that so much. To feel like you actually cared about me. But I never felt that once I started to grow up and mature. Once I realised the only thing you ever talked about was sport or gambling and that there was never a chance of intimacy, of adult conversation. I tried. Oh I tried, and each attempt brought an attack whatever the subject. Shaming me for being sensitive, for having claptrap philosophies. Anything you didn’t understand you attacked mercilessly. 
So who the fuck have I lost? I really don’t know. I lost you years ago once I started being myself, not who you wanted me to be. It would have been amazing to sit down over dinner and be allowed to tell you who I am, for you to be interested. To tell you of mistakes I’ve made, fears I have and have you, my father, support me, love me. For you to have taught me it’s ok to be vulnerable. But dinner would be an endless procession of stories with you front and centre until you decided going out wasn’t an option and dinner would be watching something for you to gamble on so loud talk wasn’t possible or you’d sssh me like a little child. So I’m lost. Totally lost. Someone who was never there can’t be gone. 
Yes we’d laugh. A lot, deeply knowing our sense of humour. But that’s not enough when it’s always the same and all there is. If only there’d been more. Intimacy, honesty, a father. I’m angry, really fucking angry and so confused because I lost you years ago. Lost unless I was exactly who and how you wanted me to be. Like when you offered me a great 21st birthday present…on the condition I split up with my girlfriend you didn’t approve of.
My head says I should be in bits crying but I’ve done that for years. I’ve missed you for years. I reached out to you for years and would be smacked back. 
What do I do with the man who admits he used my uncle’s funeral to punish me? Refused to allow me to read yet my brother and sister read when my uncle was also my godfather? You told me not to come to the funeral, which I did, so you could tell everyone how bad I was for not coming. The man who destroyed my relationship with my sister so you weren’t challenged by her about hitting our mums and in the process crushed her as well? Who the fuck wants to destroy their daughter? Their son? 
I don’t know what to do or how to feel except angry. And I know there’s deep sadness, I’ve felt it, carried it for years. 
Dad, maybe you can be a father and come to me in a dream and help me find a way to you. 

Two sets of lyrics come to me and trigger the sadness…
Oh dear dad…
I’ll ride the wave

Where it takes me

I’ll hold the pain

Release me
And – 
Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness

Crashed and on their way

Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away

A snowflake falls in may.

And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out

Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow

Goodbye for now.
Boy did you like a fight. Wow. And didn’t much care who you hurt. Just so long as you won. Christ, you’d even tell stories proudly of who you’d crushed. Makes me feel a little ill. 
So, you tried to destroy me, crush me to your will. It didn’t work. 
I’ll see you at the funeral.