Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

Market Town : Tilney1 : Isolation

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“My sleep pattern got fucked up after I was sectioned and put in hospital. I just can’t switch my mind off and the loneliness gets to me.”

Tilney1′s days, a reflection of the selected memories that play with constant repetition within his mind are day upon day the same. He wakes alone from a night spent alone after another day of solitude.

Visits from support workers in recent months have tapered off and his C.P.N (Community Psychiatric Nurse) is only scheduled to visit once every two weeks. The corrosive qualities of isolation are powerful for Tilney1 who’s mind is ever alight with ideas, thoughts, dreams, recollections, art and desires with no one to ever share them with.

There’s nothing to do in Market Town. Primarily it’s filled with pubs, charity shops, hairdressers and bookies. The drop in mental health group arts group where I first documented him in 2009 has been closed for years, no other opportunities have taken it’s place and the few people he’d managed to communicate with, share a bond with over the last few months have moved away so the bulk of Tilney1′s week is spent alone.

The constant presence of his memories, the intense illusions, auditory or other hallucinations and delusion-like ideas makes meeting and taking that first tentative step in speaking with new people or initiating new relationships incredibly hard to the point of being impossible. The legion of Tilney1′s symptoms often command his dialogue resulting in his only being able to communicate these select moments and connections. People can’t see past this, they can’t see him or have any desire to look beyond this wall of obsessions and union of random events to discover the very real person behind it.

Over time he’s become a face in Market Town but one to many people often inseparable from his illness. He’s taunted, a sly version of barely veiled bullying “They call me Scrambled egg weirdo, froot loop… like I’m mad and some people go on and on about being a scrounger. Being called these things, especially when you have a very sensitive mind can hurt, it really hurts. It hasn’t happened for a while now but I’ll never forget when these things were said to me”

Isolation has the effect of turning the volume up on his symptoms, especially the Quasi psychotic episodes and is their perfect breeding ground. Isolation is a weather front swollen with the rains of depression. Tilney1′s fear, paranoia, delusions and desperation become trapped in this perfect storm resulting most often in his telephoning the crisis helpline of the city mental hospital for someone, anyone to talk with though this is always tempered by the fear and terror of potential hospitalization.

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In bed, 4pm listening to the football smoking.

“I just lay in bed, smoke and listen to the radio and try to fall asleep. I had the radio on all yesterday and last night trying to fall asleep. When I am on my own I just can’t sit in the front room and listen so I just get in my bed.”

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‘I am a despair comedian’ : Tilney1 2012

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Tilney1 visibly shaken as he recounts the third Police stop and search conducted the night before.

Numerous times when Tilney1 can’t sleep he will take a walk alone. Sometimes laps alone around Market Town, sometimes to the 24 hour garage for cigarettes or a lighter. Often these walks will be very early in the morning between 1am and 4am. He will walk till he becomes exhausted and then return to his apartment and try again to find sleep.

Pacing the streets he has on occasion been stopped, searched and questioned by the local Police. These questionings have a profound effect and the repercussions of a third successive stop/search by the Police were evident. Tilney1 was shaken and scared.

“How can I explain reading all the books that I have to the Police? They just stop you and search you for drugs and treat me like some sort of vagrant. I’ve been stopped three times now. The first time I was just sat on the bench in the churchyard and the asked me what I was doing out at that time of night and was I known by the Police, the next time they searched me and gave me a form about drugs.”

“This time they stopped me, searched me again. It just gives me paranoia, paranoia about the Police as I’m just a nice sensitive person you know and I have absolutely no reason to be in any trouble with the Police and if I was ever it would totally be through injustice.”

It became clear that his own loathing of being medicated made these stop/searches for illicit drugs ever more poignant and distressing to him. His being medicated in an attempt to control his symptoms has always been a problem, the notion of having medicinal drugs within his system as permanent signifier of the failure of his own mental health, a reminder that his illness beats him, his fear of needles and injections. To then be repeatedly stopped and questioned by the Police about narcotics serve only to amplify his feelings of self despair and lack of self worth ever further.

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Trying to watch DVD’s in an attempt to quiet the memory loops.

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The moving images and complex stories of one of Tilney1′s oldest passions, cinema, are now often too difficult to concentrate on. Many times instead of quieting his delusions and soothing his mind watching a movie will trigger a vivid episode of obsessive memories or he might make a random connection between his life and some element of a plot. The connection will be so real, such an apparent truth that any notion of the films story and the reality of his own life will blur and his delusions create a new reality, a new connection that must in some way be speaking to and of him and be totally relevant to his life, memories and events therein.

These thoughts consume and Tilney1′s obesessive behavior keeps his mind locked to this newly created link resulting in ever escalating peaks of extreme discomfort, distress and protracted panic attacks.

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‘Horror, Horror, Horror’ : Tilney1 2012

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“When you have an incredible mind, all these thoughts going round and around in your head but you’ve got no-one to share it with the only thing you can do is art work about it like upon my wall. Remembering every conversation from every work place, conversations I had twenty years ago all going through my head.”

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Tilney1 looking at his writings and art works upon the wall of his apartment.

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Pacing the room and smoking.

“I’m just constantly misunderstood. When I was in Hellesdon (Mental Hospital) and this nurse was constantly staring at me so I said ‘What the fuck are you looking at?’ and he said ‘Travis’ making out I was some crazy Travis Bickle character.”

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Exhausted.

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“I can’t stop smoking, it’s an obsession now, I know if did I’d go right back to hospital but it costs so much money and I’m always going overdrawn at the bank but I can’t help it, I just can’t help it. It’s an addiction.”

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The first administered injections of medication to combat Tilney1′s evolving symptoms of Schizotypal and Obsessive behaviors were compounded by three elements, his studying film at a local college, his working nights stacking shelves at the local Tesco supermarket and the incorrectly excessive amount of the medication itself.

The injections played a pivotal role in Tilney1′s life and had a disastrous effect as he became increasingly withdrawn and made it impossible for him to explain what he was enduring within, made it impossible to find any way of opening up and sharing any personal information to the nurse that was routinely injecting him. It also made interacting in any way with those around him equally as difficult so the very personal side effects went un-noticed by the outside world for years but were constsantly torturing him inside.

Added to this the external pressures of coming from a family where anyone not working were demonized as a failure and anyone with an artistic nature merely wasting their time began to weigh heavily upon him.

“What can I say I’d have to go home and my Mum would be going on about John Major being a nice man and all about the Royal family and how great the Conservatives are. It’s really difficult. If I had a girlfriend I’d be totally independent from my parents.

“My memory you know, people I’ve known in the past were really into Hip Hop and Bob Marley then I’d have to go home when my brother was there and he’d be saying ‘Unfinished Symphony’ one of my favourite songs ‘Would be a good song if it didn’t have a fucking nigger on it’ or saying Venus and Serena (Williams) ‘niggers go and get your balls’… you know, just a totally fucked up situation. When things like that are said I find it difficult to speak up so I just sit there and sink into despair. I’m not a racist in any way. A lot of my art work deals with how the music you listened to as an adolescent stays with you for life you know, I loved Hip Hop, Basquiat.”

Totally unaware of the available help and support for a person diagnosed with his condition Tilney1 was forced to quit his Film studies course and continued to work his night shift job to pay his rent.

Working a zombie shift with its slow erosion of any normal relationship with the reality of peers and the waking day created a chasm that over time was too wide to traverse and led ultimately to the breakdown that instigated his sectioning.

Though receiving his regular injections no one in any position of knowledge mentioned the availability of D.L.A or Income Support for over a decade.

“How can I be a scrounger when I had no idea Benefits existed? I had no idea about D.L.A, no one told me anything about that and all I wanted to do was leave Tesco’s as working night’s was doing my head in. I knew it was making me worse but I was so worried I’d be on Job Seekers. I mean, I couldn’t take care of myself at all, I’d holes in my shoes, sores on my feet.”

“I should have left Tesco’s so much sooner than I did and I keep going back to my Film studies, I LOVE film but instead I just continued to work as Tesco’s and gave up my studies, just my lack of confidence and the effect those first injections were having on me and my Mum and Dad thinking that everyone should work. I felt guilty that I was studying I guess.”

“All I knew was the walk to one cafe in Town where I’d order some shitty burger then come back to my apartment, get into bed and try and sleep all day till my night shift began. I never talked to anyone. I couldn’t. I wasn’t talking to people at work, I wasn’t speaking to anyone. I could never sleep properly and when I did I was having these really fucked up dreams, constant gay dreams, I was thinking should I get a boyfriend? I started questioning myself about if I was gay or not but of course I am not it’s just I was ridiculously too nice and let D and other people take advantage of me. I had dreams about sex with animals, I couldn’t tell anyone this. I could barely talk. It was terrifying, crazy and was all down to those first injections, it was the medication causing all of it… that’s the most despairing thing you know?. It’s like I didn’t know I existed for 10 years.”

“These new injections I am on are totally different and better but I just don’t like injections do I?. After reading William Burroughs – Junkie all I can do is remember what it was like back then, ‘Ghostly nocturnal wanderings and strange sexual encounters’, all these things happened to me back then, these events and abuses… I’ll forever keep them with me. You look back and there were interesting things that happened too like freaking out staring at a ditch and seeing primroses in there.”

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‘Nothingness bubble’ : Tilney1 2012

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“As I constantly analyze things, like when I cracked up a Burtons (Shop) being very close to my Mum, being feminine but at the same time liking hard core rap music. The manager there was always picking on me, asking me when I was going to get my period. I loved hard core rap and the Manic Street Preachers but my Mum just never understood any of these things. It’s all in my scrolls of writing. I know I’ve been unemployable since the third year of school, I mean I couldn’t even answer a telephone, I held my Mum’s hand behind her back when she told me that my Granny was dead you know? 1980, Joy Division… it’s all relevant isn’t it?.

“I’ll go round my parents on Christmas Eve. Like I wrote at Under1Roof last week, I’m NOT a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, I’m a nice and sensitive person but I’ll go over there on Christmas Eve and take a Richard Adams book and hope my Dad just doesn’t wind me up too much. If I could wish for anything for Christmas it would be to quit smoking.”

“Now I realise that I do have this incredible memory and I’ll forever remember all of these things but still continue to make mistakes and ask myself ‘Why did you do that?… why did you do this?’.”

“It was 2007 when I left Tesco’s but I have always going through my head everything that happened, everything that was said, every conversation before they took me away to the mental hospital.”

“It’s like the Manic Street Preachers ‘This is my truth, tell me yours, can’t speak, won’t work, can’t sleep, won’t work.’ you know I was exactly like that and now it’s like the future does not exist.”

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You can see more of Tilney1 and his work here.

In this holiday season please consider donating to the mental health charity Mind whose helplines will be open for people in need of vital crisis support.

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8 Comments

  • Anonymous

    → Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It specially touched me when Tilney speaks about his family, how misunderstood he’s always been. I know this leaves a deep, unerasable mark on anyone.and, I would like to paste Isolation (joy division) lyrics down here:"In fear every day, every evening,He calls her aloud from above,Carefully watched for a reason,Painstaking devotion and love,Surrendered to self preservation,From others who care for themselves.A blindness that touches perfection,But hurts just like anything else.Isolation, isolation, isolation.Mother I tried please believe me,I’m doing the best that I can.I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through,I’m ashamed of the person I am.Isolation, isolation, isolation.But if you could just see the beauty,These things I could never describe,These pleasures a wayward distraction,This is my one lucky prize.Isolation, isolation, isolation…"

  • Bob Owen

    → Reply

    It goes without saying that the photography here is excellent. What I think is incredibly valuable is the attention you bring to not only Tilney1′s situation, but the plight of mentally ill people in our ‘society’. In a previous career I helped many individuals like Tilney1, only to find that they were let down time and time again by a system that was on the point of collapse and frankly treated them like a nuisance. Society has failed the mentally ill in society (amongst others) and that is a fact that I feel both guilty and desperately sad about.Thanks for this noble work Jim.

  • Anonymous

    → Reply

    How sad, it just goes to show haw easy it is for people to become detatched from society, if their a little different. His poor relationship with his parents, his brothers racism. Very claustrophobic ,the pictures show that well.

  • Anonymous

    → Reply

    I have recently found myself in a very similar situation to Tilney1 due to a recent section, although you wouldn’t think it to look at me. Living in a crap market town makes it worse as there are so few opportunities and services here and they are all, in addition to my friends, in London. Have been thinking back to how bipolar disorder has affected my career and everything looks very bleak and hopeless. Location is everything. Wish I had the job that’s required to get any rental accommodation in London but that’s gone now. Wish I could meet Tilney1. Very good project.

    • JA Mortram

      → Reply

      Thank you so much for such an open, honest comment. Wishing you find a way through, I will pass your words to Tilney1, he’ll be thrilled. Thanks also for your compliments, very appreciated.

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Market Town : Tilney1 : Isolation