Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

Market Town : Tilney1 : Defence mechanisms


“The biggest worry for me is my bank, my bills and direct debits not going through, I mean, I’m £350 overdrawn right now and I get letters coming through my door, bills, the bank, benefits letters and that’s what I worry about the most. I left my wallet on my granny’s grave, that was because of Cobain and Sinéad O’Connor and people say “It’s just music you lazy fucker!” but they are two very powerful artists, all connected to spring, Madonna, Lady Diana.”

“The despair and the money and my bills, direct debits, all linked, Diana dead, the world watching, shock and awe. It all gets on top of me, the despair about money, the worry and when it does get on top of me, I just can’t do anything, I’m paralyzed.”

The hours, days, weeks and months roll on. Not filled with evolution as one might expect. Chaos is not permitted to intervene and gift chance meetings, no friendships born from new seeds, blossoming, growing. No tenderness, no love, no lingering kisses shared to be savoured, no holidays, these are days of no surprises. There is little escape from the barren landscape of Tilney1’s day to day, a landscape left scarred and sterile by his schizophrenia, his medication and continual isolation.

Time is marked though. Time is counted, through blinding fear, for the next bill, bank statement or benefits letter from the D.W.P. (Department of Work and Pensions). Time counted between C.P.N. (Community Psychiatric Nurse) visits and time between cigarettes. Time is counted as though in solitary confinement, and time is feared, for this confinement has no parole date, no release date. Time, time, time.

The past months have seen a medication change, both dosage and application, from needle to tablet, the ceasement of art and paintings being made “Since the medication change, I have less visual thoughts, I don’t see paintings anymore.” yet reams of writing, coded, sprawling streams from a consciousness nailed to a past life, past moments, past traumas, lay strewn around his apartment, in files, folders, and typed papers.

Old obsessions have been replaced and some new born. Smoking still has its hooks buried deep, culture and music, and money, spending sprees have taken root, spending to buy books, films, games, magazines, in an attempt to fill the impossible holes in life. The ever present lord and master, Tilney1’s memory loops and links, unbroken, unchanged still reign and rule, as brutal as ever, an internal big brother, seeking and stalking new thought and murdering it within infancy. In this internal landscape, only the past is permitted, to haunt and goad and punish. Time, time, time.

Still, Tilney1 endures, still dreams of escape, of love, of partnership, of life itself.


Collection of posters on apartment wall.


Watching Coppola. Though films are all but impossible to take in, there is a true kinship with artists and cinema.


Revitalised after a change in medication, Tilney1 excitedly reads from new pages documenting his memory loops.

Writing is one constant for Tilney1. As with his speech patterns and thought patterns his poetry and journal entries are presented in a free flowing stream of consciousness, with its genesis rooted within stored moments of his past life. With an absence of fresh input in the now, Tilney1 fills the void with recollections and moments often over a decade old. Recollections of workplaces, bullying, relationships, defining moments, abuses and especially events close to his initial diagnosis and first sectioning. No social life or structure create a void that Tilney1 himself is constantly filling with memories, it’s his only way to fashion a defence to the perpetual abyss of isolation.

One can talk for hours with Tilney1, looking for an insight of the now, only to be presented with these rolling memories, stored up and raked over for years. They rush forth, a verbal tsunami, a kaleidoscopic outpouring of recollections, essentially all mental scarring, the moments most poignant from a life once lived. Within though, obscured, golden needles in a haystack, are the brilliant treasures of truths, truths of the here and right now. Though within the mental health system, little is or has been done to aid in attaining a ‘new’ life.


Old paintings lay discarded around the apartment.


Page of writing, chronicling Tilney1’s obsessive links and connections, next to cigarettes.


“I am on the fringe of society and I remember everything, everything said and done whilst sectioned in hospital and it’s just, just terrifying. I remember everything I ever said in every workplace, everything that’s been said to me, everything said to me within the mental health system has been just going round and round and round within my mind, all the time, all the fucking time. I made lots of artwork about it but you just can’t take away all these memories and nothing stops the loneliness. Nothing.”

The impressions left, by significant others, leave their scars too. These scars, deep gauges within his interpretation of the self, they serve to channel his own fears. If someone close to Tilney1 ever expressed disdain towards his mental health, he strives to rectify this prejudice, forever in a state of fevered confusion “How can I explain, so they might understand me?, it’s impossible, impossible.” existing in a perpetual state of self hatred.

Coming from both an area and background laced with racism, conservative thinking, his own liberal outlook on life, is thrown into battle with the attitudes that have often surrounded him. Attitudes, his condition magnifies to an exhausting, deafening volume. Whilst all he seeks is acceptance and understanding, this conflict is the long standing battle within his mind. Fearing he is continually judged, fearing he is as closed minded as those from which he only sought guidance, tolerance and love, constantly in pursuit of these elements of care and understanding, yet continuously denied them.


Christmas Eve, trapped in a memory loop.


Tilney1 explains his vinyl collection and how each L.P. has deep meaning to events and moments from his life.


“I do believe I am quite a believer, in spirituality, how I link everything within my life, but I’m not a Jesus freak or anything, people really heavily into religion, they seem to be the only people I encounter and they can really fuck my head up. It’s just, being on my own all the time, that’s why I do these things I think, just to try and break the loneliness.”




“Writing is important to me as I’m answering, defending myself against all the people, in my notebook and afterwards I can read it back. I mean, I constantly feel that everyone thinks I am crazy but through my writing I’m answering what they say about me, it’s my way of defending myself to the things people say about me. They don’t realize what a complicated and interesting and nice person I really am.”


Reading. Books play a vital role in coping, though many books rest unread, having them near bring comfort.


“The crisis team came round a few times, February last year, around the time of my birthday and they just kept asking me if “I watched the news” and “Do you watch the six nations?” and I just said, “Do I have to get down on my knees and beg you to change my medication?, do I have to get down on my knees and pray to you to have you understand why I felt despair on my birthday?.”

“The medication, the injections, they were just fucking me up. Finally, finally it was changed. They took me off the injections, which was great as I always linked injections with hard drugs, the needle, I hated the injections, hated them.”


People with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are four times more likely to be in debt* and Tilney1 is not spared the stresses of money, banking and debt. Every month, compounded by spending sprees and smoking, he finds more money has been spent, than saved, when this happens the consequences compound his condition and throw him into despair.

No help is given nor suggested to aid in managing his money. Often he relies upon his mother to pay his overdraft. In an attempt to control the situation, Tilney1 has several bank accounts, using one to provide an overdraft to pay the other, this, of course makes matters far worse, spiralling both debt and the stress deeper, ever deeper out of control.

No help is given to Tilney1 by his banks, no suggestion of flagging his account to monitor erratic periods of spending, typically the only contact with a bank is when he is overdrawn and the debt and resulting interest is required to be paid.


“Smoking, that’s a big problem. Smoking 24/7, that’s why I wrote in my book ‘Chain smoke zombie trilogy’. Smoking, it’s constantly in my head, in my throat. I’m going to see the nice nurse again and get some more pills and patches but I can’t stop, I gave up for 14 days, but started again, and I borrow money from Mum to buy more but she’s running out of money, so I feel bad.”

“I’m not going out because girls just pull the piss out of me in the street and I just can’t strike up a conversation with anyone. I knew I’d not be able to get to sleep last night because of the smoking so I stayed up all night and put ‘Avatar’ on and let that play for some inspiration and completed ‘Smash TV’ on the PlayStation. I wonder, did Richey Manic do the same, stay up all night and think about things, as I do. I think he probably did.”


“It is just fucking impossible to stop smoking. I just can’t stop analyzing everything, all the time, 24/7, never ending. The most important thing for me to do is go down to the library and be in a nice environment, try to forget all those wasted years when I was on injections and write about it all. Then, lay in bed and listen to the radio on my own.”


Gaming helps fill the abyss of isolation.


“What’s the point in always looking backwards? but I just cannot stop doing that, so I fill whole notebooks with memories, spirituality and my loneliness. Who knows, maybe someone will be interested enough to read my thoughts one day but I want to start looking towards a future and I have plans for things to do, places to go, things to buy. Will I give up smoking?, will I be able to go out on my bike?, will I stay up all night listening to TalkTalk and watch the sun come up?, these are all nice plans I think.”

“It does bother me what people think of me. Don’t call me nuts, you should never call anyone nuts, it hurts, it really does and with my incredible memory, I remember it forever.”

*Mind : In the red

You can see more of Tilney1 and his work here.

Please consider donating to the mental health charity Mind whose helplines are open for people in need of vital crisis support.


  • Javier Hernández

    May 4, 2014 at 4:10 pm → Reply

    I see hope and strength in Tilney1, that makes me feel a bit better for him. His very last quote sums up “how” his mind works and no one should ever forget that. Thanks Jim. Give my best to him.

  • Tom McLaughlan

    May 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm → Reply

    Helen Bamber once said that “Our society will be judged by how we respond to those to whom we owe nothing”. But knowing who these people are, what they go through and then how to help is often a challenge even for the most well-meaning of folk. So thank you, Jim, for your work in helping to bring their plight to our attention and then for always linking to ways of helping. And thank you for highlighting Tilney1’s humanity and dreams even amidst all the pain and suffering. Wish him well, won’t you?

  • Pete Smyth

    May 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm → Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing and continuing the wonderful work of raising awareness and dialogue surrounding mental illness. The more open society is to discussion the better we will all be equipped to help wonderful people like Tilney1.

  • Brian Mel Car

    June 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm → Reply

    Very touching. I really feel for the guy. So many equally intelligent people to Tilney1, struggle to cope with this overly pressing & complex life. I wish him well

  • André Zakharenkov

    February 1, 2019 at 8:26 am → Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I see perseverance and strength in you. This is such a tough world. I wish you a magnificent life.

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Market Town : Tilney1 : Defence mechanisms