Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Milestones & Millstones

I'll never forget my first group therapy session.

It was exactly how I expected except maybe posher. There was a proper wood fire and comfy chairs rather than flaky lino, moulded plastic and the faint whiff of disinfectant. I was lucky enough to be in a BUPA clinic rather than the 9 month wait (at the very least) for any sort of NHS treatment.

A South African woman handed a framed photo which circulated the room as she told her story, the picture was of a young baby and of course it was now dead. The trauma of "cot death", the subsequent police investigation, the small town gossip and rumour mill was relayed to us with great courage. Leaving me to only conclude, "what the fuck am I doing here?"

I can't remember how the question came up but I was asked how I would know when I was "better", what was it that I wanted to be able to do or experience that would mean I had succeeded in freeing myself from the clutches of anxiety and crippling self doubt.

After some thought I replied that when I was in my early teens, being close enough to London that it cost £5-6 for a travelcard to spend the whole day on the buses and tubes, at the weekends my friends and I would go into the big city, often pockets full of money and return with plastic bags full of records. We'd run around town, buying stuff, eating rubbish and being as annoying as only boys of that age can be. We were the very living embodiment of carefree little twats.

I said I wanted to be able to feel like that again.

I wanted o be able to go anywhere and do anything without having to consider all the elements which constructed my personal prison cell - the fear of panic attacks, fear of death and illness, fear of going mad, embarrassment, fear of inability to cope, feeling trapped, alone, isolated, constantly looking down and inwards. Not being able to eat and drink if at some point that day I may be in a situation where nausea and panic would make me want to flee and escape would be hard i.e. concert, theatre, cinema, train, bus, plane, shopping mall, the list seemed inexhaustible.

That was in January of 1999.

Since then there have been many highs and lows - but that's for another time.

Today I find myself more at ease with all those situations than I have been since those teenage years. I now regularly go up to London by train, take the tube, meet people for dinner - eat, drink and be merry. And yes I often return with plastic bags - well, record tote bags since the 5p tax - full of records. Not much progress in that regard but light years covered in terms of being able to live how I want.

It's mostly been down to facing fear and doing it anyway, sometimes out of necessity that my working life has bought but often because I want to push myself and be as "normal" as possible. Of course you catch yourself sometimes and the old negativity creeps back in but I've learnt to kick those baboons out before they grab a hold. Yes there are times when I do have bad nights but try not to let them get me down.

Thing is, it's not a finished project - it's about mak
ing running repairs while keeping an eye on the road ahead for danger.

I feel that since I've become regularly employed, doing a job I enjoy, appearing much more positive and less gloomy people assume that I don't need any support or attention. Those little messages to say hello, how you doing etc have ebbed away. It's not that people don't care but if you're no longer on the critical list then you slip from their minds.

"He must be doing ok, he hasn't been posting meaningful lyrics on the Internet at 1am" is the feeling we have but that lack of contact breeds paranoia in the heart of you. You assume people don't want you around, when you suggest meeting up and get no response. The fact is people have busy lives, work, family, commitments but the anxious and self conscious with low self esteem start sticking needles into themselves with every perceived slight.

You should pity people like me but I'd much rather you try and understand.

So yes, I do feel better, yes I do, I feel alright but that doesn't mean that I don't need you by my side now as much as I did then.


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