Sunday, 20 September 2015

The thing about anxiety is...

The thing about anxiety is it makes every single small, tiny, mundane thing extra difficult.

My anxiety/panic disorder means that almost everything I do is fraught with at the very least trepidation and, in some cases, terror.

And when I say almost everything, I mean almost everything.

Depending on my mood, hormones, how I'm feeling, how much sleep I've had and a million other apparently nebulous and indefinable reasons, sometimes I can't even walk into town. I can't walk down a street. I can't go into a shop. And I can't enjoy anything without feeling so terrified that I hyperventilate, heave, gag, shake and want to weep.

Other days I can do things that normal people can do.

All of which is just how it is.

It's been this way, off and on, with varying degrees of severity for many, many years.

It means I either don't go to concerts, gigs, bars, restaurants or social occasions or, if I do commit to them, I spend many, many days, weeks and sometimes months in a form of abject terror before the event.

The last few years, since I was brutally fired from a job in York, have been more difficult. My anxiety became too much for me to deal with. I very nearly gave up entirely and the year I spent living with my mother last year both gave me the chance to start to try and heal (again), pick myself up from an agoraphobic coma (again), work through the panic and terror to live a semblance of a normal life.

To be terrified of bungee jumping, for example, is understandable to most people. To feel trepidation before jumping out of an 'plane, as another example, is something that most people feel completely able to understand.

Take that fear - the fear you get when you think of your personal Room 101 hell, the fear you would have to face to do something that is so terrifying that it instantly makes your mind go blank with terror, your heart beat so fast it's literally painful and the terror course through your veins so fast that you know if you stay in this situation for one more second you will be annihilated. Take that fear and apply to everyday circumstances.

Getting a train.

Going to the supermarket.

Driving.

Eating in public.

Talking in public.

Being in public.

Having an anxiety disorder means being brave every single day, to do the simplest thing.

And it means, when faced with something like, oh, I dunno, a flight to Greece on Wednesday, the fear is off the scale. I haven't slept properly in a couple of weeks. I have intrusive thoughts about the flight. My heart beats so fast it hurts. I am on two anti anxiety drugs. I am desperately trying to do breathing exercises, visualisation, anything at all that might just lessen the terror I feel. And yet, it;s still here.

I know that all there is to do now is to do it.

I just have to get on that plane.

I have a think about myself sometimes and I wonder how it came to this. That I have a life where the worst thing that's happening at the moment is that my adorable fiance has booked me a holiday to Rhodes. And I can't wait. To spend 10 days with him without having to work is, in itself, astoundingly lovely.

But before I can get there I have to fly. And that's all I can think about.

I have flown 14 times in my life so far. I know the statistics. I know how many flights happen every single day without incident and I still, STILL, want to not get on that plane.

I will though,

Even though the thing about anxiety is it tries to get the better of you. Just this once, I'm not going to let it.



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Off the shelf

Finally.

I'm a Normal Person.

I'm no longer a spinster, a loner, a loser.

Single women in their late 30s have a peculiar place in this life.

There is no shame, of course. I didn't consider myself a spinster, a loner or a loser. At least, not because I didn't have a boyfriend.

I often had the shady impression that some others sorta did though.

She NEVER has a boyfriend. Why is that? What's wrong with her? She's very needy. Low self esteem. Too angry. Swears too much. Too short tempered. Too large. Too moody. Too ill. Too something.

I do think that single women hurtling into middle age are perceived differently to single men of the same age. You start to lose your place at the table as couples begin to only hang out with couples. You start to see friends drop away as they have babies and you're not part of that.

It's often a natural progression in friendships.

You're somehow left behind, although you haven't changed one bit. There is a feeling that you're watching everyone else change and yet here you are. Always the odd one out.

Not all coupled up friends are like this, but I have found that those who became couples after we met are no longer in my social sphere. Those that were already coupled up when we met, nothing has changed. Interesting isn't it? No? You're reading the wrong blog then.

Anyway, it only really occurred to me in the last four or five years that there was something wrong with my relationship history.

At one point, I was all: "Why do I only attract assholes? Why do I always end up with cheating, horrible, selfish bastards? Why meeeeee."

I was very victim-y.

I would look at other people and be jealous. I would wish I had what they had. Bearing in mind, I had no real idea of their relationship really. I just saw the writing on the Facebook wall.

I watched friend after friend get married, meet someone (usually the other way around), have babies and, in some cases, get divorced and do it all over again. Meanwhile I was over in the corner kicking stones sullenly, forever feeling like the 14 year old black sheep who just couldn't catch a man.

And I really couldn't.

Mostly because the ones I was trying to catch were, well, sort of slimy.

And I realised, my relationship history was my fault. Not because I was too fat (as one particular ex used to point out. Over and over). Or because I didn't dress right (ditto). Or because I was too miserable (also that one). Or because I didn't trust him (well, he had, like, accidentally slipped it into other women so I had some  reason). But because I was making Bad Choices.

Every time a bloke sitch presented itself I would make a Bad Choice.

Oh look! He's a womaniser with major obvious commitment issues and has told me with his own voice that he doesn't want a girlfriend. Excuse me while I spend the next couple of years of my precious life lamenting the fact that he won't be miiiiineeee. Even though... well even though, he's not actually very nice. He's selfish and mean. Cruel sometimes. Quite boring other times. He doesn't get me and he thinks that my mental health issues make me too much hassle. He doesn't really even like me. And I don't, if I'm honest, really like him.

This is a sort of catch all for my relationships from around 28 to 36.

That's eight years. Eight years of proving that the law of insanity is a true one - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Somewhere along the line, I woke up.

I thought about the men I have had 'relationships' with and I wondered what the hell I was thinking. Honestly. Without exception. I had wasted SO much time and I had never allowed myself to feel what it's like to truly be alone. Not alone and wishing I was with someone. Or alone and crying because they didn't want me. Or alone because I was too fat, or too ugly, or too loud.

Just alone.

With me.

And something did happen. I decided that I am not getting involved with anyone unless they are very very special. Not ever again. Not even if I reject every man who comes anywhere near me. Not even if I have to attend every wedding alone for the rest of my spinster days. Because being alone is way, way, way better than being anywhere near the kinds of men that I had wasted so much time with.

I clearly didn't know how to pick a good one so I just stopped trying.

Internet dating was sporadic and became something that I carried on because, deep down, I thought the odds were on that I would meet someone at some point. Maybe. I knew I definitely wouldn't if I didn't keep a profile open.

Plus blogs.

And then I met B. I'm not going to mention him much or dissect our relationship on this blog. Obviously. But I met someone who made it all worthwhile. Someone who has shown me why it's worth having a relationship at all. Someone who genuinely thinks I'm awesome, with all my many and varied physical and mental flaws. Someone on my side.

And I find myself staring 40 in the face (seven months to go) and I have this whole other life before me. We are buying a house. We're getting married. We (I) are (am) planning just how many dogs and cats I can adopt. And I'm off the shelf.

But I would happily be on it still if I hadn't met someone so awesome. Being on the shelf is preferable to wasting your life on the undeserving. Plus there's a really good view from up there.


Monday, 7 September 2015

I'm no lady. Apparently

An old lady told me I wasn’t a lady today.

She was a racist nasty bigot  but because I’d said ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ she told me I wasn’t a lady.

I’d argue that being a racist old bitch makes her ‘not a lady’ but that would make me not a lady. Probably.

I lost my endo-weakened temper during my latest ‘discussion’ with the delightful people on this island who want to LOOK AFTER THEIR OWN before helping any Syrian refugees.

Of course, they can barely spell the language of their birth. You’d think if they care SO much about England, they’d learn how to MOTHERFUCKING spell.

A hardcore group of crones were jumping on anyone who said anything vaguely compassionate or supportive about the refugee crisis, sparked by a post about collecting left over tents after Bestival. 

Middle to old aged, ‘full time mummy’ under their profession, say lol and hun every second word, can’t write a sentence without misspelling your, you’re and their, always put kisses on the end, even when they’re spouting the most humungously horrible vitriol. Like “Well, I don’t think we should help anyone who isn’t from here. They’re dirty and they steal from you. I used to live in London and the refugees will steal all your stuff and shit in doorways. Do you want that on the island? They’re disgusting and vile and we need to keep the island for us. Lol. Hun. Xxxx”

I admit I got a leetle ratty and let slip with some fuck words.

Ignoring the fact that their views are only slightly less harsh than Hitler’s, they jumped on the fact I swore.

“Well, you swearing has just showed the kind of person you are. You’re just a bully. Your (sic) vile. Were (sic) only sayin wot peopl (sic,sic,sic) r thinking. Your not a lady.”

Once I’d deciphered this beaten to death remnant of a sentence. Once I’d been able to use my thick chav to English dictionary I realised that they were doggedly ignoring everything to do with refugees in favour of the fact that I said shit and fuck.

Course, I’ve never professed to be a ‘lady’. I don’t know what people even mean by this in the 21st Century.  

All in all, I’d rather be a sweary angry type who doesn’t think all refugees should die in a fire than an ill-educated chav moron who won’t help other human beings in need.

She also tried to insult my age. “How old are you? I bet you haven’t even lived through anything bad. I bet you don’t know anything about suffering.”

Judging by her picture the only suffering she has had to endure is when she was forcefed deep fried lard by someone for FIFTY YEARS.

The fact that we are only a couple of years apart seemed to throw her as she abandoned that argument.

Then: “Have you donated? I bet you haven’t.”

"Yup."

No reply.

A few more jumped on the bandwagon of being SHOCKED and APPALLED because a  woman said FUCK AND SHIT. As if these horrors are paragons of ladylike virtue what with their pretty strong views that no one ever should be helped by them, lest they lose their benefits and places for young Briterney and Cortnee to hang.

I hate these people. I hate them so much that somewhere along the line I realise that I am stepping into their shoes. They hate these refugees. I hate them.

I almost want western civilisation to fall, so that when we’re all scrabbling around in the fiery pits, with nothing left they will see and feel what it’s like to have no one help them. I’d like them to knock on the door of my makeshift bunker, desperate for food and help and I will LAUGH IN THEIR STUPID BOVINE FACES and then roast their offspring over a fire.

Sigh.

I wouldn’t, would I? I’d be all empathetic and try and keep them alive too. Because the human spirit in people who haven’t been lobotomised at birth is an irrepressible thing.

Luckily.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Is anyone else sick of the horrible pictures being shared on Facebook?

For some reason I joined a group on Facebook. It's something something Isle of Wight blah blah. I don't even know why I do it. I always end up in arguments with people. It seems a singularly ridiculous way to spend one's time. But there you are. I'm a self employed writer. I'm basically born to procrastinate. 

On this group people post questions, jokes and all sorts of deeply boring and mundane stuff. None of them seem to have heard of Google and few of them are able to spell. But you know. Whatever. I can be tolerant. What? I CAN. 

Today someone posted about the distressing pictures on Facebook. She said that she was sick of seeing them and that Facebook is her fun place and people are ruining it. Her point was that Facebook is meant to be fun (says who, like? I don't remember anyone specifying what Facebook is 'for', other than to strip us of our personal information while gilding the lily with cat pictures and stupid memes). 

So, yer one says about how icky it is to see pictures of horrible things happening and shouldn't people stop all this nonsense and make sure that all she can see on her feed are pictures of babies and fairies. Or whatever it is that people like to look at. I dunno. 90% of my feed is made up of dog pictures, dog blogs, dog videos, amusing dog anecdotes and friends that like dogs. 

She is talking, I believe, particularly about the recent influx of pictures showing deeply distressed, crying, dying, howling refugees desperately trying to get their families to safety. The picture of the boy, face down in the sand. Dead at 12. Dead for want of asylum. 

I mean, I can totes see how those put a crimp on your day. 

Naturally I got involved. Because I just can never let it lie. Man, I miss Vic and Bob. 

My points are nothing particularly spectacular. If you have a shred of humanity, that is. This appropriation of Facebook as something that 'should' do this or 'shouldn't' do that fascinates me. People talk like they have a say. Like they bought a product. And they're SO indignant. 

That's what I like about Facebook. 

My life is small. My worries are small. I've managed to turn them into a full blown anxiety disorder because I am that special. But I don't have to worry about my safety on a daily basis. I don't have to live in a tent because my home is no longer safe. I don't have to risk my life trying to get my children somewhere where they won't be blown to bits. I will never have to experience being TURNED AWAY for help, because I was born in the wrong place. 

And, while I wake up and dither about my day, with all my worries and stresses about work and clients and money and yada yada, I scroll through Facebook. Like most people I've customised my feed so that I only see what I want to see. 

A metaphor for life innit. 

It's simple in our world, over here, where we're safe, to switch off. Just watch Netflix and eat cake. Concentrate on our own. Breathe in and out. Get through the day. Hope our loved ones remain safe, well and happy for another 24 hours. And then have some wine. 

I scroll through my feed and like what I see. Friends that make me laugh and interesting things and books and author profiles and cat pictures and dog videos. 

And, every now and again BLAM. A dead child. A crying father. 

Like a slap round the face. 

I knew about the Syrian crisis. Of course I did. I'm a sentient human being with eyes and ears. But until I saw the image of the crying father in the boat the other week, it didn't HIT me in the solar plexus. This is happening right now. We are watching a humanitarian crisis unfold on our doorstep. I believe it's going to affect every single one of us in the long term, and we are witnessing the beginning of some profound and uncomfortable changes. 

With no guidance from our own government, with no humanity in the good leaders of our country, what else can we do but band together with the technology on hand and at least TRY. We shouldn't look away and we shouldn't stop sharing images. Because for every person that scrolls past or ignores it, someone somewhere will do something to help. 

I saw a Spectator piece today moaning about how sharing a picture of a dead child does nothing for anyone and it's just narcissistic. His point, I believe, is that many, many people stop at the sharing. But many, many DON'T. They actually do something, no matter how small it feels on a global scale. 

I'm rubbish and self absorbed and full of worries about the day's work, so naturally I didn't get it together to work out a way I could help anyone. Any of these people in the pictures. But Facebook showed me someone who is. Someone local who is collecting and helping. And now I'm donating to that. And yes, maybe it is some way of trying to alleviate Western guilt at the fact that I'm not suffering, but SO WHAT. It's better than turning away. 

And that's why I will never hide these pictures from my Facebook feed and my everyday life. 

As for the girl whose question sparked this train of thought with her question, I explained to her the concept of customising her feed. Genuinely blew her mind. AMAZING.