Whoever stole my adrenaline, please can I have it back?
I’m almost exhausted simply looking at this blogpost. This feels like the third night in a row where I’ve had zero sleep. The joys of having a main road-facing window? I’ve become more and more sensitive to traffic noise in recent years, the noise of which is doing my head in. It’s like I want to run away to the middle of nowhere and experience the silence of the countryside, and the sense of the silent awesomeness of the night sky. Instead, every other second is punctuated by another freight lorry or another hydrocarbon-pumping loud farting machine driven or ridden by a boyracer – there goes another on a souped up sewing machine.
And that’s before the mental health stuff.
Well…not just mental, but physical too. The last piece of real exercise I did was at the Cambridge Folk Festival this summer – a 6 minute long Ceilidh number by the band Blackbeard’s Tea Party (pictured here with Puffles). It’s a huge culture shock from a lifestyle that was otherwise ever so active.
Earlier this week I was watching some old football footage from the late 1980s, working out that the ‘veterans’ in those games were around the same age that I am now. There’s a part of me that still feels 10 years younger than I actually am. Physically though, I’m trying to come to terms with everything being downhill from here. Talking with my former London flatmate who was over visiting from her native Switzerland, I mentioned to her that I just cannot manage anything near the 4-5 nights per week of dancing practice that we both used to do. In those days, I’d think nothing of jumping on my bike to get into town – there in 15-20 minutes, no problem. These days, it’s much easier to catch the bus – though far more damaging financially.
When is it all going to stop? When does the relief come?
That’s the most frightening aspect of all of this for me. I cannot see a way out. Mental health services are starved of resources even at the best of times. The sleepless nights, the intense and unstoppable thought processes, and what feels like a permanent spasm of my internal intercostal muscles on the inside of my rib cage are doing my head in. (If any medics out there know what this condition is, please let me know because my doctor doesn’t seem to be able to put a finger on it). It’s also this sort of stuff that makes even a sceptic like my almost want to turn to what I’d otherwise call ‘quackery’. Hook my chest up to a battery pack and flick the ‘on’ switch to see if that would have any impact, or to get some injection of a muscle relaxant to target muscles that have been like this for almost a decade…you get my point I hope.
There’s also the longer term issues – I can’t go on like this forever. A couple of people who have been through similar (but have thankfully recovered) have said that their recovery took years. That frightens me – I don’t feel like I have ‘years’. It’s bad enough having had to move back in with my parents (much as I am grateful for putting me up) but having moved from a situation where I was pretty much completely independent from them to one where I am very much dependent on them for a roof over my head…I can’t pretend it’s not a blow to my self-esteem. They’re not getting any younger either. At some stage I’m going to have to get back properly on my own two feet. Yet at the moment healthwise I’m simply not well enough to cope with full-time hours. Every full day worked takes a full day in bed to recover. Two-to-three day stints, while incredibly exciting from my perspective take the equivalent to sleep off what feels like the missed hours asleep.
At the moment I’m still trying to work my own ones out in post-civil-service world. Without digital and social media I dread to think where I’d be. It has allowed me to learn lots of new things, meet (and more importantly stay in touch with) lots of amazing people, earn an income and go to things that I might otherwise never have gone to – whether the local meeting yesterday at one end to the Paralympics at the other. Because the social and digital media worlds are so unpredictable – because the conventions are still being set, the same goes with my work pattern. I jump on opportunities when they arise, no longer needing to worry about line manager’s approval.
Where are my roots?
This is one of the things I’m trying to unpick both through music and becoming a school governor at my old primary school. On the latter there is a great deal of excellent work going on, but a number of things where I’d like to think I can make a difference too. Roots-wise, Cambridge is all I ever really knew as a child. Growing up in an area that at the time was very much a White community, one straddling traditional terraces and council housing in one part, a five minute walk from the detached houses that are now approaching seven figures. Just as one class of parents prioritised football, so another prioritised ‘violin practice’. It was the same with churches until my primary school broke its links with the local Church of England church. I could never understand why I had to go to one church while some of my other friends went to a different one. I could never understand why some of my friends from nursery school weren’t there on my first day at primary school. As I pointed out in a post about faith-based schools:
Exactly. So now I am extremely reserved at best when dealing with religious institutions, much as I am fascinated by their histories. In the end, everyone lost. I stopped playing the violin at 13, stopped playing football at 17 and turned against institutionalised religion a few years later.
I’m keeping all things music to myself at the moment – away from family and close family friends, much as they’d all like to come and see/hear me play. I just cannot do it. My musical journey explores more as to why. Yet for some reason, I see this as a significant step – getting back into music that is. One of the things I wanted to do during the 2000s was to get back the buzz of ‘performing’ as a group to a large audience. You could see it as contributing towards something far greater than myself. In childhood I had always been someone picked out for solos – something that I never enjoyed. I still don’t now. I hate the sound of my voice amongst other things. A strange thing to say for someone otherwise so used to speaking on public platforms or in presentations.
Going beyond a pill
Some of you will recall this was the title of one of my first blogposts. It was my first one on mental health – something that I was a little bit anxious about blogging about at the time, lest a prospective employer picked up on it and turned me down for a job as a result. With hindsight, I’m having more fun being free with Puffles than in a normal day job – not that I’m in a fit state to go 9-5. But at the moment, would I want to?
My point is that my recovery from my mental health problems require far more than just a course of medication or a series of counselling sessions. It requires a complete overhaul of everything. Unfortunately, that overhaul is not one I can afford. As I’ve mentioned, housing is the big issue – both facing a main road and still here with my parents. That said, living alone would put me in a downward spiral without a vibrant active and meaningful social life. When you are interacting with people you are surrounded by, you forget what it was like to be lonely.
Yet at the same time I need my own space to customise and personalise. I can’t really say I have that – or have ever really had that. With housing and rental prices being what they are, I struggle to see myself attaining either in the short to medium term. I can’t help but think that the mess that is all things housing generally – with wages and prices being so out of sync – has killed off a lot of aspiration that people might otherwise have had. Hence why at the moment I don’t particularly aspire to have my own place at the moment because from where I am at the moment, the barriers are just too insurmountable.
I hope it won’t stay that way though.