Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Are Panic & Anxiety The Right Words.

When I tell people that I have anxiety and panic attacks I often get this response:

"Oh I get panicky too, couldn't find my Oyster card last night!"


"Anxiety? Yeah I get that watching Making A Murderer, not nice is it?"

They don't mean to belittle my situation, but what they associate with the words doesn't even come close to how it feels.

Terror Attacks, Brain Meltdown, Mind Collapse are more accurate. Yes I know they sound like horror films, but actually that's not that far from the truth.

At its worst Anxiety for me is like being in a horror film, with the woozy score from Vertigo. Every phone bleep, every door knock, every sound of footsteps outside could be the dark grey monster that will tip me over the edge and breakdown.

Panic attacks are like the spinning room you used to get when you've drunk too much Thunderbird wine. Except it doesn't feel like it will ever end. The spinning gets faster, shapes, sounds and people distort, like the contrast/sound turned up too high on an old TV. Every bleak thought about every aspect of your life plays at once. All competing with each other for the prize of scariest outcome and worst ending. 

They do pass, always. But that doesn't stop you from thinking the next one might never end.

I'm lucky, after a long time I luckily found a good Doctor who understands and friends/family who will support me, no matter how dark and gloomy I feel. I think I'm coming through the other side, at last. The optimism and hope that was hidden away in a dusty cupboard has come back.

So when you hear the words 'panic' and 'anxiety' please try not to assume you know what that means. It takes huge strength for some people to be honest and talk about what they are going through, don't stop them before they start.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Stain Glass Window

I have a lot of time on my hands these days so I'll share a story about me. 

I once saw a stain glass window in a house that had a stain glass picture of Jim Robinson from Neighbours.

My job as a care worker for elderly people meant I saw my fair share of odd ornaments and paintings, but this was by far the oddest.

I got the call that a Mrs Draper had broken her ankle and wanted a visit to see if she get any help.

So I left the office and drove to Fowey, a little harbour town in Cornwall.

After arguing with the satnav, I eventually found the house and knocked on the door.

A voice shouted "come in dear!" and I followed the voice into what looked like a living room.

In a corner, sitting in an old armchair was an old lady, one hand held a remote control as she flicked through the channels on a big widescreen TV.

The other was pointing at me.

"Mrs Draper I'm..."
She interrupted me "I'll need my meals delivered, three times a day, can you do that dear?" "And shopping, I'll need shopping ok?"

As I tried to find a way to say something helpful I noticed a small painting at the top of the living room wall.

Looking closer I noticed it wasn't a picture, but a small stain glass window.

I walked towards it as Mrs Draper listed ingredients for a hot pot and as I got closer I saw there was the face of a man made of stain glass in the window.

He looked familiar. Did I know him? 
Those eyes, the hairline, was it someone fam....hang on!

It was Jim Robinson! From Neighbours! Yes!

He was doing that sort of nearly smile he did. Bloody hell a stain glass Jim Robinson, that will be something to tell the office when I get back. Mrs Draper turned her head and...

noticed what I was looking at. She sighed and stared at me, such an icy stare. 

I felt cold, the same cold you feel when you wake from a nightmare and the world is still part scary, you know you've woken up but the fear still drips from the darkness.

"Isn't that...I mean why have...Jim Robinso.....what a fantastic window!" My Britishness was back in control. 

It doesn't matter how weird or scary things are, rationalise and be polite. And smile at walls. 

"You like it dear?" 
"Yes, who madehowlonghasitbeeni'mfromsocialservices..." My Britishness was now in defence mode.

"Oh you're quicker than the others dear, aren't you a bright one?"

I nodded as my brain did the opposite of nodding.

"I collect things, always have, that's why I'm still here, you could say it keeps me alive."

Now I'd read enough stories to know that this is when you look for an exit, say a hurried goodbye and leave.

So obviously I stayed.

And I don't know why, but I sat down on a chair that I didn't even  know was there

I didn't move. No, not didn't, I couldn't move.

"He was in a panto here you know? Big star from Austraila, I worked in the gift shop next to the theatre. Couldn't wait to meet him! My grandchildren loved him. 

Well they did then, now they just hang around all day. He came into the shop on his last day of the pantomime. 

Didn't say hello, just grumpily asked if I sold Cornish sweets, then walked out before I had chance to answer."

"Such a rude man, I'd hoped to have a photo with him for my grandchildren, he just stomped out, nearly got away, but he didn't know who I am, what I do, silly man."

Mrs Draper stood up, all of her slouchy crooked old lady shapes seemed to straighten out. She looked at me, in me, sniffed and breathed in.

"So I taught him a lesson, like I always do, like all the others"

She pointed at the wallpaper. Except it wasn't wallpaper. There were pictures of faces, in small frames. On the wall. Dozens of them.

I moved closer, wanted to look at them. 

But I couldn't. 

Frozen in the nightmare chair that wasn't there. Dizzy and scared. The wall moving towards me.

There are over twenty of us now, trapped in cheap wooden frames on Mrs Drapers wall. 

All day and all night all we have is our thoughts. We see everything, feel everything, but can't move, can't escape. 

There is no day, there is no night. Just Mrs Drapers wall and the sound of screams from the new people who join us.

Sometimes I think if we all scream at the same time someone will hear us and help. 

But we don't. 

So I just watch, forever, and keep telling the story of the stain glass window with the picture of Jim Robinson from Neighbours. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

It's just a website darlings

When twitter became twatter
The bruised egos just got fatter
You treated the trolls to a three course dinner
All for what? To try and prove you're a winner?

It's just a website darlings
Nothing less nothing more
Think before you tweet
Don't become the pub bore

Defending friends is noble, that I understand
But it's hard to give a cuddle with a pitchfork in one hand

You gave them attention then instantly lost the fight
Then took the fun out of funny and two wrongs don't make a right

It's just a website darlings
Nothing less nothing more
Think before you tweet
Don't become the pub bore

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Stupid Nature.

I've never had a garden I have been able to enjoy.  Well that’s not strictly true, up until the age of about 12 I think the garden was my football stadium, my jungle, my alien planet and my Narnia, but after 'growing up' I have never been able to settle in gardens.


It's either too hot, too cold, too many wasps/flies/alien things flapping around. On the rare occasion when I would get comfortable with a book (and that’s another thing, how are we suppose to get comfortable on garden chairs? its  almost impossible, has anyone invented a garden sofa yet?) then of course the neighbours would decide to work on the engine from an F16 jet they had picked up at a car boot sale, or 43 grandchildren would descend, each armed with a megaphone, a football, cricket bat and enough energy to keep Norwich running on electricity for several months.

The very idea of eating outside was so full of pitfalls that when it was suggested I would start to panic as each danger shot through my mind;


Flies land on food.

Flies land in food.

Wasps land in drinks.

It's always colder than you think, or it's so hot that salads explode as they leave the kitchen.

It's always windy. Always.

I can't see the t.v

It was supposed to be relaxing but I would shove food in my face like Oliver Twist before nature invaded my lunch.


And I haven't even mentioned barbecues.


Well we moved last year, practically in the middle of nowhere, with a proper garden that has nature and strange things. Last winter took so long that I changed my name to Jon Snow and took to whispering "winter is coming" to anyone I saw. The very idea of a summer was a distant memory, or just something you saw in American films.


After the Starks had left and the Lannisters had taken back the throne of Coningsby, Spring eventually arrived and a few weeks ago I found myself sat in the garden, something was different and I couldn't quite think why, after a few minutes I realised what it was; I was relaxed.


No noise apart from nature noises, it wasn't windy, no Phil Collins Greatest Hits in the background and I was comfortable. I actually felt like I had taken two nurofen for a headache and they were working instantly.

I found myself watching birds going about their daily routine, collecting twigs, having a snack, talking to each other, always busy and it occurred to me that humans really are stupid aren’t they? And so arrogant.


We feel superior to nature in so many ways but really we have got it so wrong. Despite what God announced in his press release Sunday isn’t a day of rest for all his creatures is it? Birds don’t have a lay in on a Sunday, or stay up till 3 drinking vodka on a Friday night.

They eat with the seasons, they don’t order food from Tesco, although they can fly so they have an advantage I guess.


Nature gets up when the sun comes up, works away, quietly, peacefully, without annoying anyone, has some food and drink, then goes to bed when the sun goes down. And when winter arrives they either sod off to somewhere nice or if they can't fly they hibernate for six months.


Whilst we plough on regardless getting up at the same time regardless of daylight or weather, even changing the clocks, yes we have got the nerve to change actual time itself to suit our routine!


Driving to work in the dark, coming home in the dark, the only daylight we see is car parks or outside busy shops, the only thing stopping us from going completely mad, or that tips us over the edge of madness, is Christmas. One day to keep us going in six months. Really??


All the while the birds and the cats and the bats and the rabbits must watch us and think "what on earth are they doing?!"


Anyway my point is this, gardens are great. If you have one appreciate it, spend time in it, don’t try and impose silly human values in a garden, we don’t need to smell burning cheap burgers or the Macarena in our gardens to enjoy them. Sit and watch and listen and you will feel the benefit, as you realise how insignificant we are compared to how significant we think we are.


All of this came to me whilst sat in the garden as I watched a pigeon fly back and forth from a tree in our garden, collecting leaves for a new nest at 7am on a Sunday. Then as it flew overhead for probably the fortieth time something happened.


It shat in my coffee.

Stupid nature.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Bins, Graffiti and The Matrix

So I saw some interesting graffiti near where I park my car the other day, in big black writing, quite neat too. It said REALITY IS ARTIFICIAL, that’s quite deep I thought, especially compared to the normal phrases I see like “Dave 4 Emma” and “Kevin woz ere wiv Baz 2010”. Making us think about how our day to day lives are nothing but an elaborate sham in order for us to generate some form of energy for a corporate Godhead figure, reducing all of us to nothing more than a aaa battery, not even the ones that fit in remote controls, the ones even smaller than that. Meaning all of our lives are in fact the equivalent of watching a low budget long running soap opera omnibus without anyone famous in it, like the Matrix but more Office Admin based. Or Emmerdale, but more realistic.

While all of this was running through my mind I noticed that someone had added to this simple but profound statement. What have they added I thought, a call to raise arms and awaken the human race from the slumber imposed on it? a phone number to join a revolutionary army who will overthrow the duplicitous governments that keep us squashed like sardines in a tin, oppressed by doom, gloom and fear? (That sounds like the worst name for a solicitors doesn’t it? “had an accident? Slipped on a step and had you football career tragically cut short Mrs Miggins? Well call Doom Gloom and Fear and we will arrange your compensation claim for you!”)



I was almost temped to call in sick until then.

My favourite ever piece of graffiti, yes I have a favourite, was one I remember seeing at school, carved into one of those old wooden desks. There were three parts to this particularly piece of work, like a decade spanning living artwork that the greatest minds of year 10’s metalwork class had worked on, each one not just casually written in biro but carved into the wood and then coloured in, so much deliberation and thought must have gone into each addition, knowing it was a permanent mark, like a blue peter time capsule that generation after generation would see and ponder at how children before them had possibly gained this knowledge, making them feel humbled and privileged to be sat at the very desk where three separate people had written the life changing words:

then underneath


and underneath that

Anyway what I want to talk about today is Bins, yes Bins. How much of our lives are spent either trying to figure out what goes in what bin, which bin to put out this week, whether beer cans are recyclable and OH GOD is there anything more annoyingly competitive than refusing to be the one and admit to your partner that yes, the bin is full and I shall take it upon myself to rid this household of the foul smelling rubbish monster and throw it from the house, causing harmony and a fresh linen smell to be felt throughout the land. But no you just try and squash down the weeks’ worth of waste – again, so you can slide in one solitary crisp packet, that you have already gone to the trouble of ironing.

And on this goes for days and days like a new Jamie Oliver Kitchen Russian Roulette Show until finally one of you gives in, concedes defeat and decides to try the delicate act of getting the bin bag out of the bin. We don’t choose this lightly you know as the risks involved are enormous and the chances of a BIN BAG SPLIT are horrifying enough that we daren’t even say the words out loud in public in case people hear us, scream and runaway.

And then we have the endless "can I recycle this" "which bin does this go in" conversation. Sometimes I spend an entire day with a pukka box wandering between the bins and the kitchen wondering what to do with it. When my girlfriend witnessed this once she came up with a solution to my rubbish dilemma.
"I have bought a new bin with TWO compartments" she said, as if world peace was about to break out.
"one is for food waste,and the other is for everything else" at the same time looking at me the same way a parent looks at their child when they have just explained how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
Of course this being life, my life, it wasn't as simple as this. I walked over to the "miracle box" and put my pukka pie box in the special compartment. Which was now full. You see this special compartment for ALL RECYCLING was approximately the same size as a rabbit. A small rabbit, with small ears, rolled up to the size of a small hedgehog.
Ok the special compartment was the same size as a small hedgehog.
Which meant of course that the entire bin would need emptying twice as much, making life twice as complicated and boring as before.
The next day as I walked to my car I noticed the graffiti REALITY IS ARTIFICIAL again. I pulled a pen out of my jacket and making sure no-one was watching, I wrote underneath it "SO WHICH BIN DOES IT GO IN THEN".


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Reading Room Live

Me at the Reading Room Live event at the LPAC. With my favourite T-Shirt, T-Shirt fact fans.