I pushed myself well and truly out of my comfort zone on Tuesday night. I went to an event. Alone. In a very trendy and cool part of London (the fact I’m calling it trendy or cool should probably highlight just how untrendy and uncool I am). I look out of place, genuinely. Never mind, I rock up and to make sure I make myself known, I miss the step into the entrance and go flying. Yes, as Friend AI would say, ‘Ah, classic Person C’. Just as I’m out of the splint and off crutches too. Seriously, I shouldn’t be allowed out alone.
Back to the talk and here I am, early, sat in the front row (did you expect anything less from me?!). I feel massively out of place. Everyone else seems to know someone. Everyone else seems suitably cool enough for this venue. I look a little too preened and orderly. I feel I need a tattoo, leather jacket or something else that would make me feel ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ (You know things are going downhill when you use these terms! I remember being ‘soooooo embarresed’ of Mum for using similar terms, I’ve somehow turned into a not cool mum minus the kids!)
Instead, I’m here staring at my phone in that awkward way people on their own in a public place do. In fact, this whole situation is very similar to my first night at the hospital in the restaurant. I think everyone else knows what they are doing here and I’ve got a big flashing sign saying loner right above my head. The catchy tune is there but being drowned out by the ‘cool’ music playing. The talk is part of a new start up that arranges lectures and evening socials from 1900-2100. Given my need for a life out of the flat, this seemed perfect. The topic is interesting too… it’s about a Brit who ended up locked up in the US’s most notorious prison for drugs. As well as the phone safety blanket, I’ve also got a glass of wine, it’s currently keeping the other hand occupied.
The venue is filling up behind me but the problem with being a keen bean sat at the front… I can’t turn round and scope them out. Is there anyone else here feeling massively socially awkward?! What I don’t realise is that the venue has filled up behind me. The talk begins and oh, wow, Shaun Attwood’s story is one that all kids should hear. I won’t re-tell his story, you can buy his books online and he uses the money to send books to prisoners and kids. He also gives these talks at schools to discourage them from entering the world of drugs. I have the type of personality that seems to like things that are bad for me (binge, purging, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, cats – well, technically my cats are only bad for my bank balance but…) and so, when Mum, frequently reminds me, she is thankful that I never discovered drugs, she is, of course, right (it’s so annoying that Mum’s are normally right). I am positive I’d love the effects of being high (do kids even call it that anymore). Thankfully, now I am such a control freak, I can’t stand the idea of not knowing how I’ll react so the only drugs I take are the ones society deem acceptable to stop myself jumping in front of a train. Oh, and wine! Wine is good. Anyway, back to my awkwardness…
Trusty iPhone (which is losing its trustiness thanks to the appalling battery life post iOS update) and glass of Pinot in hand, I sit and listen. What strikes me about Shaun, his family and the other prisoners, is the complete lack of mental health support. To be honest, his story has a lot of physical health support to, so I suppose it’s not surprising that there is no mental health support. We live in a world where we can get everything on demand but yet we don’t invest in the sanity of our people. That is truly bonkers! I wonder how many people end up in prison due to their mental health. In the UK, it’s become common practise for the police to be called in a mental health crisis. If there are no beds available in the NHS trust, the person, for their own safety, is taken to a police cell. It’s not a crime to be mentally ill but the subpar service available to get people better means we are close to criminalising them. I remain ever thankful to my private corporate medical insurance.
It turns out I have a feisty side. It’s new. I’m not sure when it turned up to be honest. It’s taken me by surprise. I know there were a few times I stuck up for myself in the hospital but that felt different. It was a protected environment. This time, it’s in the ‘cool and trendy’ bar. I bought a glass of wine on my way in. It was a security blanket. It cost £8.50. During the interval, I wanted another. It probably isn’t a great idea but sod it, yes, I will. Although, no I won’t. Apparently, there is a £10 minimum. I argue back. It shocks me as much as the barmaid. To continue this feistiness, I walk downstairs to complain. The barman tells me his colleague is right and there is no way I paid for a drink that cost less than £10. Thankfully, as stated above, we live in a world where we can do most things from our phones. This includes pulling up my credit card statement (yes, I know, why am I adding to the debt… a glass of wine really was needed though) where is clearly shows £8.50 is pending for their establishment. He asks if I’d like to add anything else to the order to make it up to £10. No, I don’t. With that, I turn on my heels (I never knew what that expression meant until I just did it, it’s an actual thing) and trot back upstairs taking the moral high ground. Seated back in the front row, I realise I really haven’t just won any high ground, moral or other, as the barmaid is drinking the glass of wine poured for me (pre-realisation I was paying on the card) and I’m sat here clinging to an empty glass. Bugger.
Talk and Q&A over, I have a choice. Walk home or bus home. I voluntarily pick walk. This is a good sign surely. Another sign that walking is the right thing to do, I find a £5 note on the floor. It’s mine! Whoop. I instantly feel guilty though, I should have checked if anyone had dropped it. To appease the guilt, there really is only one thing to do with the money. I donate it to Mind so at least I can have a slightly less guilty conscious.
Talking of signs, something that isn’t such a good sign is the fact I’ve not brushed my teeth. All week. Including tonight (Thursday). Yup. Not so ok.
There is a reason behind my steps backwards (yes, steps multiple – it’s not just the teeth that have taken a hit). On Thursday, I see Dr. E, my psychiatrist. She will determine if I am fit to return to work or not. I am not sure how long the process will take but I assume I’ll be in the office by mid-next week. I’m nervous. No, anxious, no, both. It feels like I am waiting for exam results. The thing is, I don’t entirely know what outcome I want! I don’t want to let Manager MH down by not returning but equally, I smell so it’s probably not a great idea to through work into the mix. The fact I am regressing in the build up to this appointment is an obvious indicator I am not ok. It’s obvious now, at mid-night on Thursday, after the appointment, it was less obvious prior to 1630 today. I’ve been scared to ask Dr. E when I am going back. What if she says I go back tomorrow? What if she says I’m not ready? So, in ‘Classic Person C’ fashion, I’ve avoided talking about it directly. Therapist L was going to write a report post our session on Monday to give Dr. E the heads up that I am worrying about it, regardless of the outcome. Hopefully that means I won’t bottle out of explaining my nerves.
Just to be safe, in case Dr. E really can issue the report tonight and demand I go in tomorrow, I’ve cleaned the flat, hoovered the bath (yes, really, still doing that), done my washing (and actually taken it out the washer to dry before it smells damp), written all my Christmas cards (no joke), and started to wrap Christmas presents (no, honestly, it’s true). So, I may be just a little over prepared. I know, I know, going back tomorrow, or any other day won’t mean I’ll never be at home again. Quite the opposite as I think I’ll have to do a phased return. But, hey, one can never be too organised.
Leaving the flat, I realise I am going to be late. Busses and lateness combined = complete melt down on the bus. I was that crazy woman the school kids all move away from. On the plus side, it meant no one sat next to me the whole way there. I run (not a sensible idea, my ankle is now the size of a grapefruit) but I am 30 minutes late. I don’t do late. This is terrible. It’s then that a new tic kicks in. In case I am not weird enough, I realised about a week ago, I’ve been involuntarily plucking my eyebrows with my fingers. Yes, let’s just go and make me stranger. I think it’s because my trusted fidget gadgets from the hospital aren’t being utilised. Note to self, dig them out before I lose my eyebrows completely. This also happens to be the first time, in a whole year, that Dr. E is not running late. Argh.
In I walk. The standard, ‘so, tell me, what’s been going on’ line gets said and… wow, snotty, ugly, body shaking tears come out. I didn’t even know they were in there today. This is not going to create the best impressions of someone hoping to be back at work next week. We break down the various topics:
- Dad’s cancer which isn’t cancer but actually is – She thinks he’s lying. Based on the procedures he’s having done, and some other background family history, it’s highly probably he is currently being treated for bladder cancer. However, apparently, it’s treatable. Cue more tears (I don’t know why right now… is it good it’s treatable? Is it because he’s hiding it from us? Is it because my emotions have decided to all erupt right now, in West London, on the psychiatrist’s couch?)
- Self-care – She asks if I’ve been washing. I contemplate lying but wonder if she’s really asked this because I smell. An expensive perfume ‘shower’ and two mentos probably weren’t quite enough to mask the fact my hair is greasy and I’ve been wearing the same top for the last 5 days. In my defence, the total amount of time I’ve spent out of pj’s probably only adds up to 2 days!
- Work – I tell her I’ve met my manager for a coffee and I’m trying so hard not to overcompensate. She is pleased I’m trying but isn’t pleased it led to me locking myself away for 2 days. By the way, Manager MH is a totally normal human being. She doesn’t have two heads, she’s bought me lots of coffee and has been rather fantastic about this whole thing so please don’t think my highly emotional reaction is because of her! This is where the session descends into emotional chaos. Apparently, I misheard Dr. E at my last appointment. She was never viewing today as the ‘back to work’ discussion. Urm, what. So, you mean, I’ve not slept, I smell, I’ve scared some Year 7 kids and used half a bottle of expensive perfume and it wasn’t even going to be discussed? No. N…O… [slap round the face]. Seriously, that’s what it feels like. Turns out, I really did want to go back to work. She isn’t willing to set a date. I don’t need to think about it. I need to work on self-care. I apologise. Error. Dr. E shouts. It’s in a ‘I am trying to help you woman, now help yourself’ kind of way but basically, she wants me to post-it note the flat with reminders that teeth, showering and exercise plus proper meals are non-negotiables. I apologise again. She shouts again. Apparently, I am not getting it. I don’t need to be a perfect patient, this isn’t hurting her, it’s hurting me. She’s doing this for me… Bugger.
I walk out of her office and onto the streets of West London. If school children were scared of me on the bus, they should be really scared of this grown woman crying in the middle of the pavement. The adults are starting to look scared now too. It must be bad. People are willingly walking closer to the homeless man who appears to be on SPICE than risking making eye contact with me, in case my tears snare them to talk to me. Wow. How do I get through this? Long standing readers of the blog will know that there is an M&S right by the hospital. I walk in. Just to stop scaring the people on the streets, obviously. The fact 2 large packets of crisps, some mini chocolate popping candy balls and a mini bottle of wine magically jump into a basket which was already magically in my hand is pure coincidence.
Back on a bus and heading home, the bus fills with the usual after work rush. Unlucky lady in blue is unfortunate enough to take the last seat on the upper deck, next to me!
Home and any thoughts of going for a swim nose dive out the window. A couple of friends contact me to ask how it went. Not well. Not well at all. The mini bottle of wine gets poured. However, minor victories need celebrating so… the crisps and chocolate get put away. Instead, I have the very healthy dinner of 6 Rich Tea biscuits and a packet of fruit pastilles. On a technicality, this isn’t binging. I’m within my calorie allowance for the day. But we all know that’s just a technicality.
So, here I am, 00:45 on Friday morning freaking out about the fact I am not going back to work. How am I going to tell Manager MH? When will all this therapy click into place? Answers welcome, post cards, or even pigeon carriers, are accepted. In the meantime, I’ll be perfecting my ribbon tying skills on the Christmas presents I’ve already bought.
Scary because you know it’s true!