So, I’m back in therapy. This will be the third time in my life I’ve had to enter into a long-term relationship with a stranger where I tell them all my deepest darkest secrets and they give me fuck all in return. Worse, I have to pay them large sums of money for the privilege.
It is very annoying to have waited until middle-age to become acquainted with anxiety. Depression I can handle. Been there, done that, bought the non-tax-deductible remedy. Anxiety however is new. Where depression I felt in my stomach and behind my eyes, anxiety appears to live in my chest.
What gives this unfortunate place of residence that extra soupcon of unpleasantness is that I’m a middle-aged man with a genetic predisposition to heart disease. A middle-aged man who has read a bit too much about the physical cost of stress and anxiety. A middle-aged man who is now paranoid that every twitch and twinge in his chest is a prelude to a fatal heart explosion. A middle-aged man who is quickly piling on all the pounds he had managed to lose last year. And all those pounds can be measured in take-aways and crisps.
I never thought I would miss depression. The thing about depression is that it has an element of anaesthesia about it. That numbing effect that helps one shut out the stuff a grown-up person is supposed to care about. You know, bills, relationships and Climate Change.
This anxiety thingy however makes me hyperaware of everything. And I’m using the term ‘hyperaware’ utterly incorrectly here. I’m not hyperaware, it just feels that way. And because my mind is signalling fear in the face of such mundane issues like my phone ringing, my chest tightens and this makes me more scared which tightens my chest ever more and in the end, I’m exhausted and drained.
It has shut me down professionally, creatively and socially. Again, that sounds very dramatic. I still turn up for work, I still have ideas, I interact with people I have to interreact with, but the effort is almost overwhelming. I’m shit in work, I can’t write for shit and I’d give my last cent to avoid any social situations that might extend to actually being me.
I am struggling to express myself. Yes, a straight white man who is writing on his blog about his struggle to express himself, is struggling to express himself. More ironing than you can shake a stick at there. Yet that is where my head and chest are at.
A typical day now consists of lurking on Twitter and Instagram and playing CivIII for hours on end. And not writing, not debating, not dieting or exercising, not in fact being a grownup middle-aged man who does want to do all these things but is stuck avoiding all these things because they make his chest hurt. And because he’s avoiding all these things his chest hurts. No wonder I’m reduced to forking out money I don’t have to speak at a professional who is tasked with using the silences for me to find my own solutions. Therapy is such a fucking racket. Life-saving yes, but still, a bastard fucking racket.
I am now in the accomplishing tiny little goals phase of the process. I am trying to write 1000 words a day, walk Arwen, trying to eat only one packet of crisps a day (a bloody big bag I’ll grant you, but still, baby steps, I haven’t even looked at the chocolate content of my day), read a bit (did I mention I’m even struggling to read?) and do a few chores. The sort of day that most adults manage before leaving for work in the morning.
Those 1000 words don’t even have to be creative. This blog post counts towards my daily 1000. And I’ve a bunch of other posts I’ve tried to write over the last few months that I can return to, to get my count up. Anything to get the expression muscle motoring again. Yep, I just typed ‘expression muscle’ and haven’t deleted it. But it, and repeating it, means four more words. So fuck it, it’s staying.
At this point I’d gut my entire family, even the ones I like, if it meant I could get writing again. If it meant relaxing the knot seizing my chest. Fuck, I’d even settle for the knot returning to my stomach where it has always been before when I’ve been unhappy.
Now I have to decide if 800 words is close enough to 1000 words to count as task accomplished. Which will lead to an internal debate about back-sliding and whether a bit of slacking is ok in the current circumstance or if settling for nearly there will defeat the purpose of having a daily task. That knot just gets tighter. If I could only afford daily therapy or even weekly I could dump this issue at the feet of my therapist and then watch him manipulate me into picking up that mess myself and deciding my own solutions. Like I said, a fucking racket.