Watching the Darkness – Not the evening I planned

I receive a text – “what time do you finish work”
It pains me to be honest with you but my first reaction was annoyance.

What? What now!? I thought. I have thoughts and plans for my evening.

I was going to swing by town and pick up a couple of things (coffee and nytol with a small measure of irony) and needed to swing by my old flat (or rather the shop near it) to pick up a card for an undelivered item which was a present for another friend.
Frankly, I felt swamped. Actually the plan I really had was time to myself and it bothered me to change it.

But, I had just left work so I replied, Now!
The next text came: Please can you come to me. I need you desperately. x
I started typing out all the things I needed to do first in the hope it was nothing serious that could get a raincheck. Then I stopped and looked at the text again.


That wasn’t one of our words that we used. That was a strange word… it stood out to me. It meant something was wrong.
I texted back one word, “OK”

I was on the bus when I read the next message “don’t be clucking. I’ll be fine but I need you”

Don’t be clucking?! Well I wasn’t before that message!! Now I’m clucking! I just don’t know what I’m clucking about!
Now I knew something was wrong and my mind started running through the options – sadly far too many – as I replied that I’d be there as soon as I could.

“Please don’t hate me or be cross. I’m sorry! I’ll be fine tho”
Now I was really panicking.

My mind raced back to when they’d stepped out in front of the bus. Surely it couldn’t be something like that? They’d been telling me all their plans, how they were turning having to leave college into a positive thing, how they was doing better, surely it couldn’t be like May?
I knew I couldn’t bear anymore of these texts, so I replied to just wait till I got there and we could talk.

When I arrived they were on the phone to another friend, or to someone on the end of the 101 number, I’m not sure, they were in floods of tears with a pile of medication boxes in front of them which they painfully tried to hide from me before realising what a silly move that was.

The reality of the situation hit me immediately and I sat on a chair quietly while they finished their call.
I schooled my face and placed my mind in the state it needed to be, calm, gentle, loving, supportive.
The other friend on the phone had already called the paramedics who arrived soon after the call ended. I was glad as this saved me the job of having to convince them that this needed to be done. I have no idea what is a dangerous amount of ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin to take and their protestations that they have a hearty constitution and could sleep it off and I could just go home were worrying me. They’d contacted me, that meant they didn’t want to do this. Didn’t it?

The two paramedics were lovely, and I couldn’t help but notice some of the training they employed – concentrating on just one step at a time not what the end result would be (a night in hospital), just detailing what was taken, then just drinking this drink, then just coming to the ambulance for blood pressure – not tricking or deceiving – just breaking it down into small individual manageable steps. Moment by moment.

I just tried to be as useful as possible at each step – filling in missing information, carrying a bag, putting the keys in the right place etc. I also tried to stay out of the way. There but not overly so.

We joked about how sexy the charcoal drink made them look (“I’ve never wanted you more”), I duly sent some text messages for them and spoke to their partner while they felt ever more nauseous from the charcoal and no doubt the pills.

I’ve never been inside an ambulance before and we were both surprised to find there was a catflap in there! It was apparently the vertical lid to a bin… but it looked exactly like the catflap my friends have that stop their cats going back out again after a certain time.

They were mostly horrifically embarrassed, wanted the ground to swallow them up – which married and mixed with the suicidal thoughts – didn’t want anyone to see them. They would ask me to contact people then change their mind.

I just tried to ride it all, gently reminded them of the last decision made when asked about those requests, accepted any changes without comment.

They slowly accepted that she wasn’t going home immediately and I did my best to open up the thought that this could get the help so badly needed to get through this, that this wasn’t a sign of failure but a sign of the impossible load they were trying to carry all alone. A load that no one should have to bear. But it’s always easier to blame yourself for what other people do to you, and this weight is over three decades old. Perhaps it also wasn’t the time, but it’s a hard habit to break.

I was made to leave after a while, and it felt like the thing to do at the time so I did.

Later I panicked though. Wondered if I’d just opened the gate for them to vanish and complete the job or not access all the help that might be available. I sent her a text as I was going to bed in the vain hope that it might help if my fears were true.

I didn’t sleep much that night.

I woke to a facebook message that they were heading home in the early morning hours. I planned to see them as soon as I could after work.

The sun was shining and there were blue skies that morning. I held tightly to a made up hope that this was a good sign.

I did mange to completely over estimate my ability to be at work and got there with just enough Cope to let my department head know I wasn’t able to be at work that day (I’d left a message the night before to say I wouldn’t be able to be in at my usual time as I’d got home so late.) and then I left and repeated the previous afternoons journey to see my friend.

I spent a few hours with my friend at their home, we talked and while I will never know what the future holds, they were there and alive and I just hope that continues.

To the you in this post – if you want me to take this down I will. As ever I share these things in case it helps someone but it’s not my wish to cause you embarrassment.


Of phobias and panic attacks

This week I have been pushed face first into the deep end of my personal phobic pool (because it’s different for each of us). It’s been so long since I’ve had to face this issue that I’d actually forgotten just how phobic I am of Crane Flies/Daddy Long Legs. I’ve been more used to my anxiety being the Generalised kind that is amorphic and nebulous.

Having such a sharp focus to my anxiety is different. It means as soon as I’m away from the trigger I can start to recuperate and recover – although the anxiety has rippling after effects evidenced by my difficulty in getting to sleep all week (as soon as my eyes shut my brain decides to regale me with how the next day could be so much worse!).

However my trigger is ALL over work… I’m having to walk past a van windscreen that is blacked out with them, having to walk past them clinging to the walls of narrow corridors – or worse, they are flying chaotically in a corridor that is too narrow to get past safely, I’m trying not to look out of floor to ceiling windows spattered with them, their corpses litter the stairwells I have to climb sometimes disguising the ones that still live – and this just reinforces the phobic belief that they can come back to life if I get too close to them.

Even leaving work is hard, they pepper the glass doors, get inside the sections of the revolving door and line the underpass I have to go through. Monday that triggered an attack, Tuesday I cupped my hands over my eye so I could only see the ground right below me and barrelled through whispering “it’s okay” over and over to myself, the panic still rose as I stepped on a dead one and I had to firmly tell myself “now it’s REALLY okay” a few times once I was out the other side. Luckily today there was no lady to stare at my strange behaviour as today’s behaviour was much weirder than yesterday’s! On Wednesday I had asked a friend of mine to draw me a picture of an armour wearing flamethrower weilding bear to protect me. He duly did and I printed out that picture and held it inches from my face, staring fixedly at the bear whispering “the bear will protect me” as my mantra as I walked through. That day I didn’t have a panic attack on the other side.

Even just last week I felt I’d got to the point where I could tell myself “I don’t get panic attacks anymore” – When I could feel one building up, it was usually possible to breathe/talk my way back out of it (I don’t mean to suggest this is easy for anyone who struggles with panic but that it is possible to some degree and everything is individual and relative to your life – no beating yourself up if you get panic attacks and can’t talk yourself out of it you hear?).

I was proud of how I dealt with my anxieties and proud of how I’d changed from a bullying attitude toward my fears to one of supporting and understanding myself.

None of that seemed to apply this week!

Since Sunday lunchtime I’ve had 6 panic attacks of varying intensity and length. One of which hit me as I was seconds away from meeting the group I support and I had to turn to my colleague, beg forgiveness and run to a toilet cubicle to give into the fears and tears for a bit then try and get myself back under control to meet my group and start the day.

Another caught me as I was about to walk into work… the number of flying bastards plastered to the outside and on the ground meant I panicked and couldn’t walk into my workplace! I wasn’t at all sure what to do and just stood helplessly in tears (feeling like a prize twat of course) until someone came out to help and I walked in blindfolded (ironic given I work in vision impairments) with him being my guide. Took me half an hour to get over that one and my colleagues had to help me out by bringing my group up to my room so I could stay there in a blissfully flying fuckers free zone.

They’ve been lovely, actually, as the week has gone on it must be clear to them that this can’t be something I’m exagerating or making up and it’s getting worse as the week continues, the same colleague escorted me along the corridor so I could get to the canteen for lunch!

I’ve had to try and explain my weird behaviour to colleagues, painfully aware to my own ears of sounding childlike and pathetic. I can’t imagine anyone else thinking kindly to me over this as I can’t think that way about myself. I hate that something as insignificant and harmless as a flying insect has rendered me thus. I hate that I can’t seem to talk myself out of this one.

I’m aware of course that this attitude just adds to the anxiety and stress, but I can’t seem to help it. I can hear the words I’m using – condemning and judgemental words, rationalising and downplaying my reaction – but I have to admit I feel I deserve them… It makes asking for the help and support I need to cope with work difficult to ask for as I transfer all of my feelings onto them. I feel so pathetic and stupid, how could they think any differently of me?

This of course isn’t helped by the few that presumably have no form of phobia or anxiety in their lives or the lives of loved ones close to them, that’s the only explanation I can think of for their careless dismissal of my struggle. I’ve been told stories of when there were more flying fuckers than now, of one being in their car and they just had to get on with it, that they can’t do me any harm, comments along the lines of “what are you like you crazy thing?” and an illjudged joke of “watch out for that crane fly behind you” when there wasn’t anything there (that “joke” triggered a panic attack…) – I’ve tried to calmly answer that they aren’t helping or aren’t funny. For the lady with the crane fly in her car who “just got on with it”, I politely and quietly answered that I was really pleased she was able to do that. She got the message and actually walked along the corridor to my office in front of me to clear the insects away. She was forgiven!

Fortunately most of them do think differently and have continually offered their help or just their understanding and slowly as the week moves on, it seems I’m able to become more accepting. I guess I just have to… I mean there’s sod all else I can do apart from work on accepting this state, I can’t control or stop it and I can’t not come into work. I’ve noticed a gradual thawing of attitude toward myself as this week progresses (this post has been written over the course of this week as a form of therapy for me) and I’m not quite as loathing of myself as I was on Monday.

I do wonder if I’ve been through a version of Flooding this week. Sleep has been less than ideal so I am so very tired today and today I’ve not had a panic attack… I honestly think I just don’t have the energy for one and that’s so absolutely fine with me right now! The flies are slightly less in number and I’ve managed to squeeze myself down corridors on the opposite side to a wall clinging flappy. I’ve also been able to ask my colleagues to do a few things meaning my exposure to certain corridors, windows and stairwells has been limited.

I feel very humbled as I reach the end of this week. I bow my head and admit maybe I’m not as far along my path as I perhaps thought, that some issues remain just as strong, I just haven’t faced them in a while. It’s a reminder to me not to assume about myself and that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to Acceptance of things we wish weren’t so as without that acceptance I wasn’t able to make the adjustments I needed to perform at the best of my current ability.