It’s spring 2007 and I’m stuck in a loop. I’m standing at a bus stop, in West Bessacarr, nr Doncaster. An estate of miles and miles of identical, featureless, houses. The sort of place people come home to of an evening from tedious jobs in call centres, supermarkets and retail outlets. Andy Warhol once said of his hometown Pittsburgh that the best thing about growing up in as small town is that you want to get out. I felt the same after spending the best part of a decade shut in one of these soulless boxes. But on this particular day, I was trying to leave town, albeit for just a couple of weeks. I had been asked to design and install an underwater themed sensory room for a friend of a friend in Hastings, at the other end of the country. It was a really interesting commission and I had already built and shipped most of the equipment. The hardest part seemed to be proving actually getting down there and I was falling at the first hurdle. I had already stood at this bus stop four times already that day and four times I had walked back home again, the panic consuming me before I could get on the , ridiculously unreliable, bus. The last time I had fallen to the floor on getting home and sobbed and sobbed at the shear frustration of being me and being a slave to my misfiring emotions.
Fast forward to now and I am struck with a very frustrating dilemma. I really shouldn’t be going anywhere. I have been suffering with severe chest pains for a while now and it seems that these are not part of my rapid cycling list of anxiety related symptoms are are something far my serious and potentially life threatening. I should be taking it very, very easy and the last thing I should be doing is putting myself under and strain. The problem is though that I can no longer abide staying indoors for too long, I’ve done too much of it in my past and I know that slippery slope only too well. First you miss a day, then two, then a week and before you know it, you haven’t left the house in months, you have been wearing nothing but pyjamas for weeks at a time and you are eating plain sliced bread for breakfast as toasting it is far too much trouble. I’ve been there, sacrificed years to it and anything that hints at me going back there fills me with utter dread.
The weird thing is though, so much of what I do now could not have happened if it wasn’t for that time.
I’m sure I’ve written this before so bear with me but I ended up in my parents house in Doncaster back in 1998 after mental health problems had caused my life to crash to a halt just at the point that it should have been taking off. I had my degree, I had a glowing future as a designer ahead of me but then everything I had buried about the death of my father and my chaotic youth and childhood caught up with me all at once. Mad, penniless, friendless and homeless I ended up stranded a long way from the perceived glamour of London. It was then that everything changed. It’s an odd thing being that crazy, back in 1998 and up to when the Tories got their claws back in 2010 being crazy was relatively simple, you saw an experienced doctor, they could see you were crazy (depressed, bi-polar, personality disorder, whatever) and they left you alone for three years. Unlike now where you have to have the foresight and planning to have a paper trail with various agencies to convince a deeply cynical system that by doing anything other than leave you be they will probably get sued or fall fowl of the media. So back then, being crazy gave you a lot of space and free time, the sort of thing that can potentially get a person into a lot of trouble. Many people in that position fall prey to drug or alcohol abuse just to fill the days stretching ahead of them it’s a strange analogy but the nearest people you have a life style with are rock stars but minus the mansions and private jets obviously. You can got to bed and wake up whenever you want, say what you think without the risk of getting the sack, wear what you want, cut your hair how you want and, within the boundaries of the law, do what you please. I guess what saved me from total oblivion was my determination to find a way out of the mess that I’d ended up in. I always had a mission, albeit sometimes mad and grandiose , to focus my attention on. My two attempts at novel writing, quite rightly, sank without a trace. My teddy bear making provided a useful diversion but, however well I made them, the time taken could never be recompensed without the name of a Steiff or a Merrythought attached. The Dweeblings though have been a constant source of amusement and wonder to me and have grown and developed as the years have gone by. The Internet was in its infancy back then and computers and laptops were annoying, clunky, thing that needed to be attached to the web via cables and painfully slow dial up. You could get an inkling that there was a world out there but it couldn’t swamp you in information as it took too bloody long to download. This, for my sanity’s sake, was probably a good thing as I still had to force myself out on the odd occasion for annoying things like food if there was no one about to bring me groceries. Now, it would be far too easy as everything is just a mouse click away, I could slip into full hermit mode as easily as I could a new pair of underpants, easier in fact as wouldn’t run the risk of losing balance. So I need to get out, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, a zombie holocaust could be decimating the world and there I’d be trying to get some daylight and fresh air whilst the undead were trying to eat my brains. I just can’t risk a day indoors.
So here I January 2015, living near Hastings, feeling like a small child is sitting on my chest every time I climb the stairs, lift a litre of milk or stand up too quickly. Choosing outfits by weight rather than fashion sense. Am I regretting the need to climb nearly a mile of hill on the way back from my daily visit to the seafront? Well obviously yes! Can I do anything about it? No! Will this illness stop me from doing it? If it means staying indoors and going steadily more and more crazy, definitely not!