Today I know myself but I dearly wish I didn’t. What I know is that whilst in some ways I am extremely resilient, in others I am a very fragile person. I have learnt what is likely to break me over the years, noise that can’t be shut off, claustrophobic situations, chaos, drunk people (see chaos), nasty people… I won’t bore you, it’s a long list. However hard I have tried in the past, through cbt, through beta blockers, through ssri’s, the panic has broken through and I’ve gone hurtling away at breakneck speed from the point of stress. I’ve run out of Mayfair cafes to surface in Islington with bloody feet and a broken spirit, I’ve run home from plays and planned suicide, shot out of cars in the middle of arguments, countless irrational panic responses that can’t be controlled no matter how hard I try. That’s the problem with hidden illnesses, if you were wheelchair bound and you had to attend an event in a building without ramps, lifts and dedicated bathroom facilities, there would be a public outcry, the sympathy would mass behind you and the story would make its way into the newspapers. With a hidden illness, though, most people just roll their eyes and mutter “weirdo’ or such under their breath. This government isn’t helping with its, pick on the most vulnerable, strategy. I look forward to a time when we look back in horror at what we deemed as acceptable behaviour, back in the dark days. From the casual racism on television up until the 1970’s through to the chain smoking Fred Flintstone an drampant homophobia as recently as the eighties, I hope that one day people will look back in horror at the thoughtlessly excluding situations that they created. We are a long way from that now though and the arbitary hidden illness predudice affects me constantly.
So this is my dilemma, the one I always have to face. Do I try to fight against the illness when a situation brings it up, knowing that it could plunge me into weeks of severe depression if it goes wrong or do I except it and just hate on myself for a few days? Plus there is always the cumilitive total of the “what a rude, odd, anti social guy that Chris is.” whispers and opinions to consider.
Today is a landmark birthday for one of my closest and most loved friends and there will be a party thrown for her and a friend of the same age. I started doing the risk assement for it a long while ago, crowds of people, loud music, plenty of booze and therefore plenty of drunk people… There were a few plus points though, lots of lovely people who I know will be there and there is an outdoor area which would service as a welcome break from everything that pushes my buttons but then there were two other factors that swung it, due to the joint nature of the party and the inevitable six degrees of separation factor of their friends and partners, there will be some absolute wankers in attendance, between having to suffer their presence and knowing to whom they will be reporting back, the are a definite negative on the list. The night of the party also coincides with yet another in the unending circle of tedious events on the boozers’ and exhibitionists’ calendar and the town will be chock full of arseholes yet again. So, after much soul searching, my decision was made or rather made for me.
And yet I will still hate myself for it, even though my close friends understand and even expect and plan for it, it still hurts. Plus, from a selfish point of view, my inability to attend many social occasions shuts down countless options for me. I see so many lucrative projects locally that can be pinned down to the people around the table in a particular pub or a dinner party, funding options and opportunities divied out over a pint or a glass of wine. Mind you, it also goes to explain why so many things that occur are of such poor and unprofessional quality, a meritocracy it ain’t. I console myself with the knowledge that I neither have to work with nor be in the proximity of unpleasant people, which makes life a lot more bearable. It also hampers one’s chance of finding romance as not going to parties, pubs, etc makes meeting people much harder. When people have lowered their inhibitions with alcohol and have to circumvent normal rules of personal space to shout in someone’s ear over the loud music, intimacy becomes much easier. That said, it’s been a long time since I’ve woken up to the regrets and results of a poor romantic decision made at a messy party or boozy pub night. Plus, for me, meeting people under such circumstances would give someone the impression that I’m happy do such things in the future, causing friction with any potential partner more attuned to socialising, as before though, it minimises my contact with arseholes, which is a small comfort.
There is a world out there full of people like myself, if we are a minority, it is a huge one. We rarely meet though because, well, see above. sone of us are lucky enough to make it (whatever that means) or find love, some even do both, but for most of us it’s the mental equivalent some hideous physical illness or other that I dare not put into words for the shit storm of “how dare you compare your trivial ailment to… Insert illness here”. So we just suffer in silence, well, except for mouthy gits like me who burn more bridges than those carpet bombing major cities and have nothing left to lose.
So tonight, it’s bath, jim jams and a book like every other night, alone. While a world that is closed and barred to me goes on out there regardless.