There are days, weeks where it becomes obvious that things, habits, attitudes, people no longer fit. It is as if someone, somewhere is wielding an enormous pair of scissors and is cutting out bits of my life as if they are pages in a magazine – bits I am attached to, that I need – and pasting them somewhere else. Maybe even somewhere that has nothing to do with my life.
After this week two old friends are gone. Two old friends I needed but who didn’t need me. I am too much work for them. They didn’t say it but I know they thought it.
The thing is, I am not that much in the way of hard work as a friend. I am a good conversationalist, I can touch on a wide variety of topics, I don’t talk about myself ad infinitum, I can be quite funny when the need arises and I am genuinely interested in what is going on in other people’s lives.
However, the part of me that does involve a bit of work is the part where most people don’t like to delve – the mental health part.
You would think that people who you have been friends with for over ten years would not turn and run at the first mention of depression. I feel as if I have stepped on a landmine and that even though bits of me are now missing and they can see that they are missing, they will not acknowledge I have a hole in the middle of my chest.
I’ve been having panic attacks. One of them caused me to lose a freelance job I had lately. It’s a long story but basically I completely messed up something I was editing and edited the whole thing as if I was someone who couldn’t speak English. My thought processes became completely incoherent. When the person I was doing the job for rang me and said as politely as possible : What the hell is this piece of crap you’ve just emailed me? I got into a state and couldn’t explain myself. So I got sacked. And now I’m panicking so much it’s stopping me from applying for other jobs.
So I went to the doctor. When I walked into the Waiting Room there were 25 people already there. 25 people at nine in the morning waiting to see a doctor. They looked annoyed as if they had been waiting for a long time and I began to panic thinking that I might need to sit in the waiting room for hours and hours. I tried to calm myself by counting the people. Asssessing them to see how sick they looked. Most of them looked perfectly well and then I thought: What if they’re all having panic attacks like me? They might see the doctor for an hour each. I could be waiting for days.
So then I began to panic some more. I grew a little light-headed and I grabbed at the table by my chair knocking over a little boy’s bottle of juice. His mother got cross with me and asked me if I was an addict. Great, I thought, Not only do I have to wait for three days, I look like a junkie. This day just gets better and better.
I think I must have started breathing quite heavily because my doctor suddenly appeared and pulled me into her consulting room. There is something faintly amusing about a panic attack. There is so much heavy breathing involved that you feel like you are doing the sound effects on a porn film.
Do you want something to calm you down? the doctor asked.
How about oxycontin? I replied. Isn’t that what all the movie stars take? I’d like to feel like a movie star for a day.
You’re being incredibly facetious for someone who is not well, she said.
Come on, I said. I feel ridiculous. I have to make a joke out of it or I’ll throw myself on the floor in the foetal position and suck my thumb for the rest of the day.
The doctor carried out an assessment on me. She did some of that memory stuff like where she lists ten things and you have to recite them back to her in order. I could only remember the first two because I was still thinking about the porno sound effects and happened to notice she had two shag pile cushions on her couch. There seemed to be a theme happening (shag pile, get it?) and at any minute I expected Austen Powers to walk through the door warming up his stethoscope.
The bottom line is my doctor thinks I shouldn’t work for a while. She has given me some new medication and has suggested I apply for sickness benefits. I don’t think I will do that because the application process is a nightmare and involves being assessed by a government appointed psychologist. I have met a couple of government appointed psychologists before and quite frankly, I would rather do the sound effects for a porno.
To cut a long story short I was supposed to go somewhere with my two friends on the same day I had the panic attack in the waiting room. It was somewhere relatively important. I was feeling so stressed that I couldn’t go. I mean I really couldn’t go. I just felt really, really flat. And exhausted.
I feel bad that I didn’t go. I should have gone. But I just couldn’t. And they got mad with me for not going. Really mad.
Accusations were flung about. I was painted as unreliable, potentially negative. Too much of a wild card in their perfect little rose-coloured world.
And the scissors came down and cut them out neatly from the place on the page where I had always imagined they would be. And then they were pasted to another page, a page I cannot yet read.
Sometimes when ways are parted it seems like a desert lies in the part of your mind where a lush forest used to grow. But there is calm to be found in the desert, a light that turns the air clear.
And even though the road is dusty and dry, flowers still push through the stony ground.