If you could read my mind

by Rick Johansen

It was typical of my poor timing that just as I was getting assessed for ADHD, it became trendy and literally everyone was getting diagnosed. The inevitable consequence of that saw people question whether people had ADHD or even if it had existed at all. Definitely the first time in my life that I have done anything that could be considered trendy and then not in a good way. But I thought about it a little more and realised that when it comes to neurological and mental disorders, I have been at the very height of fashion for many years.

I was diagnosed many decades ago with severe clinical depression (altogether now: “You never mentioned that before”) and also with various types of anxiety, but for reasons that defy common sense, I have preferred the depression label. If I got involved in a conversation with anyone from a GP to the bloke in the pub, for example, I downplayed the anxiety bit and majored on the depression. Perhaps, I felt it just sounded better or maybe it just made me happier?

Either way, anxiety is definitely part of my mix. I’ve somehow put it to the back of my malfunctioning mind and basically left it to others. But I know, really, that I am as anxious as the next anxious person.

Mine tends to be worse at night, when I am supposed to be resting. Then, I have terrible anxiety dreams, wake up anxious and then my brain is whirring away until I finally get back to sleep, often at a time when I am supposed to be getting up.

Last night, I was back in the DHSS, working, if that’s the word, on the Supplementary Benefits section in Bedminster, Bristol. Back in the 1980s, that really happened, except that I just couldn’t cope with it. Despite all the training courses and on the job training, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how I wasn’t sacked, to be honest, especially given the nature of the ghastly manager and her brown-nosing junior managers. In my dream, it was even worse than the real thing. It took ages to come down. And it’s like this in one way or another pretty well every night.

My dreams focus on my inadequacies, never my strengths, and being dreams everything is exaggerated, last night not so much. I relive the very worst times and I can’t escape. If it’s not about work, my dreams are likely to be about other things I am no good at, or – and this is a regular – I am packing to go somewhere and I have so much to pack I get later and later. My 4.00am bathroom break is more welcome than ever.

I know the anxiety is there during the day, too. I need to be somewhere I am going to, pretty well as soon as I leave. I want my morning shower to be out of the way before I’ve even had it. Everything has to be here right now, but it never is. It’s the same when I go for a walk. At one time I used to enjoy the journey but now I just want it to be over.

And because I felt depression was far more cool than anxiety – I reckon I really may have felt that way – I only admitted to the former. But now, I’m coming out. My name is Rick and I am anxious as well as being depressed. I am sure you are impressed and love and admire me more than ever. Or maybe not?

I need to think this through a bit more. The more I find wrong with me in the mental health department, the more I think – or is it imagine? – there are more conditions to be revealed. ARFID? For sure. Autism? Definite signs. PTSD? An actual consultant psychiatrist suggested that one.

I think I will donate my brain to science, something that no doubt will prompt the boffins into examining how the hell I got through life at all. After all, rugby players and boxers are often revealed to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CET) when they’re dead. Maybe there’s some solely mental version?

What this does is give me more stuff to write about. “My sad struggle with anxiety and what a fucking hero I am”, that kind of thing. Of course, I’m not a fucking hero. Just a bloke with mental health and neurological ‘issues’, that’s all. And the more conditions I discover, the more of them I have. At least in my mind. And you can’t rely on my mind, mind. It’s all in the mind. If only you could read it. If only I could.

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