I really should be in a bad place right now. Of the holidays we had planned for this year, none went ahead. Instead, we had an overnighter in Hay-on-Wye. Not quite Croatia or Spain, certainly not in terms of the weather, and there were no sun beds on which I could read books, drink ice cold beer and fall asleep. The year’s been ruined by COVID-19, too, with the near certainty that we have more problems and lockdowns to come. And there’s next year’s hardest of hard Brexits just waiting in the wings. So, why am I feeling so much better than I was?
It is typical that my mental health has improved just days before my next therapy sessions are scheduled to begin and the small matter of years until I finally get assessed for what could be a lifetime of undiagnosed ADHD, yet here I am with a positive outlook on life. It’s mad that I’m not as mad as I was this time last week.
Ask someone with a mental health problem and they may tell you they have no idea why their moods fluctuate. For some people, there are very obvious triggers like a bereavement or a lost job, but for others there’s no rhyme nor reason.
Things didn’t get any worse when my PC died the other day, potentially taking with it all manner of stuff including nearly 60k of words from my not-awaited follow-up book ‘Corfu – not a scorcher’. I’m hoping it can be saved, as well as details of hundreds of rounds of golf, some lovely photos, music and Christ alone knows what else. Any maybe it can, but inexplicably I haven’t thrown a wobbly yet.
I even tried to repair the computer, not easy when you know literally nothing about how computers work, and my inevitable failure didn’t faze me. I was actually pleased with myself for ‘having a go’, something I would not have dreamed of doing just last week.
It feels like the moment when I suddenly, without warning, stopped being moderately scared of flying. One day, the plane took off and I realised my heart wasn’t beating out of my chest. It was what we experts refer to as an ‘Oh fuck it’ moment. With the end of my life far closer than the beginning, I seemed to have concluded that I had best start enjoying life while I could.
I also thought about the person I used to be, the man who hosted pub quizzes and wrote columns for the award-winning Bristol Rovers programme ‘The Pirate’. The man who appeared on Radio Five back in 1993 as a manager in their Fantasy Football League, finishing as runner up to comedian Nick Hancock. The trade union branch secretary and national official. But I’d been broken by a corporate charity.
It’s well over three years since the worst bullying and abuse took place at the British Red Cross and it had taken me over. I obsessed over these people. Hate is a very strong word but I hated them. Do you note the past tense? Now I pity them. If I met with them again, I wouldn’t be scared but I wouldn’t be angry, either. But I’d tell them, calmly and politely, how I felt about them and what sorry low-lifes they were.
None of this is to say that I am cured. I’m not going to cancel my therapy or stop taking the drugs. But today, I’ve taken back control of my life. Tomorrow? Who knows? One day at a time.