Flirting with GAD.
Flirting with GAD.
Bertie: “Bobby! Why are we sitting on this bench? It’s taters and freezing me bleedin’ nuts off!”
Bobby: “Errr…where did you get that expression from Bertie?”
Bobby: “Ohh… Well, since you asked, I am flirting with GAD” (Generalised Anxiety Disorder)
Bertie: “Thought you ‘ated ‘er?”
Bobby: “I don’t hate anyone, Bertie. She and I have had a relationship for nearly 75 years. Lots of ups and downs, as you would expect.”
Bertie: “We only hear about the downs. Let’s be honest, Bobby. Whenever ‘she’ is around, there is always trouble. You change into a quiet, insignificant lump, with no interest in the wonderful world we live in!”
Bobby: “Thanks for that, Bertie. It’s not ‘her’ fault. In fact, it’s no one’s fault – but rather the cards you are dealt with when you join the human race. Something you haven’t quite managed yet. And something many of the human race do not recognise either. We call it Mental Illness, but I prefer ‘an alternative way of looking at life’.”
Bertie: “Gor blimey, Bobby. That’s a bit much for a bear!”
Bobby: “OK then, Bertie, I will let you into a secret. Something brilliant. We wrote a story on GAD nearly two years ago. In it we actually said we didn’t care if anyone read it or not. It was written to help the person writing it. If others found it helpful, then that was great. Just as explained in that story, this current flirtation is merely the reaction of someone who has had a close relationship with GAD all their life. I know that a number of people appreciated that story. None more so than myself. The first thing I did when I realised that the flirting had started this time was to read that story over and over. It really helped and I soon got the lid back on the box.”
Bertie: “Well Bobby, I suggest we repeat that story with just the important bits.”
And here we are:
A Day in the Life of GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder).
Bobby has GAD.
He is not ashamed. He feels no stigma. He knows it will go away if he lets it. It took 73 years to learn this. What follows is his version of mindfulness. We hope you read it, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t. It’s written by him, for him, and anyone who suffers from mental illness. When he was young, he was hyperactive. But had one strange problem. At school when, as a prefect, he was expected to read the lesson in assembly, he lost his voice. Every time. Ten years old. They didn’t believe him. 60 years later it was clear from later experience it was anxiety. GAD.
Many years later, the problem came to a head. Now 32. Weeks of overwork, trying to run a scout troop – and finally an emotional upset pushed him over the edge. Night after night he couldn’t sleep. He went to the doctor, who famously said… “You want to pull yourself together, mate. There are people really ill out there!” Friends and family didn’t understand. Nor did he. The combination made it worse. “Why me?” was his favourite thought. Together with “I’m a failure.”. Or, encouraged by those ashamed of him, “Must get to work. Can’t do the work. Must get there. Mustn’t let them find out at work I’m a nutter.”
He is not a weakling. He has nothing to be ashamed of. Through years of misunderstanding and ignorance, he had to battle the demons alone to get back to what he should be. A fun loving, loyal gentle giant. It takes courage to fight mental demons. Courage beyond anything you can imagine. Unless you too have been mentally ill. There have been further bouts through the years, culminating in serious illness in 2013, when the pressure of the life he was leading became intolerable. And finally, he found a new way through mindfulness, Al-Anon and experience.
You cannot be cured. But, most importantly, with the right help and understanding, you can keep the demons away. Bobby keeps his in an imaginary box. Labelled “demons”. The lid is loose. It has to come off now and again. With experience, the lid rarely comes off now and hopefully can go back on again quickly. In fact, the best advice is to welcome the lid coming off. Welcome the demons and let them creep back into the box of their own volition.
Nowadays, he recognises that medication can help at times of extreme anxiety. For him, such techniques as mindfulness and speaking therapies are more powerful tools. More than anything, he realises that society is finally allowing such problems to come out of the closet. The stigma and shame he felt years ago is a thing of the past. Nevertheless, mental illness is a very lonely place. The only consolation is the power of the mind. Many people fully recover, simply by believing in themselves. If you do, you have been through an unforgettable experience. One that makes the world even more beautiful.
And so, on Easter Saturday when he woke up, he knew he had a day with the demons. The usual problem of overdoing it, both mentally and physically, had left him vulnerable. An hour on the computer to try to sort out what seemed insoluble was the perfect breeding ground for insecurity. So, here is an insight into his own personal version of GAD.
Bobby: “Shall I go to see the Flying Scotsman at the Bluebell Line?
Should I go by train or car?
Will my backache get worse?
Will I be able to get out of the car at Horsted Keynes?
Will I have a funny turn and fall in front of the Flying Scotsman?
Will I still be able to get to Venice in May?
Why did I book it?
Can I afford it?
Will I be able to write a blog again?
Will those who help me get fed up with me?
Have I got a terminal illness?
No… this is GAD. Out of the box. Breathe slowly. Remember what Bertie says…
Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, so live for today.
Don’t give up. Driving to Horsted Keynes is the easy option. But calm down!”
“Why have I gone this way?
Where am I?
There’s a sign to Ardingly. Hoorah.
Phone rings. Should have turned it off. Must answer it. MUST answer it. MUST ANSWER IT! Stop in a lay-by. A friend’s husband is dead. Her dog, my sister’s, dead too. The next day from a broken
hip. Too old to mend. Put down.
Why now? Am I being selfish? Pull yourself together. W**ker!
Suddenly there’s a bloody great big coach trying to get in the lay-by.
Bibbing me to get out of the way. I did. Can’t argue with size.
Suddenly I saw the bluebells, the wood anemones, the primroses.
Suddenly I was nearly in the ditch as a car overtook a cyclist blind on the crest of a hill. BASTARD.
Crashing through pot holes in the gutter I was back on the road.
Will the front wheel fall off? Have I damaged the tracking? Why me?”
“I’m here. Still alive. The sun is shining. A cup of tea and a sausage roll.
Not getting on any trains, but just watching.
Hours went by. My phone ran out. No battery. No camera. No more pictures. I just sat there and watched the steam world and its devotees go by. Waved to all the children, and adults, happily trundling up and down the Bluebell line behind the most famous steam engine in the world. The Flying Scotsman.”
(Bobby christened Robert James).
“Cruising. No maniacs. Laurel Cottage. Home sweet home.
And now, it’s Easter Sunday. A day of joy, whatever your persuasions.
Beautiful Easter music on the radio.
The lid is back on the box.”
Bertie: “But Bobby, we are still sitting on this bleedin’ bench. Why?”
Bobby: “Well, Bertie, as you well know this is our favourite place. To think of Diddley.
To be happy, sad, nostalgic, joyful. It’s been here two years now and appeared in many pictures and stories. And don’t forget. This is Diddley’s View. My favourite place.
Or, as Winnie the Pooh may have said:
‘Christopher Robin, where is your favourite place?
‘It’s my favourite place too.”
Lighting a Candle for Diddley.
Sometimes, flirting with GAD can end as soon as it started. It didn’t stop until the next day. Described in next week’s story. ‘Finding Serenity at Kingston upon Thames’. Who knows? The ways of the mind are a great mystery. One way might be to laugh your head off. Realising how daft it all seems to be. Diddley and Bobby did this many times. So this candle is lit to say thank you for all the laughs along the way. Laughing taken at Santa Monica, California.