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Tuesday, 18 May 2021

'till I believe in my soul...

After the battering I took in High School from damaged people, and the absolute trauma of the whacks, hits, knuckles to the head, and hair pulling some teachers in my Primary School meted out, I've lived with anxiety, low self esteem, distrust and depression all of my adult life. By the time I was in fourth year in High School, I had routes to, from and through the school, and strategies in place that meant I stayed away from people who could do me harm. I've tried many strategies in the past nearly forty years since, to avoid perceived threat but my anxiety gets the better of me and add to this, my father dying last year, the whole covid thing and how that has created uncertainties in work amongst a whole staff undergoing organisational change, plus three friends dying this year and other people I knew through politics and on social media, I'm a mess! .

I'm off work with anxiety and depression. The problem with someone who has coped through trauma a lot, is that at times it doesn't look like I'm anxious or depressed. I've held it weel thegither. And I do have avoidance strategies that have both served me well , and wrecked relationships and my personal communities at different times.

"I know what this is, it's just the difference between the body and the soul, the spirit
What I'm gonna do now, I'll punish my body, I'm gonna push the body until I believe in the soul, that's what I'm gonna do
Just like this, just like this..."

Those words sometimes helped me... They are from a Dexy's song, Until I believe in my soul. Its a song that used to play over and over in my head as I pounded the streets in the eighties, pushing my self to run faster and further to the point where I could run an average of a six minute mile over six miles. I've told someone about this recently and actually doubted myself, but I remember doing it... And I remember getting slower again. I remember one night having ran 18 miles, having to say to myself, "its time to stop," but not really wanting to, as running was the only healthy way to control the racing heart and the permanent panic and get in to another world healthily. {punishing the body... Finishing a half marathon, Banbridge circa 1985, as dad watches from his bike

The other way was, of course, the drink which I loved in equal measure. And drinking after a long distance run or mountain climb or 70 mile cycle was even better. I felt totally at ease, the adrenaline quelled and my confidence boosted by whatever physiological change exercise had put me through, plus the confidence the numbing of the drink brought. 
{me on the right after completion of the Belfast - Dublin - Belfast maracycle (204 miles in two days with a few pints and a  stadium concert in between, circa 1985}

I gave up alcohol in 2012, for a number of reasons, one of which was that I recognised drinking was a dangerous coping mechanism. A artery rusting way to enter a world that was not making me a bag of nerves. I recognised that my job was stressful (sometimes, vomiting out of the car door at traffic lights, on the way there) , and that if I continued looking forward to the weekend bottles of wine, my life would be short, because my relationship with those who I percieved as having power over me, as well as those who did actually enjoy power over others, was not going away. And I recognised as well, that one of those people WAS actually "out to get me," and I needed to keep my wits about me. She wore me down and at the end of 2014, it became too much as I was followed and prodded and pushed until I was a complete wreck (I managed to move to a different workplace, and she eventually was taken out of her job as others were put under the same pressures and subjected to her bullying). 

My coping strategies are different nowadays. I enter fantasy worlds through comics, and other people's lives through books and history and drama. I am still very involved in politics, albeit not in a political party (my time in the SSP was one of feeling protected by comrades, but being part of a small left group is exhausting and inevitably, a negative experience especially when power is in the hands of a small group). I also write and make little videos (after all, my degree is Film/Media). And I cycle. I have all of my life, thanks to my da'. 

Last year cycling became a chore rather than a pleasure, because my old Trigger's Broom of a bike took a lot of maintaining through lockdown... though man, those roads through Glasgow and around it were beautifully clear... and its thin road tyres punctured at least once a week (sometimes two or three times a week ).

{amazingly clear roads; George Square, midday, lockdown 1, 2020

 So I got back to the running and built up to a reasonably quick three miles. I've always been heavier on my left leg, for some reason, and after a few months, my knee screamed at me in pain to stop. This was really annoying as I was really enjoying running again. 
{out with the old... Hanging up Trigger's Broom} 

Before dad died, I told him I was going to cycle from Glasgow, to my Northern Irish hometown of Banbridge, in a day (125 miles). He offered me advice and spoke about it to me a lot in the lead up to his death last year. He still does, from time to time in conversations we have in my head. Mum gave me some money he had left, and I used it to buy a bike a few weeks back and wow, what a difference! I'm back to enjoying cycling... And I can cycle for hours on end. My mind wanders, I enter my surroundings, I remember stuff and I come up with plots for stories, and ideas for things to take me away from my current anxiety. Off the bike, all of that comes back . I sit in the house, paralysed by anxiety, the black dog sitting heavily on me. So... I am going to try to use this time to recover with help from (hopefully when it is set up) a counsellor, and by training for the big cycle over to Banbridge, hopefully by the end of July or in August. 
{in with the new... Bringing back the joy of cycling...

I want to include all of my other coping strategies in a push for recovery ... Writing (here, I suppose) and videoing (as soon as I buy some camera equipment!). 

I want to get to the point that I no longer feel under threat. And I know that comes with counselling and time. But to get through the day, I need to, not so much punish the body, but push it until I believe in my soul. 

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