A Symphony of Syndromes

30.04.15 (Day 494/51)


Is it Thursday? I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

I must admit that I’m struggling to get the hang of this new life; this life which I now have, where before I didn’t have one; or I’d sometimes wish that someone might take it away. I don’t miss the old life. I certainly don’t want to go back to where I was and sleep on the streets which I now overlook. But it is a struggle, accepting that I’ve finally found something and somewhere; to realise that I belong somewhere: here, where I live. Paranoia dictates that whenever something good happens to me, I’m just waiting for it all to fall apart. If only I could accept the reassurances given to me by those around me that I am indeed welcome to stay here with a degree of permanence, I just can’t get a grip on it. They are not just having a giraffe.

So I sought the advice of my doctor. The emphasis is on the word “my”, for this guy is a credit to his profession. He’s everyone’s doctor as he is a GP but his bedside manner is that befitting doctors of the old school. He knows his patients and he genuinely cares. He’s diagnosed PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something I’m familiar with, as I suffered it when I was robbed at knifepoint in Lewisham back in 2011. Following that was the beginning of everything bad in my life: depression, alcohol and all that resulted from both. Both were always there but they were brought to the fore by the robbery.

Back then I received counselling in the form of a very capable psychologist who is also a credit to her profession. I got through it but like alcohol, depression is always there in the wings; never truly gone but kept at bay with the administering of drugs and just dealing with demons.

When I compare my PTSD triggers to those of others I know who also suffer, I don’t feel worthy of the accolade; for it is a badge. My friend Tom who was retired from the Royal Marines on the grounds of ill health, suffering PTSD after he’d had to euthanize a three year old Afghan girl is a prime example. But as my doctor pointed out, when we consider all that I’ve been through over the last fifteen months, it’s enough to tip anyone over the edge. I’ve lost nine friends, had more than one attempt on my own life, got into many fights and spent nights in hospital beds and police cells. There has been the day-to-day uncertainty of what the next day might bring; each day lived in doubt and fear. Taken alone, some of the experiences and events might trigger PTSD in some people; when taken together, it’s no surprise that they’ve done this to me.

I’m predisposed to the condition now simply because it’s all over, yet I can’t let it be. Those memories will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m scarred, mentally as well as physically. Apparently I now face the next battle, to try to get over it but I’ll never forget as I learned so much. Would I do it again? I’d rather not but if life were to force my hand again, I know that I survived last time.

For now the advice is to place all of that in the past and accept that I have something now. It may not be much but I have this cosy, crooked, pretty cool place to live. And to work. I have to accept that I am good at certain things. I used to be good at running a business, being a husband and a dad but I lost all of that. So I have to let go, not of the kids but of that which wasn’t to be. And to focus on what I’m good at, even though my chosen pursuits are not likely to make me wealthy. I have to accept that my ability as a writer has been recognised. My ability to craft words into stories is something which very few possess. I am skilled in my art. I have published a book and write regularly for magazines. I’ve signed a contract for my writing to be published in a periodical. I am qualified and proven: I am a writer. When I’m asked what i do for a living, I simply answer that what I do is write. It’s not a living but it is a life. A humble one but one which I enjoy and it took me that fifteen month sentence, incarcerated in a personal hell to make me what I am. I am a writer. An alcoholic living above a pub, practicing my craft.

The chef side of things has had to go on the proverbial back burner while I’m limited to only a microwave in the kitchen but with that limitation placed upon me, I’m discovering some really quite nice things in the ready meal aisles of the supermarkets. As with everything, I’ve conducted research by reading and testing and can conclude that ready meals really do have a place, not least in my kitchen. When I’ve looked at the available ready meals, considered the ingredients therein and the time involved in preparing the meals in a box from scratch, I have had to conclude that ready meals are not a false economy. Less time spent preparing and cooking meals means that I have more time to write. I’d love a fully equipped kitchen but I make the best of what I have and besides, I’d rather be writing.

Top of the pile in the microwave ready meals generally is currently Morrison’s M Kitchen range. They’re currently on offer at three for six quid and when one considers the preparation and time involved in creating these meals from scratch, two quid is a more than fair price to pay. I’ve researched the various retailers’ ranges, through reading reviews and tasting the dishes themselves and M Kitchen is the place to go. Currently lined up in the fridge for tasting and reviewing are corned beef hash, chicken and leek with bacon and roast potatoes, and liver and bacon with mash and gravy. Reviews to be posted soon to the food blog.

So life really is good. I just have to keep reminding myself. Even though I have PTSD to add to Alcohol Dependency Syndrome, Multiple Personality Disorder, OCD, manic depression and borderline psychosis, I’m on drugs to control all of that. It’s a slow journey and some of my conditions are ones from which I may never recover but collectively, they’re what make me, me. And I like being me for the most part.

A symphony of syndromes is quite a poetic collective noun. As a writer and a student of the English language, I like many things: metaphors, similes, palindromes, onomatopoeia, rhyming slang, anagrams, palindromes; words and their ways in general. My favourite palindrome makes no sense at all but kudos to the person who thought of it: Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas. Collective nouns are also wonderful things and I like to make up my own. My favourite – which I didn’t make up – is the collective noun for giraffes: a tower of giraffes.

Lovely isn’t it? Like life.  

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