So, the letter’s come through. I’ve got the referral. No job, bills mounting up, and girlfriend not so much as spoken to me for weeks, let alone gone out. Vanished without trace. As has my will to live.
When it comes to suicide I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I think of it often, how the world would be better off without me, but not made any concrete plans. Drifting in mental torture and keeping it hidden from the outside world. It’s getting too much though. Too much.
Anyway, to get the one-on-one sessions, the letter states, I have to go to a group course on stress and anxiety management for six weeks. And if I don’t turn up, I don’t get the one-on-one sessions. Not that I care, because I’ll gladly go, but no need to give it the Charlie Big Potatoes to someone with an unstable mental condition.
The venue? It may be easy by road. But when you’re a non-driver it’s a pain. Two trains, then either a 40 minute wait for a bus or a 2.5 mile wander down unlit and cracked pavements. Being skint, I choose the latter.
It’s pouring down. Torrential. About a mile away from the venue, there’s flooding. As I try to negotiate the uneven and dark pathway, car after car splashes by me. By the time I get there my mood is darker than the pitch black sky.
The therapy room is bland, spacious, well lit. It’s more of a lecture room from college. There’s a lot of people. Somehow it’s comforting. You always feel alone when you’re fighting the endless negativity of your own mind. These people know though. Know what I’m going through, and I know how they’re suffering, too. It’s like a subconscious hand being placed into mine.
The girl speaks. I say girl, about 25. She has a cheerful, confident air about her. And a definite Caledonian brogue. My mind wanders, the first flicker of wondering what sexuality …. oh, ring on the wedding finger. It’s academic.
She tells us her name. Inwardly, I shudder. The name, not of my girlfriend, but my ex-long term partner. In the meantime, I’m filling in one of those forms. Tick the box, tot up your score, let’s see just how depressed, stressed and anxious you are in one easy quiz. 20, 18, 34. The numbers mean little to me. All I know is that I’m soaked through and miserable.
We get the spiel on it being thoughts and behaviours governing how we feel. I know what’s up with me. I filter out positive thoughts, am always self critical, I let memories trigger current situations, and occasionally catastrophise. Which sounds eerily like an unpleasant personal habit.
All of them are though, not just the last one. What I need help for is to how to stop my mind from doing these things. Stop that, and the damage I inflict on myself reduces to a trickle. Right now it’s a monsoon. I have the wet clothes to prove it too.
At one point I make a joke at the other group therapist’s expense. He takes it in good spirit, as was intended, but I felt remorse immediately. Why, over such a trivial thing? It’s because of what I am. A tiny, tiny hint of how screwed up I am mentally.
I make notes. One line of positive attributes about myself. I follow it up, though, with three lines of negative. I hate myself for doing it. Which makes it feel worse. Another tiny hint.
This mind of mine is a harsh, harsh mistress. And I’m not into harsh mistresses. Give me soft and gentle partners every time. A soft and gentle mind would be a nice bonus too.
There’s not a lot of interaction from us. One person who does pipe up, I don’t even turn round to see who it is. He states his opinion loudly and as a fact. He’s done this course before and 75% of it is useless. He needs anger management as well, apparently. Just as well I’m okay with that because I wanted grab him by the throat and out of the door.
The therapists argue the case with him effectively, saying that maybe 75% is of no use to everyone there. But the 25% that is useful is crucial, and that different people will have different content in their 25% of usefulness. That is why the other 75% is as important to others as it may be useless to him.
Maths and stats exercises aside, the point from the therapists is a good one, and Angry Man shuts up and sits down. You can feel a collective sigh of relief from everyone else on the course.
I begin the long journey home, feeling if anything worse than when I arrived. Nobody said it was going to be easy, though, and the positive is that I asked for help and went along in the first place. I’ll do whatever it takes to stop my mind from screwing my life up.
Let’s see what next week brings. But if rains any more then, and Angry Man takes to the floor, I will not be responsible for my actions. Which is probably the first time ever I haven’t taken full responsibility for any bad thing in my life.
Progress, of sorts, already.