Sorry for the week-and-a-bit’s silence, and sorry to say that this is going to be another whiny post. Those of you who are not fans of self-indulgent whingeing should look away now.
At the moment I feel like I’m struggling to keep my hold on reality. That’s probably far too dramatic a way of putting it. I read other people blogging about this kind of thing, and they’ll mention that they used to walk along the road conducting birdsong, or that they believed Danny John Jules was lying in wait to attack them. Certainly I’m not in that situation myself, and I don’t know I have the right to even pretend to compare my experiences with theirs.
But at the moment, every time somebody looks at me in the street I know they are part of a team that have put me under secret surveillance. If I’m looking out of the window and someone walking past happens to glance even vaguely in the direction of my block of flats then they’re part of the team. When I’m out for a walk, cars seem to pull up alongside me all the time. Sometimes they pull up alongside me, wait for me to pass, drive slowly ahead of me, wait for me to catch up, and then pull off.
Rationally, I understand that I’m extremely unlikely to be under surveillance – I haven’t done anything that would attract the attention of the authorities. Rationally, I understand that if I was under secret surveillance then they wouldn’t be being so obvious about it. Rationally, I understand that when people look at me in the street it’s probably because I flinch away if they even turn their head towards me, and the strangeness of my behaviour is what’s attracting their attention. Rationally, I understand that if a car pulls up alongside me it’s most likely to be for some reason that’s utterly unconnected to me (although it seems to happen so frequently I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m imagining some or all of the cars, rather than just misinterpreting what real cars are doing).
Rationally, I understand all of this, but at the moment, understanding something rationally is not the same as knowing it. I’m extremely unlikely to be under surveillance – but that doesn’t change the fact that fundamentally I know I am. People looking at me in the street probably have no sinister motive – but fundamentally I know they do. A car pulling up alongside me is a random occurrence – but fundamentally I know they’re keeping tabs on me. (And, no, I have no idea who “they” are.)
I find myself wondering if this is what it’s like for other people. Do they find that there is such a huge difference between understanding something rationally, and actually believing that it’s true? There are times when it feels to me that trying to think rationally about this kind of thing is like sticking a plaster over a cut that’s still bleeding. The best it can do is cover things up for a while, but underneath nothing’s actually changed, and it’s certain that the blood will soak through.
The under-surveillance thing is the most obvious example of all of this, but there are other ways that I’m struggling. Over recent months I’ve become absolutely certain that I’m in imminent danger of picking up food poisoning, or some other stomach trouble, and that getting it will be the worst, most doom-laden experience imaginable. Every time I come across any reference to anyone catching something like this I become instantly convinced that this is confirmation that I have it also.
A little while ago one of the bloggers I read wrote about her husband contracting a stomach bug. It was only really a passing reference, but I instantly knew that I was going to come down with it in a few hours. This is obviously completely irrational – no bug I’ve ever heard of can be transmitted over an internet connection* – but that didn’t stop me having to get out the anti-bacterial spray and obsessively wipe down my mouse, keyboard and screen, and it didn’t stop me spending the next few days in absolute terror of getting ill. A similar thing happened to me with the stories just after Christmas about norovirus, except in that case the terror lasted for weeks.
This fear of infection is having some fairly major consequences. I can’t eat or drink outside my flat. I can only buy food that comes double-wrapped, so that I can discard the outer wrapping as soon as I bring it inside. If I accidentally touch the inner wrapping with the outer one, or with my hand, I have to throw the whole thing away. I can think of a saucepan as clean so long as it’s done nothing but sit in a cupboard, but as soon as it touches the hob it becomes instantly poisonous, and I have to wash my hands every time I touch it. This is still true, even though I know for a fact that nothing has touched the handle except my clean hands. Anything that comes from outside the flat is poisonous, so a letter coming through the door has to be treated as though it’s a biological hazard. I keep my phone unplugged, because if it rang unexpectedly that would mean the whole flat would be infected.
All of this is getting to me, and the stuff about the surveillance is particularly worrying me, because that’s a new development over the last few weeks. That’s why I headed this post: I need help. But the thing is, Yvonne (the nurse specialist who I’m seeing for psychoanalysis) is off at the moment. It started with a fortnight’s holiday, and since then she’s been off sick, so I haven’t seen her for four weeks now. I’ve been told she’ll contact me when she’s back at work, so I have no idea when (or even if) I’ll see her again. This is far and away the longest period of time I’ve gone in the last year-and-a-bit with not knowing when my next appointment will be. I’ve had longer gaps between appointments – I had to wait several months for my initial contacts with psychiatry and psychology – but at least those were scheduled well in advance, so I knew they were coming.
Maybe what I should do is go and see my GP, and tell her. But two things are stopping me. How can I possibly explain all of this in a 5 minute appointment? The way that I can understand something works one way, but at a much more fundamental level know that it works the opposite? And even if by some extraordinary fluke I did manage to actually articulate all this, and didn’t just sit there feeling like a malingering, time-wasting fool, and mumble things like, “Well, I’ve not been feeling so good,” what can she do about it? All she’ll be able to do is suggest I wait for my psychotherapy appointments to re-start and be sure to discuss it then.
I usually try to bring these posts to some kind of a sense of conclusion, but with this one I don’t think I can, because everything feels so up in the air right now. Anyway, whinge over for now, and, assuming anyone is still interested in reading these inane ramblings, I’ll try not to leave it so long to the next post.
Thanks for reading,