First of all, thanks for all the lovely and supportive comments on the last post – they mean a lot, not least because supportive comments have been in rather short supply in real life. (That’s aimed at Yvonne, my occasional therapist, and I should probably delete it cos it’s not really fair – but she did say, “Well, you’re obviously not badly hurt, so why do you think this bothered you?” I mean, what the fuck kind of a question is that?)
Unfortunately, the same thing (or something very similar) has happened again – i.e. another attack, although again not serious, in terms of physical consequences anyway. This is gong to be a pretty brief summary of events because, well, because I don’t want to spend too long thinking about them.
Again, I was out for a walk. In fact, it was the first time I’d been out for a walk, as opposed to an errand, since the last occasion I wrote about. Again, it was latish in the day – not full daylight, but certainly not dusk either. Again, I was listening to music. This time I was walking in an area where I wouldn’t expect this kind of thing to happen, a quiet residential street. It was raining a little, so my glasses were quite wet, which made seeing exactly what was going on difficult.
A group of lads appeared out of a side street – I would guess they were mid-teens, although with the rain on my glasses, I can’t be certain – and crossed the road to the same side that I was on. The pavement is quite narrow there, so I was pretty much sandwiched between parked cars on one side and a shoulder-height hedge on the other. The lads concerned were obviously in high spirits – I had the volume on my mp3 player set very low this time so there was less chance of anything taking me by surprise, so I could hear them talking to each other. In a normal frame of mind, I wouldn’t have thought anything much about them – I’m not a regular reader of the tabloid press, so I tend not to automatically regard teenagers, even when they’re in a group, as a threat.
Of course, I wasn’t in a normal state of mind, but a heightened state of – well, fear might be overdoing it, but certainly nervousness – as a result of the events of a little while before. I think it’s likely that I flinched away from them when I realised they were going to be passing very close beside me. The one in the lead saw this and came and stood right in front of me and stamped his foot, at which point I had to stop walking. But immediately afterwards he stepped round me and carried on his way. At this point another one of them came running across the road and, as he was running past, let go with a punch, which hit me on the bottom of my right ear and the side of my neck. It was hard enough to make my earlobe swell up (it still hasn’t quite gone back to normal size), and to leave me with a stinging pain and also a kind of muscular ache in my neck, which, again, I still have.
It seemed fairly obvious to me they were not going to stop for a full-on fight, so the most sensible thing seemed to get out of the way as quickly as possible, and I carried on walking in the direction I had been going. I had enough presence of mind to walk rather than run, at least, although ‘present’ probably wouldn’t have been the word I would have chosen to describe my mental state at this point. Anyway, now comes the weird bit. One of the group – I think probably the one who had hit me (he had been making some kind of noise as he passed me, and the two voices sounded similar) – called out after me “Sorry about that, man.”
I don’t know why he said that. Sudden attack of conscience? Seems unlikely. Case of mistaken identity? That seems more likely – that he’d thought he was hitting someone he had a grudge against, and then realised he hadn’t. Or had it been meant to be a mock punch that he’d misjudged and accidentally connected with me? I think that’s the most likely explanation. If I replay the event, replacing the actual punch with one that just misses me, then it seems to make a kind of sense, the point of the whole thing being to get the fun of intimidating someone who looked nervous and/or scared.
I’ve got to be honest though, what preys on my mind is the possibility that it was a case of mistaken identity. In that case, it would be a kind of run-by attack, where there’s the least danger of being caught. And the reason that preys on my mind is this – what if he’d had a knife?
Like I said, physically this was no big deal – if I responded to the previous attack with “Ow, that nearly hurt” then this would have to be “Ooh, that’s slightly sore”. Mentally, I can’t say the same thing. A few of you were kind enough on the last post to make comments praising me for my strength of character and so on. You wouldn’t be saying that this time.
Last night I came the closest to “losing it” that I’ve come in a very long time. I don’t mean losing it in the sense of being upset, or having a physical reaction to what happened – shaking etc – because that’s a perfectly normal response to a not very nice situation. I mean losing it in the sense of involuntarily hearing and seeing the attack over and over again, whatever I did to try and distract myself from it. I mean losing it in the sense of having to go, several times an hour, into all of the rooms in my flat (and even the cupboards) in a crouched, defensive position because I’m so utterly certain that there’s someone there waiting for a quiet moment to leap out and attack me. Of having to leave all the curtains open, all night, with the lights turned off, so that I could see if anyone was creeping up to the windows – even though I live several storeys off the ground, and the only way they could have been was if they: (a) had a crane; (b) had mastered the art of levitation.
I’ve blogged before about having issues about feeling myself to be under surveillance, in danger etc. These have come back with a vengeance. The trouble is the technique I use to manage these things is essentially to keep up a constant, conscious mental monologue reminding myself that it’s very unlikely, that there’s probably an innocent explanation for the things that seem sinister etc. That’s a pretty good way of coping with these kind of things, I think, but it only works if there’s some rational truth to the things I try to tell myself, and that has, for now at least, broken down. How can I go out of the flat thinking to myself, “It’s ok, there aren’t any people who want to attack you”, when clearly there are.
The way I titled this post makes the point that I am taking this personally now. There’s a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, it’s harder to think of something as just a random occurrence if it keeps happening. But the other reason is that, as I say, I’m pretty certain the motive for the incident was to get the fun of intimidating someone who looked like they’d react in a gratifying way. And that means it’s not just a question of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (although obviously that’s part of it), it also means I was targeted, in part, because I’m a loony. Without my MH problems, I’m a 30-something year old guy who’s not going to crumple into a ball and whimper pathetically because some nasty rough-looking teenagers walk past me talking loudly and laughing. With my MH problems, I’m pretty much the exact opposite. I’m certain that’s why I was attacked and, frankly, that’s just not on.
That would be a good, defiant place to leave this entry, and that’s probably what I would normally do, but this time I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to leave you with the thoughts that kept circling in my head last night, in between the replays of the actual attack. Why me? What have I done that I should have such a shit life? Not just the MH stuff, but all this too. Most people (3 out of 4, if you believe the statistics) go through life without having to cope with a mental illness. The overwhelming majority of people go through life and never have to suffer a physical attack, not even a mild one like the couple I’ve recently had. And yet, here I am, in the middle of both minorities. And not at different times, either. Oh no, I have to do both, at the same time. It’s not fair.
That’s a ridiculous, whiny thing to say, but it’s what I think – It’s just not fair. And I don’t know how much longer I can cope with it, either.