I love traveling but I dislike researching where to go. I can’t get excited until I step off the plane and put my feet on actual foreign soil. I don’t watch travel shows because they bore me; I’ve got nothing against Joanna Lumley but I really have no urge to watch her eating a bowl of mashed fava beans while she drifts lazily down the Nile on a Victorian tugboat. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do it myself, but I wouldn’t expect people I don’t know to watch a video of me doing it – my serotonin gets released from breathing the Sahara winds, not watching it blow through Michael Palin’s hair. I switch the channel over when the title music begins to tinkle in my ear. ‘Trekking through the Amazon on a shoestring’ is probably a wonderful television show, but it reminds me of when I was there, and didn’t I have quite a few attacks in that jungle? Crow pulls the trigger and my day is dead.
I don’t really discuss much where I’m going even when I have the ticket in my hand – I’m going to be wrestling with crow wherever I go; I simply prefer to box him on foreign soil and glimpse a beautiful mountain or two between bloody rounds. Travelling with OCD has its issues. The reason I continue to push myself to leave the country, even when I am at my lowest ebb, is because if at any point Crow had ruined this, I’d have done nothing with my life – another negative of mental illness is what it stops you from achieving – the younger me, cooped up in my bedroom, had struggled hourly, and the last thing on my mind was studying, or choosing a career, or figuring out how to better myself when I’d spent all day trying to drag a crow out of my eye socket.
However, these last few days, Crow has been a black spider. Not monstrously loud like a pneumatic drill, but clickety clack, like a tap dancer with hot shoes, heel-stepping across my thoughts. Nothing to make me want to tear my eyes out, but enough to remind me that he’s still there, lurking, loitering with intent. Catastrophes like the horrific terrorist attacks in Manchester and London put him into perspective for a few minutes, but then he uses the fear and carnage for his own twisted intentions and suddenly I’m imagining my loved ones torn asunder in those very streets. I thank f*ck it’s in my mind and I’m not experiencing what those poor victims actually had to go through. The Crow is an annoying fly next to a nail bomb attack, so I fought him with added vigour this week, and who am I to complain? It’s not ideal – Crow makes me want to puke most days, but compared to yesteryear this torture is less waterboarding, more distant tap dripping in the next room. So I take it, and avoid triggers, quick to either neutralise my fears or pull myself away from them altogether. Like a sober friend pulling away a drunk colleague from a fight outside a kebab shop on a Friday night, there’s a lot of shouting but eventually you get them into the taxi.
It’s the best year I’ve had since I can remember, so I take it, and casually flick through my atlas to decide, at the very least, the direction of my next trip – as long as that depraved parasite remains a shadow of his former self, I’ll be content to go anywhere that will have me. It’s taken years to get me thinking like this, many therapists and cartons of medicine, hours of reading, relentless trial and error. During those laborious years my brain has been subjected to constant OCD attacks, long, cruel spikes thrust through me like javelins in a voodoo doll. I’ve suffered heavy depression, been convinced I have all kinds of illnesses, neutralised negative thoughts with a million flashes of blinding light; I’ve imagined the death of everyone I know, horrifically murdered with gruesome tools, but we’re all still here, breathing, living our lives and contemplating our next move.
Crow is white noise. Crow is the dripping tap. Crow is the host of desert islands discs offering only Marilyn Manson albums to choose between. Crow is a single picture on my bedroom wall, painted by a psychopath – splashing the canvas of my life with blacks and reds, forty years in fifty shades of violence. Yes, Crow is a howling storm, but he used to be a f*cking machine gun, so how can I complain when children are getting blown up all over the world?
The Crow will have me head-butting the wall again, but I’m not head-butting it now so take that as a positive. I can blow the spider off my shoulder all day long, so I’m content waiting here for inspiration. Compared to sweating on a bed as imaginary worms eat my stomach, crushing spiders underfoot is relatively….OK.
So it could be the Galapagos Islands, or it may be Turkey. Iceland or Uzbekistan? I may struggle wherever I go, but I don’t want to give up and lay down just yet. I will pack my bag, treat myself to a new toothbrush and continue to battle that malicious, squawking bird.
“I’m with you forever, Yan,” says the Crow.
I hope you like travelling, my black feathered friend.