SPLASHES OF LIGHT

 

There are splashes of light at the end of the tunnel, like candles burning behind frosted glass, or a campfire sizzling in a snowstorm.  On good days, when my OCD is less dominant, it feels like the sun is blazing; wings sprout from my shoulder blades and I zigzag through the skies like a beaming, wine-soaked angel.  But OCD is a bloodhound with a twitching snout.  It digs up buried bones and drops them on my doorstep, wagging its tail, delighted at my anguish, dropping them like dead rabbits at a hunters feet.  It’s what it does.  Don’t blame a dog for p***ing up a lamppost.

Last night I remembered Toronto, Canada.  It was my younger self, and I’m afraid to say I was in a strip-club bathroom – when I naively felt such places were cool, staring at shadows in a cracked mirror while strangers took their clothes off in the next room.  I ritualised for over twenty minutes, blinking and imagining blinding white light in the mimicked world, and when I slipped out of the room, still buried deep in thought, I headed back to the bar, ordered another bottle of beer and continued glaring at my reflection, this time in the glass of the refrigerator door.  I spent that night sleeping in a Toronto shop doorway.  Woke up with footsteps slapping on the pavement, people going to work, judging me homeless and pitying me.  I’d paid for a bed the previous night in a hostel but hadn’t made it, collapsing instead in that litter-strewn doorway until dawn.  Back to the hostel for breakfast I guess, if I could find it.  No smartphones in those days; I used Toronto tower as my GPS.  Oh, I had money to rent a bed wherever I wanted, that wasn’t an issue – the problem was the suffocating weight on my back from those terrible thoughts piling up like rocks falling from a cliff.

“How was Toronto?” said someone, somewhere in a conversation.
“All good, I enjoyed it.”
“What did you do there?”
Nothing in particular sprang to mind.  Just that mirror above the row of sinks in the strip-club bathroom.
I wanted to answer truthfully: “I Stared at mirrors, shop windows, still-water.  Anything with a reflection.”  But I just shrugged, said I got drunk and had a good time.  I genuinely can’t remember too much there, other than a large bus station where I bought a ticket to New York. Oh and the Toronto tower of course.

And that’s why, other than this blog, I tend not to look back on where I’ve been.

Reflections don’t affect me like they once did.  Although I found myself staring into the television screen yesterday… spent ten minutes glaring at my face and the shadows that the hollows of my eyes and cheeks formed, keeping the devil at bay with rituals in my head, until I forced myself away and had a strict word with myself.  “Don’t go back to Toronto!” I said aloud.  That’s why the strip-club sprang to mind, and that bathroom that stank of bleach and more than a little desperation.

Reminds me of how much better I am these days.  Oh I know there’s no cure, but years of constant battering has hardened my skin – soft tissue becomes leather, numbing the soles of my feet on the arduous road.  I’m still fighting howling mandrills in Hell, but these days I’ve got a stick and a tin helmet.  If you get punched everyday in the face, you finally learn to roll with the blows.  It’s still hurts, can break your nose or dislocate your jaw, but you know it’s coming and you stop wasting time saying to yourself, “Will I get hit in the face today?” Or, “why am I feeling like this?”

The answers are always ‘Yes,’ and ‘Because you have OCD.’

Joining twitter and reading the hardships of fellow sufferers is at first upsetting, because it reveals that so many people are struggling, but it also means that we are not battling this alone.  I guess it makes me feel part of a tribe.

You gotta take what you can, appreciate the light and what it illuminates before that morose, red-eyed caretaker switches off the generator.  I cling to every source of happiness, seeking to squeeze every last drop of sweetness from any experience that makes me smile.  It makes life worth fighting for.  It’s why I push myself to travel.  And that’s never easy.  I often ask myself what the Hell am I doing ritualising on this chicken bus rumbling through Malawi? Or why exactly am I hiking up this mountain when my OCDemon is on my back, trying to drag me back down to sea-level?  I need to go out to find food, but no-one understands a word I say, and it’s hot, and I’m covered in mosquito bites, and i need re-hydration tablets, and my intrusive thoughts are spiking and why do I enjoy this again?

I began travelling when the absence of light was apparent, when the tunnel was a hopeless black corridor.  I left a wasteful life behind because it was destroying me from the inside, mocking me with its comparisons of what I could be and what I actually was.  It was a mighty leap into the unfamiliar but the wind rustling through my hair woke me up like a slap to the face.  The journey can be torturous but when it’s over, the sense of achievement is immense.  Like I’m dancing in the ashes of my OCD and saying, “HA! You did your best to bring me crashing down, but I overcame your spiteful ways.  You failed, and I know you’ll be back, but so will I!”

It lifts me a little, and levitating an inch off the floor is sometimes enough to raise my head above those purple clouds.

The fact that I can now see the colour of the clouds around me, and the patterns on the tunnel walls, is testament to my slow crawl towards recovery, and that encourages me to stumble forward.


There are splashes of light at the end of the long, black tunnel.  And there never used to be.

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CONFESSIONS OF A DOOR TO DOOR SALESMAN

 

I’m writing this on a plane.  Greece is a gently rolling landscape beneath the clouds.  The cat we were looking after was still purring when we clocked off, and the house was still standing – not even a broken plate to glue back together.  Mission success, but already it’s just a memory – another page of history flapping in my slipstream.  It felt like yesterday we landed here; I can still taste the first gyros.  It was chicken.  I wanted pork.

Funny how most of the things we did here will soon be forgotten, lost on the steaming, pulsating heap of other memories – scraps and old tins and strange bones sticking up from an ever distorting mountain of experiences.

Sometimes I stick my hand in the tottering jumble and pull out an old rag or rusted box – just to reminisce.  Sometimes a memory breaks free of its own accord, making a clatter and drawing my attention as it spills down the hill.  I often cringe at what I did, or said, or thought at the time.  Like everyone else in the world I have a lot of regrets.

Regrets come in differing shapes and sizes.  On top of this, there’s regretting things that you’ve done, and there’s regretting things that you didn’t do, but also, and sometimes worse, there’s regretting things that you think you did, but you didn’t actually do at all.  Punishing yourself for an action or conversation that you’ve convinced yourself happened but never did.  The more you think, did I? The louder the crow, or the monkey, or the goblin begins to shout, “Yes, yes of course you did this. Remember, it was so fucking bad but you did it and now people are suffering.”

Or did Little One do this? Or say that? Or….

“Yes, Yan. Yes she did, and much worse. Remember?” The more I try to remember if these memories are legitimate, the more, over time, I am convinced that they are.  Could I have done something so spiteful? Did that person really say those awful words?

“Yes, yes, yes!” squawks the crow, spitting his breakfast in my face.

A memory of something hurtful, or nasty, will introduce itself to me like a salesman at the door.  Some are familiar faces selling the genuine article – I remember their patter, and eventually, after a lot of pushing and shoving, I send them on their way.  Some however are ‘new’ memories from long ago that I have never thought worthy to dwell upon, or even remembered before.  At first I am dubious of their authenticity, and laugh them off, slamming the door in their smirking faces.

A little later the doorbell will ring again, and standing before me will be the same man in the same cheap suit, flashing those perfect ‘dazzling white’ teeth – the smile cutting his face in half.

The salesman dangles the fake Rolex before my eyes.  This time my ninety-nine per cent certainty of forgery has slipped to below seventy five.  I push the door closed.

‘Ding dong!’  I’ll ignore him until he goes away.

‘Ding dong!’  He’s a persistent little fucker.

‘Ding dong!  Ding dong!  Ding dong!’ the doorbell chiming like a church bell striking a hundred o’clock.

I know I have OCD, I know that this is how the OCDemon attacks.  But still I can’t walk away.

I throw open the door…”Listen friend.  I’m not interested, I…”

He opens a suitcase of gold watches…Is that a Rolex?

It took me a long time to realise that a good way to combat the rep at the door is to just buy everything that he is selling.  “Here’s my credit card, I’ll have it all, and more if you’ve got it – I agree with you Crow.  I did do it; Little One did say that, and yes, probably much worse.  Yes,” I say, “and what the fuck are you going to do about it?”

It doesn’t always work but it’s better than hiding under the bedcovers, a quivering mess, hands covering my ears waiting for the doorbell battery to run out, or the salesman’s finger to fall off.

In years to come I wonder if the Crow will try and make me think something bad happened here in Greece.   I already have a backpack full of false memories to say that he will.  He will tell me something terrible occurred, or was said, maybe only hinted at, but it will be enough to stir a doubt, creating a spark that the crow will blow upon, feeding it fuel until a mighty inferno lashes at my door.  I cannot say what memories I will depend on as true in the future.  This is why it is good for me to keep notes on this blog.  So Yan, if you’re reading this for confirmation, its OK, Greece was good for you, and you didn’t kill the cat.