I didn’t see the punch, I just felt a jolt and then I was inside a cavernous dome, ears ringing, head cut off from the rest of my body. Or maybe my head was in a fish-tank, water rushing into my ears, eyes blinking, vision blurring; was that a goldfish swimming past me? I distinctly remember swaying, as my body caught up with the power of the right cross, and then I was on the floor, blood spilling down my chin.
That was over fifteen years ago, inebriated after a night out, when my inside had burst out of my skin, like a clenched fist through wet paper. I’d spent all day ruminating on a single intrusive thought, and then I’d drank the evening into oblivion, gaining brief respite as I drowned the crow in a barrel of beer, topped with vodka chasers and cheap red wine. In the fresh air, on my way home, like many drunken revellers, I began to contemplate my life story, and feeling melancholy, angry with the direction it was heading, bitterly savage with my OCD, I lost my reason in a sea of red-mist. Hatred stirred in my belly and my mask slipped. The rotting, self-loathing Yan Baskets kicked the gormless, joking fool I always pretended to be off the roof.
My demons had control, and I was resentful and screaming and deserved that hammer punch, and many more besides. As the man whose fist had split my bottom lip in two calmly walked away, I remember hauling myself to my feet while complimenting him on such a perfectly delivered right-hand cross. I knew I’d been an arsehole; my frustrations at wasting another day, ruminating my life away, had broken through the surface of the water and smashed into the hull of an iron battleship. I’d relearned the same valuable lesson for the thousandth time, (which I’d forgotten by morning light) – mental illness and copious amounts of alcohol don’t mix; someone’s always going to get hurt, and thankfully it was usually me.
My OCD is not the world’s problem, it’s mine, and I never could fight but I could certainly get hit, and did, and got black eyes and bloody lips and bruised ribs and worse of all, a damaged ego as I faced certain individuals the following day.
I still beat myself up inside, every day, fantasizing that crude weapons are smashing into my body parts – like recently, on a bus travelling through Georgia. I was looking out of the window as we pulled out of Gori, Joseph Stalin’s hometown. Without provocation a three-year-old spike pierced my thoughts, terror curling in my stomach like a finger ’round a trigger; I grew hot, I worried unnecessarily, fear, sorrow, and bitterness splashing around inside me like eels in a bucket.
But I smiled at the old woman beside me, I thanked the man in the seat in front when he bought me a cold cola, laughed like a hysterical hyena at a shitty joke when all I wanted to do was scream so loud that it burst my eardrums. I imagined shattering the bus windows, from the back row to the windshield, as I shrieked like a banshee who’d stubbed her gangrened toe on a rock – I watched in my minds-eye as the passengers were drenched in tiny glass fragments, Luciano Pavarotti singing the Marriage of Figaro as they dived for cover in classic Hollywood style slow motion, and a knight in crimson armour, with a red crow emblazoned on his shield, materialized into existence beside me, clobbering a heavy mace across the back of my head with all his might. Frustration yelled its name in my face but I waved at the young boy peering over his seat like my only thoughts were flowers blowing in the breeze.
I’ve been told to wear my heart on my sleeve; to be honest and open about my illness but I really didn’t think the passengers on that bus wanted to see me cry. It would have been an awkward experience for us all. So I kept my fears within – drove them to swampland, buried them in the mire as deep as I could, and painted my face with a beaming smile like a f**king LSD rainbow whenever someone looked my way.
No doubt, many on the fringe who think they know me imagine I’m having a great time out here; carefree and effervescent, a million miles from harmful thoughts and bouts of depression. And of course I do enjoy myself, even without having to get drunk like when I first went away, staring at the bottom of a shot glass until Crow was blind and staggering and harmless, at least until the music stopped and I began to think of what he was doing to me – then, of course, my inside popped its head over the fence and usually met with a flying fist. But even now it’s certainly no bunch of roses, and if life IS a box of chocolates, there are a lot of praline truffles in there. And praline truffles make me gag.
Note to mum and dad: My OCD remains debilitating, but believe me, looking at it relatively, these days it’s not like it was – in comparison, it’s like having a runny nose instead of pneumonia – snot on my sleeve instead of phlegm on my lungs.
More importantly, I’m out of the factories and running, something I’d never have been able to do all those years ago.