KNOWLEDGE OF THE RISING SUN

It could be violent images, or it could be a f**king shopping list.  Paranoia or depression. Fear of shouting insults into loved one’s faces or blowing a lie into Little One’s ear.  “I f**king hate you.” No more than a whisper, but solid like a blow from a steel hammer. Last night I imagined killing myself, and leaving a note for Little One, telling her that I didn’t love her, and never have.  I’d write a letter to everyone who might attend the funeral. It would inform them that my relationship with Little One was a fraud. I imagined them sneering at the back of her head as my coffin was lowered into the furnace.  I tried to forget such OCD b**lshit, but the feeling of dread and shame wouldn’t leave me. Even when my thoughts became jumbled and I couldn’t remember what I’d been thinking about, the dread lay heavy on my shoulders, like hearing a loved one had gone missing at sea – a weight that was constantly there, punching me in the ribs, the back of my head, low blows and kidney shots slamming in from every angle.

How did I get rid of this particular intrusive thought?  I imagined Little One hanging herself, ending the pain with a cold snap of her neck, and all of a sudden, like a squirrel bolting up a tree, (or a crow flying off my shoulder,) the dread subsided – it felt like I was swimming in space.  My PlayStation had been on pause for two hours as I battled those intrusive thoughts, and I crawled into bed before other demons came knocking. A butterfly had replaced the elephant in my head, but I knew it could mutate back at any moment.

How odd that thoughts of my loved one committing suicide had shooed the crow from the fence.  Bleak as it may be, reminding myself that in a hundred and fifty years time, nobody living on the planet today will be alive helps to put things into perspective.  I don’t want any of us to die, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. In the year 2170, we’ll all be a second hand memory, an anecdote, a chapter in a book, videos on the internet, a photo on a great grandchild’s wall.  But none of us will be around to worry about it, even if we lived to be a hundred and twenty. So why should I worry about dying, about what I may or may not do? Every one of us will be dust blowing on the breeze. In my mind’s eye, giant cockroaches climb out of smoking piles of rubble, a cloud of gas passing over what was once London/New York/Istanbul. One day, visualising a team of iridescent unicorns may work, but for the time being, all I’ve got is the knowledge of inevitable annihilation. Swallowing these bitter pills fails to keep the demons from my door, but denies them access to the room.

It doesn’t mean I strive to not care about anything.  I’m merely attempting to teach my brain the ability to let things go, to stop dwelling on what may or may not happen.  The Spanish Inquisition. Despot rulers. Medieval torture chambers. The Coronavirus. You just have to listen to the news to see that life is a series of painful experiences – hopefully separated by long bouts of contentment.  But OCD forgets about the good times. It sinks its claws into painful memories and rips them out of your brain, thrusting them in front of your eyes. 

“Look what I found in your head!”

My job, if I want to keep my sanity, is to remind myself that I’ll be spending eternity not existing anyway, so why not leave a few things in the closet.  Stop asking myself how it would affect Little One if I killed myself in front of her? Stop trying to second guess how such terrible things would feel, because I don’t know the answer, and anyway, the sun is still going to rise in the morning, whether I’m around to see it or not.

JUST ENOUGH EDUCATION TO SURVIVE

I wake up several years ago – I’m fifteen and terrified of life.  Immediately I feel a weight upon my body, a pillow over my face. There is a tingle in the back of my mind, something stirs in my consciousness, a struggle from the night before that I don’t quite remember but feel is coming back to haunt me – an intrusive thought knocking at the door or twitching at the foot of the bed like a dog stirring from a deep sleep.  Thirty seconds tick by. Dragging on my socks, memory claps me on the back and I’m sucked into a whirlpool.

Messing around with my friend we walk through the school gates, fighting to keep the gnashing thoughts at bay, at least until my first lesson, where I’ll stare into my textbook, pretending to work, but concentrating on trying to dismiss these absurd ideas.  That first lesson is maths – how I hate numbers, always having to recount and ‘make sure’ and ‘did I carry the three over?’ It’s a minefield, so I don’t even try in my final year at school, just sit at the back of the class, dwelling on jumbled thoughts.

I was with a girl six months ago.  We never even kissed but she did allow my hands up her skirt, my fingers into her knickers.  A rumour began that last year she slept with a guy who was HIV Positive.  I’ve convinced myself I bit my nails after the event and now I have the virus.  I don’t yet realise that the fear is nonsensical, that won’t be for another four years when I’ll ring the National AIDS helpline and they’ll tell me that the virus doesn’t work like that – it would be near impossible for me to have contracted the disease this way.  But that’s in the future, at this moment in time I’ve convinced myself I’m going to catch a cold that will kill me before I reach sixteen. In those days there’s no Google for me to check how the virus is spread. Just that f**king leaflet posted through the front door.  ‘Don’t die of ignorance,’ it stated in bold letters.

I ritualise in my head, although I don’t know yet that’s what I’m doing.  I won’t find out that I have OCD for over ten years. The younger Yan Baskets thinks that everyone ruminates as much as I do – only they’re much better at it.  I manage to push ‘Death by AIDS’ into a dark room somewhere in the back of my mind. There is a four-minute respite where I manage to look forward to an event at the weekend – a hundred and eighty tranquil seconds.  And then a pupil in the year above passes by the window. He glances in, eyes loitering on mine for no more than a second. But that’s all it takes. At first, I think he just doesn’t like me. Slowly I convince myself he wants to punch me in the throat.  Eventually, by tea-time, in front of the TV, I’ll be ninety-nine percent sure that he wants to stick a knife in my stomach, slaughtering my family as a side note.

Later that night, drumming my fingers a hundred times on the small red Bible on my bedside table, I find peace of mind, enough to see me through to tomorrow morning at least.  But it has come at a cost. It takes me three-quarters of an hour to appease my inner demon, tapping the cover of the Bible, mumbling words to God, picturing a blinding white light that is never quite white enough.  I turn to face the wall, trying not to think about AIDS.

Do I sleep that night?  Yes, I do. I’ve been ruminating and ritualising from the moment I awoke, to the moment I withdraw my hand from the Bible and close my eyes – so yes, I am shattered, and I sleep.

My alarm buzzes beside me…

I wake up.  Immediately I feel a weight upon my body, a pillow over my face.  There is a tingle in the back of my mind, something stirs in my consciousness, a struggle from the night before that I don’t quite remember but feel is coming back to haunt me…

 

I don’t know how I got through those school years.  I learned next to nothing, barely enough education to survive.  But I did survive. I’m still here, and if I got through it, so can anybody, because I’m not special like the mental health posts on Instagram tell me.

Crow perches on my shoulder and nibbles my ear.  “Look, everyone, Yan has a mental illness.” I try to brush him away.  “Keep going, Yan. You’re brilliant. You’re sooooo strooooong. You’re amazing because it’s been written on a post-it note and plastered all over social media.”  He cackles and shits on my neck.

No, I’m really not special at all.

I know I’m no less of a person for suffering from a mental illness, but it doesn’t make me a hero either.  All life is awesome, just look at us, we’re on a rock spinning through space! So yes, I’m amazing, but so is a tapeworm.  Am I special for suffering like this? I haven’t cured cancer. I haven’t sacrificed an arm to save the human race. I don’t even play a musical instrument.  I suffer and live with extreme OCD and depression, but I don’t think that makes me awesome. If becoming awesome is simply not killing yourself then I think we need to raise the bar.

Sometimes we need a few messages saying that it’s OK to be average, that fighting for mediocrity is fine.  There are a lot of people suffering from mental health issues who are horrible bastards, and it has nothing to do with their illness.  If Jimmy Savile had suffered from a mental illness, and maybe he did, he’d still have died a monster “You’re bipolar, Jim,” sings Crow.  “Apparently that makes you a winner!”

I’m not a bad person but am I great?  Cynical as it may sound, I find it condescending when I’m told that I am.  You don’t f**king know me. I want to say, “Yeah, I’m in torment, but that doesn’t make me a better person.”  I guess I’m tougher than a lot of people think because of my internal battle, but what are my other options? Slip a noose around my neck and die hanging from a tree?

Having said that, embracing social media, reading the hardships of fellow sufferers on Twitter and Instagram confirmed that I am not battling this alone.  It made me feel part of a tribe. But peel back the post-it note and you notice the smear on the fridge door. Telling ourselves we are OK is not always the best option.  Sometimes it’s better to say, “Of course I’m not going to give in but I still feel f**ked!”

“It’s pathetic,” says Crow.  And the danger is, although extreme, he could be ‘a little bit’ right.  Yes, his belly is full of lies, but he once told me that someone wanted to do me harm, and the next time I saw that person, I was set upon and assaulted.

Although, thinking about it, I probably deserved it.

“You’re being paranoid,” I had chanted to the gaunt face avoiding shadows in the mirror.

“I told you he was gonna hurt you,” said Crow.

I wasn’t dismembered with an axe, but my fear was correct up to a point.  Two days earlier I’d read on a post-it note someone declaring that everything OCD says is a lie.

“But I’ve told you the truth before, Yan,” whispers Crow.  “I mix my lies with semi-truths. It’s the beauty of OCD. One percent is all it takes.  You listen to a thousand slurs and have to accept them all!”

“Or tell them all to f**k off!” says a frustrated voice at the back of my mind.  Sometimes bad things will happen and guess what, we’ve just gotta roll with it. Not deny it or worry whether it’s true or not.  Stick a post on Instagram and tell the world you’ll deal with it.  

Crow is the reflection distorted in the puddle.  The hooded figure spreading disinformation from the shadows.  But telling me everything it says is a lie, is itself dishonest.  That’s why OCD and other mental illnesses are such dangerous foes.  They match their hosts toe to toe. They are as clever as we are. As dark as we can become.

I suffer from OCD, and it has moulded me and caused me great distress which in turn has led me down paths I would otherwise not have trodden.  It has influenced my decisions and opinions, propelled me into certain action I may not have necessarily taken had a crow not been screaming murder in my ear.  It’s been tough to deal with, but am I great? I genuinely don’t think that I am. Maybe I could have been, but we’ll never know. Am I fine with this? Yes. Because I’ve got other things to worry about.

Personally, when I’m fighting Crow, honesty is my sharpest sword.  He ruined my education, that is a cold fact, but I probably would have failed Maths anyway.

A HOLE IN THE SKY

I don’t exclusively visualise my OCD as that bastard crow.  Last month my OCD felt like a wall crawling with ants, recently it’s been a black cloud the size of a continent – maybe tomorrow I’ll see it as a clown swallowing razor blades.

I had been suffering violent intrusive thoughts for a long stretch of time.  But it wasn’t only physical harm that terrorised my world, thoughts about injuring people with abhorrent, hurtful words constantly threatened to spill from my mouth, to wash away those that I love like village huts in the path of a tsunami.  I imagined whispering such dreadful things, blowing lies into a loved one’s ears, remarks that would wound and scar for life. And then one morning I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the bathroom mirror, and I noticed an abrasion on my skin.

“Here I come!” shrieked Crow, and I lost two days ruminating over what that blemish might mean.  Of course, when Crow smells fear, he becomes a great white shark. Cancer was the word of the week.  Cancer in my stomach, cancer on my skin, cancer in my liver, my brain, my blood. The ominous cloud was above that place in my mind where every time I looked into that cursed mirror, or felt a bruise on my flesh, or suffered a thumping headache, I imagined it was the beginning of the end of my life.

I glared at my sombre reflection on a blank television screen.  I imagined a well-groomed man, a smile on his face like a knife slash in pigskin, pointing to a weather map in a familiar television studio.  The world spun gently on its axis, as a dark shadow crept slowly across the globe like a noxious gas.

“This afternoon the cloud continues to cover most of the northern continent,” he said through that wicked smile, slicing across his face like a cracking sheet of ice.

My OCD can manifest itself as violent images, false memories, a need for symmetry and fear of contamination.  But for two weeks my OCD cloud had cast a shadow over a patch of land that has been storm free for quite a while.

It became an old man coughing up blood in a hospital waiting room.  For five days, I convinced myself I was going to die of three or four different cancers.  I rang health lines and visited the doctors, and ‘Little One’ had to go for blood tests too (for different reasons) and of course, Crow convinced me of the worst possible outcome.  I became a twitching mess at the bottom of a deep black sea, as well as that tired old man in slippers, shuffling down infinite corridors.

Urges to ritualise, to keep those germs away, flashed past the window like cars on a motorway fast-lane.  Would picturing a blinding white light wash away my medical fears? Of course not. But I did it anyway.

I fought against some intrusive thoughts, I capitulated to others – on my knees and following orders over the trench wall like a front-line soldier.

The doctor told me I was OK.

The doctor told ‘Little One’ that she was OK.

I thought that meant that the world was going to be fine, at least for the time being.

And then we got a phone call in the middle of the night.

I’m not going into too much detail but after three days at the hospital, we lost someone very close to us.

Irrational compulsions hadn’t saved the day.  We lost a piece of the world. And I think the crow knew that under such stressful circumstances he wasn’t even on the horizon.

I couldn’t see him. The world was too black.

I couldn’t hear him.  The world was too loud.

I saw people I love break down in tears, and that wrenched me across the floor, crashing me into walls.

One evening, while pacing across the hospital waiting room, a shadow crept across a familiar, well-trodden field in a corner of my mind.  It was a cloud, black like a bucket of coal.

“What are you going to do, cloud?  Rain on me? I’ve just come from the Critical Care Unit.  Your threats are useless!”

A thought rolled across my mind’s eye, a black plastic bag tumbling on a breeze – could compulsive visualisation change this situation?

I thought of Crow.  “Shall I look at a spot on the back of a chair and think of a brilliant white light?”

I glared at a picture on the wall – a village church in a field.  “Should I blink at the image, Crow? Is that fair trade for a miracle?  Or is there anything else I should do? Can I save a life by repeating certain words in my head?  And what is it you can actually do right now?

Black feathers stirred in the sky.

“You’re the one who can stop the situation,” I imagined him taunting.

I broke once.  I’d almost upheld a policy of zero tolerance, but not quite.  And no, it didn’t help. The news was bad.

I’m home now.  The OCD cloud is floating over other fields, replaced however by a great sadness.  Not a fog but a vast hole in the sky.

“It’s not known when the storm will return,” says the crisply dressed weatherman with the sinister smile.  He points to the video map projected over his shoulder, where the world spins in semi-darkness. “However, anomalies continue to blot out the sun.”

I picture him being ravished by raptor dinosaurs.

Crow has been quiet all day.  I imagine him sleeping in a nest of snakes.  I know he’ll be back but today I’m so numb I don’t think there’s an opening for one of those OCD ants crawling up the wall, let alone a mischievous crow, the size of the sky, with nuisance on his mind.

I thought I was going to die from a horrendous disease.

I ritualised and I lived.

But someone I loved did die.

At the hospital, my OCD attacks were few and far apart, so should I have ritualised more than I did?  Of course not, but somewhere down the line, I’m expecting Crow to tell me that was exactly what the situation needed.

Terrible things are going to happen throughout our lives, whether we surrender to our compulsions or not – and it’s hard to convince ourselves that we have no control over such incidents.  OCD says we can change the world, and we can, but not by avoiding odd numbers or imagining shadows doused in blinding white light.

The Crow will be flying my way soon.

I know he’s coming.

And I’ll be waiting.

DEVILS IN GAS MASKS

“Life can be odd,” said the man wiping a gob of yellow paint from his face.  “You can’t get angry, because rules are rules, and the rules state that the universe is chaos, bubbling in a glass jar.”  Or something like that.

I had six years in a factory mixing paint and pouring it into plastic bottles.  I looked up to the older man who probably didn’t say this because inside I was a twitching wreck, and Uncle Jack (as I’ll call him here) always appeared quite calm, even when the industrial machine puked its guts into his face.  (I later found out that he wore his own mask, and at home, he was a cantankerous old bastard but…)

Odd that my happiest times this trip have been sandwiched between strangers inside a cramped bus on a rain-swept afternoon in Lviv, a tour through the Chernobyl disaster zone with its ghostly towns and abandoned villages, and an afternoon spent in a Ukrainian village cemetery counting headstones.  Previously, when my OCD was a gunship and my depression a black fog that trailed behind it, any reprieve was multiplied to such manic proportions that when it came, I went supernova – from a hobbled, twitching creature lurking in a corner to a soaring rocket man annoying the skies with thundering jet engines.  Imagine a tin of paint dropped from the top floor of a skyscraper. It explodes upon impact with the ground and tendrils stretch across the immediate world; a tree is splattered in orange paint, a shop window, a passing car. When Crow went AWOL, (never truly absent, but putting his feet up flicking me with a wet tea towel), I wanted to be everywhere, know everything and everyone.  My parents would never see me like this, but when I was Crow free at work, or out on the town, my confidence conquered a square mile, my engine running on pure adrenaline – a greyhound released on a coiled spring, tail wagging, tongue slapping on my cheeks. Drink sometimes gave me the same reprieve, only on those occasions the fireworks were louder still, but with a greater price to pay.  These days when I’m free of Crow and his black umbrella, I’m content to celebrate with a deep breath of fresh air, simply appreciating my surroundings, whether it’s watching the sun set over Asian temples or reading graffiti scrawled across the seat of a bus. I’m not past mania, but now I’m a little afraid of where it can take me.

And so, we took a tour of Chernobyl, and the towns and villages the 1986 nuclear disaster had sucked into oblivion.  It was an interesting if rather bleak day. I was expecting anything else. Drudging through the evacuated ghost town of Pripyat with the rest of the tour, I found myself lagging, and spent several minutes alone in a ruined room.  Water dripped from the flaking ceiling, a broken chair lay dislocated on the concrete floor beside a single brown shoe, and a gas mask, tactically placed by a tour guide, dangled eerily from a twisted hook. Everything, from wet concrete walls to burned plastic dolls, reminded me of death.  So grim and blighted were the surroundings that I anticipated a wave of depression to crush me against the cold floor. But no black tsunami came.

My demons nudged me with their crooked elbows, and breathing in the stale air, I decided to entertain them.  I looked into the eye socket of a discarded gas mask, imagining a long table piled high with food, reflected in the smeared glass.  They were all there, eating pie and cake; the Crimson Knight, the symbol of my violent self-harm, devoured the apple crumble, stuffing it into his metal face-plate; the temptress Gorgon, a figure of fear and loathing, spilled beef broth down her filthy gown; Crow himself, Lord of the entire dance, didn’t bother to look up from his wooden bowl as he dropped hunks of wet meat into his glistening black beak.  A vast array of squabbling diners pecked and pawed at the food. It reminded me of a phrase I once wrote on a cardboard box, deep in a factory warehouse, many years ago.

‘Watch them, let them feast, but never join them at the table.’  I knew what I meant when I scribbled it in thick black marker pen, but only now did I see who it was slobbering over the juicy platter.  It was me, or at least the ghosts of me.

I watched them, I let them gorge on barbecued chicken wings and gigantic hocks of roasted ham, lips smacking, knocking over jeweled goblets of red wine.  But I never sat beside them. Never joined them in their gluttony. And I never will, because to join them is to give up on everything – to drop dead on the spot.

It was Chernobyl, I was expecting them here, everyone on the tour must have felt a personal demon poke a finger or two into their ribcage.  But my demons were quieter than usual, content to share stories with each other across the cluttered table. Of course, I was dodging OCD spikes every few footsteps, but I could see them breaking through the floor, or protruding through the walls like defective traps on an old Indiana Jones film set.  There were grey autumn clouds casting shadows across that ramshackle town, gnarled buildings like bloated behemoths setting the mood as lethargy thumped in my lungs and my nostrils were filled with the stench of things gone wrong. I saw Devils in gas masks, so bleak and grey and damp to the bones that this should have been a great harvest for that bastard, Crow.

Maybe it’s the beautiful places that pull the trigger because Crow doesn’t want me to be happy, detecting a smile further than a shark can smell a severed artery.  Maybe it’s the colourful markets in Central America that tempt his malice – hiding in wooden crates of those succulent avocados, oranges and ripened bananas like a stowaway tarantula.  Sucking away the juicy insides until a damp husk is all that remains. If he leaves me a slice of fruit, it’s the most divine morsel of food I’ve ever tasted, or best film I’ve watched in years; the funniest show, the sweetest treat, the happiest hour of the entire month – and when he’s absent, even if I’m in a trench half filled with water, I remember it as a positive occasion.  Every minute I experience without OCD breaking my rationality, or depression suffocating me like a hangman’s hood thrown over my face, blows my mind every which way, just like that tin of paint dropped from the top floor of a skyscraper.

It is the ruination of a spectacular day that hurts the most, I guess.  The rancid hut looms ominously, you already know not to sleep on the p**s-stained mattress, the roaches are already on the wall, there is nothing that is going to jump out at you that you don’t already know about.  It is the five-star apartment you must check for bedbugs. Yes, Chernobyl was depressing, but it was meant to be, there were no surprises.

And today, in the cemetery beneath the gun smoke sky, searching for Little One’s Ukrainian family plot, there wasn’t a black feather in sight.  It was peaceful, and surprisingly not the place to find a spiteful crow, but watching mourners pay homage to their loved ones with flowers, it wasn’t the place for celebration either.

Forget another trip to Asia or South America, I would have stayed in that graveyard forever if it promised infinite peace like this – and I suppose it will one day.

It’s an odd world indeed, Uncle Jack.  An odd world indeed.

Punch

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 the fiend inside had exploded out of my skin – 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 over the railings.

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 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 worst of all, a damaged ego as I faced certain individuals the following day.

I still beat myself up inside, every day, fantasising that crude weapons are smashing into my body – like recently, on a bus travelling through Georgia.  I was looking out of the window as we pulled out of Gori, Joseph Stalin’s home town. 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 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 sh**ty 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, materialised 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 don’t think the passengers on that bus wanted to see me cry.  It would have been an awkward experience for us all. As usual, 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, the fiend 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 in my lungs.

More importantly, I’m out of the factories and running, something I’d never have thought possible all those years ago.

Georgia On My Mind..

Georgia is an interesting place.  On my first day here I was glared at by a bus driver like he wanted to tear my arms off, then plied with homemade Chacha by friendly staff at a military museum.  One moment we’re being shoved aside on the Tbilisi metro, the next, gifted free wine and food until our stomachs threaten to explode at a ramshackle hostel that’s barely standing up; knocking back shots of vodka with new friends, or being totally ignored by fast food street vendors as they look right through me into Wednesday next week.  It can be as rough as sandpaper, its skin still scarred by the Soviet hammer and sickle, or a cushion of cool mountain air – a beautiful face smiling across a crowded room.

It’s been interesting…we’ve only had five days in its ample bosom, but we’re coming back in a week or two after we’ve sampled the colourful delights of Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea.  We’re on the overnight train now as I pound this into my smartphone notes. I can’t sleep because I pushed that bastard crow into a hole today and he’s not come out of it. (I’ve ruminated all day on the inane, then fought free of the fear and now I’m pumped and awake and want to be standing in broad daylight gazing at the Flame Towers dominating the Baku skyline.)  Little One sleeps on the bed across the carriage, I’m going to be tired in the morning but I have a feeling she’s going to want to run around the asphalt of the Baku Formula One street circuit. Lewis Hamilton left behind at the lights.

Georgia is on my mind – but in a good way, not stuck on a loop on the ruminating highway.  Georgia has a thousand adventures to offer, and if I’m mentally able, I hope to sample a few of them when we return from our brief visit to Azerbaijan.  We meet our friend from France back in Tbilisi early in October and he’ll want to hike, so I’ll need the clearest mind I can muster. The war on OCD is never over, but I think I won the battle today – and that’s a good start.

See you soon Georgia, I don’t think I love you yet, but I like you a lot.