How have my voices been this week?
The most interesting aspect of my voices this week has been Shay’s disappearing act. Normally I will hear from him several times a week – and converse with him even more – but for the last seven days I’ve not heard so much as a peep from him. I’d probably be more worried about this if I hadn’t heard so much from Meadhbh, Vanessa and Audrey, who have been even more demanding, and obscure, than usual.
As we approach the six-year anniversary of the day my life ended (aka the beginning of the breakdown) Vanessa’s abuse has been evasive, persuasive and continuous. For the last six days there has barely been an hour where she hasn’t slipped in to attack me anyway she can. Whilst, throughout yesterday and today, there hasn’t been a minute where she’s left me alone – something I fear will be the norm until Tuesday’s anniversary has passed.
Throughout the week Audrey has been pottering away being her normal self. The highlight of our interactions came on Thursday evening, when she intervened during a particularly vicious assault from Vanessa by scolding her (literally sending her to the naughty corner) for going way too far with her abuse. Vanessa’s sulking reaction is something I think I’ll always remember! :)
Meadhbh, on the other hand, has continued her decision to accompany me everywhere. On Tuesday she was distracting me so much during Scrabble I wasn’t able to play to the best of my ability; on Wednesday at pool she kept distracting me as I was about to take my shots and on Friday she sat quietly in the corner of the room observing everything that was happening, pointing out each and every mistake I made and giving ‘helpful’ (read: annoying) advice as to how I should act.
One of these days I’ll have to transcribe one of our conversations…
This week, Meadhbh decided to wear a red/black corset and leather pants to the group. She told me this was because if I rode fast enough she could pretend she was riding pillion (did you know this was Scottish Gaelic for ‘little rug’? I didn’t, until Meadhbh pointed it out) on a motorcycle.
So rather than annoy me with are you sure you want to go, are you sure you want to go, I was inundated with faster…faster…faaaasstteeerrrr throughout the thirty minute ride to my group. Or at least I was for the first fifteen minutes of the ride, for after last week’s near-accidents and Audrey’s inspired bollocking of Vanessa, I pulled the bike under a bridge so I could scold Meadhbh without fear of causing an accident. Being spoken to like this is not something Meadhbh is used to, so after an initial giggling fit she decided to be on her ‘best behaviour’ for the remainder of the ride and I didn’t hear a peep out of her until we got to Hungry Jacks.
Although I’m not a fan of fast food, I will admit to having a taste for the Sausage and Egg muffins at Hungry Jacks. So, in order to alleviate the anxiety of the previous two weeks, I decided to treat myself to one before the group. This way, I could spend the ride thinking of this fattening piece of food rather than the fact I was heading toward almost certain public humiliation.
Fortunately, this plan worked (sort of, but I’ll get to that later), although I can’t take the credit for the idea as it was Audrey who suggested it on Friday night.
This weeks warm-up activity was something that should have seen me in my element but because of the social anxiety I was unable to participate.
The premise was simple. One person began by speaking the opening sentence of a story, the next person then had to make up the next sentence, and so on, and so on, until everyone in the group had contributed to a rather random little tale.
However, by the time the story reached me, I had nothing to offer so quickly passed to the next person; feeling annoyed that I can’t even do something I’m usually so good at when I’m in a group environment!
Second in line…
After last week’s appalling ‘how was my week’ group share, I was making a concerted effort this week not to come across like an ass. In preparation for what was coming I spent the majority of Thursday evening preparing my ‘speech’ with Audrey and Meadhbh (whilst Vanessa stood in the corner!) so when it came to my turn, Meadhbh was able to prompt me the words as if I were an absent-minded actor on stage.
By a stroke of good fortune I was second in line so, unlike last week’s mind-numbingly frustrating wait, I was able to get it over and done with straight away. I mentioned I had become an uncle again, that I was blogging more regularly and that my anxiety had been lesser than normal. This latter point being a complete lie as my anxiety has been higher than normal for the last few weeks, but I tend to ‘hide’ how I’m feeling so as not to make people worry. Something I really need to stop doing!
After my few minutes were up I felt strangely proud of myself, even though Meadhbh kept pointing out I’d strayed from our script.
One of the most likely things to increase my anxiety is feeling trapped. When I go to a cinema, theatre or air travel I need to be in an aisle seat (something none of my girlfriends could support, regardless of how many times I explained it), similarly, when I’m in a restaurant or pub I can’t be trapped in a corner or against a wall. In these situations – and situations like them – I need to know I can get up/escape without bothering too many people if things get too much for me.
Due to the sheer number of the people in the group this week (fourteen) the ‘how was my week’ session went on much longer than it normally does. After an hour, I was itching to go outside, after ninety minutes I was practically clawing the walls. Even though I was in an aisle seat, I felt compelled (through good manners) to remain where I was until an official break was called.
So after surviving my speaking, by the time a break was called my anxiety was climbing to annoying levels, causing me to walk up-and-down in an alleyway for ten minutes hoping the repetition would calm me down.
Fortunately, the second ‘half’ of the group was only fifteen minutes long. All we did was finish the ‘how was my week’ segment before group reading a passage from a book. The book (I forget the title) was a collection of personal stories from people who have heard voices and learnt to deal with their experiences.
Much like last week, I read my part of the story as quickly as possible to get it over and done with. After all, as Vanessa keeps reminding me this week, my voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to!
At the end of the group, like previous weeks, we played the ball throwing warm-down game. Once again Meadhbh tried to intercept the ball (failing miserably as she’s not the most ‘sporty’ of people) whilst I babbled something about ‘how it’s okay to not be feeling okay’.
This part of the group was probably the most anxiety inducing because, as usual, I can’t deal with being the focus of attention!
Under the bridge…
It wasn’t just me thinking this week’s group had been a little strange. On the way home, following a short meander around the op-shops, I stopped under the same bridge I’d scolded Meadhbh under on the way to the group. This time, our conversation was less angry parent/naughty child and more friend/friend (a word I’ve hesitated to use to describe my voices given how they normally treat me).
For half an hour Meadhbh and I discussed the brevity of this week’s group and how it had revolved mostly around listening to other people’s weeks. There was nothing wrong with this (in fact, I pointed out that it had allowed me to be less anxious) but Meadhbh had hoped the group would be more challenging. Mostly because she likes it when I’m anxious because it makes it easier for her to slide into my soul and ‘get at me’ as only she can. Around about then, just as I felt we were making headway with our relationship, my Sausage and Egg muffin idea came back to haunt me.
But let’s not go there!
Things I learned from the group this week:
- It’s okay to not feel okay (or something along those lines!)
- Scolding my voices not only works but is strangely enjoyable! :p
- I really don’t like playing the warm-down ball game (that sounds dirtier than I mean it to!)
- You never know what’s going to happen at a support group.
- I still haven’t died as a result of attending the group.
- However tasty Hungry Jacks’ Sausage and Egg muffins are, do not eat them if you value your digestive health and are miles from a bathroom!