2012 Continues its Shittery, But Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Good evening (or morning, if you prefer). It must have been about three weeks since I last posted, which is pretty much a record absence for me in the almost-three years that I’ve been writing this blog. There are some underlying reasons, I suppose, but primarily my disappearance can be attributed to the usual culprit: that of crippling, fuck you anhedonia. I haven’t been as badly afflicted by the phenomenon since I was a teenager. I mean, depression always carries this demon in its clutches, that much is a given, but it exists in degrees. The depression that has blighted my life so far this year was, initially, relatively free from anhedonia and its cousin, avolition – I blogged quite prolifically around the time of Maisie’s death, after all. I gravitated here when that happened; as it had been, Confessions became my outlet, my place to vent, my catharsis and analysis. In the last few weeks, I haven’t felt that at all.

This apathy and utter dearth of motivation have been compounded by an exhaustion of a magnitude I cannot describe. I’ve been sleeping poorly, and waking early when I do manage to find slumber for a few hours – but it’s more than just that sort of tiredness, for I’ve lived with that for many years. Every step I’ve taken recently has taken the effort that I’d imagine normals would put into a bloody marathon. My head constantly droops somewhere down in my chest – giving the unfortunate impression to the cameras and any other onlookers that I’m orally pleasuring myself – because I have not an ounce of strength to hold it up. My mind is either blank, or thinking repetitive, monotonous, lifeless thoughts. I have, on many days, literally had to tell myself what to do: “move your left foot now, Pan. Good, now move your left. No, no, fuck, sorry! Move your right. Yes, right. Good. Left now. Well done.” And my body aches with this…something. Aches aches aches. And sometimes my mind joins it: it can’t even summon the energy to feel anything with my usual levels of desperation. It currently doesn’t feel raw pain, just like my body doesn’t. It just aches.

[Coincidentally – or not? – the last time I felt tiredness on this scale was back when The Everythinger was here in August. More thrilling musings on that later…]

Perhaps ironically, therefore, I think the depression to which I alluded has abated a little. I’m confident that were I to take any of the usual diagnostic tests that I’d still be deemed ‘severely’ depressed, but, again, it’s about degrees. I do feel a bit better than I did when I last wrote. This could be the normal cyclical run of my supposed manic depression, or it could be down to Lamictal. I mentioned last time that Christine was going to ask NewVCB to increase my dosage of the aforesaid drug; however, NewVCB adamantly refused. Her rationale was something that I didn’t entirely comprehend – something along the lines of not raising the dose when I was planning to cut down on Seroquel, which I think translates as “don’t let her get too used to the stuff just yet, because she’ll need a fuckload more when we start titrating the Seroquel down.”

Why, then, has the drug possibly made a difference? The reason is that effectively the dose has increased. Confused? Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but since I’ve been taking 100mg of Lamictal, that has (theoretically) meant ingestion of one tablet in the morning, and one in the evening. In effect, this has meant one in the evening only – ie. 50mg daily – due to the toxicity that is the infamous Seroquel hangover. Even when I had dezombified five hours later, I simply forgot to take the damn thing. Of late, however, I’ve taken to leaving a strip of the stuff on the bedside table, in order that it is the first thing I see each afternoon morning. With the sun rising earlier, I’m waking (assuming I’ve slept, which is not always the case) earlier anyway, so the morning tablet is taken at a more appropriate time, meaning that the stuff floating around my body is more regulated and less quickly half-lifed away.

So, that’s medication. What else? Ah yes. As reported in the last post, I’d received the brown envelope that all ill or disabled people in the UK fear most: that of a social security assessment form (an ESA50, in this case). I also noted that Christine has said she’d fill it in for me. When I saw her last week, she had indeed done so, the poor, lovely woman. Bless her.

Can you spot the impending ‘but’? To my regret, there is one. To be honest, she’d really written very little about my hallucinations and delusions, referring to ‘hearing voices’ or ‘feeling paranoid’ – and that was qualified by the hideous words of ‘sometimes’ or ‘on occasion’. I hadn’t the nerve to say this to her, but I felt that this wasn’t really an accurate presentation of the issues, so when an brought it home, I modified some of the content, and added stuff in. For example, it asks something like, “are other people frightened by your behaviour?”, and she had ticked ‘no’. I don’t agree with that; I know from experience that people find experiences of those like ‘They‘ deeply disturbing and, yes, frighhtening. Even some cheery ramblings of, “oh, look, that sign’s trying to tell me I’m beautiful!” sees neighbouring eyes widen in horror and concern. And something as ostensibly simple as a panic attack can have people shifting their eyes, crossing the street and then running like the hammers from hell.

By the time I’d modified that which I felt needed alteration, of course the form looked like I was trying to make my condition sound worse simply for the purpose of getting more money, rather than attempting to present reality. I therefore asked my mother to ring the Social Security Agency (SSA) and ask for a new form. “Whilst at it,” I instructed, “ask them why I’m actually being assessed.”

She responded a few hours later advising me that they refused to tell her anything and that I’d have to ring them myself. Cue fucking panic stations galore. Asking me to use the phone, as ever, was like asking me asking me to translate War and sodding Peace or Beowulf into Sanskrit. But needs must, so after perusing the SSA’s website in painstakingly close detail in a futile attempt to obtain an email address for a relevant member of staff, I took a deep breath and called them.

Naturally, this was not a simple process. At first the robotic female who ‘answered’ my call advised me, after talking frustratingly slowly through six years of patronising explanatory shit and in doing so costing me a lot of money, that my call could “not be taken at the minute. We are sorry.” (Read: “we’re on our fag break. Fuck off”). When I called back immediately, after listening to the same initial bollocks, Robot intimated to me that my call was in a queue. How surprising. “Please continue to hold and someone will be with you as soon as possible. Or, if you prefer to call back later, our opening hours are [x, y and z].”

I did not prefer to call back later, so held. Robot repeated the soft and still enragingly slow monologue about 100 times. Why the fuck do they use that voice? Are its lulled t
ones supposed to hypnotise you into compliance? If so, they’ve supremely failed. The only compliance they’ve evoked in me is a willingness to comply with the invoice I’m expecting from the people I sent round to break Robot’s non-existent legs (and yes, GCHQ, that is/was a joke and is not to be taken literally, seriously or as anything other than just a joke. OK?).

The real cunt, though, was fucking Vivaldi. Fuck Vivaldi. To think once I appreciated what I then found to be the majestic chords and melodies for which he was responsible. I swear to fucking God that I nearly rang Matt Smith’s agent to inquire about TARDIS rental. A trip back to 1677 to prevent the birth of the composer seems to be the only solution to this widespread problem; it’s always Vivaldi that is played when you ring any sort of call centre, and so it proved in this case. In between Robot came the first 30 seconds of (I think) Summer. Over and over and over. It would put a sane human being into an asylum.

In the end, the call itself was very straightforward. The girl was friendly, if clueless – when asked why I was being reassessed, she said, “um…well, I think they do this every year, I’m not sure though.”

“Even for people in the support group?” I checked (interruptive spluttering and stammering not included. You can obtain these with my all-singing, all-dancing in-blog purchase function, denoted by a button displaying the word ‘Donate’, at the bottom of this post).

“The support group?” The poor cow sounded genuinely mystified. “Uh…uh, yeah, I think so.”

It was a futile effort, so I told her I’d lost the ESA50 and asked if she’d send another. She cheerfully told me that this was not a problem, that she’d get someone to do it forthwith, and – apart from checking if Mum could ring on my behalf in future (yes; I just need to give details on the form) – that was really that. A simple, inoffensive, unconfrontational discussion that still left me hyperventilating. I wish I could overcome this fucking terror. My only other serious phobia is the old formulaic one of spiders and, as a general rule, that doesn’t interrupt my daily living. Sadly, if I ever want to work again – and I do, I do so much, when I’m well enough – my farcical and excessive anxiety about phones will significantly interfere with my everyday functioning,

Why should it? Why can’t people move into the 21st century and use fucking Twitter or email for their communication needs? Fuck phones.

I can’t believe I just wrote eight paragraphs about a phone call. I become increasingly ridiculous by the day, dearest readers. Moving on, I have now been back under the watchful eyes and perked-up ears of everyone’s favourite psychotherapist, the inimitable Paul, for three sessions. I will actually discuss these in more detail, though to my abject alarm, I’ve lost the notes I kept on sessions two and three. Now, the reason for my apprehension is to do with the fact that they could easily have fallen into the wrong hands, if I am in correct in my assumption that they fell out of my bag or something. However, I will admit to also being irritated for an altogether less ethical reason: I will not be able to record these two appointments here in the fashion to which I’ve become accustomed. Fuck’s sake. This blog has taken over my life. Incidentally, that’s something that actually came up with Paul – in session two? – but I’ll leave you veritably on the edge of your seat in anticipation of that. I’m sure you’re on the brink of self-immolation because you simply can’t stand the wait any other way. Burning ‘grounds’ you, to use modern therapeutic parlance.

What else? I suppose before getting to The Big Thing that I should apologise to many people on Twitter. I dip in and out of it erratically; even if I’m sending tweets, I am not necessarily reading others’ messages, or their @s or DMs to me. I often tweet by text message, and now have a quirky little iPhone app that allows me to tweet under this identity whilst being in another account. So it’s not that I’m ignoring you; I just don’t always see you. Every so often, I log in and see a few messages to me, and sometimes reply, but I’m pathetically incapable of catching up on everything. I don’t know whether this is social anxiety, increasing apathy, an identity crisis or just my being a total knob. Whatever the case, I’m sorry.

Right, then. I live in Northern Ireland, as most of you know. People on this island like to drink alcohol – a lot. Once a year, something comes up that seems to grant them complete impunity to engage in this pursuit: St Patrick’s Day. Perhaps it wil not shock you to hear that I loathe this occasion with a fucking passion; I have a pretty low tolerance for the obnoxious behaviours that many irregular drinkers display when inebriated out of their skulls, and I can’t cope the busy-ness around the place. This year, the event fell on Saturday past. A and I went out for dinner but had to come straight home, which is not at all common for us on that evening of the week. We’re usually in our local.

Anyway, the silver lining around the cloud of St Patrick (who gives a fuck about him anyway? He sounds like a bellend to me) is that A gets the day off (or gets it off in lieu when, as in this case, it’s at a weekend). Monday was therefore free, so we went out on Sunday to make up for our inability to do so the previous evening.

Exactly 51 minutes after we’d left the house, A’s phone started ringing. When he withdrew it from his pocket, we were both perplexed to observe that the caller was my mother. Thinking she was trying to get hold of me, but that my phone had lost its signal or something, I answered it (yes, yes, phone phobia notwithstanding).

The alarm was going off. If they can’t get hold of A or me, they ring my mother first, as she’s closest to our house, and then A’s mother second. A worked out the purpose of my mother’s call, and got ready to leave. I hung up and told him I’d stay in the pub; I would only hold him back by accompanying him (he’s a much faster walker than I am), and anyway, I reckoned it was a false alarm. That used to happen all the fucking time, to the point where I’ve wondered of late how the company responsible for running the thing had managed to improve their product so vastly. So A went back himself, advising that he’d call if anything untoward had happened. Otherwise, I supposed, he’d just return.

A few minutes passed, during which I caught up on some blogs on my Google Reader. In the middle of this, though, I was interrupted by a phone call incoming from my brother-in-law. Truthfully, at my core, I knew why he was ringing – but I let myself pretend that he was calling about joining us in the bar, especially given that he and A had exchanged a few messages about the outing earlier in the day. I duly ignored him.

When my mother-in-law’s name appeared on the screen of my phone, although I again tried to ignore the ramifications of this telephonic confluence of events, I really knew the game was up. This time I answered. She told me that they’d also called her and that my brother-in-law, who was at her house as it transpired, had called the police. In return, I advised her that A had gone back to the house to check that things were in order.

I’d only just hung up when A phoned. It wouldn’t be the last discussion via this medium that day…God, I wish
I believed in exposure therapy. I got a lot of potential practice with it on Sunday.

I knew as soon as I answered that he was horribly distressed. It doesn’t take a skilled conversationalist to decipher the first intake of breath before a single word is spoken; cheer, shock, thrills, anger – they and many more moods besides can be deconstructed in that split second. I’ve often heard parents say that when their kid reaches a few weeks or months old that they can tell by the ‘type’ of cry it emits that it wants x or y. Maybe this is a similar type of thing.

A’s gasp was one of shock and panic. Jesus Christ, I thought within the nanosecond left to me. Not again. We were burgled last only back in June, for fuck’s sake!

“They’ve taken the TV [42 fucking inches! In a heavily-populated terraced street!], the X-Box, the PS3, the iPad…” he was gasping. “They’ve smashed the door between the kitchen and the living room in…”

“I’m coming now,” I said. I hung up and called a taxi.

I could go into my usual level of detail about this, but it’s late and I’m tired. So…

  • The cops had been when I got home, but had apparently spotted some potential culprits, so legged it after them before talking to us and examining the house.
  • Without touching anything, I managed to piece together what had happened. The burglars – or, rather, a burglar – had crawled through the tiny window we keep open for the cats; I know this because it was completely fucked. Then he (and I use the male pronoun for a reason, which I’ll detail) saw the keys hanging up, opened the back door, and let his companion in.
  • They tried, I assume, to simply open the living room door – but, as we have done since the last burglary, we had locked it before leaving the house. They smashed the poor thing in with the Dyson, which was sitting in a corner of the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, they broke that too.
  • Entering the living room would have set the alarm off, and given all that they took and the bloody mess that they’d made, it was obvious that they knew the layout of the place. They couldn’t have got away with all that they did with the alarm (which itself calls the police) curbing their time had it been any other way.
  • They shoved the smaller items, which now seemed to include my old laptop, in bags, exited through the now-open back door, and onward through the gate at the back to the entry (which they’d also used the keys to unlock).
  • They hadn’t gone upstairs. Thank fuck I’d taken my current laptop up to the office; it was safe there. Curiously, they also hadn’t taken my Kindle. It was behind the door they’d smashed in, so perhaps they didn’t see it, or perhaps they didn’t identify it as a piece of expensive electronics because it was in its case, mimicking (to a point) a normal book.
  • Before we’d left, I’d deliberately moved the Kindle and A’s iPad out of view of the window. I neurotically checked the back door was locked about seven times, as I almost always do since the last break-in. Fat lot of good my caution did us.
  • The peelers returned. We were advised that they had taken two blokes into custody (hence my use of the male pronoun in reference to these criminals), and as I detailed my theory of their entrance to the female officer, her male colleague went to look around the back entry for further clues.
  • ….
  • …..
  • I am writing this post on A’s stolen iPad.
  • …..
  • ….
  • The policeman found everything out the back!
  • It seems that when the wankers were spotted, they unceremoniously dumped everything – or perhaps not quite everything? – and ran like fuck. But they were too late ūüôā
  • The police were here for quite a while. In short, they took statements, got the forensic people in and liaised back and forth with their station colleagues. The girl from forensics was extremely thorough – much more so than any of her colleagues we’ve previously met (bearing in mind that this is the fucking third time we’ve been burgled). Although she didn’t say much, it did appear that she had got some evidence from various things.
  • The male peeler had been around the entries of the surrounding area, and came across a small but slick, and quite evidently new, flat screen TV – in a bin. He reasonably enough supposed that it would be unlikely to have been chucked out by its owners, and thus brought it round here briefly for the forensics woman to dust. He and his colleague also revealed that other burglaries had been reported in the area that day.
  • As the cops were rounding things off, the bloke said, “just to check, you didn’t happen to have any wallets here, did you?” We responded in the negative. He nodded, but added, “any foreign currency, no?” It then occurred to me that yes – we did have a wallet in the house after all. We go to down to the Republic every so often, and there’s always leftover Euros. A has kept them in a wallet in the kitchen for months. I relayed this information to the cop as I went into the kitchen to see if it was there. It was not. The cop asked how much was in it. “At least ‚ā¨50, plus coins,” I told him. “There was a ‚ā¨50 note in it; I’m not sure if there were additional ones, but there was definitely a fifty.”
  • I watched with interest as the police exchanged satisfied glances. The wallet with the Euros had been found on the person of one of the personnel that their colleagues had in custody. A couldn’t contain his delight at this wonderful revelation; he jumped up and down screaming, “YES!!!” with the peelers standing there watching. In later conversation, the man said to me that he’s always thrilled in cases like this – both for the victims of the crime, and for officers themselves. “It’s always really nice when we manage to get a conviction,” he smiled. Indeed it must be. They don’t get very many of them for offences like this.
  • After they’d left, I ran down the street to a lovely lady, the only one in the whole area we’ve ever really spoken to, who’d offered us tea when she first realised what had happened. I wanted to let her know what had transpired, and also to apologise if we’d appeared ignorant in refusing said tea. That was weird, because I have never been in a neighbour’s house since I moved in with A, and have only ever exchanged pleasantries and cat-related anecdotes with this woman before. But I appreciated her kindness, and enjoyed the tea and cake that she was decent enough to serve me.
  • I came back and joined A in the clean-up operation. There was glass everywhere. There were strewn bags, clothes and other assorted pieces of fuck also everywhere.
  • Thankfully, the cats were both safe. Srto Gato was here when A got back, and sat down on the sofa, right in the middle of the carnage, and went to sleep. Mr Cat was, however, nowhere to be seen, and we both worried that, twisted as these fucks clearly are, they’d hurt him. H
    e turned up about about an hour after I got home, which was a relief, though he did seem unsettled all evening. Whether he merely sensed our moods, or whether he’d borne witness to some frightening events, we are of course unable to tell.
  • Another set of cops turned up after 10pm, when things had got vaguely back to normal. They had brought the wallet, the ‚ā¨50s and the various Euro coins in separate evidence bags for us to identify as ours. Needless to say, we confirmed that they indeed were. The bloke said as he was leaving that he had “no doubt” that the case would come to court, though he added drolly, “and then they’ll get their 25p fine and get back to their games.” He stressed, assuming as he erroneously did that we completely lacked any knowledge of legal infrastructure, that things were out of their hands then. People can be imprisoned in Norn Iron for burglary, but it’s rare. Even when it happens, custodial sentences tend to be pretty low.
  • The worst thing in the aftermath of all this was that the house wasn’t secure; a bollocksed window and a cunted internal door require supervision. The upshot of that is that I’ve had to stay here when A’s been at work. I don’t mind that, but it does inhibit our ability to live our normal lives. Determined to buy fags before Gideon’s shite budget whacked the price of the vile things up by 37p per packet, I ran out at lunchtime today. In the half hour or so that I was gone – I dropped into a few food-ish places as well – I was panicking, panicking, panicking that the little cunts were out on bail (as they almost certainly are by now) and would break-in again as revenge for our part in their apprehension.
  • On Monday, A rang an “emergency” glass fitter and then The Everythinger (to whom I alluded millaria above). The glass people came out later that day, removed the window from its frame and stuck a temporary board up in its stead. They said they’d be back on Tuesday to fix the window itself. They weren’t. They weren’t today either. They eventually contacted A to tell him that it’ll be at least tomorrow, as they’re waiting on hinges. What double fucking glazing company runs out of hinges?! “Emergency” my arse. At least The Everythinger, who was horrified to hear we’d been burgled only months after he was here the last time for the same reason, is coming tomorrow (later today, whatever it is).
  • Hilarious incidental. The peelers speculated that the theiving scum were on a drunken bender as they went about the area pilfering what they could. As such, they nicked beer from our kitchen. In fact, the one bottle that was open seemed to have been drunk out of, thus meaning potential evidence. Anyway, the burglars were clearly pissed off, as evidenced by their smashing of a few of the bottles and dumping of other ones. This, we’re all pretty sure, is because they had they discovered that they contained Becks Non-Alcoholic beers ūüėÄ Hahaha!

So, if it isn’t death, cancer scares, missing cats, depression, NHS cuntery (and the destruction of that already flawed system), a potentially impending financial desert (and the macro implications of that too), or other assorted nasties, it’s fucking burglary. Thanks, 2012. You’ve brought me the bleakest start to a new year that I can recall.

Yet, comparitively speaking, I’m OK, and thus must sound a note of optimism. Well, not optimism as such, but perhaps a little faith. Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Sunday, and I was very touched that the lady from down the street had offered the basic but important kindness that she did. The hard work of the cops and the generosity of this sweet stranger reminded me that sometimes when you see the worst of humanity, you also see the best too.

Thank you to Mental Healthy, their judges, nominators and sponsors for their very kind short-listing of this blog for the 2011 Mental Health Heroes awards (in the ‘Creative – Writer’ category). It’s a big honour to be featured alongside such people as the wonderful Kayla Kavanagh, her partner and carer Nigel, and the lovely Fiona Art, so thank you again ūüôā

Anyone want to volunteer for TWIM or TNIM? You know you want to. Email me.

I can’t be arsed to proof-read this right now, sorry. It always mortifies me that my narratives could be error-laden, but I’m too tired to care as much as I should.

Crash, Bang, Wollop

This week has been shit. My mood took a nosedive on Monday, and really only started recovering today – though that could be wishful thinking, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

It started on Sunday. I don’t know if I mentioned it on this blog or not, but a while back my mother bought A and I a joint birthday present of a weekend away in a hotel, and said weekend finally rolled around last Friday (the first time they had availability in months). We’d only had one proper day of ‘normal’ life between returning from London and heading off again, and as someone used to doing almost fuck all with her life (partly as a I’m a slave to the hangover-inducing demon of Seroquel, partly because of a crippling type of agoraphobia, partly due to Christ knows what), burning the candle at both ends in this fashion was distinctly unusual for me.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time either in London nor in the hotel – it really, truly isn’t that, and how could it be? – but I will admit that it was draining nevertheless. Up early, do stuff, meet people, live late, sleep poorly, do it all again. Drive 90 miles, have dinner, have a drink, talk to people (in rural areas of Northern Ireland, people love to talk to randoms. Having been raised near a town, this is alien territory for me), sleep poorly, up at something vaguely approximating a normal time, do stuff, eat, drink, have to put up with the mad drunkard who wants to tell you her life story and how she gave up benzos on her own but still snorts coke, go to bed, sleep poorly, drive 70 of the 90 miles, have car throw a fit, carefully drive remaining 20 miles whilst convinced car is about to blow up, get home, ruminate on potential vehicular disaster, feel ill, go back out because you’d forgotten there was a concert that night, don’t enjoy pre-gig dinner and drinks, go to gig, enjoy gig but find it tiring, leave gig in icy, pissing rain, wait for taxi, come home, sleep poorly, sleep all next day.

You get the picture.

Regular readers will know that I positively revere my car. I love the thing with a passion unsurpassed anywhere else in the material world. If I had to choose between the car and my iPhone, or the PS3, or this laptop, or my gong – I think I’d choose the car. I live in a low-level but constant fearful dread of the day when he finally dies on me. (Admittedly, and quite obviously I’d hope, that terror is nowhere near the sky-high level at which I perpetually frighten and torture myself regarding the hopefully long-in-the-future prospect of my mother’s death. I am distinctly and completely petrified of that, and think I’ll have such a major breakdown when it ((hopefully finally)) happens that I might die myself. So no, it’s not that bad – but it is highly significant nonetheless).

So when the car started going mental on Sunday afternoon, I was terrified. Chug chug, roar roar. It was like something out of fucking Formula One. It was so loud that it made every millimetre of the vehicle shudder and vibrate, which caused us as occupants nausea and headaches. Worst of all, there was damn all that I could do about it on the motorway. Well, I could have pulled over and had the RAC come out or something – I do have such cover on my insurance – but (a) how long would they have been? Sitting at the side of a motorway for hours on end would not only be soul-destroying, it would potentially be dangerous; (b) unless my life was actively threatened, I wasn’t willing to lose my no claims bonus; and (c) it was clearly an exhaust problem, and I’m not sure the good people at the RAC go about carrying the exact exhaust parts for a 12 year old and actually rather rare model of Peugeot on them.

So I drove it home. It was the least worst option. It was pissing it down when we got back to the house, so my attempts at looking underneath the car were somewhat hampered. Still, I had something of a go. No tailpipe was visible, but the rest of the fucking exhaust lay at an angle, so I suspected the former was still there, just tilted so that it was under the bumper.

Anyway. Blah. After the concert on Sunday night – and it was testament to the band’s excellence that my poor mood and physical (somatic?) illness were temporarily assuaged by the performance – I don’t think I got up until about 2pm on Monday. I then proceeded to do nothing. And then…I went back to bed.

I must have sent my mother a text message about the car, because on Tuesday evening she rang me. I made the mistake of answering the phone to her, and she plied and plied and plied me with questions: was it doing this, did it sound like that, did it swerve like this, did it turn into a Transformer and blow shit up like that, blah blah blah. And I cracked. It wasn’t her fault – as she, in a fit of justified pique at my completely unreasonable response, reminded me, she was trying to help me – but a state of heightened sensitivity and agitation that had been threatening for days finally overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t deal with having to think about anything.

She hung up abruptly, telling me she would call our mechanic.

I paced the room for a bit. I ranted on Twitter for a bit. I chewed the tops of my fingers for a bit (acting out?). I cried, simultaneously trying to claw out my eyes, for a bit. I considered resorting to self-harm for a bit. I banged my head off the wall for a bit. I wrote pathetic, whinging paragraphs overusing the term “for a bit” for a bit.

(The last one isn’t true).

My mother interrupted this phase of mentalism by ringing back with the mechanic’s advice (which was to take it to Kwik Fit ((the closest branch being half a mile from here)), rather than to him ((circa 10 miles away)), in case the peelers ((translation for the Non-Norn Irish amongst you: cops)) heard the car roaring and threw three penalty points at me). I don’t know what she said to catalyse it, but in telling her that I had gone mad again, I ended up blathering incoherently in a dysphoric, crying, desperate stream of grammatically disordered bollocks. At this point my mother developed sympathy; although she didn’t let the conversation desist (how can she not know how much I loathe phones by now?! In this case, she was making calls on my behalf!) – indeed, she came off with the usual CBT-like platitudes at which I still shudder after all these years – she did try to be helpful and kind, and I greatly appreciated that.

Long story short (well, vaguely shorter than Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady anyway), I was still blubbering and blabbering aimlessly when A came home, but his presence helped to enable me to eventually get Mum off the phone. Not having to use the device calmed me a little, but the nasty experience didn’t entirely abate.

Mum rang again yesterday to advise that an appointment had been scheduled with the local Kwik Fit for what is now today. Objectively good, subjectively night-marish. She observed that I seemed capable of conversing in a more standard version of English than that to which she had been subjected the previous evening, and as such assumed that I was ‘better’ (which I was, if you count ‘depressed’ as better than ‘depressed and agitated’).

In the course of the ensuing conversation, therefore, she asked me a lot of questions about the awards ceremony, and I was forced to lie directly to her. So I didn’t win then? Oh no, no [feigned casualness]. But they must’ve mentioned my name? Oh you know… No, she doesn’t know. Well…no… [Outraged and aghast] Good Lord, my name didn’t even crop up?!! [Brainwave] Well, it was a subsidiary award, not one of the ‘main’ ones. Oh right. Well, that’s a shame. [Thank God, maybe that’s an end to it].

So where was the presentation? [Shit]. Er…in South London. South London’s quite big, don’t I know? OK, the Southbank of the Thames. But she wants to know the name of the place. Er…er…[fucking traitorous mind goes blank]…the BFI [she won’t know what that is, so it’s OK]. What does that stand for, she wonders? [Resigned now]. British Film Institute.

And so on, and so on, and so on. I don’t blame her for her curiosity – it’s my fault she found out about the whole thing in the first place – but I hate having to wing this bullshit and keep up the enduring pretence that this persona demands.

I don’t generally have any particular moral conscience about lying; I’m a selfish bitch, and it benefits me occasionally (I should punctuate that statement by saying that this is more historical than current; for example, the old teenage favourite of “I’m staying at a friend’s” rather than “we’re going to an over 21s bar in a dodgy area until 6am”, which was so frequently followed with lies to cover the first lies, then lies to cover those lies, ad bloody nauseum. I don’t often have cause to lie these days, but as observed I am selfish, so I couldn’t rule out employing it as a potential tool of convenience). However, lying about something so (relatively) huge feels like a big, fat pile of fuckery sitting in my mind.

I discussed this a little once before. Look what this blog has become. I’ve been writing it, at times very prolifically, for two and a half years. As was noted in the introduction to it at the Mind Awards, I don’t just a write a few sentences going “life is a pile of steaming wank” every so often; I write essays. Reams and reams and reams and reams. Look at the support network that I’ve developed from this writing and from the associated Twitter account. To use an arrogant word that I thoroughly detest, but which seems apt in context, look what I’ve “achieved”; a versatile array of lovely online recognitions, and, in this particular arena (ie. blogging/social media), what is probably the biggest mental health award in the UK.

And my mother knows nothing nothing – about it. That is fucked. That is seriously fucked.

I mean, she knows I write stuff, and that it’s about mental health. My own idiocy alerted her to the fact that I was nominated for something big for said writing. She knows I do it pseudonymously. But that’s it. If I have any talent in writing – something of which I remain unconvinced – then, in this context at least, she can never “appreciate” it.

It’s a necessity, but it’s one that I bitterly regret.

Anyway, off I go on a pointless and rambling soliloquy yet again. My point, were I ever to sodding well make it, is that this huge, suffocating, grotesque lie added to my distress over the week. London, the hotel and the concert were great, but they were exhausting too, especially given the short timeframe in which they all came to pass. Christmas is closing its sky-scraping, dark walls in on me. The car trouble was a serious stressor. And I had no choice but to shove a gag of deceit down my mother’s throat.

So, although as I endlessly harp on, I believe that my mentalness is largely non-reactive, I think this particular mentalist incident (or set thereof) was (were) attributable to this cosmic confluence of events. Everything just came at once, and, overwhelmed, I couldn’t cope with it all. Whilst arguably my particular expression of the stress – thought/speech disorder, disproportionate anxiety, ruminative propensities towards self-harm as a “solution” – may have been examples of insanity, I don’t think that being upset and fucked off per se was anything other than quite normal. Even for a normal. If you know what I mean. Which would be rather impressive, because I don’t.

Anyfuckingway. Today arrived with the threat of having to see people (and see people without someone with me for support) in the form of having to go to bastarding Kwik Fit (each time I’ve typed that in this post, my fingers have behaved innately and tried to type Quick Fit. Why can’t companies just use the English language properly and stop trying to be “clever”?!).

I rose from my pit with a heavy heart. I went out for a smoke, got dressed (entirely, and quite typically, bypassing the “and washed” part. I never have written about my ablutophobia here, have I? I must do so one of these days) and left the house with the reluctance of a lover of life walking to the gallows. I am pathetic in the most fundamental of ways. Who in their right mind (well…) is filled with abject terror at the thought of getting their car exhaust fixed?!!!

So off I went, my transport ominously dragging me forth (read: car angrily growling and reverberating), to cross the seas of Acheron (drive up the road a bit). After quite a few irritated looks but, fortunately, no examples of Scylla and Charybdis (police*) accosting me, I duly found myself staring fearfully into the gaping infernos of Hades (Kwik Fit). I withdrew my last remaining hope of rescue from the final good vestige of my soul (took the keys out of the ignition) and proceeded onward to Tartarus, my final destination (the Kwik Fit reception).

(* That one’s quite dubious, but those two did fuck you up if you ran into either of them, just like the peelers probably would, so the crappy analogy works for me.

Oh, hang on. It wasn’t the police that fuck you up. It was your parents. How could I possibly have thought that Larkin had existential commentary on the police to whine out in his musings? They fuck you up, the police. It doesn’t quite work, does it? Hmm. I’m fighting a losing battle with classically depressing poetry here. This is not good. But just for clarification: Scylla and Charybdis are perfect metaphors for the ills of modern policing, and if you don’t agree, then you are wrong. Sorry, GCHQ.).

OK, enough of that pretentiously moronic guff. Terrified, I went into Qu… Kwik Fit. In what should have been an Oscar-winning performance, I confidently and charismatically explained to the bloke why I was there. He was talkative and friendly – and, to my exasperated shock, made me feel at ease. He took and checked the car, returned, and told me what was wrong. What was particularly impressive was that he took me underneath the car and specifically showed me the damage (the centre-piece had separated from the still-present tailpipe). He checked that he had a replacement part in stock, told me to come back in 45 minutes and…well, and that was that.

I went and had lunch…alone. Well, alone except for my Kindle. Result, Pan. Result! I rang my mother – she had made me promise to do so – to report on what had occurred, then I went back to Kwik Fit and waited for the car. In a few minutes, Friendly Bloke confirmed it was ready; I paid him, he wished me a merry Christmas (which, even though I hate the silly festival, was a lovely sentiment), I reciprocated, and I left. With a beautifully silent, functional, darling little car.

And I felt OK.

And the car was OK.

So I felt more OK.

Which is…OK ūüôā

Actually, it’s not entirely OK. I’m not really in great form at all (it could be worse, but you know what I mean), and there’s no particular reason anymore. But I wanted to end the post on a high note! So…er…here’s a more genuine one.

Most of you are probably aware of this, but just in case you’ve missed it, voting is now open for the 2011 This Week in Mentalists awards. You can vote for your favourite blogs and discover lots of new ones over here! And if you’re new to TWIM, don’t be shy. It’s a welcoming place.

Benefit Claim EPIC FAIL

Finances utterly depress me, a reality that makes them even more impossible to understand that they were in the first place. ¬†For the past few months I seem to have gone right to the line of no income, despite the fact that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) should, together, provide me with a decent-ish income. ¬†I mean, their existence doesn’t allow me to live any sort of luxurious life, as some right-wing commentators appear to erroneously opine. ¬†But, until fairly recently, they allowed me to survive financially; my basic needs, cautious payments of debts and even the occasional treat were all within my budget.

However, mental illness that includes a large and chronic dollop of depression makes keeping track of these matters, something of which other people seem to be vaguely capable, very difficult. ¬†Especially during the winter, when depression, anhedonia and listlessness seem to reign supreme. ¬†This is a typically pretentious and verbose way of me saying that I haven’t been keeping track of my finances at all of late.

Sometime in November, I started to struggle with money even more than normal. ¬†I blamed it on the then-upcoming capitalist festival that is Christmas, and on occasional on pretty expensive expenditures such as flights, and didn’t really think much more about it. ¬†By December, I was kind of perplexed by just how little money there consistently was in my account, but I still didn’t have the wit/couldn’t face any form of investigation into same, and continued trying to evade my debtors – something at which I became extremely adept as a student.

However, today I received a text message from my bank informing me that I had received a payment and since this is a Wednesday, I assumed that this was my monthly DLA payment (which it indeed turned out to be). ¬†Its arrival caused me to casually wonder if this fortnight’s ESA had arrived – and for the first time since I moved to e-banking and statements, I decided to check.

After the usual faffing about of forgetting my username, password and PIN that grant me access to my account, I was finally presented with the dubious details of same.  I clicked the link to statements, and a dull, code-like document duly stared back at me, mocking me with its desultory language of numbers.  I ignored this frustrating but expected element of the matter and read it, looking for ESA payments from the Social Security Agency (SSA) of doom.

There were none to be seen.

I went further back – back to last month’s statement. ¬†Maybe they paid me double before Christmas, similar to the way that employers pay December’s salary at that point rather than at the traditional end-of-month juncture.

But there were still no references to it to be seen, aside from a pathetic cold weather payment of ¬£25 (because that’s really going to pay for all the fucking oil incurred during those seemingly interminable hideous weeks of snow and ice).

By this time I was in a state of panic. ¬†Oh my fucking God. ¬†They didn’t re-approve the application and they didn’t tell me. ¬†Fucking hell. ¬†Oh God almighty. ¬†I’m going to have to go to one of those evil, suicide-inducing social security tribunals of fucking evil. ¬†Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. ¬†They think I am some dolescum waster. They don’t believe me, they think I’m a liar! ¬†I’m not, this is real! ¬†Fucking real! ¬†Jesus! ¬†Why do they think this? Who have they spoken to? ¬†Oh my God. ¬†I’m going to have to kill myself, I can’t afford to even pay off a fraction of my debts without ESA, never mind actually bloody well liveetc etc etc.

Filled with trepidation, I went back to October’s statement. ¬†And there it was: ESA, paid at the normal support group rate. ¬†But – the last payment was on the 12th of October. ¬†For the calendar-understanding-challenged amongst us, that is over three months ago!

I could hardly breathe. ¬†October was at about the time they had inexplicably asked me to apply for a renewed application of the benefit, so it seemed definite that they had received the 7,000,000 light-year long form and decided it was full of lies, or that my ability to even half-complete it demonstrated occupational competency. ¬†I say that their request for a re-application was ‘inexplicable’ because, after I had threatened to appeal their earlier decision to allocate me to the work group, they had backed down only in June 2010 and agreed that I was, in fact, meant to be in the so-called support group (here is an explanation of the support versus the work group, if you care). ¬†What could they think had realistically changed in a mere four months?

12th October.  I was sure that they should at least have informed me of their decision to cancel or otherwise withhold the payment.  To that end I quickly navigated to their website to look for an email address to which I could direct a complaint and a request for clarification.

Not that I found one, but as I looked anyway, my panicked mind at least allowed me to consider one rational point: these are the most fuckwitted people in the Northern Irish public sector, which believe me is fuckwitted enough in the first place. ¬†If I were to email them, they wouldn’t respond until about August 2038 – if they even responded at all, that is, employing the old excuse of, “oh, I never got that email…”

I knew then that I would have to phone them.  This is about as bad as it gets.  My serious and extremely debilitating phone phobia has not reduced in any way since I first discussed it here Рif anything, I hate and fear it all the more.  The thing is evil.

Evil Phone

But what choice did I have? ¬†For some horrible reason, I’d just discovered I’d lost three months’ worth of my income! ¬†The ridiculous situation had to be resolved, and had to be resolved quickly.

So I reluctantly picked up the phone, my anxiety building, my revulsion at the device in my left hand palpable. Even Boy Cat looked at me as if the few marbles that I’d somehow hitherto retained were now lost. ¬†I ignored his cynical glare and dialled the number.

It rang.  And then:

Hello, welcome to the Employment and Support Claim Line. ¬†Please note that this number only accepts calls from new claimaints, and cannot deal with enquiries regarding existing claims. ¬†Please also note that we are unable to transfer calls relating to existing claims to the relevant department [yes, that is a supremely difficult task, after all. ¬†You don’t just press ‘Transfer’ and enter an extension or anything, do you? ¬†No, you must first outline the mathematics of the theory of relativity on the telephone’s key pad, then type out War and Peace on same as if you were writing an exceptionally long text message. ¬†Demanding stuff, indeed]. ¬†If you are calling regarding a pre-existing claim, please call 6-21-3-11 25-15-21. ¬†For all new claimaints, please hold the line and have your National Insurance number ready…

I audibly cursed the day that Innocenzo Manzetti or Antonio Meucci¬†or Alexander Graham Bell or whoever actually invented the damn thing took his or her first breath. ¬†Though the fact that the actual inventor of it is so heavily contested presumably proves that some other hateful being would have invented the piece of shit sooner or later anyway. ¬†Not, to be fair, that it’s their fault that the Social Security Agency are wankers, but who cares? ¬†They still suck donkey balls.

I dialled the second number in a dysphoric mix of near-paralysing anxiety and rage.

Hello, and welcome to the Employment and Support Allowance Customer Service line. This line is only for existing claimaints and we are unable to deal with queries relating to new claims.  Neither are we able to direct new claimaints to the relevant department.  If you are a new claimaint, please call 19-21-3-11 13-25 4-9-3-11.  For pre-existing claimaints, please hold the line and have your National Insurance number ready.

I did, and I had.

Thank you for holding! ¬†We are sorry, but all our lines are busy at the minute. ¬†Please phone back later. ¬†We are open from 9am to 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 10am to 5pm on Thursday. [I’m sure you do really useful stuff during that extra hour on Thursdays]. ¬†Thank you for calling. ¬†Goodbye!

Cunts.  Such complete and utter cunts.  I called again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And AGAIN!

On my seventh call, having got through the above message, I was presented with this:

Thank you for holding.  All our Customer Service Representatives [!!!] are busy with other callers at the moment, and your call is in a queue.  Please hold, and someone will be with you as soon as possible.

The false cheer in the robot-woman’s voice made me want to stomp round to their offices, establish her identity, and then rearrange either her face or her motherboard, depending on the type of voice she represented. ¬†I waited.

Twice more she rolled out this patronising bollocks, her mutterings interspersed with enraging repetitions of Vivaldi.  But hark!  Hark!  Finally I heard actual ringing.  Who knew it was even possible?!

Of course, this suggested that I would soon have to speak, and thus my infernal wrath subsided back into extreme panic once again.  Given that I claim benefits for being mental rather than being fucking raging, this was on reflection probably a good thing.

A miserable, fed-up sounding git apparently called Jonathan eventually answered.  He asked me my National Insurance number and about 28,000 security questions before finally establishing that I was, shockingly, actually me.

“How can I help you today, Ms Serial-Insomniac?” he ¬†asked insincerely and distractedly.

Through tears, stammers and a general inability to articulate myself in any meaningful way, I explained to our righteous and good friend Jonathan that I had been very unwell over the last few months, and to that end had only today realised that his organisation had failed to pay me any money since 12th October.

“I’m supposed to be in the support group, but you asked me to re-claim only a few months later anyway, I don’t know why. ¬†I sent the form and everything, but never heard anything from yourselves, so I assumed everything was in order. ¬†Could you please explain what has happened?”

The above paragraph is redacted to remove all the ‘ums’, ‘ahs’, sobs, stammers and nose-blows that characterised it.

I heard Jonathan clattering something into the keyboard he presumably had in front of him. ¬†Then he said, “just hold on a minute.”

Silence overtook the line.  It made a refreshing change from robot-woman and Vivaldi, at least.

Jonathan was gone for approximately three minutes, during which time my epic foray into hyperventilation and neurosis continued completely unabated.  Eventually, his now surprisingly apologetic voice returned to the line.

“Are you still receiving DLA, Ms S-I?” he asked.

I responded in the affirmative.

“OK,” he said, “something’s gone wrong here. ¬†It seems that there’s been a glitch between our systems and the DLA systems, resulting in the suspension of payments to your account. ¬†I’ll send this information over to the Maintenance Department and get it sorted for you.”

“Does that mean that I haven’t lost the benefit, then?” I queried.

“Oh no,” he replied, fairly categorically. ¬†“It’s just been a glitch in the system. ¬†I’ll pass it over to Maintenance, and you should get the money within a week.”

I thanked him for his help, and was – praise be to Christ – able to end the hateful call. ¬†I assume that at this point I was meant to feel reassured, and I suppose part of me did, but there were two issues with which I then had to contend. ¬†Firstly, if the SSA can make such a monumental fuck up for three fucking months, then can easily fuck up the sending of the payment that they now apparently realise is owed to me. ¬†Secondly, the whole stress of finding out I hadn’t been paid for so long, believing that I had lost the benefit altogether, and making the God-forsaken phone call(s), had rendered me a tearful, exhausted, anxiety-ridden, depressed mess. ¬†Even more so than usual, that is.

Seconds later A, who was home early from a meeting, walked through the front door and I collapsed into his arms, explaining through more stammers and breathlessness what had just happened.

To my surprise, A congratulated me. ¬†He felt that the fact I was able to make the phone call¬†at all was a fact worthy of positive regard. ¬†Furthermore, when I relayed brief details of the afternoon’s catalogue of idiocy on Twitter, someone else said the same. ¬†Now that I have calmed down somewhat, I can see their point: I actually do feel quite pleased with myself. ¬†It was a massive ask of me, and I did it. ¬†Not, however, that the experience has in any way given me renewed confidence in using the bloody phone, of course. ¬†It has simply reinforced my utter abhorrence of the despicable piece of shit.

I think I’m owed about ¬£1,300, which is certainly something to be welcomed. ¬†If it arrives as good Jonathan suggested it would, it will help assuage the demands of those bastards hunting my arse for the money they’re owed, and should even give me enough to live on for a bit, especially if normal ESA payment resumes fortnightly as it should.

It’s a big ‘if’, though. ¬†I don’t understand why the ESA and DLA payments should even be linked in the first place; they are entirely separate benefits. ¬†Still, let’s hope that it was something as simple as stated, and let’s just see if they can manage to acquit themselves with any competence now that the complaint has been flagged up with their oh-so-wonderful personnel…

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Phone Phobia

I’m petrified of the phone.

This is not some sort of hyperbole indicating that I find telephonic communication to be a mild irritant or inconvenience. ¬†I’m honestly, truly terrified of it.

I decided to write this post after a discussion developed on my Facebook page between a few of us that regard the act of ‘being on the phone’ with genuine horror. ¬†The most rudimentary of Google searches suggests that we are not at all alone. ¬†I can’t speak for others, obviously, but my phone phobia perplexes me entirely as, certain parameters of social anxiety aside, I am not too bad with people in person.

Let me qualify that; I freak out around new people, unless I am surrounded by people I know very well. ¬†I refuse to go out without people I know intimately, and I’m very uncomfortable around mere acquaintances, not that you’d always know it. ¬†However, if you catch me in the right mood, and I am with the right people, you’d be stunned to know I have any mental health issues at all. ¬†My in-laws, for example, are constantly amazed that there’s anything wrong with me, as I give the appearance of being a social animal in front of them and in front of a number of others – sometimes it’s a mask, but occasionally it’s real (hypomania? ¬†Who knows).

The phone changes everything. ¬†I will usually answer if A phones me, because although he doesn’t actually have the full-blown phobia that I do, he hates the device too. ¬†Anything, therefore, that he has to say via the bloody thing is either (a) quick or (b) urgent.

I only answer to my mother about 25% of the time, and everyone else thereafter becomes pro-(or re-)gressively more likely to be ignored. ¬†This includes my close friends such as Daniel. ¬†If they warn me that they’re going to phone, and give me some indication as to what it is they want to discuss, I’ll usually reluctantly give in – but not always.

There is 0% chance of me answering to a number that is either unfamiliar to me or is withheld. ¬†It just will not¬†happen. ¬†As far as the land-line goes, I never answer it at all as I have no way of knowing who’s on the other end. ¬†If it’s anyone that even has half a chance of speaking to me, they’ll get me on the mobile anyway.

When I hear the accursed thing vibrating (I almost never have the sound on) for any more than the second it takes to denote a text message or an email, or when I hear the infuriatingly cheerful but simultaneously ominous sound of the land-line, I begin to feel desperately uncomfortable. ¬†It’s hard to say exactly how things progress, but let me attempt to dissect it.

It starts with a horrible ‘butterfly’ like feeling in the pit of the stomach, progressing to a sense of heightened physical alertness in which it feels like one is aware of every cell in one’s body. ¬†It produces goosebumps. ¬†The struggle for breath begins, the eyes widen. ¬†One’s heart beats so desperately that one feels it will surely explode from one’s chest.

It reminds me of what I’ve heard of the mammalian ‘fight or flight’ instinct, except in this case things definitely fall on the side of ‘flight’. ¬†Run away. ¬†Hide under the bed, where you can’t hear it or see it taunting you. ¬†Be gone, phone!

In short, I suppose I am essentially describing a panic attack. ¬†Because of a fucking phone call. It is, when you think about it, absolutely preposterous. ¬†What’s the worst that can happen, seriously? ¬†You answer; if the person is a tosser, you hang up. ¬†BIG DEAL.

Making a phone call tends to be less of an issue simply because, with the rare exception of my mother and A, I almost never do it. ¬†Phoning those two individuals is always done through my choice and is on my terms, so whilst I don’t especially relish the prospect of communicating in that way, I don’t completely dread it. ¬†I only call other people that I know when something very urgent arises, and as for calling people I don’t know – hahaha! ¬†No.

There has been the odd time when I’ve had no choice but to do it – for example, when I changed my name, some companies with whom I deal refused to accept emailed or written confirmation of this (which seems rather unusual to me, but anyway). ¬†This takes several hours of preparation on my part…sometimes more if the people concerned – eg. credit card companies – have proven themselves historically to be bastards.

How to prepare? ¬†Well, the CBT-like approach of rationalising the probable simplicity of the impending conversation does not of course work, so I have to attempt to find means to make myself calm (*cough* Diazepam *cough*). ¬†In such circumstances, I merely hope to convey facts to the other party, but although I usually get there eventually,¬†even with the help of my little yellow friends I end up embarrassing myself wholly in the process. ¬†Compare this to when I went into the bank with my deed poll to change my name with them in person. ¬†Admittedly I had to take my mother (otherwise that would’ve been a fail too, no doubt), but I nonetheless communicated effectively and¬†succinctly¬†when dealing with the personnel directly. ¬†Hmm.

Reverting to the issue of phoning people I don’t know, an alternative to the ‘calm’ approach is, on extremely rare occasions, to be really angry. ¬†I mean, real, absolute, ‘I’m-seeing-fucking-red-here’, total anger, not just ‘I’m pissed off with these wankers’. ¬†This leads to a very dominant me, blinded by rage, demanding answers and results. ¬†This has happened maybe twice in my life – both times when I was regularly overcharged by packs of twats who consistently ignored other communications.

Compare the Mr Director-Person letters. ¬†Am I angry in those? ¬†Well, yes, I am – but not with that all-consuming, overpowering rage of which I speak. ¬†Yet I can articulate myself coherently and intelligently, if rather arrogantly, on paper. ¬†I cannot do this on the phone. ¬†I’m either furious beyond furious, in which case woe betide whoever answers, or I faff and babble and make a complete tit of myself, thus ensuring the very opposite of what I’d like – an even longer bloody call.

I’m trying to pinpoint a time when this started. ¬†When I was at school, I had a rather¬†blas√©¬†relationship with the phone; I didn’t usually go out of my way to use it, but neither did I avoid it with the determination that I now do. ¬†Daniel would ring me quite a lot, as would a few others to whom I was then close, and I was fairly OK with that. ¬†A certain friend – Louise – and I even used to have a very childish (potentially cruel, I now see) laugh now and then phoning those stupid chatlines (they were free for women for some reason) to wind people up.

I would¬†always have used email in preference to the telephone where possible, but¬†my first memories of really being troubled by using it were when I was working in a firm of solicitors just before I started my postgraduate degree…so, what? ¬†At the age of 21, maybe? ¬†I remember phoning in sick a few times, and being terrified that my employers would doubt the authenticity of my illness, so to avoid accusations and 20 questions, I would ring before the office opened and leave answering machine messages for them rather than speak to anyone.

In my most recent job, it began to become a real bugbear. ¬†Again, I used email where possible anyway, not particularly concerning myself about the phone, and my first boss had enough faith in me to get the job done in whatever manner that she let me get on with doing things in my own autonomous way. ¬†When she retired and a colleague took over, things changed. ¬†My new boss – a lovely woman, but dreadful boss – she was hell-bent on micro-managing everything, and as a techno-phobe she decided that email was a facility akin to Guantanamo Bay, and she all but banned the use of it in favour of the bastarding phone. ¬†The nature of my work meant that I almost always took the entire department’s flack, even when the fault was mine maybe at most 5% of the time. ¬†I felt that I could deal with this in writing, because any letter or email that was critical of me would be very easily trumped by anything that I could write in response. ¬†Constantly having a bunch of stupid fuckers screeching in your ear about how useless and dreadful you were, however, was not quite so easy to contend with.

When I was embroiled in a pseudo-row with the office during the absence that ultimately led to my unemployment, I told them that I accepted the need to use the phone on many occasions, but contended that under the DDA it was a reasonable adjustment for them to allow my primary means of communication to be email.  They did not agree.

However, it would be easy to blame my last workplace, but my discomfort did not entirely emanate from there; it was merely worsened. ¬†I cannot work out exactly where or how the discomfort, then the fear, then the abject terror first came about, and I cannot work out how I will deal with the issue in the long-term. ¬†I hate the fucking phone. ¬†I absolutely hate it. ¬†I don’t ever expect to like it, but I would really rather it didn’t send me running to hide under the bed every time its use becomes necessary.

In this hugely electronic world that we have come to inhabit, perhaps ultimately the phone will end up being redundant and forgotten, consigned to unread, dusty pages of technological history books.  But that state of affairs is not at all imminent, not even vaguely so, so I must hope to find a solution to this most irrational, but frankly pathological, of fears.

And yeah, for those of you that have been paying attention over the last 13 months, I do have an iPhone ūüėČ ¬†That might be a bit of a ‘go figure’ moment for some of you, but trust me – the phone facility is by far the least used one on what is otherwise an amazing device.

So I’m weird. ¬†Surprise surprise. ¬†That is all.