I’m doing a gig in Peterborough. Last week I got my hair cut as I was getting a bit shaggy. There was an older gentleman just finishing up in one of the chairs. It became pretty obvious he was suffering either from the after effects of a stroke based on his mobility issues or some other brain injury. His vision was strangely specific. He could make it to a chair to sit down but kept losing visual contact with his friend and he then ask where his friend was. Our brains struggle to make sense of the world around us no matter how damaged.
The funny thing about mental illness is until it pokes it’s head up, it’s very hard to see in somebody. I suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I’ve been through a lot of one on one therapy to learn how to deal with the effects of this. I’m very lucky, I can hold down a job and continue on in society in a mostly normal fashion. My disorder for the most part goes undetected by others and I work hard at masking my behaviours to keep it that way. I look normal but much like my PT Cruiser, the, “Check engine light,” is always on.
When I first started to figure out that I wasn’t dealing with the world in socially acceptable ways. I sought help. My family (other than my wife and kids) we’re not too cool with it. I’m not sure why but it seems that admission of having trouble coping in a mental way is a reflection on them. Not on the fact you want to hurt yourself and possibly others. It still mystifies me. The doc didn’t solve my problems, she just helped me identify them and provided some coping strategies for stressful situations. But the bulk of her advice was, get enough sleep and eat decently. Those two things go pretty far.
Every year, Christmas comes round and every year it gets a bit harder to deal with. The crowds freak me out. It’s a proximity thing. It’s not that I think that harm might come to me, I just don’t like so many people in close proximity. This weekend in the local Costco it was pretty packed and headphones aside, I could feel my face getting tight the deeper I got into the store. No reason for the heightened anxiety, I’ve been in there before when it was just as packed and no issue. The only difference this time? Three aisles of Christmas stuff.
My Ipod helps. I use noise cancelling headphones, they help a lot. Reducing a crowd to a sight picture helps greatly. It doesn’t cancel out the anxiety but it does reduce me having to hear them. That dull roar.
But I’ve noticed it’s getting a bit worse these days as I get older. Sometimes it comes down to lack of sleep and other times I guess it’s got more to do with other stressors in my life. But then that’s the joy of mental illness, you never really know the triggers, you can only suspect what’s going to set you off.
We do a fair number of film related kick off and wrap parties and they are super hard for me. Film people like to hug. I don’t. Oh I’m fine if I know you and we’re good friends but as a rule? Not a good scene. It makes my flesh crawl. I need a good half hour before hand to get my head together and afterwards I feel like I’ve run a marathon.
I’ve also got this thing about sitting on the aisle in a movie theater, well any theater type venue really. This may be more rooted in common sense though. Those bladder busting drinks make easy access to the washroom a must.
It is a bit nuts I suppose… I’ll throw my ass down an unknown trail on the bike or ride solo for thousands of miles and not give it a second thought but a hug from somebody I barely know?
Makes me shudder to think of it.