There is gravel under my skin.
As I march up the slight incline towards the prehistoric building where my morning therapy session is being held, I can feel it biting and scraping at my skin, creating irritation from the inside out.
I want to rip my own skin off and shake it out.
I am seething today, and it is only seven fifteen in the morning.
I am bubbling over with hatred, struggling to contain my disgust.
If I were able to, I would vehemently spit pure bile in my own eye.
The dawn air is bitter cold on my teeth and as I grasp at gaspfuls in an attempt to calm my racing heart, they begin to ache. I clamp my eyes shut and resist the urge to stand completely still, pull my hair out and scream in to the morning silence.
Create a ripple of angst in an otherwise numb millpond.
‘Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend, somewhere along in the bitterness yeah, and I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life…’
The Fray is pounding out of my headphones headed directly in to the last remaining corner of my soul which still respond to stimulus.
I feel like a teenager again, drawing similarities from lyrics in to my own life. Struggling to feel anything but numbness or anger for more than just a second.
I am the friend. Aren’t I?
My eyes watering now from poorly concealed wrath which is burning inside me, I continue to plough ahead, onwards and upwards, as the stillness throughout the hospital grounds catches at my insecurities.
I flick my head around, my hair whipping my cheek for the third time in a matter of moments, once again for a split moment sensing somebody is walking with me.
There is nobody else around at this hour but me.
I am a lonely morning plodder in a world filled with Glums, and yet somehow I know you are here. I wish you weren’t. I do not deserve your company, especially not here, especially not now. But I can feel you watching me.
Is this a true sign of madness, or are you actually around me?
The sun peeps out from behind a bustle of angry black clouds which seem to be gathering in preparation for a stormy ambush, quickly and without even thinking I turn my face up towards it, trying, just a moment to feel the warmth, to feel some self- care in a lonely and agonizing world.
It quickly fades, giving up, and with it, so do I.
Like me, the weather is unable to decipher the way forward today.
Except I suppose I do know what is coming today.
That is why you are here.
Resisting the urge to shout abuse at Jeff, I push open the heavy metal door and stomp up the stairs, really settling in to ‘angry teenager’ mode now, and locate the correct room.
‘Room B3. A room for being a right royal misery guts.’
12 spacious pale red cushioned armchairs are placed in a jaunty semi circle against the back wall. In the center of the room opposite, another lonely chair sits waiting for the facilitator.
The room smells of sadness, mold and morning.
Nobody is here; I am the first to arrive.
This is nothing new.
I plonk myself down on the only green chair in the room, thankfully located by the window, and turn from the fray to Eminem.
Angry rap. Just what the psychologist didn’t order. I kick off my wet shoes and fold my legs up underneath me, small comforts.
From here I can look down on all three therapy buildings, the garden and the back of reception.
From here I can watch the early morning goings on of a busy hospital ward, without anybody even knowing I am here. I like it. I feel like Jason Bourne.
But miserable. And without binoculars. And female. Obviously. (Maybe they could cast me in the sequel….call me Janet Bourne… hmmm… anyway…)
Jeff perches himself on the windowsill, gives me a cursory wink and turns around to have a nosy with me at the madness which is sure to erupt from below. Against my will I have somehow become like that man from the Shawshank redemption. Woman and bird. No library though.
I begin to wonder if Jeff will follow me home when I leave, or if maybe he is a therapist in disguise. It wouldn’t surprise me in this place. Either way, he has become my new companion, and I like him.
I don’t think he is lonely or filled with sorrow either. That clever little ditty may read one for sorrow but we’ve discussed it and Jeff and I are thinking of writing a strongly worded letter to the Oxford literary academy. We want action. We want the shitty ditty changed.
One for Ice cream, maybe.
Yes. We like Ice cream Jeff and me.
One for ice cream.
Two for a dream.
Three for jeans that make you look lean.
Four for Prozac.
Five for (liquid) gold.
Six for a friendship to really behold.
Seven for coffee
Eight for tea
Nine for a lie down under the tree.
Or something like that. Yes we like that. Jeff is nodding.
My (completely normal in the grand scheme of things) thoughts are interrupted by the whirlwind arrival of my favorite therapist Barry.
Barry is a Scouser, a jolly Scouser, who speaks the truth and makes me laugh while doing it. He is friendly from the top of his head to the tip of his toe. I imagine his wife and children feel very lucky to have him, I know I would. I trust him with my broken heart. I trust him to go easy on me and I trust him to know when to stop.
7 other mentalists, none of whom I am allowed to describe, and most of who will probably never check this to ensure I haven’t (but still), follow closely behind him and the session begins.
After a brief introduction, Barry takes off his anorak and gets comfy. (He must live by a train station.)
‘Who would like some help today?’
‘Oh fuck off!’ is spat out in to the silence of the room.
There is an audible gasp from yours truly, as I realise that horrendous language had come from me.
I am usually such a lady!
‘I do not have an illness!! I just want to die!!’ My legs bob up and down in uncontrollable annoyance ‘I am not depressed. I just cannot be bothered to live the rest of my life! I am fine! I do not struggle to get out of bed in the morning, lord knows us mothers have no choice in the matter and I do not battle to put make up on or clean up, I do not find leaving the house particularly difficult and I can laugh until my sides hurt if something funny happens. It just never does!! I can play with my baby, I can make him something to eat, I can walk around Asda and I can take a bath and read a book, so surely, so obviously, so clearly there is absolutely nothing wrong with me really is there? You can’t be depressed if you can go and get your nails done. You can’t be depressed if you manage to smile on a daily basis and for the love of god, you can’t be depressed if you have hope for the future. CAN YOU? So can I just leave now please? Can I? I do not deserve or need to be here? I am a fake!’
‘What is making you angry today Lexy?’
(I bite down on my tongue hard. One fuck off I may get away with, but 2 would see me sent out of the class, my head hung in shame) ‘I just am, I don’t know why.’ (If I knew why I wouldn’t bloody be in here you Scouse muppet!!)
‘Try not to ask why,’ Barry mumbles in his thick Liverpudlian accent grabbing the back of his head and looking at the floor ‘it takes you inside yourself, instead ask what or who.’
I glare at him. If my eyes could speak they would be saying ‘DIE!’
‘Who are you angry at Lexy?’
‘Myself, my brother, Jeff the magpie, Myself.’
‘How does this anger feel?’
‘Brilliant. Like a hot sunny day!!! What the hell do you think it feels like???’ I catch myself and pause….’Overwhelming.’
‘Do you feel guilty?’
‘Guilty, upset, hurt, annoyed, pissed off, fucked off, irritated, ready to cry.’
‘What do you feel guilty about?’
‘Being in here, I should be with my son. I don’t need to be here! I am not ill!’ I stamp my feet.
Barry sits motionless and stares at me for what feels like an eternity. I try very hard not to break the silence and am about to falter when he takes a deep breath and goes in for the kill.
‘Lexy. Tell me what you loved about your brother.’
An unexpected blow.
5 years of anger crumpled in to hurt by one single question. 5 years of sorrow and guilt, racing to the surface. 31 years of grief rising up and suffocating me, extinguishing the fury like water on a flame.
An hour later when the group slowly draws to an end, I head back to my room on the ward.
I am broken, and alone.
You didn’t follow me out. I assume you heard what you needed to hear.
Jeff did though.
So for the moment,
It is just my hurt, my magpie and me.
*This post was sponsored by Post Natal Depression. We would like to tell it ‘to fuck right off you sadistic bastard’ but are far too polite.