Sunday, 29 July 2007


It strikes me as odd that after two months, all I am feeling is mild irritation. What should be clouding my view is some kind of red mist; at the very least, I should be slightly aghast at your sense of entitlement.

"God, I've missed you." Your voice almost a whisper, I have to strain to hear above the sound of the cappuccino being made for the pin-striped cliché at the counter, shaking the rain from his umbrella.

What's going through my head is "Someone will have to clean that up" but what comes out instead is "You knew where I was."

"I know."

The silence that aches to be filled with variations on but it's difficult and it's hard to get away and you knew my situation when you met me lingers in the air like a penny waiting to drop.


I put my hand over the top of my cup as the refill approaches attached to a teenaged girl in a black uniform.

"No, thank you - I've had enough."

I wonder how many times she's encountered this scene in the short course of her working life, and whether the voyeuristic opportunity makes up for the minimum wage.

"I haven't," you say, pushing your cup towards her without looking away, holding my gaze in the palm of your hand.

She pours, and I study your face through the steam, attempting to pick out the lie that doesn't appear to be there. Look at the eyes - isn't that what they say? It always reaches the eyes, but all I see is impossibly pale green, piercing in its devastating beauty, the hook that reeled me in now a luminescent sea of I want and I need and I'm sorry, I should have called.


"I wasn't expecting you. Today, I mean. Here. Why are you here?"

Because you are the itch that has always needed to be to be scratched?

"They invited me." I nod in the direction of 'them', as if I need to clarify. "I wanted to catch up. Maybe I shouldn't have come."

'They' are at a separate table, discreetly burying their curiosity in paperwork and coffee as you shake your head, slowly, resolutely.

"No. I'm glad you came. I've been wanting to see you."

Then why didn't you?

Knowing that they already know somehow makes it more shocking when you lean across the table to steal a first public kiss. Soft, delicate, impossibly quick, chaste, even; the stark contrast with what has gone before seeming completely alien.

"Come with me. Tomorrow. I've got a couple of days..."

Because I have never been able to say 'I'm leaving', or maybe because actions speak louder than words, I reach out to grab the bill and your hand moves swiftly to cover mine, as if tracing feather-light strokes of your thumb across my palm could keep me here. The crease that forms at the corner of your eye lets me know that the hitch in my breath has not gone unnoticed.



Outisde, I lean against the wall as the traffic rushes past, the moisture in the air cooling the flush in my cheeks. In for a count of four, out for a count of five. I flip open my phone, scrolling through the numbers for the one I know will ask no questions.

"Can I borrow your sat nav?" I say, after dispensing with sufficient niceties to still be considered polite. "Just for a couple of days?"

"Sure. Where are you going - somewhere good?"

I pull the crumpled piece of paper from my pocket and take in the handwritten address.

"Honestly?" I ask, and I realise the person I am questioning is not the one on the end of the line. "I have absolutely no idea."

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Thank you for the days?

I don't want this to be a 'symptom diary.' That's dull, and self-indulgent, and doesn't make for good writing. This, primarily, is why I haven't posted a bean since last week. But I need to write about my day, which frankly, has been a nightmare from start to finish. Please, do feel free to skip.

I honestly think that the worst kind of panic attack one can have is the one that is already underway as you open your eyes to face the day, because that particular type does not afford you the time or luxury of practicing any of your coping skills; it's faster than the speed of rational thought.

I suspect that my recent ridiculous bout of insomnia may be to blame - over the past two weeks or so, a typical night will see me finally dropping off at 3.30, 4, and waking at 8 - combined with low blood sugar from not eating dinner last night and the three day migraine I've had this week, which has necessitated enough painkillers to potentially stun an elephant - most of which contain entirely unhealthy doses of caffeine, because they're the only ones that touch it. It's a trade off, a difficult balancing act; I know the caffeine will almost instantly kill the pain, which at times is unbearable and leaves me pathetically crying into a pillow, and so I gamble, and weigh up the relief I know it will bring with the possibility of it resulting in a day like this.

Sometimes I get away with it. Today, I put all my chips on red, and lost.

Big time.

I knew I'd have to leave the house in the midst of it, to buy food, to solve the low blood sugar problem, so steeled myself to deal with it; I put on my heaviest boots, possibly in the hope that they might anchor me to the ground. And then I realised. My phone. Not charged. Not good. Fuck. No other option but to go without it.

My phone is my safety net. I can handle most things if I have my phone. Some things. With my phone in my hand, I know that when it gets unbearable, help is just a three digit call away. The morals of this are still up for debate, I know. But still. I need my phone, and today, I didn't have it.

I lasted about 30 seconds before my head exploded.

'Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god' went my brain, as I stumbled my way to the biscuit aisle.

'Oh god oh god oh god please hurry please hurry' went my stupid internal voice as I saw the three people in front of me at the checkout who were about to unnecessarily prolong the agony; the embarrassment of having to explain why I would be asking to nip in front keeping me at the back of the queue.

'Oh god oh god oh god oh god' , screamed my head, as I felt my way along the wall in the alleyway, the one that leads from the Co-op to my house, wondering what the hell God would do about it anyway.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I don't really remember getting home, but I must have done, because I'm here now. Or am I? I don't feel safe, so...

This afternoon I slept, and woke up in much the same state. (Toxic naps. File under 'unexplainable phenomenon'. Alternatively, label 'a pisser'.)

It's all about hiding, really. I kept up the act for long enough to welcome my new flatmate, staying away from the hospital only because I didn't want to have to explain it and embarrass her. Retreated back into the bedroom, still uncomfortable even in my comfort zone. Retreated into things I know and love, the things on my computer, chasing cars around my head, things I know will make me smile, things that dull the pain.

I feel so defeated. Useless. Cursing my biology. Toxic, empty, numb but for the burning muscles and creeping anxiety. Exhausted, but afraid to sleep. Days like this are incomprehensible. I don't understand them, and I don't understand why I need to. If I had the ability to do so, I'd probably cry.

Eventually, when I've watched enough cars and cocking about to lull me into sleep (it's a harmless addiction, and one that hurts nobody), I'll shut my eyes and hope that it'll be gone when I open them again, or if not, that it'll be at least manageable for a while, that there will be a few open windows, allowing me to breathe the same air as everyone else.

I'm going back to work on Tuesday. As it stands, I'm not sure about coping with it, and so, I haven't yet signed the contract, because what if I can't?

Monday, 16 July 2007

Who lives in a house like this?

Except for a precious while at the weekend when I was blessed with company (for it is surely not the done thing to entertain two male platonic friends in one's bedroom), the last time I was in here was days ago. I am unsure when, until the iMac wakes from its sleep, the last document I was working on still on the screen casting my mind back to its deadline, and allowing realisation to dawn.


It's now Monday evening. But here I am. Uncomfortable to the point of agitation, but here.

I'd love to pretend that it was some kind of epiphany, some kind of courageous triumph over an invisible force or an immovable object. The reality is somewhat less inspirational - a knackered iBook charger - and the need for the internet that outweighed the need to stay cocooned tonight, and for once I am simultaneously glad that I spent money I didn't have on an indulgent gadget and annoyed that by necessity, it must reside in the other room.

The avoidance of this room is something I'm struggling to comprehend. It's neat, it's tidy, and yet at the same time, cosy and inviting, and nothing bad ever happened here; I'd even go so far as to say it's a beautiful room if I could work out a way to do so without sounding pompous. My favourite room in the flat, and the one I'm always proud to show off when having friends over for the first time. The one that sold the place, even though I rent. Metaphorically, then.

A dark wood floor, stained in golden hues of cherry. An original black marble Victorian fireplace standing almost half the height of the wall to which it is attached, that has long since lost its fire; instead, in its place, stands a collection of haphazardly arranged coloured glass bottles that catch the light as it dances through the gossamer thin muslin adorning the huge, airy bay window.

And alcoves. One either side of the fireplace, full to bursting point with books I haven't yet read by authors I know I would love had I made the effort, except the Murakamis and Hempels and the Carvers, the contents of which are and always will be imprinted on my memory, along with those of the Clarksons and the Mays. Unconventional shelf-fellows, perhaps, but I read those whose writing I adore, the literary credibility, or misplaced lack thereof, of the name on the dust jacket has never been able to sway.

Oh, the alcoves - simple, but perfect, for I always wanted alcoves. The initial enthusiasm over every place I ever lived in gradually melted into a faint sense of disappointment that I could never quite put my finger on until now, as the lightbulb goes off above my head: no alcoves. Now I finally have them at the ripe old age of 35, I barely ever see them.

I drop a cigarette into the makeshift ashtray next to me - a bottle, I refuse to buy an ashtray; until I do, I'm not yet officially smoking again - and wonder why.

Pictures give a small clue to the passions of the occupant within, or without; an Edwardian scene at Ludgate Circus; on another wall, three black wooden frames, a trinity, each containing a symbol which could suggest a French pavement cafe; on the chimney breast, the centrepiece: a framed poster announcing a forthcoming auction of classic cars. Fine Le Mans Winning British Marques. Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lagonda, Bentley. Let's waste time, chasing cars, around our heads...

A few, carefully selected DVDs, but not too many, because clutter and materialism have never sat comfortably: Peter Gabriel, live and otherwise; Glenn Miller, expertly played by Jimmy Stewart; one box-set of Titanic documentaries, another of a nameless television show over which I may have an obsession slightly too unhealthy for one of my years, especially for one of my years who never watches television; a gap where the Billy Connolly shows resided before I lent them out - to whom, I don't remember.

A souvenir from the job I adored, acquired in a slightly dodgy and alcohol-fuelled manner. A tiffany-style bowl, filled with odds and ends and coins on the wrought-iron decorated dark-wood coffee table that's such an accidentally perfect fit it may merge with the floor if seen from above. A climbing tree, already half shredded by one of three over-exuberant cats and the "Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure", a gift from a friend that makes me smile every time I see it.

An armchair that everyone else hates but that fits my form like a plaster-cast, an Indian-themed throw on the sofa-bed, sitting uneasily against the period backdrop and at the same time, blending in perfectly.

Who lives in a house like this? It could only be me.

This room is me.

Perhaps, therein, lies the answer.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same

"So," said the trainee psychotherapist, the one being critically observed by her supervisor, who didn't appear to be much older than she herself was, "Can you tell me, in your own words, what's brought you here today?"

I chewed my bottom lip, wondering who else's words I would be likely to use in a situation like this, and considered some possible responses.

"Because being on first-name terms with the area paramedic crews really isn't a good way to endear yourself to the local community. Especially when you've only just moved in."


"Well, frankly, staying in bed all day is playing merry hell with my basal metabolic rate, and I'm sure I'd feel much better about myself if I were a svelte size twelve."


"Quite honestly, taking taxis everywhere because walking seems too scary is costing me a bloody fortune, and I *am* on the dole, you know..."

In the end, it was the tissues that did it. Why is there always a box of tissues? There they were, in the very edge of my field of vision - on the one hand all white and stark and clinical, on the other, an unspoken invitation; open up, let it all out, it's OK to do that here - and I ran out of smart-alec answers on the spot.

"Truthfully," I said. "I'm here because this is doing my head in."


This being an initial assessment, there were lots of questions to be answered. I rambled, as I have a tendency to do in job interviews, possibly because this felt a little bit like one.

Then came the crunch. The Big Question.

"What would you like us to do for you?"

I hate that question. The last time it was asked of me, the neurologist looked me up and down over the top of his regulation consultant-issue pince-nez and told me that as I didn't fit neatly into his particular diagnostic box, didn't I think I would be better served by a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists than a member of the Royal College of Physicians? Which was so dignified that nowadays, I try to avoid that question like I would a plague of locusts.

This time, then, I was leaving it up to them.

Counter an open question with another open question is what was going through my head.

"What would you suggest?" I asked.

"There are lots of options," she said. "Firstly, there's Computer CBT."

Gosh - surely the ultimate in self-help. I've heard of CBT. I've even had it before. This, apparently, is different. You turn up at your treatment centre. They log you in. They leave you to it. You do exercises on-screen. Someone comes in at the end to check what you've done, and this is how you get all better.

Now, I know a little bit about usability. I've worked in the interweb field for ten years. I also know a little bit about how people read things on a computer screen and why there's a reason that the inverted pyramid model of journalism is so important when writing for the web.

People scan. Quickly. This is not a good medium for "taking stuff in."

So, while smiling to myself at the memory of the short-lived Ananova newsreader, I politely declined the offer of a virtual therapist, and asked if I could maybe have a real one instead.

And for once, a mental health professional nodded, smiled, and agreed with me.


Before my appointment, I sat in the waiting room opposite the transsexual with the blond wig and too-short skirt - why is the skirt always too short? - and as the second-hand chugged around on the clock, I filled in a yellow questionnaire containing what seemed like hundreds of boxes.

"In the last week, how have you felt about X, Y and Z?"
"Have you thought about killing yourself?"
"Have you had enough energy to do the things you normally would?"
"Have you felt anxious to the point where you really couldn't stand it any more?"

Terrible, god no, not at all, constantly... repeat ad-nauseum.

Tick, tick, tick.

I ticked boxes.


So, I'm now a questionnaire on someone's file, and I'm sure I now fall somewhere within the diagnostic criteria for something. Where, and for what, remains to be seen. Having fought labelling for the better part of ten years, this is annoying in itself, but in order to get help, I know I have to play the game, to accept the label, even if I choose not to apply it to myself.

Take what you need and leave the rest, isn't that how it's supposed to work?

We shall see.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Hi ho, Hi ho...

I always told myself that when my last contract finished, I'd finally take some time off. That working in a pressurised (but wonderful) industry for too hard for too long without a break - 4 years, there or thereabouts, one year straight in this particular contract - was what was doing strange things to my head again after a period of feeling relatively OK with the world. That, towards the end of the job, which I adored, my growing and incredibly frustrating inability to perform to the best of my talents, to be a reliable part of a team, and to stay away from the safe zone, was simply a product of my tiredness, of everything catching up with me, of burnout. That I'd emerge, refreshed, after a couple of weeks off, ready to face the world again.

Hmm. As with the all the other best laid plans of mice and men, it didn't quite work out that way. After five weeks unemployment - the longest I've ever been out of work - it doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out the correlation between that, and the current state of shrinking safe-zones, or to work out just what the strategies I use to live with the hand that's been dealt to me are.

Working, apparently, is what keeps my head above water, and so for the past few years, I've been living by what I like to call the 'flying by the seat of your pants' theory. It doesn't seem to be a popular one; others look at me, aghast, trotting out such well-worn cliches as "How can you work in such an insecure industry?" and "How can you not know what you'll be doing from month to month? I couldn't live like that", and, to this day, my father is convinced I'll end up roaming the streets of London, pushing my clothes and my cats around in a shopping trolley.

But, maybe bizarrely for one with such an apparent inbuilt need for safety and security in other areas - it seems to suit. It keeps me going, keeps me ploughing on, the thought of the rent not being paid motivating me like a rocket up the arse when the prospect of getting to the street, only 20 feet away, and - gasp - to the office - seems as daunting as running a marathon must have seemed to Jade Goody after her two week pie and takeaway training regime.

You see, when I do things right, working allows me to pigeon-hole this, all this stuff, away as just one part of my life. Yes, it's a challenge; yes, you come up against all sorts of odd things during the course of the day and you also develop ways of dealing with them because you've -perhaps deliberately - given yourself no alternative. Moving closer to work and hanging the expense, because the commute is killing you. Cabs there and back, because if you thought of the journey you'd never get there. The iPod filled with relaxation and meditation tracks, constantly plugged in at your desk. The Rescue Remedy hidden in your bag, discreetly droppered into the warm milk and camomile tea constantly on tap from the canteen. It's not perfect, or foolproof, and it costs a fortune, but sometimes, it does enough of a trick to allow you to carry on with your day, and they're all things you can hide.

Ah, hiding. Hiding, hiding, hiding. It's a sticky one, isn't it - in the professional sense, do you disclose, or don't you? I've hidden it for as long as I can remember, looking to the Littlest Hobo for inspiration when it catches up with me. During my last contract, I just wasn't prepared to do that - to cut and run, but still, it didn't stop the hiding. Why? Silly, perhaps, considering I was working in a place where it really, really shouldn't have been a problem and reasonable adjustments could have been - would have been - made.

Maybe had I said something, things would have been easier in the last couple of months of the job, and I wouldn't be left, now, feeling as if I blew the biggest career chance I'd ever had in my life. But you see, once you do that, you're faced with the thorny issue of shooting yourself in the foot - once those adjustments are made, you lose the very coping strategies you've built up for yourself, the techniques that allow you to actually get there and be productive... and then you're back to square one, wondering where on earth to go from here.

Or maybe this is just me, and maybe next time, I'll work harder to find a happy medium.


This wasn't supposed to be such pointless exercise in navel-gazing; I logged on tonight fully intending to write about my day. And although it was a particularly bad one for some reason, it was a damn good story - about how my routine trip to the Job Centre to sign on turned into a convincing impression of an entrant in the 100 Yards For People With No Sense Of Direction as I wandered around Shepherds Bush in the throes of a panic attack, wondering how the hell I was going to get home without actually dying.

And yes, with my phone and my keys in my hand, I did pick the bus that took me past the hospital. Just in case.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

On safety

As a background to this post, I shall first attempt to dispel a common myth - the definition of agoraphobia as a 'fear of open spaces'. Complete twaddle, I'm afraid, although it's easy to understand how this misconception came about considering that, when taken literally, the word translates from its Greek origins as 'a fear of the market place'.

What it actually means is the fear of being anywhere that escape to a 'safe place' may be difficult, or that help, medical or otherwise, may not be available in the event of a panic attack.

So, with that out of the way: What is the definition of a 'safe place'?

Home? Car? Work? Bed? The arms of the rare friend who 'gets it'?


At the time of writing, I've had vicious attacks of the "please help me, I'm dying" variety in all of them, and yet still, somewhere in the back of my mind, they reside in a little box marked 'safe'. I still haven't quite worked out why this should be the case when other quite ordinary places - the Co-op, the short walk to the office at my last job, the train, the living room - so often fall victim to avoidance.

Hospital as a safe place is an interesting concept because any nurse in the land will tell you that in these days of rampant MRSA and other assorted nasties, it's probably one of the least safe places you can put yourself in. It does seem like a contradiction in terms when you look at it objectively, but I'm betting that isn't the reason that not many agoraphobics would comfortably admit to an A&E department being their safe place of choice.

'Choice' is a bit of a misnomer, because it's actually a last resort, generally used only when all else fails, when your usual safe places, for some reason, become temporarily otherwise. Really, it is, although you can see the disbelief on the faces of those who attend to you when, between hyperventilating breaths, you manage to splutter out the words "I didn't know what else to do."

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the curse of the dysfunctional flight-or-fight response - biological, inbuilt, and faster than the speed of rational thought. When we were sharing our living space with sabre-toothed tigers it no doubt served a purpose - to drive us away from danger without the inconvenience of needing to think about what we were doing; by design, therefore, it temporarily robs us of our ability to think clearly - and therein lies the problem.

Most of the time, after years of practice, you manage to snatch back a little rational thought in the middle of the mayhem. You know the routine, you know the pattern it takes, you know that if you can just wait it out, it's not going to kill you. But there are also occasions where for no apparent reason other than a sudden misfiring of neurons, you just can't.

So you do what anyone does when faced with a perceived threat to survival. You pick up the phone, and you call for help.

There's always that sense of burdening, of knowing, somewhere in the back of your mind, that you don't belong there. That the 999 operator talking you down from the blind panic and the chest pains and the incapacitating dizziness while waiting for the first response vehicle to arrive could well have - should have - been deployed on a more 'deserving' case, even as they reassure otherwise while reading from a script that you've 'done the right thing by calling us'. That just because you think you're dying it doesn't necessarily mean you are, while the person down the road with the cardiac problem or the pensioner slipping into shock after falling on the street may well be.

The guilt is overwhelming, the shame dropping over you like a bucket of ice as they hook you up to a machine which reads out yet another normal ECG and ascertain that yes, your blood pressure is ridiculously high, but that's not surprising under the circumstances. They pack you off home again with a shake of the head and a not-quite-out-of-earshot murmur about psychiactric liaison teams and still you can't quite get up the nerve to say yes, it's frustrating for me too.


Depending on the phase of the condition at any particular point in time, then, 'safe places' can vary wildy: out, with someone else; anywhere behind your front door; in your office; in your bed with your phone and your keys to hand 'just in case'. Anywhere with your phone and keys to hand - or sometimes in your hand - 'just in case'... although phones do tend to object to being taken into the shower.

I hope that when the day comes where the safe place is inside my own mind, I'll know I'm finally there.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Pizza: the unintentional saviour of the agoraphobic Londoner

It was tangible, you know - the relief felt on finding a forgotten ten pound note lurking underneath my money jar this evening. It's always nice to find cash that you don't realise you have - there's nothing quite like the joy involved in finding a screwed up fiver in your pocket scant moments before it's sent to a watery grave in the washing machine (or the abject horror when half the stray, shredded note is discovered at the drying stage). But for the agoraphobic, or for this one, at least, it represents something extra - the removal of the potential embarrassment at having to pay the pizza delivery boy in twenty-pence pieces because:

a) even though your day started with a trip to A&E (because that's OK - a safe place), you haven't been able to get out to the shops, and your flat contains nothing resembling any sort of food;
b) had you able to get to the cash machine for a less financially embarrassing note, you wouldn't be ordering pizza in the first place. See: A.

If I were to hazard a guess and commit the cardinal sin of issuing a sweeping generalisation, I'd say that the state of mind of the average agoraphobic at any given point in time can be deduced by the quality of their diet. Since today has been particularly trying, it's pizza again tonight for me, purely for the reason that it contains less anxiety-inducing MSG than Chinese food, and because it's easier to vary the toppings and avoid boredom setting in. Tonight, it's meatballs and green pepper, with reduced fat cheese. A cursory nod to nutrition - if it's got something green on it, it can't be all bad - and who knows, it may even contain a vitamin or two.

I sometimes wonder if, when the nice men from Domino's arrive at my door with pizza in hand, they ever stop to consider just why my patronage has been so great recently. Do they think I'm actually addicted to Chicken Strippers? Someone who just eats too much pizza for her own good - a heart attack waiting to happen? Someone who, today, can't manage the two minute trip to the Co-op, or the extended period of time in the kitchen required to cook? Someone currently living in her bedroom, who hasn't been in her lounge, or her kitchen, for three weeks? Someone who's beginning to despise pizza; not because her taste-buds are objecting, or because familiarity breeds contempt, but because each mouthful serves as a reminder of her inability, today, to rise above it?

Of course they don't wonder. To them, I'm just another tip, an unknown quantity, as I am to most, for even in this day and age of enlightenment and tolerance and inclusion in the DDA, it's not something you broadcast, least of all to the pizza delivery boy. Even if all the neighbours, and their painters and decorators, and the binmen, and anyone else in the general vicinity at the time have already seen the paramedics knocking on your door that day.

It's days like this that I thank heavens for London and its diverse range of food delivery services. And yes, while I acknowledge it's not real food, and that a nice hearty home-made soup would be infinitely more beneficial to my current state of mind, a girl's gotta eat.

It also leaves me wondering about those of us who live outside the 4 mile delivery radius - just what do you do when this sets in and the cupboards are bare?

"Agoraphobic Eats Own Arm", perhaps?

Write about what you know

Throughout history, courtesy, etiquette and innate Britishness have dictated that when introducing oneself to the world, polite small-talk comes first and gory details come later, but this doesn't tend work too well in the blogosphere (oh, how I hate that word) when the gory details are about to form the bulk of your writing. So, for the purposes of this post, I have decided to break with convention. Get it all out in the open. Out of the way.

"Come out", if you like.

So here it is in a nutshell. The basics, the gory details, the stuff you need to know.

My name is Miss Vertigo. Well, obviously, not really, but, y'know. I am 35 years old. I have agoraphobia. If it must be known, it began ten years ago, two weeks to the day after witnessing a traumatic incident, the details of which are not important. It started with the occasional panic attack and progressed from there until my living area shrank to the size of a couch, because that's where I stayed unless it was absolutely biologically necessary to move.

Yes, I've been down the psycho-pharmacalogical route; yes, it was hideous; yes, the chemical damage inflicted left me with more problems than it solved. No, I'd never go there again, not even kicking and screaming.

Yes, it's a pain in the arse. No, I don't let it dictate my life or define me as a person but yes, sometimes it does get the better of me. No, not everyone in my life knows about it, because sometimes, it's more socially acceptable to invent a headache.

No, agoraphobia isn't just about the Miss Haversham on the corner who hasn't left her cobwebby house for fifty years and dispelling that myth here and now is very high on my list of priorities for this blog. Yes, we do go out. Lead productive lives. Work. Have relationships. Do all that normie stuff. And sometimes that's difficult, sometimes it's damn near impossible - but you keep going, plough on through, push and push and push until you drop. Why? Because it's better than the alternative.

Although it's always lurking, and right now the ugly head of shrinking safe-zones is, for some reason, being reared, no, it's not a constant. Yes, it comes in waves; in peaks and troughs, in massive highs and miserable lows, and while the highs are wonderful, liberating - normal - especially after a prolonged low, there are occasions where your bed becomes your safe-zone. But at least you're comfortable.

The ups and downs make for an interesting life.

After ten years or so of faffing, being pushed from pillar to post, doctor to doctor, A&E department to A&E department, patronising bastard to patronising bastard, I thought it may be interesting to chronicle the course of non-medicinal treatment I'm about to undergo. Or at least that's the plan, but despite Nu-Labour bluster, we all know that patient choice is not high on the NHS agenda when it comes to matters of the mind. Drug 'em up, shove 'em out the door, keep 'em coming back for more. It's the easy way out. The cheap way out. But it's not for me, principally because I refuse to bow down like a lamb and become a drug company science experiment. I have that t-shirt already. I bought it unintentionally, with no possibility of a refund - and I wear it every day of my life.


If you're still with me, then welcome. I hope that once I get going, you'll find something here that's identifiable, something familiar, something shared, something to talk about in the pub. That's assuming we can get to the pub without needing to call out the psychiactric liaison team.

If you're not, then maybe a blog about fluffy kittens would be more your cup of tea anyway.