Like everyone else I was horrified by what happened this week. Manchester is a city I’ve always been fond of. A couple of years ago I was seriously considering living there. I hate that it has been touched by such terror, in what seemed such a safe place. I feel I ought to be careful about what I say next; but as soon as I heard the news on Tuesday morning, I wasn’t shocked – not as much as I was saddened and angry. The world today is increasingly prepared for these things to happen, so before Monday I guess I was wondering, where next? Given how much the Manchester attack seems to mirror the plot of Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, I could well believe this kind of thing would occur at some point.
Before the attacker was identified I was really hoping they wouldn’t turn out to be of a certain background; as soon as they were identified as someone from a certain background, I could foresee the reaction of the media, as it is the reaction we always get now. It gets so tiring after a while. According to our most vocal news outlets, it is the religion’s fault, or it is the fault of all the refugees coming here; there is no specific motive that needs to be investigated, it is just another sign that liberal society’s tolerance has gone too far. What incensed me almost as much as the attack itself was the front page I saw today on two newspapers, both proclaiming in hysterical tones how “they” have started targeting children. They being terrorists of any description, those foreigners who come here solely to blow us up. It seems these newspapers have forgotten about Nice and Paris 2015, where children were also killed in great numbers.
What happened this week was devastating and evil, but to my mind what makes it even more depressing is the competition you get between outlets to appear the most horrified, to use the strongest and most stirring adjectives (“sick”, “disgusting”, “monstrous”). Being forced to listen to the news when I’m at home makes it hard to escape the feeling that the media’s vitriol has infected the air, so that the next incident won’t come as any surprise at all. Let’s face it, this is going to happen again, and again, until something in the world changes. A really depressing thought that may be, yet I can’t deny what I’m seeing. Things are either getting worse or they’re as bad as they’ve ever been; they’re certainly not getting better.
I’ve slept badly every night this week. I don’t know why, I just keep waking up three or four times a night, and it takes hours to get back to sleep. People have suggested all sorts of things, such as drinking camomile tea, switching a light on and reading until I get drowsy again; even getting out of bed and starting the day, regardless of what time it is. Such suggestions don’t take into account the fact that doing anything to stimulate the mind makes it twice as hard to return to the peaceful land of sleep. Drinking tea and reading are activities that stimulate the mind, so I don’t do them because the last thing I need at 3 in the morning is an even more active mind. All I can do is lie there in the dark and wait.
A strange and slightly disturbing development in this sleepless saga is the new uncontrollable tendency I have to make loud groaning noises as I’m falling asleep. I’m lying there, drifting off when suddenly a high pitched snarl or growl comes out of nowhere. I wake up and realise that I made the noise. How embarrassing. I’ve read up on this quirky disorder and apparently it’s called catathrenia. I’ve never experienced it before, but now it seems to happen every night. Apparently it can result from stress and anxiety, and is more common in people who regularly partake in activities where they have to hold their breath, such as swimming. The noise results from the breath being held for too long whilst dozing. For some reason the onset of unconsciousness is causing me to hold my breath for short periods. If I delve into this a bit I know I have long had trouble controlling my breath when I’m swimming; I’ve never figured out a comfortable way of swimming at length without having to constantly slow down to take in breaths. Somehow this is linking to the general underlying anxiety in my life, which links to trouble getting to sleep.
I know I’ve had problems sleeping all my life, so this new and slightly weird problem falls into a wider issue that isn’t new at all. I’ll have to get used to it. There do tend to be times where I’m sleeping better and times where it’s worse; phases that go in cycles which I haven’t identified yet. In a week or so I’ll probably be sleeping normally again, until the next turn of the cycle.
I made up with mum quickly on Monday, as I couldn’t take the feeling that I had done wrong any more. Although her outburst at the Labour canvassers would never be acceptable in any circumstances, my cold shoulder treatment was not acceptable either, and I was reminded of step four, and keeping my side of the street clean. I apologised as soon as I got back from work and immediately felt better. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise that my disturbed sleep this week has resulted from the unnerving stress of the falling out. Even as circumstances improve and I start to experience normal moods in the day again, the old underlying sensitivity to anything potentially wrong is there. Anxiety sits deep in me, embedded in my soul. To soothe it I must take my time, be patient, meditate every day, be kind to myself. This is a journey of years.
My home group elected a new secretary last night, and that secretary is me! I was preparing for the “election” all week, knowing I couldn’t back out as half the group were expecting me to go for it. One other person was up for the role, another regular member that I like and respect, and it was rather nerve racking as we had to pitch ourselves to the group. I gave my length of sobriety and brief reasons why I want to be the secretary. I love the group, I’ve been going for nearly ten years; there was nothing else to say. Pitches done, us nominees had to go out of the room while the group voted. In our moments of anticipation in the hallway we talked about other things, anything unrelated to what we were doing there. After a while someone came to fetch us and we were told the result.
My approval seeking side immediately thought “they like me!”, and then I wanted to know how many people voted for me, but of course it would have been inappropriate to ask, so I’ll never find out. I especially wanted to know whom the members of the group that I don’t get on with voted for. There are three people that go to the meeting regularly that I would say I don’t get on with. I’ve never fallen out with them or had any kind of incident, I just don’t know them, and they’ve never appeared to be interested me. Extrapolating from lack of interest the idea that they don’t like me might be a leap too far, but with some people you get a vibe, and I definitely get this vibe with these people.
Whether they voted for the other candidate or for me, it shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Serving as the meeting’s secretary for a year is going to be very good for me. Already at the end of the meeting I had two new phone numbers from other people on the committee, which indicates that I’ve moved another step closer to the heart of things. My journey back to the middle of the AA bed is virtually complete. Being endorsed by the group is a good confidence booster, and I was on top form as some of us left to go for fellowship at the nearby chip shop. I was laughing and smiling and chatting almost as if it was natural. The fact that I’m now tied to the meeting for another year makes me only slightly apprehensive, as does the idea of having to ask people to do chairs for me. I haven’t forgotten the last time I was secretary of a meeting, when the stress of it drove me out of the gay meetings.
That was a long time ago, I’ve worked hard to come back from the wilderness that event left me in, and this is a very special meeting. Even if I don’t get along with everyone there, it will go well as long as I do what I’m capable of doing, which is committing myself to it fully. The doubts will always swim around at the back of my mind – Does he hate me? Am I out of my depth here? Am I picking the wrong people to do chairs? – as they do in every situation. I end many journal entries on a deliberately positive note and so I’m ending this one on a positive note: I can do this.