The week at work was busy and, despite the fact I wanted it to be busier all through my first six months there, I found it slightly too busy and therefore had my anxiety provoked. We are organising an ‘away day’ for the London team next week. A conference hall has been booked out in central London, and my team has ended up in charge of the whole thing, because there’s no one else to do it. I spent most of the week producing neat powerpoint presentations and slide shows that will be shown on the day. It’s not the most stressful job anyone’s ever had, but throughout the week I had a sense of pressure to get things done. It seemed important to do well, to not slip up and look like a failure.
Along with worrying about that I had to worry about the fly problem at home as well. Something had to be done, so on my first free day on Friday I went to the shops and spent a wad of money on cleaning products, which I took home and proceeded to use to deep clean the shit out of my room. I was determined to see the back of these tiny flies once and for all. The room ended up looking a lot nicer, once every speck of dust had been scrubbed away, and now I’d be surprised if I see anything living in this room again, although I have to try not to get my hopes up too much. They could just be hiding.
Yesterday I spent the day with T again. This time he’d come down to London at my encouragement, and I was his tour guide, as he had only been here three times before. He wanted to see parts of the city that were off the tourist trail; I decided to take him on a walk through Regent’s Park and up the canal to Camden. Not exactly miles from the tourist trail, but it was different enough to please him. We walked and talked in our usual sparse way. I tried to accept that we weren’t going to talk about feelings, or anything to do with the future. I think I had a more comfortable experience for it. Towards the end of the day he was talking about his life back home. I found out that he considered himself an introvert, as he described how he had once struggled to run a coffee house thanks to the affliction of shyness. It was the closest thing yet to a personal disclosure. I almost wanted to consider it a victory.
When we said goodbye, as always I didn’t know when or if I would see him again. He likes to be quite loose with plans, and I either have to tell him that’s not my way, or I have to accept it and move on.
I went to the south bank for my home group’s last ever night south of the river. From next week it’s moving to an exciting new home in Soho. It’s the true end of an era: no longer will I have much excuse to hang around south London, a place I’ve spent a lot of time in and made a lot of memories in over the past eight years. From now on much of my recovery will be taking place in Soho, a part of London I’ve sort of stayed away from in recent years. It will be different.
At the end of the meeting I had agreed to help the committee by carrying some of the literature in bags across to the new home. Four of us got the tube together with our bags, and it was one of those moments that I could have dreamed about, being included in a cool group of people for something exciting. I was with R, C and J, people I admire for their recovery and their confidence. I should have been on a high but my head will always find a way to spoil these things. For most of it I could only think about how tired I was after a day of being on my feet, and how little I had to contribute to the conversation. I’m not saying that it was a terrible or unusual experience – I nearly always have these thoughts when I’m with people like that, and for the most part I don’t think my struggles showed on the surface, because I am better at appearing ‘ok’ than I once was. But it never stops being unsettling when I have these thoughts, and I faced a painful dilemma once we had delivered everything to Soho, when J asked if I was coming for dinner with them. I was exhausted and I knew I ought to take care of myself by going home; I also knew how difficult it would be to sustain the sociable facade in a loud, busy Soho restaurant. So I declined the offer, in what I think was a graceful manner, though I couldn’t be sure as it was done outside the recovery centre on a busy pavement with lots of noise of activity swirling round, so they may have not heard my excuses. They may have gone away thinking I was being rude. I’ll never find out.
Today I had plans to go for lunch with C after the midday spiritual meeting in Soho. I specifically booked this in advance as an attempt to go against those isolating instincts, and build what I hope will be a secure friendship group in the rooms. C would be a great person to know better, not just because he’s very attractive (I’m pretty sure I’ve moved past the emotional crush stage with him now, since I’ve gotten to know him better and realised we’ll always just be friends). We’re of a similar age in recovery and we share a lot of opinions on things. I really like the Sunday midday meeting that he has started, and I thought it would be nice to hang around after for lunch with him. Only as soon as the meeting ended I felt anxiety weigh on me, and instead of hanging around waiting for C to be ready I wanted to run away. The moments at the end of the meeting when everyone’s milling around saying goodbye to each other have always been a particularly stressful time for me, especially when I’m entering one of my moods and I can’t find a person or group to stand with. It took C ten minutes to say his goodbyes to everyone, ten minutes in which I was forced to stand there talking to people I didn’t know well. On the surface I may have appeared to do well – some of them wanted to talk to me, and what happened with them could be construed as a conversation – yet internally the same old doubts were filling my head. I was glad when C was finally ready to go and eat.
We’d planned to only talk in French, as it’s something we both desperately need practise at. But since C was suffering from a cold, and since I was still tired and a bit depressed, it wasn’t going to be much fun trying to stick to a foreign language for an hour, so we switched to our native tongue after fifteen minutes. C was talking about this relationship he’s been in for six months and the struggles he’s having with it. Before I realised what I was doing I was going into therapist mode, asking pertinent questions and making light suggestions. What’s clear is that even those of us who seem to have it all sorted, like C, can struggle in love. I still came away with the impression that he’s doing far better than I ever will in life, though.
A sad feeling of poignancy was threatening to take over when I said goodbye to C after lunch, and I wanted to do anything but go home. The weather was unusually warm and I decided that a long walk across London was in order. At first I stuck to the central London streets that I knew, streets I’ve trodden countless times over the years, and before long the lethargic sadness was coming back. I needed to see somewhere different, somewhere that wasn’t central London. I thought about Richmond, a part of London that feels far removed from the city. I’m lucky enough to have a travelcard that will take me to such places, so I jumped straight on the tube and witnessed the heavy feelings lift inside me as the train got further and further from the metropolis. As we reached the outer zones and the tall brown buildings were quickly replaced by green leaves and grassland, my breathing became easier, my heart rate slowed, and everything felt cleaner, and clearer.
I’ve never spent much time in Richmond, but I wish I had because it’s a lovely place. Even though the high street was busy with tourists it all felt relaxed and pleasant, compared to Oxford Street and its surrounds, the part of London I’m usually in when I go to meetings. I probably spend far too much time in the centre of the city, listening to the same old pop music on my headphones, walking the same old streets, bumping past the same old crowds. Today I put some unfamiliar classical music on and walked along the bank of the Thames, enjoying a lovely stroll in the unseasonal warm sunshine. Out there the Thames is narrow and quiet, and the path passes through parks and meadows, so you couldn’t feel further from London, even though you are well within its boundaries. It was the stroll I needed. I felt like I was on holiday.
With all the things I’ve had to worry about recently it would be natural to assume that a constant state of anxiety is my lot now. Admittedly I’ve had a number of unresolved issues to face (flies, not enjoying college as much as I thought I would, being over busy at work, not having a lot of money thanks to my part time wage). Days like today must show that freedom from worry is still possible. I need to make sure that my daily life doesn’t become stagnant, that I am always seeing new places and experiencing new things. If I keep hanging around Oxford Street and listening to loud dance music every day I’ll get depressed quickly. When I’m not in meetings, I need different places and songs to fill my time with now.