Last week was quite a busy week. I had an appointment with the artificial limb clinic in Swansea where I talked to the technician about getting an artificial leg. Hospital appointments have been a normal part of my life for a long time though. So it was no shock when he asked me to drop my trousers and cupped my bum cheeks. This was to get an idea of how high the prosthetic would reach up and where it would sit…I think.
On Friday evening I went out for a meal with some work colleagues as one of my collegues will be leaving shortly to take up a new job role. So this was to be a slightly premature leaving party. It’s fair to say that we are not very good at social get-togethers as a team. I will normally cry off such things and don’t attend. On this occasion though I decided to bite the bullet.
For the whole day of the meal and the evening before I felt sick at the thought of going out. Since losing my social crutch (a few pints of lager) a few years ago, any social event has been a major hurdle. I still have one alcoholic drink but that will only carry me so far. I know there is no rational reason why eating some food with people I know, work with and like ought to be difficult but for some irrational reason it is. If I was thinking ahead to Christmas (still two months away) I might think it would be a nice idea to meet up with some family for a bite to eat and to share in the festivities. As that date gets closer my anxiety is ramped up. By the time I am a couple of weeks out, I am normally thinking of every conceivable reason why I cannot do it. Anything so as not to go. I make myself feel sick thinking about it.
So it was last Friday. As soon as I was told about it my brain started thinking of reasons not to go. Do I have any conflicting appointments? The truth is nobody wants me to go anyway and they would all feel much better if I wasn’t there. Therefore I am doing them a favour by not attending. I feel ill, this could be the start of something serious. I don’t want to pass it on to anyone else. I don’t want to get sick when I am out, that would be embarrassing and spoil everyone’s night. I can’t physically do it because I am so ill. It’s raining and I’m not very steady on my crutches in the rain, especially on those slippery paving slabs outside the restaurant. I had better text and say I can’t come.
I have to try and blot out these thoughts and just not think about it at all. The best I can hope for is moderate level of background anxiety. It’s like going for an exam. Block it out, sit down and write/say something for a couple of hours and then get out of there. Job done.
As I have already said I like the other dinner guests. It’s not like I am sharing a table with people I can’t stand. So I went and I approached it in the manner of a schoolboy about to have his MMR inocualtion. I stand around nervously in the corridor shuffling my feet, I enter the room, get my jab, wince with pain and then get on my way. That sounds very insulting to my colleagues but I don’t mean it that way. It’s just my messed up thinking. Anyway, I went and it was fine. In fact in some respects it was better than expected. I still found reason to berate myself afterwards but I do that if I spend the day sitting alone at home. I always manage to find areas of self dissatisfaction. Even in analysing that tendency I’m mentally telling myself off.
The very next morning I had arranged another social event and my mind immediately turned to meeting with an old friend at our old high school. Part of the school is being demolished to make way for the new modern school. So the staff were having a coffee morning to raise money and offer the chance for former pupils to walk the corridors and wander through the past. A couple of friends brought it to my attention on facebook and I agreed to go. Three weeks out it looked like a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. So I agreed.
For a few days beforehand I was cursing my unrealistically optimistic forecast. What if there are people there I really disliked in my youth. All of those eyes will be looking at me mocking and pitying the one legged figure. The weather was bad, a storm was bashing the west coast. I expected my friend to cancel because of the weather and difficult driving conditions. I should cancel first so he doesn’t feel bad at changing his mind. Oh shut up, just go.
Arriving at the school the first person I saw was a man, who had once been a boy in the year below me. I hadn’t liked him at the time. He was confident, charming, very clever and appeared to not have a care in the world. He was everything I would have liked to have been. I saw him walking and chatting with one of his clever but less socially adept school friends and they stopped outside for a photo opportunity. He didn’t see me and I doubt he every noticed me throughout his school career. I wanted to get back in the car and drive off. I didn’t leave though. I waited, met up with my friend and I enjoyed the next couple of hours reminiscing about funny exploits of the past. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even suggested we meet up again at the rugby sometime soon. I know I will regret that when sometime soon gets closer.