I know it hasn’t been too long since my last blog, but there was a subject which I mentioned in my previous blog but didn’t go into the detail that it deserves.
I talked about the fear of opening letters and how even my NME stays unopened on the floor in the hall. This doesn’t even come close to illustrating the scale of the problem during my bad times. It isn’t just letters – it’s also emails, texts and phone calls. Basically, any method of day-to-day communication which isn’t a person standing front of me talking, is likely to be ignored. Why do I do it? Because it’s easier, so much easier, to avoid them than to take action – even if this leads to other problems. If you don’t suffer from this kind of fear, you wouldn’t believe the relief you get when you see that your mobile phone is no longer lit up with incoming calls, and then the fearful joy of clearing your missed calls without even looking at who is trying to get in touch. There’s a problem though. You know they’re always going to call you back. It’s like the hunted breathing a sigh of relief as the hunter keeps on walking past their hiding place, but knowing that they’re going to come back.
Anybody close to me knows I usually have an unhealthy appetite for texting. When I’m happy and the devil of OCD is in a playful mood, I’m going to text you (any of you) constantly. It’ll be random proclamations on life; ideas for television shows; music suggestions; rants about Everton even when we’re playing well; suggestions for adventures; and anything else that pops into my overwrought head. Rarely will it be a “how are you?”, unless you’re a friend who needs looking after. I’m not a “how are you” kind of person. It’s not that I don’t care how you are, I’m just that i’m not going to put you under any pressure to tell me. If I send a florid text questioning the reason for the mass desire of a celebrity sex symbol which is currently leaving me baffled, i figure that you have the chance to inform me of your wellbeing in your reply. Somehow. Obscurely. To be honest, I am not that kind of person because I’m always afraid of what the answer might be. You could be sick; you could be troubled; or, even worse, angry with me.
Now I’ve spoken on the personal level, I want to get stuck into the real motivation for writing this particular article. The affect of debt on mental health in conjunction with my occasional inability to communicate. I try to have every possible bill paid by direct debit so that I don’t have to think about them and get on with life. Sometimes, though, things change and when they do, everything goes wrong.
For example, if a credit card payment doesn’t happen for some reason, they call you, write to you, call you, call you, text you, email you, call you, call you, call you… For people like us this is a dreadful scenario and any helpful actions they may be trying to do, such as enable you to make a late payment, are shattered because you’re terrified that they’re going to shout at you, bully you, force you to pay money you can’t afford and generally ruin your life. This means you creep back inside your shell, ignore the calls and then suffer the subsequent bank charges, meaning that your next payment will be bigger and less manageable. A vicious circle.
But here’s where the kicker comes in. Because your last payment failed, your direct debit has now been stopped. So you’re getting hit by charges from both the credit card company and your bank; then you’ve got to make a manual payment, but you can’t do that because you’re scared of opening your letters, so another payment gets missed. This leads to more charges and more urgency to get the money from you. Soon enough, you’re scared to look at any letters that come into the house in case it’s the one threatening you with court action. And then you know your life will really be ruined because of “YOUR CREDIT REPORT”.
This is a cycle which has held me down since I was at university and getting credit card application forms waved at me as I walk through the student union. “Just fill in this form and have access to £1,000 today”. In my opinion, the financial services call centre could be one of the biggest catalysts for mental health problems in the Western World. My parents may have had the ongoing fear of nuclear war looming over them as they were growing up, but my generation have the fear of financial melt down and bad credit ratings, which can equally destroy your life.
If i’m honest, I’m glad I’m afraid to make a step out on my own and still live at home. It allows me to keep my socialist principles, stay off the greased rungs of the property ladder and live a life in which i am free to do the things I enjoy. It also encourages face-to-face communication with people, since I’m too old to sit upstairs on my own listening to The Smiths all night long. In fact, I haven’t listened to music with headphones on now for nearly six months, as I found that by using them I was trapping myself in a world of music and it gave me the scope to think too much.
I am sure that there are organisations out there designed to help people like us with our debt issues, but it isn’t obvious who they are. They’re not shouting down from the rooftops to grab our attention but instead are sitting there silently waiting for us to come to them. There are a lot of things you can infer from this. Such as the question as to why these agencies aren’t helped to be brought into the mass consciousness when “Consolidation Loans” and pay day loan sharks are shoved down our throats from all directions? But I don’t want to turn this into a socio-political tubthumping session. I just want make people out there who experience similar fears see, once again, that you’re not alone; and to give those on the other side of the fence an idea of how our minds work. To be honest, I’m not in as much financial trouble as some people out there, but it’s still a hard thing to deal with, particularly when you’re too scared to open letters from the bank.
I feel like I’ve cheated here, so I’ll just give you an update on how the cycling is going too. I’ve now upped the gears in my training and started to increase my cycling mileage per week. At least twice a week I’m propelling myself to work using pedal power, taking on the evils of ducks, herons and hissing geese along the towpath of the canal. It’s not the most tranquil journey for a person with a phobia of birds. The way home is even more demanding. To make it easier for myself, and to avoid those who may be hanging around under the bridge at Bootle New Strand, I go home by road which is a smoother ride, but boy does it take it out of you with the subtle yet taxing hills of north Liverpool. Where did all these undulating roads come from? I never noticed them when i was in my car. Now, though, every dip and rise stands out like a new ride at Blackpool Pleasureland!!! It also means that I have to face the general public. Whilst they aren’t going to peck my eyes out or bash me over the head with their greasy, feathery wings, they do seem to hate cyclists – in particular fat cyclists. At least once a journey I’ll receive some form of verbal abuse. I don’t know why grown adults feel the need to do so, but if it entertains them then it’s fine by me. I know if I continue cycling I’ll stop being fat but they’ll always be an abusive idiot.
But the biggest revelation of the last few weeks has been the comfortable perfection that is the fashion faux pas of cycling shorts. I went out at the weekend with Pete on quite a long ride and whilst the rest of my body ached at the finish, my arse felt perfect. Considering that the previous big ride i’d done had left me walking like Bishop Brennan after Father Ted kicked him up the arse, it was paradise.
To finish the cycling section of this instalment of The OCD Diaries, I have a health tip for you all… Don’t do a 25 mile bike ride after an all-you-can-eat breakfast. You’ll have such a bad salt thirst that you will have drunk all your water before the halfway mark and then panic about not going past a shop on the homeward stretch.
Now, it’s time to go home, start opening some letters and fighting against the fear, but don’t think it’ll be helpful to call me. I’ll forever hate speaking on the phone, even if I perfect my self-protection and mental state. How previous generations ever asked girls out by calling them up I’ll never know!!!
If anybody wants to follow us on our cycling odyssey, which starts 10th October, via Twitter then we’ll be updating using the hashtag #canalgps. There won’t be any attempts to “get trending”, but there will be updates as to our progress, beer and food reviews from canalside venues and photographs of me sprawled across the towpath after falling off my bike, no doubt.