“What? Never really liking myself?”
She nodded encouragingly.
There is a shiver of panic that invades my life on certain occasions. It’s like the feeling that one might get when pulling off a jumper that is a little too small. First it grabs around the shoulders, sticks and refuses to go any further. This tends to happen when it has passed the point of no return. When that happens, you are stuck, defenceless, with a straight jacket pinning your arms too close for usefulness and your eyes completely covered by the wool or man-made substitute. That’s when the panic begins as a ripple of anxiety. Exposed and defenceless, one could spend eternity like this, suffocate, or fall headlong down a flight of stairs.
Being afraid of the shadows, the thing under the bed, someone hiding around the corner, or simply waiting for you in sleep, was something that plagued the young me. There were times when the world would close in around me. This was not meant metaphorically, to a boy of around five or six the walls would literally close in threateningly; and there were voices in those walls. Then the walls would be inside my head and my brain would pulse from the pressure. That ripple of anxiety had by then turned into a torrent, a mass of viciousness whose intent was purely to cause me harm. I remember experiencing this once in the bathroom of the council house that I was brought up in. The door was locked when the voices came and the water was running from the tap. The ceiling above me was pounding with the heaviness of something trying to get through. The walls started to move inwards and the lock, the lock on the door refused to shift. I tried shouting for help but nothing came from me. Tears dripped from my face, my pulse raced towards explosion and I collapsed in submission.
“No, I never really liked myself.”
Her head moved in the same way that a bird’s would upon glimpsing something. I had caught her attention and had not tried to do so.
“What is it that you don’t like about yourself?”
“I don’t like being a failure.”
I can hear the chorus of, “Get on with it,” coming from people now. Self-interested, egocentric-malingerer. Why is it that people like me feel that they have right to spend so much of their lives gazing at their belly buttons? Get on with it!
The thing is, I can’t get on with it because it has shunted me off the tracks. It has a name and that name is Anxiety Disorder. It could be called a lot of things. It was ME.
“Why do you think you are a failure, Matthew?”