I had not written this as an intended blog post, instead I had wrote it to add to my ever expanding autobiography. I guess you can call this a sneak peek. I want to share it though, because this is about the week that I followed my dreams then lost them. I haven’t written part two yet as part one has exhausted me. All the words in italics are my thoughts and all the words in bold italics are my OCD intrusive thoughts. I have been very honest in this account which has been hard.
WARNING: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE
It was the first week of my new life. I had worked hard to get here. Aged 25, I had finally had enough of being told what I couldn’t do and instead decided to do the best I could. So I enrolled at college on a performing arts course. A few people doubted whether I could achieve this as I had tried a few years before and panicked, leaving within a few days. I refused to listen, I refused to let anyone stand in front of my dreams.
When I enrolled at the college in Hertfordshire, I actually lived in Bedford. I would soon be moving to a new house in a village called Stotfold, all part of my plan. I was going to start fresh, with a new home, new life, new college. No people to remind me how rubbish I was, no one to set me back except me. The enrollment went okay and before I knew it I was a college student.
Week one went well, or so I beleived. Day one was challenging, as I was finding my confidence and struggling as I had no friends yet. Everyone was nervous though, I could tell. We had lots of strange introduction games to play, most of which I joined in, but I had to sit out of any involving climbing about on chairs as my balance is not the best even on the floor. At lunchtime we were assigned groups and told we had to go around campus with them to find the answers to some questions that were given to us. Okay, I felt a little nervous now, especially as the two lads in our group decided to split off, leaving me with two girls who had already befriended one another. I followed along, feeling a little like a lost puppy dog. I was okay, I was coping.
The trouble came when the checklist told us to visit the other campus which was about a five minute walk up the road from ours. Walking is no issue for me, but crossing roads can be hellish. Sure enough, almost as soon as we set off, my intrusive thoughts and my own were battling one another.
‘Right, stay calm, just act normal. They won’t have to know I have OCD…’
We reached the button controlled crossing and the girls crossed straight away without pressing or waiting for the light. I had managed to overcome this fear in Bedford, but now in Hitchin, a town which was still new to me, I began to ruminate.
‘It’s just a fucking red light, just cross, there’s no cars! Red is dead, red is dead. Don’t be so fucking stupid, there’s no cars how can I die if there’s no cars!? RED IS DEAD, CROSS NOW AND YOU ARE DEAD’
By now the two girls I was with were on the other side of the road and were starting to question as to why I hadn’t crossed. ‘Come on’ they shouted fairly encouragingly.
‘Red is dead… Red is dead… RED IS DEAD… RED IS DEAD’
I started to sweat. I’d dealt with this before, I could do it again I reasoned. Yet my hand hovered above the button, shaking.
‘RED IS DEAD… RED IS DEAD… PUSH THE BUTTON’
By now tremors were shaking through me. The girls were, understandably getting more and more impatient with every second that passed.
‘Just cross for fucks sake, they think you are a freak, just fucking cross! You will die, don’t cross you will die… RED IS DEAD… YOU WILL DIE…’
The girls called me one last time. ‘I… I… I…’ I stammered, ‘I can’t… I gotta go’ and with that I turned and returned to the ‘safety’ of the college building, away from red lights. The thoughts stopped but were replaced with my own feeling of anger.
‘Why couldn’t you just do it!? Why can’t you do anything right!?’
My hand reached up and slapped the side of my temple repetitively.
‘Great now I can’t control my stupid body! For God’s sake, calm down!’
My thoughts were whirling. The OCD was no longer worrying about the lights, now all I could hear was ‘fuck… fuck… fuck… fuck…’ over and over again. The one, stupid, pointless word over and over and over driving me insane! I had to let it out, I had to get rid of it. I whipped out the little notebook that I keep for such times, grabbed my pen and wrote ‘fuck’ over and over again, just as it was playing out in my head. With each writing of the word, I could feel my stress calming, my body de-tensing, all my problems were melting away. It was only as I wrote the umpteenth ‘fuck’ that I realised a staff member had snuck up behind me and was watching. With that, my calm snapped, I was back in stress mode and I wrote ‘I’M A STUPID BITCH’ at the bottom of the page. The staff member, who turned out to be the class support, took me to see the course leader. She told her what she had found me doing, but I was unable to explain. My head was still throbbing as I choked back tears. ‘You’ve really gone and done it now stupid!’
The course leader led me into a room full of sewing machines to talk to me. Almost immediately I noticed two pins on the table in front of me. ‘You’re going to fall on them, you’ll die, your arm will pick it up and stab you’ In the past, with little control over my own movements, I had picked up sharp objects and thrust them into my arms. It was one of many ticcy, obsessive urges which I had grown up with alongside the urge to cut my eyelashes off with safety scissors and jump into lakes or rivers. So as a result, when the course leader asked if I wanted to stay in this room alone for a while, I said ‘No I might hurt myself’ while looking at the pins. I hadn’t meant it to come out sounding like I WANTED to stab the pins into myself, but it inevitably did, so I was moved away from the pins and given a book to read instead.
I sat down and started reading the book. It was a script, very interesting, but my eyes couldn’t focus. My tics were in control now and they were damn well telling me so! After I read the third page 8 times over (because I kept missing huge bits of text and having to start over), a nice girl called E came over and asked if she could spend the rest of lunch with me as her group had walked off without her. We spent the rest of lunch chatting. I got left out of the afternoon group activity as I was still a bit shaken up and embarrassed about earlier. At the end of the day I walked to the train station and jumped on the train back to Arelsey. I was a little upset that night about what had happened, plus I was suffering PMS so I was particularly easy to upset or wind up at this particular moment in time. I had already decided, however, that tomorrow I would return with my head held high.
The following day was a shorter day. We started with the 2nd year level 3 students so the theatre was full up to the brim and they were noisy beggars too! We played a few more games, which was slightly difficult given the people to room ratio, but we managed pretty well. I joined in everything this time, feeling much more confident than on day one. After that we separated off into the level 2/level 3 (year 1) student group we had been in on Monday. We had to prepare a piece of ‘immersion theatre’ basically a play that involved the audience in some way. Our group of five came up with the idea of a magicians show. We discussed it up until 12:00 which was home time. We were supposed to rehearse before Friday, but the level 2 students (of which I was one) had the day off Wednesday and Thursday was the theatre trip to London. I apologised to the three members of my group who would be in on Wednesday as I had already arranged to see my Mum that day.
Mum came earlier than originally planned as she had a dentist appointment later that afternoon. We went to Hitchin, looking around the shops. I bought some bunny ears for our magicians act (although they wrote the bunny out so that was a waste of £4.50!) and we went for an ice cream. I was really excited about going to London the following day although I was a little worried too as the care staff had still not decided who, if anyone, was going to pick me up at the return time of 11:30PM. I refused public transport (as any young woman would at that time of night!) and I was too frightened to get in a taxi with a stranger. Plus we had been having major problems with our electricity for the past week and going home to a dark house was not my idea of fun!
They decided to leave it until the morning of Thursday to say that it was either a taxi or nothing. Immediately I burst into tears. Tears of frustration and pain. I really wanted to go but there was the OCD again telling me that if I went into the taxi ‘You’ll get raped’ . I begged and pleaded with the staff to change their minds, then with the word ‘rape’ stuck in my head over and over, I fell to the floor clutching my head and screaming. I wanted to drown it out, get rid of that awful thought. I banged my head on the floor over and over to erase it, got up and paced around, still screaming. At some point (I can’t remember precisely) the manager rang up to tell me that someone would pick me up and (not in these precise words!) that my behaviour sucked. With that I actually screamed more. ‘behaviour!? This is not controlled behaviour! I am in agony! I want this thought to go away! I can’t cope any more!’ Contrary to popular belief that I had ‘got my own way’ and so would calm down, I ended up raging for about half an hour before I regained my control.
By the time I got to college with my ‘London pack’ assembled (my emergency items for a day out in London!), I had mostly calmed down, although my voice had disappeared to a husky whisper. ‘great… now they’ll never believe that I can sing!’ I thought despairingly. Singing was the one thing I did really well and now I couldn’t! I got ‘buddied’ with a girl called R, and we all got on the coach to head off to London. It was about an hour’s journey from Hitchin and we were dropped off near the Cambridge theatre, where we would later meet up to watch Matilda the Musical. Me, R and three guys were put into a group so that none of us got lost (me get lost in London!? No chance!) and we walked to Covent Garden. By the time we got there, I really needed a pee, but the ladies cost 20p to get in so I said I would look for the disabled loo instead as I had my RADAR key on me. I popped in the British Transport Museum’s shop and bought the tube train that I had really wanted the previous time I had visited and we all pottered around the interesting little shops around the area. I ate my ‘lunch’ which consisted of a bag of hula hoops, a chocolate bar and a bottle of Coke (I know… my bad!) then we headed back to the theatre.
Without writing an entire review about it (that is for another time maybe!) I loved Matilda. It was fun and I ended up not only buying the programme, but also buying the CD! After it had finished, we all met up and started heading to Her Majesty’s Theatre where we would be seeing Phantom of the Opera. I quickly realised we were heading the wrong direction, but it took the people at the front a little time to realise this! Luckily I had a map so I knew where I was going at least! By the time we got there it was dinner time. I was really hoping to find a pizza place or something, but they were all those ‘sit down and wait’ kind and I didn’t have time for that. Everyone else in my group went to the dreaded MDs which didn’t really appeal to me as a strict vegetarian! I had to find something, and fast. I spotted a SPAR shop near the theatre and I popped in there to grab something. There was a slice of pizza, but it was on the side and cold, so it made my stomach turn! The shop was poorly stocked and I wasn’t particularly hungry. It was a really hot day as well, and I never eat properly on hot days. I ended up buying a bag of chipsticks and an ice cream; the only things I could force down my throat without gagging, and ate them along with another Coke!
I was starting to feel a little tired before we went into the theatre. I just ignored it. Hey I was getting to see Phantom of the Opera again! I couldn’t feel unwell! I took my place in the theatre behind a particularly annoying German woman who kept moving around in her seat meaning just as I got comfy staring around her giant hair, she moved again! I ended up sitting on a booster cushion which dented my pride a little bit! In the interval I went upstairs to take a photo of the cast list on my mobile. I had forgotten to do that when I saw Les Misérables back in 2011 and regretted it, so I made sure I did it properly this time! I also bought the original cast recording on CD and a programme. I was enjoying the play so much I didn’t notice until it ended that I was roasting hot, dizzy and slightly nauseous. When I got up to leave, my head was swimming. I shook it side to side and rubbed my eyes which woke me up a little. I figured I was just tired from the long day, plus I would normally be in bed by this point!
As we were walking towards the coach, a familiar feeling came over me, one I had not felt for a while now. I suddenly felt like I was in automatic, my brain had shut down, but my body kept moving. I vaguely recall someone attempting to communicate with me, noticed my body was no longer moving the way I was telling it to then the next thing I know…
I woke up on the floor. I was confused, I had no idea where I was and I was breathing fast. My head really hurt too. Someone told me I had just had a fit. An ambulance was on its way. ‘shit! I just want to go to bed!’ was all I could think, plus I suddenly REALLY needed to pee! A crowd had gathered by this point and there was a lot of commotion. After a few minutes I remembered where I was although apparently I rattled off my home address with no problem despite not remembering doing so! The ambulance arrived. I pleaded with them, ‘please can I just go home, I’ll be fine. I just need to sleep’ but the nurse spotted a slight abnormality on my ECG reading. They decided I should go to A+E just in case. ‘Oh not A+E! I freaking hate those places! Blech I hope I don’t catch any hospital bugs’ I thought to myself as I strapped myself in.
‘We’re going to a hospital in Barnet so you aren’t too far from home’ the nurse explained. All the while, an argument was going on between the college staff and my carers as to who was responsible for me. I felt like a little piece of unwanted crap. I drop called Mum to get her to ring me back, but before she rang back, I felt weird again and the next thing I knew I was lying on the bed with an oxygen mask over my face and the nurse was trying to get a needle into my hand. I squeaked with nerves as the needle went in. They told me I had another seizure and that they were taking me to another hospital; the Royal Free. This just intensified the argument between the caregivers and college staff and I was starting to feel pretty unwanted! Mum called back just as I was coming out of the fit. Somehow I was able to grab the phone and tell her I was okay even though my head was completely elsewhere. I wanted her to come, but I knew that she was too far away to come and get me.
I have no idea what time it was when we arrived at the Royal Free. My watch had been taken off and frankly I did not want to know what time it was. The tutors left me in a bed to go and have a chat. By now I was exhausted, but well past the ability to sleep. My mind was racing. I just wanted to go home. The doctors were talking about admitting me, which sent me into a panic as the tutors said they would leave me if I was admitted. The last time I had been left in a hospital was when Mum left me there and I was put in the psych ward, so to say my anxiety was up was putting it lightly. Lots of arguing and getting nowhere later, the tutors had managed to arrange a lift home and the hospital had arranged transport to take me back to Stotfold. ‘Great… after all the fuss I made, I get to go home in a glorified taxi…’ I thought solemnly. I was put in the back of the ‘ambulance/taxi’ with some random bloke then sent home. ‘I’m going to die, he’ll rape me, he’s going to pull over somewhere and try to kill me’ The OCD thoughts continued round and round until I collapsed from exhaustion. After what seemed like an eternity, I was back in Stotfold. The lights were still out, so the only light to welcome me home was on the landing. No one came to meet me off the ambulance so I groggily thanked the driver and wobbled up to my room where I jumped into bed and burst into tears. Eventually I went to sleep, but it was fitful and poor.
To anyone who made it through, thank you for reading. Part two will be coming soon.