Plans are dumb. Gimme.

I was recently encouraged (‘Ok, what the fuck, Kate?’) to examine my various insecurities and anxieties around making plans. (‘Are we doing this? Thursday, right? I can maybe do Friday if I move stuff around, how’s Wednesday? Give me a day. A day!’)

Many years ago, when first dealing with anxiety, I would regularly lose a day sitting perfectly still, unable to move from my bed until I’d run through my options for the day, considering every possible outcome of every possible decision, forming backup plans within back up plans until night fell and I’d have to admit defeat, reset, and hope to wake a little more decisive in the morning. More recently this has applied to other issues, helping me miss several deadlines wondering whether the job was really right for me right now, whether it would fit in with any of the other hypothetical projects I was stalling on actually applying for. So with writing, unsure if this is the script I should be working on right now, should I be looking at submissions, pushing the plays I’ve miraculously finished, or should I be blogging, should I be journaling, or working on that other whatever. Somehow even reading is tangled in this process- ok, but will I learn anything from this book? How does it fit in to the other stuff? Ok this one kinda fits in with that one script I’m working on, research, yes! But then this one makes more of a point about the thing that started the whole, no, I need a break, here’s a good light read, but is it too light? Shouldn’t I be challenging myself? Ok I’ll just sit and look at nothing, that’s good too.

I’ve found ways of dealing with the every day. Lists! Lists of things I need to achieve in a week, jobs to apply for, people to respond to, appointments to make. Then lists for a day, which may involve one or more of these tasks, as well as simple things like showering.
But of course life happens and you have to adjust the things you were planning to do, make swaps, because let’s face it, all the plans you’ve made so far are lying in the gutter because who the hell told you you were allowed a dream? Fuck your dreams, you want to act? Been getting back on your feet after the whole medication disaster? Oh, you’ve got an audition with a good company this week? It’s a movement workshop, that’s great! Fuck you, you’re on the ground, get those crutches out of storage and hobble on home, loser.

Where am I ?

Yeah so I’m beginning to accept that you don’t know what’s going to happen in life, leading to the new strategy of making things up as I go along. Pick a thing, go do that thing! It’s brought some good experiences, some spontaneous get togethers, some good writing progress, some jobs applied for that I’d previously considered impossible. It’s also brought several days of poor hygiene, because showering doesn’t always occur in the moment. Eating garbage because going grocery shopping isn’t as appealing an idea as going for a swim right NOW! Falling behind with my CBT work, which, yes, with practice over time has become a more natural process, but every now and then you do need to sit down, look at where you are, flag up any problems and find a way to deal with them. That, or you end up over thinking whether or not to have a damn shower.

There’s a balance to be found. I hope. I hope I can find some middle ground between endlessly trying to predict and plan what I’m doing every minute of every damn day so I have a chance of actually achieving any of it, and just winging it and hoping for the best. Neither strategy is working right now.

And it bleeds into how I interact with other people, and it shouldn’t, but it just does. When it comes to making plans with fellow humans, I know they’re dealing with much the same thing, on whatever level. Life is weird all round. I know this, and I know it’s best to roll with it and be grateful for the moments I find. However. As much as I struggle to, I still feel the need to pin things down sometimes.

Maybe it’s the practical considerations. I need to factor in rest time, to do whatever else needs done that week, and ensure I have enough energy left. Maybe it’s comforting, in moments of uncertainty when life is a little more chaotic than normal, to know that if nothing else, at some point you will see a face, and have a conversation, and forget about all the decisions and plans and problems and just be in a damn moment.
Maybe it’s some hideous clawing demon made of all my past pain and present insecurities and confusion and feelings of helplessness just screaming for attention that must be destroyed at any cost.

Who can say for sure?

I am The Loris

Hi doc, how’s it…Oh yeah, the cane. Yeah, got that when the joint stuff really started to flare up, it’s pretty cool actually, see how it folds and…My joints? Yeah pretty good, why do you- oh shit the cane, yeah that’s…ok so basically I’m like, they’re not, like, working, my legs aren’t working so well, so. Like at all. Some days. Sudden muscle weakness!

Sudden muscle weakness, is what I’m dealing with.

Different to the anxiety induced fainting spells of uni (yeah no I never fully understood that either), the creaky joints that have been improving in recent months on the new exercise programme (whodathunk?), and the weakness brought on by ‘oh good Christ will these cramps never end’ days/weeks/months (refer to posts marked ‘Hell’). Some days, out of nowhere, my legs just stop working, and I’m on the floor. Clear headed, apart from an initial panic at the sensation of suddenly losing sensation, and annoyed at the disruption to my day.

How am I handling this, you ask?

Well, it’s a process, people, it’s all a process. Like anxiety, like life, you find ways through, of accepting your limitations, so on and so on.

For instance, two weeks ago I found myself crawling around the flat at 6am, getting ready for work, considering ways of balancing a coffee tray with a set of crutches before admitting defeat and calling in sick. The next week I lurched around the cafe for a couple of hours before collapsing in the staff room, wondering how best to summon help, and how up to date we were on the pest control checks. On Sunday, feeling a now familiar pins and needles shooting in out of the blue, I asked a manager to help me to a table where I sat considering every damn doctor’s appointment and scan and exam and pill I’d taken up to this point and where the hell this would lead next.
And politely fending off customer requests to fetch the wifi password, without getting too deep into the whole ‘I might not be able to walk’ thing.

‘Oh. So the password is…’
‘Just by the counter there.’
‘Over…where?’
‘Right just there, sir.’
‘Oh. All…that…ways…away?’
‘Right exactly where you’re pointing sir, yes.’
‘I guess I’ll…go over there and…get…it…myself…’

Safe travels, sir.

A little while before I moved up to Liverpool, a friend and I made a last trip to London Zoo. A farewell to our dream of an unrealistically fabulous and affordable sitcom flat in town, days of drifting about coffee-swilling, smoking, and snarling, and to the animals we’d found comfort in projecting our struggles onto. The meerkat slumped on a mound of dirt, staring glass-eyed at a raincloud, wondering if his degree from St Martin’s was worth the effort. The otter separated from her pals on the other side of the pool, yelping to herself that it doesn’t matter if they ditched her, she’s her own otter god damn it, and ok maybe she shouldn’t place so much importance on outside validation but does it really make her any less of a feminist to crave some kind of reassurance of affection?

And then the loris. Oh how we loved that loris. That loris was everything to us. Wide eyed, a little cautious, a little out of step with the energised, go-getter bats, rats, and what-have-you of the nocturnal section, but determined to find his own way on his own terms.
On this particular visit we found the loris cowering behind leaves, a single arm waving for a branch, reaching for an escape from a photographer tapping on the glass, flashing lights, demanding a picture, demanding an answer, what are you doing, loris? Who are you, loris? Tell me! Now!
The loris could say nothing, the loris could do nothing but retreat, and figure out a way through this intrusion, this disruption to his day…Oh loris. Where are you now?

So I don’t know, is how I’m handling the latest medical nuisance. I don’t know. Right now, I’m just handling it.

Just stories.

Ok so there was this person, in a place. Ok so there were quite a few people around the same sort of time that are also part of the thing, but for now I’m focusing on this person in this place because he’s kind of the main focus of the thing that this is. Yes? And it’s not fair to pin all your stuff onto individuals, when there’s a whole bunch of factors and things and other influences and maybe there’s something about me that makes me vulnerable to this kind of something but in the case of this particular something I’m realising more and more how behaviour patterns I’m still trying to break out of can be traced back to this particular something and it’s a whole mess like, you know?

 

This is how I tell the story, when I tell it. No details. Some details are lost in memory, others hit me out of nowhere at fantastically inappropriate moments. The details aren’t the point, the point is that a particular encounter with a particular person can still have an effect years later. The story is not important, but sometimes, I still feel the need to tell it.

 

Ok so it was a thing, for a while that, to the outside was just some stupid, youth, idiot, all that, but it’s only now that I’m really untangling it and I’m realising that maybe that ‘s exactly how this person designed it to appear so that if I ever did get up the nerve to say anything, no one would believe me. It would be met with, ‘Oh Kate. You old, Kate’. You know?

 

I’ve told myself the story a thousand times, a thousand different ways. In some I’m the victim, in some I’m the bad guy, in some I’m just making a big deal over nothing. Each time I recognise something, some event, some phrase, some pattern that I find myself repeating, and resolve to break once and for all. And of course I stumble, because getting better at anything takes practice.

 

And like maybe it’s nothing, but it’s still rattling around and I can’t help but think, like literally it just comes out of nowhere sometimes and ok so it’s not that big a deal, but to quote Hank Scorpio it’s the little things that make up life, hey that was a good episode, like, seriously good, it’s one I always have to- ok yes I’m changing the subject because…I don’t know. Like. You know?

 

We tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world. I’ve always been a big fan of folklore and superstition, how these stories come about, what they explain, what comfort they offer, how they help us make sense.
You can tell a story and it has a beginning and an end. You can tie up the loose ends, you can have clear characters, motives, reason. You can remind yourself that you’re not a victim, you’re not a monster, you’re not broken.

You’re only human, and it’s only a story.

Not an attack.

My skin is itching. My brain is itching. I can’t scratch my brain. Skull’s in the way.
I try not to scratch my skin. I draw a flower on my wrist. I draw a figure drawing on its wrist on my other wrist.
I wash my wrists.
I stand up. Look around. I sit down again. I need a desk.
I remember the dress that needs ironing, I set up the board. I iron the dress. I burn my finger.
I walk around. I look in the fridge. I make too much toast.
I pick up the guitar, play half of a riff I spent the morning learning, I put the guitar down.
I think about going for a walk. I remember the toast. I look for a coffee cup while eating. I need to be awake. I don’t know why.
I pick up my phone. I put it down. I make coffee and go back to my laptop.
I settle on my bed. I go back to the kitchen for the toast.
I open facebook. I open instagram. I open a job application. I open wordpress. I close facebook.
I pick up my phone. I put down my phone.
I think about going for a walk. Earlier I was using the cane to get to the kitchen. I stand with it. I lean it against the wall.
I settle back on the bed. I drink my coffee. I make lists.

Hell part 4: Hysteroscopy/Biopsy

‘You’ve read the leaflet?’
‘A couple…dozen times.’
‘Oh dear. Sleep much last night?’
‘Er…’
‘Ok Kate. Let’s get this over and done with, shall we?’
She insists that while there will be some discomfort, anytime it becomes too much to handle we stop. It can be rearranged, I can be given drugs, gas, whatever I need. There’s no room for bravery here, I decide my limits.

I’m sent next door to change, and when I come out I find a screen has been put up shielding both doors from the waiting room- no part of this needs an audience, beyond the cluster of women waiting back in the room arranging various gadgets, adjusting screens, guiding me to a bed and helping me into position. It’s strange to me how quickly this has stopped being strange, the only slightly uncomfortable moment being when I stop to rearrange my top, getting tangled in the hospital gown.

From a social awkwardness point of view, this is the only uncomfortable moment. From a physical discomfort point of view what the hell do you expect?

I’m put into position, shuffled down, leant back, suddenly aware of a nurse on my right holding my arm down on the bed, which I’ve unconsciously started gripping. I find this at once vaguely reassuring and unsettling.

The first part is manageable, the manoeuvring of the camera causing a sensation similar to severe period cramps. Not great, but manageable. I’m instructed to keep breathing, distracted by the nurses’ chitchat about working hours, bloody rain hitting again, the joys of a trashy novel on a bad day, until they reach the womb, and a screen is tilted my way and I’m looking at an actual image of my own actual womb. That’s horrifyingly fascinating. I try not to laugh at the commentary -‘so what did you get up to today? oh you know, grabbed a coffee, had a look round the ol’ uterus…’-feeling a little precarious, I’m trying to keep as still as possible.

I’m brought back to focusing on my breathing as the camera is removed, because yikes. Not that they yank it out or anything, but everything about this just feels weird.

‘This is weird. This is so weird. OH BLOODY ow this is weird. ‘

I apologise for wussing out but there’s no need, they say. I’m doing great, they say. They say they get all kinds of reactions, they’ve seen it all man, they’ve had screaming, shouting, whimpering, singing. I should feel free to sing, they say, whatever helps. I don’t feel free to sing but I do take a moment to relax and allow myself to laugh before-

‘Ok Kate, this is the horrible bit, we’re going to take a sample now.’

The start is weird. So weird, a slightly different weird, there’s slightly more pressure on my right arm, there’s smiles all round, there’s soothing, I look around, I breathe, I see some kind of something connected to some kind of tube connected to some kind of mask hanging nearby, just in case, and I’m breathing, and I’m bracing myself.

The pain is hard to describe, and my impulse is to jump back, more pressure on my arm, more soothing, a shout escapes, I can’t help myself, the noise is sharp and the pain is sharp, and then it’s over.

I apologise again, I’m excused again, I’m laughing again, I’m being propped up, carefully. I’m aching, but I’m grinning. They explain what happens next, how long the biopsy results should take, booking my next appointment and insisting I give myself the rest of the day to do nothing.

I leave optimistic, smiling, and absolutely in awe of these women. This is their everyday, and beyond carrying out the exam itself with crazy efficiency, they made a day I’d been dreading feel almost enjoyable, and made sure I left feeling completely reassured and confident that this will be resolved.

Fine, probably.

‘Don’t know what to tell you man, it’s profit share, there’s no money in it right now.’
‘Oh really? Aren’t there professional actors in the group, what do they think of this?’
‘I am a professional actor.’
‘Oh.’

Oh indeed.

I’ve said it before, I wasn’t exactly knocked out at the height of my career, but a couple of years ago I was in an ok place. I was working with better companies, I was auditioning more, I was finding other ways to use my skills to actually get paid in between. I was progressing exactly as I should have been, and then I got sick. I was out for two years, and now I’m more or less starting again. And I keep stumbling, getting discouraged, I have doubts. Partly because I refuse to work with some of the crooks and jackasses I did the first time around, which is a whole other discussion. A certain amount of compromise is to be expected in any artistic endeavour but dear God, people, can we PLEASE stop excusing flat out exploitation as part of the God damn game? Yeah, I’ll work for expenses. Yeah, I’ll work for nothing. Yeah, I’ll pay to be in your play. Really?

I did some crappy jobs, but also some good ones. I was doing ok, though at the time I would have said I was struggling.

I didn’t know what I was doing. A couple of years on, I don’t know what I’m doing. Will I know anything a few years down the line? Probably, but I’ll likely not be able to see what I know. Most likely I’ll be looking at today and thinking how great I had it.

It’s easy to lose track of where you are. To feel you’re going nowhere. Not helped by people actually questioning you, confirming the voices of anxiety telling you you’re a fraud, you’re nothing, a joke! A lie! You’re-
It doesn’t matter, nobody thinks that, nobody means anything beyond ‘oh, I didn’t know that. Huh.’

Should I be worried about what people think or don’t think anyway? There’s already plenty of chatter in my head to deal with, beyond my status as an actor. I know what I am, where I am, I could justify everything, reel off my qualifications, as actor, as writer, as anything I’m trying to accomplish, but ultimately the chatter about what I’m doing or not doing professionally is covering for the deeper insecurity, the other voice telling me I’m not a real person. Which. I can’t really prove anything. I’m here, I’m doing what I’m doing, in many ways I’m falling behind, but in a couple of years I’ll probably look back and think obviously, I was doing just fine. Whatever else I can call myself, I am human, and I’m pretty sure the doubt is a part of that.

Lighten up, damn it.

Sometimes you come through a little rough patch- a run of bad luck, a few too many late nights, falling behind with work or therapy, whatever sets off a low. Sometimes you come out of it and look around and realise you’re doing better than you thought, and things aren’t so bad.

So you must invent problems!

I’ve had a busy week, good busy. A lot of working and socialising with a lot of good people. And suddenly I’m suspicious of all of them.
‘Great gig, you done good!’
Ok obviously she’s just saying that, but thanks.
‘Good to see you, you ok?’
Ok? The hell is that supposed to mean?
‘We will definitely meet up soon.’
This person definitely thinks I am scum.

Jesus, it’s always something. If you’re exhausted reading my over analysis, try living with it. I quite often want to step away from the neurotic garbage heap that is my brain but that’s what we’re working with! So.

As it is, I have trouble trusting my mind at times. It’s a lot better than it used to be, and I have ways of dealing with it, but it can still be a problem, particularly in knowing where I stand with other people. This in itself is not a problem, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what people think of you, and it’s not always possible to know. But sometimes, like this week, when I’ve been busy and having a lot of different conversations with a lot of different folks, the wondering can become overwhelming, and turn into catastrophizing.

And I know where this comes from, my question is will I ever stop finding the negative in a good week? It is exhausting to look at yourself sometimes, worrying over nothing, and think really? Really? We can’t just enjoy this? Bloody hell, Kate.

Just telling yourself to get over it doesn’t always help you get over it. You find a way that works for you, with practice, and being honest with yourself. It’s a case of finding a balance between wallowing in a problem, and denying that it exists. Both are trouble. But every now and then it is possible to acknowledge the voice of doubt as a separate entity and tell it to just take a damn day off.