Today has possibly been a complete waste of time.
A ‘welfare’ meeting with work because I have been off sick for 4 weeks with anxiety and depression.
‘Make sure you are taking your medication’ they say.
Yes. I am. I’m not an idiot. I want to get better.
‘How do you feel about returning to work?’ they ask.
Well, I want to return to work but at the moment I have a few barriers to get through. For one, the room we are sat in right now, where we are having this ‘welfare’ meeting, is the very room in which I had my psychological break, overdosed and ended up being diagnosed with depression. I do not like being off sick. I want to be in work, earning money so I can buy things and live. I do not like being stuck at home all day, a prisoner to the crap that is flowing through my head. I do not like feeling worthless so, yes, I want to come back to work but do not necessarily want to return to a place that I feel is very bad for me at the moment.
‘What are you doing with yourself while you are at home all day?’
A bit of this, a bit of that. I really do not think that is any of your business. If I’m being honest, I spend a lot of time eating crunchy nut corn-flake, when the nausea is not overwhelming. I go to the gym…
‘You’re well enough to go to the gym, are you?’
Well, ye. It is not a physical ailment I have. Going to the gym makes me feel better about myself. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something early on, starting the day with a big kick to get the productivity going and breaking through one of those barriers that my brain has built up. Instead of becoming insular and regretting all the things I may not be able to do today, and becoming stuck in a loop that means I become rueful at the end of the day because I have not achieved anything, I am getting out there and doing something to get the ball rolling.
‘You are taking care of yourself?’
Well I keep myself clean but again, that’s none of your business.
‘What are you doing to overcome these “barriers” you have?’
Well I am on anti-depressants. Sertraline. At first it was 50mg, now 100mg. I am on the waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy and I am taking it one day at a time. I have had my telephone assessment with Healthy Minds and a lot of things got talked about.
‘What was talked about?’
None of your business.
‘Is there anything we can do to facilitate your return to work’?
Well, there were at least three words in that sentence with more than one syllable so I’m not fully convinced that you understand your own question but you can facilitate my return to work by leaving me alone, not dragging me back into my nightmare room and just…f**king off. Having to sit opposite your grizzled face for the last hour has qute set me on edge to be honest. You look like the bastard love-child of Susan Boyle and John McCririck. Before I came into this meeting I had a rare bout of hunger but that has dissipated very quickly. Oh, could you ‘facilitate’ me another coffee, please?
I also had a job interview today. Was supposed to last two hours, with a roleplay and listening to established workers handling calls. Yeah, none of that happened. I was in the room for 30 minutes. I have a lot of creative writing stuff and volunteering work on my CV. They made it sound like I was some free-wheeling hippy who strolled into the room with a surf-board under my arm and a joint hanging out of my mouth. I just like doing things. If there is a chance to get involved in something somewhere, I’m usually in. I’ve been a wheelchair basketball coach and player, team manger for the disabled squad at the Greater Manchester games. I was a Student Academic Rep, Student Ambassador and Mature Student Mentor at university. Other things too, I imagine. I can’t remember my own past.
I think I have hit my quota for inane ramblings for today. Here is a poem.
This is my city,
the place I came to throughout my teenage years,
my formative years where I found
out I do not have be be a fat little dweeb.
I can be a tall, slightly thinner geek.
They were heady days.
I would get a dirty, piss-smelling tram from Bury to Market Street
and head straight for Affleck’s
where all the other misfits would be rifling through
hand-printed t-shirts on disorganised racks,
properly vintage clothes from like,
the olden days, not just ‘retro’ clothes.
I could find clothes that fit and hid
the puppy fat that had over-stayed its welcome.
Big baggy ‘mosher’ jeans, the ones with the
stripe down the side.
They played the best in metal and rock and nu-wave.
Stuff like Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach,
Metallica, Iron Maiden
There were rows and rows
of vinyls and used books and the posters,
oh how I used to love posters.
At the highest count,
I had 73 posters on my bedroom wall.
Gig posters and film posters and a few of some
saucy ladies snuck in there.
My and my friends would all go because this was a haven for everything that
was gloriously unvogue. We did not fit in with the jocks
and the popular kids. We did not want to.
We had our own nook in which we could be ourselves.
This was my Manchester.
Today, I am walking back into Afflecks,
ten years on from when I knew all the stall-holders by name.
The shop on the bottom floor is playing Abba,
Dancing Queen. There is actually room to move.
All the clothes and accessories are neatly organised
and everything has a price on it.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.
You have to crawl through the racks like
you’re trying to find Aslan and then ask for a price
and possibly haggle. I move upstairs,
a few shops are still the same,
hand-made jewellery and typewriters,
old army boots and stuff. Maybe
the bottom shop just had a revamp.
Maybe everything is still Ok.
I start to need the toilet. I head up to the top floor.
‘Mind the cats, doors closing.’
I have always loved this lift.
I get off and head round to the little cafe,
there is a shiny little shop that looks as though
yes, it is a cupcake shop. A little trendy
cupcake shop. This isn’t St fucking Albans
They are offering cupcake design classes.
We’re rockers. Big dirty filthy rockers.
We don’t design cakes. We smash them
with our rock n’ roll spirit. I stand slightly aghast
looking at this poster and two kids walk past.
Skinny jeans, skinny little t-shirt,
the boy one has one of those
little pony-tails on the top of his head.
Unacceptable. He is talking to the girl one
with him about One Direction and how they have changed his life.
One di-fucking-rection! No, this is not on.
Then more people starting miling, joining them.
Look at them all, thin, miserable-looking,
heading for the cafe for a smoothie of all things,
like they should exist in here. I
start to hear a few of them talking about their weight worries.
They’re kids. They’re not going to be fat and if
they are, fuck it. I feel like going over to them and
hitting them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper,
one by one.
Listen, One Direction are shit, those skinny jeans are shit,
worrying about your weight at your age is shit.
Go and buy some baggy jeans and an
almost-too-offensive-to-wear-in-public t-shirt –
I always loved the ‘Bomb A Gay Whale For Jesus’ one, then go
to Vinyl Exchange,
buy the Led Zepplin, Yard Birds and Black Sabbath back catalogues,
get some really fatty, sugary drinks, go home
put the music on and let it blow your mind
you soppy little bastards.
I feel good about myself now. I gave them what for,
probably changed their lives. Even if it was all in my head.
This is not my Affleck’s anymore.
And I think I’m old.
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