It’s incredible really, what coronavirus does to the body, but also the mind. Mental health is something I’ve never had to think about, let alone worry about but these last few months have been a kick for body and mind. I’m sure when the boffins get all the research data about the virus they will know alot more about the effects to people’s minds. It’s weird having anxiety and feeling scared for no particular reason, feeling jittery or detached around people and not being able to concentrate properly. I can’t seem to remember names and words. I can reel off every F.A cup winner from the seventies and eighties but the other day I couldn’t think of the name of that big thing in the garden…the thing …the shade thing….. The sun thing…… “Parasol?” My wife said kindly. “Yeah that umbrella thing,” I said feeling stupid. I’ve never been the sharpest knife in the draw but this is ridiculous. I know the word. Can see it in my mind but I’ll be buggered if it won’t come out of my mouth.
One of the stranger things for me is my sleep pattern is all over the place. I have the most vivid dreams now and nightmares so real it’s scary. A couple of weeks ago our house was attacked by fighter jets. Huge explosions, bullets and bombs. I wrapped myself up in the duvet (God knows why, a duvet isn’t bombproof) and blown out of the bed. I woke up in the same position I’d landed,curled up and sweating. I suppose it all began back when l had one of my many visits to hospital because of coronavirus.One night the fever hit and I was in my own isolation room. I was convinced somebody was sat in the corner. It was night,very dark but I could make out a vague shape. Then the figure stood up. It was absolutely terrifying to be honest, and I couldn’t sleep the rest of that night. So anyhow I came home and the fever eventually stopped. Im not ashamed to admit it but I had to leave a light on (still do) and started having dreams about my experience. It always starts the same. Loud knocking on the door. I get out of bed and look down the stairs. The downstairs light is on and our front door is all glass. Somebody is banging on the door and trying the handle and I get the same fear I did as when I was in that room. Every time I have the dream I’m getting further and further down the stairs but the terror gets worse.The last one I had the front door was smashed and someone was behind me. I wake up every time with my heart going like the clappers and dreading going back to sleep.
On the flip side I’ve flown like superman, swooping down from high and landing deftly on my feet. I’ve been back home to when I was a kid, playing in the back garden, chatted to Sir Alex Ferguson, ate salad with the chancellor of the exchequer and so many crazy jumbled up stuff too numerous to mention. A while back I had two weird dreams that merged into one. Im sat up in a bed. A big bed. A bit like Morecombe and Wise did back in the day when they chatted in their pyjamas. On my right are my two grown up daughters but they are arguing like seven year olds over a book. The oldest wants to read the damn thing but the younger one’s got it. I’m eating porridge with my fingers and it’s going all over the duvet. To the left, next to me, is my friend Mark who has a vast amount of small white tablets in front of him. He’s shaking his head slowly and taking them one by one. James Arthur (The bloke off X Factor, you know the one,he sounds constipated when he sings) is next to him looking very cheesed off and my son is on the edge of the bed. He gets up and starts to speak but James Arthur shouts at him and tells him to sit down and shut it. Well I wasn’t having that. I let out a torrent of abuse that would make a Liverpudlian docker blush. At one point I did call him a “Moon faced twat”. Now I’m sure James is a lovely bloke in real life but in my dream he was a complete moron. Then suddenly I’m in the back of a stretch limo with Alan Shearer, the ex Newcastle and England centre forward and all time Premier league goal scorer and now T.V pundit. The driver was huge, like Gandalf without the beard. Alan wasn’t very happy. If you’ve seen him on Match Of The Day when England get beat you’ll know the face. Like he’s just stood in a dog turd and he’s shoeless. He said little, the odd yes or no until the driver took us to my old school.Marist College Catholic School For Boys (I know what you’re thinking and no I don’t want to talk about it….) We drove through the old gates straight onto the football/rugby pitches. That old red bricked school has long gone now. Bulldozed ( hopefully with a few of the priests in it) and now it’s a few houses. In my dream they had disappeared and had been replaced by shrines, Jesus on the cross, statues of the Virgin Mary that kind of thing. A bit like you see in Greece at the side of the road, randomly dotted about. “Drive on. Drive on” Alan muttered grumpily and the next thing I know Gandalf the driver is stood over me demanding one hundred and fifty quid. Alan had done a runner leaving me to cough up. Thank God for my wife’s snoring because I was about to get beaten to a pulp. Crazy, crazy dreams.
And the last bad one was corridors. Endless corridors. I’m either being chased or trying to find a way out. Banging on doors and up and down stairs. I woke up with a feeling of doom,like something bad is going to happen. I knew then I couldn’t go on like that so now I’ve done something I never in a million years thought I would do. I’m having counselling. I’ll be honest, I always thought it was a load of rubbish and definitely not for me. Why would I need to see a counsellor? Not me. Im not a basket case. But I suppose if you press the wrong buttons in anybody’s life sooner or later the cracks will appear and mine have been well and truly pressed. So I took the plunge, had a few sessions and it’s good. Everybody should give it a go. It literally is just talking and how you feel. I’ve found it really helpful, very hard at first because I’m not the biggest one to talk about my feelings but I feel lighter already. Still got a long way to go but I can see light in a very long dark tunnel. And hopefully the nightmares eventually will do one, and I’ll be back to having normal dreams about walking down the street with no trousers on and stuff like that.
There is still a stigma around the whole thing about mental health, especially men and even more so here in the U.K. You are somehow weak if you crack or admit you’ve got a problem but actually it’s a brave act to reach out and ask for help, and to accept that you are struggling, for now at least but things can get better. So if you’re not in a good place, help is out there and if an old stick in the mud like me can do it so can you. It’s not a magic wand by any means but what’s the harm in trying? Yes that first step is the hardest but at least, like me, you will start to walk on the right path.