Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dear Tummy, Once Again

Dear Tummy once again,

As I mentioned in my last letter, the hospital visits are not my one and only issue with you at the moment. I do not mean to appear a nag but I just feel that writing to you could act as a sort of…counselling session if you like. An opportunity for me to get across to you my worries and concerns so that we can potentially understand each other better. Trust me, I know this stuff. It’s because of you and the topic of this letter (which I will get to in a minute so bear with me) that I have taken part in two rounds of CBT. When I was 12 I spent a year visiting the loveliest woman, on a weekly basis, and talking about all my worries and concerns. When I was doing my A-Levels, this time last year, I took part in the same. Why? I hear you ask. I will tell you.

Butterflies. I like them. I love their wings – colours and patterns that scream ‘paint me!’, a shout to which I responded within my GCSE art piece in fact. I, however, do not enjoy them in my tummy. I do no appreciate the flit of their wings, hundreds and thousands, up and down, round and round. Now obviously this is not a straightforward accusation of weird dietary choices. This is the butterfly in its metaphorical cocoon. This is the butterfly often discussed in regard to exams, tests and ominous meetings. The butterflies I have experienced every time the word ‘revision’ has been mentioned. Or, more terrifying, the word Geography revision. Or just…Geography. However, it is not this aspect of the butterflies that I necessarily am here to write about. I am here to ask why I must experience butterflies almost constantly. Beyond the exam room with the invigilator waiting. Why is it that when I walk around in life I constantly feel as if I am being watched. As if life is one huge geography exam for which I just couldn’t learn the case studies. I am fumbling through it in a cloud, making it up as I go along. Maybe this is how everyone feels. It’s possible that I’m not alone but I don’t know. I’ve never asked.

Driving, for instance. I’ve always been a nervous driver – something I have mentioned quite a lot both within letters and the real world. However I feel that my driving now is different from how it was before. Now when I sit behind the wheel, those butterflies return and I start to feel like I’m in that geography exam again. Except this time, the outcome actually matters (no offence geography teachers). This time a mistake, and not even one that I myself necessarily make, but a mistake all the same, could cause a lot of damage. Trust me, I know this stuff. I’ve experienced it first hand. When I drive I don’t feel in control – everything that happens on the road is the next question in the exam, something unknown and something I must navigate through. The problem is, I feel nervous that I’ll meet something I can’t get past. I’m aware of all the other people around me who know the answer and know what to do but I’m in their way and I’m stuck. 

Sometimes I feel like everyone else has been taught the answer somewhere for how life works but I missed the lesson so now I’ve got to just guess. When I drive it’s like I’ve entered a bubble, so nervous of all the other people that I just shut them out and pretend it’s all just a game. I’m on that mini road at Legoland that I used to go on when I was small. Following the road round and breaking when an obstacle arises, when I meet that annoying child in the red car who’s suddenly stopped in the middle of the ‘road’ and started crying for his mummy because he wants to go on a different ride now. I feel like I’m both concentrating and being completely absent minded when I drive. I feel like, unlike other people, I have to almost recite to myself what I need to do next and how before I can actually do it. I’m that annoying driver who my dad is following and muttering ‘come on sweetie, you can get a centurion tank through that gap!’. Yup, that’s me. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact I can now go out to the shops whenever I want or get myself to the station but I’m doing it in a bubble filled with butterflies and I’d quite like them to fly away now.

Secondly, I’d like to talk about reading. You know I like books. Anyone who knows me knows that 1 book a week is a bad week of reading in my world. Yet now when I read, I am accompanied by an unwanted visitor, or several unwanted visitors in fact. These butterflies that distract me when I drive and make me feel like life is one big rehearsal for which I haven’t learnt the script won’t even leave me alone to do the one thing I used to view as relaxation. I know why they’re there but the whole head injury thing feels like it’s in the past now. It’s been months since the accident, my brain must have healed by now! So why must you release these butterflies whenever I pick up a book? Whenever I sit down on the sofa or climb into my bed? You create a cycle, a terrible cycle of butterflies producing butterflies so that now I’m scared to read because I fear that I’ll finish the last sentence of a book and have no recollection of what I have read. That due to being distracted by butterflies I will have flitted past some vital point in the book without noticing and now have to go back and try and understand it again. Of course I don’t need to do that. I’m fine when I read. I could, if someone gave me the time, recite the entire plot for the last book I read. I won’t, but I could. Yet it still frustrates me. In September I plan to start three years of English Literature at university. Three years of reading week in, week out and having to know what I’ve read. How do you expect me to do that if every time I read I’m back in that geography exam or sitting in the car, not knowing the answer and staring into space?

So please tummy, when you’ve got the time, I wish you to round up these butterflies that you have released and collect them in a jar. Watch them. Admire them. Do not let them free.

Thank you,

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