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Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone during a gig? Even if it’s just to tell them that you’re going to the bathroom (or going home, or going to the bar, or scared, or you’ve met the person of your dreams, or the someone in question is the person of your dreams)? It’s so hard. The music’s so loud, your hearts are thumping in your ears, the lights are blinding and contrasted with pitch blackness when not shining on you. It’s really frigging hard to hear yourself, never mind hear someone else. If you add a disability or impairment to the mix, removing or dampening one of the senses? Good luck with that.
I can remember, back in those old halcyon days of concerts and sweating and screaming into each other’s ears, spilling booze everywhere, feet sticking to the carpet which should have been removed at the end of the war, trying desperately to understand what people were saying to me. Add in different accents or languages, and I’d find it hilarious (or hilariously embarrassing) that I was just incapable of understanding. And, after another drink or two … incapable of caring. I just muddled through and we all made it and nobody died. It was all fine really, when you think about it. There were a few cases of mistaken identity, of mishandled conflict (I DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE REALLY MAD I’M SORRY), of being lost and drunk and alone at the end. Of being scared and confused. Of scaring, confusing, annoying other people. Just writing these words is making my heart beat faster than it has done for a while.
It all worked out in the end though, right? Apart from those people who inexplicably stopped wanting to go to concerts with me. Until the pre-, post- and pendant- drinks became more important than whoever it was we were going to listen to. Hmmm.
Anyway. This is not a post about gigs (may they rest in peace and come back soon and safely). It’s a post about noise. In the last year and a bit, I’ve managed to remove so much of that noise that I didn’t realise I was having to shout over. Or rather, that my emotions were having to shout over. Anxiety and panic attacks don’t just develop by themselves, they’re there to tell us something. I couldn’t hear or feel the low-level malaise or stress, because I was drowning everything (out) with booze. Constantly in a state of either a little (or a lot) buzzed, or a little (or a lot) hungover, or in the awkward in-between land, trying to escape the memories of one, only to fall into the arms of the other.
Removing the booze can feel like it brings anxiety – it doesn’t. It lets us feel the anxiety that was already there, the anxiety that was already trying to talk, to tell us something. Fearing the anxiety itself is giving it more importance than it needs or deserves (this is coming from an anxious wee beast of many years, who still experiences and navigates it now … just on a less cataclysmic scale ... I FEEL THE FEAR OF ANXIETY AND I EMPATHISE AND I LOVE YOU) – it’s literally there to send us a message. What’s it trying to say to you?
Mine was saying “you’re not who they say you are. You’re not who you say you are.” It was telling me to explore my gender identity (and literally within two days of doing that without alcohol dulling everything or to run to for comfort, I knew I was non-binary trans, and started there and then the long, thorny route of transitioning socially, publicly, professionally, physically, emotionally). It was telling me that the question “what if there’s more to life than this?” had an answer, and it was a positive one – there IS more to life than how things were. There are different connections to be made, there are different projects to develop, different people to meet, different ways to learn, to laugh, to love, to live (and not all of them fit on a Karen’s cushion).
Over the last 10 days, I’ve been feeling more and more tired, and responded to that with naps. I even did a post about it – the pleasures of guilt-free sleep and naps when living an AF life. And then I developed a sore shoulder and neck, which I put down to getting old (:D) and not being regular enough in my yoga and stretching practice. And then over the weekend, boom. Pretty bad joint pain pretty much everywhere. Oh yeah … the delights of long-COVID, back again. Fuck, I’d forgotten about that.
Since being diagnosed with Covid back in April, it took me a few weeks to recover back to about 80-90% of how I was before the virus, in terms of stamina, energy, strength. And every few weeks I’d have a relapse. Crushing fatigue, cramps, joint pains, aches, body just not my own. It would last a few days, I would be forced to rest and recover, and it would gradually go away again. My last relapse was in September, and I don’t think I’d gone two full months without one, so I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. I’m lucky – I never needed to be hospitalised, my lungs are recovering (still doing daily lung exercises), my heart rate is improving again, and these relapses are temporary inconveniences. It has been and continues to be so much worse for so many others who are afflicted with Long Covid.
I am lucky that my work – as a coach, teacher, writer – can be done online or remotely, that I can shift sessions around, that I can postpone writing, that I can generally go to bed when I need. (I’m also lucky in that I have wonderful people supporting me through my Patreon – I would be delighted if you were able to chuck a couple of quid in the proverbial pot too, please visit www.patreon.com/jowalduck for more details and/or to sign up - no pressure, ever!)
I’m lucky that I had quit smoking before lockdown, before I got infected. I’d given my lungs nearly 5 months to start repairing themselves after a nearly 20-year smoking habit, before gifting them with Covid. I’m lucky that I haven’t had booze in over a year, and am now able to better understand what’s going on in my mind, feelings and body. It may still take me a while to notice and adapt to what’s happening – we were not taught Emotional Intelligence and How To Recognise The Signs Your Body’s Trying To Send You as children, and I boozed my way through the next nearly two decades, ignoring as many signs as possible – but I know I get a much clearer message now, with less screaming, shouting and URGENT URGENT URGENT-ing necessary from my body in order to actually make me able to hear, listen, and pay attention. I’m better able to hear what’s going on with me physically, mentally, and emotionally - and better equipped to respond appropriately. I’ve responded pretty appropriately to this relapse – although I tried to do too much on my first day of improvement, I took the hint from my body (crushing tiredness and instant return of the aches and pains and cramps) and rested, and have taken it easy again today. The coming days will bring further improvements.
What are you excited about hearing from your body? What are you nervous about? What can you do to prepare for the signs and stories that are coming your way?
I’m so grateful for this community. Thank you for being here.