[some friends of mine in the Bristol University drama department put on a collaborative show back in the 80’s called Love, As Yet Untitled, and the name stuck in my mind… I wonder where that posse of lovely scared extroverts is now? I hope they’re all okay.]
I’m writing this right slap bang in the middle of fear. I wanted to see what it would be like to do this, whether it helped, hindered, was irrelevant, and that. I was going to put an image of a tornado at the top of this (the weather phenomenon, not the aircraft), as the totem par excellence of fear for me – but fortunately, I then thought “are you fucking mad?” and went for the antidote instead.
Beech trees are as near as I get to having living god(desse)s. No, that’s me being coy. I have living god(desse)s, and they are beech trees. I found this out sort of by accident. I always knew I had love and reverence for them, but one day I looked in and realised they’d overwhelmed me. Since then, someone offered me beech leaf salad, and I couldn’t do it. Similarly, I can’t eat anything with the sugar-alternative Xylitol in it, because that’s often made from beech timber. I find it strange but wholly appropriate that I have these constraints in me. It’s good to have something to worship that you can touch, and it seems like a good idea not to kill and eat your gods.
Well, that certainly distracted me from the fear, but it’s back again now, or I’m back with it.
Yes, I’m going to start the full-on part of this EMDR therapy tomorrow for my PTSD, I have no idea whether it will help (though I have hope), and in the run-up to starting it, my fear and flashbacks have both increased.
Under these circumstances, I find it hard to be in touch with people, hard to say simply: “Hi, it’s me, I’m pretty afraid right at this moment.” Because that’s part of the setup of my PTSD – that my feelings are irrelevant next to the desires of the people who abused me, so I should just keep quiet. Which I’m not going to do, hence here I am writing this to a small sprinkling of people, knowing that all that matters is that I “say” this out loud. Communication is the enemy of fear (said a friend once). Yes, writing all this has helped me. I am also going to tell friends, don’t worry.
So when I’m afraid, I do what I can. I tell people, when I can. I try to eat proper food, take walks. I look at beech trees. And I listen to Music For 18 Musicians by Steve Reich, which as far as I’m concerned is what beech forest sounds like (when I was 17, I spent 2 months stuck at home ill, and almost all I did was listen to this and read Lord of the Rings over and over – the two are now inextricably intertwined, and the music reminds me especially of the moment when Frodo wakes up to sunlight through beech leaves, after the ring is destroyed). It will either drive you running from the room in the first 30 seconds (it gets some people that way, it’s okay, I don’t mind if you don’t like it) or it will overwhelm you in a tree-way. Beech trees, wrens, and this music have kept me from going over the edge for decades now. And friends. I am full of gratitude.
I just want to finish with a funny story (in case you think I’m… oh, whatever, I need cheering up too after this).
A man is driving through the mountains, when his car swerves off the edge. He manages to leap out just as it’s going over, and finds himself halfway up a sheer cliff face, bruised, battered, clinging onto a tree branch.
He shouts “Is there anybody up there?” – and a deep, rich, rumbling voice from the heavens says “Don’t be afraid, just let go…”
There’s a little pause, and then the man says “…is there anybody else up there?”