Thursday 24th July

Today was definitely a wrong side of the bed day. Last week I saw my doctor and decided to drop the dose on my meds as I’ve realised I want to come off them soon. Dropping the dose can always have effects: today it felt like I had a migraine without any pain. It was a fight just to get out of bed. In work I could hardly move or talk to anybody. I was upset and on edge all day for no reason. When A started with his wisecracks, making everyone on the floor laugh unreasonably loud, I had to put my headphones in, something I wouldn’t normally do when it’s A. Normally I love the banter and recently I’ve enjoyed being at the very heart of it, building up a double act to rival them all. Today I wanted no part of it. My disease was shutting me in, increasing my hypersensitivity to the point where I was seeing malice in other’s eyes where there was no malice.

I had to make myself invisible today. I was that sixteen year old again, putting up the barriers to defend myself against a hostile world that didn’t want me. The facade of a happy normal life seemed to crumble today and I saw things how they really always were: the world doesn’t like me, it never liked me, I’ll always be truly alone. People who didn’t know me would probably have thought I was a bit weird, given how chatty and funny I was just yesterday. People who do know me must see these moods and realise it’s nothing to do with them it’s just me being me. I hope they see that, anyway.

When it happens it comes on just like a headache, starting off mild first thing in the morning then getting increasingly severe as I’m exposed to more and more of the world. By lunchtime I was in the toilet, locked in the cubicle trying to breathe and steady myself. I felt ill as well which didn’t help, probably because of the heat. I’ve done that a few times occasionally, locked myself away in the toilet cubicle, it sort of seems to help but it’s difficult to tell exactly to what extent.

I heard nothing today about the job I applied for last night. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything yet, but of course it would have been nice to get some good news. When I saw S, the head of the product department who would be my new manager, I clammed up and couldn’t even look at him. I saw my future resting precariously in his hands; I wanted to run up to him and ask him what was going on; I remain paralysed to the spot until he’d gone.

I might not particularly want a new challenge and a new role, given how comfortable I really am in the current position. But I knew today that I needed something new. I feel like I’m running myself into the ground with all this stress. I need a break, at the very least. It’s a good job I’m on holiday from next week (only two weeks to go until Spain yay!) but then the holidays will be over all too soon, it will be the start of the long Christmas season, and I’ll be back to feeling this way before I even know it.

This afternoon some people were talking about a party the CEO’s having at his posh local mansion at the weekend. I hadn’t known there was going to be a party at the CEO’s house – I didn’t get an invite and I wouldn’t have wanted to go anyway – hearing people talk about it really bugged me and I was forced to keep my headphones in until it was time to go home. There’s no doubt it will be a boozy affair, my idea of hell, yet for some incredible reason I’m still managing to feel left out. I mean, what is it with me? Am I scared that I’ll never have made it in this company until I’ve been invited to the CEO’s house? Maybe so. All of those who have been invited certainly must feel as if they’ve made it. You could see it in their faces.

Wednesday 23rd July

I’m fed up of my job today. Since I got back from Paris it’s lost all the excitement it had a few weeks ago, when the meds were really working and I thought life was finally just about sorted. At the moment all I’m doing is answering a never ending stream of the same boring complaints from the same boring people who need to get a life. Yeah, I’ve been doing the same thing for five years, but right now it’s bothering me more than usual. Maybe it’s because of the counselling, maybe it’s because of J, but I’ve begun to want more.

Of course, I wanted more two years ago and I got more, and it burnt me in the end. I gave up on dreams of being an important figure in the company years ago, because it clearly wasn’t meant to be and I was driving myself crazy trying to measure my self worth by how important I was or wasn’t in the company.

On the company website today I noticed they’re still advertising for that project manager role which I was briefly tempted by a few weeks ago. It could be that they’ve already filled the role and they’ve simply forgotten to take the advert down – I wouldn’t know. This evening something made me go online and send my resume in. It could have been the same desire that drove me to reach high in the past, when I was still naive enough to believe that anyone could progress there. It could have been the current backlog of annoying, pointless complaints that I have to get through; it could have been A, my gay partner in crime, who sits behind me and does nothing but bitch about how crap our job is all day. Not sure if I really stood a chance, I clicked send on the application, having given it my best shot.

It could be a really good thing to get this job, or it could be a really bad thing. Some of my least favourite people in the company belong to that department; some of the most obviously fulfilling work in the company gets done in that department. I’d probably be mad not to apply for it. It would be a challenge, probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced since getting this job, moving out of my current role where I’ve been for five years and where I’ve gotten very comfortable. It would be like unsticking a rock from its hole where it’s lived for thousands of years. The anxiety could be lethal. Then again, I could thrive there. If only I could know for sure which it is!

Sunday 20th July

I spent most of today with J. He had a rare day off and wanted to go out somewhere. Our initial plan had been to drive to the coast; it seemed tantalisingly romantic as well as perfect for the weather. By yesterday however it was dawning on me how broke I was, and how depressing it would be to spend time in a seaside town with less than a fiver to spend. Last night I was this close to cancelling. I was in a bad mood with J for still not telling me his feelings, and the thought of spending anything today was making me panic.

I chatted to P about it and his advice was good if predictable: don’t use money as an excuse to cancel something that could be fun. He said perhaps I should suggest something cheaper, like a supermarket picnic in the local park. I went to bed to sleep on it: I just couldn’t face telling J about all my money problems last night.

This morning I knew I would have to be honest so I messaged him on whatsapp, suggesting a cost-free drive in the country for a few hours. We wouldn’t have to go anywhere particular or spend any money, we could just enjoy each other’s company in the car for a few hours, with cheap sandwiches to keep us going. I liked the idea the more I thought about it. Happily J was up for it. He didn’t mind changing the plan at all: he was about as understanding as anyone could be. He actually offered to lend me money to get by. Clearly he cares on some level. I refused the offer: in sobriety I’ve made it a rule never to borrow money off anyone unless necessary, say when I need to travel somewhere for an operation or something. This wasn’t one of those situations and I felt much better turning the offer down, thoughtful as it was.

He arrived to pick me up a couple of hours later than agreed, by which time rainclouds were starting to gather over London and I was in a bad mood again. I got in the car quietly, wanting the day to be over. We set off in a random direction and drove for the next two hours, ending up somewhere in Kent with rain and hail battering the car roof. It was a gloomy day and I couldn’t stop thinking that I might never see J again after this. All afternoon our conversation barely strayed from the small talk. I realised that we still hardly knew each other, that I was stuck in a car with an almost stranger in the middle of nowhere, trying to pretend to be enjoying myself when really I wanted to get out and return to safety.

On the way back from Kent I pretty much stopped talking while J shouted at passing drivers on the road for cutting him up, not signalling properly, driving too fast, driving too slow. Any drivers who looked foreign ran the risk of receiving extra special abuse. I witnessed a racist side for the first time that I didn’t like, J calling them all kinds of names I won’t repeat. For a French person living in London he can be surprisingly xenophobic. I suppose he’d say he didn’t mean it, it was just road rage or something equally ridiculous. At this point traffic into London began to pile up, and with what looked many more hours in the car ahead of me I wanted to cry.

When finally we got home I was quite glad to be alone. I hadn’t stopped fancying J, but I was ready to be apart from him for a while. I’d listened to nothing but his voice for three hours; I was dog tired. It’s almost ironic how much he’s given away of himself, despite the insistence on not naming our relationship. In contrast I think I’ve given barely anything of myself away. In conversations he always does most of the talking. If this is to become a relationship I will be the quiet one with all the secrets. As of yet he has no idea that I’m currently receiving counselling, that I’m a recovering alcoholic in AA, that I love writing stories, and that I was brought up by a single mother. He knows very little about me, mainly because he’s never asked. He seems very content to shout and complain about trivial things, but not to ask or answer honest questions about me, about us.

So right now I don’t think I’m ready to give up on him just yet. I fancy him more than anyone I’ve dated before. But I don’t know if that’s enough? There is little more to our relationship at the moment than this front we put on, as we pretend to talk about things that really matter, like politics and world poverty, things that anyone anywhere could be talking about. We’re basically good acquaintances who’ve slept together a couple of times. None of it means anything. I can’t begin to understand why I so desperately need it to mean something, I just do.

All my friends are up to date with the intimate details of this relationship. As I write here I tell them all of these things with the same desperate honesty. I wonder if J’s told any of his friends about me? You know, I can’t imagine he has.

Tuesday 15th July

Today I was seven years sober. Obviously I’m glad about it. This one has crept up on me: I haven’t thought about my anniversary this year as much as I used to. Safe to say I’ve been sober a long time, and the numbers don’t matter so much like they did when I was one week, one month, one year. But I like being able to say it’s been seven years since my last drink. God, what a seven years it’s been.

By coincidence I had my first session of counselling this evening near home. As I was going there I realised it would by first time seeing a therapist since I got this job. Five years ago I did so well in CBT that it seemed I wouldn’t need any more professional help; this year’s proved that if there is a cure for my mental illness, I haven’t found it yet. We spent the standard 50 minutes going through my life story. I was there to focus on the trauma of school, and after half an hour we weren’t talking so much about childhood and my parents, more about the years between 1998 – 2000, when it was really bad. I told her about the suicide attempts, the endless days of isolation and deliberate social exclusion. For the first time ever I spoke about the dreams which have haunted me in the years since, where I’m forced to go back and complete my education there even though I’m in my 30’s now and I actually completed my education elsewhere.

Yesterday it occurred to me (I don’t know why things are still occurring to me, now after all this experience I’ve had – does life never stop being one big learning curve?) that mentally part of me is stuck in 1999, in that time when I was at my lowest ebb following years of abuse. I am stuck in that nightmare: part of me must really believe that the last fifteen years haven’t happened, that it’s all been a lovely dream and I’m still just sixteen years old and I must go back and finish my A-Levels at that school otherwise I can never move on. I said this to the counsellor this evening and as I was saying the words it actually sunk in: I have never fully moved on. All these years I have suffered from a form of PTSD, I have this disease which tells me I can never escape that place until I go back and finish the sentence.

If I hadn’t left in 1999, if I had stayed another two years and finished my A-Levels there like everyone else, would I not have had this recurring nightmare? Would my head not have snapped in the way it did? Would I be able to feel secure in the knowledge that my life since then has been real and not just borrowed, that I never actually have to go back? It’s like I escaped from prison when I was sixteen. Whilst everyone expected me to stay on until eighteen I took control of my life for the very first time and walked out. I’d had enough. And the logical truth is that I had every right to walk out: staying there was no longer compulsory for me, no one tried to stop me or advise me against it. Only in my head have I suffered for that decision, why I don’t know. Even now I sometimes wake up in cold sweats after the same dream, in which I’ve been told I have to go back to that place and do my A-Levels. My subconscious mind remains in that prison, and I still know exactly what the place looked like back then. I still know what the classrooms and corridors looked and smelled like, how the area near the school gates felt like a forbidden realm that I desperately wanted to walk through but never could until it was 3.30 in the afternoon.

In fact I think in many of these dreams I am spending a lot of time standing near those gates, waiting for 3.30 to come, only it never seems to. I experience this desperate craving to just cast caution to the wind and walk out, no matter what the time is, because I’m 31 now and I should have left school years ago, but logic doesn’t help me. I remain burdened by the rules that they made, which tell me I must stay until the end. On and on it goes, 3.30pm permanently eludes me, like it’s years away in the future rather than just hours.

So I realised today that I am a rat trapped in a box, and the stress I keep experiencing is brought about by the disconnect between reality and what I feel in my head. Seven years of sobriety, yet I remain frightened to death by the prospect of there being one little crack which causes my nice current life to crumble around me. I still avoid the difficult parts of life as much as I can, in case they make the crack which sets the disaster off.

I have seven sessions of counselling left. They are to run fortnightly for the rest of the year, which is handy as it means I’m not going to lose all my Tuesday evenings this summer. Seven sessions in which to untie this psychic knot. If knowing the problem were the cure, I suppose I’d be cured by now. I know better than ever what my disease is: how to move past it and find real happiness remains a total mystery.

Sunday 13th July

I’m facing tough choices about J. He came around again on Friday: this time we watched a film on the laptop, an old American crime thriller with Mel Gibson which was surprisingly good, before cuddling up and getting naked again. It was even better than last week, if you’d believe that possible. I thought I was having the best sex of my life. When it was over, even more so than the last time, I felt something missing.

We started talking. He said he could understand why I need to know what’s going on. But he isn’t going to allow himself to rush this time. He wouldn’t say much about this recent relationship that hurt him so much, but it’s clear that he gave his heart away the same way I always give mine away, and it got trampled on. Unlike me, having his heart broken seems to have taught him the lessons that needed learning, so that now he knows exactly what you’re supposed to do in this situation. He talks as if his experience gave him the rulebook for relationships he’d been searching for all his life. Christ, if only I could get my hands on that rulebook.

I said that I hope he likes me. He said he does like me – and that’s all he would say. He has no plans to say anything else until at least a few months have passed, and I’m just going to have to accept that. I said but what about the time we’ve spent together? Doesn’t that tell him anything? He said we’ve barely spent any time together, although it’s been nice it’s not exactly a twenty year marriage. He probably didn’t intend it, but his words were like a punch in the stomach. After that I wasn’t so sure if I wanted him here any more.

After I broke up with M I kicked myself for not waiting a few months before telling him I loved him. Yet here I am with someone new, dying to make the same mistake. Am I just crazy?

I keep thinking about all the advice my friends have given me, how much sense it makes and how stupidly impossible it is to follow. I know I need to be in control of this thing and treat it like any other developing friendship or relationship, not try and name it and put it into a box before I even know the person. But I can’t help wanting some reassurances. It drives me mad that I feel like J is the sexiest guy I’ve ever dated and I can’t say it to him because he won’t want to know yet. He’s firmly closed that door and my heart sinks when I think about all the months of keeping it zipped I’m going to have to go through now.

If I try and turn the tables, imagine that I have as much control as he does, I can barely stay in that mindset before I slip naturally back into the passive victim mindset again. I try and think about all the reasons why J wouldn’t be a perfect boyfriend, and I can barely grab hold of one before logic melts away and I’m seeing him as the perfect saviour again.

In six months it’s very likely that the excitement will be over and it will be much clearer to me whether this is the right relationship for me or not. With M after a few months I was able to see what I didn’t like about him and I made an adult decision to end things because it was the right thing to do. It could turn out the same with J, disappointing as that would be, therefore seeking reassurance now and trying to get him to tell me that he loves me is utterly pointless. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it.

I’ve told pretty much all my friends at work and outside now. I never intended to this soon but it was driving me so crazy I needed all the advice I could get. Now I feel more stuck than ever. I’ve barely heard from him today, which is unusual, and I can’t decide whether to make contact or just leave it. Would it be mature to carry on as normal, make contact with him, ask how he is even though I don’t care how he is, because all I want him to do is tell me how he feels about me? Or would it be really mature just to leave him to it, treat him like I treat all other friends, only contacting him when I want to arrange meeting up? Is that what people in normal relationships do?

Making a decision has been impossible today and I’m in a terrible mood now because of it. My acne has flared up again as well, which really does not help. Right now I could punch a hole in a wall, I’m that annoyed. I think in this mood, I just need to leave him alone. I need to be by myself, let things calm down. This isn’t working.

Tuesday 8th July

12pm

That’s it. It’s time for me to let my guard down with J. I need to know where I stand – where the hell this relationship is going. Does he want a casual fuckbuddy or a serious relationship? I can’t stand the suspense any more. Fuck it, if honesty scares him off then so be it. I need to know the truth.

1pm

It took an hour, but I’ve pressed send on the message. He’s replying quite quickly today. Yes, he wants a serious relationship, not just casual. Phew! But he doesn’t want to rush into anything. He wants to take time and get to know me before committing to anything, because he always rushed before and it led to nothing but pain.

That makes sense. I guess I don’t want to rush either. Well, I know it’s best not to rush. I know it doesn’t serve anyone when you decide to fall in love after a few weeks, only to find yourself single and lonely again a month later. I did that with M and it would be so boring and pointless to have it happen again.

That said, I can’t help feeling as if I’ve already made my mind up about J, and I don’t want to wait any longer for this to become something more than just sex. I mean, we’ve been to bed together now so I’m not exactly sure what it is J is waiting for.

I was a bit surprised just now when A said that going to bed with someone doesn’t tell you anything about whether that person is right for you in a relationship. Surprised not by the idea, but surprised by the fact I’d forgotten. I should’ve learnt that lesson twelve years ago when I lost my virginity to G - as soon as we’d done the deed I thought we were boyfriends. A week later I was rudely brought back to earth when he said “what relationship?” in a text message. Clearly I’ve become so complacent in the intervening years, so confident in how much I’d grown up I forgot the basics.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t let this ruin another day and stop me from functioning properly again. I guess I need to decide whether I’m happy waiting for J to make his mind up. I’m disappointed that I had to pluck up the courage to ask today, only to get a vague answer that doesn’t mean anything. But I don’t regret asking – I think I have a right to ask.

No, three or six or twelve months isn’t a long time. Technically I know I could wait and let this develop naturally. Let’s face it, not waiting never worked for me in the past. If I look at the common denominator in all past relationships, rushing into things was the standout winner. This is supposed to be the new me in 2014 – I should be embracing a refreshing new way of doing things now.

I keep thinking about Mad Men, the series I’ve been enjoying on Netflix all year – in that, the characters seem to rush into everything, and it seems to work for them. If Mad Men is to be believed, it was the norm for people to propose marriage within weeks in the 60’s. Just because it was 50 years ago was the norm necessarily wrong? Were people really unhappy when it was more acceptable for them to make their feelings known straight away?

Jesus, I know how my feelings change and I know it’s impossible for me to say right now whether I’ll still be as keen on J in a year’s time as I am now. But why does that automatically mean I have to keep it zipped now, pretend like I’m fine with just the odd encounter, keeping our lives entirely separate until one day he wakes up and decides it’s the right time?

*****

Swimming tonight was great. I managed 45 minutes in the pool this time, which of course I’m pleased with because it’s more than I’ve ever done. Afterwards we went out for dinner and P’s friend M came along for the company. The sad fact is I’ve confided in pretty much everyone I know about J, and today M got to hear all about it too. His advice was surprisingly relevant: basically, I ought to just chill out, be my usual independent self, act normal at all times in spite of my feelings, and let things happen. He thinks I definitely need to take back some control, only seeing and chatting to J when I’m free and not making extra time for him in my schedule, because that’s giving control away.

God, it will be hard. But I have to do it. I need to break this lifelong pattern of let down and disappointment. I need to experience a real relationship. The only way I’m going to do it is by changing my thinking. I can’t change anyone else.

Monday 7th July

We had a team day out yesterday to a theme park, my first ever day out with the team. It was undeniably good fun. I avoided most of the scary rides; the ones I didn’t find too scary I jumped on with everyone else with great enthusiasm. There was no awkward social isolation or embarrassing silences for me – I know everyone in the team too well for that now. Of course there are people in the team I don’t get on with as well as I do with others, but there are enough people in the department for me to have a comfortable group that I can stick with on days like that.

I wasn’t particularly taken with the early morning rise, the long noisy train journey where fellow commuters gave us dirty looks for how rowdy we were being. I felt exactly like one of those kids on school trips that unrelated adults look down on, because I’m disturbing their peaceful journey. I was glad when it was over.

Throughout the day I was getting whatsapp messages from J. We’d spent a lovely Saturday evening here in my room, kissing and cuddling in complete privacy for the first time. I’d made sure we weren’t going to park in a car park somewhere again. Left up to him, we could have continued doing that forever. I wanted to take the reins and bring him here because sitting in a car park giving someone fellatio is not romantic to me. The first time we parked out on the heath I loved it, but there was the excitement of the first time back then. All through that date I’d been dying to get his top off and I didn’t care where we went to have our fun.

Yesterday I was intent on privacy and we got it. I didn’t have to work hard to persuade him to come back here, which was good. I thought he might come up with some excuse again about not wanting to “rush” things – luckily he didn’t.

Despite getting fully naked and going nearly all the way, I still managed to feel like there was something missing. Afterwards I wanted to ask him where he thought all this was going. I couldn’t come out and ask him – I needed him to broach the subject. As much as I want to take some control in this thing, I still don’t know how to. So I left it, and when he went home after midnight I was none the wiser as to how he actually feels about me.

You’d think that getting naked with someone would prove that there is something there – but with J I keep getting the impression that he is not in this for the long run. He never talks about his feelings or what type of relationship he wants. I’m yet to discover anything meaningful about his history. I know his surname, where he lives, what he does for a living, and what his ambitions are. I don’t know whether he really likes me and considers me a potential boyfriend, or if this is just a casual thing that he’s wearing out til he gets bored.

I don’t know why I need the security of knowing how he feels about me, I just do. It’s clear to me that this need in me isn’t going to change, so I’m going to have to ask him at some point. Problem is I don’t have a clue how long I’m supposed to wait. The last thing I want is to put pressure on him and scare him off. As time goes on I get more and more desperate for answers. A said in passing to me the other day that for most people it can take months or years for them to figure out how they feel about each other. For fuck’s sake, I don’t want to wait years. I may still be young, but I feel like I’ve already waited long enough. I’ve dated hundreds of guys in the last twelve years. When you’ve been through the same crap hundreds of times, you don’t want to have to go through it any more.

I don’t think I’m asking for an awful lot. I just want to know when the “relationship” stuff is going to start happening, that’s all. Stuff like holding hands on the tube, watching TV on the sofa, going to the movies, that sort of thing. If J’s obvious contentment the other night is anything to go by, it will be years before we change what we’re currently doing.