Trolls And Bridges

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

29th March 2017
My Own Personal Trolls, A Selection

They've had many names. Some of them: Spiders. Dentists. Illness. Losing people I love. Falling out of trees. Car crashes. Injury. Going to sleep. Pain. Rejection. Dying in my sleep. Anxiety. My father. Love. Death. And life.

Some of them were easy to walk over. Spiders, for example, required me to take my four-year-old son to a stall at the Summer fete where a man had various animals to look at, and ask if I could hold his tarantula. Taking my son with me had two benefits - I couldn't chicken out, and he could take photographs. I once didn't enter our downstairs loo in Malaysia for weeks after a huge arachnid ran out from under the loo seat (after I'd been sitting on it) when I flushed the loo, so for me to hold a spider of any size was a big step forward in taking on my troll. This one was called a bird eating Chilean something or other, and it was enormous. Birds? I reckon it could've consumed an ostrich. My hands were shaking so badly I had to flatten them against a table, and blackness was creeping in the edges of my vision because of hyperventilation. But a small voice said, Go on, Mum, so I did. It was so huge it looked like a toy, and it felt incredible. Soft, gentle and entirely without malice. My hands stopped shaking enough for me to play with it, letting it walk form hand to hand - it was bigger than both my hands put together so I had to be careful not to drop it. I was told he'd not eat until he found a mate, and after he'd mated, he'd die. I felt so sad for him. All at once, my love for spiders was born. Since then I've held mammoth great household ones and another tarantula. I still shiver whilst I'm doing it, and feel my flesh literally crawling, but I'm also tranfixed. Spiders, it turns out, are amazing.

The trolls of injury and anxiety and rejection about things were dealt with by forcing myself to do just about anything 'dangerous'. I scuba dived for years, I've been in a glider, a hangglider, I've parachuted, I spent two and a half years on the back of a motorbike travelling, I hitch hiked across Ireland and bits of mainland Europe, I've experimented with lots of soft drugs and some harder ones, I've climbed things, down things and through things, I've travelled alone in lots of different countries, I biked across Laos and Vietnam, I've yelled at would-be muggers and flashers and pervs, I've whacked gropers and stalkers and pervs, I've asked out lots of people on dates, I've spoken the truth, even when it's terrifying, I've faced my trollss over and over and over.

Dentist Trolls were difficult. Mr S, my dentist as a child, had a penchant for extracting healthy teeth with gas, during a conveyor belt afternoon when kids were in, out and waking up in a recovery room that had a particular smell of chemicals - spewing blood and disorientated - in minutes. To an already fearful child, the 'dreams' I experienced on this gas, and the subsequent coming-back-to-reality, a reality I'd forgotten about, were utterly terrifying. I still remember some of them. I've spent the rest of my life either avoiding dentists or overbrushing my teeth. Recently I've been taking my children and forcing myself to sit in the chair and smile. Finding a lovely dentist who knows how to work with odontophobics has been a blessing. I do have nice teeth, however, but with that is the fear of them one day not being nice, and serious treatment being needed, which I know I'd find difficult.

For the most part, I've been able to walk over the bridges; ignore the trolls underneath with their taunts and their greasy dark voices and their temptation-filled voices telling me to run back the other way, or jump off. I've been a risk taker. I've taken risks as an adult because I wasn't often allowed to do so as a child, so when I hear my dad's voice in my head, wanting to speak through me and tell my children what might be dangerous, I've politely ignored it and let them take risks. Reasonable ones, obviously. As I've walked those bridges, the ones ahead have got shorter, less frightening to look at. Fear can be mastered. Sometimes, however, simply facing the fear, however hard it is, is not enough.

The Dying troll is one of the more difficult ones and an ongoing problem. I grew up with a father who saw danger everywhere. He himself was scary and strong, as a broken arm and a rainbow of bruises could testify, and even now, he still scares me. There's a nicer, kookier side to him as well but I hardly ever got to see it and now that he lives half a world away, I never shall. I'll write about his nicer side another time but for today I want to concentrate on his ability to ruin everything that was fun. Throwing anything was dangerous because it could kill you if it hit your temple. Walks in the country were dangerous because of Lymes Disease (I knew all about that by age four) . Just about any food out of a packet was bad because of E numbers, which would make you ill. Headaches meant you might have meningitis. There was so much stuff that could make you blind that I lost track. Climbing trees meant potentially broken necks which meant paralysis. It's amazing, then, that he took us all to Kenya for a year when I was nine. It was a wonderful experience in so many ways but we learned a whole continent of new stuff to be afraid of. Diseases - malaria, sleeping sickness, bilharzia, and many others; animals of all shapes and sizes... the list went on for ages. I still loved living there but became overaware of danger lurking around every bend.

Now, I deal with the Dying troll every single day. Some days it's quieter than others; some days I can hear it screaking at me, TRIP TRAP TRIP TRAP..... I'M RIGHT HERE! In the past five years I've had three illnesses that, left untreated, would have killed me, or helped me kill myself. The latest of these is cancer. I was diagnosed during the killer year of 2016, on Friday 13th May (well, that was never going to be good news, was it?) when famous faces popped off due to cancer left, right and centre. Notice the change in tone? Yes, I laughed my way through treatment, spat in cancer's face and determined to enjoy myself in hospital and get as many freebie drugs as I could. Radiotherapy saw me buying a bright orange t-shirt with a radioactivity symbol smack bang in the middle and wearing it to appointments.

The fear hit me at Christmas. All through December and January, 'What if this is my last' became my personal 'trip trap' and I felt the fear taking over again. In February it got better. In March it's been coming and going and I've realised it's one of my ultimate trolls for now, up there with something terrible happening to my children. Or something terrible happening to me, whilst my children still need me as much as they do.

I've dealt with it the only way I know how, facing it head on and Living Like Crazy, continuing to take my antidepressants and wringing as much as I can out of life. I run a business. I teach English. I make stuff to sell. I do community things and help at school. I read a book a week. I party hard at the slightest excuse (sadly, not that often) and recover like a pro. I eat extremely well -and grow food and keep chickens - to combat the partying hard. I write, I hold putting the best parent I can be as my personal number one goal, I have ambitions, I've a list of jobs to do a mile long...

But all the while, there's a troll at my feet, telling me I'll run out of time; telling me I'll die before all this is done, before my book's written, before I've sorted out all the kids toys/pictures/school photos. before I've travelled some more, before I've lived properly.

And here, here is the way to deal with the troll. I've dealt with fear by tackling it head-on, every time. The big ones, the little ones, the ones I've not written about here - I've taken them all on and owned them and stepped over that bridge. But the Dying troll, it's different. You can't face death by facing death on a day-today basis (well, actually you can, simply by crossing the road or by being in the right place at the right time and not getting hit by that speeding bus/truck/car). You can't sit there and stare at your empty grave and say, Right, Death, you don't get me today.

No. What you can do, is live properly. I don't mean like me, racing at life, ninety miles an hour, screeching around the bends grinning like a monkey, but by BEING alive. By feeling it. By loving hard, and laughing harder and letting yourself forgive the small things and ignore the trivial and concentrate on what's important. I don't do this enough. I DO a lot, yes. But do I feel a lot? Do I let myself feel alive? Do I love properly? I know the answer is no. And this is because of yet another troll. This one is called self-worth. Every time I am happy, a tiny wee troll stads up and goes, Hey, you don't deserve that. Stop it at once. The inevitable outcome is: I panic, think, God, that's right! If I feel this happy, something bad will happen. Something bad must happen, because I am happy, and therefore I rein in the feelings and draw them back inside me where I feel safe again, instead of feeling them out loud.

I'll beat this latest troll. I work on it every single day, practise putting one foot in front of the other over that bridge, balancing my fears against my feelings, my feet against my heart. The troll is louder some days and quieter others. I'm not quite sure of all the answers yet, it's a daily discovery and one I am happy to be taking. So, cancer, yet again I must thank you for *another* lesson in life. The other side of this bridge is still hidden in mist, but every now and again it clears.

Trip, trap, trip, trap.

You keep shouting, troll, but I'll keep walking.