Self possession

Healing the incurable

Russell-Olivia Brooklands

Chapter 1

The pen shot over Damian’s shoulder, narrowly missing his right ear.

What the hell? He was the only person in the house.

It had been but a matter of seconds since he’d settled down at his desk to start writing, and his right forearm had jerked back of its own volition, sending the biro flying across the room.

This was no way to start a Monday morning.

However, he was by now a man well-schooled in positive thinking. And, determined not to be distracted from his purpose, he searched the floor – locating his ballpoint by the skirting board. He retrieved it, returned to his desk and, somewhat more warily, tried again.

Like many a fervent acolyte before and since, Damian had been swept up in the benefits of affirmations. It had been his intention to start the week by writing some positive statements with which to inspire himself. And he certainly wasn’t going to let a random muscle spasm stop him.

He once more applied pen to paper. Again his arm flew viciously away from the page. This time the nib left a small ink mark on the wall. And for all that he tried to convince himself not to do so, he was starting to panic. What was happening to him?

Whatever it was, he couldn’t afford to have it happen. Not now. He was a single guy who’d just left the safe bosom of the corporate world to go self-employed. He had a substantial mortgage to service, and was yet to find any clients willing to help him pay it.

Starting his third attempt, the fight/flight/freeze response was rising within him. This time the pen was flung out though the open door. He was now seriously scared. What the heck had got into him? Literally, what? Sitting silently on his chair, his hands on his knees, he felt sick. He tried to control his breathing while searching desperately for a coherent thought to latch onto. But his mind was a mass of confusion. After several minutes of tumultuous inactivity, he decided belligerence would have to be the better part of bewilderment. If positive-mindedness wasn’t getting the job done, he’d see how his body responded to a hefty chunk of bloody-mindedness.

“Screw this!” he told himself “I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!”: a statement which, even as he yelled it silently at himself, sounded way more cock-sure than it really was. In fact he was becoming increasingly stressed, as he knew the truth was that he simply couldn’t afford to be defeated. He had only another couple of months left before his gardening leave salary would disappear. Flight and freeze weren’t viable options. His response would have to be ‘fight’.

He found the offending pen on the landing, took it back to his desk and sat down. Gripping it in his right hand, he made a fist around it, determined it was going nowhere this time. So determined, in fact, that he wrapped his left hand around his right, as tightly as he could, so the biro was encased in a double fist. “Ha!” he declared to his arm. “Weren’t expecting that were you?”

Scowling at his wilful limb, as if daring it to try something, he lowered pen to paper. Both his arms were shaking insanely as he moved the nib across his writing pad. Each letter he produced was all but illegible; penmanship of this quality would usually require years of medical training.  It took some 30 seconds to force out just four characters. But he was making progress on his affirmation. “See!” he told himself. “I can do this!” Breathing hard, tears streaming down his cheeks, he started on the fifth letter. He never made it.

A massive convulsion smashed across his abdomen.

It was several seconds before he was able to raise his face from the floor, and gaze up at his desk four feet away. That simple piece of furniture seemed to be one solid, dependable object on which he could focus in a reality which had now indisputably, and terrifyingly, lost the plot. Out of the corner of his eye, his upturned chair was just visible – seeming almost to mock him as it lay on its side. It had tumbled in the opposite direction when he’d been violently thrown out of it by…

…he knew not what.

As he lay in the foetal position, into which he’d been shocked by the power of that spasm, he found he was shaking with a combination of fear, injustice and uncomprehending frustration. In a welter of shredded emotions, all helplessly flailing for purchase on his now surreal existence, one clear thought came to him: “You are in serious shit. You really are in so much more shit than you could ever have foreseen, aren’t you.”

For the truth was that the warning signs had been there for a while.

Seven weeks earlier he’d begun to experience random tics in his arms: the result of the self-discovery work he’d been doing in his most recent personal development training. But being of a determined, positive mind-set, he’d chosen to shrug them off. Plenty of individuals in the early throes of personal development are apt become somewhat zealous. And not for Damian the timidity of folk who might shy away from looking into their personal ‘stuff’, for fear of opening some kind of Pandora’s Box.

But in his three years of self-exploration he’d never heard of Pandora meting out anything on the scale of violence and debilitation he was now experiencing. As he lay on the floor of his second bedroom, which he’d converted to an office, one thing was abundantly clear: he had somehow let a scarily overpowering genie out of the bottle. And he couldn’t conceive of any way it could be contained. There could be no going back. But he also couldn’t just stay as he was. Curling up on the floor wouldn’t pay the bills. What on earth was he to do? Indeed, what could he do, given his own body was apparently no longer his to command?

He continued staring up at the desk, knowing he had no idea how, or even if, he was ever going to get out of this. After all, he hadn’t a clue what ‘this’ even was, nor where it had come from.

One thing was self-evident, though: he had no choice but to start looking for answers.

© Russell-Olivia Brooklands 2023