Self possession

Healing the incurable

Russell-Olivia Brooklands

Chapter 1

The pen shot over my shoulder, narrowly missing myright ear. What the hell? I was the only person in the house.

As I’d settled down at my desk to start writing, a few seconds earlier, my right forearm had jerked back of its own volition, and sent the biro flying across the room.

This was no way to start a Monday morning.

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

Like many a fervent acolyte before and since, I had been swept up in the benefits of affirmations. It had been my intention to start the week by writing some positive statements with which to inspire myself. And I certainly wasn’t going to let something like a random muscle spasm stop me.

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

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

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

“Screw this.” I told myself “I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED”: a statement which, even as I yelled it silently to myself in his mind, sounded way more determined than it really was. In fact I was almost in tears, as I knew the truth was that I simply couldn’t afford to be defeated. I had only another couple of months left before my gardening leave salary would disappear. Flight and freeze weren’t viable options. My response would have to be ‘fight’.

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

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

A massive convulsion smashed across my abdomen.

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

…I knew not what.

As I lay in the foetal position, into which I’d been shocked by the power of that spasm, i found I 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 me: “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 I’d begun to experience random tics in my arms: the result of the self-exploration work I’d been doing in my most recent personal development training. But being of a determined, positive mind-set, I’d chosen to shrug them off. Plenty of individuals in the early throes of personal development are apt become somewhat zealous. And not for me the caution of folk who might shy away from looking into their personal ‘stuff’, for fear of opening some kind of Pandora’s Box.

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

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

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

© Russell-Olivia Brooklands 2021