Thursday, 27 August 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: The Naked Truth

I'm naked and I'm not alone. For now I've kept my socks on as I feel it may be a step to far to remove those as well.

A bright light is switched on and I bask in my naked glory for I feel no shame in what I present before the world in the form of my 44 year old body.

'Your amazing' a voice says from beyond my gaze. 'I am' I say to myself, 'I am bloody amazing, I should be preserved like this for the world to see, I should charge admission’.

It's not often you find yourself naked getting compliments from two middle-aged women and a medical professional who has the kindly air of a professor who has yet to discover the technological advances of the modern age.

I'm at a skin clinic for transplant patients at my local hospital. In this environment I'm a minor celebrity, a man with a new heart, doctors and nurses love me. I do my best to fulfil my brief and regale them with stories of 10km runs and my charitable deeds. 

'Wow, you can hardly see it can you' says one nurse as she scans me up and down with a beaming smile. 'No' I say proudly. In any other situation a naked man might take that statement as a sleight on their manhood but luckily for me she is referring to my scar that's largely hidden behind a few wiry hairs.

This kind of glowing assessment is usual for those of us that have undergone a major operation and therefore I'm rarely concerned about whipping off my clothes and letting a nurse enjoy a good look at my incredible body.  Sometimes I’m almost too eager. A request to move my shirt can invariably lead me to take it a stage further.

It seeps into my home life too. I’m rarely afraid of taking my clothes off, surely it’s only fair the general public get an airing of my goods as well as those kind folk that serve the NHS so well. Only a few months ago I removed all my clothes in the pub following a request by a young lady. To be fair she did pay £10 for that delight. 

So as I lie here, relaxed in the glare of a bright spotlight, I’m feeling content and hoping for more compliments to come my way.  The consultant moves his hands gently across my arms and legs. It’s soothing and his words gently bounce around the room. ‘Good, very good’. I smile.

In some ways I wish I had thought more about my appointment than I actually had. I knew I would be getting undressed yet I still went for my standard, far too small, ‘old man’ pants. Black with no real design I feel they are letting down my celebrity status. What I need are some eye catching pants! My mind starts to wander as I think what I could wear.

As I ponder the strength and weaknesses of Superman pants against ones with the phrase ‘Organ Donor’ written on them, one of the nurses strikes up conversation as the consultant continues his tour of my muscled torso.

‘I wish all of our patients were like you’ she says as her eyes light up at the amazing statement she has just made.

‘Yes. I do my best’ I say whilst secretly thinking that I must be the best patient ever. Why aren’t other patients like me? Why must I be the one to lead all these terrible patients from the darkness of their poor ways into the light that is my incredible talent for keeping my skin pale. These mere fools need me. I should lead and let the weak follow.

We are finally finished with the examination. I’m perfect in every way and the consultant didn’t even need his little magnifying glass on some bits, so that must be a good sign.

Before I can start to get my clothes on the more elderly nurse asks me a question.  ‘Are you Claire Watson’s son?’ 

Of course the answer to this is a straight forward yes, but suddenly I have become more aware of my nakedness.  The conversation has become personal and I’m not sure what the etiquette is for conversation with parental friends when undressed. Surely there are some rules.

In many ways I’m glad I’m not in the Superman pants now as that sort of thing has its way of getting back to mothers. She’s already ashamed of my beard so I could find myself banished from evenings of idle chit chat in front of an overly loud television.

After a short silence I respond positively whilst trying to maintain my dignity as I struggle to get my trousers on. ‘Why couldn’t she have asked me once I was clothed?’ I mumble under my heavy beard. ‘This would never happen to a proper celebrity like..’  My mind tries to think of a suitable celebrity but only Dale Winton pops up causing me even more cause for concern.

In the space of ten short minutes I have gone from an adonis with no shame to a little boy embarrassed by his underpants. Maybe that’s what this clinic is about? Making me so ashamed of my body that I need to keep it fully wrapped up even in temperatures of 30 degrees. No wonder my skin is fine.

The truth is of course I don’t follow any of the hospitals rules. I rarely use sunblock and I enjoy getting out in the warm weather. I am what’s known as in the medical world ‘lucky’.

Home again and I’m soon back to feeling proud of myself. Why should I feel any shame? I am perfect in my own unique way. I strip naked and wander round my flat with carefree abandon and not even a full length mirror could stop me.

I cook my dinner. The pan spits. I dress.

Monday, 17 August 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: The Bus Journey

It’s 9:03 and I’m standing at a bus stop trying to decipher the timetable.  I hardly ever get the bus but today I’m feeling like I am making a difference to the environment. I’m proud.

Whilst thinking about my carbon footprint I’ve ignored the fact I own two vehicles, one a VW Camper which I’ve just brought to the garage, hence my need for a lift home. Still, I could have got a taxi, so I remain excited about my new found love of public transport.

I’m alone. It seems my fellow travellers have already made it to their destinations today. Will the bus man see me? Should I stand outside or inside the bus shelter? So much to think about, these bus folk must know the secret signal. I’m a newbie, maybe I’ll just give the driver a jaunty wave.

According to the timetable I have two options. The first a 9:18 bus that seems to take me all around Norfolk, or wait for a 9:46 bus that is more direct and will take me closer for home. 9:46 I think. I’m in no rush, plus its sunny and I look like a man of mystery. A stranger. I could be from MI5. I’m not sure secret agents take the bus.

9:18 and a bus appears from around the corner.  ‘See’ I think to myself, ‘buses come in ones and on time, silly non-bus moaners.’ I stand outside admiring the 9:18 bus and its glorious promptness. It pulls up. I didn’t give a jaunty wave! I didn’t give the secret signal, or at least I don’t think I did?

I’m too English to tell the bus driver man that I do not require his services this fine, sunny morning. Instead I board the 9:18 and request a single to Norwich. We exchange £3.50 and ticket and I look at my fellow passengers and make my way to a seat with the confidence of a man who rides a bus every day. 

My ‘good morning’ followed by a knowledgeable look and tilt of my head as I take my seat is met with considerable indifference. People just shift uncomfortably in their seats and breath as I take a window seat with no-one beside me.

On the bus this morning is a young girl who is staring at her phone in a disinterested manner whilst listening to music on her headphones. There are a couple of older folk, sitting in pairs and discussing what I imagine to be crocheting techniques and the increasing price of Werther’s Originals.

Suddenly the doors of the bus swish open again. A middle aged lady is red in her face and out of breath. She nearly missed the bus. ‘Amateur’ I mumble to myself as I wait for my journey to begin. She wanders past me and I roll my eyes in a ‘why are they always on time when you’re running late’ kind of way.

As we make our way round winding roads and little villages more and more elderly folk make their way onto the bus by flashing their special little passes. I notice there seems to be no end of wallets and purses for these things and I imagine what it would be like to own one. It’s almost like an i-phone. A status symbol of sorts.

The bus in getting increasingly noisy and full. Lot’s of chatter is going on yet it seems there is only one seat left, and that’s next to me. Maybe I haven’t smiled enough, or worse maybe I’ve been smiling too much! One man dithered so much I thought he was going to drop his Waitress bag-for-life. I’m guessing a bag-for-life doesn't need to last long if your 92.

At the next stop two people get on, both elderly and one who seems a little confused. Apart from the headphone girl, I’m the youngest on here. Do I give up my seat? It says on a little notice that I must. But I’m a transplant patients. Where is my sign? ‘On your second organ, please take a seat ahead of pregnant ladies’.

The confused lady sits next to me. I smile. She shifts a little over to her right. The other passenger stands and looks around for signs of sympathy. I turn my gaze away and look busy on my phone. I tap out a message to a friend ‘I’m on a pensioners magical mystery tour’. I consider a smiley emoji but decide this could be disrespectful to my standing passenger friend.

As I hear the swoosh of the text being sent I’m overcome with the shock of a thought that has only now entered my mind. I am a pensioner! These are my people! This is my life to be ever more trapped on a bus travelling with a variety of hats and tote bags. I sink into my seat.

Finally at our destination and the bus has barely pulled up when all the pensioners leap to their feet and fight to the front of the queue. Nimble and full of elbows and prods, the elderly can certainly move when they want to. I wait and try not to think of my pensioner status.

Once home I reflect and look out of my window.  Every day at about 10:30 two very old gentleman turn up in their car, get out with walking sticks in their hands and feed the cats. This seemed unusual at first, feeding the ducks is normal, but the cats? The cats seem to recognise their car and about half a dozen of them run after it as it pulls in.

As I thought about my fear of being a pensioner I began to wonder if it was sadder to be an old man spending his morning feeding cats or if it was more sad to be a middle-aged man watching them every day from his window.  

Have asked the old men for an apprenticeship and I’m going to buy a wallet for my bus pass. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: Man Flu

I’m ill. 

On seeking an appropriate amount of sympathy I am advised by friends that I have man flu. I protest. ‘There is no such thing as man flu’ I complain heartedly whilst coughing up a small amount of nothing. 

Even if there was such thing as man flu, surely I deserve more sympathy as a transplant patient? This isn’t just man flu after all, this is man flu on steroids. Literally in my case.

My close friend Jennifer is the first to show less than the required amount of sympathy whilst we make our way through a mid-week roast. Yet she too will succumb to this ‘man flu’, she too will need sympathy and support from her friends, yet she will only really suffer from ‘flu’, as Jennifer is of course a woman and not a man.

I will fight my illness like a man. I will stand up for men everywhere and show that we can fight this virus like the stoic, strong figures we are. I will be a role model for those boys emerging, blinking and terrified into manhood. I shout ‘I am a man!’ and then retreat to my bed as shouting seemed to make my chest hurt more.

First of all I need to check the symptoms of ‘man flu’ and then make sure I have all the equipment I need for such a battle.

‘Man flu’ as defined by wikipedia is of course just a common cold or the flu with exaggerated symptoms that causes the man to seek extra attention and care. In my case my ‘man flu’ is in fact a chest infection. I know this because my doctor stuck his stethoscope to my chest and tapped it a few times with his fingers.

I pop to the pharmacist and pick up some supplies. I get myself some antibiotics (as prescribed of course), some paracetamol with caffeine to keep me awake, some linctus because I like the taste and then some whisky from the supermarket next door.

This should be easy I think, despite my cough trying to pull my mind towards a negative place. I take a full load of antibiotics, pain killers, linctus and wash it down with a little whisky. This is the mans cure I decide. This is what men do! I haven’t even phoned my mum!

Feeling upbeat I read through some ‘man flu’ news to see if my display of courage is reaching men everywhere, and as I do I come across an interesting article. A survey of the British workforce in 1999 found that men took half the sick leave of women. No wonder we find it tough, what with our busy workloads. Despite my retirement status I take this as another moral victory against my unsympathising female friends.

A few days in and as yet there is no sign of improvement. I’m tired, I’m coughing all the time, I mean ALL the time and as yet I’ve not even had a cuddle.  Even the toughest of us need a cuddle from time to time. I bet even Bear Grylls gets a cuddle when he gets home I think to myself.

Feeling low I suffer a moment of weakness and post an ill selfie of myself on Facebook. Initial comments are full of the requisite sympathy with plenty of ‘hugs’ and kisses being sent electronically to sooth my furrowed brow.

Then it starts. ‘Don’t whine’ says one, ‘Pull yourself together man!’ says another with a helpful smiley emotion as though that will help. Worse follows though. Much worse. I’m sent a comment telling me to ‘man up!’ and it has been sent from a man, a comrade, someone who knows what our struggle is like. Hurt I retreat back to my whisky.

Sad I speak to Jennifer and to my surprise she is suffering more than I am. This is good news! Well maybe not for her but certainly for mankind. We have similar symptoms, similar coughing fits and she has even said she is so sick she wants her mother! Men 1 v Women 0.

As the week makes it way to a close we have been neck and neck in our suffering. Both of us in sick beds, both spreading little white bundles of snot across our respective homes and both of us having to pluck up the energy to do tasks that can’t be avoided. On the Sunday we both get ourselves out of sick beds and make our way for a brunch meeting with friends.

Along with myself and Jennifer are my friends Sarah, Andrea and Lisa and as we regale them with our woes they are quick to offer sympathy, but sympathy that only seems to go in Jennifer’s direction. ‘Oh you poor thing’ they say warmly, ‘how have you coped with being so poorly?’.

I cough. Nothing. I cough a little louder, yet it seems my symptoms are invisible compared to Jennifer’s. Typical. I bet this is why wars start. Men suffering unduly with their man flu whilst taking less time off sick and all the while being ignored. No wonder we get angry. I can feel myself ready to invade some little known South American island. 

Every time I mention how hard it’s been the sympathy goes back to Jennifer. I’m so annoyed I even forgot to mention the steroids I’d been on, or how I’d coughed so hard I made myself fart on every cough. Apparently to get sympathy you just need to ‘sniff’ and have red eyes from all that sneezing. 

It’s been a tough week and I head to for a little support. I find it in the reassuring wisdom of one Katherine Taylor who posted these words in the sites guestbook.

‘I am a woman and I believe in Manflu. I respect every man and know that men have a flu strain and women have a moaning strain. We each have our weaknesses and we should freely admit them. Bless the handsome male race.’

I imagine Katherine to be a beautiful, caring woman with big eyes and soft, warm arms. I would soon be better under her doting care. I dream for a minute and then I realise the sad truth. Katherine must actually be a man.

I cry.