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When did you stop being fearless? Can you remember?

I remember. I can pin it down to the exact moment.

I was eleven. I was on the Pirate Ship at Alton Towers, something which I’d loved being on since I was tall enough to be allowed on it. I’d go as far as to say it was my favourite of all the rides. (Unfortunately for my Dad, who was consequently subjected to a string of back-to-back trips on it…)

And then, out of nowhere, I hated it.

Everything was normal until the third swing, and then I started crying hotly. I thought I would be sick.

My Dad, sat next to me as usual, was oblivious to my abject terror. He just thought I was enjoying myself. Not that he could have done anything to stop my terror had he been aware of it…another frightening thing I learned that day.

My stomach swung up and down with the movement of the ship. I used to love that.

I gripped on the measly railing, miles away from my actual body, which I scrunched up like a contortionist, one knee up by my chin in an attempt to contain the lurching sensation inside me. No use.

I remember thinking I was going to fly right out of the seat, that colossal and hostile ship taking over what little control I had of my small body.

And the worse thing was it seemed to last forever. Well, at least MUCH longer than it had ever lasted before. Like the ship’s operator was in on it.

I haven’t been on a ride since.

pirate_ship1

Image courtesy of adventureland.us

It’s when we start thinking about stuff, isn’t it? That’s when the fear sets in. Too much thinking.

I went out on a boat, a real one, recently. It was a little boat, the kind where you are close to the water. The conditions were mildly choppy. I was totally fine as we lurched about a bit, enjoying it even – whooping and whee-ing with the toddlers, actually (I have no shame). But then the Pirate Ship popped into my head, as things do when you don’t want them to, and I instantly started to feel sick. A ghostly nausea.

When I think about it, and I do a lot, I’m scared on a regular basis.

Pretty much every day. An irrational fear, mostly, about things that aren’t even a reality. Just potential realities, looming darkly on the horizon.

And whilst I don’t think this fear ultimately stops me doing things, making decisions, progressing in life, it does make for a great deal of unnecessary stress. Stress I recognise I impress on to those around me, involuntarily.

But I just can’t help it. Fear is almost a reflex for me now. An element of my personality.

Never mind fairground rides. Its terrifying just being alive.

Wine helps. *She says, as she types this blog article, wine glass in hand after a hard day at work… But this obviously isn’t a wise life choice.

I can’t imagine what life must be like for those who are unfortunate enough to not possess as many of the coping skills as others do – as I seem to, despite it all. Daily life must be a genuine struggle.

There’s still hope though.

One of the reasons today was such a challenge at work was because we welcomed students, returning and new, for another academic year. Whoopee!

But it strikes me in this job, too regularly, just how damn resilient kids are. I know, you hear it said all time.

But really – kids, especially the older teens, are absolute fighters. After nearly ten years in this job I am increasingly aware that some (an alarmingly high number, it always seems) of our young people have to cope with horrors much more vast, complicated and intimate than a slightly nauseous experience at an amusement park could compare to. It sounds like a tired cliché, but I doubt most of the young people I’m thinking about have even been to a bloody theme park.

And long may they steer clear! Maybe then there’s hope, hope that they’ll hang on to the last shreds of bravery they have. Perhaps they will go on to be even stronger in their adult lives, leading the way for others. A good deal braver than I am.

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As far as I am concerned alcohol is, and always has been, very much needed to overcome (alright, numb) the Terror Of Life.

Wine o'clock_edited

I enjoy a drink. More than one at a time. And surely, that’s ok?

I don’t have any responsibilities – other than to myself, if you count that. Probably should.

I don’t have any children to fail at being a role model for.

As a consenting adult I feel confident, unashamed and guilt-free in my drinking choices…or do I?

I decided to download an app. Yes. The Change4Life Drinks Tracker app.

It all started with a wall chart at the hospital – hang on, reader! I was not in as a result of drinking. I was actually getting some wisdom teeth removed. All four of them. (Bloody HELL, reader – take care of your teeth!)

Anyway I was sat on a bed, naked from the waist up, being hooked up to an ECG machine – this takes forever. It’s like being seduced very slowly by an electronic octopus. In this awkward social situation I thought it safest to just stare at the wall. And there, on said wall, was an enormous alcohol unit chart. Really, it took up the whole wall.

Lovely little pictures, depicting all alcoholic beverages imaginable. Along with the units each little bugger came with. I decided to fill the time by attempting some maths. It was quite sobering.

Already feeling vulnerable – sat half-naked on a hospital bed about to be drilled and hammered – I became panicked by my apparent drinking disorder, and decided to behave like a responsible adult, take some action.

Hence, the app.

A couple of months in, I am finding that this app makes me feel incredibly guilty about the way I lead my day to day life, without actually inhibiting me from continuing drinking in any way…hmmm.

According to the stats and charts that this app has created for me, it turns out that yes – I am in fact a binge drinker.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not surprised. I haven’t been living in a bubble or anything. I know about units and I can sort-of count. But I do feel rather unjustly labelled.

Up to now I’ve been ignoring all the talk of binge drinking on the TV, because I don’t relate to it;
a) The coverage is almost entirely about young people and the binge drinking epidemic. I’m no longer a young person – supposedly, I’m now a ‘grown up’. Also, all this coverage is painfully predictable and over the top – can’t the reporters remember being young?
b) The general perception of binge drinkers doesn’t feel like me. I’m not one of those horrendous ladettes (can I still use that word?), crawling around shoe-less on Broad Street, with my pants round my ankles, falling into unmarked cabs. Surely this is all a mistake and the app has got it wrong…

I know I’m no angel. But it’s not like I’m going out partying like I did in my twenties. Hardly. More likely to be sitting in front of the TV, watching The Honourable Woman or such like, cradling a glass of wine to get through the tension.

Basically, it’s harder, harder than you may think, to drink less than 6 units when you go out (…or stay in). Especially if you’re a woman and have less units to work with.

It’s not like our contemporaries of the past didn’t drink – in fact, surely they drank more? It makes me wonder if there is, in fact, an epidemic. Or have social attitudes to drinking alcohol just changed so much now we’ve been brainwashed with all this unit-speak; something constructed by the Government to protect the NHS? Fair enough, but it hardly seems right that I’m made to feel guilty if I want to share a bottle of wine with my meal, and then have a cocktail afterwards.

Martini_edited

I’m being flippant, I know. It’s the 21-year-old in me lingering on and encouraging me to carry bad habits into my thirties. But now, thanks to this app, I am more educated. Whilst it all may be a bit nanny-state, understanding units has helped us to become more clued up about the facts of drinking alcohol, and take control of our health. And it all must have sunk in, struck a nerve with me – otherwise, I would never have downloaded this app in the first place. I must have grown up after all…

The reality – a fact I can’t hide behind with a glass of wine – is that excess alcohol raises the risk of developing more than 200 diseases. That really is quite frightening. And although you could argue that merely being alive increases the bloody risk, I’m going to persevere. One glass at a time.

I just need to learn how to transfer the charts and stats into real life, change my bad habits. Next time I’m watching tense TV, instead of reaching for the vino I think I’ll switch over to comedy, instead.

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