Writer's block is quite frustrating, particularly when you've committed to writing a blog every day. I'm lucky in a way, as this is the first day since starting this project that I have been left completely stumped as to what to write. A few things have popped into my mind, such as Arsenal winning the FA Cup for the second successive year, and the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. However, I've covered both of these points in previous entries.
Therefore, I've decided to write this piece to link my passion for Arsenal to my daily struggle with my mental health. This is also something that I have discussed previously, but I feel it is a topic that is important enough to re-trace those steps. I am going through a really difficult spell currently, with my various mental health ailments creating a volatile cocktail. Bipolar Disorder; ASD; OCD; and a Anxiety Disorder; they are severe enough disorders in isolations, let alone when they are merging together as one beast.
I need to emphasise that I am not writing this to obtain sympathy. I don't even mind if anyone reads my musings. But I do hope that by writing my struggles down, it may provide me with some respite. If this helps others in the process, then that is of course a significant bonus.
I have mentioned before that my relationship with football, particularly Arsenal, is one of my major coping strategies. It allows me to feel slightly at ease and for lack of a better term, more normal. Social interactions are of course a major struggle when it comes to autism. Over the years, I have become quite good at appearing calm in these scenarios, whereas the reality is that they often cause me crippling anxiety internally. Football has been my way of controlling and educating myself in this. Football is the only subject that I feel comfortable in. I know, whoever I speak to, I can more than hold my own in a conversation about this, which is why Arsenal has become my safe space.
Trips to Emirates Stadium are not always about watching Arsenal. They are an opportunity for me to relax, for me to have 90 minutes where my only anxiety is whether Arsenal will win or not. That may sound contradictory to the first sentence of this paragraph, but dealing with one worry is significantly more relaxing than the cobweb of anguish that I usually have to manage. I meet friends, I talk to the fellow season ticket holders in my block, I eat fast food and I watch football. Solace.
I am in the process of having my medication changed. This involves gradually reducing my current mood-stabilising medication over the next few weeks, before experimenting with a different medication. The only way to describe my current mood would be erratic. One minute I can be fairly calm, and at least on the surface, appear content. The next minute, I am agitated, angry, upset and incredibly difficult to be around. Sadly, my fiancée, Laura, Mum, Dad and brother, Chris, are the people who are impacted by this most regularly. To all of them, I cannot apologise enough for how difficult I can be, but I love all of you more than I can ever explain.
The return of football on TV has been a welcome distraction. Currently, there are at least three or four games for me to watch throughout each day. Half the time, I'm not even enjoying the sub-standard intensity and lack of atmosphere that is on display due to COVID-19, but it is something to keep me distracted. I miss normality though; I miss the structure of going to work and basing all of my social life around football. Structure is vital for me, and sadly is seems it will be a while yet before any semblance of normality returns.
Arsenal are one of the few constants in my life. They are always there; I can always watch videos of past glories; I can always share my opinions on twitter; and I can always talk about the club for hours on end to anyone who is willing to listen. I love this club, and they have saved me on more occasions than I care to admit.
I will get through this. I will beat this. I will win.