On faltering, fatherhood and falsification

The last week or so has been very, very strange for me and it’s led to a lot of deep reflection on what Bird Therapy ‘is’ and what, if any, are my aims, as life progresses?

You see, the issue is that I’ve reached a bit of a crossroads. The book, which chronicles all I wanted to get across (and more, I think), has gone to it’s first edit. It was hard to let go of it and to not obssessively check and edit it myself, but after a few weeks, the dust settled. Well, it didn’t settle, it kicked up and created a bit of a cloud – no, not a cloud, but a void. A yawning chasm in my life, that had filled three years of spare time, a lot of my efforts and a hell of a lot of emotions.

Then our daughter was born.

IMG_5239

I wanted the book to be finished before she arrived and it was (give or take a few tweaks to the reference list). The void was full. Full of cuddles,  kisses and an immeasurable love, the likes of which, I never thought it would be possible to feel. I reeled from having to fill every void in my life with something – writing, reading, puzzle books, research, sorting things – to only wanting to spend time with her, to watch her, to adore her and to love her. I had been concerned that my mental health might swing uncontrollably in the other direction, lurching towards blackness and bitterness as my life transformed from preoccupation to parenthood; but nothing else mattered – only her, only us.

OK, so I didn’t go out birdwatching for seven weeks, but when I did, not only was time spent catching up with good friends, but there was also no urgency. It had dissipated. There was no desire to seek and find, no urgency to troop and trail, no, just a coveted contentedness in nothing but being.

Last Saturday, Chris Packham invited me to be a guest as part of his own talk at the Birdfair. It was the first time I’d attended and having been ‘off the grid’ with the summer holidays, it was a welcome return to professionalism and passion. Except, once I got there, I found that all of my senses were overwhelmed. Usually I have no issue at all with people, crowds and socialising; but I felt a bit like a lost child – confused and concerned – eyes-darting everywhere, head pounding.

I hid in the ‘green room’ where I sat waiting, my hands shaking and my brain becoming increasingly fraught with anxiety. Twice, I had to leave the side-stage area, with the second time producing a bitter, colourless bile, as I totally freaked out about going on stage. Thankfully the talk was well-received and the feedback has been positive. I don’t even know what I said, it was like a waking dream.

IMG_7145What happened after though was that I realised I didn’t fit in there. Cemented by a conversation with someone else there, who felt similarly to myself. Usually I try and fit in, joining in with ‘banter’ and conversations, trying to read people and situations, but not this time. I wanted to hide in a corner. Fuelled by anxious paranoia, I quickly met three of the ten or so people I’d arranged to meet and bailed to my car to drive home. A lot of rumination occurred during this drive, and then over the following days – and that’s how I arrived here, at this blog.

I don’t want to be notorious, I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want money (I have a career anyway), I want and need Bird Therapy to continue in this slow and organic way – speaking, sharing, writing and raising awareness and hope. It seems like lots of people were moved by my words and my story and that’s what I want to do, I just want to share it, help others and raise awareness of mental health. Chris gave me a huge platform to do this from and I’m so thankful. Yes, I subsequently had a needy and narcissistic wobble on social media, as my default self-loathing kicked in and I sought reassurance, but again people were positive and supportive. It’s now time for me to celebrate rather than ruminate.

Joe

4 thoughts on “On faltering, fatherhood and falsification

  1. Back in the early 70’s when I hit my teenage years, I had various issues with crowds of people ,rather walk than get a bus , classrooms filled me with dread. I used to skip school and go birdwatching. Helped me so much.Eventually learned to control my fears by being loud and forward , a nutter to most people. Birding and fishing weekends helped me through the week when working.Then family came along ,they became my focus and still are 30 yes later. Still go birding when work doesn’t get in the way.Keeps me going. Always thought about trying to get people to go birdng as a stress relief, now someone is actually doing it , fantastic.!!

    Like

  2. I think becoming a parent changes us so profoundly it cannot be described. I wonder if the anxiety and strong reaction you had was due to being separated from your daughter? You said that you had hardly left her side up to then. I remember a Health Visitor telling me that human babies are just about the most dependant of all mammals offspring and therefore, as parents, we have evolved to feel anxiety when we are away from them.

    Like

  3. Hi Joe, I think it is ok to stretch our heads out of our comfort zone, before hurrying back inside. I guess it is also like a rarely used muscle, we need to train regularly for it to feel at ease.

    Sharing that it feels uncomfortable is one part of that training regime (easy going as we can make it).

    This is your journey, your pace, with just a few adjustments and rerouting.

    Enjoy the cuddles.

    Alison

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s