Some time ago I stumbled upon a bunch of illustrations by Toby Allen that instantly resonated with me. His quirky, sketchy characters almost seem to jump off their pages and I felt drawn to several of them.
Toby Allen is a talented artist who gave bodies, faces and limbs to mental disorders and set free a bunch of oddly cute characters into the ether. For me, before reaching the height of my own problems these little characters brought some comfort. There’s something about these monsters that I find relatable and logical. They seem to fit perfectly in their ‘roles’ as far as I’m concerned and you know what? Having an image, a physical appearance to give to my own disorder was one of those initial catalysts that ignited something in me and led me to a point where I could admit to myself I wasn’t managing my life quite as smoothly as I probably could have been. A small step forward is always a positive step, maybe not as grandiose as a leap (which actually would have been worse for me than doing nothing a few months ago) and still a huge progression on being stagnant.
Fast forward a few weeks and past some pretty big advances to a therapy session when Katy – the therapist – suggests I name my anxiety. Some of her other patients have named their problems and it can help distinguish between the usual thoughts and feelings and the less familiar ones. I thought about this. Alot actually. My anxiety leads me to literally over-think almost every situation I face, so… I worked through a pile of thoughts and concluded that it was 1) worth a try, 2) probably *not* going leave me living life with two separate personalities and 3) actually maybe not all that different from giving the monster a face. Content with my reasoning I set to spending a further couple of days trying to pick a name.
Katy had suggested ‘Bob’ when she mentioned the idea. Yeah… Bob. Now, I did consider this name for a few seconds because my Trev calls me ‘Bob’ as a pet name when I’m being forgetful (which happens to be all too often by the way!) but for that very same reason I couldn’t use it for my space invading invisible monster that had taken up residence enveloping my brain in its puffy, cottony padding that was threaded with explosive veins of electric charged tinsel. Because of that I allowed my thoughts to lead me onto the likes of ‘Fred’ and ‘Ginger’ plus a multitude of other names I didn’t think worked. I kind of got to a point where I felt that I was playing a fruitless game and started to fail to see any point to this task when it hit me! My anxiety is crotchety, mithering and grumpy not entirely unlike that well known TV character Victor. I hate the name Victor… But Meldrew, now that seemed to work.
Giving my anxiety a name alongside a body has believe it or not proven to be such a big relief for me. I spent alot of time over the next couple of weeks reiterating this new found being and giving it a life (as such) which was hard work at times I won’t deny it but was worth my effort because at some point along the way my head clogging cloud became a character on my shoulder. Now this might sound crazy (it has already been established I’m a little bit nuts after all and it shouldn’t come as too much surprise) but these days I now have this defiant character riding about on my shoulder (in my mind’s eye) like a pirates companion, muttering those familiar insecurities into my ear rather than completely engulfing my mind. It’s not fool proof, it takes effort to keep Meldrew there and not allow him to become that brain duvet once again and those mutterings aren’t always ignorable but small steps, right? *Wink*