As football fans we await that first game of the new season in August full of hope, anticipation, dreams, wonderment. We’re keen to see how the first 90 minutes of what has been a long close season will unfold, eager to meet up with friends we haven’t seen for weeks. Hell we’re even looking forward to having that greasy substandard burger and overpriced dodgy tea, it’s all part of the match day experience after all. Football, for those of us that follow it and love our clubs with the passion that sees us part with vast sums of cash to actually go and watch the games live, is a unifying thing. These “rituals” are part & parcel of it all. Without it, in those long weeks of the close season, we are aimless creatures, just waiting for August to come around, for the madness to start again.
That’s how it is for the vast majority. That’s how it has been for me too in the past. Elements of it were there as yesterday approached, although clouded by the dog of anxiety, fear and nervousness induced from all those issues that are documented on these pages. Of course I was excited to see how we would play. We’re a Premiership club now, and we damn well deserve to be. We’ve made some astute & astounding signings during the summer and I’ve been chomping at the bit to see how they would perform up against Everton, the first team we were to face. I was also keen to see a few people too, people I’d not seen since the end of the season, albeit that I was already in a situation where anxiety was preventing me from fully engaging in a naturally social way. However, I’d done some baking and I really wanted to pass that on.
But the dog of anxiety. How is he driven? It comes from two strands, or rather, two illnesses. From an eating disorders perspective it’s all about self-consciousness. I am overly concerned with how I look, convinced that I am still huge, just as I was when I was over 24 stone. Logic tells me I’m not, the eating disorder voice tells me otherwise. I only need to see a shift of a single pound on the scales and it all goes off in my head. That there’s any kind of fluctuation is a mad thing given that I seldom eat anything of substance, often going days without anything at all. And yes, this has been a feature for a long time, and yes it has been just as bad, if not worse, during the time since I last blogged. Physically, again, this is taking its toll. Certain vitals are at low levels in my blood chemistry and injections & supplements have been prescribed. My left arm is totally useless, and tomorrow I go to hospital to start having tests to get to the root cause and to explore the way forward. Suspicions are osteoporosis, a common side effect of long term anorexia.
So how would that self-consciousness stop me seeing people? Apart from worrying about how I look it’s also worrying about how other people see me. There’s two ways I worry here. First, I worry that people think I’m fat. Totally illogical. Second, that I just look “odd.” Logical. Third, and this is the killer. I worry that people will tell me i’m “looking well.” This is the worst thing in the world for me to hear. It’s a tonic for most people, it’s what people like to hear. For someone with a mental health condition such as an eating disorder it’s one of the most inflammatory things. You mean well, I totally get that, and appreciate it completely. However, the eating disorder voice will play a game. “Looking well” means you’re putting weight on. “You’re having too much of a good thing.” “You can’t look well and be anorexic, the two don’t marry.” “If you’re looking well you’re getting better, people will think you’re ok.” These are examples of the bullshit of lies that an eating disorder voice will start telling you once those words leave your lips and enter my ears. And yes, I see it for what it is, lies. But that eating disorder voice, in my illness riddled brain, is convincing and I come to believe it. And so I get more ill, and I don’t look so well. I might not have even looked well in the first place, you might have been just trying to encourage me, being kind. Oh how I wish you’d said “how are you doing?” You’ll always get an honest answer, it might not always be the best, but it’ll be honest.
It’s why I back off on social media sometimes. It can happen on there. I’ll post a picture that includes me, someone will say I look good and BANG – a million alarms go off in my head. Alarms become explosions and the cavalcade of things that happen is uncontrollable. Self harm has slipped back into my “behaviours” and it’s not nice, I hate it. But it’s so hard to control it, as are all of these things. Were I able to control any of these things I wouldn’t be writing this now, I wouldn’t be so ill. And remember, I’m ill. Don’t lessen the legitimacy of mental illness. It really is real. By the way, I’ve made a pact with myself never to post pictures that include me again. It’s just safer.
The second strand is from borderline personality disorder, also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder. That second is probably more descriptive and apt in its name. It certainly describes me (and I had a little ironic chuckle as I typed that.) To try and describe what this is and how it affects me would take too long. I’ve had this for years, far too many years to think about. It’s better that I provide a link (for those who might be interested in reading more) and leave it there: Borderline Personality Disorder, MIND.
The thing is, these two illnesses just rub along together to make an impossible situation, and they are making life, and any enjoyment of it, unbearable. Even down to everyday living. For example, the arm issues; I’ve just had to trade in my manual VW Golf for an automatic VW Passat because the action of changing gear was unbearably painful. I loved my Golf. Don’t get me wrong, the new car is nice, but it’s things like that which remind me just how much life is being restricted by these issues. Today I was hoping to be at a festival I’m patron of. I thought about it for two minutes this morning. A minute later I was taking a laxative overdose so that, along with the anxiety, I ensured that I couldn’t.
By the time yesterday came around I had been so overwhelmed by my feelings that I had restricted my interaction to meeting one person, handing over the things I had baked for people (cashew salted caramel brownies & giant choc chip cookies) and then just getting into the ground for the game. I’d made a resolve to not bug out early to avoid crowds, I really wanted to try and tackle that one, but that was going to be the extent of what I felt I could manage. But no, it was never going to be. I couldn’t even face meeting that one person. The only people I was to see were the people I sit by. So I gave the majority of the stuff to my mum, took a couple of samples for the lads I sit by, cancelled meeting up with who I had planned to meet and set off. And why?
I know people are supportive, I know people want to help, and I am more than grateful to them for that, but I feel ashamed & guilty that I keep “putting on” people all the time because of how I am. It just makes me feel worse. I’m putting pressure on myself and making the match day harder than it should be for all, but mostly for me. It’s easy to take a smaller sample of things to Simon & Alan, I’m sitting by them. For now it’s better this way. Until I can stroll into a bar or pub before the game and hand over my bakes and be with my friends in person I’m not going to ask anyone to interrupt their match day fun. My problems, it’s up to me to live with them.
The sad thing was I saw so many of you. I can only think of this analogy. It’s like being at one end of the playground and seeing a large gathering of your pals at the other, all playing together. You want to go and join them, be with them, chat to them, have a laugh. But standing in the middle of the playground is the school bully, with his arms folded and a snarl on his face. You’re not getting past him, no way. Until I can get past him I’m not calling over one of my mates to lead me past Cyril Sneer, because I know that Cyril will kick the shit out of me later anyway. I need to be able to walk past him myself, or be able to deal with the kicking enough to give a sly dig back before I can do it.
I’m sorry if any of you saw me and thought I was being ignorant & didn’t come over. I wasn’t being, I was being merciful to the crap in my head. I was being ill. But I wanted to be with you all. Every part of me did.
The football though, that was great. We stood up to Everton. 2-2. Ruben Neves scored a worldie free kick right in front of me. That was worth the hell I went through even in that controlled way. Football. Wolves. Still has the power to give me the pinprick of light in my darkest of moments. I love them for that. I love you lot too. Please bear with me. One day I will shine a bit brighter. I can’t ever say how bright, but it will be better than this. I won’t ever be Premiership, but maybe I can get out of the National League some day.
Oh yeah, I made it til they held the board up for the 4 extra minutes. Meh. Almost.
Oh, and you might be missing out on the baked stuff at the moment, but you won’t for long. And anything that the guys I’m sitting by get to taste…you’ll get the recipe for it in due course. There’s a thing going on. Won’t say what just yet. All will come to pass in due course.
I’m sitting here writing this with a smile on my face (and tears filling my eyes if truth be told.) It’s not something that Wolves fans have been too used to over the years. We’ve had moments of it in the past couple of decades; the play off final in 2003, a return to the Premiership in 2009, storming League 1 in 2014. However, for each of those moments of success we’ve had to endure much pain & frustration as fans. It’s not easy being a Wolves supporter, it’s not like it was in the heady days of the 60’s when we were the glory boys who won FA Cups & League titles with regularity & were feared by all. No, we’re often talked of as “sleeping giants” or the club that “should be in the upper echelons” of football. We haven’t been. To be honest we’ve been frustrating. At times dire. We’ve been run badly, had some terrible managers and players who just haven’t had the heart (save for some noted exceptions. Arise Sir Bull.)
Not today, however. Not this season, not anymore. Today we are going back to the Premiership as a force with a proper structure behind us. Players with heart. A manager who is a colossus. Owners with the financial clout of Croesus. There’s not a Wolves fan on the planet that isn’t smiling. But there’s another reason for my smiles. Wolves have carried me this season. Quite frankly, and I say this having duly considered it, they have stopped me slipping to a place where I could quite easily not be here anymore. I believe Wolves as a club, Wolves as a team, Wolves as a family, staff, supporters & reporters…have kept me alive this season. It’s a bold statement to make I know, but I was heading toward a destiny that would have seen my end and I needed something to cling onto. It’s as if without knowing it, Wolves have gathered me up in their collective arms and done enough to keep me standing, keep me breathing, give me enough strength to keep going. I’m not just talking to whichever collective of 11 players were on the pitch at any given game, no, this goes much deeper. I’ll start at my decision to get my season ticket to highlight how deep this goes.
Spending money on myself is something I find hard. It’s difficult to say which of my mental illnesses causes me to not feel deserving, but it’s irrelevant, I just find it hard. I like to have money in the bank, I feel secure if my savings are increasing, I don’t feel worthy of having anything of any significant value. I certainly don’t feel worthy of indulging in things that bring me pleasure. If I do anything that brings me pleasure I feel guilty about it. That hasn’t changed, and each match I go to I feel guilty about. If you see that I’ve been to a gig or that I’ve had a good day for another reason, yes, I feel guilty about it. I hate the way my brain is wired but there you go, it is what it is.
So, as I realised that Wolves were building something amazing over the summer, in terms of the appointment of Nuno as our manager and the signings we were making, the thought in my head that I would really quite like to get a season ticket and go to as many home games as my body would let me was met with very stiff opposition. I went through the motions of finding out if I qualified for a disabled ticket and this is where I first found out just how helpful and supportive people at the club are. Both Dominic at the ticket office, and ticket office manager James were superb, supportive and went above & beyond to give me as much information as possible. I had all the information I needed but, of course, was getting all this resistance from the beasts in my mind. Yet the desire grew stronger.
Tim Spiers & Nathan Judah were reporting from the Austria tour for the Express & Star. Their Twitter updates were just feeding my desire more & more and I began interacting with them. I’m pretty sure I said to Tim about how much I wanted to go to games, how I wanted to get a season ticket. Their reporting of the matches and the excitement they were generating throughout the fanbase at what they were witnessing on that tour was incredible. There was a war going on inside me, it was actually making me lose sleep. How mad does that sound? All my mental illnesses were working against me. Anorexia and all the weakness it causes me, the part of me that stops me deserving anything nice yet still…
I wanted something to cling onto, something to look forward to even if it was just once a fortnight (sometimes a little more concentrated) and something that looked as though it was going to be exciting. Tim & Nathan were being so good to me. They must have stacks of people tweet them all the time but they engaged with me, even followed me back and I felt like I was being included in the “buzz” of it all. I was so grateful to them for that, that sense of inclusion is something that has often felt lacking in my life. It’s something that has been a feature of this season and has constantly felt overwhelming in the best way.
Obviously the part of me that’s actually “me” won. I bought that season ticket.
Simon 1 Mental health shit 0.
Going back to Tim & Nathan, their support has carried on throughout the whole season. Tim has checked in on me via Twitter on a number of occasions and that has meant so much to me (as it does with anyone). But this was someone that, until this season, had never met me before. Now I truly hold him in the highest regard, not only as a reporter & journalist, but as a friend. Nathan too has been a great support and in him too I’ve found a true pal. I love his wit and his quirky style. His injection of humour and positivity has been brilliant. When little elements of doubt, even amongst the most positive of us has crept in, Nathan has been there to give us all a journalistic slap across the chops. He’s a breath of fresh air. I can’t remember now why I first baked them some cakes but at some point I did, and have gone on to do it a few times – both cakes & pies – and it’s been a pleasure to do it each time. It gives me chance to meet up with them and have a chat too. They’re great lads and I’ll say it properly now. Thank you both, thank you for being accepting of me, for being supportive, for being you, and for being the pro’s you are. Personally I think you serve the club & the media outlet you work for in an exemplary way, but above all you’ve been a pair of rocks for me.
Then, of course, there are my fellow fans. I didn’t know any other fans that regularly go to matches before the start of this season. I got to know a few during pre season through Twitter and, as the season has gone on, have got to know a LOT more. A fair number of them have now become, again, great sources of support and encouragement. People to talk Wolves with, to support the team with but also, as I found out more and more, are there to listen when I really am struggling. For that I can’t even begin to put into words my gratitude. It took until very recently for me to feel brave enough to meet up with any of them, such is my social awkwardness & fear. However, I did it at last & I wish I had done it sooner. What an amazing bunch! There are still a few I haven’t met yet but I know they will be just as awesome as the ones I HAVE met. There are far too many to name them all, and I’m grateful for every single person, so there’s no exclusivity here. However, a massive thank you to Kate & Neil Wright, Mark, Michael Petalengro (whose advice about learning to laugh at the world is something I’m trying to remember when things are difficult), Sophia Goldsmith, Rikky Roth, Stacey, Simon Layton, Dan Southall, Gareth Jones, Simon Spragg (who I sit next to and took AGES to speak to), Alan, and all the others who my brain is running out of steam to think of right now who have been so awesome. Without you all I wouldn’t feel as I do – that I’m part of one monumental family, a family bonded from the centre circle of Molineux then radiates around the world & is united & there for one another in good & bad. It’s a family I take enormous pride of being a member of. I don’t say that lightly.
Of course there’s where the success of the season came from. The players, the management, coaches, physios & staff that keep it all ticking over. Last but not least, those that run the club. Fosun. People like Jeff Shi & the staff employed by them. Laurie Dalrymple & Kevin Thelwell. What Fosun are building is nothing short of mindblowing. Exciting doesn’t even come close. There are still those amongst the fanbase who refuse to believe and I get that. Our history with owners is going to have left its mark, that pessimism is ingrained into some. But I believe. I believe that we can be as big as force as any of your Manchester teams, any of those London clubs. We can be giants of Europe again, we can be feared. We can stand in our shiny 50,000 capacity stadium and sing til our lungs are on fire and be proud. I believe. And I’ll be there, health willing.
I can’t end this without paying tribute to one man whose inspiration has 100% been a driving force to not just me, but to so many people throughout this season. When Carl Ikeme’s news came through we were all stunned but we rallied behind him. I am sure he took heart from it and it has helped him fight. I take that parallel. It’s like, people have got behind him and he has fought, just as I know he would have without it, such is his character. From that and the encouragement of the Wolves “pack” I too have fought to keep going. Our illnesses are very different, Carl’s is easier to understand for people and I get that. Both are serious in different ways though and both take a lot of fight. Carl’s bravery is a source of massive inspiration to all. It really has spurred me on to keep going, even if it’s just the days when there’s a match on and my own illness is trying hard to keep me home. Carl, keep fighting, if anyone can win it’s you. There’s only one Carl Ikeme.
There’s been some defining moments, and for me they came at the end of the season. I wasn’t at either match, away games weren’t something I felt secure enough to face. Those games at ‘Boro and Cardiff typified everything that Wolves have been. Fight, courage, determination. Everything I have needed to stay alive myself, everything I have needed to battle. The fans passion carrying the team, the team fuelling the fans passion, and so the cycle flowed. To borrow the word the brilliant Southbank Resistance used: kwan. Never more fitting and never more relevant to describe what has kept me going. The Wolves kwan has kept me alive.
It’s not been an unblemished record. I have missed 4 or 5 games. The illness did win over those times, but Wolves, and when I say that now you’ll understand that I mean it in the context I’ve written, have carried me through. Thank you isn’t enough. This club isn’t just a club. What is it Nuno says? “The strength of the wolf is in the pack. Together we are stronger.” Oh how true that is. Am I in any way better? No, but I’m still here and I’ll continue to be, because I’m one of the pack.
Tomorrow we play Blues, and courtesy of tonight’s Fulham result we are already promoted, obviously. It’ll be a celebration regardless of the result, however I’m confident we’ll do well, such is the way of things this season. I’m staying in Wolverhampton overnight, I want to soak up the jubilation of all that we have to celebrate, all that Wolves & those of us that love and understand what it is to be part of it have to be thankful for. I really want to capture memories and savour the sights and people who have kept me going, kept me alive, by keeping me a proud part of this glorious pack.
Wolves Ay We.
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.
Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: Anorexia, Blog, Carl Ikeme, Connor Coady, Diogo Jota, Eating Disorder, Express & Star, Jeff Shi, Matt Doherty, Nathan Judah, Nuno Espirito Santo, Ruben Neves, Simon Rickards, Tim Spiers, Wily Boly, Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wolves