Blue Ticks and Tears by Jon
Posted by SANE
23rd Aug 2017

I’m actually crying and tears are rolling down my cheeks.  It’s 5.45am in the morning and I have just returned to my 4 star hotel bedroom in Spain, following the second of three planned ‘nights’ out for my mate’s stag do. 

There could be a few reasons for my tears, but the truth is I can no longer hold in my heightened anxiety about being away in a different country and from my best friend Sophie.  Sophie is not only my best friend, but my wife.  Sophie is not only my wife, but my absolute rock and we have the most amazingly loving & caring relationship; a relationship that none of my mates can fathom, or could possibly understand how it could lead to the scene currently unfolding in Room 2104 on the 2nd floor.

It’s a bit unfair to state that my mates couldn’t possibly understand the scene.  With the exception of a tiny amount of knowledge from my best mate (note not best friend….see above), none of them know that I have been dealing with and for the best part overcoming; generalised anxiety & panic attacks, for over 30 years.

Luckily, my roommate - the groom to be - is still out with a few of the last men standing in the stag group.  I returned to the room, having decided that I had seen enough of my mate Jack Daniels for one night and am very tired.  I am very aware that my tiredness is a combination of the hour and how my body has been dealing with its heightened state, for almost exactly the 50 hours since I left my gorgeous best friend for the airport. 

To be fair, I’m approaching 50 years old and getting back from a ‘night’ out at breakfast time isn’t even something that I did in my teens or 20’s, so experiencing it for the first time in my late 40’s is admirable/high-five worthy/stupid/immature (delete as appropriate).

……In late 2016, my very good friend Max had used the setting of a pub in North London to ask me to be the best man at his wedding, on a date yet to be decided, the following year.  Lots of back slapping ensued and our other halves beamed with pleasure that the request had all gone to plan.  Within minutes of the Q&A, the topic turned to the ‘stag do’ and my heart skipped.  Skipping not at the thought of a rare trip away with the ‘lads’, but at the thought of at least 2 nights away from Sophie; with my palpitations being in fear, not in eager anticipation.

Try (under the radar) as I might over the following weeks, I couldn’t convince the stags that the stagoliday should be just 2 nights, nor that it should be in mainland Britain.  My remit was firmly to arrange a 3-night break in the sun, a maximum of 2 hours flying time away. 

July 2017 arrived and with all monies paid and an unexpected feeling of at least some excitement, I went to bed with Sophie early on a Wednesday, ready for a very early pick up by one of the stags on Thursday morning.  Sophie and I were definitely not looking forward to being apart for the following 4 days, but had summoned up what we thought would be plenty of coping strategies. 

Arrival at the airport was seamless, as was meeting up with 3 stags that were new to half of the group (always a tricky situation when you’re an ‘adult’) and so, one Ryanair flight later, we eventually found ourselves at the aforementioned hotel and duly checked in.

Roommates had already been decided weeks before, so we unpacked after a couple of early beers; my anxiety already heightened at being away from my normal, daily securities, but at this stage; manageable.

This completely changed as the hours passed and despite the intoxication caused by the typical ‘let’s get on it’ attitude of a stag party, I was not happy and missing Sophie and my ‘normal routine’ badly.

The first night turned in to the early hours of the following morning and drunk, I returned to the hotel on my own, to crash in to bed.  Aided by the volume of alcohol consumed, I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow and awoke four and a half hours later.  Sober and aware of my surroundings, I checked that Sophie had already been ‘active’ online and messaged her.  Although very aware of her response times the previous day (WhatsApp helpfully displays grey ticks for sent and blue ticks for read) and accepting the timing as perfect for the situation then, I watched those ticks transform colour as if I my life depended on the sight of blue, given my updated emotional scenario.  Sophie didn’t let me down (she never does) and almost immediately, WhatsApp helped me even more, with its display of ‘Sophie is typing’.  A few messages were swapped and I wrote that I would call Sophie once I was showered, dressed and out of the hotel.

With my anxiety levels increasing, I hurriedly did all three tasks and in 28-degree heat, I reluctantly headed for the local McDonalds (I never usually set foot in one in the UK, let alone abroad), to take advantage of a chilled bottle of agua and air conditioning.  I rang Sophie immediately I sat down and as usual, when historically needing the crutch of my best friend’s voice, my anxiety was back under control again.  We chatted about how much we missed each other and on the verge of tears, I explained how my emotional wellbeing was working out.  Sophie didn’t need to verbalise her own anxiety at me being away from her, it was in her voice.  Sophie though is an amazing lady and would not - and never has - put herself before the bigger picture.  Her task at this moment was to reassure – mostly me - but hearing my voice (albeit broken) was settling Sophie down slightly as well.

The rest of the day resulted in many WhatsApp messages back and forth and although regularly peaking, my anxiety was controllable; albeit reliant on seeing grey turn to blue.  I rang Sophie a couple more times and after each chat, we both felt slightly better.  Fast forward to the hotel room the next morning and to the first line of this memoir.

I have been suffering with anxiety for such a long time, that I am pretty much used to how I will react in given circumstances.  I will always look for an outlet of security and in Spain, this happened to be down to the software designers at WhatsApp.

What I still fail to appreciate fully is how many people feel the same.  I know that, statistically, another one of the stag party will have been struggling to cope in certain circumstances and I know that at least 65 rooms in our large hotel will, statistically speaking, have provided bed & board to people suffering from mental health issues.

However, in the moment, it’s your own wellbeing that matters most.  This doesn’t stop reflection about the emotional crisis and nor should it stop the story-telling.  So, if this recollection has helped just one person, then I’m happy.  If your own recollection of an event can help one more, then please start writing it now and submit it to some of the many platforms available, that allow us to continue to reduce the stigma of suffering from mental health issues and normalise what we and 1 in 6 of our fellow human beings feel on a regular basis.

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