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  • Writer's pictureJamie McCarthy

They Are Ghosts – Let Them Pass Through You.

I woke at 4.20 again this morning. I thought it was the light coming through the curtains that was waking me and keeping me awake, but this morning, even with eye covers I still didn’t get back to sleep properly. It’s at this time of the morning that the demons really get to me … going over details of my past, sometimes big, but more often pretty small and insignificant, that obsess in my brain and infect my heart with fear. Often things from decades ago that I thought I’d worked through or managed to leave behind, but at 4.20am … no … they’re still very much alive.

My default setting since I was young, has been to blame myself for things, to feel anxiety and worry about ‘what I’ve done’. Things that no doubt, others have forgotten about or passed over years ago. At 4.20am, according to my anxiety-riddled brain and bruised heart, I’m pretty much a monstrous and failed person. When I finally get up (having had no more, or only fitful sleep), I feel exhausted with it. The first hours of the day are spent trying to let the anxiety drop from me – to embrace being awake and alive right now. To shake-off the self-blame and the self-denigration. Some days that’s fairly successful, others less so.

This stuff had very much lessened for me in recent years, but in the wake of my brother John’s death and the upsetting events that have unfolded since then, the 4.20 demons have returned in full-force.

I’m going to be sixty this year. I would have hoped that this exhausting way of being would have worked its way out of my system by this age, but when essential parts of your life get taken away or moved around, I guess the earliest forms of coping return, no matter how much ‘work’ you’ve done to move past them.

I think when I was growing-up I developed anxiety as a way of coping with things and took the responsibility for things ‘not being right’ as my own. My friends Jamie and Lindsay said of me when I was a teenager, that I’d worry about not having anything to worry about. Maybe worry was / is a way of trying to have some control over the uncontrollable, except of course, it really doesn’t work that way, it just makes me feel bad as well as having to deal with whatever has happened.

Logic doesn’t help much.

I had a dream years ago where a bunch of monsters with axes and torches were marching towards me to attack me. A voice in the dream said: ‘They’re ghosts. You just have to stand your ground and let them pass through you.’ In the dream that’s exactly what happened … I stood my ground and as they passed through me the monsters evaporated into the air.

That’s pretty much how it works in waking life too. It helps to recognise when things are ghosts and to remind myself just to stand my ground and let them pass through me, but it’s exhausting having to do it again and again, year after year, even when you thought you’d got those monsters licked. Having an awareness of what’s going on helps: years ago I would feel like there was no way out of this fear and anxiety, but experience has told me there is and gives me a bit of perspective and therefore patience … gives me the ability to stand my ground and let the phantoms pass through me, knowing they will eventually evaporate into the air, even if it doesn’t feel like it when they’re marching towards me.

3rd July 2023

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