Arguably the worst side-effect of Aropax was that it dimmed my imagination – maybe not an issue to many, but for me it was about the worst thing that could happen.
Prior to Aropax, I could sit down and write anything any time. I’d written previously through anxiety and depression. Now, I struggled. The thoughts flowed sluggishly. Once I got going, I was okay (but never as fluent as I once was), but it was like whatever doorway into my mind gave me access to my writing had mostly closed.
Years later, I read about ruminations, which is to reflect or brood negatively and to rehash a situation obsessively. Antidepressants knock this out. But ruminating is pivotal for a writer. A writer ruminates all the time. Ideas come and are explored from ruminating. Writers need to ruminate.
Something else I discovered was Aropax affected my coordination at an athletic level. My cousin Rob had always wanted to start an indoor cricket team, and the one time I went and had a practise session with him, I was unbalanced and uncoordinated. Same with the handful of times I played squash with my cousin Chris. My hand-eye coordination sucked. I moved like I was drunk. I mightn’t have been the most elegant athlete previously, but I’d always had great balance.
I also became puffy. My face blew out. In pictures, I didn’t recognise myself. I’d always been lean. There were years I’d try to put on weight through eating lots, but it’d never worked. Now, whilst I wasn’t fat, it was like somebody had over-inflated me.
On the positive side, the Aropax helped me get out and about – fortunate as my brother Lou was getting married early in the New Year. That was a goal for me. I had to be capable of going to his wedding, although I didn’t tell my family this. I couldn’t tell them how much the idea scared me. But I couldn’t let agoraphobia box me back into my back room – not after I’d spent so many years and so much energy to get back to an uneasy stalemate with it. I couldn’t be boxed back in.
I wouldn’t be.
One time, I jumped on a train to go to the football, and my chest tightened and breath shortened. I didn’t even consider going home. The Aropax could deal with it. That was the end of it. I went to the game and that was that, although the agoraphobia always challenged me, particularly when I had to go somewhere new.
As I went to the football again, I made new friends and would meet them at the pub beforehand for games. This was a huge leap for me. As a kid, I’d gone to the football with one of my brothers, or then with my cousin Roo and friends. Then it had been with my cousins. Now I was going alone to meet friends.
For most, this is everyday life.
For me, it was an achievement.
I woke up in the morning, caught a train into the city alone; then, I would socialise with my friends and drink. There were meant to be no interactions between Aropax and alcohol. Once, I even (hypothetically) posed to Dr Warren whether I could take my morning Aropax with a beer and he said (again, hypothetically) that would be fine. But I noticed when I did drink I was dulled quicker. Then, after about six beers, it’d hit and I couldn’t drink any more.
When I came home, sometimes I’d take Wolf for a walk, even though it might be 1.00 am. It just seemed like such a great idea, like such a normal idea. It wasn’t because I’d been drinking (or was drunk. I’d been drunk plenty of times in my life, but I rarely got stupid or did stupid things. I was just blasé.
Now, it became regular. A new version of me emerged: Mr Ambivalence. It wasn’t prevalent or character-changing, but some of the fears had been blunted, as had some of my perceptions and self-perceptions. And new impulses emerged. Impulses that simply said, Meh, good idea.
I no longer cared where I was in life. Sometimes I even thought – although I never knew how seriously – that I’d continue to try and make it as a writer while my parents were alive, but once they passed, if I hadn’t made it, I’d kill myself. That’s how easy it was going to be. Here one day, gone the next.
I kept chasing writing. Mike hired me to write another script. This time I worked in conjunction with the actor he wanted to star – somebody well-known throughout the 90s. The actor (who was extremely nice and eloquent and thoughtful – completely different to public’s perception of him as a meathead) loved the script. Mike hated it. I rewrote it. The actor loved it more. Mike said it was better, but had moved on to another project.
I wrote other screenplays, sent them out, and kept getting nibbles. I continued to write for my Collingwood website, garnering praise – including from journalists in the regular media. I also posted fiction, including a screenplay about Collingwood. An ex-pat who worked on a British soapy told me – on the strength of writing on my website – it was a crime if I wasn’t working on TV. I got regular praise from people via the net and, in my regular way, doubted its veracity.
It was the exclamation mark on a not quite right existence.