Having almost totally recovered from the OCD, I launch my quest for Mr Right with a pearl G-string on my head and a frenzied foray into the world of feet

I almost totally recover from my 10 hour a day OCD checking rituals and launch my quest for love on Facebook wearing a pearl G-string and white Satin Basque from Myla in Notting Hill and draped over a porsche in Notting Hill

After the triumphant, OCD bashing, trip to Greece, my first trip abroad for over 6 years, I thought, I’m ready, I’m cured, I’m normal, I can meet Mr Right. I launched my search for love on Facebook posing in a white satin basque with a black pearl G-string as a hair band draped decorously over a Porsche. I asked any prospective suitors not to worry about sending me a picture of their face but instead to send me a clear shot of their feet. This was because, I said, I’m not bothered about faces but I lurve making lurve to feet.  I received several shots of feet, one fake, one covered in Neanderthal hair, one crammed into a (woman’s) shoe and lastly a centipede. If you think I’m going to go on a date based on such flimsy pickings, I later posted, you are wrong. You are violating my Podiatric Rights which are enshrined in the UN Charter on Chiropody. I then received more sensible shots of feet but I should point out that those who have more hair on their foot that their head are just not right for me.

I then received a very interesting proposal – a trip to a lesbian theatre co-operative from the son of a dead Global Celebrity. Obviously I love lesbians, my sexuality having been as slippery as two eels in a bath. Although I had not met him, my close friend Sarah, from Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous, had. She said he was highly intelligent and that I might fancy him. Also crucially, given that my relationship with the ex-armed robber had largely broken down because of our financial differences, that he had quite a lot of cash.  However when I examined his photograph I didn’t think I would fancy him. I rocked up to the date, obviously late, and recognised him straight away. But as he was rather short (having a short person complex I like tall men) I told him that he wasn’t really my type. But he was witty and very intelligent and generous so I agreed to go on another date. He had told me that he had been in Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous for 10 years but had left as he didn’t like 12 Step recovery. I thought this was fair enough as he was clean and wasn’t drinking so how he achieved it was up to him.  In Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous drinking is considered to be a relapse

I was horrified on the second date when he said that he was actually drinking and in fact wanted a drink. I went pale as it is a total head fuck spending time with an addict or alcoholic who is now drinking.  Either they are totally out of control or, more dangerously, are totally in control leading us non-drinking alcoholics to believe we might be able to drink. He also demolished, in a witty and entertaining way, every single precept on which 12 Step is based.  And he said half the people who had come into Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous in the 1980s were now socially drinking.  As my entire life, since I came into recovery at the beginning of 2005, has been based around 12 step this was a devastating blow.  No one in my life, even people outside 12 Step, had criticized 12 Step before.  This was a revolutionary assault on my consciousness.

The next day I started thinking that maybe everything they say in 12 Step about the alcoholic remaining powerless over alcohol was a lie. Maybe I should be drinking I said. I phoned up a squadron of people who were long term clean. They said they did know people from the fellowship who were socially drinking but that they wouldn’t want what they had. My neighbour Diane, a therapist, who has nothing to do with 12 Step, said I would be crazy to pick up alcohol as my life was going  brilliantly without it. There is also the fact that I’m on industrial quantities of psychiatric medication for my OCD which all says you must avoid alcohol. But everything I knew, everything I believed, had been rocked to its foundations. The general advice I got, especially from my therapist, was that I must not see son of dead Global Celebrity again or I could relapse.

He continued to bombard me with texts and invitations but, fearful of ending up in the place where I’d been ready to throw in my entire 10 year recovery and pick up a drink again, I was stalwart in my refusal.

I got hundreds of other proposals from men on Facebook, including being stalked by a 22 year old Indian body builder in Mumbai who phoned me 16 times a day. But I wasn’t interested in any of them and kept batting away their attempts to meet up with me or talk on the phone. Of course the one person I was actually interested in was not interested in me at all. I was back to the situation in Oxford when I was in lurve with someone who didn’t fancy me.

I haven’t spent a single Christmas with my family since I got clean at the beginning of 2005, a situation I hope will change as a result of the family therapy with my father. As I was trying to organise a Christmas lunch with my substitute family, my recovery friends, an exciting opportunity arose. No one wanted to attend the Christmas lunch in London. But I was invited by a friend in Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous to go down to Somerset, in the west of England, for a Recovery Christmas trip.  This would be the first time I had ever left my home unattended over Christmas so would be a major breakthrough in the OCD. Also, as I was sure everyone was single, it would be a singles holiday.

Of course, before agreeing to go on the holiday, I had to check the accommodation was suitable for the OCD.  I spoke to the manager of the Cheddar Gorge youth hostel who confirmed that, yes, there were locks on the inside of the bedroom doors and they did have a key. I obviously had to check out the situation with the windows as well, as they were on the ground floor, but was told that they could only open two inches. Sleeping on the ground floor (where you are obviously so much more exposed to marauding serial killers) would be another breakthrough. This trip was shaping up nicely. Another big step forwards would be that I would need to drive on a proper motorway for the first time to get there. After assessing that the accommodation was suitable and securing my place, I booked two motorway driving lessons with British School of Motoring. I also had to have two trauma therapy sessions with my EMDR therapist, Raquel Correia, to cope with the ground floor window and the fact that there was no ensuite bathroom. I was extremely worried that every time I went to the loo at night, as I would actually have to leave the room, that I might have to check the wardrobes and chest of drawers for miniature serial killers.

Of course, because of the OCD, I had to make a six page list of every toothpick, carrot and bottle of eyelash growing liquid I was going to take with me. Because of my paranoia over not sleeping, there is a large list of accoutrements I need to take with me, including cough medicine even if I don’t have a cough. These fantasy coughs can really keep you up at night. But amazingly, considering I had scanned at least 50,000 documents in my previous trips, I didn’t scan a single one before I left. I was utterly confident that the house would not burn down. My scanner reacted badly printing out plaintive automated messages saying “YOU DON’T NEED ME” at 4am in the morning. The manufacturer HP said it may need specialist counselling as its self-esteem may be “threatened” by my recovery from OCD.  I have given it Prozac instead.

All was set for the trip, I was doing a bit of blogging when I saw a missed call from my friend Susanna. I had half an eye on my blog, but thought I could speak to her for 5 minutes as she had been so good calming me down before the Greece trip. We had a terrible row as she said her mother’s kidneys were failing, which the doctors said was a kidney infection, but she thought was something more serious. I said she was catastrophizing. She said I was more interested in “my trip” (said in an angry voice dripping with sarcasm) than I was in her mother’s ill health. Because Susanna has known me since the age of 10, when she has a go at me I collapse and think I’m the worst person in the world. I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

The next day I was shattered and the girl I was driving down to Somerset, who had organised the trip, couldn’t go in the morning. I faced the prospect of driving alone on a motorway for the first time in the pitch dark and rain.  After even my wicked stepmother said I shouldn’t do it, I backed out and said I would drive down on Christmas Day on my own. But I gave her the turkey that I had bought, very organisedly a week early, for our Christmas meal.

The next day I woke up to find out that the turkey had gone off on the train and had to start a frantic hunt around Harlesden, a rather dodgy area, on Christmas Day for a turkey. Only Halal shops were open and as Muslims’ celebration of Christmas is limited, none of them had a turkey.

I sped down the motorway on my own, although it was raining and visibility was bad. Before this, I had been totally unable to travel around the UK by car as I couldn’t go on a motorway. Now I was free!

Although all the recovery people were so noisy I had to hide periodically in my room, (and ignore them while on my laptop), the trip was a great success.  Above all, I managed to go on holiday with people I barely knew and share cutlery and plates with them despite the absence of a Proton Particle Purifier (aka “dishwasher”) to kill the imaginary terminal illnesses they might pass on to me.

I recover sufficiently from my severe OCD to share cultery and plates with people in recovery I barely know at the Cheddar Gorge Youth Hostel in Somerset which did not have a dishwasher

I went to the doctor 15 times after I got back but was assured, after a battery of tests, that my broken toenail would re-grow.  I was diagnosed with Hypochondria Type B, which I fully suspect is a terminal disease.  Although everyone was single there was no one I really fancied on the trip. But I did have a major breakthrough in that I didn’t check the wardrobes for any serial killers, whether mini or maximum.

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This was the final stage in my recovery from OCD and I now felt conclusively ready to date. I was practically normal and could even date a man who didn’t have an en-suite bathroom. I had also, after 11 years of searching, finally given up my quest to find my perfect replacement mother. I would not find a replacement mother, in the fellowship or anywhere else. My therapist was very maternal and had re-parented me so successfully I was now practically ready to go to University. At the advanced mental age of 18 I was now ready to date.

But there was a fly in the ointment of my dating plans – my roof under my gorgeous roof terrace was as leaky as a thousand year old sieve and needed urgent attention. After initially refusing to do anything the company that had installed the roof had agreed to sort it out. But this was dependent on my lovely builder, removing all the plants and furniture from the roof terrace, taking up the decking and even taking off the railings as we needed to change the coping stones. All the cables for the lighting on the roof terrace and plant irrigation system would also have to go.

The last building project I’d done I had had a nervous breakdown and ended up in bed for 3 months. So I was understandably nervous about doing another one.

I do a building project at my house in Kensal Green which goes very smoothly despite my OCD although I do fear I will be sued because of OCD paranoia

As I had to move all the contents of my roof terrace onto the neighbour’s terrace, my new OCD anxiety was that the neighbour’s cat would trip over my plants and sue me. Being sued by trigger happy claimants, such as the cat or a neighbouring parrot, is a key fear of the OCD and has been behind some of my weirdest behaviour. But it was a sign of how much better I was that the building project went relatively smoothly with no upsurge in OCD.

I did end up in the Accident and Emergency department for 3 hours at 1 am in the morning, after I had a four hour dizzy spell where the room was spinning around and I was walking like someone who’d had 10 double vodkas for breakfast. My friend Sarah who took me was the only white British person there. White British people in London will soon feel as threatened with extinction as the Dodo, the most popular boys name in London is after all Mohammed.

My lovely builder swears he didn’t poison my tea. But after insisting that I hand select the position of each piece of decking on the roof terrace I now know the Bulgarian word for “you are a control freak.” He also threatened to walk off the job multiple times.  This was because I phoned him 15 times an hour. I responded to the builder’s threats to leave in an ultra-professional way: by chasing him down the street shouting, “I love you I can’t live without you please come back…”

The big news story in the UK, which I’m passionately interested in, is the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. I am strongly pro-European, believing many jobs as well as property prices and rentals on which my prosperity depends, are dependant on our membership of the Union. Ideologically I also believe we have far more in common with our social democratic European neighbours that we do with the United States. All these were the reasons I joined the “Britain Stronger in Europe” Campaign as a volunteer. The other reason was I thought there might be oodles of hot men working on the campaign.  I would combine my political beliefs with my quest for Mr Right.  This is an issue that affects all British people, living here or in the rest of the EU, and all Europeans living here. I am therefore not sure why all the phone calls I have received from the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign have come from Australians.

However my dating ambitions were almost derailed by a traumatic family therapy session with my father in which he confirmed, what I’ve always suspected, that he’s left me nothing in his will. Everything has been left to my stepmother.  This has huge emotional significance as I have felt completely supplanted and redundant since she came along, despised for being too short and having too big a head while she was adored. I brought up in a previous family therapy session my deep upset over the fact that my father has no pictures of me in his house only ones of her. This is despite the fact that I gave him a picture of myself when I was 18 which he hid away in a drawer.  She was the blonde supermodel I was the despised ugly duckling and this refusal to provide anything for me in his will just confirms my fears that I am not important to him. I have always equated money with love from my father as he hasn’t given me much. When I bought my first flat at the age of 22 I asked him for 5,000 pounds. He was living in a million pound house in Notting Hill but said he didn’t have any money to spare and that my mother should pay for everything. My father has a deep seated resentment against my mother, which he transfers onto me, that she secured a very generous divorce settlement by saying she was settling in the UK. Then promptly pissed off to Jamaica.

I was so devastated by the family therapy session that I couldn’t speak to my father, couldn’t even leave my house until I’d spoken to a friend in the fellowship who understood what it felt like being cut out. And I could hardly get up the next morning although I had the exciting news to announce that I had had over 10,000 hits on the blog. I had said to my father in the family therapy session that I wanted him to change his will and he had muttered something unclear.

When we reconvened for the next family therapy session two weeks later I said I had been devastated by not being in his will. He said he would do something about it and look to change his will. That and the fact that he started crying when he talked about my drug addiction, convinced me that he cared. I usually never touch my father and can’t stand it if he touches me but when we said goodbye in the tube station I felt moved to give him a hug. This was a massive improvement in our relationship, the family therapy was definitely bringing healing and reconciliation.

My Christening takes place at St Mary's Church in the Boltons, London SW10 which was round the corner from our house in Seymour Walk London SW10(2)

Now the building project was almost completed (with me only poisoned once) and my relationship with my father was better than at any time since I’d got clean I felt ready to double my efforts to find Mr Right.  With a flurry of flattering photographs (and having mysteriously lost 6 years in an invisible time machine) I launched myself on the online dating sites.

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Next week: I launch the ultimate dating challenge – 30 Days to Meet Mr Right…

 

 

I go abroad for the 1st time in 6 years and do the 1st piece of journalism in my entire 10 year recovery

 

I recover from my severe OCD enough to go abroad for the first time in 6 years. I go to Athens the capital of Greece to cover the Greek elections and the refugee crisis.

The first and most urgent task when I arrived at the Hotel Carolina in Athens was to work out how I could escape from my prison cell like room (guaranteed to repel attacks by the staff, aliens and serial killers) in the event of fire. This was the only room I could stay in because of my chronic OCD.  But my OCD fear of serial killers was having a punch up with my OCD fear of fire. I opened the window and studied the light well it gave onto, working out how I could use a drainpipe to clamber up the walls of the light well and then escape through the bars on the fourth floor. Quite what I would do once I was hanging off the building on the fourth floor I didn’t go into but presumably the fire brigade have ladders in Greece.  It was like when I was a child and had to not only plan but practise my escape routes from the serial killers in my mother’s house.  Once I had spent half an hour planning my fire exit (ignoring the fact that I could obviously walk out of the room into the corridor and amble down the stairs and out the front door) I slept very well.

As I got down to breakfast on the first day of my stay, I noticed an alarming sight. Among the rows of bread, cakes, cereal, there were no bananas at all. As I am unable to survive without a banana in the morning, I set out in the pleasant sun of Athens on a banana hunt.

In the rich central district of Plaka where the hotel was located people seemed blissfully unaware of the economic crisis in which Greece was threatened with bankruptcy and exit from the Euro. Considering that half the population of Athens drives around on motorbikes with no helmet, an economic crash is not the only one they’ve got to worry about. Athens has no skyscrapers, everything is medium rise. Lofty aspirations with architecture seem to have ended three thousand years ago. There are also unlovely air conditioning units protruding below every window like barnacles on a rock face. There was a lot of graffiti on everything which no had had the time (or money) to clear away. This gave the whole city a slightly run down feel. But because of the fabulous weather the vibe in Athens is extremely upbeat and positive.

The first few people I spoke to did not speak English so when I asked for a fruit shop their expressions were blank. When I then mimed peeling an imaginary banana and eating it in the street they looked at me in disbelief and muttered something in Greek, probably “you need a psychiatrist.”  Undeterred I found one who spoke English who directed me to a fruit shop.  In common with the UK the man selling the bananas at this corner shop seemed to be Pakistani.

After breakfast I rushed to an English speaking meeting of “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous” where I was welcomed with open arms by all the participants. My friend Toli had sponsored half of them, and had phoned them to tell them I was coming, so everyone was expecting me. The chair was absolutely brilliant (done by me). Nikos, a dark rather good looking man who worked in the shipping industry said scathingly about the elections, which were to take place the next day. “We have OCD with elections, people are fed up of elections it’s the 3rd election in a year, it’s not really going to change anything. Everyone knows they’re fucked.”

Later I went to a meeting of “Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous” on the other side of Athens where I got a totally different view of the economic crisis. “If you went to my neighbourhood, Kypselis,” said Marc a repatriated Greek and carpenter, “I see people begging on the street, digging through dustbins for food. People outside my office are always going through the trash can to eat.”

Ruth, an American married to a Greek, said Greeks had got used to incredibly harsh experiences. “My greengrocer’s mother at the age of 5 or 6 one of her first experiences was burying the bodies of woman and children killed by the Nazis. The Germans shot the men and put the women and children in a church and burnt it to the ground. The next generation had the coup d’etat. It’s always been a question of survival, dodging bullets here.”

The next day, at a polling station in the wealthy central district of Plaka where Cartier and Rolex shops abound, I approached a tall, very good looking, young man who I not only hoped would speak English but invite me out for a coffee after the interview. What came out of his mouth was much more of a surprise: I had found a UKIP supporter in Greece. UKIP, the right wing UK Independence party of course wants Britain to withdraw from the European Union.  If UKIP had a figurehead this attractive in England they’d be two seconds away from Downing Street. Although of course as the Greek God was an EU national they wouldn’t let him in. “I like Nigel Farage” the man, Yannis, the Chief Financial Officer of a company, said of the UKIP leader. “I agree with him about the fact that there is no democracy in Europe. No one in the European Commission has been elected. I don’t know why I vote. This election will only have a minor impact as everything is predetermined by the memorandum that the last government signed with the Eurozone creditors”.

The election had been called by the governing left wing SYRIZA party, headed by the gorgeous young Alexis Tsipras, which was seeking a new mandate having agreed to an austerity package with the EU that most Greeks had voted against. “The European Commission are like Nazis with ties,” chipped in Kostas a fifty something goldsmith. This echoes the belief by many Greeks that the bailout terms the government was forced to agree to, largely dictated by Berlin, amounted to a second invasion by Germany.

Everyone I spoke to at the polling station said the election would make little or no difference. But they all felt it was important to vote.. “The main reason for voting is to get rid of corruption,” said Dimitra a small dark haired pensioner, “If we can do that we have an economic future. Corruption needs two parties the companies from Germany, France, USA everywhere give the politicians money. The money from Europe didn’t go in the right place it went for cars, for luxury life, not for making something. It is very sad.”

Greeks are much more politically engaged than in the rest of Europe.  Thus in the UK with a population of 63 million there are 26 national newspapers, in Greece, which has only 11 million people there are a whopping 49. I noticed this difference in the various 12 step fellowships in Greece. After the meetings in the UK everyone discusses “recovery” issues. In Greece they discussed world politics such as the latest shenanigans of Donald Trump. As I was now so totally over my news blackout that I was a positive news junkie, I absolutely loved this and knew I would come back to Greece.

Unlike in the UK where the phenomenon of “shy Conservatives” meant that all the pollsters got the general election result completely wrong, in Greece everyone is only too happy to say who they’ve voted for. “I voted for SYRIZA” said Dimitra, the pensioner. I’m not sure they will do anything about corruption but the others I know won’t.”  A rather attractive election monitor, with an unpronounceable Greek name, said the old people used to turn out in their party’s colours to publicize who they were going to vote for. This has interesting parallels to Jamaica where voters turn up at polling station blazoned in their party’s colours.

Susan, a biologist from England who’s a nationalized Greek and married to a Greek, was also fired up about corruption. “It is all based on nepotism here. They put key people in all the positions there is a lack of meritocracy and an electorate that expects to be looked after and doesn’t want to work for it. It’s very frustrating for quality people who don’t get the positions they deserve. A lot of people go to study abroad and don’t come back. I’m sick of the nepotism of giving jobs to all these people who just sit there. You have a sick society.”

SYRIZA won the election, comfortably. But, weary as it was the third election in a year, the turnout at 56.6% was the lowest ever recorded in a Greek legislative election since the restoration of democracy in 1974. At a traditional Greek restaurant in Plaka, wailing Greek music was playing in the background. But what diners had to say about Greece would make uncomfortable reading for the government. “My reaction is that I can’t believe this is happening all over again,” said Nassos a dark forty something architect. “8 months ago the government took over on an anti-austerity ticket, they offered to take back power from the European Union and give it to the people. Then they went back on everything. But people still voted for them. This is a country with people with very low self-esteem or very low IQs, less than 60. I’m laughing.”

And he said it was the bloated public sector that voted for the government. “We are under the shadow of this public sector which is humongous. One million people sit in offices doing nothing they are deciding for us.”

Andreas, a teacher, said “the main reason people voted for Tsipras is we hope he will not make bad things to the poor Greeks. There are a lot of rich people who are not affected by the crisis. Their money is abroad, they live in Switzerland, pay no taxes. We hope there will be a change in this policy.”

After the hard work of covering the election, my first piece of journalism in my entire 10 years of recovery, I decided to do some sightseeing around Greece’s ancient archeological sites. On arriving at the Acropolis complex, my first sight was a very well preserved Roman amphitheatre. For some reason I couldn’t work out, every seat in the amphitheatre was occupied by a square box wrapped tightly in a dustbin bag. Whether this was some Cubist depiction of a crowd I wasn’t sure or whether the users of the amphitheatre had simply left their (rather large) packed lunches behind.

I complete my first piece of journalism in my entire 10 year recovery covering the Greek elections then go to the Acropolis complex sightseeing where I find a Roman amphitheatre

When I made my way up to the actual Parthenon Acropolis I was surprised to see the Greek government must have been doing a loft conversion as it was covered in scaffolding. I later realised this was a long delayed restoration project. The Athenian skyline is still dominated by the Acropolis which is fitting as, as far as the Glory of Greece was concerned, it was all downhill from there. I noticed on a Greek website on Athens that it referred to everything as the “4th or 5th Century”. In the rest of Europe this would be the 5th Century A.D. But here in Greece they meant the 5th Century BC when Greece was at its height. But it is humbling to think that the Athenians were constructing such a fabulous building, which has been recognised as the most important historical building in Europe, while in Britain people were painting themselves blue and living in huts. And Jamaica was populated by dodos who probably spent their whole time smoking marijuana.

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Athens, although not physically the most beautiful city in Europe, is a lovely place because of the constant blue skies, sun and friendliness of the people. I was asked out to dinner umpteen times by people in the fellowship. And I never got lost because of the mass of kiosk vendors selling things in the street who all had encyclopaedic knowledge of the local area and were only too happy to help a tourist.

As far as the OCD was concerned, I faced a major challenge when I had to move from the “blind” room which was guaranteed against attack by aliens and serial killers to a room with a balcony. The balcony, I realised, was too high up for even the craftiest serial killer to scale. But there was a terrible fault with the window in the bathroom: you couldn’t close it at all.  Although it was high up (and very small) this put me in grave and immediate danger of attack by miniature serial killers.  I tried to counteract this by attempting to use all 100 portable locks I had brought with me on the bathroom door. But because of the way it was constructed, none of them worked. This was a disaster: there was no way I could sleep in the room that night. I phoned up Marianna, from “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous,” in search of a hardware shop where I could get some wire to temporarily close the window.  Without questioning whether what I was doing was mad or not, she very kindly gave me precise directions to a hardware shop.  I bought enough wire to block off the border of an entire European country. Then wound it round the window to keep out the miniature serial killers.  After spending a bit of time with the Bible and Bunny, and talking to my friend Susanna and neighbour Diane on the phone,  I slept very well that night.

But I was horrified to wake up the following morning to an automated call from my burglar alarm company saying someone had broken into my house at 4am. Please God, no, I thought. If my house has been robbed on the first trip abroad I’ve made for 6 years, I’ll never leave England again. I phoned the burglar alarm company who were unable to tell me whether the police had been round. Then tried to call the police which was impossible from Greece. I knew my friend Vas got up at 5am, so phoned her desperately begging her to phone the police.  She did and the police said they’d been round 2 minutes after the alarm had gone off but hadn’t seen any signs of a break in. I couldn’t get hold of Diane, who had the key, but had to get someone into the house to check it was alright.

My father had had an operation the week before so I was reluctant to wake him but, with no other option, dialled him at 6am. He shot round to the house, getting the key from Diane, and I have to say saved the day. Not only did he confirm that there had been no break in, but met the technician from the burglar alarm company to sort out the fault that had caused the false alarm. I felt quite warm towards him.  I was able to continue with my mission to re-start my journalism career.

Some friendly Greeks helped me with the intricacies of the metro system which, very unusually, has no closed ticket barriers and seems to rely on people’s honesty to buy a ticket. As I got down to the platform of the metro a technicolour monster sped towards me. It was daubed with graffiti or street art and several of the windows were smashed. I had never seen a train like this before, I thought gingerly getting onto it. I wasn’t sure whether the transport authorities thought the graffiti enhanced the passenger experience of whether there was simply no money to get it off.

As I walked into Victorias square in the centre of Athens, a forest of multi-coloured refugee tents accosted my sight. Hundreds of men, women, tiny children and even new born babies were sleeping rough in the square. The conditions they were living in were squalid, at least five people to a tent, with no washing or toilet facilities.

A million refugees mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have entered Greece from Turkey in less than a year. The Greek government, facing bankruptcy, is unable to cope with the flood of refugeesAlmost all of them were from Afghanistan and were waiting for family to send them money to move on to Germany or Sweden.  “Too many people here are hungry,” said Saber Nazari, a tall pale youth with a cleft lip who wanted to leave Afghanistan so he could study, which he said was impossible under the Taliban. “Syria war, Afghanistan war you come here you need help. We want help from the government of Greece from the UN.  We are humans not animals.”  Far from giving help the Greek government reportedly threatened to fine people 100 Euros if they helped the refugees. But ignoring this, there has been a phenomenal response to the refugees on the Greek islands such as Cos and Lesbos, which have been engulfed by refugees, who the local people have fed and clothed.  There is a petition on Twitter to award the Greek islanders the Nobel Peace Prize for helping the refugees which I definitely support.

No aid workers were visible in Victorias square but there were a lot of Vodafone representatives in red t-shirts who must have been selling sim cards. I’d read that the refugees were using smart phones to communicate information about routes and blockages, to avoid the machinations of people smugglers. So maybe the SIM cards were as highly prized as more basic necessities such as food and water.

Saber’s friend E Azim said: “ we have been sleeping here for 10 nights. We are all sleeping in the tube station. 20 of us are sleeping down there. I left Afghanistan because it was dangerous for me, for my family, for everyone. Every day killing the persons, it is not possible to live.  Nobody wants to stay in Greece, people come here for 2 or 3 days then gone. People here are waiting for money. Here they don’t give us permission to stay. People have been here for 6 years and they have not the passport yet.”

But Layla Said Ahmad, who was in the camp with her three teenage sisters, said they had been there for months. “2 months ago we came from Kabul. Because of the war we can’t stay in Afghanistan. We lost everything, house, clothes, everything. We don’t have money so we stay here. We don’t want to stay here because there are no jobs here. We could not stay in Turkey either.”

Fatima was a teacher of Farsi literature in Afghanistan but: “here I am jobless. We have four sisters my mother my brother six persons in a tent. We don’t have money to go anywhere we are waiting for money.”

I was shocked by the conditions these refugees were living in. But Greece, facing bankruptcy and one of the worst economic crises in its history, clearly does not have the resources to deal with the almost a million refugees that have poured onto its shores. Although the refrain of many Greeks was that there were “too many Syrians” in Greece, in Athens, unlike the Greek islands, hijabs were few and far between and the population was very homogenous and mainly white.

I said a fond farewell to Maria, the afternoon receptionist at the Hotel Carolina, who’d been incredibly understanding about the OCD. I took the wire off the bathroom window, obviously because some one in the hotel could cut their hands and sue me. I kept the wire thinking I may need it in future to protect me on my next holiday. But I’d had a major breakthrough during the holiday – I had stopped searching in the wardrobe at night for any serial killers, whether maxi or miniature.

I overcome my severe OCD to take my first trip abroad for over 6 years. I stay at the Hotel Carolina in Athens where they are very understanding about the OCD.

At Athens airport, unlike Heathrow, there are no Chanel or Gucci stores. The most expensive shop was diffusion range Emporio Armani. But, like iron filings to a magnet, a shopping representative attached herself to me offering to show me round. But my shopping days are over so I declined her seductive advances.

The security at Athens airport was cursory in comparison to the forensic investigation of every pair of knickers at Heathrow. But I was now a seasoned traveller, after my one trip, and didn’t have anything over 100ml. The explosives on my luggage had disappeared, evaporated in the Athenian sun. I had achieved my goal, my first voyage abroad for over 6 years, and it had been a fabulous trip, enhancing my independence and recovery. I was itching to travel again.

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Next week: my life changing recovery from 25 years of depression.

 

 

My life changing recovery from OCD part 2 – I leave London and the UK for the first time in 6 years.

 

I recover further from my chronic OCD and leave London overnight for the first time in 6 years and reduce the OCD checking from 10 hours a day to a few minutes.

Having had the wildly successful trip to my rental property, where I’d left my home overnight for the first time in 5 years, it was now time for a bigger challenge to my OCD. I was going to go away, not just round the corner, but outside London for the weekend. My new sponsor in Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous, Ellie, had said she would travel with me on all these OCD busting trips. We had developed a very close relationship since I met her at the Slaa convention in November 2014.  I decided on Oxford as, having lived there for 3 years, it was incredibly familiar and safe for me. After spending a week phoning up all the hotels to find one where the bedrooms were like Fort Knox, and crucially where there was a lock on the inside of the door and neither the staff nor aliens could get in at night, I finally found a hotel. We booked in advance and I then had to get my house ready for the trip. After scanning and emailing all 20,000 documents in my house (in case an armed robber partial to eating paper broke in)  and photographing everything that was worth more than £5, I sorted out all my receipts and paperwork.

The crucial thing about this trip was that, unlike the visit to my rental property, I was not going to spend over three hours checking the house. For a start I wasn’t going to unplug anything, and I was aiming to do the checking in 10 minutes. With sessions from my trauma therapist Raquel Correia and the support of Ellie I managed to do this. I was so unconcerned about the house I didn’t even phone my neighbour Diane once in the three days we were away. We had a wonderful trip, shown around Oxford by my new friend Alasdair Clayre. I fell in love with the town again and resolved to be back. When I got back to my house everything was fine and I thought yes I can do it.

I became even closer to Ellie, telling her all my deepest, darkest, secrets in preparation for doing Step 8. This was writing a list of people you had harmed but the person I had harmed most was myself. I was terribly ashamed of some of the things I’d done to myself and hadn’t even told them to Sarah, my close friend from “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous”. Ellie seemed like the perfect sponsor. Not only did she love the fact that I’d been to Oxford and worked for the BBC but she offered to do things no sponsor I had had would ever do. Thus when I wanted to go into family therapy with my father she said that, if he wasn’t willing to come to London, she would drive me to his house in Sussex for the therapy. And she said she’d come with me to Jamaica to confront my family about the unpaid loans. She also wanted to pay for everything, fuelling my mummy complex. I thought she was amazing and that I had finally found my perfect replacement mother in the fellowship.

As I had dealt with the PTSD through the trauma therapy, I was no longer terrified to watch the news or thinking terrorist groups were coming to get me. I immersed myself in the news, desperate to catch up with all I’d missed. I found out that the world’s newest country South Sudan, whose first president had been my guerrilla “boyfriend” John Garang, had been immersed in civil war since the end of 2013. The fragile alliance of rebel groups had exploded along ethnic lines. The rebel groups in Southern Sudan had always had more splinters than a logging factory.

Nearer to home, the next big event was the UK General election of May 2015 which was widely predicted to be a hung parliament. I was extremely concerned about Labour getting in, as they were proposing rent controls on private landlords and a raft of other unfriendly measures. Before the elections, I noticed a certain scaliness developing on my stomach and saw the beginnings of a tail. I went to my doctor to find out what on earth was going on. The diagnosis was alarming: I was turning into a Tory.  The prognosis was grim, many of those who contracted the disease never recovered for the rest of their lives. It tended to attack the Middle aged, like early onset Alzheimer’s.  The only treatment was extensive reading of the lefty Guardian newspaper, but Tories, like others with serious mental health problems, didn’t want to take their medication and preferred to read the Daily Telegraph.  When the Conservatives got in with a majority, I spent five minutes in silence clapping.  What on earth had happened to my socialist views when I was young? The answer was that my house in Notting Hill was now worth too much.

After the election, I sent the novel to an agent in Oxford who called me seconds after reading the first 30 pages saying I was “very talented” and wanting to meet me straight away. I sent him the rest of the novel, which he didn’t like as much. But after I emailed him the blog which he said had “enormous potential” we met at BAFTA in May. I meet Peter Buckman from the Ampersand Agency in Oxford which represents several best selling authors including Vikas Swarup author of

I had only just put the first post online and had got amazing feedback. He said he would be interested in representing me if I’d written substantially more.

I was desperate to do family therapy with my father, thinking that if he apologised for all the hurtful things he’d said, it would bring healing and reconciliation. He agreed to do the therapy straight away, which filled me with hope. But when it actually came to booking the appointment It was as hard to pin my father down as a particularly slippery eel that knew it was going to be made into a pie. We had the first session in which I confronted him with all the horrible things he’d said. Although he cried and apologized this was somewhat diminuished by the fact that he couldn’t remember saying any of them. These comments that had almost wrecked my life were just throwaway remarks to him. Still the fact that he’d agreed to the family therapy at all had gone some way to improving our relationship.

I was touched by the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in July 2015. I watched the moving ceremony as the US embassy in Havana, closed in 1961 during the Cold War, was re-opened with the same four marines who had taken down the flag putting it back up. The US trade embargo on Cuba remained although Barak Obama was trying to lift it. I hoped for the sake of the struggling Cubans that he would succeed.

As my connection with Ellie deepened, we decided we would go one step further in my battle with OCD. She would accompany me abroad on my first trip out of England for 6 years. We decided on a writing retreat in Greece. She said she was very keen to go on a comedy writing workshop on the island of Skyros. I phoned to find out details about the accommodation but found they were totally unsympathetic to the OCD. I thought I would just about be able to manage the holiday if I went with Ellie.

But at the last minute she pulled out, saying she was “busy” and the “timing didn’t suit” her.  I was terribly upset, as I had thought she would be my perfect travelling companion accompanying me on all my trips. I then asked her if she could at least take me to the airport, to show me a bit of support. She said “no I’ve got other plans.” After treating me like a daughter, I expected her to behave like a mother and put my interests in front of her own.  But her reaction to my questioning why she couldn’t come was devastating. She refused to speak to me on the phone, instead sending me an email that she was dumping me as a sponsee. When I emailed her back, saying I was distraught as she was one of the most important people in my life, she refused to respond to my email or telephone me.  I had been dumped by my perfect mother again. I was so upset I could hardly speak.

My friends rallied round, saying I could not let her rejection stop me from going to Greece. I couldn’t go alone to the writers’ retreat on Skyros as there was no mobile phone signal so I wouldn’t be able to call anyone. I messaged a Greek man, Toli, who I knew from “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous” and asked him if there were English speaking meetings in Athens.  The Greek elections were coming up, I could do my first piece of journalism in 10 years of recovery by covering the elections and the refugee crisis. I’d been shocked by the pictures of almost a million refugees and migrants arriving in the European Union and wanted to find out more. Not only did Toli say there were meetings, but gave me the numbers of many people in the fellowship to call, as well as recommending a hotel, the Hotel Carolina. I decided the name was felicitous and determined that I would stay there.

The afternoon receptionist at the Hotel Carolina, Maria, was incredibly understanding about the OCD. So when I kept checking with her that the lock on the inside of the doors meant the staff couldn’t get in she kept reassuring me that I would be fine. I also couldn’t have a room with a balcony, as agile serial killers could, obviously, put a ladder up to the tenth floor. So I had to have the worst room in the hotel, a “blind” room that had no balcony or view.  She kept assuring me on the phone that no one could get into the room.

The preparation for the trip was extensive. Firstly I had to get someone to take me to the airport as I needed some support for the trip. Sarah, who I was now becoming very close to again, said she would take me. As she had accompanied me on my last trip abroad in 2009, I thought her presence would calm me down.  Then I had to catch up with my scanning, scanning and emailing everything I had accumulated since the Oxford trip.

My friend Susanna had given me the idea of taking portable locks with me, in case the lock on the inside of the hotel bedroom door wasn’t like a bank vault.  I ordered 100 portable locks on Amazon at vast expense, some of which claimed they would even work on igloos. When this was all done I booked the hotel and the flight.

The morning I was supposed to go I had a horrible thought – how would I get out of the “blind” room in the event of fire. My OCD fear of marauding serial killers getting in was conflicting with my (equally strong) OCD fear of fire. I phoned the hotel and was told that no I couldn’t get out in the event of a fire. I panicked, wanting to pull out of the trip, phoning Susanna and my therapist, who finally calmed me down and persuaded me to go.

Sarah drove me to the airport and took umpteen pictures of me to put on Facebook when I came back.  I then went through to Security. As I had not travelled for 6 years, I had missed all the earth shattering developments in airport security, such as the fact that you could only take lotions and creams of 100ml.  My cosmetics, at 125ml, were clearly a terrorist threat.  Quite how the extra 25ml could have blown up a plane is still a mystery. The security staff took childish glee in removing almost all of my cosmetics from my bag.  If the Security Staff had nothing to confiscate their lives would be exceedingly boring. They then announced that the suitcase had tested positive, not for cocaine as I’d feared, but surprisingly for explosives.  Although I’d had a lot of imaginary terrorists in my house, I wasn’t aware of any real ones unless my Polish cleaner had been moonlighting for Al-Queda. After a painfully long pause, a high up security bod came over to test my suitcase to confirm it wasn’t made of semtex. I looked at my watch: I had two minutes to clear security or I would be thrown off the flight. These unknown terrorist connections were very inconvenient. Eventually they let me go.  I hurled myself at the departure gate. Luckily I made it.

I take off on my flight to Athens from Heathrow airport having recovered from my OCD enough to go abroad for the first time in 6 years

I was terrified on the plane and was practically sick as, apart from my fear of leaving the country, I was also, as always, worried that the plane would crash.  I was much more frightened than I had been when I went into a war zone in Sudan in 1996, when I had no regard for my life.  But I had three magic weapons in my hand luggage that calmed me down: Bunny, my falling apart toy that I’d had since I was born, the Bible and all my 100 portable locks. It was obvious that I might need them on the plane.

As the plane took off I thought, this is one of the biggest things I have ever done in my life. Not only was I going abroad for the first time in 6 years but travelling alone for the first time in my entire 10 year recovery.   After years of therapy, I had finally grown up.

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Next week: loft conversions on the Acropolis and hunting bananas in Athens as I do my first piece of journalism for my entire 10 years of recovery.