As I advance into my fifth decade, I know now part of getting old is realising and accepting that certain things will never happen to me. I know now that I will never have dozens of friends, or be the life and soul of the party. I'll never be highly-paid journalist with a bulging contacts book and I'll never be suave, socially sought-after man about town. No, my various disorders and conditions have put paid to that. I know now there are many things I'll never be capable of.
Such things as anxiety, depression and Asperger's are not really disabling in the sense they absolutely preclude doing anything. But they do make things harder than they otherwise would be, and since they're "invisible", they rarely get you much sympathy unless they become completely and absolutely obvious.
Due to this, my pubgoing abilities are more limited that they otherwise would be. I wouldn't be able to go to the Moorbrook on a day that North End are playing at home (I tell people that it'd take too long to get served, but really it's too crowded). During a recent Meet The Brewer there, I had to leave when it proved more busy than expected (actually, I was found by someone hyperventilating against a wire fence, but never mind). Had I been around during the "glory days" of the pub in the 1970s that Mudgie goes on about, I would probably have never gone to the pub at all.
This came up when people asked if I was going to IndyMan this year. Quite apart from all the piss-taking I've doled out to the event over the last year, my previous experience of it was somewhat less than wonderful for me. It's a long way to go and a lot of money to spend just to feel anxious in a public place. I did look at all the photos on Twitter showing people having fun and felt a bit sad, but I knew that it wouldn't be the same to me.
I'm lucky in that my days off coincide with the quieter parts of the week. There are less people to deal with, and less chance of my fumbling attempts at social interaction going badly wrong, which it frequently has. Again, not really my fault, but try explaining that to those who know nothing about it. So generally now, I sit on my own. With electronic diversions, it's far less tedious than it used to be.
By this point, I'm sure you're wondering "Then why does he go out at all?". Fairly easy to answer. If you have recurrent mental health problems, being stuck in the middle of the same walls, seeing the same things and listening to the same sounds over and over and over again, well, it does your head in, basically, If you stay in your house too long, it's well documented that mood gradually lowers and you become isolated and less able to function in the world when it confronts you.
|Oh dear. Not my best night|
This "social muscle" needs to be exercised, but I have to be careful not to strain it. My followers on Twitter have probably observed this, If I've overloaded my capacity for human interaction for that week, I generally have a meltdown and curse the existence of everything. It's then I declare a "people free day" and stay in.
It's a fine balance, and I frequently fall off. Despite everything, I'm only human. I get it wrong often, but I'm finding self-management easier than I did 20 years ago. I can understand why people consider me a bit peculiar because I don't act in "expected" ways, but I generally find ways to defuse or avoid any difficulties. Occasionally, I've got into real trouble (such as here), but probably no more than any other pubgoer, even if the reasons are different.
So, if you ever happen to be in Preston (or unlikelier places for me) and I'm on own in a corner in a pub with my tablet and a pint, I'm not setting out deliberately to ignore you, disconcert you or offend you. I'm just doing what I can cope with at that moment.
And if you think any difference, then I'm sorry. For you, mainly.