‘Avatar’ – A Walk in the Forest

A break in tradition this week. I will be talking about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD.

I found a new place to walk last weekend. On many weekends I like to take my car and drive out of London to somewhere peaceful. I grew up in deepest Buckinghamshire, and while it is an insular community, I do very much miss the stunning countryside. Chalk soil leads to a wonderful variety of woodland: beech, oak, sycamore, giant and very ancient cherry trees and hawthorn trees as high as a house. Yes, my favourite woodland is very ancient and will remain a secret for now.

However, I am not yet rich, so Bucks is too far to go regularly. Consequently I usually explore closer to North London. In the last ten years, in my little car, I have discovered villages with beautiful streams and lovely quiet woodland walks where the solitary can find solace. I have had two favourite spots during this time, but I was getting a little jaded.

At last I have found somewhere new! Furthermore, it’s the best spot yet. It has an isolated lake and woods opposite to die for, complete with a few bluebells, though not as many as the Bucks woods; they need chalky soil. I can walk for hours under leafy bowers and not meet a soul. Oh okay, well I did get bitten by a few mossies, so there are souls there. But they are modest souls and only interested in making a modest living. I can share my woods with them. No doubt, eventually, I will encounter some grumpy farmer or landowner who will ask tetchily if I am. “Enjoying their woods,” and urge me to, “Stick to the paths and don’t cause any damage.” But for now I am happy in my little paradise.”

“So what’s this all got to do with OCD?” I hear you asking. Some of you will know that I have suffered from OCD for many years. It’s hard to pin down when it started, but it may well have been when I stopped busking and had just completed recording my second LP (Does anybody remember those?) in about 1993. It was the middle of a recession, and I was sharing a house in Islington with squatters who were fond of guns. It was a very stressful time: I was rescued by the Council and the Metropolitan Police. Perhaps this had something to do with the onset of OCD. I don’t know. It crept into my life slowly, insidiously, although I kept telling myself I was just ‘very clean’ and ‘wanting order in my life.’ It was only in the last 5 years that it started to become what I would call debilitating. True, it interfered with my socialising quite a lot and inhibited me at work, but I am fairly solitary anyway so these seemed of little consequence.

In fact, in some ways, it has even been a boon. Several people have commented that they think it explains how I have been so well-organised which has led to me achieving quite a lot in a short time. There is some truth in this. My attention to detail and ability to focus and concentrate is pretty good.

When you see a loved one wrestling with your OCD, it really hurts, and hurts badly. I feel guilty and responsible. I want to just kill it there and then: to say that I don’t have it any more or sometimes to blame it and say, “It’s just the OCD. It’s not me!” But it’s not as simple as that when it’s somebody you really love and respect. You cannot lie to yourself. You cannot easily get out of the reality that it is getting others down. Sometimes I even think about saying that they should go, because I don’t want to hurt them. The last thing I want is to damage their lives or to induce any kind of neurosis in them. Thank god that so far, my close friends and loved ones have, for the most part, been supportive.

It’s also true that I am making a recovery. Since seeing a therapist early in 2012 I embarked on a planned course (which I came up with), and it has yielded results. My OCD is mainy about cleanliness and specifically the avoidance of two things: germs and grime. I have made significant progress with both thanks to some very wonderful and experienced councilors and those close to me. I am not sure if I should mention all their names, but I can certainly mention David Veale whose wonderful book with Rob Willson – Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is very well worth reading if you suffer from OCD or care for somebody with OCD.

You can never underestimate the value of honesty. I am quite lucky that I am an outspoken person: I had little difficulty announcing to my co-workers in my last job that I had OCD, and at my leaving party somebody came up to me and told me they thought it was a wonderful thing that I had spoken about it. I also find that it offers me some interesting insights I can use in my books, not to mention the benefits to an editor like myself of having very high standards of concentration (I have often wondered if the IT industry doesn’t in part induce OCD on some because of the long hours focused on tiny details. Indeed a girlfriend of an IT co-worker once observed that all IT men are ‘fucked-up’). So it’s not all bad. In fact, rather than an embarrassment, I see OCD as the scars of war, and scars heal in time. If you are an OCD sufferer please feel free to discuss it either by commenting on this post or emailing me at the email address in the header of this blog.

The woodland escapes are extremely important to me. It allows me a place where I do feel in control, if only for a little while. Also their incredible beauty has to be a tonic for any kind of anxiety or illness. If you live in London and never find time to get out, make time. Last week I heard a familiar, yet strange sound. I looked up and saw a bird of prey; something I havent seen for a very long time. I am not very good on birds so I don’t know exactly what I saw, but I might take the binoculars next time, so I might let you know. If you can guess where my secret place is and I see you there between 10 am and 2 pm on a Saturday, you can have a set of all my kindle books or any paperback for FREE. Please keep quiet about it though!

I can’t leave you without any update on where things are. I am well into the climax of Iron III now, and it is truly a pleasure to write when all the pieces come together like this. Over the last week I have also been experimenting with Hootsuite, and although it does make scheduling tweets a lot easier, it doesn’t allow me to post to my Lazlo Ferran Facebook page, which is awkward. It means I either have to post separately to that, which then will post again to twitter, or I post something different on my Lazlo Ferran Facebook page. My stats for reach and virality have gone up considerably due to my efforts, but sales are still slow. So if you are at all interested in reading one of my books, please do have a go. And don’t forget to like my Book pages on Facebook by clicking on the links to the right and then following the links to Facebook. Please also tweet, friend, FB or use any other means to spread the word about my books and about my activities. Remember I am publishing at least 3 books in the remainder of this year so there is a lot happening. It should be a good year for all you Lazlo Ferran fans. Finally, I am still looking for lots of interesting, vibrant and creative tweet messages I can use to promote my books. If you can come up with 10, I will give you any free ebook of mine that is available up to the end of this year.

There is an elsewhere section this week! I couldn’t leave you without mention of a curiosity I found this week. I am a huge Marlon Brando fan (who isn’t?), and I stumbled upon a whole load of really interesting interviews with him this week on youtube. If you haven’t seen them take a look. This one is particularly interesting because he and a group of Native Americans are talking about the problem of investment and exploitation of the native tribes of America. It’s only 1973, but there are films included, and they talk about CO2 emissions, total energy, sustainable industry and – believe it or, not sea-farming. This is 1973!!! And we think we are getting somewhere with Global Warming! Way to go Marlon. You were a great guy.
Marlon Brandon 1973 interview with Native Americans (interview part 5)
Marlon Brandon 1973 interview with Native Americans (interview part 6)


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