Out and About with Max Dunbar

After six months and enough fluoxetine to bring down a war elephant, I’m back in the city centre. Went across the Manchester/Salford border, walked along Deansgate and around Spinningfields and Castlefield. The original target was the Town Hall – but I was too chickenshit to make it up there.

Part of my therapy is to stand completely still in the city centre for five minutes – I actually have to time it. So I stood on Deansgate this afternoon and watched the traffic. It was like a kind of terror meditation – every couple of minutes the world would beat out. Kept having to resist the urge to grab on to things or run down sidestreets. But I did it.

I crossed a lot of busy intersections, went over a couple of bridges and at one point got pretty close to that fucking Hilton Hotel monstrosity, which I don’t even like thinking about. It was a scary experience (although, as always, not as scary as I had imagined) and I found myself cutting down a lot of backstreets and picking up my old safety behaviours. Several times I found myself on the verge of a full-blown panic attack – although I can’t have looked that bad because people asked me for directions.

And yet. I found myself slipping back into my old city centre ways, back into the role on an old Manchester hand, and remembering why I have always loved this city and felt a part of it. It’s a strange and comfortable sensation: what Douglas Coupland, in Life After God, calls ‘feeling yourself seep into yourself.’

The thing is that I now have to do this every day – or at least every day that I’m not doing voluntary work or CBT. Ploughing around the city is time consuming but it has to be my number one priority. So frequency of postings may slow – although maybe I’ll turn ‘Out and About’ into an occasional series.

Next stop, Oxford Road!


The Tower of Terror


6 Responses to “Out and About with Max Dunbar”

  1. Annie Says:

    well done you… keep going

  2. Jeremy Stangroom Says:

    Hey Max

    Just a message of support. I suffer from chronic, unremitting, generalised anxiety. It doesn’t get in the way of anything I do – in fact, it’s quite useful in a way, since it means I’m kind of permanently ‘switched on’ – but it’s a bit exhuasting. I saw a psychiatrist about it once: he told me that I wasn’t suitable for therapy, and I just had to get on with it. Very useful!

    Anyway, best of luck with it.

    Oh yes, take up running, if you can. I’ve had this idea for a while that running might be incompatible with agoraphobia. You can’t really have a panic attack whilst you’re running (because your system is already hyped up). The fight or flight thing is redundant if you’re already in flight and you’re supposed to be in flight. And you’re not going to keel over or be otherwise embarrassed by the effects of a panic attack (which, as you’ll know, is often part of the story of agoraphobia) if you’re running, because your body is using the surplus oxygen and adrenaline.

    Anyway, that’s my theory! 🙂

  3. maxdunbar Says:

    Yeah I have always been into running and found it useful.

    However, my CBT therapist says that running is a ‘safety behaviour’ – a short term solution that only prolongs the condition in the long term.

    I’m not going to go against my therapist on this as my condition has improved substantially since I started seeing her.

    But thank you both for the support.

  4. modernity Says:

    great stuff,

    would an MP3 player and classical music reduce the stress?

    what about masses of cod liver oil?

    about 3 tablets, 40 mins before going out?

  5. maxdunbar Says:

    More safety behaviours Modernity! The point is that I have to face my fears without aid. But thanks anyway.

  6. Out and About: Fallowfield Loop « Max Dunbar Says:

    […] and About: Fallowfield Loop By maxdunbar Around the time I wrote these words, I was regularly standing at flashpoints in and around the city centre, watching people walk […]

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