The response from people who have read Which Way is Starboard Again? the book has been nothing short of amazing, but there are still a couple of reactions that I struggle with.
One is ‘you’re so brave’ and the other ‘I could never do that’
Firstly, I’m not brave. I’m terrified of everything – cars, loud noises, sudden movements, having to call strangers on the phone. I’m the biggest scaredy-cat out, I’m just really good at bluffing. Yes I did something that was pretty scary, but you know what? Most of the time I was doing it, I was pretty scared!
The second statement I can understand a bit more. If anyone had told me a few years ago that I would willingly spend days being tossed about the middle of the ocean in a tin tub rather than catch a plane to the tropics I would have told them to lay off the wacky backy.
The thing is you never know how you are going to react to a situation until it presents itself and you can be surprised at what you are actually prepared and are able to do. I highly suspect that given the same opportunity the people saying ‘I could never do that’ would do it, and do it well.
When I was at a low ebb Paddy would tell me that being brave wasn’t just about not being scared, it was about continuing to function despite being frightened, about not letting fear stop you. I didn’t feel particularly brave at the time, but I think there might be a grain of truth in that. There is definitely something rewarding about getting through the rough stuff and out the other side.
Funny thing is, the scariest part of it all for me wasn’t the crashing and the bashing and the splashing, it was afterwards. It was writing the book. It was talking about mental health.
I almost didn’t mention the Battle of the Brain, I was writing a humorous travel book after all, I didn’t want to bring the reader down. But gradually I realised that my anxiety was part of the story and part of me, and that leaving it out would have just been a lie.
Another reason I outed myself publicly was to let other people know that there is nothing wrong with being a highly functioning nutbar.
I said to myself, “if one 15-year-old me picks this up and realises they aren’t alone and that it will be okay, then this will be worth it.”
I got that confirmation at the weekend.
One of the great things about working for a teachers union is that you get to spend time with teachers and learn about the work they are doing to help guide the next generation through it all. I was chatting with a teacher who was reading parts of Starboard out to her Social Studies class and she told me they were really enjoying it. Apparently they particularly liked the parts that I found the scariest to write – about being different, accepting that you are that way and being honest about who you are to yourself and others. Apparently they were having discussions about this. They were the 15-year-old me I had vainly hoped to reach and they were having the conversations I was too afraid to have when I was their age. If nothing else comes from this book other than that I am happy, I have succeeded.
And now I’m off to put my head in the lion’s mouth again. This weekend I am going to spend a couple of hours on the radio talking about being a fruitbat. I will be the guest on Newstalk ZB’s Nutters Club , hosted by Mike King.
It’s a late night talk show that runs from about 11pm Sunday to 1am Monday where a comedian, a psychologist and a guest blather on and take calls about being a bit doolally. The premise of the show is “Nutters helping other Nutters live at peace with themselves and others, so that we can all lead meaningful lives” – I like that, and hope I can do it justice and not become a nervous blithering idiot. Wish me luck!