I like to think that I am, mostly, a perfectly lovely person. This of course is a delusion. I can be scratchy, unreasonable, and shockingly intolerant, especially of bores and people who invade my personal or mental space. (I try to plaster on a phoney smile, but it does not work.) I can also be ranty, go off on far too many tangents, and grow monomaniacal when it comes to racing or politics.

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I suspect that most humans try to hold on to the illusion of loveliness, unless they are called Vladimir Putin. My simulacrum slips most shockingly when I am under the weather. For the last four days I have had a nasty bug, which brings with it the kind of abdominal pain which makes me lie on the floor and shout, much to the astonishment of the dog. At times like this, life cannot stop. I still have to stagger up and get on with things and deal with people. This is where the mask slips. Anyone who asks me to do anything I consider unreasonable, which in this case is everything, gets an awful icy curtness. Politeness, my watchword, flees for the hills, where it builds itself a bivouac for the duration. I am ashamed of myself. Mostly, I want to tell everyone to bugger off and leave me alone.

In this cross, weakened state, I go up to work with a group of people who are battling with post-traumatic stress. Ha, say the voices of the perspective police, you are acting like an ogre because you have one little bug, whilst here are people who have a relentless condition which can make the most taken for granted aspects of daily life feel like climbing Everest. It is the taken for granted which I think of, at times like this. It is things like being able to sleep. So simple, and so crucial, and so lost, for those in the crocodile jaws of PTSD. One sufferer once told me that the hissing sound of a bus door can send him diving for the ground on a crowded city street. The startle reflex is constantly off the scale. Going to the shop to buy food can be an ordeal.

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I think about perspective a lot. I can’t quite work it out. Obviously, everyone is allowed to be a bit grumpy sometimes. One can’t be a little ray of sunshine every moment of every day. It’s no good my saying: well, I am living in a liberal democracy with a body and mind which mostly work, so I can complain of nothing. That would be absurd and lead to ulcers. On the other hand, I do think that the counting of blessings is an important thing. When I am in danger of plummeting into the slough of despond, I am quite glad that my perspective police are stern and unforgiving. They haul me up and give me a good talking to and set me straight. I can’t say that they save me entirely from my worst self, but when I am on the verge of turning into a monster I am glad that those blue sirens start to flash.