Saturday, July 05, 2008

Obsessive Sticker Disorder

Last week in the comic shop, I wasn't quite sure if I'd already bought one of their issues of Naruto. The assistant offered to put it aside for me, so I could check, and then buy it later if need be.

I found later at home that I did have that issue, but hadn't got round to reading it yet. But I noticed something amiss. The issue in the shop had been wrapped in plastic. My copy wasn't wrapped. It could mean only one thing. Another 'missing stickers' scandal. I knew the issue in the shop had free stickers in it, but the one they sold me didn't have them.

I felt perturbed at this. I wondered if I should ask them to change it. But they wouldn't do that if I read it first. I'm not very good at reading anything and keeping it in good condition. So I left it unread for a whole week, which was quite frustrating.

The week went by and it was time or my next visit to my therapist, for agoraphobia, which is the only time I come close to the comic shop. I've been trying to make this journey on the bus recently, and have had some small success. These bus journeys have been a definite improvement, which is one reason to keep going, much as I dislike my therapist.

Anyway. I put the manga in my bag and set off. I'm always anxious on buses these days, though I never used to be. I got on the bus and it was quite crowded, which makes it worse. There was a small infant on a woman's lap, next to me. At the next stop, another mother struggled on with a pushchair containing another infant. Both small children looked at each other quite enthusiastically, and then embarked on a prolonged screaming competition. Between them, the two infants managed to make an extraordinary amount of noise.

Some way into the screaming competition, the bus ground to a halt at a temporary traffic-lights at some road works, and just sat there for ages. Feeling anxious from agoraphobia, and with children and babies all over the bus now screaming the place down, I didn't feel too great, all in all. (Though I try not to get too annoyed at screaming infants, out of sympathy with their harassed mothers. If it was me in charge of the infant, I'd be hopeless at it.) When I eventually reached my destination I lurched off the bus, more or less defeated by life.

If you arrive gloomy or anxious at my therapist's building it's not the sort of place to cheer you up. It's actually a small National Health Service mental institution; a grimy, run-down 19th century building which looks like it was built for incarcerating criminals. Behind locked doors there are some seriously disturbed people there, and you meet them sometimes, wandering the corridors. In the waiting room, it's not much better. People talking to the air, people standing facing the walls, people who've been shepherded there by some weary relative, and just sit there looking lost.

It's a really grim place. And I don't like my therapist at all. I'd like to ask for a different therapist but this would no doubt lead to me being put on a waiting list for several more years. We sat and talked for a while. I was bored, and still not recovered from the anxiety of the journey. Most of the time I was wondering if I should ask the comic shop to change my manga for the one with free stickers.

Points against - the shop assistants may think I'm an idiot.

Points for
- I'll get the free stickers.

Points against
- I am really too old to be worrying about free stickers.

Points for
- I want the stickers.

Points against - They might refuse, leading to ugly scenes. May never be able to return after flouncing out in a bad mood.

I still want the stickers. Made up my mind to raise the issue. After all, I buy their comics every week. Entered shop, walked to the counter, and immediately raised the subject, in a polite manner. After some initial resistance - the assistant asking me if I have a receipt for the issue I've got, and me saying no but I'm in here every week and you probably recognise me - they were quite nice about it. Friendly, even. They exchanged my unread copy for the one wrapped in plastic, containing stickers. I was pleased. Slightly humiliated, but pleased.

I took the bus back home, stopping off at the supermarket where I bought a rhubarb crumble, also satisfactory, because there have been recent disappointments. Arrived home with comic feeling worn out. Stupid therapy. Maybe I should have discussed the 'free stickers' problem with her. But I don't think I tell my therapist anything that's really important to me.


  1. What is the name of this comic shop? It sounds odder and odder. Most shops will bend over backwards being friendly to people, they WANT you coming in.

    Especially if they know you are an internationally known famous author. Who blogs about their shop on a regular basis. (To be a King, do as a King. You may not believe this, Martin, but you are pretty darn cool!)

    The therapist sounds dreadful, it seems you may be getting more good writing about how bad it is to us than going. Which may well be a good thing. Hang in there!

  2. Anonymous1:15 am

    At first glance I thought you wrote that the asylum looks like a place where they incinerate inmates! What a grim sounding place to visit. It is too bad that you don't like your therapist, but it is positive that you make the journey to see her each week regardless.
    It is AWESOME that you got those stickers. Your did the right thing by sticker lovers everywhere. It is an outrage you even had to ask. Where will you stick them?
    Alice X

  3. If you can't speak of real everyday problems with your therapist, then this is a clear sign that you should change indeed.
    That places sounds just like Bedlam used to. Creepy.
    Didn't your day feel much better from you getting the stickers? And crumble? As painful as it may have been, it seems you did well on the bus.

  4. My guess is you won't be sticking the stickers anywhere. They're valuable collectibles after all.

    You'll do like the rest of us. Put them somewhere, lose them, forget them, and refind them years later crumpled, unusable, and no longer valuable or collectible.

    Hating your therapist is supposed to be a Very Good Sign, as I'm sure you're aware. The more you hate them, the Better It Is For You.

    Don't share your sticker anxieties. Just look impenetrable and hint that there is something deeper, that you can't quite explore yet....

  5. Anonymous2:42 am

    If it makes you feel any better about it, I feel exactly like you did on the bus sometimes. And Im not agoraphobic - misanthropic and xenophobic maybe. Public transport is hell so more power to you that you keep doing it. The therapist sounds positively Dickensian.

  6. It's true that the therapist isn't great. Well, maybe she's good for other people, but I can't see her helping my agoraphobia much. Still, the bus journeys are helping, stressful though they are.

    I'm pleased I got the stickers! But Peter, you're right, I'll no doubt save them, forget them, and they'll get ruined somehow.

  7. braver than me, i'd simply have fumed about the mising stickers for months and glared a little every time i went in to the shop.

  8. I think it-s all pears fault.