Given that my recent posts have been a little on the dark side, I thought I might try and make you smile with a little anecdote that will help explain my name for one of my coping strategies.
When my siblings and I were young, my grandparents provided a lot of the childcare that enabled my parents to work (you’re probably wondering where on Earth this is going, but bear with me!). When my brother was three or four, he fashioned hours of entertainment from an old walking stick belonging to my gran. Not only did he use it as an oversized walking aid but it was a weapon, a golf club, a hobby horse…you name it. Anyway, as you would expect from a young child, all of this involved swinging it around recklessly to which my papa would react with random shouts of ‘haud on tae that’. For those of you unfamiliar with the finer points of the Scots dialect, this translates as ‘hold on to that’. My brother (now a strapping 6’2″ 24 year old) then used his three year old intellect to put two and two together, coming up with five, and started referring to a walking stick as a ‘haudontae’. This stuck for quite some time and he was even given a custom-made ‘haudontae’ one Christmas.
Over the course of my illness, I have often thought back to simpler times like this, usually in an attempt to figure out where it all went wrong. But this particular memory serves an extra purpose, because I now have my own ‘haudontae’. One of the ways I cope with anxiety is to have something to hold on to. If I’m in a supermarket, I like a basket or trolley. If I’m out walking, I usually carry my house key in my hand. If I’m watching TV or reading, I hold a hot mug of tea or a silky ribbon. I guess these objects serve to comfort me in the same way a blanket or a cuddly toy might comfort a child. I probably had this habit for years before I even noticed it but, when I did, I couldn’t think of a better name for my collection of props – my ‘haudontae’ – not least because it is, by definition, a walking stick, something that provides reassurance and support to the less able bodied among us. Now when I reach for the relevant item, I can’t help but smile when I remember happier times.