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Cornwall. Days 2-4

After the gathering at Kate's, I was burnt out. Me and Meg agreed that it had been quite a hectic and full on day, and it was understandable that I was burnt out. She told me many times throughout the holiday that I was doing really well in pushing past my comfort zone.

That morning I woke up early and Meg spent another hour or so dozing. I started to write on the back of the drawings I had done last night. I wanted to write a blog entry to help verbalise thoughts and emotions from the day before. The morning after a night of high anxiety is always going to feel quite rocky. I was trying to keep the noise and movement down, so as not to disturb Meg. Writing took a very long time, but I persisted for over an hour. I got emotional at times, and ended up drawing and shedding a few tears. Meg woke up to this, and I saw her eyes begin to sink into overthinking and a concerned look was drawn on her face. I started to feel guilty, as this was only our second day of the holiday - and I was already feeling drained from Monday.

We decided that Tuesday would be a quieter day, and a time to recharge. We ended up getting up and out of the van not long before midday. We went to Kate's cabin and Meg prepared a brunch for me, Kate, Biff, Paul and Rosie. That morning Biff was heading back to Manchester. He seemed like a very nice guy, and rather quiet at times, especially noticeable yesterday evening when we all sat out by the fire in the evening. It made me feel a little better in myself when I noticed he was quiet too. Just have to do things at your own pace - it's not like you have to be very extrovert when surrounded by lots of people. On the contrary, I tend to clam up when there's more than 1 other person with me.

When Biff left, me, Meg and Kate spent a good amount of time chatting. With only the 3 of us there, I felt a lot calmer. Conversation flowed more readily, and it felt nice. Later on, Paul and Rosie came down to the cabin. Meg was making them coffee, but they left before it was ready. In fact, I can't recall if they stopped to eat with us - I don't think they did. When we said our goodbyes, Rosie enthusiastically said it was "really really nice to meet you". I felt a little confused by this. I'm sure she was just being nice, but I felt like we only chatted briefly, and I wasn't sure why there was so much conviction in her goodbye. Still, it felt nice - as well as awkward.

Me and Kate seemed to have a good conversation, and she even lent me a book that she thought would be of interest, by an artist called Fred Tomaselli. The atmosphere in the cabin was nice, and it felt a lot calmer than the previous nights group chat. Kate was understanding of my social burnout and the need to take time out to recharge. I was quickly noticing that Meg's group of friends in Cornwall were nice, intelligent and creative types. My social circle has always been quite small. Outside of workplaces and those I got to know through people i dated - I've always had a small group of friends. Most are online, and a lot of my free time is spent in my own company. Outside of making the effort to message or meet up with friends, I don't really get people proactively reaching out to me all that much. Meeting Meg had me reasses who I should really consider a friend. The old long list is pretty short. Being in Cornwall was another push towards realising I really need to be amongst my own tribe. No wonder I feel lonely and quite folorn living in Haddenham. I'm living in a village and my group of friends is small and a lot aren't a good fit for me.

After brunch, we headed off to buy a gas canister. Meg got the next size up and a new regulator. Then we set off to another coast car park. This was in a place called Rinsey. The car park was high up on the cliffs and overlooked the ocean. It was a very dramatic setting, and it really was picturesque. We parked up on quite a steep slope, but Meg said she'd move the van once the car park got quieter later. She setup the new gas canister and regulator. It was an easy enough process, but dealing with flammable substances obviously creates a little unease. Still, it was a textbook setup, with the aid of a short video tutorial on the Calor gas website.

We took Lucky for a walk out on the cliffs. It was cool, overcast and had a refreshing breeze. We were high up and the path was quite small and either side of us were rocks, boulders, bracken and wild flowers. Down the path from the car park was an old abandoned tin mine building. It was made of large stones and was several stories high. It also had a very large chimney. The building was fenced off as it was probably quite delapidated inside, although on the outside it looked very sturdy.

Further up the coast was a house all on it's own. It looked remote, and was a little too close to the cliff edge for my liking. Still, it was a very stark thing to see, in a dramatic looking location. We carried on walking and then found a spot to sit for a while and admire the view. There were lots of seagulls gliding overhead. Because we were so high up, it felt like they were flying very low. The sea, the sounds, the birds and the company - I felt elated. I smiled a lot and laughed out of sheer happiness.

We made our way back to the van and chilled out for a bit. I rolled a J and we went back out later for a smoke and walk. Before we set off we had a brief chat with a man who was with his partner and dog in a VW transporter. There were so many VW transporters in Cornwall. I know they're a cult classic, but it was rather shocking just how many there were. As the evening drew in, quite a few campers and van lifers parked up to use the car park.

Our walk ended up with us sat against a big boulder and looking out to see. I took some photos of us together. We had a lovely selfie that I uploaded to my art page later. It did better than any photo I've ever uploaded. Meg said it's because people like to see someone happy. A part of me was excited, and yet also a little put off by the popularity of the picture. Similar to when me and Kristy had our cat, Kes. Any picture of her did better than any of my own drawings or photographs. I guess it just ate away at me somewhat as I turn it into a form of self-loathing and doubt regarding my art and abilities etc.

We had a smoke and a cuddle whilst looking out to sea. I told Meg that I understood why she struggled to leave Cornwall each time she visited. It felt magical. I was overcome with happiness. That evening in the van felt so cosy and relaxing. Especially as it was windy outside - it made the van and company feel even more homely. Later in the evening we sat and drew. I was quite mesmerised by Meg's hyperfocus. She was in the zone with drawing for several hours. It got to the point I was struggling to stay awake. Eventually Meg succumb to tiredness as well - and we went to bed.

The next morning we made love. It was subtle, because we were in a busy car park. But that subtlety can amplify the whole experience. Of course it's lovely to have sex, but it feels even more profound when it feels free from my usual anxieties or fears. Being in the moment and sharing something very special. The fact it's been both of our best sexual experience in life certainly adds to how profound it all feels.

We went for a walk down to the beach and took Lucky. The path was quite a steep descent, and when we reached the beach itself it was empty except for a family who had parked up earlier in another VW Transporter. They had 2 kids, one had dreads and the other had a mullet. The boys both looked like pre-teens, and I thought it was wonderful to see a family of surfer/hippies with kids who were clearly living a very liberal lifestyle. It all felt quite inspired to me.

Lucky barked a lot at the waves. He was very excitable. Me and Meg took our shoes off and let the waves lap at our feet. A bit later we climbed up some rocks and sat looking out to sea. We'd planned to find a spot so Meg could carry on drawing, and I could crochet her dreads and tidy them up a bit more. Me doing dreads, and Meg popping my spots and blackheads. Feels like intimate grooming that harks back to our primate past. It's all rather lovely.

We climbed the rocks barefoot, and I noticed the texture was very sharp and coarse on the arches of my feet. I wanted to get better at walking barefoot, as it feels quite liberating. We didn't stay on the rocks too long, and in the end we made our way back up the cliff and sat next to the cordened off tin mine building. It protected us from the sun - as it was another blue sky, strong UV day. The barrier for the building was small metal fence posts and a rope, so we easily got under it and sat in the shade.

I think we must've been there for 90 minutes or so. We had a picnic of oat biscuits, olive paste, a soft cheese, rocket leaves, white chocolate with strawberries, peanut M&M's, vegetable crisps and chorizo. It was a lovely mix of sweet and savoury and it made me realise my snacking habits really needed to change. Rather than focusing too heavily on sweet and fatty foods.

A man from the National Trust came up to us and politely asked us to move to the outside of the fence and not to be close to the building as it was hazardous. We made our way back up to the carpark and on the drive away from Rinsey we noticed a note had been left on the windscreen under one of the wiper blades. It was telling us not to park a van in the car park overnight as it was selfish to take up so many spaces. I imagine a lot of van lifers got those sort of notes, but it wasn't like the car park was heaving in the afternoon, evening or morning that we were there. I think he was just being a bit of a jobsworth.

We drove to Cheyenne - a hippy commune on land which was owned by a man who ran a circus. It was down a skinny track and set amongst lush woodland. We met Si, who was at Kate's gathering on Monday evening. He led us to his home - a converted double decker bus. The inside was lovely and cosy. Wood panels everywhere. It was dimly lit, but had a lovely calm atmosphere to it. We chatted about all sorts, and had several deep conversational topics. A very refreshing experience - and with just us 3 it felt calm. He made us a brew and we smoked a couple of J's before he had to head out.

Afterwards, we headed over to a yurt tent where Meg's good friend Jade and her partner Pete lived with their baby. Pete's mum was also there to help with their move. In 2 weeks time they'd be off to live in Portgual, where they were able to live in a house for next to nothing, and only had to be out of the building one month a year so the owners could use it for a holiday break. Moving is obviously stressful though, and whilst the first time we visited them was calm - I could tell at times there was underlying friction between Jade and Pete.

We had a lovely chilled talk whilst sat on comfy sofas. I was astounded by the Yurt. It reminded me of how I imagined living in a light house or windmill would be. A large, circular room has something very special about it. Also, the hole in the yurt roof allowed for sunlight and a wonderful breeze. Such a cosy and unique place to live.

The atmosphere was so calm that I actually conversed at length with Jade, Pete and Anna without feeling too anxious. I shared my art, and Pete reciprocated with a drawing he'd done. I also spoke of my anxiety and autism amongst other things. It was nice to be in that place - again, people were kind, intelligent and welcoming.

Meg had mentioned that her and other people felt like there was something a little off with Pete. Whether it was his temper, or something from his past. I noticed his jokes at times were a little odd, but in terms of him as a person - I wasn't sure. He seemed nice, intelligent and had a lot going on. Yet, I could sense a degree of fatigue in their relationship.

It was interesting to see Meg's energy around their baby, Bluebell. Meg's warmth and energy was amplified in the presence of the baby, and I had no doubt that she'd make a wonderful mother. Pete asked me if I ever considered having kids, and I was honest with my mental health struggle, and feeling that having a kid probably wasn't in my best interest. Not to say I think I'd be a bad parent, as I know I'd be capable. But I'm burnt out enough as it is in life - without the constant noise, energy and care requirements that having a child would present. Who knows what the future holds, but I'm 36, on the spectrum and lived with anxiety and depression for 20 years. Asides from overpopulation in general, I don't think having a child would really be the moral thing to do.

One thing I noticed was guys hugging to say goodbye. That was a nice feeling, and something I haven't experienced that regularly. Marcus hugs hello and goodbye, but his energy is quite intense. I much preferred how chill the people I was meeting in Cornwall were.

We headed back to Kate's for the evening and went down to Jake's caravan, who worked and lived on site. He made a chilli for me, Meg and Kate. We discussed his interest and passion for photography. He was interested in early camera technology and processes and had built his own dark room in a small caravan next door. Yet another creative, intelligent and inspiring person to meet. Towards the end of the evening I started feeling wayward. It'd been another eventful day, and I was feeling a growing discomfort inside. I was zoning out, and the stress brought on a profuse sweat that made me feel quite disgusting. I tried to ride it out - hoping that finishing my food would help calm things down. I didn't want to take off my jumper as I was sweating so much that I feared I would smell. In the end I announced that I needed some fresh air. I walked up towards the van, then sat on a small wooden boat that was being stored on the grass by the pathway. I watched the twilight colours in the distance and after a few minutes I saw that Kate had left to go back to her cabin, followed by Meg who met me by the boat.

The next morning we decided to have a chilled day. Meg was spiralling - fearing her van was too big for Cornwall, and that the spots she used to visit and enjoy were too crowded. Prior to sharing these worries with me, I was assuming her distance and expression of overthinking was because she was fretting about us. We talked, and I said that if it gets to the point where the relationship isn't healthy for either of us - then we can't end up like I was with Kristy, and Meg was with Paul. You can't remain in a relationship that is taking more than it's providing. After Meg shared the topics of her spiral, I felt a little awkward that I'd been talking about fears of compatibility.

After a chilled morning, Kate and Auburn visited us in the van. They had a cup of tea and a chat whilst I was crocheting Meg's dreadlocks. It was nice and chilled, although I knew Meg was burnt out. It's a similar pattern I've seen in previous relationships - where one to one, when someone feels low, the mood is quite heavy and folorn. But when friends come along, the mask is back on and I see them laughing and seemingly having a good time. This behaviour makes me feel a little awkward. Whilst I understand it's masking, and fitting in socially and having a nice time with friends etc. part of me feels like I'm receiving the short straw. I get the bad, others get the good. Mind you - I'm sure my behaviour is the same. When you feel low, and you're with someone you're comfortable with, then that mood will emanate outwards. When you're around friends or in public - you put on a brave face. I think I'm just noticing habits in other people that I'm guilty of myself, and being on the receiving end comes with a degree of discomfort.

We drove to the supermarket afterwards before heading back to Durgan beach where we spent our first night and morning. We were off to meet Meg's friend Rohan. I'd heard bits and pieces from various people about Rohan, and I was feeling very anxious to meet him. He'd initially texted Meg suggesting they ditch me for a couple of hours to have a picnic. Meg explained to me that he was anxious to meet me, but was sure we'd get along.

As we left to go meet him my anxiety was skyrocketing. I started stimming a lot in the car. Rubbing my face, hair, skin. Squinting my eyes, skin picking, eye rubbing and just trying to keep it on the level. I felt awkward because I was doing something new around Meg that I'd tried hard to bottle up. But I was anxious, and I was trying to release some of the internal tension. In the supermarket I was increasingly distant, and Meg was patient, understanding, and yet visibly concerned. This added to the guilt, apprehension and anxiety I was feeling inside. Of course, had she not been so kind to me, it would've escalated further. In times of duress - I've noticed we're good at being there for one another, providing a new perspective and being calming.

When we met Rohan I quickly realised my worries were unfounded. I saw many similarities between us, and his quirkiness and temprament put me at ease. As others had explained - he was certainly a character, but he was lovely. We headed down to the beach to have a fire and a night time swim. I was apprehensive about swimming at night - considering the water temperature during day time swims was overwhelming. At night, with a lack of sunlight to see what I was doing - this really didn't fill me with confidence.

Another issue was my epididymits. Since driving down on Sunday night it'd peaked and troughed, but the peaks were excruciating at times. Still no other symptoms though - no swelling, redness, fever, difficulty urinating, or pain or blood when peeing or ejaculating. So I was still very much in the place I'd been since it was diagnosed as chronic. The place being that if I went to see GP's or Dr's - I'd get fobbed off. Get told to use over the counter painkillers and rest up. It's hard, because they still don't fully understand chronic epididymitis, and from what I've read and researched - a lot of men suffer from it. Some even have a testicle surgically removed and still get pains. How terrifying. One commonality seems to be a drop in quality of life along with an increase in anxiety and depression. But stress adds to bodily stress and makes things worse.

The byproduct of my times of high anxiety was that the epididymitis flared up during or after. Whilst on the beach it hit me harder than I can ever recall. I perched up against a rock and tried to be present - but I couldn't. The pain was all consuming. I laid back on the rock and was a little way off from where Rohan and Meg were sat. I put my hood up, tried to focus on breathing and calming myself down, all the while the pain from my groin was overbearing and taking my breath away. I didn't want to draw attention to it, because I wanted everyone to have a nice evening. I didn't want to throw a spanner in the works.

In the end it was too much, and I asked Meg for the keys to the van. I briefly explained to Rohan what it was, but I don't recall getting much of a response. This escalated my worries and guilt in blurting out that I had to go back to the van. On the walk back up the beach and through the woods, the anxiety spilled into a panic attack. My heart thundered in my chest, and walking through the woods on my own felt disorientating. I started to think I'd never find my way back. A few small groups of people walked past me on their way to the beach. I stared at my feet as I walked and tried to remain composed.

When I got back to the van I curled up and started talking to myself. I was fretting, sweating and wretching. I couldn't focus, I was convinced I'd need to go to the hospital. In the end I started typing up a blog entry on my Mac. I felt bad for Lucky - animals are sensitive to emotions of people, much like how Meg was noticebly affected by my times of high anxiety and worry. I hammered away at the keys and waited and fretted for Meg to return.

About 90 minutes later they returned. Rohan sounded drunk, and him and Meg said their goodbyes. I tried to explain what happened to Meg and I apologised profusely. Meg does a similar thing when she's feeling overwhelmed. We're both people pleasers, and when you feel like you're in a mood or headspace where you aren't helping - then you start with a flurry of "sorries". Because you don't want to feel bad, and in turn make others feel bad. Once again - Meg was understanding and loving. The pains started to subside as I calmed down and lay in the bed with her. In the end - one thing led to another. I got to a point in my head that night that I wasn't going to allow the epididy to keep dragging me down into the usual pit of worry, self-loathing and hyperfocus on how uncomfortable it was making me. Somehow we made love without it escalating the pain. In fact, when we were done - the pain had gone. I told Meg this, and whilst it felt like an amusing relief, I voiced frustration in how there is no rhyme or reason to the flare ups.

We slept soundly that night. Our cuddles and the atmosphere in the van feel so cosy and homely. Also, I was finding it a lot easier to fall asleep in the van at this point. Mind you - I was becoming increasingly more fatigued as the holiday continued. Pushing past my comfort zone on many an occasion, and finding my social battery was depleting at times. A lot of the moments during the day made me happy and smile. Yes, there were times of angst, worry and such like during our holiday - but for the most part there were a lot of positives. I was just concerned that Meg was seeing a side to me that feels quite ugly and self-defeating. But she remained stalwart and with a love and affection towards me that felt remarkable. It opened my eyes to how previous partners had been. Not to say they'd all been unkind, but I've encountered a lot of trauma, gaslighting and unstable relationships in the past. This repeated phrase of Meg being a good soul rings truer than ever. I still feared that my unstable mood would fatigue or grind her down. I didn't want to be a burden.

Ed

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