Niggle. Such an innocent little word. Quaint. Cute. Inoffensive. It’s been in my head of late as I’ve had a few injuries this week which have curtailed my running. A twinge here, a strain there. Nothing in themselves but just enough to keep me off the roads. Niggly injuries. They’re not causing me any great pain, I don’t need to be rushed to A&E. They’re just there. Doing enough to be noticed, and little else. Niggling me.
Niggles are a blessing and a curse to runners. Don’t worry, this post isn’t all about running. Bear with me, I’ll be finished in a paragraph. Two at the most. They frustrate and hinder you, but they also act as red flags, a warning sign to slow down and take some time off. For if you ignore a niggle and keep running then snap….scrunch….squeal. The situation becomes a whole lot messier and you do find yourself in the back of a speeding ambulance.
I embrace my niggles then. The physical ones at least. But what about the niggles of the mind. Those unwanted, obtrusive thoughts that pick and poke at you, demanding your undivided attention. They start as the tiniest seed, lodged in the corner of your psyche. They are minimal, minuscule, much a do about nothing. You ignore them for so long, they have no hold over you. The battle has been won and they are the vanquished. Right?
Niggles love playing the underdog. They thrive on licking their wounds in the corner. Their days of lauding over your every waking moment are a distant memory. They cannot harm you. But try as you might you can’t completely dislodge them. That’s the strength of the niggle. It’s perseverance, stayability, I’m not going away and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m dead, I’m buried, I’m sprawling on the canvas. But I’m still there.
They love complacency and they never rest, forever probing, testing, seeking out that one chink in your otherwise impenetrable armour. When they find it, they slither inside like a venomous viper, before sinking dripping fangs into exposed flesh. Then slither off again as the poison surges through your system, spreading it’s toxins at a rate you cannot repel. Niggles are nasty. Once they are within, they will not relent until you bend the knee to them.
Niggles are for life. Imagine a radio turned up full blast. It’s at 10. You take the pills, read the literature, talk to the right people and, in time, it’s a 7, a 4, a 1. You can think again, live again without the deafening, all consuming background noise of the obtrusive thought and it’s accompanying compulsions. OCD is the Crown Prince and it’s army of niggles assail your defences tirelessly. They do not sleep.
I wrestle these niggles every day. Most times, I have the upper hand, but now and again they threaten to overwhelm me. I educate, medicate and mediate. I flirt with the OCD community, like a child holding its hand over an open flame. Afraid to spend too much time there in case the heat becomes too much and my soul is singed. Fire purges, it cauterises, but it can also burn to the bone. It is a double edged sword.
I turn my back on the niggle. I look away, using the same coping mechanisms and strategies which have served me so well these last years. I walk the streets and wonder at the faces I see. Calm, composed, seemingly in control. But what lies behind the mask? Is all as tranquil as it seems? Or has the niggle taken hold, dragging them screaming in silence towards fresh, unvisited hells? I wonder as I walk. I fear these places.
Do you have unwanted, obtrusive thoughts?
Are you anxious, worried, depressed?
Do you fear the niggle?