Six difficult weeks, it must be said.
Some of my earliest memories are of being afraid; of fearful situations. I recall my brother telling me the funny man was on his way to get me. That wasn't funny at all. I recall trips to the toilet. No relief was to be found there. I was sure someone was on the stairs, watching me, watching me dart from the living room, across the hall to the bog. I recall laying in bed at night, alone, unable to stand the fear anymore... I'd creep down the stairs and sit by the living room door with the voices of adults for comfort.
I've always been afraid of being alone and of being got. This fear, all too tangibly, has continued into my adult life.
A sickly child, ill health was a constant threat to my very existence. Mother was very kind to me. Without wrapping me up in cotton wool, she protected me from death and disaster. Without explanation, I knew I was safe. The sight of blood, however, mine or anyone else's, and I was in hysterics.
All those horrid fears; of threat and of solitude came to me like a fist to the face in the early 1990s when my work colleague and I were held up in an armed robbery at our place of work.
As an adult, I had to face things on my own. I had to cope. Unable to face these things, unable to cope, I fled from life itself and into my bedroom. I did not come out, save for visits to the toilet and bathroom, for six months.
Slowly but surely, with the help of doctors, nurses and psychiatric specialists, I emerged from my bedroom. Not really because I wanted to, no, but because my fear of letting down the medical staff and my Mother was greater than my fear of what might lie outside of my bedroom/stronghold.
However, regardless of the hows and whys, I did it and soon realised the outside world wasn't such a bad place after all. My fears were based on something I'd suggested to myself rather than on anything real. My fears were all about what might be, what could be. Just like my funny man fear. What he might do to me, what he might look like. Just like my fear of someone watching me on the stairs and where they might take me if they caught me.
But aren't all fears like that?
Fear still plays a starring rôle in my life. He's been a special guest star in The Minge Show since 1972.
Between then and now, fears have also been about self doubt and about a lack of explanation. Being told I was daft and shouldn't worry have never been a cure for my fears. I need proof that I'm daft and proof that my worries are groundless. That's how I came out from my bedroom after six moths of self-imposed imprisonment.
From my Spring trip to Japan and through to my Summer trips to England and Ireland, my fears have been alive and well. I've been coughing, without much of a break, since the beginning of this year. Antibiotics have seen off chest and sinus infections, yet still the cough refuses to pack up and go home.
This week, I visited Dr Wendy here in Edinburgh. I see her every so often for check-ups after the removal of the tumour from my tongue. She knows of my ever present fear of the c word and understood my hints over the constant coughing. She also knows about my fear of facing up to things, ever afraid that my thoughts could be confirmed as fact.
"See your GP," said Wendy.
So I did.
First of all, it must be noted that when I first saw the guy, a new doctor at the practice, I thought Alan was playing some kind of trick on me, impersonating my GP. But no, the guy was either his doppelgänger or his long lost twin with an English accent. As he called to me, with a wink, "Mr Tapping?" I nearly fell off of my chair.
What a wonderful man he was and put my fears to bed, I hope, once and for all. And he certainly knew how to do that. Not with a ruffle of my hair and a, "Don't be a silly lad," but with an explanation.
Apparently, after a chest infection and sinus infection quite close together, my sinuses are inflamed and inflamed sinuses tend to overproduce mucus. That mucus finds itself on my chest, hence the coughing. The wheezing is caused, not by an asthmatic lung or even a cancerous one, but by the constant coughing and the bronchioles tightening, then not relaxing.
I'm not to worry.
And spookily, I'm not.
For the first time in months, I'm able to spend moments alone without my mind wandering into the realms of pain, death and funerals. I've actually read a passage from a book today. Something I've been unable to do for some weeks. This afternoon, after I've taken my ladies out for another walk, I plan on watching The Weakest Link.
I love this sense of freedom.
But still, I look back into the past and ponder my theories of fear and regret.
I'd love to be a person who can look back upon their life and say, hand on heart, "No regrets." Sadly, I regret a lot of things, from ugly romantic relationships, fucked-up thoughts on how to keep a man, smoking and always wondering what people thought of me (and the tests I put them through to discover the answer).
I can't live a life of fear. I can't. It's horrible. The depression that comes with it is like a lid on my kettle. I want to whistle, sing and let all that steam out. Crying, lying on the bed in a ball, pulling out my eyebrows - all things I want consigned to the past. I'm doing my best.
I'm high maintenance, I'll admit that, and a needy person, though I won't ask. I'm not ashamed of being needy. I'm not ashamed of myself, though I am ashamed, on some level, of not asking for help.
But I do get help. Sometimes it's a surprise, sometimes it's from the dependable people in my life. My fears of being alone are, I think, at last allayed.
I'm still coughing, but I'm no longer afraid.