Instead you seem to have gone on a one-man mission to analyse the fuck out of everytjing. I would say I was disappointed in you except you might be daft enough to take me seriously
First of all, don’t worry, she’s not being rude, it just looks like she might be because I’ve only quoted part of the comment. If you read the rest of it, you’ll see that really she’s being the opposite. But, it has to be said, she has a point. Ever since my self-imposed mini-break in the run up to christmas, I’ve written very little about my mood, or my experiences, or my life, or really anything personal at all. So far this month I’ve written about medicine, and economics, and politics, and calendars, and medical ethics – I’ve even quoted the Pet Shop Boys – but I haven’t really written about me. Sometimes even I think that I’m rapidly turning into Mr Logic…
On one level, I’m not too bothered by that. The strapline of the blog makes it clear that it’s going to be ‘about depression and more’. When I first started out, I was clear that I wanted to be able to write about whatever caught my eye, and I found interesting, without feeling that all I could ever talk about was Mental Health stuff…
And there I go again. Even as I was typing that guff about writing about ‘whatever caught my eye’ I knew I wasn’t being honest. The fact that I would type that – and even manage to half convince myself that it’s true – is a symptom of the same problem. The truth of it is, I find it very difficult to talk, or write, (and even, sometimes, to think) clearly about myself. This post is a first stab at trying to understand why that is.
It’s actually quite galling to realise that a stereotype so neatly describes me: I’m a bloke, and I find it hard to talk about all that touchy-feely emotional stuff. And this is, of course, why I ‘analyse the fuck out of everything’ instead. It’s my equivalent of obsessing about football trivia, or reeling off statistics about the performance of various cars. I find it much easier to write about the exact significance of one throw-away word in the US president’s inaugural address than I do to sit staring at a blank white screen, and a blinking cursor, and tell you actually what I feel about something personally significant.
This is a bit of a problem in a MH blogger, of course. Those of you who read my blog seem very loyal, and you follow me wherever I go, but I would imagine there’s a limit to your patience. I always try to be interesting, whatever I’m writing about (for the record, even I realise I failed spectacularly in this post – but there was a lot going on behind the scenes at the time, which became catastrophically apparent a few days later), but I don’t imagine I’ll keep many readers if I shut out the MH side of things altogether.
Truthfully, though, that’s a secondary concern. What I’m really worried about is the effect that this reticence to write openly has on me personally. Partly, I know from long experience, it’s a symptom of depression. Not the kind of hardcore depression I was suffering from before christmas – my mood is still better than that, although the virtuous circle has stopped working – but a kind of free-floating, fog-bound, moderate depression. But, as well as a symptom of depression, an inability to talk is also something that makes my problems worse.
I can talk about things that don’t apply to me personally until the cows come home, but I find it almost impossible to openly acknowledge the more personal stuff until things have reached a pretty desperate state. There have been times on this blog when I’ve been emotionally open (for me, anyway), but that information has more or less exploded out of me – the need to be open has become so great that it’s overcome my natural reticence. (It may not have looked like much of an explosion, but that’s because I’ve gone to some lengths to disguise it – and no, I don’t know why I bother to do that, except to say that it’s probably something to do with a desire to look like I’m in control, even when I’m not.)
One of the reasons that I started this blog was in the hopes that I would be able to be open in it. In some respects, that’s worked. Certainly I’ve told you things before I’ve plucked up the courage to tell anyone in the real world. But the experience of keeping an anonymous blog like this has taught me that it’s not the potential embarrassment of being open that’s held me back from being honest in real life, like I’d always assumed it was. There are no real-world consequences to anything I say in this blog, so there’s no real opportunity for embarrassment, but I still find it incredibly difficult to be open.
I think there are a few reasons for this (he said, starting to analyse the fuck out of it…). Basically it comes down to the fact that I deeply wish it was possible to bracket off the whole mess of my emotions and my mental illness, and just forget about it. Eager psychologistas* would no doubt tell me that I’ve just put my finger on the root cause of all my problems, and they would probably be half right, in the sense that my inability to talk about things unquestionably stops them getting better. But they would also be half wrong, in the sense that I feel depressed/ lonely/ paranoid/ scared first, and then find it impossible to talk about. I think my inability to talk maintains my problems, rather than causes them in the first place, but in reality, this probably is something of a chicken/ egg scenario.
This seems to be something that is very deep-seated within me. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that I’m very reluctant to seek professional help in the first place, and then, when I do, I’m very reluctant to actually open up and talk about my real problems. I rationalise that to myself by saying it’s a trust issue (for the record, this is also what Yvonne, my psychotherapist, thought), that I have to feel able to trust someone before I’m able to open up to them. But then, I feel a similar resistance to opening up to my family and friends, and I rationalise that by saying that I don’t want my relationship with them to become all about my illness and nothing else. And then I rationalise my resistance to opening up here by thinking that I don’t want the blog to be full of ‘whining’ and nothing else. But, whenever I read other people’s blogs, I don’t think of them talking openly about their problems as ‘whining’. In fact, I think of it as evidence of a courage that I lack. It’s only myself that I think of as whining, and only myself that I hold to an absolutely-no-whining standard.
Well, I’ve written my way all around this subject now, without really saying anything concrete. (Does this mean I’ve avoided analysing the fuck out of it? No, I didn’t think so…) It seems to be pretty obvious that the reasons I give myself for not wanting to be open aren’t the real reasons but, so far, I don’t really know what the real reasons might be. I guess a couple of useful/ interesting things have come up that I might not have been able to put into words until I started writing this – namely that my unwillingness to open up seems to be related to my fear of losing control (or appearing to lose control), and also to an unreasonable demand for perfectionism that I impose on myself. (And, btw, don’t sentences like these make it painfully obvious that I’ve been through psychoanalysis? I hate sounding like some Woody Allen style therapy junkie, but I guess it’s maybe a price worth paying if it gets me somewhere.)
There isn’t really a conclusion to this post either, except to say I know I’m being very unforthcoming at the moment, I know it’s a problem, and I’m going to try and do something about it, both for my sake and yours.
* – Psychologista, noun (pronunciation: sigh-coll-o-jeest-er – the j pronounced as in Jersey): a word, just invented by Aethelread,** to describe those who advance simplistic psychological explanations for mental illness, and other related phenomena. This group includes professional psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, etc, but also incorporates their amateur fellow-travellers. Plural: psychologistas. [Etymological note: the word appears to be a hybrid formed from the existing words psychologist and barista. It can be surmised that the literal definition of the word is ‘one who serves up psychological explanations’.]
** – ok, so there is an apparent earlier usage of the word here (‘child psychologistas’ in the last sentence), but I’m reasonably certain it’s just a straightforward typo for ‘child psychologists’.