Yet more whingeing

It has percolated into my currently-rather-addled brain that there are lot of you ‘out there’ reading my blog.  As in really quite a lot more than there have been for quite a while.  So firstly – hello!  It’s nice to see you.  I hope you’re not finding me too opinionated/ self-pitying/ weirdly angry.  The thing is, while I’m pleased to see you, I find myself bothering slightly about something; namely, why you’re here.

Number one, most of you aren’t saying anything, and the comparative silence is bothering me a little.  I know, I know, I started my last post by actively discouraging some kinds of comment, so it’s my own fault.  But it currently feels a little like I’m some kind of freak-show performer on a brightly lit stage, and I can just make out that there’s an audience in front of me, and can hear you all shifting your feet, and coughing occasionally, but I can’t tell what kind of mood you’re in.  I realise this makes me pathetically insecure and repulsively needy, but a couple more comments from the crowd would settle my anxiety a little.

The second thing I’m slightly bothered by is the fact that you seem to all have arrived at a moment when I’ve talked pretty openly about not doing so well.  All of this is making me acutely aware of the devil’s bargain involved in MH blogging.  Namely, that periods of crisis are linked to an upturn in hits.  This makes me profoundly uncomfortable.  It makes me feel like some kind of prostitute of mental distress – hey, baby, wanna suck my paranoia?

This isn’t accurate, and is also not a nice thing to imply – if I’m a prostitute then what would that make you?  You’re not, of course, and neither am I.  I know myself that when people are having a rough time I check in more frequently to see how they’re doing.  It’s not a prurient thing, it’s some kind of hope that, just by reading, I can show them that they’re not struggling alone in the dark, that there are people who care.  I’m sure the same is true for you.

But the thing is I hate this.  I hate being like this, but even more to the point I hate to be seen like this.  I am a fairly private person, and that’s part of it.  No-one seems to write much about the awful, toe-curling, fist-chewing embarrassment involved in being a loony.  Perhaps it’s not something other people feel as intensely as me.  I think ‘natural’ personality traits underlie mentalism, and I would be fairly introverted and self-conscious whatever was going on with me.  I’m not really ashamed about the post before this one – it’s an accurate reflection of where I am, it’s not a happy place, and it shows – but I am cripplingly embarrassed that I allowed myself to post it.

I put a lot of work into maintaining a persona for this blog.  It’s not a lie – Aethelread has the same attitudes, concerns, opinions, preoccupations, sense of humour as the real person who hides behind the pseudonym – but it’s not the whole truth, either.  In this blog I come across (I think…) as cool, detached, ironic, intellectual, self-aware, partly because these are the qualities I admire.  This is the person I like to think I would be if my mind didn’t keep turning traitor on me.

As a general rule, I think maintaining the persona is a good idea; in fact it is, at least in part, a self-conscious strategy.  For a whole range of reasons, blogging is pretty much the only thing I do at all consistently – even my agonisingly slow progress towards an MA has come to a juddering, and probably terminal, halt.  It seems to make sense to me, then, that the effort I put into blogging – which is often the only effort I am capable of – should be directed towards an attempt to be normal, to imagine myself into the role of a person who sees and speaks and thinks like everyone else does.  Better that than it should be concentrated on what marks me out, makes me different, makes it impossible for me to function in the way most other people do.

The trouble with this is that, hate it as much as I do, I am marked out as different, and I am not capable of consistently functioning the way other people do.  That is always going to find its way into the blog, and when it does it will always make me feel crap for failing in the project I have set myself.

So this is where I find myself.  I am trapped between the desire to be normal, the reality of what I am, and the self-revulsion I feel for failing to make myself normal by an effort of will.  This has all come to a head because of the time of year, of course – I checked out the archives for last year and I was in as pathetic a state then as I am now, something I had forgotten.  Actually, a lot of things are coming to a head at the moment.  I am seeing and hearing quite a few things that seem very unlikely to be real.  That doesn’t freak me out in and of itself (although it isn’t an especially nice experience), but it is quite exhausting having to constantly examine everything to work out whether its real or not.  When that is coupled with the fact that I’m not really sleeping – and haven’t really slept for the last couple of weeks – and the constant battle I’m fighting and sometimes losing with my more paranoid thoughts, I am getting a little ground down.

The truth is, I need the daylight to come back.  I’ve been able to write this out pretty flat and straight because it’s been a basically sunny, bright day.  But already as I type this at mid-afternoon the day is turning to evening, and I can feel the tide of panic rising within me.  I just don’t cope well with this time of year.  It feels like everything is closed in, shut down, as though I am running to escape but am caught in the centre of a narrowing target that moves with me wherever I run.  I feel like I need to get out, break free, escape.  But the thing I need to escape from is my own mind, which is, of course, impossible, so it’s a question of sitting here as calmly as I can and gritting my teeth and just refusing to give in.

I have been here before.  I have got through this before.  I will get through it again.  It’s a matter of being realistic about what I can achieve in this state.  It’s a question of refocusing on the basics.  It’s a question of preserving and keeping safe the real me, the spark of essential me-ness that persists through the noise and static that fills my mind at times like this.  It’s a matter of examining every thought, every sound and sight that enters my mind and focussing on if it’s real, or, if I can’t manage that, whether it’s something I have to do something about, or if it’s something I should distract myself from and ignore.

I have been round this way so many times before, and I know what I have to do.  All I have to do is remember the lessons of the past and apply them.  There’s no difficulty or doubt or uncertainty here.  But I will admit I find it hard to stay calm when I feel like there is no-one I can trust, not even (especially not) myself.  And I will admit I could use a couple of night’s sleep.

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19 Responses to Yet more whingeing

  1. Hil says:

    I’m one of your lurkers- a long time one though! I just wanted to say hi (cos you asked- I wouldn’t otherwise- too shy) and to try to explain why I read your blog.

    I haven’t really thought about why until you asked and my first thought was -because I like it. The things you write are interesting. I wonder about how you are doing when you don’t post for a while, I’m glad when things are going ok and I wish the best for you when they aren’t.

    I hadn’t though about what it must be like to know people are reading your posts but not responding. While I understand that its uncomfortable I hope you don’t mind that I’ll probably go back to just lurking.


  2. Hannah says:

    Another lurker here. Hello :) I read your blog because you write well about interesting things, and because reading someone else’s experience of a treacherous mind helps somehow with my own. I don’t comment because I never have anything to contribute that someone else hasn’t said or won’t say better, basically. I can well imagine how odd it is to have an army of silent readers though; sorry to have added to that.

    All the best,


  3. I read because of my own MH issues. You’re explicit about yours, whereas I can still chirpily pass and so I put my efforts into maintaining the facade. Thank you.

  4. Katherine says:

    You knew I was here but I read because I enjoy the allusions you make, the fact that you’re a Forster fan and because you write well on topics of common interest – MH stuff and other stuff.

    I need the sunshine back too. Only 30 days until March. I wish we could skip February.

  5. Katherine says:

    Oh, and I started reading because your blog is called Aethelread the Unread, which is just a very good blog name.

  6. Hey Aethelread! I make a point to leave comments, so you know me.

    Right now I’m insufferably *cheerful* (at least compared to my usual self). I will do (or not do) something that I hate myself for and then brush it off pretty quickly, although I do make a commitment to myself to address these issues. (Mainly procrastination/daydreaming/internet addiction that keeps me from my responsibilities.)

    This isn’t really an odd emotional state for me, but compared to my deep depression that lasted for a few months earlier in the winter, and compared to my normal chaos of anxiety and depressed thoughts mixing with optimism, it’s quite an improvement. I feel ambiguous about the fact that I’m on an antidepressant right now, but the medication played a definite role in my recovery, and now I don’t want to go off it until I’ve developed a healthier life style and self-image.

    I hate taking meds, and I’m distrustful of them, but sometimes there’s nothing else to do. :\

    (*cough*cough* That didn’t seem pointed at all, did it?)

    Anyway! You are awesome, thank you for fighting your way through this. I hope one day you find a solution that works for your various mental phenomena, and/or move to the equator. Or get a kiwi billionaire to invite you to spend the Southern Hemisphere summers in his beautiful home?

    You are “cool, detached, ironic, intellectual, self-aware”. Just because you can’t ALWAYS be those things doesn’t mean you aren’t. And don’t forget: You also come across as passionate, caring, and compassionate.

    (See? Insufferably cheerful.)

  7. Lann says:

    I just found your blog while reading another blogger ( She has you on a favorites list of sorts. I get really depressed this time of year

  8. Lann says:

    cont.. the laptop is a little touchy. Anyway I think I may have SAD among other things and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  9. I read because I deal with mh issues too.

  10. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for all the comments – they’re greatly appreciated. I think i may have made some of you feel bad for reading without commenting. Sorry, that wasn’t my intention, and tbh it hadn’t even crossed my mind that there might be reasons why people didn’t feel comforting [edit: comfortable commenting. Sorry what i actually typed there has a whole other meaning, and isn’t what i mean], which it should have done, since i know there are all kinds of reasons why i don’t always feel like commenting on other people’s blogs. Sorry, as you know, my brain isn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment.

    Hil – Thanks for writing such a thoughtful comment. :o) I certainly don’t mind if you want to go back to lurking. Take care.

    Hannah – Thank you. :o) I’m glad you find what i write useful, and please don’t feel bad for not commenting.

    Alison Cummins – Thank you. :o) I hope things are going ok for you, or, at least, as ok as they can.

    Katherine – Thank you. It’s nice to hear from familliar people too, of course. :o)

    almost0surreptitious – sorry your comment got stuck in the spam filter. Please don’t apologise for feeling optimistic – it’s great that you are. :o) I’m also really, really glad to hear that meds are working for you, and you’re right, you shouldn’t come off them until you’re certain you’re good and ready. There’s nothing wrong with taking them long-term (or even permanently) if that’s what you need.

    Lann – Thank you, always nice to meet a new arrival. :o) Sorry to hear you’re not doing great, and i hope you feel better soon.

    saveyoursanity – Thank you for commenting. Take care.

  11. cellar_door says:

    I usually don’t comment on a post when I don’t feel I have anything helpful to say, or when I don’t really have a proper understanding of some of the issues you talk about (usually the politics stuff, because I avoid it like the plague in real life!), or even when I don’t have the time to write a proper response and by the time I do often someone more articulate has expressed my sentiments and saying “what s/he said” feels like a cop out :o) And sometimes I just completely lack the energy to attempt to engage with anyone…yes, mental health nursing is lucky to get such a gem of a nurse, I know…

    re: weather. I was feeling unusually cheerful the other day, then it fucking snowed last night and I’m pissed off again. THERE WAS SUN, THOUGH. BRIEFLY. Gives me hope….

  12. cb says:

    I’ve been reading a long while and commenting less than I probably should. Sometimes I just am not sure if I can add anything and sometimes, to be honest, I’m reading on a news reader rather than on the site so any immediate comments I might think of never get the chance to be written as I intend to come back to things ‘later’.

    I think when I was starting writing more regularly on my own blog, I wanted to see how and what other people were doing – and then, you get a feel of someone and forget almost that you don’t ‘know’ them.

    I think because I’ve been so busy and, to be honest, worn down by work a little, I’m less proactive in my reading. In fact, one of my new years’ resolutions was to comment more in general but I’ve been poor at keeping it up.

  13. Alison says:

    I lurk and read sometimes, usually when I have the time. I like how you write! :)

  14. Kapitano says:

    I just think you’re just an interesting person. And a nice one, and a smart one.

    I can’t think of better reasons for getting to know a person in, er, person. Or reading their blog.

  15. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the extra comments. Am beginning to slightly wish i hadn’t posted this post, because i seem to just be making a lot of people, who have no reason to, feel guilty, which really wasn’t what i had in mind. I was just a bit freaked out about the disconnect between a big spike in readers and not a lot of comments, that’s all. I don’t even really know why i was freaked out, but i was. Anyway, sorry again, and please, none of you have any reason to feel bad. :o)

    cellar_door – please don’t feel bad about your frequency of commenting – you’re one of the more regular commenters here, and anyway, i really wasn’t trying to make people feel bad. I know you’ve got your own stuff to deal with, and i understand that you feel burnt-out sometimes. It’s ok that you feel burnt out, because you’re my friend, not my nurse. Friends are allowed to be human… :o)

    cb – as with cellar_door, please don’t feel bad. I really, really didn’t mean for that to happen. I know you have a very stressful job, and you’ve been busy at home too. And anyway, it’s not like i’m any better at commenting on your blog… :o)

    Alison – thanks. :o)

    Kapitano – Thank you for saying kind things, they’re very much appreciated. :o)

  16. J. Wibble says:

    I know exactly what you mean about the embarassment factor. Being a loony can be quite embarassing, and not just in the obvious ‘nutter on the bus’ ways people immediately think of when concocting a mental image of a typical ‘loony’. Embarassment for me seems to crop up all over the place, like when people ask why I haven’t finished my degree yet or ‘what do you do’ or even picking up my meds in the pharmacy, when I sometimes feel like the chemists are thinking “that bloke’s drugged up to the eyeballs, he must be a right loony”. Perhaps it’s something I’ll address when I have the time to write properly again (see below).

    A common saying in our house is “Being insane on a day-to-day basis is not as interesting as Channel 4 documentaries would have you believe.” What it is more than anything is time-consuming – I haven’t been writing my own blog lately because it takes me forever to make it ‘right’ (this comment has taken 20 minutes already) and circumstances dictate that time alone to myself is currently measured in half hours per week. Panic attacks do eat time, as does cleaning up the coffee you just spilled all over the floor because your hand twitched while you were drinking it, and sometimes just getting out of the bed takes all frigging day.

    Keep holding out for sleep, it has to come eventually.

  17. merope says:

    I read because…you are a really really accomplished writer. You encourage me to improve my own feeble efforts. And yeah…fellow travelers and all that…

  18. Thanks for saying I shouldn’t go off my meds… I am moving farther away from sanity atm and have been seized by a desire to discontinue, even though venlafaxine is supposed to be very bad for withdrawal.

    I hope you didn’t scare your lurkers and don’t have anything to apologize for. :( But the curiosity was natural… can you be sure that your recent uptick has been in human traffic and isn’t due to someone linking to one of your informative posts?

    @J. Wibble

    It’s interesting because for me embarrassment strikes when I’m not as sick, because I get major waves of embarrassment and regret after interacting with people, which I don’t do voluntarily if I do interact with people. But I do get frustration, shame, or just alienation when people make assumptions that I don’t have to spend so much time fighting my own mind–I feel like I’m invalidated as a person in others’ eyes, or that I don’t have the appropriate emotional background or abilities to contribute positively to a situation. But I feel more righteous indignation than embarrassment over this.

  19. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the extra comments.

    J Wibble – i know you’re going through a tough patch at the moment, so thanks for taking the trouble to comment. :o) I think the feeling i feel in situations like being asked what i do for a living is closer to shame than it is embarassment, but they’re fairly closely-related i guess. And i definitely recognise the ‘have to get things right’ self-imposed pressure. Anyway, you don’t need to worry, your comment was perfect! Hope things improve for you soon. :o)

    merope – thank you for saying nice things. Oh, and your posts are not in the least bit feeble. :o)

    almost0surrepitious – sorry to hear you’re struggling a bit at the moment. I hope things improve soon. :o)

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