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.