Where Are All The Signs? Oh, Sorry, I Was Too Busy To Look Out For Them
Yesterday’s post was about the sensation of plunging into the bleak valley. It’s difficult to spot at the time, because it’s hidden behind some trees, or is wreathed in the dark smoke of activity and the symptoms that precede and accompany it.
It seems to me that maintaining an awareness of the stuff that retrospectively was in my head should help me to anticipate, recognise and ultimately enable me to bridge that valley, or at least only blunder partway down.
These signs seem at the time to come together, but I think the order I’ve got them in here is probably exactly backwards to how I really experience them.
I’m a fairly sociable sort of person (really), in that I find other people intensely stimulating. Sometimes too much, which leads to massive hyperactivity and inability to sleep. Seeing people at the right times… So if I get the feeling that I don’t want to be part of anything; that I’m rejecting the things, activities and people who usually make me feel good, or inspire creativity, then that’s probably not my ‘real’ response. A few quiet nights are fine, but it’s a swift and slippery slope into “fuck it, you can all fuck off”.
Difficult to manage: if I do too much it can be overwhelming and I don’t feel that I’m getting the all important quiet time with my other half, cat and books. And sitting. Just sitting around (while reading, watching TV and doing a few other things at the same time – that, to me is quiet time). If I do too little then I’m not getting the stimulation I crave and that has a direct knock on effect on my ability (or feeling about my ability) to create and do.
Maybe it comes from the perceptual lag between doing a cool thing and the next cool thing. I have a terrible memory of what I’ve just done. That lovely sensation of being on stage spinning bullshit into gold is frighteningly transient. It’s like a field projected around my sense of self and blends weirdly into time. And it just gets left behind in mere hours or days. It gets replaced by an emptiness – a gap where that good feeling ought still to be.
The prospect of future awesomeness is utterly intangible to me. Until I’m within a couple of days of an event (such as last weekend’s trip to Manchester) it has no impact on me, no window for light to shine through into my anxious psychic architecture. I have a weak sense of future anyway, so I guess that’s wrapped up together.
I like a good argument, a spirited discussion with good humour. I even like talking to most people. But if I’m on the way down (or wallowing in the filth of that bleak valley), everyone talks in my head, picking fights over what I’ve done, what I’m doing, what I haven’t done. From friends to colleagues to strangers in the street: it’s a running verbal battle where I anticipate their enmity and criticism and initiate a counter attack before it’s even happened.
It’s a really stressful way to not-quite-interact with others. Everything is on a knife’s edge of likely failure and defence becomes angry and premature. It generates even more stress than actually having the argument for real would do.
So that sounds like a weakened sense of general self-esteem or a perception of fragility in what is otherwise excellent (the only things I do – joke). It’s one I have trouble preventing it from escalating in my head. I can feel the tension, tightness and clenching jaw of stress both inside and out. It makes me really angry, and hot with self-hatred as well as loathing for the imagined assault on me. A ridiculous state of mind. But once it’s got you…
It was only when I was talking to an excellent friend, some time before I engaged with counselling, that I discovered that actually most people don’t think about self harm or killing themselves now and then. I genuinely figured it was normal. Apparently not. It is not always in my mind, and when I am manically skipping over the waterfall that occludes the dark valley with its spray, it is very far from my thoughts. It might be days or even weeks before suicide lights up darkly in the back of my head.
The symptoms above trigger it; I suppose they all interact, intensifying each other. It seems like the simplest solution to any given problem -resting, of course, on the basic principle that what is causing the problem or what is wrong, is me. Now I know that isn’t true (it’s all them other fuckers), but it’s so self-evident sometimes. It’s the only sure way to wrest control of the situation back again, or to resolve it utterly. Control is the key. Self harm, more than a cry for help (which it may be) is definitively causing an effect that no one else can interfere with, or do themselves. The act is all mine. As is the pain, so beautifully clean and perfect. A complete distraction of everything else running around inside, like all those feelings have just been impaled, stapled into stillness.
If I’m thinking about self-harm or suicide more frequently than a couple of times a week (which I reckon is probably my baseline, and emerge from temporary frustration); a few casually considered thoughts about staple guns and razor blades and burns – then I’m likely on my way back down again. It’s been my intention for a while to start tracking that, though I’ve not figured out whether having to think about whether I’ve thought about a thing counts as having thought about a thing…
Upside Down And Back To Front
Yeah, I think they are backwards. Here’s how I think it goes: I am stressed / anxious / slipping down the slope. My go to response is to contemplate self-harm (I just don’t know why. Next the imaginary arguments kick in, which is the feelings esaping and making themselves articulate and known. The only possible response to that is to get the hell away from everything, because everything is where the conflict and the pain will be. Ah, sorted.