I’ve been avoiding doing this all day. It doesn’t help that I’m not getting to sleep on time and then not waking up when my alarm goes off, thus neatly knackering my nice little morning routine and meaning I’ve had fewer hours awake when bedtime looms once more. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle and it’s already getting me down. It’s not the only thing getting me down.
I knew, when I started keeping this little mental health track journal, that while it might be quite tedious to recount feeling basically fine, it’s both much more interesting and much harder to write at all when things are not so good. Writing is my version of talking. Despite being one of the co-hosts of a podcast called We Are What We Overcome which is explicitly about encouraging people to talk about their feelings, I am not very good about it. I can feel it like sealant filling me up from the base of my stomach, expanding and clamping shut every part of me, cutting me off from my words. So I write instead – it’s the same essential self-expression, even if it feels like cheating. It also benefits from having no pauses, no awkward ums and ahs (which I just cannot bear in my own speech), none of the emotional agony of transmitting words through resisting flesh into the air. No interruptions, no feedback good or bad, no need to check in with who I’m busy burdening and ensure they’re neither overreacting (perhaps to an offhand comment about just ending it all). In text I can clarify as I wish, qualify without distraction.
It’s a very selfish method of communication, and wildly self-indulgent, but is one of the only forms I’ve ever truly been comfortable with. It’s not like I lack the vocabulary, emotional or literary but there really is something that wires my jaw shut. Maybe I don’t trust myself to be honest when I speak, or complete – having someone responding breaks the flow. Perhaps. When I was going through counselling, in contrast to CBT, my counsellor’s main aim was to give me space to talk, not to sympathise, not to interrupt or clarify unless it seemed important. I didn’t like that much, but I guess it came close to my ideal situation which is essentially a police interrogation suite, with a nice metal table in chair where I can chat to myself and the two-way mirror, pretending there’s no one on the other side of it. And who knows, maybe there isn’t.
When I was a teenager I discovered that no one will notice if you’re suffering (that sounds overly harsh and is not intended to be so brutal a criticism of my family and friends at the time – I mask and pretend very well), and no matter how you scream internally, bleed invisibly under your clothes and want to be dead forever, no one will see it unless you let them. That hasn’t stopped being true. Even living hand in pocket with someone I love for a quarter of a century hasn’t broken through those verbal dams constructed inside me during my teenage years. And if I don’t splash a little water over the top (this is a terrible metaphor but I’m enjoying it; the water is this journal, in case it’s not as transparent an analogy as one might wish for) then I remain walled away. And drowning, presumably, in the reservoir above (maybe not such a bad metaphor after all…) It takes a vast effort, and being challenged and breaking to break my way out of the concrete that encases me (I guess I got tossed in the reservoir or something), but even then I’m not as free as I am here.
That is also what this journal is for. It can, if I wish, be a way of beginning a conversation with myself or someone else about subjects I cannot bring up through my body into voice. It’s not necessarily an invitation though. It’s public because otherwise I won’t do it; open because otherwise I won’t acknowledge it; available because otherwise I am not. All this of course is merely me dancing around how I feel today, burying feelings in performance, battering the present back with words.
Yesterday was not great, today is the same or worse. Hard to measure isn’t it? I’m stopping, just freezing as I try to proceed with the day. If it’s routine and autonomic I’m probably doing OK, but if it requires thought and consideration I appear to be fucked. That’s desperately inconvenient this week. There’s only so much staring ahead while I fall backwards out of my body into a darker realm, leaving the puppet flesh fingers hanging over the keyboard. It’s that reservoir I’m sinking back into, though I doubt that metaphor’s going to broach any further deep understanding. Depression’s no particular stranger, and I have to be honest with myself that I experience this even when I’m on my minimal sleeping dose of amitriptyline, that the really bad patch which led to me beginning this mental health track was while I was doing everything, taking everything I have done for years. I always figured that they stopped me from being worse, but it’s possible they did nothing at all bar helping me sleep most of the time. Is this sudden decline even related to my ongoing experiment in stopping the drugs? I have no control; I lack data; the plural of anecdote is not data, etc.
Let’s characterise that falling away from the world: it’s deadness. I don’t feel sad; occasionally frustrated and disappointed; but it’s not a feeling of sadness. It’s a retreat from everything – you’re all about half a mile away, too far off to care about, too distant to engage with, just out of reach. And in that place of deadness is a lack of feeling, a lack that can all too easily be filled with getting absolutely wasted, because that at least involves being present even if it’s in an altered state. And all consciousness is a flux of states, everything we do flips a bunch of chemical switches. It’s why going for a walk, meditation, reading and punching the wall until your heart hammers all take us to the same place of calm and quiet. The drugs do it too, so does booze, just busy rotating the self so a different window into the soul is visible through your eyes, and so we can look out from a different room. Somehow this is like the magical Faraway tree, except it’s the self that emerges from those terrifying realms sliding around at the top of the forest. And in this place of absence, everything is impossible. It would be so much easier to never have been.
Yet I persist. All this will pass, miserable though it might be in the meantime, harrowing and tedious in equal measure for my loved ones. For me, I can’t separate how I feel – or rather unfeel – from the challenges of sleep and the breaking routine that I thought would protect me. It feels like failure, but I remember that it did not feel this way two days ago, and may not in two days’ time.
Fuck, that’s a lot of words to say virtually nothing. Right now I don’t want to sleep because I don’t want to wake up.