I hate being obvious, but one of the thoughts, the many many, many thoughts, that have raced through my head since I finished my conversation with C., a very nice .. (insert definition of her job here) from Derbyshire Talking Mental Health, but no, even from a few days before, no actually, since
FOREVER starting to be forced to interact with human beings on a regular basis, is Whooooo…. are Youuuuuu. Like that, with that voice, everyone has seen it. It’s from Alice in Wonderland.
Again, I hate being obvious, but you know, all those quotes, the hamlet one, the ENFP ones (my type has changed since), the whole lot of them: they all resonate. The horrendous cacophony of Alice’s internet adaptation reply on Google, and the actual quote:
“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
I love the difference. In the internet version, she has changed. In this version, she has been changed. That sums it up so well. There was no decision on my part, I was always changed by someone, something, somewhere. A few times, too. Sometimes on a daily basis.
Even as I read my favourite blogs, as well as the ever-present question: “How on earth do people manage to read so much?”, I soon notice that every blog has a voice. It is very rare that I have to go and double check: “Hang on, who was that writing this again?”. If I picture myself as someone outside of me, I know, backed up by how people have looked or reacted at me, that all there is is confusion, chaos. There is no single unified voice, except for the voice of rambling and randomness.
I am not expressing any judgement of this, it’s just something that I can’t help but think of and it’s a thought that settles there, comfortably, and has settled there since the moment I had to decide whoooo was I, when I introduced myself, who was I, when I learnt that you have to “choose your friends”. Eventually, after years and years of flitting between one group and the other, one person and the other, one personality and the other day in day out and lots of blank in between, I realised that your friends choose you. I am proud of who my friends are, always was: they are amazing incredible people, and when once I was down, my good old friend J. used to say to me: “You love your friends right? You think the world of them. Well, remember that it goes both ways, or they wouldn’t be your friends. You must be an amazing incredible person too”.
Of course that concept kind of backfired when some friends dropped off like flies suddenly put off by the shit they used to love so dearly. But that is besides the point.
We used to be friends. We used to be dear, close, friends. Now we are nothing but people who once knew each other.
I spoke to this lovely woman, C., yesterday. She called me punctually, at 1:45 pm. No actually two minutes late and apologised profusely. She’d also gotten the phone wrong so we hung up and she phoned back. I sweated and giggled and said it was ok (of course it was!). For three weeks the actual date and then the actual time of this Telephonic assessment appointment swirled and changed in my head and even on my blooming calendar. But I ran upstairs, barely avoided a clash with my visiting brother-in-law, (“I am sorry M. but right now I need to cut you off and I need to focus on ME and I cannot have you try to rile me up” and patted myself on the back for that), set up the laptop with music on to try and avoid the whole of my conversation from being heard downstairs where EVERYBODY was that I didn’t necessarily want to be an audience (my children among them), two phones, mobile and landline, the filled in form, a great gap provided by the lack of Propranolol to help me through the bloody ordeal (I hate phones, and I hate being real with psychology workers) and spoke to her. It ended at 2:40 pm, after which I dashed downstairs and begged my sister to take me to my GP appointment to get my Propranolol. I floated masterfully through the minutes that passed until I could get to the chemist and back and then take a pill, as my reward for having gone through that whole thing unaided.
For some reason my brother in law thought it would be funny to use my trust of him in telling him what the phone call was for to tease me, call her a shrink in the old Italian denigrative way, tell me all his female relatives are on antidepressants so it’s old news for him, and tell me “In the old days people just went to a priest, go to a priest”. I know his intentions were good (I hope!) but I felt slightly nauseous with temporary murderous instinct.
C. told me she’d refer me to the Psychiatric Consultant. They would assess her referral letter and if they believe I respond to their guidelines (Am I interesting enough for you, Psychiatric Consultants?) they will offer me an appointment. They are the only ones who can give me a diagnosis. She told me what an appointment with them would entail (she was so sweet, C., I could have carried on talking to her for hours), and I listened impassibly. “Do you think you’ll be ok with that?”
“Sheesh!! Of course! It sounds only like what I have avoided my entire life, but sure, BRING IT ON!” “Yes”.
I am not looking forward to it. I told C., when she asked whether there was anything else I thought I should tell her: “Well, you know, I hate the phone, like I told you. But in a way I believe the phone has made me able to be more honest with you, because it makes me vulnerable. I may arrive at a face-to-face appointment coming across as very confident and not requiring any help whatsoever and dismissing the whole thing and being very, very good at demonstrating that it was all just a mistake, I am fine and need no help whatsoever. Or I may crumble in a heap of tears, anger and trembling glug. But I do need help. I need to know what exactly is wrong, so I can tackle it better.” (Now that I think of it, I could have just said “I am great pretender, please take my word now that I do need help, before I change my mind
and my heart and my soul and my thoughts“.
I am looking forward to it.
I have never been anything I could relate to. I would sit and nod sympathetically at people telling me about that one event, sometimes shockingly two events, that have irreparably fucked up their lives. A cloud of thunder and lighting hovers over my head, sending me images of all the stuff that has happened to me and I think: hey, I’m not that fucked up. What makes me different? Then my mind would present me, when alone, with the facts, one after the other, cold and hard, and I would have to stop them because the truth is, running constantly and focusing on my babies and my dramas, real or made up as they would often tell me, has meant that I’ve kept sane through MANY fuckups, as well as the shit I had no control over. I am deep down terrified that if I stop for long enough, with my thoughts and feelings and actions, IT will all catch up with me. Then there won’t be enough room inside my head to contain it all.
Insanity, for want of a better word, meaning the complete loss of any conscious thought as far as we know, the complete loss of any sense of self, has always terrified and yet appealed to me immensely. That is why when my friend B. said “You will never go insane” I used it as a source of relief and encouragement later, but there and then, I do remember, I felt “Oh. Why not. :(“ with extreme disappointment. It was like he were telling me you will never get any respite from yourself. Even appealing to him and saying “But B., I don’t even know what myself IS”, he maintained his position and didn’t give me that beautiful hope to cling to.
Now I have children and people I dearly love. A handful of friends who have yet to ditch me, my children, my husband, my old dog (the cats will be ok no matter what). So no, I cannot go insane. And the tiger mother in me always fought to not be considered insane in any way, either, so that nobody could ever dare suggest I couldn’t bring up my kids. Always on best behaviour, this one, or at least, keeping her bad behaviour out of the spotlight.
I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what my real voice is. Now I am starting to feel that my diagnosis, even if it’s “It’s all in your head, you are just STOOPID”, will be the first thing that will ever define me, contain me, give me an identity, something to work with. I can’t really identify with a nationality, a culture, a line of thought, political views, spiritual direction. I don’t know if I am a serious person or a light hearted one. I don’t really know whether I’m a cheery happy go lucky extrovert with too much time on her hands or that gloomy poetic melancholy romantic I often feel like or just an angry simmering tornado in the making and unmaking or just a simple country lass. But perhaps, with a diagnosis, I will receive entitlement. Entitlement to feel how I feel and give it a name.