DIARY #2 – SELF DOUBT

Today, I find myself staring at my blank computer screen, the brilliant white of a draft blog post staring blatantly back at me. And I feel intimidated. What I am looking at doesn’t seem to be a computer screen anymore, it’s taken on it’s own lease of life, masquerading as the many faces of people I dearly wish will never find this indescribably small corner of the internet that I inhabit. All of these faces leer at me, telling me that my writing isn’t good enough, that everything I say is cliched and that I should be embarrassed to spend my time pouring out these immature words. So, I feel afraid to write and my hands keep hovering hesitantly over my keyboard, frozen in a panic about whether or not they can trust my mind to give them good enough words to type out.

I’ll be honest, most of these faces take the appearance of people who have taught me over the years. People who have seemed to me to be impossibly clever, even scarily so as I remember their Oxbridge certificates taking pride of place on their walls, almost as if to prove my own inadequacy to me. Their faces contort into amused sneers in my mind’s eye as they look at me with the knowledge that what I write is absolute drivel that could never impress anyone. The way they look at me feels paralysing.

I don’t whether the force of their intimidation in my head is so strong because I got my first semester University results on Friday. The crude grading of my supposed intelligence and understanding has always felt frightening to me, as if the sum of my parts is presented on that results page in a disappointingly low percentage which classifies me as simply average. Whatever the mark, results are always a distinct bash to my confidence because it reminds me of how my future is in the hands of other people who are undoubtedly intellectually superior to me and probably marked my papers thinking how basic my work was. The most I can do is stick a figurative middle finger up at these pretend critiques which my mind has twisted out of the faint shadows of people I either used to know or barely know at all and continue to write in spite of the faces which drift across my consciousness.

BACK TO FEAR…

I’m back at Uni and it feels like a completely alien space to me. After a six week break for Christmas and the exam period, it started to feel like that first semester had just been a bad dream, something that I had now woken-up from. I let myself fantasise about a different life, one where I didn’t feel trapped in a course which I mistakenly chose on a whim when I was mentally unwell. I thought about the possibilities of feeling ‘normal’, not like the outcast I have made myself at Uni. My creativity began to flow through my veins again and the unexpected pleasure of poetry popped back into my life again after years of absence.

Yet, I then found myself in my dad’s freezing cold car making the journey back to that dreaded place. Back to my room in halls where I had holed myself up a couple of months previously and torn my body apart. The walls of my room hold the memories of depression naps in the middle of the day in which I fell into impossibly deep sleeps because I felt so exhausted with the effort of getting up, washing myself and eating. Now, I have to face these memories again, shrink myself back down to the size I was when I was drained and hopeless wishing for a way out of education finally and desperate for a way to feel adequate again – not the sum of my grades and tutors’ comments.

Onwards I go into this new semester, scared of what is lurking around the corner for me and hoping that one day the sunlight will filter into my room and rather than feel ashamed of it’s touch, I will feel hopeful instead.

WINDOWS…

It’s not so much windows as the view that they allow me which frightens me so much.

In my mind, windows are a scary liminal space between the protection that I am afforded inside my home and the volatile and unpredictable world that lays just beyond the sheets of glass. The glances I sneak through the window seem to tease me, knowing that I will inevitably be scared of what I will see. The carefree people drifting past my driveway, listening to music or chatting to friends seem so alien to me. Who are they? What kind of people are they? My mind channels these thoughts into a bottomless pool of fear as I ruminate on the fact that these people are walking just feet away from me and the only thing which separates us is a couple of sheets of dangerously fragile glass.

I know that I am irrational and overly paranoid; that is me. Whenever, I hear the closing of a car door or the slowing down of a vehicles tires, my heart goes into overdrive as I worry that will be someone with a delivery for the house. Such an idea feels like a wholesome threat to me. A delivery would mean opening the door, literally giving someone power over the threshold of my house, allowing them to see inside the protective fortress I have built for myself for the sole purpose of keeping others out. Deliveries mean having to sign my name when my sweaty hands will not function properly and handling a pen that goodness knows how many other people have touched before. Windows cheat me out of a way of avoiding such situations. Before I have time to gather myself and hide from view, the deliveryman has already sauntered half way down my drive and spotted me like a deer caught in the headlights through the window.

Windows remind me of the world that I will inevitably have to step back into when my next seminar or lecture comes or when hunger’s necessity to have food will drive me out of the house to the corner shop.

THIS MORNING

This morning I lay in bed feeling that my body was too weighed down to heave out of bed. The rational part of me was telling myself that I needed to get out of bed and get on with my day, I am already behind on Uni work. But the rest of me just wanted to stay cocooned inside my duvet for the rest of the day. I didn’t want the responsibility of sustaining myself, having to feed myself, having to hydrate myself. I wanted to pretend that the night could last all day – no new dramas, no challenges, just being suspended in that feeling of comfort all day.

I had an initial appointment for on-campus counselling yesterday. I have counselling and therapy before and each time I have to spill my guts to a new stranger so that I can get referred to another stranger to talk things through, I feel more drained and hopeless. I move from person to person and begin to think ‘what is the point?’. I fall into this black hole of thinking that I cannot be helped and that I can never verbalise my feelings properly anyway, so how can I ever get a counsellor or therapist to understand me?

I know that I am in a privileged position to even be close to get counselling, there are so many people across the world who are denied the treatment they need for a multitude of reasons. So, I’m sorry for moaning about it.

BEING A ‘LONER’ AT COLLEGE (SIXTH FORM)

Picture a girl with half her long blond hair shaved, a nose piercing and ‘hard rock’ clothing on, trying her best to look ‘edgy’, ‘cool’ and ‘mysterious’. Picture a girl who worships those adjectives like they are her keys to a new world, a world where she doesn’t need to change her introversion because she is admired and envied even without opening her mouth. But, this girl’s legs are wobbling making her stumble occasionally over her own clumsy feet, her face is red and shining due to a combination of acne, embarrassment and nervous sweating and she has tears in her eyes coupled with a lump in her throat as she recognises the familiar sense of panic and foreboding she always gets when she knows she will have to meet new people. This girl was me two years ago on my first day at college.

The people at my college intimidated me. They were vastly more experienced, they were headstrong and confident and they looked years older than me (despite my best efforts to look like a punk I still had the face and stature of a little girl way out of her depth). When asked why I had changed schools I could hardly say that I had become so deeply depressed and overwhelmed with anxiety that a changed had seemed as good as any other option. People bonded over common interests while I curled further in on myself in the hopes that this would protect me from the cruel words which I assumed would inevitably come; they always did.

I sat at the front of classes, knowing that this was the place where people would be least likely to want to sit themselves beside me. Everyday, I brought my marmite sandwich into college in a pristine plastic tupperware as I knew that I would not be comfortable enough to walk into any of the shops or restaurants around my college. At lunch, I would pretend that there was something extremely important or interesting that I had to do on my phone so that I wouldn’t look so lost and lonely. Once I could not feasibly pretend to do this anymore I left the common room after feeling increasingly tense that someone would soon identify me as an easy target; alone, shy and cowering behind too-large glasses and they would start picking on me; they always did.

So I would hide in the safest place I could think of…Glasses and wavesthe toilets. Locked safely inside a claustrophobic cubicle I would berate myself for being such a failure and weirdo before the intrusion of a giggling group of girls into the room would once again prick my anxiety. I would have to flee the toilets as their abrasively enthusiastic laughing and chatting would chip away at my already extremely low self-esteem (it was like their happiness re-emphasised my unhappiness).

In class, I would do my best to disappear, hiding my face behind obscenely large textbooks and resolutely avoiding eye contact with teachers as they posed questions to the class. I always handed my work in on time, not simply to abide by the rules but largely to avoid any conflict with teachers which would bring about communication which, in turn, could only lead to embarrassment and panic on my side. As soon as the teacher ended the class I would rush to be the first person out of the door, pretending that I had somewhere pressingly urgent to go (as if anyone in my class actually cared where the mute girl went after lessons).

I organised my entire daily activity around the other people at my college. I obsessively thought over where was best to go in my free periods to avoid the burning glare of other people’s curious stares as I spent my entire free looking down hopelessly at the same page in my book, never really intending to read anything. I planned my outfits conscious of what would be least likely to attract their intimidating attention. I even planned to the exact minute what the best time to excuse myself during a lesson would be according to when I thought the teacher would finally try to ask me a question after I hadn’t met their eye the whole lesson.

The most ridiculous thing is; I bet those other students didn’t waste more than a minute of their time thinking about me especially after class-time. Whereas, I agonised endlessly about their opinions and judgements night and day.

I had always been from the beginning what I had worked so hard to achieve that whole course; invisible.

NO MOTIVATION

I have gotten to a point where everything seems laid out in front of me; I have gotten into University, my course is about to start and my campus is a hive of activity. So, why am I not feeling more energised than ever? I thrive off of reading and the only validation I ever really get is my good grades, so why am I not raring to prove myself and start off down this track which has been set out for me years and years prior to this moment?

The next chapter of my life is at my finger-tips and I am sitting in a closed-off room trying to do anything but reach out for it.

This, in turn, sets off a spiral of uncontrolled negative thoughts which suck me down into depths of suffocating guilt and feelings of unworthiness. Also, I begin to wonder, if I am not driven by academia, then who am I? What else can I lay claim to? I’m not successful in any other field of my life, I just stay in this small pen which has been cordoned off for me for many years.

Is it because I am scared of failure that I am not excited to start my course? It may be that I am so terrified of falling off this degree and being incapable that I am unwilling to start it because that would mean discovering my own aptitude. Then, I am frightened of what I would possibly do in the event of me actually getting knocked-off this course. I will not be able to find any other path with which to navigate; I will be lost.

[Interlude:Progression through Higher Education is the most advertised and conventional road through life in this country. Whilst this is wonderful because it proves we have a certain level of freedom to access education, is it not also alienating?]

Or am I anxious that starting my University course will be like re-living my college years. College made me feel so lonely, like I was the only one lost in a crowd of people who all knew a secret that I didn’t. They had goals and friends and an individual purpose for each of them (it’s like an intellectual Santa Claus visited them all every year but constantly missed me out). Whereas, I spent my lunchtimes eating in a toilet cubicle if I felt too anxious to go and sit in the common-room. College made me look around as if part of me was missing and I do not want University to force me into recommencing that doomed and fruitless search.

“Always be a work in progress” – Emily Lillian¬†(darling, some of us don’t have any choice)