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.
A feeling of emptiness rules my life.
After going back to Uni, I’ve let the long train journeys that pass me back and forth as I switch between the careful gaze of my parents and the complete anonymity of University life, pass me slowly by. As these two hour long journeys drag painfully across my vision, they serve as a reminder that I am never heading towards where I want to be. Regardless of my destination, I never feel at home, I never feel satisfied. I trawl through life with a dissatisfied scowl on my face, bitter and resentful at how I have ended-up in this trap, resembling a pendulum swinging from one end of the country to the other. Yet, I have no idea how to resolve the situation…what is the cure, the solution that I am waiting for?
When I sit staring at the four walls of my room, I simply feel a gaping hollowness inside. This sounds dramatic and cliched but I have never felt anything so desperate and crushing before. It feels like my chest is constantly in danger of ripping open and the guttural scream that I suppress inside of me will finally unleash it’s wild frustration. The problem is, I don’t know how I will ever put myself back together if I let these emotions tear out of me.
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.
Recently, I haven’t been able to sit still.
As I write this, I am shifting around on my chair and fiddling with my fingers. I just cannot relax. Every time I sit somewhere to do something, I find some element of my environment wrong; my chair is too high, I am too cold, too hot, I need something to fidget with, my desk is too messy etc. I am aware that all of these things sound ridiculous. They are such little, inconsequential issues but for some reason these silly problems keep forcing themselves into the front of my mind at the moment and the more I try to ignore them, the more prominent in my head they become.
So, I am finding myself unable to complete any tasks recently. I start doing one thing only to become so frustrated that I decide to start something else, to see if I can get further with that. This is a bad spiral to get sucked into. Before I know it, I have reached the end of the day and the dark of the night is closing in around me, without anything on my to-do list having been ticked off. As a result, this kickstarts the process of me feeling incapable of being a Uni student because I feel unproductive and unfulfilled. I sit on my bed at the end of the day and feel drained but without the consolation of having done well in anything, achieved anything.
Over the years, I have become a pro at avoidance.
Counsellors and therapists have been left exasperated with me because of the way I weave myself out of situations and wriggle out of any obligations which I know will make me feel anxious. At school, I used to make a concerted effort to avoid any teacher who took an interest in me, anyone who wanted to explore what lay behind my silent, passive exterior. For the most part, I have made my life an extensive game of hide and seek as I have consciously guarded myself against anything which could have the potential to brings things out of me that I would rather conceal. My sealed mouth and over-active mind act as an armour between me and the world, allowing me to pass through life with a minimum amount of confrontation.
Through time this has expanded to the way I dress and present myself. I make an active decision everyday to dress myself in a way that will act as the best disguise and which will reduce any individualism someone could associate with me. Essentially, I try my best to make myself invisible. I wear baggy black hoodies and jogging bottoms which cannot show my figure and cover as much skin as possible. That way I feel safe, for some reason. Protected.
The result of living my life behind a silent barrier is that I have left myself alone and without any interests that could draw me away from the confines of my room. My lifestyle is, by my own design, incredibly isolating. University was supposed to be a new start for me, a chance to re-create myself afresh but as I write this I have not been into any of my classes for the past three days because every time I think about entering a seminar room or a lecture hall I feel physically sick.
By trying to navigate through life as simply as possibly, I have made everything as far away from straight forward as I could have done. Many of the skills people have learnt during their time growing-up and experiencing new things, I have made sure that I have missed out on. I have made dead certain that I would always be on the outside looking in because I have always seen this as the safest place to be, looking at all situations from a distance in order to ascertain any ‘dangers’. Now I am finding nearly impossible to find my way back to a point where I can live without putting extreme restrictions in place between me and everyone else.
At University it seems that I am a category. A box to fill. A task to tick off the list. This is usually because I present people with a problem; I’m not straightforward or easy to understand or communicate with and I come with a whole host of educational adjustments saddled around my neck. Therefore, professors approach me with an air of caution, confusion and curiosity.
This is because my teachers know about my mental illnesses before they even meet me. Along with my picture on their module database, they are invited to read about my history of problems within the education system and the issues which my poor mental health present for me. They know the workings of my brain in quite a bit of detail before they even see me in real life and experience me as a person rather than just a list of clinical judgements.
Frankly, I do not know how to feel about this situation. I feel awkward upon meeting lecturers and professors for the first time as I know that they will have seen the notes which have been made about me from various different assessments and meetings – it is like they have been let in on one of my secrets. Whilst this is helpful because they are aware of my situation which may provide context for my detached and anxious behaviour, I also feel vulnerable when I first meet them. I know that they have the knowledge to see me in a particular light which frightens me as there are no ways that I can hide the ugly complexity of my character, it is all laid out there in the open with a complete stranger.
My mum came to visit me on Saturday.
As the day started drawing to a close and a blanket of deep blue was being pulled across the sky, I longed for that time not to end. I wanted to draw each second into eternity and ride in her car forever, spending my lifetime suspended in a never-ending state of sub-reality.
Coasting through the undulating countryside, I could see from the peaks of hills into the dollhouses in the valleys down below. In those little paper houses were people acting their lives; telling their children that it was their bedtime, parents easing open bottles of wine and families lying lazily in front of the TV. Moving along above them seemed so simple. My life was no longer entangled with theirs because I was not one of them. I no longer had to be a doll, play a part.
As we got more and more lost in the winding, ethereal countryside, my heart found more and more solace. I love to be lost. If no-one can find me and I can’t find myself then I will hang forever in that state. I will be a memory to everyone and devoid of any connections except to those I have with myself.
I began to imagine those films which are spun from classic books where girls wander in desperation through the desolate countryside, barefoot and bewildered. The only purpose they have to run away from whatever they came from, rather than running to any signpost or mark in the sand.
However, my mum doesn’t like to be lost so much. She wound the car through the intricate bends which have carved themselves through the sweeping carpets of grass and brought us back into the clearing. Then, the pouring rain matched the motion on my own face. Tears fell silently and absent-mindedly from my drooping eyes as I yet again began to detach myself from reality. She led me back down the dreary halls of my residence and I dragged my feet along the rough carpet. I shoved my key roughly in the door, distantly aware of the thumping music coming from somewhere in the background of this nightmare.
I had been returned to my cell. My room. My cell.