Am very tired, so this entry might twist and turn a little on its journey to the point but perhaps it will more raw, and unfiltered. And have more grammatical mistakes.
So recently, at the youth centre where I go, Headspace, whenever I can, which is not very often, to talk with a psychologist, and practise being around people, even if it makes me want to claw my eyes out, I attended a support group. I just thought to myself, “Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve been around random people my age, maybe I should try it, maybe it’ll be okay.” So I sat in a room with five other young men and women, and I listened to them talk about their anxiety and mental issues. It was hard. Just being around people for extended periods of time is enough to make me break out into a sweat and start trembling, hyper-vigilant about every aspect of who I am, fearing people are judging the way I look to the tremor in my fingers. Tense, coiled-tight. For me, being around people, or outside, for too long, is like dangling from a rope above an abyss. Sheer anxiety and terror. I can’t even drink or eat anything in front of other people without feeling anxious, as though all eyes are on me, watching me dribble or chew like some slobbering monster, so I was desperately thirsty throughout the whole session. It’s all in my head, all in my imagination—but it feels real.
Now I’m back, and I’m exhausted to the bone, and I don’t want to step a foot outside again until the next Ice Age. Oh, and I have another appointment in two days time, and between now and then, I have been given the delightful task of completing a booklet of “anxiety” homework, filled with tips and tricks and questions to answer, as well as more personal therapy, to step outside for five minutes by myself for returning back inside. I have been cheating. I get up, at the crack of dawn, then slip behind the street my unit is on, where there are no people, walk around a bit, then scurry back inside before even the postmen stand coming down the streets on their motorbikes. When the road is busy, I can’t do it. The world is too big, too loud, too bright. Somebody let me stay on their lonely cottage on the moor, in the middle of nowhere?
But I have to keep at it, even if it, frankly, makes me want to die, sometimes. I wouldn’t actually kill myself. I’m too scared to. It’s just that, when I’m outside, I sometimes wish I wasn’t conscious, that I could just blink out for a little while, be transported out of my own body somewhere else. But it’s the only way to placate my mother at the moment. So I’ll keep visiting the place, even though it’s not really helping. Though it may sound like an excuse to some, as it did to my psychologist, I honestly do not think my constitution is suited to city life. At all. It’s sort of like putting a dolphin into a fish tank the size of a small bedroom: sure, you can survive, but you’re pretty miserable, because the space is too small, the water is sometimes dirty, and you long for open seas, freedom. In captivity, some dolphins even resort to banging themselves against the glass, either to break it, or knock themselves unconscious; and there have been stories of dolphins leaping out of their tanks, choosing death in the open air than spending another minute in that tank. That’s kind of how I feel, sometimes. I just really, really hate living in the city.
It’s spoiled of me to say it, especially when there are people who don’t even have a safe place to live, or are homeless, and would give their right hand to live where I do, but I can’t help the way I feel. It just makes me the sick, the city. Everything about it. Trucks and motorbikes are the worst. When they pass by on the street, even if I’m inside, with the windows and doors shut, fingers in my ears, I still feel as though my brain will jiggle out through my ears. Or my nose. Certainly in those moments, like the dolphin, I feel the urge to bash myself senseless against a wall. I was just born sensitive, and, call it what you will, Asperger’s or HSP or Empath, or all three, just existing is so exhausting. Everything hits you hard as a punch to the stomach. It just gets so tiring sometimes. Even if I spend the entire day at home, and don’t step a foot outside, just being around my family, battered around by their words, their loud voices, their emotions, is enough to tire me out. Without refuge in books, in fantasy, in imagination, I would have died long ago, at least inside.
I mean, just today, in the morning, when I opened the windows, a fly came zipping into the house, and it drove me quite mad. I don’t know what it is about insects, but even though on some level I love them, and find them fascinating, when they’re actually there, in the room with you, all the hairs rise on my body in shuddering unison. I get chills. I was having a panic attack over this tiny buzzing insect in my room, thinking every itch I felt on my skin meant it had, unbeknownst to me, landed on my body, dancing around like some acrobat sprinkled with itching powder. I cried out when it flew near my face. It was one of those cases where I knew I was being crazy and neurotic, but couldn’t stop myself in spite of it, which is most of the time. Let me assure you that, some time down the track, a fly will feature in my writing, most likely not in a positive role. Maybe Kafka had a secret phobia of beetles.
Also, I was thinking about desire today. You know how they say that we always desire what we cannot have? It’s true. I think this yearning for what we cannot have, that does not exist in reality, is the basis of my entire identity. The moment I get what I desire, I lose interest in it. Take this boy, for instance, who I once liked, back when I still existed on the fringes of human society. If he were to suddenly appear on my doorstep, and profess his love to me, my affection for him would evaporate in an instant. It’s not him I want, it’s the idea of him, the idea of having someone to hold onto, to love—and if he were to exist in my life, then fantasy would be replaced by actuality, and it would get boring. Everything that exists in reality, before my eyes, is never as good as what exists in my mind. I mean, the world, of course, is very interesting, and I adore much of it, especially the animals, but it’s nothing compared to the endless universes populating the imagination.
Then I realised, in flash, that this was the same reason why I adore fantasy so much, and spend so much of my time living in my head. Why I wrote. Because when you write, when you fantasise, you are creating illusions, most of them never able to exist in reality—and it’s that distance, between yourself, and the fantastical, that makes fantasy so wonderful. If suddenly everyone in the world could levitate and use magic, enchantment as ordinary as cars driving down the road are today, then it would lose its wonder.
Fantasy is distance. It is the epitome of idealization—the idealization of life, of all that exists within the bounds of human comprehension. And that is where I belong: in that gap, between reality and fantasy, hovering in a state of pure wonder and delight. It’s the only place where I can, briefly, feel truly fulfilled. It’s the only place where I feel at home, where I don’t feel lonely, or sad. It’s an illusion I, and millions of other writers, artists, and readers, create for ourselves. It’s escapism, some might say as cowardly as drugging yourself stupid. But if you face reality too much, as Ray Bradbury once said, and perhaps Woody Allen, too, it will kill you. So the way I cope with my life, with the horror and suffering in the world, is by squirreling into other worlds, imaginary worlds,where life is often still hard, but everyone, at least most of the time, is guaranteed a happy ending—whereas in real life, the only ending is oblivion, which is neither happy nor sad: it just is. And I hate that.