Wanting To Be “Rescued”

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Another personality test I am very fond of, apart from the MBTI, is the Enneagram Personality Test. I have completed this test twice in my lifetime, and each time, I tested as Enneagram Type 4, as many INFPs often do. From reading various descriptions of Enneagram Type 4, one particular phrase remained in my mind, even after all these years: “Fours are prone to fantasizing about a savior who will rescue them from their unhappiness.”

At the time, I brushed it off with a loud, internal scoffing noise. Me, fantasize about being rescued by some Prince Charming, when the only man who I had loved in my life—my father—left me without a backward glance and when most young men wouldn’t know how to save themselves, let alone a “damsel in distress”? That would be rather like a princess wishing to be saved even after all the eligible and brave young princes have been beheaded. I know very well, just like you probably do, that there is no-one to save me or rescue me; in this world, the real world, as they like to call it, all the saving is done for ourselves, by ourselves, and the truth is most people are too busy fending off their own dragons and trying to survive in their own towers to bother about you.

Nevertheless, it kept coming back to me, this phrase, circling through my mind in the quiet seconds and minutes, when I was pouring some water (a luxury, I remind myself, such a luxury to have fresh, clean, drinking water; little reminders like that, as my therapist reminded me, can help keep one positive—she is right) or taking out the trash or cooking or cleaning or making the beds (I sound like a maid, but I do spend a good portion of my time doing those things to help my mother now that I am mostly housebound). You know, just those tiny moments where your hands are busy but your mind is free to wander and explore. A rescuer. Hm. Logically, rationally, I knew very well there would be no-one to rescue me, and each of us live and die quite alone. Love and friendship—why, these are but comforting illusions. Almost everything is an illusion, and out of all the illusions available in the world, I have chosen books and fantasy to immerse myself in, because they, personally, offer the most delight and variety. Any experiences one can have in reality pale in comparison to the worlds one can explore and the lives one can live in books and stories.

But before trying to find out why it was so many dreamers like myself, cynical though we may be, might imagine being rescued from their woes, I tried to figure out what exactly it was people like me needed saving from. Unhappiness was too general a term. It was something else. A certain dissatisfaction with reality bordering on loathing, a dissatisfaction with what life held and what the world contained so uncomfortable we almost feel the urge to skin ourselves to be rid of it. The monotony of our days. The “miserable reality of our days”. The humdrum, everyday, banal, boring state of normality we wake up to every morning. That was what dreamers—Enneagram Type 4s really are basically very melancholy dreamers—desired to be saved from, and many other people besides. We want to feel the adrenaline rush of being alive, living, for euphoria to course through our veins. There’s a reason so many people around the world take drugs, go on holidays, dine at fine restaurants, seek thrills and pleasures: they want to jolt something into their hearts and their brains in order to remind themselves they are really alive. It is so easy to die before the true death comes.

What would, then, be the best method of saving us from this unfortunate situation? What wriggles into our lives and shakes things up and make things look different, changed, more beautiful? Why, love, of course. Of course. Who among us, dreamers especially, wouldn’t want to be whisked away on a romantic adventure to a safe place, and to lie in the arms of someone who can keep us safe, preferably until the end of time? We want, if only on a subconscious level, to be rescued, so we can obtain the kind of comfort and security most of us were lucky enough to enjoy as children, to a return to a time when the world was a place of excitement and novelty, and the present moment the only that existed.

Even today, on my short jaunts into the outside world, I find myself daydreaming, occasionally, for something to “rescue” me from the reality of my days. It certainly doesn’t necessarily need to be somebody—instead, I simply look around, hopefully, for something, anything, to remind me that life is worth living, even when it is boring, meaningless, stressful and hard, as it is the majority of the time. I don’t always find it. Sometimes, it’s an act of kindness I spy, or laughter and friendliness between people; on my good days, just driving past a little bird hopping on the pavement is enough to shoot a small spurt of joy through my heart. On the bad days, well, like the princess in her tower, all I feel is a feeling of dread and imprisonment, boredom at the same old world I find myself waking up in again, desperate to escape the walls of reality and out into a place more strange and wonderful and interesting.

Unlike the fabled princess, however, I don’t need a prince to do that: instead, I have my imagination, I have books, I have my writing, and though I will always yearn for love, always yearn for something “special” to happen, someone “special” to step into my life, change things, make me feel different on the inside, there are myriad little things in life that can save us a thousand times over.

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I Figured It Out: The “Meaning” Of Life

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I get depressed about death, or at least the idea of it, and I am afraid of never being happy or finding love or writing the books I need to write before I die.

But what bothers me more than anything, and has since I was five years old, is the fact that I am alive and conscious, a tiny human being, living in this tiny speck of time.

Like everyone else, I’m very aware we’re embroiled in some kind of mystery here, something which, because we’re stuck right in the middle of it, seems weird and incomprehensible. I waste a good deal of my time trying to find answers, and the best I have come up with, after a decade or more of near-constant mulling, is that we are like insects. Our lifespans are short, and it doesn’t matter if we live or die—yet, like insects, we are important because we exist. I’ve most likely mentioned this before, in a post of mine, but it feels good to refresh and clarify things, even if it is only for myself; and what I mean to say is, well, we really are kind of like insects, only a little higher on the totem pole. Little, tiny things, easily squashed, but essential, in a way incomprehensible to ourselves.

Let me put it this way. Bees, for instance, can have no possible comprehension of what it must be like to be a human—the gap between our minds and theirs is too tremendous—but they nevertheless, despite their ignorance, go about their days, attending very busily to their duties, forming new hives, laying eggs, collecting nectar and pollen, all for the sake of continued survival. And the offshoot of all this, though the bees don’t know it themselves, is that thousands of flowers continue to proliferate, and we, as humans, are able to eat the fruit and vegetables only able to be grown through the pollinating efforts of the little critters. But the bees themselves, they don’t spread pollen from one flower to another because they know it will help other, far more intelligent organisms than itself. It just wants honey and pollen to store and eat. The idea of “eating” a fruit is incomprehensible to it.

We humans are the same. We will never know the “meaning” of life, because in the greater context, which is entreily beyond our comprehension, the way the human world is entirely beyond the ken of bees, “meaning” doesn’t mean anything. It’s a different world, whatever sees us the way we see bees, so the human language can’t even get close enough to describing it. It’s indescribable, because we can never know it. All this suffering, this death, this hatred and inequality, love and happiness, art, all that we know and feel to be so important, is important to us the way obtaining nectar and keeping predators out of the hive is important to the bees. Likewise, it is likely that our existence possesses some other “offshoot” (though once again, in the greater context, the word “offshoot” has no meaning, no place) the way the bee’s existence allows other greater organisms than itself to survive for greater beings. If that makes sense.

Take something that might be incomprehensible to a bee, for instance—say, the disappearance of great portions of its honey. This is strange. Honey just disappears! Where does it go? It’s a mystery, to the bees, and a very irritating one, and perhaps they get all worked up about it, in their own bee-ish way. What they don’t understand, and can never comprehend, is that a beekeeper, is, in fact, taking away some of the honey to sell and distribute to others of its kind so they can eat it. A bee will never understand this. It just knows that some honey is gone, and they don’t know where it went. They can’t do anything except continue visiting flowers to get more honey to fill its honeycombs. The entire concept of a farmer taking the honey and selling it is beyond their comprehension; it has no context, in their tiny little minds.

I think this is the same for humans. Take something we find incomprehensible: death. We don’t understand it, and most of us don’t like the thought of it, and when it happens, we hate it and we feel sad—just as a bee might when it finds its honey gone (though, again, bees might not feel “happy” or “sad” as these words are only applicable in a human context; instead, they might just feel their form of discomfort). And just like the bee, who can’t stop the farmer from taking its honey, we can’t do anything about it. Death happens, and will happen to each and everyone of us, whether we like it or not, and all we can do is to live as best as we can, while we are alive. However, death, though terrible for us, may have a very comprehensible reason behind it, just like there’s a very good reason the bee’s honey is disappearing, only we will never know it because our brains cannot comprehend it—just like the bees.

And another thing, again regarding death. We hate death because we love ourselves and we love life even when it is bad. That is why deep, deep self-hatred can lead to suicide: when you loathe yourself to a great enough extent, you can lose the will to live, because you no longer value yourself. Most of us, like all living creatures, want to live, without knowing why. If a gun was pointed at our temple, there’s no saying what any of us would do or say to remove it. In the face of death, people have been known to hand over their loved ones, their own children, betray their own countries, families. In addition, we are also afraid of pain, because it feels really, really bad.

So we are afraid of pain, and we want to live: therefore, death, which often causes pain and stops us from continuing to live, seems really awful to us. But let me ask you a different question—does it matter if one bee dies? At least in the full scheme of things, when it comes to pollination, the continued survival of the hive? No. It doesn’t. It doesn’t, because there are plenty of other bees to take its place. The death of one bee has a negligible impact on the survival of the other bees, which is what matters to its species, and the continued pollination of plants, which is what matters to us as humans. I think it’s the same for us. It’s awful to die, no-one wants to die, not the tiniest amoeba to the greatest whales lurking in the ocean; but as an individual, our death barely has an impact, just like the death of one bee hardly has an impact

Even all this is technically mere speculation and smoke and mirrors as I am writing all this using the human language, in the huamn context, which is all I know. We can’t ever brush at the truth—not through thought, not through art, not through words, dreams: the truth is ungraspable, just as the concept of the Internet is ungraspable for an ant. So like the bee, like the ant, like everything else that lives and crawls and oozes along on this planet, all we have to do, then, is just live, and die when the time comes, and extract what beauty and joy we can and do what good we can while we live, and forget the rest, because we will never know the answers because they are beyond our comprehension and always will be.

 

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Thoughts Of An Insomniac

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Well I think I lay down about three hours ago, and those three hours promptly vanished in a whirlwind of thoughts and fantasies, leaving me none the closer to sleep itself. One of the most puzzling thing for insomniacs is how it is possible for time to pass so quickly when you are doing nothing except lying there lost in your own mind. At a certain point, after I checked the clock and realised how much time had passed, I realised my anxiety at wasting so much time had exceeded the minimum level of anxiety required to doze off. So I got up, turned on the computer, and decided to write the very words I am typing now, because sometimes writing is all one can do.

Insomia is a horrific problem, its root cause being overthinking. I just can’t get my mind to turn off, no matter how hard I try. To imagine the hours and hours I have wasted, over the course of my life, due to insomnia, is enough to make me sick; I do think from henceforth, if I don’t fall asleep in twenty minutes, I’ll just get up and do something marginally productive, even if it is something as small as writing a blog post.

The worst part about insomnia, apart from the time it swallows, is the terrible feeling of being exhausted but unable to rest. Right this very moment, I feel positively weak and faint with exhaustion, as though my very organs were tired, yet my brain will refuse to shut off, obstinate, stupid thing. As a child I went through extended, hideous bouts of insomnia, wherein I would replay entire movies I watched in my head, or imagine a host scenarios, on and on, all the way into the morning. Once, I even stayed up for five and a half days straight, to the point where everything I did or said seemed to be in slow-motion, and I even started to hallucinate, seeing a tiny cartoonish lion jump through a fiery hoop onto a pedestal in mid-air then turn into a rocket soaring up with flames spurting from its end, as though my dreams, with no place to go, were superimposing themselves onto my reality.

As for the act itself, well, I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship towards sleeping. On the one hand, it offers much needed relief from the pain and exhaustion of living, but at the same time, as Edgar Allen Poe famously said, sleep are “little slices of death”, and for that reason, it does terrify me to some extent. When you sleep, and then wake up, usually there’s a complete gap in your mind, your memory, a vacuity, very much like the oblivion from whence we come, and to which we will return.

I hope I am not boring you with these words, but, then again, whether I do so or not does not really matter. One of the matters I dwelt a great deal on, as I lay there, was my excruciating loneliness, and sense of “apartness” from other people, not just my age, but society, in general. In the past, I have termed it the curse of the creative mind, something which I still stand by. Having an intense imagination and being deeply introverted, needless to say, is an immense drawback when it comes to social relationships, and “fitting in”, and throughout my school years, I often felt so lonely, so different, so weird, so strange, it was rather like being burnt alive in a pit of invisible flames, just constantly burning, charring, all day long, and unable to scream or cry out, forced to smile and talk along with everyone else. The agony—well, I can barely put it into words. Everyone, everywhere, have their groups, they gather around together, smiling, in photographs, they have their friends, their family, they know where they belong—whereas I, I have never felt that before, not once, and even when I was in a photograph, or did speak to someone, I still felt an incredible loneliness, somehow, as though I were viewing the world through a different pair of lenses than others did, one that distorted pictures most terribly.

You see, in real life, I am actually quite a delusional person. Or perhaps you already knew that, if you have read some of my blog posts. Fantasy is a natural part of life for me, and I see everything from its point of view, to the point where reality itself is painful and jarring. Even when inhabiting reality—by which I mean the outside world—I transmute whatever I see into something strange and wonderful, and get excited by the silliest things, from a drainpipe to a moth. I can’t even put into words how it feels, the isolation, the alienation; all I can say is it is as if I were born with a caterpillar in my brain, this tiny niggling little thing chewing parts of my brain and spitting it back out, changing me and the way I see the world. It’s lonely, excruciatingly lonely—and my only compensation, for this suffering, are the brief flashes and glimpses of joy I derive from creative effort. For me, the price is worth it, though when I was younger, when I suppressed rather than allowed my creativity to flourish, I existed in a perpetual state of painful, confused loneliness.

To try and bridge the gap between myself and the people around me, even though it was one that could not be bridged, I employed fantasy. I “imagined” that a boy liked me, loved me, even, in order to create a false, but comforting connection, without actually having to form a true relationship, to the point where I truly believed it, to the point where I even thought we could communicate with each other, telepathically. I “imagined” people were watching my every move, criticizing and judging every aspect of who I was, because the alternative was to face the reality that no-one cared who I was, or what I did, that I was nothing to everyone. I pretended people did not approach and talk to me because I was mysterious and they were intimidated, when, in truth, it was because I was strange and aloof, gave off a “weird aura”. All my life, I have pretended, and imagined; it is an irrevocable part of who I am, and integral to my creativity, but for problematic for leading a proper life and forming relationships.

My sister put it to me this way: she believes I’m certainly no fool, with a good dose of emotional intelligence, but crazier than a Mad Hatter, crazy and anxious and neurotic. I don’t know if I am crazy—delusional, perhaps, but not mad, not the point of madness—but even if I am mad, so what? Who cares, really. Some people hear voices that aren’t there, or see or notice things other people do not: they’re just different forms of reality, that’s all, and if there was no variety in the ways people viewed reality, then we wouldn’t have any inventions or art or scientific discoveries, any variety or uniqueness, any actresses or writers or painters, innovaters. I find the people who are traditionally considered “normal” and “well-adjusted” to be strange, in their own way. Dig deep enough, and you’ll find that everyone is a lunatic, in some form or another. Life and society is conducive to madness, is what I believe. Half the time I don’t know whether certain people are smiling genuine smiles or not—I know I can fake a smile pretty well—and most of the time I don’t understand how people can be so superficial.

In addition to loneliness, as I lay there on my bed, I also pondered my most beloved of subjects: death. I think about it an awful lot, not with any fear anymore, but with a certain resigned preparedness, the way someone who is forced out into the desert with no food or water might research on ways to survive in arid environments rather than spend their time bemoaning their fate. Which is to say, I have sort of decided how I want to die, and therefore how to spend my life. In fact, I already have sort of an idea how I will die. I don’t know if this is an actual premonition, or my imagination making things up, but I do believe, after spending my life writing several books, at least eight, I think, I will finally die, most likely alone, or perhaps with a sibling or two at my side, very quietly, very scared, with the knowledge that I made the art I needed to make during my lifetime. After my death, all the world will have are my books—and that really is the closest thing to happiness I can get, knowing I sent out into the world what I needed to send out. I think I will die, lonely, too, except, having written my books, I won’t really be alone. I will have touched lives, and hearts, through my words; my true kindred spirits are those who will read my words, and feel delight, or a sense of kinship: you don’t need to ever see or speak to a person to make an impact on their life, or their mind, that’s the beauty of writing. Writing is a kind of magic, a kind of immortality, bridging between time and space and distance, transforming and changing long after you have written the last word. Without books and writing, I wouldn’t be typing these words today, and in return for the writers who brought me such happiness, I want to send my own little bit of happiness back out into the world, too.

Alright, I feel as though I may faint soon, which, for me, is a sign that I have reached the edge of exhaustion and am finally read to sleep. In the morning, I shall have to wake up early, so I’ll only have two hours of sleep—I dread it. I wish loneliness were not so painful, I wish I could have someone look into my eyes and hold me and tell me they understood; and I wish the world would not be filled with such sickness, pain and cruelty; it would do us good, I think, if everyone were a little more empathetic, if everyone were a little more imaginative and thus could put themselves easily into the shoes of others.

A Depressive Episode

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Well, it certainly feels like a while since I’ve written anything on this blog, though I don’t suppose it matters very much. The reason for this, however, is that for the past few days—or has it been a week? I’m not too sure, the days have all run together—I fell into the worst depressive funk since last year, and it took some awful scrabbling and scrambling, not to mention long nights of gritted teeth, to climb back out of it. My fingers are worn down to bloodied stumps, for I fell very deep this time, maybe even a little deeper than last time, during which I did not get the slightest bit of writing done and wallowed in extreme self-hatred and misery for what seemed a small eternity. I felt very small, and very stupid, very useless, for feeling the way I did, but I could not help it, it simply would not leave. An onerous little storm-cloud came sailing through the bedroom window one day, plonked itself onto my chest, and promptly proceeded to rumble and grumble to itself and shoot tiny bolts of lightning straight into my heart. It was torture. Not as bad as physical torture, but mental torture, mental torture of the highest degree, and it is a miracle I am even alive today, writing these words—on Christmas Day, no less!

I feel as though I am a different person. For some reason that always happens after a prolonged depressive episode, as though the misery lends me a little wisdom along with the cynicism. We die, and are reborn, each and everyday, someone somewhere once said, I think. As for what precipitated the funk, many different things. There was the usual fear of death, but overlaying that were my fears of inadequacy in regards to my writing—there was such a collosal gap between my ideas, and the execution of them, that I felt weak with despair—and homelessness, and so on and so forth. What I have found is that, when it comes to life, we all suffer tremendously, but silently, and I am no different in this regard.

While I was depressed, I didn’t eat much. I couldn’t swallow, it felt wrong to swallow, somehow, and whenever I swallowed and let it slip down my throat, I felt the piece of food lodged there, in my stomach, like a lump of gold, a foreign substance, and I wanted to throw it back up. I didn’t write. I didn’t read. I didn’t talk, nearly. Incidents and words which normally would have cut me to the bone slipped off my back like rain off a jacket. I mean, I felt the pain, but the pain meant nothing, it was just an emotional reaction of my brain, so I didn’t really feel it. Outwardly, I was a zombie. I stopped attending therapy, and, miraculously enough, my mother didn’t haggle me to go when I told her I needed a break. I didn’t feel any desire to kill myself, or cut myself; I just didn’t feel any desire to do anything, except lie there or sit there, and do nothing.

If you knew me in real life, you would know how strange this is. Usually, even in my most blackest of moods, when I loathe humanity, in all its pettiness, to the point where my heart feels filled with black poison, I am still writing, reading, working; and even when I am going about doing other duties, attending therapy, or cooking dinner, I am constantly thinking, daydreaming. Until my head hits the pillow and my brain slips into sleep, I never stop thinking. But when I was depressed these last few days, I stopped thinking. This was the most frightening thing, because I feel like a person who has been in a coma and only recently woken up, still a little drowsy, liable to sink back into the darkness. It’s as though the days did not happen. Time is always something that worries me a great deal, in the way it seems to turn everything into a dream, but even so, at least I have memories, no matter how faded, of the past, whereas I barely have any memories at all of the past couple of days, and it is so terrifying, you can’t imagine.

The only thing I do remember, the only incident, perhaps because it broke up the monotony of my days, was when I went out for a walk, one evening. By myself. Funnily enough, this depressive episode had a wonderful effect on my anxiety levels; I felt like I was tranquilised, so deadened and impervious to my surroundings nothing in it could really make an impression on me. So for the first time in months, I went for a long walk, all by myself. In retrospect, it was a very stupid thing to do, as it got dark by the time I was coming back, and I live in the kind of area where it isn’t unusual to hear stories of a young woman or someone getting stabbed while walking alone through the park at night. But at the time, I thought nothing of it. Briefly the thought of being stabbed to death entered my brain, and just as quickly it left, leaving no impression, no sense of fear, a hand placed in water and retracted again.

I feel an obligation to describe this walk. I’m not sure why. It was pointless, and ordinary, just like each of our small, miserable little lives, yet I feel the urge to, anyway, and if life isn’t about satisfying our urges and desires, provided they do not hurt others, what is it, then? I walked down the stairs from the unit, down the stairs, out the doors, onto the pavement. I walked. It was evening, so there were quite a few cars but not as many pedestrians. I recall passing a school, then some more houses, a quaint blue one with a little brown chimney, I remember staring up at the telegraph wires outlined against the deepening blue sky. I remember the road—such a lot of cars, so many lights, red and yellow, such noise, such infernal noise, but I kept walking, it bothered me, but it didn’t bother me, I just kept walking, and then I was at the park. It wasn’t really a park, there was no playground, it was just a great stretch of grass, ringed along one side by a twisting and turning path for bikes and walkers. On the other side was an abandoned building, erected for who knew what purpose, its windows and doors boarded up like shut hearts and shut eyes. I had never seen it before. I walked towards it. There were some bushes to the side of it, behind which I discovered a fire valve. It was rusted, the metal pipe part leading into the dirt and the grass, but the red wheel was shiny and new. I stared at this, for several long moments, then I looked up, back at the building. Halfway along it there was an archway, leading out to the other side where more grass and deepening twilight beckoned, and I walked through it.

I found myself in a sort of overgrown backyard; the abandoned building backed off onto an abandoned parking lot. In it were some sheds, with graffiti scrawled along its walls and corrugated roofs, and rising pu from it some abandoned watchtower, or something, all flaking white struts, reaching up into the sky. I stared at that, too. Then I stared at the back of the building, noting the details without consciously absorbing them, practising what my therapist would have called “mindfulness” even as I wished to bash my brains open against one of those sheds. There were more doors, doors set far up along the wall, the building itself cut in half by another tiny building erected in front of it, reaching out across it in a yellow, blocky structure. This tinier structure had a door, a tiny door, locked, set on struts on a rusted box far above the ground, only accessible by an equally rusted ladder. I walked across to look at the side of the building, and saw more doors, with a zigzag ladder running up from one to the next. I think they were fire escape stairs. Somehow this entire building, tucked away on this patch of grass in the middle of the city, seemed simultaneously the most mysterious, marvelous and fascinating object in existence, and the most boring. Who built you? I asked it, in my mind. Someone must have gone to a great deal of effort to build you, I would imagine, only for you to end up languishing here, unseen, unnoticed, uninhabited, boarded up and left behind. What is it like, inside you? Full of cockroaches, and dust? I wonder, I wonder, if I eat a cockroach, or let it crawl over me, or lay its eggs in my eyes, I wonder if that will help me snap out of this. I wonder what would happen if I went inside, broke through one of the doors, ate a handful of dust, I wonder if such an act would be startling and strange enough to smack some sense into this dumb and sullen brain of mine. I didn’t try to break in. I didn’t have the motivation to. Walking had been tiring enough. I had been walking, I realised, to find something worth walking to, and instead, all I had ended up with was this stupid, rusted, beautiful, little abandoned building, a husk of human effort, and I hated it and loved it both at once, even as I felt nothing.

And then I walked home. This is the part, like many other parts, which I don’t remember very clearly. I walked home, alone, in the dark, without feeling the slightest prickle of fear or anxiety, down the street, past the roads, around corners and then suddenly, somehow, I was back at the front doors of the apartment building, walking up the stairs, back into the unit. I came home feeling worse than I had when I left it, because my walk, like everything else, was insignificant. It didn’t matter whether I walked to the abandoned building, or all the way to Timbuktu—no-one would care, no-one would mind, it was all the same to them, and I found myself thinking how there was something very insignificant about freedom, something very small-making. Each of us are free to do as we like and please with our lives because we don’t matter, and our efforts, no matter how exalted and wonderful, in the end, are just little bursts of light in the darkness, a little variety breaing up the dream of life. And then I realised, for the first time in days, I was actually thinking about something, thinking about it with logic and common sense, not just staring at an object and hoping its colours and shape, if I stared at it long enough, would wake me up, or jumping onto ridiculous trains of thought.

I’m still depressed—I was born melancholy—but not mired deep in an “episode” anymore, and I still don’t think I can write, and feel like so terrible a failure, so stupid and talentless, I could scream my throat raw. But the cloud, though it has not left, has lifted somewhat; no longer is it hundering or shooting lightning, but just letting a gentle rain fall down on my head wherever I go, sad and grey and gentle, like it usually does, and for that, I am glad. A badly-aimed bolt of lighting can set things on fire, and I do want to keep living, I don’t want to burn to crisps, to ashes, no matter how awful life gets.

Another Entry: Panic Attacks, Meaninglessnes & Being Sensitive

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I find life to be very traumatizing.

One of the most traumatizing aspects of life is the fact that, at least from our human point of view, the death of any creature is insignificant, including ourselves. I am fascinated by dead insects. To me, when they lie there, curled up and shriveled, on my windowsill, they seem to symbolise the mystery of life and death. What is everything, what is the intricate mechanism ticking and clicking behind everything, from the tiniest flower to the blossoming edges of the universe itself? What is anything? What are we?

Yesterday, I had a very bad panic attack. The reasons behind it were numerous and varied, too complex for me to even properly untangle, but it had something to do with being alive and not knowing what life was about, something to do with my fears of failure, something to do with how horribly my writing was going, something to do with the way my mother and siblings were treating me that day, something to do with my excruciating self-loathing and inability to break free of it, and a lot to do with my loneliness.

It also had something to do with death, and dead bodies, and the meaningless and futility of death and all our efforts. I started to panic. The thing about panic attacks is they build slowly, at least for me. At first, I was just anxious. I told myself, anxiety is just an emotion, you can not let it control you, but then I started pondering as to what emotions were, exactly, and why, exactly, they were important, and what our emotions meant, apart from specific chemicals flooding through our neural pathways, changing our perception of ourselves and the world, and that only made me more anxious, because the existence of emotions was another facet of the incomprehensibility of life, and then I was thinking of how much I hated myself, deep down, and how I didn’t know how to fix it, and how I believed I would die alone, unloved and unremembered, and that I couldn’t write, I couldn’t, not a word, it was all rubbish, watching my dreams wash away like blood down a drain, and then I was thinking, I was thinking, “blood down a drain”, how much more cliché could you get, do you have a single original bone in your body, which got me thinking about bones, you see, bones, the things that hold us up, calcium, skulls and skeletons, which got me thinking about death again, and the meaningless of it and before I knew it I was having a panic attack. The world sort of went fuzzy, and my fingertips started to tingle, and I felt entirely disassociated from myself and my surroundings. I was gasping, crying, choking, spluttering, and hating myself for being such a mess, and I stumbled towards my bed, gasping, wracked with sobs, unable to control it, overwhelmed by the world, I just lay there, crying, alone, and after a while I stopped.

Because, eventually, even panic attacks stop.

And I just lay there, my organs contorted in silent agony, intestines twisting around my heart, liver and spleen and stomach clenched tight as fists. I lay there, and I closed my eyes. The last time I had a mental breakdown like this, I was hospitalised, because I was screaming and crying and my therapist, when she came to visit and saw my state, thought I had gone off the deep end. I told her I wanted to die, because I was tired of thinking, and tired of being so excruciatingly sensitive. And I was sent to the hospital, where I found myself chatting with a clueless doctor, sobbing, about how I was tired of thinking, and tired of being so sensitive, and he didn’t understand, and I felt so lonely in that moment that I was sure I was going to die just from that, just from the loneliness twisting through my body like a poison.

I want to be loved. I think, maybe, love will solve this. Maybe. I think maybe if I had someone to love me, and hold me close, and tell me they loved me and could understand me, then perhaps I would be less frightened, and have fewer panic attacks. In my mind, the person who holds me and loves me is always a man, even though I know men are scared, too, too scared and frightened to protect women, but my father abandoned me and I would like some male figure, someone, to tell me they loved me, and they understood me. No matter what happens, no matter how many books I publish, or whatever literary recognition I receive, no matter how safe or secure my life becomes in the future, I will always, always, behind all the facades, the layers and layers of masks, be a frightened, little girl, crying for her father so hard she almost throws up her own guts.

One thing you learn very quickly if you have suffered a great deal in your life, and that is that all suffering is individual, that the world does not care, in the least, if you die or cry or laugh or puke or sob until it feels as though your face has been permanently bent out of shape. Like the bird who falls from a tree and dies, like the poor, poor dear, sweet lovely animals who are slaughtered in their millions every year, like all the people throughout history who have been killed and tortured, what you learn, very early on, is that kindness is a small breath of wind against the tornado of suffering, and a man who is standing beside the fireplace cannot sympathise with a man who is freezing death. A woman who is sitting down to a christmas dinner with her family, turkey and potatoes, crackling ham, from a dead pig, a dead bird, dead animals, dead flesh, cannot sympathise with some other woman, on the other side of the world, who lies, thin and skeletal, on a mat, dying quietly of starvation. Not even I, who lives in a first-world country, and has food, internet access, who isn’t homeless, can sympathise with a starving person, and for all we may wish to magically spirit food and resources and love to people who need it, the reality is we cannot save every suffering creature in the world, and I hate that, I hate that, I really do. I want to help them all, hold them all close, give them food and whatever it is they need, yet in reality all I am is a silly, young lady who thinks too much and feels too much, and spends much of every week either in the throes of panic or a depressed stupor.

I am annoyed at myself for even writing these words. I get annoyed at myself so easily, everything I do or think or say is something for my self-loathing to feed upon. I think it is possible to become suicidal just from the sheer self-loathing alone. Killing myself, however, is no solution to anything. The way I see it, in life, even though people say a “balance” must be struck with everything, the way I see it, there is no balance. If I spend time around people, I feel alone because I am quiet and imaginative and they don’t understand me, and if I am alone, in the silence, with only my imagination for company, I still feel lonely.

Some days, I can imagine myself so clearly back into the past I feel as though I were really there, which kind of makes me feel unsettled as to what the difference between the past, future and the present really is, and how death ties into it. I feel as though if I could just solve the mystery of time, I would be able to puzzle out life, too. I believe that we are all each other, that everyone of us are each other, the self, what we call “I”, a mere illusion, a small brief aperture through which we get to see and experience the world, and when we die, we don’t really die, because we are everything and everyone else. It’s just the small, tiny expression of the universe, “me”, that died, when there are billions of other pinpricks through the fabric of consciousness still shining on. By this principle, then, this means that time is infinite, because time is life, and life is always occurring, manifesting in some form. I think time is the substance of everything, and what we call time is much more strange and mysterious than we can ever truly comprehend, just like everything else.

I seek security. I do. Deep down, I know I won’t be happy until I’ve written all the books there are inside of me—and there are at least three books, inside of me, which need to be made tangible, before I can die in peace, maybe even more. It won’t matter if I don’t write them, but I know I must. I feel as though I were chosen to write these stories, even though that sounds bonkers. I truly believe, as Stephen King said, that “stories are relics from a pre-existing world”, because sometimes these scenes, they’ll just flash across my mind’s eye, and I don’t know where they come from, and they feel so extraordinarily real, backed up by the research I go on to do regarding the book, that I feel like someone put it inside of my head.

I am afraid of loneliness. Why? I do not know. It has something to do with the emptiness inside of me, I think. I feel as though other people are able to “not think”, to shut off their minds, to be self-assured and positive, to concentrate on the mundane, the present moment, while I lack this ability entirely, and I am constantly on edge, constantly on the verge of disintegration. By loving things, by loving people who don’t love me back, as I did for much of my school years, I attempt to latch onto something firm and solid, to keep me together, and I don’t know if that is effective but I keep doing it, anyway, though these days I use people in my imagination.

I have this idea, in my head, that as long as I can finish writing my books, publish them, then start a family, have a husband and children, then I will be happy, and safe. At the moment, I think am unhappy because this dream seems a million miles away, so faraway it is almost impossible to describe. I am so sensitive, you see, and there are very few people in the world who can understand such sensitivity. I will weep if I squash a bug, and I will cringe if I drop something onto the tiles, with a loud thwack. Absurd as it is to write about it, it makes my everyday life a living hell, because I see and notice and absorb everything, I sense people’s emotions, somehow know what they are thinking, I can instantly gauge whether there is kindness, goodness, and I live in the city, amidst busyness and coldness, and I spend my days alone, in my room, and I feel as though my suffering is endless. Van Gogh said, before he died, that “the sadness is forever”, and I believe that statement. When you are born so sensitive, it actually hurts just to be alive, and conscious. I feel as if a feather-brush against my skin is enough to send me into spasms.

I wish for a cottage, flowers, a garden, books, and cats. I wish for so many things, and the wishes jostle with the pains, the suffering, a thousandfold, mixing together, making me. I am not a person. I am just pure longing, pain and dreams. That is all I am. I yearn, I dream, and I hurt. All I can hope for is to spend as much time dreaming as I can, so I can yearn less, and hurt less. I will scream out, in agony, until the blood pours out from my eyes and my eyes and my mouth, from out between my legs, my fingertips, and then I will sit down, covered in gore from head to toe, and write.

Tips For Dealing With Emotional Abuse If You Are Sensitive, Anxious, Introverted, Awkward

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Like most of you, throughout the course of my life, I have faced my share of emotional abuse from various people. This has, in many ways, strengthened who I am, but as an excruciatingly sensitive and anxious person, they have also dealt their fair share of trauma and affected me perhaps a little more than they would have more thick-skinned people.

What these people did or said to me, or how they acted towards me, still linger in the back of my mind, resurfacing in painful moments of recollection. Often at the time, being a rather silly, naïve young lady, starving for approval, when someone attacked me, I blamed myself for it. I had done something wrong, and incited their jealousy, their anger, their hostility. In retrospect, I realise it was nothing of the sort, and there are simply a lot of ordinary people in this world who can be very cruel and nasty, and that not everyone is of kind, good and pure intention like I believed them to be.

If you are a sensitive, kind and timid person by nature, it is very easy to be bullied and suffer tremendous agony at the hands of others. I hope, by sharing my experiences, and how I look at them now, I can lend you the helping hand I wish someone had given to me back in the days when I used to cry myself to sleep after a bad spat with someone, or feel a horrible sense of stunned shock every time anyone was mean to me.

If anyone excludes you, and I don’t care how old you are when it happens, the best thing to do is to cultivate your own independence. As a young girl, I was socially excluded many times because I was too strange and quiet, and it was very painful. At home, I received no love from my parents, so I thought I could get it from other people at school, but that didn’t work out. At the time, my reaction was one of overwhelming self-hate. Why didn’t they like who I was? Why couldn’t I talk and laugh along like everyone else? Why didn’t they want to sit with me, why did they hate me for reading so much? Why didn’t anyone love me, like they loved other people? What was wrong with me? Well, I’m here to tell you, very frankly, and this isn’t only applicable to the very introverted and sensitive, that there is nothing in the least the matter with you. Not a bit.

I know how painful social exclusion can be. When it happened to me, for the first time, when I was seven years old, I cried my eyes out and wanted to die, the rejection was so painful. Instead, I would advise you, when this happens, to immediately go to your “happy place”. This can be anywhere—in fact, it doesn’t even have to be a physical place, it could be a imaginary realm inside your mind; for me, at the time, it was the school library, or the school bathrooms where I would read a book while sitting on the toilet with the lid down—and stay there until you regain your equilibrium and sense of self. It helps to have some source of joy and delight, because when you are immersed in your passion, nothing can hurt you. Do you know what I mean? You must have some outlet, some space, where you can breathe, be yourself, and be happy. Find that place, and treasure it.

Also, there will be times when people in authority will take a disliking to you, employ an especially harsh word or tell you, in hard tones, “to speak up”, or treat you badly simply because you’re very quiet and sort of odd. Again, this will be painful. There was nothing I wanted to do more than please my teachers, so when one of them gave me detention once for reading a book when I should have been doing the work she assigned for us—long, long sums—calling me out in front of the whole class in the process, once again, being sensitive, I honestly did want to die. The same teacher went on to pick on me, at various times throughout the year, to answer questions and reprimand me for daydreaming. I was the typical scatterbrained child, and while some teachers appreciated my long stories and imagination, others found me inattentive. With cases like these, the best way to counteract them is to once again reach down into your own strength, sense of self-worth and passions. The authority figure’s power is external, and you can’t take it away from them; your locus of power, however, is internal, and you have full control of how you react to it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel upset and humiliated. However, use the bad experience to your advantage, in some way. For instance, due to the humiliation I received at the hands of this specific teacher, I am able to write a scene in which a character is severely embarrassed by a teacher-like figure herself, and describe it perfectly. And I could have spent the detention—though I didn’t at the time—staring out the window and daydreaming, which would have helped me to write stories (instead, I just sat there in stupefied misery). What I mean to say is, if you’re introverted and sensitive, you can’t fight back the same way extroverted and thick-skinned people fight back. You can’t shout at them, or argue, or be assertive. Well, I’m sure some introverted and sensitive people can be assertive if the situation calls for it, but I am not one of them, and in situations requiring assertiveness and speaking up, I am completely unable to. Therefore if you are treated badly, then you can only counteract these with these very small, very quiet victories, that no-one knows about except yourself.

I once had a friend who was very jealous of me. She was jealous of me for three reasons. One, because there was a boy in class who “apparently” liked me (though I don’t recall there being any evidence of the male creature in question harboring any secret affection) who she liked, two, because she thought he liked me because I was “prettier” than her, and three, because I got better grades. On a side note, amongst women, I have found, beauty is prized, and male attention competed over, even from a young age. This is something which is unfathomable to me. Even though I do fall in love very quickly, and often idealise objects of my affection to bits, I would never go so far as to resent or hate any other women if my “beloved” liked another. If he should end up with someone else, I would simply shrug my shoulders and decide it wasn’t meant to be, or perhaps whisper to myself, “Ah, silly, you built up another on in your imagination again, he really wasn’t any good”. I would never fight with a woman over a man; there are simply too many more important things in life, like books and cats. But, any way, back to the incident. I just wanted my friend to like me (this was in seventh grade, by the way). So even though she abused me for a long time, tearing down my self-esteem in the subtlest of ways, belittling my efforts, and once even exclaiming, “There’s nothing different between you and me!” in order to make it very clear, after an achievement of mine, that I was nothing special, and should get off my high horse. Whenever I was reading a book she would resent me for it, as if I were gleaning some secret knowledge she wasn’t, and after some time, I began to feel afraid of reading in front of her and only read by myself, at home. It was very confusing, because it was so subtle.

The abuse went on for years—I let it go on for years. I kept her as a friend, even when, deep down, I didn’t really like her. I was either too stupid, or too innocent, to realise that she wasn’t really my friend, just someone who tried to make me feel bad about myself to relieve her own insecurities. And it worked. It worked. It worked because I was sensitive and introverted, terribly anxious, and desperately wanted a friend, someone to love me. When I think back on it, I do feel a blinding surge of anger at the way I suffered such mistreatment without defending or protecting myself. It was almost as if I were begging to be slapped in the face. I wanted to be loved so much I misinterpreted hatred and jealousy as friendship. Being empathetic on top of being introverted and sensitive can also sometimes be curse, as you end up making up all sorts of creative excuses for other people’s bad behaviour. She’s only looking out for me. Having a bad day. She’s just being reasonable, she’s a very sensible person. Everyone likes her, so shouldn’t I? I empathised with her struggles. As an only child, I am sure her parents have very high expectations for her, and that is why she was so resentful when I did well on that exam that she ignored me in front of the other girls.

But sometimes you need to take a break from being kind towards other people, and dole out a little kindness to yourself for once. In fact, people like you and me need to learn to only be kind towards those who deserve it, and the person who most deserves your love and kindness, above any other creature in the world, is yourself. So my advice in regards to dealing with jealous friends or peers is to cut ties entirely. It is the best thing to do for your mental health and well-being. If you loved someone, would you willingly let them stay in an abusive situation? No. You wouldn’t. Treat yourself as you would someone you loved more than a thousand universes put together, and only spend time around or gravitate towards people who are kind, loving, sensitive and empathic, just like you, who can appreciate your imagination, sensitivity and quirkiness. In my case, this has meant isolating myself entirely, but no company is much, much better than bad company, and it took me a long time to figure that one out.

Then there is the emotional abuse one can experience from family members. I was lucky enough not to experience any emotional abuse from my siblings, but I have been on the receiving end of extensive verbal and emotional assaults from my parents. Yes, for someone who was so sensitive, I certainly grew up in the wrong environment, and I often use to daydream, as children like me do, of the perfect friends and family, the wonderful kind mother and father, the kind friends, while in reality the only person who actually seemed to understand me, at least throughout my childhood, was the librarian. Back to parental abuse. This is much more difficult to manage. You can’t exactly cut ties with your parents, as you are dependent on them, and even now, I am still financially dependent on my mother, though I would give the world, if I could, for the situation to be otherwise.

My father used to hit me, and my mother used to, and still does, criticise for everything and anything, from my anxiety to my untidiness. She makes me feel horrible about myself, in all honesty. In essence, I am a tiny bumblebee, trying to grow up in a colony of wasps without getting eaten, stung so many times the pain has almost become a normality, and the best method of survival, I have found, is to grit your teeth and put up with the abuse, or call the authorities if it gets physical (something I wish I had done), and retreat to your “happy place” whenever possible. Sometimes, to avoid my mother, I will spend long periods in the bathroom, with the door locked, where she cannot scream at me, or stay up late and work when she is asleep. The entire atmosphere of the home changes when she enters it, grows charged and anxious, and it is often only during the night, when the rest of my family is asleep, when I feel the most at peace. My point is, sometimes you have to come up with creative solutions, such as becoming partly nocturnal, to cope with bad situations, so if you’re sensitive, do everything in your power to protect yourself if parental figures are involved.

Extended relatives can also be a source of strife. I know I have mentioned in various posts before my aunt, who infamously (well, at least infamously in my head) used to tell me I could not become a writer, did not have a way with words, and criticised a poem I once wrote for her, even though she can barely write herself. My aunt was also young, and quite beautiful, and because I was young, for some unfathomable reason, she saw me as a sexual competitor, and would become very cruel should her husband, my uncle, pay any attention to me. I was only fifteen, mind you.

I don’t know if everyone comes into contact with so many unkind people, or if I just suffered from a case of bad luck, but as I write this, I am beginning to see just how little I have stood up for myself over the course of life. I swallowed her abuse, just like I have swallowed every heartache and pain I encountered during my childhood and teenage years. I let her hurt me. After she criticised my poem, I never wrote another one for years. And the worst thing was, the jealousy and hatred emanating from her would be so strong sometimes I would feel it in my own veins, like a dark poison. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Once again, the best thing to do when you encounter people like this is to stop seeing them. You don’t deserve to take on their anger and hate, which really is more directed at themselves than at you.

There are more I haven’t mentioned. My peers at school, who loathed me for my unique and original academic contributions (you’d be surprised how resentful some can be of the creatively-gifted, people don’t like it when you are privy to worlds they are not, they feel as though you “see” certain things, make certain connections, and they can’t, and they hate you for it), the ordinary people I encountered before my anxiety took over my life at the grocery store or the chemist who treated me like dirt because I stuttered or gave them the wrong amount twice because I was so anxious, the various backhanded comments, the exclusion, the avoidance. I have experienced a great deal of pain. Perhaps everyone encounters such incidents of abuse, or perhaps someone a little more thick-skinned would have suffered less. Either way, pain has taught me things. It has traumatised me beyond measure, but it has also strengthened me, and allowed me to discover what truly matters in life, for me, which is my writing, which is books, and art.

It has also taught me the fact that pain belongs in the past, and to hold onto pain is the most pointless and meaningless thing you can possibly do. No-one cares about how much you suffered, the world is full of suffering and abuse. What they will care about, and what will, in the end, matter, are the contributions you make during your lifetime. That is it. You are, to the world, what you do, not who you are, not your past, not your tears or broken bones. The result is all that counts. And I plan on leaving behind my own tiny legacy of literary works in the sea of books already existing in the world, when all is said and done, and in doing so, die terrified and unhappy, as we all do, but without regrets. If you are very introverted and sensitive, I implore you to do the same, to concentrate on yourself, and find a deeper meaning for living beyond the approval of others and human relationships. It is, at least for me, the only way to true freedom.

Another Musing From This Dreamer

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I get panic attacks over my writing. An ordinary evening for me, after I have taken a long nap after exposure therapy and therefore wasted the better half of the day (argh), is to sit at my desk and panic.

This is not news. At times, I do wonder if my blog is far too self-centered and narcissistic at times, but the trouble with being alone most of the time is that you have little material to work with when it comes to creating content. I could, of course, use my imagination to write fascinating stories regarding my life. I could, for instance, tell you of the time I went to the grocery store, and all the lumps of marbled flesh and fat in the meat section started jostling about in their film wrap, keening and squawking and screaming like slaughtered animals, or the incident with the man whose flying carpet got stuck in some wire mesh bordering an abandoned carpark, or that one time I went on an underground journey in the sewers and befriended various vermin who taught me how to make mold-art, then promptly stole all my belongings, including my shoes.

But that would be lying, and, besides, I doubt any of you would believe it. Those things have happened to me, though—in my mind, that is.

The truth, however, is not as strange as fiction, and the truth is, I spend a lot of my time worrying and fretting and groaning and moaning alone in my room, with my hands at the keyboard, and often my face, too. In fact, my life is just one enormous ball of simmering anxiety. I am anxious when I am outside. I am anxious when I am inside. I am anxious when I am writing. I am anxious when I am around my family. I am anxious when time is passing, which is always. Heck, I’m even anxious in my dreams. Off an tangent here, but, last night, I had a very good dream, which for me tends to happen once in a blue moon. In this dream, I was beloved and had many friends, and we all laughed and joked together while standing in the grocery, and when I woke up I yearned so deeply for the sense of camaraderie to return I hurried to the computer to find solace in my characters, even though they pale in comparison to the real thing. You know you are lonely and depressed if the only times you feel happy and content are when you are lost in dreams, subconscious or otherwise. It means your own life is quite the nightmare.

But, yes, back to the panic attacks. I think everyone panics, and everyone is scared, to some degree. It’s part of being human, especially in this day and age, where everyone is a little more isolated, without their own tight-knit communities. Death looms like a guillotine above our necks everyday, the world is turning topsy-turvy, and love and friendships are being kicked to the curb, replaced by work, loneliness and human substitutes like the Internet or films. Everyone is broken in some way. No-one knows where the species is headed or what life and consciousness even is. Really, no-one knows anything and we’re just blundering our way through this, each and everyone of us, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re either lying, deluded or unaware.

And everyone is afraid of failure. Well, almost everyone. Anyone who has the tiniest smidgen of ambition is afraid of not succeeding in their endeavours. I don’t care if the ambition is to become the next NBA basketball star, or just get a minimum-wage job to keep your family afloat—everyone is scared of things not turning out properly, everyone is unhappy with some aspect of their life, and everyone is looking towards the horizon in the hope of spying that castle in the sky, a home where they can rest and nothing can hurt them for eternity. Some castles are extraordinarily extravagant, a mass of turrets and pearly stones and flying dragons, others are a little more homely, and a few (well, mine) are constructed out of paper, and scrawled with words.

Panic is an everyday part of life. What isn’t normal, or ideal, shall we put it, is if it starts to interfere with your day-to-day activities. That’s the definition of pathology, is it not, when some emotion, fear, anxiety, anger, disgust, spirals out of control and stops you from doing things? Overblown self-disgust leads to self-loathing leads to an inability to form relationship leads to suicide. Too many angry, violent outbursts, and you’ll find yourself homeless or locked up. It’s almost as if the world doesn’t want you to feel anything, so they dose you with drugs to numb your nerves and tell you you have “issues”.

My panic attacks, as stated earlier, stem predominantly from the fear of failure. Sure, the top of my head will blow off if I am in open spaces or around people for too long, but it is writing, or the fear of never being any good at it, which niggles and wriggles away inside of me like tapeworm for hours on end, no matter where I am or who I am around. Writing is hard. Very hard. And I am just not very good at it yet, not enough to get published, and to send my work out into the world. The problem is, I know I could do better, if only somehow my skills were better. I have a wealth of wonderful ideas without the skills and expertise to turn them into realities. As a result, every word I put down is a small reminder of my inadequacy. It’s like staring into a room filled with glistening plates of delicious food while you are starving, yet unable to pick up any of the food and eat it because you have no mouth. In fact, you have no head. You are a headless woman, somehow able to see (I didn’t think this through) the food, but without the wherewithal to consume it. I have no head. I have no head.

It’s agony. It really is. In my mind, I can visualise a scene so clearly, smell it, hear the sounds, see the faces (well, I have trouble with faces when it comes to writing, I only tend to “feel” their personalities), but I can’t translate it onto paper in a way that allows it to come to life in the reader’s mind the same way it does in mine. I just can’t do it. It just doesn’t work. I don’t have good sentence structure, or the details aren’t vivid enough, the characters blank archetypes, the entire story loose and empty as a cardboard greeting-card.

And so I panic. And it does stop me from writing, the panic, because I get panic attacks, which generally involve extensive gasping and an overwhelming feeling of doom. It’s like the world is ending, but inside you. Those are the moments when the depression hits, when I understand, with hideous clarity, why some people take drugs, drink themselves sick, or even resort to taking their own lives. The world inside your own mind becomes a living nightmare, and anything that can help you escape from it—anything—suddenly seems a blessing.

Relax, you might say. Relax, relax. The craft of writing takes time to perfect, and as long as you keep at it, you’ll get there. Yes. Very good, sound, logical advice. And also, in my case, utterly useless. Why? Because I am neurotic, self-loathing, and have the firm belief I will die unpublished, unloved and alone. Because writing is all I have, all I can do, and should I find myself unsuccessful at it, not only will I be severely disappointed, but also homeless, because I have no other marketable skills (Dear Future Employer, I Will Often Be Mentally Unable To Work For Long Periods, Cannot Leave The House and Am Scared Of People, Please Hire Me?) and my mother isn’t the most generous of women. Because anxiety and depression don’t always make sense. Because stories are hard to execute. Because I am very sad, and very lonely, and when you are sad and lonely, it is very hard to believe in and love anything. Because I am too discerning to buy into the old illusions I used to weave for myself. And, finally, because all is emptiness, dust returns to dust, and the universe and the world is a frighteningly cold and unforgiving place, and if I can’t churn out at least six or so good books in my lifetime, then I have nothing to hold onto and clutch to my chest like an existential teddy bear.

I am not sure where I am going with this anymore. I was just panicking, and it was time to write a blog post, so I wrote, and I am not sure what came out, except a gobbledygook mess. Let us dream of fireplaces, cats and loved ones, let us dream of other worlds and wonders, let us dream of human beauty and goodness and kindness, of places where laughter and song burst through the air instead of guns and storms, of many wonderful things to fill the emptiness. Let us dream, because it is in dreams where they will stay.

On Meaning

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“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

A good motto to live by as any, is it not?

Everyone, or almost everyone, when they begin any endeavour, try to reach any goal, either for their own sake or someone else’s, find themselves running up against their own insignificance. As the only animals who are aware of our own mortality, it can be difficult sometimes to have the motivation to keep on living, and living well, when you know it will end and all will return to dust one day—you, books, the buildings, human civilisation, the entire planet.

What’s the point? All over the world, a thousand times every second, the same question is repeated in hearts and minds, and none of them receive any answers. At least not good, proper, comforting ones, like, you exist because you need to fulfill a destiny, a plan, encoded into the universe since the beginning of everything or God is having his lunch break at the moment; please hold and he will be with you shortly. Instead, we are very well aware that we shape our own destinies every time we make the slightest decision, that time runs only forward, and that even if some form of Creator does exist, he or she is too obscure to be of any help to us, and his plan does not involve healing the suffering and pain that exists in the world today. Any person with an ounce of sense who has taken a good look at history and human nature will know that the truth is, well, we’re on our own.

If you die, it does not matter; but don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if anyone dies; in fact, it wouldn’t matter if an entire country vaporized overnight, or, why stop there, human civilisation itself; the universe would just go on minding its business as it always has.

It happened to the dinosaurs, after all. While they may have been lacking somewhat in the intelligence department, they lived, ate, bred and died as we did, and now they’ve got nothing to show for themselves except great bones buried in the earth. Did they matter? No. Did all of the species, thousands and thousands, that have gone extinct throughout the history of the planet matter? No. The fact is, wondrous as life is, we don’t really know what it is, or what it is about. We’re just stuck in the middle of it, trying to puzzle out an unsolvable mystery using our puny minds.

Which is why Mahatma Ghandi’s quote is so pertinent to each and everyone of us. Even though, in the full scheme of things, what we do does not matter, on the human scale of things, it does. It really does. All the books and films and art, all the inventions, everything that exists around you in the world today, was dreamed and created by a human being, and without them, you and I would have nothing. It’s a mind-boggling thought if you truly let it sink in. Without other humans and their insignificant little activities, we would still be in the caves, hunting and gathering our food and jumping every time a wolf howled in the distance at night.

To work and to do whatever you feel you need to do, what your heart calls you to do, for the benefit of both yourself and humanity, is the most noble task any person can undertake. Yes, everything means nothing—but it also means everything, and for that reason, we must fight to make our dreams come true, no matter the cost or pain. Meaninglessness is no excuse for laziness. The fact that you exist, and other people exist and have existed and will exist, is reason enough to keep on working to make the world a better place.

The “It” People

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There are some people who just have “it”.

It is hard to define what this “it” is, but you know it when you see it—or, more accurately, feel it.

The sound of their laughter makes you like them and want to talk to them, be seen with them, be part of their group, even if you don’t actually like them or want to be their friend.

Should they talk or compliment you, you find yourself smiling and feeling gloriously important and bathing in their precious attention—even if their compliment is insincere and you know it to be so.

In fact, they generally tend to be insincere in most areas of their life. They are insincere with their friends, who they select based on their status and popularity, and have the ability to spend hours around beautiful and important people they do not actually like. They will ignore you if you are not worthy of their attention, or suddenly act very charming and dazzling if they for some reason need something from you. When they talk, people swarm to them like bees to catch a drop of the honeyed words dripping from their lips. When they crack a joke, the whole world rocks with laughter.

Everything about them is somehow beguiling. The way they talk, the way they eat—when they eat something, that piece of food in their hands suddenly seems the most delicious edible created since the dawn of time—the way they walk, the way they check their phone or arrange their well-groomed locks. Even those who secretly profess to hate them turn into ingratiating, sycophant fools in their presence. People love them, and hate them, and the few discerning enough to find them beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside are too overwhelmed and afraid to say a word.

They are invincible. What’s more, they are dangerous. Even behind their smiles, you sense a lurking predatory and tough creature. They will laugh at your joke, and the insincerity of their laughter will let you know what they really think of you. They know how to twist people around their pinky fingers. Should you be unlucky enough to get on their bad side, you will pay for it. They are competitive, and in the game called life they are here to get as much as they can for themselves. What they value above all else are wealth, power, beauty, praise, admiration, and it is their aim in life to accumulate as much as each of these as possible, to sit on a mountain of diamonds and hold a mirror before their faces and preen themselves.

They are the people who might publicly give to a charity to look good but ignore the disabled woman on the street who asks for the time because she is fat and ugly. They are the people who will publicly talk to you because it doesn’t look good to ignore people, then pretend you don’t exist should the two of you find yourselves alone. They are slippery, they are cunning, and they always win. To win, for them, is to breathe. Egotism breeds like a disease in their gut, and they love themselves a thousand times more than they will ever let on. Things like kindness, empathy, generosity—unless they serve some other aim, such as to bolster their public image, these virtues are nothing more than dandelion seeds, to be blown away in the wind. They have little empathy, because they have little imagination. They don’t care, because they are selfish. What lies behind the social mask is not emptiness, as some might think, but a frighteningly rational, self-serving and calculating human being.

The worst trait these people possess is their love for superiority. They love feeling superior—it gives them such a rush, to feel better than other people and to keep them “below” them. The more people they feel more beautiful than, more successful than, more wanted than, the better. They like envy, because if you are envious of them then it means they are doing something right. On the other hand, if you are better than them in any way, they will hate you for it, and subtly convey their hatred until you start to feel scared. In your presence, they will deliberately talk to other people and laugh and twirl their long beautiful hair just to make you feel bad about yourself. Whoever is the most powerful in a room is who they gravitate towards. They want to be on top, you see, they want to be kings and queens, they want to be a part of the in-crowd and they want you to know that they’re a part of the in-crowd and you aren’t, to toss back champagne and feel secure in their tight-knit coterie of the rich and the superficial and the good-looking.

I have a met a few such people, in my time. I spoke very little to them. Mostly I watched them, analysed their behaviour, their character. I told myself it was because I analysed everybody, that it was what writers did, but in truth, I did it because these people fascinated and frightened me. I found them incomprehensible, and there are very few kinds of people I find incomprehensible. I was attracted, in some way, to their cruelty and their power, afraid and attracted. They were everything I was not, had everything I did not, and though I would not have been them for the world, on some level, I was envious of them. I envied the way they had with people. I envied the love and admiration they received, even if wasn’t real. I envied their power, because as someone who is very introverted and sensitive, the very concept of power is alien to me. My only source of power is escape—into myself, into libraries, into rooms, into the imagination. Self-protection, instead of self-promotion. Like a lamb marveling at the lion, I gazed at these people in fear, hatred, awe.

I still don’t entirely understand them. When I looked into their eyes, I saw nothing. It wasn’t emptiness. They are very, very full human beings, very intelligent and rational, or otherwise they would not be able to manipulate people the way they do or achieve the success they do. But I couldn’t, and still can’t, get at the core of what motivates them. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure, beauty for the sake of beauty, status for the sake of status, power for the sake of power—these things are incomprehensible to me. Ultimately, more than anything else, I think they are creatures who live entirely in the moment, whereas I am forever extending my neck to peer into the future, and often getting slapped in the face in the process. Of all the thousands of different personalities in the world, I find them a mystery. They are psychopathic, and they are strange, but they are very successful, and the sensitive and the kind and the introverted would do well to keep away.

On Books, Escapism, Loneliness & Misfits

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Like the orphan who stands in the snow and looks through a glass-paned window at a family gathered around a Christmas tree by the light of a warm fireplace, I have in my years stood countless times on the sidelines watching others socialise, envy burning a hole in my gut, yearning seared into my eyes, even as my features molded themselves into an expression of indifference or disdain and I quietly took myself off to the library.

It wasn’t entirely their company I desired. I had tried talking to them once, in my shy and halting way, but found myself feeling even lonelier amongst their parrot-chatter and laughter than when on my own. No—what I yearned for was the warm feeling I imagined people got when around others who loved and supported and understood them, the sense of security that comes from being happily cocooned amongst other humans.

Other people had their communities; that was the gist of it, really. Other people had their people, their families, their friends, their church group or their workplace buddies, whereas for the entire course of my life my only friends, at least up until I discovered the Internet, were those who lived and breathed between the pages of books. As you can imagine, this can do strange things to a child. I never belonged anywhere or to anyone except the world in my imagination. To this day, fantasy, which I most likely submerged myself in to escape my loneliness, is the only realm I feel comfortable in. Over the years, due to those early experiences as an odd and silent child who spent almost every waking minute reading about and talking to imaginary people, I have become an inveterate escapist, a master at leaving my surroundings and whisking myself someplace else inside my mind. The world of the imagination is where I belong. Only when inhabiting it do I feel the most happy and alive. In essence, books are my mother and father, my brother and sister, my home and my pets, my world and my religion. I wake up each day and worship words, pray at the grand literary temple known as the library, a nun devoted to magic, wonder and creativity.

Nuns feel most at peace while they are in the convent, praying, whispering across darkened corridors. To leave the convent is often a chore, a distraction from one’s true calling and mission. It brings unhappiness and unrest. Likewise, I only feel at peace while reading or writing, or staring off into space and daydreaming. I would love nothing more than to have a little, solitary cottage perched on a hill somewhere crammed with books and cats to dream away the rest of my days. Each time I am forced out into the world, forced to face ugly reality and its streets and signposts and cars and doors and wheels that spin and spin for no purpose except to keep on spinning, I feel myself to be a stranger in a foreign land, its people aggressive and unwelcoming, the language not only incomprehensible but threatening. I feel buffeted, knocked aside by the hordes, unseen and unknown; and when I return to the sanctuary of my physical home, where all my little book-homes live, it is often with a weary sigh that reached down deep into my bones.

If you’re extremely introverted, you are stuck when it comes to finding human company. You get lonely like all human beings, but you get tired if you so much as talk to someone for longer than a minute, less than that if they’re an unfamiliar person, and most of the time you’d much rather watch and analyse the person than engage in conversation with them. So to satisfy your needs for companionship, you turn to your imagination, to fiction and characters. Mentally unhealthy as this might sound to some people—though what constitutes as “healthy”, eh?—I spend hours engaged with imaginary people, and their imaginary troubles, fulfilling my own desires for companionship through my characters. I laugh along with them, I feel their pain, their rejection, I get to know new characters with them and delight in their individuality and peculiarity.

Oftentimes the business of writing makes me feel as though I’m just a spectator, dropping in one someone else’s life for a little while and jotting down what they see and hear and read. There’s something so lovely about forgetting yourself, and your own life, and getting caught up in someone else’s. Everyone has some days when they’re just sick of being themselves, so they pick up a book, or they watch a film, to escape, and forget. That’s what writers do—except while most return to their lives after the book or film ends, we spend our lives escaping and forgetting, always hoping for a chunk of reality to end so we can return to our fantasy worlds.

I was born into this world a storyteller, and as with every role, there are sacrifices. I believe that the sacrifice my creativity demands is loneliness. In order to stay creative—and this might just be a fancy of mine, or it might not—isolation and seclusion is not only healthy but necessary, and the downside of this is excruciating loneliness. I will always be staring in through the window at people having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Yet my poison in some ways is also its own antidote, as only through writing, through sharing my thoughts and feelings and fancies through words, am I able to feel assuage my feelings of loneliness, and feel a connection to humanity.

Perhaps those who laugh raucously around the Christmas tree will not be the ones to truly understand or enjoy my words, but that does not matter, as I do not write for them. Instead, I write for the misfits, the introverts, the strange and the awkward, the imaginative and the sensitive; and if I can provide in my lifetime just a little comfort for these people through my books and my words, these people who understand me, who stand outside the window with me, ghostly echoes of past children, then my life, like all lives of all the misfits of the world throughout history who have shared their writing and films and music and art, will not have been lived in vain, and I can die happy standing in the cold and the dark and the snow.