Song for today/2013: E is for Estranged by Owen Pallett.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”  ― Victor Hugo

I looked for some quotes about music earlier, and found these.  So many of them are like music to me, in the sense that they articulate what I cannot.  That is something music has always done for me; taken an emotion and transformed it into something almost tangible, something that can be expressed and seen (well, heard). Probably because despite having always been ’emotional’, I find it extremely hard to express my emotions, often not even recognising them at all, like passing a family member in the street and not seeing them because you haven’t got your glasses on.  I always thought that I was quite in tune, emotionally, and now I realise that I am almost blind.  I’m in tune with other people, because that was my job for years and years (and still is, in some respects), but trying to understand what I’m actually feeling has been a gargantuan task, and I’m still not there yet, not really.

I can’t remember when it was, it feels like a lifetime ago, but I was having a discussion with my therapist about what music has meant to me in the past, what it means to me now, and how I feel about it.  Weirdly, it was one of the most intimate and difficult conversations that I’ve had with her.  Probably because despite my obvious love of music (a treble clef pendant used to adorn my neck as an adolescent), it used to be the only way that I had to express myself that was truly mine; it was secret and it was hidden.  Talking about it meant that I was slowly uncovering something that had only ever been felt and seen by me.  I suddenly felt shy, like I wanted to hide, to be like the music that used to lie within me.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”  ― Maya Angelou

When I was nine I got a piano.  I don’t have it anymore, I sold it, which I have made my peace with; I can always get another one if I decide to play again.  I sold it because it stopped being my best friend when I was fifteen, and I am thirty now.  We fell out of love.  Suddenly something that was such a source of comfort and expression to me stopped being that and instead became an inanimate object.  I used to play every day, sometimes for hours, often late at night with the headphones in so that nobody else could hear.  Always with the headphones, always – it was such a private and intimate thing.  We wrote music together, music that could really express how I felt at the time.  It was the only way that I could express my feelings and just have them be, without others ridiculing me or trying to change them, so in a sense it was the only way I was allowed to exist.  Music just flooded out of me (I think that’s why I love Nils Frahm, Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi so much, because I used to compose similar stuff: simple, nuanced, sparse, fairly repetitive, building in urgency, melancholic, with a sense of longing.  Using silence as much as the music itself.  This probably makes me sound a bit like an egotistical dickhead because their music is amazing, but seriously, I was floored the first time I heard Ludovico Einaudi because it sounded EXACTLY like the stuff I used to write as a teen).

And then I went into a psychiatric unit, as an inpatient, and didn’t come out until six months later.  By then, the damage was done.  I don’t think I even really played at the weekends when I went home.  It just went; it was gone and it wasn’t the same, I wasn’t the same.  We weren’t the same.  We had ceased to exist as a partnership and instead I began to listen to other people’s music more, in particular Tori Amos – I’ve talked before about how much she meant to me as a fellow “girl with a piano”.  I found expression through writing an online journal (something that, unlike my paper diaries, my family couldn’t read thanks to the handy ‘delete history’ button) and instead of writing my own stuff, would begin to interpret the music of others through my own emotional kaleidoscope.

I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”  ― Albert Einstein

The past few years, since I’ve been in therapy mostly, music has been even more of a lifeline.  Sometimes I know when things are really bad because music can’t touch me and I just cannot listen to it, nothing will fit, because I am a chasm, a huge, gaping void, and therefore nothing can mirror that except silence.  Or sometimes it’s too painful and nothing will fit, so I have to discover new music because the old stuff is just too much, has too much attached to it.  The quote above is probably the closest to how I feel about music.  I remember asking on Facebook last summer whether anyone else thought in music, because I suddenly realised that actually that might be a bit weird, and one of my friends said that if it was ok for Einstein, then it’s probably ok.  I still play the piano, just not on an actual piano – my fingers are frequently moving, usually just my right hand (melody), in response to something, playing a harmony to something I’m listening to or just playing along.  I remember when I was a young teenager at school and things were the worst, the absolute pits, and when I couldn’t play the piano I just used to sit there and play the desk instead.  It was my way of connection and that is why music means so much to me, because it’s about a connection to the world, a connection to yourself, and in my case a connection to others, whether they know about it or not. It’s a tool for interpretation and understanding, in a world where feelings and experiences are often too difficult to process, where just being is too hard.  And it’s a thread, a thread from one person to another. (“Threads that are golden don’t break easily”- Tori Amos, Horses.)

That’s part of the reason that I started writing this post, because one of the songs that has been central to my year has suddenly deserted me.  I feel like it is broken, that it has gone, gone from being a security blanket to just being a beautiful song.  I honestly believe that songs find you and I don’t care how weird that sounds.  Songs that provide comfort and a new lens to give the world more clarity existed before, but in a different way, and sometimes they appear again when you least expect them.  Maybe their essence remains somehow in memory and when you’re able to access them properly you get guided there, like when someone says something to you but you can’t hear it at the time, so you store it away, ready to revisit it when you’re finally able to take it in.

E is for Estranged was like that.  I love Owen Pallett, he is one of my favourite musicians (and I love a lot of them so it’s not that easy to be ‘up there’) and a musical genius.  I would absolutely call him a composer and not a writer or an artist – his music is dense and layered and intricate in that classical way, like a musical mille-feuille, only it’s not classic at all, there are songs about boys he loves in video games, and lines such as “his massive genitals refuse to cooperate, no amount of therapy could hope to save his marriage”.  I could write an entire post on him (and maybe I should) but anyway, I had listened to Heartland – the album this song is on – many times before, and loved it, but then I put it on one day after I hadn’t listened to it for ages, listened all the way through, and felt my heart soar when it reached this song.

It just…it understood, it was what my heart would have sung if it knew the song, it captured the feeling of feeling safe and warm and held more than anything I had ever listened to, better than anything else I could write.  Because for me, that was it – it was like someone saying “red” and the person opposite holding up a red card; the part of the song that I related to just mirrored those feelings perfectly. The feelings that I had never experienced before, until I had entered therapy and forged a connection with someone, deeper than any connection I had managed to with anyone else.  Which is very sad for lots of reasons, but it is true.  It felt quite sad, too, actually, the song – it’s not like some sort of disco feelgood anthem, it’s more poignant and touching. But then the woodwind takes centre stage and it’s just beautiful, like the golden glow of autumnal sunlight.  It doesn’t feel happy and it doesn’t feel sad, it just is, it exists and it’s pure and that’s that. And then, recently, it ceased to exist.

Those feelings…I started to lose them when I wasn’t there in the room, and when that had happened before, it was ok because I had Mr Pallett conjuring it up for me, bringing it back to me like a misplaced, precious belonging.  I had the music holding me in a bear hug, reminding me of the feeling, but now it’s gone.  It’s still a beautiful song, but the meaning has gone and I don’t know how to get it back, and I’m trying really hard and not getting anywhere, and feeling like I’m not getting any help to get there either.  I feel let down and abandoned, by her and by the tools that I used to use to carve out that feeling in myself.  I feel completely impotent and stupid, because I am just useless, aren’t I? Useless for trying everything I can think of and not getting anywhere.  Useless for not being able to retain a sense of what makes me feel safe. Feeling so stupid for thinking that this time it might be different, for thinking that actually, maybe I am ok, maybe I am worthy. Feeling like I have lost everything and not really knowing what to do about it, except rage over and over, like I’m completely demented.  Feeling like a complete imbecile because I can’t just feel, I have to use things to interpret and provoke.  I feel like I need to be walking around with my hand surgically attached to my forehead, permanently in the ‘loser’ sign.

I never used to listen to the lyrics, really, because unusually for a song with lyrics, it was all about the music.  And then the day it all changed, the day it became estranged, they suddenly meant something:

Haven’t you heard? I am a flightless bird. I am a liar, feeding facts to a false fire.

Which I heard as: I’m stuck forever, I will always be like this, I’m lying to myself because I am opening myself up to something which is fake.  Not a fire, with heat and intensity and danger.  Nothing.  Because it is fake.  The relationship is fake.  It’s not real and it doesn’t exist and therefore I don’t exist, that part of me doesn’t anyway, the part that is growing from the wastelands of my past, the part that I thought was real and validated, heard and understood. Ever been winded?  Try that on for size and it will do exactly the same thing.  Exactly that.  I felt as though the warm glow had gone and was replaced by cold hardness, transforming me into an icicle. And yet I am still hopeful, I don’t know where it’s coming from but there is still a tiny glow in there, somewhere, and I am hoping that I can make it bigger, only I feel so hurt and rejected that I don’t know how.  I have no idea.

(From 3:08, but properly from 3:15 and then it just builds)

Hopefully, in time, this will start to mean something again.

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Psychosomatic madness.

So yesterday, I’m in my session, and we’re talking about stuff that’s hard, but not obviously triggering, and I start getting annoyed and feeling attacked (Me: *visibly bristling*  Her: (gently) What’s going on?  Me: It’s like you’re saying I’m not trying hard enough!  Her: When did I say that?  Me: I don’t know!  I mean, you didn’t…but that’s how I feel!).  And then…BOOM.  Immediate stabbing pain in the left half of my head, like someone is shoving a white hot poker into my skull, down into my jaw, behind my eye.  And then…and then, everything starts going weird, like it’s getting smaller, and the carpet’s going all funny, so I tell her what’s happening, that I’ve immediately got a headache.  She asks me how I’m feeling, how it feels, and I tell her: that it’s like someone is shoving something into my brain and also that I’m scared I might be having a stroke, although I don’t think I am.  And then I try to regain some fucking sense of normality, but it’s not happening, I still feel like I’m a bubble that’s undulating in the wind so I sit up straight and put my feet flat on the floor to ground myself a bit, but as I explained it, “everything’s gone a bit trippy.  And not in a good way”.  We sit in silence for a while, and I feel absolutely exhausted.  I tell her that I have completely forgotten what we were talking about.  It’s like someone’s just wiped my memory – I only remembered hours later, and even then it was sketchy.  Then we start talking again (Her:  It seems like I touched a nerve.  Me, warily:  Yeah, just a bit.  I didn’t know you were into voodoo shit).  And she talks calmly and softly, radiating kindness and understanding but I’m still feeling weird, and some of it goes in and some of it doesn’t, and I know that it’s ok, that I will be ok, but I still feel completely fucking bonkers.  When I leave I’m calm but I still have the bloody headache and am having trouble staying upright, and when I get home it ends up becoming a full-blown migraine, so I have to lie down and be in darkness and not move, and then I have to be sick, and then I pass out for a bit.  The headache eventually stopped almost exactly twelve hours after it started, but it returned later this morning and is still there now, in the same place, like a snooker ball of pain behind my eye, although thankfully slightly diminished.

I’m going to try acupuncture for the first time tomorrow, and I’m quite looking forward to it.  I just wish…I just wish that this wasn’t so bloody hard.  (Her:  I know that this is really, really painful.  Me:  Yeah, well I wasn’t expecting it to be physically painful as well.  This is taking the piss.)  It’s really not fair and I’m SO TIRED of all this.  I’m feeling much better generally but man alive.  This sucks.

And of course, she’s never even implied that I’m not working hard enough, or trying hard enough.  That’s my own masochistic spin on her completely unrelated, innocent words.  Because of course if I’m not trying hard enough, then she’ll leave me; that’s what I envisage, that’s what I expect.  But I can’t really deal with that, I can’t cope with that at all.  So I guess…I guess I get it.

Earlier on in the session, we were talking about how I’ve written to my family, and how I didn’t pull any punches in what I told them, about how I am feeling and why I am feeling it, to try and get them to understand where I am at the moment.  And then (in her usual word geek way) she told me about the Spanish for “I understand” – that it translates more like, “I feel you”.  By trying to get my family to understand me, I’m trying to get them to feel me, feel some of what I went through, what I am going through.   And I don’t know…it feels a bit like my body is doing the same, that it’s saying, “I feel you”.  Because I’m so fragmented and shut down that it’s the only way it knows how.  That it can only express the pain in a physical way, that it translates that way because there are no words right now, it can’t make sense of it…it’s just pain.  Epic and completely overwhelming.  I don’t even know if that makes sense, but it feels like it does.

Song for today: Anthem by Leonard Cohen.

I feel as though every small bit of acceptance, true acceptance, every small bit of love, makes up the foundations that I can build my house on. They were so shaky before. I am so critical of myself that I imagine everyone else is too, which is why I can’t show people my neediness, my vulnerability, because my base instinct is to snatch it back, to hide it where it’s safe. When I have shown vulnerability in the past, it’s been dealt with in various ways, all damaging: ridicule, neglect, scorn. It’s been threatened with death, with icy words that threaten its life, like fingers closing repetitively and forcefully around a neck, just giving it enough respite to take another breath before it squeezes again. A slow and painful death. But it didn’t end up dying, it just hid itself very well.

I am trying to think that maybe being broken doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be whole. I have such a high standard for myself, I am such a perfectionist, and yet…I am not perfect. I am so far from perfect that I fail on every conceivable level, because I set myself up for it. Not really my fault, because that is how I have been wired, if you like. It doesn’t mean that the wiring’s not wrong, though.  I think I’ve felt that I just sort of had to get on with it. That it’s my fault that I’m wired wrong. It’s not my fault, but I am also the only one that can re-wire me so that I work properly.

It reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I have to try and have to forget my perfect offering. Because it doesn’t exist, even though I am blindly still working towards it. What I need to work towards is accepting the cracks, and accepting that they can make me whole, instead of trying to pretend that they aren’t there.  Which is what I’m doing now, but ARGH!  It’s bloody hard.  Exhausting, and at the moment, debilitating.

Alice Miller <3

The best description of denial that I’ve ever seen.  From this interview:

A child must repress the experience of abuse in order to survive. How does such a life-enhancing mechanism transform itself into a life-stifling one?

This mechanism doesn’t transform itself. It remains the same but it is no longer adapted to new circumstances. We don’t need it as adults. Thus we must let it go. Otherwise we can’t take advantage of being an adult; we continue to live as dependent children. If you made a trip in a plane, you needed to fasten your seat-bells for your security. But after having left the plane, when you are walking on the earth, you no longer need it. You would not keep it. But most people do exactly that. They keep on the earth what was life-saving to them in the air. They walk as adults with the denial that saved their lives in childhood. And what was necessary THEN, becomes life-stifling NOW.

Song for today: Serenade by Emiliana Torrini.

I fell in love with Emiliana Torrini in either 2000 or 2001, I can’t remember which.  Her voice first captured my attention; so earnest and childlike, and utterly endearing, a perfect match for the dreaminess of the music flowing beneath it.  Because of this a lot of her songs sounds slightly shimmery and hazy, like early morning sunlight (having said that, I haven’t listened to an album of hers since Fisherman’s Woman, which I should remedy).  I used to be obsessed with Unemployed in Summertime, and Love in the Time of Science is still the only album of hers that I physically own, shoved in a cd wallet somewhere like all the others that I took to university, back in another lifetime.

I haven’t listened to her for years and the other day ended up being drawn to her again, because I wanted something that I hadn’t listened to recently.  Something that would be soothing and meditative; something that would touch the sad and lonely and scared part of me in a way that nothing else managed to.  I gave Fisherman’s Woman a spin (or the equivalent in digital music terms) and this song immediately made me feel slightly more calm, like the effect of a mother singing a lullaby to her child.  Which is, basically, what I need right now – to feel mothered and nurtured, held and understood.  Soothed.  When everything has that golden light and is flooded with warmth, like holding a hot pebble from the beach in your palm, while your fingers close tightly around it.  (Which happened yesterday in my session, incidentally, in an extremely personal and in-depth conversation about music and what it means to me/has meant to me in the past.  Plus three separate episodes of what seemed to be mind reading, as well as a trio of very cute “ahhhhhh!”s, that ended up being uttered alongside whatever it was that I was saying at the time.  Haha <3).  

It’s not a song that’s worth of dissertation-length analysis, unlike yesterday’s; it’s just a song that spoke to me in a way that none have been able to in the last couple of weeks.  More musically than lyrically, but the lyrics are still relatable, in the sense that I’m going through some enormous changes right now, so enormous that reborn is a very apposite description.  What a beautiful, healing song.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlBBGq5i4GI (for some reason this won’t embed and it’s highly annoying)

 

New world forming 
Picturesque in its stance 
Midnight calling 
Moonlight shadows start to dance 

For the dark finds ways of being 
Engraved in the light 
And the heart bears indentations 
Of yesterdays hurting child 
And now we will run with smiles 
The morrow will heal the night so 
Morning comes 
Midnight make fast with the sun 
I can hear my name be reborn 
On the cloud within the sky beneath the dawn 

Oh I 
Serenade the dawn 
Serenade the dawn 
Serenade the dawn 

For the dark finds ways of being 
Engraved in the light 
And the heart bears indentations 
Of yesterdays hurting child 

And now we will run with smiles 
The morrow will heal the night so 
Morning comes 
Midnight make fast with the sun 
I can hear my name be reborn 
On the cloud within the sky beneath the dawn 

Oh I 
Serenade the dawn 
Serenade the dawn 
Serenade the dawn

 

Song for today: Suspended in Gaffa by Kate Bush.

I am writing so much at the moment; I feel like only that, and listening to music incessantly, is keeping me sane.  Only of course it’s not keeping me sane. I feel the least sane I have ever been, possibly, which is why I’m so scared because the least sane I have ever been was probably when I was in a psychiatric hospital.  I feel so many things, and nothing all at once.  Psychiatric hospital?  Those words do not feature in my life anymore.  That is not me.  I’ve split off from that part of myself too, which is probably why it’s banging on my door.  With a wrecking ball.  There is no escape from myself.  But there are too many of me to really know what to do with; I feel like a very inexperienced playgroup leader in a room full of very demanding, needy, unruly children and I don’t know how to deal with them, so all I can do is shut them out and hope that they will go away.  And they won’t.  They’re crying and screaming louder and louder, but all I can do is curl up with my hands over my ears and rock back and forth.  I’m so terrified of opening the door.

I listened to this song again last night after giving a friend my blog address.  I’ve kept this hidden from most people in my life because it feels like yet another part of me that I should keep hidden.  Rambling, talking about therapy, talking about feelings that aren’t welcome in many places.  Some of the darkest parts of myself.  It’s not for everyone, only perhaps the people that have seen all the mad writing before or new people in my life that don’t already know me.  Showing someone who I already have such a long history with was really difficult, but actually a relief.  I think I feel a lot of shame, in a lot of what I do.  With who I am. Who am I to write?  Who am I to take songs and talk about what they mean to me, to analyse anything at all?  And yet the reaction was not one of shaming – which of course it wouldn’t be.  My friends are my friends for a reason.  But then that comes back into trust, and wanting to trust so much – and achieving it on many levels, but essentially not being able to trust yourself and your judgements, which is the key thing, perhaps.  I do trust other people, but I don’t trust myself to trust, and because I have got it so wrong in the past that barrier is still erected, keeping my immense vulnerability at bay and preventing me from receiving what I deserve.  And what I deserve is love, and understanding, but such a large part of me disagrees and it’s stronger, much stronger than the other bit.  It’s such a potent force that it’s like a gale force wind pushing a door shut.  All I can do is try and open it slowly, but every time I do I get knocked off my feet and have to let the force of it shut me out again.  And of course, here I am talking again about a door being held shut.  Is the wind holding the door shut, or am I?  Does the door open out or in?  I think it opens in.  Either way, the wind is me, in all my guises.

Which is where this song ties in, perhaps.  So much of it makes sense, and the video now too, which I have always just rubbished slightly (sorry Kate).  I don’t really tend to ‘get’ performance art but it appears to slot in so well with how I am currently experiencing myself and the world.  Watching the video, it’s windy, all around, while she’s in what looks like a run down, ramshackle barn.  It looks terrifying outside but there are also shafts of sunlight beaming through the cracks (“I caught a glimpse of a god, all shining and bright…”).  She’s beating her fists on the floor, like a child, complaining about the unfairness of it all, while she childishly sings, “And I want it all!” in the background.  It reminds me of the endless struggle with myself, especially what I’m going through right now, the petulance and the “it’s not fair” and the tantrumming (essentially).  Despite the wind, outside probably contains many good things, like sun, but not being one for “busting through walls” I remain inside, because it’s too scary to go out.  I’m stuck, so stuck that I feel like I am suspended in gaffa.  I am there right now, frozen and stuck and unable to move.  The part where she rotates in space, rigid with curled fists…that is such an accurate representation of where I am right now that I want to cry because it’s that thing where it feels like finally, someone gets it.  (And they are a mad, beautiful, eccentric genius, which is nice.)

I’ve talked about the camel part before.  Getting closer to something and then an obstacle coming up again, ensuring that you don’t see it, you don’t get there.  You can’t.  Hello, denial and repression!  Great to meet you…again.  And honestly, this line is one of my favourites in the history of everything: “Thank you for yanking me back to the fact that there’s always something to distract…”  Not only because there is, but also the way it scans, and the way she sings it.  Glorious.

And of course, Pandora.  I’m not a Pandora.  I don’t open boxes; I was always told not to, just to box stuff up and put it away, like a good little girl.  And yet I sit there every week, trying to pry them open, when I’m not really sure how.  And of course I don’t really want to, even though that is what I’m there to do.  I’m unsure of everything; how to open them, what they contain, how big the things inside are, whether they’re harmful, whether they can go back in afterwards.  Whether they’re safe, or whether they will destroy everything.  I have the overwhelming feeling that they’re destructive – nuclear – and so obviously I don’t want to open them up.  Why the fuck would I?  So why am I even trying?  Because I have to try, and because I’ve already started and I’m too far gone now, but it’s taking so long, and I feel like I’m trying really hard but not getting anywhere.  Except I guess that’s not really true, because I’m here, in no man’s land, stuck between two places that I cannot be in – one that I can no longer inhabit because it doesn’t exist anymore, and one that is an unknown land that I’m terrified of stepping foot in.

And then, in a childish whisper: “Mother, where are the angels? I’m scared of the changes”.  Which resonates so strongly, like I’m a wine glass and the song is a wet fingertip, circling the rim.

Alison Goldfrapp once tweeted this (apparent…can’t find a solid reference) quote by Picasso: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction”.  I’ve talked before in therapy about how Picasso freaks me out.  Everything is all in the wrong place, it’s weird and it’s just not right.  But it sounds like Picasso gets me too, because he is telling me to destroy.  Because I have to.  Because I cannot create a strong sense of myself without it, without knocking down my endlessly renovated house on the sand.  I have to knock it down and finally build it on stone.

Out in the garden
There’s half of a heaven
And we’re only bluffing
We’re not ones for busting through walls

But they’ve told us
Unless we can prove
That we’re doing it
We can’t have it all

He’s gonna wangle
A way to get out of it
She’s an excuse
And a witness who’ll talk when he’s called

But they’ve told us
Unless we can prove
That we’re doing it
We can’t have it all
We can’t have it all

“I caught a glimpse of a god, all shining and bright…”

Suddenly my feet are feet of mud
It all goes slo-mo
I don’t know why I’m crying
Am I suspended in Gaffa?
Not until I’m ready for you,
Not until I’m ready for you
Can I have it all

I try to get nearer
But as it gets clearer
There’s something appears in the way
It’s a plank in me eye

With a camel
Who’s trying to get through it
Am I doing it?
Can I have it all now?

I pull out the plank and say
“Thank you for yanking me back to the fact that there’s always something to distract…”

But sometimes it’s hard
To know if I’m doing it right
Can I have it all?
Can I have it all now?
We can’t have it all

“We all have a dream…maybe…”

Suddenly my feet are feet of mud
It all goes slo-mo
I don’t know why I’m crying
Am I suspended in Gaffa?
Not until I’m ready for you,
Not until I’m ready for you
Can I have it all

I won’t open boxes
That I am told not to
I’m not a Pandora
I’m much more like
That girl in the mirror between you and me
She don’t stand a chance of getting anywhere at all
Not anywhere at all
No, not a thing
She can’t have it all

“Mother, where are the angels? I’m scared of the changes”

Suddenly my feet are feet of mud
It all goes slo-mo
I don’t know why I’m crying
Am I suspended in Gaffa?
Not until I’m ready for you
Not until I’m ready for you
Can I have it all

Ascent back into the real world.

The past month has been one of the worst in recent memory.  A difficult financial situation sparked off a tsunami of negative, shitty emotions that dragged me back somewhere that I hadn’t properly visited for years.  My therapist said that it was a trauma reaction.  I felt like a zombie.  I felt dead and like I was just going through the motions (still do, really).  It was terrifying.  For every day that I’d be able to function vaguely like a normal human being (talk to a friend, maybe leave the house to get some food), I’d have two that would involve me lying in bed, either asleep or just weighed down by feelings of despair and worthlessness.  I am not enough.  I will never be enough, I will never be functioning, this keeps happening, it will always happen, it wouldn’t if I just tried a bit harder, I don’t try hard enough, I never have, I never will, because I’m stupid, I’m ugly and stupid, fat and disgusting… etc.  That’s what happens, it’s like a never-ending heavyweight championship fight between yourself and…yourself.  Different facets of your personality that co-exist alongside each other relatively peacefully (or so it seems) until something upsets the equilibrium, and then you end up swinging violently back and forth between reason and emotion until emotion wins out and you end up collapsing.  The repressed bit fights back and ‘you’ lose.

I’ve had some traumatic experiences over the years, and have sort of dealt with the problems they created as they came up, but I’ve never really dealt with the trauma.  I’ve never moved on.  So I’ve basically dealt with the symptoms and not the cause.  Thinking my mum was dead because I couldn’t wake her up from a hypo, and being unable to open the front door, so my cries for help went unheard and I felt like I couldn’t save her.  Hearing my dad batter my mum, her screaming at me to call the police, while I sat on the stairs, completely frozen, thinking he would kill her.  Living in constant fear that we would all be murdered – me, my mum, my little sister.  Being locked in a house by my dad, with my mum and my sister, and having to organise an escape over the neighbour’s fence.  Being driven around in the dark by my dad, in silence, after him uttering the words “I’m going to kill you”.  That’s some of them.  I still think that sometimes I’m just telling stories, because it doesn’t seem real.  So I think that (understandably I guess) I’ve split off from the traumas in order to be able to function – maybe not the best functioning ever, but, you know, staying alive.  If any of that stuff happened to me now…I genuinely don’t know how well I’d cope.  And what does that mean, then, when it happens when you’re two and a half, when you’re ten, when you’re eleven, when you’re twelve…when you have no real sense of yourself or of the world?  When all you know is underpinned by terror, pervasive and infiltrating, influencing every single feeling, thought and action?  What then?  

It’s so easy to see yourself as weak when you can’t necessarily live like normal people do.  When you find it hard to trust people, to take people seriously, or sometimes take them at face value when they’re lying.  When you’ve been manipulated so often, it’s hard to know when you’re being manipulated again.  Are you, or is it paranoia?  How do you know when to trust?  How can you?  You never know.  It’s like one big game, only it’s not anymore, but because you’ve been playing it for so long, have been played, it’s hard to ever let that go. 

Which is presumably why all this shit is coming up now.  Because I’m having therapy, and have been for two and a half years, and it’s got to the point now where I am starting to form a proper attachment to her and feel safe.  But it’s SO FUCKING SHIT.  I cannot emphasise enough how hard it is.  It feels so relentless.  Sometimes I wish that I’d never undertaken this, that I was still in the bubble where not dealing with it all was ok.  But it wasn’t, was it?  Otherwise I never would have gone into that room and said I needed help.  I would have just carried on, kept fucking up and not really dealing with anything.  If anything it was semi-ok, and even then I would be deluding myself.  The unconscious is a powerful thing.

And when I look back at what I wrote there, I think: if all that had happened to someone else, then I would feel so much compassion for them.  It’s horrifying.  And I’m still detached enough that I am punishing myself for not being able to just rise above it.  To get over it.  Which is horrible and punitive, but easier than having to get so close to those emotions that I feel them again.  That’s what’s happening now, I’m getting closer and closer and it’s just…terrifying.  It’s terrifying because it WAS terrifying.  Recently the word I have used to describe the way I feel has been petrified.  I haven’t been able to go to uni, I have barely been able to have a shower and brush my teeth (but I have, even if it’s after a day of lying in bed…yay me).  I simply turned into stone, stood still while the world goes on around me, not being able to just ‘be’.  Not picking up the phone, or answering texts, or interacting with anyone other than those who I can trust the most to be ok with me when I can eventually muster up the energy and courage say that I cannot cope.  Who won’t judge.  Who will offer me the compassion that I cannot give myself because I wasn’t given it as a child and therefore can’t fall back on it, because how can you internalise something that’s not there?

‘Being’ is difficult when you have lost a sense of what you are.  Of who you are.  A partner, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a sheep-lover, a food pervert, a lover of all things silly.  Someone who has music running through their veins, who loves the world despite all the really bad things that have happened, who takes delight in wood pigeons and afternoon sunlight.  Someone who can cope, who has coped.  And when you can’t cope anymore, what then?  You just have rock bottom.  You have such narrow tunnel vision, like I had just over a week ago.  I told my therapist that I knew I’d been happy in the past, that I’d laughed, that there had been good times, but that I couldn’t remember them.  I genuinely couldn’t remember ever feeling like that.  I knew that I had done, in an abstract way, but I couldn’t call on it, because all I could feel was black.  It was like an out of body experience in a way, almost looking down at those experiences and seeing them, but I wasn’t able to touch them or get close to them.  All I was close to was fear and grief; it surrounded me.  Which I guess is what trauma is.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I’m still in it, really.  I feel like I am coming out of it slowly, but I’m still in it, and I have a feeling that I will be for a while, because I haven’t been there for a long time and so it’s going to take a long time to get to know.

There’s the sense of feeling so alone, as well.  That’s what really prompted all of this.  The financial stuff was a catalyst but the feeling that was produced by it was that I was alone; that I had to deal with everything myself and always have done.  That I am wholly responsible, because that is the burden that was placed on me, that is my role.  I remember when I spoke to my dad about the incident in the car, years later, and his response was to laugh and say something along the lines of, “How could you ever think that I’d do that?  You’re making it up.  I didn’t say that, but if I did I’d have been joking.  You should have said you were scared.”  (Never mind that you can’t say that if you genuinely think that you’re about to be murdered.)  Similarly when he read my diary and interrogated me for hours over its contents, the fact that I had even written it in the first place meant that basically it was ok to read; if I hadn’t written in it, he couldn’t have read it, right?  That’s the sort of ‘logic’ that I grew up with, so very occasionally I sort of sit back and marvel at the fact that I have managed to negotiate my way around life at all.  When that is ‘normal’ to you, actual normality is a fucking scary place because you can’t trust anything.  (This was my childhood.  Scroll down to “What NPD parents are really like”, only replace ‘she’ with ‘he’.  It all sounds ludicrous if you’re not the adult child of a narcissist, but if you are it’s so overwhelmingly familiar.)

I read once about a psychologist who worked with young refugees who had lived through horrendous brutality and who had come through it.   The things they ended up talking to her about were unrelated to their original trauma – like being separated from the boy they fancied in the refugee camp – and she wondered why, because it didn’t seem as though they were repressed, and she wondered how they had been able to deal with such devastating atrocities.  From what I remember (I cannot for the life of me find the article) it was something to do with being able to process the trauma through sharing their experiences with people who had been through similar situations, in the refugee camps, and this processing meant that they were able to move past the trauma (something that is sort of explained in this article).  I think that’s what is so different about when you’re alone; when you feel like you’re the only one, when you have nobody to turn to, when you know it’s wrong but it’s all you know and nobody else seems to be going through it…you sort of feel like it’s all your fault, and you can’t move past it at all because how can you process it when there’s nobody to process it with?  So you just bury it, deep inside, like hiding an angry gremlin in a box, and it carries on rattling away inside you forever – or at least until you’re ready to deal with it.  I think that’s why feeling alone takes me back into that place, because when you’re alone there is nobody to help you and it’s just you, fighting for yourself, and sometimes for your life.  Fighting for everything, with the responsibility of everything and everyone’s happiness in your hands.  That’s not my life anymore, but it’s going to take a while for me to really internalise that, because the stuff that has already been internalised is so profound that I am still primed and ready for danger.  I don’t want to live like that anymore.