I am going to do something out of character and just be totally honest. I’m not normally. Even in this beautifully anonymous space. I’m not even honest with myself most of the time.
It isn’t that I lie to you or anyone else for the most part. I just hold back. I guess that is lying by omission. I censor myself constantly. I am permanently evaluating the words I form in my head before I let them escape from my mouth.
It’s like walking a tightrope all the time. I feel as though my relationships are all curated; they’re carefully constructed. That means they have an inherent fragility because they lack the substance of truth and trust that would enable me to have faith in them. People want to know me because I don’t let them know me. If I did, they’d all disappear.
In therapy, J would say that I’m not giving my friends and family the credit they deserve in being good, kind people who have an interest in how I am and care for my well-being. But that’s just not the case. I know they are good people. And I know they do care. But they care because they don’t know the truth about me.
That truth is something I guard fiercely. I guard it because it is too horrible to expose. But I know that the awful core of myself isn’t going to stay hidden forever. When I visualise it, I see this rotten stone in the middle of a fruit; decaying it from the inside outwards. At some point it is going to make itself visible. I suppose in some ways it already has.
What I mean by that is the ‘acting out’ I’ve done. The scarring on my skin, trips to A&E and the stupid drunken disappearing acts. I find the term ‘acting out’ interesting. I used to just see it as denoting bad behaviour, misdemeanour, maybe breaking a rule. But really it is ‘acting’ something isn’t it? And for me, the ‘out’ part is important.
When I self harm, I take action and it is outside of my inner turmoil. It’s an externalisation of that toxicity. That action means I am doing something about what I hate. I am raging against the darkness in me. And I’m letting it show its face, even for a brief moment, and even if – as is usually the case – only I will see it.
I need to see it. I need to know it’s real. Otherwise that force merely exists in my imagination. And that makes me feel totally insane. How can my life be driven, wrecked, tormented, by something invisible? How can I let myself be totally derailed by what’s imaginary, what’s simply a feeling? There has to be more to it than that.
I hate myself. I see nothing good in myself. I hate inhabiting my body. I hate my mind and my memories. I hate that I am scared of people and places and even my own feelings. It makes me feel weak. I see myself going through the motions of being ‘good’, but it is all part of my construction. Those acts are all planned and considered. They’re executed in pursuit of appearing to be generous or kind. They are the acts of a desperate person. One who craves love and respect but doesn’t believe in them when they’re offered.
Logically, I know that some people love me. I know that they see something good in me. But I can’t believe them when they tell me that. And I feel guilty that they care for me because I see myself as a parasite. I feel as though I am leeching the life from people who care for me, and it’s only a matter of time before they realise and cut me loose.
I am performing. I have spent most of my life doing just that. I performed being a happy child. I performed doing well at school, university and work. Now I am performing recovery. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I’m performing getting better.
In 12 step programmes they always say ‘fake it til you make it’. And here’s the punchline – I am faking it. I am faking wanting a future. I’m faking a commitment to my well-being. I’m faking wanting my problems to all disappear.
I don’t want to be free of my depression, nightmares, anxiety, addictions and all that other crap. I hate it all, but I want to keep it. That’s really hard to say because it sounds so totally fucked up. But you know what – I am totally fucked up. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.
I am important when I’m fucked up. It means that sometimes people listen to me. It means that I have an excuse not to meet everyone’s expectations of me. And you can’t underestimate how much I value that when my entire life has been about fulfilling the wishes of the people I love. It is so liberating to escape that burden.
This is who I am now. I don’t think I had any kind of authentic identity before this. But now I do. Now I am depressed and self-destructive. I’m damaged. I’m traumatised. That’s just me. That’s what defines me and speaks for me. And what’s left if I don’t have that anymore?