My workload is beyond huge and I pretty much just go work to home to bed to work again. I barely have the intellectual and emotional energy to fulfil my (extensive) duties at work, and certainly have nothing left to give here at the end of the day (I’d say “at the end of the week”, but I’ve been working 7 days for the past 6 weeks).
Tonight, facing down a week in which everything might change or nothing at all, I am reflecting on how I talk about my feelings, and my revulsion – and I don’t use that word lightly – at people sharing their feelings with me.
I have vaguely started seeing someone – it’s incredibly early days but this is also the point I usually bail. I don’t want to reveal anything of myself, and I worry people will expect or want something from me I can’t give, so I break it off. In this case she’s back footing me by being very honest about her emotions. As though reflection on her emotional state is just an element of her day to day life (imagine!) and a totally ordinary thing which you would talk about over dinner (!!!)
If this was a drama series, we’d cut now to a parallel storyline, there’d be a fade out, perhaps a bit of post production wizardry to indicate we were rerunning the same time period from a different perspective…
My parents and one brother came to visit me last week. When they were here we were having a general conversation on what one of my other brothers was up to; it emerged this [other] brother had had a mini stroke 3 weeks ago. Nobody told me. It literally just slipped out in conversation. When I expressed surprise, my brother [the one visiting] and my Dad said they assumed I knew, my Mum said she’d told them she hadn’t told me. No explanation why. I light heartedly lamented that “nobody tells me anything” and I got the general run down of what had happened.
I told my parents about the ‘big’ event happening this week which may, or may not, change things for me in the long term, but has the potential to. They simply said “oh.” I told my brother I was disappointed they did not react positively. He [evidently] told my Mum. She said ‘unprompted’, later, that she had not reacted as she did not want to “put pressure on me”. As though celebration is pressure. As though any expression of positive acknowledgement is pressure. This is the woman who loudly tutted and said “for goodness sake” when I [uncharacteristically] squealed with delight upon opening a letter informing me I’d won a PhD scholarship back in 2012.
Emotions are not welcome in my family.
My brother who had the mini stroke has schizoprenia. I have written briefly about this previously. I wonder sometimes if he is the conduit for all emotion in our family. His psychosis the floodgates of everyone else’s emotion. His illness the only time we any of us acknowledge that we have emotions too.
[cut scene of landscape, setting the scene for our return to my romantic life]
The trouble is, this life, this background has meant I feel faintly disgusted by other people’s emotions. And I live in horror at the idea anyone will pay close attention to mine, or worse still, treat me differently as a result of any emotions they imagine or know me to be experiencing.
I am taking a peverse pleasure in witholding the same kind of disclosure the woman I’m seeing has trusted me with so readily. I also wonder if I should cut and run from anyone so willing to lay themselves open like this, what could I possibly offer someone like this? And when did I agree to such disclosure – how dare she?
[wibbly wobbly screen denoting that we are casting back through the mists of time]
When I was 15 I experienced a period of what I know understand to have been depression, for the first time. I withdrew from my friends and simply turned inward. My friends were initially concerned, then annoyed, then furious. I remember vividly, in the period I was returning to normality, having two friends literally corner me in a room and scream at me that I had failed to adequately explain my unhappiness and social withdrawal in the preceeding weeks. They said this was unacceptable conduct for a friend and that I was selfish, paranoid, and cruel.
That I had never asked them for anything during this period, and that I simply did not have the language or self-knowledge to communicate what I was experiencing emotionally was irrelevant. It was all or nothing. Lay yourself out in full, disclose everything, or face the consequences.
[fade out, fade in 5 years later. I am 20 and arguing with my girlfriend]
Again I am in a period of depression. Whilst I now know it for what it is, I still don’t have the vocabularly to describe what it feels like. I don’t have a diagnosis of cyclothymia and can offer no explanation of why everything was fine until it wasn’t.
She is furious with me that I didn’t tell her I was becoming depressed. She rejects my answer that I simply woke up feeling that way one day, without warning. She tells me she sees no point in continuing a relationship with me given I have “juvenile” mood swings.
I am sitting on the floor, weeping, begging her to give me another chance. Promising to be “better”. She stands over me and agrees to give me one more chance.
I silently resolve to bury my feelings. To mask them lest I lose the woman I love
[spoiler, she cheats on me years later and I lose her anyway]
[Back to the present. We’re coming to the end of the movie now]
Perhaps it’s no bad thing to try and allow myself to be open to this woman’s ordinary disclosures of her emotional state. Perhaps I should cherish them.
But can I imagine how to begin talking to her about my emotions? My moods? No.
I have the words when I talk to myself. And when I write them out here. But out loud? No. I’ve only done it a handful of times to close friends and always when both drunk and hypomanic.
Hearing myself describe my internal world is the most perfect crystallisation of my disgust at the discussion of emotion. I despise my weakness, my irrationality, my need. And I don’t believe myself – or I both believe and don’t believe myself
[shot of me, splitting into two. One of me tells the truth. The other looks at her with revulsion, and utter utter disdain. “You don’t really feel like that. You just want attention. You’re just making it up”]
I often worry this blog is not even ‘true’. Just a lengthy self-delusion. Cyclothymia is diagnosed from self-disclosures, so all this might be based on a lie. A lie I tell myself and everyone else. Not talking about emotions ensures I am not lying to anyone else but myself.