I wasn’t going to publish this. I wrote it for myself, to explain to myself why I was feeling the way I was and how none of it was true. If my brain would only let me think about how broken it was then that’s what I was going to do. But by doing it well, I could show it just how wrong it was, and prove to myself that I was actually okay.
Now, I am publishing it, because of what happened with Chester Bennington. I am open about my issues- if the conversation goes that way. Otherwise, it rarely comes up because, like most people with mental illnesses, I’ve gotten very good at covering it up and getting on with my day to day. And a sick day can always be a cold.
But after what happened with Chester, another casualty after Chris Cornell from the same world, for pretty much the same sorry reason, I think it’s only right that everyone with a loose screw adds their story to the conversation and does everything they can to keep it loud and, hopefully, helpful, so that nobody has to feel ignored, or unlike, or like they’re shouting into a void. I never really liked Linkin Park; I thought they were kind of embarassing- something that mental illness is very much not. So I’m not going to be embarassed, and I’m going to share with you what hurt me the most this year.
Less of a rut and more of a crevasse.
I’ve just finished a BA Film and English Lit degree and my brain is frazzled. Good parents, an unreasonably supportive girlfriend, late night trawls through Wikipedia and ‘consequently’ can only get you so far, and I found that out the hard way. I never really knew what it was to try; for so long, when something became a challenge I just gave up. I openly acknowledged that I was only interested in doing the things that I was already good at. Luckily, or maybe incidentally, that included a lot of my passions and interests- playing music, arguing and, for as long as I can remember, writing. But, in my final calendar year at university, 64s turned to 54s, and finally, a seafloor 53; by New Year, my confidence was shot.
It hasn’t recovered and, coupled with clinical GAD and ‘Pure O’ OCD (the fun one where you think everybody is trying to murder you), my final year turned into a NeverEnding Horror Story of late nights staring at blank Word documents, torturing myself with other, much more accomplished and substantial work- by both professional ‘adult’ critics and my former, ‘impeccable’ Year 2 self- and (if I’m going to do this I suppose I should be honest) suicidal thoughts. My GAD and OCD got so bad, had me doubting myself so completely, that I seriously started to consider what the point of it all was if I couldn’t do the only thing I was ever exceptionally good at.
Now that probably sounds dramatic but, for a kid who spent his tweenage years writing hundred-thousand word novels on the home computer, losing the ability to write was the most devastating thing imaginable. I remember I asked my mum when I was about eleven or twelve how many words were in a proper, proper book. She said about a hundred thousand, so I sat down and set myself a target of reaching six figures. When I ticked over 99,999 I stopped. I remember overwriting the last chapter for days just to clock those magic 0s (it was something to do with a dam flooding with the main character trapped inside, and I think the numbers gave him about four last laughs). Oh yeah: there were chapters, with individual titles and quotes from all-sorts, fictional or otherwise; a contents page and sketches, and anything else that a few hundred sides of A4 would soak up from my bulbous brain, burgeoning with faces and places and names and ways of making words sound so pretty where, now, they’re just ugly bothers that get in the way of saying what I really want to say.
I was always more interested in the big picture. I did it with my crappy books, I do it with my music, and I even did it with my BA Dissertation. For me, nothing beats finishing something, and getting to put my mark on the front: the title, the cover art; with my Dissertation it was the chapter headings- and I must have spent days deliberating between ‘Smashing’ or ‘Mashing’ for the ubertitle. In the end I went with both: ‘Smashing, Mashing and Anatomising the Body in Film’. It sounded good, but the essay itself was a convoluted mess. If I put my first draft and my seventh draft and the final thing I submitted somewhere in-between a tenth and eleventh side by side by side, it would be the picture of pettiness: they would be indistinguishable, save a few synonyms. But, to an obsessive narcissist, every word is the word, and every single thing you say has to be good enough to go on your gravestone.
The solution is simple to explain but very fucking difficult to realise. What you have to keep reminding yourself of is the indisputable fact that the misrememberings you make to justify your own self-loathing are all patent, lazy lies. You were never perfect- nobody is. You always felt like this- you always got tired and fed up; you always felt like a workhorse; you were never a rotunda of Dostoevskyian masterpieces. You are not the you you think you were; you were always the you you are, with the same foibles and scars, mortally limited talents and weaknesses. So stop beating yourself up- you’re a pink bag of guts and feelings, not a Slam Man.