Archive for January, 2012

Job interviews, books and my general weirdness

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , , on January 30, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I feel so apathetic and resigned that I can barely make myself write this. What use is it anyway? It´s too much work and it is neither interesting nor helpful. I cannot write about any relevant topic, leave alone in a coherent fashion, and if I could I´d better be writing the three essays I need to work on.

When did that feeling kick in? It happened after a job interview that went bad. It was just a side-job, and the reason it went wrong was that during the interview I learned that  1)  there were  bureaucratic problems (the job I applied for would have been my second side-job, and German labor law is complicated) and 2) other than I thought I would not have been working shifts, but each day of the week, and this is something I cannot do (I mean – I ought to be arranging my side-jobs around my college work, and not vice versa).

So all in all it wasn´t even really my own fault that it didn´t work out. And yet when I walked out of that building again I felt like a complete failure. And although I tried not to just beat myself up but rather to explore that feeling, I couldn´t really find out what was behind this reaction. Maybe I felt stupid and naive for not knowing that there would be bureaucratic issues. Well, no, that´s not true. I even knew there would be issues. I just wasn´t sure what would be the consequence of that. Somehow I thought the recruiter would explain that to me. Wow. That sentence sounds painfully naive, doesn´t it? Why would a recruiter bother to explain that to me? He expects me to know stuff like that. This is real life, real work, not college. You are no longer at school, and the people you work with are no longer teachers.

Hey, maybe this is really an aspect I shouldn´t underestimate. All my previous life, the adults and particularly the authorities I have dealt with were teachers. There were some real bastards among them, but nonetheless they were (technically) there for my benefit. Now suddenly I´m supposed to be there for somebody else´s benefit.

This “you have been spoiled and cared for all your life, but for the rest of your life you will serve others” is a real sore point of mine. It makes me feel like I have been exploiting my parents and teachers, letting them serve, entertain and educate me while lying on some queen-size bed like a big, fat, lazy maggot. And in return, now that I´ve passed the magical 21, I will be exploited by those who weren´t lazy, but worked hard all their life and became successful. It´s only fair. Serves me right.

I feel like I have to prove, by being perfect and successful, that I´m not spoiled. If I manage to please employers, impress recruiters and work myself to death, then I have proven that I´m not too lazy to work. I mustn´t do an easy, pleasant, glorious job, though. I must hold a normal, boring office job, something unglamorous, something everybody does. I must prove I don´t need or want special treatment or a special job. Otherwise I will always feel like I´m just too lazy and too arrogant to go to the office every day. Like I couldn´t survive if I didn´t manage to deceive people into giving me “dream jobs”, because I feel that I´m too good/special for ordinary jobs.

The last sentence of the paragraph above is charmingly paradoxical. So I feel like I feel I´m too good for “ordinary jobs”, that is I assume that I must have a sense of entitlement. At the same time, however, I think that if I am offered a dream job, it is because I have successfully deceived the recruiter. So apparently I don´t believe I´m that good for anything at all, leave alone deserving of a great career. So what basically happens is that I feel like I´m complete and utter shit, and if I dream of having a great job one day, I think that I´m arrogant and that I should stick to what a brat like me deserves: Unacknowledged, ill-paid slave labor.

Okay, so maybe part of my depressive mood is owed to this old conflict being opened up again. Another thing that happened is that I read passages of Judith Herman´s Trauma and Recovery for one of my essays. I feel silly, but it really weighs on my mood. It makes me feel cold and hopeless, in a subliminal way that I barely notice. The thing is, I have a very, very  strange relation to the issue of (childhood) trauma. I cannot seem to shake the belief that something bad happened to me. It´s just that –  there simply didn´t. At least not in any way that I could pinpoint. The result is, however, that I strongly identify with anything I read about trauma. It seems I can relate to a lot of the symptoms survivors suffer from; even though I can´t tell if I´m traumatized myself, or just highly suggestible (and an attention-whore who doesn´t want to take responsibility for her own life and tries to blame her parents for her misery yadda yadda yadda). This, anyway, made reading the book quite a challenge.

There were some passages that simply struck me. Herman was talking about children who had survived an abduction and she said (I´m reading the book in German, so I´ll roughly translate): “These children often believe there were omens which were meant to warn them of the impending abduction. After their rescue, the kids keep watching out for  omens in order to recognize future danger in time.”

This was a chilling reminder of how strange I was as a child (and still am, in many ways). Besides being a normal child who read and played with friends, I also frequently experienced states of mind where I suddenly had the strong feeling that something bad was about to happen, or that “today is a dangerous day”. These states went with heightened vigilance, and with the obsessional belief that tiny little actions might decide over life or death, catastrophe or evading it, shock and horror or a normal afternoon. I had inner dialogues with several “voices” who advised me which actions to take and which to avoid at all costs. I also wondered how safe I was even if I could ward off the hypothetical disaster this time; because it could threaten to happen any time again and I´d need to constantly be on my guard. I felt genuine despair over that.

Another sentence that hit me was: “Traumatized children have a hard time making plans for the future. When you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, they might reply that they don´t expect to live long.”

It´s not just that I never had any real goals or plans for the future. I simply didn´t experiece that stereotypical “I´ll be a princess/astronaut/firefighter/policeman” phase, leave alone any “mature” career ambitions. I have some vague dreams, but until very recently I literally felt like the future didn´t matter. Being a grown-up and having to provide for myself felt as far away as it had when I was only eight (not that I remember anything much about being eight. It´s just the first number that came to my mind. Been watching too much South Park, it seems). I always felt like something was going to happen anyway. A war, a dictatorship, me being abducted, me going insane. The craziest thing, perhaps, is that when I was about 14, I got into another of these strange mental states and these internal voices suggested that I was going to die as a (political) martyr when I was 21. I wasn´t even into politics all too much. I assumed there would be a dictatorship and I would die fighting for liberty (a very typical fantasy for kids of German leftists, I guess). Herman´s passage has me wonder if the children she´s talking about are scared that they will die young, or if they have fantasies of a somewhat glorious death, like I did.

But all this is not what made me feel cold and hopeless. I´m not sure anymore what did, and I´m even less sure I want to return to these things. Some of the stuff she wrote just felt like a death sentence to me. Like I was being buried alive; or condemned forever. Interestingly (I finally found the courage to pick up the book again), many of these passages dealt with guilt. And with the survivor´s own responsibility and the part his/her behavior played. Herman writes that “most people unnecessarily get themselves into risky situation at times. Women get themselves into danger out of naivety, ignorance or rebellion. Most women have no idea how hostile men really are towards them. (…) Moreover, many women believe they have more freedom and a higher status than they are actually given.”

When I read these passages, I thought the book was from the 70es. In fact, it was published in 1993.

I mean…what the hell. What. The. Hell. This passage pushes about all my buttons. Can anybody see the double standards?! It´s really not a matter of man versus woman, it applies to all potentially dangerous situations. So you have at least partial responsibility for whatever happens unless you have made sure that you don´t take any unnecessary risk? And what is necessary? It isn´t necessary to go out in the evening. It isn´t necessary to wear skirts. It isn´t necessary to go to concerts. It isn´t necessary to go hiking, swimming and dancing. Nothing that is fun is necessary. So if you avoid anything that might be fun, you can make sure that you won´t be held accountable for anything that happens to you. Preventive self-restriction. Hurray. Rebellion against the Regime of Avoidance will be punished. Wow. I thought that was the disease, not the cure.

Now, let´s be fair to Herman. She says clearly that nothing whatsoever justifies rape; and what she describes there is a social situation which she probably disapproves of. The way she describes it, however, makes me sick. The perpetrator´s behavior is disapproved of in general. He´s a bad person, granted, write him off, we don´t have to deal with him anymore. Nothing you can do about him apart from locking him up. But let´s take a closer look at the victim. Rapists are just a danger we have to live with. Now what can we do in order to not fall into their hands? Not becoming a victim, after all, is the only thing we can do about the whole rape phenomenon.

And that way, the whole scrutiny is put on the victim´s behavior. How is that fair? On some blog I found a while ago, I read an awesome post which deals with just this problem. I strongly encourage anyone who made it till here to take a look at it: Emerging from Broken

What was even worse, however, was the part about how women don´t even know how much they are hated and despised. Irrational as it may be, to me this felt like someone angrily saying: “You don´t even know how much I hate you!” It made me feel all cold inside. Quite frankly, it intimidated me. This passage felt like a threat.

Why would men hate me, I wondered. Because I don´t give them what they supposedly want, that is, sex? Another very frightening thought. Either you give in and submit to their desires frequently enough in order to appease them (and call it love), or they will take what they want violently? So any woman who doesn´t enjoy sex must be “cured” from her neurosis, or else she will be at every man´s mercy?

Now. Rationally I don´t believe in any of this. I don´t think that every man is a rapist. I have more male than female friends, and they are all very decent guys. I don´t really know why the passage from Herman´s book freaked me out so much, or where exactly any of the above is coming from.  It sounds quite spooky and nutty and paranoid.

Then again, I never promised a coherent or interesting post, right?^^

A surreal experience – any ideas?

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on January 28, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

It´s late at night, and I´m sitting in our living room. My girlfriend is sleeping on the couch next to me. I allow my thoughts to drift where ever they want to. I reflect on my feelings about sex, and how conflicted I feel about it (this is not what this post will be all about, though). I dig up some weird childhood memories about me playing some variant of Spin the Bottle with the neighbor´s kids when we were five or six. I suddenly find it very strange that we 1) knew what we were doing was somehow inappropriate (won´t go into details, but yes, it was) and that 2) we did it anyway in a somewhat nonchalant fashion. My thoughts drift towards more childhood memories. They are just fragments that randomly pop up inside my head. I feel myself pushing forward, digging deeper into the past, inviting them in. I feel like I´m on the way to solve the riddle that is my life. I feel like I´m trying to put my finger on something that is constantly shying away from me, and I feel like it is very important that I capture it. I am extremely focused. I barely notice my surroundings.

And then a slight uncanniness sneaks up on me. I am familiar with this kind of experience from earlier occasions. I know the uncanniness can turn into full-blown terror. I know it is time to stop this cascade of memories. The memories themselves are never frightening. There is just this underlying uneasiness that inevitably accompanies this state of mind. I decide that I´ll pick up a book. I read a bit, I even get absorbed in the book, and then I suddenly have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I guess the uncanniness is still there. If I ignore it, it will turn somatic and I´ll have an attack of nausea again. So I put away the book.

Immediately I´m immensely focused again, and I don´t notice my surroundings  anymore. The memories go on and the uneasiness increases. Then suddenly my eyes are glued to the picture on the wall opposite to me. The picture seems threatening in an abstract way. The picture is not actually frightening. It shows a goddamn Tuscan landscape or something. I feel like picture is staring at me. Taxing me. Lurking. I realize that I´ve frozen like deer in the headlights. My eyes shift to the closet next to the picture. There are windows in the closet doors, and I feel the same sense of threat emanating from the corners of the windows, where they meet the frame. This, too, is something I know very well.

The cascade of memories go on. I remember old fears of mine, like my fear of a house fire. It seems incredibly meaningful. “What is that fear like?” I ask myself. “What is it really about? I know all of my specific fears, all of my phobias, are just ideas that my actual, nameless, deep-rooted, overwhelming terror attached itself to. So – let´s get a little closer to that terror. Let´s try.”

I get closer, I let it build up in my mind so I can finally get a good look at it – and then shy away again as if I had burnt myself. I do this a couple of times, and then, bit by bit, the tables turn. Little bouts of horror leak into my mind, and I try to block them, stop them, do anything apart from sitting on the couch in terrorized stupor. And each little noise, each little movement, each little shadow increases the panic. I duck (just mentally or also for real, I´m not sure) to avoid the blows. “Calm, calm, calm!” I frantically scream in my head, until I become aware of the absurdity of that.

I decide that I must remove myself from the situation. I must break my paralysis, go upstairs and do something. But moving is difficult, because even my own movements freak me out.  It probably takes me fifteen minutes to sink down to the floor and put on my socks. I´m constantly hit by new bouts of terror, and I freeze up again every time. Still, memories are flooding my brain. By now I don´t even remember which ones, but when it happened they all seemed to make sense. I saw a million connections between them. It drives me crazy how unaccessible it is now.

Well, then I turned towards the door, which was locked. I felt a terrible threat emanating from the door (great, so you can become phobic of large, flat, rectangular objects which have frames? Wow.). There was a cracking noise behind the door and I jumped mentally. On the outside, I was frozen once again. I thought: “What if there is a fire behind the door?”

My rational mind was not entirely switched off. It was very active recording what was happening, and discounting my frantic thoughts, telling me I was just being overly dramatic/hysterical/histrionic. So I knew with absolute clarity that there was no fire behind the door. I tried once more to analyze my fear, though.

So, “what if there is a fire behind the door?” I didn´t picture the hall to be ablaze. “The Fire” is a very confined thing, and its existence does not depend on any flammable objects. I guess you could imagine it to be a demon. So if it was there, it was standing behind the door. “The Fire” is not a chemical process. It is an semi-conscious entity, something with a will, though maybe a programmed, pre-determined will. Something that might notice I´m right here on the other side of this door if I should think about it too loudly. It is like a sleeping dog which will wake up if you stare at it or even think about it for too long…like…NOW!

And my mind shies away. Not completely, I still cringe with terror internally, I´m so frightened I want to cry, but there is no cathartic catastrophe. The goddamn entity will probably never get me. It will never get it over with. If I was persecuted by a real thing/person, I guess I would have stopped running away long ago. Whenever I felt threatened in real life, I…well…froze. I froze, and the fear went away. And so did the threat, by the way.

I cannot imagine what would happen if the fire, the dog (did I mention I´m also phobic of dogs?), the entity should wake up, notice me and go after me.  I don´t know what the hell I´m so scared of.

Well, eventually I went to the door. I knew I´d have to open it sooner or later, despite my fear, and I prepared myself to resign. Since I rationally knew there was no danger, this was manageable, though uncomfortable. I felt a little wave of apathy wash over me. Leaden, listless, meaningless, low. Nothing matters, everything´s gray and bleak. But that way I could open the door. I got used to moving again; I got my laptop, I wrote this entry. I´m still hypersensitive to noises and movements. Even when I know they´re completely harmless, like my girlfriend turning around in her sleep. At least I can move normally again. I know I will still have a hard time getting up and going to bed, though. I don´t feel entirely uninhibited yet, though the space in which I´m safe seems to have increased. Which leads me to the question: Am  I ever entirely uninhibited? No. Not in this flat, at least. Even during daytime, I´m always just that little bit hypervigilant. When I run down the stairs I´ll regularly stop dead in my tracks on the last stair, feeling the sudden need to check the living room (to my left) before I walk (towards the right) in the hallway, just to make sure no one will jump at me from behind. Huh. Maybe that´s one of the reasons why I don´t get anything done at home? Because I can never fully focus on anything? Interesting thought.

I´ve asked this before on some mental health forum, but no one could give me any hints, so I´ll ask anybody who happens to stumble across this post:

Do you have any idea what it is that I described here? 

What is it? It´s not a normal panic attack of the kind I get when I feel nauseous. When I have one of these, I don´t freeze. Actually, I cannot sit still, and I get very agitated. It´s not a generalized anxiety thing, either, because I´m not actually worrying about anything. I often worry about stuff, like “what if something has happened to my girlfriend?” or “what if she hates me and just doesn´t know how to break up” or “what if the house catches fire because I didn´t switch off xyz”, and I respond to these worries with all kinds of crazy thought rituals. This experience here is completely different.

It is not just anxiety. It is terror. The terror is oddly surreal, though, which makes my rational mind doubt if it is really happening or if I´m making things up. (I mean whether I´m really all that terrified or if I´m just psyching myself up. Like I said, I do know on a rational basis that pictures and window frames don´t actually stare at me.) Also, I´m under quite some stress. I just noticed this when my girlfriend moved again and I felt this bout of aggression, which was just the result of feeling like I´m under attack.

Well. If any of you guys knows something about this or has this kind of thing him-/herself, I´m grateful for comments (well, I´m always grateful for comments. But finally finding out what this experience is all about would be specifically awesome).

 

A short talk, and long ruminations

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on January 26, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

So – the big “talk” is over. Not for long, there will certainly be a need for follow-ups. Our first result is, after all, that most likely I will have to move out.

We went to a tiny, but incredibly noisy restaurant for lunch in order to talk. The fact that half my mum´s work colleagues were having lunch in there as well, and further the fact that the most normal dish on the menu was still much more “refined” and exotic that I can stomach, did nothing to improve things.  Next time I´ll choose a place.

Despite the circumstances, though, our discussion was constructive enough to render the following facts: 1) My mum wants to sell our flat within this year. 2) This means that I have to move out soon because she will want to show potential buyers around. I am neither willing nor able to permanently keep my room in a state that won´t make my mum fear visitors will run out the door screaming. For details, see this post. 3) My mum was able to tell me precisely how much money they can give me each month while I finish college; and the sum seems reasonable enough. 4) I could give my mum a realistic perspective as to when I will finish college.

What were my feelings about all this, though? Well, I went to the meeting in an okay mood. At that restaurant, I had several temper tantrums over the menu and the other costumers. This is not exactly out of character for me, I can´t claim to be mild-mannered or well-behaved. It´s not like I yelled at the waiter. I just muttered angry remarks under my breath. I guess it wasn´t a comfortable situation for my mum. She stayed entirely calm and appeasing, though, once again the perfect mother who won´t even snap at the brat she has for a daughter. I wonder, though, why exactly she keeps on taking me to such restaurants when she knows very well that I hate them. It´s not like it was in any way an appropriate place for our discussion.

During the discussion, I was calm and rational for the most part. I had rushes of both anger and panic when she suggested that I share a flat with other students – this is something I could never do. Period. I´m a grumpy  loner since fifth grade, and even in college I never really formed any friendships.  I´d like to move in with my girlfriend, but there are multiple obstacles I don´t want to talk about right now.

After the discussion, on my way home, I was almost a bit excited about the prospect of getting a place of my own. I was toying with some ideas about how to arrange things in there, which posters to put up, which new things to buy. I felt a glimmer of realistic optimism for a while. Then I arrived home. Immediately I plunged myself into work. I looked up deadlines for applications, I looked up possible topics for my thesis, I did all kinds of stuff – and all the time I felt like I´d better not stop. I felt like I should neither sleep nor relax until I had graduated from college, or at least until I was living in my own apartment – or better until I was seventy years old and retired. My body was frequently cramping up while I imagined which steps to take, what I ought to and maybe even could achieve, and the great things I wanted to do in my life. I don´t know why my body does that stuff. Neither the thoughts, nor the cramps are really a conscious thing. I´ve had similar experiences all my life. This time, however, my body cramped up so heavily I started to feel sick. I still do. My body is still pretty tense, as well.

And another thing set in: I became very tired and weary and unmotivated. All I want to do is lie down in bed and never get up again. But I can´t slow down and relax. It´s either being a workaholic or  being completely defeated by apathy, listlessness and procrastination. Either hyperactivity or depression. If I´m in the excited state, I might believe that I can be happy in a great variety of jobs, and that it is okay that life is full of challenges, and that I can do anything – as long as I stay active. I have a fear of relaxing, of being easy on myself, of doing anything less than perfect. I know intuitively that if I do, the second state will take over. In the depressed state, I´m desperate at the thought of having to do any job at all, and I wonder what the hell could ever make me happy. I wonder where on earth that special niche is where I can flourish. Every career seems void and meaningless in the great scheme of things. I get very anxious because I know I will have to do something. And I´m much too apathetic to do anything at all.

I have my own little theory about this. In fact, both affective states are pretty empty. In that excited state, for example, I cannot get anything creative done, simply because I cannot focus on anything long enough. One idea haunts the next, each one is more worthwhile than the other. It seems unbearable to keep on working on a project – and it actually is quite impossible – when my brain is flooded with a myriad of other things I also absolutely need to do! I cannot fall in love with any project or idea. Or rather: I have one idea that might be really good – and then I think that now that I´ve found out how to realize one of the vague wishes and ambitions that float around in my mind, I can realize all of them. For a while I thought this was narcissism: I want to be the greatest, so I have to have done, tried and accomplished absolutely everything. Right now, though, I don´t believe that anymore. It rather feels like racing, intrusive thoughts. Nothing I consciously want and decide to think about.  Also, the way my body cramps up. I´m in stress, quite obviously.  Maybe it´s some kind of manic state. This makes me uneasy, because what comes to mind is Bipolar, of course.

Anyway, in the second state, I also have a million ideas what I could do for a living, but none of them seems good. Or at least not good enough. In this state, I feel the emptiness behind my ambitions and dreams. Or rather: I have the same wide range of ideas and ambitions when I´m hyper as when I´m depressed. My mood just determines what that wide range looks like to me and how much of these ideas I can actually realize.

Hyper: OMG, THE WORLD IS FULL OF THINGS I COULD TRY AND DO!!! IT DOESN´T MATTER THERE ARE NO SAFE JOBS ANYMORE, THIS WILL JUST ENABLE ME TO TRY EVERYTHING!!! SO MY INABILITY TO MAKE A CHOICE IS MY GREATEST STRENGTH! AND IF PEOPLE THINK I NEED A DEGREE FOR SOMETHING, I´LL JUST REVOLUTIONIZE THE WHOLE  FIELD!!! MY LIFE IS GREAT!!! I´M SO AWESOME! I´M THE CHOSEN ONE! (okay, that´s an exaggeration. i hope.)

Depressed: Nothing, no dream, no career is really important and good enough. Even all of them taken together don´t amount to anything. And here I am – having no career at all. Having not written a novel, having not played in a movie, having not sung in a band,  having not…, having not…, having not… Well, what does that make me? A complete. and. utter. failure.

Both mania and apathy, though, seem to cover up actual feelings. Love for or excitement about one specific project. My high hopes for a single endeavor. Concrete worries.  Feeling hurt over a specific remark or action by a specific person. Or whatever else there may be. Maybe just a big black pit of despair, panic and abandonment. I´m pretty sure I have plenty of feelings about having to leave the home I have lived in all my life. And, of course, plenty of feelings about having to grow into complete independence over the next year. It would be very odd if I didn´t. I just don´t feel them. Mania. Apathy. Dysthymia. Nausea. Anxiety. But these are, aside from acute anxiety attacks with nausea, very chronic conditions. I´ve been ground between their wheels all my life. I´ve realized that feelings are something acute and alive, neither a leaden burden that you barely notice you´re carrying (but you still wonder why everybody else is getting somewhere while you are stuck), nor a pair of alternately pink and gray glasses through which you still cannot really see. When I get into the manic state, I believe (or used to believe, I´ve grown wise) that now I´ve really found the key to everything and my life is going to change. When I enter the depressed state, I feel that nothing will ever change. I´m torn between these states, and I´m not getting anywhere. Feelings do get you somewhere. They come and they go, and you process them and move on. Or so. I wouldn´t know, really. I don´t have feelings so often.

Anyway, I can try to figure out how I feel about having to leave this place. It is something I´ve fought all my life; every time my mum wanted us to move (she always hated this flat), I simply started to kick and scream. Even when I was 13 years old. So I don´t buy that I feel indifferent about leaving now. And yes, there is a feeling. A mixture of panic and resignation. Panic in the sense of: I hardly have any time left. Whatever it was that I´ve always wanted to do in this flat, get from this place, I need to do it quickly. Why didn´t I start earlier? Now I´m never going to make it. And that´s where resignation sets in and just shuts down my feelings. Don´t want it. Don´t even try. Just be mature and leave this place. You can take some pictures, that should be enough.  So what is it that I still want so frantically? That I feel I didn´t get all the time? (This parallelism of panic and resignation is oddly reminiscent of the alternation between over-excitement/mania and apathy/depression.) And could it be that this is the main reason why I stayed all those years, even though I wanted to have a place of my own so badly? I´m still searching for something. Or not even searching: I´m waiting for something. This place still has something to give to me. Or I´m still hoping that it will, eventually, give something to me. Maybe it never had that something to offer in the first place.

What I´m scared of is that I leave now, indifferently, with my feelings reduced to depression, anxiety and nausea, and one day I will “wake up” and terribly miss my home. One day when we have long since sold this place. And I will feel guilty because I didn´t allow myself to feel enough to say farewell properly. It is funny, because I fear the same thing with regards to my entire life. I used to connect this, too, to narcissism. I had this idea that I don´t feel anything on purpose. That it is more convenient, because my feelings might be ugly. They might threaten some shiny facade, some immaculate image I have of myself. Now I believe this is bollocks. I don´t feel numb on purpose. If I had this much control over my feelings, then I could probably handle them well enough in order for it to be safe to feel them.

There is this psychoanalytical theory of the gain that lies in neurosis. Not secondary gain, like getting attention, but primary gain: A seemingly unbearable conflict is not felt anymore. The price are neurotic symptoms. They are uncomfortable, but they are better than having to deal with the conflict. I hate what this theory seems to imply: That neurosis is the result of being irresponsible and cowardly. A conflict is conscious, it feels unbearable, therefore it is repressed and the repression, too, is repressed. The neurotic basically deceives himself, and the neurotic symptoms are the natural, but somewhat deserved consequence.

I believe, however, that my feelings about having to leave home were never conscious. I feel even strange talking about them, because I can only assume they have to be there. I don´t feel them. If I assume they exist, however, I also assume that the reason I don´t feel them is that I would indeed in my current situation be unable to deal with them. I believe that these are automatic psychic mechanisms, similar to the numbing that can occur in traumatic situations. I believe that my psyche is reacting to the fact that I cannot do anything about the fact that my home will be sold without me having gotten what I search for. Maybe what I´ve been searching and hoping and waiting for is actually something from my family, who knows. I´d love to know, you see. I´d love to know what´s wrong, instead of feeling useless and spoiled and dependent. But other than this little hunch, my feelings are completely inaccessible to me. It´s not a matter of shying away from them just because neurosis is so much more comfortable. It´s not a matter of courage, willpower, self-discipline and being a man. I wonder what it takes for my feelings to come to life. I´ve been searching for it for almost ten years now. And most of the time I still doubt that there are any vivid, spontaneous, genuine feelings underneath the machinery of manic ambition, depressive resignation, generalized anxiety and dynamic lethargy.

 

 

 

Days of impending doom

Posted in personal, rants with tags , , on January 24, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I don´t usually write about things happening in my life – but that´s because, for the most part, nothing happens. Right now, some things threaten to happen, however. Like: I might have to move out. First of all, though, a bit of background:

My core family consists of my father, my mother and my older sister, let´s call her Irene. We all used to live together in this flat I still inhabit with my mum. When I was ten or eleven, my mother kicked my father out for cheating on her. When I was 13 or 14, my sister moved out (she´s significantly older than me). And when I finished high school and started college…well, I stayed. My mother never encouraged me to take any steps towards moving out. Whenever I had a row with her and told her I wanted to move out, she´d said, “well, go ahead”, in that neutral, seemingly friendly tone, like she thought it might be a good idea after all. There was never any follow-up, though. No: “Listen, dear, we argue so often, maybe you do need a place of your own. Your dad and I can help you find one, you know?”  No. There was no such thing as active, genuine support. I always felt like I either had to put up with my mum, or pack my bags and leave through the back door at midnight.

I feel like a complete failure because I didn´t manage to leave; and, to be honest, I don´t even know why I never left. I knew that while my parents would not actively support me, they would still give me financial support while I was studying, even if I moved out. I could always give plenty of reasons why I didn´t think moving out was a good idea after all (it´s too expensive, the neighbors will complain about me for singing or playing music…), I have a million fears about being responsible for a place of my own…but I think they all cover up something else. Thing is: All my worries about having to provide for myself (both in terms of job and place to live) imply that the world is full of enemies. I envision work the way it was in the 19th Century. Factory owners and paid slaves. I envision renting a place the way it might once have been. If you don´t pay the rent on time, you are kicked out without a warning. My fears are absolutely unfounded. We have abundant social security systems. I´m not going to starve, and I´m not going to live on the street, even if I´d happen to be unemployed. Besides, other people make it, too! Managing to provide for oneself is the rule, not the exception. So where are those fears coming from?

It´s very simple. My family instilled them in me.

My father keeps complaining about our economy going downhill, about how hard it is for philosophy students to find a job, well…he complains about absolutely everything. Whenever I think aloud about a career choice, he sees a problem. He tells me that there are no dream jobs, and at the same time he says that you need a job that makes you happy if you want to be happy in life, because your job is such a huge part of your life. So – happiness is impossible, but it can always get worse? After discussions with my father, I always have to resort to suicidal ideation in order to maintain hope that a life of misery is avoidable.

Irene keeps on telling me that I have to start doing everything now because everything is “not as easy as you think” (WHAT!?! GIVEN HOW TOTALLY NOT EASY I THINK EVERYTHING IS, HOW DIFFICULT ARE THINGS REALLY, THEN!?!?), and on top of that, everything that is not as easy as I think is also terribly important. So I should start looking for a place of my own NOW (as opposed to in six months when I hopefully finish college), because “finding a flat is not as easy as you think”. “It´s not like you just decide you want to rent a place. You have to apply for it, the landlord has to accept you.”   Hear the message? From now on, you are at other peoples´ mercy. People who have no relation to you, people who don´t care about you as a person. You will have to be precisely how people want you to be; you will have to suck up to your superiors; your days of being an individual are over. 

Oh, and five years ago, she urged and admonished me to find out what career I want and then get as much work experience as possible while I´m still in college. Why? “Because that´s what counts later. Your future boss won´t care that you were the best student in your graduation class at high school. Nobody will give a flying fuck about your high school grades.” Hear the message? You think you have accomplished anything? You think you can lean back now and think you´re great? Think there is reason for optimism? Yeah, right. What you accomplished so far is completely irrelevant for your future life. Your high school graduation is trash, it´s worthless, it doesn´t matter. You are incredibly naive, you know nothing about real life. 

My mother, however, is the worst of the bunch. I feel like for years she inhibited my normal development. I really do feel like she kept me dependent on her on purpose. I can neither put my finger on it, nor prove it, but I do feel like she is a manipulative liar. Like she is constantly wearing a mask, like I have hardly ever seen her true face, and whenever I did, it wasn´t pretty. Maybe I just have an incredibly distorted perception. Maybe it´s me who´s crazy. That´s how absolutely everybody else in the family sees it. On the other hand, in the case of Dr. Stoneface, my perception was right on spot. So – anyway. I feel like for years my mum worked on disabling me rather than enabling me to lead an independent life. It was never desirable that I should move out and live on my own. Until now.

A year ago, my mother fell in love with a new flat in another city. You need to know that she spends her life entertaining dreams of the perfect place to live.  The perfect flat, perfectly equipped with perfect furniture, perfectly orderly and with a perfect panorama view. I think she believes her life will be perfect as soon as she has the perfect place to live. This is something she is really neurotic about. Anyway, a year ago she found a place she believes is perfect for her. And the impossible happens: In order to afford it (or for whatever other reason, I don´t expect to be told the truth anymore) she wants to move in there with my dad.

Granted, they never got a divorce and I have the impression that over the last eight years or so, they developed some kind of platonic relationship. My father has his girlfriend, my mother probably has a whole lot of affairs she´d never tell me about, but the two of them go to the cinema together, they go on holiday together, and my father comes over for dinner every other day. I never assumed, though, they would move in together again. This is beyond bizarre. My mother is anal and orderly and perfectionist, my father litters every place within seconds. How can they live together? They will bash each others´ heads in. I´m fine with that, but how can they not see this coming?

Irene keeps on lecturing me that how they manage this is their problem, and not mine (indirectly telling me to mind my own business and stop ranting about them). It does matter to me, though. Not because I´m so concerned for their welfare, I´m way too pissed off at them to wish them anything but a miserable rest of their lives in their perfect flat. Thing is: I don´t buy that even my mother doesn´t know there will be a myriad of conflicts. And if she knows it – why, then, does she insist on moving in with my father, and the sooner the better? It sounds strange, but I feel like in some way this whole new flat thing is also directed against me.

It´s crazy, really, but my mother makes me feel like I´m the evil mom, and she is the daring daughter running away from me, and be it to the wrong man. If life was a movie, my mother would be the main protagonist on the way to her happy ending, and I´m the villain who´s in the way of this. She´s trying to escape from a life of sacrificing herself for others, mainly her children (and since I am the youngest in the family this refers specifically to me), and now she finally seeks a modest piece of happiness, and I´m trying to deny her even that because I am so messed up, incompetent and unable to take responsibility for my own life and happiness that I need her to provide for me. I need her to stay in her role as my mother (and only that) forever.  This is a nice little myth, and I wonder who spread it. My mother would certainly deny that she sees things that way. Irene and my father, however, fully believe in this tale. It´s not them and my mother who kept me prisoner all my life, it´s me who keeps my mom prisoner. Who uses my mom as a slave or something.

And so when my mom suddenly tells me that she wants to talk to me about when I´m finally done studying and when I will finally move out, she´s not suddenly stabbing my back and letting me down after years of infantilizing me, oh no! It is the moment that exploitative brat aka myself gets what she deserves! Justice is done! My mother wins her life-long struggle for freedom and happiness! Go ahead and wank off to this epic tale of self-empowerment!

Well, that lovely talk will presumably take place on Thursday. Right now I´m just manically angry, or rather, I feel this whole thing is entirely ridiculous. For the most part, though, my emotions shift between humiliation and panic. I feel like, without any warning, I´m being cast out into a cruel dog-eat-dog world where no one will give a damn about whiny, weak, sheltered me – and then there is this nagging voice telling me that I deserve this because I was always too lazy and complacent to prepare for that world while I could have done so (that is: during the last few years).  The most humiliating thing is that without my mom wanting to move out I would probably never manage to leave myself. So should I be grateful for this or what!?

It makes me sick with anger. I may not be able to put my finger on this, and trying might lead to complicated, nonsensical blog entries like this one, but I just know, KNOW that something about all this is not alright! And I so want to get even with my family…

 

 

My alien body

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on January 17, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

So yesterday I wrote about how I compared other girls´ looks and started to ponder suicide when I thought about aging.

I thought about how from a certain age upward your risk for cancer increases, and I thought about how one day I will be diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors will say they have to remove my breasts, and I will still not have lived. I will still have nothing done with them. I have done nothing with my body, I have not lived in it, I have not experienced its reactions, I have not given it to others…nothing.

So…I feel guilty and under pressure because I know I´ll never be young again, and yet I don´t use my youth in order to make experiences and enjoy my life. I don´t truly inhabit my body. The only way I can relate to it is by comparing its looks to the looks of other bodies. So what is the deal with me and my body? In what way is our relationship dysfunctional?

Let´s start with the most obvious part. My anxiety. I´m phobic of my own bodily functions (or at least one of them: throwing up). It´s only recently that I learn to work with my body instead of against it when I have an anxiety attack. Quite often I got extremely angry at my body for letting me down, I wanted to punch or cut myself, and often I dug my fingernails into my palms – out of reflex, mostly. I´ve started paying attention to what my body is doing – normally it tenses up all over – and I´ve learned to relax it again. That is of great help against the anxiety attacks.

This leads us to the next thing. Self-harm. During my teens I used to cut. There was a variety of reasons – issues with anger; getting back at others; attention-seeking; self-soothing; blood fetishism (yes, I´m serious!). I was never addicted to it, though, and almost always I had to force myself to go through with it. It started one night when I had a row with my mother, and I felt this white-hot anger flaring inside of me. I was literally blind with hatred. I felt this strong urge to just take my knife and stab it into my hand. But I couldn´t. It took me an incredible effort to just produce some good scratches on my hand.  You could think that this inhibition is a good thing, and it might be so, but it is not the result of me having a healthy relationship with my body. As I realized a few months ago, the reason for this inhibition is that I feel like my body isn´t me, but an object. Now, the thing is, I tend to ascribe feelings to objects, as if they had a soul. Not that I rationally believe in it. Nonetheless, I constantly find myself pitying objects that have been thrown away or damaged in some way.  And so, after I cut, I felt terribly guilty towards my hand. I felt like my hand was probably very sad because I didn´t love it. I felt this in a very childlike way, and I heard my own thoughts in a small, childlike voice. This problem made cutting fairly frustrating, and after a few years, I more or less stopped.

What other issues are there? Well, first of all, I don´t like my body. Either I view it as a child´s body (which is easy, given that my breasts started to grow when I was 12 and stopped when I was 13), or I see my mother´s body in it. Not that my mother had an ugly body. Feeling like I am in her skin, and feeling like it´s her body I´m touching grosses me out nonetheless.  I have attacks where I even believe I smell like her. In moments like these I just want out of my own skin (precisely because it doesn´t feel like my own). And feeling like I have a child´s body…well, I had my negative body image ever since I was a child. My body just feels like a dead weight to me, clumsy, grotesque and asymmetrical. It feels puffy, even though I everyone tells me I´m slim and I lost over 13 lbs over the last few months (without dieting). I don´t mean to lose weight (though I do not exactly mind), I simply forget to eat. This is how bad my relationship with my body is. I forget to eat.

So, what ways are there in which people live in their bodies? They do sports. I can´t. I´m fairly athletic, and I can still do cartwheels or climb trees like when I was a child, but whenever I tried stuff like aerobics my body suddenly seemed to double its weight and I started to feel extremely weak. I was also hit by shame and that same white-hot anger that causes me to self-harm. Doing sports makes me wish I could just take a knife and rip my ugly, useless, clumsy body straight apart.

Yes, and there is this other way. Sex. Now given that my sexuality warrants a psychiatric diagnosis of its own (at least according to the opinion of my former therapist), you can probably tell that this is a pretty difficult and complicated issue for me. I won´t even go into what type of physical intimacy works for me, but just state what doesn´t: sexual stimulation. It´s not just that I´m still a virgin (and scared shitless by the thought of allowing someone to penetrate me); it´s also that I feel very much at odds with the thought of letting someone stimulate me to the point of orgasm. A former boyfriend of mine tried and tried, and I felt more and more disconnected from my body – and in turn I got more and more embarrassed. I was even too embarrassed to ask him to stop. I always seem to give the impression that I am just a prude, or that I am extremely chaste for whatever the reason (certainly not religious, though,  a girl wearing death metal shirts just doesn´t look the part). In fact, I´m not chaste at all.  Just very dysfunctional.  (Okay, the prude part is true. I have a hard time talking about sex, I´ve grown to hate even the word, and I loathe being naked. Still, I´m not prude and chaste out of conviction.)

Well. That pretty much sums up my dysfunctional relationship with my body. Oddly enough, writing this entry was difficult at times because it felt like such an intimate issue. The way I see it, this reveals that I can´t be entirely disconnected from my body. Whatever I hate about my body I also hate about myself. Negative feelings and shame for my body are negative feelings about myself and they undermine my self-esteem. These feelings can be overwhelming and absolute; as overwhelming as I wish positive bodily feelings were. So maybe I shouldn´t underestimate the connection that is there. Maybe I should say I´m misconnected to my body. Feeling not at home in my body, feeling like my body is a dead, ugly freight is a bodily feeling, and it is a connection after all.

An exercise in alienation

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , , on January 16, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Do you know this feeling after a big, fat, huge crisis? You have a nervous breakdown, you are put into bed (or you put yourself into bed), you sleep like the dead, and the next morning you wake up and feel…strange. You feel reasonable and calm – but only for the moment. You know that just around the corner of your mind, some pretty horrible things are waiting to be dealt with. Some things that you fear could shatter not simply your peace of mind, but your mind to pieces. And somehow you feel like you´d rather not think about them. You are very mindful not to do so. You walk around on eggshells in your own psyche, looking for an emotional safety chord while warding off the nagging feeling that you will never be truly safe and oblivious again.  Nothing will ever be alright again.

That feeling hit me today on the train going home from college. The feeling that something terrible had happened sometime recently. The feeling that everything was very wrong.  There have been some emotional moments during the last few days (just inside myself, nothing happened, technically) – and this sentence has me wonder, because I guess it is normal for other people to feel emotions over the day? For me, however…it might have been what makes me feel like there has been some big, fat, huge crisis. These emotions did not present as normal emotions, at least not at first. There was just a massive increase in anxiety, and in loneliness, and in a feeling of being unsafe and abandoned in a horrible world. It is quite an achievement that I feel anxiety instead of just feeling sick, however. I managed to link some of the emotions to thoughts I had, and to things that were going on. Bloody hell, I even managed to cry (magnificent five tears…). That way I didn´t feel so helpless anymore. The emotions didn´t overwhelm me anymore, I could simply look at them. Maybe that´s a bit too distant again, but what the hell.

Anyway, at some point I must have slipped out of that “mindful” observation of my emotions. Naturally, it evaded me. I try to get back into this self-observing mode right now, and it is scary as hell how my entire sense of self is shifting. I don´t mean that I suddenly believe I´m a middle-aged lawyer with two children and a smoker´s lung or something, but…well, I don´t see myself from the outside, to begin with. I don´t attribute anything to myself, at least nothing I could specify…it´s more like you suddenly hear a familiar voice out of a clutter of voices – just that the voice belongs to someone you thought was dead. You are struck with that recognition, a million memories flash through your head, and at the same time you are desperate with confusion. You aren´t sure if this is very real or very unreal. Have you just been dreaming that this person was dead? Have the last few years never happened? Or are you dreaming right now?  You also know that this state of mind is very fragile. A movement of thought, a shift of attention – and it is gone and you are left to wonder who the hell you are right now, bereaved of any sense of self at all.

So, like I said, at some point my attention has shifted away from my feelings, and I didn´t give a damn about them anymore. And today I was sitting in class, bored to death, and in order to distract myself I looked at the other girls. I compared their looks, and I felt mostly indifferent about them, although I concluded that all of them were pretty much good looking. And I wondered how to know, then, who was really ugly and unattractive. Where are all those ugly people? (Maybe they just aren´t allowed in my town, I live in the the Capital of Posh.) Do you see it when they grow older? So maybe everybody is pretty while they are young? That depressed me, because I realized that soon I will not be really young anymore. I thought about how the most promising part of my life, the part that is celebrated by everyone, my youth, was pretty much over. And I had not really lived. And do you think that I started to feel horrible inner pain, woke up and thanked fate for that kick in the ass? No, of course not. I didn´t feel anything much. I didn´t even feel numb.

I just thought about how incredibly pointless life is (I admit this isn´t the most original of thoughts). So there is a short span in a woman´s life during which she must gather all the happiness in the world, because soon her beauty will fade away and her life will be worthless – and pointless. What do you do with such a life? End it at age 30? I thought about how from a certain age upward your risk for cancer increases, and I thought about how one day I will be diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors will say they have to remove my breasts, and I will still not have lived. I will still have nothing done with them. I have done nothing with my body, I have not lived in it, I have not experienced its reactions, I have not given it to others…nothing.

Normally I assume that if only I was less disconnected from my body I wouldn´t worry so much about my looks, and if I was less disconnected from my feelings life wouldn´t seem so pointless. This appears to be a very common opinion. Today, however, I thought that nothing could ever make me feel like it doesn´t matter that we age and die. I wondered how anybody can see any point in life, given that we not only know that it rarely ever lasts longer than 90 years, and that we spend the second half of it waiting to be diagnosed with a fatal illness, watching our body grow ugly and dysfunctional and pondering our impending end. Maybe other people simply aren´t as aware of the fact that they are not immortal? I keep on reading about survivors of any kind who claim that “on that day I realized that we don´t live forever”. I can´t remember ever not knowing this. I thought about death even as a child. Which has me wonder if my “that day” simply happened a little earlier in my life.

I switched to my typical solution for uncomfortable feelings: I thought about suicide. Not with anything resembling sincerity, no, I know myself well enough to know I won´t do the deed anyway, but I thought that somehow my life would not have been pointless if I committed suicide or was murdered while I´m still young, pretty and promising. Yeah. While life is still full of promises. Beauty is a promise, “une promesse de bonheur”, like someone once wrote. It´s like time would be arrested and I´d live on somewhere in a dream world, forever young, happy, and much more alive than I am right now. This is funny, because on a rational basis I don´t even believe in an afterlife.

Well, and on my way home I had this weird post-crisis experience.  I don´t think my vague thoughts about the senselessness of life really make for a crisis. The “bad thing” that seemed to be lurking somewhere in my mind also appeared to be a little older. Maybe it is about all that emotional baggage from the weekend. Maybe there is still some unfinished business.

Okay, okay, I´ll admit it, there was something else going on as well. The train wasn´t going regularly, there was some kind of major disturbance, and I intuitively assumed that somebody had jumped. I felt like I knew this for a fact, which of course I didn´t. I also felt like I was the only one who knew this; everybody else was completely unconcerned. Why would they be concerned about someone committing suicide, anyway? It was like I was in a special relationship with the (completely hypothetical) suicide, I even feared it might be somebody I knew and that it could be my fault – because I had not been paying attention to them. Great, other people have highway hypnosis, and I get highway psychosis.

I wonder about this “paying attention” thing…I had not been paying attention to my feelings. I had lost sight of them, and of the fact that I lost sight of them (see why I love 1984? This is doublethink at its best!). Maybe part of the nagging feeling that something terrible had happened because I had been forgetful, if not neglectful, came from that. At least I hope so, I still feel uneasy. Did I ever mention that I have a lot of OCD tendencies?

Yeah, well, I returned home and when I looked into the mirror, I realized that until then I hadn´t really had any conception of what I myself am looking like today. Talk about alienation.

I´d try to write on and express some  of my thoughts about dissociation leading to alienation, and alienation leading to narcissism, and about a possible common ground between dissociation and narcissism, but I´m so nervous by now that I need to make a few calls. Maybe another time! Now doesn´t this smell of yet another blog entry I will never write!

 

Narcissism, faking, and speechlessness

Posted in health, mental health, thoughts with tags , on January 2, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Yesterday I decided that it would be cool if I found a blog or two by people who have been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, just to see how they experience things, how they feel…so I googled “Narcissistic Personality Disorder + blog” and…came up pretty much empty-handed.

I managed to check the results on the first six pages before I ran out of patience. I had found several blogs by mental health workers, some stuff on the DSM-V controversy, and an armada of blogs by and about victims of narcissists (some of them very interesting) – but nothing by anybody actually diagnosed with NPD himself. The only thing I came across that at least was somewhat similar to what I had been looking for were the writings of Sam Vaknin. I found them quite intriguing, but they are not what I want to discuss right now. I might come back to them at some point…(or I might not, given how lazy I am^^)

What I want to discuss is the fact that it is so hard to find any blogs by people who talk about how they deal with having NPD. There are plenty of blogs by people with Bipolar, Anxiety or BPD, after all. Why do people not blog about what it is like to have NPD?

Huh. Maybe nobody is ever told of his diagnosis, so they cannot blog about it? But there are forums for people who have the diagnosis, so that cannot be the reason (though the majority of members often consists of non-disordered people who assume their ex or a relative have NPD).

Or maybe narcissists decide that if they sincerely want to recover, they have to stop blogging? It´s not entirely impossible. I struggled with myself over having or not having this blog. I felt like I was going further down a rotten road if I started it; it felt like pure attention-whoring. On the other hand I envied other bloggers (and particularly the successful ones) with all my heart and soul. I found myself making up blog entries in my head (I still do that, I make up more than I could ever write). Eventually I decided that if I was this passionate about doing something, I ought to do it instead of envying others who were good at it.

Others, again, might find it natural that narcissists don´t blog about their disorder – they want to look perfect, after all. But that just reveals a lack of imagination,  really. Which full-blown narcissist can seriously resist the temptation to publicly display himself as the incurable patient, the bad seed, the dead soul? For details, see Sam Vaknin^^

The way I see it, anyway, is that the lack of blogs by folks with NPD might be down to a neat little paradox:

Telling someone you are a narcissist is a bit like saying: “Whatever I do and write, I only do it for the effect it has on other peoples´ perception of me.” By doing so, the effect it would normally have is annihilated. If a person you believe is healthy and normal writes about how sad she is, you will conclude: That person is sad. If a person you believe to be a narcissist writes about how sad she is, you will conclude that she wants you to think she is sad – and that whatever is really behind this, her sadness is definitely fake. It´s like she had posted a disclaimer saying “I always lie.”  People won´t believe that anything she does is genuine and authentic. But what, then, is the point of doing anything?

We tend to see narcissists as fakers, as people who either hide behind a “false self”, or who have no “true self” in the first place. A person who believes herself to be a narcissist might see herself just like that. Now why would she start a blog? She wouldn´t expect herself to be able to deliver a true, authentic account of her experience, after all!

Here is where being labeled as narcissistic turns from being offensive and humiliating towards something even worse. Believing that you are a fake means that you feel unable to communicate with others. You feel unable to do, say, think or feel anything that is not a lie, pretense, a strategy to make an impression on yourself or others. And the worst thing is that you do not even feel like a prisoner behind a wall. You are that wall, and you fear that there is nothing behind you. No true self that was locked away long ago to protect it from damage. Just nothing. It feels like the most authentic thing you could do is do nothing. Say nothing. Think nothing. Feel nothing. Just stop being alive; stop being conscious of yourself. Lie on your bed and slowly turn into a fossil.