An exercise in alienation

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!



2 Responses to “An exercise in alienation”

  1. Wow I am blown away by your honesty and truth. I get the same way about the INTERNET and struggle with psychotic thinking if I stay online too much. A couple of thoughts came to mind after reading this. You might enjoy exploring a Course in Miracles. Not my spiritual path but I am looking at it and the words Special Relationship jumped off the page. They address it. You also may enjoy a story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman called “The Yellow wallpaper” as She has a similar experience with the wallpaper as you felt you had with the real or imagined suicide. Just some thoughts as I read you. Will follow as I want to see how it goes for you.

  2. Thank you very much! *blush* Having struggled with feeling like a fake for so long, I am honored (and humbled) by being complimented on my honesty.

    Take care!

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