A short talk, and long ruminations

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.


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.





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