Pointless ruminations on an unreal state of mind

I sometimes beat myself up over how inconsistent I am on this blog. Sometimes I write as if I was a narcissist who fights against being stigmatized, sometimes I write as if I was a trauma victim, sometimes I write as if I´m just a normal college student who had to face the typical challenges that go with growing up too late. It might be a whole lot more interesting, though, to ask why I am so inconsistent.

We all have different roles, different self-conceptions, even different selves. What you experience here is perfectly normal.

Yeah, well, I know. I´m not exactly caught up in the different roles of employee, student, daughter, sister and girlfriend, though. It´s rather like there are different sides to me who are conflicted about what those roles are supposed to look like and if I accept any of them at all.

Oh, that´s also normal for people in your situation! With no career choices made and all doors still open! It is sooo difficult nowadays to find an identity for yourself, you see (blablabla), there are just too many different options (blablabla)! It was all much easier when…

…yeah, I know. When we had no choices. What a wonderful world.

But, really, that´s not what I mean. What I mean is that I experience several alternating mental/affective states, and depending on which state I´m in I might actually be completely out of touch with the reality of the choices I have to make and the tasks I have to complete.

I am in such an unreal state right now. It set in sometime this week, I´m not sure if it was on Monday while writing about Herman, or if it happened later this week. Tuesday I was at a kindergarten applying for a volunteer project where you read books to little kids. You are more or less a mentor to them; just someone who spends time with them and cares about them. For some reason, the kids accepted me straight away. It was the first time I ever worked with little children and I had had no reason to believe I was in any way good with kids. I don´t think I was, actually. But they just accepted that I was another volunteer and therefore alright. One of the little girls actually wanted to sit on my lap the entire time. It was such a strange experience to just be liked and accepted. You don´t experience that with adults. Who knows, this kindergarten thing might be quite helpful for my social anxiety. I´m fairly shy with people my age. I automatically assume they will dislike me anyway, but that´s stuff for another post (which I´m never going to write anyway).

Ha, but I think I know now when that weird state set in. It was when I was on my way to the kindergarten. I had been in an alright mood when I got aboard the first train. After two stations I had to change trains. I  got off the train and saw the other train was already waiting. I hurried and I actually caught the train. And it was on that train that I was starting to feel bad. I rarely use that line, and I felt like a stranger among the other people on the train. I even felt a  little threatened, I thought they could sense that I was insecure. Prey. I also felt like the train was taking me back to the past, when I´d had several friends who lived in the quarter of town where I was going now. Our friendships all broke up in bad ways. Some years later they tried to rekindle things and I realized that it made me feel claustrophobic more than anything else. I didn´t want to be under their influence again, unable to say no to anything. It was really weird, I knew rationally that it´s 2012 and that my former friends probably don´t live there anymore, but I felt like I hadn´t really gotten away. I was scared that one of them might see me and suddenly I´d be drawn in again. I told one of them to get out of my life, but it was difficult. I cannot say no, and I suck at putting up boundaries, leave alone protecting them, but that, too, is an entirely different subject.

There were other things on that train that unsettled me, like some kind of smell (body odor, I assume); and since the train was packed, somebody constantly touched my hand (by accident, I assume), and for some reason this felt absolutely disturbing. Yeah, that really was when I entered that weird state of mind.

Anyway, when I had finally reached the kindergarten, I was feeling very sleepy and ineffectual. I thought, okay, you have to wake up now! You have to be coherent and awake when you talk to those people! You can´t walk in there acting like you´re stoned!

 It was fairly useless, though. When I was talking to the lady who ran the volunteer project (well, actually she did most of the talking), I had huge trouble focusing. I could barely take in what she said, my mind was completely blank. I had trouble responding in time. It already took me a while to notice it was time for me to say something in the first place – and then go ahead and figure out what to say! Anyway, eventually she asked me to stay with another volunteer so I could see how he interacted with the kids.

I was very nervous about talking to the kids myself, but like I said it went much better than I thought. I was oddly moved by the kids´ seemingly natural trust. I often monitored my behavior, though, worried that anybody might think I was being intrusive. I was really at odds with how to react to the girl sitting on my lap. Was it okay that she did that? Or was any close contact strictly forbidden? What is acceptable behavior around kids nowadays? God knows; I don´t.

It´s funny, when I entered that kindergarten I looked out for an employee straight away, just to make sure everyone knew who I was. I was paranoid that anybody might suspect I was there to harm or abduct the kids (hell, I´m a girl and I wasn´t even wearing a metal shirt. They probably thought I was a young mother or someone´s babysitter…).  I guess this is just another variant of my social anxiety. There is nothing worse than being labeled a pedophile, after all, so no surprise I worry about it as soon as I get near kids (well, okay, in Germany you could still be labeled a Nazi, but that label is thrown around so inflationary that I stopped caring).

Okay. So that visit to the kindergarten is when my unreal state set in. And in this unreal state I really have to remind myself that I need to find a flat, find a job, write my essays, do anything at all. My conception of future is “tomorrow morning”. It´s not the same thing as apathy. I suffer more when I´m apathetic. On the other hand, this is a state in which I might be able to absorb myself into something if only I can get myself started. At least I´m moderately able to focus on a single project in this state. Without a conception of time, you don´t feel so pressured to do many things at once.

The downside is that I am confused, often anxious, easily distraught and very vulnerable to somewhat painful emotions which I cannot really name. I feel more like an actual person, an independent person, that is – but I also feel isolated and alone. I´m having a hard time expressing anything right now. I feel like what I write here is complete crap, like it conveys nothing of what it´s really like. I am so disconnected from my own language and the words I use. It´s like every word is a lie. And now I´m not even sure that this has anything to do with the “unreal state”. Maybe it actually is a very “real” state. My true self. Yeah, let´s hear what the other selves will have to say about that one…

Before my frustration takes over completely, I will just describe a little episode that happened yesterday evening when my girlfriend and I were watching the ending of the fourth season of the Dexter series. In case you haven´t seen it yet and still want to watch it, don´t go on reading, there will be spoilers. If you are completely unfamiliar with the series, I guess this won´t make much sense to you, but whatever.

So Dexter returns home at night after killing Trinity, thinking that his wife Rita and his baby son Harrison are safely gone for the holidays. He also thinks that maybe he will finally grow out of the urge to kill. He thinks that everything has turned out alright. He looks at his phone and sees that he has a message by Rita from some time around noon. He listens. Rita says she has to return home from the airport in order to get her passport. She says that she´ll just take the next flight. Dexter decides to call her. He dials the number and waits…and suddenly a phone starts ringing. And as Dexter jumps up and looks around in panic, he hears the baby cry forlornly. 

I had more or less expected something would happen to Rita. I didn´t like her very much in the first place. But this scene was not just creepy, it was also unbearable in its own way. After the season ending with Dexter running upstairs into the bathroom and finding the toddler sitting in a puddle of Rita´s blood, I felt like I had received a punch in the stomach. It annoys humiliates me a bit, because naturally it was meant to have that effect on the audience. I hate it when directors manage to affect me, but the makers of the Dexter series are so brilliant that normally I´d give them that. I guess what affected me was not that this was sad. It was not nearly as sad as the ending of Season One where Dexter had to kill his own brother (and I wasn´t sad, then. I was awestruck). What affected me here is how cruel it was. Because it really had been Dexter´s fault. He had let Trinity (Rita´s killer) live longer than necessary, thus making it possible that he murdered her.

He had taken an unnecessary risk.

Now, this blog may be as inconsistent as my identity as a whole, but you really cannot complain about a lack of creepy connections, can you? Unnecessary risks. Just what I wrote about last entry when I talked about Herman.

I couldn´t take the fact that Dexter had brought this upon himself. Or rather: That interpretation. Interpreting the story like this seemed grossly unfair to me. It is not fair that little mistakes are punished so harshly. It shouldn´t be what we have to expect. We shouldn´t have to spend our lives looking for signs of impending doom. Is there never any mercy? Why does being human always end in tears?

Another thing that happened is that I was aching upon thinking of all the possibilities Dexter had had to avoid this outcome. If only he had…, if only this had…, if only…, if only… I always think this way when anything bad happens. Not so much when it happens to me, but when it happens to others (yes, fictional people count). When I hear about some tragic story, I´m right away in this “if only” mode. It tortures me. I can´t get it out of my head. When I was ten or something, I read a story about two taggers getting hit by a train. I kept on ruminating on the story all day and I was so distraught that I wondered if a thought could kill you. Whereas: “Distraught” is not the right word. It´s more like a dull, hollow pain in your chest that doesn´t seem to go away. Like you will never be happy again.

In a way, this is once again me identifying with the things acutely traumatized people might go through. Vicariously I experience Dexter´s intrusive thoughts, ruminations, shame and self-loathing and even shock. A mild version, granted. He´s a fictional character and I´m not actually in his position. It´s just weird how much this hits me. Is everybody so sensitive?

Okay, right now I´m frightened. I´ll be honest: I´m dead scared somebody who actually was traumatized comes across this blog and gets very, very angry at me for making such claims and for insinuating that I could understand what they go through.  I´m scared of being told that it´s preposterous that I should have any idea what any of this is like.  I´m scared of being told that I should better just try to fix my own life and solve my own problems (like with my family, and getting a job, and writing my essays). I´m scared to be told that my surreal, weird experiences and my whole unreal state and my obsessional idea that there is something meaningful hidden in my past are just stuff I hide behind in order to avoid dealing with life. I´m scared this might be true. That´s just not who I want to be.


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