28/04/12 Mad

Eight days ago I got Ella to film me during a time of madness. This was partly for me and partly for Johanna, the film maker.

Yesterday, just as I’m gradually coming out of the fugue, I decided to watch it – to look at myself in my madness – probably to distance my sane me from the mad me –
when I’m sane, I’m sane and when I’m mad, I’m mad and ne’er the twain shall meet…

I underwent something very similar when I had my head MRI scanned…

There was a huge part of me that didn’t expect to see a normalish cross section of the human brain. I’m not sure what I expected – but I wanted evidence – a tangible something that showed I was working under different circumstances from other folk…

Of course there were the subtle differences – the bit of my skull that had probably been fractured when I was 16; the bit lacking in my pre frontal cortex that regulates my emotional responses to stuff…but I wanted more…or less…
So, meanwhile back at the video, it won’t come as a major surprise to most of you when I say I looked remarkably like me.

Sure, there was a lot of face touching, head caressing, poor eye contact, erring and ahring…but it was still me…I wasn’t limping, bleeding or bruised….

As ever, I felt shame and embarrassment – but how can I expect others to see my mental malady when it doesn’t leap out at me?

There again, it’s all going on behind the scenes…and that’s what makes it so tricky for me and the many folk who experience mental health problems…

And that’s what makes it difficult for your casual observer – your person in the street – who experience me and others in the many and varied ways we present ourselves to the world.

This walk a mile thing isn’t just one way, is it?

It’s easy to say I just interpret the world differently – that’s true, but then the folk around me react differently to me because of the way I react to the world, then I react differently to them…and so on…

Differently…what does that mean?

Well, here’s an example…

Holding Ella’s hand was odd…very odd. The sensation of touch was unfamiliar – her skin, the bone within, felt like something I’d never touched before.

That touch that normally encapsulates love, warmth, security and compassion felt, well, odd.

That lack of familiarity made me feel like pulling away…but then, there’s the cognitive, the thinking me, the part of me that knows the rules…the part of me that knows if I pull away in shock that’ll have an effect on Ella – which will have an effect on me and so on…

That hesitation though has an effect on the folk around me…

We are complicated beasties. We tend not to notice things when everything’s ok…eye contact…too much? too little? the normal speed of response…the perceived feeling behind it…

My default setting when my head’s like this is to pretend…to act like everything is fine…

but the act is often not good enough – nor should it be, because I don’t want it to be that way – I don’t want to pretend – I want to be authentic – good or bad, I want the world to see the real me…I don’t want to, I don’t need to hide.

But to admit difference is to admit failure…failure to control myself, in keeping my mind in check…to admit difference acknowledges the fact that I lost my job…that I have a desire to self harm…that, put simply, I can’t think straight…I can’t be funny, sharp, witty, thoughtful, empathetic….

I am getting better at this though. I am able to hold up my hand and say, “Something’s wrong,”

And then….more importantly…I’m able to say, “This will pass…”
which is so much easier said than done – because I have to reject not only the thoughts I’m having, but the way I see the world too. I have to negate what I see, hear, feel, smell and taste…

Try it…it’s mightily weird…

As ever, it’s passing. I’m feeling pretty fine this morning…I feel the way I normally feel – the world is back to being its old familiar self – Ella feels like that lovely point of security, warmth and well, you know…giving me that launch pad – that confidence to start putting one foot in front of another.

There’s no rush. Malaig (Mallaig), Eigg, Ardnarmurchan and Oban aren’t going anywhere….

Walk a mile

Chris

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