The Void

The void is winning.

You know that vacant space that lives in your guts,

That feels like a whole spinning universe resides inside you,

if only you could clutch a part of it for long enough to find a purpose or a reason to live in it.

And you can feel it growing in there, like there’s a rodent digging the walls deeper down and you can’t replenish the dug out earth quick enough, so you feel nibbled at, constantly, depleted and defeated.

How can you still feel it churning when you’re so empty inside?!

It sits, heavy like a boulder rolled off of a cliff, it demands of you to keep striving and struggling against the pains of the world, ever pleading, and it is aware of the absurdity of the 9 to 5 and marriage and mortgages and table manners and longs for deeper meaning, but without the superstition and fantastical meanderings of a mind that believes in a deity, it is lost.

So you fill it up with drugs, and tidal waves of alcohol, which dumb you down so that you don’t notice you just created a muddy puddle, in a tiny crater in a void the size of a planet. Maybe that is why we look up at the moon, for answers and belonging, why we romanticise this thing, which is so much bigger than ourselves and hangs over us all, like the awareness of our mortality, it looms, and yet we view it, eyes glazed over at its beauty, we connect the dots between stars pretending that as they do, we might stretch to infinity. We are celestial beings having a human experience indeed. and so the void, it lives inside, a vacancy, a swirling mass of who and what and where am I? A whining child’s cry of ‘are we nearly there yet?’

And still we try to fill it up, with food that keeps us stuffed and distracted, as though feeling something in that remote region will somehow touch the sides of that void, we pretend that digesting kale make us saints and deep fried empty caloried junk makes us sinners, but all any of it makes us is hungry hungry hungry for more, hungry for change, greedy for answers, we fill our minds with new age stories of self-heroism, like sickly smokey heroin, to sedate our masses.

We breathe deeply, grounding ourselves, when the roots of us are unhinged and flailing. We pretend that we are equal beings of this earth and therefore have a place in this existence worth living in. We squirm, cross legged, imagined chakras painted on, coloured dots implying some meaning to these disjointed parts of us, a body map of energy, sticky dots pinpointing the dead bodies on the atlas of our lives, the deceased versions of ourselves that we left behind every time we shed our skin, promising that today we shall be different, today we shall find our new authentic selves, slaughtering and rejecting our former egos in the hope that one day some real and truer version of us will be found.

We breathe in with the longing for stillness, out with the rejection of our discomfort, we weigh up our karma and seek out the magnet of self belief, that one needs to pass the bar to become fluent in the laws of attraction, forgetting that longing admits lacking, and that just because we are not the ones who started the fire, doesn’t mean that it won’t burn and ravage and leave us stripped of everything, as it brings us to our knees as we thank it, grovelling like slaves to chance, for it’s gifts, abundant as we burn like human peat, remind me again, who is fuelling who?

Some of us see the formation of kaleidoscopic fruit cores and believe it confirms the existence of a god. One who is very good at geometry, and so maybe that is what we need to become, very good at seeing patterns and shapes and the cycles life takes us in. Perhaps self knowledge and awareness brings us closer to our higher selves, to our creator but then that requires using our minds, the same one that brings us logic and looks for reason and talks us out of our fanciful ideas about god and creation. How can it be working both for and against us? Answer: Because if we are made in ‘his’ imagine, then we are darkness and light, yin and yang, and god is indeed good and evil.

We treat ourselves like robots, we look at the mathematics of the universe and surmise that the right blend of eat sleep and exercise will keep us balanced and focussed and functioning, but nobody knows what to do when the chalkboard runs out of chalk, just who is writing the rules and if no one is around to question the theory then can it ever be proven true or false?

If a tree falls in the forest does it scream precisely because no one is around to hear it? Maybe the universe is hiding itself from us, because we are too small, too minute, too basic, too primal to appreciate it’s full glory. Maybe we would be blinded by the light of angels and deafened by the true word of God and so we listen only to the wisdom that we are able to comprehend, that we have been hand fed like desperate suckling lambs.

We try to fill the void with sex, we fill each orifice with the body parts of another, sometimes it doesn’t matter whose, so empty are we and longing to be filled, we get so hungry and so afraid of being lonely that we don’t care about the biology, it’s as if we can combine all the pieces of you and me then maybe we can make one complete, perfect human being and not some frankenstein monster, the shape of another doomed relationship.

We catch one anothers eye in a blur of chemical haze and lust, we ensnare with some promise of who we want to be, and then we use and abuse and unwittingly bleed each other dry, as we try to plant and nurture a seed of belonging with one another, and when it becomes clear that they do not fulfill our need and greed we cast each other back into the ocean of disconnect, slightly more broken than before, although sometimes more easily restored if the break is cleaner that the last.

Some of us paint and draw and write, we try to rearrange the world , express it in the way that we perceive it, in more colourful ¬†intricate ways. Instead of trying to fill the void, we try to pour it out of us, expend our energy in a flurry of colour and shape and noise, reaching in and tearing it out of us like a tumour. We don’t always see that sometimes we are boatless, trying to empty the sea with a bucket, the water treading on us instead.

Maybe my void is an empty nest, the space where my babies never fully formed, one fell, one pushed, it is a darkness where the guilt lives.

Maybe it is all the moments I said ‘I love you’ and they never said it back, they have a way of being stretched in the waiting, a second feeling like an eternity, each second a drop of poison, that fell to the pit of the void and burnt the edge a little further.

Maybe it is all the times I wished my father had said he was proud of me and instead the silence fell, cutting like scissors, snip snipping at the seams of me.

Maybe it is the gash made by the first dagger I ever thrust into myself with loathing, that romanticised the story of my imagined death and made it a best seller. Maybe it is the loud booming of the words I write, the ones that take this darkness and make it seem beautiful, reverberating around, every time opening the walls of the void ever further.

Maybe it is innocence lost, poked, gouged, taken.

Maybe it is the bitter biles acidic ripples of all the times I’ve ever lied and said ‘I’m fine.’

Maybe it is the pawing of a lion that lives inside that roars ‘THIS IS NOT GETTING ANY EASIER AND I AM NOT GETTING ANY BETTER’, but all that comes out is the squeak of a kitten that induces sympathetic gazes and fawning, as though I am a broken baby bird and not a raging storm.

I am a smashed plate at the bottom of the garden, broken in anger and intended to become part of that rockery that never quite got planted. Pushed to the back of tomorrow’s plans, a day that never comes.

I am lipstick on a coffee cup that sits and catches dust, refusing to be washed, as that last conversation lingers in the air above, playing and replaying, trying to find hope by rearranging her words in a way that didn’t sound like she said she was leaving you.

I am dinner, burnt, because he didn’t come home yet and even though you’re hoping that he isn’t slumped dead, choked on his own vomit in an alleyway, you keep the oven on and the plate full, to show him a visual representation of the way in which you give and provide and serve and how he takes it all for granted, now that love is drying up like over done potatoes, respect is the gravy that will revive this dish, but you have none for yourself and so you sit and weep and wait.

I am the retirement gift of a watch, a reminder of the time you’ve spent conforming and abiding rules that sucked the soul out of you, and a reminder that while you now have all this free time, it’s condensed into the darker days of your life, where you have to live with the pain of a lifetime of loss and struggle and the slow decay of your body and the encroachment of death, tick tocking tales of a life you wish you’d lived eating away at the back of your head.

Purpose, and routine and balance, and calm, something to love, something to live for, these are the bricks that we use to build up a wall, to protect us from the void. If you throw lava at a volcano only one of you is going to get burned. You can’t trick the void, fill the void, empty out emptiness, you can only shut it out and tune out while it churns away regardless. Build up your barriers, and make them ones of hope, and of kindness and fun.

There is a pointlessness and poignancy to every interaction, every person offers a lesson. We are equally nothing and everything, all at the same time, it just depends which channel you tune in to. Sometimes I’ve lost a button and its stuck on the depression channel loud, and the white noise is screaming, full of panic and fear. And singing fairy tales of hope and wellness over the top only sounds sinister, like a child laughing hauntingly in a horror movie. Other times I dip my toe among the stars and dance in the sky, oblivious to the trappings of the world, invincible and rootless, a chemical betrayal tricking me into reaching above my abilities, before crashing down to this place we agreed to call reality, disappointed and depleted.

It overpowers me to the point where I realise that maybe I AM the void. And everything else solid about me isn’t real. It is not trapped inside of me, I am trapped inside of it. Together we curse at each other, hurtling through this space and time like comets dancing, trapped in each others coat tails. Mid sentence I am suspended, caught in a side glance, the universe witnessing itself, maybe I am the universe experiencing what it is to be Me, and not the other way round, only one of us sentient, consciously unconscious.

Taking your depression on holiday

It’s a terrible thing, when you go on holiday, only to find that you’ve taken yourself- including your mental illness, with you. All you bad habits, and destructive thought patterns, all your self loathing and woes and anxiety, all firmly strapped to your luggage, just like at a home but in a significantly warmer climate. All of your coping mechanisms are pushed to the absolute limit, squeezed like a lemon slice, into your holiday cocktail.

On this delicious holiday menu:

For starters a panic attack on the plane brought on by the fact that turbulence when experienced in a budget flight tin can will make anyone feel a bit edgy and claustrophobic but especially when you’ve not flown in years and have a very user friendly panic button built into your head. I put my headphones in, my music on and held my sisters hand for most of the flight. I actually love flying and enjoyed it until then, I try to convince myself that it is excitement rather than fear but I’m fighting it off for about an hour and a half which is exhausting. I try mindfulness and deep breathing and distraction techniques, because I will not let this ruin my trip.

The next day I have a lie in, my sister brings us breakfast and has attended to some practical matters regarding our camping and finances, really I am spoilt, but I am tired and grumpy as I had to take a sleeping tablet the night before and I’m feeling the bad bile gather in my brain. I think of home, of who I am missing, I worry about who is missing me, or more specifically who might not be. Why would they? I am nothing and nobody. Ah good, the self loathing has found its way out of my rucksack!

But that’s just the aperitif! Today’s main course is a solid helping of body dysmorphia!

Whoever the confident, slim bitch who made me pack all these bikini tops and short shorts is, she is in hiding, perhaps inside my massive belly, because I can’t feel comfortable in anything and I look like absolute shit. I change approximately 40 times (in a sweaty tent none the less) and have crying fits, like a toddler at a beauty pageant, and end up wearing a dress I had planned to travel in because it covers me up. I don’t know if it’s seeing all these young, beautiful European women in their bikinis or if its just how I am feeling today, but I am not the body confident, ‘learning to love myself’ body positive blogger I was just a few days ago. I fucking hate myself. I am so gross and fat and repulsive. I may have lost 4.5 stone in the last year but it’s not enough, I am still unacceptable and hideous and I just want to hide but it’s too hot to wear too many layers.

I end up paying ¬£24, a big part of my frivolous holiday spending money, on a top that will cover me up enough to convince me that I am not an ogre. It’s a nice top but I know that one day I will resent it and what it represents! But it’s just one of many ways in which I will have to adapt and sacrifice in order to survive this holiday. I try to reason with myself, recite positive affirmations, remind myself not to compare myself to others and that literally no one gives a shit what I’m wearing or what I look like, that they are not here for me, and that I have every right to be here in whatever attire I feel like wearing. I try to list all the ways in which I am grateful, I know how lucky I am to be here, to be alive and privileged enough to experience such things, but it takes me nowhere, the toxic grip of this black shadow is just too strong.

I start to feel guilty, because I know there’s people back home with families and jobs who can’t afford such a holiday, either because of time or money or both, I’m stressing about ‘first world problems’ like a big baby, and I go on a shame spiral, I don’t deserve to be here. I mean I saved bloody hard for ages to afford this, I sold my stuff on ebay, went without a lot for a long time, and it’s my first holiday abroad in years, but still.. I do mental maths and weigh up how worthy I am and how justifiable it is for someone on welfare to be allowed a holiday.

I do an hour of vinyasa flow yoga, then a dance therapy workshop based on exploration of colour which finishes with some abstract group painting. My feedback is that I ‘found comfort outside my comfort zone’- I lied of course, I found it impossible today and felt horribly self conscious and insecure. We rest, we eat, we wander. Later I watch stunningly gorgeous empowered belly dancers and I am admiring their costumes and taking photos, in awe of the skill and beauty all around me, I am people watching and even step into the Danube river for a paddle. And I feel like I want to die.

And that lingering thought, feeling, is today’s dessert.

Here I am with this opportunity to freely enjoy and relax and participate or rest and I just can’t exist comfortably in any of it. Like I just can’t experience this life anymore being me as I am, inside myself. There is so much beauty and colour and opportunity here and for all my external reaching for fulfilment, there is nothing that can convince me that I will ever feel anything different inside. I know that I am easily overstimulated and tired and maybe I am just drained and need some peace and quiet but I do my best to slow down and rest and find quiet spots, luckily my sister understands and is in no rush to push herself in this heat either. I just need to get through this day and hope that tomorrow feels better. I have burst into tears so many times today, I can’t really hide it, apart from the sunglasses covering my eyes, and I have a few breakdowns. My sister comforts me , we give each other massages, we eat ice cream, I write, express how I feel, doodle, meditate, breathe, dance. Soon I will go for an early night and pray to the universe that my future self can handle this shit, that this mood will pass and I will start to feel better and enjoy myself more.

It hasn’t been a bad day in all, in that I tried my very best. Fun things were apparent, exercise was done , adequate nutrition was had, I had a big sleep, we saw some wonders of the world, I took deep breaths, I didn’t panic, I saw my sadness for what it was- a temporary madness- and said ‘this too will pass’. But I hope to god it passes overnight. Because soon I will be well again and craving the sun and fun and festival madness. And instead I will be at home, skint, moving house and back to questioning what the fuck I’m doing with my one precious life. In that state I would be able to fully appreciate all of this. Why can’t I time my mania and depression to suit life events?

There is a famous travelling art installation here that you can contribute to called ‘before I die I want to….’ and you fill in the blanks on a chalkboard. I’ve been thinking about what to write, what my contribution might be. All I really want to do is live. Just not like this anymore.

Cave Dweller Me needs love too

There’s a bit in my head, a bit that won’t leave, firmly nestled in there pulling on my energy and attention in between the pulsing goo and sinew. It’s the bit that feels loneliness the deepest, that is so sad she can make me cry on a sunny day, the one that makes me feel alone in a room full of loved ones, sometimes she has the loudest voice in there. And I know it’s Me, at least it sounds a lot like Me.

I call her Cave Dweller, not only because it matches my initials CD, but because she is hiding in darkness, wild and gloomy and hermit like. She keeps me away from the positive, grateful me, she steals my inner joy, smears the windows so that I can’t see the horizon when I am lost in a stormy sea.

She tells me dark dirty untruths about myself, but so convincing is she that sometimes her stories are the only ones that I can recall.

She hates me. She tells me that I am worthless, reminds me that I am undeserving of love, that I am alone and unloved. And she is gleeful in it sometimes, the bitch. But I have to befriend her, and show her that she will not burn in the light, that not everyone will hurt us, that trusting others is a risk worth taking, that I will look after her and together we can step away from the shadows and breathe clean air and get through anything together. If I punish her it only serves to break internal relations down further.

She is bitter and mutters away and I try to drown her out with a clear crisp voice but it doesn’t always work. Last night she told me that I was alone and abandoned, and I found myself lying in the dark listing everyone that I knew for sure loved me, my mum and dad and sisters (beyond that I swing between surety and uncertainty), but she spoke far louder and quicker than I could. My voice came out small and shaky and unconvinced. I can feel it, this deep familiar knowing, it is not a thought but a sense of self, that I am no good and wrong. And she speaks to me in sharp daggers while I repeat the mantras I love myself, I love myself, I love myself, and I am good enough, I am good enough, I am good enough, over and over again, before my body finally gives in to sleep.

Today I start the day anew and instead of two warring sides, I let myself sit empty and sad, because it is close enough to calm. I try to fill in with music and dancing and thoughts of all good things. But good ‘things’ are only temporary, and I know the greatest healing is done from within.

I try to coax her out, to soothe her, but she lives on fear and controls the guts of me. So for now I sit and observe her, one hand always outstretched, lest she decides to join me in living.