I try to be as honest as I possibly can on this blog. But, there are times when writing something might prove too hurtful to those that I love to share. I wrote the below blog post in 2010, looking back over the previous year, and even then, writing in retrospect, considered it too dark to publish. It was too much to admit to. Too personal.
I publish it now in the hope that it offers just that – hope – to someone new. I know in the past my brutal honesty has allowed readers to compare my experiences to their own and feel less alone. And the process is obviously cathartic to me, as writing so often is.
I also publish it in stark contrast to yesterday’s post about happiness. When I wrote this I had no idea how the story would end – that I was already en route to my “happy ever after”.
The unpublished post was titled Brutal Honesty.
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This is going to be an unpleasant read for some people. It was a most unpleasant write for me. But sometimes, unpleasant truths need to be faced, and this is one such time. Time to be brutally honest with myself.
This time last year I was in a pit of despair. I woke up every morning and cried. I cried at work, head ducked down behind my monitor or hidden in the toilets. I cried on the bus and the train home, as I walked back to my flat. I cried when I got in, and probably for much of the evening. I cried myself to sleep. And the next morning I awoke and followed the same routine.
I was a functioning depressive. What I showed to the outside world of strangers I really didn’t care about. On my blog, and to friends and family, I tried to carry on as if all was rosy. You see, people read my blog and have an impression of the person I am. They send me lovely, much-appreciated messages of thanks, telling me that my journey on here has given them hope for a future built on shattered dreams and broken hearts. They praise my strength and independence and how much I manage to do in a day, a week, a month, how far I came on in two short years. Some style bloggers take a break from blogging because they feel the pressure of trying to come up with new looks and creative outfits every day. My pressure was that of keeping hope alive.
For my friends, and family, I didn’t want to let them down. I wanted them to think of me as capable, independent, strong. I was juggling old friendships and new, and as each new ball was thrown into the mix I felt my arms tire a little more. One by one, and in no particular order, I began to drop the balls, until there were none left. I felt too tired, too weak, to pick them up again.
I was so very unhappy, so very lonely, I felt that I would burst with misery. Of course, one doesn’t burst with misery. One retreats. One falls back into the void, disappearing further and further inside until as if watching the rest of life pass by through the smeared lenses of a pair of binoculars. Things lose their reality and meaning, their tangible nature, and become somehow slurred and deadened, with blurry edges. The world turns into a Monet, all rough brush strokes with no outlines. Days and nights merge and weeks, months are wished away in time. I was in a very dark place.
The argument here is always that I had endless people I could call on, and I know. I can never, ever put into words how much I appreciate my friends, how much they mean to me still, how much they have done for me in the past. I have and continue to acknowledge that without some, I do not believe I would be here today. They pulled me through the very blackest two years of my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.
But for that I’m also eternally guilt-ridden. Friends who go above and beyond to look after one – they’re difficult to call on when you’re having a bad time but for no reason you can put your finger on as such. In the aftermath of an event it is easy to say to someone “I need help because…” but when it’s for no tangible reason… it’s difficult to just state “I need help” when there is nothing specific to be fixed, no answer to the problem. I was afraid of becoming one of those friends – the ones who are always low and always needy. And I really couldn’t see a way out of things.
I began to look hard at myself, at what I wanted and who I was. I felt so very alone, and as if all my dreams for life were slipping from my grasp. I want family. I want children. I want these things so badly, I chose a profession that would ultimately allow me to work from home so that I can be a stay-at-home mum. When people have accused me of working too hard in the past I have explained that I have a plan – better work my fingers to the bone now, building up my CV and creating contacts so that, when the time comes around, I have everything I need in place to slip out of the 9-5. I was also approaching 30, with no sign of romance on the horizon. Everything I had ever seen for myself was slipping away from me and I didn’t know how to get a hold of it once more. Something had to change.
I had to change.
I have a deep-rooted fear that I can never be enough for any man. Since childhood, I have felt unable to satisfy the men in my life, as a daughter or lover. I decided that I needed to look at myself and change something about my personality. Clearly it was repelling the other sex – clearly something about me was deeply unattractive, deeply unlovable.
I would look at people around me, on my commute, in the office, and see them in happy relationships, then look at myself and wonder what was so very awful about me. I obsessively compared myself to other women. I observed my friends’ relationships and came to a conclusion.
I needed to stop feeling beholden to the women in my life. I needed to stop with the guilt, the empathy, and the attempted wonder woman act. Essentially, I needed to stop being me.
I’d like to tell you what a long and painful transition this change took, but I can’t. It was all much easier than you might think. I had already retracted enough into myself that I didn’t need to actually change my actions to the outside world – I just had to stop trying to break through the shell I’d already allowed to form. Instead I retracted deeper, let the binoculars get more smeared. My life became a cycle of work, wine and TV, with no time for telephone calls or trips out. I needed my Saturdays to recover from the bottles of wine I’d drink, alone, on a Friday night.
I stopped worrying about the balls I had dropped and I allowed them to gather dust at my feet. The added bonus here was that not speaking to people allowed me to switch off all my emotions. I didn’t have to face up to anything. I had flipped the switch that allowed me to function without feeling. I hadn’t overloaded the circuit; I had made a conscious decision to do it. I had actively chosen a path that would, as it turns out, hurt a lot of people.
But the truth is that I didn’t care about hurting a lot of people. Because I’d turned that off – emotionally speaking, I couldn’t cope with myself anymore, let alone the rest of the world. I’ve been signed off with stress, anxiety and depression before, and I was heading there again: but I had found a way to stop that train from reaching destination.
Also, I had decided to try online dating. Having decided without doubt that I was never going to be good enough for any man out there, this would inevitably lead to pain and heartache… Unless, of course, I was well enough protected from the outside world not to let my heart get involved.
If my emotions were switched off, I was freed from the constraints of romantic love to find what I had decided was a more traditional route to childbirth: that is to say, marriage for the sake of procreation. All this really required was good breeding stock, and seeing as it was increasingly clear to me that marriage for love was only for the princesses in storybooks, I was working hard to force years of romantic notions out of my head.
As I write this down I know how crazy – and how cold – it sounds, but please do try to understand that desperation and logic do not mix.
I went into online dating from a very scientific viewpoint. I was completely honest in my profile, and chose photographs of myself that I didn’t really feel did me any favours, to insure against disappointment on the end of potential suitors. I put narrow parameters in place regarding age, profession and education. I was looking, not for my “love story”, but for the father of my children. That was all.
I am not defending myself here; indeed I feel no need to. I revisited endless of my favourite classics and reread them from a new perspective, viewing marriage for social class or status as the norm. I watched movies and cast myself, not as the leading lady or even the best friend, but as the rejected lover, the bad girl, the plain Jane. I even read up on the success rates of arranged marriages, which favourably backed my new plans. If my choice was between that of a plain and jilted lover and that of the wife in a marriage for gain… well, I’d tried the jilted lover role and frankly, I didn’t care to revisit the part.
What happened next was completely unexpected. Dapper fell outside my parameters, acknowledged this when he contacted me, and suggested we strike up a platonic friendship based on our many mutual interests. When I returned, bouncing off the walls, from our first “date” last April, I felt more like myself than I had in months. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have met someone so interesting and forgiving, so willing to fight his way through my shell, and under whose gaze I constantly feel myself glow, and particularly under such coldly calculated circumstances.
Unfortunately, fighting through my shell is an ongoing process, one, I’m sure Dapper would confirm, that he has to undertake every single time we meet. It’s getting better – if I go round on a Friday night I can now reach some semblance of a regular human being by Saturday lunchtime, but as soon as we hit going home time on a Sunday I feel the barriers rising into place again. It doesn’t help that so much of my job is of a 24/7 nature, that the first thing I do when I do get back to mine on a Sunday night is to check my work emails, or that I so often start the day on 4 hours sleep, that by the weekend I can do little more than try to catch up. On a Friday night Dapper is lucky to get two full sentences out of me and a cup of tea into me before I fall asleep on his sofa.
But at least with him there I can fall asleep on the sofa. It’s as if he is able to switch the outside world off long enough to stop the whirring – as long as he is in the vicinity I can stop. Between working fulltime and freelancing, blogging and the club, I have long felt as if I am balancing on a pile of rubble. Every time I get a firm foothold it feels as if something slips from beneath me, the pile shifts and I’m back to trying desperately to find my balance. I haven’t found it yet, but I am hopeful.
And I am hopeful that, given time, I’ll manage to shake the shell off for good and come bouncing back into the light. Acknowledging so many negative feelings and actions over the last year is a start, at least. Admitting some of the completely out of character thoughts I have run with and decisions I have made is painful, but will hopefully kick-start some degree of healing process.
I never intended to hurt or harm anyone, but see now that the desire for self-preservation has, in fact, caused hurt to a great many. I can’t ask them to forgive me, nor can I promise an immediate return to form; but I can promise to try harder. I am trying to get some feeling back in my life. I am trying to get a firmer footing on the rubble beneath my feet. I am trying to find a way to start juggling all those friendships once again. I know that words can’t fix this, but maybe if I try hard enough, I can.