Finding the Lost

I’ve been feeling old, lately.

Ugly, aged, and… 2 dimensional.

So much has changed in the 3 and a bit years since my mental health crisis. I’m an entirely different person with an entirely different life. In so many ways that is a positive result, but there’s one long-standing aspect of that recovery that has really started to get to me.

I don’t have an identity anymore.

I think many addicts go through this when they step into recovery. You mourn the loss of your chosen substance(s), and the people who came with them. Addicts design their entire lives around their ability to get high so when they take that requirement away from themselves it very quickly becomes apparent just how substanceless their lives were when they lived under the influence.

There was a lot of catching up with the world to be done when I quit Escapism.

I suddenly had all this time. Hours of it that I had to actively fill with something. I very quickly realised that I’d only ever written whilst high or drunk and that attempting to do so whilst sober only worked while I was still raw inside recovery; when I had emotions to expunge.

The moment that I felt like I was getting “better”, like I was managing my life in a healthy and positive manner, I lost the desire to put words on paper. I lost the desire to overshare myself with the world. After three years of not writing, I’ve now lost the talent, as well.

I think the loss of my identity has much to do with it.

For the vast majority of my life I was “that weird goth girl”. I stopped being her when I moved back to this little town and there wasn’t much of a call for clubwear. I also wanted to be someone different, someone healthy, someone fixed.

I figured that fixed people don’t wear demonia boots and teenage angst… but in some ways, while I seem to manage life in a healthier manner – healthier for the world around me – it’s not necessarily healthy for myself, and I am reconsidering my stance very seriously.

I’ve gone from one emotional extreme to the other. I went from overcaring to indifference. My daughter breaks through that, of course, but basically everything else that exists in my world, does so on my emotional periphery.

I feel less than whole. I feel like a cutout, a silhouette, something that is substanceless and has nothing of any depth to offer the world. I feel that my opinion is worthless; just one more stupid voice bleating into the ether. I don’t care enough to put any conviction into anything I say, because there’s nothing besides my daughter that fills me with any kind of passion.

The only time that I feel remotely like my old self; the me whose corners are filled with meaning and life is when I’m drinking.

I don’t “drink”  anymore, I normal person drink. The demons that caused me to drown myself have been exorcised, so for the most part, I don’t “drink”, I just socially acceptably sip with friends. I mean, the edge is a very fine line and I’ve slipped over it a few times, but even when I’ve had more than I should, I haven’t turned into that angry, dangerous girl I used to become every time.

I have turned into one of the girls I used to be, though. The one who listened to music, who had opinions, who … got involved in life. I guess I just haven’t worked out how to reach her without drinking.

I think it’s because I felt that everything about the old me was wrong. It was trouble, it was broken, it had to apologise for existing. I was very compartmentalised; very dissociative. There were distinctly different me’s that occupied this body at any given time and they were sometimes so different to each other that I never got anything accomplished because they kept swapping who was in control.

I think that maybe I’m so ashamed of all the me’s that I used to be that I won’t even let the healthy aspects of them out. None of them were inherently evil; they were just always too amplified because I manifested them separately.

The experiences I’d been through in my life had taught me that to survive, I had to become what someone wanted me to be. My personalities were definitely compartmentalised and my worlds were NOT allowed to intermingle. During my Sydney days, my work people thought I was a non-drinker, despite being an alcoholic, and my friends didn’t interact with my boyfriend unless the metal and goth worlds crossed paths.

I had been taught from the age of 8 that I wasn’t entitled to my own feelings. I’d been taught that my emotional responses to situations weren’t appropriate, or they weren’t the fault of the person who caused them. I was told that my recollection of the events had been wrong.

That’s the result of gaslighting – it makes you question your sanity and grip on reality and you always come out of it doubting yourself, rather than the person telling you that you’re wrong.

The consequence of this was that my emotions had to be carefully stored and sorted individually so that I could take them apart later, when I was alone, in front of a notepad or a computer. I would write out the scenario step by step, in an attempt to convince myself that I was right. It didn’t matter though. Unless the other party relented and told me I was right, I’d never believe myself, despite clear evidence and occasionally witnesses.

The self-doubt was so extensive that little by little, the whole, full person that I was began to be eroded away until all that was left was a quiet little blank canvas, always alert for signs to tell me how I should act to avoid displeasing that bully.

So those hidden emotions created all those different me’s who only came out one at a time, in amplified doses, and because I learned to be who I needed to be for the person I was with, I never actually established who I was as a real life person.

I think the only time I have ever been close to being “myself”  was the tiny little year when I was 13 years old and started high school. I left the bully behind and hadn’t yet started real life relationships with boys who taught me that my only worth was between my legs.

Once that happened, the effects of the PTSD caused by the bullying began to kick in and the social chameleon was born.

I escaped through my clothing and music and internet friends – and that’s where I first learned how to have completely separate worlds. Internet friends have always been safe, the one place I was able to be my real self because they couldn’t touch me, I didn’t feel threatened by them. They were my confidantes and probably my life savers once I began that emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship at 15.

Moving back to this little town as an adult meant that I no longer had the luxury of compartmentalising my life. I didn’t have the escape of a metal gig or club, where I could listen to the music that speaks to my soul and calms me down and makes me feel light and good.

When I binged, work knew about it, because it usually happened with them, or within their sight at one of the few pubs left in town. I couldn’t run anywhere anymore, there were no hiding places, and the walls kept falling in on me. I just broke beneath the pressure and the weed-induced paranoia.

So now I feel that to avoid that ever happening again, I’ve got walls that are so big that even I can’t get into them. Walls that I didn’t actually realise I’d put up. I will never run the risk of falling apart again, of becoming all those different people if I simply don’t allow myself to feel the emotions that breed them.

The only person who is safe for me to experience unconditionally is my daughter, because she loves me with everything that she is. She doesn’t have an agenda, an ulterior motive.

To protect her, and keep her safe from the other me’s, I just exist as this safe, but unfulfilled shell.

The unfulfilled part is starting to make me not quite as safe anymore, however, and old emotions are beginning to creep in.

Depression, ennui, futility, apathy and a big fat dose of self-disgust. I avoid mirrors at the moment – not because of my weight, but because of my face. I hate what stares back at me. Those big teeth, big gums, pale lips, old skin, empty eyes.

I see the passage of time on that face and it reminds me that I’ve accomplished nothing in life besides the basic evolutionary function that all organisms instinctively perform to ensure the continuation of the species.

I’ve whinged a lot on the internet, but that’s basically it. I mean, I don’t even have a hobby. I can’t even answer the question “what do you enjoy?” because the answer to that is “nothing”.

I enjoy not being present.

Despite a diagnosis, therapy, and feeling that I’ve worked through the traumas that caused my need to escape into a mind-altering substance on a daily basis, I still find myself drawn to pursuits that allow time to pass without me engaging with the world – reading, television, movies – sucking in someone else’s creativity in an effort to avoid doing anything myself.

This? This isn’t creativity, it isn’t writing. This is doing what my tagline says – using blogging as a cheap form of therapy.

And I’m not sure whether I have the energy or even the inclination to do otherwise.

Something’s gotta give, I know that.

My family is about to make some big changes, which I think are probably long overdue, and that’s as good a time as any for me to implement some others.

I might spend my non-smoking money on a new pair of demonia boots, or a corset. I might set up a media centre in the new house so I can listen to my music again, instead of The Wiggles or the countless nursery rhyme playlists my daughter watches on YouTube.

Maybe, if I reach in and pick some of the parts of the old me’s that felt good and pair them with the aspects of the new me that bring me peace, I’ll manage to cobble together some sort of epic goth/martha stewart Frankenstein that brings me fulfillment.

In fact, to get me started I might just buy myself this pretty Skull Apron.

classy_cook_aprons

and these boots.

demonia trashville - beserk

and I need to stop looking because I’ve added $568 worth of things to a wishlist and I’m supposed to be packing boxes for moving…

 

 

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Sharing, Relationships and Facebook’s destruction of traditional human behaviour.

Sharing.
It’s a word that is now more synonymous with self-marketing on social media platforms, rather than the sentiment of the act itself.

I come from a group of people who began their internet use in the early to mid 90’s.
I spent most of my time from 1995 to 2001 on mIRC, chatting with my group of likeminded friends and occasionally physically meeting up with them for awkward fun times in the line outside HMV, waiting for Marilyn Manson’s signature.

I had an opendiary from the age of 16, a livejournal from the age of 18, and a myspace, about a year or so before Facebook became the juggernaut that it now is. “Sharing” is something I’ve done since the internet first entered my world.

All of these online hangouts cultivated a genuine sense of community, of togetherness, rather than the self-marketing narcissism that we now encounter on Facebook. Behaviour I am guilty of displaying on a daily basis.

Until Facebook, the internet felt fairly safe. Small, yet full of possibility. It felt like the things you said, the pictures you posted – all of that was yours. It was under your control. And it was very easy for you to see who had access to view such things. There was a sense of fairness and transparency that doesn’t seem to exist anymore – not just on the internet, but in the world in general.

Everything is so tangled up in hidden terms and conditions, or language so convoluted that you need a degree in Contract Law to understand even the most basic transactions. I think most can be summed up as such: “You, the consumer, are getting screwed, and paying for that privelege”.

In Facebook and Google’s case, you, the user, are not the consumer, you are in fact, the product, which means that Facebook only gives enough of a shit about you and your rights to keep you using their service, so they can keep selling your behaviour to marketing companies.

Fine. They exist to make money, like any other corporation, and they haven’t exactly lied about the fact that it’s you who makes them their money. It is what it is in this day and age.

My problem with Facebook is what its dominance of society has done to people, and is doing to entire generations of people who know no other way of life.

Around two or more years ago, a very good friend of mine decided to delete her Facebook. Her reasons behind it have always stuck with me.

“I realised I was using my friends as my own personal Entertainment Roll”, she explained.

She found herself getting annoyed if a usually-funny friend was mediocre that day, or was posting something serious and depressing. She was seeing them not as her friends, but as objects that existed to entertain her in the way she expected them to, and she was not engaging in their lives, merely watching as an outsider, liking here, commenting there.

I’ve found myself either being treated in that manner, or absolutely hating people I barely know, based on their Facebook posts.

Beside that point, humans, naturally, as they age, lose friends. Our social circles shrink to allow us the mental, emotional and physical space to raise families and focus on careers, or whatever it is that is most important to us. Facebook forces us to acknowledge and interact with people we didn’t even interact with when they existed physically in our lives, even if the interaction is just a mental one – acknowledging that they are on your friends list, and whatever you say may offend them. You may not really care about offending them, but that anxiety is there, in the back of your mind.

The problem is that with such social pressure to add people, we end up sharing things with the people who would least like to know that information. People like our families and coworkers.

There are certainly solutions to the problems outlined above. We can always remove people from our friends list, and then deal with whatever social fallout may come of it. We can create filters, and spend hours arranging our friends and family members into groups, which will further allow us to pick and choose what we share with whom.

But all of that is a lot of work, and quite frankly, it takes up time that could be put to much more constructive uses than maintaining unnatural relationships simply because “that’s the way the world is, now”.

I can’t deny that Facebook has given me positive things, including wonderful connections with people I didn’t interact so much with in my former, face to face life with them.

Unfortunately, I just feel that Facebook is now taking more from me than it is giving, and it is encouraging me to take a back seat in regard to the manner in which I maintain my friendships.

Most of what it is taking, I’m not even entirely aware of.

Facebook’s ability to reach large numbers of people with your message is only as effective as the audience with which you share that message. I may have 370 Facebook friends, but unless I actively engage with each and every one of their personal pages on a constant basis, or vice versa, my posts will disappear from their NewsFeed. If you Facebook solely via your NewsFeed, you are only interacting with the same, relatively small number of people – people with which you are most likely to already share common opinions on most topics.

So what’s the point of sharing on Facebook?

Is it to get a pat on the back for being one of the first to show it to your friends? Is it to generate that warm feeling of “I’m right. A lot of people are agreeing with me”.

It certainly made all the sharing of ideas I did in the run up to our recent Federal Election rather pointless – everyone who actually spoke about it on my NewsFeed all had the same opinion as I did. I wanted to reach those who were indifferent, or those who wanted to vote Liberal. I wanted to be able to at least provoke thought or discussion. Unfortunately, most of the discussion that was provoked was “Facebook is not the place to discuss politics”, or “I wish the election would just be over, I’m sick of hearing about it”.

Thankfully, that same person who deleted her Facebook a few years ago is still very much a large part of my life. In fact, she is the person who taught me that true relationships are about engaging. They are about being honest, even when it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings. They’re about having integrity. And they’re about you, going out of your way to make the effort to share your life with someone else.

Facebook makes it easy for us to tell a whole bunch of people something. It generates conversation. But it’s all surface bullshit. It’s the narcissistic mask that the user wants to share with the world. It’s always on that person’s terms.

This morning, my non-Facebook friend sent another article she found interesting to the mailing list she has created of her friends and family with whom she frequently discusses well, anything, actually. That email generated real sharing amongst relative strangers who have come to know each other through our mutual friend’s stories, and through our own Reply Alls.

We come from very different backgrounds, with very different life experiences, which creates such a large picture of what are usually society’s most complex issues – everything from gender equality to mental health, fitness plans and pop culture. In that tiny little environment known as our inbox, we are throwing ideas, opinions and observations at each other, opening each others eyes to pieces of the puzzle that would never have occurred to us otherwise.

We are sharing knowledge and experience and it is exciting. It is meaningful. It engages our thoughts and interest for more time than it takes to click “like”, and I feel far more gratification from these email exchanges than I’ve ever felt from any response to my Facebook posts.

I’m not threatening to leave Facebook right now, though I am definitely considering it.

Besides, I’m too old to have 270 friends. As if I can be bothered writing that many “heartfelt” birthday messages when my NewsFeed prompts me to…