The hotel room

Most of what I’ve written about my life so far paints me in a fairly sympathetic light. I’m able to distance myself enough to know that I’m probably not to blame for all of the things for which I blame myself.
I blame myself regardless.

I already said somewhere that there’s more to the story, and this part of the story is where I become the antagonist. I can’t excuse my actions. I can barely even face up to them. For a long time, I wasn’t a very nice person. I have to live with this. I’m still a pretty shitty person and I have no one to blame but myself.

I’ve already written about how I ended up in Norfolk. Now I’m going to write about what happened while I was there.
I’ll try, anyway.
Some of it is horrible and it’s so long and I’m sorry.

Let’s start at the end and go backwards. This is just easing myself in. 

It was 2010, and it was the middle of August. None of this feels real to me, because I didn’t feel real at the time. I was in a hotel just outside of Norwich, in a room that I had booked at my (ex-)stepmother’s house shortly before she and my half-sister washed their hands of me, using a debit card which I knew had no money on it. I had nowhere else to go.

Not right then, anyway. But I had a plan.

I like to make plans but my plans often fuck up because I worry about the wrong bits or get distracted by the little things and fail to see everything through to the end. But these kinds of plans, the ones that are as close as you can really get to life-or-death situations in modern society, usually work out. I always land on my feet. Battered and bruised and generally quite fucked up, but on my feet nonetheless.

Sadly, there’s usually a fair bit of collateral damage. When I’m desperate, I’ll say and do anything. I manipulate situations so that the outcome is the one I need it to be, and if that involves manipulating other people then so be it. When I moved to Norfolk, I needed somewhere to live but I didn’t have any money. My sister had introduced me to a guy who had a spare room, and I figured out pretty quickly that I would be able to seduce him. So I did.

I pretty much ruined him and he was already broken to begin with. But he fought back. He was part of the reason why I was stuck in a hotel room – but if you knew the full truth then you’d understand that I totally deserved to be there. Or on the streets, to be fair. In a gutter somewhere, like a rat.

I will tell you the full truth, eventually. I promise.

Here are some truths: I was 26. I was very blonde, very skinny, very poor and I was off my face on a number of different chemicals. I was taking pregablin for my anxiety, along with venlafaxine that was actually making me manic but I hadn’t realised it yet, and lots and lots of lorazepam to keep my head calm. These might have all worked a bit better had I not been bombing cocktails of cocaine and as much ephedrine as my heart would allow. I had accidentally become addicted to the lorazepam. My doctor hadn’t warned me that benzos were so addictive – nor that they were dangerous to withdraw from. He just kept giving me more and more. The ephedrine was to keep me awake enough to function. I used to buy it from chemists but I had started to get stronger stuff from random bodybuilding websites. Bodybuilders used to use ephedrine/caffeine/aspirin stacks for stamina and fat burning. I was using it to fuel my eating disorder and to lift the lorazepam fog.

I was completely fucking crazy. I should have been locked away for my own safety but I’d already hit the point where I was more likely to end up in prison than a psych ward. I had royally fucked up. Not only had I burned all my bridges, I’d thrown a flaming sack of shit behind me as I took off and left everyone else to deal with the mess. Most of the people I had met were all extremely cross with me, to put it mildly.

I only stayed in the hotel from Saturday to Wednesday. I had lied to the people running the place, told them some bullshit sob story to try and stop them charging me for the room until I’d worked out where I was going to get the money from to actually pay for it.

I called my ex-lover in America. I told him I needed saving, that I had no-one else to turn to and nowhere else to go. He offered to pay for the room. I told him I wasn’t sure. I needed to escape – a getaway was more important. I’d be stuck in the room forever, otherwise. Or I’d end up on the streets and, in the state I was in at the time, I wouldn’t have lasted very long. I begged my best friend to let me stay with her, and luckily for me she agreed. My ex bought me a train ticket to Newcastle. Both of these people saved my life and only one of them is still talking to me – barely. People who need rescuing from their terrible life choices tend to keep making them and it gets fucking tiresome after a while.

Four months before this, I had spent a dreadful weekend trying to hurt myself in as many ways as I possibly could. You can read more about that chapter of emo here and here. The only bit I left out was that it was a bank holiday weekend – it was Easter – and after spending Friday night overdosing and Saturday night wondering if it was the police car or the ambulance that would be taking me away, I spent Sunday night piercing my bottom lip with a needle and an earring. It tore out a month or so later. I can still feel the scar when I run my tongue along the inside of my lip.

Why is this relevant? I guess it isn’t. Not really. I’m trying to avoid saying what I want to say. I don’t want to tell you that for the few days I stayed in the hotel, every trip to the bathroom for a line ended with me re-opening the same cut on my leg. I had become addicted to the endorphin rush that came with hurting myself. I don’t want to talk about how every time I pulled my skinny emo jeans up, the fabric stuck to the open wound and every time I pulled my jeans down to pee, I ripped the wound back open. I don’t want to tell you that I was using a dirty blade to make the cuts because I wanted the cut to get infected. I wanted horrible scars. I wanted to make myself as disgusting and unlovable as I felt inside.

My limbs could have rotted away completely for all I cared at the time. I had given up trying to kill myself quickly and was going for a torturously slow suicide instead. I wanted to fuck myself up. I was a waste of a human being. I wanted to live but I wanted to suffer for it. I had enough fight left in me to keep myself alive but I couldn’t foresee myself ever having any kind of happiness so I wallowed in this horrible murky fucking misery until it messed me up completely.

I’m terrified I’ll end up like this again one day. The darkness returns from time to time, I get cornered by shadows until I realise that all the light has disappeared and it’s hard to find my way back out. It never gets quite as bad as it was in the hotel room but it knows it scares me and it plays on it, mocking me. The trouble is that there isn’t an awful lot of feeling in the daylight. The light brings peace, and happiness is a calm, non-reactive state. I struggle with this. I have never convinced my mind that everything would still be okay even if it did chill the fuck out from time to time. I don’t enjoy the drama that comes with dealing with other people, but my mind has a million memories and daydreams and I can feel all manner of emotion from each and every one of them. Without wishing to sound as though I’m romanticising this in any way, I wouldn’t feel alive without all of those emotions. I’d rather have my heart broken by some guy I’ve never met or worry endlessly about every interaction I ever have with anyone than feel calm. Calm is nothing. Calm scares me. Calm is the abyss from which the monsters gaze upon me.

The person to whom I tell all my thoughts thinks it must be very tiring being like this. He’s right. It’s fucking exhausting.

On the Wednesday morning, I had to go to the Jobcentre. I would have left Norwich sooner if it hadn’t been for that. As soon as I was finished there, I got a bag together, left my suitcase and some clothes in the hotel room and boarded a train to Newcastle. In my bag I had a few spare clothes, a Kurt Vonnegut book, my makeup and a shitload of drugs.

I don’t remember the train journey.

Mastering the green-eyed demons

Jealousy is an unsustainable state, yet the feelings that cause it feed on themselves –  and each other –  to constantly bring that state into consciousness. 

I say it’s unsustainable; it can be sustained but it will drive you fucking crazy. 

It’s an ambivalent emotion. It’s very passive-aggressive. It’s the inner turmoil between being deeply insecure yet almost arrogant when faced with perceived slights. The insecurity makes you feel inadequate, as though literally everyone is better than you in some way. It makes you feel as though you don’t deserve anything good because you simply aren’t good enough somehow. Then our brains use one or more of it’s wonderful mental shortcuts (that in reality often just hinder our reasoning) to find “evidence” that this is, in fact, the case. The sudden increase in anxiety triggers a further ‘fight or flight’-type response and then you either end it or force a confrontation because you’re panicking like hell that the horrible little voice is right and you really are a worthless piece of shit. 

This is all subjective. This is all how it arises in me. This is what I deal with. That’s why I’m comfortable calling it arrogance – that’s how it feels to me. 

However, I’m emotionally unstable. I’m aware that although I can recognise emotions, I sometimes misidentify them. I also have the same mental hindrances as everyone else so I can’t always correctly identify why I’m feeling a certain way, be it through denial or some other bias. This feeds into the insecurity. I know it’s wrong of me to demand things from another person, whether it’s time, gestures or even reassurances. That makes me feel even worse. I don’t want to be demanding. But the problem is still there. The feelings escalate. I hate myself for being needy but hating myself is what started this fucking problem in the first place. 

So I don’t know if it actually is arrogance. It feels that way because it’s some kind of need and I’m conditioned to think I’m terrible for needing anything at all. I can’t objectively examine this part of me at this time – I’m not far enough away yet. 

Understanding this isn’t particularly useful right now. I have no clue how to fix this. The obvious answer is to work on not beating myself up so much but it’s difficult for some people to understand how much of it is automatic. It’s like being brainwashed. You have to have a million fucking epiphanies for every one of the negative thoughts but it’s hard to even catch them in the first place. Minds aren’t as easy to control as you would think. I don’t have to put any thought into putting myself down in the same way you don’t have to put any thought into breathing. 

Have you ever had sleep paralysis? Where you wake up and you can’t do anything and you can’t breathe and you’re mentally screaming at your body to wake the fuck up and inhale and then you suddenly, violently, snap out of it? That moment of panic when you realise your mind isn’t controlling your body like it’s supposed to is similar to the moments when I can step back momentarily only to realise that I’ve somehow caused a whole load of trouble again because my mind can’t seem to control my emotions – or my reactions to them, at least. 

It’s not quite the same, obviously. I just want you to know that the feeling of ‘oh shit, autopilot isn’t working and I’ve got no idea how to work the controls’ that you get with sleep paralysis is how it feels when I try to regulate my emotions. Best intentions and crossed fingers ultimately make useless co-pilots. 

Writing it out makes the emotions seem more important than they really are. I didn’t get much from CBT but I did learn that I am not my emotions. (I disagree that I’m not my thoughts, although that’s an entirely different discussion.) You don’t have to worry if I say I’m sad. Misery is an old friend and he wanders off a lot. We all have a friend who is just there, someone for whom the reason why we ever became friends in the first place is long-forgotten (yet frequently questioned). But they are still comforting, in their own miserable way. It’s only when they’re actively trying to kill us that we need worry.

I need to write it out though. If I don’t, I’ll forget it and then have to go through it all again. This isn’t something that can be fixed by being given an answer. You need to feel it. 

Some people, when they’re dealing with negative emotions, are able to take their minds off the problem by doing something to keep them busy. Work, for example. I’ve never been able to do that. I can’t ignore what I’m feeling. I have to feel it. But what fucking use is it, really? I wish I’d taken up the guitar or something instead. 

Merci (toujours) 

I only really think of you out of context. I forget that sometimes. Maybe I do it deliberately, maybe I choose to forget; I’m not sure. Either way, I don’t really think about you as you really are. I don’t imagine what you’re doing when I don’t hear from you. I simply can’t imagine it. That part of your life is unknown to me, I can’t possibly imagine it because it just doesn’t exist in my mind.

And I’ve been so unfair to you. You don’t belong to me.

You reminded me that there is more to life out there. I have moments like right now when it seems plausible – almost probable – that amazing things are going to happen but then I have moments where I can barely comprehend any kind of tomorrow. You gave me that rush back, the one you get when the future looks all shiny and new and hopeful. And you help me hold on to it for longer each time. I know I haven’t come far but I haven’t given up.

The conversations I loved the most were the ones where we found ourselves on adventures with each other in our heads, without even really saying anything. You could just say “road trip” and somehow I’m there with you, with my bare feet on your dashboard. Sometimes it’s like you live in my dreams.

But fucking hell… That would be a terrible place to live. That’s where all the zombies and evil robotic mimes come from.

For all that you are, I think you know there’s always going to be something more out there no matter how much you achieve. Always a ‘what if…’; always a niggling feeling that perhaps there’s an important experience you’ve missed out on. But maybe I’m wrong; maybe you’ll get to the end and finally feel like there’s nothing else worth chasing.

I hope so. Happiness has to be around there somewhere, right?

Even if you don’t find happiness, I hope you have a wonderful time trying. And this isn’t goodbye… But perhaps this is the end of a chapter. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next one, but something has changed… hasn’t it?

Self-phenakism

The truth is that I could die tomorrow and my legacy would be a pile of illegible notebooks. I often wonder if someone would take them and do something useful with them.
Probably not.
They don’t look particularly important.
But they are. They’re important to me, at least. Because they are me.

They mean everything in the world to me at the moment I’m writing in them. They stop me behaving inappropriately. The notes contain my flashes of anger, they hold all of the words I’m not allowed to say when my emotions are clouding my judgement. When I know I’m overreacting or expressing the incorrect emotion, it can be safely contained inside the pages of the book and therefore no harm can come to anyone else.

For years I have blamed the words for hurting me. Their words, my words, your words… but it was all a lie. Wasn’t it? I am the only one causing pain. When I’m wishing harm upon myself or wondering what will happen should I not wake up tomorrow or dragging blood from my arms or legs, and then when I’m punishing myself for all of that hurt that I’m directing towards myself… it’s so easy to pretend it isn’t me. But it is. Somehow. I just don’t quite connect with it.

The notebooks contain all my thoughts. The real and the not so real. The stories and the memories. Moments that happened and moments that could never happen.
But they’re untidy, they’re not in order. They just look like scribbled words on a page.
They are scribbled words on a page and they aren’t even based on a true story.

Are they?
I’ve lost track of what is real and what isn’t.

When the camera flips the photographs that you take of yourself and you no longer recognise your face, you suddenly see yourself the way that the world sees you. Yet you will only ever truly recognise the face you see in the mirror. You’re used to it, even though it’s not quite true.
Which one would you prefer to be? The flipped version of yourself, the face that you’re used to?
Or would you prefer to be who you really are?

Entries don’t have to contain thousands of words to say something meaningful.

I’m recording a life that isn’t mine.
Or am I?
I just don’t know who I really am.

If you steal my notebook I will lose my mind

Sometimes my thoughts are better off alone, left to argue amongst themselves without being able to bother anyone else. In that sense, my notebook is an extension of my mind. The book itself is part of my memory and the words within are my memories, waiting there unnoticed until I seek them out and read them, much like my mind keeps my memories in cognitive slumber until they rise up into active consciousness again.

They are fragmented, disorganised, sometimes illegible, occasionally nonsense. Sometimes I don’t remember the thing I have written about, as though someone is telling me about something that happened to me that I just can’t recollect. Sometimes I get too many ideas while I’m writing something down and I end up writing something unintended and unrelated to what I was writing to begin with. Sometimes I smoke too much weed and suddenly realise something important, such as the meaning of life, but I have rendered myself incapable of following a thought through to its logical conclusion and I forget what I’m thinking before I’ve even had a chance to think it.

But wait, there are differences. I can leave my notebook in stupid places. Other people can read my notebook. I can destroy my notebook without losing cognitive function. My mind exists in a state of zero-gravity, where time and space are irrelevant. Memories float by as they please, never in the same order (or any order at all), bringing with them sensory impressions and emotional attachments. I can remember the texture of surfaces I felt over two decades ago. The words in the notebook will never evoke the actual feeling under my fingers of the glass in the window pane of my old front door, or the unholy pain in my chest and the internal screaming I experienced when some boy broke my heart.

In my head, thoughts loiter in dark corners. They change themselves even while I’m looking at them. Sometimes they step into the light and I see them for what they truly are, be it good or bad. Other times they shift into tortuous grievances that heckle me from the shadows, trying to frighten me, or upset me, or anger me. Sometimes they bring me peace. Other times they refuse to shut up. They get louder and louder until my mind can no longer take it and I take drastic measures to drown the fuckers out.

In my notebook, the words are only as dark as the room I am currently sitting in. Sometimes the words make me feel ashamed or excited, but only because they force me to recall the memory as it exists in my mind and that version has all these extra attachments. The words in the notebook forever remain exactly as I have written them. If I amend what I have written, then you can see a correction has been made even if you can’t make out what it originally said. The words are static. Unordered, but forever in the order in which they have been written. Torn-out pages leave behind ragged reminders that something once existed here; you might be relieved of its content but there will always be proof that some kind of mistake or unwanted memory was itself disposed of.

Memories in the mind are more frequently lost by accident, as opposed to deliberately disposed of. The mundane and uninteresting become forgotten as though they are not even given a chance to grow into a proper memory; the occasional one that slips through and remains with you forever is somehow awarded more importance even though you have no idea why it could be significant. Memories can be forcefully lost through both physical and mental trauma, but this process is random and carries with it prospects of partial or full recovery. A page torn out from a notebook leaves behind nothing but a ghost; subsequent destruction of the removed page means that the memories written upon it can never be brought to life again. But the difference is that trauma is generally accidental, whereas the removal of a page from a notebook is generally deliberate. It isn’t as easy to deliberately remove something specific from the mind. In order to forget it, you must never become consciously aware of it – but in order to never become consciously aware of it, you have to be consciously aware that there is something that you are trying to forget.

Memories are committed to mind through the depth of their impressions. Repeated conscious recollection will strengthen their effect. If we remember something incorrectly, this false memory becomes part of our perceived reality until we are corrected – if we ever are. Trying to purposefully remember something incorrectly is just as difficult as trying to purposefully forget something completely – the awareness of the deliberate mistake may form part of the memory itself, reminding you of the truth every time you think about the lie. There is simply very little control over certain aspects of our memory. It can change at whim. It can trick you into thinking that it is genuine even though it differs from how you recalled it yesterday. It can remain true whilst changing just enough to make you go from feeling happy to sad.

Meanwhile, the words in the notebook never change. You can scribble over them, you can Tipp-Ex them out, you can tear out parts of pages or stick something over them – but there will always be some evidence of tampering. Entries are deliberately recorded, meaning that every memory written in the notebook is consciously chosen – as is the amount of truthfulness each entry contains. The memory that is contained within the entry may have been recalled incorrectly at the time it was written; it may have been deliberately altered in order to disguise the truth from anyone who happened to snoop within its pages; it may have been deliberately altered so that it looks better on paper. It may have even been deliberately altered in order to take control of the narrative, to change an event so that it reaches a more satisfying conclusion – be it the outcome of a missed opportunity, the chance to get revenge or even just the exploration of a different version of events.

This is not so easily done with the memories inside your head. Even the most experienced dreamer, one who can suspend their belief and flit easily between reality and imagination, still has to avoid deceiving themselves by accident. The brain cannot always discern between an event that genuinely occurred and an event that was nothing more than a vivid visualisation. The same daydream played over and over can imprint itself upon the mind in the same way the repetitive recollection of an old memory can keep itself as detailed as though it happened only yesterday. The lines between the worlds become blurred, and it becomes difficult to remember why you’d want to live in a world where you couldn’t be the master of your own universe.