It was the tension between these two poles – a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other – that kept me going.
–The Rum Diary, Hunter S Thompson
My therapist wanted me to write a page of A4 on the subject ‘Why I Am How I Am’. We don’t normally do this sort of counselling shit in CBT but she said it would be useful and that I should bang it on to the blog. So here’s more gratituous personal disclosure.
The dreams of cities are back again – on trains, cross country, running around Piccadilly.
I have a tendency to daydream, live in my own world – ‘you live in your own head’ an old friend said – I’ve been told I appear remote and aloof. This is probably why I was tested for Aspergers. My mother wrote a letter a few months back expressing guilt – which isn’t justified – that my parents never prepared me enough to get on in the world. I never had much co-ordination, I’ve had to try hard to become more practical and I’ve suspected that I get panic attacks because perhaps I’m not connected enough to the world. After her father died my mother said that she felt she was going to fall off the face of the planet – that’s what panic feels like.
Like loads of creative people – particularly young men – I tended towards misanthropy, I had a tendency to externalise and project my bad feelings onto the world – because I was scared, the world became a scary place.
I was also fairly busy, writing fiction and going to my lectures and going out as often as possible. Later I juggled full time work with creative work and am more active than ever. Even with the Condition I’m still busy a lot of the time – I have a lot of adrenaline, it takes a while for my energy levels to go down.
When I went out, I began to imagine that people were after me. I changed cities partly to get away from this feeling of paranoia – ‘pulled a geographic’ in AA parlance – but after a good summer the jittery sensation returned. I began to feel disorientated whenever I was out in the city centre. At times this disorientation would become extremely intense, I would feel like I was beginning to levitate, the world would beat out – at that point I found the sensation interesting rather than frightening, but soon after this my mind broke a barrier and the fully-fledged panic attacks came.
I have a tendency to assume the worst and to work to the worst case scenario. If there was a good event coming up – a date or a party – and I had a few days until it came, there would be this reflexive thought: something could happen, you could be dead by then. This thought persists a little today, though not as much as it once did.
Although no specific event caused it, I recall getting an awareness of my own mortality at the age of nineteen or so. From that point I had a keen sense of the importance of living life to its fullest. I would go out every night of the week, forcing myself on occasion. To an extent, this behaviour continued right up until my breakdown in April 2008. Although I’m not depressed and I don’t consider myself to be morbid I do think about death and annihilation a great deal.
This urge to live life to the full has a converse – a feeling that I am being chased, followed, hunted down. There’s a line in London Fields: ‘the bigger thing loping along in my wake, and easily gaining.’ This sensation has recurred on and off for around eight years – the feeling of being chased by some great shadow.