In the 33rd Museling, I talk about wanting a love to leave me alone.
The opening quotation in this episode is a reading of 8: postscript from why you should not like me, which you can find here.
You can read what I wrote in about my experience of my mental health in a 2014 Facebook post that is reproduced here.
You can listen to Will Young singing Eg White’s song Leave Right Now on YouTube here.
A transcript of this episode is below.
You can find the podcast and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here.
One of the most straightforwardly autobiographical things that I have ever written – and that some of you will have heard on the podcast before now – is “All I want is someone who will love me and leave me alone.”
I am not at all sure that I could live, day after day, week after week, with someone who might, as Eg White so beautifully put it, tremble in my arms. It would be like carrying porcelain plates across the ice, wouldn’t it? To kiss and cry, to hold someone and shake with goodbyes… that’s a love that would lose itself in exhaustion, surely. And, if not exhaustion, then… then I would only end up crushing it between grasping fingers, I think. There is too much need in that kind of a love. Need on both sides, I mean. And that would be unbearable over time, wouldn’t it?
I mean, certainly, yes, it would be stimulating to love and to be loved like that. It would make the heart beat faster, I expect; it would fill the bloodstream with a joy that is manufactured right here on the premises; it would bring with it longing and excitement and a feeling, perhaps, above all, of attractiveness, for which there is no substitute. Don’t get me wrong: it’s good to be appreciated, but it is not thrilling. It is thrilling to be desired, to be wanted, to feel that someone is responding, instantly, to just a moment of physical contact, for example.
Attraction is such a strange thing, isn’t it? It comes to different of us differently, I suppose. And, even just to me, it comes differently at different times or with different people. It comes, sometimes, fleetingly, on a tube train, perhaps, because someone in the seat opposite has a nice face. It comes, sometimes, for a couple of hours even, in a hotel room, perhaps, because someone who will never be much less than a stranger is gentle and funny and has a body that is pleasing somehow. It comes sometimes… or perhaps only rarely, or almost never… perhaps just once or twice in a lifetime but… who knows… perhaps not even twice… in a place that is not home exactly but that feels homely, perhaps, because… because… but who knows why it comes in this case. But, for some reason, it does come, and it comes with deep feelings of comfort and inexplicable familiarity and a powerful need for something more and panic in the very early morning and pie-in-the-sky plans to rip up one’s life and start again somewhere else, somewhere nearer to this person who is so inconveniently attractive and apparently attracted to me too. Or so it seemed at the time.
And I couldn’t live with that, I don’t think.
Because… Well, we have a choice in how we act and who we act with, don’t we? I don’t mean that we get to choose whatever we want, like someone’s handed us one of those wipe-clean, laminated karaoke menus and it’s all free and available to us, we can sing whatever we feel like and everyone will love it. Guaranteed pleasure and happiness for all. But we get to say “no” or “yes” when something is offered, don’t we? So it’s something we should think about, isn’t it? If we consider ourselves to be responsible people who want to cause the least harm possible in the time allotted to us. That’s still a fashionable goal, is it not? Even in this age of excessive consumption and ecological collapse.
But… no… sorry… the point is… it is not, in fact, altruism that holds me back from lust and romance because what is, I think, really at the bottom of all this is that… feelings are not to be trusted, are they? I mean, they cannot be relied upon. That’s the problem. Imagine a situation in which you suddenly find yourself with an unmerited and quite unexpected surplus of good feelings, for example. It’s not like you can store those up, is it? You can’t invest them in some kind of notional blue chip stock to secure a quarterly dividend of happiness from now until whenever it is that you will be forced by circumstance to cash the whole lot in… that unspecified, unforecastable point in the future when everything will have gone very wrong and you will need the whole amount of that initial capital back.
And so… what if those feelings don’t last, you know? Because the feelings that I’m talking about, they’re not… ordinary feelings. They’re not the kind of feelings that I have easy access to in my life. And, yeah, you might say: “Oh! So, it’s the on-going relationship with this person that you should invest in. That’s your blue chip company.” And, OK, fine, I accept your analogy. But the market goes down as well as up, right? Even the sturdiest firms go bust. And make the news. And people lose their jobs and their savings. We all know that. And… it makes me very nervous to imagine being in a relationship with somebody who has the power, or so it seems, or… I don’t know, because, yeah, probably the power does, in fact, reside in the relationship between us… I mean, I suppose, the point is, we are already in relationship simply by dint of having met and… felt things and so on and… obviously, I need to take my share of the responsibility for all of this but… I mean… however illusory it, in fact, is, there are certainly times when whatever it is that I am feeling seems to come as a direct result of things that this person does or does not do and so that leads me think that I’m just safer keeping myself out of a relationship with someone who, as I say, at any rate, appears, at least, to have the power to… to affect my happiness to such an extent.
I am very careful with my mood these days. I do see a therapist but I don’t want to take medication, for reasons of… side effects and… not wanting to feel as though I’m avoiding the issue and… other things that I probably am avoiding looking at too closely, like: what if I ended up feeling better all of the time, what would that mean that I would actually have to do with my life? But… the point is that, as part of this all-talk, no-pills strategy that I have adopted towards my mental health, I accept, for example, that there will be days on which very little gets done. Lots and lots of those days. And I’m happy to work on acceptance and a lowering of expectations and so on. But what I don’t want to do is to invite into my life any more of the pain, the real, physical pain, that has always been the inevitable backwash from any kind of genuine excitement that I might experience. Isn’t that a terrible, cowardly thing to say?
And, I mean, the excitement is wonderful. It’s better than medication. It wakes me up at 5 o’clock in the morning and gets me out of bed to start the day. And, oh, I do start the day. And I live it. And I do things. And the day is good.
But there is something that just happens when a few weeks of these sorts of days have gone past. Because it seems as though there is only a certain amount of excitement and uncertainty and nervousness and excessive good feeling that my body can handle. And then it just… lets go. Whatever this person might do or not do. Really. This just happens regardless. As soon as the good feeling is introduced, the bad feeling will surely follow, so I want to make it very clear that I’m not blaming anybody for that. It’s just a fact of my existence. If thrill and excitement are high-tide kinds of a feeling, then there is always a going-out of the tide. It seems as though there just has to be. And it stays out for a long time. And it’s like… well, to stay with the water for a moment, it’s very like when the bathwater drains out of the tub while you lie there. And then, when the water has all gone and you’re still lying there, cold and unhappy, you find that you’re just too heavy now and you can’t get up. And I don’t know why it’s harder to get up once the water has gone out than it would have been if you’d never been buoyed by it in the first place but… And then… also… I don’t always know that the water is going out. That’s… that can be hard. I just wake up and it’s gone. And it’s 5 o’clock in the morning and 9 o’clock in the morning and 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I do not get out of bed to start the day. And I am kept against the mattress by gravity and the weight of 300 miles of unforgiving air at 1kg per square cm and I realise that my life just isn’t going to be like I have started to imagine that it might be. And it hurts. And so I would like to avoid all of that as much as possible. I don’t enjoy it. I’m not sure that it is necessary.
I have experienced heartbreak, by the way. In case you were wondering. I know how that feels. I try not to remember. This is not quite the same thing, although it has features in common.
And, actually, throughout all of this, what I haven’t told you yet is that… it’s not like there is no happiness at home. There is. There is even another kind of love, just at the moment, that is content to stay in and watch TV together. That likes the food I cook and is happy to be cooked for. That doesn’t seem to need me to wake up early or to go to bed late. That doesn’t always feel the need to open our curtains to the world. That likes very much to occupy the middle of the bed but that sleeps soundly and doesn’t mind being pushed over in the night. That likes very unselfconsciously to be naked. That enjoys being touched and gives good hugs. That is patient. That is kind. That meets me where I am most days. That is comfortable with silence but that will join me in an awkward conversation when one is needed and that does not assume, just because I am grumpy or sad or uncommunicative, that there is something wrong with our relationship. That is supportive and strangely optimistic. That is a love that loves me, apparently, and… leaves me alone. More or less. I mean, not entirely, but… the point is, it doesn’t ask more than I have to give and it gives more than I would have asked for. And so, if I choose to stick with something that seems to me to be relatively safe and comfortable and undemanding rather than going all out to pursue something thrilling… well, as Eg White so beautifully put it, if I lose the highs, at least I’m spared the lows.
It’s not even, by the way, that I think there should necessarily have to be a choice between different… loves. I have learned, over the last few years, I suppose, that there is space for many more loves than my upbringing would have allowed for. We all an incomplete jigsaw of needs, aren’t we, and some of our pieces may fit with other people’s pieces but I don’t think that any of us complete each other and we all have to live with that so I think we get to decide how much we would like it all to cost. And my love at home – my lover-in, as a friend of mine described him the other day, and I rather like that… Anyway, he seems to feel the same way so there is no problem there.
But the other guy doesn’t even reply to my emails. So.
This has been the 33rd Museling. My name is Charles Adrian and, should you want to reassure yourself that I have subscribed to some form of social media, my twitter handle is @charldrian. More information about this podcast, as well as transcripts of all the episodes, is at muselings.uk. Thank you for listening.
Time To Talk
The 6th of February, 2014, seems to have been declared #TimeToTalk day. The idea is to encourage people to talk about their own mental health issues in order to normalise the idea that mental health is, as the advert from a few years ago put it, something we all have.
This piece is not fiction, then; it’s something I wrote to post on social media.
In the same way that, when I came out, I was lucky enough to be in an unusually gay-friendly environment, I have also been lucky enough to be surrounded for many years by friends and relatives who aware of, or who are themselves dealing with, mental health issues – mainly anxiety and depression. Still, I have my own reasons for not wanting to talk about my own mental health issues. Apart from anything else, I’ve always thought it would make me seem unattractively needy and attention-seeking, and anyway, rather like an auto-immune disfunction, depression feels like something that I do to myself and that I should be able quietly to deal with. But I know people who are being treated long-term for diabetes or high blood-pressure, which are conditions that are similarly auto-engineered, similarly invisible, similarly debilitating and can, similarly, lower your life-expectancy, and I do not consider them either needy or attention-seeking if they tell me about it. And so, in an attempt to normalise the idea that it is worth seeking treatment even for so-called minor mental health issues (i.e. the kind that don’t involve a referral to psychiatric medicine), I have decided to join the party on #timetotalk day.
Here’s my story, in a nutshell: I’ve suffered from depression since I was a teenager and have developed all kinds of coping strategies, most of which involve being away from other people. A couple of years ago, I found I was not able to control it for a while and I started taking anti-depressants, which were a huge help. I was prescribed Fluoxetine (better known as Prozac) and it immediately made everything – working, socialising, feeling good about myself and positive about my endeavours – a whole lot easier. I remember thinking: “Is this how some people feel all the time? No wonder they get so much done.” I’m not taking anti-depressants at the moment only because I’m finding that I can survive without them and would rather do without the side-effects (which included loss of sexual appetite and pleasure, vicious heartburn and a long list of things that I had to avoid if I didn’t want to die – mostly cold and flu medication but also, and somewhat oddly, grapefruit).
Is this overshare? Possibly. But in a good cause, I hope.
One of the odd things about depression, as I experience it, is that a feeling of persistent failure is already one of the most crippling symptoms. And there are so many ways to fail: not being able to muster enthusiasm for something as simple as getting out of bed feels like a huge failure but not being as seriously depressed as someone who is unable to function at all can also feel perversely like failure. What right do we have to complain, after all, if other people have it worse than us?
I think the point is, we are not complaining. We are just not pretending that everything is ok.
One more story: I’m having weekly sessions with a therapist at the moment and it’s going very well. It’s tough having to deal with the possibility that I may never solve some of the issues that cause me to trip myself up on an almost daily basis but it is not so different to the weekly physio sessions I had to treat a shoulder injury not so long ago. The shoulder still hurts, by the way, on and off. Speaking for myself, I don’t necessarily need people to help out, I just need people not to make it worse. Knowing that I have shoulder pain, you wouldn’t deliberately twist my arm. Likewise, knowing that I suffer from depression, you wouldn’t knowingly try to make me feel worse. But, as I said at the top, I am lucky in this respect. Not everybody is surrounded by such wonderful people.
I don’t think #timetotalk is about demanding special attention. I think, like Pride, it is simply about saying: look, there are lots of us, we are real, we exist, we are not that scary. It’s already amazing that so many people are dealing so successfully with their mental health issues; it is important that those who are not get the support they need.
One last thing: I reposted a link to this video a week or so ago, but I’ll post it again because what Andrew Solomon says about depression being seen as a middle-class ailment is important. Anxiety and depression tend to be diagnosed only when the conditions in which a person live are pleasant enough that the way they are feeling appears inappropriate. It is also possible to be depressed when your life is not so great, however; it just makes things even harder: http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_depression_the_secret_we_share.html
That’s my two-penneth.
This web page and its contents © Charles Adrian Gillott October 2020