For me

When I write about anxiety or depression, I always feel like I must surely have said everything there is to say. Or that if I haven’t, someone else surely has. I don’t ever feel like that when I write about sex. Anyway, for various reasons people have reminded me that I write primarily for me, so even if I have said it before, I’m going to say it again.

As a teen I was emotionally self-indulgent. I was often unhappy, and even more often in floods of tears, but the latter especially felt cathartic. I could come home from a really shitty PE lesson, throw myself on my bed, turn my supercool CD player up loud (it had space for three discs, and rotated them automatically as each album finished) and cry until I felt, well, cried out. There was nothing lonely about the emotions I felt as a teenager: I knew I could cry for as long as I liked, but at the end there would always be hugs from my parents, or intelligent conversation, or dinner on the table. That stability was pretty much all I needed from life.

Looking back, my life has been scattered with depressive episodes. I was first diagnosed at 26, but I’d now blame depression and/or anxiety for my failure to start work on my third year dissertation until a fortnight before it had to be handed in, the endless run ins with my A-Level French teacher, my reluctance to learn to drive, the fact I still can’t ride a bike …

I could go on.

Anyway. In the last year or so, it’s been the anxiety that’s plagued me much more than the depression. Panic attacks have become increasingly frequent, and now that sense that I can’t breathe, the hairs on my arms standing on end, the air around me getting colder and colder, the pins and needles … well, I recognise them for what they are, which takes away some of their power.

Plus, anxiety is so much worse than depression, right? Depression is just, well, sadness. And I can handle sadness (not heartbreak though, that’s different.) Sadness can be fixed with chocolate and wine and hot baths and long walks and time alone. Sadness is like a prompt to take better care of yourself: to eat properly, to get some fresh air, some more sleep.

I almost embrace sadness. I need that reminder to take better care of myself: for some reason it doesn’t come that naturally. When I think about it as an abstract concept, I think about rain on the skylights, about being tucked up in bed, about having an excuse to read all day.

Maybe that is sadness. It’s certainly not depression. Depression is what came back about three weeks ago now. I often do my weekly food shop before therapy, but the supermarket shuts at eight, which leaves me with half an hour to kill before my session. Ironically, in recent weeks the therapist has been explaining to me that lateness is often attributed to not wanting to have the time to think about what you’re going to, about forcing yourself to panic about the journey, rather than the destination.

So I park up (depression definitely has an effect on parallel parking, too – my definition of ‘parallel’ has become more and more loose) and I sit in the car. And I tweet, or I read or I reply to emails. Or I used to. Now, I sit and I feel this crashing sense of despair that things will always be this shit, so what’s the point? What’s the point of anti-depressants or therapy, when life isn’t going to improve? Why won’t everything just stop? Why can’t I just go to bed and stay there?

In that sense, depression scares me much more than anxiety. Anxiety might stop me going to Eroticon, but it doesn’t stop me going to work. Depression gives me a massive case of the fuck-its, and the fuck-its are dangerous. I cry a lot in therapy, which makes the therapist nicer to me than she used to be (plus, we’ve moved to a warmer room – one with red chenille armchairs and an embroidered wall hanging) and I ball Kleenex after Kleenex in my fist. I’m a mess of snot and tears and mascara, and I’m not me.

People don’t understand why depression is tiring, but that’s why. It’s tiring not only because everything seems so pointless, but also because I’m in constant battle with myself. I’m not this person who doesn’t have any determination to achieve stuff: I have a good degree, a good job, some fucking self-respect, for god’s sake. And my ability to give a fuck about any of that stuff has totally gone. Except it hasn’t. I still do give a fuck about it and so I beat myself up: I’m doing a shit job at work, I’m not socialising enough, I’m a lazy cunt. And the more I think and act on those feelings the closer I circle to burn out.

One of the statements on the Anxiety and Depression scale is ‘I can enjoy a good book or radio or TV programme.’ Already my ability to watch TV calmly is shot at: I jump between TV screen, laptop and phone and I piece The Apprentice together bit by bit after the credits have rolled. So far, my ability to focus on reading remains, and with it, my ability to write. Those two matter, and so, apologies if you found this indulgent, but I needed to do it. For me.

PS I’m a bit loathe to recommend good reading on this issue, but if you’re looking for something that goes into the issues in more detail, I found Sally Brampton’s Shoot the Damn Dog to be an excellent read.

Charlie x

Wicked Wednesday: A flourish of hate

It’s the editor in me that has to go searching for the dictionary when a prompt has two words that feel like they don’t usually go together – I have to know *why* they don’t collocate.

So, here’s the definition of flourish:

NOUN

bold or extravagant gesture or action, made especially to attract attentionwith a flourish, she ushered them inside

For me, that means that hate and flourish kind of do work together: I’m guilty far more often of making bold gestures of hate to attract attention than I am of affection or love.

When I’m furious with him, for example, and I phone him and call him all the names I can:

Cunt. Arsehole. Bastard. Idiot.

I want to hurt him the same way he’s made me hurt, but more than that I do it because I want him to feel *my* pain: I don’t want the fact that I’m suffering to go unnoticed. I don’t even necessarily want an explanation, an apology or a promise that things will be different in future. I just want him to feel shit too.

I’m a bitch, right?

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Three

In forty-five minutes, the boy and I will have been sleeping together, on and off, for three years.

Fuck, where does the time go?

You’re not supposed to get sentimental about your friend with benefits. They’re the person you fuck when there’s not a better option (that is: a proper relationship). They’re just sex. A stop gap. An itch that needs scratching. A means to an end.

He’s so much more than that to me.

I think he thinks, sometimes, that I don’t like him very much. I wish that was true. Life would be so much easier if he was just someone to fuck: someone whose bed I rolled out of and didn’t think about until I rolled back into it. It would be easier if he didn’t push me, didn’t challenge me, didn’t force me to confront my demons. It would be easier if the sex had been best at the very start, if I wasn’t still learning about what I want in the bedroom. If the thought of losing what we had left me indifferent.

Tonight I went on a date with someone. Someone nice, who I’d happily see again. The type of person who, probably, represents my best shot at happiness. Of course, it probably won’t work out, but if it, or anything else, does, then I think I wouldn’t be what I am right now if it wasn’t for him.

I’ve never bought into what you’re supposed to do. If I want to be sentimental, then fuck it, I’ll be sentimental. The past three years have taught me so much, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Thank you x

Is it me?

I don’t think I’m massively out of touch with the world, nor do I think I’m particularly romantic, but recently a few things have caused me to call my views on monogamy and love.

I’ve never dated in the traditional sense of the word – met someone online, through a friend, at work – and seen that blossom gradually into a relationship, so I don’t know at what point most couples discuss the subject of exclusivity. I’d imagine, and hope, that it happens once they start to like each enough that they’d rather spend time with one another than anyone else who might be on the dating horizon. That they agree to be monogamous because, y’know, they care about each other. And even then, it confuses me a bit that it requires a full conversation, or even a discussion – surely you just need to establish that you’re both similarly into each other, and that’s that?

I can see that, when it comes to discussing monogamy with someone you’ve been sleeping with on and off for several years, the situation becomes a little more complex. The fact that the existing arrangement has carried on for so long suggests that both parties find it largely satisfactory. Except, of course, if you’re having to have a conversation about a potentially different set up, it suggests one of you maybe isn’t quite as happy with the arrangement as they used to be.

When it comes to my own life, if I’m having that conversation, it means I’m really not happy with the old arrangement. I’ll avoid difficult conversations at all costs – in fact I’ve fucked someone in the Gents at his place of work in order to stall the conversation for as long as possible. The reason for this is simple: even when we’re just fucking on and off, I’m already being faithful – I have neither the desire nor the emotional capacity to handle sleeping with more than one guy at a time.

So that’s where I behave badly – if you know a conversation needs to be had, shying away from it is counterproductive and unfair on the other person, who may also have had to psych themselves up for this chat. However, I’m shying away because I don’t understand what there is to discuss. If I’ve been sleeping with you for a while, and the subject of monogamy comes up, I think only the following three paths are possible:

1) Ideally, it won’t have been me who brought the subject up in the first place. I already have feelings for you, but I haven’t said anything because I’m a complete scaredey-cat and have been doing my utmost to hide the way I feel (no, this story isn’t very ‘girlpower’). One day you realise that you have feelings for me and that these feelings are important enough to warrant us being in an exclusive relationship. It may not work out, but the mutual affection is great enough for it to be definitely worth a try.

2) I somehow find the guts/something pushes me (far more likely) into admitting that I have feelings for you and that I’m no longer happy to sleep with you if you’re also sleeping with other women. I tell you this, and you care about me enough to want to try being in an exclusive relationship with me. It may not work out, but the mutual affection is great enough for it to be definitely worth a try.

3) I somehow find the guts/something pushes me (far more likely) into admitting that I have feelings for you and that I’m no longer happy to sleep with you if you’re also sleeping with other women. I tell you this, and you say  that you’re sorry, but while you like me and enjoy the sex, you’re not interested in an actual relationship with me. Sure, I’m sad and a little bit hurt, but with time I’ll get over it and find a guy who does like me enough to want the same things I do.

Do you see why I don’t think there’s a full-on discussion in any of these scenarios? To me, monogamy is black and white – you either like me enough to give it a go, or you don’t. Yes, there’ll need to be conversations about the ins and outs of a monogamous relationship: how often we see each other, if/when we get to meet each other’s friends etc. etc., but the actual monogamy bit is much more clear cut.

Because sadly, I think that if, like me, you avoid conversations you’d rather not have, from time to time people will exploit that. I might have told a guy that I’d rather he no longer slept with other women, but if I keep putting off actually talking about it, the word can keep cropping up and yet nothing ever changes: I’m still sad and jealous as hell that he’s still fucking other people, and he too gets to carry on exactly the same way he did before.

The above situation has happened to me, and it’s made me more cynical about men than I used to be, something which in the past I wouldn’t have thought possible. Now I think they’ll all play on my unwillingness to talk about commitment, and I’ll keep fucking them nonetheless – trapped between fear of the conversation on one side and the fear of them no longer being in my life on the other.

And I do think there’s a romance side to it, too. No one wants exclusivity to become a business deal to be wrangled out with both parties trying to concede as little as they possibly can. I don’t want you to be faithful to me because you feel you have to be, I want you to be faithful because you want to be – because your feelings have developed to the point where you’re happy to give up other girls, not resentful about it.

So what do you think? Do I need to man up and tackle the issue of monogamy head on or am I right that the desire for monogamy comes from the heart, not the head, and that it doesn’t therefore need a discussion at all?

 

Endings

I’m so bad at putting a stop to things that aren’t good for me. Friendship not working? I’ll be the bitch from hell in the hope you’ll just stop trying to arrange stuff, but I’ll never do the grown-up thing and just have a sensible conversation about why doing stuff together is no fun anymore and maybe we should just stop.

And with boys, it’s worse still. A few years back I had an extremely close bond with someone whose behaviour subsequently began to hurt me quite a lot. I let that carry on for over a year: half-heartedly applying for jobs that would allow me to move away from him, but not able to cut him out of my life while he was still in the vicinity. I was on anti-depressants, in therapy. And so, so unhappy.

The current situation in my life is not dissimilar. Unusually for me, I have tried to draw a line and end it twice, but both times he got back in touch and I got drawn back in to a situation that was great for my confidence at the start, but now just corrodes it. I need a guy who ‘s monogamous, who cares about me beyond when I’m next available to fuck and I’m just too weak to cut him loose and stick with my decision. It not only makes me hate him, it makes me hate myself , too.

I tried to end it again this week – or rather, I didn’t – I asked him to end it. Apparently, he won’t take that responsibility for me. I can see that he shouldn’t have to, sure, but I just don’t trust that if I do find the inner strength to do it that he won’t contact me again – there’s nothing I hate more than that moment when you can feel the misery of having lost someone you care about begin to lift only to have them pop back into your inbox. So I stick with what we have – a situation where the pleasure and the pain are constantly jostling for superiority – and meanwhile I halfheartedly trawl Internet dating sites looking for a reason to break it off for good, but not really wanting to find someone else because I’m convinced that ultimately they’ll just hurt me too.

Sometimes I think I should swear off men for good – that I’d be more emotionally secure if there was nobody in my life. I’ve never been that bothered about getting married, after all – I just want to be a mum one day, and we all know that there are other ways of going about that.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll stick with what I have and keep trying to find the resolve to do what I know I need to. Because sure, loneliness hurts, but so does hating yourself for constantly swimming back out into the rip tide.