waving, not drowning


i can’t go on. i’ll go on.

samuel beckett

after i’d spent some time sinking down deep, right down to the bottom of the ocean, several years ago, i made a decision. i resolved to try to swim, or at least remain buoyant, for the time being.

back then i didn’t feel sufficiently courageous or integrated to dare to consider what “the time being” might entail. simple activities such as carrying on breathing and eating were so challenging that extraneous concerns were beyond me.

mostly that keeping on keeping on decision was based on caring about how people who cared about me felt, and not my own behalf. the whole period is hazy in my memory, like an out of focus silent black and white film viewed from a great distance. my only clear recollections involve small windows of bright light, colour, and clarity breaking through the cloud cover. i remember the ferocious protective love i experienced for the children who were dear to me. and i remember brief flashes of being intrigued by the world beyond my own existence; mini-breaks from self-obsessive nihilism.

specifically, i remember watching a documentary. today i have absolutely no idea what it was about. but i recall that at the time i was suddenly overtaken with curiosity regarding its subject matter. and that when i registered that i was engrossed in contemplating something outside my own miniscule universe, i thought there might be hope of better times ahead. from that point on i determined to act as if my being here mattered, despite my persisting conviction that it didn’t.

to my surprise those windows of clear colour and light gradually widened, and i slowly became more emotionally connected to the outside world. which is why, when i have episodes of sinking low nowadays, i favour the maxim “fake it till you make it”. (by fake it till you make it, i mean continue practising simple actions to do with keeping body together – things such as washing, tidying, and eating nutritious food – continue to do those things despite the fact that your whole being rebels against them. when consumed with lowness these actions don’t only feel counter-intuitive; they feel like a body blow insult to our overwhelmingly destructive drives). if anyone had advised me to fake it till i made it when i was younger, i would have balked at the notion and felt misunderstood. but time has told me that it works.

the public disbelief and lack of understanding of my illness continue to be capable of knocking me off my feet. and when i’ve reason to suspect that someone who truly matters to me might think ME is not a real physical disease, i am still crushed. these are times when i need to re watch the film “unrest”, or to connect with jennifer brea and her supporters on social media.

scent can transport us to another time of our life in a split second. more than a decade and a half later, i am still intermittently haunted by the bitter, chalky reek on my skin and in my nostrils of an overdose after coming off a twenty-four hour antidotal drip at the hospital in brighton. and, as an unexpected side effect of stopping smoking, my already extra strong sense of smell became temporarily overwhelming. everything stank, even supposedly pleasant aromas. i was brushing my teeth when that re-stench of overdose hit me full frontally, and for a moment i was back in the royal sussex hospital, debating my possible demise with a doctor and nurse.

these days i’m mostly managing to keep my head above water. i’m not exactly swimming – that would require energy i don’t have access to right now – but at least i am not drowning. hey, you on the shoreline: do you see me waving?

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