“illness strips you back to an authentic self, but not one you need to meet”
thank you hilary for being the original bridge builder
if you go along with the concept of linear time
and i bet you do be do be do (who wouldn’t?)
then you basically travel forward through your life
and it can’t be possible for what has happened to me to happen to you.
it just can’t.
you can’t have fought to endure thirty ill years,
only to find that you’ve managed to describe
this crazy snakes-and-ladders inspired not-circle
and landed right back at the beginning again.
here comes the puppet master, the shredder, the metal head, in his broken-nose-profiled helmet and clanking suit of armour. i smell him before i spot him; his ferric tang hits the back of my throat. he has elongated pointing fingers and knows which buttons to push, and the broken places inside me which i’m trying to ignore reactivate to the command of his magnetic malevolence. he and i are doing battle, caught up in repeated wrestling bouts. he knows where they store that winch by which i can be manipulated, and he is prosecuting a metallic revenge, turning its handle so that thick rusted twisty lengths of metal cable get wound at some times tighter and at others looser within. winding up my hands, legs, arms, and torso. he sends in his army of invasive tin demons. they scuttle through my limbs, robot cockroaches reinforced with spiky protuberances which catch against my bones and ligaments, chip away at them, and render my insides all corners and rectangles. the most powerful weapon in his arsenal is a heavy iron portcullis which he lowers behind my eyes. it has the effect of cutting my functioning thoughts off from my awareness.
i find myself ambushed by geometrically shaped emotional spaces, at some points stuck inside the pipework and at others trapped within walls. i need to find ways to adapt to different shapes of symptomatology and experience. i need to do this to hold on to survival, and to my very self. it is exacting and enervating to continually inhabit constricting tubes, rectangles, and squares, striving against them in attempts to redefine my familiar edges.
before i was put under house arrest i had strategies i knew how to access and use. escape hatches leading to wide open spaces where i can breathe and see clearly and the stuff which weighs me down lifts away and evaporates for a time.
i am not really here. can you leave a message? i hope to return soon.
the shape i am most concerned with is a bridge. i want to build one in order to link who i was until a few weeks ago with who i am now. i also require this bridge to connect to you out there in the world. it will need to be a bridge i can believe in: solid, steady, and completely reliable underfoot.
this being far more unwell physically leads ineluctably to a depression which crushes my spirit. i am a scrappy bit of paper and it folds me into small sections covered with oily fingerprints and pushes and presses me into a matchbox. somebody has shoved that matchbox into their trouser pocket and unbeknown to them is carrying my spirit around. i hope i won’t have to wait too long for it to find its way home. i hope they don’t put it in the laundry by mistake.
i am woken by urgent diarrhoea. i rush to the loo, and after i’ve been to the loo a few times i try to take enough of the correct kind of medication to persuade the diarrhoea to quieten down for a few hours. this gets harder to achieve as time goes by. my days are progressively dominated by diarrhoea. often i don’t want to eat because it is so tedious and effortful having diarrhoea all the time. food is my enemy. then there is the peeling skin on my face, plus the adjacent spots and blemishes. then there is all my hair falling out, and there being less and less remaining.
each of these experiences is undermining. demolishing. being a woman who is going bald. being a human who is increasingly held to ransom by diarrhoea for which thus far i have found no predictably successful treatment. having acne and skin on my face so dry and peeling that i need to spend time each day removing enough of it to feel ok about being visible to other people. in all of these ways my physical manifestation is materially falling apart. like, literally. this body which has carried my self around has never felt that friendly or dependable a lodging. from age fourteen when it began bleeding monthly it caused me so much pain that i regularly vomited, and i became reliant on pain medication of gradually building strength. if i was a hermit crab who gets to rehome as it goes along, i’d have chosen different quarters. a shelter i could count on.
but this current energy crash of which i speak is seriously fucking with my shit.
one of the things about being obliterated by depression which is so unbalancing is that you, the depressed person, apparently seem about the same. others report that you look and behave just as you usually do. you act similarly enough to convincingly appear as though you are still here with everyone else. but you are shipwrecked elsewhere. in fact you are smashed into pieces and your constituent parts strewn across jagged rocks on a different planet in another universe. much of the time it is beyond me to be this physically destroyed without being severely mentally ill as a direct response. inconveniently, my mind and my brain both live inside the same container, and one cannot help crashing when the other fizzles out.
i feel like i am running a small psychiatric unit on which i am all of the patients and every single member of staff.
can you send a search party?
SEARCH PARTY SEARCH PARTY SEARCH PARTY: ON ITS WAY (emergency-sounding horns and searchlights sweeping in background, snow boots donned, icepicks at the ready, pemmican packed.)I love you Caras. You are such an inspiration, and how amazing that you are all those people. A whole team of you. Can I please speak to the medic in charge because I need to have a little word with them about the way you’ve been treated.
This is a brilliant piece of writing. It’s very clear and fast. We are being taken through the rapids. I am pushed along, as a reader, bounced between the material world and the world of the mind, until you see that these two places are really the same place – which feels like there’s no escape. ‘I am a scrappy bit of paper’ – such a memorable line.
Thanks for this