So far this week has been horrible. I tried to look after myself over the weekend, finding quiet spaces and times out to breathe and reduce the rising sense of tension that frays the edges of my mind. I couldn’t get drunk enough on Saturday to overcome the sense of crowding and noise, only for the couple of hours that the AFL grand final had me entirely transfixed on the screen could I block it out. At least that meant no hangover on Sunday, even though I wanted to stand up in the middle of the restaurant we went to for breakfast-lunch and scream.
Roaring air vents, a hundred conversations, cutlery tapping and plates clinking all around me. I couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to leave the restaurant, so I stayed. Some of it I spent with my hands over my ears, trying to block the bulk of it out.
I hate doing that. I hate it. First, it’s weird. I look like a freak. And it’s rude. We’re supposed to be having a family thing and stupid me is bitching about the noise level. The restaurant is full of other people coping with it just fine. I have to suck it up. By the time we leave, my head is thumping and I feel nauseous.
Monday was wrong from the start. I was exhausted. Not from lack of sleep–I caught most of that up–but so drained that my eyelids kept fluttering shut during the marketing meeting. It was an early start day for the first work day of the month, and I was good and organised. Awake and ready in time, a huge bowl of breakfast to keep me sustained (it didn’t work) and a taxi booked to take me there with enough time to gather my notes from my desk and start.
Taxi was across town, and on the way to getting me, encountered road closures due to minor flooding. Instead of having time to settle and get my things together properly, I rushed in exactly on time. I spent the rest of the day battling with myself, trying to keep myself focused on the tasks I needed to do.
Monday night was the worst, though. My brain loves to strike when I’m weakest. Asleep. I have extremely vivid dreams, so much that I often can’t tell the difference between them and reality. Only going through the events and identifying those that couldn’t possibly have taken place sorts out what happened and what didn’t. They sit in my mind like memories, complete with smells and sounds and tastes. And the feelings that went with them. I’ve found myself in trouble before where I believe something, a conversation or an action, has taken place–only to realise later that what I’m recalling is a memory.
I spent months… maybe years? Petrified my parents would discover this one terrible, horrible, awful thing I did. I felt sick every time I thought of it. I told myself every day it couldn’t have happened, it wasn’t possible, but every moment it felt like I was going to be discovered and punished. I think I was around eight at the time.
Monday night’s dream involved a former friend, who in the dream I believed to be my best and closest ally, telling everyone around me that I was crazy. Don’t date me. Don’t let your children around me. Don’t put anything fragile or precious into my hands, don’t risk yourself being near me. I was cursed, and the curse I carried could be passed on.
The crushing betrayal of discovering she was the one behind it is still with me. I can’t shake it, no matter what I do. And as for her message in the dream? It’s an insecurity that occupies a dark corner of my mind. Who on this planet would trust the care of a child to a woman who needs an alarm to tell her to eat regularly? How purely selfish and cruel would I have to be, to create a child knowing it had a high chance of inheriting the same faults that I have? How can I ask anyone else to live beside me when I would run if I could?
Stupid things set me off. Simple tasks. Things a monkey could do, and yet I fuck them up. So much that just being asked to alphabetise and file paperwork now makes me feel ill. I don’t know how I’m making these mistakes, it’s not hard. I think I’m putting things in the right place, only to discover later that I haven’t. I hum my way through the alphabet to work out what goes where, I utilise space to form piles by first letter and sort those piles, I break down the task to the easiest to manage microlevel–and I still fuck it up.
I can disprove the existence of God in a philosophy essay, I can research something to death and find a way to present what is unique about it to a potential buyer, but… I can’t alphabetise fucking paperwork. It comes back to one of those questions that has stalked me my whole life: How can I be so smart, and still so stupid?
Not that I ever feel smart. What I have is a head full of mostly irrelevant information. Usually things no one wants to hear about and that are only of interest to me. It’s reality that is more telling, and in reality, I seem to get everything wrong. I say the wrong thing, I don’t think things through (or at least, I think I have–but didn’t come to the right conclusion). I don’t think to do things that I’m told are common sense.
Whatever I do, it comes with the same jarring sense of having fucked up. Again. Being the weird one. Saying the dumb thing. What’s the point of knowing about contemporary Australian serial killers when you can’t interact with people? There’s always a rule I seem to be missing, something that makes it glaringly obvious that I’m faking my way along. I try to remember the rules to all the different occasions, but it’s a lot to try and manage.
Maybe everyone feels stupid like that. It’s not just how I feel though, it’s what I do as well. I was the girl who put three hundred dollars worth of frozen items into the fridge, because a manager told me over the phone to ‘put it in the fridge’ and I was too stupid to think around those exact words.
And you’re not allowed to have those sort of mistakes if people think you’re smart. You’re too clever to do something that foolish, so it has to have been deliberate. Or that you didn’t care. Or you were selfish, inconsiderate, more concerned with other things than the task at hand. It can’t ever be that you’re actually just stupid.
Most days I would give up every bit of my alleged intelligence just to have a conversation and not be ticking off ‘appropriate’ behaviours in the back of my mind. Not be questioning every word out of my mouth. Not be distracted and annoyed by cacophonous background noise. To talk about the weather and bounce from one mundane topic to the next without relying on a set of answers that I know are expected by the other person.
To be able to articulate the things I want to express during a conversation without the words being misconstrued! To know what is useful to tell other people and when to tell it. To just… be able to have a conversation that is less comfortable without ending up in tears. I don’t even know why it happens. It just does. Sometimes because I’m frustrated, there are things I want to say… but they’re not in words. They’re not available to me. They’re snippets of feelings and colours and a twisting in my gut.
It annoys people. It’s not the right reaction. Once again, I get it wrong–only I don’t know how to stop it from happening. It just starts and then the only option I have to avoid it bothering others is to remove myself from the situation. People keep telling me I need to be less sensitive, but I don’t know how. How do you turn that off? How do you stop every feeling from being a rush of happiness, or a crushing heaviness? I try to mute it where I can, but that’s just turning down the external volume.
I still feel it. I still have to deal with it. Along with the noise and the light, the constant questioning of my own behaviour, learning rules and remembering to say the right words and do the right actions. Managing deadlines at work, coming up with new and interesting copy, the constant interruption that is the stupid phone, getting more things wrong and making more dumb mistakes, emails, and trying not to freak out at all the headlights when I cross roads. Then weekends with people that I dearly love and feeling horrible when I have to find a quiet space because surely…
Fucking surely I should be able to manage this.
But the days just cycle through, one overwhelming and exhausting day after another. It’s not like I’m doing anything special or hard. Plenty of people manage far more and do it fine. Why can’t I? What’s so wrong with me that I can’t manage these regular things? Why does it always end in me breaking down?
I don’t know.
I really just… don’t fucking know.