Driving Me Out of My Mind

Ever been halfway through an action and wonder how you got there? Happens all the time, but the thing that scares me the most is it happens when I am driving (usually to work). Sometimes when I am driving I really wonder how the hell I’ve managed to get through the task without an accident.

My mind sometimes gets lost in a train of thought, and then I’ll come back to reality and wonder how I ended up this far up the road, when I don’t really recall crossing the past several intersections, or changing lanes, or turning left, or anything really. For several moments horror engulfs me because I don’t know if I’ve gone through red lights, or gone faster than the speed limit, or indicated when I switched lanes.

The scariest part is that I don’t always remember what was occupying my mind before I was snapped out of my reverie and brought back to reality. It’s like my mind has gone through the previous moments with a black marker and struck them off so I can’t read what was written. Sometimes I worry that I’ve blacked out. But since my car is still in its own lane, and no one is blaring their horn at me, it’s safe to say I’ve been conscious the whole time, if not aware.

I lose myself in my thoughts during other actions too, but none of them scare me in the way it does when it happens while I am driving. Each time I get in the car, I consciously remind myself how important it is to pay attention. I fight to keep my focus, to stay aware. Then it slips, and I’m gone for a couple of minutes, until I snap back to reality and fear is pooling in my stomach and chest.

Sometimes I wonder how on earth anyone would think it was okay to give me a drivers licence. I also wonder how anyone isn’t fazed at the thought of giving me any sort of responsibility. No one questions giving me important tasks at work (things that would have dire consequences if I got them wrong). No one worries about me being a single parent of 2 young children. Sometimes I think its a revelation that I’m even allowed to live by myself, let alone left in charge of other people.

I know I’m too hard on myself. But when I space out like I do, when I find it so easy to retreat into my head, I wonder. I wonder how I managed to get as far in life as I have without serious accidental injury, how I haven’t accidentally set the house on fire, or crashed my car. Sometimes I almost think that it’s a bloody miracle!

Like a Broken Record.

I have a tendency to obsess over things. Clearly, I obsess over my thought as I spend way too much time inside my head. But I obsess over little things too. Things that should have little to no relevance in my life.

When I visit my parents, sometimes I help my mum with hanging out the washing. I obsess over her peg basket – how it is filled with pegs of all different shapes, sizes, colours and different stages of bleaching by the sun. When I hang up an article of washing, I have to search for two pegs that match. They have to be identical – right down to how much they have faded by exposure to the weather. When we both lived at home, my brother used to deliberately use two pegs that were completely different. I’d have to spend time going around the washing line, fixing each piece of washing so that identical pegs were used.

If I get my hand “dirty” because I had to use it to touch a railing, or elevator button, or something else that is public access – my hand is effectively rendered useless until I have scrubbed it clean, or at the very least smothered it in antibacterial gel. Help me if I have to wait longer than a minute before I can do one or the other. By that time, I fancy I can actually feel the germs crawling over my skin, spreading up my arm.

All of the times I’ve had an intravenous drip in my hand/arm – within minutes of it being inserted I am fixated on it. Something in my mind snaps, and I have a singular focus on the drip, panic floods me and all I do is mutter repeatedly how it needs to come out, needs to come out now. It is as if I can simply will it out if I repeat the mantra enough times. I get hung up on the needle under my skin, and like a dog with a bone I just can’t let the obsession go.

I have been listening to the same 7 songs on repeat for the past 6 or so weeks. That should have driven me mad (maybe it has and I just don’t realise it!) But apparently my fixation on this band’s music has left no room for any other music in my life right now. I’m very familiar with this type of obsession, getting well keen into a band, or an actor, or something and saturating myself in nothing but said fixation. Eventually I’ll lose interest, but for now it’s like being in love – I can’t imagine not feeling so passionately and strongly as I do about said band right now.

If I have had even the tiniest most insignificant unpleasant or embarrassing interaction with a person – the event plays over and over in my mind like a broken record. There are several stages to this. The first 50,000+ mental replays are the embarrassment/anger phase – where I’m repeatedly reviewing the interaction trying to make sense of what happened. Stage 2 is the beating myself up about it – another 50,000+ replays chiding myself for not reacting appropriately, or saying the wrong thing, or not saying the right thing. Basically it’s about abusing myself relentlessly because I didn’t handle the situation in the “best” way. The final stage is trying to change the past in my head – recreating the scenario and imagining all the alternative outcomes that could have occurred. Inserting the snappiest comeback, or not reacting, or reacting differently. In my mind I am rewriting what happened in a manner that creates the best possible outcome for me. All in all, I will be hung up about a particular interaction for days and even weeks at a time, unable to move past it until I’ve played it out enough times in my head.

I have a ritual when I get in to work in the morning – I open my desk drawer to pull out my notebook, pen, highlighter, calculator and ruler and I have to line them all up on my desk parallel to the edge of the desk. My coworkers sometimes tease me by nudging things out of place when I leave my desk. Of course I notice, I always notice, and I have to realign them when I get back.

These are just a handful of things I obsess over. I kind of find them funny when I look at them through the eyes of “the scientist” because logically none of those things matter. The world won’t end if I use 2 different pegs, or don’t line up my pen to my notebook and make sure they are parallel to the desk edge. I won’t die if I don’t wash my hands immediately after pressing the elevator button, and the drip in my hand won’t kill me. But, for whatever silly reason in my head, if I don’t comply with these rules I’ve created for myself, it all seems to come crashing down around me and I can’t “keep calm and carry on”.

I put it down to my need for control. When my mind is running riot, at least I have these little things that I can control. I suppose they allow me to make sense of my strange and sometimes scary world.

A Peek into a Private Journal Entry.

I was looking through my notebook for something to write about (it seems writer’s block was upon me tonight). And I was reading a journal entry I had written last week when it was still school holidays and my children hadn’t returned from holidaying with their dad at his parents place in the country.

Whilst a lot of this particular entry contains rather embarrassing stuff that I would never share with anyone (which is why I write it in my private journal) there is part of it that I want to share. Clearly at the time I wrote it I wasn’t in the right state of mind (however that tends to be the only time I write in my journal).

But in this entry, even though I was having irrational reactionary thoughts – a part of my mind was still self aware that I was being moderately delusional. And even though it’s not really funny, the way I wrote down my train of thought kind of makes me laugh due to the absurdity.

Fuck I am losing my grip. I had thoughts before of not being here when the kids come home. Those thoughts then moved on to running away somewhere. And what actually went through my mind next was “Too bad I don’t have a current passport – I could buy a ticket to London and disappear”. Of course then I think “Thankfully I DON’T have a passport”. Then next thing I know I’m seriously considering applying for a passport just so I could do it. When I am considering shit like this in all seriousness – it is not a good sign. It is a sign I am cracking up.

It hasn’t been the only entry of this kind recently. The rest of this entry, and the others like it, are really too messed up to go into detail on. But lets just say I was on the verge of checking out of reality for a while. This isn’t the first, or last, time that I have had an irrational thought process like this. But sadly, in the past, I didn’t have that self aware part. The part that knew my thinking was irrational, and could stop me from following those thoughts into action. In the past I just used to follow my impulses for better or worse (usually the latter) without thinking about how this would impact the future.

Thankfully I now seem to have part of me that remains present and tethered to this world – even when my impulsive responses kick in. And for the time being this self aware part of me has a hold strong enough bring me back from the brink. It keeps me grounded. It also keeps me alive.

It’s times like these when I am actually glad for that “fracturing” of my mind into different aspects – because it means that my tendency towards internal conflict leads to indecision, and procrastination, and ultimately not following through on a lot of impulsive behaviour. The mood stabilizers help me not to get too extreme, so I can retain a modicum of self restraint. Even if the restraint isn’t a conscious effort, but rather simply due to those aspects of my mind failing to agree on a course of action.

They sit and argue it out, and ultimately I’m rendered immobile, until it washes over and I can think straight again. I guess it can be useful being a thinker rather than a doer.

Making my Heart Skip a Beat

As much as I sometimes loathe the fact that I feel things so deeply, there is a particular aspect of my empathy that I do rather enjoy. I love that it is strikingly easy for my heart to “skip a beat”. You know that excruciating and wonderful feeling where your stomach flutters, something in your heart twinges, and you shiver? Those physical manifestations of falling in love?

All I have to do for my body to produce those automatic responses is to read a romantic tale of two lovers in a novel, or watch a charming love story play out in a movie. I don’t have to try too hard to feel those feelings, I don’t need to actually have someone to make me feel that way. I can just engage myself in a story and physically feel all the emotions a character has. It allows me to live vicariously, to feel the depths of those feelings in a simulation, not needing to rely on real life experience. My imagination is so vivid – I can not only see the story in my mind – I can feel it in my body.

At times like these, I appreciate my ability to feel things so wholly and completely – body and mind. It’s not always pleasant, but these moments make it totally worth it. It reminds me that underneath my stoicism, my cynicism, my loneliness and my determination to keep others at arms length –  there is a hopeless romantic who is completely and utterly in love with even the notion of love. And the revelation that I am a hopeless romantic brings a fond smile to my lips. There is some sadness twinged within the smile, because I never truly forget how lonely I really am, but once in a while being a hopeless romantic is enough.

it also strikes me as funny that I am such a romantic – because outwardly not many people would really know that. I am not too fond of physical displays of affection directed towards me. I’m not really a touchy feely type – I have to be the right mood to engage in hugging and kissing anyone (even family). I’m more likely to wave and nod my head in greeting a loved one that I am to hug them.

And yet, and yet, I dream of exactly those things – of being held and being kissed, and walking hand in hand. Even though that germophobic part of my mind screams about the unsanitary and ghastly things that occur with the exchanging bodily fluids.  The thought of swapping saliva, or letting someone’s sweaty palms touch my skin actually repulses me. It makes my skin itch, and my stomach drop (not in a good way). But the closeness, the intimacy, That is something I paradoxically crave yet detest. I want it so bad, even though the thought of it makes my stomach whirl unpleasantly.

Funny how contradictory it makes me.

1 + 1 + 1 (+1) = Me

I’m not entirely proud of my behaviour last night. The idea of drinking myself numb makes me feel rather ashamed of myself.

But I mustn’t dwell. Not when I’m really not sure how I’m going to write this post without coming across as insane. In my writing yesterday I mentioned my “alter ego” the devious and childish little “shit stirring” bitch. “She” is not a different personality, just an aspect of my mind that I have assigned a sort of character to. I have several aspects of my self that I have given a persona to – so I can better explain to my Psych the struggles that I have in my mind.

Sometimes it feels like there is a war raging inside my head and that I have these different aspects fighting for ultimate dominion over my mind. These aspects all have distinct “voices”. No I’m not talking about actual hallucinations. It’s really difficult to explain. I suppose the closest I can come is this: my mind is like a room filled with people, and all of those people are speaking to me at once. As a result I don’t know what anyone is trying to say, and I get all confused. The “people” in my head are just the thoughts that whirl round, constantly screaming at me in an effort to be “heard”.  The inside of my head is a very noisy place with lots of activity and it can be difficult to control.

At any one time there are three aspects of myself all fighting to be the one in control, to be the one voice heard above all the noise. They each have distinct personality types, and I feel like they “reside” in different areas of my brain. Of course these descriptions are all figurative and not literal. I created them to understand how my mind works and make sense of my inner world.

The first aspect is the one I call “The scientist”. This part of my mind is the logical, analytical part and if I had to give it a physical place in my brain “The scientist” would be sitting up front towards my forehead. “The scientist” doesn’t have any emotional attachment whatsoever. It deals purely in logic, it is practical and it is fair and just. It is my voice of reason, and objectively tells me how things are and how I should see them in a clear and rational manner. It is the side of myself that may be detached, and unfeeling, but it is the part that knows how things “should be” for me to function. Functionality doesn’t necessarily mean thriving, and happy, and enjoying life – functioning means getting along with the least amount of disruption. And emotions cause way too much disruption.

My second aspect is “The dreamer”. It is the part of my mind that runs on the notion of ideals, and dreams. It’s the part that thrives on fantasy, and escaping from the troubles of the real world. This aspect sits at the back of my head – it’s the one that always hopes and dreams of a better day, a better life. This part of me is connected straight to the heart, logic goes out the door. It’s the part of me that wants to nurture myself, the hopeful and optimistic part that longs for something better. The part that seeks connection to this world, that longs for someone to connect to. It doesn’t want to just “function”, it wants to be truly happy and truly free to fly.

My third aspect is usually the one that causes me the most damage in life. She is a primal aspect, childish, a shit stirrer and I call her the “The soul-eater”. She is the voice constantly in my ear, the one that puts all the doubts about myself and others into words. She is the one that screams out that I am destined to be alone, that people will never understand me, and that I need to shut everyone and everything out. She is connected to instinct, and that innate need to protect myself. But she goes to extremes, the walls she puts up, and the way she makes me fear life go well and truly beyond self-preservation and into self-harm. She is the aspect that acts on impulse, and encourages me to drown out the noise (like through a drinking binge). She is the juvenile delinquent who has the melt downs and temper tantrums to make herself heard.

There is actually a fourth “aspect” but it doesn’t seem to have any influence in the battle. This last aspect is “The true self” the one who understands and sees all. She is the amalgam of rationale, emotion and self-preservation. This aspect is the piece of myself lost in the middle of this war, the “neutral ground” that the other aspects are fighting to gain control over. It’s the piece of me that knows that if only all the aspects could work together instead of against one another that I’d have a real shot at living a full and happy life. But like a small child, “The true self” is sat on the sidelines, and not taken seriously by the other aspects, not allowed to have a voice. It is always whispering “there is a better way…” but those whispers are barely heard against the din of the other aspects.

And the war rages on.