Hibernating for Winter

Two more weeks until the end of term. To say I am exhausted would be an understatement. I’m back at the edge of the wood, huddled inside a hollow tree, my blanket pulled up over my head. The leaves have fallen and both they and the skeletal fingers of the trees are coated in a thin, glittering layer of frost. It is beautiful. It is freezing. It is dark so much of the time. Every now and again the wind picks up in icy blasts and sends fallen twigs and the rotting remains of leaves blowing in all directions. Other times it hurls hailstones like icy bullets. Right now, all I can do is stay as I am, knees drawn into my chest and simply get through it. Until the storm lets up, in two weeks’ time, I don’t have the energy for anything more than that.

Like the gusting of the wind, my feelings of being overwhelmed come in chilling blasts at random moments. I can be having an excitable conversation about an interesting lecture topic, or something I’ve done with the Disabled and Mental Health Students Association at university when all of a sudden I’ll be hit by this cold wave. In a moment I can go from happy to drowning. The balloon inside me does not simply pop, it fills with lead and pulls me deeper under. That is what is happening when I shut down. When I go from cheerful to snappish. For years I’ve been learning how to tread water, to stop the wave from over taking me. I can talk myself back to the surface. I can distract. I can remind myself of how far I have come, I can plan my time, I can give myself a break. I can force my head above water.

There are a lot of things I want to do, there is a lot that is going to go into constructing my library, but right now, I don’t have the time or the energy to give it the attention required. Now is the time for hunkering down inside my hollow tree, for holding it together for the last two weeks of term. For doing what needs to be done and for successfully completing my first term of second year and with it, my reintroduction to the world of the living. 

Imperfect Puzzle Pieces

I’m taking shelter amongst the trees inside my snow globe. A thin crust of ice lies gently crackling over the river, concealing the current beneath. Beyond the edge of the woods is my clearing, a disorganised junkyard of wood and stone waiting to be constructed into my library. Amongst the junk are the rudimentary sketches I laid down weeks ago. I am in a quandary, I am not living in the now, but nor am I living in the past or the future or even some fantasy land. I am in free fall moment to moment, without enough time to stop and look and pay attention.
I’m hiding at the edge of the woods for precisely that reason. I refuse to throw together my library without thought or proper attention simply because then it will be done. I need to take the time to look and to think. So, because it is too cold to sit for long, accompany me on a detour, I want to explain why the name. Imperfect Puzzle Pieces, was, like most things I turn my attention to, a half thought out effort. I had an idea, I wanted to do it now. It needed a title. I cast around and set upon something that I liked the sound of without much pause to consider the meaning of it. Originally there was no depth, there was no particular reason beyond ‘it felt like it fit.’ Since then, as the blog has evolved and become more and more a depiction of my snow globe I’ve regretted that title, it doesn’t fit as well as it might. Until today, when, while on the train back to university, I paused and really thought about it. It was at that point that I realised no, Imperfect Puzzle Pieces sums up everything.
I’m following the river, skeletal fingers of weeping willows trail across the frozen water, red and brown frosted leaves crunch beneath my feet. It is dark, but there is always a low amber light inside the snow globe, it is never pitch black, it couldn’t be my safe place if it was.
How does Imperfect Puzzle Pieces sum up everything? At first it was the vague sense of not quite fitting together, edges not quite lining up, being the square peg in the round hole. But no, it’s more than that. I function best when I focus on one thing at a time. Life is very bitty, like a jigsaw of things that matter on different levels, to different degrees and at different times. If all of those little pieces interrelate and slot together to create a single coherent image, it would make sense, I could do that. I could deal with there being lots of different pieces because they all fit together so ultimately I would still be focusing on one thing at a time.
The branches of two tall trees on either side of the river have grown tangled together, bridging the river. I clamber up and walk, arms outstretched, to the opposite bank.
My puzzle pieces don’t fit together neatly. They are more like a charity shop box with pieces from four or five different puzzles none of them complete all jumbled together. I’m afraid of picking one and giving it my full attention in case it turns out to have crucial pieces missing. So, like a child, I try to crash mismatched edges together as if, through sheer force of will, I can make a perfect picture from pieces that don’t belong together. Each piece is from a different picture, but such a tiny fragment I couldn’t begin to guess what the whole image looks like. There isn’t enough time to build each separate puzzle, but I’m so afraid of letting go of any one of the pieces in case it turns out to be important that I can’t give anything as much attention as I would like to. I’m constantly flitting my attention from one to another, not spending too long on any one thing because I can’t let anything else go. Hence I’m spinning into freefall.

I’m nearing the clearing where my library will one day stand from the other side. An unplanned, chaotic junkyard of imperfect puzzle pieces. 

Silence in the Snow Globe

I am incredibly late this week. The reason being is that I spent much of Sunday in crisis mode and couldn’t bring myself to write. Things improved from there on in, but I had a lot of catching up to do from last week. Hence Friday has come around again and I’m only just sitting down to this.

Inside the snow globe the storm has temporarily settled. It’s cold enough for me to have my blanket pulled up over my head even if doing so keeps my vision blinkered. I have sketched and rubbed out the odd line on my library plans. From time to time I have glanced up and looked through the glass of my snow globe only to feel that tide of overwhelming emotion rise once again. The tide can only be described as toomuchtoofasttoocomplicateIdon’tunderstandmakeitstop crashed together. Still I am breathing. I have taken time to step back, to pull my blanket closer and to remember that it is okay to take my time. The world is terrifying and much of the time I am glad that I don’t belong. It is okay to learn to engage slowly. It’s okay to need time to find my voice.

The silence, my own silence, bothers me. I let myself drift, I hide inside my snow globe and let people bury me with their words, their opinions, their ideas, sometimes without even taking the time to contemplate my own. Even on those occasions I do have a thought or opinion I want to give voice to more often than not it catches in my throat and I let it go through fear of confrontation or having to explain myself.

Over the course of the week, as the fallen leaves and branches came to settle in an autumnal chaos around me in my snow globe, I have given it more thought. The reason behind holding everything in, keeping my thoughts inside the snow globe, is more than a fear of confrontation or appearing ignorant, it is that speaking makes me ever more aware of being out of place. My priorities are in a different order to most of the people I socialise with. I look at the world through another rotation of the kaleidoscope, my perceptions are altered, what stands out and what shrinks are different. What matters to my mind and the way I read a situation is different. With the people I am comfortable with, that matters very little. With the people I am less comfortable with, I am constantly torn between wanting to imitate them for simplicities sake and wanting to be true to myself. Silence is a compromise. For now I can write. I can put words to the thoughts in my head, I can share them from a distance with the outside world. For me, that is far simpler and far more possible. 

To Breathe is To Drown

I’ve been trying to decide whether or not I want to write this for a while, when I say a while I mean since the beginning of September when the idea first occurred to me. Friday marks the anniversary of my suicide attempt. I decided to write because I need to acknowledge it. I need to look at the last year, at where I am now, at everything.  

It’s a hard time of year. Inside my snow globe the trees have shed their leaves and I am left without shelter. It is a place of extremes and intensities. There are days when the sharp pointed shapes of leaves the colour of dying flames and the glistening, intricate weavings of frosted spider webs delight me with their beauty. On those days I feel closer to the surface, on those days those tiny things, the single leaf still clinging to its twig, the skeletal tree emerging from the fog, are little bits of home reaching through to me. Home being the snow globe. Home being where I am myself. I am a pixie child, among the woods and falling leaves I feel less distant.

There are other days. The cold permeates the snow globe, crystallising the ground beneath me, seeping through my skin. On those days the trees are not a comfort, they are mocking caricatures of the world I should have been born into. On those days I’ll engage with people and be once again reminded how far removed I am. Politics, policies, histories and thought patterns I can’t understand. Without my cottage to hide in, the view through the glass of my snow globe is far less obscured. The world beyond is terrifying. Terrifying, nonsensical and sometimes so utterly pointless. Go to lectures to learn to pass exams to get a certificate to get a job to earn money to spend on things to have memories of. Why? Why bother with all of this in the hope of maybe one day writing a paper on a half-realised something with the potential to help someone to some degree so they in turn can continue on this merry-go-round? What is the point?

I’m so tired. Almost a year ago I made the decision to live. That isn’t a decision you make once. It’s one you make again and again every day and it’s utterly exhausting. I’m tired of feeling like I’m constantly battling to swim against the current. I want so badly to stop and breathe but stopping and breathing means inhaling water and going under. I’m tired of having to flicker my attention from thing to thing never going quite deep enough because there isn’t ever time. I’m tired of having to constantly play mediator as two warring sides of my mind clash. Sometimes it feels as if there is more than one me inside my snow globe. There is the me that wants to live, to help, to be my pixie self in this world and to bring about my own change. Xe is the me who makes an effort to hold things together. Xe is the one who uses those coping skills I’ve learned over the years and who, when xe gets those few fractions of a second to decide between self-destruction and construction chooses the latter. Then there is the exhausted, overwrought, tired me that wants to say ‘I’ve had enough, I need to go now.’ That is the me that wants to give up on my degree at the end of every week. Xe is the one who wants to throw xyr her hands up in the air, walk away and not care about anything anymore. Xe is the one who thinks to self-destruct is ultimately the only path possible and to stop fighting it.

The two copies of myself can coexist for a time in the kind of compromise that means nobody gets what they want. It is not as simple as which voice is me because both of those voices are mine. My existence is a dichotomy dictated by those two warring parts. To choose one means completely relinquishing the other. I’m still too afraid of either outcome to commit to it. That is what this past year has been about. That is why I am still inside a snow globe. That was what I meant in that first post when I wrote about walking out of the door.

So much has changed, but at the same time, nothing has.