Properly

If for a moment, you could step into my snow globe, I would draw up a log for you beside the fire, I’d put on the kettle and offer you tea. That is the polite way of doing things. That is the proper way to treat a guest. Of course, it is impossible, the point of my snow globe is that nobody else can enter it. Even if you could, depending on the day there is a high chance that I would hide myself away in the woods and wait for you to leave. I am not adept at doing things properly. If it bothered me less then that fact alone would matter very little. Yet, much like not being purple bothers me, not doing things properly bothers me. My attention fixates not on what is but on what isn’t.

At this point I intend to rant as I stomp through the wooded part of my snow globe and leave the safety of the path far behind. Skim with glazed eyes to the footnotes if you wish.

I don’t do people. Anyone who has known me longer than an hour or two will quite likely have heard those very words. I don’t understand body language. I don’t know what my own face is doing much of the time and I have next to no control over my tone of voice. I misinterpret things. I work on the premise that other people are false and don’t say what they mean. It’s automatic. Crowds are stressful. Loud noises too. The two in combination are almost unbearable.

Even so I am not properly autistic. I may have forced my put-upon family to read Thomas the Tank Engine cover to cover until the binding wore out, but I don’t do obsession to the highest degree. I don’t have every tiny detail committed to memory. I don’t spend hours fixated on one particular thing. Maybe I did once, but not anymore. I’ve lost that single pointed focus. I’ve lost that need to chip away at a topic until I’ve got right to the core of it. Far from focusing on details, details make me feel as though I’m drowning.

I’m terrible at sticking to routines. For a while I will but then somewhere a crack will appear and gradually widen until everything that was part of the routine falls through it and I’m once again lost. I make rules then ignore them. I’m not autistic. There are too many bits missing.

I’m not anorexic. It doesn’t matter that I’m underweight. It doesn’t matter that my periods stopped months ago. It doesn’t matter that the idea of putting on weight is horrific. It doesn’t matter that in the mirror all I see is the excess flesh. I am not anorexic because I binge. When I say binge I don’t mean two digestives, I mean the whole packet and then some. My default is to eat rather than not to. My mind switches off. Blanks out. Goes ‘fine then screw it, eat all you want.’ It doesn’t matter that I hate myself afterwards. I don’t purge. I don’t exercise and burn everything off because I’m too lazy. Because my brain switches into numb and lethargic rather than anxious and active. The only time I’m not anxious when I’m eating is when I binge. I don’t do eating disordered properly.

I’m not depressed.

At this point I have picked up a long stick from the ground and, much as my brothers did as children, am thwacking at stinging nettles with it. Oh yes, talk my way out of that one.

I’m not depressed because I smile. I’m not depressed because even at my lowest a laugh or a happy face or a momentary engagement in conversation happened every day. I’m not depressed because I always wanted to hope that tomorrow would be better. I’m not depressed because I try to be positive around other people. I don’t do depression properly because I can’t cut deep enough. Because when it came to it I couldn’t keep the pills down. I never did depression properly because there has always been a part of me that has wanted to get out of it.

What makes me so special? What is so special about me that I can lie around all day in my own filth eating uncontrollably and doing nothing? What is so special about me that I can run away from responsibilities because I feel like I’m drowning? Would I drown if I stayed and saw things through? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps I’d learn to swim. Is there a choice? See, here is the fear. Here is my biggest fear. Maybe that’s what makes me so special. There is a choice, but why choose what’s right when I can choose what’s easy?

I can do mad. But not properly.
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Purple is Not the Only Colour

Over the past few days I have been sporadically sketching my library plans. Rather than lurking by the trees at the edge of the clearing, I have settled myself and my blanket close to the centre. I’ve scratched and scraped out a fire pit, I’ve allowed myself some warmth. For the first time in weeks I have allowed myself to make a chance to the landscape rather than simply watch and observe. As I have attempted to sketch, I have found that rather than draw what I want my library to look like, instead I try not to draw what I don’t want it to look like. Rather than having blank space between lines, I try to put lines in the places I don’t want blank space. It’s a rather impossible task. I can’t build what I want when my only blueprint is knowing what I don’t want. There is a lot of information there, but none of it constructive. I am defined by absence.

It begins with not being purple. I do not have synaesthesia. I don’t see auras or feel in colour. Yet when it comes to people, when I picture them, they feel a certain colour in my head, even a particular shade and hue. It isn’t a conscious thing, I don’t choose the colour, people I like aren’t automatically a particular colour simply because I like the colour. Something about the person, about the way I feel about them and the way I feel when I’m with them and the way I see them can only be described as a colour, it’s too subtle for words. My mother is the yellow of the midday sun, fierce, bright and with a hint of orange. My stepdad is yellow too, but his is softer, warmer, almost golden. Narnie is a deep indigo purple. I am not purple.

I have never had a colour for myself, I’ve simply been ‘not-purple’. A lack rather than an alternative. What does it mean to be purple? For me purple is a feeling, it’s difficult to put precisely into words. Purple is comfort, safety and home. Purple is love, compassion and wisdom. Purple is acceptance, warmth and connection. Purple is magic. Yet many of those things are also true of yellow, it’s just a tipping of the scales, some slight differences that makes a person purple. My dad is purple. I always wanted to be purple, but just as I can’t choose other people’s colours, I can’t choose my own either. I am not purple. Instead of looking beyond that to find a colour of my own I clung to the negative and saw myself in terms of what I am not.

The absences and hollows allowed for self-destruction to settle in, to become something which I could use to define myself. I am depressed. I am anxious. I am autistic. I am eating disordered.

I am screwed up.

Allowing those things in isn’t going to make me purple. Letting go of the disappointment of not being purple means finding my own colour and appreciating its beauty. It means valuing myself for who I am rather than criticising for who I am not. Then, I will be able to sketch my library as I want it rather than avoid sketching it as I don’t want it. 

The Promise of Spring

Inside my snow globe the ground is thawing. Dotted around the clearing are icy puddles of melted snow. At the very fingertips of the trees there are tiny flecks of green. The promise of leaf buds to come. It is as though the entire snow globe has taken one halting breath in. I have walked the edges of the clearing and, leaning back against the rough bark of the tree behind me, looking out across it, everything seems to quiver with a sense of uncertainty. Waiting to bloom or to wilt. To remain in the familiar cold and grey of winter and autumn or to allow the buds to grow and venture into spring?

Most of what I have learnt about how people work, think and feel comes from stories. People made of words and ink are far easier to understand than those made of flesh and blood simply because I am privy to the bigger picture where fictional characters are concerned. Their words of wisdom are easier to take because I am processing them from the other side of the page. One day I’m sure I’ll find the time to post about a fraction of what I have learnt from Harry Potter over the years. To say that I have learnt things from my own fictional characters sounds self-indulgent, nonsensical even. How can someone who only lives in your imagination possibly teach you anything you don’t know? Yet that is the magic of writing, once a character comes to life, I am merely an observer. Perhaps it’s to do with having that distance, my own thoughts are easy to dismiss given how little trust I have in myself. Hearing the words in the voice of one of my characters gives me the space to stop and listen.

I have a character, Devlin, one day perhaps you’ll meet, it was something he said in one of my daydreams that allowed the snow to begin to melt. To paraphrase, what he said was this: ‘I can’t go back to who I was before all of this, that person is gone, that time is gone. Recovery doesn’t mean going back, it means going forwards. It means finding something new.’ I have never had a constructive way of coping. That doesn’t mean I can’t develop one. I don’t have to repeat the moves I made in the past, I can change direction. The sentiment there is one I was already familiar with, but what followed it is what is making the difference: ‘There doesn’t have to be one dramatic moment in which you decide to recover. Recovery, being okay, isn’t a choice you make once. It’s one you make over and over again every day.’ There will always be a reason not to. If I wait for that one big moment, I could spend all my life waiting. If instead of it being one big choice, to be or not to be, it’s little choices, that makes it so much less scary. It makes the times when I do slip into self-destruct easier to come back from, because they’ve no longer ruined everything. Somehow knowing that I can go back to the familiar makes it that much less seductive.

Looking across the thawing landscape of my snow globe, I see the bricks beginning to emerge, the promise of my library. For the first time in months I feel ready to return to those plans and to begin to sketch anew