Something seems to be blowing up right now — the UK is possibly signing something on Monday… and there’s nothing in the media? Where’s the transparency in all this?
I had to read the automatic captions, which are a little garbled, but it’s better than nothing!
I wrote this blog post nine years ago and never had the nerve to publish it… it’s been sitting in my draft posts ever since.
‘Last modified 5 Nov 2008’:
This makes me smile every time it shows up on my desktop: Halloween wp (1600 x 1200). It’s not mine, but if you happen to like The Nightmare Before Christmas, it will be your thing.
The other night I woke up thinking “I must take those wallpapers down; they’re giving me nightmares!” Actually they weren’t, as they’re nice rather than nightmarish, but I had a Halloween experience…
Do you hallucinate when very tired? I don’t mean ordinarily tired; you have to be quite sleep-deprived to qualify…. but I believe it’s fairly common in those circumstances. Sometimes (for instance after a very long bus expedition, not having seen a proper bed for 30 or 40 hours) I’ve been so tired that I couldn’t sleep properly… it’s as though you’re collapsing more than sleeping. That’s extreme, but that’s almost how tired you have to be for this. To illustrate the prevalence of this (if you really need convincing): it happens to students who are studying too hard (and possibly feeding themselves with too much caffeine). It also happens to motorists who have driven too long and are falling asleep at the wheel. Not at all smart, but I couldn’t help being charmed by one person’s story of driving till he saw a cowboy sitting on a suitcase in the middle of the road. That was his cue to park and sleep.
This kind of hallucination is a waking dream; you think you’re awake and looking around, but part of your brain is dozing.
Caution: If you’re squeamish, eating something or prone to nightmares of your own, don’t read past this point. You have been warned. 😈
On Sunday night, I was so enthralled by a book (Grumpy Old Men: New Year, Same Old Crap by David Quantick) that it was a shock to find it was nearly 5 in the morning. Oops — time to turn out the light.
I fell asleep and dreamed I’d lost a tooth, which was causing me problems. At the same time I became aware of a cowled figure standing at the door beside my bed… just perceiving him from the side of my eye. He was about to leave the room but I didn’t think I could sleep till the blood was washed away, so I called him back, asking him to sort it out for me.
He came and twisted a dark grey tap, barely visible in the gloom above my head. I expected clean cool water, but it was a foul-smelling, viscous, dark, sticky liquid that glugged out of the tap onto my face. “It’s not water,” remarked the cowled figure with deep satisfaction — “it’s old blood.” And he left the room.
“I can’t stand this,” I thought.
I had been dreaming, but was awake now.
I opened my eyes (they creaked open reluctantly) and the whole room was bathed in a crimson glare, as though a blood-red moon was shining in through the curtains. Gaaargh. Closed my eyes again, and just inside my eyelids were several disembodied faces, squirming with red maggots.
“It’s one of those waking dreams,” I said resignedly to myself. “I wore myself out.”
There was a flash of light through the window, visible through my eyelids… I looked, and everything was steel grey. An improvement on the crimson… but I couldn’t see what had caused the flash. No car, no security light. It made me anxious, as though something was closing in, and my heart started racing.
“This is a real Halloween experience!” I said to myself. “It’s just a shame it’s two nights too late. Maybe I should use it in NaNoWriMo.” The maggotty faces inside my eyelids nodded and stretched their mouths wide in cackly agreement — I saw the funny side, and laughed out loud. Just a quick “hereehee!” — then listened to my heartbeat till it slowed, and finally slept.
At first I was blaming a blog post I read shortly before bed… it was unexpectedly gruesome, and I was hoping I wouldn’t dream about it. Possibly it set the tone. But according to this Guardian/Observer article (In the dead of the night), the brain is dealing with raw animal emotions and fear… and so, ‘anxious’ dreams will often be of a gory and terrifying nature. Nature red in tooth and claw.
Bet you thought you would never meet a real Halloween ghoul… I wouldn’t be so sure.
I mentioned the article to Mum, telling her that people sometimes see the Grim Reaper or even Darth Vader, and she said scornfully, “but what’s scary about that?” I said defensively that I wasn’t frightened by my own cowled figure; in fact he was trying to sidle out of the room till I summoned him back.
He didn’t seem very keen, did he? Maybe he was on his way to a party, and I was delaying him.
Should have realized it was just a stupid bot…. panic over!
(After that cryptic remark, Delilah potters off and lies down in a dark room).
These are things I’ve liked a lot recently:
Novel Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.
Blog post by Brandon Knoll about colouring our own lives.
Illustration of a ‘black cat on black furniture‘ by Felicia Chiao on Tumblr.
Bear illustration by Little Oil on Tumblr.
British sitcom Upstart Crow.
Is the EU serious about coming to a deal? David Robertson raises some concerns.
Song on a CD bought from a charity shop recently: Why Does It Always Rain on Me? (Travis). Even before I figured out the culprit, it was in my head all the time. 😀
Another song: One Last Chance (James Morrison). I’ve had it a while, but only just started paying it attention.
Last but not least… from personal experience I would say there’s a great deal of truth in this article… I wish I’d read it when I was 16. 🙂
I’ve been asked how I got over the worst of my agoraphobia. The really bad days are years in my past, thankfully, but I’ll write what I can remember. For me, I suspect it was mostly luck, as I live in a small town and have managed to make most of it my ‘safe zone’.
When it came to getting out of the house… I didn’t want to become house-bound, so when it was starting to happen, I broke out of it by doing something my mother told me later was stupid… I left the house at night, when it was quiet and dark — walked in the local area, round and round. I went out to where the small shops were, and walked there too, among the buildings and narrow paths.
At one point I nearly tripped over a man who appeared to have taken drugs or was drinking or something.
I walked past my own house several times in my trips around, and could see the cats sitting in the porch watching me in a puzzled way… that made me smile, though faintly!
Was it stupid? Yes, maybe it was dangerous and I shouldn’t have done it on my own, even though I live in a quiet town. For people in a bigger town, it’s an even worse idea. Did it make a difference? Maybe, in the sense that I was demonstrating to myself that the local area was mine and I could walk around in it if I chose to. It was as much ‘mine’ as anyone else’s.
Having got out of the house, for me what helped:
(1) It’s not a huge town and I could walk most places rather than get the bus.
(2) Family were in the area, so I wasn’t alone.
(3) It helped if I had something along with me (a steadying influence) so I take my shopping trolley everywhere. It made a huge difference, to the degree I can sometimes go without it now, though it depends on where I am and how long I’ll be there for. The best shopping trolleys have big rubber wheels… plastic wheels rattle and are noisy.
(4) Take small steps. For instance, at the beginning (when recovering from a bad spell) I’d only go to a small shop round the corner for groceries, and just get a basketful at a time — a huge barrowload is too much! Best to pay by cash and not spend long. I’d usually hang around admiring tins of peaches or something if there was a queue, but as soon as the queue disappeared or became much shorter, I’d abandon the peaches and join it.
(5) I’d go really early in the morning if I had to go to the supermarket — it was quiet but they had an annoying habit of only having one checkout open, so sometimes the queue might back up a bit… usually it was OK. I remember a colleague telling me I was masochistic going to the supermarket so early in the morning just for a can of kitten food. 🙂 Trouble was, if I didn’t go early, I felt I couldn’t go at all.
(6) I’d get myself a little gift sometimes to get myself into a shop… for instance, I saw a plush rhino through the chemist’s window that I took a fancy to, so going in and buying it was its own reward.
(7) Distraction is a very good weapon, as is fading memory. The best way I can explain it, is that I’m more likely to get wound up if I’m going out every day or thinking about my anxiety all the time. If I rest a lot and do something fun at home, like artwork, and only go out sometimes, I am much more relaxed… it’s as though I’ve literally forgotten. My mother thinks people should go out every day to keep in the swim of things, and I guess that’s what works for her… but for me it’s a bad idea! Perhaps she proves to herself every day that people are nice and she can get on with them, but as I’m too deaf to really talk to anyone, I just remember every day how busy the roads are, how difficult it is for me to make myself understood, and how impatient people can be. 🙄 When I’ve forgotten all about that, I’m better able to focus on the positive aspects of going out.
(8) When I was working (and going through the worst of it at that time) I remember a couple of psychological tricks I used when walking to the office.
(a) I was too scared to go, but knew I had to. So I would say to myself that getting out of the house didn’t mean I was really going to the office! I could just walk a little while and see how it went. I said to myself “just walk as far as that lamppost, and if you still want to go home, you can go home.” That way I would get all the way to work because I no longer felt pressured into going… it had become a choice.
(b) Another trick would propel me across open ground, which was harder than walking alongside a wall. I’d pick something I could think of as a kind of wall… yellow lines running through the car park or the rooftops of nearby houses… and make those my ‘wall’ while getting across the open space. It was a bit dicey, I admit, as someone suddenly racing towards me (or cutting between me and my ‘wall’) could throw me off balance! 😛
(9) Usually there are workarounds… a quieter shop, a quiet footpath instead of the busy road, a different time when most of the people have gone.
(10) Stay aware of the seasons. Town seems to be more busy at certain times of the year… I noticed my anxiety would start rising in May, when more people appeared on the streets. Perhaps this is the real reason I’ve started to love autumn… the pace slows down.
One thing that kept me going was the thought that it would be easier to deal with it now… things always start feeding on themselves if you leave them too long. If I was going to break through the anxiety and get some of what I wanted out of life, why shouldn’t it be now rather than later?
I used to avoid catching people’s eye when I was going through the worst of it, but one day looked up and looked straight at this guy, who smiled. I smiled back — that’s when I knew the worst was over! It does show… you have no idea how much your kindness can affect someone.
Agoraphobia is a tough thing to deal with and I have learned not to underestimate it. I anthropomorphized mine as a ‘black beast’, and made this poem by Ted Hughes my own… merely because I love Ted Hughes poetry?? The causes of anxiety can be as hard to locate as the beast in the poem! Perhaps thinking of it that way made it easier for me to deal with, as though it was a creature in a book and not part of me.
I hope something in all of this helps someone, though I don’t really recommend wandering around at the dead of night. 🙂
tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book
I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.
I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.
I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.
It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀
I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.
The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.
Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?
Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.
Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.
‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’
See you when I get back. 🙂
There is so much going on, all of the time. For instance, you might be sitting quietly at home, painting a picture. The TV likely isn’t on. Nobody else is in the room except a cat. The trees sway outside, the sun shines, somebody is parking a car outside and walking away.
The dishwasher hums, a pigeon barrels past, and — imitating autumn leaves — a pair of butterflies slip sideways. Less pleasantly, a spider investigates a hoverfly in a corner of the window. When you notice, you’re glad you’re not that hoverfly, and are torn between pity, disinterest, and a desire not to think about such things.
You choose between different but similar shades of pink on your iPad, attempting to paint them in the right places with a rubber-tipped stylus, and think to yourself, “This isn’t very well designed. How can I draw fine lines with a rubber-tipped stylus squeaking across the glass? Would I be better in another app with a higher zoom? Why do I USE this app?”
Instead of acting on these questions in your mind, you continue to paint in that same awkward app with the same squeaky stylus, thinking about all sorts of different things.
For instance, you’d like to read Cadfael again — it would be nice to read it now. Or perhaps Elizabeth Goudge? On the other hand, it would be fun to watch Inspector Montalbano on TV, or the Fiddler on the Roof DVD you got for your birthday.
You won’t do any of these things because you want to get on with your painting.
You should email S… she’ll be wondering if you’ve disappeared on her again. You… leap off the sofa all of a sudden and trap a small spider in the folds of a tissue. “Go sit over there,” you tell it. “I don’t want you running around on me or accidentally getting crushed.”
S saved your life… you got trapped beneath the waves. Does this mean you belong to her?
Notifications pop up.
Facebook is the worst, pounding away inexorably… “you’re ignoring us again.”
Tumblr says there are five things trending. (Only five?)
Tumblr staff reblogged something you’re not interested in.
Pinterest says there are things you’re sure to love and a pinner who’s your long-lost twin.
Your trolls miss their leader, and there’s a new quest with gold to be won.
Mo Farah loses out on gold in his final track race.
Someone has written a WordPress coffee post.
YouTube has recommendations.
Your sister uploaded photos on Flickr.
Flipboard thinks you should read this article about Brexit.
Do you know this person on Facebook? No?
Police are looking for a jogger. Got him. Let him go. Still looking for jogger.
Drat, wrong shade of pink… wrong palette. Switch down two trays to the inner ear pinks… perfect. Imagine a double-decker bearing down on you — aargh. Imagine living in the dust and turmoil of such a busy city.
What might your life have been like if you’d got the other job somewhere else? Would you be a different person?
As for for the recent drama… what did you do wrong? Was there a misunderstanding? You will do this, that, the other thing… no, you don’t know what to do. You’re lost. But nothing matters, really. Life flows on.
You don’t feel like painting this bit… it’s too difficult. But you must, because you really want to finish this picture. Just put a blot of some sort here; you can paint over it later if you have to.
You drew a horse when you were 14 that looks something like this… perhaps this is your natural painting ‘style’, ha ha. You weren’t able to blend with fibre tips, and this app is not a lot better.
If you were one of Cadfael’s ‘monks’… or in a nunnery, really… would you have been allowed to do artwork? Most likely not. You’d be doing everyone’s washing, scrubbing the flagstones, fetching water. Wonder what it was like in those days? Maybe much like now. You worried about other people and other people worried about you. Spiders lurked in the window and entertained flies.
Your thoughts swirl around, and you don’t always know what to think about anything….
You’re good at this… no, you’re awful… no, more like something in between, and it’s changing all the time. It depends if you like this sort of thing. You wouldn’t win awards, but it’s OK.
For years you would hold a belief about somebody else, such as, “She’s terrible at photography”… then one day get a shock and think “actually that’s kind of good.”
As I keep reminding myself… people don’t stand still. They’re not statues. While they experience life, their thoughts fluctuate, and the things they think they know things about imperceptibly develop and change. People and things develop and change around them, even if it seems still and peaceful with nothing going on.
The next time you glance up, the fly has gone from the spider’s parlour, but it has been replaced by a baby snail. Perhaps it was all the ‘think pink’ energy in the room, though black jagged shadows would be more apt…
I can feel the year’s end approaching.
You ask yourself, “What did I touch?!” but of course if could have been anything. Shop doors, clothes-hangers, the edge of the coffee shop table… who knows?
I should email a friend while I have the light on. She sent a photo at 5:30 yesterday morning, so I should return the favour. It’s fortunate that digital photos don’t arrive at the other end with germs on them.
If I were a speed painter, I could paint her a picture. Unfortunately I know I would still be labouring over it by Christmas, so I better not even start.
Have just checked the headlines. “Jeremy Clarkson in hospital with pneumonia”. (Panics slightly)… no, that’s not what I have. Surely.
Looking at other news, I have nothing to complain about, really.
Will send her a badly painted germ… yes, I painted it anyway, despite my doubts. So it can be done.