Hi Guys. I'm sorry I was unable to comment on your blogs yesterday. I slipped into a severe depression and although I read everyone's blogs I didn't feel able to formulate any responses. Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I hope to be able to leave some comments later today.
Thank you for all the long comments you left to the last post. I love long comments! The longer the better - because that is how this thing works. The more feedback I get the more I have to think about and the more I can learn - about myself and about life in general. I really appreciate the time people take to to respond to my issues.
The most striking thing from the last post was the fact that everyone else thinks I have a personality! I have to tell you that whenever I have said to anyone who has been treating me that I feel I have no personality, they have assured me that they don't see me in that way at all.
The difference here is between looking at someone from the outside and feeling how it is to be a person on the inside.
Once, when I was doing a group session with a load of other women a few years ago I said to them that I knew it would sound weird, but that I was not a person to myself. I didn't expect anyone to understand what the hell I was talking about because no-one had ever seemed to up to that point. I was surprised when one of the other women said that she knew what I meant because she felt she was "a nobody" as well; that she had no personality, was no-one.
Had I realised this person felt the same? No.
In my head I had put together a picture of this person based on the way she presented herself, the clothes she wore, everything she said and how she said it - how she had brought up her children, her relationships with men, the way she described her life. To me she was a fully formed being who seemed consistent within herself.
We all formulate a schemata for every person we meet, build up a picture of them based on their interactions with us and how they present themselves generally. Our assumption when doing this is that the person does have a particular personality, that they are consistent in their thinking and behaviour, and that their outward behaviour very much reflects their inner personality.
These are very big assumptions to make, but also of course necessary for us to function effectively and safely in the world - they are cognitive shortcuts for summing up and assessing other people. And generally they are correct.
However, research does show that we view other people as being more consistent than we are ourselves. This is just because we have far more data to go on when considering ourselves. For example, with ourselves, we may see we are extrovert in some situations - ie situations where we are more confident, and introverted in other situations. Whereas we are more likely to view other people as extrovert or introverted.
So, even though you have only my written words to go on, it's not surprising that you have formulated some sort of consistent schemata for me.
I'm talking a lot about consistency here. But I don't feel inconsistent within myself on a day to day basis.
What I mainly feel is that I do not have an integrated personality. My psyche is in pieces, is fragmented, and my brain has to work very hard trying to hold the pieces together. This is why I find it so difficult to do anything very much. Because my brain doesn't have very much energy left over to spare. It takes so much energy to hold together a shattered psyche. It now occurs to me that what other people see (or read) is the result of the pieces being held together - the brain's desperate attempt to present to itself (let alone the rest of the world) a fully functioning being.
The most frustrating thing is that every so often I feel my self becoming "whole" again but it never lasts very long. The status quo always falls apart again. It never "works" somehow. And every time it does fall apart, I'm devastated. And very frightened.
Being in pieces, especially newly fragmented after a period of apparent wholeness, is very frightening. It's like living with no solid ground beneath you. The whole shebang can just fall apart at any moment.
Now, looking back over your comments and the emails I've exchanged with people, I see there is some sort of "backstop" there. In large part this is the body of knowledge I've built up from all my experiences as a mentally ill person. All the pain I've felt, the lack of security, the instability (which no-one else ever seems to perceive annoyingly!), the humiliation and shame of mental illness - a lot of which comes from knowing I can't cope with life as other people can, that my brain can't concentrate on anything else other than trying to hold myself together, all the coping mechanisms I've developed at different times for different problems and scenarios, all the conversations I've had with other mentally ill people on how they view things and how they cope, all the therapy I've been through - may have been useless at solving the problem, but it was interesting to get different perspectives.
I've learnt a lot being ill - through my own illness and other people's. About the dynamics of how people are f*cked up by others. The apparently small interactions with others which can have a huge impact. How psyches are developed and melded, and fall apart. How the mind can travel through endless cycles of rising and falling mood, comprehending and non-comprehending one's life, periods of time where a person is coping alternating with periods where the person is struggling.
Ultimately we are all put together and formed in the same way, by the same means. We all have better and worse times in our lives. So this knowledge can be applied to anyone - because the mentally ill are like everyone else, only more so.
The only instability that other people do perceive of course is my weight going up and down. Some people I know will be able to make the connection between my weight rising and increased depression. But I guess that to most people I am simply a yo-yo dieter or failed dieter. They don't know that I am a binge eater/ compulsive eater with a history of eating disorders - it's not something I would tell very many people. But as Jack Sh*t said to one of Diane's posts, "secret" eating - the world's worst kept secret.
I see my weight fluctuations as a visible sign of the state of my mind, and as a sign that I am incapable of coping with life. A far greater sign of failure in life than simply a failure of willpower or failure to stick to a diet plan, or failure to make good choices. I see it as a fundamental failure of personality.
This makes my weight a hugely loaded issue for me. I just have to keep reminding myself that most people in the street do not perceive any of this. But in my own head I cannot separate my mental illness from my weight because they are indeed intimately connected.
To a certain extent most people view their personality as being tied up with their appearance. Which is why weight loss can have such a profound effect on a person's view of themselves and consequently on their life. It's no wonder then that issues surrounding a person's weight are so ... er, weighty. It's always about far more than carrying around some excess poundage.
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