I’m in my head. I can’t get around this. I’m driven to crucify myself in my own head. And to question my sense of self, my concrete reality, how I live and think and do. In my own head. Because I have held an abstract view of my own value. My own use. My own lack of possibility. Another view held as my own. My false consciousness.
And forever, since I broke and cracked my apparent, concrete reality in 2000 I have been trying to make sense of inside. What is going on inside? Can I inoculate myself from what I perceive to be my reality? Inside my own head? Can I be reborn as something, someone, somehow new? Inside my own head? To be rid of this apparent, hysterical and useless existence.
And forever, since I broke and cracked my apparent, concrete reality in 2000 I have been searching for the download from the matrix that will make me better. Searching for the thing that will remove the almost daily anxiety, and too frequent panic attacks, and patch-up the cracks. Walking, meditation, t’ai chi, acupuncture, therapy, drugs. The thing that will make me value myself. Make me happy. Make me content. And stop the permanent questioning of everything.
And allow me to do. To keep running. Rather than being. Because being was/is/has been too much.
And 14 years is a long time to be searching for the fix. To assume that inside is too broken to be mended on its own. That being inside is too corrosive and too damaging and too dark and too bleak to be cared for and recovered. That it has to be fixed or replaced, rather than cared for and recovered.
And in this I turned to being against. Against how I felt about myself. Because there was no outside the living death inside my head. The daily grind of existing in the things that I do and say, the conversations that I have, and the critical analysis of how I feel about those doings and whether they were right or wrong, and the ongoing critique of what that means for my being.
Who am I? All the time. Is this safe? All the time. Will you leave? All the time. Three tracks in my head. All the time. What. Why. Who. Please tell me who I am?
And always against myself. Inside myself and against myself. Not good enough. Not strong enough. A failure. Useless.
And it is only recently that I see that there is no download. No drug. No fix from outside myself. Only moving beyond myself from inside myself by accepting myself and soothing the anxieties of the child. Allowing myself the space to feel anxious without feeling that I am a failure. Or useless. Or no thing at all.
Understanding that after the trauma of the anniversary of my Mom’s death I am still functioning. That although I couldn’t make it to London to present at a conference two months ago because the dissociation and panic were too much, this wasn’t the end of the world. That It only took two weeks to recover, and in the past it took months. That although I couldn’t get to my friend’s stag weekend, I could still speak at his wedding. That in spite of my fear that I was an academic failure I have presented since. That I have been away since. That I have been to London since. That I have examined and taught and spoken and walked and written and dug and existed since.
And this is a potential beyond. This is an alternative narrative that is a potential beyond. Not to fix my deficits. To care about them and to subsume them inside my care for me.
Understanding that my overwhelming fear that my fractured identity could never be made whole doesn’t need to play out in my life. To play out in ways that I never feel it would in yours. Because I believe in you. And I never believed in me. Until recently.
Because I can have still moments when I think about what, but not why or who.
Because I have begun to reframe how I think about myself, as beyond. As the negation of my cracked identity. The negation of the past that negated me. That taught me the relentless critique of myself and tried to make me run. And that every now and then leads me to exhausted collapse. Or anxious retreat inside. So that all I could think about was being against.
But against has to be fuelled by possibility. Of a rupture against old habits and ways of thinking. Of cracking the thoughts that were once themselves held up as cracked and cracking and irreparably broken. Of old ways of thinking that were useless defences against the world. And defences against myself. That I am useless. That I have failed. That this failure to present inevitably means an ongoing failure to present. That this exhaustion inevitably means a failure to recover and exist. That this moment of anxiety inevitably means that lifetime of struggle inside-and-against myself.
And I have been thinking about this since I presented on academic activism. About my personal epistemological and pedagogic possibilities that are inside/against/beyond my own limited, historic, private anxieties. How might I rethink my limitations as possibilities? How might I rethink what my anxieties are trying to tell me? How might I try to see my individual moments of failure as potentialities for change? How might I read my exhaustion less as failure and more as moments to care for myself? How might I understand and realise a counter-narrative of my life as a positive, concrete, useful process, rather than my having to be or become a fetishised, normal, healthy, functioning thing? To become concrete rather than abstracted? To become real rather than false?
That in spite of my anxieties I made it to Nottingham to present. That in spite of my anxieties I made it to Aston to examine. That in spite of my anxieties I made it to Norfolk on holiday. That in spite of my anxieties I have reduced the hours I spend in therapy. That in spite of my anxieties I continue to teach. That I have begun to ride again. That I couldn’t stop smiling after I saw the line-up for the Governing Academic Life conference, and that I don’t feel like an imposter or fraud. That although I couldn’t make it to the Globe to watch Antony and Cleopatra I managed to write this. And to understand myself a little more.
Because it has to be different. I want to be different. That something inside is desperate to breathe and to be heard, in spite of my anxieties.
And I have begun to read about possibility and “what is to be done” in my work because I am trying to figure out what is to be done in my life.
That I feel I may be able to live for me. Co-operatively and with care and with as much unconditionality as I can muster. That I can see what I have, rather than to fear the loss of what I do not have or never had or that was never an option. That I might be able to move beyond the unconditionality that I crave(d), and that was never possible. To see what I do have. Inside me. Through me. Beyond me. To be beyond the defences and behaviours that I have held against me. Against my own emancipation from my negation. To see that what lies inside is not to be fixed but is to be embraced for what it shows me about myself. To quiet the screaming boy with love and care and attention.
To accept the possibility of beyond as recuperation. Inside and through the ways in which I have imprisoned myself. Rather than inside and against myself. To “be” (somehow) inside and through and beyond.