Stupid People: An Interview

[NOTES] – Throughout the article please view “In” as “Interviewer” and “Can” as “Candidate”.

RECORDING

In: Thank you for sitting with us today. Are you comfortable? Is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable?

Can: I’m comfortable, thank you.

In: So, I presume you’re aware of why we’ve asked you to attend this interview. Would you like to clarify what this reason is?

Can: I know why, but I would prefer not to say it if that’s okay.

In: That’s okay. Let’s begin. How are you feeling today?

Can: I would say at my usual level. At its most basic, my chest feels a bit tight and I’m trembling a little. I keep picking at my nails, and I’m swallowing a lot as I feel dehydrated no matter how much water I drink. I deep-breathe a lot. If I can exhale without shaking, then I am pretty much calmed, and I’ll be less aware of my heart beating. It’s just nerves. Everybody has their share of rational and irrational. Sorry, this is probably too long an answer…I’ll try to keep it brief.

In: There are no parameters to the length of your answers, they are simply for our records. Include as much or as little detail as you wish. Can I ask, what motivates you to get up in the morning?

Can: I would say…a new chance to get it right?

In: Can you explain?

Can: Just that all of the mistakes I make, I condense into a day. I’m sure a lot of people do. Sometimes I have a quota, sometimes not. Each morning I perceive as a new chance to start again, and try to have less of a negative impact on people. That’s positive-thinking, isn’t it? Trying to make less mistakes is honourable, as surely it means you’re always learning and growing, and wanting to better yourself.

In: What do you mean by a “quota”?

Can: That just means I set myself a limit for how many mistakes I feel comfortable with making. On a good day it can be 10, or 15. It’s not always a clock-rounded number, it’s more based on instinct, and how many people I think I will be interacting with on that particular day. But on a bad day, it could be 5. I organise them into “minor” and “major”, like in a driving test. I know it sounds daft, but if I didn’t have an established system then I would really be struggling.

In: Can you give me some examples of minors and majors?

Can: Yes. Minors we are all more familiar with as commonplace mistakes, ones that do not have a direct impact on the others around us. I can cope quite easily with them, as long as they do not appear en masse on my record. Too many minors in one day, equates to a major flaw, in my opinion. Because why am I not learning from them?

In: You still haven’t given examples.

Can: Ah, okay. You’re right. Minors. Dropping my pen. Letting my hands shake as I go to retrieve it. That’s a minor. Others…pausing for too long while I try to think of the word I need, or somebody’s name. Turning in the wrong direction when somebody calls my name. Letting my porridge overflow the bowl in the microwave. Tripping on the pavement. Interrupting somebody without meaning to, or mishearing somebody. Waking up later than I intended. Bumping into somebody.

In: These are indeed, commonplace. I’m sure there are more significant things to focus on in life. Does this not occur to you?

Can: If you drop your pen, you may “oops” the mistake into submission and perhaps on some subconscious level, address the need to avoid doing it again, at least in the near future. I usually engage in this process, but have to compound this avoidance into a physical task, such as trying to keep myself still and composed. It plays on my mind for too long, but if I try to still myself or focus on one small physical aspect, then I can move on. I think there was a time when I used to laugh at myself if I tripped or displayed general clumsiness, but nowadays I don’t find it funny at all.

In: And what about majors?

Can: Majors are instances in which I struggle to forgive myself. One unit could be the cumulative minors for the day. Or it could be a mistake which I consider to be significant, an error that has caused annoyance or wasted the time of another. It is often a mistake at work. Or I could knock an item out of somebody’s hands. Tripping over my words several times in one sentence. Accidentally misinforming somebody, despite having been supplied with the correct information initially. Giving somebody the wrong directions. Letting my mind go blank, and struggling to say things out loud. Displaying a lack of common sense.

In: How do you forgive yourself for these mistakes?

Can: If I do not reach the limit I’ve set myself, then I can usually brush off the day’s mistakes, and let myself start afresh in the morning – depending on the severity of the worst mistake made. A day with only minors is something I feel in control of, they are merely subsidiaries of a malevolent company. If I reach or exceed the quota, I start to panic a little. I don’t know if that makes sense, panicking a little? It’s like it’s a familiar panic, the case set of nervous symptoms but amplified internally. Basically, something has to be done.

In: What has to be done?

Can: Well firstly, I have to keep track of my daily progress. For ease of access, I usually mark a dot or a tiny line on my forearm in pen. This really helps, as my memory is notoriously terrible. Then when I get some time alone to assess what impact I have had on others, I can decide whether the dots warrant punishment. Please don’t think I’m crazy for doing this, I realise it sounds bad. As I say, if I did not have a system, I think things would be much worse.

In: Can you talk about the punishments?

Can: I’d rather not, but I can show you.

[…]

In: I see. So you have a system, which is utilised on a daily basis, is that correct? I presume you have already asked yourself this question, but do you think the system works? You say that your memory is terrible, do you mean to say that if you do not keep a physical record of your mistakes, then they would be forgotten?

Can: It hasn’t always been in place, just intermittently. There are periods when I don’t find it necessary. The mistakes are always there, always. The frequency has always been consistently high, pre-and post-system. It’s if I feel I can cope with them normally, that has me reverting. Perhaps it’s a fluctuation of hormones. Something basic. Regarding my memory, the physical record I find necessary because it condenses the list into one single day. I do remember my wrongdoings but in the immediate aftermath, I try to block them from my mind. If it pops up in my head on a later date and I have not addressed it, I feel like I have lost control.

In: Why do you think you feel this way? Why do you think it’s necessary to punish yourself for what others might describe as trivial mistakes?

Can: Because in their frequency, I am not learning from them as I should be. They should not be happening as often as they do. In this lies the potential to make huge mistakes. What if I endangered somebody’s life, by neglecting a basic principle of health and safety? How can I ever be trusted with any level of responsibility if I can’t master the basics? What it boils down to is sheer stupidity, and it’s entirely unacceptable to me. Maybe I feel punishments are necessary because I need people to know that I’m not okay with how I’ve let my mind develop. Operating at this level of stupidity is not something I can ever be settled with. So yes, maybe it’s just the aesthetic of guilt that I have aimed for, and it’s all superficial, and all entirely worthless. I am trying though.

In: What are you trying to do?

Can: To be better. To step outside my own head from time to time and see the bigger picture. To realise that I don’t have problems, not at all. Things could be so much worse.

In: Do you not think that your system stops you from doing that? I would think that looking in the mirror and telling yourself every day that you are stupid, is merely perpetuating the issue.

Can: Maybe you’re right. There are so many inconsistencies in my argument, because it’s not an argument anymore. It is purely how I perceive myself, because I see it as fact. Many people have witnessed instances of my incompetency, there’s no stopping that. I have witnessed the incompetence of others, but in my entire life I have never met anyone who is as stupid as I am. I can have a system-less period, and still see it. Someone will ask me a very basic question, and my mind will immediately jump in all directions other than the one I need it to, the one that contains the correct answer, or an acceptable one. It is only later, that I will sometimes realise what I should have said. That is just not acceptable, not at this frequency.

In: Do I take it that on this logic, you think that people who have limited control of their minds and bodies are also stupid, or worthless?

Can: I don’t think that. Please don’t accuse me of thinking that. I can’t even begin to perceive the concept of human worth. We all have a place here. What I find difficult to understand is why I can’t improve, even the slightest bit. On an academic level, I had relatively good grades. That must mean I can apply my mind to some aspect of life? Not the everyday though. The everyday, at least at the moment, is what matters to me. One of my friends once told me that I am the most stupid-smart person they had ever known.

In: What did you take that to mean?

Can: I suppose that I can use my mind to maybe pass a test, or compose a sentence. But I can’t use it to behave competently in life. Bothersome is probably an understatement to this testimony, for I believe it to be true. Essays are tiniest portion of the vast spectrum of life experience. Why can I not stretch my mind beyond that? I am capable of something, why can’t I extend it to what matters to me? This bothers me, more than any aspect of my being. There are so many more flaws in my character, but being stupid is what burrows into my everyday perception, with no release.

In: Do you think you share this perception with any of your friends?

Can: I know that a lot of the people I know are plagued with anxiety, or depression. Their struggles are all so much more tangible than mine. I don’t even have struggles. And they manage to set them aside and be confident, social, intelligent, purposeful, hardworking, wonderful people.

In: Have you spoken to them about this before?

Can:  On occasion. I do find it difficult. I am not known for my verbal dexterity.

In: Have you spoken to anybody else?

Can: Yes. Again, I find it hard. I genuinely believe that my stupidity is something I will always carry with me. I lack good instincts. I mishear people a lot. I stutter. I shake. I have to have a mental pep-talk with myself just to get into somebody’s car, or go to work, or talk to somebody one-on-one. I have no physical skills, I lose at games, and I trip over invisible barriers. I learn too slowly, there are gaps in my mind when I seek the most basic area of knowledge. I don’t understand puzzles, or perceive space poorly when I’m moving around. I misjudge the world.

In: There is a clear picture building. You do seem to be harbouring a severe lack of self-esteem, I’m sure you’ve established this yourself. And you believe you may never improve. So why do you think you’re still here?

Can: I don’t know. Like I said, I try to perceive each morning as a chance to get things right. To make fewer mistakes. To be there for people when they need me. To learn from my errors, and gain fresh perspectives. I am so incredibly grateful to be here. I don’t ever want to leave. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not inspired by others. I set myself daily goals to reach what I want to achieve in life. All that is different, is that I look at the marks on my skin and remember that I never what to have a negative impact on somebody else’s life, ever again.

In: I think we probably have enough for today. How have you found today’s session? Do you think that you could be our candidate for improvement?

Can: My chest is still tight, my hands are still trembling a little. I feel as though I am in the same place, but I have acknowledged how I am feeling for the first time in a long time. I think this is a good thing. I hope I will be your candidate for improvement. I do hope you see something in me that is worth keeping, no matter how small it is.

END RECORDING.

 

 

Personals I Want To Leave Behind in 2016 (Blogmas Day Fourteen and a Half)

Merry Blogmas Day Fourteen and a Half!

50% less merry today. This is something I don’t wish to taint the merriment of Blogmas, but I wanted to include as a side-note. To break form and deviate slightly from my standard “Buy These Things” Blogmas posts, today’s has a more reflective air. I have written a list of personal things that I wish to leave behind in 2016. It’s not so much a compilation of regrets, more a vow to try not to take these aspects of my life with me into 2017. The new year is a strange old thing, it doesn’t really mean anything but it acts as a metaphorical reset button for things you haven’t quite mustered the courage to do in recent months. It’s fake courage, but in all honesty I think that’s the closest I am going to get to its real form. It’s also quite therapeutic to look back on your year and establish the patterns of your behaviour. There are of course things that I want to take with me, or even experience to their maximum, but that is for another post. NB: Though they are all mixed up, some of these are traits of the mind, some of these are literally items that I want to throw away. In practice the items will be the easiest to take care of but hopefully will also act as a stepping stone to rendering the others possible. I hope you can bear with me while I prise these self-indulgencies off my chest.

Hello 2017, Goodbye to:

  1. The fear of leaving the flat. I need to remind myself that my ‘comfort zone’ has rapidly been encroached by various anxieties over the years, trickling in from all directions, and that the comfort zone essentially does not exist anymore. There is no comfort in sitting on the bed, staring at the floor and shaking as the reality of your day kicks in. I have to see people, walk past them on the street, look them in the eye, speak as if I have something worthy of saying, walk without getting in anybody’s way, maintain an expression that will not incite questions, don’t drop anything or let my clumsiness inconvenience someone else’s day, complete tasks in the most efficient way possible without failure, focus on my work or studies without letting my mind wander too far, be enthusiastic beyond a constant level of numbness, be supportive of others even though I am not worthy of giving advice, providing the correct reactions to what I am told. The more I let myself panic, the worse the fear becomes, that’s logical. The more I induce punishment by calling myself lazy and useless, the worse the fear also becomes. What if I am just lazy? I can do these things, I push myself to do them everyday, so they are more than possible, they are commonplace. What I want to shake off is the spiral of fear that sets in beforehand.
  2. The contents of The Room of Requirement. My boyfriend and I have a spare bedroom, a little box one, which we refer to as The Room of Requirement. The original idea was for it to contain anything we need on occasion, like spare bedding or weights or clothes we only wear on special occasions. This has now devolved into a dumping ground, and the bed is now covered in all manner of empty boxes, receipts we don’t need, scratched 3D glasses and hell knows what else. What if we require a spare bedroom for someone to sleep in? New year project.
  3. Forgetting to moisturise. In the summer I like to be constantly hydrated, and my skin seems to appreciate the application of coconut oil at regular intervals. In the winter I practically develop scales, and the coconut oil proves insufficient. I do have a skincare routine, but the rest of my body I tend to forget about. For someone so eczema-prone it’s tricky to find a deep moisturiser that also doesn’t make me want to tear at my skin, but so far Dream Cream from Lush seems to be the most friendly option. I just don’t always remember to give my skin what it needs, and something so simple is for me an act of self-care and loving your body that shouldn’t be neglected.
  4. My job. I am extremely grateful to have a job, and I’m incredibly lucky to have had the same one for 3 and a half years, despite my being entirely useless. However I think there’s a shelf life for a job of this kind, and though I think I would be equally as worthless if not more in another position elsewhere, it’s definitely time to move on. There’s a level of dread that comes on just before every shift that I never used to experience, until the last year. Well actually, it’s sort of been a sliding scale. My first year or so I experienced a hellish period of panic attacks, and though I haven’t had one for a very long time, it still rattles me to think of their onset. Then there was a sort of ‘summer’ of calm in between, when I felt more at ease with my work and my actual life than I had ever felt before. But in September 2015 I had an immensely low day, and there was subsequently a huge dip in my mood, and I’ve been battling to look beyond this ever since. All I can do is look forward, and try to adapt to my environment. This environment is one that I will always associate with anxiety, and though it’s a risk to move on, everything in me is telling me to persevere with job applications, despite the rejections continually rolling in.
  5. My black and white striped bra. Seriously, why on earth do I still have this? It was comfy and supportive when I first bought it from M&S several years ago, but now it’s sagging, there’s a hole in the outer fabric on the left side, it’s stained with God knows what, it’s fraying and it’s a little bit too small for me now. Move on, Rosie.
  6. Waking up late and hating myself. Now that my boyfriend has started a new 9-5 job, we are on different schedules. It happens, and when he first started I said to him, “I will be supportive and wake up with you each morning.” This lasted a week, and I am a little bit ashamed. It makes sense for us to wake up together, and I don’t actually work nights, only evenings, so it’s not a struggle for me to do so. I can’t complain that we don’t see each other much if I’m not making a true effort to do so.
  7. Disorganised reading. I used to adore reading, as it was constant salvation to be able to escape to a different world. I always had that option. The past year and a half I’ve been struggling to concentrate. I still read the odd book, but I don’t get anywhere near as much relief from it as I used to. I even tried to encourage myself to tend to this hobby more by committing to a monthly book subscription box, but on reflection I think this has applied more pressure. The books pile up, and I feel angry at myself for not establishing time to read. I think what I need to do is breathe, and remember that it’s not a test, there’s no quota to reach on books read in a year. I need to walk back into a library, and browse the shelves with a casual air, if something truly catches my eye then I will picture my next day off and if I can set aside a little time to properly appreciate it.
  8. Self harm. The reason for this is, I am 27. Not that it doesn’t happen to other 27 year olds, but the fact is that this has been ongoing for around 8 years. I don’t wish for it to extend to 9 years, but it’s tricky to establish a definitive way to end it, or even a motivation to end it. Why should I? If you’re a heavy smoker then withdrawing from nicotine can induce stress, moodswings, frustration, but the end product is clear: Continuing with this habit is bad for my body, and encourages my mind to rely on it. Withdrawing from self harm will have similar results, but I am concerned about how much worse I will feel for not having a coping mechanism. I need to remind myself that doing it is not productive, it’s just become a habit over the years. I think the logic is that if I make a mistake and I’ve already punished myself mentally for it, I have nothing else to turn to but still feel horrendous…so it feels natural to remind myself physically that it’s unacceptable to keep making the same mistakes. It’s quick and easy to do, I don’t have to be in a doctor’s office to go through with it, and I can then attempt to move on. But I do understand that it’s just not productive in the long term. So I hope to be able to leave this behind in 2016.
  9. My bow-tie heels. I last wore these to a wedding in 2014, despite having a chunky heel on them I struggled to walk, they have a slippy base so despite being a vaguely good fit at the time of purchase, my feet kept sliding in them, my feet were in agony by the end of the night, and they go with next-to-nothing that I own. But because I like the little bow-tie at the front, and they have a slightly 1920s look, I’ve held onto them. They do not fit Rosie, let them go.
  10. My terror of human contact. I’m sure we’ve all had some interactions that we would rather forget, they just didn’t go well, or you didn’t put your point across as you would have liked. For me, this is every single interaction I have. I will stammer, then something switches in my mind and I start to develop a ‘hummingbird’ chest, and everything feels a bit hazy and unclear. I will forget what I intended to say in the middle of my sentence, or I will be hyper-aware of how awkwardly I am standing or the ugliness of my expression, and I will start to feel out of breath, or a compulsion to take deep ones, one after the other. This breathlessness has sometimes continued for days, depending on how ashamed I feel. It worsens if I’m in an enclosed environment, for instance, a car. Lovely people will offer me lifts home, and something will immediately click in my mind, something’s going to go wrong, I will make a mistake and then I can’t leave, so I try to decline as often as I can, despite their kindness. It just sparks instant anxiety. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But it comes as part-and-parcel of the fear of leaving my flat. I will DEFINITELY make a mistake, hundreds, ones I’ve even made before, my stupidity will cause issues for others, my memory will fail me and I’ll need to calm down. This cycle would cause panic attacks in the past. I don’t have them anymore, so I feel the tiniest step forward has been made. If that step has been made, others can be reached too.

So thanks for staying with me for this little talk, and I hope that whatever you wish to leave behind in 2016 is achievable and you can look forward with positivity.

Until the next day of Blogmas!

Rosie

x

 

I’m back (I think).

Back where?

Well, with my trusty rusty laptop balanced on my thighs, revelling in the calm of an empty room and a head full of blog ideas. Their literary worth is another matter, what is more important to me is that the urge to share is here. I am not a sharer, I mean don’t get me wrong on a good day I will consent to offering you my first or last Oreo, if I feel I can trust you, but the details of my life don’t reach the tip of my tongue lightly these days. Have they ever? They are most often buzzing around my head fenced within a “People do not care, so don’t bother sharing” mechanism.

There is no lever pulled to activate this, it just comes naturally. As a very anxious soul, I find talking to people extremely stressful. I can’t do it, I panic and feel the onset of a recently staved-off hummingbird chest, which draws me to running out of breath, tripping over my words and gibbering nonsense. Perhaps that’s also what I’m doing now, typing the same exact gibbering nonsense. However I feel this is something of a “safe place”. If I trip over my words, I have the glorious backspace key to assist me. If I make a mistake and it is noticed, I’m okay with as it isn’t a direct response to the input of another, it is just thoughts spilling into a void. My hands are grounded, my red laptop base warm beneath my wrists and providing a centre, shaking is limited. I am not worried that my reactions may seem false or odd, as my face is hidden. If an onset of panic prevents me from completing the task, I can return to it later when I can think more rationally and breathe more consistently. Is this the “real” version of myself? In reality I am probably the bumbling, catastrophically worthless projection I see reflected whenever I leave the house, but at least this must be a calmer one.

I’ve had a lapse in my coping mechanisms recently. My usual methods are now too steeped in uncertainty for me to feel like safety is accessible in a fit of anxiety. A trivial analogy could be using the same skincare routine day in, day out. Sometimes you need to mix it up, as the same routine may not work from one day to the next, depending on your circumstances. Whatever has changed recently to make me feel this way, I am predictably oblivious to. The thought of having to be social fills me with more dread than ever, for instance in my place of work, I have to try to breathe as calmly and consistently as I can before I can build up the courage to walk into the staff room, or the main office, or to request anything. Another instance would be meeting up with friends, lovely friends whom I’ve known and adored for years, I worry so much that their expectations of me will have changed since the last time we spoke, or other times thinking that their expectations of me are met, but detrimentally, as I go on to prove just how useless and moronic I can be. Establishing a queue in a shop where the side to begin is not immediately apparent. Responding to a phone call in an awkward way. Meeting somebody’s eyes in a way which might suggest I was upset or angry. Worrying I may have caused somebody an accident by bumping into them. Feeling like a drain on the world. Please stop me from going on. So this is a (sort of) new method for me. Sharing!

I have some ideas for what I want to post about, most likely trivial and useless, but perhaps that is something that needs celebrating in itself. The desire to share, must mean an ounce of confidence resides in me? Let’s nurture it, as the leading lady in Beating Myself Up, I would like to adopt a different approach and see what the world, and my battered mind, responds with. I was inspired to come back by someone I know who writes beautifully and coherently about her experience with mental health.

 

 

A few words on judgement.

Yesterday, I made a mistake. Well, correction – one of my non-singular mistakes of the day had an impact on me, more than the usual self-loathing “why can I never do anything right” whine. So my mistake, the particular mistake in question, caused a mild inconvenience for someone I had never met until that moment. When this was explained to them, they proceeded to make continuous judgements of my personality, based on that one mistake. Pretty insulting comments, one after the other, one of them being that I “seem the type who never stands up for themself”. Cue my role in this scenario, to take everything they were saying and not stand up for myself. To most recipients of such judgements I imagine it would feel like a base annoyance, something to brush off easily with a simple thought: “Well, you’re wrong.” But I couldn’t defend myself, as I felt that everything they were saying felt exactly right. Not ‘right’, in the sense that, everything was as it should be, but right in that, I agreed with what they were saying, and couldn’t help but think of the consequences. I don’t know if I can ever change. I stopped speaking after a while and found myself just nodding. They looked at me and didn’t take my quietness as a sign to back off, but to continue. What I wanted to say, not that it would have had any effect, was this – I don’t need anyone else telling me that I am worthless. I tell myself this, every single day. How about we dismiss it with – ‘Bad day’, Rosie? Time of the month? Having a childish fit? I may be everything you have listed off, but at the very least, I do not verbally attack people within 30 seconds of meeting them, when they have not intentionally caused hurt. It was tactless, and I felt like the smallest being in the world. When I got home I cried and scratched the living hell out of my legs, because that is the childish way I deal with such (insignificant, but not to me) moments. I don’t know what they hoped to achieve in saying these things to me, but they hurt. For a quivering, monumentally stupid wreck of anxiety like myself, it was not what I needed to hear, at all. So the way I am dealing with it, the passive-aggressive, weak, QUIET, worthless way I am dealing with it, is to write this in my blog. Wonderfully productive. So if you ever immediately spot weaknesses in someone you have just met, even those that will have no effect on you whatsoever, please consider the consequences of reciting their problems to them. Most likely, they will have already realised these issues, and may just be battling them every single day.

Rosie x