a-z challenge: n

He: What’s the matter with you?
Me: Nothing.
Nothing was slowly clotting my arteries. Nothing slowly numbing my soul. Caught by nothing, saying nothing, nothingness becomes me. When I am nothing they will say surprised in the way that they are forever surprised, “but there was nothing the matter with her.”
― Jeanette Winterson, Gut Symmetries

N is for nothing. The Jeanette Winterson quote sparked this post off.

When you’re inside a mind like mine, with pathologically extreme empathy and rumination,  simple questions become ridiculously loaded. How are you becomes incredibly complex, what’s wrong contains too much intensity. I can’t resolve any of those things for myself in any great hurry, and so I do my best to lighten the burden on others. That way I can feel that I did one decent thing that day.

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Sometimes it’s way simpler to say nothing’s the matter, thought it can result in frustration on both sides. Nothing can be something good. And the following exchange is excruciating, I’m sure I look like a mangy rabbit in the headlights when it happens.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: *agonising about what to say*
Them: …
Me: Nothing.
Them: C’mon, you can tell me.
Me: *uncomfortable as fuck*
Them: …
Me: Problem issue confusion pain hopelessness and so on
Them: *doesn’t know wtf to say*
Me: *wishing it’d been left unsaid*
Them: *wishing they’d never asked in the first place*
Me: *Feeling small and stupid*
Them: *Feeling helpless and inadequate*
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

See, even when it isn’t situational at all, one can always come up with justifications and explanations for depression – but they’re the wrong answers, inaccurate too.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: I’d rather not talk about it.
Them: *taken aback and probably offended*
Me: …
Them: *trying to ctrl+alt+delete out of the situ*
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

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I find it hard to say I don’t want to talk about something to acquaintances, but I can do it with good friends. And the good friends just respect it and we chat about something else. I have one sort-of-friend who I have told very clearly, that I will not talk about certain things. No point saying I don’t want to to her, because it just spurs her on to do her best to make me change my mind. Then she brings up whatever I didn’t want to talk about at the drop of a hat, until the only way out is a rather fierce bluntness. Well, some people have hides like a rhino. Is there a more tactful way to put it?

The next one is humiliating. Weeping is not a comfortable spectator sport.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing *cries like a bitch*
Them: It can’t be nothing.
Me: I don’t know.
Them: You must know.
Me: Well, it’s not a thing as such, it’s my disorder.
Them: So nothing’s wrong, but you’re having a meltdown?
Me: Yeah.
Them: …
Me: …
Them: Have you thought about accepting Donald Duck as your lord and saviour?
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

When I get far enough into the thing that I’m visibly splintering, I can’t handle sudden eviction from a vulnerable space. I feel diminished by it. Also, Donald Duck drives me seven kinds of batshit. The vital point of that bit of dialogue, and the difference between it and the others, is that it contains the truth. What is wrong is created by, for instance, my bipolar and/or c-ptsd, and there are very specific steps to take when things are foul.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing *big smile*
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

That nothing isn’t actually fake or false, if bipolar is the baseline, which it is for me, than nothing implies nothing more nothing new nothing unusual. Nothing really means no situational causes. Close friends won’t be fooled, nor will they be satisfied, but then, they’re close friends for a reason and none of this applies to any of them.

People are understandably uncomfortable around extreme emotions. Hell, even pets get knotted up about them. They’re unsettling, distressing and disruptive. It feels unjust to put somebody in a position to feel shitty because they can’t help you. It feels kinder and more logical to contain the misery to yourself. It’s why a lot of very depressed people kid around so much. It deflects the attention, it stops me disintegrating into yet another futile look at the pile of shit I’m battling very hard to get to grips with. My hands are always dirty, I don’t want to keep shaking hands and spreading it around. Nothing keeps us both a little safer.

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Published by

blahpolar

battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

29 thoughts on “a-z challenge: n”

  1. I’ve stopped saying “nothing” when asked what’s wrong. People seem to think it’s some sort of Jedi mind trick to screw with them. Now I just say “bad mental health day.” They won’t touch that with a ten foot pole.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, I don’t want you smacking any unicorns so I’ll comment!

    That was an interesting, and intriguing post. I like the quote from Jeanette Winterson.

    Nothing more to add… because if I start there’s really nowhere to go… nothing in the end will make any sense. But then, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So… I’ll leave a little something, a little more than nothing.

    Jenny, Pearson Report
    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador
    @PearsonReport

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the finest meta-comment comment I have ever received *wipes away single tear* the unicorn is safe for another day. Thanks for the visit, I feel as though royalty just popped in … sorry the cucumber sandwiches wilted *wipes away another hallmarky single tear*

      Like

  3. The dreaded question…ugh.

    Speaking of Donald Duck, I saw my former pastor post on FB today about how praying is the way out of depression. Sigh. Logged the hell out before I said something.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Very. I suppose what I’ll do is post a dozen links/memes tomorrow about how shit like that doesn’t help. someone will get the idea at least.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I understood the hands are dirty metaphor thingy 100% but as I was making my way down to comment I slipped through the gutter and now I can’t …… Nakaknakanajaoaj.

    100% relate to nothing and everything in the nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge – where I am part of the A to Z Ambassador Team! (I’m a minion/volunteer under Arlee.)
    Great post. I’m looking forward to more. Let me know if I can help you in any blogging way this month. Congratulations on making it past the first half. Finish strong. You can do it! I’ve followed you on your listed social media sites.
    -J @JLenniDorner

    Whew- no unicorn smacking!

    It would be more helpful if people asked, “Can I do something to improve this moment for you?” or “Is there anything I can reasonably do at this moment to help you?” The answer is no 99% of the time, but achieves both goals! 1- The asker has successfully offered to assist, which was the real intent behind “what’s wrong” — so they can feel good. 2- You don’t have to answer some impossible question! Especially one that you KNOW the answer isn’t what they want to hear. Because, honestly, what they want to hear is that they can help. You even have an escape option of fibbing. “I’d love a glass of water.” Something stupid and easy that they can do, and you can say thanks, or nod, or even flash a quick forced smile if you’ve got it in you. Did it solve the problem? No. Did you think the asker was going to solve the problem? No. Do they feel like they’ve at least done something, and therefore you’ve had some “bonding” moment? Yes. It even gives you the upper hand with Donald Duck-ers, because you can say, “You could watch a Donald Duck cartoon and think of me. Thanks.” People big on the Duck will be thrilled to do it, and really feel they’ve made a difference. If they do, great. If they don’t, no skin off your back. A total win.

    Getting people to actually start approaching situations this way… that’s another story.

    Like

  6. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge – where I am part of the A to Z Ambassador Team! (I’m a minion/volunteer under Arlee.)
    Great post. I’m looking forward to more. Let me know if I can help you in any blogging way this month. Congratulations on making it past the first half. Finish strong. You can do it! I’ve followed you on your listed social media sites.
    -J @JLenniDorner

    Whew- no unicorn smacking!

    It would be more helpful if people asked, “Can I do something to improve this moment for you?” or “Is there anything I can reasonably do at this moment to help you?” The answer is no 99% of the time, but achieves both goals! 1- The asker has successfully offered to assist, which was the real intent behind “what’s wrong” — so they can feel good. 2- You don’t have to answer some impossible question! Especially one that you KNOW the answer isn’t what they want to hear. Because, honestly, what they want to hear is that they can help. You even have an escape option of fibbing. “I’d love a glass of water.” Something stupid and easy that they can do, and you can say thanks, or nod, or even flash a quick forced smile if you’ve got it in you. Did it solve the problem? No. Did you think the asker was going to solve the problem? No. Do they feel like they’ve at least done something, and therefore you’ve had some “bonding” moment? Yes. It even gives you the upper hand with Donald Duck-ers, because you can say, “You could watch a Donald Duck cartoon and think of me. Thanks.” People big on the Duck will be thrilled to do it, and really feel they’ve made a difference. If they do, great. If they don’t, no skin off your back. A total win.

    Getting people to actually start approaching situations this way… that’s another story.

    (Internet might have ate the first try.)

    Like

  7. I should print out this post and start handing it out to people. You explained it better than I ever could. That’s why I sometimes answer that “I’m stable”. It means that even if I feel a bit down there’s no situational causes and I’m not in any danger of going over the edge. Again, as you said, close friends understand.

    Liked by 1 person

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