Yesterday I watched some footage of myself from fifteen years ago. We are not who we were.
The surface impression was disturbing. A face and a body I’d now love to inhabit. Yet I remember the agony of doing so. Looking good was my only compensation for a life more miserable than I could communicate. There’s no sign of the misery. She’s the party girl, full of talk, full of herself. And at every opportunity, full of drink. A person seemingly strong, even forceful, yet incredibly unstable. Little wonder she had so much trouble holding onto friendship, finding love. No wonder she provoked dislike; even hatred. No wonder she experienced men largely as predators.
Around this time, I read poetry in public for the first time. Just before I went up a man said to me ‘How can you write poetry when you’ve got no soul?’ At the time, I felt eviscerated. Watching this footage, I can understand his mistake.
She is not me. She is heading for a catastrophic breakdown. You wouldn’t know, to look at her, how much she cries in private. Three small children she cannot cope with, no help. She drops them off at school and nursery and cries the whole drive home. Drinking used to begin when she put them to bed. Then it began at bath-time. Now six on the dot. Sometimes lunchtime. The tension between how she appears to be, and how she feels inside, will break her. Appearing to be okay takes a huge amount of energy, but is necessary, to prevent the unwelcome attention of strangers. She has seen her friend sectioned, Largactyled, subjected to Electro Convulsive Therapy. So no trip to the doctors. Medication would only be a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. Talk therapy: did that in her twenties. It taught her *why* she was messed up. But after a year she was still messed up. In some ways, worse. Picking a scab doesn’t heal it.
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