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06 Jan 2012 - 05:44:49 pm

WHEN WORDS FAIL ME

The heart rate increases, the mouth dries up. The ability to think straight evaporates. One cannot speak coherently, only in erratic, frantic tones full of questions. The sense of panic is overwhelming, followed by a weighty depression which is almost physical in its totality

There is an overwhelming desire to 'put things right,' to 'confess,' to apologise. The sphincter is loose. Nothing outside these feelings is of any consequence. The feeling of doom, of disaster, imprisonment or pending attack is virtually indescribable. In extreme cases - as if this weren't all extreme enough - the approaching sense of fainting looms. The palms dry out. Anxiety is all. There is a need to 'run.' A need also to be comforted, to find a womb and hide there. The terror is irremediable. Business plans, social arrangements, even the people one is with are immediately invisible and of no matter. There is a desire to weep. A terrifying sense that one is about to be 'punished' and punished seriously, arrives in waves; the 'butterflies' in the belly come later. Most terrible of all is the 'false recall,' the absolute certainty of the 'crime' that one has committed in lurid detail though one has committed nothing at all to merit this onslaught. A writer will grab a 'phone or hit the Internet to withdraw from publication at once a story or poem he or she believes to contain libellous material - when the manuscript is returned, no such material will be discovered. It was never there. 

The body stoops, feeling weighted. One seeks 'reassurance' but no matter what reassurance are offered, they have no effect. The feeling of being alone is intense, as is the feeling of utter emotional nakedness and vulnerability. An argument had with someone years ago returns as a crime committed against that person, its significance exploding in size and import. An unpaid bill becomes an imprisonable offence. Eating is impossible. Sparked off by a tone of voice, a letter or an e-mail (all of which are perceived to be threatening) this episode may last several days, and it is physically exhausting. There is a ponderous, grubby feeling of tiredness, there is no will to make something to eat or to read - all abilities of concentration have, in any case, vanished - and all of this, as it dissipates, is crowned with a sense of shame, self-defeat, embarrassment, the idea that one has let someone down, particularly if it is someone close. One sees onself as a reduced individual, a child who needs protecting. A week ago, one could take on the world: now the entire world, without doing very much at all, is a terrifying place full of shadowy threat. One tries to sleep and it is virtually impossible; one may manage a couple of hours before waking into a nightmare of early-hours suffering, racing and unconnected thoughts (all of them negative) and a sense of powerlessness. One regrets everything. Tomorrow, they will 'come for you,' whatever form they may take. In any case, when it's ended, one can expect a couple of days or uncertainty and shakiness. The sense of everyday self-worth takes time to return. 

That such episodic horror can be sparked off by a casual remark ('Someone called for you but they wouldn't leave their name') or any number of similar 'puzzles' seems, to those who do not suffer from it, to be absurd. Though almost everyone can experience - if they are ill, or genuinely concerned about something - similar sensations, the unprompted and 'out of the blue' loss of oneself is the curse of the few. Theorists of all stamps have suggested that 'gifted' writers, composers and artists are more open to it than most, the creative imagination having a light and dark countenance; two doors, one opens on beauty, the other upon its opposite. Melancholia perhaps, was an old term that covered such events; but the debilitating nature of the thing is rarely mentioned among those who would romanticise it. And no one who expriences it ever romanticises it. At least two or three days of one's life can be taken up and absurbed by it. Relationships can suffer, work certainly does. Poetry, its writing, significantly, seems to have an ordering or even placatory effect. Certainly there is a strong element of depression working here; but - and this is my totally untutored and unprofessional view - this is depression plus. This is the rendering of a fairly strong psyche into the psyche of a frightened and abandoned child, for whom all experience gathered in a lifetime is negated, all commonsense thrown violently aside. The sufferer is brought back to a primal experience of a dark wood in which he or she, surrounded by very possible dangers, is hyper-vigilant and scared. Just as a single word or incident can bring him there, so a word or incident can take him out of it. The dark wood can be illuminated and shown to be uninhabited merely by an authoritative voice declaring that it is safe. But that voice no longer resides internally in the sufferer. And again I must emphasise that I am not a professional in such matters, merely someone who has been in an instant, and often, thrown into the wood. 

There seems to be an indicator somewhere in all of this of how primitive we are, how easily the superstitious and scared-of-his-own-shadow side of ourselves can surface if the right magical word is uttered. In the midst of such nightmare I crave control, I crave the sorcerer's sword which I have lost yet which can vanquish anything. The poet has, I would venture, a vague map as to the location of the sword. It is not, in my humble view, a coincidence that I have often experienced, in the wake of an 'episode,' an extreme sadness and sense of loss. I am aware that one component of my being is strong enough, able, creative, forceful and as unlikeable as the next man. But why I can often face situations that some would find impossible, yet can succomb in a blink to outrageous and frightful fancy, I do not know. One may recite a list of terms, of definitions, and there is some comfort in that. One may amateurishly scour one's childhood for answers and assume this and that until the proverbial cows come home. Considering that in some instances it only takes someone to explain cogently and professionally, and with a laugh, that one's terrors are unfounded, to wither them away, these dark ephemera clearly do not have much substance or power of themselves. So do I invite them in? 

Curiously, there is a Doubting Thomas element to them: show me proof, let me touch the proof, and I will no longer have doubts. I don't know. Everything written here is my own conjecture. No one should apply any of it to their own experience. I have been prone to this episodic dark night of the soul all of my life, it is part of me, it is who I am. Whether it makes poetry is hardly the point. 
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http://johnston.sosblogs.com/The-first-blog-b1/WHEN-WORDS-FAIL-ME-b1-p29.htm

Comments

Comment from: angrybirdsonlineshop.com [ Visitor ] Website
nice and good post i like it thank very much for your post
   2012-01-14 @ 09:03:43 am
Comment from: Brenda [ Visitor ]
sorry i missed yer new years call.... good writing, Fred, no need to prove anything to anyone. you know what you feel XOX
   2012-01-11 @ 10:47:32 am
Comment from: Frank Hanover [ Visitor ] Website
This is such a bleakly brilliant description of what reminds me of a panic attack -though I accept that it is more than this- what need have you Fred of the regimented pseudosciences of Psychiatry and Psychology posited by elitism as means to interpret psyche? We are electromagnetic and in constant search of signal. Not all signal from a unified field will be comfortable but we will endure as long as meditation and entanglement are in mind. By the by I greatly appreciate your comments regarding the enigmatically comforting aspect of intimate poetry. It really is the language of the multiverse for its grasp of sheer human import. Regards, Frank
   2012-01-07 @ 01:26:53 pm
Comment from: Eamonn Kelly [ Visitor ]
Nice one Fred. And Timely. I found myself there tonight. Thanks. Take it easy. E
   2012-01-07 @ 03:45:35 am
Comment from: Sara-Mae [ Visitor ] Website
Lovely prose. Puts my blatherey blog to shame!
   2012-01-06 @ 11:46:20 pm
Comment from: Rosemarie [ Visitor ] Website
Very moving account of how a hostile society or environment can affect a sensitive person
   2012-01-06 @ 08:38:40 pm

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