The amount of distress you carry is enormous. That is what is exhausting you- not low energy or motivation.

“How can I mitigate it?” I asked.

The question is, what is at the root of it. Stop trying to prove to yourself that you are loveable.

I see you appreciate some of your strengths. I know you appreciate your brain and your aesthetic appreciation of life but I’m not at all sure that you know you are loveable. You seek people’s happiness. I think you have enormous capacity that is utterly disabled by distress. You said something about vulnerability, you described one of your friends as “A fairly chaotic individual, generally means well, quite easily hurt,” and you laughed and you said “Who does that remind you of?” And the laughter went straight into utter distress.

It’s that fragility, that vulnerability- You have tremendous energy, but it’s distress that saps you. To be in such distress for so long, it’s like living with pain. It is living with pain. And with the strength of your intellect and with the depth of your emotions and with the power of your aesthetic appreciation and with your generosity you should be able to get the pain out, but how I have no idea. Part of you is screaming, and it’s been screaming for a ruddy long time. Possibly life long.

And I know that you can get on in spite of it, I know that you can distract yourself from it, I know that you can focus on lots of different things, but it hasn’t stopped screaming, and you need to tend to it.

Part of you is always in panic. You have such an appreciation of beauty and of love and awe and such an intellect, but the letter from the benefits office must have knocked the knees out from under you, again. I think if all of you believed that you were loveable the part of you that is screaming would stop. It might be worthwhile then letting it speak and giving it a cuddle.

Well, there’s feedback, from someone who knows me well. And even naming it “distress” is difficult: I call it “self-pity”, or inadequacy, or a sense of entitlement, or weakness. That I might be worthy of my own care surprises me sometimes. Does the feedback fit? I don’t know. I might call it “discomfort”, but then label it mild, and the superego which rides me so hard, or the transactional analysis “Parent”, would say “Everyone suffers discomfort, what are you complaining about?” It would make “enormous capacity” into an accusation: What are you doing with it?

I lay in my grave, and my mother said to me, “I didn’t want you”. No, really. The exercise was to imagine myself in an open grave, looking up at people passing by, and my unconscious rewarded me with that vision. Of course I believe it. The subconscious knows.

What does distress achieve? It might make the sufferer uncomfortable, so that they realise there is something wrong, which needs fixed. It might make them stop what they are doing. I did not immediately think of, but added later- it could prompt care from another- though I do not believe I could deserve it. If I am right about my mother it is childhood distress, or even inherited distress. She was frightened of the world, and yet still managed to keep a job, but she had me not because she wanted me but because that was the conventional thing to do. I can see my anger, frustration, resentment and fear in her, and if she had accepted my distress as a child I would know I was loveable and would not feel this way.

And now those inner voices are saying, don’t be stupid and self-indulgent, of course it could not be life-long, stop complaining. And they are projecting onto you, my reader(s)- you will think me a self-indulgent, inadequate, ridiculous, self-pitying etc etc fool. Yet I am a human being, and am at least worthy of my own love.

7 thoughts on “Distress

  1. Yes, naturally. It is said, (which is code for, ‘I’d like to offer my ideas here, if I may’) that all negative emotions are of the ego, which is insane. And therefore irreconcilable with what is true about us, and lovable and known: that we are always perfection.

    I find, personally, the way out of the morass of irreconcilable negativity – panic, guilt, anxiety – is to surrender. To release and surrender everything, so that all is left is what is now. Then, the obvious playfulness of the Universe can come out to play some more. 🙂 At the root of that, is knowing that the Universe is always contriving Life to our advantage, it always has our back, like the rubber duck that refuses to sink. Who cares what other people think? xxx


  2. You’ll hit me, but I have to correct your grammar (sorry!!). ‘Fixed’ is the wrong participle – you need ‘fixing’ (present participle) lol ;-)!

    Emotional pain & I have been long acquainted, as I think you know. I don’t think either of us has ever known mental pain of the acuteness suffered by the young woman I came across the first night I spent in St Crispin’s Psychiatric Hospital, Northampton, back in 1974. I hope not, anyway! She spent all night long banging on the radiator in the room above mine, screaming her head off. It was as if she was being tormented by all the devils in Hell, simultaneously. That’s ‘distress’ alright. I can’t tell you what happened to her, unfortunately.

    Mystics like St John of the Cross and St Theresa of Avila, the founders of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, speak of the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. I am certainly acquainted with that, and with John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle and Giant Despair. Again, ‘distress’ – but it’s not self-indulgent, and the suggestion that it IS is simply gratuitously offensive. ‘Distress’ is part and parcel of la condition humaine – to seek to avoid it is to seek to be a machine, or dead! You cannot love without risking distress! Every breath you take, you risk distress! I would rather be distressed, and ALIVE, filled with the devastating beauty of life, than not be distressed and DEAD, because I will be dead soon enough!


    • On participles- as so often, Richard, you are right in your way and wrong in mine. It needs fixing- it is not yet fixed, so the past participle makes no sense; it needs to be fixed would work; but “it needs fixed” sounds more definite.

      My mother said I was a quiet baby, and I remain quiet. Shouting works for some people. I don’t know if you can tell from the nature of the response the strength of the stimulus, because “Who is the person” is the other unknown variable, but screaming like that may have got her where she was.

      I feel the distress is a miasma, from all of life past present and future. Acknowledge and transmute it! Accept it, and move on despite it! Or something. The Dark Night is not like Slough. Self-indulgent is my own word, my own judgment, just about the most condemning word I have for self-laceration. It means pointless, and also arrogant in that it postulates I might deserve something.

      “Devastating beauty”- Ah, the words we use to try to keep putting one foot in front of the other…



      • No, Slough isn’t like the Dark Night of the Soul. ‘Come friendly Bombs and fall on Slough…’ And didn’t John Betjeman get into an awful lot of hot water for THAT line? ‘Devastating beauty’ isn’t an excuse for failing to do anything, & I can’t even begin to imagine how you could think it would be! But then, from my perspective, your thought processes are often, as they appear to me to be now, singularly – and almost monstrously – perverse! We’ll never be on the same page, will we? It’s so very sad! 😦 It isn’t JUST because I’m neuro-diverse, and you’re neuro-typical – we’re also two such VERY different people, & we think VERY differently. In fact, I suspect we’re light-years apart, and that makes me even sadder!


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