Dialogue of the Inner Voices

Anxiety is fear, curdled.

Two of my inner voices have been diametrically opposed, struggling, both miserable, both mostly unconscious, manifested in lassitude and misery. Both want my good. Both are Welcome. My Frontal Lobe, as the conscious part of this process, this animal, this Euarchontoglire called Abigail, invites both into consciousness, to see if they could be brought into dialogue.

One is resentful, frustrated and angry. It wants me to justify my existence, to have meaning in my life. It wants to stretch me and push me to achieve. The other is resentful, frightened and hurt. It feels bullied by the Stretcher. I call it my No. No, that is unreasonable. No, I will not go out cycling and struggle up hill, being cursed as weak and useless.

Fear, unheard, slops around inside like stagnant water, like bilge water in a ship. It could have been useful. It warned of a threat. And now it has gone bad, detached from the threat it warned of, attached to anything it can slime. It becomes anxiety. It does not mean there is no real threat, just that finding that threat is more difficult, and needs patience; and anxiety may linger after I find the threat, unsure that I really have dealt with it.

So the Frontal Lobe, the Love, the Reconciler, to make this a positive sum game brings both voices into separate rooms, lavishing praise and gratitude on both for their care and labour, with a hint of a suggestion that their aims might be achieved better if a few small adjustments were made.

There is the Stretcher, which the Protector wishes to call the slave-driver. It wants me to achieve. I am competitive, and it encourages me this morning to go cycling. The Protector fears the slave-driver will get angry and frustrated, and start to bully uselessly. Harder! Faster! I cudgel myself, scourge myself, as I go up hill too slowly for my liking, not wanting to go down a gear because I should be able to do it in this gear. The Stretcher is continually bamboozled, as well as resentful, that this is not as easy as it thinks it should be.

Well, the lie it imbibed was that things are easy and its performance should be perfect. It has fixed at quite a young age, this aspect of myself. At that young age, I decided that difficult things should appear easy and require little effort, and the Stretcher, frustrated, resentful, angry and mostly unconscious, affecting me unawares, has not learned how to- drop a gear, literally and figuratively, to break the task down, take it slower, make it easier, take the time necessary to learn it, build up gradually.

With Love, the Reconciler thanks it for its determination to achieve and develop, and suggests it might achieve these worthwhile goals more easily by breaking the task down. That is a long hill, steep in places. I notice that if I drop to a gear lower than I ever use at the steepest parts, I can rotate my pedals quicker, and be in a higher gear later on when it is less steep. I have noticed that the cyclists who pass me turn their cranks much faster than I do. Possibly that is a technique which would make me more efficient. I read about it last century, I think, this idea of Cadence, around the time I found that a simple change to my breaststroke technique made me a faster swimmer.

(Last century. There’s the resentment, the self-blaming. How stupid I am, how stupid these voices! That resentment does not help. Turn it round. Here I am learning ways new to me, which will improve my performance. I will achieve the goals of both!)

Now is what matters.

I am in conscious incompetence. These are decisions to make. Gear 2.1 is much lower than 2.2. I can go up hill in 2.2 but it is a struggle. Then 2.1 feels too low. I may learn which works best by trying both, or perhaps work harder for a bit in 2.2 then go back to 2.1. Trying different combinations may help me learn. Bringing this to consciousness and putting it into words, doing something I don’t know will work in a spirit of enquiry, may help me improve.

This is the aim of the Stretcher.

The Reconciler has also been aware of the Protector, also in its room. The Protector is anxious. It has been scourged and cursed before, it will happen again! But the Stretcher does not seem so angry and frustrated. The Protector might be enticed. Sunshine is good for me. Birds and blossom are beautiful. The Protector wants me to achieve, too, just not to be bullied. Bullying is a No.

The Reconciler hears that demand. No Bullying. Well, that seems reasonable. The Stretcher does not realise it is bullying, that is the problem. Do you see it wants our Good?

Mmm. The Protector is not absolutely convinced, but willing to suspend judgment for the moment. Then its anxiety comes over it. What if my tyre punctures or Something Bad Happens? It has worked so hard to protect me, it needs my care itself.

Most of the time I was out, the Protector was grudgingly admitting that the Stretcher was behaving more sensibly, though some of the time one or the other panicked and needed reassurance. Well, I am a sensitive soul, and that is a blessing, and I need my own love and reassurance. The Reconciler worked to reassure both.

This is a work in progress. And I notice my progress, and give each of these voices, and my whole self, necessary praise and thanks.

Touch

I have not hugged anyone since 6 March. The attention and touch to my bare skin yesterday moved me. Human fellow-feeling also moved me- texting can be beautiful- but I need reassurance of my value, and caring touch made me feel better. I will wring all the pleasure I can from the experience.

I saw my pulse was low, and did something about it: search to find if that’s a problem, phone the NHS, speak to my GP. She arranged the CCG. Then on Thursday evening I found myself thinking about it. Would I be OK? I analysed this. Possible heart problems are a thing people might be worried about, and worried people might think about the thing they were worried about. I had done all I could about it for the moment. So possibly I am worried. I’ve just looked up the difference between worry and anxiety: here it is. Worry is verbal, in the head. I used the word correctly, even though I could not have specified the difference.

Next day, I went to the surgery. Because of The Disease, you go in and announce your presence, then wait outside. Only where a physical examination is necessary do you see a professional in person at all. I chatted to a man of eighty, who arrived on an electric scooter. Someone was going to give him a lift, but had not turned up. He told me he was fed up, and made clear he meant he wanted to die. He had had a cataract operation in February, and when he went in they had told him they had to remove the lens. They really should have told him that before, as that is how you treat a cataract. Then they told him he could not drive for weeks, and now he has double vision sideways and all the opticians are closed. It is good to chat. He had been in the army for ten years, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a formative and terrifying experience for him.

A woman turned up in a mask. “That looks professional,” I said. It doesn’t have the vents or filters, she said, it’s from her husband’s work, and more a dust mask than an airtight mask.

I decided to identify this tree. I think it is a silver birch. Say if you think different.

The nurse, in an apron of plastic film, a hair covering, and a mask, chatted away as she fastened sticky contacts to my skin: chest, abdomen and ankles. That was the caring touch. It mattered, despite her latex gloves. She so misses touching. She is a huggy person. “Normal sinus rhythm,” she said, and the doctor confirmed.

Going without touch matters, as a human being, a primate, an animal; and it is how things are. I will accept it.

Then I went off for blood tests. I was challenged at the door: have I had a cough or fever in the last seven days? No, and not a headache, loss of taste and smell, or lesions on the toes either. The phlebotomist had to have a good dig around in my arm before finding the vein.

How can you just enjoy cycling? I realised I was pedalling along in a fury of resentment. I resented the wind, I resented the inclines, and when I was working hard I cudgelled myself to work harder. I should not need to drop a gear, here. No wonder I never want to go, though I get some pleasure when out. Yet the most memorable moment of the thirteen miles was stopped at a temporary traffic light, when I stood and looked at the trees. A worker approached the light, opened the metal box wired to it, apologised. Oh, that’s alright, I said. They may have been non-binary and I was keen to identify their assigned gender, just like a straight person probably would be. Something about the hip to shoulder ratio in the shapeless overalls made me think them female, but only the voice (goggles, hard hat) made me sure.

So today I decided I would enjoy the cycling. I looked at the gorgeous pink blossom on two trees. I looked at the many different greens on the foliage, and the shivering wide-leaved grass. I dropped a gear when I felt the need, and may have gone faster as a result. I praised myself for going up the inclines, and fully enjoyed going down. I thought of that resentment: only appreciation and love will do. “Love! Love! Love!” I cried.

I want views from another country, so tag this post Mauritania. Mauritania, in West Africa, has some fascinating rock art.

Feelings about feelings

My feelings are my response to the world. If I reject my feelings, I reject my self. I have been taught to reject my feelings, and this paralyses me. My feelings still affect me even if I am not conscious of them. It seems to me that I need to be consciously aware of feelings in order to process them.

I went to the supermarket yesterday. I cycled along the unmetalled road, in the sunshine, enjoying the colours of the lakes. Impressionists using strange colours for water, not blue but colours I cannot name, make more sense to me, and help me see the water more truthfully. I needed to go as I had no fruit in the house, and wondered why I had still not wanted to get up. (At last I was aware of not wanting to get up, rather than being unconscious of it, or in denial.) Why would I not want to be here?

Well, there is the effort of cycling, which is harder on this track, though there is little wind. And, I am outside. There is more sensory stimulation outside, more light, more noise. Rather than the various electric hums of my household, there are birds. Inside, where I prefer to be, I am in control, safest in the immediate moment, and outside is different. And there are people about. People are weird, and possibly threatening.

Knowing that everything must be perfect as I perform this task, of going to the supermarket, finding and buying things, and bringing them home, and therefore everything must be predictable, I feel anxiety. This is completely wrong of me, proof of my weakness and inadequacy. I should not feel anxious.

“You are terribly harsh with yourself,” said Andy.

Because I judge myself for being anxious, I rarely permit myself to be conscious of anxiety, and noticing it can be surprising. And realising how liberating knowing my sadness could be, I am determined to excavate it. That judgment may in the past have made me more effectual- I suppressed my anxiety, and got on with the task in hand- but now it cripples me, stopping me doing anything. And, so distanced from my own feelings, the choice of that task would rarely be my own.

Unconscious anxiety just stops me acting. I do not want to feel anxious, so I do not want to go out. So I lie in bed, half the morning, wondering if I will ever have enough motivation to get up; and when I think, oh, I’ll have lunch then watch TV all afternoon, I finally do.

The emotional being then becomes a recalcitrant servant, always needing coaxed, never doing as much as my conscious sense of rightness or need wants it to do. It is rarely brought into consciousness and it rarely makes positive choices to do something that I want to do. When I am conscious of my feelings, they disturb or distress me; they feel as if they are merely wrong. So I continue suppressing them, and notice I am not doing what that sense of rightness feels is appropriate.

My income is low, and I have been dipping into savings. I was not really conscious of income and outgoings. I was more and more careful of what I spent, for example not buying clothes, but had no real idea of when I was exceeding income. I paid utility bills when I got threats of legal action. It seems to me I am unconsciously resentful of my situation without any idea what to do about it, and I would be less vulnerable if I could monitor my spending, fit it to my income, and pay bills as they come in. I did not like the idea of powerlessly resenting. It feels to me this is more conscious, more truthful, and I should be in credit at the end of the month, just. The feeling affects my actions, whether I am conscious of it or not, and may be noticeable to others, even if I do not see it myself.

In the past, the denial of my feelings has served my purposes. The feeling was too scary to be admitted. But this is a child’s perspective. Generally, the sooner I am conscious of feeling the better it will be.

Covid moodswings

The weather is beautiful. Living in the country, I can go cycling, and afterwards I sat in the back yard and had lunch. I met my new neighbour and his daughter, who is four, as they played together with bouncy-balls. He is an essential worker.

I sat in the sun yesterday as well. My upstairs neighbour, whom I have not met yet, occasionally kicked tiny stones off the flat roof. None landed on me, some landed near, and I wondered about going up and telling him off. I don’t know if he knew I was there. Especially after my friend was burgled for food4fuxache! Burgled for food!- this led me to paranoid thoughts appearing reasonable. It is the covid 19 lockdown, I thought, people will be angry and will be looking for a cat to kick, and the first resource will be us queers. Thank God simply being queer is no longer an excuse as it was in the nineties, but they will imagine excuses for hostility easily.

After the isolation was announced- only essential workers can go out to work, others can work from home if they can, I can go out for one period of exercise a day, and once for essential shopping as infrequently as possible, and as far as I am concerned my common yard is staying at home- I thought, well, actually, I feel quite good. There are rules, which give a false feeling of certainty. My comfort is old male Doctor Who. It’s not that I have anything against Jodie Whittaker, but I find Chris Chibnall mean and repulsive- I like mild threat and horror, but his situations are horrid rather than horrific. Spoiler for the latest episode: Time Lord cybermen in the wreck of the citadel are the last straw.

I want to talk to people. My friend proposed a video chat this morning then could not, as she had crises to deal with, and I was disappointed. So I went cycling, and paid attention to the beauty of grass, trees, sunshine- the sun sparkling on what I will call a brook by the road, though some might call it a drainage ditch. The rapid change of experience on these back roads, as they go up and down over the downs, among trees then open farmland. I paid attention to my momentary experience rather than fearful projections of what might happen. There was the effort of climbing hills and exhileration of descents.

Added: next day I went to the supermarket and got spaghetti, rice, fresh meat and fruit, bread and milk. I felt anxious, queuing up at the checkout. One of my anxieties was being picked on as trans. I stood and noticed the anxiety, and consciously accepted it, and then it bothered me less.

I took a lot of photos at that camp in 2012, and one of them has resurfaced. At the time, it might have been thought unflattering or uninteresting, but now it contains just the right level of seriousness.

And now, here’s today’s little drop of sunshine from Théodore Géricault.

Gender Expression Deprivation Anxiety Disorder

Transition is hard. Not transitioning can be harder.

These people are sad, depressed and deeply resentful… the more the individual struggles to rid themselves of gender dysphoria by increasing social and physical investments in their assigned sex, the greater the generalized anxiety and the harder it becomes to restart life sexually reassigned. I found Anne Vitale PhD on A Life Merely Glimpsed, whose writer identifies as a man who dreams of being a woman. There I also find Third Way Trans has stopped blogging, and made his blog private. Dr Vitale has reached her conclusions after decades of providing psychotherapy to gender variant patients. Now 71, she still maintains a website as a psychologist offering appointments by video call.

Dr Vitale says gynephile gender dysphoric AMAB people have an awful life, when they don’t transition. The androphiles have little difficulty expressing their femininity, dress androgynously and then transition successfully young. The gynephiles try to make men of ourselves. She was writing in 2003, and reporting childhood experiences in some cases from many years earlier. I hope no six year old boy would now be shamed for playing hopscotch with the girls- Arlene was brought to the front of the class, who were encouraged to laugh at her. The teacher had tied a broad pink ribbon to her. Now, some children transition.

Dr Vitale at first appears to blame intra-uterine hormones for gender identity- insufficient or inappropriate androgenization of the brain– but later says in some cases a “gender identity misunderstanding” can be “corrected” in some children. The explanation someone has for phenomena can affect their observations, as can any preconception. But I recognise the stories told. The children generally seek to fit in and follow the rules. They may be solitary, spending a lot of time reading or in solo sporting activity. They pray to God for transformation. In adolescence they cross-dress and masturbate.

In early adulthood many AMAB people present desperate to be told they are not transsexual, they fear transition so much. They can be particularly sexist- thinking negatively about women helps them fight the desire to be one. They think marrying, and then having children, will make their desires lessen.

Between 28 and 33 people generally reappraise their dreams and aspirations, and then gender dysphoric people may change sex or fight harder to stick to their assigned sex. In middle age those who have not transitioned may find the gender dysphoria gets worse as transition seems impossible, leading to depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, despair and thoughts of suicide. One would close his office door, curl into the foetal position and weep- I only did that at home.

While Dr Vitale was aware of someone having GRS aged 71, other older people had low self-esteem and loathed their deteriorating bodies, though when aging reduced their testosterone levels that was a relief. Had they known their dysphoria was going to last, and be so dreadful, they say they would have transitioned when younger. They are depressed and resentful.

Written in 2003, this article anticipates the DSM V principle that the desire is not the mental health problem, rather the distress it causes is. Treatment should mitigate the distress. Dr Vitale observes hormones and surgery in most cases eliminate the anxiety. She says gender identity disorder is a continuum: some people will be satisfied with cross-dressing and do not need to transition.

This is an old article reporting twentieth century experience. Yet there are still older people who have not transitioned, who live closeted, who experience the distress and depression described. Younger people fighting against acknowledging their gender dysphoria, and terrified of transition, should consider how they would feel with similar desires in old age. Those who advocate against transition should be made to demonstrate some other treatment or course of action will produce better results.

Aware of mirrors in art in the Arnolfini portrait and Las Meninas by Velasquez, I magnified this mirror- but Simeon Solomon does not appear.

Where feelings come from

Our feelings do all sorts of things for us, and one thing they do is bind us into community. It is wonderful to be in a crowd at a demonstration all wanting the same thing, all calling for it, hearing speakers who put those desires clearly into words. It is wonderful to be at a concert, all feeling the same thing that the music expresses. I love to play the piano and feel with the music, the drama and drive of the Pathétique sonata or the contemplative strangeness of the Gymnopedies, and it must be wonderful to play your own songs on stage and have the audience feel with you.

Feelings binding us in community come from authority figures. A manager can set a tone for an organisation, a way of being and responding. In authoritarian countries there may be one acceptable way of feeling, from the Leader, and in democratic countries different feelings from different parties, churches and social groups. When I was anti-abortion it felt good to share those sentiments: We all felt the same way so we must be right. Then I changed my mind. I told that story on a phone-in (I start at 17.00).

We get conventional ways of feeling about things from peers. We start this in school, in part from teachers but more from those our age. So we learn how we should feel about particular things, and are reassured when we have the right feelings with others who feel the same. We like to feel consistent, and so these feelings last in us; and other generations are different, as they do not feel the same way. My mother being unusually domineering, I got those conventional feelings from her. My “What will people think?” was really what would she think, which was outdated before I was born. And I can mirror feelings from people around me, which seem to be my feelings too.

These things are really our own feelings. After all, we feel them. And, underneath, there are our idiosyncratic feelings, simply for each individual, what that individual loves or loathes. It is those feelings I seek to know.

I had a difficult counselling session. I wanted to discuss anxiety. I am far more anxious than I realise, I said. I get anxious about them, so I don’t do things, and from that I have worked out that I was anxious even though I did not consciously feel it. The anxiety comes from past experiences plus catastrophising- imagining the future worse than it is likely to be or imagining the worst possible moment in the future. I thought I am depressed but I am not anxious, but now I think I am depressed because unconsciously I am anxious.

So we went over my working life. In my first job after graduating, one might feel on Sunday evening “Oh God I have to work tomorrow” but on Friday evening I was feeling “It’s the weekend! But I will have to go to work on Monday”- the same misery. I was out of my depth, not communicating well, not having any idea of what I wanted as a trainee to gain experience in.

After I was sacked, I was required to work my notice but not given much to do, and one day a partner had forgotten her keys, so I drove after her to deliver them. I did, and she thanked me, and I was delighted because I was doing something useful.

Well, I had various bad experiences at work, and my character, perfectionist, self-blaming, inflexible, made them worse and more painful. All these benefit and employment clients: I was reasonably sympathetic to them, but it wasn’t personal because I took on their problems, but because I felt it was for me to win all these cases. So I took it intensely personally. I was getting to see my perfectionism and quite how much I despise myself, but not quickly enough to stop that being unbearable. So I gave up.

I am particularly sensitive, so I want that to work for me not against me.

After, I was talking with a friend about her own Employment Tribunal experience and how vile and entitled employers could be. She still shows signs of the anger and resentment and surprise of the time. It’s “absolutely horrendous”. Yes, it is.

Then, going to bed, I felt the anxiety. I just felt it. I was seriously anxious, and conscious of it. I called the Samaritans, and (after having had a run of poor conversations) got a good one, Charlotte from London. She talked me down, by eventually getting me talking about what I felt good at and how people had recognised that. Strokes are good. The obvious step forward, now, to get those strokes is to volunteer, and volunteering makes me anxious. Yet it is good to be conscious of the anxiety, rather than have it still affecting me but suppressed out of consciousness. It may be that what I took from the counselling session was that anxiety was acceptable, reasonable even, after my experiences.

Despising God

The counselling I got in that place with the waiting room was fairly useless, little better than listening ear. This being our last session I asked Sally if she had any suggestion how we might use the time. Last week I could not come, as I found my rear tyre was punctured just as I was about to set off, long after any bus I could get, and she had agreed to see me one more time, but I have no idea how to use it.

-Well, you were referred to get you back into work.
-That’s really not what I wanted.

Or it is, but this is what I have to do to make that possible, or to make it better than bare survival in Hell. I have to take off my mask and find my real self. I don’t know, I might be able to JFDI, but I would rather care for myself because I have value and that was what I wanted.

If I did that voluntary job, there would be no reason for me to be anxious. I could do no harm. The role, copy-typing hand-written notes, is well-defined. I have met the people, and they seem pleasant. And, so far, I have not started the online training.

-Would you have difficulty with it?
-I have a degree.

And my paranoid imaginings are that Something Will Go Wrong and I will be humiliated and- it’s all extremely vague, like a dream of childhood.

Well, I had bad experiences at work. I tell her a bit about being a solicitor, then volunteering at CAB. I was a volunteer tutor, and I organised meetings for volunteer tutors. We got speakers in. I was no good as a tutor, I just stated the information and did not relate to the new volunteers well.

These words come from the inner critic. “Paranoid imaginings”- No, once bitten. “I was no good as a tutor”- no, I was learning, and I learned from experience. It’s not that bad. “Paranoid”- actually, I am anxious, but cannot be conscious of my own anxiety, because it is a feeling which I am not allowed to have, cannot permit myself.

I anticipate very little joy from volunteering, but that other thing, I anticipate lots. I am motivated. It is what I want, and it feels as if all of me is pulling in the same direction, rather than conflicted.

How I am does not fit the world
Therefore I will change how I am

And this is the way I will change it: I will find and follow my volition. It’s the still small voice. I call it the Real Me, the Inner Light- even God-

and I despise it!

This upsets me.

-Have you access to counselling?
-Yes.

I ask her if she wants me to do more of the forms, saying how often I have felt despairing etc in the last two weeks. No. I will carry on seeking to unpick my fankle. She had not heard the word. It’s Scots- imagine a skein of wool which has fallen apart and twisted up and got all knotted. That’s a good word, she likes it. She hurries me out.

From the thank you cards on the noticeboard, I see how the service is valued. Women say they feel good about themselves for the first time. It has done little for me, I think, more than get me out of the house and give me someone to talk to. This has been the amazing February heat-wave: I sat in the sun in the morning, then cycled to Swanston in t-shirt, shorts and sandals.

It depends what you call these things. It is my useless idiocy, my “paranoid imaginings”- no, it is anxiety. It cannot be, as I cannot be anxious, and yet it is. I will continue to unfankle my Gordian knot.

Hanging

When committing suicide by hanging, I would want the right quality bit of rope: I would want the knot to slip easily as I dropped, then hold tightly as I thrashed. I would not want to “dance til noon”. The metal steps out the back would be a good place, as it would give me a longish drop to get the knot good and tight: the shock might make me unconscious instantaneously. When I got the rope, I would consider the appropriate knot.

I am not suicidal at the moment, but I gave this some thought in December. Then when I might see an NHS psychotherapist and was assessed whether my depression was severe enough, she quizzed me in detail about my suicidal ideation- or fantasy. I did not think about being found, either the shame of it or the shock for the finder. Yes I made acts preparative to suicide, in 2003 and 2009. She found my depression moderate, which might have been severe enough, but my anxiety only mild to healthy, which was not enough. I wonder if my anxiety would manifest more if I were living with someone else. Clare, you are not bringing in any money, and the house is a tip again. And I would go quakey and start to greet.

Feelings manifest themselves consciously when they need to, when the conscious mind is making demands. So I thought I wanted to go to the Quaker meeting, and then manifested anxiety symptoms. No, I do not want to see those people. And my inner rationalist looked on, perplexed but persuaded by the manifestation.

-Who are you angry with?
-The whole fucking world.
-Are there people you warm to?
-Yes, actually, including some who do not warm to me.

I am seen as someone to fear, which perplexes and bamboozles me, because I see myself as gentle, and have been at great pains to establish to my own satisfaction that I would not get physically violent. And because I find my own force of character difficult to understand, whether I constrain it or let it run free. It terrifies me how badly I can come across when I mean well.

I want to be able to sit in silence with these people and chat over coffee after. I want that to continue, and if that seemed reasonably stable I would want them to give me a task which I would find worthwhile. Quaker Voices printed my writing, but it has shut down.

-What does being Quaker give you?
Pain. But also contact with stimulating highly intelligent spiritual empathetic witty people. This is a connection I don’t want to lose, but if my becoming distressed is a Wrong that I commit, which could justify my exclusion, then I might be excluded at any time for something I cannot control. When we fall out, we fall out really badly and can be self-righteously vindictive.

I will try to come across as loving and positive, and hopeful, and not let rage and terror too much get in the way.

-Are there enough warm souls to carry you forward?
-No.

And yet when I said I could not be my whole self, that my distress was unwelcome, he denied it. Perhaps he does not know. I want our naked humanity to come out. There was some backslapping about the story-telling event, when lots of us gathered to hear a story-teller from Bedford. I felt that was a missed opportunity, that we should come together to see each other, to know and be known, not to be entertained, but the friendly togetherness and light small-talk was adjudged a success.

I value the silence. I find it hard work, to be present with my whole self, to accept my whole self, to know my whole self- sometimes I approach that, sometimes I don’t.

In December, I gave the matter of how I would hang myself some thought. I do not want to be maimed. I do not want to survive it. I want it to be as quick and painless as possible. I note that I am using the present tense, even though I do not want to do it, now.

Second guessing

Stillness. Presence.

The light glinting on the polished wood of the chair opposite is beautiful. The music is not bad. What do you feel?

What one ought to or might feel gets in the way of perceiving what one does; and one can feel contradictory things. I feel some anxiety, looking round when the door opens. I am concerned about my toe, which is infected

are you squeamish about such things? I can discuss this with perfect ease, even when eating. Actually eating at a sewage farm would nauseate me, I imagine, but talking of it does not. Anyway, my toe was infected before, and it had a small cut, then redness by the nail, then a pus spot

are you interested in such things? I hope in what I can say about it.

I go to the pharmacist. Would she have a look at this?As I wait I consider the lights in the roof, and the colours of the displays: Presence. What do I feel? Nausea, because of the toe.

When I take my sock off, the redness is considerably worse. I went to get an excuse to get antimicrobials, but really want them now. She could sell me something to draw out the pus, but I want to kill it. I phone the surgery immediately, and get to see the nurse. Strange, I procrastinate everything, but not this: it has touched me.

Now, two days later, I am slightly nauseous from the antibiotics. The instruction was to take them an hour before food or two hours after, four a day, which would be inconvenient, but does not seem to matter. The swelling is much reduced, and I think, was I premature in getting the antibiotics, which will adversely affect gut flora?

What do you feel? Still some anxiety. There is no point in being anxious about what one has done. Second guessing is pointless. But it is an explanation for the anxiety, which will do for now.

Possibly non-specific anxiety attaches itself to circumstance. I remain anxious, no matter how much I tell myself that is uncalled-for.

Pyotr Bezukov, taken prisoner by the retreating French army, learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity; but now, in these last three weeks of the march, he had learned a new and more comforting truth- that there is nothing frightening in the world. As there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree. The limit to suffering and the limit to freedom are very close- that when he used to put on his tight ballroom shoes, he suffered just as much as now, when he walked barefoot and his feet were covered with sores.

Yet he weeps in relief when the partisans rescue him.

Sorry about the non-inclusive language. Possibly, Tolstoy could only speak for men. Another cup of chocolate- why not?

Renoir, la tasse de chocolat

A life of achievement

Possibly I should not compare myself to Rachel or Caroline, but to Louise.

I would not say life has been easy for Rachel, but she has what I might like- good job, house, partner, children, pension fund… Her husband was joshing her son, who is going to Princeton, that he should call up Harvard, explain Princeton’s offer and ask if they could do better. This matters. These are good things. Comparing myself to Rachel makes me feel wholly inadequate. I was weeping about it this morning again: the dual matter of my wasted life, 49 years and so many experiences missed, and my precarious position- how will I support myself, now? I am sad, frightened, resentful, strong emotions in response to the real situation.

Life has not been easy for Louise, either. She has been in a wheelchair in institutions since childhood, being pushed around, washed and dressed. She can feed herself. I have not spoken to her much. Once, when Richard and I were in missed communication in part from my pomposity, her laughter pricked that bubble- I feel amused and rueful. I would not judge her for not having house, car, savings etc.

What do I WANT? I want security. Safety. That desire has led me to push away uncertainty and responsibility, without which gaining partner, children, pension fund is impossible. I have achieved what I wanted, whether I judge that a rational desire or not- time alone with low levels of stimulation has destressed me to the level of tolerable stress I feel now.

H absolved me, early Saturday evening. My absolution of myself is what matters: without it hers is insufficient, and with it, unnecessary- but it is nice. I had too much wine to remember exactly, but it was around four years being entirely reasonable to take time out for healing.

Life has not been easy for me. I don’t know what other life I might want. Being a solicitor in Edinburgh with a wife and children- would I have transitioned, and if not would that be bearable? Probably not. Down the road I did not take, through the door I did not open, I am not sure there is anything which I now would find preferable.

Cranach, Judith and Holofernes, his head

My achievement has been to become conscious of my bonds, and to loosen them. I have found how I fear and resist all my emotions. I have learned to be conscious of emotion as it happens, and am learning to accept it without resistance. Being hypersensitive, this is huge. Fighting myself less, I might-

who knows what I might do? I have no idea. My overwhelming desire for safety picks on a steady income, has no idea how to achieve that, and feels anxiety. My other desires, for heartfelt human connection, and to be the centre of attention on stage, with the adulation of crowds, seem equally impossible. I am so disconnected from my desires that I find out what I want when I observe what I do.

However on Saturday I achieved something Wonderful, after a two year effort.

Cranach, Judith and Holofernes