Alice has a lot to answer for.
When she fell into a great hole, tumbled into darkness, what she ingested made her bigger than herself. She drank of potions that changed her and enabled her to enter into a world far greater than her own. For me, for most of us in this predicament, we have far less glamorous options. Our Wonderland consists of a numbness, an absence of feeling and a requirement to report to a doctor of our choosing every few weeks to report on our brain and its lack of normality. Our Wonderland consists of getting rorted by pharmaceutical companies who require an emptying of our bank accounts to buy tiny little pills which will make us acceptable to ourselves. Our Wonderland is an admittance that we are not enough alone and cannot get by without pills.
I’m sitting here staring at a box of those pills. Wonderland is calling.
I have found myself in an increasingly dark place of late. Not just the mood swing downwards, but an inability to fully experience what I love. It’s like a light dimmer in the room is being slowly turned down on your joy and pleasure. It is replaced by a sense of panic, of pressure, of self recrimination as you feel the one responsible for its occurrence. In some base part of myself that voice, that familiar voice that is my own tells me, again and again and with increasing ferocity that I am deserving of it and then the blackness comes. This stark, empty, overwhelming feeling of disgust and loathing for myself. It is indescribable, fills every cell of my body, every flicker of my mind and I am helpless.
I have seen therapists, have tried everything from mindfulness to drinking but when that big black comes, I haven’t found anything of any use. The best I can hope to do is to sit, motionless and still for the duration. But I can’t. I’m a father, a boyfriend, a friend, I have responsibilities, things that need to be done, obligations that need to be met. So I have to walk into spikes, again and again and pretend they don’t hurt. I don’t want to inflict it on anyone, don’t want to illuminate my shame. It is a secret self.
Most would be shocked to know that at one time or another, whilst engaged in conversation with me, I was most likely thinking of gouging my eyes out with spoons. Most people assume me to be a well adjusted, decent chap, but if they saw the ugliness that fills me in these moments, they would be terrified. I’m terrified and I have lived with it all my life. You would think you would become accustomed to it after such a time, but it is insidious, always finding ways to adapt itself to your current circumstance, to vault whatever new defenses or joys you have mustered against it. It knows all of you, every fear and desire and it knows how to rape and mutilate them. It is a monster not of fantasy or film, but of the self.
So you fight, you persist, sometimes you just survive. Over time, though, it accumulates and you find yourself hurting the ones closest to you. They start to feel what you feel inside, it starts to trickle out and permeate everything and everyone you come into contact with. You become paranoid and neurotic that it hangs upon you like a flag, heralding the arrival of the piece of shit you are convinced you are. You are told you are too much, that it is too hard to take. You know this to be true as you can’t take it either, but you have no out, besides the obvious. The shame you feel in knowing that you’re too much for someone to deal with makes that option far more viable.
But you don’t. You choose the other unpalatable option.
Medication. Pills. Wonderland.
Wonderland is built on the foundations of shame and humiliation. Yet it keeps you alive.
I despise pills. They lessen you, take all the beautiful edges of yourself from you. I don’t laugh the same, don’t love or make love the same. I don’t have that spark of imagination, that level of joy on them. I am diminished in every pleasure, everything that makes me whole.
But for stability? For my family and the people I love? To not hurt them? To have them stay?
Is there anything I wouldn’t do for that?
I’m sitting here staring at a box of those pills.
Wonderland is calling.