I think it better that in times like these/ A poet’s mouth be silent

I started this blog to explore my anorexia, a psychological condition I knew little about. I didn’t understand how I’d come to develop it.

It turns out there are many advantages to having an eating disorder, but it’s still not exactly a happy thing. The parts of my life that I describe aren’t the contented or serene bits. Those get edited out, so this blog is a distillation of misery, which is unfair on my family, who should be celebrated as a source of joy.

I feel uncomfortable about broadcasting my version of events and people to all viewers. I curate not only the exhibition of my own story and image, but also that of anybody else I encounter. I decide what to include and what to leave out. I present my version of other people’s behaviour. I, alone, get to interpret events, words and actions, attributing thoughts and motivations that derive entirely from my own imagination. It’s tyrannous!

In fact, an episode of Aleks Krotoski’s The Digital Human, on Radio 4, recently dealt with this issue. Depressingly, it confirmed my qualms. On it, Dr Anna Derrig, who runs Goldsmith’s life writing courses, claimed, “Our life stories are our most precious possessions. If we write about somebody else, however tangentially in our stories, we are, to some extent, stealing their story.”

Yet, as Aleks Krotoski countered, “Speaking our truth is one of our most fundamental drivers, and in posting, you say ‘I am here. This is me and this is what I think. I exist.’”

How else can I depict myself and my experience of the world? We don’t live in isolation. Another of Ms. Krotoski’s experts, Professor Sonia Livingstone, put it this way: “Identity is always relational: I can’t tell my story without telling the story of those around me, those connected to me and my story is tied up with other people’s stories…”

The most interesting parts of my experience at home or in Ascot House are the oddities and the antics of my strange companions, but I feel squeamish about describing them. It’s not just that they might be identifiable, it’s more that I don’t feel I have the right to take them over, in this way: to make them my creatures.

“You’re so thinly drawn. I find it infuriating,” said one Twitter-victim on the same programme. “You were being, against your will, turned into a supporting character in somebody else’s narrative.”

Although writing a blog was Jo’s idea, she is hostile to appearing in it. She dislikes the lack of control of her own image or the depiction of our family. Understandably. The children could also object to the way they are portrayed. It seems pretty lame to say, “but I gave you all pseudonyms!” That isn’t the point. We are too easily traceable, and, even if we weren’t, there’s a principle at stake, of human autonomy and dignity.

“[it] is fantastically difficult to negotiate where the rights of one individual start or stop, and the rights of the other individual come into play…because it’s recorded, because it’s retained, because we don’t have control over the way in which our digital selves are further distributed.” (Sonia Livingstone, again)

So what to do? My subjects are necessarily introspective, so I’ve tried to minimise the depiction of other people in this blog. That, of course, makes it seem even more solipsistic and boring…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s