I may seem thick to you, but I identify as clever!

Feeling, an ability to grasp and acknowledge the spiritual importance of others, and of the external world, the sense that they occupy metaphysical space, is a neurological capacity, a form of intelligence, not simply a characteristic of that external reality.

Our anorexic brains are inadequate to that task. Sure, they patch something together that appears to cover all the ground, but if someone politely challenges us, we freeze, rigidly refusing to budge from our position. It’s not that we need to be right all the time, it’s more that we crave certainty because we are permanently on shaky ground. (Literally – think of the number of times I’ve stumbled and fallen when jogging, or think about my friend Cath, at Ascot House, coming down the stairs on her bum, every morning, to avoid tumbling down the whole flight). The idea that there might be two opposing interpretations of something suggests a world of profound uncertainty and is thus highly threatening.

We absolutely refuse to change our opinions, because we lack the mental flexibility to change direction, and our anxiety makes us fear it, yet we recognise how unreasonable we’re being, so we’re not entirely sure that we aren’t joking. We can’t even read ourselves, anymore. And we feel overwhelmed by the emotional complexity of negotiating disagreement, with its potential for conflict, when we’re desperate to be liked but feel we are hateful.Our solution is to push our interlocutor away and run for the hills. In other words, to pre-empt the inevitable rejection, we’re foul to everyone.

Our panic leads us to a sort of hoarse and hysterical, accusatory whining, which would be shouting if we had the energy. We’d cry if we weren’t desiccated husks, incapable of generating tears. (We are the hollow men/ we are the stuffed men/leaning together/ headpiece filled with straw. Alas!)

Conversations often go something like this (my lines all delivered in a mumbled, listless monotone):

Me: Pineapple on pizza is disgusting.
You: Actually, this may sound weird, but I quite like it. it reminds me of my childhood.
Me: No. No. Why are you saying that? You can’t honestly think that.
You: Well, that’s just me. That’s what I think.
Me: Oh, God. You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m being totally intolerant, aren’t I? Christ, I’m such a shit…
You: Calm down! This conversation isn’t about you. why do you have to turn a perfectly pleasant chat into a self-hating monologue?
Me: Christ, you’re right. Oh, god, I’m such a self-centred arse-hole…
You: Oh for goodness sake! I’m leaving.
Me: (calling after you) I don’t blame you. I’m surprised you put up with me this long.
Me: Ah, blessed loneliness. Christ, other people are stressful.


Me: What sort of ignorant, bigoted monsters voted Leave?
You: I think you’ve got to understand why Brexit appealed to some people.
Me: What? I never took you for a fucking Nazi.
You: Now you’re being unreasonable…
Me: Well, fuck you, you fucking Nazi. At least I’m not a fucking Nazi.
(You storm off)
Me: Ah, blessed loneliness. Christ, other people are stressful.

When I was at my illest, I was bloody, openly rude, usually because it felt like people were filling my head with their words and actions and opinions. In a fluster, I told them exactly what I felt to set them straight, to get things straight, in my own head. If people hated me – well, that was the lesser of two evils. I’d survive it. I hated myself. I’d feel mortified and guilty but I was used to that as well. That was just me: I’d expect nothing more from myself. At least I could dispense with years of fawning pretence that I was a nice person. I could let my guard down and reveal the true, nasty me underneath.

Looking back, it’s all so embarrassingly solipsistic, but it felt like trying to stand up in one of those ancient cockleshell boats: when you’re flailing around trying not to upend yourself and drown, you haven’t got much time to look about you.

I used to fantasise about cutting out my own tongue.

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