The square root of Ouch! squared

I usually get my tongue lashing from people I’m close to. Then I can abase myself, apologise with dignity, be difficult, beg for forgiveness, brood, condemn myself, cry, find excuses, impatiently dismiss it, laugh it off, look pathetic, maturely take responsibility, plan revenge, promise to change, storm off, sulk, tell them to fuck off, wallow in self-pity. I can, in other words, react appropriately.

But there’s supposed to be a professional distance between me and Abi so it’s much more embarrassing when she tells me a few home truths. She has invaded our de-militarized zone, and thus my personal space, and this makes everything far too intimate: raw and intense. She does this intentionally and it isn’t the first time. It’s a calculated intervention designed to give me a kick up the arse and set me back on the right track.

The silences are excruciating. Abi waits for me to respond, to reveal myself with honesty and openness, to confront myself, but I don’t know what I think and I don’t seem to own the thoughts I’m supposed to have. It’s as if I’m performing to please her. I’m divorced from the emotions I should be evincing, because inside me there is only an alert, uneasy quiet.

I need to demonstrate my commitment to recovery by articulating these false feelings with passion and conviction, but I can only just about manage an attitude of shamed humility. To have to speak out would be awful. I’m not sure why. I’d feel like an empty harlequin costume, shabby, masked, clowning across a derelict stage, and I worry I might somehow lose control of the dance. It might degenerate into some sort of frantic, antic hysteria.

This sounds like a typical fear of losing self-control and revealing my grubby secrets: if I rouse myself to action, I’ll blurt out something dreadful, either a terrible secret or just some vile, unwarranted obscenity, an upwelling of abhorrent thoughts and feelings and words.

But it seems to threaten something much worse than that, something indescribably awful, wholly destructive – an irreversible, fatal decision.

If I can carry on as normal everything seems to be fine, I seem to have emotional stability, even a relatively sunny disposition, but when faced by a falling weight and challenged to explain it, when asked, “why don’t you just keep to the meal plan?”, I need to be terribly guarded, to adopt a passive, defensive crouch. There seems to be something unsaid, unsayable, that needs to be said to clear the way to full recovery but I don’t know what it is, and if I did, and I said it, it would open a trapdoor to something catastrophic.

Perhaps I’d go into total mental shut-down. I’d fall to my knees and start dribbling. I’d piss myself as my wildly buffering brain tried to reboot. I’d be left naked and writhing, abject, supine, covered in my own faeces. I’d be revealed.

On the surface, I don’t feel that I feel disturbed by any of this, just very uncomfortable. I’m out of touch with any sense of being disturbed. Is this just numbness? Is this being habituated to people being unhappy with me? Do other people incur displeasure as frequently as I do? Is this usual? (Imagine my pathetic whine.) Because some of me is thinking, I don’t do anything majorly wrong – I eat; I don’t exercise excessively…

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