a-z challenge: n

He: What’s the matter with you?
Me: Nothing.
Nothing was slowly clotting my arteries. Nothing slowly numbing my soul. Caught by nothing, saying nothing, nothingness becomes me. When I am nothing they will say surprised in the way that they are forever surprised, “but there was nothing the matter with her.”
― Jeanette Winterson, Gut Symmetries

N is for nothing. The Jeanette Winterson quote sparked this post off. And herewith the playlist, songs about nothing, yup I know my taste in music is all over the place.

When you’re inside a mind like mine, with pathologically extreme empathy and rumination,  simple questions become ridiculously loaded. How are you becomes incredibly complex, what’s wrong contains too much intensity. I can’t resolve any of those things for myself in any great hurry, and so I do my best to lighten the burden on others. That way I can feel that I did one decent thing that day.

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Sometimes it’s way simpler to say nothing’s the matter, thought it can result in frustration on both sides. Nothing can be something good. And the following exchange is excruciating, I’m sure I look like a mangy rabbit in the headlights when it happens.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: *agonising about what to say*
Them: …
Me: Nothing.
Them: C’mon, you can tell me.
Me: *uncomfortable as fuck*
Them: …
Me: Problem issue confusion pain hopelessness and so on
Them: *doesn’t know wtf to say*
Me: *wishing it’d been left unsaid*
Them: *wishing they’d never asked in the first place*
Me: *Feeling small and stupid*
Them: *Feeling helpless and inadequate*
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

See, even when it isn’t situational at all, one can always come up with justifications and explanations for depression – but they’re the wrong answers, inaccurate too.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: I’d rather not talk about it.
Them: *taken aback and probably offended*
Me: …
Them: *trying to ctrl+alt+delete out of the situ*
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

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I find it hard to say I don’t want to talk about something to acquaintances, but I can do it with good friends. And the good friends just respect it and we chat about something else. I have one sort-of-friend who I have told very clearly, that I will not talk about certain things. No point saying I don’t want to to her, because it just spurs her on to do her best to make me change my mind. Then she brings up whatever I didn’t want to talk about at the drop of a hat, until the only way out is a rather fierce bluntness. Well, some people have hides like a rhino. Is there a more tactful way to put it?

The next one is humiliating. Weeping is not a comfortable spectator sport.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing *cries like a bitch*
Them: It can’t be nothing.
Me: I don’t know.
Them: You must know.
Me: Well, it’s not a thing as such, it’s my disorder.
Them: So nothing’s wrong, but you’re having a meltdown?
Me: Yeah.
Them: …
Me: …
Them: Have you thought about accepting Donald Duck as your lord and saviour?
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

When I get far enough into the thing that I’m visibly splintering, I can’t handle sudden eviction from a vulnerable space. I feel diminished by it. Also, Donald Duck drives me seven kinds of batshit. The vital point of that bit of dialogue, and the difference between it and the others, is that it contains the truth. What is wrong is created by, for instance, my bipolar and/or c-ptsd, and there are very specific steps to take when things are foul.

Them: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing *big smile*
Me: Oh look! A butterfly!

That nothing isn’t actually fake or false, if bipolar the baseline, which it is for me, than nothing implies nothing more nothing new nothing unusual. Nothing really means no situational causes. Close friends won’t be fooled, nor will they be satisfied, but then, they’re close friends for a reason and none of this applies to any of them.

People are understandably uncomfortable around extreme emotions. Hell, even pets get knotted up about them. They’re unsettling, distressing and disruptive. It feels unjust to put somebody in a position to feel shitty because they can’t help you. It feels kinder and more logical to contain the misery to yourself. It’s why a lot of very depressed people kid around so much. It deflects the attention, it stops me disintegrating into yet another futile look at the pile of shit I’m battling very hard to get to grips with. My hands are always dirty, I don’t want to keep shaking hands and spreading it around. Nothing keeps us both a little safer.

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