When I was 21 and first moved to London, I got my bearings by hanging out with a group of people I knew through the Sydney party scene. A number of them didn’t much care for me, but begrudgingly allowed me to tag along as one of them was dating and living with my close friend at the time. It was a difficult period though. A sustained campaign of SSRIs, my parents divorcing, poor university performance, a drawn out toxic relationship with a complete twat of a man and continued avid use of recreational drugs resulted in rather wayward and desperate behaviour on my part. I seemed incapable of embarking on any kind of night out without falling over on the dance floor, passing out on pavements, trying to crack onto seriously disinterested individuals and generally acting like a dickhead. It made for very uncomfortable viewing to say the least. It also didn’t help that the people I loosely called ‘my friends’ thought I was a dickhead too.
Fifteen years on, I’d like to say that behaviour has been ameliorated but unfortunately, it isn’t quite the case. There remains, more often than not, an undercurrent of self-annihilation which is difficult to shake. I’m not what one would call a ‘happy drunk’ but more a manic one—excitable and then very rapidly angry and difficult. It’s not a particularly uncommon pathology I imagine, but it does denote a certain immaturity. And I don’t mean immature in the sense of being childish (though there is that), but more in the sense of being stunted—unable to establish oneself and grow into a fuller being.
In response to a recent complaint I made about my diminished perspicacity and the dark obtuse hole I’d fallen into as a result, the Doc explained that reading was the way out. He is of course right. Like any part of the body, the brain needs to be fed and exercised, lest it fall prey to atrophy. Similarly, writing is the mechanism through which to address this pesky problem of stuntedness which has plagued me for so long. Seldom do I like what I’ve written—there are always far too many self-referential ‘I’s’ for a start—but I always feel better for having done it. It takes all that darkness, that clinginess and desperation, those messy, unrelenting thought processes and channels them into something more coherent and positive, even if the subject matter itself is not. A form of catharsis I suppose, much as it pains me to invoke such a platitude. Some attempts are more successful than others. Case in point below: obviously the impetus to write was there, after several drinks and a bus ride home, but the capacity sadly was not….
Yet even though this is a ridiculous scrawl on a a piece of paper, it’s indicative of an urge that’s permanently with me. I’ve always journalled, for as long as I can remember, and it has always improved matters in my head. When I was younger and took too many drugs, I would struggle at parties and in social situations as I would babble with untold intensity at people. Once, in an attempt to shut me up, my previously mentioned twattish boyfriend sat me in a room away from everyone else and gave me a pen and a wad of A4 paper and told me to write down my thoughts instead of talk about them. Six or so hours later, everyone began to wonder where I was as the room had remained so calm and quiet. Having forgotten he’d sent me away, when the twat boyfriend came to retrieve me, there I was in the bedroom still furiously writing. Amphetamines aside, it established the process of writing out my thoughts as a form of elixir with which to ward off my more negative tendencies.
It has been a funny week. One of those ones where nothing specifically goes wrong, but you feel disenfranchised with various elements of your life, resulting in a sort of unmotivated funk which is then compounded by chemical imbalances caused by drinking. I’ve not written anything in so long and the absence of it was felt acutely this week. Yet instead of attending to it, writing something—anything!—I simply got sadder that it wasn’t featuring more in my life. A strange response really, when the answer seems so obvious.
So while I sit here, nursing my aching, rum-soaked head, counting down the minutes until I can reasonably swallow another ibuprofen, I’m thinking that instead of making pointless affirmations about never drinking again, ‘sorting myself out’ and trying to behave like less of a dickhead, I will simply aim to write more. As this, in and of itself, is a remedy for the latter.