Are you sitting uncomfortably?
Good. Then I’ll begin.
It’s like that at the moment, isn’t it? That is if you haven’t absented yourself completely from the news and are staying engaged by degrees, trying to figure out what to do to help the world. Sometimes, things feel hopeless.
Sometimes again, you realise rock bottom’s a great place to look up from.
Sometimes – and this is the most common one for me – sometimes uncomfortable means learning. Like remembering shit things I’ve said in the past and being embarrassed and glad not too many people heard them at points when I clearly wasn’t learning – at points when I was sitting so comfortably I actually thought my opinions were right about most things, no development, devil’s advocate or exploration required. Pass me a tabloid and call me Sugar Tits, because that’s how the world went back then and, I was sure, no point trying to fight what you can’t change.
Being on Twitter has schooled my ass. Suffering ante and post natal depressions schooled my ass too.
Both things have made me sit uncomfortably and, know what? Nowadays I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Every time I learn something my world view gets bigger; my perspective gets bigger. My appreciation gets bigger. My relationships get deeper because my empathy grows and the universe, at the same time as feeling more chaotic, also somehow makes more sense. Learning means you get to see the patterns in things and when you can see the patterns there’s less to shock you and the things that need to be fought for become clearer. Learning means you have a head start on everything and are OK with saying the words, ‘I don’t know’, which, I’ve learned, are great when it comes to shaking off the fuck awful armour of attempting to know it all. ‘I don’t know’ lets in a more realistic rhetoric of accepting I’m not all things to all people. I’m faulted, but I’m trying really hard to understand and improve all the things I’m affecting.
Depression took me from being the one who was always first with an opinion and plonked me at the back of any crowd, desperately trying to blend with the wallpaper and muted by synapses void of any of the feel-good. When I was depressed, I unlearned talking without thinking. I said tiny sentences inside my head repeatedly before saying them out loud – I was that scared of getting anything wrong, upsetting anyone or drawing attention to myself. I was least distressed and confused in bed, lapsing in and out of sleep and receiving information from the telly, the radio or my extremely nearest and dearest. I could process life at a radically restrained speed. Too slow to allow a two-way dialogue out loud, my thoughts would suspend anything new next to what I thought I’d known before I got ill. Then, with largely cold emotion, I’d notice the contrasts and with the defensive emotions that had kept me closed no longer in play, I saw objectivity in practice from my zoomed out, emotionally anaesthetised stasis.
As I started to get better with medication, I’d catch myself every now and then doing talking without thinking first. It was strange, like watching an unknown child take their first steps; I was half detached, my personality re-emerging after the unholy clamour of the internal war, proud but tentative. I was shaky but I could manage a bit of forward motion before going bright red and replaying words in my head afterwards, retro-checking for flaws. Now I can go whole weeks of talking without thinking but, overall, I now also think a hell of a lot more without talking too. I doubt I’d have learned that reflective skill without being taken to its cognitive classroom by chemical force.
As the time stretches to a decade now since I was ill, I’m beginning to look back and say that although ante and post-natal depressions robbed me of memories with my babies and almost killed me, they also gave us great gifts. In my quiet time my soul fell though wormholes time and again but, luckily, new information and knowledge did not. Because I couldn’t talk, I learned to listen – even when I hated what I was hearing. I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and I can tell from the calibre of the people around me nowadays, that’s a very good thing.
And Twitter? Twitter gives me the gift of being able to follow wildly intelligent and experienced people who’ve processed faster than me and are making me uncomfortable, privately, in the comfort of my own head as I try to catch up. Twitter keeps me accountable for knowing and owning the difference between opinion and fact. Perhaps most importantly, Twitter ensures awareness of my privilege rides everywhere with me, like a parrot on my shoulder, squawking at me intermittently and shitting into my comfort zone.
Other voices on privilege here and here.