One of my many recurring dreams involves becoming suicidal (something that happens in my real life sometimes too) to the point that I end up being taken to hospital.
I always end up in the same ward I was on in my teenage years.
As a nod to the fact I’m now actually an adult, the doctors find me a room reluctantly, only on the basis that I will be moved to the appropriate hospital and ward the next day.
The nurses and doctors always tell me it’s time to stop going there and I always reply with the question, “So what do I do instead?” they shake their heads and look at me with a tired, exasperated expression on their faces.
In the dream, I am very aware I’m an adult on an adolescent ward and ironically in real life, the idea of being around adolescents is actually my idea of a nightmare. But this just goes to show how much more fucked up the wards are for adults.
Now I’m categorised as an adult and therefore also classified as someone who should be doing something ‘useful.’
Any argument from me that I don’t cope with the world ‘out there’ and with wider society and all the things expected of us, is met with disbelief and a constant need to try to bolster up my confidence.
But I wish to provide food for thought against this mentality and push to have it be a ‘confidence issue.’
Many of my school reports mention how I’m a ‘good pupil’ and ‘very quiet’ there will also be mention of my clear social problems. Talk of how I need to learn and gain more confidence along with stark warnings that I will ‘struggle to cope in the ‘bigger’ world’ if I continue on my more than ‘normal quiet’ and ‘abnormal social etiquette’ trajectory.
To a teacher actually paying attention, they may also note a slow learning process.
But for most teachers, the attention was entirely upon my lack of social ability and perhaps my apparent ‘loneliness. If I managed to make a friend, and it should also be noted that some of those ‘friendship’s were forced upon me by the teachers, it would be lauded as a massive deal. Little did they know was that a few of my so-called ‘friendships’ lead to more alienation than I had before I met them for one straightforward but tragic reason, I was easy to take advantage of.
It wasn’t me they were congratulating when I ‘made a friend’, It was themselves.
It wasn’t just teachers, it was other kids parents. I knew very well their sons and daughters didn’t want to invite me to their birthday party and guess what? I wasn’t bothered because I didn’t want to go to their damn party anyway! But their parents insisted I be invited. I know it was their parents because kids being kids didn’t hide it very well, especially if their mother was with them. They’d turn to their mother, looking up at her and say, “But, mum!” as they held tight a crumpled invitation that was for me. And their mother in that hushed tone they try to do, “You can’t invite everyone else and leave them out!” They say while they looked at you through the corner of their eye and thought themselves safe from observation becasue I didn’t look at peoples faces. But I have periphery vision, and I’m actually more observant than anyone would give me credit for.
But they, along with teachers, saw a kid who lacked confidence, and through this perception, they forced ‘friendships’ and ideas onto me. They invited me to their daughters and sons parties with a feeling I imagine of having done a good thing.
Through everyone’s mission to make me a ‘confident’ ‘normal person’ I lost confidence.
I became so ultra-aware of my social quirks and awkwardness that my social awkwardness actually became more magnified. Because while I was trying to be more ‘normal’ I was failing and also feeling rather uncomfortable trying to be normal and so I ended up perpetually embarrassed. Which only added to the cycle of more adults trying to ‘bolster up my confidence.’
Fast forward to that year I ended up on the adolescent ward deeply unhappy, self-harming and constantly on the edge of suicide and my confidence really was a non-existent thing.
But there in that hospital was an allowance for my weirdness while also making friends, with talk of once again upping my confidence but in an environment where my weirdness was allowed to be part of my confidence.
I would make no claim that I gained full self-confidence. I used humour, sarcasm as a way of trying to be somewhat more ‘normal’ and soon sarcasm became a way of life for me and I don’t regret that.
My sarcasm comes from a place of finding much of humanities hilarious sayings and thoughts into their logical conclusions. My sarcasm is in effect a very literal sense of humour.
All in all, despite my illness putting me in the hospital it did become a place I ultimately came to feel a sense of belonging.
My Depression remained ever-present and still remains to this day, and I doubt it’s a thing that will ever truly go away for me.
I remember sad times in that hospital, I remember moments of emptiness as I lay in my bedroom after having spent the earlier evening joking with other patients.
But I found my sense of humour in that hospital because I was finally able to use my creativity in an environment that seemed to fit me more than ‘mainstream’ schools and environments.
And what I have learnt is that ‘out there’ in that wider world I truly am a fish out of water. And while therapists, support workers, social workers may want to push an idea of growing confidence I hope they’ll pause and think.
Too quick are they to jump to that idea rather than see that maybe I’m right. And maybe me not being able to be ‘out there’ in that wider world is okay.
I know that for me I only seem to ‘progress’ in specific environments and once you take me out of that environment I’m like a fish out of water.
So obsessed with the idea of being and becoming ‘useful’ we have become that we want to try and make people fit a square peg through a round hole.
We want to get people like me to a certain point of ‘functioning’ and then say, “Farewell and good luck.”
And if I say I don’t think that day will come and or should come for something that is lifelong I will be labelled as someone doesn’t want to help themselves. Someone reluctant to try.
But I’m not saying I don’t try or won’t try, I’m saying that when I function my best I’m not functioning my best because I’m now suddenly ready to be ‘out there’ it’s because in the best environment for me.
And it’s not to say that I don’t wish to challenge myself, but rather that so many ‘normal’ things are challenging for me.
When we say, “Farewell and good luck,” What do I do then?