Book Shop

I always knew that there was something different about me, though for many years I wasn’t quite sure what it actually was. I knew the difference was to with my Brain, my faithful grey matter that appeared to operate at a different level to other people and in a similar way I also had very different perceptions and experiences. Oh how wonderful it would be to sit down and have a conversation with another Human being and not feel abnormal, to not be looked at like one is quite possibly mad because your perceptions are so fundamentally different and seemingly strange to other people. As friendships are often formed through compatibility and the similarities between two people, it meant that I was always going to be somewhat adrift, the archetypal Geek, my long Blonde hair tied up messily and kept in place with a pencil, my tight t- shirts and ripped jeans, old trainers with their holes in and my peculiar, colourful mind that seemed to irritate and antagonise most of Society. I would always be lacking in friends, never really understanding what I was supposed to do to remedy the situation. I would sit staring into the distance contemplating the ‘friends question’ for far too long, cursing at myself at regular intervals, angry that I was using my precious brain cells to think of such ludicrous things……..

Was it my obsessive love of Literature that caused this divide and my ability to walk with the characters, leaving the confines of this world and disappearing into a different dimension, where I could hear and see and smell all of the characters that I so desperately and exquisitely loved? Characters that were perhaps more a part of my life than any fellows of this world, my mind lost perpetually in a beautiful, pleasurable haze of ecstasy, lost in a better, much finer world than anyone could ever imagine. Or was it my fascination with walking through the cobbled streets with Oscar Wilde? The smell of his Cologne delightfully filling my senses, as his long velvet Coat-tails swirled around his legs and he walked in his usual charismatic way through the Victorian streets, the eyes of the world falling upon him, unable to look away, his magnetism by now legendary. Later, I would listen breathlessly to his droll Irish voice filling the air, whether in the prestigious Gentlemen’s Club that he often frequented or as he bowed before his audience after another memorable, though often controversial play, the audience blushing and whispering in astonishment as he regaled them with fine wit.

Or was it my identification with the Literature greats, not feeling able to find a fragment of myself represented in any layperson. I would fill my days reading Bryon, Keats and Clare and feeling that I could relate to them in a way that was entirely impossible with any other person that I encountered. I understood Byron and his arrogance and flamboyance and his eventual insanity. I identified with John Clare’s adoration for nature, his reverence and awe being something that I could appreciate fully and his eventual demise in a country Asylum, his madness felt real to me and understandable and familiar. Madness, somehow had always felt deliciously familiar, ever since I had discovered Lewis Carol’s ‘Mad Hatter’ and fell madly in love with him

The ‘Mad Hatter’ and his glorious on going ‘Tea Parties’ delightfully held at 6pm for eternity, since ‘Time’ himself decided to punish him that is. The huge collars and billowing sleeves, the devil may care make-up, the bright hair, together they all worked to create a truly marvellous, unforgettable character. The Hatter had the most rounded and stable identity compared to all the other characters; he wasn’t endlessly searching for himself or popping LSD to get high. He was larger than life, lively and entertaining and full of dynamic ‘Hypermanic’ energy. He loved to play with language and perplexed everyone with his rhyme, riddles and tales, until they were completely exasperated and walked off in annoyance. He was full of creativity and magic and mirth and though often misunderstood, he had a whiff of genius about him and non-conformity, which made him all the more appealing to many, and certainly to me.

Why did I love the Mad Hatter so very much? Although only a character in a Book, in my imagination, he would jump out of the pages and take a pew next to me, serving me endless Tea and chatter. As a child, not knowing then what my future would hold, I somehow identified with him, finding him to be unusual and quirky; he represented something so utterly different from my quaint suburban childhood and my old fashioned, conventional Parent’s with their matching jumpers and M&S food. The Hatter was thoroughly different to any other character that I had ever discovered and his elation and frenzied activity and poetic speech was seductive and charming and his madness was an eternal attraction and still is, deep within my heart.

Or maybe It was my love of Academia and the hours I spent in the Library perched over a desk, scribbling manically away into another new bent notebook, my collection of Books growing taller and taller until eventually I had to use two desks. My fierce concentration, completely absorbed in whatever I was studying, not in the least aware of anything that was happening around me, my annoyance or perhaps rage may be a better choice, at being distracted by anyone or anything, my voice harsh should anyone dare to disturb me.
Though one could also perhaps decide that my ever changing energy levels were the problem, sometimes I would be on fire, my brain glowing bright orange, vibrating inside my skull. The thoughts and ideas coming thick and fast as I lurched from thing to another, my energy seemingly un-depleted, in a perpetual whirlwind of activity. My gaiety and chatter touching everyone, as I flirted and chatted away incessantly, suddenly the right words and phrases available to me as well as the millions of stories and jokes that I could tell, entertaining and engaging one and all, as my brain spun on its exemplary axis.

People were suddenly my friends and the invitations to Parties and gatherings would pile up, in a never-ending round of socializing. I would be the most extroverted of characters, the centre of every room as I pulsated manic energy, finding people exquisitely attractive and interesting, even if once before I had been bored or disinterested in them. My efforts at seduction which had once been utterly dismal, now were the exact opposite, I now had the capacity to seduce anyone and took more and more delight in doing so – my desire for intimacy with others now new no bounds, my libido never satisfied and my thoughts continuously turning to sex and all that it offered my senses. I would find Men so irresistible, so thoroughly attractive and I wanted nothing more than to spend hours in bed with them before casually moving onto the next.

Eventually things would inevitably change and a new storm would begin to brew somewhere not too far off in the ill-omened distance. My concentration would start to falter and my frustration would begin in earnest as I tried harder and harder to finish the desired piece of work or read or think or even simply to string a sentence together. The Piles of Books would begin to gather dust; my mind now finding it almost impossible to muster the enthusiasm – once been my devoted friend – to look through them. My heartfelt devotion to Literature now cut adrift in the mind, not wanting to read or to be in armoured with Wilde or Byron ever again, even my long-time friend, the ‘Mad Hatter’ not placating my ever lowering mood, as I closed the closet door.

Eventually I would disappear. Disappear from my life for days, weeks or months, curled up at Home in my Bed, the only place that now felt safe, with the Curtains drawn and a permanent enforced silence, noise feeling like shards of glass penetrating my Brain. I didn’t want to talk to another soul, ignoring all phone calls and the ever so annoying Doorbell. My world had turned grey, different shades of deadening grey, like a painter busy at his Easel, humming a ghostly tune, as he erased the colour from my world, the Universe becoming something similar to a H.G Wells novel, as everything collapsed and died all around me. I would spend my days sleeping, sometimes for only a few disrupted minutes at a time, my dreams continuously waking me up with their images of death, rot and decay, the colours running black and deep crimson through my brain. Other times I would sleep for hours and hours at a time, waking up at odd hours to pull myself out of Bed, make a cup of Tea and climb back wearily up the stairs. Other times I couldn’t manage to get out of bed at all and would lie there, for hour upon hour trying to find the energy and motivation to get up but inevitably falling back into a restless dire sleep.

Eventually I started pouring over Psychiatric manual’s, walking into Book Shops and leaving piled high with the latest DSM and other respected Psychiatric textbooks, which I would bring home and sit poring over for hours, hoping to find something that would resonate inside of me, something that would serve to prick my ears up and give me a sense of finally coming home, finally discovering what was wrong with me. Though it took many years for that experience to manifest itself, for many years I was simply the girl who had something wrong with her, though no one knew exactly what that was. The never ending assessments and possible diagnosis’s eventually become so frustrating, a never ending list of hopeless possibilities, as each time they offered me, with their devout wisdom, another illness, another set of ludicrous criteria that I failed to meet.

Eventually in complete and utter frustration, I went along to another routine appointment with my Psychiatrist only to be met by a new Doctor who I had never met before. He was a young attractive Asian man, tall and lean, with dark expressive eyes and a cheeky boyish grin. Though he may have been pleasing to my eyes physically, I was instantly ill at ease by his youth, wondering what one so young and experienced could possibly know or even how he could even begin to understand and help me. Though over the next few sessions that I had with him, something quite extraordinary happened; he really listened. He listened with an open mind, a keen intellect and an open heart. Over time, I began to trust him more and more and I would spend an hour in his immaculate office letting him into the wonderful world of my mind. I was able to talk so freely and openly, disclosing secrets and information that I had never done before, finding myself breathing easier knowing that he knew all there was to know and more, about my seemingly mystifying illness and the adventures of my chaotic mind, including the spectacular highs and the harrowing lows. He had the sweetest smile, it was hard to not feel comfortable chatting away with him and he loved to laugh, as we often did, sitting their giggling away at each other as he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief and scribbled something unintelligible in my notes yet again. I had hoped that he would be my Psychiatrist for a very long time, providing some stability and continuity, as well as making me feel on top of the world in his presence, but it wasn’t so. It was the summer when I learnt that he was leaving; I sat opposite him in his office as the warm Sun poured through the window. The tears came began to roll down my cheeks as I digested the heart breaking news. I think he expected an emotional response from me, being highly sensitive as I was, and he sat there patiently talking and reassuring me with his soft warm voice, smiling his sweet smile and handing me tissues.

I never saw him again, though I did hear that he was working at another local Hospital and I desperately wanted go and have one last impromptu session with him, but I knew my time was over with him and it was time to move steadily on. I had a new Psychiatrist anyway, a new professional to become accustomed to, a new way of doing things, a new way of understanding me. Though I also had my memories, my special heart-warming memories that would never leave me, memories that could still make me smile years later and my eternal gratitude and appreciation for finally knowing what was actually wrong with me. He gave that to me, he gave me my diagnosis and finally the world around me began to make sense and slowly but surely I began to make sense too.

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