Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Stalking: A Medical History

To stalk is to pursue, to shadow, to seek and track, maybe almost capture?
I feel, in the annals of this here thing, I have played predator to my fleeting thoughts, attempting to get a closer look, discern patterns, predict future moves, but never making any very meaningful contact, for fear of injury.
A blinding from the shards of a shattering illusion of self...

Apparently it's the middle of Mental Health Awareness week. I was told by a trusted source that the theme of this particular week is 'relationships'... It is.

I'm in the process of figuring out what to edit, or if I even have the energy to edit any past words yet, on the subject.

It's an interesting one and it seems strange that it's taken so long for it to be highlighted in the context of Mental Health, particularly with a view to reducing stigma and creating spaces for conversations around the subject. 

We aren't in a place to have any meaningful kind of conversation about anything at all if we don't first have the scaffold to support and sustain such a dialogue.

Ok, maybe you've experienced an especially baring and enlightening conversation with a stranger on a train or passerby in the street, maybe, but, wasn't there something afoot in those rare instances of conversing with the unfamiliar? A sort of unspoken allowance made? A kind of potential in the air? Courage in the knowledge that you were unlikely to cross paths thereafter?

That is a kind of short-lived relationship of which I don't mean to be implicated in the 'relationship' that's being ruminated upon here, now.

In many posts in these archives are instances of relationship dissection. Many times I've speculated on the nature of relationships peculiar to me. It has also been mentioned probably dozens of times how much I value earnestness, empathy, sincerity, honesty and such like.

To restate the obvious, it takes a strong relationship, many moments of weakness and vulnerability and countless little leaps of faith to find yourself in the kind of association where the level of mutual understanding is great, and where occasional cathartic confessions are both welcome and expected. 

I don't doubt someone somewhere has devised an algorithm or some formula to fast-track such a process, some bloody clinical recipe "how to get to know someone inside out in under 5 meetings" or whatever.
I'm sure there are plenty of garbage lists out there on "10 steps to open communication" or "7 key things YOU NEED TO KNOW to get people to like you".

Fuck all that.

Where are the people confessing their awkward and harsh realities?
You can't force people to bend to your will and expect no backlash, and why would anyone want that?

A relationship can be described as the way in which two or more people or things are connected and boy can it be a really lonely and tragic ship when you sail upon the realisation that your idea of how you each are connected is not comparable or compatible...

What happens when you decide, say, as I mentioned way down in this post, in the aftermath of a death in the family, that you want your connection with your family to be a more meaningful one? 

All of a sudden it dawns on you (again, for the umpteenth time!) that life is short and you're going to squeeze every ounce of significance out of your short straw. What happens when, you're speaking with a loved one, you're about to embark on your remarkable new voyage of eloquent truth, and, smack, you've already beached on the shores of indifference my friend?!

Someone had a text they would rather attend to, there was a dog having a bath somewhere on the internet that demanded more attention than your irksome quest.
Effort mate? Nah, I have enough of that at work, in school, watching the kids, trying to feed myself, remaining acceptably clean. I am already enlisted in the arduous contest of my own survival thank you very much.

Ok, so, that got cynical awfully quickly, but, that's blood for you, you can't choose it right?
So what of your friendships? Your intimate relationships?
How do you navigate the line between offloading and burdening, sharing and suffocation? 

In addition to this mess, having the luxury of a strong and compassionate relationship isn't enough to protect a person's mental balancing act, it's not the ultimate tonic to soothe away your ills, it's not a means to an end nor is it easy to maintain when you're really grappling with an illness of the mental persuasion.
Pertinent to posit is the sad fact that relationships themselves can be some of the greatest sources of mental and physical pain a person can humanly bear.

Last year, between Paris and Yerevan, I experienced a(nother!) short-lived, rapidly deep, frighteningly consuming mini-relationship with a human man.
I wrote some of some of it half way down here.
It crept up again here, and here too.

It left a mark as ever they do, I'm still questioning my suitability as a partner in an emotional/romantic/sexual/intimate relationship, as insecure as ever.

This is perhaps the very reason that budding thing was prematurely clipped short, we were pretty darn similar, both no strangers to depression, both struggling to sort ourselves out let alone situate ourselves in relation to another.
In this instance, I feel ashamed that I was unable to extend as much understanding as I would hope to receive, being as I was, implicated and insecure. Knowing the other is no cure but desperate to be that rock, crashing into the life of a lovely other and smashing all hurt away.

This person, at least, was a really kind ear when I had a scary experience of street harassment in Paris last autumn, somehow I felt safe enough in our communication or maybe my judgement was impaired by such a terrifying event, that I felt able to share (brave, since, he was aware of this incident too, and I was worried it would all read as either 'drama' or, "how the hell does she keep getting herself into these situations?!" Fortunately he took the human approach).

Fast forward to two months later, I had another sinister street experience. I was on my way to see Alt-J in Cardiff on a December evening, solo, when I was followed by a guy who had that very week started approaching me in the mornings on my way to work.

He works in the garage that is opposite the entrance to our flat, the seedy, needle-strewn, nocturnally ill-lit, hidden gravelled area that leads to the staircase up to our door, where the men come to drink their beers and urinate their contents.

Every morning that week he followed me around the block in a different car (catching me off guard each time!), rolled the windows down and tried to have a conversation with me as I simply tried to make my way to work on the pavement.

That night it was really freaky! Not only had he been walking in the direction I was coming from, making it very obvious he was following me when he decided to turn around and go back the way he'd come, (the way I was headed,) but, after I clocked this on my periphery, I made some seriously nifty moves to cross the streets just before the lights changed and the traffic came, I was going at hell of a pace, weaving in and out of the pedestrian commuters in the cloying winter rain.
Until we came to a zebra crossing and I had to look to my right for cars, and... There. He. Was. 

It couldn't be construed as innocent coincidence, he'd actually expended effort to follow me.

Out of breath, he'd practically run to catch up to me and my skittish steps. Being afraid, being as it was dark already, being as I was, alone, albeit with people passing by, I didn't feel like an altercation!
But, hey, maybe he was just someone trying to be friendly right? Well, sorry, but, the benefit of the doubt can fuck right off now.

I have enough regrettable experiences of panic-inducing harassment to know that if something doesn't feel right, history tells me, no, it's not right, it's not in your head, flight.

Because with what can I fight? 

Then and there, I was scared but still in public, still near the sodium-orange oases of light, still safe. 
So, I was polite! Not too polite, not encouraging, not too this or too bloody little that, I was courteous and nothing more, the bare minimum of unmistakeable civility. 
Unless you're a stalking moron of course.

It transpired that he'd been watching me for almost a year, which really really shook me, the idea that this had been happening so long and I was only recently aware of it.

He asked me how my boyfriend was, I was confused, I said "I don't understand what you mean sorry", he proceeded to describe a man that I hadn't seen for almost half a year at that point! I was freaking out.

I felt compelled to say I was uncomfortable, it wasn't appropriate, that the "girl I live with" was actually my girlfriend, I tried to think of anything that would solidify my position of disinterest and disgust.

Sadly, stalkers don't trade in subtleties.

I just found out that he followed Sophie this morning (18th May) to ask her if I was actually gay, and did she know he'd seen me kiss a man, and was that just to make him jealous??? 

I am now in a mind to going over to the garage and asking him what the hell he's doing, because, when he catches me off guard in the street, when I'm on the way somewhere, turning a corner and there he is, all thoughts of clarity and balance depart and I'm just focused on ending the encounter as swiftly as is possible... Now that he's accosting my friend, nah, that's not ok and something needs to be done.

Long (ongoing!) story short, by the time I got to the gig venue that December night, I was shaken, I was rained on, I was lonely and I was sad.
I text someone I thought would understand, seeking a recently departed solace I suppose. Immediately I received a "Wtf?! Have you been to the police??"
Hot on the heels of that, though, came the words; "I have to ask, do you think, because of your medical history, maybe you're exaggerating? Not that you're totally imagining it, but, you know...? Sorry I just had to ask!" 

Ah, why not the police indeed?! Why, when, someone who has met me, who supposedly regards me with a degree of fondness, almost instantly adopts the "are you making this up love?" position...


What now? I'm still only checking off 3/11 on the Stalking Risk Checklist, So, should I wait to reach 6 or 7 before involving the authorities? 

A few friends know, as does my boss, is that enough?
Does anyone realise how completely and utterly draining this can be?
How you can leave the house at 7.30 in the morning (a feat!) on a bit of a high, positive and ready for the day, and, boom! You're a shaking nervous mess and you want to crawl in to bed and hide from the world, or, run away, anywhere, to another country (where this shit still happens!)! Add to that the insecurity over not being taken seriously, the fear that it might be your fault, the embarrassment when you think of telling someone and worry they must be thinking "seriously, you're being stalked??? Oh get over yourself!"
It's exhausting.

Maybe this isn't an "abusive relationship", maybe it's just an everyday experience for a lot of women, but definitively it is negatively contributing to the abusive relationship I have with myself.
I think this is the most important relationship you will ever experience (ok, who you are and how you relate to you is in part shaped by circumstance, genetics, history, diet etc., but,) it impacts every other relationship you will ever enter into, and, it's forever. It ends when you do, it grows with you, like a jealous partner it can be intimidated by the idea of change, or it can prevent positive development in favour of familiar ruts. It's wherever and whatever you are and it cannot afford to be neglected.
Despite its omnipresence, it can often be overlooked in favour of pseudo-immediate quasi-pressing stimuli.
Neglect at your peril. Delve, it's draining and can be depressing but, constant vigilance!
It has to get easier but I have no magic formula, no 5 point plan, all you can hope for is to overcome a little of your contempt of yourself every day, embrace the familiarity and combat the indifference. Clichetic as it reads, a day at a time my friend...

I sometimes read articles published online and wonder how they came to exist, who is encouraging these people, or if they're writing of their own volition, I'm amazed and envious in equal measure (who doesn't have an envy-o-meter??) that people have the courage to think anyone wants to know what they think, that people would consider the addition of their anecdotes into the daily lives of others not only as welcome and appreciated but of further import than mere distraction or passing amusement.
Then I realise, even if there are no new insights, even if the language doesn't excite me or the sense of sanctimony is overwhelming to me, they are digestible, they are easy, they are inoffensive, by and large.

Which is something I struggle with (envy-o-meter getting perilously close to overheating and singing my bloated mass in a delicious flaming explosion). This morning a friend suggested I write something for Mental Health Awareness Week because of all the "wisdom" I have, but, I had to concede, its bloody messy, whats so wise about that? Delivery is not my strong suit.

So much goes on in my head that when it comes time to order, meh, it either explodes like the abused imaginary devices I use to measure my vices, or... Silence.
Mental storm followed by a calm which isn't conducive to committing concretely.

To me, that clarity and balance, combined with action, decision, is rarer than a real relationship.

Since not many real people read this stuff, and, in all 173 posts and 16,661 views there has only been one handful of comments, I don't really need to worry about delivery, do I?

This here is a place for my shambolic relationship with me, suited to my sporadic output and awkward ramblings.

Before I leave you with a poor and maybe even pathetic audio/visual response to some of which is mentioned/linked to here, that I cobbled together today, about the doubting, the disappeared and the departing, here is a line I'm stealing for you, from Little Joy's Unattainable (maybe I'll sing it for you someday, reader);

If only songs were sung, 
To guide the doubtful ones, 
Beyond the rough, 
We're not as much as good enough.  

Actually, I lied, I will leave you with some more words.
They can be features of the best kind of relationships.

Kafka said that "a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us". Sometimes the very words within us, all those mental meanderings, can back-track and attack, become the termites gnawing at the handle and enfeebling the blow, the double-edged oxygenated sword, giving and destroying, rusting at the beautiful blade, procrastinating the impact away into the blue and the black.

For what it is or isn't worth, here are some facts or fictions (it's no use picking the one from the other,), some things I've written into my phone in the last three weeks, at night when I'm unnecessarily awake, or in the day, at a crossing, waiting for my green light.

On stories

You might tell yourself all the tales you liked, about the virtues and merits of 'Empathy', but the fact remained that it was unpleasant for most to bear and a burden only some shouldered with an ever-so-slight air or martyrdom.

What would such a tale entail? How would that unfurl?
You could whip it into a short mental history about designated empathy points in a soon-to-be city?.
Points where, when one crossed through them, they were obliged to consider and comport the pain of others.
It was foreseeable that, at such points, needy vagrants and those almost humans known as "unfortunates" might become to gather in sad and patchy herds...

"Ah I see" she said, seeing.
"You write yourself into a little liaison," (pronounced frenchly) and, "how is the research going?"
"I can't tell if I'm afraid of or in love with you" he said with a tarnished glint to his eye and the residue of a "look" on his lips.
"Understandable. Apologies. Alarm bells, wedding bells, much of a muchness" she said with her tongue.
"You're brilliant" he fawned, "I'm just going to write you, and this. What we said."
That's a boy.
"I don't see why not. It's cheaper to live a film than to make one," she failed.
"Except encounters like these are scarce." The kind of things idiots type up noncommittally on their pathetic walks to work.
Stories of, something else, they tell themselves.

Observing the other ones

He was one of the salmon-skinned men, almost fluorescent, like a garish overlay of that pink and that yellow, at the hands of an indecisive stationer.
Something fleshy that would be excused in a can.
He had those diamond-like rocks for ears.
One of the kind whose facial arrangement vaguely implied a semi-chaotic life of petty crime, someone accidentally sustained via sheer indifference and shaky tradition.
He possibly had a tool box of his own or access to one. With only cause to use the lowlier and less extravagant of implements.

I was saddened by this speculation, or was it the watery verdigris bleeding all over this man's forearms that reminded me of tears?
As though a person's veins had burst and their insides had really been the colour of mineral-rich oceans.

If severed connections weren't enough to warrant a person a moment of melancholy, the ocean certainly was.
Someone had once stated this as the ocean's chief purpose, its main reason of invention (there were some others too)...
What a tragic and sodden earth is this...

I was on a different street now, with a different set of stories occupying the space around me.
I had to focus or my withered and fragile soul would once again become bloated and lost, washed away in the torrent of the other lives.
What do you all want?
Not much from me perhaps.
Not today at least.

 I had intended to follow this man, politely, to satisfy a vague curiosity. To find out if his face was as handsome as his back, his gait and hair and head, promised.
Sadly as we came to a crossing and he diligently looked to his side to avoid the gassy spectre of oncoming death, my plan fell apart like the flaming chassis of a poorly constructed automobile.
His face was a premature apology.
One could well forgive the fellow for attempting to balance it out with a graceful stature and general aura of more than adequate self-care.
Who knows, perhaps he even went to such lengths as to be a kind and bearable human being also.

In any case, the day was dying and I still hadn't a purpose to tide me over, no mast to fix my sail onto and salute the weather with.
I needed an anchor or something to anchor, it scarcely mattered how it read, emptiness had started to fill me up again and I needed to be filled with something else if I were to survive another week without seriously contemplating a death to myself, once, and for all.
For all.

On work

Achieving the status "task completed", concerning any worthy potential accomplishment, seemed to require an enormous amount of energy.
Energy I could have expended worrying about doing nothing. 
Being an excellent failure.
The pursuit of success of any degree, and the people in its thrall, so it seemed to me, hinged upon access to a sickening reserve of 'force'.
Any force I came upon I hastily used to bludgeon my shameful "ambition".

On introspective improvement

Don't pay it any mind, clear out your thoughts and yet be mind-full. 
Very well...
Let's acquiesce, inspect, dissect and reflect.
You need light for that but let there be no talk of need now.

Be in the here and now, what are you feeling?
Attracted to that accent?
Sure it sounded pleasant, but what is it about some accents that intrigue?

Ok it's not so much the noise itself but the story you attach to it.
The thoughts, the associations, an idea of an interesting life, worthy of your mental investment into henceforth, and, certainly of your admiration and curiosity at present..

But, is that fair?
Why is it that the idea of a life shaped by a childhood on the outskirts of Bordeaux appeals more than the one formed near Brecon?

What exactly are you gathering these experiences for?
One of the perils of living a narrative life, constructed out of jolting, spontaneous actions and encounters with superficial newness, is that you're not around for the connection-making, should that be a possibility.

You're collecting experiences, telling yourself an interesting story of a life that has little substance, for what? In the hope that you could present the collection to someone someday?

And, so, what then? Make a connection that way?

Ridiculously circuitous.