We often think of paranoia in the context of irrational projections of our own personal conflicts, due to perceived (although perhaps sometimes real) judgment imposed by those who surround us.
But what happens when it is ourselves we do not trust?
As independent as we like to think we are, collective normality – or what we believe to be such – is the only reassurance when our own bodies revolt against us, leaving us to suffer from new and excruciating experiences.
I remember the first time I white-spelled from a spliff. We sent smoke signals from sugarcane fields, but upon finding no sweet nectar, embarked on a quest for munchies to satisfy our voracious appetites.
As my eyes hovered over a wide range of vibrant and sparkling packets of crisps, suddenly the world around me went white….and then black.
I was alone.
I was afraid.
“I’m fucking blind!” – I wanted to scream. Instead, the words trickled out of me in a quivering whimper, repeatedly, like those who chant for mercy upon undergoing a violent exorcism.
Fortunately for me, I was in good company. My head fell onto his shoulder, and as he stroked my hair to the rhythm of my sobs and splutters, he said these words:
“Don’t worry, this happens to me all the time.”
I was not alone.
I was not afraid.
The shared experience reassured me. I was not an alien. I belonged.
It is this same reassurance which has enabled me to make peace with other significant, yet at the time of first encounter highly unsettling, novel sensations within my body, mind, and heart. All of which had initially provoked me to believe I was isolated in my experiences.
There was my first UTI, where I was convinced I had broken one of the most precious entrances to my being through wreckless promiscuity. My first serious bout of depression, where escape from life was contemplated on the daily. The first time I was ever struck down by someone who claimed to love me, which nurtured the weed of self-loathing and guilt over simply existing.
And yes, as independent as I am, and as much as I love my own company, nobody wants to be alone when they feel pain. Misery truly loves company.
And when we are alone in our suffering, isolation becomes deafening. Panic grips us, and we feel ourselves falling into a dark abyss with no hope of recovery.
Cold water surrounds us and our pupils begin to freeze over, as our arms swish about in desperate attempts to plunge through the surface. But just when we think we’ll survive, the tides keep rising…lifting oxygen beyond reach just a little bit more…
We want to scream. Instead, water fills our lungs. We drown. Alone.
We are doomed to exist in a body that does not respond to the commands of our own minds. We fear what we are capable of, and how we may alienate or damage ourselves as a result of our own foolish actions.
It’s the fear of accidentally leaving the oven on, and burning the house down when you’re alone at home.
It’s the crippling anxiety that sends uncontrollable shivers down your cold and naked body after a shower in winter.
It’s the compulsiveness to check your handbag at least 100 times to make sure to have your boarding pass and passport before embarking on a new adventure that both excites and terrifies you.
Hello self-doubt, what an unpleasant surprise. I was expecting you at 3:00am before my next job interview. Oh wait, I don’t want the fucking job…so why would I care anyway?
Although solitary animals (myself included) live alone to avoid egotistical competition against other members of their own species, exceptions must occasionally be made. Even if only to reaffirm that we are capable of expressing ourselves by way of the vocal tract.
Through laughing at the absurdity of British politics today, or crying after a series of excruciating boardroom meetings. Through screaming in ecstasy at the peak of climax with an ex-lover who’s been back for a quick fix to indulge waves of lustful nostalgia, because arriving together in orgasm were the only moments where you both ever truly felt in sync throughout your entire relationship.
Keep me warm.
Keep me safe.
Don’t touch me.
But whatever you do, even if we sit together in silence, let us occasionally share experiences.
But ultimately, let us converse with darkness. Let us explore ourselves, our insecurities and our vulnerabilities. Let us understand ourselves, so that we may understand why we distrust ourselves.
Let us make peace with our paranoia.