Back from outer space
Or not as the case may be.
It seems I have somehow survived hosting Christmas for the extended family. I don’t think I sat down once in the week before the big day, and I mean that almost literally.
As you can see I have a tendency to disappear from the face of the planet when things get too much for me. This is a coping mechanism I’ve used since childhood, and it’s my response to stress, being put under pressure, or any situation I find too emotional. I have in the past flipped out and walked away from exams, bolted from relationships, and terminated friendships. At some point my brain just goes AAAAAAAaaaaarrgh and the duck and cover response kicks in.
I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking very hard and asking myself some questions that relate to all this. Such as:
- How come I waste all of my energy posting in this blog and on forums when it isn’t what I want to do with my life?
- How come I find it so easy to reflexively post on forums, but so hard to put together Really Important, official, organised pages for my website that I desperately need to do?
- How come sometimes I can’t even post on this blog when it’s a Really Important post I really need to make? I must have two dozen Really Important posts I’m being totally impotent about.
- How come sometimes I can’t even face replying to people’s comments and emails? I have Really Important emails I need to write to friends that have been outstanding for six months or more.
- How come I used to be able to design websites until I had to do it for a living and it became Really Important, and then it all dried up? Now I can’t even design a simple logo for a friend. I actually dread it when friends ask for design help because I simply can’t do things for other people.
- How come I used to be able to write pages and pages of creative work until it became Really Important and I wanted to properly publish a book and imagined other people reading it?
I’m sorry – I do owe a lot of people replies to their emails and comments and I just can’t handle them right now because the length of time people have been waiting has bumped them up to Really Important status. In fact, as soon as anyone else asks me to do something for them, it becomes Really Important in my head, and I turn into a gibbering fuckwit who wants to grasp her head and groan and rock back and forth.
This is writer’s block. I’ve had it for years but I never really thought about how totally it permeates the way I behave and the decisions I make and the life I am leading today.
Yet here I am being tremendously prolific writing this blog. Until recently – when I started to realise how many Really Important posts I desperately need to make to explain everything, and I started to not want to write this blog anymore.
Tonight I came across a rather enlightening article in the BBC H2G2 DNA project. The article is about hypergraphia – being driven in a frenzy to write and write. Sort of like what happened with this blog. It’s caused by writer’s block.
The inability to communicate one’s ideas causes depression and anxiety, which in turn causes an inability to communicate and decreased activity in the frontal lobe where ideas are organised and edited – which is what writer’s block is all about. However, writer’s block is often genre-specific and the people who suffer from this condition often turn to other outlets for release – be it pouring one’s soul into poetry, chronicling one’s life in painful detail, writing lengthy letters or, in the age of electronics, marathon emails. Indeed, it has become a technique employed by writers in the rut – escaping from the block by writing about it, which is apparently what Coleridge and Wordsworth were famous for. Hypergraphia
So what I can say is that I have too much going on in the temporal lobes, too little going on in the frontal lobes? My writing tutor used to call this kind of behaviour a ‘displacement activity’ – doing anything and everything to put off doing real writing. I knew however, that I wasn’t doing it to put off real writing, but because I was totally incapable of doing any real writing and really frustrated about it.
According to the article, hypergraphia is a trait associated with temporal lobe epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and (you guessed it), asperger’s syndrome. It’s also a trait that runs in my family – my father and my sister both have it. They are both disorganised and are unable to do stuff that is Really Important like paying bills. My sister has been a total fuckwit about music ever since she left Hepburn. These are traits that are governed by dopamine levels. Says the article:
In cases where hypergraphia results as a consequence of genre-specific writer’s block, there are educational and psychotherapeutic treatments available. Alice Flaherty and Harvard psychologist Shelly Carson are now experimenting with ways to break writing blocks using light to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)-related blocks (SAD is a form of depression that affects people when the days get darker and colder).
SAD lights actually raise serotonin levels – serotonin tends to lower dopamine and vice versa, though SAD lights tend to raise neurotransmitters overall. However I actually tend to write better during the winter, and half of my problem is a lack of concentration, which indicates low dopamine – ADD. Sigh. But if I didn’t have those traits at all, I probably wouldn’t even want to be a writer.
Now I am going back into hibernation. I’m very sorry I’m not answering communications, especially not ones that ask questions. If I don’t do some Really Important writing soon I will never do it at all.