In our regular mental health and wellbeing spot, we talk a little bit about when life’s curveballs leave us lost for words.
Hello, and welcome to you. This is the bit of the Film Stories site where we chat about things that may be affecting us, or people around us. It’s just a little weekly piece with a mental health focus. Not everything we write is going to be useful, but hopefully over the course of this series of articles, there’s something we write that might be of use to you or someone you know.
This week, Jane has returned to the column to talk a little bit about being lost for words – when our feelings or our circumstances leave us unable to articulate, verbally or in writing, what’s going on in our heads:
Hello lovely people. It’s been a while.
The words, they just weren’t there for me to talk to you anymore. I tried to type, tried to write with a pen. I even bought a quill. Nothing. Nada. Not even chicken scratch on the page.
My whole life I had words to play with. Something that was mine. My written expression allowed me to rationalise, to get serious, or to get playful. To pen an escape, whether it be fiction or fact. A way of making sense of the world.
Until the words were gone.
Call it stress, call it PTSD (and my doctors do), the words were lost. Events, distraction, obligations took away a fundamental part of who I am, what I am. And I couldn’t fight it. Because I was just so bloody tired.
There’s a word – lacuna – that means unfilled space. A gap. It’s as if all the emotions and actions and things I needed to do to be practical and get through time created a lacuna where my voice used to be. It extended from the written word to the verbal word. I’d not said my words to an audience for two years. Another part of my expression of self became inaccessible.
A counselor asked me to write a gratitude diary. Gratitude? For what, exactly? Recession, illness, an inability to work, a loss of words, a struggle to even read? I wasn’t filled with gratitude. I didn’t want to smell the roses.
No, my unfilled space where those pretty words used to be filled up with something else.
Rage. Rage the like of which I have never felt before. Rage which bewildered me, because I really didn’t know what to do with it. Rage at being separated, at being other from the wider world, by illness and obligation. Fury at being unable to stop the runaway train of certain inevitable events, while at the same time languishing on ever longer multiples of hospital waiting lists for my own treatment to begin (still waiting).
So I wrote that bloody diary. I wrote rage. I wrote anger. Then I tore it all up into confetti and spewed it out into the void, trying to get some relief.
It helped, a little. But you don’t want or need to read my rage words and they were all I was capable of giving. Because so much else, so much emotional capital of mine was spent elsewhere.
I find that my rage is almost spent now. There’s blank space in my head again. There’s teasing words and phrases, pretty patterns and sounds. All mixed up with sorrow and weariness and acceptance that for some of us, life is limited by what’s going on under our skin. And in my case, it’s miscommunication between ligaments and nerves, brain and commands. I stumble and fall, ask my body to do something and see it try, but misjudge just that little bit. I literally walk into walls. And door frames, cupboard doors. I’m a whole universe of bruises, inside and out.
Words begin to trickle back, then crisis hits. Deal with it, move on, start again (and it is a start again, because the interruption is so destabilising). Another crisis. No one’s fault, just life. And I fall into that lacuna again. The word void. I turn away from the words on the screen, stop engaging.
So I send my apologies for absence. Not just to you guys, but to myself. I was cut off from a fundamental part of who I am. It hurts to try to go back there, to make that chicken scratch on the page. But I want to. I want the words to be easy again. And there is more time now, less noise in my head from elsewhere.
I say my hellos, ask for a few minutes of your time to say, it’s Jane. Remember me? I used to write sweet little articles and then I got raged and fell into a big hole. It could happen to any of us. Because that’s what life does. It sticks great big holes in the road for us to navigate as best we can. At the end of the road, I hope I find a library as big and as beautiful as Dream’s in The Sandman, where those words dance like whisps waiting to be caught.
I leave you now, for today, with the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2022. Well, it’s two words. Goblin mode: ‘a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations’. Sounds a lot like my rage mode. I get it, that need just to close the curtains, scratch your ass in front of the TV and cram as many cheese Doritos in your mouth as humanly possible.
Given the state of the past two years, we’re all entitled to a little goblin mode now and again. But I never want to let it become my default setting again.
I never did use that quill. Perhaps next time.
You all take care and thanks for reading.
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