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In our own voice

Publishing original works by writers with a disability, mental illness or who are deaf.

My Enemy

By Scout Micallef

“You are your own worst enemy,” my mother once told me. Being ten years old at the time, I didn’t quite understand what she meant by that remark, but I now recognise the extent of the truth in her comment, for it best describes my relationship with myself. I am my own worst enemy. She said it, close friends have said it, and now I’m acknowledging it. Being the fatalist that I am, I always strive to sabotage any chance of success I ever get. It’s not that my mother’s bold statement at a young age shaped me in any way to fit her description of my psyche, I think I was born that way, and am beyond help and any chance of rectification.

In any situation, I seem to have the ability to seek out the bad points and take the worst from it. “Is the glass half empty or half full?”, the question that separates a pessimist from an optimist, half empty being my default response. “How does one get like that?” a friend once asked. “By being me for 21 years,” I offered. Scarily, my own retort echoed in my head long after the jokes had subsided. I questioned my approach to dealing with my feelings, always switching to ‘defence mode’, blocking out all emotional responses.

Block them out and keep them in. That’s the key to being the heartless wench as perceived by many, known colloquially as ‘The Ice Queen.’ Things happen, and rather than deal with them, putting them into the proverbial ‘vault of secrets’ seems to be the best thing to do. Repression versus expression has become an issue I feel ambivalent about. Is it actually better to openly discuss personal thoughts and feelings, or is it better for all parties concerned if the vital information is suppressed since I can’t even deal with the confusion inside my head, so it makes perfect sense to protect the outside world and repress all relevant clues to the working of my mind, opting for complete silence. This of course makes it virtually impossible to get close to the real me.

The real me? Caution to all those who even attempt to get near the emotional rollercoaster that lies within. One minute it’s up, next minute it’s down. It’s all a giant ride, only the queue is relatively non-existent and the journey never-ending. Going from seemingly happy and boisterous one moment, to sad and withdrawn the next, the enigma of my ever-changing psychological state puzzles me and all those around me. The tiniest things that, put in perspective, are meaningless and mundane, are often enough to trigger a crazed rampage of explosive anger, proving my mind to be similar to a ticking bomb. “Tick, tick, tick,” the sound inside my head repeats, deriving from a lifetime of repression.

Feeling alone for the majority of my life, I always felt that I had no one to confide in, therefore opting to internalise everything. Not that there were options. Since I never had or will have a close relationship with my parents or siblings, I have always found it difficult to form relationships outside my world, or let anyone in. Scared of judgment and unwilling to trust another soul, I was doomed to be forever lonely, to play the game of life solo. Part of me wants to let someone in and let them understand me; the other part is highly cynical of any form of personal relationship, sceptical of all sincerity.

Who would want to love me? It would be like an extreme sport; ‘high risk relationships!’ Awfully paranoid most of the time, I feel physically ill with worry when I don’t know where my lover is, what they’re doing, and who they’re with. It’s not that I don’t trust completely them; I’d rather call it being over protective. It’s like I’m obsessed, but I don’t want to be. I hate becoming the type of person I’ve always detested. It’s worse when I stop for a second and realise that I’m being over controlling. Always the control freak, I try to avoid situations where that power is not in my hands. Learning to resist any temptation to control my relationships is a task in itself, and allowing me to trust someone and compromise with another human being has always proved hard, but easier when it is right.

I can’t help but speculate that maybe the key to keeping a healthy relationship is to trust myself. The battle inside my head is ongoing, and the internal dramas are often reflected in my physical behaviour. Recollections from close friends about their first meeting with me regularly include the term “arrogant.” Shocked at first, my over confidence makes sense upon close analysis. Anxiety levels rise beyond calculation when introduced to new people, but to hide the intense fear, I subconsciously put up a self-important front. It’s my barrier to keep others from seeing through me and into the scared soul within.

Although my initial facade says “arrogance”, I don’t actually hold myself in high regard. Always the first to put myself down, I am highly self- critical, only ever recognising failure over success. My stubborn nature deceives me, never allowing personal praise and self-worth. I doubt my abilities and usefulness to others, and refuse to maintain my health, often declining medical attention when needed. It once took me two weeks to seek doctors’ assistance after burning my leg, purely because I didn’t see healing myself as a priority. Only after constant nagging from friends and family did I get my burnt leg assessed, with the diagnosis being severe infection, close to becoming gangrenous. Why does one of such intellect have thoughts, and subsequent actions, so self-damaging?

A quote I read once that I feel I can identify with is from Henrik Tekkanen, “Truly great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence.” This defines my personality fairly accurately, not that I’m acknowledging my intellect as a positive attribute, but rather a hindrance. As a child, I’d lie awake at night, unable to fall asleep and dream pleasantly as all children should. The thoughts keeping me from my slumber were profound : they were issues that wouldn’t concern even the most emotionally stable adults. Many nights I was kept awake by the sound of my heart thumping, my mind plagued by questions surrounding the beginning of time and the fate of the universe; thoughts most would say are abnormal for a seven year old.

Children’s minds are like blank canvasses, open and easily impressed. I always felt that my brain was born full, and over time new information pushed out the old, but nevertheless, was not open to manipulation like the minds of my peers. I always felt like a wise senior citizen trapped inside a child’s body. Even now, people comment on characteristics I possess that resemble traits common to people in their 50’s. I feel like I came here in a time machine from a completely different era, these thoughts projected through my taste in films, music, television programs and often expressions in everyday conversation. The last time I went to a clairvoyant, she informed me that my spirit is an older, wiser entity, passing their energy through me. This makes my feeling of isolation from my generation plausible.

Set in my ways, much as one may find their grandparents to be, everything I do is similar to partaking in a delicate operation. From making the bed to cleaning a car, the action is all so pedantic. “Does it really matter if the openings of your pillowcases face outwards?” a friend once asked, not knowing that they were opening a ‘can of worms.’ I must have looked appalled by the question, as my friend promptly copied my action by turning the pillowcase around. Known for my anal retentive behavior, this is never a conscious effort, usually taking an outsider to point out my methodical conduct. Trying to perform a task without specific order seems more time consuming and subsequently more tiresome than continuing my behaviour, momentarily unaware of my retentive ways.

Throughout high school, I was deemed the ‘O.C.D. Kid,’ alluding to my erratic system of organisation. I never actually believed that I suffered from the condition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but the more that I heard it, from a variety of sources, the more I began to believe it. Whenever I played a prank on a friend, their revenge would consist of getting into my bedroom and rearranging my CD collection. I was aware that this was a malicious endeavor aimed at attacking my psyche. They knew I couldn’t continue living knowing that my once alphabetised collection of CD’s was not in order. No matter how much they challenged me on occasion to leave the pandemonium, I couldn’t do it. The sheer frustration tore me apart.

Everything of mine I must keep in order. From alphabetical CD, video game, and DVD collections, to coat hangers in the wardrobe all facing the wall, having numerous clocks ticking in unison, and shoes arranged in a formulaic way. A place for everything, and everything in its place, that place consistently neat and tidy. “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” my now Buddhist mother would say to my brothers’ when we were babies, never needing to lecture me on the ‘art’ of cleaning. I can’t even stand to have dirty hands. Whilst my hands may appear unscathed most of the time, I feel that germs are constantly colonising in my pores upon touching various items of public use throughout the day. Although I remember making an effort not to run straight for the soap and scrubbing brush at home every day after school, I would always cave in, my thoughts overpowering my actions, relenting to the compulsion.

Just once I wish I could eat a meal like the others, the different food groups touching on the plate. I watch in envy as my stepfather mashes his roast potato with some gravy, before devouring the mix with a slither of beef. Not that I eat beef, making that decision for myself pre-adolescent, allowing my body to be susceptible to deficiencies. His food mingles with all sorts in the dish in the same fashion the others prefer to have their meals too. My stomach churns at the mere thought of the different food products contaminating each other. “Stop being silly!” my mother would scorn when I refused to eat the mess served to me. Upon my stepfather purchasing me a plate with sufficient dividers to separate my food, my mother decided to discuss my ‘condition’ with the family doctor. Guessing that her aim was to have me committed, I couldn’t help but laugh when the doctor told her I was just ‘eccentric.’

Comfortable with enjoying quality time alone, gaining energy from the self, I’m classified as an introvert. I also like to spend time in the company of people, giving me extroverted qualities. A small test for a psychology class once labelled me as an ‘extroverted introvert.’ It’s an oxymoron! (two terms that when put together, contradict each other.) I therefore view myself as the ‘walking contradiction.’ I’m in a constant state of conflict with my mind, against all odds, never in agreement with oneself. I think one thing, then, I do the exact opposite. The never-ending saga of the hardest relationship I’ll ever experience in a lifetime continues, furthest from complete understanding. I will never grasp completely the concept of me, but I live in hope that I’ll let someone in close enough to try. Perhaps I should wear a sign, cautioning all those who approach, “Warning: contains traces of extremely complex thought processes!”

7 Comments

  1. You write that you don’t let people in, yet you’ve been brave in writing to strangers your innermost thoughts and feelings. Good on you. I hope you will keep being courageous and treat yourself and the world with as much kindness and gentleness as you can. I am trying to do the same. My blessings to you.

    • Thanks, Karen.
      I actually wrote this piece quite a few years ago, and I guess it is only now that I am ready to unleash it on the world.
      Your kind words are much appreciated. Many blessings.

      • If your aritlces are always this helpful, “I’ll be back.”

  2. Keep writing, Scout; there is much in your powerful essay to which many of us can relate, even if we keep it lurking just below the surface of “normality” and conformity. This superficial world needs more people who “contain traces of extremely complex thought processes!”

    • Thank you so very much, Henk.
      I really do hope that it resonates with others. Being “normal” would just be a bit boring.

    • Your posting really straitened me out. Thanks!

  3. I can already tell that’s gonna to be super heulfpl.

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