Follow the Black Cat – Stray Cat

I had planned to start this blog over a year ago. I had kept a personal diary for over three years but I ditched it. Reading all that shit back made me feel stupid, I guess. No-one was ever going to read it but it didn’t matter. The things I felt, the outpouring of emotion and free-flowing of thoughts was indecent somehow. It just didn’t feel right.

Nothing feels right anymore.

I can’t say when it started, it was more of a creeping up on me, a slow realisation that things were not as they should be. As I sit here in my cat pyjamas, listening to AC/DC’s Back in Black album, drinking my shit coffee, I am left wondering what the fuck happened, and why I ended up, at 40, living through an existential crisis and believing that, at the age that life is supposed to start, that it is over.

It is not meant to be a pity-party. Fuck no. Typically, I am a piss-taker. A bit of an edge lord at times. I have no particular political persuasion. I believe in God but I’m not religious. I have faced death more than once. I am bi-polar and the things most people take for granted don’t come easy to me. And, for all I tread the boards in my teens, I was a shy, painfully shy, kid who buried herself in books and listened to The Smiths while the other girls in school were pissing up on cheap cider and getting pregnant.

No, that wasn’t my life. It still isn’t. I’m still that introvert. I’m still that Goth Girl that nobody wanted to be friends with, who lives with three cats and far more books than she knows what to do with. But over the years I found that life, and the world around me, was changing. It was already hard for me to communicate with other people, other humans, for my upbringing was not one where I could speak or express my feelings freely. Anger was suppressed and shouted down. Sadness mocked and laughed at. If I liked a boy at school I was tormented to the point of despair to the degree where I still hide my affection for others like it is something to be ashamed of. I fear, and still hear, that horrid mocking laugh every time I admit to myself that those feelings exist. It became pathological to the point I have spent all my adult life alone. I was never taught about the world of relationships, what life had in store for me, how to feel, what was right, what was wrong. I had to find out the hard way. And that way was painful and hugely scarring.

You see, I never experienced love in a way that didn’t hurt. My first experience of love – family – was conditional. If I showed love or affection, it was sometimes rejected or treated with disgust. I learned from an early age that my affection was something others didn’t want. I ended up in abusive, one-sided relationships because I didn’t think I deserved any better. It was something I grew used to, accepted, because it was all I ever knew. So I stayed away from relationships, from people, and became a feral cat, simply too afraid of being hurt, rejected or abused if I showed any hint of emotion, of weakness. I often lashed out out of fear. It wasn’t the real me, but even being near people was enough to trigger uncomfortable feelings. It killed me inside but I felt I had no choice. The loneliness of that choice has taken a toll on my health for the past 20 years. They say loneliness kills. Some days I wish it would because it is something I know I have to learn to live with and it is a very sobering and depressing thought.

I joined Instagram a while back. I was just dicking about at first – cat pictures, my embroidery, art, Game of Thrones stuff – all the usual boring everyday shit you’d expect from a shut-in. But as I started posting my poetry, others were getting back to me stating how relatable it was. After years of feeling like an island in the middle of nowhere, I realised there were others like me, other lonely, broken people who just needed to be heard, to be seen and acknowledged.

Over the past two years my ability to communicate on a one-to-one level has become extremely difficult. I thought, over time and with introspection, the fear within me would subside, that I could make sense of it and thus get a handle on the deep internal wounds from all those years ago. But it became apparent that, after many experiences of laying my heart and soul bare, after talking myself into being ‘courageous’ and ‘brave’ for opening my heart and soul to another after a life of abuse and ridicule, things had not changed. I guess I fell into the trap of believing those empty, vapid affirmations you see plastered all over the public toilet of social media that encourage you to ‘be positive’, ‘always tell people you love them’. I had every intention of trying to change my life, every intention of attempting to make positive changes, to not sink into that bottomless pit of despair I did years ago. I did those things. I said those words. And I lost everything.

For the heart that cares too much, for the heart that sits silently and keeps its counsel and its pain buried deep within as it watches those it loves leave and never once look back, for the heart that wanted to say so much but couldn’t because it’s wings were broken as it was shot down in flames, the scars of those times do not leave nor diminish with time. For the introvert, for the artist, the poet, the Empath, the Quiet one, the one who does not, cannot, make great grand gestures of love and affection for fear of rejection and ridicule, the pain is deep and long-lasting. Fuck knows I’ve lived with the pain of loss for so long, walked through Hell so many times I know it like the back of my hand and could even become a Tour Guide. But the feeling of emptiness left inside turned inwards because it had nowhere left to go. I began blaming myself for my losses, picking apart and lamenting over every thing I said and done. From that point on I was lost, and spent from that day to this trying to fix something I couldn’t fathom. I drove myself crazy. I was mortally afraid to even get close to another person because the burn was still there under the surface.

So when I did end up having feelings for someone else, it was a full-scale nuclear meltdown. Every pain, every unresolved issue, every word I couldn’t say, every wound, every scar, every scratch, bruise became amplified a hundred fold. I knew it was unhealthy but I didn’t know any different. The pain and the grief were all enmeshed with the feelings of love until they became indistinguishable from each other. Grief was a comfort because it was so familiar. Love terrifies me. It scares me out of my fucking mind because I know where it leads. It’s hard to explain to someone who has not experienced the pain of loss and separation, but you feel two, three or even four things at the same time. On the one hand you feel a deep and abiding love for that person. They inspire all the emotions in you that you can’t put into words – a knowing – you see them inside and out and love each and every part of them unconditionally and without question. You feel your mind, and sometimes your soul, reach out at times without warning as though to touch them like they are in the same room. It’s not just the feeling in your heart, it’s the knowing deep in the pits of you, a calm, peaceful knowing that there are no words for. But equally, it is the fear of losing it, not feeling like you are good enough,of never being able to express that, the understanding that the feeling inside of you will inevitably turn against you and cause you great pain and suffering because your life, in some fucked up way, has taken this trajectory where, no matter what you do, that connection – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – will forever elude you. The knowing that the love you have revolving inside you like an ancient galaxy full of stars and planets and beautiful life, will never be explored, never be shared with anyone. The feelings veer from one to the other creating an unending sense of underlying anxiety from which you can’t escape. And in that knowledge, you become feral, you become so afraid, so unsure of yourself, that you can’t even function some days.

Which brings me back to pyjamas and shit coffee. People often take the piss out of crazy cat people like me. It’s ok. We understand. When we can’t communicate our feelings to others it’s easy to make assumptions about the way we live. This first blog is the tip of a very monumental iceberg. I write my poetry now, not just for me, but for the other lonely planets out there. We love, and feel, and cry and laugh just like you do, sometimes more so when mental illness is involved. Maybe I will talk some more about being bi-polar at some stage, not in a maudlin kind of way, but as a casual observer in my own life, trying to make sense of things. I do a little drag, a little comedy sometimes so not everything will be as dark and depressing as this. Sometimes I just need to lance the mental boil that festers after self-isolation (and I don’t mean due to Covid.)

Instagram: angela_russell1984