The lives I haven’t lead

February 20, 2007 at 10:25 pm 2 comments

What would my life have looked like if things hadn’t gone wrong? It probably doesn’t do me any good to think about this, but I’m on some kind of misery kick tonight and if I’m going to be miserable, well, I might as well share. That’s the magic of the internet. Plus, writing about it delays the point when I decide that slicing my arms up with a razor will make me feel better (sometimes it feels like my life’s one long sequence of delays).

There’s maybe three points I can think of where my life could have radically diverged from the path it’s now taken: Changing schools when I was 11; fucking up my education at age 14; screwing up after I left university when I was 22. The last one may have been too late to make much difference, but changing the first two would mean I’d be living a very different life now.

When I was 11, I moved from my primary school to secondary school. I often missed school (this may have been something to do with my sleep problems, but it’s hard to remember), but in my final year at primary school, I’d put in so much effort to attend regularly. I was a smart kid. I had a great future ahead of me. I was fat. At secondary school I got bullied a lot. The psychiatrists I’ve seen seem to think this is a reason for my current problems. I disagree. It hurt at the time and shattered my self-confidence, but I’ve moved far beyond that. It was horrible at the time, but that’s just what kids do.

Being fat and having no self-confidence rather fucked up the romantic inclinations of my teenage self. I hated myself and was convinced I’d never get a girlfriend or get laid. I tried to ask girls out a few times, but it became much easier to not face rejection at all than set myself up for it. So I stopped that. So, the first of the changes that would have lead to a different life would have been not being fat. If I’d lost weight during the summer between primary school and secondary school things would have been so much different. I could have avoided the worst of the bullying, not become an outcast and not spent years thinking that the very idea of me ever having sex was a cruel joke. I wouldn’t have fucked up academically and could have gone on to fulfil my early promise doing whatever it was that I wanted to do. It’s hard to imagine how my life would be now under such circumstances.

But say I’d been fat and still had my confidence crushed by bullying and rejection. I was a sad, miserable teenager, but still intelligent. The sleep problems were getting worse, but I was clever enough that this didn’t affect my school work too much. I already knew much of what was being taught and could catch up easily. Then, when I was fourteen, something clicked inside me and I gave up completely. Pieces of me shut down. My school work went to shit and I stopped bothering to do homework or coursework. I was predicted straight A’s. I wanted to become a zoologist or some other science-related thing. I had my sights set on a zoology degree at Cambridge.

Imagine that I’d been able to hang on for a couple more years, to get the GCSE results that would have enabled me to go on to college and do the subjects I wanted. My weight dropped off after I was 16. I’d have gone to college and my confidence may well have rebuilt itself. Maybe I’d have been able to get over my sense of worthlessness and start having normal relationships. I’d have got the grades I wanted. I’d have gone to Cambridge or another of the top universities. And now? I’d be in some well-paying job, or maybe doing a PhD. I’d probably be with some girl, or maybe single but seeing people.

And the final turning point. When I finished my degree. If I’d been able to find the strength and energy to apply for graduate positions, to get a decent job, to move on from the relationship disaster with Rebecca. I could have begun building a life that was worth living. I’d still have problems, but they’d be problems that weren’t quite so problematic.

Every decision that I’ve made has taken me further and further from the life I wanted. I’m 25 now. I have few hopes. Living requires me to believe that the problems I have are, to some extent, resolvable. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this. I don’t believe my problems are caused by negative thinking, or deep-seated emotional problems, so much as by some fucked-up bit of my brain, an inability to regulate sleep and emotion. Therapy might help, but I doubt that it will. Medication might help, but my psychiatrist didn’t want to give me anything and I don’t think I have the energy to keep pursuing a medical solution to this.

Assuming there’s no magic cure for this, exactly how well will I need to manage my problems in order to have a life I want to live? Where’s the break-even point? I’d need to be employable, in a job that had some meaningful work for me to do. It’s possible that I could be a writer if I could find the energy and motivation to write with some consistency, but the odds are against me, even if I have the necessary talent. Holding down a job that would provide some level of satisfaction would require my sleep problems to be well managed. For the job not to fuck me up emotionally would require that I wasn’t constantly sleep-deprived. In order to get that kind of job, I’d need to go back to university to do a masters or a degree in something that would lead to the kind of employment I want. To have relationships would require me to develop an ability to socialise that I seem to lack, to start liking people again, to consider that the emotional risks involved were worth the potential gains.

Assuming that all this is possible, in the best case scenario, by the time I get my life to a point where it’s worth living I’ll be nearly thirty. I’ll be entering the career I’ve chosen almost ten years after those whose lives were running smoothly. I’d be playing catch-up. I’d still be worse off financially than most of my peer group.

So is this possible? My sleep problems may not be very managable. It may be worth seeing what the sleep specialist has to say about this, but people with DSPS have enough trouble getting their disorder recognised and treated, so I’m not holding out huge amounts of hope for effective diagnosis and treatment of what I think is Non 24-hour sleep-wake syndrome. To my knowledge, at least one PCT has denied funding for DSPS. My emotional problems, the depressions, etc. may be treatable, but the psychiatrist doesn’t seem to think so. When I see my GP next, I might talk about this.

As my options decrease, the other solution seems more appealing. That’s the one that doesn’t involve living a life I have no interest in living. It’s always been a question of how prepared I am to hurt people who know me. If my concern for the pain of others becomes dips beneath my desire not to go on living then the solution is obvious.

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Tuesday Evening Sleep notes

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. katm  |  February 21, 2007 at 4:05 am

    I think about the same sorts of things all the time. Playing the old “what if” game. But the ugly truth is, we can’t go back and change those things. We can only continue moving into the future. I know how the future can seem so bleak. So I won’t bore you with the “it’s gonna be alright” crap. Just know that I understand.

  • 2. The “What If” Game « Finding the Light in the Darkness  |  February 21, 2007 at 4:44 am

    […] February 20th, 2007 in Relationships, Family, Child Abuse, Emotions Experimental Chimp recently wrote about how life would be different if the past was different. I have a name for this sort of […]

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Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?

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