When I was around the age of ten, I decided I that I’d had enough of home life and the constant turmoil of primary school and decided to run away. It was a particularly damp day, and the haar was really thick. I took both of as omen that my getaway was, in some way, being approved by the powers that be. Needless to say I never got far. I reached my Gran’s street and contemplated just hiding out there in the outbuilding where she kept her doves, but decided I would venture further. I think I got two or three miles out of town before I was spotted by one of my primary school teachers who instantly called the police. Ever the defiant little shit, I ignored the pleas and shouts from the officers and continued trudging through fields, my feet squelching over the wet mud. I didn’t know where I was going but I sure as hell was going there.
Obviously they never caught me and thus began life as I know it now…
I’ve always been aware of the moods and presence of those who surround me. I pick up on what they are feeling, adopt it, and then display the same emotions, mannerisms and mood. So if someone is being negative I’ll suck up what they are feeling, as if I’m the world’s most useless sponge, and then feel that way too. Which is why if someone is angry I automatically I assume it’s me they are angry at, and thus start screaming internally ‘I’ll fight ye, I’ll fight anyone!’
As a child I never knew how to handle this ‘ability’ and whenever something got too intense I always toyed with the idea of running away. Now as an adult I have a slightly better handle on it, but still contemplate running way at least twice a week. That way I wouldn’t have to deal with the negativity of those around me, or the snippy comments or anti-social or violent behaviour. If I ran away I’d be free of these ankle biters.
Trouble is if I were to run away as a fully grown (yet emotionally dented) man it would 1) look pathetically juvenile 2) probably not merit any concern for a few days. I’m pretty sure I could hurl myself off a building, land in a dumpster full of broken dreams, soiled pants and half-eaten kebabs and lay there. Eight days would pass and my festering body wouldn’t even elicit concern from any passers-by that stumbled upon it. At most it would just provoke a conversation of how to dispose of a decomposing body.
If I didn’t contact my family or friends for a day they’d just assume I’d went on a bender, was helping another friend, or fucking some guy for twelve hours straight. Marching through muddy fields with my Action Man lunchbox doesn’t cut it anymore when trying to get their attention. As a child I always picked up on the dissociation of others around me. Now the tables have turned and I’m the one distracted whilst a friend tries to talk to me. I’m the one who thinks my friends and family’s issues are just bog-standard and zone out whenever they explain them to me.
The unwanted transference of whatever someone around me is feeling tends to trigger prolonged episodes of deeps thoughts and internal diatribes. Subsequently I dwell on things for days. My mind totters off on random tangents whilst I try and keep myself focused on whatever, or whoever, is actually happening there and now. That syrupy terror that once conjured up thoughts of running away, then subsided an hour or so later, now lasts for days. Does anyone ever during sex become so disengaged that you just imagine yourself floating above your intertwined bodies? As if you’re watching the act from the side of the room, like a not-so-incognito detective. I do. Apparently it’s weird and that I should talk to someone about it.
Because I am so aware of my ever-increasing dissociation with immediate reality I wind up trying to cover it up with overly enthusiastic nods during conversation; looks of agreement and shock spread across my face, or by dishing out stupidly tight hugs, like an overcompensating koala. But I really cannot help it. I will leech off other people’s emotions and moods and unwilling succumb to whatever journey my mind takes me on. It is so overwhelming and exhausting sometimes.
Due to adult obligations, bills and such, I’m not able to actually ‘run away.’ As such I’ve had to develop other ways of running way. Sometimes I take long showers, and just stare blankly at the wall. The wall doesn’t have feelings and thus doesn’t have any I’ll unwittingly absorb. Another is staggering home in drunken stupor at 5am, only to realise you’ve left your wallet in someone’s flat who, despite ringing their buzzer and hounding them with phone calls for hours, cannot be summoned from the narcotic sleep until at least 3pm. A personal favourite is hiding out in the bathroom at a club, party or at work. You can get a good fifteen to twenty minutes before anyone really notices. Other excuses: Saying you’re sick. Saying work was‘manic’ and you need sleep. Going radio silent and saying you left your iPhone in your room when you went out. Saying you’re sick again.
I’m getting better at it; becoming more fluent in the language of adult adaptation. I can go full days at work sometimes without zoning out and imagining how I look to others that are around me. But I know I will always struggle with dissociation and always display some sort of empathetic ability that’ll see me sucked into a whirlpool of emotions that doesn’t belong to me. I just hope that one day when I run away, someone will say upon my return ‘oh, I missed you. Where did you go?’ Or if I get up to pee during the night, I’ll come back and he’ll cuddle into me, showing me my absence was noticed. Until then I will try and stay out of my own head and keep my feet firmly planted in the here and now. But if I sneak off to the bathroom whilst in your company, you now know why.