Friday, 13 January 2012


I remember reading once, that one of the therapies that they use for anxious children is to wrap them in a heavy blanket so that they're provided with deep sensation over the skin. I guess it's a sort of regression to the womb thing, where those round walls gave a defined boundary so that everything you knew could be contained within your little egg. I don't know if I was wrapped as a baby, I suspect not as it was all the rage to sleep babies on their bellies, and the combination seems a bad one to me. Plus I'm intensely claustrophobic so I'm not sure how that would have worked (in utero or ex utero). But when I sleep I need a blanket - I always have. It can't be tucked in and it can't be tight but the weight against my back helps me sleep. I have to be so relaxed as to be almost comatose to sleep in nothing but air, there's just too much stimulus from every nerve ending being exposed to the air.

These were the thoughts I was pondering as I curled up in my single hammock this afternoon, like an oversized Anne Geddes baby with my feet tucked up and the soft nobbly material curving around me. I wasn't claustrophobic because my one foot was out so that I could keep swinging, and the breeze was on my face so I could breathe. But I was so intensely relaxed, swinging backwards and forwards spinning slightly before righting myself with a well placed nudge on the balcony railing, cocooned in space. And at least part of it was the gentle hug of material, holding me in.

It's easy to feel frayed sometimes, friable, as if there are just so many tangling threads all around you that are impossible to keep tidy and neat. It's like free falling in every direction while you try and work out which thread you should try and pull in first, knowing it all seems a bit pointless to go after one at a time. My skin becomes uncomfortably sensitive when I'm anxious, to the point where every light breeze across the hair on my arm can feel like bugs crawling on my skin, so intense is the sensation. And the need to have something external, pushing it all back in.

I have been studying but not. Occasionally chastising myself about my inability to sit still and absorb reams of information. I forget that I've always been terrible at studying - never having learned it at school, adapting a cramming method that worked for me at university and served me well through three degrees. I am useless at revising things, I read it, understand it all, and then feel virtuous for knowing that, but forgetting the finer details absorbed only through rote learning or revision. I do best with learning, not revision, where the first flush of understanding penetrates like pleasure as it tickles me to understand and grasp a new concept. But anything peripheral to that needs to be nailed down like a piece of particularly recalcitrant decking to stay stuck in my brain. And that's where I struggle most. Easily distracted, daydreaming when I should be concentrating.

Sometimes while studying physics, the diagrams and the formulae begin to slide around the page. The coefficients and the algebra and the Greek letters dancing around and refusing to stay still. All these concepts that once upon a time would have come to me easily, snapping and fizzling away feeling just out of my grasp. As if I'm trying to count grains of sand while I'm walking on it, and trying not to panic as I realise how impossible that is, as each grain moves under my foot and a hundred more pour on top of it.

But I draw diagrams, and come back to things, and I work out ways to quantify that sand as it slips in between my fingers. And it's probably a round about way, and I think it probably takes longer than those that just learn it through faith and rote, but when I learn it and understand it, it sticks there. Sticks and allows me to manipulate it, something tangible not just a poster on the wall of my brain. I can mould it with my hands, shape it, and share it.

I feel adrift at present, and the tangible days seem to slip by like silk over smooth skin, tantalising but brief. And a gentle fog sits all the way around my consciousness, not grey or miserable, but muted, soft and shimmering, nothing clear. And sometimes it's beautiful to exist in a world that feels lifted straight from a Degas painting, all swishes and light and movement, but others I need to curl up in my hammock and have it press me firmly in on all sides. Weighted and calm.


Pundelina said...

Studying brain chemistry was the same for me; slippy sliding concepts, sleepy long dry articles, chemicals and processes all mixed up and interconnected and huge beyond my capacity.

You will prevail dear Jenn, and the hammock sounds like a good way to solidify yourself for a while.


Jenn said...

It's amazing how fondly I will reminisce about this, once I've forgotten what it actually involves.

Brain chemistry is very useful for that!


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