‘I’m an open book’
It is one of life’s most perplexing sayings. Bandied round more times than I care to count, it is used overtly and without due consideration of its actual meaning. First of all, somebody who freely bares their assets to the world does not mean that they are in any way interesting. Nor does such a vague admission inspire me to hear, or even remotely care about such a person’s story. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that I am induced into a state of bewildered wonderment whenever I hear this idiom uttered – it not only comes across as irreparably belligerent, but also completely meaningless.
On the other hand, there is definitely a sense of satisfaction to be gained by the idea of being true to yourself and all of your beliefs; some would argue that it is something that we all try to carry out throughout our daily lives. However, while the prospect of exorcising ourselves of our own insecurities and strengthening the bonds of trust with our loved ones is an alluring offer, it is in my experience a misleading one. The result can only be comparable to preparing an ill-fated brew; the first sip is sweet, refreshing and gives the drinker a feeling of general contentment. It is only after they are halfway through their beverage do they begin to notice the bitter aftertaste and subsequently realise that this experiment was an unsuccessful one.
At least, it’s this kind of dissatisfaction that I experience when it comes to ‘opening up’ to people. Why do I feel this way? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because no matter how hard I try, I cannot impart every despairing thought that crosses my mind. Not even to my closest family and friends. Am I afraid of rejection? Yes. Am I worried about feeling more like more of outsider than I already do? Of course I am. But above all of this is a feeling of immense guilt. The idea of pouring out the contents of my mind onto somebody else when they undoubtedly have their own problems to deal with is not something I can do readily. Do I really have the right to compel them to not only understand, but meticulously inspect the reasons behind my abnormal worldview?
The word ‘understand’ is very important in this context. Every piece of fiction ever created is susceptible to an individual’s subjective opinion. This is all fine and well, of course. Yet when it comes to the emotionally turbulent experience that defines many peoples’ lives, I believe that subjectivity can often be a hindrance rather than a help – no matter how much somebody tries to help me piece together my hopelessly fragmented mind, they will never be able to comprehend the psychological trauma of my situation. As I gaze into their eyes and they gaze into mine, I often cannot help but wonder at what they see. Do they realise how much I’m hurting? How important am I to them really? What is the point of life and all its trials and tribulations?
Put succinctly it is this short, yet damaging fit of anxiety deprives me of both perception and rational thought. Suddenly I do not feel like a real, living, human being. I am merely telling a story. Except this cannot be just any old wives tale. Oh no. This has to be the best story this person has ever had the pleasure to witness. I don’t want them to just understand my situation. I want them to be enthralled by it. Like how they might whisk through the threadbare pages of a bestselling novel in less than an afternoon’s reading – they must be completely and utterly captivated. All of this is part of misguided effort to satisfy the megalomania that, in moments such as these, dominates my mind.
It is this intense paranoia that leads me to an extraordinary revelation – perhaps in those moments of madness I am an ‘open book’. Or at least, some part of me desires to be. But instead of a truthful relation of who I am, it is compromised by the paranoiac ramblings typical of one of my depressive episodes. Perhaps this explains the conspicuous absence of that liberating feeling people seem to get by opening up to others. It may also be an indication as to why I sometimes seem to hold such little faith in people in their ability to make me feel as though my life is worth living once more.
As it is, I am less of an open book than I am an unyielding one, hidden away in a library that should have closed its doors long ago. A book that nonchalantly bathes in the thick layer of dust that coats its leather bound cover, with its spine immaculately kempt and not a crease to be seen on its yellowing pages. A relic of a bygone age, left only with some crude notion resembling dignity…
Emotional support helplines:
Samaritans :116 123
Rethink Mental Illness advice line 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 09:30-16:00; local rate)
Sane Line:0845 767 8000
Mind also has a useful guide of support and services, which can be found by clicking the link right here