Picture by Dan Genuario posted on the Urbex page
After reading the post on my Peruvian Nights last week, a good friend of mine wrote me a message. The general idea was: “Your life style sounds scary. You seem fearless.” It surprised me, because I am one of the most anxious people I know. How deceiving is the way people perceive us, without us ever suspecting it? One day we talk and we realise there’s been a huge misunderstanding all that time.
Fear is probably my primary emotion, because it is inherent to the excitement rushes I am addicted to. Fear is the motor of my life. It’s the weathercock that shows me the direction to take next. I’ve tamed myself to love going where the fear is. But it certainly doesn’t get easier with time.
Are we afraid of what we are drawn to because we care, or are we drawn to our fears, like a morbid curiosity for the taboo part of our own self?
If all of us drew a map of our fears and another map of our secret excitements and hidden desires, both maps would probably coincide for most people.
I threw myself into a new adventure last week, and it is freaking the shit out of me. I was accepted as a volunteer in a mental health institute, to provide dance sessions to mentally ill people. I’ve had an irresistible call for mental asylums since my teenage, so I decided to act on it to satisfy my unexplained attraction. I applied in August. My cover letter was quite raw, almost too honest.
“I have always been interested in mental health issues. I have struggled with phases of depression. I feel I have a natural understanding of patients’ condition, in the same way that I feel people with mental health issues would understand me more than “regular” people. I see this opportunity as a both way relationship. I am willing to give, but I also know that I will receive something from them that I miss in my everyday life.”
I had a theoretical training in October, with slides about all the different mental pathologies as well as practical tips such as “How to react with someone who hears voices?” It made me feel more afraid – and excited – than ready for it. After that, I met two occupational therapists in charge of two distinct wards at a psychiatric hospital.
They asked me again what my motivations were. I wanted to say: “It scares me and I am drawn to it.” But I didn’t. Or: “I do that out of cathartic selfishness. I am hoping I’ll get a homeopathic dose of madness that will calm my own disturbed thoughts.” And my third argument was: “I work in a very polished world where everything is awesome and politically correct. I want to be challenged and insulted if people really feel like that about me.” Actually, all my reasons sound wrong and self-centered. But after all, aren’t we all scientifically the centre of our own world?
Last Wednesday were my first two sessions. I had my back to the wall. I talked to a colleague-friend a couple of hours before being thrown to the lions. We went together through the worst scenarios which could happen to me:
- being strangled
- being assaulted
- being insulted
- not getting their attention
- not remembering why the fuck I put myself in that situation
- leaving the room in tears and being kept at the hospital for the night
We laughed our head off.
I found some reassuring in the idea that I only had to ground myself and breathe with them not to lose their attention. If I was fully present and engaged every minute, I would be fine.
And I was eventually.
Apart from rough working conditions and people shutting me down (“- Hi, do you feel like doing a dance class? – NO!“, “Your music is boring, you’re putting me to sleep”), I didn’t get strangled and I didn’t leave the room in tears.
It was an extremely odd experience. It made me question my own naivety. My own high opinion of myself on how I have the pretention to change the world. I don’t know, it was hard on my ego. I am not saying that in a defeatist way, but I am so powerless about certain things after all. I need to soak deeper into that world to figure out how I feel about it. I’ve had contradictory feelings since I pushed the doors of that parallel universe.
This week, I collapsed. I failed. I cancelled. I didn’t go. Fear won me over.
I was confronted to another of my black beasts a few days ago.
I accidentally saw the only straight man I’ve ever liked, the one I randomly made a step towards on the day that Paris was attacked. I hadn’t seen him since our weird written exchange. I didn’t know he would be there. I caught sight of him in the door frame from a distance, and I instantly stopped. I hid like a 4 year-old for a good 15 minutes thinking “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck”. I considered running away, but I was there to meet friends so I had to pull myself together. I made my hair more voluminous to intimidate the adversary and put more red lipstick than necessary. I was all feline in my leopard coat but not breathing at all when I finally crossed his gaze and said “Hi-how-are-you”. Oh my God. How can I be terrified just saying hello to somebody and be super chilled when fucking a stranger in the middle of the woods? I ran away without saying good bye to him. For what? I have no intention to convince him to like me.
I’m not afraid of being judged, I’m not afraid of people not liking me. I’m used to that and I find it healthy. If you have unanimous support, it means you’re on a consensual or an easy path. I’m afraid of having to convince people to be on my side. I am afraid of having to please people. I have no clue how to do that.
I refuse to.
I run away. I run away.