I've been meaning to write this for a while, but life (and other, far more amusing topics) kept getting in the way. This morning, however, I find myself with an urge to write (but not productively, like, say, on one of the elleventy-million stories I should be finishing)(Or the query letter I was supposed to have written and sent out before the end of January), and no specific incident with which to bore you dear reader. So we return to the variety plate. Huzzah!
But first, the usual disclaimer type thingie.
Warning: This isn't sweetness and light. It may well contain TMI, strong language and adult themes...but not the fun kind. Read on at your own peril.
Right, on with the show.
Today's item on the variety plate is paranoia. Whee!
The stereotypical definition of paranoia is the belief that everyone is out to get you. Here's an explanation I found useful: The term paranoia was used by Emil Kraepelin to describe a mental illness in which a delusional belief is the sole or most prominent feature. In his original attempt at classifying different forms of mental illness, Kraepelin used the term pure paranoia to describe a condition where a delusion was present, but without any apparent deterioration in intellectual abilities and without any of the other features of dementia praecox, the condition later renamed schizophrenia. Notably, in his definition, the belief does not have to be persecutory to be classified as paranoid, so any number of delusional beliefs can be classified as paranoia. For example, a person who has the sole delusional belief that he is an important religious figure would be classified by Kraepelin as having 'pure paranoia'
See? It's not all "They're out to get me!!" Some times it's "They're out to worship me!" Or in my case "They're staring at me and think I'm awful."
Yep. It's a contributing factor to my agoraphobia - I really don't like people looking at me. I'm always afraid they think I'm fat, ugly, stupid, or whatever the negative self image du jour is. Mostly it's about how I never look good. Bad hair, no makeup, overweight, unflattering clothing, whatever. If I'm in a public place and I hear people whispering, I automatically presume that they're whispering about me. Laughter? Laughing at me. Yep. So it's an egotistical thing too. Come to think of it, most mental illnesses require a large ego or a chunky dose of self-centeredness.
In a way, believing that people think you look awful and are whispering, pointing, and laughing at you all the time is a bit freeing. If you are utterly convinced that you look bad no matter what, then why bother with makeup? Or worry about fashion? I mean, if everything you try is a failure in the looks department, why not just forget about it and just be comfortable? Whew! I found a way to make it work for me.
I grew my hair long because I like it that way. I stopped worrying about how others might think it looked because I don't care any more. I think that they think it looks awful no matter what I do, so I suit myself. I dye it blue at the tips because I like blue. I wear it down, back, or up depending on the heat, humidity, and my own weird mood. I really don't care what convention, fashion, or my fellow humans think, any more.
Makeup? You're kidding, right? Hah! I wear makeup on stage, sometimes, but even there I can't often be bothered. I'm up there to sing, not be seen. It's the voice that matters, and I am surrounded by beautiful people who have way more flare than I...so they can shine and I'll just be happy to make music.
Fashion? Again I say...hah! I get to wear what I want because I already know that people think I look bad. So if I am going to look bad all the time, I may as well do so in comfort. Blue jeans or maybe a floor-length skirt in blue or black and a sarong shirt are my standard wear. The skirt is for formal occasions. Crocs or Teva sandals on my feet, and I'm good to go.
This member of the variety plate, I know the source. I can tell you right where it cam from - something my grandmother told me when I was a kid. I was going outside to play in the yard, and she stopped me and chastised me for...well, to be honest, I probably looked like a kid about to go outside and play. You know...hair looking like hair, blue jeans, t-shirt, sneakers. She told me I looked awful, and then lectured me on how people are always going to be looking at me and judging me, and how I should always look perfect and never do anything to give a negative impression. I should always be neat, tidy, and lady-like. I should always look perfect, and if I didn't then people wouldn't like me or want me around them. Good grief, y'all, I was all of thirteen!
I'd like to know how I was supposed to manage all that supposed perfection while horseback riding, playing tennis, swimming, or any of the other pursuits I was supposed to...pursue...because that's what well-bred kids did. Oh, wait...my cousin did it, so I should too, and if I couldn't then I just had to try harder. No pressure or anything, though.
This helpful little diatribe grew into my weird belief that everyone is watching me, making my skin crawl, taking me apart and finding all my flaws with their eyes.
And yet...I get up on stage. In a busy season, I may perform up to ten concerts with my band. This year, we have three events booked, one of which will almost certainly require two concerts and several smaller performances at workshops, meetings, and such. We may perform every day for a week. In front of people. Who will be watching us.
Music trumps paranoia.
I'm really lucky - I found a benefit to this little side item on the plate, in that I no longer worry how I look and may now live a comfortable life free of the concerns of cosmetics, fashion, or social norms. It doesn't keep me from happily singing with, for, and in front of others. It's only a problem in new or really crowded places, where other things contribute to psychological discomfiture, and I can usually ignore it anyway. Occasionally I can even enjoy being unselfconsciously myself. How many "normal" people can say that?
Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!
"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
For old quotes, look here.
For old quotes, look here.