Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am
25th Sep 2017


I always feel like I should be able to fix it somehow, if I can just trace everything backwards to my childhood and find the source of it, find the thing that is broken. I wish the problem was mechanical, a logical process of cause and effect, culminating in a resolution. It is not being comforted each time I cried. It is the first time I learned about death. It is my parents marriage falling apart. It is the cruelty of school. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain. It is an inability to connect. It is all of those things and more, or possibly none of them, either way it doesn’t matter.

In my teens I understood that not everyone saw and felt the world the same way I did; maybe all teens feel that, maybe that’s what being a teen is. My coping strategy then was comedy, and while it solved nothing it at least kept the gloom at bay. I’d get laughs out of my friends for validation reasons, I’d laugh at myself for sanity reasons. It didn’t always work, but it kept people around and I wasn’t a burden; nobody had to tolerate my affliction. My friend Dominic calls this part of me the ‘Court Jester’, and he gently reminds me when I fall back into that role.

By my late teens I was cutting myself. It was a form of transference, as though the surface level pain in my arms was easier to bear than the pain inside, with the added bonus of seeing it heal, something which the deeper pain never seemed inclined to do. That was short lived. A man called Mark, an ex lag who had once held up a petrol station with a shotgun, held a knife to my throat and told me that if I ever wanted to cut myself again that he would do it for me, and that I wouldn’t enjoy that one bit. I stopped immediately.

As I got older it grew with me, in sophistication and severity. It is not getting out of bed. It is not going out with friends. It is substance abuse. It is not eating properly. It is deliberately sabotaging relationships. It is fear of failure, and then ensuring it occurs. It is feeling too much, and feeling nothing at all. I blamed everything from my girlfriends, to my job, to my parents, to my education, to the political state of the world, and sometimes I remembered to blame myself. It didn’t matter. It persisted whether I attended to it or not. It does not relent. I actually wonder if I would feel abandoned without it now. It has become part of who I am.

These days when it comes I recognise it sooner, stress about it less, and accept it for what it is. Like a shapeless fog it moves slowly but stealthily so you’re always too late to get out of its way and it doesn’t fully leave for a few weeks after you’ve tackled it, but at least it leaves. Knowing it can be tackled is your weapon, remember that, especially when you feel too weak to use your tools:- Eat healthy food, take plenty of exercise, talk to your mates, do something creative, and ease off of any substance that takes your mind off things. You need your mind ON this thing, that’s the key. The slope is slippery and you will slide, but the slope is also long, so you might not slide off. Upon this slope we build our lives.

I believe you can make a friend of that black dog, but it is not your pet. It is wild. It is a hunter. You are either part of the pack or you are prey. As I write this tonight, on the very blog that has formed part of my creative life raft, I am definitely running with the pack, and all is well under the moon.

But I will take my turn as the hunted again some day. And we will see which of us has the greater resolve.

by Chris
Posted in Words

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