Author: charlottehowls

Master Manipulator

So I’ve not posted for the last few weeks, mainly because I’ve been spending loads of time with friends. I’ve also not really felt the need.

The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about how manipulative I am. It’s not a deliberate thing; I do it without realising. If I hurt myself I make a bigger deal out of it than I would if I was alone, to garner attention. I do all sorts of little things that pull people towards me; make them feel closer to me.

I feel as though I am constantly controlling and manipulating people subconsciously. I even do it with my counsellor, editing the truth sometimes so that she won’t hate me and instead will feel sympathetic. Even though I know she is there to help me, and it would be better if I was completely honest, I still edit myself so that she is manipulated into liking me better.

I have different versions of myself for different people. I suppose we’re all like that, but I’m extremely aware of it. With my boyfriend I look to him almost as a protector. Even though the things I ask of him I can do perfectly well on my own, I ask him to. Do the things make me anxious? Do I do it so he will feel more drawn to me because I need him? With other people, I make myself the protector. But even by becoming the protector I am manipulating. If you’re someone’s protector, they need you. So by protecting others, being their defender, they need me and won’t go away.

Sometimes, I only realise that I’ve been subtly manipulating people when they resist my manipulation/control in some way, and I become mildly frustrated.

My personality confuses me. I don’t much like people, but the ones I do like I need their attention all the time. I need to be the person who walks in the middle when there’s three of us, I need to lead the conversation, I need to make the decisions. I am filled with constant turmoil which I know, not even deep down but right on the surface, I need to let out and express, but when the opportunity to do so arises I force it back down.

It frightens me. It really scares me that I can manipulate people without even knowing it. It worries me as to what else I may be capable of.

Erin

The Fear

The Fear is a phrase I’ve noticed myself using a lot in the last year or two- “this is giving me the fear,”; “I have the fear,” etc.

I first heard the phrase as the title of Lily Allen’s song “The Fear”. In it, she describes the “shallow girl” fantasy- to be thin, rich and successful. But that’s not what I mean when I say I have The Fear.

And I don’t mean I’m hungover either.

To me, The Fear is this shapeless, black, bubbling mass of anxiety. Something that doesn’t have rhyme or reason, but is a sense, that is almost instinctual. I can feel it building and wrapping itself around me, but I don’t know why. I just know that it is there. It’s not even an emotion I feel, it is like an actual physical presence.

The Fear is that feeling when you go out walking at night, and you pass a dark alley, or the hole in the graffiti wall, and you have this overwhelming sense that something is there. And you walk a little faster, but all the way back home you can’t shake the feeling. I know that is fight or flight, but I’m sure it is something more.

I don’t just get The Fear when I walk past an alley, or the hole in the graffiti wall- I get it when people say certain things, or I see something on tv, or even when the weather does a specific thing. My mind and body decides that it is not safe, that there is an evil presence, and the evil presence is The Fear.

Erin

Falling

 

I can feel myself falling back into the worlds in my head.

I didn’t even realise it was happening, though I never do.

It is warm and comforting, but I quickly discover I am trapped, and I cannot navigate my way out. Imaginary worlds are becoming more real than the real world again. They are certainly more desirable. It is not just my mind but my body too, I can feel it crying out to be a part of these worlds.

When I realise I am not in those worlds, it is soul destroying. It crushes me. It feels as though that is where I belong, not here. Why do I exist here? Of all the parallel worlds there are, why am I in this one?

The realisation that life continues beyond this moment is currently terrifying me as well. I will finish university, I will spend time job searching, I will end up with a job eventually, I will marry, I will have children, I will get some illness and die. People are always saying “life is short”, but no it’s not. It’s fucking long. Birth to death is an eternity, because it is the only time we will ever know. Time comes before an after us, but the only time that actually exists is the time we are in.

Before my birth, time did not exist to me. After I die, time will not exist. So, to me, the universe will only exist for maybe another 60 years. And then I’ll be dead and time will stop.

The time I’ve lived up till now is huge. I have lived for 20 years, or 241 months, or 1052 weeks, or 7362 days, or 176688 hours, or 10601280 minutes, or 636076800 seconds. I could go on. And each second has no end. You can cut it up into smaller and smaller pieces, but you can always cut it that little bit smaller. In the time it takes me to write this sentence there will have been about 15 mini infinities.

I feel like I have lived forever. Like I said, I kind of have. My forever is only as long as I am conscious/aware. So much has happened, and so much has already been erased from my memory, never to return. People tell me about things that occurred, and I cannot remember.

If I can’t even remember my own history, then I don’t even know myself.

Erin

Dreaming

Last night I had a dream, that has stuck with me throughout the day. I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. It wasn’t that it was extremely frightening or distressing, but it has stuck with me.

In it, I had started university, and discovered my roommate was Emma Roberts, but as she was pre-Wild Child (probably around about her Unfabulous years).

In the canteen, we befriended 3 guys- a very tall, large, curly haired guy who constantly wore sunglasses. I don’t remember his actual name, but in the dream I nicknamed him Hagrid. There was a black boy, who had hair that sort of held itself up in a cylindrical shape. I can’t remember his name, but from here on we’ll refer to him as Jim. Then there was the emo looking boy, who was kind of silly and basically my best friend along with Emma Roberts. Can’t remember his name either, but we’ll call him Matt.

There was the usual rigmarole of university life, which went on for a while. It was basically the development of our friendship. Then, we met again in the canteen, the 5 of us, to plan a trip. We were going to go to some hot place, with desert, for a few days.

Myself and the boys went, but Emma got sick and couldn’t go. She wasn’t happy, and covered our room in posters.

We rode horses through the desert, but we got lost, and we had very little water. It was night by that point, so we decided to make camp and move on in the morning.

In the morning, the horses were gone. Hagrid carried Jim for a while, and from his position in Hagrid’s arms, Jim spotted a yurt in the distance. We went to it, and found it was kitted out with all that we needed but water. We decided to each take a compass, and head out in search of water. We searched for hours, and eventually I found myself crossing what appeared to be Matt’s path. He had entered into a cave, and a butterfly and a dragonfly flew down onto my shoulders. A spider was spinning a web. I walked deeper into the cave, and it was all bioluminescent, with beautiful fish residing in pools. It was quite cold. I began to resurface, the cave was in fact a tunnel, and at the other entrance I found Matt. He was sitting  against the rock, and he had cut his wrist open. I felt sick to my stomach, and asked him what he was doing. He wasn’t trying to kill himself, he told me, he just wanted to feel it. I ripped my top and tied it tight like as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

He was so weak from exhaustion and blood loss, that I had to carry him in my arms back to the yurt. Hagrid and Jim were back, and when they saw him Jim immediately ran to get a doctor, and Hagrid just went outside and left us on our own.

I placed Matt in the bed, and he smiled at me as if I was the most important thing in the world. It was a very powerful look he gave me. In that moment I wanted to protect him and keep him safe more than anything else. It became my only goal. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix the wound on his arm. I just wanted to make it all okay.

And then my alarm went off.

It wasn’t the fear of Matt dying that stuck with me today, or the horror at him so violently injuring himself. It was the look he gave me, of complete trust and love, and my overwhelming need to protect him.

I can be quite a maternal/protective person, but rarely have I felt it so strongly as I did in that dream. It was like nothing else in the world mattered, I just had to keep him safe. It is frightening, the lengths that I feel like I could’ve gone to to make sure he was okay.

Erin

Three Girls/My Girls

Today I watched the BBC drama Three Girls, which is the story of the Rochdale Child Sex Abuse Ring. It was extremely harrowing, and may me extraordinarily angry.

And it got me thinking.

It made me think about how all my female friends have suffered at the hands of males. Of course, they’ve suffered at the hands of other girls, but a lot of us have been fucked up on some level by things men and boys have done to us.

Until I started really thinking about it today, I didn’t realise how much shit we’ve collectively experienced from men. Most of us have been catcalled at some point, most of us have been sent nudes we really didn’t want to see. I know it isn’t all men that do this, and I know that many men are completely against these kinds of actions. It just frustrates me that , since I was about 12, I’ve observed this pattern of… Well I don’t know what to call it, but we’ll go with bad stuff, from guys.

My best friend and I were both manipulated by two guys on separate occasions, between the ages of 13 and 17. One was part of our close friend circle for many years, and we didn’t realise the extent of his manipulation until we were discussing it the other day. He didn’t force us to do any sexual stuff, but he pulled the strings in our friend group (us 2 girls, and 2 guys including him) excessively, and somehow found ways to control the both of us. The other guy was more sinister. He tried to elicit all sorts of stuff from me online, whilst he was dating her. He once told me he’d “spent a week masturbating over [me] constantly”. This was in response to me messaging him “Hi, how’s it going?”. This was also happening during one of my extremely bad periods of mental health, so things were sort of hazy. I was more pliable I guess. He used to tell me how I should dress for school. Basically dress “sexier” for him. He used the fact I’d confided in him about the very serious mental health issues I was having to manipulate and pressure me into following his demands. To clarify, nothing physical occurred between me and him, it was purely him controlling my life and taking advantage of the fact that I was very ill. My friend, he was, to put it plainly, bullying. It was borderline emotional abuse how he treated her. A lot of the time it was things like him telling her she wasn’t allowed to spend any time with me, and would switch between being sweet and loving to being very cold and cruel with little warning. When he was out of our lives we were both pretty thrilled.

Those 2 boys aren’t the only ones who have caused me to suffer. When I was 12 years old, a boy in my class asked me if I would give him a “BJ”. I hadn’t even heard of the term, and when it was explained to me I was disgusted. There were more over the years, doing things big and small, but I’d rather not go into all of that.

Another friend had a boy repeatedly show her pictures of his genitals, another was pressured into sleeping with boys even though she didn’t feel ready. One was in a “relationship” aged 13 with a boy the same age, and she told me that she didn’t want to have sex with him anymore, but she didn’t know how to say no to him. One of our teachers in school, though he did not make any advances, had a slightly disturbing interest in one of the pupils. He didn’t declare his love for her or anything like that, but the way he was always watching her, and the way he was always trying to talk to her on a friend to friend basis set us both on edge.

Not all males are evil. In fact, I don’t believe any person is truly good or evil. We all commit good and bad acts. But that does not change the fact that so many of my female friends were messed about in some way by guys.

There are the really good ones though. As I said, they have done bad stuff in the past, but they definitely, to me at least, shine out.

My boyfriend, though he can be a bit of a turd at times (though the loveliest turd possible), is always there for me. No matter what I’m going through, he tries to understand and support me the best he can. He is willing to watch Bridesmaids over and over with me, even though he hates it, because he knows I love it.

L, a guy who I’ve been friends with since school. He is probably the most forgiving person I know. He is always ready to give people a second chance, and approaches everything with such positivity. I envy him a little for that. He doesn’t let other people’s opinions cloud his judgement- he makes up his own mind, rather than blindly accepting rumours.

M, a friend from uni. Although our friendship recently has had struggles, he has always been there to support me. Even when we were in a huge fight, when I broke down in tears in the middle of the night, he came to me and he hugged me, and made me feel a little bit more okay.

K, another friend from uni. We don’t talk so much now, but he is legit one of the best people I know. He keeps his cool, and he always tries to be kind. He doesn’t take sides, and listens to what everyone has to say. He’s just a really good human.

My brother. Okay so he’s a bit of a wanker and mostly talks in grunts and swears (he’s 17, so it’s no surprise), but at heart he is such a good kid. He is so respectful of people’s rights and feelings, and I cannot imagine him ever harming anyone (outside of his karate lessons).

So, again, I cannot deny that myself and my friends have been fucked up by guys on various levels. Three Girls set me thinking about that today, and I’ll continue to have it on my mind for a while yet. It’s also made me appreciate the really good guys in my life, though.

Erin

Bad Thoughts

The last day or so, my bad thoughts are coming back a little.

It’s not so much they’re actively there, but I’m suddenly finding that listening to certain songs it’s like the lyrics are actually instructing me to do something. Instead of being just a song lyric, the words get ingrained in my head, like they’re trying to make me do or think something I don’t want to. For example, I’ve been listening to E.S.T by White Lies a lot the last week or so, and one lyric that has been affecting me is

If you tell me to jump then I’ll die

It’s as if the song is saying to me “You have to go and jump off a building”

At the moment I am strong, so these thoughts are easy to resist. I know they are irrational and I am not going to act on them. But it does feel like, right now, every song is saying to me, in some form, “it’s time to die”. I’m just glad that right now they’re ignorable.

But the thing is, this happens in my bad periods too. It seems as though songs are giving me a message telling me to do things, and when I’m in that weakened mental state it’s much harder to resist. The messages I imagine in the songs seem much more vocal, and I’m more willing to listen to them than sense. In my bad times, lines between what is real and what is not become a little blurred. Thoughts and ideas and perceptions that are normally just wee things at the back of my mind, that don’t have any power, come to the forefront, and seem far more real than actual reality. I can become convinced that I am dangerous or evil, that I am putting people at risk, or that my friends are manipulating me, or have turned against me and are trying to hurt me.

Of course things like these song lyrics having funny effects on my thoughts seem normal, stupid even. But the problem is, when things become blurred, they aren’t stupid. They seem very rational. In a way, it’s like these thoughts are being inserted into me through a drip. I am learning to notice more when something, whether it’s a song or a film or even an artwork, starts to have this effect, and I stop consuming that thing before it can cause any damage. Sometimes, though, I don’t pick it up, and suddenly I have this thing whirring in my head that doesn’t really feel like it’s mine.

Erin

It’s Summertime!

It’s Summertime!

And I’ve not got Lana Del Rey’s sadness. Ha, funny joke.

I’ve got lots of plans for this summer. The last couple of weeks I’ve been highly motivated, been in a very good mindset, so I’ve got lots of ideas about how I’m spending my summer.

I know I’m setting myself mini projects, to expand my skills, as I’m starting my 3rd year of my illustration course next year, and I really need to up my game.

I’m hopefully going to do up one of our sheds and make it into a sort of studio.

Got stuff planned with friends (for once).

And of course I’ll be working back at the kennels, but I may be doing a wee bit of volunteering at the Sea Life Sanctuary that’s about 50 miles down the road.

I’m home now, finally, which I’m glad about. I’ve just been so ready to be home and get out of my Dundee mindset. I’m usually so high stress in Dundee, because my senses are completely overloaded by the city. When I’m home, it’s much quieter and calmer and I feel a lot less anxious.

Anyways, check out my Facebook page to see more updates on my illustration/artwork- hopefully I’ll be a bit busier on the page than I have been of late: www.facebook.com/ecbarkerillustrator/

Please enjoy the delightful image of Nigel Thornberry,

Erin