Look who’s talking

‘Can you see how this painting is only about dark colors? The absence of outspoken colors emphasizes the intimacy of this art work. These browns and reds suggest a warm and cozy atmosphere.’ This is not me talking in front of a class, or at a lecture explaining subtleties of an artwork. This is me talking to myself.
Last week I listened to BBC’s Woman’s Hour and discovered that it is not abnormal to talk to yourself. Apparently, everyone talks to themselves, so let me confess that I talk to myself quite a lot in order not to lose my marbles while struggling with ME.

Co-director of the Centre for Narrative Research and author of the book ‘Narrative Imagination and Everyday Life’ Molly Andrews was interviewed by radio-presenter Jane Garvey why people talk to themselves.
Basically, it is about reflection – processing what happens in daily life, and rehearsal – preparing for the not yet real part of our lives. As human beings, we have the ability to think about other possibilities, and about the people we might become. This can be quite dynamic, we are the other to ourselves. It means that we can be both the narrator and the audience of our inner story. And there is no huge difference whether or not we use our voice when talking to ourselves.
Being ill for years and housebound with extremely low energy levels… consequently, talking to myself is related to loneliness. Not that I need an excuse, thanks to this professor in Social Sciences. It reminded me of the book ‘How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide‘ by Toni Bernhard, who is also an ME-patient. She encourages people to talk to themselves when lonely! She suggests to repeat ‘it’s not my fault that I’m lonely’ to yourself, and to deepen self-compassion she explains that it can be useful to stroke one arm with the hand of the other. I made up my own version of this. As it turns out I am more of a yarn hugger. When feeling lonely, I can be found squeezing a soft skein or stroking my cheek with it. Likewise, I hug every cat in the garden that I can get my hands on. Compared to talking to myself or hugging yarn, talking to cats is hardly worth confessing, I would say.
Truth be told, talking to myself keeps my little devil at bay. My little devil or malignant spirit, being my other self in times of despair, is – luckily – not often part of my imagination. But when she is, she repeatedly spins me a story that no one will ever be interested in me having ME, and for this reason no research will be funded. Things will never change, I will never host a lecture or an art class, and I will continue to feel dreadful – probably even for the rest of my life.
I cannot blame my other self for lashing out like this, twelve years is a long time to live with these uncertainties. I try not to give in to the poison the little devil feeds me. Instead, I remind myself that anything can happen in the not yet real part of our lives. Serious funding of ME-research might be one of those other possibilities in the future.

Until then it is a good thing that I have a soft skein within reach, and I just spotted a cat in the garden. It will have to do for now.

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This post is also available in: Dutch

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