Dave's Progress. Chapter 13: Birthday Blues

So, it's going to be my birthday soon. I'm going to be 37 in just a few days. Unfortunately, though, I still feel as if I have the mental age of an 18 year old, while my body, on the other hand, feels about 67. I think, largely due to being ill for a long time, I have a strange relationship with my age. I feel as though I've been living in a dream world for around fifteen years and have suddenly woken up, only to find my brain still working quite actively, but, as I say, my body steadily falling apart. Due to this "experience" I don't share alot of common ground with my peers. While they have jobs, mortgages and marriages, I have blogs, recovery groups and seemingly endless free time. Some would say I was lucky, not to have to face the usual rat race, nose to the grindstone existence, but being in this position is alienating nontheless.
Indeed, many of my old friends used to say to me that I had become a "waste". A waste of talent, a waste of opportunity, a waste of possibilities. But being trapped in the nightmare that schizophrenia sometimes can be, I couldn't really help any of that. And, as I always remind myself, I did manage to get my degree and have a book of my poetry published. I also now know plenty of people who seem brainier than me who have supposedly "failed" in the same way because of their illnesses.
Which kind of brings me to a political point. Why isn't there more support for people like me to get back into some form of work? I know many are simply too ill, but for those of us in recovery surely we could manage some part-time employment. When you go to a recovery group like mine and see people there who have a wealth of experience of life and also are qualified, some to PhD level, you do begin to get the impression that society has simply overlooked us because our illnesses are regarded as being so severe. Indeed, it has been statistically proven that "willingness" to work is highest amongst those regarded as mentally ill. This would, indeed, seem like a massive waste of talent and experience on a grand scale.
So, as I sit in my comfy chair, is it really so comfortable? What, as I approach the dreaded 40, do I have to look forward to? More free time? More getting bored? More impecuniousness, penury and poverty with no holidays because supposedly my whole life has become one of leisure? Watching more crap DVD's, even crapper television?
Well, all I can say is that now my feelings about my birthday are a far cry from how I felt when I was younger. As I slowly encroach towards my 37th, my own mortality finally bearing down on me, my own sense of lack of achievement growing, my feelings of the pointlessness of existence exacerbated, I really can't get all that excited. And it seems, having gone through a somewhat arrested development, I have finally grown up and woken up. And when I hear grown ups talk, they, invariably, seem to share some of these feelings. So, perhaps I'm not so different after all. And maybe we all feel a bit like Holden Caulfield in "The Catcher in the Rye", trying to save the children before they fall over the precipice of innocence and into the darker waters of experience, into which we all, at some point, inevitably fall.
So, happy birthday to me and all that, but this time it means something so much different.
Anyway, here is a short poem about the dreaded getting older. It is called, "Is this the Picture of Dorian Gray?" and goes as follows:

I've been young for what seems a long time now,
But people keep insisting,
That it won't be like that forever,
Your skin, soon enough, will surely start withering.

And when I awoke this morning,
Sure enough when I looked at my hands,
The skin had changed,
It was wrinkled and old,

A picture quite upsetting.
Too much drink,
Too many cigarettes,
The awesome burden of life's regrets,

Had taken their toll at last,
And I could almost hear people cheering,
Because there's nothing like watching,
Something beautiful die.

As if in a mirror,
In the glint of an eye,
Age came down,
As if dropped from the sky.

The schadenfreude,
The glee,
And sometimes I ask myself,
Is this the picture of Dorian Gray?

So, that's all for now, folks, from your normal, average paranoid and delusional man.


klahanie said…
Dear David,

Flippin' heck 'birthday boy', you sure have become prolific in your writing.
I think we have alluded to the 'rat race' in a blog somewhere.
I can relate to the somewhat alienating situation of not being a part of the 'nornal' stuff folks around be seem to do. On the outside looking in, as it were, indeed, a spectator of life as it passes by.
Yet, personally I don't really care about competing and living up to others' expectations of myself. Nobody needs to tell me that I am an underachiever, I worked that out myself.
I know that my own mental health issues have been a stumbling block which at the grand old age of 55, I am finally working through. So the bottom line is that I like who I am and I'm reasonably content with what I'm doing.
I know my comment does not address all the points in your blog; I just wanted to say that this 55 year old dude, blessed with a young, rejuvenated mind and healthy body, is content. Despite not being in paid work, partly due to my low self esteem, I like to think that I am making an empathetic contribution in the volunteer work that I do.
Here's wishing you a wonderful birthday David.
Warm wishes, your friend Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your warm wishes on this, my birthday. Yes, today is the actual day.
Like you, I like to think I am making headway with the voluntary work I do and , indeed, have come to like myself somewhat more than I used to during my illness. So it's perhaps not all so bleak as I painted in my blog.
Amyway, very glad to hear that you have a "young, rejuvenated mind and healthy body".
As always, thanks for your kind remarks.
With Very Best Wishes,

Popular Posts