Disengagement & Me

‘You are the cause of this sickness. And the cure for this disease.’

  • Jamie Hope.

I, like many creative minds suffer from anxiety. I have a yearning desire that wants to continuously grow and develop in an effort to push the limits of my own creativity.  It’s something that I’ve always lived with, and something that I imagine will be present for the rest of my life. I constantly feel as though I am falling short; that I need to work harder, become better, and ultimately achieve. When I kick the bucket I want the world to pause, just for a fraction of a second so that people can acknowledge what I have achieved before it spins on and I am ultimately forgotten.

For the most part this anxiety can be channeled into something positive. When I’m stressed I create, and when I create I come closer to my dream of fashioning a career as an author. But there are also a lot of negatives that come with suffering from anxiety. My anxiety makes me stubborn and unbelievably selfish at times. As I continue to grow and understand myself I’m starting to realize that this anxiety causes me to suffer from emotional disengagement.

It’s a worrying affliction. When I’m faced with emotional stresses my natural reaction is to become a robot devoid of any emotion and simply pretend as though I don’t care. The problem with this is the only time one ever faces emotional stresses or turmoil is when they are engaged in conflict with a loved one. When I act like I don’t care I inevitably end up hurting those I care about the most. I’ve had conversations with parents, friends, and lovers where my emotional disengagement kicks in and they are left feeling scorned as they fail to understand how someone who prides himself on his ability to communicate can become so cold.

When my parents split up I shut down. Just like most in my situation would. But by doing so my mother thought that I blamed her for the break up; my father did the same. The reality of the situation was that neither was true. I didn’t blame either of them for what happened, and I still don’t. I’ve always believed that love is supposed to be easy, and for Mum and Dad it wasn’t. They worked incredibly hard to keep it together for us kids, but ultimately their relationship failed. Neither was to blame, but my shutting down and refusing to talk about what happened scarred the relationships that I have with my parents. I love them both and I always will. But the disengagement I showed both of them when they needed the support of their children will always be a blot on the scorecard of our relationships.

Even now in my relationships I struggle with disengagement. Partners past and present have told me that I often seem disinterested or noncommittal in my levels of participation. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just that I have this never-ending angst that eats away at me. When I’m with my partner I’m apprehensive about the fact that I’m not writing; when I’m writing or studying I’m acutely aware that I’m neglecting her. It’s this weird damned if I do, damned if I don’t feeling that eats away at me. The only thing that ever seems to ease the pressures I place upon myself is when I’m being creative.

When I’m writing I can be free. I can be angry, peaceful, ugly, beautiful, perfect and flawed. I can be me: anxious yet arrogant. Bold yet cautious. A walking contradiction. And for a few hours at a time I can forget that I suffer from emotional disengagement and become a goddamn literary wolf or a fully functioning human being again. I can create pieces about issues that matter to me, or tales of sexual and emotional lust to show that I care. When I write I’m whole and the anxiety vanishes. When I stop that the cracks in my façade begin to surface and the fractured soul underneath becomes visible once again. Literature is quite literally the cause of my sickness, just as it is the cure for the disease.

The purpose behind this post is simple: it’s a thank you. A thank you to my family, partner and loved ones for understanding that I’m not an arsehole; I’m just not quite normal. A thank you my readers for sticking with me through moments of arrogance and emotional turmoil. Things got a little hairy for a while there but we’re growing together and I love the journey that we’ve taken. And to literature: you’ve broken me more times than I could ever begin to describe. I’ve cried in wardrobes, burned manuscripts, and set out to set the world ablaze. But I’ve also loved, learned, and undergone a metamorphosis from a bitter mind into a damn good writer.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for in this life, and sometimes I forget to take the time to show those close to me just how much I care. If you’re reading this than you mean more to me than you could ever imagine.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

27 thoughts on “Disengagement & Me”

  1. “When I’m with my partner I’m apprehensive about the fact that I’m not writing; when I’m writing or studying I’m acutely aware that I’m neglecting her.”

    Oh God, I relate to this so much. Just letting you know that you’re not alone in that aspect, and it’s something I myself am still coming to terms with. Finding a balance between the two is desperately hard. But, I find that when my partner has something to devote HIS time to, it helps me feel less guilty. Unfortunately, he has nothing he’s equally passionate about, so it will always be some kind of tug of war. But at least when he dabbles in piano playing, gardening, and a few other pastimes, I feel like I can have some Me Time without worrying that he’s missing me.

    And it’s a bit weird, because my partner is not a clingy/needy type – I just need soooooo much space. It’s hard for non-writers to understand that, but I think dating another writer would be equally difficult in the opposite way.

  2. Except for channeling your anxiety into creativity, you sound just like my husband. He throws himself into his work instead. Question: Even though you may be able to express sympathy for someone, do you find it difficult or even impossible to express empathy?

  3. I don’t have a partner now. My marriage broke up. I am afraid to be in a relationship sort of because of not knowing how I will act at any given time even though I have been stable for 6 weeks.

  4. I can very identify with this, especially today! When I cry, feel emotionally distraught, writing helps me not to descend into a total wreck.

  5. Chris: this was a very difficult posting to write, I’m sure. Thanks for baring your soul; it makes things easier for those of us, like you, who can’t stop writing but also endure such struggles to keep writing. My folks split when I was at the end of my adolescence, a formative time as you’d probably agree. It has certainly shaped my writing in some sense. Best to you as you keep on writing…as it is that and that alone that makes us writers! 😉

  6. Good post man. The honesty helps you to push on. Thank you for inspiring words.

    Do you have a book out yet?

    1. Hey Clay. Thank you for the feedback. Midas is out now and can be purchased via Amazon and in select stores. There’s a link in my about me section if you wish to have a look.

  7. I really identified with this post. I read it once, and wanted to comment, now I need to read it again. Such honest writing is so hard to come by.

  8. Hi there,
    It has helped me this morning reading this post. My partner suffers like you do, but as he struggles to put the negative emotions he’s feeling into words I tend to fill in the gaps with assumptions of how I can help him. This rarely works, so for someone on the other side of the situation, this has helped give a better perspective of what he’s going through.

    I love him dearly and don’t think he’s an arse – I doubt you are either – but some days it’s hard to remember that it’s a condition and not a choice. Anxiety and depression sucks for everyone who has to deal with it, at whatever level. I’m just very pleased that we are seemingly living in a world where it’s much easier to talk about now.

    You’ve liked a couple of my posts and I always like to pop back to see who people are but yours told me the site was deleted. I’m very glad, after reading this, that I tracked you down. Thank you 🙂

  9. Writing, I’ve found, is good therapy.
    Would you consider yourself an introvert?

    I’ve found that most introverts need to disengage because it is when we are alone we find our strength. The trick is to not stay in the cave indefinitely but to remember the world from which we run still needs us to be there, to be present!

    It’s quite a struggle I know, there are times my daughter needs my attention when I rather be reading or writing. I get defensive about my alone time since it feels like all my time is given to everyone else and I have to settle for after-hours when the whole house is asleep to have long chunks of me time. Just last night I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning just reading and penning a few of my thoughts. Thanks to the new age of big screen Smartphones (Samsung Galaxy Note 3) that a lot can be accomplished while laying in bed in the dark 🙂

    I’m fully aware that emotional disengagement can be a whole separate beast from being introverted as my dad and many I’ve dated seemed to be present but not really there when emotions needed to be displayed. It’s quite unsettling to be in the presence of someone who displays little or no emotion and something I’ve struggled to stay away from but ultimately end up with in the partners of times past. It’s quite frustrating!

    So glad that you recognize what needs to be done and that you are on the wonderful journey of self discovery. Be well and God bless. I hope your loved ones got to see this post or that you told them your thoughts directly.

  10. It’s quite liberating when you stop attempting to get others to understand you and trying to make them happy.

    You just focus on doing what makes you happy.

    Whether you ever find anyone that “gets it” or not, won’t matter because you don’t need anyone to do what you’ve already done for yourself. It’ll just be an unexpected but pleasant bonus.

  11. a total release… of what those ‘weird unknown’ getting stuck as numbed particulates within.. to make own disengage. V.lucid yake. Ahh, as if u hav spelt the undeciphereable within each creative mind..n their soulful longing yet the fractured relationships. Well done, tq

  12. Wow! Incredible! Literature is truly something that can break you down but the very next moment it can build you back up. That’s the beauty of it. Really amazing post. Hats off to you! 🙂

  13. Amazing! I love your opening quote. You wrote from every angle as there are many sides to the experience. I can relate to wanting to write but neglecting someone else. It’s a way of coping and it’s a hobby for me. Need to do my thing without feeling guilty about it. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Hi Chris, Thanks for stopping by and for sharing this! I also feel free when I write and glad to have found a fellow writer who is writing honestly!

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