The Invisible Self

I lament saying that when encountering the headline ‘Gary Speed found dead’, I knew what the cause would be before discovering it.

As a child, I remember having two football posters for any length of time. One was Chris Waddle, the other was Gary Speed
As a child, I remember having two favoured football posters. One was Chris Waddle, the other was Gary Speed

There was a universally liked and respected individual (a real challenge in football), whom everyone spoke highly of, admired his energy, and said how happy he always seemed.

A life defined by its too-perfect happiness.

It’s not a new phenomenon to believe that the happiest people are often the most unstable, and there’s sociological suggestions that the happiest states have the highest suicide rates.

Perfect happiness is a symptom the perfect mask. Nobody questions. Nobody suspects.

Happiness brings a lot of friends, but a surprising amount of loneliness. The world is full of narcissists, and if you’re not one, you’re on your own for that reason.

An invisible self is not difficult to imagine. In a dark mental alley, you’re lucky if anybody comes looking.

The idea of counselling seemed, and still seems, barbaric – for the same reason I would never visit a “gentleman’s club” – the thought of being paid attention because someone’s being paid to do it is quite tragic.

If the last fragments of one’s sovereignty are all that can be kept, then so be it. I’ve let ‘recovery’ be my own, and lived with the consequences.

But the invisibility is all about sheltering. There’s a deep-rooted responsibility towards family and friends to keep them distant from dark corners. In this day and age, one can publish a puncturing statement online, aware that close friends, family, those in neighbouring rooms, will see and sit in awkwardness wondering how to react. Swallowing negative feelings to protect others is difficult and requires such discipline – traits I enviously admire.

Had Speed checked into a clinic, it would have been all over the papers – a living version of his death story. It would be big news because he’s an ostensibly ‘unlikely’ victim. Sometimes, imagining that only makes exposure impossible. Ultimately, the shame was only concealable in death rather than in living.

The hardest thing for close ones is the not-knowing; being kept in the dark, about darkness.

This story, and thought process, has touched an uncomfortably raw nerve at this time. It reveals how good it is to know. There’s a bastion of strength in the knowledge that ‘something isn’t right’.

Daylight cracks again on the grey old lime
In Marchmont town. How it breaks the scene
To force out night, and thrusts out pains and gains
For those that have to face it in its time.
Listening out front, where taxi cabs have been,
Cigarettes and birds compete with their remains.

This is the doctrine, simple still, but true;
Such is life’s trial, as one both acts and knows.
The world still spins without a care for those
Without a place, and only poking through
Lowly curtains, closed again, this fagined
Prisoned self, whose worth is not imagined.


There have been times this year when the following day was not wanted. I’ve faced abuse and inadvertently adopted the label ‘damaged goods’, submitting to its own stigma. There’s a sinister beauty to the mystery of the human mind and the great unknown of the other.

And yet, when something beautiful comes along, I don’t know how to handle it properly. December comes, and I don’t know what I’ll do without it.

Something I was never meant to find … An Answer.

3 thoughts on “The Invisible Self

  1. The answers lie within us x You have the key to unlock your true potential – your true self… use it while you can x

    1. The answers I’m looking for don’t, though maybe the problems do. Alas, the vision of myself in my head is largely substantiated by how others behave towards me, and that’s not going to change in a hurry.

      If I knew how to change – to be more – I would. Lacking self-sufficiency is tough, but I hope it’s not such a bad thing. Shouldn’t others bring out the best in us? There’s a line from Robert Browning (on whom the Marchmont poem was based): ‘a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a Heaven for?’ If our best lay within ourselves, where’s the enhancement from companionship, friendship, loving…? Shouldn’t love make you more of a person than you’ve ever been? xx

  2. There is much written here that is moving, even arresting. While combined rawness and tenderness may not be feasible in a culinary setting, it is where your empathy is concerned. Regrettably, however, I have struggled with your remarks on counselling, and would like with constructive intent to explain why.

    First, I must point out that not all counsellors are paid. In fact, I know of at least one university counselling service, staffed by volunteers, that was willing to phone its callers back, thereby taking on the expense. Second, as for what one is paying for, I would suggest that it is rather more than simply attention. Training; guaranteed confidentiality; the right words and ideas to enable self-help; amnesia even – a package that even the dearest well-meaning friend may be unable to promise us. Moreover, how does it feel to tell a friend a problem and not get an acknowledgement, let alone an answer? I would say that there is more barbarity and tragedy to found in that experience than there is in paying to avoid it. And for all that old friends at their best can offer, there is also something to be said for the experience of building a relationship of trust and honesty with a stranger, regardless of whether money is involved.

    I do appreciate that there is something compellingly appealing about overcoming an obstacle without outside assistance. It is the reason why I never ask for directions when I am lost, why I never request gift ideas when there are presents to be bought. If you know that you do not want ever to try counselling, then others must respect that choice. But I would not like to think that what you have written about it in your entry is the sum total of your views. The bigger picture is easy to find: search online for ‘counselling’. Or if you want a starting point, I recommend this page.

    Giving banknotes to a lapdancer could in the long term prove a dehumanising step; writing a cheque to a counsellor could prove a rehumanising step. With respect, they are far more different than they are similar.

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