MEMOIR: THE NOISE
The noise in my head is telling me to shut up. It says I talk too much. It says I’ve said too much already. Recently both my doctor and my psychologist told me I was doing fine, and I felt pretty decent at the time, but almost immediately I felt the familiar noise in my head return, the screaming, the abuse, the criticism. The noise hates that I’ve written this book about it. It tells me the book will fail, that it will blow up in my face, that Internet trolls will destroy my life.
It’s been months since I wrote most of this book. For much of that time, I found that when I go to try a bit of writing, immediately the noise pipes up, and right away I’m plagued with self-consciousness. This hyper-acute sense that I never stop talking about myself, that I’m the most conceited man in Australia, that I need to shut up or find something else to write about. I’m full of acute, blistering, embarrassment—except it’s a form of embarrassment that feels like nuclear sunburn, that makes you want to run, scrambling for cover, away from the screaming glare, from the noise.
I have a powerful urge to delete everything. The noise hates me writing. The noise has always hated me writing. Children should be seen and not heard. Nobody likes a show-off. Don’t rock the boat. The noise has always told me these things. Screamed these things, over and over, reminding me, reinforcing them, killing me with them. It hates me writing. It hates me posting my work in public where people can see it—and that’s why I do it, and that’s why I can hardly stand to do it. Why I find it nigh-unbearable, putting the chapters up, exposing myself, believing that there are countless people out there on Facebook who hate it when I put these pieces up, who are all, That bloody Bedford, showboating his “oh poor suffering me, waah!” sooky bullshit again!
The noise makes me believe there are all these people out there, even now, who never say anything, not even privately, but who secretly think this way. Who despise me. They are proper Facebook friends, and do all the usual Facebook friend stuff, wishing Happy Birthday and liking the Freckle photos and so forth—but nonetheless implacably, silently hostile to my chapter posts.
It doesn’t have to make sense.
The thing about the noise is that it’s NOISE. It’s LOUD. It dominates. It controls. It rules your thinking, and leaves no space for your own thinking. I call it the noise, but you could call it madness. You could call it any one of the mental illnesses. It’s thought distortion. Reality distortion.
The noise wants me to burn this book. It hates the book.
There are times, bad times, when I feel inclined to go along with it. That it seems like a good idea. Because, remember, ruling, controlling thoughts. It controls my horizontal and my vertical. It controls my everything.
The noise hates that I learned how to express myself. That I found a way out of the box. The noise is LOUD even when it’s winning, when I’m cooperating. But when I’m not, when I’m writing—and when my writing goes out into the world—
The noise wants me to burn this book. Destroy the book.
How it hates this book. It hasn’t liked any of my writing, just on principle—but this book, this book is something else. This book is like a stage magician writing a book revealing how all the illusions are done. This book is about the noise. This book shows you the noise. Pulls the curtain aside, and reveals the nasty, tiny, wizened, spidery, pale little creature who’s been sitting on a very high stool behind a big audio mixing desk all this time.
I’m not burning the book.
I’m not deleting the book.
I believe there is something—maybe not much, maybe only a little—worthwhile in what I’m doing here. Maybe my noise will resonate with your noise. Maybe your noise has been screaming abuse at you all your life, too, and it’s time you looked behind your curtain.
I’ll tell you one important, true thing, though.
You know the noise, ultimately, is nothing. It’s a feeble little ugly homonculus with a sound system. Yay.
But the noise still gets to you. It still fills up your entire head. It still controls your horizontal and your vertical.
It still makes you feel like you should burn your book, because you truly are the most conceited bastard in Australia, and people really are sick of your poor-suffering-me-waaah! bullshit.
The noise is nothing—but it’s also EVERYTHING. Knowing the rational, logical truth does not destroy the irrational, crazy, madness. If only that worked!
This noise has kept me from working on this book for months on end. As I said, as soon as I opened the file, pulled up a chapter for revision, the noise would start screaming abuse, and that would be that. I’d hesitate. And in that hesitation, all would be lost. Because I’d believe the spin, the lies. Nobody needs to see this crap, Bedford. Put it away. Do everyone a favour. There’s a good boy. Nobody likes a show-off.
The noise lies to me, just as it does to everyone. I know not to pay attention to it, to disregard it. To regard it the way you’d regard the TV in a doctor’s waiting room—face away from it, ignore anything you hear, concentrate on a book, etc. I know the drill. I’ve been through this routine many times, and I’m good at it. It’s how I got this far. You ignore it as much as you can, and remind yourself that it’s just a sickly pale homonculus behind a curtain with a mixing desk. You can’t make the noise go away. It is hardwired into the physical structure of the brain. It is there for keeps, the homonculus, pale and spidery, screaming itself hoarse about children and show-offs. You have to find a way to coexist with it, and you do that by tuning it out the way you tune out the background noise of a radio playing somewhere nearby.
Noise, noise, noise. It’s never actually quiet in my head, but sometimes it seems quiet. Sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking the noise is sleeping. Maybe it’s tiring keeping that racket going? All I know is that ever since I started this book, the noise has been truly desperate to get me to stop. Because when I’m writing I’m free. The noise can’t touch me here. I’m out. When I stop, and I’m done, and put it up online, then it comes back, and it’s furious, and it sticks its knives into me, and tells me how people on Facebook hate me and wish I would stop, and I burn with embarrassment and anxiety and fear.
But when I’m doing the writing itself, hitting the keys, like now, piecing it all together, hearing the words unspool in my head?
There’s no noise at all.