This might sound like a bit of a brag, or maybe it doesn’t sound like anything at all, but I never stop thinking. The Thoughts come all at once and never stop. It’s like an ocean up there, choppy waters with boats aimlessly drifting to point Nemo. I mean, it’d be one thing if they at least had the decency to run parallel, never meeting unless I decided to tether them together. But that’s just not how it works. They’re directionless, up is down but down is also down, and right just doesn’t exist, I guess. They go everywhere, wherever they please, intersecting with each other, barging each other out of the way and, in the process, some of their words get added on to other thoughts and some words just fall off completely – it’s kind of like a buffet, but, full of only undercooked and overcooked food, nothing is “just right” up here. Wait, what was my analogy again? Food or water? Either way, by the time I’ve managed to grab onto that fleeting Thought A, Thought F has already caught my attention, I don’t know how it got there, I don’t know how I got there, but I look back at A and something’s different. It has changed, it's closer to Thought N now – wait, where did F go? Where did my boat go? I’m treading water now, or, trying to at least, but the water doesn’t play by the rules either, I think I’m alone up here, but there’s something tugging at my ankle, is that where F went?
The murky depths are orange now. Why is that? I can’t even see orange properly, it always just looks like red pretending to be yellow, but badly. Why is it always the stuff I can’t have that I focus on? Why is it always those thoughts that drag me down, can I never get overwhelmed with happy things? I’m underwater now, and I can’t breathe, well, I couldn’t really breathe before but now it’s that kind of breathlessness where you suddenly remember you have lungs. Despite it all, I still have A firmly in my grasp, or was it N now? No, I think it might be more like M, I always get those two mixed up. The more that I kick those rabid Thoughts away the more aggressive they become, but it’s not like I have a choice, it’s not in me to just give up – well, most of the time, anyway – and drowning seems like a chore. Maybe I can leverage M (was it M? it looks more like Q now) as bait. So I do. I throw M/Q/S(?) to the proverbial wolves and try to resurface. What was I on about again? Oh, right. Thoughts.
Being at war with your own brain, trying to keep your own Thoughts in check long enough to finish one single sentence is such a Sisyphean task. You’re almost there, you’ve almost got a coherent argument or opinion but then Thought O comes along, and it all comes tumbling back down again. Trying to maintain that lucidity is such a thankless task, it’s just... like a leaky tap that requires constant maintenance and attention and, in return, offers solely not to drip. Is it even worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just let it gush? It’s not my fault I was born with a wonky brain; why can’t it just be dry land up there? And where did my anchor go? I’m tired. I haven’t even done anything and I’m exhausted: in reality I’m sat at the same old desk I’ve been assigned to for the past few years. It’s the Thoughts that started it, they caused the trouble, they started this war. Whose side can I even put myself on? The thing that does the thinking wants to eat itself – there’s that buffet again, have I had lunch yet? Oh! That’s the other thing.
See it isn’t just the academic or smart stuff that gets all muddy, it’s the mundane. Executive dysfunction I think they called it. Who’s they? Ask them yourself, I don’t know. The mundane: who in their right mind forgets to eat, forgets to blink sometimes, forgets what the English language is. No one. That’s the thing, I’m not in my right mind (remember right just doesn’t exist up there), I’d be in my left mind, or diagonal. If it could just shift my mind a few centimetres, then maybe stuff would iron itself out – is that what chiropractors are for? Maybe I should just go home. Wait, I am home. We’re all fucking home. We’re all stuck in a room of one’s own, but ooh it isn’t “one’s own” though is it? There are multitudes up in that overcrowded head, but I wish they’d fuck off, because they haven’t been paying their rent.
People say that it’s the thought that counts, well I’ve lost count of all the Thoughts and I don’t particularly care to try it again. These people always seem to come bearing some miraculous solution, highlights include: focusing, paying more attention, sitting still. Gee, thanks I’d never thought about doing that. How about you try focusing when you’ve got a radio in your head, ceaselessly blaring at max volume in a language you may as well not speak. And, no, you can’t just turn it down or off- the volume knob fell off a few years ago and, by now, is probably at the bottom of that orange soup. As for an off switch? Get real, I didn’t even find it to turn it on. The radio just appeared one day and started yelling.
It’s the Thought that counts, it’s always the Thought. Oh, good. Here comes another one. Well it was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it?
Alex Cooper is a Stoke-on-Trent based queer and disabled literature student whose work focuses on telling stories from the perspectives of those trying to find a place in a society that is not built for them. Their work has previously been featured online in Tealight Press.
'It's the Thoughts that Cause the Trouble' is a short prose piece about trying to understand your own hectic and disorganised mind while pushing against those who think that "calm down" and "just focus" is valid advice.
Instagram: @alex.thepoet / Twitter: @AlexthePoet3