A Swiss Cheese Doesn’t Know it’s Full of Holes (on Depersonalisation and Memory)

Take a cheese. Any of the holey ones will do though if you know of any Holy cheeses you can use one of those, so long as it has holes. This is no time for a debate on the secular nature or otherwise of dairy products. Let’s go with Swiss for now.

A cheese, much like human memory doesn’t know its got holes in until its pointed out to it. To put it another way: you may not know what you do not know.

Back to the Cheese (who I shall capitalise to indicate the grander cheese. Le Grand Fromage if you will). You can try pointing at a hole but the Cheese will ask, “What are you pointing at?”

So you try again, this time pointing at a bit of cheese close to the hole. Then again at another bit, the other side of a hole. “You see those bits?” you ask the Cheese. “Well in between, there is a hole.”

“What’s a hole?” asks the Cheese?

“A hole is nothing” you try to explain.

“Well then how can I see…nothing?” comes the exasperated reply.

“Ah but I see a hole. A big gap in-between the cheesy bits.”

The Cheese seems bemused. “I just see cheese. All around. Nothing but cheese. Cheese in all directions. You’re telling me there are bits of me that AREN’T cheese?”

“Yes. There is no cheese in some parts of you. But the whole thing is definitely you, the cheese. Holes and all.”

“I see. Well, I don’t but perhaps…”

This unlikely scenario is a (pretty poor) analogy of the state of my (and possibly your) memory. I, not being you, can only guess at the state of yours. Perhaps it works along similar lines. We are after all, related.

I’ve always had problems with my memory for as long as I can, er remember. And that’s part of the problem.

Can you remember when you first forgot something? No. Tricky isn’t it?

A Labelled Almond Nut Tony Coleby (2016)
“Sometimes I forget the names of common foods. Actually I lie, this is a badge (button) I made for myself to wear when meeting new people…”

Derealisation is the feeling (acutely and recurrently to be diagnosed) that one is an observer of oneself. That one is outside of the little cockpit that we normally sit in when we ‘drive’ this meaty lump we call a body. Not just that but outside even of the brain.

In colloquial terms it has been called an ‘out of body experience’. In hippy terms it has been labelled ‘astral projection’. Except there’s nothing spiritual about it when it happens unbidden in the middle of a conversation or work, or a difficult task. I’m sure some cultures appreciate a shaman who effortlessly drifts between mental states but if you’re driving the No.9 bus you pretty much better hold on to reality as tightly as you are that steering wheel.

This amazing thing we call the brain seems to know what it’s doing and in my case it is very possibly a reaction to trauma. There are things in my early years that I know are there but are buried, deep, deep down. Sometimes with no marker, just a pile of dirt.

“What’s here?” I ask myself as I kick through the dirt.

And then with an inner shrug of disgust I remember.

Stronger occurrences in later life can be exacerbated by drug use.

Mea culpa. There is certainly a reality I have been trying to escape for most of my life now.

An interesting comparison to this lack of recall either deliberate or by misfunction is that my non-emotional or even positive memories can be photographic. Crystal clear in fact. Perhaps it was inevitable and MEANINGFUL that I chose to become a photographer. What am I trying to achieve with spreads arms wide all this?

" Where Does Me End and the World Begin? " Tony Coleby (2016) Fractured Self Portrait
” Where Does Me End and the World Begin? “

On sunny days as I gaze out of the window and my mind wanders as it is wont to do I am suffused with a feeling of safety and happiness and…newness. I feel cocooned from the harsher side of life by a super benign figure, unseen but ever present, ready to catch me if I fall. No, it’s er, not Jesus. Not in my case anyway.

I have an ur-memory of being very young. It must be one of my first, at least the first I can reliably recall. I have just woken and the sun is streaming into our second floor flat window. Though at the time it just felt…nice, my recollection of this experience has transformed it into some kind of mystical experience. One which I return to time and time again. Especially during those rare but blissful moments when I allow my mind off of its leash.

Perhaps at some stage of my youth I had already idealised this memory. Perhaps it was nothing like I recall it but that during the first few years of suspecting I was other it was my first safe spot in my mind that I constructed, like a nest. Perhaps my memories of that time are my memories of the memories I was having then. This is all getting rather nebulous isn’t it? Ha. Welcome to my mind.

More cheese anyone?

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