[“I Feel Free” – Cream]
Not necessarily good… but free. And way more than due for a deep dive into an ocean of emotion. It’s lovely to see you here, I’ve missed you, but you’ve been warned.
Here we are. It’s been a series of… not-so-awesome days (for a variety of reasons) and my propensity to feel worthless is settling over me like an old and unwelcome acquaintance, of the not-so-self-aware variety, offering the most uncomfortable hug in the universe. The kind of hug where it is absolutely going on way too long and, despite the fact you aren’t close enough (relationship wise) they don’t give you the courtesy of the butt-out embrace (an experience that is generally awkward but can sometimes be a better option than over-familiarity). The kind where you take an extra step back, just in case of further attempts, when it is finally over.
This propensity is not a productive or helpful one, nor is it realistic. I truly do recognize that. But it creeps up on me sometimes nevertheless.
Since we last caught up, my life has undergone a series of transitions… both good and bad. I finally enjoyed my long-awaited trip to Peru, an experience which I have been holding close to my heart for warmth and comfort as I step over the mess I’ve made of my life at the tail end of an eagerly-anticipated, albeit intense, move to my own new digs (whaddup Manayunk?!) and some serious withdrawal symptoms from serotonin boosting medication that has, until now, helped me in a number of ways (but hurt as well, hence the active attempt to go without).
During my trip to Peru (now, unbelievably, a month ago) I had some of the most spectacular experiences I could ever even imagine. From exploring one of the (new) seven wonders of the world to drinking pisco sours and listening to AC/DC played on the pan flute – there was not one moment of that trip that was not incredible (even the cold I had upon my return was an incredible one!). It was such an astoundingly rich cultural experience that I actually forgot the one year anniversary of the day that brought me to my current state of personal being. On that day I was traversing Incan ruins at 12,000 ft. above sea level and eating guinea pig (which legitimately does taste like chicken) and ceviche.
But (ah yes, the ever present “but”), given those aforementioned changes, some of these memories take a back seat to more immediate struggles. Such is life. I am sorry, in advance. This is not the happiest, or most erudite, of posts. Truth be told, you don’t have to read it but I have to write it because sometimes (in fact, more often than I am actually comfortable with) I have too many thoughts to keep bottled up. They spill over into negative emotions and anxiety if I am not careful, and then I exist in a world of hurt. I wish it wasn’t the case and, believe it or not, my therapist has even told me it’s a good thing, to be so emotive, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way most of the time (that sentence also serves as a reassurance that I am actively seeking professional guidance, and not just relying on emotional whim, to improve my state of mental well-being).
There are many things I wish for myself – any real level of emotional chill being #1 (and maybe #2-5) on that list.
However, despite how hard it is to admit these things “out loud,” and despite how hard it is to construct such raw feeling into a somewhat cohesive narrative, this is my catharsis. Even if I am speaking into oblivion, it’s better than letting these thoughts fester inside.
Sometimes you talk into a void, and sometimes the void talks back. At the end of the day, even silence can bring answers.
It’s hard not to feel like I should be “over” specific things by now. While I feel I have made immense progress, I have more of a ways to go that I am really comfortable with. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but I also am working my way through recovery and some days are harder than others. Some memories too…
On Route 76, there is a certain stretch where, every time I am on it, I revert to July 16, 2017, when I was driving and sob-talking to my brother, because he was the only member of my immediate family currently in the country, as my life was collapsing around me. I had just told my husband that I wanted a divorce because I had also just discovered (accidentally) that he had fallen in love with someone else and he had a plan to leave me in the coming months. When I made my definitive, and heart rending, statement, his response was “good.” There is no other place in this city that elicits this response. No romantic locations or places with intrinsically painful memories… Just this 30 second stretch of highway.
In almost the exact moment I made that decision and statement, and in the most ideal twist of fate, one of my best friends had texted me asking if I was ok because I had not responded to a text from the week before (which I had not actually received). I told her that, ironically, no…. I was not actually ok and I needed a place to stay for the night. Within moments I had packed a bag of nonsense, more out of habit than rational thought, and I was off, sobbing my way through the drive and definitely pissing off more than one person (made clear by the fact that they legitimately just laid onto their horns as I tried to change lanes).
While annoying the general public, I was feeling my heart break, piece by piece, into an entity that was unrecognizable to me. One that I am still trying to put back into some semblance of order. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words (specifically those said in bitterness or anger by those I have loved) are going to continually make me reflective and insecure at the most inopportune times.
No wonder that’s not how the saying goes, it just doesn’t have the same ring.
That night was it, I didn’t turn back. As dramatic as it sounds (and that has not stopped me from saying it before), that was the night my life changed forever. Mostly, because my concept of “forever” had gone out the window. I will not say this change was for better or worse… I don’t know if I will ever be able to definitively say. Because that’s what marriage is supposed to be, right? For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health… As long as we both shall live.
Well damn, isn’t that now just a load of shit? I did all of those and I still got shafted. I did all of those and was eventually the one to say I wanted the divorce. I was eventually the one who ended up being the disappointment (at least to myself) because I was not able to make my own marriage work. So here I sit, a 28 year old divorcee who is now legitimately entering the adult dating world for the first time, while also recognizing (with difficulty and more than a little angst ridden spite) that I have to love myself before anyone else will, and hating pretty much every moment of that whole paradox.
Awesome… No really, it’s a spectacular feeling.
10/10 would recommend (I hope you are reading the intensely sarcastic tone I am trying to convey here).
It’s worth noting that most of this can be construed as old news but, top it off with medication that, while it assists in the production of serotonin, also makes me uncomfortably warm and essentially ensures I am unable to lose (but more than able to gain) weight… Visible side effects that made me feel miserable but then, when I made the active choice to stop taking the medication, were replaced with a slew of invisible but truly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that made every day feel like I was existing within a glitch in the Matrix… And you’ll understand, in some way, the difficulties I have been wading my way through. Not third world hunger/poverty/war difficulties, not even first world student-loan difficulties (though I have some of those too)… But difficulties just the same. Pain is pain, and I have been experiencing it. It’s not the individual things as much as it is the relentless collective on a day-to-day basis. At a certain point, it’ll get you down, I guarantee it.
Like countless others, I am walking evidence of the fact that the brain can be an insufferable asshole. Obviously, because of this, I have some feelings. Usually these feelings are on a low simmer, irresponsibly forgotten on the back burner, until they finally boil over into moments like these. They go largely unnoticed in my day to day… But, my sardonicism has come back in full force as my brain has slowly lost the ramparts of happiness that medication can provide. This overall cascade of pathetic difficulty has made me feel, simultaneously, overly dramatic in the extreme… And yet also like I could scream my frustration and pain from a rooftop for hours on end and still not feel sated.
I thoroughly believe that depression/anxiety/and associated mental disorders are simultaneously the most and least selfish experiences a person can have. I can’t help but continuing to say “I” and focus on the minutia of my own strife. But, ostensibly, I spend most of my active life attempting to ease the usually overwhelming difficulty of the human experience for those around me. In every way I possibly can, I want to help others live their best lives while continuing to struggle-bus through mine.
Overall, this is not how I imagined my life would look at this point (I know I have likely said this before but I am currently too tired to remember exactly when/where… So, apologies for being repetitive). But, until now, I have been blaming other people and things for that fact. Unfortunately, realistically, painfully, and obviously… That response gets me absolutely nowhere. So, I decided it was time for a change. An ownership of my pain and therefore a more deserved celebration of any success.
So… I found a place all my own and I am actively working to ensure my brain function is entirely mine as well. This is not a Cinderella transformation. It is a begrudging and piece-meal slog to gradual change. The important part is, it’s a start. The biggest deal? The shred of good I can continue to draw? I continue to move forward, despite obstacles both real and imagined by a conglomeration of unhelpful chemicals.
To those of you who regularly deal with me, I am sorry. I am trying so hard to be a human who is somehow able to deal with feelings… Despite this seeming excess of them. Thank you for your time, attention, and, most importantly, patience. You deserve diamonds but all I can afford is banana bread. When I can do more than get home and do the bare minimum, then go to bed, I promise you your weight in carbohydrate gold.
What I can say is that, (for good or ill and despite my need to even-out, emotionally, a bit still…) on my good days, this is the most “me” I have ever felt… So I will take this fledgling me out onto the porch to enjoy the sounds of the city on this lovely evening. I will track the moon across the sky and count the flickering firefly butts as I sway softly in my hammock. I will lean into me-ness with (admittedly anxious) abandon and will try as hard as I can every day. Note that I don’t say I will try to DO anything… I will just TRY because sometimes that’s all you can do. Humanity is exhausting but worth the moments of wonder it affords. From wonder in the form of one of the seven to wonder at my capacity to struggle and complain (ha).
If you are in a boat like mine at the end of this, or any other, struggle-heavy day, keep rowing up stream as best you can… Or at the very least drop anchor and gather strength. Just remember not to let yourself get swept away. If you are in a more sea-worthy vessel… Maybe reach out to a friend who seems to be struggling against the current. Lend your support for a bit and they will thank you for it.
Lastly, no matter who you are, continue to be every part of your amazing and glorious self. You’ve earned the right to not be ok when you need to be. Just keep the continual turning and changing of the world in context and know that there are amazing things out there for you too.
I believe in you, and so should you.
Photo: E. Campbell (2018)
Sacred Valley, Peru