“Your mind is racing like a pro now
Oh my god, it doesn’t mean a lot to you
One time you were a glowing young ruffian
Oh my god, it was a million years ago…”
–The National, Racing Like a Pro
It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here in the dining room with a cup of coffee and The National playing on my iPhone.
I feel so wholly, embarrassingly, desperately lonely.
My go-to move when I feel that way is to turn to food. I want nothing more than to eat. Emotions are filling my insides and I want to drown them out with soda and cereal. Sugary cereal that feels so good chewing but awful as soon as I swallow.
I want to talk to someone but I can’t think of anyone to phone. Because I really don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m too tired for a conversation.
I want to be social and it’s not that I don’t like the ones I talk to but it’s exhausting pretending to be interesting, to have to come up with witty things to say, to make someone laugh, to laugh at all.
I want to fall into a void, to be sucked away into a black hole as an excuse to get out of talking and texting and engaging. I want to talk but I don’t want to speak.
I hoped drinking enough coffee would fill me up, would help me get over this craving. But I know better. It’s not hunger I’m trying to satiate.
My head is a coalescence of rage and confusion. It spins faster than I can process. It begs, “Write! Scream! Sing! Get these thoughts out! Why are you just sitting there?” But I can’t answer. Again, I’m too tired. I’m invalid in creativity, apathetic in motivation. I want to sit down and get it out but that would mean I would have to deal with it. And we know I’m not good at that.
So I sit and stare at the wall for hours, take naps and read a few chapters of a book before my eyes go heavy. All distractions. All putting off my problems. It’s a trend I’ve been noticing lately and it sickens me the time I’ve wasted covering up my chronic shortcomings in favor of keeping pain at a distance. But in the effort to avoid it, I hit it head on.
It all piles up, these thoughts, these fears of mine. And when I sit down to express them, they come out in terse bursts, boiled down to base emotions, the extraneous fringe feelings already frittered away along with more brain cells.
What’s on my mind? What’s been festering?
it is hard to live
when one is bereft of breath
while walking on lungs
People tell me I’m preoccupied with the negative aspects of my life. I focus on the bad and don’t give enough praise to the good. In some ways, I can understand their point. There have been many times when I’ll go inside my head and find nothing but bad and I have to pull myself out and realize I need to give credit for all the good I have going on.
I’ve been made to feel so guilty for not being this shining beacon of light that when I do feel down, I immediately counter my complaints with gratitude. My job sucks but I have my health! I have no friends but I have a roof over my head! I can’t control my weight but at least I have food to eat!
Yes, I recognize and understand all of this but I just don’t think anyone understands how deep the depression runs. It’s not just a matter of inconvenience. It’s a matter of chemical imbalances and separation from people, happiness, and God. It’s a matter of always feeling dead and always wishing I really was. It’s so much more than the outer shell of what you see of me, who you perceive me to be through conversations, and the words you read from me.
It’s like telling someone to ignore a knife wound. You’ve been struck in the chest but you can still walk, right? That’s just not how it works. Every day when I wake up, I can feel the knife sliding in deeper, sawing away at the nerves and edges of organs. I’m sorry, but I can’t just pretend that didn’t happen.
That doesn’t mean I’ve twisted the weapon further in, either. That doesn’t mean I’ve laid myself down and given in to the damage. I don’t point to the penetration and pray for pity. I talk about it. I’m open. I’m honest. I am not diluted into thinking things are okay when I know they aren’t.
And that’s the problem with people who tell me I’m too negative. I’m not negative. I’m just real. And I have enough strength to be aware of the limitations and disappointments in my life. I don’t put a bow around the base of the knife and wear it like a decoration. I know it’s there and I won’t dress it up or work my way around it. I don’t ignore it. I don’t settle for the steel inside skin like others do, rotting them from the inside out.
Every time I sit down at the computer and write like this, I’m facing it head on. I’m working out the blade by working out my problems. And pain and disappointment comes with facing it head on. There will be challenges. There are arteries you have to navigate through. And sometimes you’ll hit a new nerve and you’ll want to give up and just leave it in to prevent further damage. But you’ll never truly be healed until it comes out fully. You can’t be healed if you don’t give your wound some attention.
As with anything, it’s all about balance. Sure, I shouldn’t focus on all the bad. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t deal with it in some capacity. I’m working on it. I go about my business. I get up and drive to work and collect my paycheck. I look forward to the temporary deaths of sleep and the ecstasies of eggs in the morning. All the while, the pain lingers and the fact that I’m not on the floor in a fit should be seen as a sign of progress.
And when someone asks how I am, how I really am, not in an informal salutation, but during an actual conversation, I tell them because I think they genuinely care. And then they tell me I’m too negative, that I should ignore the knife wound. And I withdraw because they don’t get it or they don’t care.
I go home and sit in my room, alone, and get to work on unsticking the blade from my bones.
Most people wouldn’t think of me as a tree-hugging hippie because I’m always eating garbage and I never go outside. But I wish I was more into nature and organic food and peace and love for all man, man. The problem is I don’t like bean sprouts and people are assholes.
As the days go by and my anxiety and sadness worsens, the inclination toward medication becomes more and more likely. I’ve been pondering taking some kind of anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication from around the time I was a senior in high school. These medications actually alter your brain chemistry and to me, that’s a scary thought. Sure, it might change me for the better but what if it changes me in other, not-so-good ways?
One of my high school classmates was on anti-depressants for several years and he said he didn’t like it. The medicine only dulled his depression and numbed his senses but didn’t really make him feel better. And sure, many factors could have contributed to his feeling that way: medicine type, dosage, his own brain response to the medicine but it didn’t make me feel better about venturing into the Prozac Nation. I don’t want to turn into Britney Spears. Did you watch her documentary? Total robot.
And for the same reason I try to stay away from drugs, sex, and alcohol (even prescription glasses as silly as that sounds), I don’t want to be dependent on something to get through the day. I don’t like the feeling of knowing I have to be connected to something at all times. What if I miss a dose or can no longer afford it or they stop making it? Is it going to send me back into a downward spiral and cause me to crash harder?
That’s when yoga entered the picture. Yoga seems like such a peaceful and relaxing practice. And it’s supposedly not only good for your body but your mind, and in many instances, your soul. Bingo. Sounds perfect for me because I’m hurting in all those areas and it taps into that crunchy granola side of me hidden behind the layers of potato chip grease and synthetic fibers. What a perfect and natural alternative to anti-depressants.
Several years ago, I bought a book called Yoga for Depression and read two chapters before I put it down because I really wanted to better myself! Eh. I picked it up again a few months ago and managed to read ten chapters before I put it down because I was really committed this time….Eh. So, as I read the book, the author wrote about her journey with yoga and I got the impression she relied on yoga the way people rely on anti-depressants. She said she felt sluggish and out of sorts if she missed even one day of yoga. Was she dependent on downward dog? Did the effects of yoga not last longer than a day or two?
I understand yoga, just like physical exercise or any other positive behavior, takes some time and dedication but it seems like a lot of trouble to experience a fleeting feeling of contentment. Are the effects of yoga not cumulative as I imagined? Do you not feel better overall?
Another problem I have with yoga is the five million types of yoga out there. Which one is best for me? I’ve experimented with various yoga programs over the years but none of them felt right so I eventually gave up on it.
A few months ago, I switched my focus back to yoga. I wanted to re-dedicate myself to becoming more emotionally and spiritually stable. I found a few DVDs and as I tried them, I concentrated on my breathing like the soothing lady voiceover said to do. But as I went through the DVD, she kept saying, “At this point you might feel like (blah blah blah) and I kept thinking to myself, “Oh, God, I’m not feeling any of that,” which then sent my semi-serene state into a tizzy. I wondered what I was doing wrong, why I wasn’t feeling these sensations the soothing lady voiceover said I should probably be feeling. Did I break the yoga? Or was it because I was too broken to find bliss?
I realized yoga actually gave me more anxiety than it alleviated so I took the DVD out and gave up. Again.
I still have the DVD and should probably give it another shot but I also feel like I’m too stressed to de-stress, if that makes any sense. I’ve got so much going on in my mind that I can’t concentrate on chilling out. It’s almost as if I need to get rid of some of the stress on my own before I can really focus on doing right by the DVD. It’s like gastric bypass patients that actually have to lose weight before getting the weight loss surgery. The problem is I’m too mentally famished to shed some of this excessive agony by myself.
The whole thing feels like a mess. I’m not sure what’s going to work for me anymore. Pills or poses? As much as I’ve tried to hold off on actually considering medication, maybe I really should take a serious look at it. Should I Namaste with yoga a little bit longer or become a Lexapro at pills? I don’t know what’s right for me. And will I be dedicated to either one enough to see positive results?
You know how, when you’re in a zombie apocalypse, you’re always struggling just to make it through the day? Sometimes you run out of food and fresh water and you watch the sun set with a pain in your stomach. Or sometimes you make friends and you think you’re safe, that you’ve finally found a family but they steal all your supplies while you’re back is turned or they leave you in the middle of the night because you’re just slowing them down.
But you press on because that’s what humans do. You’ve got to make some sense of this mess made of the world. You find an abandoned gun and gather up some bullets and you scrape by. It’s tough but you make due with what little you have.
And your days are spent as the tension tightens in your body and stress exhausts your limbs. You spend the day looking for edible food and sleep to pass the time. You daydream and wonder while you wander. Your mind is a nomad. You think of strategies to make it through the cruel world, worry your gun won’t last long enough or if you could beat off a group of ghouls with a dented baseball bat. Where’s the next meal going to come from? You hope you find someone to save you, someone to make you feel less alone in a world of monsters.
And sometimes when the thought of another grueling day of hiding and fighting brings you to tears, you wonder what would happen if you just stopped. What if you sat down and pressed your face to the dirt and melted into the ground? But you can’t bring yourself to give up so you go forward.
And then one day you’re lying down in an unprotected shed and a zombie shuffles in. With an unholy grunt, you’re startled awake to see the rotting corpse rip into your chest with its skeletal hands. Its serrated fingernails slice through your skin, pressing further into the meat of you. Is knuckles get caught in your rib cage as it squirms its fingers further down, nicking your heart with each grasp.
The pain grips your senses like a bear trap, a concentrated fire so deep and intense it chokes you. You can’t speak or scream. The strength gushes out of you like a broken dam and you lie there paralyzed. The burning is so great your soul screams to God to end you but the zombie doesn’t bite into your brains. Through the holes in the boarded up window of the shed, it spots a sprinting survivor and sets its milky eyes on a fresh kill.
The taste of copper covers your tongue and you hope a less sportsman-like zombie will shuffle over to you and finish you off or a random survivor will find you and put you out of your misery. But no one comes with a bite or a bullet.
Blood and saline pool around your body as the pain spreads to your limbs, tingling your fingers and circulating away from your body.
The moans outside are muffled by the sound of your heart beating, growing louder, the blood rushing in your ears in crashing waves. Your eyes are blurred by tears you cannot wipe away, only light and shadows dancing across your face. You turn tiny, shriveling inside yourself. You gasp and find no air. The nerves blow out and leave a numbness that spreads like ice water in your lungs.
You grasp at the grass and dirt and still no one comes.
And no one cares. The living sprint toward safety. All around you the world is still alive. But you’re beyond help.
You close your eyes as you give in to the gaping wound. You press your face into the dirt. You melt into the ground.
The beating eventually stops.