It’s nearing midnight. Though my day didn’t go exactly as planned, I was able to accomplish several things that needed to be done. As I sit here in the empty Honor’s Lounge, considering my day and the turbulent few weeks, I’m tempted to not only lean towards despair, but to dive in headfirst.
The late nights and early mornings seem to drain me of energy–as if I had plenty on reserve even when I get plenty of sleep. Clammy anxiety and cold depression have pretty much tied first place for screwing up my day to day life. In a close second comes the spontaneous fits of rage and sulky irritability. And last but by far not least, there are those times when I shut down.
Anxiety is, for the most part, fairly easy to cope with–except when I have to come into contact with other people. The hermit way seems to be the lifestyle of choice for me, at this point. Most days, I can pull through as long as I have enough time either by myself or undisturbed by others around me. Of course, there are the flare ups that make life unbearable from days to weeks at a time.
Any sort of “white” noise can cause my anxiety to get out of control. Music below certain volumes, where the words are unclear and the rhythm is lost, can often be a problem for me. Watching anything on television is a sure-fire way to trigger restlessness, irritability, and minor panic attacks. Although it’s mindless entertainment for most people, television requires from me a great deal of attention and focus to actually follow a plot line. Commercials continually interrupt that focus, and I get frustrated because I lose track of the sequence of events and eventually lose interest all-together.
The worst and hardest “white” noise to get away from is conversation. I have a tendency to pay attention to either everything or nothing: I see words and immediately read them, I hear music and immediately tune in, and if I hear conversation I automatically start listening. On the opposite end, if I’m fully engaged in what I’m doing–reading, listening to music, or a intriguing conversation–I tend to forget about what’s going on around me. When there are multiple conversations going on at once, I can’t get a grasp on what I’m supposed to be doing. My mind jumps back and forth from whatever the task is at hand to every little thing that goes on around me. Cafeterias, restaurants, and even classrooms can be a challenge to be in for long periods of time. Sporting events or pep rallies are completely out of the question.
Depression, unlike anxiety, is rarely affected by the environment I’m in. It likes to give anxiety a center stage for half the day. Come late afternoon and through the night, depression rarely fails to wrap me up in its cold arms and hold me down. Since I’ve experienced for so long, (longer than anxiety, actually), I know it’s ins and outs and how to get by without letting it ruin most of my day.
I would be lying if I said that my struggle with anger was a recent development. Most of the time, my anger disguises itself as self-hatred and I rarely notice the effect it has on me. In the last few years–and definitely recently–my anger has reared its ugly head towards other people. Although generally not outwardly expressive with my irritability towards others, I have had moments where I had to actively and literally fight the urge to keep my language respectful, my voice even-toned, and my (preferably empty) hands to myself. As quick as anger can cloud my thoughts, it can evaporate just in time for depression to pull me under once again.
Anxiety, depression, and anger are a part of my every day life, although with quite more of an intense presence. The last category, I don’t really know where to put it. Shutting down can happen on a mental, physical, emotional, or even spiritual level. Mentally shutting down usually happens when I’m either too exhausted or too up tight to comprehend and process information. There are days when I feel like my brain just won’t turn on, as if it’s stuck in a fog of some sort.
Like my mind, my body likes to go through weird phases. There have been periods, from a few weeks to several years, where my physical lifestyle fluctuates. I usually notice this when it comes to food, because it’s one of the areas where I am very quirky. I have different methods for eating everything–from fancy meals to snack food. I have bordered on eating disorders and generally am extremely inconsistent in food I intake. While I hope to reach a healthy balance, my other issues often get in the way of me being able to think clearly and make the right decisions.
Emotional shut downs are due in large part to extreme emotional stress. When my depression plummets into despair, I crawl into an emotional hole and cover that hole with a rock. Although I may still interact with others, I find little interest in favorite activities or people. If a memory is triggered, shutting down is usually immediate and noticeable. Particularly, memories of sexual and verbal abuse cause me to withdraw completely from my surroundings. I will only spoke when spoken to, will say as little as possible in response, and will keep a significant distance away from others, often while stiffening my posture and lowering my voice. Memories of different periods, such as my middle school years and when I lived in Mexico, produce marked anger and nostalgia, respectively.
Shutting down spiritually is perhaps one of the most acute realizations. One day you wake up and you realize that you don’t have any hope. You haven’t had hope for a long time, and you can barely remember when it started to slip away. The same can be said of faith. For me, these are slow deaths that, although I may suspect, I usually never fully realize until someone happens to say something. The mention of hope or faith in passing and the pointed questions people pose, to other people or to me in particular, often remind me of what I once had. Remembering what I’ve lost is painful, and nearly always detrimentally so because I lack the strength and determination needed to get it back.
It’s currently nearing two in the morning; surprisingly, I think I’ve taken a few steps back from the lip of despair’s canyon. If you made it this far, I owe you more thanks than I could possibly give. Figuring out the way I work is hard. I have to use my words, but if I speak they only get in my way. Thinking through writing can take a while. At the end, I usually have a much better grasp on where I stand–even if it means that I realize just how bad a situation is or how unsure I am. I can no longer fool myself by trying to rationalize things, but must evaluate where I am and make a decision.
Thank you again for allowing me the space to use my words. Thank you for sticking it out with me through this journey. Honestly, I don’t know how long it’s been since Ash Wednesday and I’m completely okay with that. I’m taking the time to learn and grow, which is far more important than what day of the week it is. Speaking of which, it’s officially Wednesday, which happens to be one of the longest days in my week. Hopefully I can get back to my dorm and into a deep enough sleep without a panic attack and have enough energy to (somehow) make it through tomorrow. Even if none of that happens, I’ll be alright. Life goes on.
Learning, Growing, and Extremely Grateful,