Up until a couple of years back, I only knew of two emotional states.
Constant panic over the pettiest of details.
Nonchalance towards the fact that I am in a state of constant panic over the pettiest of details.
On a normal day, I would oscillate between feeling like half a person and being extremely self-aware. For the longest time, I honestly believed that it was just me. My theories about my being alone in misery have recently been invalidated by at least three of my friends. And those are just the ones I actually have deep conversations with!
About half a day of brooding and soul-searching led me to the conclusion that people are beautifully complex. We come with our fair share of deformities and faculties, each different from the other. We think and derive meaning from thoughts. We socialize and form relationships. We are capable of attributing our successes and failures to beyond just the objectively perceptible spatiotemporal processes. We’re intelligent.
We fall into patterns and yet, we adapt to some extent. We are inevitably challenged by different experiences and levels of existence that dictate our emotional, physical, and social realms.
I, more often than not, think in hyperboles. We, as an accomplished race, unknowingly catastrophize the slightest disarray just because our brilliant minds are capable of representing an evocative version of reality. We also tend to ride our highs into a coma and let ourselves slide through the idea of failure.
But I have learned to stay mostly lucid through it all. How, you ask?
A typical day in my life would be in the general realm of these four phases.
Phase #1 – Melancholia
I have lived with a hole in my heart (literally, I have a VSD) all my life. And yet, waking up and lifting myself off the bed each day is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I start with being jarred out of a random dream, likely about showing up to a public event, buck naked, and being spotted by the very first guy I ever had a crush on. With a still pounding heart, I roll over my belly to the other side and curl up into a fetal position. By now, I can feel a bulge in my skull where my sanity used to be. Before I know it, my mind has traveled from ‘huskies are so beautiful’ to ‘somebody please validate my actions’. My will to exist is somehow obliterated by the volume of thoughts in my head. I briefly concede before I force myself to get up and move.
Phase #2 – Coked up
My subconscious has been programmed to initiate grind mode at exactly 7AM every day. The switch is flipped and I am working at lightning speed. In my mind, I am playing What a feeling and dancing my way through that list the optimist in me made over the weekend. I feel indestructible and immeasurably happy with everything. It is easiest to tell myself I am a badass when there is nobody around watching me make a complete ass of myself. Mornings are more tolerable. It is quieter than usual. The voices in my head are louder and clearer. My neurotic thoughts and ideas aren’t as muddled. I blink about once every two minutes. If I squint hard enough, my brain could cut a six-foot hole in the wall. I play out every possible situation in my mind, quite graphically. And just one of those happens to be the one thing I want to omit from my memory.
Too late. It’s done.
Phase #3 – Fixation
Pangs of panic start hitting me every few minutes. Whoever said ‘soothing words’ help calm you was full of shit. It is like a baboon crawling over your back, waiting to bite your head off. And all you’re allowed to do is try and convince yourself it won’t hurt as bad.
Maybe I am not doing this right. I should just quit.
When was the last time I watered my plants? This one looks a little pale. They’re all going to die!
The apartment looks like a pile of garbage. What if my friends show up later today?
I should go pick up my mail. Should I change into something nicer?
WHAT IF SOMEONE SEES ME WALKING AROUND LOOKING LIKE I JUST GOT OUT OF BED?
I haven’t cooked a meal all day. But what would I make myself?
Forty-five minutes later…
I should just give up. I just wasted an hour of my life doing absolutely nothing! When will I learn?
I should go water my plants.
Phase #4 – Withdrawal
When I am done agonizing over everything in and around me, I finally give in to the feeling of hopelessness and give most of my anxiety up. I crawl back into the corner of my couch, turn the TV up and try to fall asleep.
I woke up this morning having had a rather chewed up dream about my past life. For a while after, I couldn’t stop playing it over and over in my head. After an hour of tossing around, I slapped both my hands on the bed in frustration and decided to give putting it down on paper (figuratively) a shot.
In an attempt to dissect my flaws, I have, on several occasions, tried to separate my corporeal self from the world around me just to try and identify irreducible facts about myself.
Fact. I haven’t finished reading a book in the past six months.
Fact. I have worked for over twelve hours every day for the past three weeks.
FACT! I have been observably less productive lately.
I have failed miserably each time. I have never actually been able to introspect clinically.
I would usually start with a neutral outlook and then naturally drift towards…
I feel unusually talentless sometimes and it makes me anxious.
Have I lost the ability to do the things I used to once love doing?
Maybe I have changed and it doesn’t interest me anymore.
How does everyone else seem to have figured their shit out?
While it may be logically possible to separate how you feel from the actual behavioral process, it isn’t as feasible as it may seem.
The harder you try to be scientific about your alienation from the universe, the tougher it gets to actually achieve it. The idea of detaching the human psyche from its tendencies, intent, and context, to try and fit it into the construct of science, to me, seems perverse. Isn’t that the very premise of existentialism?
I have come to realize that my self-reflection doesn’t necessarily have to restrict itself to facts and physiological concepts. The universe and my past are causal factors contributing to my emotional and physical state.
It is okay to not be able to measure my feelings or chart them across a board. Normalcy isn’t defined by societal definitions. I have learned to define my own normal. It can be as simple as just getting a cup of coffee every morning, or as well-outlined as a five-year plan.
And just like every other plausible defect in humans, it is okay to have an exaggerated perspective. My vivid impressions of basic complications help keep me authentic. I constantly fear losing a part of my personality if I try to change something intrinsic to me. But, being human, I believe that we’re all capable of fitting our oddities and identity into any theme or setting.
We’re all imperfect and we may not always know the answers to every existential question. But, we always find a way.
2 thoughts on “A little self-reflection never killed anyone”
I got here from your comment on the promote your blog post. Your essay is interesting and has several valid points.
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