Real talk time: I’m not in a super happy place right now.
No, there’s nothing wrong. Nothing I can point to and say “this is why I feel the way I do”. No obvious trauma or event that would leave me blue. Things are going well for me…and yet yesterday I found myself crying in the shower for no particular reason at all.
I could tally all the insults, slight or otherwise, that I think are combining to make me sad right now: I’m stressed about finding a job, I’m spending a lot of the day by myself with not much interaction, it’s the holiday season and for various reasons at the moment my extended family is more upsetting than not. My country elected a reality TV charlatan as its president and every time I turn on the TV the new administration looks more autocratic. I’m getting frustrated with the novel again; it’s not going well. I’m behind on some other things that are ‘optional’ but important to me. And the little voice in my head which I am coming to understand is my old friend Anxiety seizes on those little insults and blows them all out of proportion.
It starts with “you haven’t talked to anyone today” and ends with “you have no friends and people only spend time with you because they pity you.” It starts with “this scene is going poorly” and ends with “you’re a terrible writer, why are you wasting time on this project”. It starts with “you made a mistake” and ends with “you’re a failure of a person”.
The voice says both “everyone has it together but you, get your shit together” and “so many people have real problems, worse problems, stop being a baby”.
It doesn’t matter that I know none of those endpoints are true. It doesn’t matter that the voice’s conclusions are entirely illogical and contradictory. Like much of the political sphere these days, anxiety is a “post-truth” state of being. In the morning, fresh off my breakfast with light shining through the window and the whole day ahead of me, I feel ready to fight against that with everything I have. At night, when I’m tired and maybe hungry and bruised from those battles, it’s harder to keep the anxious thoughts away.
Here’s the thing: the battle is lost when we stop talking.
If we don’t talk about how truly, deeply weird the political world we’re living in now is, we’re lost. We can’t let ourselves fall into complacency, because that way lies disaster — “oh yes, Donald Trump has started revoking the citizenship of dissenting journalists, is anyone really surprised?” Likewise, if I don’t remind myself, regularly, that these anxious thoughts are wrong, that the things they are saying are false, that mistakes are not personal failings, that I am allowed to feel sad but that it’s not normal to let it consume you —
The battle is lost when we stop talking.
That’s a hard thing for me to do. Where is the line between depending on your friends and imposing on them? I always feel like I’m about to cross it. How can I ask for comfort when I don’t feel like I ‘should’ feel the way I do? (This is why I started keeping an irregular diary again, by the way. I can ‘talk’ about my problems without feeling like I’m imposing). And yet I know from experience that hearing someone — anyone — give voice to these kinds of mental struggles is massively relieving. So I’m writing this, too, and sharing it.
I don’t know how to end this essay — I can’t write a conclusion for a journey that’s ongoing. But I wanted to…continue the conversation. So.
Real talk time: I’m feeling sad right now. But I’ll be okay.