Sitting and Breathing: Day 21

So I flubbed yesterday pretty hardcore. I was on a bit of a time crunch so I thought, “Oh, I’ll just do my meditation on the train on my way to work!” Turns out that isn’t as effective as I’d have liked it to be. Every time I closed my eyes I felt nauseous. Plus I think I’ve had a resistance to meditation for the past couple days due to my emotionality.

My mind has felt like it’s been in a haze of emotion. I feel vaguely stressed by a lot of self-imposed timelines. There’s a long list of Have-To’s that I’ve got running in my head, and I feel the pressure of them all the time.

I have to become a bartender as soon as possible. I have to be more committed to my meditation practice. I have to exercise more often. I have to get myself enrolled in German classes. I have to complete my school application as far in advance as possible. I have to enroll my dog in reactivity classes right away. I have to buy a carpet for the living room. I have to read more. I have to write more. And so on.

Many of those are valid, but they’re all created and fostered by me alone. Really, I don’t have to do any of that, and my life would likely be just fine, but I’ve got it in my head that my happiness is dependent on their completion and it’s been causing me a lot of anxiety lately.

Anyway, I was back to meditating today, and I’m glad I did it. Today’s session was on Lovingkindness (it’s one word in the book, so it’ll be one word here). You start by saying to yourself, May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease. Then you transfer that attention to others.

The first recipient outside of myself was supposed to be someone for whom I had deep affection, so I chose my dog. Next up was someone that was having a hard time right now. The first object of my attention was an ex and close friend who I know is having a sort of emotional roller coaster of a week (yeah, you), then it moved to a couple friends who have a more perpetually difficult time.

Next up was a person I don’t really know, and I chose that old guy that stands on the corner, and pays zero attention to my dog barking at him. I don’t know that I necessarily harbor animosity toward him, but I will say I’ve been regularly frustrated with him in the past. Come to think of it, I’ve been regularly frustrated with basically everybody who received my Lovingkindness today.

Next was supposed to be someone who I have a hard time hearing, or who I often butt heads with. Per the instructions, I didn’t need to choose someone who the world was at odds with as it would be more challenging, so I chose a softball here and went with my mother (sorry, Mom, but I think you know that I don’t cut you enough slack sometimes, but I love you dearly).

Finally, I was to send Lovingkindness to all beings on earth. May all beings be safe. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings live with ease. I felt a sort of aura radiating outward from my person. It was as if I was pushing those phrases out of me in every direction as hard as I could. After only a few seconds of this, I felt tired and overwhelmed with sadness. I’m not sure why, exactly, but it happened. I was able to recenter myself by the end of the meditation, but that was an odd combination of jarring and relieving.

I don’t know what a lot of this means, yet. I’m definitely feeling a connection that I hadn’t, but I wouldn’t say that my mind is clearer right now. It feels like I threw a heavy stone of awareness into the pond that is my mind. All of the shit that had collected over the last three decades of my life has been stirred up and it’s floating around in my consciousness haphazardly.

I’m eagerly anticipating the clarity that’ll come when all the dust settles back down on top of the awareness, but it’s cloudy as fuck right now. Constantly moving in every direction that I’m pulled by my Have-To’s probably isn’t helping. I guess we’ll just have to be patient. Gods, do I hate being patient.

In Case of Emergency: Apply Videogames and Junkfood

I went out on Tuesday night for a friend’s birthday. I had already committed to going, but like with most of my plans, I second-guessed my decision all the way up to when I got there (and until about 20 minutes after). The bar was pretty badass – it was an old school punk bar that had skulls and motorcycle parts and whole motorcycles as decorations. It was the night before Halloween, so I suppose some of it could have been seasonal, but I got the impression that most of it was there year-round.

I danced and spent money like an idiot. Get two drinks in me and all of the sudden I’m flush with cash, and I find it unacceptable that the birthday girl pay for her drinks (or her partner’s drinks or her friends’ drinks). Per usual, I partied as hard as I could until they closed down the bar, and progressively more gruffly asked me to leave.

To no one’s surprise, I was hungover the next day. I had the day off from work, so I expected to spend most of my day indoors, anyway. The evening’s poor choices all flooded back to me over the course of the day. I experienced my usual set of hangover symptoms: nausea, fatigue, distaste for sunlight, increased desire for greasy foods, general deficit of happiness, inability to focus on anything but my flaws – the usual. I was in and out of sleep for most of the day.

When Thursday rolled around, I couldn’t help but notice that I felt exactly the same as the day before. Nothing showed any signs of improvement. In fact, I’d say that things had gotten markedly worse. Then added to that was an anxiety around going to work. Every time I thought about it, I felt my body pull in on itself – each limb connected to my center by invisible strings that grew tauter with each fleeting thought of going to my place of employment.

I called in sick. It screwed over my coworker who was by herself for the whole day, but thinking about that only tightened the strings. I applied what methods of self-medication I could find without leaving my cold, dark apartment (weed, Netflix binging, and Postmates deliveries), but these were just bandaid solutions. None of it fixed the fact that I’m almost 30 with no career path to speak of, no money to do anything outside of paying my bills (and barely enough to do that), and no friends or family for thousands of miles. Then again, I wouldn’t have wanted to talk to anybody even if they had reached out.

I’d take my dog on walks and think about the litany of life decisions that put me where I am. I’d mull over all the times someone said I wasn’t good at something or all of my early life successes that have left me spinning into obscurity as a result or in spite of them. I thought about what a sham I am – how crazy I am for pursuing anything in the arts. “I’m not that funny,” I thought. “My writing really isn’t good enough for anyone to want to read. Certainly not good enough for someone to pay for! I’m so fucking stupid for thinking I was good enough…”

Round and round it went. I had effectively isolated myself via Do Not Disturb Mode on my phone, so I only had my own feedback loop to go off. Well, that and my dog’s input, but I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of that came from me, as well.

Friday was more of the same. When you’re in and out of sleep and running mental laps on a track, it’s easy to lose track of time. Or rather, it’s difficult to give a shit about its passing. After calling in sick again on Saturday, I was finally able to pull together enough energy to put myself in the shower. That helped. Then I went to trade in a bunch of old videogames for new (used) ones. That helped. Then I used those accomplishments to justify playing videogames and watching more Netflix through to Monday morning.

I could stomach the idea of going to work on Monday. I was of course concerned that all of my coworkers hated me forever at that point, and that I was likely going to be fired for being out. I felt a moment of panic accompanied by hyperventilation in the car on my way, but I still made it in. None of those concerns came to fruition. Life continued on, as it does.

I’d venture that my bouts of anxiety and depression are fairly tame. They happen infrequently and only last for a few days in most cases. At most a month. For some, these bouts go untreated and can last for years. What starts out as self-imposed isolation is perpetuated by the people around them that assume they just need space. I can’t speak for everyone, but space from loved ones – from people who can counter the negative feedback loop – is exactly what I want, and the opposite of what I need.

I spoke to my coworkers about what went on in my head. I talked to my family. I talked to friends who get me. I feel better. Not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes depression wins, and it ushers people we know and love out of this world. We are at war with our own brains, friends. Arm yourselves with love and support.