This Is How It Starts

Photo via Jnyemb/Flickr

To be honest, you’re not entirely sure about the how. It’s just that, suddenly, every day is like this: you wake up, flustered. Missy Elliott yells in your ear—waaaake up!—from a speaker across the room, because the three alarms on your phone don’t work anymore, when they hardly worked before.

Sleeping is harder, but waking up feels worse.

Every day begins with determination—get up, be on time. Do the minimum human work. You are exhausted, but not in an i-ran-five-miles sorta sitch, or even in an i-worked-for-12-hours-and-now-i-have-6-more-to-go kinda way. This exhaustion sits on your shoulders, banging upon your chest and belly, a force pulling you inwards, collapsing in on itself, pushing you further beneath its covers. It doesn’t seem to have an end or a beginning, it simply lies in wait, comfortable to exist in the edges. It grows slowly and unknowingly, eating you alive. But it doesn’t feel like being eaten: the gnawing feels like a protection from the dying of the light.

Sometimes you’re lucky and you get enough of it right, because the panic of being awake again jolts you into performative life. You shower less, but only because spending too much time in your bare skin gives your brain free reign to harp on all the things you dislike. And you need to do less of this—everybody tells you this.

You keep your mouth shut when it need be open and let it flap when it should be fused. You fill empty spaces with nervous words and say too much rather than stop it. The words feel like armor against your failings, deflections of self-hatred poorly dressed as a joke. You know this, everyone knows this, and yet still the words come, unstoppable in their force. You constantly wonder why this is. It feels like you can’t stop it, even though you try to stop it, but your mouth moves faster than your brain sometimes. You hate this about yourself. It’s one of the worst qualities about your mouth (outside of the two still-just-sitting-there baby teeth. And all the extra bone. To say nothing of the root canal, the fake tooth because you didn’t know you cracked one that time, and, and, and, and, and).

You consider all of these medical problems to be a metaphor for your life.

You feel like the only way to live truthfully is to be honest about what’s going on. Probably more than is necessary (definitely). But you’re primed for people to not listen to you. “Just let her go; she’ll talk herself out.” For so long, didn’t matter what was said because no one really listened. But now it’s all too much, too distracting, too hard to conceal—and the people who are listening are sick of your shit. You feel too far gone to be helped.

So you fall. Hard, fast, and without much warning. Your brain spirals in on itself, the darker thoughts its only constant. Is it self-sabotage? A series of unfortunate events? A combination of the two? A pre-ordained track on which you’ll always live your life? Have you subconsciously been a monster this whole entire time? You consider all of this, for weeks: in therapy, with friends and enemies, with anyone who will listen. You flagellate yourself in your private writing and during any quiet moment in your head. Everyone implores you to think positively, so you try, and fail, and try and fail again.

Your brain doesn’t want for any of this. It’s not even sure it wants to exist.

So you try something new. You go off the pills, you meditate in the mornings, you consume sleep sounds in the evening, and start exercising with aspirations of it becoming daily. You push against the voices, the thoughts, the badly engineered responses to decades of wounded thinking. You are determined, but you wonder if this is all in vain, if your i’m-broken-narcissism will ever fade.

You’re not even sure what to believe anymore—every thought, emotion, and feeling tumbles forward like a bad guess. The devil and the angel on your shoulder share the exact same purple dress.

What they don’t tell you about the fall is it doesn’t happen all at once. You fall hard at the top, only to later skid further down the path, bouncing around the rocks, the gravitational momentum the only thing that ultimately stops you. But when you’re in it, it’s hard to imagine a world where the fall ever stops. Every day brings new challenges and failures of happenstance and circumstance and time. You cling to your attempts at positive thinking, even when it feels absurd. (And it always feels absurd.) Because they tell you to, because the alternative is to die and somehow, somewhere deep inside of your brain a voice, faint and a-quivered, cries out. Its appearance is rare and flutters, but you listen.

You often wonder what gross ulterior motive this tiny voice is, because you are nothing if not an enemy of your own mind: greed? Gluttony? You are an ego on fire in the last vestiges of fight-of-flight. You wonder if there’s any point to this, if you’ve engineered yourself to always be a mess. You wonder if you picked the wrong life, but even considering the more mundane alternatives feels like a knife to the chest, a kick to the heart, a conciliatory flag waved at the summit of your laziness. It feels wrong to flight, but so does the fight.

Living in the limbo feels good, but only when you don’t think about it twice.

You wonder if you’re delusional, if this mental dance is lunacy personified. You can’t seem to find an answer, but there’s still a small part of you that wants to try. You want to wake up to feel something like truth, regardless of what it looks like. You search and search and fear the worst, but the worst is not the answer, just your captor. It holds the keys to the shackles on your feet. Do you deserve these shackles, you wonder, or are they simply a creation of self-defeat? Are we made to only climb a certain height, or is that idea a self-protection born out of worry and deceit? The idea of falling harder, from higher, is the anchor of self-defeat.

So you wake up, flustered. And you start again. Every day is like this.

Until it isn’t.