Sunday seems like a good day for a tortured metaphor.
I didn’t mean to. Sorry.
Every once in a while, I do The Thing on The Facebook where I poke around and find people that I used to be friends with. There’s usually a mutual friend with whom I’m connecting to via the Book of Face, and there’s usually some event — a wedding, a birthday, a girls’ night — in which these other, former friends are tagged. And so I look. I can’t help it. I know that a bunch of feels are going to come up; I know because they start percolating just under the surface of my consciousness as soon as I move the cursor to hover over the damn picture.
I’m an emotional masochist, is the thing. “Dysthymic” is my baseline, so, like…feeling worse comes naturally. It’s comforting — a soft bed with pillows made of regret and misdirected anger. So I sit there, in my comfy nest of lost friends and misunderstandings. The comfort there is tricksy — it quickly becomes a paralytic that leaves me feeling worthless and broken, in spite of a life time of fighting those very feelings.
I have this sort of…half-formed lecture…that runs on a buzzing kind of a loop underneath my more prominent emotional distress, something about change and growth and how I need to let go of shit that happened years ago.
It never quite takes full form.
A small voice, barely noticeable, pipes up from the cobwebbed corners of my mind — “Seriously? You’re gonna do this again?” And before the sentence is completed I’ve already clicked.
These are people who “knew me when”. They knew me when I was depressed or bipolar or dealing with an undiagnosed chronic illness; they knew me when I wasn’t eating or sleeping for months at a time. They knew me as crazy, as in “seriously, that girl is fucking nuts”. They knew me as the one who cried all the time, the one who flunked out, the chainsmoker, the psycho.
I won’t deny that I was all of those things.
The thing is, it’s been made clear to me that, at least in some cases, I will never be anything but those things.
A few folks have bravely become my friend on Ye Olde FB, through covert messages sent under the blessed cover of pseudonyms, with no public acknowledgement of where we know each other from.
I am thankful to them for allowing me to move past my past.
But it’s these other folks that get me. These people who have figured out who I am but we never actually interact and there’s damn sure no friend requests pending once they do.
Granted, I don’t even hover over the “add friend” button, either. It’s like an unspoken mutual agreement that we’re just gonna pretend we have no connection.
Today, though, I’m gonna try to write the lecture for my future self. My nest, for whatever reason, is not quite as comfy as it usually is and I’m going to capitalize on that discomfort.
It’s easy to think of sanity as a field — huge and wide, almost infinite. The edges become boggy but are clearly marked, and those who linger are either congenitally unable to resist the pull of those brightly decorated borders, or are flirting with known and easily avoidable disaster. Some might occasionally dip their toe into those murky waters of instability, or might, in a fog of easily understandable despair (the loss of a parent or partner or rejection from a dream job, for example) wander in briefly, but they always manage to pull themselves out in a reasonably acceptable amount of time.
I’ve found, though, that sanity is more of a tightrope strung over a chasm. There are rushing waters beneath, and the wind funnels through the cliff walls, constantly threatening your attempts to carefully navigate the undulating wire. Any number of things could send you into those unceasing waters: genetics, hormones, exhaustion, emotional pain, even physical pain that has gone unnoticed or untreated. Once in, the current can sweep you along for so long it becomes your norm, and you may well forget what it feels like to be dry and making those controlled steps toward a stable cliff edge.
You might have never truly known that feeling anyway, but may have faked it for just long enough to fool those around you, so that your inevitable tumble came as a complete surprise to everyone but yourself.
For those who can easily find their way back, (or indeed, have never even been so much as sprayed by the waters of insanity), those of us who clamber back, soaked and shaking, just seem willful. Weak. Out of control. We use our slipped footing as an excuse for bad behavior or for poor discipline or because we’re simply not cut out for whatever activity we were doing before we took the proverbial plunge.
My lecture to myself goes like this (as I attempt to extricate myself from this tedious metaphor): You know, now, what you were fighting. You know what was wrong and ignored. You know that no matter how we like to pretend, life is not a linear trajectory, but is riddled with switchbacks and dead ends and sometimes you’re just gonna fuck up.
The lecture to myself is that if people are generally kind and compassionate, and then have a bout of crazy where they become Something Else, it’s ok to maintain a healthy distance (self preservation is a thing, obviously), but it’s not ok to forget that they were once dry and balancing on the same wire that you’re on now and that an unexpected gust could easily drench you. The lecture goes that while you don’t have to be their best friend, it is simply wrong to deny people the ability to grow and learn.
To beat this metaphor into submission once and for all, if losing one’s sanity is akin to being carried away in a current, and water is necessary for growth and life, then don’t we all need to succumb to those waters at some point?