Thoughts on Maintaining Sanity

Oliver Xu
Oliver Xu
Sep 21 · 7 min read

The most difficult thing about life for me is life itself. The constant waking up every morning just to live through a day that seems so meaningless drives my frustration. The seemingly useless nature of routine takes away from will to fight and live. I’m only 20 years old and I’ve gone through so much. Because of my past failures and suffering, I have grown volatile. I smoke and drink to numb my thoughts at night. During the days, especially on weekdays, my confidence seems to skyrocket. I participate heavily in all my classes and I’m not scared to socialize with new students. Yet during these days, there is an inescapable dread that builds within myself that I push away. This dread is the culmination of guilt, fear, and hopelessness.

On a normal weekday, I wake up early to go to class. I do everything in my power to take care of myself. I force myself out of bed. I shower and I take care of all my personal hygienes leaving myself at least an hour before class starts. At this point of the day, my mood is pretty good. I hold some pride for myself for such good self-care. But in the back of my mind, there is this inescapable dread that follows me. This dread is nauseating because, throughout the day, I keep my stomach’s content down but as the day goes on, I become more and more nauseous. Such dread culminates to a breaking point every evening where I can no longer hold such contents within myself, so I spew it all out. I cry. I scream. I punch walls. I ruminate. My frustration and hopelessness boil over to a point where I become suicidal. Frankly, life is not enjoyable for me. This constant grind to just stay alive is fatiguing to a point where weekends are no longer breaks for me. I work so hard on weekdays to stay afloat yet on weekends, such efforts seem futile. On weekends, I frankly hate myself. I have so much time and no matter how hard I try to give myself structure and a routine, I find myself hopeless.

I try to downplay my depression to myself because I don’t want to be a burden to others. Everyone expects me to get better so quickly yet I don’t think I can ever get better. I never seem to meet other’s expectations on all aspects of life. If I don’t change quick enough, I’ll get abandoned so I either push people away so that they can’t abandon me or I downplay my own suffering. It really is a vicious cycle. No matter what choice I make, I will feel shitty no matter what. If I don’t drink or smoke at night, I will drown in my sorrows. All my friends smoke at night and I feel trapped because I feel needy for asking for help yet I feel guilty for numbing my pain with substances. I’ve tried talking to some of my friends about such suffering but there is a lack of understanding. The fact that I exist and I am being, is the hardest thing about life. Living life itself is painful.

Just the other weekend, I locked myself in my room ruminating. I locked all my doors and I was ready to accept death. One of my friends climbed over my balcony and broke into my apartment. He came into my room and hugged me while I just cried and cried. I felt so guilty for making him come over just to comfort me. This overwhelming guilt that I feel about every act of life is awful. This guilt is inescapable. I go to school. I feel guilty for not working hard enough. I come back home. I feel guilty about not getting better. I smoke and drink. I feel guilty about using substances to run. I ask for help. I feel guilty for being a burden. I isolate myself. I feel guilty about being alive.

With this guilt comes fear. I am terrified of life. Every second of existing is painful because my thoughts are always in dread. Every day of my life, I dread suffering. I dread pain. I’m not talking about physical pain. I am talking about internal emotional and mental pain. I am extremely emotionally and mentally fatigued. Every day, while others spend energy on making sure their physical state is in the best condition, I am using my energy to maintain sanity. Sanity meaning: the capacity to function normally in society. Society is built on routine. This is the same routine that seems to take away from my sanity. The everydayness of every day is debilitating to me. What I mean by everydayness is that no day feel any different from the rest. Today like yesterday has been a fatiguing mental battle. I fight myself every single day. One part of me finds comfort in beating myself up. The other part wants to fight. Sometimes I will punch walls in frustration to life and to myself. I scream at myself inside my head telling myself I am not good enough and telling myself that I hate myself. Sometimes I catch myself in the process of beating myself up so try to halt the process by saying to myself, “It’s okay Oliver, everything will be okay” even if nothing feels okay at all. The disconnect between thoughts and feelings are what drives my fatigue. I often feel like I’m lying to myself when I give myself love because I do not feel that I deserve such validation no matter how positive I am to myself in my head. It is tiring to keep lying to yourself.

The disconnect itself is what drives me insane as well. I often question myself and others around me. I question the reality around me to a point where I freeze. There are three responses to extreme stress and pain: fight, flight or freeze. The first two responses are much more well known as the fight or flight response. I am a runner. I run and run and run till I can’t run anymore from my problems, till they stack up and overwhelm me. There are times where I do want to fight though. Yet, I just freeze. I start feeling pointless. Not only do I feel like I myself am a pointless being, but being itself is pointless. Then such heavy feelings of emptiness arise. How can emptiness be so heavy? Because underneath the emptiness, is the trauma, the suffering, the guilt and the fear that is pushed so deep within that all I feel is numb. This numbing feeling disconnects me from the world. I become detached from reality. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, if the onset of numbness comes on, I dissociate from my present environment. I stare into space in disbelief of my own being, the environments being and being in general. My body and my mind will numb itself to protect myself. It is a natural response to extreme pain. We, humans, have a natural tendency to avoid pain and sometimes the best way to avoid pain is the numb our capabilities of feeling pain. In this case, my body and my mind will numb myself from emotional pain. But without suffering there is no happiness therefore when I am numb, I am emotionless.

Frankly, I don’t know how much longer I can fight. Living is hard. I know that. Living is also very tiring. That is the problem. The problem is not the difficulty of living rather the fatigue of living while trying to maintain sanity. When one must have to fight one’s own thoughts and emotions just to be able to function in society, one becomes extremely fatigued because instead of being able to focus on the present and do the next right thing, the one who is struggling to maintain sanity will lose sanity in the maintaining of sanity. This is because maintaining sanity should not be a struggle. Maintaining sanity is just living for most, yet for the ones who truly struggle to maintain sanity, maintaining sanity is like fighting one’s own perception of themselves. To struggle to maintain sanity is to go to war with oneself. Only one side will win the war, however. I am getting tired of this war. That is why I do not know how much longer I can fight myself for before I truly lose my sanity.

So what is the point of all this? I am not here to ask for pity. I am not here to ask for attention. I am not here to seek validation. I am here to tell you my thoughts. I am here to analyze my thoughts. I am here to let other people delve into my thoughts and sufferings. I am here to make sure others do not feel alone because you aren’t. Those of you guys who are suffering do deserve love. You guys do deserve care. You guys don’t deserve any more guilt and fear from other people. All we need is unconditional support. We already are hard enough on ourselves as it is and support frankly is all we need. Hopefully, from diving into my thoughts and my pains, my readers can feel not alone because I know that we all are trying so hard. We work so hard just to stay alive and that is more than enough. We just have to fight through this together because we are all we have.

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

Oliver Xu

Written by

Oliver Xu

Emory University Undergrad student majoring in philosophy. Trying to help as many people as I can who are suffering and in need. You’re not alone.

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

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