I thought, what if those who don’t struggle with mental illness are actually the crazy ones? In a world this filled with pain, suffering and every-human-for-themselves (at any cost) kind of primal drivers for all the horrific things we do to this planet, how can one not feel anxious and depressed. Maybe the ones who power through with little empathy are the truly insane ones. Like Evan Rachel Woods’ character Dolores in Westworld, her cognitive dissonance of choosing to see the “beauty” over the “ugly” in her world eventually leads to an android mental-breakdown. Surely there must be some truth in all those “attitude of gratitude” sort of quotes floating around online with a pretty lake scenery in the background. But what if one is just unable to help but feel utterly out of whack, without any warning, occasionally enough to feel a bit off kilter? How much do loving kindness and acceptance of all that is, trying to force those concepts, truly help in the throes of total mind-shattering ego-death?
I only ask, because my whole life I’ve never felt quite right. As a child I saw right through the barricades adults put up to attempt some notion of authority (I got in lots of trouble with teachers). I never had many friends, and that wasn’t solely due to the fact of my family moving around a lot. I was always… too something; too weird, too intense, too loud, too annoying with my near desperate need to be heard. I was often told by teachers to let others “work in peace”. I felt so outside of everything already then, and didn’t know how to express this isolation other than nearly bossing others to be my friend. No wonder I was alone a lot. I recognize that my own behavior was odd, and don’t really blame anyone for being put off by it (and me). As an adult I learned ways to hold back and mostly just plain accept my solitude and strangeness. I found solace in art and nature and animals, who never judged me (even if a few cats would express their disgruntlement. But cats are assholes. Adorable assholes).
Lately I go through phases of feeling decent within myself, and reflecting this to those around me. But I pick up on annoyances rather too well, and have had to spend lots of time sifting through what is the result of my intuitive nature, and what is merely paranoia leftover from my childhood. And so these phases are paralleled by absolute opposite assumption of everything being wrong, of everyone I’ve spoken to obviously thinking I’m a terrible person and all kinds shitty thoughts that social anxiety causes, generally resulting in me choosing avoidance and isolation because at least I know what’s what and what to expect of myself. Other humans become complicated and scary.
I realized, how much my need to control situations sometimes causes me to make myself crazy with overly processed inner dialogue. Anxiety and control-issues often stem from feeling powerless, and I sure as hell have felt that most of my life. Even when it’s completely ridiculous; I know I can’t control other people’s reactions towards me. In my adulthood I have been trying to learn that fine line between being myself, and at peace with whatever myself is but also knowing when I’m not being that alluring best-self. This has been prevalent in my love life, as my first two partners, while not exactly malleable, did very much succumb to what I needed in terms of feeling valid and accepted by them. When I think back on both relationships, I see myself as controlling and needy, just desperately asking someone to love me. Their feelings for me surely were real, but I do feel a pang of shame at acknowledging just how much I tried to control the outcomes of every conversation. It all stems to my childhood, of having this huge personality, but no tools to exert myself if not gently, at least without force.
I have a love/hate relationship with routine. The insecure parts of me yearn for it like nothing else, because it gives a notion of control; I know how things will go and therefore I can put my anxiety at ease. But since I have such a wild and dynamic imagination, I also crave for adventure, the unknown, taking risks (*shudder*). And this push-pull of these needs battling for the top spot in my personal hierarchy of needs creates immense inner conflict within me. I feel torn in so many directions, eventually leading to a sensation of imploding from having so many parts of myself shouting over the other, trying to get a word in. It’s like this when I go through phases of ego-dissolution, which leaves me questioning everything and anything I’ve ever known, wanted, dreamt of or thought I needed.
Back to the first paragraph… so yes, I do, regardless of my questions on what mental illness actually is, often feel I have lots of issues that very much affect how I see myself in this world. Even as an “adult”, I still feel directionless and struggle with drive and motivation. My life seems a string of dreams that never quite got lift-off, ideas and attempts, thinking I’d finally found “it” for me, the thing that I will do and which will be my sole focus. And something always happens. I lose hope. I lose sight of what initially put me on said path. And in realizing that I have yet again given up on yet another idea that was going to solve all my bullshit sends me into rabbit hole of paranoid thoughts on how my life is pointless and I am useless in this world. On and on the merry-go-round goes.
I don’t have any answers on how to “fix” this. Maybe it can’t be fixed. Maybe my inner turmoil indeed merely reflects the state of the world. I care about so many things, animal rights, social justice, but feel often powerless to do anything. But I see others with multitudes less privilege than I have, doing amazing things for others, for the planet, and thus I feel even more like I have nothing to offer, and even if I do, I am too far gone in my head to get myself out. I have throughout my life wished to be emotionless, to have no caring for anything other than my own life. And even this creates such a painful paradox, for am I not absolutely focused on my own struggles to a point that I am stuck with them, and therefore cannot seem to exert any energy towards anything else?
I have uttered this sentence before, but I often feel nearly insane for acknowledging what I do to myself with my destructive thought patterns, yet like an addict crave for more of the stuff that is familiar but which has heinous consequences; as if I don’t know any other way. As if this is all my life will ever be, this shattered contemplation of whether any of it has any meaning. And why are we as humans so obsessed with meaning? Surely the anemone, an animal, a simple one but animal nonetheless, is content to experience the world through its nerve-net, waiting patiently for drifting pieces of ingestible matter to float by. Philosophy has for long been concerned with the “curse” of consciousness, that our higher-thinking mind is what births amazing art, technology and social order, but also renders us destitute in the ever-lasting quest for “meaning”.
While I distinctly remember the moment I became fully aware, at age 11, of how awful life can be, I feel I’ve always had an understanding of the curse of being human. Before I was able to recognize myself as a separate being from those around me, I always saw the actions of humans as desperate, greedy, hurtful and utterly sad. Coming to realize that I too am part of these awkward social contracts is when I felt “awakened”, shaken up and forced to leave the blissfully ignorant state of true childhood. Which brings me to concede that the concept of “adulthood” is surely why so many suffer with depression and anxiety. All the expectations and little alternatives for any other way of existing in a body that has been out of its womb for 18+ years.
I have struggled to find inner peace, meaning, quests, goals and everything one is supposed to do to lead a fulfilling life. I have meditated, done yoga, learned new skills, tried my hand at a few different job sectors, ingested mind-expanding chemicals (natural and artificial), trekked for days in the wilderness, hiked mountains, lived in cities, lived in high altitude desert, been a student, been a “professional”, volunteered, volunteered, volunteered, interned, helped friends for free, for payment, accepted (and asked, sometimes begged) financial assistance from relatives, made my own and saved shitloads of money, been homeless, lived for free in San Francisco, received government support for my education, received free education due to what it happens to read in my passport for “citizen of: …”, thought I was happy, known I wanted kill myself, been in love, hated my friends, realized my friends are gifts from the universe I have immense gratitude for, been abused by a partner, cheated on a partner, sworn to never fall in love again, and craved, nearly daily, to fall in love again, to experience a true, solid relationship based on mutual values and respect.
Occasionally I stop to think and realize it’s nearly a miracle I’m still here. That I didn’t just walk into the ocean one day 4 years ago. That I haven’t quit my current degree yet (even though every other day I feel like doing exactly that). I naively thought that by the time I’m an “adult” I’ll have it all figured out. It seems everything becomes only more complex and painful. I still struggle with depression and likely will my whole life. That’s probably the most difficult thing, to try find motivation regardless. Regardless that I may always feel like nothing matters, that I truly don’t have “meaning” in my life. That I can’t do anything for others and am not selfish enough to just live for myself.
Maybe one day I’ll notice I have stopped. Stopped searching for answers and learned to merely exist. Most days, it’s really all I want. As for whether I’ll get this one simple thing, I just don’t know. Until then, I hope I find ways to live day to day.