I have come to a place of complete exhaustion. The body is no longer willing to move forward. All of the travel, the writing, the living, the working, has waylaid me in a way that I didn’t think possible. However, there is a part of me that knew that this was coming, and that this breakdown was inevitable; a pursued breakdown, because a part of me pursued this total exhaustion like a goal despite all of the warning signs and all of the damage it could do to me and my mental state.
The breakdown has burned me away, and it has left me lost in direction and adrift. It feels as if I am shedding the skin of my old body, and leaving it behind, and now a new chassis must be formed out of the ashes of the old one. Only, I am at a loss as to what this new chassis needs to be, what it needs to do, what its plans are and where it should be going. These are not easy questions to answer, especially not in the aftermath of a total breakdown.
One cannot ask themselves the meaning of life in a building that is on fire.
When you step off a train that you’ve been on for months, it still feels like it’s moving. Even though I’m supposed to be relaxing, I feel like I’m wasting time and finding every single small distraction to keep me from working on the things that matter, like building myself into something better. Thinking like this is what got me in trouble in the first place; the always incessant need to drive oneself, to push, to grind it out, to do the work even when you need to sleep, to travel even when every bit of you craves your own bed and the bank account is looking slim, to read every second you sit down or face every single brain cell you have directing toward self hatred. You prevent yourself from sleep, to prevent yourself from inactivity, to take every moment of slowdown as a challenge to not rest and hit yourself in the guts to strengthen your resolve for the next round.
At some point during all of this activity in the last six months, I stopped seeing my therapist, because I was feeling better. I would compare it now to something akin to a runners high when you’ve been on the track for two hours and all of your toenails are popping off, but your body is running so well that you don’t care and it just all feels so damn good.
Then there’s the price you pay. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song with that title once, but I think he was talking about something else. Still, the sound of that song is a fitting background to the three days I’ve now spent staring off into parking lots, sleeping too long on the Zen palace that is my brother’s couch, and mournfully smoking cigarettes like a condemned man. I’ve put myself here, and now I don’t know how to get out. This is probably why I’m having panic attacks; because my body has said no, and my brain finally agrees with it long enough to stop me from moving any farther forward. This is the feeling that brings on change, because if I don’t change something, then the same thing is going to happen again down the line, and it will only be worse the next time around. I can choose to ignore all the warning signs, like I have been, or I can choose to take some time, put some effort into bettering myself, get back in touch with my therapist, and gain some ground in the sanity arena.
It’s not going to be easy, these things never are. Yet, even as I write that I need to make changes, there is the gnawing in the back of my mind that tells me to keep going, that stopping will change nothing, and that this pace must be kept up to maintain any kind of self-love, and that the harder I am on myself, the better the result will be. This kind of self-talk is loud, and it cascades through every action I attempt to make, and through every moment of time that I spend trying to relax or rebuild myself. Who ever thought that relaxation would be so difficult?
Relaxation. It comes with problems where I’m concerned. Relaxation leads to stagnation, and in a place of stagnation, the darkness can creep in and work as hard as it wants on me, because I’m doing nothing to outrun it. I’m just letting myself slowly erode, like a stone on the coast. Is this kind of thinking normal? Are there others like me who can’t sit still for a whole day without prepping for it like it’s some kind of major surgery?
I’m working on it. I’m always working on it seems. Is this why people do yoga? Is this why people start to do all of those “relaxing” things that I seem to ridicule? Is this where the fury of your late 20’s is forced to abate and mellow into something else? I’ve heard a few times that your 20’s is where you’re busy figuring everything out in your life, and that by your 30’s you have some kind of grip on things. Somehow though, from this place I’m at now, I don’t see it happening, because the answer to my problems seems to be a solving of what my entire purpose in life is, and to do that, I might need more than weekend, otherwise, as I mentioned before, I’ll be back in the same place having panic attacks at bus stops and thinking about how I can’t do anything unless I do it full bore, and how that pace leads to breakdowns.
I wish it was as simple as, “just stop thinking like that,” or, “you just need to not be so hard on yourself.” But I’ve tried that, and my mind is an insidious thing that won’t let me get off that easy. The schedule of my job doesn’t help much, as I always seem to be going somewhere in some kind of transition; there is always the next flight to catch, there is always the next boarding pass, the next shift, the next build, the next piece of writing, the next conversation, the next poem, the next edit, and the next round of bills. This is a treadmill I don’t seem to be able to leave, or want to leave. I’ve said as much already.
I can only pet this dog and look at this parking lot and sit on this couch for so long before I have to take some kind of action. Where is my direction though? What is my heading? How do you know how to work on something you struggle to put into words? I’m feeling like Bob Dylan: no direction home. I can’t take the road less travelled, because I don’t know where it is. So I’m stuck in stagnation, and stagnation equals death. Even if that stagnation was brought on by exhaustion, the brain can’t be rewired so quickly.
In this case though, it must, for my own sanity. I need some time, and I need a break once I find out how to take one.