I have been paralyzed lately by the events that are going on in our country. Like so many others, I cannot fathom how the individuals in the White House got there. I have nothing new or profound to say about it. My anxiety is unceasing. I try crowd-sourcing for coping mechanisms. I try other people’s tools. I gather breathing exercises, herbs, teas, potions, good thoughts, calm vibes, anything I can get my hands on. I don’t sleep well, I cry a lot, I wonder if any of this is worth it. I know it is, but there are moments I wonder.
Generally, with depression, things you used to enjoy you don’t enjoy anymore. For me, it has been that not only do I not enjoy things as much as I used to, I just can’t see the point. I have talked at length about my anxiety, because it is easier for me. Truth be told, I only scratch the surface of what is there, which is why it is easier. It is more palatable to say, “I’m working on it,” like actually having something you are doing to help yourself, than it is to say, “I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. I’m not really trying. I’m actually really close to giving up.” It is that thing we do as Americans where we have to be DOING something to be considered functional. I was talking to my fiancee about clothing companies, and why things are marketed to us as aspirational. As in, you will be cool and will be enough, as soon as you have this fucking insufferable, khaki-colored, butch hat (we are queer). As in, you are almost there, but this will really seal the deal. As in, yes, you’re currently a person, but just keep trying, and of course buying, and you’ll be a better kind of person. And how all I want is to show up somewhere and feel like I am good enough to buy something to begin with. Like I don’t have to wait for some stupid brand’s permission to buy its shit. I just want it, so I get it. It is the same with depression. Depression is the thing that makes me feel like I need permission to be happy. “That was a cool thing that happened, but it is not quite cool enough.” As in, not quite time to be happy yet, buddy. As in, when is it ever time to be happy? Do you just get to make that choice?
I don’t talk about how exhausting my anxiety is on stage because it makes me sound weak, and non-functional. It makes me sound like every day is a struggle and most nights I come home exhausted from trying to calm my thoughts, so I can’t update my website, or reach out to people to find readers, or be more productive than a person who is employed full time can be. I slouch on the couch and feel the anxiety sopping my limbs and weighing them down because I am not DOING something. I have had serious bouts of OCD in the past where I thought I could control things. Anymore I just get tired of the runaround those feelings give me because I can’t control shit, and I know that. It doesn’t mean that when shit gets scary I don’t still think, “Can I prevent this from happening by folding this laundry exactly the right way?” Then, at least I can trick myself into thinking I am DOING something. But it is fucking exhausting trying to figure out the right thing to do. What if there is nothing to do? Do I burst into flame?
I started seeing a new counselor this week and she actually got me excited about counseling. I don’t enjoy the first appointment with a new counselor because I have to bring up all the reasons I brought myself there to get better, to be a better kind of person, to give myself permission to try and do because I’m improving myself. I have to admit to someone that I am not cured. That I am in progress. I have done that for a very long time, thought I needed to improve before doing something. Anything. Dating, writing, traveling, swimming, talking to other people about what I do. In Portland specifically I do not feel like it is acceptable to be anything other than the improved, best version of yourself. I don’t feel like the journey to getting from who you are to who you want to be is appreciated. It feels like people just want you to be there, mostly so they can ask you for shit that will benefit them. I am actively, publicly, trying to showcase and broadcast my own journey to who I want to be because I want people to see that it is okay exit off I-84 into Portland from wherever you came from and not be a complete, successful, hip, beautiful, smart, well-connected person in the scene. You don’t have to constantly try to impress other people to be valid. You can just be a fucking person.
What I have realized lately is that I have not been entirely genuine with the person I put on stage at Get Nervous. I try to impress people with my mental health progress. I like to talk about how I am making an effort to get over the thing that made me start this series in the first place. My new counselor talked about how with anxiety, in our brains, we create these highways of thought processes that keep us on the same path. You can’t deal with how fucked up shit is? Take the well-traveled freeway to Spiral Town, where you will obsess and work yourself into a frenzy and never breathe past your sternum and try, in vain, to control the things around you that you can’t. She wants me to give myself permission to take an exit off the road to Spiral Town, into the weeds, to places I don’t usually travel, down a gravel road that is full of the shit I don’t want to deal with to teach myself ways to deal with it. Carve out that path. Because there are no quick fixes, unfortunately. You can buy the cool hat and wear the cool hat, but do you really, truly, feel cool? As in, do you really feel like you are legit, or is this a show for other people? Are you doing what I do and not telling the whole story because it is too much? “I have an appointment with a counselor this Tuesday,” I said at the last Get Nervous. See? Progress!
I do understand that Get Nervous is inherently a showcase of the progression, digression, and winding road that is dealing with anxiety and depression. I just also want to understand that if I am not always “getting better” it does not mean I am getting worse. I can be what I am in that moment, whatever it is. I think my new counselor said something about being present. Maybe I should try that.