I’ve been putting off writing this essay all day because I am rather frightened of putting these thoughts into words and putting those words out to the world. But I have done nearly all my other work for the day and I need to maintain my current goal of writing 500 words every day. So, here goes.
I think I’m broken.
Stop. Hold on. Let me back up to how I was originally going to start this essay as if formed in my head this morning at 7 am while I was struggling to get motivated to get up . . .
The thing about Hawaii is that each and every morning I was there, I was eager to get up, to see the sunrise, to feel the wind, to smell the air. Each and every day I was up early and excited for the day. I’m sure that the time change had something to do with it, even Joya, who is decidedly not a morning person was getting up early. I’m also sure it was the newness and excitement of being on vacation. Still, days when I’m genuinely excited and looking forward to the day are . . . well, let’s just say very, very rare.
So that’s where I was going to start. A safe place, a positive memory. So why start with “I think I’m broken”? Because, I think it’s true and I think I need to work on fixing it before I go back to Hawaii because if I don’t, if I go to Hawaii and find that, after the newness wears off, I go back to dragging myself out of bed each and every morning instead of embracing the day and feeling excited . . . well, I just don’t know what I’d do.
Now, what do I mean by “broken.” I honestly don’t quite know exactly. I know that I’m not clinically depressed: I can laugh when I’m with people I care about and trust, I can deeply enjoy books and movies. I am able, despite the fact that I am never actually excited by the day, to get up and to work and to create and to get some regular—if not enough—exercise. I have started playing my guitar again and am thinking of even attempting an open mic night before the summer ends. I am very happy with my new apartment and feel so much more positive about my surroundings on a daily basis because of it. Although, while I say “very happy”, I’ll be honest: I don’t know what that means. I certainly appreciate my new apartment and even love it in some ways, but happiness . . . happiness seems like it’s something other people do. I have moments of joy, moments of laughter, and moments of great contentment. Most of those moments have to do with being around people I feel safe with and who I genuinely like/love. But they remain moments. Happiness . . . happiness . . . I don’t think I know what that means. At least not in any kind of real, sustained way.
“Are you happy,” Emily asked me when we met for lunch while I was in RI.
“I’m working on it,” I replied.
We talked more, though she was asking most of the questions. At one point, she asked if I’d considered getting help. The word “drugs” was mentioned. She wasn’t the first to have mentioned getting help. Joya had suggested, several times, that I might benefit from either talk therapy or, possibly (and she would broach the subject carefully), some combination of drugs might be in order. I wouldn’t hear of it. I mean, it’s all my fault: I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t exercise enough, I don’t maintain a decent creative output, I don’t meditate, I don’t do yoga, I don’t seem able to find the right group friends who will spark me in the right way. If I just did all the things I ought to do, I’d be happy. Right?
“Are you happy?”
I’m reminded of the scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when, after breaking up with Annie, his character approaches a beautiful looking couple and says that they look like a happy couple, very much in love, what is their secret? The woman responds, “Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say,” and her partner follows her with, “And I’m exactly the same way.” But, as much as I might find that scene amusing, it’s cheap and cynical, and exactly the kind of defensive maneuver that . . .
No. Wait up. Hold on. I’m avoiding the issue.
The issue is I’m lonely. The issue is I can’t remember the last time I woke up genuinely excited and looking forward to the day. The issue is that I am constantly struggling to do the things I love to do and to be the person I know I want to be. The issue is that I prefer staying in my apartment, alone, because the feeling of being alone in a crowd when I’m surrounded by others is getting to be so heart-breakingly difficult that I sometimes want to cry while walking down the street and watching all these people, this whole other species of beings that seem to have figured out (or at least that’s how I am perceiving them), how to do this life thing.
The underlying issue is this: I’m lost. Lost in a mind that hasn’t let me be fully me in a long, long time. And I’ve gotten used to living on a level that denies me full access to my love of self and of others; to my love of my work and my thoughts; to my courage and desire to be a force in this world instead of running away from it.
As I write these words, with the plan of posting them in public view on my website, I feel sick with worry about my mother’s response, about my father’s thoughts—not that they will judge me or think ill of me, but I don’t know how to face their concern and love in this matter without reading it as pity—no, that’s not quite right either. It’s their sorrow I am terrified of.
I’m also worried about the fact that my colleagues in the department may very well read these words, colleagues who I respect as students, historians, academics, and scholars but who are not, for the most part, close friends. I don’t want people to know, especially people I’m not close to, that I don’t have my own shit together and that I’m not fully and completely capable of being as completely self-sufficient as possible.
Also, this means that I am making a commitment to try to change things. That I am, in public, committing myself to get better and to make an effort, no matter how uncomfortable that effort might be, to regain the me I distantly remember from a long time ago.
But really, the resistance and the pain and the tears of writing this, of posting this for all to see is that I am, here and now, admitting to something that is the hardest fucking thing in the world for me to admit:
I need help.