Having anxiety sucks. Having a shitty past sucks. All of these random, useless, and destructive thoughts come crawling out of the dark and begin taking over like a damn cancer. There are worries about completely harmless situations devolving into one of those “holy shit” moments you’ve become so well-acquainted with. There are the panic attacks that threaten to shut you down. There are the times you are completely fine and then suddenly lose your shit for no reason due to a trigger.
I started off this year feeling pretty good. I’ve spent much needed time with family and friends, I have a plan in place for my health and work, and I’m finishing up stories left and right. And it’s that last thing that started driving me completely nuts. I think making comparisons between oneself and other people is a waste of time in most instances and can only serve to dehumanize either yourself or that other person. Yet…when it comes to writing this year I cannot seem to stop doing it. With every book I publish the anxiety gets worse. With every word I type I feel like I can’t breathe. Reading those scenes that I wrote which mirror my life brings up all sorts of old pain and insecurity.
Publishing makes it real. It means that these things did happen to me. It means that once upon a time I did want to kill myself. It means that that hurt little girl is still inside and is still searching for a safe place to scream. And it means that other people can see it and know those things about me. It means they can judge me for my experiences. It means they can compare and contrast me with thousands of other writers and shit all over what is an extremely personal project of mine (or possibly wish me dead for daring to exist in the first place).
There’s this page on Facebook called Talking Trees that I’ve been following for a while. One of the oft-repeated lessons is that healing never ends. Healing is a process and not a destination when you have been deeply, utterly, and irrevocably wounded. The search for understanding, for belonging, for justice is never-ending and most likely illusory. The best that can be done is to find some inner peace, to establish the ongoing practice of healing, and to foster your own acceptance of reality. This is as true for those with chronic conditions as those who have suffered from abuse. And I happen to have experienced both.
One of the practices I started when I was young was meditation. When I was 11 or 12, around the same time I began writing, I studied all sorts of different religions and spiritual matters. Though I am neither religious nor spiritual the practice of meditation has often helped me more than medication or therapy, and dare I say even more than writing on occasion. There are reasons why meditation can be more useful than all of the introspection, action, and perseverance in the world. It’s because the mind can be its own worst enemy. It can trap you in the wells you’ve dug, it can track you across the paths you’ve established between your neurons, it can sit there watching you as you do your best to ignore that dark corner you won’t shine light on.
As much insanity, fucking, joking, and prank-pulling weave throughout my tales there is also the very real exploration (via fiction) of all of the places in my head I never wanted to go. Facing your fears is no easy feat. It’s not fun and it can drive you mad. Looking monsters in the face and daring them to do what they will is a gamble. Daring to fully examine every assumption and misconception in your thinking is something most people have no damn time for (or end up doing half-assed, ie. itemized examinations but not categorical or conceptual). But if I wanted to live I had to do more than exist. Early on I told myself that nothing but the truth mattered. And so here I am nearly 15 years later full of a passion and joy for life that was entirely alien to me for the majority of my years.
How do I keep going when most of the world rejects everything that I am? Where do I find the strength when my body turns on itself or my mind threatens to devour itself? What is that fuels me when I stop believing in myself or my ability to tell a story?
I clear my cache and start over.
I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and remember that I am not my body. I remember that I am not my thoughts. I remember that I am not my memories, my attributes, or my perceptions. I remember that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. I remember that all of the information I gain from my senses is from the past and not the present. So what am I?
I am the awareness of all of those things. The truth is I am that awareness in the present moment. Eventually, even that is pushed aside. All of that information serves to clutter up my mind, to slow down my processes, and to dull my creativity. When all of that has been cleaned and cleared I can focus. I can see possibilities I hadn’t contemplated before. I can gain an alternate perspective from the outside of these aspects instead of feeling trapped inside of them. I can smile as I sit with the feelings of panic, worry, and doubt. Because I know that my feelings don’t change the truth. They are there to be felt and they simply tell me about my assumptions of the world at large and about myself. Therein lies new information, new paths for integration, and infinite possibilities for new actions.
It’s common practice to clear the cache, delete history, and delete cookies to get things back to working order on our computers and phones. It’s been ingrained into us that it’s normal and necessary every once in a while. But why don’t we do this with our minds? Why don’t we learn from school or family how to let go? There are no general lessons on mind maintenance unless one goes to a counselor, attends church, or studies psychology. Many are left floundering like me, spending years trapped inside of a mind that has been broken by circumstance, and a lot of people don’t make it out.
I made it out. I learned to let it go. I learned to start fresh every single day. Because like grief it never gets easier. The process never simplifies. You never heal completely. The crap will build up all over again and gum up the works. But having that trick up your sleeve and implementing it makes it a familiar process. You get used to regularly clearing your cache. And that’s enough to begin anew and make changes that allow you to do, be, and experience more than you ever thought possible.