Fiction is fun, isn’t it? Apparently not many of you think so. “sober” was by far the least viewed post I’ve shared in the sudden stop. That’s okay, I don’t take it personally. But I ain’t gunna stop. You’re going to have to wade through some fiction here. I like fiction, what it allows us to explore, the hypotheticals and sometimes — in the case of fantasy — just something fun and insanely awesome.
Not that “sober” is something fun or insanely awesome. It’s perhaps borderline depressing. At least it is to me — two college kids masking their separate pain in drinking . But it’s a story that’s been kicking around for a while and I thought I’d share it. I did, however, lift the ending up a bit with Jo’s sudden realization of what was really bothering Kevin, and I think I handled that well — I didn’t really want to show the shark, but rather wanted to trust that the reader could figure it out.
Or maybe it just wasn’t that good. That’s cool, too. I’m far from perfect. Part of the whole narrative, the theme, if you will, of this chapter has been one of keeping in motion, lest the title action occur. Constantly trying to improve, or at the very least, to keep trying, keep moving, keep practicing.
And yes, it has been a challenge to find topics to discuss with you all. Part of slowing down is that there isn’t an assault of new sensations, new people, new places. Or a narrative of returning to a home no longer familiar. Part of slowing down is the challenge to continue to remain upright. This is felt in more than just writing, though. It’s felt throughout my life and it has been something of a building crisis. Slowing down is needed, is craved, but it has come with an awkward and unfamiliar feeling — one that I’ve managed to control for the most part but one that has absolutely been a part of the sudden stop.
I’m speaking of anxiety, that crippling little bee sting, that flutter of nameless fear and panic that builds, sometimes with out even being aware of it until it overwhelms me. I’ve had more panic attacks in the last two years than I have for all the other years of my life. Early on, I thought it was the stress of repatriation1and it very could have been. Certainly the dissolution of my marriage and the changing of my life — yet again — has played a part. I’m not really sure what it is, to be honest, that sets my heart to race my breath to shallow and the dread of something faceless to appear.
Faceless, though, it is.
And maybe all fear is faceless, but what I mean is to say2albeit poetically is that I haven’t a fucking clue what triggers my anxiety. Work stress, sure. But my job can be stressful and demanding and most of the time I handle that shit like the professional I am. Fear of losing my job, losing this house, having made the wrong moves when I was bereft of the consul I had come to depend on for the previous twelve years and change. I know that one at least stems in part from the good ol’ wholesome Catholic upbringing I’ve had. Guilt that even though I’ve just worked my fingers to the bone, I dared to look at Facebook and for that, slacker, eternal damnation and hellfire.
Okay, I’m being dramatic. Perish th… you know the rest. More on the Catholic thing in a bit.
Over the last few weeks, however, this feeling has threatened to overwhelm me, take me down underneath the surf of my nameless fears and drown me in panic. In this, I am not being3overly dramatic. I’m just not sure that I’m equipped to deal with it.
Now I’ll state outright, I wasn’t sure if I should write this entry or not. Part of why this is being published a week late is because of that indecision. And so goes my anxiety. I’ll feel the onset of panic, of worry, of fear. And in the past, I’ve been4mostly successful in tamping that down through sheer willpower and logic. When that hasn’t worked, there have been those few times when I have boldly faced my fear and found it to be a weak, ephemeral thing. But lately that latest step hasn’t worked. I find nothing originally to face, or mire myself in excuses. Take this entry, for example; in deciding not to share my anxiety and my trouble, I told myself that others surely have had it worse, and you don’t see them whining about it, do you,Josh? And so I don’t write. So I sit, knowing that my logic is wrong, knowing from experience, if I just fucking write already, the words will come.
But then I don’t. And I condemn myself for it. And then I hate myself for condemning myself, and then, and then, and then…
They call it a spiral for a reason.
And listen, seriously. I know that I have an amazing support network and dear friends and a rad boss and the privilege and means to seek help and I will, I have. I have the most amazing gift in that I know myself, know who I am and what I need to be whole. I know that this is the final dip in a four-year long roller coaster ride of change, highs, lows, joy, anger, triumph, challenge, friendship and loss. There is not an easy path through what I’ve just traversed5that cynical and self-deprecating side of me would say, “If there was, I’d have found it”. Sometimes, you just have to pick yourself back up, but sometimes, and this really is the most important part so I’m going to do my usual6dramatic thing and call it out in a new paragraph here;
Sometimes you need to ask for help.
That’s not — not really — what this is. This might be more of, hey if you’re one of the thirty people who read this and have me in your personal life, well then, things are a struggle, if you weren’t already aware. I’m not great at telling people my struggles. Not when they’re born from within. They feel too much like weakness, too much like failure, and I’ve never been good at admitting failure. I’ve never really been good at asking for help. These are things I need to develop to grow past this surge of anxiety and self-doubt and the depression it spawns. In fact, I’ve not really any experience in looking for professional help though I surely know that I must.
And I would be remiss, I really would, if I didn’t write here and now that as I write these words I am doubting them, far more than what’s normal. Not because I don’t believe them or that they’re the wrong words but rather because I am that uncomfortable, that uneasy, with sharing this. As I type, my mind wanders to the near future, the questions the fears I might stoke in those I love. The acceptance that there is something wrong with me, now laid bare for anyone with Facebook or this URL to see. It is silly, it is unfounded, this anxiety, because my problems are not most insurmountable, they’re not the worst that could happen. They’re almost — almost — laughable.
They’re not laughable though. I don’t want to look down the dark path that comes from just shrugging my shoulders and soldiering on, because I know what that looks like. I know that when I’m stressed, I lash out. I know that in my self-doubt I look to push others down to feel superior. These are things I hate about myself, behaviors that make me sick, and from there, the tide rises.
These are things that, in short, I need to fix. And in short, this is the time to fix them.
The Catholic thing7oh you thought I had forgot? silly reader is interesting as well, and something after some reflection that I’ve decided to dive in to here as well. I’ve made no secret of my Catholic upbringing and the problems I have with the Church on this site before. Those problems, my issues, these are largely institutional issues, not8necessarily issues of faith. My refusal to confirm my faith stemmed more from repudiation of the organization to which I had been born adjacent to, not a rejection of it’s tenets. That rejection would come later, but never as complete refusal.
I don’t talk about my spiritual and religious beliefs much. “Belief” is a strong word. It implies something core, something central. Something immutable. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who knows me, I don’t really appreciate immutability of thought. There’s always something new to learn out there, something that’s going to challenge though beliefs. To lock what I believe to be true to dogma runs counter to everything I value, and that, probably, is what led me to refuse the faith in which I was raised.
But windy9one could say breezy, I’m not proud philosophy aside, what truly is important is that I was raised in it. Catholicism is in my DNA, in my early lessons, like it or not. The thou shalts and the shalt nots, for better or worse, became the foundations of my moral compass.
And it is true, the first panic attack I had upon repatriation came in the motherfuckin’ cheese aisle of a Lambs. There were many since. But none, none, I tell you, were as big or as fear-inducing when I looked at the sheet of papers that read “Circuit Court of Multnomah County” and reality came crashing down into the tatters of my religious
brainwashi10oops, keyboard slipped there learnings and I stared at one, ugly, word.
I don’t know what’s worse. The feeling of breaking a sacrament or that I actually gave a fuck. Catholicism, ladies and gentlemen. Fucking with your head since Catechism. The real crap of it all is that I didn’t really break anything. We weren’t married in the Catholic religion. I didn’t actually receive that sacrament. I also have refused confirmation, penance and the Eucharist, so what’s four when you’re already in for three?
It probably isn’t that. If I were to look at things rationally, I would say that the rising tide of anxiety wasn’t brought on by a loss of grace but rather the symbolic undoing of the ways I had ordered my life. Necessary undoing, but undoing and symbolic, none the less. Symbols still carry a lot of value for me — more evidence of a misspent youth, I suppose. All that time learning the mysteries of my faith when I could have been exploring the mysteries of my sexuality and so forth.
But if I’m being honest11And I am always honest with you, dear reader, even when I’m lying., I would say that rationality isn’t always present. Especially when dealing with the muscle memory of learned Catholic guilt. But it is a revelation and something that I haven’t been prepared to face, to say, to write, until just now;
I feel guilty over my divorce. I couldn’t hold on to something that I had loved, how can I hope to hold on to anything else?
I haven’t said those words aloud. I haven’t written them until just now. The words blur through the budding tears, but writing it down helps. The water rises but doesn’t spill over. The thing about the tide is that it rises and recedes all the same.