A Brief Reckoning with the Self

The mind is a hell of a thing. One moment it is clear and capable and the next it is conspiring against you, making foggy what you know to be real. For the last few months I have been trying to grapple with the fact that things are not okay. And coming to terms with the notion that that is okay.

I am the kind of person who takes all of their negative emotions — anger, fear, anxiety — and bottles them up until they inevitably blow the lid off like a shaken soda. It’s a defense mechanism; in order to remain in “control” of my state of mind, I try and suppress emotions that feel heavy. For years, I have thought that this strategy was useful — the ability to control how I feel would also bring the ability to control how I act, or so went my logic. However, the lesson that I am in the process of learning is that by suppressing the bad you must also suppress the good. And this is precisely where I’ve been stuck for months, a self-imposed emotional limbo.

I am also the type of person who feels everything with an intensity that is hard to describe. I am both the embarrassing person who cries over sunsets and mountain ranges — happy tears, of awe and inspiration — and the person who can get caught up for days over the tone of voice someone took while speaking to me. And there is often no in-between. Even though this can be a hard terrain to traverse at times, I’d still argue that it is better than feeling nothing at all. It is better than waking up every morning and feeling no purpose, no enthusiasm. It is better than shutting yourself in your house, constantly avoiding relationships. The only thing that feeling nothing feels like is the slow erosion of the person you once were, exposing a version that is smoother but inherently featureless.

But I believe there is power in recognition, that the act of realization is capable of providing action and change. A lot of the time when you are caught in this middle ground state you can feel hopeless; how can there be hope if you have tried to erase struggle? What I am attempting to do now is to take this freshly exposed cliff face and begin to chisel out the person I know still exists within it— focusing on the details that are essential: both the good parts (the joy, the ambition) and the bad (the pain, the fear). I am reminded that this effort is what the whole human experience is about, what it has always been about: finding solace amidst unfavorable conditions.

A few weeks ago, I walked by a beautiful statue in the city. I had never seen it before. It was clearly inspired by the Greek statues of antiquity: a young man, all muscle, exuding strength and invincibility. However, he was also covered in cracks, along his biceps and some down his legs. But he was not any less intriguing to look at because of them. In fact, the opposite was true — the small fissures added depth and drew from me empathy.

Writer and science communicator living along the Colorado front range. Contact: gorostizajordan@gmail.com

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