2016; between a rock and a hard place


Ordinarily I avoid clichés such as “caught between a rock and a hard place” at all costs while writing, but the idiom feels too appropriate both for the upcoming year in general and my own path through it. And since I haven’t written a single damn word these past few months, using a well known turn of phrase in the title here is an acceptable evil. I can live with it.

Between the enduring wars and related displacement of peoples, high temperatures melting polar ice caps, declining honeybee populations worldwide and Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, it’s easy to be frightened of what the future holds. Personally I’m too busy being scared of everything and anything to worry much about whether I’m going to drown, perish in a nuclear apocalypse, or wind up building a wall along my country’s southern border. And yes, I’m Canadian buddeh.

We’re coming up on the three year anniversary of my brain injury and, in the interest of absolute optimism, I’ve made some significant progress. The problem is I have to look at a chart of that progress spanning the entire time period in order to even be aware of it, and I never really feel it. This is the kind of shit you can’t quite understand until you’re living with a debilitating invisible illness.

On the brighter side, I’ve been seeing a new counsellor who has a stronger approach to healing mental health problems, starting with proper diagnosis and understanding. I’m easily distracted by the extreme anxiety I live with every day now, and the bouts of severe depression that strike every so often. I’d never considered that I’m recovering from a series of tightly arranged traumatic stressors. Looking at the past through the frame of how it shaped my mind and my present rather than agonizing over the unfortunate events is much healthier, and I’m grateful for the lens my new counsellor has provided.

Time passes strangely when you’re outside of the world, looking in. In the past three years I haven’t made many new friends, but I have lost many who I thought would be by my side forever. I haven’t adopted any new passions or learned any new skills, but I have allowed my previous skills to rust over. I haven’t held a job for more than two weeks, but I’ve submitted many applications.

The main ordeal I’m faced with now is re-integrating myself and my actions with the rest of society. This ordeal’s engine is my anxiety. It’s hard enough trying to hold a casual conversation with a stranger (or even a friend) while your subconscious is screaming insults. It’s difficult to stay focused when every stressor, even good ones like exercise and mental challenge, causes your skin to itch and seem too tight. It’s hard to interview well for a job if you’re determined to be honest, but the honest truth is that your symptoms would prevent you from being a good employee.

If I’m going to make any really significant, positive changes for myself this year, it will most likely be a year of necessary evils. Maybe if I force myself through enough awkward conversations I’ll have one that really matters. Maybe if I work out enough I can go back to loving exercise and practicing martial arts rather than loathing the mere idea of sweating. Maybe I’ll send out resumes in bulk and go into every interview prepared to paint myself as a picture perfect employee.

Or maybe the planet will be overrun by intelligent apes and I’ll join the fight for human survival.

Honestly… I don’t know which of those “maybes” is the least likely.

I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, and freeing myself will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. These past two years I haven’t had the energy or the aptitude for much… certainly nothing so difficult as reformatting a mind as damaged and disused as my own. But I want to do that work more than anything else…

If our world ended next year, whether in a nuclear apocalypse or a cataclysmic flood or a massive meteor strike… I’d be okay with that, so long as in my last moments I could feel I’d done something meaningful and significant with my life. So I guess I’d better hurry up and get on the path to self-actualization… either that, or uncover a way to assign higher intelligence to lower primates.

Either way, I’m fighting for my freedom, and my place in the world.