Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's Begin With A Little Explanation

"Everyday Panic" is a phrase I started using to describe my general state of being early in November 2011. Weighed down by the depression that typically accompanies a long period of unemployment and creative stagnation, I struggled to channel all that sadness and stress into writing, with limited success. The first thing I wrote within that goal was a deeply personal piece which, true to form, turned out pretty depressing. I am including an abridged, edited version of it, to better explain what I mean when I say "everyday panic."

[DISCLAIMER: This is kind of heavy and, I expect, not terribly fun to read. But I think it's important that I say it now and get it out there. I do not intend for this blog to be All About Depression. It's best to think of this as a little history.]

You know that book that opens with the line about killing the day in accordance with routine? Maybe not. It’s Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, and the translation goes “The day had gone by just as days go by. I had killed it in accordance with my primitive and retiring way of life.” It's an amazing way of putting something. Leave it to a German. It’s such a visceral idea: to kill the day with monotony. I guess I could take comfort in the fact that Hermann Hesse also knew how this feels, but at the same time, Hesse will be remembered forever. I’m still in this state of post-graduate uncertainty, floundering with the rest of my generation, unemployed and unsure. Schrรถdinger’s Cat.

My days are difficult, and they are difficult in the way that Hesse describes. They are burdened by the increasing length of time it’s been since any one of them was marked by anything significant, much like those signs with the adjustable numbers, “no workplace accidents in ___ days.” Of course with those, a bigger number is preferable. With me a big number represents the ever-widening gap between the despair of now and idealism of then. I’m not in college anymore; there is nothing separating me from the reality that I don't really know what I'm doing with my life. And with nothing to distract me, there is nothing to do but think, fixedly, about that. Self-awareness is the bane of my existence. I am so good at figuring myself out that I can beat almost every therapist I’ve had to the punch. I know how to pinpoint the various sources of my grief, and there is nothing extraordinary about any of it. I am an ordinary person who suffers from ordinary post-college malaise, ordinary unemployment and ordinary writer's block. Ordinary depression, ordinary anxiety, ordinary insecurity. As anyone who suffers from these things can attest, knowing that you're not alone doesn't really make you feel better. The misery is still there, lurking. And if you're anything like me, it plants itself in the powder keg of unstable emotions until something small sets it off—going the wrong way in traffic, running a red light, almost getting into a car accident. I don’t know why panic sets in so often in the car, but the car is a terrible place to lose one’s shit. Every day I must treat myself with great delicacy and care, just to avoid falling back down into that dark hole.

The only cure for a panic attack is to get over it.

Everyday panic isn't exactly what it sounds like. It isn't panicking every day. It's a lot quieter. It's the voice in the back of your head that says "you're happy now, but it's not going to last," or "what exactly do you think you're doing?" To suffer everyday panic is to be forever on the edge of panic, tamping it down by succumbing to a dull, relentless existence. It's panicking at your own mundane routine. Becoming painfully aware of your own loss of inertia. It's sort of hard to explain, I guess, in a way that makes sense outside my head. But I am sure there are many people who know exactly what I’m talking about.

(Something I'd like to add now, which didn't occur to me at the time of writing that, is that "everyday panic" doesn't have to be negative. It can also mean staying active, making an effort to stir things up on a daily basis. The panic doesn't have to be mine; it can belong to my characters. And that's a positive thing for me. That's productivity.)

When I originally wrote that I had no intentions of showing it to anyone. But over the past several years, I've started noticing more and more how afraid I am to show people anything. Part of it is a fear of rejection and part of it is my own pathological need to be perfect, which gets me into this space where I have to edit the shit out of everything before I can show it to the world. On the one hand, my insanely high standards mean I tend to produce pretty decent work. On the other hand, no one ever sees it.

So, from out of the void I have created this blog. I don't really know what I'm going to put in it. I don't know if there will be any cohesion to it. But I haven't got anything better to do. So I am going to indulge my panic, internet. And I am going to share it with you.

Onward and upward, as they say.

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