Updated: May 25, 2020
Friends, I have no idea how I’m doing this.
And by this, I mean sitting upright on a couch writing to you all. How the hell am I not lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling? Maybe crying, maybe not. Definitely not feeling at all creative or determined. A miserable, understandably paralyzed lump.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I have a long history of anxiety and catastrophic thinking. Though I couldn’t always control it, it has cost me time, money, friends (perhaps for the best in that case), and peace of mind. But everything I’ve been anxious about in the past has been much, much less serious than what we’re dealing with now. What’s more serious- or scary- than a global pandemic? I’m sure many of us are pondering that question.
I, for one, have a very clear answer, or rather, two answers: blowing my sobriety, and losing my mind. I’ve been flirting with the possibility of both here and there these past few weeks. What’s the harm of having a beer? Who would know? It would make the anxiety easier to handle, right? And who on earth would blame me if I barricaded myself away, refused to interact, cried myself to sleep, careened down a mental spiral of death counts and Hazmat suits?
I almost hit that point eight days ago. I could feel the cement weight on my chest. I could see the demons of depression creeping up on me, ready to suck all the joy from my reality. And I could hear the whisper of alcohol beckoning back into oblivion and some serious trouble. But I had to go to work. My recovery program’s mantra “Do the next right thing” got me off my bed. I walked to my closet to get some clothes and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on my door. Five more words hit me like a sledgehammer. “NOT THIS TIME, YOU MOTHERF*CKERS.”
Often with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, you don’t have a choice in how you feel all the time. But at that moment, and the many moments that have followed, I realized I had a choice. A choice to fight. I didn’t have to lay down and let fear, anxiety, and panic grind me into the floor. I could trust in my Higher Power, or God in my view. I could be productive, creative, and brave. I could work. I could support people and businesses. I could laugh with friends on video and on the phone, play with my cats, make silly videos of me singing to brighten other people’s lives. And yeah, I tend to hit a low around 2:30 PM each day where I lay on my bed, stare at the ceiling and ask, “WHY?” but then I clamber my way back out of the hole by the grace of God and the work I’ve done. No booze. No giving up. It’s time to RAGE.
Maybe it seems totally over the top, I honestly believe that my struggles with bipolar disorder and alcohol over the past ten years have been in preparation for this exact historical moment. Without it, I would be useless to my friends, family, or anyone else to which my sphere of influence might extend. We all have a responsibility to do the best we can right now, and although I’m gonna falter sometimes, I think I can truly say that I am ready this time. You motherf*ckers.
To wrap up, this quote by Peter Kreeft is inspired by Christian tradition, but I think it can have significance for other spiritual journeys in this time:
“The point of our lives in this world is not comfort, security, or even happiness, but training. Not fulfillment, but preparation. It’s a lousy home, but it’s a fine gymnasium…The point in this life is not be happy, but to become real, like The Velveteen Rabbit; to be tamed by God like the fox says in The Little Prince. God doesn’t want perfect performances, but loving persons. He is not a stage manager, but a lover. The singer counts more than the song. The universe is a soul-making machine, a womb, an egg. Jesus didn’t make it into a rose garden when He came, though He could have. Rather, He wore the thorns from this world’s gardens.”
Fight with kindness. Fight with gentleness. But also, with fire. Stay safe, everyone.