Wednesday, June 30

The Summer I Gave Up.

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(I hope you're in the mood for some stream-of-consciousness.)

For the last few months, I’ve been at war with myself. Ironically, neither side is winning.

On one hand, you have the Ryan that is trying dearly to have a relaxing Summer. Ever since I found out from my Physician that my weight, cholesterol and bilirubin have all gone up, I made a vow to quell my round-the-clock anxiety and take as much time as possible for myself. I’ve been getting eight hours of sleep a night. I stopped drinking excessively. I’ve been exercising more. I’ve been eating right, and most importantly, I’m reducing unnecessary stress at every corner.

As soon as I get home from work, I change into running shorts and a t-shirt. I stay off the Internet and relax on the couch. I read my mail, take a walk and eat a decent dinner. If the house is messy, I’ll clean it up later. I sometimes take a 45-minute shower and not shave for days on end. This is not typical behavior from me. From the looks of it, you would think that I’ve gotten divorced. Truth is, I’m just trying to invite a little laziness and tranquility into my life, and maybe stave off the heart attack for another year or two.

On the other hand, you have the Ryan that’s running against the clock. My book needs to be finished by the end of the year, and it’s going to take a sprint in order to achieve this goal. Essays need to be written. Drafts need to be proofread. Cover art needs to be completed. The self-publishing process is long, annoying and time-intensive, yet it seems that I’m never in the mood or creative frame of mind in which to tackle anything remotely resembling it. It’s not Writer’s Block, it’s more like apathy mixed with a migraine.

Therein lies the cruel irony. When I’m trying to relax, I get anxious thinking about all the work I need to be doing, and how big of I loser I am for shelving my projects. When I’m trying to work, all I can think about is taking a nap or doing something, anything to get me away from the computer. Either way, I feel miserable, and neither of my long-term goals are being accomplished. I am at war with myself, and neither side is winning.

Generally, you (or I) would look at this situation as nothing more than a minor inconvenience. I mean, the book’s going to get done eventually. I’m not wasting away from some terminal illness. And while money’s tight, it’s not like I’m starving to death. I should take stock and optimism in all the things going right in my life which allow me to stress over such seemingly minuscule tribulations. This is not typical behavior from me. I’m more of the ‘piss and moan until the ulcer starts bleeding’ type of guy, and that’s really not helping things, either. For the first time in years, I’m in a spiral of negativity, apathy and anxiety, and while I know I’ll break free eventually, I’m beginning to wonder what it’s going to take.

In times like this, I usually look over to the Missus to see what she’s up to. A glance will reveal that she’s busier, more productive and goal-driven as ever. She’s in a new office position that she enjoys. She’s been earning extra money by doing side projects that she would probably do for free. Hell, she’s even volunteering her time at a local animal shelter, rehabilitating ducks and squirrels every Tuesday night. This is not typical behavior from her. The tables, it seems, have been turned between the two of us. What tipped the axis of the Zeinert household to cause such a switcheroo?

In recent weeks, I’ve experimented with many different methods in which to jumpstart my ambition, while still allowing myself amble decompression time. I’ve been waking up earlier and giving myself more time to prepare for the work day. I’ve been deleting shows from my DVR queue like crazy, forcing myself into a Subterfuge Solitude so I have no choice but to write out of boredom. I’ve been gobbling up vegetarian multivitamins that taste like absolute shit. Whatever it takes to instigate some sort of change in my motivation. This is not typical behavior from me. I usually run on fumes, have enough time for everything I need to do, and feel no twinge of slackerdom whatsoever. The culprit continues to elude me.

Perhaps it’s good-old depression; the disorder I haven’t felt since the Winter of 2000. Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard for me to dust myself off and come out swinging. Maybe it’s a legit chemical imbalance that I have little-to-no control over, and I either need to ride it out or get some help. But…what am I depressed about? I don’t feel clinically depressed. I mean, I feel a little fat and my knees hurt, but that doesn’t seem like enough shame to flip some deep-rooted Emo Switch in my cerebrum. I’m confused. I’m unsure of my body and I don’t really know what I can do to fix it. This is not typical behavior from me. Short of taking care of myself and laying off the existential thinking for a few nights, I’m stumped.

As my mind continues to search for answers in the present, it is keeping me from focusing intently on the past, which I need constant access to when it comes to writing essays. Therefore, I’ve been at a standstill, and my only logical answer is to let the apathy in and ride it out until it decides to leave me alone. So, until further notice, I have officially given up. I’m playing a lot of Tetris and Rock Band, watching syndicated reruns of television shows I didn’t even enjoy when they were new, and I more or less shuffle around the house like I’m stacked to the rafters with Xanax. This is my only chance of survival. The demon cannot be exorcised until I’m fully possessed; either I’ll emerge victorious or hit rock bottom with no chance of resurfacing. It’s a fight to the death, and I’m all in.

This is typical behavior for me.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. Come back Friday for a fun little announcement, and a peek into what the CDP has in store for the remainder of July.

Comments:
I can kind of relate, I guess. While at school this year I fell into a similar funk. On one hand I wanted to work hard to get caught up with my peers (if you can believe it, most physics majors have taken advanced math and science courses by the time they enter university) and make a name for myself at my university. Being at research university staffed with world-renown physicists working on the most prominent projects from around the world, the opportunities were there for the taking and I knew that making it in the world of undergraduate physics was equal parts talent and networking so I also knew I had to work hard. On the other hand, I found it difficult to will myself to do much of anything and I often found myself unable to go to class because of panic attacks and fits of anxiety that left me immobilized in bed. I don't know why. I was happy to be away from home and on my own, I was happy to be in an environment with so many like-minded and interesting people and I was happy to be doing some hardcore knowledge-building and experiencing. This is what I've wanted to be doing for almost all of high school so by all stretches of the mind I should have been ecstatic, yet I found myself overwhelmed by an inexplicable feeling that can be described as a mix of apathy and anxiety that made me really just want to lock myself in my room, explode, spontaneously reassemble and repeat the process.

Eventually I ended up seeing a psychiatrist at the campus health center once a week. I think some of the stuff she said to me was bullshit, but she gave me a lot of insight as to how I think and made me aware of a lot of thought patterns in my mind that may have played a part in my extraordinarily inconvenient depression-like state. I only saw her for a month and a week before the semester ended and I found myself back at home. I've tried seeing two different psychos since I've been back but one tried to make me Christian again and the other stood me up for an appointment and stopped returning m phone calls (dead? scared? ??). Meanwhile I'm sitting at home dreading my existence while my endless unfinished projects and fruitless ventures stack up around me both in a literal and a figurative sense and with no plans to return to school in the fall. I believe form follows function, so I've been doing all I can to get into a good frame of mind so I can get my shit together, but one minor stress like "oh shit I'm not going to finish my degree in four years" or "fuck, why am I even writing this I'm not good enough how could I ever think I was good enough" or "Carly will you walk the dog and wash the dishes and clean the cat's anus and do this and that and fuck all" is enough to set off a chain reaction in my mind powerful enough to reduce Leningrad to rubble and ruin an entire day. Meanwhile my friends all have jobs at the fucking White House or internships in London or Bucharest or some shit or they're preparing for college and too absorbed in their own success and ambitions to be bothered by my condition or even understand it. I don't even understand it.

So I know you have grown-up problems of your own but your plight isn't singular. I don't know exactly your situation but I recommend finding a psychiatrist. Even if you feel like a fag or think they're talking out their ass (usually you aren't and usually they are) it can still be helpful in ways you would never expect. Unfortunately, no one will be able to help you when I inevitably reduce you to a pile of crying sweater-vests with my Tetris skills. ¯\(º_o)/¯
 
Thanks a lot for your thoughts; I really appreciate that.

As far as my problems are concerned, allowing myself the opportunity to vent about them (like this) from time to time helps in a way that's borderline magical to me. I whine and complain a bit, we all start sharing stuff, and we all eventually feel a little better. I'm going to be fine. You helped.

I'm not going to analyze your anxiety, because it seems you have a logical handle on it (and are at least trying to take the necessary steps to quell it). The combination of positive self-confidence and self-worth is mandatory for survival in a place where you're working in tandem with hundreds of people that are smarter (and dumber) than you. You have what it takes.

And hey, don't measure your accomplishments by what your friends are doing/have done. That's bullshit and unfair to you. Your life is hard enough to live without constantly comparing it to everyone else's. Do your thing, little lady.
 
I totally get this. My husband experiences this ALL THE TIME, especially now that we've sort of made long-term plans to move to the northeast and I'm actively job searching. He's got this cross of angst and ennui that I call "First World Malaise", where he wants to do everything and nothing all at the same time, but just ends up in this giant defeatest funk being cranky and unsatisfied with life in general. My solution generally is to give him something to look forward to - a trip, a hobby, a purchase, a work assignment that plays to his strengths. Basically, I say, do what you need to do in order to get yourself in the right frame of mind. I agree with Cargirl a little on the psychiatrist thing, if only really on the premise that talking to a neutral party with no prior knowledge of you, especially someone who does that for a living although it doesn't always have to be, can sometimes help you weed through the issues and get to the heart of what the problem really is.
 
Our insure pays for you to see a psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist/whateverist...may as well give it a try. I agree with Maus that a neutral third party might give you some perspective on your thinking patterns, like Carly said. You are very smart and already KNOW what your "problem" is and are aware of your destructive patterns, but a third party might be able to help you be more productive and deal with the hand of cards you've been dealt. I don't know! Whatever makes you happy, I say :)
 
MAUS - Your husband sounds a lot like me; this stuff just seems to pop up every few months. For me, the therapy is in the writing, so just getting it out there and chatting about it really puts my mind at ease. Just by writing this down, I've already began work on my next CDP project. Weird how that works.
 

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