***If you have not read the post on Hyperbole and a Half by Allie, you need to read it. She is much funnier, and more brilliant, than I am***
You never really know something is wrong with you until some tells you there is something wrong, or, you have a nervous breakdown. Of course, there are the few lucky ones that get both. That's me. A lucky one. The (short) story goes like this:
I'm 19. Like all good Mormon boys, I'm driving through Nevada on my way to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) with my parents. For the next two years, I'll be in central Mexico teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Last place I ever wanted to go in the world for my mission, but whatever, I made up my mind I was going, so it didn't matter. But already, something is wrong with me. I'm sick. Or I think I'm sick. The whole driver out I'm nauseous. Don't want to eat, don't want to talk, I just want to sleep forever. But, once we're there, and my parents leave, and it's just me and an empty room waiting for my companion and roommates, I'm fine. I can breathe. I want to eat everything that has ever been made, twice. Ever. I feel right.
Skip ahead two months. We're off to Mexico. I'm in charge of the flight group. I have to make sure myself and seven other missionaries make the flight exchanges, blah blah blah, and that we all get there. And I do. We almost miss our flight out of Hermosillo. I'm the last one on the plane. But still, everything is fine. Normal anxiety, nothing I can't handle.
Then, something happened. A shift. The whole world change its axis one percent of one degree, but somehow I missed it. My body didn't adjust. Them, I had my first panic attack (except I don't know that's what it was at the time):
Me and my companion are sitting in a small house, and everyone is speaking Spanish, and try as hard as I do, I can't understand a single thing anyone says here because they all speak so fast, and no one will slow down so I can understand, and I'm too afraid to try and ask for help because they can't understand my terrible gringo accent. So I sit on this couch, and hear them speaking, but I don't listen. My chest hurts. I can't breathe. My face his hot, even in the sweltering humidity, but I don't sweat too much. Not like my companion, the native from Mexico City, who melted all day, every day. I can't look at anyone, and they don't look at me, because I'm silent. Rather, I stare at the floor, at these children's Spanish flash cards. And the one on top: borracho. All I can think about is that word, and the drawing of man slumped against a wall, a bottle with three X's on it, and a hat over his face. I read that word over and over, concentrating on the spelling, the pronunciation, the drunk guy unconscious. I want to run, I should run, I need to run. But I don't.
After an hour, we leave. And the attack subsides. But I don't know what's wrong. I feel strange. Heavy. Off center.
This happens again. And again. I'm only there for a month, but I have more panic attacks than I can count. I'll spare the details, but after five weeks, I came home. I don't know why or how, I was only told when my flight was leaving.
When I landed (12 hours after departure) in Sacramento, my mother asked if I knew why I was home. I said that I didn't. She told me I was sent me home for depression.
First day in counseling, my counselor tells me I have anxiety. Never heard of it, at least not in the way that I had heard about depression. People get anxious, nervous, social situations can be difficult; people rank public speaking as the second scariest thing in the world, next to death (right?); but I didn't know anything about anxiety. We talk, and little scenes in my life start making sense. Why I've reacted to certain situations the way I have, or do.
But the counseling doesn't help. I'm still getting panic attacks. Still uncomfortable. Still off.
Now, skip ahead nine years. I've been taking medication for the last two years. It keeps me level. I've had friends tell me that anti-depressants make it so they can't feel anything, the whole world is just gray and flat and bland; it's nothing like that. I can think clearer, or I guess more rational, about certain situations. Things still make me uncomfortable, but I can deal. And it's been good. The wife has been happier with me, and I've been happier with. I've just generally been happier.
I started this new job. A good job. A job I've been looking for since I graduated. I am a teacher. Now, this is not the ideal teaching job by any means, but it's good. The faculty are nice, and the students (on a whole) are decent. I didn't even have to interview, a good friend who works there referred me to her boss, and I was hired on the spot. Had to prepare to classes over the weekend, but whatever, that's life. Only, now I've been sick (like going to the MTC when I was 19 sick) for the last week. A nausea I can't get rid. Constant. I don't want to eat. I can't sleep. Today my mother pointed out that I don't have dark circles, but black circles under my eyes. And I do. I've tried taking Norco to help me sleep. It's worked before. But this time, nothing. I feel my skin tingle, and I know the medication is in my blood, thinning everything, trying to put me under, but my brain is going through every possible scenario for the next day, and week, writing and rewriting stories, quoting movies to itself, all while playing eight different albums on repeat simultaneously. I can't turn it off.
And here's the best part: when I'm in class, teaching, standing up in front of these students (half of which are older than me) and trying to inspire them with something, I feel fine. No problem. But if I sit down, give them twenty minutes for a quick write or something, the nausea comes back. Prepping for class is impossible. Right now I should be reading the chapters for Monday, but I am too anxious about the class to read. I feel sicker when I prepare a lesson. I have the occasional panic attack, and have to leave the house. But I can't go anywhere, because I have Katherine. I just want to quit, not because it's not a good job, but because my body is destroying itself. Granted, I don't think my lack of eating helps, but I do what I can. Sounds stupid, I know. Believe me, I know. That's what I can't understand. I know logically nothing bad can happen, this is just a job, like any other job. Whatever, no big deal. And yet, my body grabs logic by the throat and squeezes until all that is left a headache.
I don't want people to know how bad this is getting, because I don't want to upset Steph. All she's ever wanted for her life is to be a mother. To stay home, keep house, raise kids, and just be all around amazing. And she is amazing. And she has put up with more from me than most parents will put up with with their kids. I want her to be happy. And that's why I'm still trying. But all I did is bounce around about jobs, I get her hopes up that we are moving forward with our lives, and think I panic, and back down, and the process starts all over again. And, to top it off, I'm getting worse. I don't know what to do. For her. For me. For everyone else. Because being a middle class white Mormon boy, I'm expected to do five things with my life, and nothing else: get married, get a good paying job (either Lawyer, Dentist, Doctor, or Accountant), make some babies, raise my family in the Church, and watch/talk about sports. Everything else is superfluous. Knowing the word superfluous is superfluous. But I'm not that person. Anyone who has ever met me, knows that I am not that person, and no amount of counseling or drugs or unsolicited advice could make me into that person. Square peg, round hole situation.
So. Now I'm here. I want to talk about this, but I don't feel like I'm supposed to. I'm not supposed to have anxiety about this job. I'm not supposed to want to quit. I'm not supposed to be unhappy running in circles for Capitalism on a track build out of the bones of dead children (I get eccentric sometimes, it's fine). I'm not supposed to want to be an artist, doing amazing new creative things to show the people that even though the world is a black hole consuming beauty, there are a few people still out there pouring more wonder into the ethers in hope that something will stick, and a piece of the world will change - if only for a moment - and we'll be better for it. I'm not supposed to yearn for hermitude. I'm not supposed to define technology and encourage people to use pens and pencils, to talk instead of text, to hang out and play games and laugh, rather than watch TV. I'm not supposed to condemn sports as a waste of time. I'm not supposed to love books, and poetry, and art, and beauty, and sex, and everything sensual the world has to offer.
But I am. And I do. And I don't know what to do.