When people think of "episodes," they like to think of crime scenes. They imagine gory photos from cramped angles, with pills or razors strewn on counter tops. Smashed glass, chalk on the floor, maybe blood. But not too much blood. They wouldn't want to seem vulgar, now would they? This is a touchy subject, after all.
I don't have that same train of thought. "Episodes" make me think of coffins with the lids still off. They make me think of lying there, in the dark, my arms folded over my heart like Count Dracula. Lying there, waiting -- never quite sure when someone will finally come along and nail me inside.
To be frank, about three weeks ago, I popped like a tick. Not literally, of course, but emotionally. I felt my insides on my outsides, leaking out of me like gore. It happened one bright, cool Monday afternoon before Thanksgiving break. I was sitting alone in the cluttered, gray little office in the guts of the campus library, and, quite suddenly, I knew I was about to pop. I could feel my bones and my skin, my arteries and my tendons -- the loose, generalized construction of me, broken down into constituent parts. And I felt terrified. I couldn't breathe. I wanted to burst out of the coffin I found myself in.
So, anyway. To cut a long story short, I found myself pulling a Holden Caulfield. I was very worried about the ducks in the pond at Central Park, and not covering up the real questions I was asking as well as I thought. Nothing dramatic happened. No crime scenes, no pills, no razors. I waited until the work day was over, drove home, and decided I needed to slow down.
There were a lot of reasons for the "episode" in question. They are all rooted in the reality that I had taken on way too much, way too fast. Work, school, writing, therapy -- therapy, most especially, was why I needed to slow down. I was a raw nerve, still unpacking nearly three decades of guilt and self-loathing and fear, all tangled up in words I've had to choke down for the sake of my own survival. There were just too many coffins to contend with, and I needed to breathe.
So I made some decisions. I've been rather quiet on the subject in public, because people keep congratulating me on how well I've been doing. The Holden Caulfield in me kept talking about everything but the obvious, whether out of fear of being perceived as weak or a disappointment. Whatever. Ducks don't get me anywhere, and neither do coffins.
At the end of the day, I resigned from my post at the library, leaving my position a few weeks earlier than intended. I decided not to come back in the spring. I had a feeling I wouldn't be coming back in the spring regardless, since the job just wasn't a good fit for me. It conflicted with my other personal obligations, such as therapy, and kept me away from my studies. The people were all nice enough, but it wasn't a well-organized office. It was quiet, but stressful for all the reasons writing for a newsletter really shouldn't be. The other student workers were just as stressed out as I was, even for as little as we had to do.
That's never a good sign.
I did learn a few things about myself, while I was there. I think that alone made it worth it, in some small way. As weak and raw as leaving made me feel -- like I'd given up without even trying -- I know it makes more sense to focus on my own well-being than a temporary work-study job at the school library. Sometimes allowing yourself the space to say that aloud, and to believe it, is the biggest challenge of all.
So if you need me, I'll be over here -- remembering to breathe.