Stress Engine

I need a third gear. Right now I have gear one: pessimism and gear two: apathy. It would be nice to find a third gear labeled something along the lines of “optimism” or “determination.” Either would be appreciated.

It seems my reactions to anything remotely stress-inducing are locked in those two gears. The pessimism can include guilt, shame, fear and despair. The guilt and shame can often lead to the despair. In turn, the apathy is often a secondary state that locks in after feeling one of these pessimistic emotions. It’s an avoidance reaction. I begin to reject emotions to preserve some sense of calm.

Ultimately, even if I manage to achieve this calm, it doesn’t last. I haven’t dealt with the problem- with the trigger that required activating this two-geared “stress engine.” So things cool down until such a time as it becomes impossible to ignore/avoid the trigger and then the engine starts again.

In a way I am sometimes bitter about this level of clarity that I can achieve. I see exactly what I am doing to myself and then I don’t stop doing it. I know that’s it easier to have insight than it is to have change and I know that insight is at least progress but knowing and feeling something are not always the same. The logic can be sound, but the visceral reaction to the logic can still veer in another direction.

From a logic standpoint, I get that I need to keep trying. I get that patterns aren’t unlearned from just one instance. I get that repetition is a necessary part of managing my illness. I get it. But at the same time it feels so tiring. It feels like I’m racking up more and more failures instead of successes. It feels like a struggle without end.

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Apathetically Speaking

Apathy is a cage, apathy is a labyrinth, apathy is a fog… I am trying to accurately capture what it feels like to be apathetic. My little pc dictionary here says “indifferent and unenergetic: not taking any interest in anything, or not bothering to do anything.” That is verging on meta, as that definition itself is apathetic. When I look at the synonyms, though, I find that the nuances have hit on the experience. I see the word “lethargic” and I see the word “dispirited.” Yes, now we’re getting somewhere. Dispirited is a beautiful expression of what I mean when I say I am apathetic. I am drained of spirit. Not entirely devoid, but certainly drained. At times down to the dregs of spirit. When I am feeling it, trying to regain my vigor is like trying to catch rain in a strainer.

The one word that I saw in the list of synonyms that I take issue with is “lazy.” That strikes me as a callous interpretation of a person’s apathy. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I’m being generous and self-serving with my definition. Still, this is my definition. Trying to put this phenomenon into words is a headache. Stripping it down to basics, I could say: “I care that I don’t care but I don’t care enough to change that I don’t care.” And I care about that too. And I can’t be sure if I’m better off not caring. Popular sentiment would probably argue that I would be better off caring, but then I don’t care about popular sentiment either.

It’s not feeling nothing. It’s feeling empty. Sometimes it crosses over into bitterness, and I find I can twist a wry sense of humor out of the situation. Most of the time, though, it is a feeling that stands me at the edge of melancholy. I teeter there and dream of falling forward, because at least then it would be living something substantial. It’s not a healthy thing to be dreaming, but any notion of moving the other way… towards passion, towards joy, seems in those moments to be utterly beyond me.

The most disheartening thing about feeling apathetic is the knowledge that I drove myself to this. I wrestled with my emotions, I saw my own pain and the pain of other people and I made an effort to stamp out the flames that I feared would burn me. I swallowed my tears and I tucked away my anger because it was all too much for me to stand. I didn’t want to be awash in my feelings. I wanted to drive a wedge between me and passion. For years I wanted it. Now I have it. But what I have, I can’t control. It comes down between me and the world according to its own whims. It dampens its fair share of anxiety and sadness but it also dampens my compassion, my humour and my love.

Dancing the indifference dance

Dancing the indifference dance

I don’t care

If you don’t care

Do you care?

I’ll care

If you do

I can’t tell

If you’re dancing with me

Or

Is that just the way you are?

Is that just the way you are?

Or

If you’re dancing with me

I can’t tell

If you do

I’ll care

Do you care?

If you don’t care

I don’t care

Dancing the indifference dance