I’ve been dropping out lately. It could be staring at the monotonous white tile wall while in the shower or my keyboard prior to typing this or a green light at an intersection. Guess you could say I’ve been quite low – and never being one for asking help – so I mustered up the energy to draft this entry. Lord knows I’m not in the mood to change out of the clothes I’ve been wearing for the past four days, shower, or make food.
About half of my twenties have been filled with sickness, depression, and loneliness. Maybe that’s normal but according to what I see, it doesn’t appear that way.
I’m thoroughly convinced that without a vibrant social life or definitive purpose in life, one’s vitality is essential for well-being. Normally, I’m full of energy; run a few miles in the morning, yoga by lunchtime, work done by dinner, and a good book in the evening. It’s kept me in good shape most of my life and can be done without relying on anyone else, which is the best way to stay consistent, no? In my early twenties, I seldom considered what life would be like if I was no longer able to do any of these things. Which brings me here today.
Who knew that when I grew up I’d be a collector of incurable autoimmune diseases?
Eight months ago, I started flaring up again. It comes out of nowhere and I tend to be extremely reluctant to put my workouts on hold or drastically change my diet. I tell myself, “Who knows how long this one will last? No need to turn your world upside down. That’ll only stress you out and make matters worse!” But everything gets worse anyway.
I know the drill by now.
- Chronic pain
- Foggy head
- Sleep loss
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
Besides rent, main expenditures switch from weekend events to pricey medical bills. (Gotta pay up for all the poking and prodding. Yay America.) It’s a sensible change since I never feel like going out anymore. Sure, some days are better than others but for the most part, socializing sucks up all my energy. In short, I become a diminutive shadow of my former self.
I feel ugly, sick, and stupid.
These are no easy feats to overcome. And it helps explain why I’ve been single for over 2 years now. And I should clarify what I mean by “single” because many people have adopted this word for other (more upbeat) means.
To me, it doesn’t mean serial dating. It doesn’t mean taking time to “find yourself.” It doesn’t mean that relationship you carry that’s not official or serious. It doesn’t mean a post-break up fling with a recent ex. And it doesn’t always mean a personal choice.
It does mean being in the market for a partner. It does mean crushing rejection. It does mean forgetting what holding someone’s hand feels like (let alone everything else). It does mean getting a look of unease from someone whenever they realize you seek love and intimacy like everyone else. It does mean feeling shame when you’re labelled as a cis white male who has supposedly benefited from the patriarchal subjugation of women. It does mean feeling a failure as a man for not being assertive enough. It does mean cursing yourself for wishing others would approach you for once. It does mean losing a sense of connection with others. It does mean forgetting how to communicate and deliver suave repartee that men are expected to know. And it can mean a lack of choice.
The way you navigate the world on a daily basis morphs as well. Stimuli that bring back memories of intimacy can be uplifting but they tend to be followed by a crippling crash. I don’t expect everyone to understand this but if our experiences were identical, I guarantee you would.
For example, on my morning subway commute, a woman’s scent may traverse the train car and get to me, causing a flood of feelings of how life was like when I had someone to call late at night, or someone to hold when the doctors found a tumor in my mom’s brain. Unintended touches from strangers yield similar effects. Maybe it’s the barista’s hand slightly grazing mine as she hands back my credit card, or someone brushing against my shoulder exiting the train. To be sure, I NEVER seek this out, as that would be a violation of personal space and vastly immoral. Regardless, I’m ashamed of these flooding memories and feelings from strangers, as it has nothing to do with them. Essentially, I’m triggered by these sensations since they are rare.
A note for all you happy-go-lucky extroverts that read this and think dude, you think waayyyyyyy too much. Live a little.
I fully understand the power of getting out of one’s head. Believe you me. Granted, that’s all I need to do but what I’m expressing is a long-term, formless feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, and dejection stemming from physical ailments and other circumstances that are only partially in my control. Therefore, it’s less about therapy, improv classes, meditation, support groups, etc. and more about riding this shitty wave out, welcoming that bewildering shock that comes from crashing on the shore, dusting myself off, and beginning again.
In the interim, I occasionally write to remind myself I’ve been here before, will be here again (hopefully, not too soon), and survival is most probable. Rinse and repeat; just add water; set it and forget it.
Such is life.
-Single Guy in NYC