I’ve been here panting in the aftermath of our turbulent crescendo for about a month now, since I’ve stripped our daily lives of unnecessary burdens and outside drama, and I’ve been working overtime to get my mind on an even keel for any amount of time. And this week I looked around and realized that, without any of the usual chaos, it is really, really quiet.
Almost too quiet.
It’s freaking me out. A lot, actually.
There’ve been no meltdowns or huge eruptions of emotion or external upheaval or feelings like I’m on the brink of death… There’s just been serenity and level-headed normalcy and general contentment for longer than I can remember.
It dawned on me that the chaotic, emotionally-exhausting lifestyle was one I’d lived consistently since I was an early adolescent; in that time, I only “found myself” or identified who I “really am” in my escapes into creativity or some other outpouring away from the messy restlessness of my ongoing circumstances. (Admittedly and as aforementioned, I learned how to participate in these dysfunctional cycles and how to kick back at the broken people I encountered who caught me blindsided and I started acting like that sort of monster, too, even toward the few people who weren’t steeped in self-loathing. It got to be pretty abysmal… I digress…)
And now things are just sort of steady. And non-chaotic. And okay.
And I have absolutely no bloody idea how to maintain this sort of lifestyle. I feel completely naked and unprepared. Obviously, I know the rules and what’s expected of me and how it’s all supposed to work; I just feel like I’m involved with a very detailed role-play exercise to see how I do in a “healthy” environment. I expect notes and feedback at the end of the day’s session…
I’ve been candid with my support unit about deciding to no longer dive into my usual distractions in the course of recovery, which, strangely, involves me not hurling myself into yet another altruistic endeavor, as I have used those as a means to validate myself in my ongoing fear I have nothing real to offer anyone if I’m not physically giving them anything, (I call it my “Oprah Complex”.) So I’m doing what they teach people to do post-rehab, which is how to take care of yourself, how to coexist in a group environment, and how to re-form an identity without hiding behind vices.
I realized I had all the time in the world to myself this week to do whatever I wanted, and I suddenly felt unsure of what that was. It wasn’t like usual, where I felt too much guilt to do something I wanted to and would do it with a ton of anxiety; nor was it like when I’m depressed when nothing sounds interesting to me… I just… I knew a bunch of things I’ve always wanted to get around to doing and playing with and had absolutely no idea where to start…at all.
So I did laundry. And I read a little. And I did some housecleaning. And I wrote a letter to my incarcerated pen pal.
And I was bored.
And that’s awful. Do I need to have a clinically crazy, dysfunctional lifestyle to be mentally stimulated and/or have a mind capable of flourishing?
The thing is, I’m pretty sure this quiet contentment/stability is what I’ve been working toward in recovery all these years. This is what people want. This is that routine people talk about and the day-in-day-out lifestyle that people say they thrive in.
This should feel like a blank canvas. I realize people would kill for this variety of luxury, especially at my age. Instead, I feel like I’m driving on a very wide, open desert road with no particular destination, and I’m almost out of gas… And I can only get AM radio…
Mental illness is the only medical issue in which full recovery involves extracting the patient from an alternate reality. Nobody warned me I’d be leaving entirely.