Processing Decisions Without Freezing Up


The current status of my brain


You know when you’re on your computer and you’ve asked it to do eight things at one time and you get that circle that just turns around and around. Your screen is frozen and the circle turns. A part of you knows it’s just processing all of the requests, but after a time you start to wonder: is the machine frozen? Do I have to reboot? Will it eventually process my requests? Or did I just fry the shit out of it?

That’s kind of like my brain now.

I can’t tell if I’m just processing an overwhelming amount of information, or if I’m frozen, waiting to have a breakdown from being overloaded with change and choice. Am I malfunctioning? Because unfortunately, you can’t ctrl+alt+del a human brain.

In fairness to myself, I have a shitload on my plate. Not all bad – just complicated. (And let me note that I’m incredibly aware and grateful that it’s not all bad.) I wasn’t naive as to think going to London would provide a clear future path, but I suppose I did think I would walk away with a clear feeling, a sense of direction. I assumed, based on my previous trips, that London would give me chills inside; would make me feel alive. After all: the accents, the metro, the cobblestone streets. What’s not to love?

The last time I travelled abroad I was in my 20’s. I was depressed, unstable, and self-medicated with alcohol the entire time. All of these things warped my vision. And when I travelled, I saw a place to escape from my demons. Just like going to college across the country, I kept thinking that if I found a new place, far from my geographic life,  I could redefine myself without my depression. The bitch of it is, you can’t escape your demons. Those fuckers will sneak their way into your luggage no matter how hard you zip that baby up.

And being there, fully aware that my challenges, fears, and weaknesses would still confront me, whether on the tube or the London Bridge, was both exhilarating and exhausting. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy London. But I saw the grey now, (and I’m not talking about the fog,) rather than the black and white my bipolar II provided in the past. This isn’t my Mecca anymore. Or maybe there isn’t just one (when working on myself).

Each situation felt different than before – not better or worse, but more engaging and thought-provoking. Was it relaxing? Not really. It was more of a “working vacation” spent attempting to find myself, to face my fears, and to confront my choices.

It was a complicated, thoughtful trip – something I was not expecting. But being self-aware brought a nuance to my time there and allowed me to see my new strengths and continued weaknesses inside myself that I have missed within my daily life here.

Vacation’s over. I’m getting over my jet-lag, getting back to my routines, and have decided to let the circle turn, giving my mind time to process the experiences I had. I’m trying not to freeze up – to understand that just because I don’t have the answers, that my mind is still disorganized and frenetic, doesn’t mean I’m malfunctioning. I just need to take a deep breathe and give myself some more time. Eventually the circle will go away, and the deeper work will begin.

Hanging Pictures: The Power of Objects, Memories, and Emotions

My sibling came to visit my apartment the other day. She noticed I had nothing on my walls and joked it looked like I just moved in when I’ve almost been here a year now. I told her when I first moved in, I didn’t know I would stay; then I thought I might go to London for school so there was no point in setting up shop; and since then, I’ve just been busy. So, true to her expedient fashion, she had me pull out my previous art/frames/etc and decide what to put up and where.

I was hesitant. I told her maybe I had outgrown them. She asked if I still liked them, and I said yes. So we hung it. We put up my two large framed pieces of art, and then she had to go.

I felt uneasy all night. Sitting there in my living room, I kept looking at the art, trying to understand why it was making me feel uncomfortable. It is beautiful art, but I missed my white walls. I generally take an unusual amount of time processing change – yes, even something as simple as art on a wall – so I assumed it was just me trying to accept I might be living here for longer than I expected and why and what that might mean.

I realized walking into the room this morning what it was. It’s lovely art. Very much the style I like. I bought both of these in the first few years I left college and was living in Washington, DC – including the one I lived in before my breakdown. And last I had them up, was the year I was suicidal  in my studio apartment in Berkeley. During those years, I spent many nights and days lying in bed, looking at these paintings. Turned on my side, tears slipping over the ridge of my nose, wondering if I had the energy to take the next breath. I often sat at the bottom my bed, looking across from these paintings, rocking myself, consumed with a hatred that made my stomach ache.

This is a little out there for me, so take it with a grain of salt, but somewhere in their essence, the feeling of my pain still exists. My memories trapped within the paintings still slowly leak out and I remember the emotional, physical and mental anguish I barely survived. Sadly, there aren’t just paintings anymore – they are a past that is constantly breathing on my neck, threatening to consume me again.

Pretty fucking intense for a painting, right? But it does explain why I haven’t put up any pictures of my friends, my family, or poems that friends sent during the past five years to uplift my spirit. Seeing pictures of people I have lost touch with, people I miss, me smiling while knowing what I was experiencing at the time – it’s tainted. I assume over time, when I see these paintings or pictures, I will not forget, but the emotion attached to it will fade and it will just be a fact connected to the painting or picture in my timeline.

So as for the paintings, I figure I have a few options. I can wait a few days and see if the memories fade and it just becomes art again. Take them down and sell them. Maybe look for new art that I can appreciate with my new lens.

But I think maybe I’ll take them down and I won’t put anything up in their place. I’ll just continue to keep my walls white. There is a calm comfort in knowing I don’t have to define myself yet. Acknowledging I am still living in a slightly off-white, unknown. This apartment is a safe space, and I am grateful for it; but it’s a place of transition, at least right now. Maybe some think it feels empty, prison-like, un-lived in. But I guess for me, it’s more of a state of possibility – a literal blank slate.