“Your spirit animal… must be a slug.” JSM
The power of stress. I’m amazed how debilitating and life altering it can be. Anxiety. Depression. Physical pain. Panic attacks. Loss of sleep. Loss of appetite. Loss of fun.
Stress is a serial killer. It cares not for it’s victims and is wholly indiscriminate. It can attack any time, any place, to anyone under the right circumstance, can make the sane go crazy and can be crippling when encountered. At my worst, I’ve feared stress and it’s unholy powers.
Sometimes my levels were so high and out of control, my hands shook all the time. My jaw trembled. My knees felt weak. My body quivered and twitched as though I was loaded up on caffeine. I shivered and shuddered in the summer heat. My sleeping patterns were broken, food tasted like dirt and all I could do was think. I remember being so lost in thought, my eyes would dart and move around the room, watching the Overlay appear across every wall.
Clips of full motion movies would materialize around me and my mind allowed each one to play out. I’d rewind the movie back a few frames and change a line of dialogue to witness how different the scene would be.
If I said “this”, how would my co-worker react?
Cause and effect scenarios.
I was out of my mind. No denying that.
To make matters worse, people from the old life found it necessary to send me messages, emails, and phone calls to ask questions, and keep me informed of what’s happening in the world. Shit I cared not to hear. Shit that had nothing to do with me. I don’t blame others for dragging me into the world. Everyone does what they feel is best for them.
I memorized every inch of the safe-house. I tip toed the halls, rooms and found every creak and groan in the floorboards and stairs. I walked with my eyes closed, hands out to either side to navigate the house in the dark if ever needed. I made mental notations of chipped paint and bubbling wallpaper, and nails hammered flat into the interior framework. I made the safe-house a home.
The safe-house needed a new name. I called it the island. Anything beyond the island’s outer beach was an ocean of potential danger.
Some came to visit the island now and again, but never stayed long. I was OK with that. I made folks uncomfortable and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to sit and socialize. I couldn’t talk about my problems. I couldn’t emote. I had difficulties looking people in the eye. I’d start to speak and shut down, “Never mind,” and my thoughts wandered elsewhere forcing uncomfortable silence.
If someone dragged me to a therapist at that moment in life, I’d probably have been diagnosed with depression, and more than likely something that resembles a split personality disorder of some kind. I’m certain of it. Oh yeah… and I had paranoid delusions.
I was paranoid. To be frank, delusional as well. I was terrified of more “bad” happening to me when I least expected it. Someone, or something else, or some happenstance I didn’t see coming. I tried to prepare for every negative thing, but came to the conclusion it was impossible. No one can feasibly prepare for EVERYTHING…
… let’s try anyway.
I left a digital fingerprint wherever I went. I logged into my work computer, proved I was there by time stamping my documents, and when I left for lunch breaks or local errands I’d make a withdrawal from an ATM along the way or visit a store even if I didn’t need anything. Allowing a trail of breadcrumbs to be scattered around me so no one could ever question my whereabouts. I’d have a concrete alibi for everything. I kept my wanderings and travels covered in some way to ensure my safety. I remained within close proximity to the island and guaranteed I couldn’t be wrongfully accused of anything.
Each time I parted company with a co-worker, or after a meeting, I’d look to the clock on the wall and say, “OK. See you in fifteen minutes. Leaving the building at 1:20.” In the event they were ever questioned, they had a point of time reference.
“No, sir. He was here at 1:15. Standing right here beside me.”
I parked under dome cameras attached to the sides of buildings, supermarkets and banks, to ensure nothing happened to my car, or myself, and only left the island when needed.
Seems like a million years ago.
Each time I’d open the door to “home” I had to look around the property to make sure I didn’t have anyone running up on me. Watching over my shoulder as I turned the key for entry. I closed every open blind, pulled all the curtains shut and separated them now and again to give the property another once over from the inside, before committing to sitting down.
Ho boy those were the days, my friends, those were the days.
The new phone issued from work would ring, and my stomach would drop to the floor. Nausea and dizziness trapped me in my seat. A heavy weight paralyzing me in one spot. Bill collector? Another problem? Who needs me now? What do you want? Just leave me be, damn it!
I allowed Shelby to filter through all the unwanted, unexpected visitors.
Salesmen. The good folk of the neighborhood distributing fliers promoting their faith or alternate energy opportunities and campaigners for upcoming elections. The dog took care of them. One thing can be said for a Mastiff. They can be scary.
Towards the end of the fourth week, the stress of life made my nose bleed. All self inflicted. I couldn’t release my burden. I wasn’t able. I wanted to carry it as far as I could go before breaking.
Self induced torture.
The nose bleed was a wake up call indicating drastic measures were in order. Despite my state of mind, I never wanted to die. However, I felt as though I needed to suffer.
Two things happened shortly into the second month. An old friend reconnected with me and a singular stitch was sewn through the flesh of my open wounds.
And I met, Nancy.
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