Monday, January 12, 2015

The Upswing

Lately, I’ve noticed that my life is going in a positive direction. Things aren’t perfect or ideal, but I was given an insight during a counseling session last week. My therapist said something that seems really obvious, but it struck a chord with me. He was talking about my life and comparing how I seem now compared to when I first saw him over two years ago. Back then, I was depressed every day it seemed. I was failing classes, I had no motivation, no clear direction, I hated my college, hated my job, ended up breaking down and quitting that job as well as others, and things felt very hopeless.

Fast forward to a few months back. I started seeing my therapist again after quitting Teavana to work as a baker at Panera. After my third shift, I had a meltdown and plunged into depression and anxiety. Depression about being stuck in terrible jobs the rest of my life and never escaping. Anxiety about showing up to my next shift. I’d compare it to being burned by a hot stove. Once you get scorched, you’re hesitant to touch it again, you know? Even if that stove is the means by which you receive income.
So you wonder, what could have been so bad about being an overnight baker? Yes, it was an overnight job, so that could suck. But I chose it knowing it’d be overnight. I thought it’d be good for me for some reason. I really just wanted a way out of Teavana at the time because I felt the stove warming up there. But at Panera, I didn’t have anyone yelling at me or treating me bad. It wasn’t during the day, so there weren’t customers being dicks to me. So what could have been so bad about it all?
It’s difficult to describe, I guess, because I don’t truly know how to say it all. It was all in my head. The anxiety, the dread, the self-destructing self esteem, the feelings of being so little and insignificant and powerless and caged inside those walls slaving away. And then I’d think about how selfish those feelings were because so many people don’t have jobs and would be grateful to have landed any sort of work. But those thoughts and feelings continued swirling and building and finally came to a head and I couldn’t take it. I had to contain bursts of anger when I’d drop a container of cheese or accidentally make a mess. Before I even left that third shift, I knew I couldn’t come back. I wouldn’t come back. I had to escape the stove. It was like I was talking to myself in my own head. I’d hear, “You can’t come back again. It’s done. We’re done here. It’s time to move on.” And even though I knew it was illogical on paper, the reality was that I needed out.
I broke down in my car and cried for a long time driving down 56th and around Van Dorn plaza, unwilling to go home, lest someone see me. When I was finally home, I slept for a long time. The next day, I stayed in bed as much as possible. I watched episodes of Hell on Wheels to distract me from the anxiety of knowing I wouldn’t be going back to work at Panera.
A little while before my shift was supposed to start, I went outside and it was dark. I started a fire in the fire pit and sat there staring at the flames and feeling the tides of mental turmoil. That burn from the stove was inside me somewhere, still scalding hot and making me squirm. I feared having to admit to my mom that it’d happened again. It was Gallup and Old Chicago all over again. I wasn’t cured and hadn’t really changed the way I thought I had. Something about Teavana had clicked in my mind and I was okay there. But somewhere between ending that job and starting a new one, something in me reverted. More likely, it never left and that was what discouraged me the most.
I ended up texting my bosses and telling them I was going through a mental breakdown and wouldn’t be at my shift that night. They tried calling and texting me the next day, but I never replied. I felt awful about that, but the stove brings out selfishness in people, I guess.
But all of that is past me, at least for now. I’m working part time at Juice Stop just to have a little money to scrape by. The real work and exciting things are happening outside of that place. I’ve been working hard at getting my kuchen business started and I really feel like it’s going to be the next big stepping stone for me. After high school, college was supposed to be a stepping stone, probably. But mostly, it was a muddy puddle. A deep one. In that puddle was college, shitty jobs, unemployment, and crises by the number. But I’m swimming to the surface and dammit, I’ve never been a good swimmer, but I’m tired of holding my breath.
Back to what my therapist was talking about. He’s been pointing out how he hasn’t changed at all since I began having sessions with him two years ago. And yet, I’m able to talk more freely and openly and am able to just be myself. I’m what’s changed, he says. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to that. Life moves in two directions. Upward and downward. Sometimes things can feel stagnant, but from that stagnation, they either begin to go up or down. If things aren’t moving or changing, they’re dead. Change has to be embraced. Sometimes change means running from the stove. Sometimes change means gritting your teeth and determining to build your own stepping stone because life has been an angry bitch.

If life only moves in two directions, I can confidently say mine is on the upswing. There are still pitfalls and small muddy puddles that bog me down, but the difference is that they don’t entirely end me. And they don’t have to end you, either. Fight for the upswing. Nothing else really matters.


PS: If you're interested in listening to the podcast on which I recorded my short story, here's the link. It's the one with the date 12/25/14. It says something about "a skit about hell" which is supposed to describe my story I guess...?

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