The void is, by far, the longest, most awful part of this entire “journey” that I have been on these past few years (though March 2019 gives this a run for its money.) I call it the void because it was, for all intents and purposes, the closest to being cut off from everything that I could have ever imagined. It was the absence of all that was familiar, and it was devoid of what felt like any true growth, change, or improvement.
It is, for all intents and purposes, what it’s like to be inert.
I’ve mentioned being inert several times now since trying to scrape my life back together, and I sort of feel silly every time I bring it up, because I feel like I’m constantly bringing it up without ever really being able to grapple with what this inertia actually means for my journey. It’s a thing that I notice, but I never know what to do about it, or with it. And I think that that is partially because I feel that, even now, I am just as inert here in 2019 as I was back at the end of 2016. Even though I know that this isn’t true (read a post from 2015 or 2014 and tell me that the cadence even sounds the same,) it still feels true. It feels as though I’m in exactly the same place I was then, and it feels awful.
Nobody likes to be inert. As humans, its antithetical to what we need to thrive. We’re not meant to stop, to be stagnant, to remain static. It’s not good for our mental health, and yet many of us are stuck throughout our entire lives being effectively stuck in our past. Ideally, you want to be cognizant to your ever-changing surroundings, and remaining open to new possibilities until the day you die.
However, I have come to believe that sometimes you need to be inert. The same way that we need to rest a broken limb, or sleep in after being sick, sometimes we need to slow down and stop what we’re doing. Because if we don’t, we’ll eventually be forced to stop. Or as I liked to call it, being curb checked. My time spent in “the void” was life’s curb check for me. Every post so far in this series contains a number of subtle warnings about what was going to eventually happen. I wanted to try to prevent it from happening, but the bottom fell out anyways. What started as a steady decline ultimately turned into a complete nose dive towards the ground.
And that’s when the screaming began.
One morning I woke up, and I could hear a part of myself screaming and wailing from somewhere. Nonstop. I’d get up and get dressed and go to work and be trying to pay attention all while this consistent, constant AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH went through the background.
I had issues with crying almost all of the time anymore. The tears would just flow and wouldn’t stop. It was as if it was beyond my control. I forgot what time of year it was, why I walked into rooms, where I left things. I dealt with heavy depersonalization combined with dysphoria and derealization. I looked in the mirror and felt this vague sense of “who is this person I’m staring back at” with side elements of “I am a man in a dress” (which is new for me, I’ve never felt this before.) All of my clothes quit fitting because my body ballooned from whatever was going on with it. It became hard to get up. Hard to move around. Hard to walk.
It was as if everything had finally decided to shut down. All the while AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH just kept playing in the background.
Is this a bad time to mention that screaming can border on being triggering for me?
One of the strangest things that happened during this time was that I would frequently get visions of being drowned. I could never tell who it was that was doing it, as the distortion from the water I was submerged in masked too much. But I knew that they were familiar, and that it wasn’t right, but I could never seem to stop it.
I lost contact with everything. Religion, astral, myself. At the end of it all, the only thing I could find any solace from while in this darkness was my art. More specifically, my traditional art. Even though I was a designer by trade, I hadn’t touched traditional artwork since college. This is largely because it costs money and supplies to be able to do traditional art, and that was a luxury I didn’t want to afford until I had nothing else to do with my time. Can’t walk? No worries, you can take a drawing pad with you wherever you want. Paint all of the pretty colors you want to ignore the fact that everything in your life feels a shade of grey or black.
Slowly, things began to leak out. Experiences from the astral suddenly spilled out on the page in front of me. My therapist would later tell me that art therapy would be ideal for me (it is,) but it turns out that I had been trying to come to grips with everything that had happened long before I even realized it was a “thing.”
The largest thing I took away from my time in the void was my art. Because I was forced to stop doing everything, I finally made enough space for art to exist within my life again. And even though I can do much more now, I still make time for art because I feel its an ideal processing method for me. I also think it makes for great heka — which is something I’ve been toying with as I (hopefully) move in the final phases of this heart building that I’ve been trudging through.
The second thing I learned from my time in the void is that there is a real raw grittiness that comes with reaching the bottom of your depth as it currently exists. When you’re being drug along the bottom of your life and you can barely tell where you’re at or why you’re even bothering to continue to draw breath, your priorities shift massively. You learn to accept the help that you’re given because its impossible to do everything by yourself anymore. You learn to accept that things will not be to any sort of preferable ideal because you’re so short on energy that you truly have to accept that “what you can do” is better than not at all. Something I tell people all the time, but never really wanted to tell myself.
The third thing that I learned is that the void is sometimes unavoidable. To some extent, if you don’t stop, you will be forced to stop. Even if you feel you can’t stop, or shouldn’t stop, we all have our limits. We need to pay attention to those limits before we hit them.
The screaming did not stop until after I got into therapy, almost a full year after it had started. When I was finally desperate enough to try an SSRI, I found that the ocean that I had been drowning in for a full year suddenly dried up, and that I could no longer access the water anymore. In a lot of ways, the SSRI cut me off from my emotions too much (a sign that it’s not the right medication for me, but alas, I’ve not been stable enough in the past year to wean myself off of it…), but at the same time, I was desperate for any reprieve I could find, and so I relished it.
The void is an awful place to be. It’s a place I’ve spent various phases of my life in, and this particular session pushed me to my limits in every capacity. If there is anything I could tell anyone about their own time in the void, it’s this: don’t give up. As uncle Iroh said:
“Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving… you will come to a better place.”
I can’t say that where I’ve ended up is currently better, but the place I arrived at the beginning of 2017, after ages in my own void, felt amazing. It was a beautiful place where I was even capable of feeling happiness — something I have woefully little experience with. Sometimes life is absolute shit, but if you can remain curious about what the future holds, you will always find reasons to keep going.
I am glad I kept going. Even as I sit in a new void, hoping that I will eventually find a way out again, I am glad that I kept trying.