The other day, I took a step outside and sat in my lawn chair that is uncomfortably reclined. It’s hard for me at times to fully relax my body, so maybe the chair is normal for the more lax.
That night was calm. A gentle breeze blew as the sun’s rays were barely holding on and shining among the trees. A couple of twinkles peeked through the leaves as fireflies geared up for the night. The branches nodded along as the wind gently hit their tips.
And for that moment, which was probably only a few minutes, the world seemed OK. Or at least it gave that impression. I felt OK. And I felt like my body release some tension in my shoulders, in my jaw and in my fists as I observed the details in my backyard. I sunk into that lawn chair.
Then poof. That feeling escaped as I began to think again. Deadlines. Bills. Work. Social life (or lack of). That one embarrassing thing I did in high school.
Thoughts just came flooding back. My body tensed right back up. Those few minutes of relaxation made me realize what a toll my body had taken that day.
My muscles ached. Pangs hit my jaw from clenching it and grinding my teeth. My lower back stung as I tried to sit back up in the chair that was not made for me. My head hazed up from the running, intrusive thoughts all day. It almost felt like it was swollen with all the thoughts occupying my brain, as if at any moment it were going to explode.
Anxiety, with bouts of depression, is a hell of a thing, man. Maybe I’m one of the fortunate ones where at weeks or months, sometimes just a moment at a time, I feel OK. But those other times? I can go over the same impossible situation or fictitious scenario for hours or days. Even worse, real-life things are sometimes so cringey, my body can barely handle it. It just wants to collapse within itself like a dying star.
And during those moments when I think I’m dying from a disease or feel like people hate me, I’m compelled to put on a smiling face — pretend that I am balanced inside. That’s when my body tries to figure out if it should combat those thoughts or just lie in bed until my muscles ache from inactivity.
All I can think of during those times is that I’m a burden to my friends and my family. If I can barely keep it together and exhaust myself to a hibernation-like sleep, how could they handle it?
So when someone asks, “How are you today?” I don’t want to say, “Well, today I was absolutely convinced I was dying. I’m pretty sure I’m terrible at all the things and pretty sure I’ve gotten to where I am on a whim. Oh, and I’m also certain that most people just tolerate my presence. But I’m fine.”
It’s easier to just say “Yeah, I’m great! How are you?” It’s a convenience for me to lie and then go hide in my house, in front of the TV watching “X-Files” until 2 a.m. to avoid thinking. Much less talk about my problems because I know myself, and as soon as I start, I get a lump in my throat. I’m an ugly crier, guys.
Telling a white lie to avoid some sort of dramatic conversation with someone is OK. What isn’t OK is taking that white lie and trying to force yourself to believe it when you’re, in actuality, not OK.
It’s a misconception, at times, that we need to feel OK or great or good all the time. Life hands us a lot to handle sometimes, fictitious or not.
So in that moment outside, when the thoughts started whirling through my head again, I forced my back into that chair. Maybe I’m not OK right now, but I will be in another moment.