Super real. Ultra real. That’s what it felt like.
Everything was heightened. Not like some sort of superhero thing. No… but a lot of things were heightened.
During the day, everything was frightening. I’d have that feeling in the pit of my guts, that feeling like something terrible was about to happen. A loved one was about to get crushed under a semi. Or fall victim to an elevator that fell from the top floor of the tallest building, never to be caught by the emergency brake.
Waiting was torture. Was I going to lose my job, because I just wasn’t good enough, just like I’d always thought? Or get yelled at because there was some little thing I did in that program I wrote that was against what the client really wanted? Or get judged because of something I posted on Facebook a year ago, something that was racist, or angered somebody, or was one of a thousand different things that felt like a crushing weight.
Not having something to do was pure agony. Like putting a fishing line into my stomach and pulling this way and that, enough to hurt, but somehow not quite enough to rip out my entrails. Do I write the code this way, or that? The first way was clearer, but it might cause problems in the future, and bring down the entire company, bankrupt the whole lot, and I’d be responsible for so many people losing their jobs. Or the other way? The less clear way, but the way that would work, the way that would do exactly what it was supposed to do, even though it somehow felt like it was immoral? I felt like I was being impaled on the scales, driven down into a spike while holding those two platters, each holding a choice.
Running away felt like the only option. Run before they saw me. Before they could judge me. Before they could decide my fate. Before I found out about the latest thing I did that was wrong, the latest thing that would eventually destroy me.
The walk to my car was a hurried one. What if somebody saw me? What if they said something Jesus, WHAT IF THEY ASKED ME WHAT I WAS DOING? What would I say? The possibility was terrifying. I moved as fast as possible, looking far ahead to try to avoid anybody whenever possible. Saying “hi” meant acknowledging that I wasn’t at work. It meant acknowledging that I was fleeing.
At home, it felt terrifying as well. I had left work early. I wasn’t getting paid for those hours. I was taking food out of the mouths of my loved ones. Not making the money I needed to pay those bills that needed to get paid, the ones that would destroy me financially, if not physically.
Sleep. Sleep was the answer. Turn off the world, let time pass by, time that I didn’t have to be terrified about anything. Switch off my brain, so nothing was scary anymore. But sleeping…
During the day, naps were okay. I’d feel a little better, sometimes. Most of the time. It would make the dread go away, the sense that he world was about to melt around me, or come crashing down on top of my head.
Ideas were strange. Any idea that was based upon reality would grow, its roots reaching deep into the depths of my brain, becoming something so close to reality as to become indistinguishable from it.
“The outside world is a reflection of your insides,” or something like that. If you were angry on the inside, the world around you would seem to reflect it. Seem to reflect it. That turned into a world that was malleable, a world that could be changed on a whim. Zombie apocalypse? Just stare at those skies long enough, and the canisters of zombie virus would fall. The world revolves around me? Speak out, tell them you’re the messiah, and the world will fall in order, and God himself will condone your existence as divine.
Bringing a “show and tell” to work became a nightmare. At first, it was to show off my zombie survival kit. A machete the size of a sword, a survival knife, and all kinds of other gear. But bringing it to work turned into something terrifying. My coworkers would be scared of me, and I would not be accepted. Bringing it to work would mean that I’d be cast out, shunned, blocked from ever returning, because how dare I bring such weapons into a place of business?
I sat in my car, the gear sitting in the passenger seat. And I cried. I was terrified of the possibilities that I’d manufactured. I howled, literally howled in anguish, crying like I’d never cried before. I had to go to the hospital! I had to be committed again, had to be brought before the doctors again, so they could tell me what was wrong with me.
I couldn’t take it anymore. No way I could go home in defeat, unable to present my show and tell. But I couldn’t go to work either. So there I sat, in horrifying anguish, sitting in that terrible place between decisions. I put my car into gear and let it go. I’d slam into the side of the parking garage, go through that cement, and the end would take me as the car slammed into the asphalt below.
But when nothing happened, everything changed. I sat there, howling in agony, screaming and crying. The radio told me to roll the window down, because that’s what Florida Georgia Line meant when they talked about cruising. Leave the window down; my savior would find me that way, ask me what was wrong, and I would end up in the hospital, where all they cared about was that I was okay.
I was rolling down the hallway, then. Laying on one of those gurneys, the kind that folded up when pushed into the back of an ambulance. Somebody asking if I was okay, all while urgently bringing me to safety.
But going to the hospital made it worse. Because they didn’t really listen to me there. They heard the words I said, but they didn’t listen. They twisted my words into something else. Stress had become depression, which had become bipolar disorder. They would give me drugs that would make me worse… or maybe they’d turn me into what I was right then, in that moment, the crazy man that howled at the roof of his car in tears of anguish.
Sleep. A nap helped. Laying in my chair, in the afternoon, made things better. Made them bearable. Playing a game, or watching Netflix, was finally okay. Nothing terrible happened. I didn’t will the End of Days into existence.
Night came, and things changed again. I’d take my pills, and things would go bad again. My legs felt like they were being attacked by a thousand hot needles, sending jolts of electricity into my calves. A maddening sensation. I would sit, head thrown back, mouth wide open, while reaching toward my legs with my hands as they thrashed about.
Rubbing them made them ache in a way I’d never felt before, like they’d been cramped for an hour. Walking around made the shocking faster, or maybe less shocks and more needles. Laying down made it that much worse, but standing was nearly impossible. An hour of this madness finally left me too exhausted to stay awake.
But then the fear of suffocating. Because I couldn’t breathe unless I consciously did it. I stopped trying, and then stopped breathing. The fear of drowning in a room full of air was horrifying. I’d start to relax, then I’d stop breathing, and the fear of suffocation struck hard.