“Many are the days I’ve wanted to cease
Lay myself down and find some relief
Heavy is the head that gets no sleep
We carry our lives around in our memories
So take away this apathy
And bury it before it buries me”
– The Oh Hellos, Cold is the Night
Anxiety is one hell of a thing. You wouldn’t think that caring too much could ever be a problem, but you’d be surprised just how emotionally draining it is to let those thoughts run rampant in your head. It sucks the fight out of you without ever throwing a single punch, letting your imagination do all the fighting instead. Then, when you’re weak and tired from having done nothing at all, the depression quietly slips in to finish the job.
It’s not easy to control your thoughts. You don’t get to decide what you do and do not think about, and when you have anxiety the problem is tenfold. It’s like the White Bear Problem on crack; the very thoughts you know you shouldn’t be having are the very same ones you can’t stop thinking about. What’s worse is that you’re constantly building up these issues in your mind, pushing them higher and higher up this mountain until it finally slips, and when it does the snowball effect comes into play and buries you in an avalanche of paralyzingly fear. What was once nothing but a minor obstacle to be dealt with becomes this massive, daunting mental wall with no way around it.
So how do I cope with caring too much? I stopped caring at all.
Somewhere along the line my subconscious decided the best way to deal with anxiety was to counter it with apathy. I developed this sort of shut-down switch in my mind as a coping mechanism for stress. Whenever something caused me too much anxiety, I’d simply stop thinking about it. This wasn’t a conscious decision, mind you: the above paragraph still stands. I could never pull off that kind of control over my thoughts on my own; it was all subconscious, something I’m only now beginning to realize. It manifested in my Amputation Contingency, my plan to cut people and things out of my life when they caused me too much stress, which was when I first began to suspect something was wrong.
If you’d asked me four years ago if I suffered from anxiety, I would have scoffed at the notion. But looking back now, it all makes perfect sense. I’ve talked before about all the feelings and emotions I suppressed growing up a cancer patient, and I’m beginning to realize that anxiety was just another one of the monsters buried deep within the dark recesses of my mind.
Apathy. Apathy was the solution when all my problems were stacked up against me. Apathy was the blissful ignorance in which I could hide out until the troubles were gone. Apathy was how I survived anxiety without ever knowing I had it.
It worked, too. Care too much about something? Bam. Now you don’t care about it at all. It was such a simple yet elegant solution. Unfortunately, it was too good to be true.
As it turned out, I was a little too good at not caring about things. My schoolwork, my health, my money, my life. Nothing mattered. I was lost in a blind stupor of temporary fulfillments, with no plans for the future and no interest in the present. I was disjointed and detached, numb and uncaring.
I took some time off of university after a rough first year, and I can’t even think about trying to make arrangements to go back without feeling the hollow pit of an anxiety attack looming on the horizon. I can’t even get a job, far less bring myself to accept the fact that I need money. I’m 20 years old, turning 21 this year, and if you asked me what my plans were your response would be a blank stare.
The thing is, as bad as it can be, apathy is not a viable solution to anxiety. It’s just another end of the very same spectrum, when what you need to be doing is aiming for the middle. I can’t go on like this. One of these days this ignorant little bubble is going to burst, and I will be left to face the real world, ready or not.
So thank you, apathy, for shielding me from the terrible power of my thoughts when I was just a scared little kid who couldn’t understand how the world could be so cruel. Thank you for protecting me, in your own unique way. But I’m not that scared little kid anymore. I’m a scared not-so-little adult, and it’s time for me to grow up. I need to face my demons, the very same demons you shielded me from, and I don’t want you to be part of that list. So let’s part on good terms while we still can.