I woke up in a really bad mood yesterday. One of those bone-tired, hurts to move, want to eat all of the pizza, bad moods that are so difficult to shake. I slept like shit, but being awake felt pointless. The thought of waking and doing the same thing over and over and over again for the rest of my life made me want to lash out at the world in a rage. At more than one point I felt like it would be best to just die expeditiously and leave my family the life insurance money, rather than having to slog through it for an unknown number of years, and would have taken that option in an instant, had I lived in a 17-century gothic novel and been offered the chance by a shadowy stranger wandering around our neighborhood park.
It was everything and nothing. The scale hadn’t budged in a couple of days. Teaching my classes felt degrading. I didn’t want to take the kids out for our walk because I didn’t want to stand up. I didn’t want to work on the book I’d started reading the night before (The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, Leslie Jamison) because the Chapter One descriptions of getting drunk and romanticizing drunk writers during her MFA at Iowa triggered me so hard. I didn’t want to write a review of the book I’d just finished (We Are the Luckiest, Laura McKowen) because it felt like jjust one more, not particularly wonderfully written, “yay I got sober and my already charmed life improved sooooo much” memoir; it felt like just another memoir that I didn’t write, and therefore deserving of my disdain.
I didn’t necessarily want to drink, but I really, really, really, wanted to be in a place where I’d want to have a drink. Out with friends at our favorite dusty old pubs, on the front porch with my wife pre-babies, or out in my office poring over a new rough draft. Somewhere I wasn’t getting covered in spit-up or cried on, or crawled all over. Somewhere that I could be that version of me that is interesting and fun. Somewhere doing things that felt meaningful, interesting, the things I planned to do with my life before marriage and kids took over.
I just felt trapped. And very, very, bitter that alcohol’s escape was unavailable to me.
I didn’t think I was going to make it out of the front door with the kids. I didn’t think I had it in me to do anything but sit and watch trash t.v. and wallow in my own filth for the day. Honestly, the only reason I went up and put my running shorts on was to get just a moment of peace and silence alone. Sitting on my bed while I laced up my shoes the baby’s cries were nearly imperceptible, and just breathing started to hurt less. I took my time, being mindful of the way the cool air gently prickled my leg hairs, the nice way my facewash and deodorant smelled, warmed upon my skin, the luxurious feeling of running my fingers through my hair to tame the havoc wreaked by my night of fitful sleep, scratching and massaging my tight, angry, scalp into submission. And something about that act of communion with my own body worked. No, it didn’t make me any happier, I don’t mean that, but it eased the rage I was feeling at the world long enough to allow my body to go on autopilot and perform the tasks necessary to get myself and the kids out the door and into the sunshine. It was still there, the rage, the fear, the mourning, but these smallest acts of self-care eased their symptoms long enough to give me the push I needed to get physical. And getting physical allowed me to pound the feelings down, temper them, examine them at arm’s length.
Well, it helped in the moment.
I walked for about three hours, yesterday, and it hurt so bad. Worst than that first day’s run or any day since. When I wasn’t breathing deep against another wave of rage and sorrow I was panting from the ache of my calves and feet. It was like the toxicity of my emotions had permeated my musculature, turning everything bad, weak, and painful. But I pushed through, doing about a mile more than my recent regular route, until I thought that I could sit still at home without wanting to rip my face off.
When I did finally sit down at home, though, I was overcome with the most powerfully tired sensation I think I’ve felt in months. I literally could not keep my eyes open, and ended up having to prop the baby’s bottle with a blanket while I fed him because I kept nodding off and dropping it. I think that if I could have actually fallen asleep then I would have done so for hours, days even, like Jenny when she comes home to Forrest Gump at the movie’s end. But real life doesn’t work that way, and eventually I had to get back up and continue my slog through the land of the living, which inevitably led to the return of my bad mood. It was a little less intense, though, this time around. Workable. Work-through-able. I even managed to go in and make a halfway decent dinner before my one-on-one therapy appointment instead of phoning it in with frozen pizzas for the kids. (Though I will admit that I did give them the option. “Nah, I think the chicken and veggies sounds pretty good,” my 16-year-old said, leading to my instant regret.) I made myself bean and veggie burritos instead of eating a pound of cheese with tortilla chips, like I really wanted to.
I can still feel it lingering today. And the physical soreness hasn’t receded, either, though the fucking scale did finally drop two pounds as of this morning. I’ve tried to figure out the root cause of the whole ordeal, but I’m not sure there was anything in particular. Maybe it was the reading. Maybe it was some niggling bullshit going on with work. Maybe it was a caregiver’s burnout. Maybe it was PAWS. Probably it was all of that and more. Do I feel more equipped to handle it the next time it might return? Not really. Did I learn something from it all? I don’t know. Maybe I will, maybe it’s just too soon. And I’m sorry, this isn’t really the sort of inspirational, life-changing material here that you’re supposed to blog about, I know. I don’t even have any answers for myself, yet, much less you. I just know that it feels good to get the pain out onto the page, and that I’m always up for commiseration.