Well, it was bound to strike at some point. I had a hint of it as I was leaving Cambodia. Usually it’s a short, sinking feeling in my gut, the fear of some pending calamity (a calamity that never happens, by the way). And then it’s gone. This time was no different. As I walked across the border from Poipet to Aranya Prathat in Thailand my heart skipped a beat, a short-lived hole opened up and in blew a cold Canadian Norther.
I knew what was coming.
It usually strikes within a week. It’s awful. I walk around with a huge burden, inescapable, all consuming and nothing makes it go away. Sometimes I feel like I am walking around with an anvil in my guts. At others, it’s just a throbbing sorrow. I can’t look people in the eyes. I walk around, if I walk around at all, in a kind of daze. I lose all patience. I get angry easily. I stuff it all deeper inside. I stop writing. I don’t talk. All I do is sit and think and think and think. Believe me I’ve tried everything to rid myself of it: alcohol, drugs (prescription or otherwise–one humorous side note, opium works quite well actually, but that’s not really a practical option is it?), anti-depressants, exercise, work, travel, therapy, you name it. The darkness comes when it comes . . .
It struck a few days ago. It’s proximate cause was my ex-wife–something I may or may not discuss at another time. But I’m in deep now. The urge is to just stay in my hotel room, huddle up, read a book, watch TV, watch my iPod, but under no circumstances go out, meet people, see things, do stuff. It’s especially scary right now because I’m traveling and the last thing I need is to try and work myself out of this. It’s pointless anyway, as the only cure I know is time. I had this whole big journal entry on what I was going to blog when it hit, but of course, I forgot my journal in my hotel room. (That’s another symptom: I get forgetful.)
The reason I write this is twofold: one, it’s raining and doing anything other than sitting here writing this is just not possible. You’d understand this if you’d ever lived through a Straits rain shower. They are intense. The other reason is more pragmatic. The only thing I’ve ever found that even remotely helps, other than sighing, and oddly enough, listening to “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, is to talk about it. Hiding it is the absolute worst thing in the world to do. It makes it worse, prolongs it, or at least it seems to.
How long will it last? I don’t know. I’m about three or four days in. Sometimes it’s gone in 24 hours. Other times it lasts a few days or a week. If I’m lucky it’ll be gone in a day or two. But there have been two prolonged, longer-than-a-year-bouts that exacted steep personal prices. Once in my early twenties and another the year before last. I’ll write about the last one sometime soon. I’m just not sure yet how much I want to reveal.
Until then, all I can say is that I am grateful. I know that may sound perverse, but I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I wouldn’t trade my afflictions or decisions for something easier or softer. It’s my life, and in spite of the ‘darkness reaching out for the darkness’ as I call it, it’s a good life.
The rain has passed, as it always does. And this will too. In the meantime I’m going to go walk out in the sun, feel the heat on my skin and shade my eyes from the glare. I’m alive, after all, might as well act like it.