The Thing About the Future

The future can be likened to many things, some of them literal and some metaphorical. Sometimes it seems that the future is a butterfly fluttering away in the distance, always visible but never reachable. Maybe it’s more of a stone, rolling down a hill and gaining more and more momentum until it’s an unstoppable force. Maybe your future is a little like mine and is best likened to depression – which obscures the future, until depression is all I see and all I can ever expect to see. It seems like the future is an epic weight on my shoulders, the weight of not only my own small world, but the world, the weight of expectation and anxiety. It’s the dark fog that surrounds me, narrows my shoulders, and hunches my back. The rain-cloud that hovers seemingly only above me, dulling everything else.

I’m sceptical that anybody can see the future, even those that charge money for it.

There are some things that help, I suppose (not many, but there are some). They seem to make the future not any more reachable, but at least a little more possible.

I make plans on the good days. Enough said.

Scheduling social time. Somebody once said that depression is more than an illness of the mind, it is an illness of loneliness. Depression makes me isolate, my borderline personality makes me constantly in need of comfort and validation from others (normally in the form of instant text message replies) but anxiety swamps me in social situations. It’s a tricky tightrope to wander, and yes, I do fall off, and very often, but there are definitely times when seeing a friend, and feeling a little more ‘normal’ lifts the depression just a little, so I can gain a glimpse of the future. Future coffee dates, future catch-up strolls, future movie nights. Just a glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless.

Committing. Not only do I make plans, but I commit to them. It gives me things to look forward to. Also, I hate to let people down, so it’s a bit inevitable that I will commit to plans regardless of how I feel. Unless that feeling is suicidal, in which case I usually end up at the psychiatric emergency care centre, crying into a friend’s shoulder there.

Going outside. Getting to a sensory place soothes and comforts me, and distracts from the depression too. I love to lie in the grass, eyes closed, listening to the birds or the wind, or maybe even doing a guided meditation. If I can drag myself to the bus or have enough energy to cycle, I might head to the beach and wriggle the sand between my toes, or walk into the ocean fully clothed – again, this is not something I would ever do if I was actively suicidal. The outdoors is such a grounding place, and once I find a spot I like, I will return there in the future. This is the only part I miss about my childhood home in Western Australia – walking to the end of the street, over the sand dunes, and down to the beach. Sydney beaches don’t have quite the same amount of seclusion…

Finding a really, really good book. And pledging to finish it. Some of my all-time favourites are:

  • The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
  • The Boat (Nam Le)
  • More Than This and The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (Patrick Ness)
  • The Vegetarian (Han Kang)
  • And the absolutely hilarious The One Hundred Year Old Man That Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson).

Being so engrossed in a book that I simply cannot end anywhere else but the end is a surprisingly powerful motive to hold out for the future.

And if you still can’t see the future, that’s okay. I’m sceptical that anybody can, even those that charge money for it.

Sometimes, because of my depression, it seems like my future is all doom and gloom. That’s the thing about mental illness. But the thing about the future? I can’t predict it. The present is the present and the past is the past, but the future hasn’t happened yet. And maybe, just maybe, the future will be a place where my assortment of abbreviated illnesses and I can live symbiotically, rather than fighting for existence.

Anxious Human Here (Again)

Here are some things that are making me anxious:

University enrolment for semester two. My enrolment didn’t open until 4pm which is unusual, because normally it’s 9am, and this is bad because I had work 2-8.30, and my break ended at 4, so I took a sneaky 10 minutes to enrol using my phone at 5, but by this time the classes I needed were full, so now I’ve had to pick different classes at different times which means rearranging my whole life and work schedule to fit in these other lab times, which is stressful. Also, two of my classes clash so I’m waiting for that to get approved, and if it doesn’t then I can’t start taking philosophy to earn my minor, and I don’t know if I am able to fit in enough units to get that sorted.

That was the least literary paragraph I have ever written, which worries me because of how it will be perceived, as I ordinarily consider myself an excellent writer, except when I’m so anxious, all I can do to cope is rant. Sorry.

People are still sitting too close to me on the bus.

People are still questioning my life choices and future career path, and will I ever become a doctor? Will I even want to study medicine once I’m done with my first degree? What if I never find a job anywhere and become just another intelligent person and former school dux who ended up going nowhere at all because she lacked motivation? Why can’t I drop out and read a medical book and gain a qualification immediately? Are my standards dropping? If I’m not earning the marks I need (cough, 90%, cough) that makes me a failure and I’ll never be loved and then I’ll have failed at thinness and at life and be abandoned and alone forever.

The windows on my house are hard to clean. The dust is black. Is it poisonous? I can feel it entering my lungs, my bloodstream, it tastes like poison, but if I clean it, that means touching it and if it is a disease then it’s probably one which is easier to transmit via skin contact. So my windows continue to collect dust, and that black dust continues to concern me, and I stare and stare, hoping it will disappear, or at least long enough for my vision to get blurry and speckly and weird so that the dust fades into static and I’m more worried about my eyesight than contracting some rare and non-existent spore-transmitted pathogen that resides in dust from the highway.

Dirty cloths from cleaning dirty windows and sponges that collect bacteria and coffee-stained mugs and second-hand mugs and a dishwasher that uses too much power. Also taking the rubbish out when I’m running late and can’t run upstairs to wash my hands because then my hands are contaminated and I can’t clean them and if I touch my face I might die. Or drop into convulsions or something, I don’t know.

A loud heart. Why is my heart so loud? My heart beats more evenly when I’m running than it does when I’m trying to relax. What if it’s an arrhythmia? What if I have a heart condition? What if it is just anxiety, in which case, why can’t I calm down? And why is my heart so loud?

Loud noise (that isn’t my heart). Fire drills. Sirens, especially ambulance sirens.

Judgement. Constant judgement. Internal, external, all-consuming. Stares and whispers and murmurs and short sleeves and clothes that don’t fit properly and no money to spend on nicer clothes and nicer things.

The amount of stuff I own. I own a lot of stuff, mostly books, mostly university work. Mostly dusty and cherished and used for tutoring and essays and not much else. But no-one else has this much stuff. I should try to sell some. I could make extra money and buy new clothes and feel better about myself. But that means interacting with strangers and I don’t know if I’m ready for that when I could just take it to the op shop or give it away to struggling first-years who would appreciate obsessively taken notes by an over-achiever.

There’s more. There’s a lot to be anxious about. That’s just what I am able to get out in the twelve minutes before I need to head to class.

In case you missed it, here are some other things that make me anxious.