Friday, March 03, 2006

Mein Kampf, 2006

There is something about having an online outlet for one’s feelings and emotions that it sometimes seems like a soft underbelly, where if you’re not careful some sort of Hurricane Katrina can come out of nowhere and rip who you think you are to shreds and expose your vulnerabilities to the world. Of course, sometimes this occurs in full view of everyone, and at other times you have to advertise it otherwise people will misjudge your calm exterior as being the reflection of calm inside yourself…when in fact a storm is raging and, well, the levees have broken. Welcome to Jeremy Slavin's "Heart on a Sleeve Hour" (it took me about an hour to write and refine this, almost 1am on Saturday now).

I realized last Sunday that the intense discomfort, anxiety, and stress that I’d been feeling for a few days were the most immediate warning signs of a nervous breakdown. I didn’t realize that what I was going through was a nervous breakdown – though in the hours leading up until I did my research, I suspected as much. I made the decision to look up the definition of what is commonly referred to as a “nervous breakdown”, and the signs fit me all too well. What really was the spark to the barrel of gunpowder was simple enough – as I was going through the motions at work, I realized that even though I knew the calendar date, I was saving documents to be posted later according to a wrongly-held view of what the future dates of the week would be. It seems small, and in terms of work it was. I don’t care enough about my job to be upset about wrongly dating documents.

But the realization that I was so out of touch with the flow of things that I could somehow get the idea that a Thursday was the 23rd of February and not the 24th, and that I could so believe this that I would date literally dozens of documents in this way (even while dating others correctly), unlocked something within me that I didn’t know how to deal with. I felt so out of touch, so off balance – so unnerved – that a deep lethargy and malaise set in. Thursday night (end of the work week here) and Friday night, I tried to clear my head by drinking some beer.

On Thursday it was a solitary bottle of Corona, but on Friday evening it was two 500 mL bottles of Goldstar beer. I was convinced that drinking just enough to get a buzz would clarify my jumbled thoughts, which made my head feel crowded and in turn made me very uncomfortable. I didn’t drink a lot, but I drank enough and found that my thoughts were slower but in no way cleared. Even then, I began to see that this wasn’t some simple crisis or end-of-week stress. This was something else.

I spent Saturday in something of a daze, and even went so far as to purposely not pay attention to time for a while not long after waking up…which, when you think about it a bit, is kind of counter-productive to one who has lost touch with the passage of time and dates. Still I was kind of productive during what turned out to be about 4.5 hours, cleaning up the apartment a bit, showering, and reading a good bit of new book I’d bought in a series novels about Julius Caesar’s military and political career (really quite interesting; but another blog will be about books, related to this entry).

It relaxed me, this not-paying-attention-to-time thing, but only lasted as long as it could. On Saturday night, after Shabbat ended, I went to a party in Ramat Gan with my friends Mike and Avram, and for a while drowned my mounting crisis in a couple of cups of wine and several cups of vodka-laden drink combinations of one kind or another. Upon returning to Jerusalem early in the morning, I woke up 4 hours after passing out on my bed (still in my jeans), cleaned up - but not before stumbling and almost falling over in the bathroom before I could step into the shower, as the effects of alcohol hadn't worn off - and caught the train to Tel Aviv for the start of work on Sunday. And it was on the train ride that I realized I might be suffering from a nervous breakdown.

You see, all of the crazy, jumbled, ricocheting, disturbing, distressful, uncomfortable thoughts I’d been having since the little incident of getting the dates wrong a few days before had really kind of made me feel as if I was going insane. I was able to write about politics and port deals, etc, but even with my last post before this one I knew that something was seriously wrong. That, and the fact that I was getting teary-eyed emotional without warning – not bawling my eyes out, but feeling as if I wanted to, worried the hell out of me. I, in all honesty, felt as if I was losing my grip on reality. I wasn’t just out of touch – I was off my rocker. That had to be it.

And then, with the realization and confirmation that it was a nervous breakdown on Sunday morning last, there was only the briefest sense of clarity before the daunting task of dealing with the causes began. This has been one of the hardest weeks I can remember going through – at least after the ending of my first, truly serious relationship (which, like this nervous breakdown, occurred in Israel) I had some sense of clarity. I knew why I felt the pain. But this whole thing…it has been dealing with one cause of pain and stress, only to be confronted by another. Then another. Then another. And so on.

This is what happens when you don’t deal with the emotional pains of the past and present, the causes of stress that can fester and eat you up inside like a parasite, or like termites eating away at the foundation of you, for much too much long a period of time and then the body gives out – and the foundations crumble. This is what happened to me when I whitewashed the causes and immediate consequences of stress I’d experienced in the many months since moving to the Hebrew/Jewish State, whitewashing in the hopes that it all could be pushed back to be dealt with another day…or not dealt with at all.

I appeased my own fears and doubts and issues by not making decisions about them – I avoided confrontation. And finally taking the time to deal with them, to make decisions and confront the causes of my stress and pain…it’s a struggle. It’s my struggle, at the moment. It isn’t fun. It is ongoing. But I realized, a little late, that it is necessary anyway.

And I bet, from the title, you’d thought this would be about politics or anti-Semitism.

Fooled you. But I'm not joyful about it, because all this ain't over yet. Not yet.

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