War Within Myself

Highway 40 in Southern California

I saw an Anthony Bourdain quote the other day that struck me at my core.

“I understand there is a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy”

We had a saying back in the day, “That’ll preach.” It basically meant that line is extremely effective in making a point. Or is effective at bringing a listener to a point of conviction. This Bourdain quote does it for me. I see so much of myself in it.

I’ve realized something about myself over the past few years and only recently have I accepted that I need consciously work at it. Something deep down inside of me wants to sleep. In 2011, when I had a bad summer dealing with symptoms of depression, my reaction was to sleep. I would come home from work and sleep, anytime I had free I’d probably just go to sleep. I often started sleeping so much that I stumbled into lucid dreaming and began exploring that. I didn’t have any stance on the significance of it, but I decided to go with it and explore. I noticed after a while that sleep wasn’t the end, it was the means. It didn’t even have to be sleep. Sleep felt easy because of my working hours at the time, but sleep was just a way for me to disconnect some of the parts of my mind and exist mindlessly.

Has your workload ever been so full that your first course of action is a nap? Sometimes you get overwhelmed by your list that you just need to disconnect. I believe this is part of the fight or flight response we all have. I have friends who have done it, I’ve done it, in fact, I notice now that when I do have a depressive episode, I immediately have a desire to sleep. I’m able to identify that somewhat effectively now, my mind is pulling the “flight” lever every single time. Flight just isn’t thought of in terms of physical distance here.

It ends up being not just sleeping, drinking, movies, tv shows, and video games especially as well. I’ve started to see that many different things are connected to that and perceived and organized by my mind in those terms. What sort of activities can I do that will maximize the amount of conscious disconnect similar to sleeping? It impacts things that require something from myself. Things like relationships, whenever the stress rises, I disconnect, become negligent. It manifests as not caring, when deep down, I do.

That’s a little disconcerting, perhaps even terrifying. That there’s a part of me that seems like it’s trying sabotage everything good in my life. I constantly remind myself of it. I have to be aware of all of my desires and deconstruct why I desire something. It’s gets to be exhausting. This past weekend when I had a number of things on my to-do list, I found myself conquering countries in Civilization 5 instead. Did I want to play because I was bored or simply because I wanted to consciously disconnect when I had so many things to do? I have to constantly remind myself how many drafts I have, how many outlines I have written that sit untouched or else they’ll never get done while I beat some other game.

This is where it hits home. I feel like I’m at war with a part of myself, like if only I could chisel it away I could finally get something done. I feel like I have to be active and fight the urge to “sleep” or else I might wake up 20 or 30 years from now with nothing to show for it. This isn’t a sob story or woe is me, it simply is what it is. All I’m trying to work through is how the be consciously aware of the present and the small tugs of strings pulling me in all different directions. Because when it comes to this part of me that wants to sleep, the best things I’ve ever done in life have always been when I have ignored that part of myself, and some of the worst have been when I listened.