The Holidays have thrown off my game a bit...that and I'm waist deep in a project that's eating up much of my writing time...I'm pulling this one out of the vault. It was hastily written a few months ago, and it's being hastily posted now...cheers.
Sometimes, when I find myself laying in bed but my brain won't shut the hell up, I have to play out a little mental exercise. I remember doing this going all the way back to elementary school...couldn't say when it started, exactly, but I had to be around 6 or 7. Back then, counting sheep was a no-go. I needed something bigger...something all encompassing. I'd focus on myself, my body, and it's relation to the bed. I'd become painfully aware of my heartbeat, my breathing, and any little movement I made in my very still room - I'd try to match that stillness. With relation to the bed, I'd shrink myself. I'd imagine myself getting smaller and smaller; when I was an infinitesimal speck on the pillow, I'd then picture the bed getting smaller and smaller in relation to the room, then the room to the house, the house to the neighborhood, neighborhood to city, city to state, state to country, country to world, world to solar system, solar system to galaxy, and finally galaxy to universe...damn, that's a mouth full.
Maybe it was because I'd recently seen Honey, I Shrunk the Kids combined with learning about space (super into space, if you haven't noticed), but the idea of shrinking and being small in the grand scheme of things was certainly on my mind. On the nights I had to evoke this rite, I hardly made it out of my house. I'd be asleep somewhere between shrinking myself or my bed. I should say, before I go too much further, that doing this was terrifying. A strong sense of anxiety washed over me the second I engaged with the exercise...with my single semester of college Psychology I'll make a slapdash diagnosis: I felt small and was beginning to understand I was actually behind the other kids in school and this was some weird manifestation of those feelings? If I was nothing, I'd return to nothing. That thought didn't manifest until middle school, but even in elementary, I was scratching at it. Ultimately, I had no idea of what I was doing at the time, nor could I put words to what I felt; however, now looking back with slightly more worldly knowledge, I realize I was forcing myself into a state of existential dread - in that dread, I fell asleep while attempting to mine those feelings. Needless to say, forcing oneself into an existential crisis roughly once a week since the 2nd grade makes for a rather addled kid. Having such an intimate relationship with this fear and anxiety over existence (and my incredibly small place in it), simply compounded my troubles with self-worth and trying to navigate through school with the label and stigma of being "ESE."
It sounds all doom and gloom, but it wasn't. It is weird that I had such and open and constant relationship with these anxieties and that I helped myself to sleep by inducing this state of existential dread...I mean, the fact that I somehow found some kind of peace through that fear in order to fall asleep...weirdo. But, in the end, it's ultimately served me well. About 5ish years ago I had a pretty serious crisis of self one night- the kind where you wake up at 3 in the morning in a cold sweat, your heart beating out of your chest. You question everything you've ever done, what lead you down the path to that moment, drown in feelings of being trapped and doomed to repeat your failures over and over. I was falling hard down the rabbit hole, but then it hit me. I've felt this before...maybe not this extreme, but I know this feeling. I was out of bed by this point and had been pacing around my dark room in panic. After a couple of deep breaths, I got a glass of water, drank it, laid back down, and began the time-honored ritual: Be still, focus on your heartbeat, slow your breathing, BE STILL DAMNIT, breathe...slowly but surely, I began the process of shrinking myself in relation to the bed. That night, I made it all the way to through the whole of the Universe and back to my room. I never actually fell back to sleep that night, but I did manage to stave off the worst of what was a huge anxiety attack. I was by no means "cured" afterward, but I can only assume it'd have been much worse had it not been for my controlled descent into existential dread and back out.
After navigating that particular hurdle in life, I feel I've come out for the better. Of course, it's always easier to laugh at stuff in the aftermath, but I was being dumb and overly melodramatic (like melodramatic isn't a strong enough term)...not to downplay anyone else's anxieties or battles with depression.
In the end, I dodged a bullet because I'd been experimenting with existentialism on accident since elementary school...