Note: This was written July 22, 2014, three days before my birthday. So sorry for the delay! It’s been pretty busy around here.
Everyone at some point in their childhood has had some dark nightmare where a monster slithered from their closet to eat them for supper.
My monster constantly surprises me, whose best description best fits the evil Prisoner Zero in the Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour”.
It starts with voices in the night when you’re young. You have nightmares about the voices, matching them up with monsters or faces of people in your life who give you nothing but trouble. You try to go to your friends and family about it, but they all say the same thing: there’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry about it; you’ll be fine. Go back to sleep.
Years later, you walk around and soon the nightmares become real. Your monster has shape-shifted into the forms of every enemy, every phobia and every person who gives you problems. The monster has had years to develop this sense of metamorphic skill and therefore can transform into anything that scares you most. And it follows you in the corner of your eye.
Finally, the monster turns inward on you. It soon takes a hold of your thoughts, feelings and emotions and uses them against you. You lose all control of your emotions, channeling your anger on objects, animals or innocent bystanders, and suddenly people around you think there’s something wrong with you. You’re even convinced something is wrong with you as well, which turns into self hate and pessimism.
And this pessimism is the kind of friend that bites back and ends up being the constant winner. My conversations with her are normally taking place in the mirror, her on the other side. I normally start with, “Hey, I’m sorry that my best friend’s not coming over for my birthday. I know you would have liked her and it’s short notice. She said she’ll come over maybe next week if she’s lucky.”
Then she says: “What makes you think she’s coming over any time soon? She lives too far away from you and you know how her other friends are as well: busy and unavailable all the time. You knew this would happen! Why don’t you just spend your birthday at home?”
Me: I kind of promised mom to go dancing at Friday Night Swing that night in case something like this happened. It is my birthday, after all.
Pessimism: But swing dancing costs fifteen bucks a pop! And you went dancing last week. Why don’t you cut your mom some slack and spend your birthday alone at home. Your mom will thank you later because then she’ll have more money to pay the bills and taking care of the house. I’m only saying this for your own good. You’ve got to pay if you want to celebrate and you obviously can’t have a birthday until you have a job and you’ve moved out of your parents’ house. Until then, you’re screwed, honey. You’re poor, deal with it.
Me: So where do I go? What do you suggest I do for my birthday?
Pessimism: Haven’t you heard what I said, dear? Nothing. You’re not allowed to have a birthday because you have no income. Your health insurance is being revoked because you’ll be 26, for god’s sake! For your birthday, why don’t you bask in your worry about applying for Medicaid and finding out there aren’t enough doctors to take care of you because most of them don’t accept Medicaid?
Me: What about eating chocolate cake?
Pessimism: Sweetie, forget cake. You’re complaining about busting out of your pants all the time. How about eating a nice plate of rabbit food for dessert instead? You don’t want all those calories and saturated fats; they’ll make you fatter than you already are.
Then I let the monster eat those feelings and I start screaming “I hate you” at my reflection in the mirror, calling myself names, some more profane than others. Only my pessimism has left and I’m actually turning in on myself, telling the sweet little girl who dreamt of becoming a princess to go off herself quick. And as I stomp away to punch a pillow, the reflection of myself, the little girl, puts her head in her hands and starts crying.
That is what my current condition is like. I get moody like this every year when my birthday or Valentine’s Day comes around. They really are the worst holidays of the year for me, as well as the loneliest. Not only that, my Prisoner Zero and Pessimism follow me everywhere no matter how much I shake them. Put the two of those characters together and boom, you have formed a mental disorder in your head. Congrats.
I thought it didn’t have a name at first. Doctors and teachers have told my parents I had aspects of disorders like Attention Deficit, depression, Obsessive-Compulsive, even one in the autism spectrum, Asperger’s. But I never showed any physical symptoms of any of them.
Then at 21, I found a name for it. Anxiety disorder mixed with panic attacks could be identified for anything and can mislead many professionals.
Anxiety disorder is my Prisoner Zero. Nerdist writer/comedian and G4 show host Chris Hardwick described it as a “slow burn” and panic attacks as “being f*cked in the heart.” Yeah, that’s about right, actually. Sadly, my dad still doesn’t understand any of this.
So I kept asking myself how I’d have to get around all of that. I saw a number of therapists who kept reminding me that my displaced anger, enormous worry and extreme pessimism was hurting at me and needed to stop. My friends and my mother have all repeatedly told me I needed for it to end immediately.
Since October of last year, I’ve been afraid of crossing streets, I’ve taken extra long breaks from writing (see my current novel statistics on Camp NaNo) and I’ve lost my verbal control when it comes to talking to my parents, and making friends. People around me can smell loneliness on me and run away from me like I’m the plague. Just ask me about last week’s outing to the Friday Night Swing when I tried talking to a girl and an attractive guy upon dancing. Not a happy tale.
Either way, I’m trying guided meditations, dancing, walking, reading, writing every thought down, and taking quiet time to notice things. Still, I end up thinking about negatives, with all the stress tipping the coping scales and forcing me to give up on everything. There’s nothing more I can do from then on.
So as I’m listening to my entire Fall Out Boy album collection (I have everything from Take This to Your Grave to Save Rock and Roll on CD plus Pax-Am Days on vinyl), wishing I went to that Merriweather concert on July 18 and ran backstage to meet the bands for a hard hitting story, I’m going to attempt surpassing my word count goal. And my goal in cleaning up my room by the end of the week is to type every bit of paper from college, saving it to my hard drive and reducing the clutter.
I’ve probably written more than 3,000 words now and I need to go to sleep. I’ve got some calls I’ve got to make and there’s a lot to do tomorrow.
Therefore, Prisoner Zero, I’ve got one thing to tell you. You’re under arrest. And my songs know what you did in the dark. In the words of Trelane from Star Trek (original series): I sentence you to be hung by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!
Happy 26 to me. Birthday wishes from readers welcome.
P.S.- Coincidence: I am now the same age as Matt Smith when he was cast for the role of The Eleventh Doctor. This will be my year. I can feel it!