reframe

One of the things I love about living downtown is how effectively the constant buzz and bustle of activity keep loneliness at bay. Loneliness and her wretched friend, anxiety. Just the sheer distraction of noise is enough to drown out most of my daily demons. But on shivery, bone-chilled nights like this, it is dangerously silent. No cheerfully drunk revelers trawling the neighborhood in search of last-minute fun. No street traffic; no Ubers or Lyfts coming to scoop those revelers up. No dog walkers; no barking, scuffling dogs. Just stillness and a cold so sharp it keeps me captive, bundled under covers and powerless to stop the vicious assault of self-loathing that comes, I guess, when some part of me thinks I deserve it.

Tonight my mind betrayed me dreadfully. Negative thoughts spiraled, spinning me like a top until I was dizzy with self-recrimination. Every last failure, every disappointment of the past ten years squeezed into the bedroom, petitioning for my attention. I found myself perched at edge of the bed, gasping sobs I kept silent for the sake of my peacefully sleeping roommates. They snored lightly in tandem, and I wished more than anything the sweetness of that sound could be enough to soothe me. Instead all I could think was that sooner or later they'd both be gone.

Set and setting. When you're stuck in a loop, change your set and setting. That's what they say to do, if you find yourself on a bad drug trip. Which is what my depressive dips essentially are: bad trips. Temporary. Forgettable. But brutal while they last. So I stepped into my slippers - which I only wear when the tiled floor feels like ice underfoot - and went into the other room to pace like an animal.

---

Feeling like one of my friends is mad at me is my emotional Achilles heel. I absolutely cannot handle it. I know why, of course; the threat of such a loss is unbearable to me after all the other losses I've tallied up. My friends are my family now. They're all I've got. And if for some reason there's tension between us, I'm besides myself until all is right again. That's what had unleashed all sorts of psychological hell tonight. The fear that I was losing one friend had refreshed the hurt of every other lost, strained, or failed relationship I've ever had. The worst kind of loneliness isn't the pain of feeling alone now; it's feeling the collective heartache of each time you grew a little more alone in this world. It's the fear of that aloneness expanding.

No one hates you, Ellie. A bad day is not a bad life. Don't blow things out of proportion. I dealt myself various reassurances and platitudes, none of which helped much. Irrational, baseless fears tortured me until I was frantic. I hovered silently in the bedroom doorway, desperate for company but too ashamed to wake Terence up.

Then, mercifully, a light broke through: the remembrance that I am in control of my mind. That all psychological pain is rooted in thoughts over which I have power. Even though I didn't feel capable of reprogramming them right at the moment, just the realization that I could reprogram them was empowering. Calming. My suffering is up to me, and I can end it anytime. 

So that's what I did. I tried to put myself in the mindset of my friend, so I could reconsider and reframe the situation. I looked at myself and our interaction through his eyes. I thought about his life right now. His pressures and stresses. His perspective. I considered the possibility that he's not even mad at me at all, that he's just withdrawn temporarily to process things his own way, on his own time.

Not everyone thinks like me, or handles conflict like me. I know that. I just haven't learned it yet.