The Backup Plan

When dealing with anxiety and/or depression you develop your own coping mechanisms to deal with the constant dread that fills you, the picking in your brain that tells you you will never ever be good enough, the maniacal laughter that bubbles up from some wretched dark place when one more thing gets piled onto your already aching back. You learn what makes those feelings ebb, or at least makes them manageable. But what happens when your usual coping mechanism backfires and makes everything ten times worse?

This has happened to me a couple times and every time I fall off a tall cliff, questioning all I know. I isolate myself for days on end and conspiracy theory the shit out of my life. Everything that could even be remotely tied to my personal failures is blamed on some (most likely imagined) slight. Mole hills become mountains and mountains become continents. My mind (sweet Jesus my messed up brain is cruel) tells me I have ruined everything and nothing will make it better because that thing that was supposed to make it better? Yeah that’s shit now.

I spend so long just waiting, thinking if I get here (wherever here is) things will be okay. I can breath. I won’t have such bad thoughts. I’ll feel  happy again. I won’t see grey where others see color.

But the problem comes when that here makes everything worse. I immediately shut down. I can’t function. I set myself on a low energy autopilot and fake smiles hoping people won’t look too closely because if they ask anything I will lose it. I’m not very good at improvising healthy choices. I have a hard time coming back from that. Sometimes it will last a week, maybe months. There are no rules, which makes me crazy.

This time however I came up with something fairly quickly borne of drunken amazon browsing and a desperation to do anything even remotely non-destructive for myself.

I have ordered two books.

Both of which I have read before so I know I will like them.

The first is one I have borrowed at least twice a year (sometimes more) from my local library. Basically whenever I feel shitty. Sunshine by Robin McKinley is probably the book I have most often read and re-read in my life. It’s not exactly a happy tale, but it’s adventurous and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. Honestly I have no idea what took me so long to get my own copy instead of hoarding the library’s every few months.

The second is older, a book my parents had and I read many times when I still lived with them: HRH The Rider by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Sort of a done to death trope of royalty switching places with a highway brigand ( in this day and age anyway) but it always brings me back to those romantic feelings of a young girl just getting her feet wet in the oh-my-god-he-loves-her genre. This is not the typical Tarzan or John Carter of Mars Burroughs, in fact I never really read those but I did read the  non-serialized stories of his and loved them more than the works he is typically known for. The Oakdale Affair, The Monster Men, The Mad King, those were the Burroughs stories I loved. The Rider was always my favorite though and I think I read it so many times that my parents’ copy is now held together with a rubber band.

So these are the two things I am hoping won’t backfire. These books do not have as much of a chance to backfire, at least, than other coping mechanisms. They’re not particularly drag-you-out-of-the-mud-jesus-look-how-happy-you-are-now stories. In fact you might call parts of them scary or at least harrowing, but I find that’s what I need. Something to jolt me out of the shitty mess I’m wallowing in.

It does not make sense on paper that a story about killing vampires and a troped up prince and the pauper tale plus violence would put me in a better frame of mind. This makes sense to me, in my head.

I now have two backup plans for when things go awry and my head will not shut up and my own personal blue screen of death is imminent.

So here’s to hoping.

One thought on “The Backup Plan

  1. When I’m having trouble with depression or anxiety (or sometimes just when I’m really stressed) I like to re-read books I first read as a child or teen. I find it just pulls me out of the world for a bit, and sometimes that’s what I need.


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