Sometimes I go for long stretches of time without encountering my deep well of sadness and then, suddenly, I’m in there again. When I’m back in it, I remember how physical it is, the way it feels like it will suffocate me, and the way I will look outside myself for anything I can use to escape it. Maybe I didn’t feel the sadness for a while because I was using dopamine changers like the internet, ambition, and restricting my food intake. Maybe what I feel, when my sadness returns, is the truth of who I am; or maybe it’s only part of who I am, made more acute by the inevitable comedown from all those external false highs. Regardless of what it is, I feel it.
There are certain times in my life when I’ve felt so lost and so broken that I want to turn to anyone or anything for help, and that is how I am feeling now. Yet for someone who shares seemingly everything in books, on Twitter, and in articles like this, there are things that I do not share with anyone—not with friends, therapists, or even, maybe, myself.
Some of the unshareable quality of this sadness is because I don’t have exact language for it. I could say I feel sad about the fact that we have to make choices in life and sometimes these choices preclude other choices. I could say that I feel sad because time is real. I could say I feel sad to be moving forward, not backward, through life. I could say that I feel sad there are places I will never go back to again. I could say that I miss people who I only thought I knew, or who did not really exist. All of these things are true. But none of the words encompass what I feel in its totality, because what I feel does not seem to come from a linear or verbal place.
Language and connection have saved my life hundreds of times. I purport to be a believer in sharing one’s secrets as a path to wellness, and I do believe this. Yet sometimes, there are days like this when it feels like I could only communicate what I am feeling by dismantling the limits of the body, nature, and language entirely. It reminds me that ultimately I will die alone, even if I am surrounded by loved ones. And it forces me, in a strange way, to love myself.
And yet, I must say that I still don’t know exactly what it means to love oneself. But when I am at the very bottom of my psychic well, I seem to know how to do it intuitively. What it looks like, this time, is for me to get on my knees and talk to a force that is greater than me, yet somehow also inside me. If it is the void, then let it be the void. And if it is god, that is fine too. But it is only in desperation that I go to this place. The act of talking to this nebulous space is so intangible, and the world is full of so many shinier things that are easier and more exciting to turn to, that I always forget I can go in there.
This time, before I remember that I can go to this place, I give the external world one more go at relieving me of myself. In fact, I go on Tinder. I go on Tinder hoping to find a stranger who will erase the sadness from me. I go there, because sometimes it feels like a stranger is the only person who will understand. Will the stranger understand for real? Probably not. But the stranger is a blank space where I can project the idea that I am being understood, without words. And perhaps what I feel I need in this moment, maybe even more than understanding, is to get high on something shiny.
Illustrations by Joel Benjamin
And so I find a hot young stranger on Tinder named Francisco and we begin sexting. I feel myself getting high, already, without ever having met him, off the fantasy of this beautiful mirage. I forget that with any high, one inevitably comes down, and usually that means feeling sadder than you did when you started. I feel vindicated, because the things I feel sad about—youth, future excitement, potentiality—seem to be embodied by this stranger.
We tell each other that we will email one another nudes. I give him my anonymous sexting email and I wait half an hour, then another half an hour, but the nudes do not come. I begin to feel like a loser. I feel old and ugly, and yes, sadder than before. Finally, I abandon my mission, delete Tinder for the thousandth time, and go to bed.
In the morning, I wake up empty. But as I am brushing my teeth I remember that nebulous space, and that the one thing I have left is to get on my knees and talk to something that is better than all of this, always pure, always there like the sun. It’s simply been blocked by clouds. So I wash out my mouth and spit, then I get on my knees. I sit there for a while and begin to talk, sometimes without words, just moaning, however I am feeling. I begin to sway, daven as they call it, like my Jewish ancestors. I find this funny and I laugh. And this is the closest I know to self-love. And who knows if it even is self-love, but it is something good.
Three hours later, I am feeling somewhat better when an email comes in from Francisco, the stranger. I open it to find two dick pics, both shaven and unshaven iterations of the same dick. I begin to think that this dick, the stranger it is attached to, can somehow deliver me from myself. But then I remember how I felt last night when I did not receive the dicks, and that anything with the power to make me feel that shitty probably isn’t the thing I need.
I think of the power I felt in me this morning. I ask the power to help me not go down the path of the stranger today: the path of looking outside myself for the answer. I ask the power to help me delete the dicks. I delete the dicks, log out of the email, and say thank you.
If you are concerned about your mental health or that of someone you know, visit the Mental Health America website.
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