One day, when I was a sophomore in college, I was talking with a friend over lunch about some embarrassing experience I had had the year before. I was describing it in such detail that he (jokingly) accused me of having PTSD. To this day, I have never had a formal medical diagnosis of the state of my mind, but I often wonder how much truth there was/is to that insight.
I have been alive long enough to notice a certain method in the way I remember things. There is a window between the present moment and some point four-to-five years ago within which there is a reasonable mix of pleasant and unpleasant memories. Beyond that point, I only readily remember the bad things: stupid things I said, people I hurt, mistakes and poor choices that will likely affect me for the rest of my life. I remember so many of these things, and I remember them all like they happened five seconds ago. People have asked me why I can be so quiet. It is because I have a history of regretting the things I say, which forces me to mentally screen everything that comes to mind. By the time I have determined that there is nothing wrong, the conversation has moved on.
It is possible to think of the better things, but I usually have to be reminded of them in some way — they don’t linger in the same way that the darker thoughts do. I have tried telling people about this, and the usual response I get is that everyone has those moments where they dwell on the negatives for longer than they should. I can believe it.
But here is what is difficult to talk about: I have developed a severe twitch that occurs when I think of most things in my past. It is severe enough that people notice, but not so severe that they will say anything to me. (To be fair, I’m not sure what I would say if I noticed it in someone else.) If I’m not in the immediate presence of company, I will simply start saying words — anything, complete nonsense — in order to drown out the internal noise. I have screamed in my car, alone, for minutes at a time, to get my head to shut the fuck up. I have been doing these things for years.
I refuse to believe that they are normal.
At this point it is worth noting that at the time of writing, I feel fine. But I’m fairly certain I need help. And I am not sure where to get it. My knee-jerk reaction is to take comfort in the fact that I have health insurance through my work, but mental health is treated as a myth at best where I live, so I am unsure of how viable that path truly is. In what seems to be a silver lining, I have grown to the point where feel compelled to ask myself, when I think of my past, “that was me?” But of course it was. It had to be. No amount of incredulity on the part of my current self can change, or jump through hoops to somehow redeem, my former self. And so my fear is that, the longer I live, the more these memories will pile up, and the worse my reactions to them will become, continuing the trend that has already begun. And the less I will want to continue to deal with it.
And it wears me out.
Footnote: This post will likely not be live forever, as I will probably come to regret it. But perhaps it will help someone else until then.