I was prescribed a lot of medication during my twenties. At 31, I guess I still am but not as much of it is mood-altering. As, one by one, the ones deemed unnecessary have slowly worked their way out of my system I (re)discover parts of myself that had either gone unnoticed, been underdeveloped, or had not previously existed. I wonder how much of it was covered up or augmented in weird ways by the chemical cocktail in my blood and in my brain. The veil lifts a little bit every day as those parts of myself chemically effected are cleansed by water, coffee, and the rest sweated out through my pores.
Everyday seems more like acting than the day before. There are times when that all falls away and barriers, filters, and facades don’t exist or, if they do, I don’t care. It brings me to times like these when I get into the deep existential questions of whether the day-to-day me is just a persona.
Did you know that the word ‘person’ comes from the Latin word ‘persona’ which means ‘mask’? So maybe being human means we invite spectators to ponder what lies behind. Each of us would be composed of a variety of masks. And if we can see behind the mask, we would get a burst of clarity, and if that flame was bright enough, that’s when we fall in love. (War Inc., 2008)
Is the me I am on a daily basis the real me or if I’m putting on the affect I spent most of my life constructing so I could appear to function normally in society? Is the external reactions to everything just a learned response to shield people (and protect myself) from whatever is really going on in my head? Is this one of the many methods in which I’ve instinctively learned to protect myself, to cope with the every day stress that now comes with navigating social situations I was oblivious to before, when I was a lithium powered automaton?
This question comes up now because I’ve begun to exhaust my energy levels faster every day. Along with that and by increments the part of me that cared about keeping the aforementioned illusion alive is fading. I am withdrawing from what little interaction I have with people, which is mostly at work, and retreating to the recesses of my mind where I analyze myself ad nauseam. I have been attributing it to the banal and meaningless things that people say; they feel just as fake as I am trying not to be and it grinds up against the very few nerves I have left that bear my patience for trivial matters. Right now, I’d prefer to listen to music at high volumes and not talk to anyone if I don’t have to.
Some of this just may be fatigue. I have been running myself into the ground working 50-60 hours a week and sleeping when I can. My bedtime seems to get earlier by the day and I wake up somewhat refreshed. Most of the time I wake up 4-5 hours after going to bed feeling wide awake. My therapist tells me I need to practice more self-care. Most days I can’t muster up the energy to do anything but work. I forget to eat most days which probably has not helped my mood. Food makes me nervous now, for some reason. I could cook but it produces the same pain response that homework does. Did you know the cause of procrastination is because the thought of doing whatever you’re putting off until later has a similar neurological effect as pain? With that in mind, it may be fair to say I am in a mental form of pain the moment I get home. I don’t move much so I don’t exacerbate it.
“what they don’t tell you about self-care,
that it can make you feel like you are the coach,
the captain, & every.other.player.
oh, & the mascot.
it can make you feel especially like the mascot.”
– Sabrina Benaim, Depression & Other Magic Tricks
At this point, if anyone is reading this, it may sound like I am depressed. It is that time of year when I generally sink into my seasonal depression. Thankfully, I’ve escaped that over the past couple of years. I’m not depressed. The best way I can describe it is thus: it feels like maybe I’ve been faking my personality for so long as a display of strength bolstered by pharmaceuticals. I’m learning to embrace the atypical means in which my brain works which is sometimes uncomfortable and strange but it feels more natural. The side effects to that, however, is a lot of introspection and intellectualizing what I’m experiencing because that’s the only way I know how to work through almost anything.
One of the most famous forms of acting is known by many names and has existed for a long time. It is known by many names, as I have discovered:
For centuries, cultures used different words and phrases to describe “good” acting: Romantic Acting, Emotional Acting, Divine Inspiration, The Muses, Feeling the Role. These terms merely described an organic process of creativity that talented actors used, often times unconsciously, to accomplish what audiences experienced as a moving performance. This was the (re)experiencing of life by the actor within the fiction of the story as if it were true and happening now. Aristotle said that the secret to moving the passions in others is to be moved oneself, and that moving oneself is made possible by bringing to the fore “visions” of experiences from life that are no longer present. Aristotle was stating the core principle of The Lee Strasberg Method™ — the creative play of the affective memory in the actor’s imagination as the foundation for (re)experiencing on stage.
This idea was first called the ‘System’ by Konstantin Stanislavsky, and later, as further developed by Lee Strasberg… trains actors to use their imagination, senses and emotions to conceive of characters with unique and original behavior, creating performances grounded in the human truth of the moment. (The Strasberg Method)
In short, the method means drawing from personal experience to create a believable moment. My method was similar but a lot of it turned out to be mimicry or reactions that I had observed as socially acceptable. I feel that part of myself is melting away and I’m becoming even more stoic. It doesn’t make sense to laugh at much anymore. My analytical abilities remain intact; I am able to analyze reactions a lot of the time to glean the information from social situations but I’ve become much more literal in my responses to people. My filter has become even less controlled. Most of me just doesn’t think about what’s going on around me anymore and I’m so tired at this point I don’t really want to make the effort.
My guess is this is some sort of hammering process where the unnecessary is being struck away and molding me into a more coherent form of myself. These last two years have been chaos and have done some strange things to my psyche. Perhaps I am becoming more comfortable with who I am without having to put on the mask that I thought made me socially acceptable. I have never been fully accepted. I have always been on the outside. Am I just wearing myself out until my true self is truly prevalent? Part of me hopes so.
I have grown weary of faking for the sake of others even when it’s not intentional.