For the past four days I've been at a conference I attended two years ago. It's being held at the same university, on campus. The last time that I was here was a bit of a rough time for me, a few months before I started seeing my current therapist and getting antidepressants/antianxiety meds. The time I spent at the conference was two weeks after I coordinated and hosted a career symposium for our department, a week before my qualifying exam, and during the end of a pretty shitty relationship which was not only contributing to my stress but also pretty twisted and making me feel like I was doing a hell of a lot of things wrong.
Anyway, that's not where I am, mentally or emotionally anymore, but being here is making me seriously uncomfortable. My short friend sent me a link to the blog hyperbole and a half today, for the entry describing the journey through depression, and it was so overwhelming true I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time in the library. Not that I'm in a state of depression now, but being here in the dorms where I was at that time, having overwhelming feelings of doubt, panic, fear, unworthiness-you name it- has been pretty hard. It's completely involuntary, and seems like the previous feelings are lurking in a corner and sneak up behind me and latch onto me stealthily without my knowledge like some kind of emotionally scarring lamprey (actually having a lamprey latching onto you at all seems pretty scary, although they are pretty cool in terms of their evolutionary significance; they predate the jawed fishes and pretty much every other recognizable vertebrate). Anyway, what the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, see, when I'm just sitting here in the dorm room trying to relax, the lamprey snags me and I start to get sad and listless and anxious. And it's really hard to shake off! But when I'm in one of the sessions or something, listening to cool science (or, apparently, sometimes when I start talking about it in my blog) then the lamprey shrivels up and can't attach because it's repelled by my enthusiasm.
I'm trying to make it through this week without losing my mind or having any completely unwarranted crying fits due to the lamprey, but it's pretty difficult. My feelings were so strong last time I was here, and I completely gave into them and felt like I had no control over all the crazy, overwhelming stuff that was going on. Part of that was probably because at that time I was apparently suffering an extended period of brain aneurysm and making every excuse in the book for my then-boyfriend. I knew him through work, and lots of people had told me what a great guy he was, so of COURSE he had to be a great guy, right? And he had all these sob stories, about his terrible, difficult childhood, how he had cancer, twice, and how it destroyed his life but he overcame it, and about this girl he loved even though she was evil and who emotionally abused him and then screwed him over and took all his money and his bed so that now he has to live in a rented room in a condo with an overweight, std-ridden girl with low self esteem who he insisted wanted to be his girlfriend and he had to fend off all the time.
From all of this trauma he'd experienced in his thirty two years, this guy had a plethora of rules which he lived by including that I was not allowed to tease him about not letting me help in the kitchen (because aforementioned female did that), a bedtime of exactly 9:30 because he took some kind of pill to sleep at 9 pm (which meant that I/he had to leave so he could sleep, even though he constantly complained that he was never able to sleep), and of course him being extremely controlling about our physical relationship. Even talking about this makes me suspect that I was actually taken over by pod people during this period, but in reality I know that I had sensed that something was wrong, but the combination of his self-assured manner and everyone's praise of his name made me think that I was just being paranoid.
Plus the fact that I was totally exhausted from already having gone to a conference that summer and doing a bunch of other aforementioned shit, plus the fear that precedes taking one's qualifying exam (for those of you who aren't aware, a qualifying exam is a test that they make you take partway through your PhD to add extra stress where you might have to write a long document and thne have professors ask you questions that begin with and then become more and more removed from your field while they poke you with sharp sticks). Basically I was utterly overwhelmed and confused about everything, and just trying to trust that everything was going to be ok, even though my qualifier document wasn't getting any longer, or much better, the longer I worked on it, because I was pretty much clueless as to what the goal actually was. Then my sh****-ass boyfriend stopped texting me, and every time I turned on my phone I experienced the overwhelming need to vomit with fear that he hadn't contacted me, which he hadn't. Then, when I finally called him, upset that we hadn't talked he tried to "cheer" me up by relating a story in which he bonded with a woman who had been through a similar divorce to his, the punchline being that it makes one "want to have unprotected sex with strippers."
In retrospect, I've decided the best thing to do in this situation is to actually reach through the phone and yell "I'M BREAKING UP WITH YOU, WORTHLESS PIECE OF DECAYING LARD." Then (the reason for reaching through the phone) pick up hot sauce and splash it into the offending person's eyes and kick them in the balls (if they have any). Afterward send their roommate a letter saying that you're sorry but you're keeping the pyrex dish since they never used it anyway, and sorry but so and so is always talking about you behind you back, calling you an overweight slut, etc. Then, in order to take your qualifying exam, you should push down all of your emotion, channeling your anger into studying and a robust presentation, and then break down and cry for 6-7 days straight afterward, no matter what the outcome.
This is not what I did. I was confused and hurt and angry but let it slide. I wanted to focus on my exam but couldn't. And now (although it doesn't really matter, I guess) I will always have the small regret (and I have like NO regrets) that I could have written a better qualifier if my brain hadn't been all f'd up by emotions.
I'm trying to come to my point, which I've partly forgotten, and apologize for the absurdity of the length of this post (although if you think it's too long I'm not sure why you're still reading it). My point is that sometimes you can't control your emotions, especially when something reminds you of the past, and it's not your fault. However you should try your best to work through it, as I am trying to do, by writing a mean blog post about ex boyfriends or eating sushi or letting animals free from the zoo or whatever makes you personally feel better. Now is the present, not the past, and you can't change the past but you CAN stop it from ruining the present. So long as you can rip off the lamprey.