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I’m troubled.

Who isn’t troubled?

I’m back on meds.

Sounds like a silly thing to be troubled about.

I don’t want to be back on meds.

People with mental illness struggle with meds all the time.

I haven’t had to choke down those chalky-white pills for over a year.

You’ve struggled with this for years. Didn’t you flush a handful of Prozac down the toilet one time?

I just want to understand why some days feel like dragging a wooden cart with square wheels through ankle-deep mud.

Do the meds help?

Well, I’m sleeping again. Chalky-white pills make my eyelids slide to the floor.

Then what’s the issue?

I’m no closer to understanding why all this darkness constantly seeps into my thinking, into my perspective, into my bones. Medications, therapy, self-care, education—all of it just treating symptoms of a lingering absurdity.

What absurdity?

The absurdity of car payments and alarm clocks and owning property and daily vitamins and feeling lonely around those we love.

I don’t think that’s something meds can fix. And you’re putting a lot of pressure and expectations on small, chalky-white pills.

So I find other ways to beat back the darkness. I reach for long pulls on a glass pipe packed with weed. I reach for strong cups of black coffee that almost burn my lips. I reach for the distant, desolate surface of Mars as a terraforming colonist in some Philip K. Dick novel, my face covered in red dust, looking at the Earth as a white pixel burning against the Martian sky.

That sounds like a cool novel. Especially if you read it high while drinking black coffee.

I reach for the philosophy of Alan Watts to try to understand how the mind shapes reality. I reach for isolation, my cat staring at me as I bang away on the keyboard at 3 a.m. I reach for drinking beers with friends in crowded bars. I reach for that brief but intense human connection at concerts, dancing and jumping and moshing with strangers to music that strikes loud sparks in the heart.

Yet the darkness abides.

A vast sea blacker than space itself. Wave after obsidian wave crashing violently against the skull, carving holes in my thinking like hollow caves at the base of a cliff sunk halfway into a furious ocean.

That sounds overwhelming.

Bukowski once wrote a poem called Hug the Dark. “Stay away from god,” he writes, “remain disturbed / slide.”

But where do you slide to?

Maybe that’s not important. Just keep sliding. Keep finding new ways to slide under the ceaseless waves. Find new ways to beat back the darkness, knowing full well it will always be there—as if pills could just wipe away darkness.

This sounds defeatist.

Or liberating. Maybe hugging the dark instead of trying to defeat it gives us the space to slide, even if it’s only an inch. Even when we tumble back for miles and miles, falling into deep valleys we thought we escaped. We need space to drink a beer with a friend. To smoke weed and listen to Bowie. To fall asleep naked next to a lover. All this sliding while nothing is resolved.

Giving up is salvation?

Sliding isn’t giving up.

Well, neither is going back on meds.

Maybe not, but I still feel troubled about it.

Then feel troubled. At least you’re getting some sleep again.

I do enjoy sleep. It’s a great way to slide.

Photo by Mike Yost