Sloom

Sloom. Intransitive. British, dialectal. To doze. Become weak. Drift along slowly.

I like the word intransitive. In middle school when I learned the word it didn’t mean much, but now I can tease it apart and dissect its meaning: trans across, in meaning opposite. It does not go across. It’s an action without object.

Adrift is a good word too. Describes the feeling nicely. Adrift in the ocean: a battered raft riding the waves, sun rays beating down, dehydration, head lolling off the side, tongue lapping at the waters–but if it’s salty, it’s like drinking death anyways.

Or maybe adrift in the air: like a bird gliding through an updraft, slung upward, seeing the ground far beneath it, but unable to do anything but lilt in the wind. Or adrift in space: an astronaut untethered, touched not by gravity. Total silence. Absolute abyss.

Or maybe, like me, adrift in my own head.

My default answer is “I’m okay.” And from a logical perspective, rationally, it’s always true: vacuous, perhaps, but truth cannot be denied if truth is objective. I am present. I am breathing. Blood thuds through my veins and I eat, sleep, drink, repeat. Bills are paid and I’ve got a place to sleep. My dog is healthy. I’ve got books and video games and friends and wifi and food in the fridge and enough money to still order in. So I’m okay.

So it surprised when, meeting with a friend last night to talk about a new book group, when he asked me how I’m doing, I answered with a deeper sense of honesty. I told him I’ve been down lately, that the change in routine from school to summer sent me in a spiral. It often happens like this, I said, so I’m just riding the wave.

He asked when school ended. I told him Tuesday was my last day.

If you’re anything like me, he said, then it probably set in Friday.

I thought for a moment. Yeah, I said, Thursday or Friday. Again: I’m just riding the wave.

I’m adrift. Sloom. An action without object: there is no “done to”; only “doing.”

The benefit of being self-aware is that I know what’s going on and I’m not blaming myself or saying, you’re on break finally, why the fuck are you ruining it? I guess you could say, when everyone shook their heads at me when I said I’d be teaching summer school, that I didn’t answer wholly when they asked me why: I need the money, sure, it’s true enough, and it’s easy anyways, no doubt, but it also maintains my routine, and that routine, for me, maintains my sanity. And yeah, the fact that it’s easier meant I was able to do more within the confines of essentially the same routine–my whole PRIDE series was a result of that additional freedom while teaching summer school.

Now with school utterly out for the summer, my routine has been broken, so in turn my head has been broken. I’m not functioning quite as well as I normally do. I have more time, so you’d think I’d be better at keeping up with things, yet I’ve somehow managed to clean less and cook a whole lot less than while I was busier managing an overloaded work schedule during the semester. I’ve gotten more sleep in one or two nights than sometimes I got in a whole week before, and I’m still more tired now than ever.

It’s more mild than it could be: for this, I have my medications to thank. And it will pass. I can’t say if it’ll pass in a day or a week or a month, but it will pass. Writing about it helps. My fingers type faster than my consciousness can keep up with my thoughts, and so writing reveals the unconscious mind to me. It’s cathartic. Healing.

Writing publicly also raises awareness. There’s still a stigma around mental illness, around mental health in general, and sharing my experiences can help illuminate the misconceptions and normalize the neurodiversity. Writing publicly also means breaking the norms of only sharing our best selves online, a self-serving tendency that while entirely rational tends to do more harm than good because those around us–in fact everyone–develops an illusory understanding of how great everyone else’s lives are, which by comparison makes my life worse. The shame and seclusion intensify.

It’s July. I have a draft written reflecting on my progress toward my goals for the year. I meant to revise it and post it last week. Didn’t happen. Now the month is closer to over than not, and it’s still sitting there. Adrift in a sea of drafts seen by no one.

This weekend I’m going on a camping trip with the Castaways. All the officers and new members and pledges are expected to perform in some sort of variety show. I haven’t planned anything. We leave tomorrow and I’ve got no ideas.

Sloom. It really is a perfect word for a depressive episode like this: I feel weak, tired, drifting listlessly, unable to steer the ship toward any shore.

Perhaps there is no shore. Adrift. In transit. In travel. But intransit: no other side.

Apophenia. The tendency to see patterns and connections where there are none. I’m prone to this as a mathematician and a creative writer. Possibly my grammatical patterning is legitimate, and possibly not. Yet it seems illustrative enough. When my head descends into this state of sloom, it seems like I’m adrift without end. There is no destination, no time or place when this weakness and slumber will subside.

The rational part of my brain that sits at a distance and looks down on me knows that staying adrift, while easy, is not ideal: I have to raise the oar and row, eat good food, exercise, do something restorative like writing or reading… and yet, sloom, where is the energy to do any of this? How can I exercise if I don’t have the physical strength to roll out of bed or even lift my hand enough to reach my phone and turn off the alarm? How can I choose to eat good food if I feel neither hunger nor satiation from anything?

Posts like this have no clear conclusion. Because right now I see no clear destination. To wait for my mental state to change to write a proper ending means this post will never be published, yet the converse is not true: if I write an ending, it will not change this feeling. For a while I thought “sloom” meant a flow like plume, the outward spreading of something in a feather-like manner, or like slurry, a semiliquid mixture. But I was wrong. Sloom is just sloom. Weakness. Slumber. The pattern was mistaken.

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