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The Thought Shark

I hate water.

As a child, I had a completely irrational fear that there was a shark in every single swimming pool that I was going to swim in. I didn’t enjoy swimming. I was forced to learn to swim, something that I am grateful for in case I somehow find myself ever in the water at some point, but I also was forced to spend a lot of the time at the gym during the summer because it was the only way they could get me out of the house. I also spent a lot of time during summers at my aunts house that she built up in wine country in California, which had an enormous pool attached to it, which I also spent a lot of time swimming in because apparently, if you’re a child, you’re fucking legally obligated to enjoy being in the goddamned water and you’re a freak of nature if you don’t.

To avoid being considered even weirder than I already was considered to be, I sucked it up and spent a lot of time in the miserable water, playing stupid water games and wasting lots of valuable reading time. But I did always have the irrational fear that there were sharks in pools. Today, I recognize this as it truly is; a stupid irrational childhood fear, with no basis in reality. That being said, irrational fears have kept me from achieving anything in life, along with a lot of other reasons. The thing is, nobody ever told me they were irrational fears. Everyone just sort of laughed at every single fear I ever had, no matter how irrational it was or not.

So because of this, my fears were normalized to me. These were just things I was apparently meant to live with for the rest of my life, no matter how crippling they may become.

And boy did they become crippling.

I’m 29 years old and I’m afraid of the dark.

I’m also afraid of sudden brain tumors, strokes, getting hit by a train, my throat closing up, being eaten alive and, well…life, in general, honestly. I know, how so typically 21st century of me. The thing is, nobody ever taught me not to be afraid of things. Because of this, I’m damn near afraid of anything and everything, no matter how illogical it seems. The real problem with this though, is how it keeps me from making any real progress in anything I want to do, even sleeping. I won’t sleep because instead I will stay up and think about all the horrid things that may happen to me tomorrow morning, afternoon, evening or two weeks from now.

To live in uncertainty is one thing, but to live in fear of uncertainty, well that’s a whole different thing altogether. You know the phrase people bandy around so effortlessly, the ol’ “If you try and fail at least you tried, but if you don’t try then nothing happens”? Yeah. Big fat lot of good it does someone like me. I’m scared of both options, because neither one of those are good outcomes. Now I know part of this has to do with executive function, but that isn’t the whole of it. No. There’s a lot more at work here, believe you me. I didn’t go to college. I went to a trade school while in high school and took film classes and learned some multimedia stuff and while I do have degrees from those, they aren’t technically anything that could help me. I was too scared to try and go to college and my parents didn’t care enough to send me, so they didn’t. The way I saw it, I couldn’t survive on my own so I wouldn’t go to college. But, I can’t survive now either, so not going vs going hasn’t had much of an impact on me one way or the other because the outcomes were ultimately the same. I failed in any situation I’m put in and retreat back to the safety, relative safety, of my mind where I can pretend life is better than it is by living in maladaptive daydreams.

And that’s what I do. I just daydream, because that’s better then trying or not trying. In daydreams, at least I can make things turn out exactly the way that I want them. There’s no danger, and there’s no failure. There’s no shark in the water where there wouldn’t be a shark to begin with. There’s only happiness. Only success. And so that’s where I live, in my head.

And wouldn’t you know it, despite all my mental illnesses, it’s the best place I’ve ever lived.

I hate water. Have I mentioned that already?

When I get in the shower, I am terrified to close my eyes because I 100%, despite the illogicality to it much like the shark in the pool, that when I open them there will be someone there to hurt me. Something will attack me when I cannot see. Natural fear or not, it’s just another example and my dislike for water, and how broken I really am. The Thought Shark is everywhere. He’s in every pool, every shower, every reality. If I get off this bed, I could wind up doing something I don’t like, and if I stay here, I’ll hate myself for not doing anything at all, so instead I’ll ignore all that, say FUCK THE SHARK and simply daydream about all the great things I can do instead.

I was never scared of the boogeyman. The monster under the bed? Please. But goddamn if I didn’t believe there was an enormous shark in every single pool I went to. What’s worse is, much like acknowledging my real problems, I know this is stupid. I know it’s illogical. It’s not like I actually believe there’s sharks in pools. It’s simply another way for me to fucking avoid anything and having to take responsibility for failure of any kind. Can’t fail if I don’t try, and if I don’t fail then I can’t feel bad for failing. So in my eyes, my warped eyes, that’s somehow a success? I know. I’m running in circles here. I’m sorry. This is drifting and aimless, much like myself, and I don’t know how to end it, so I guess I’ll just say this…

…there’s a very famous quote, “Monotony is the mind killer”. Basically, this means that anything tedious, repetitive or whatever is what destroys your brain, and that is why it’s good to spend your life doing new things, and investing in new ideas and activities. However, this could not be less true for me. I THRIVE on monotony. I thrive knowing that I can get up tomorrow and do the same things I did today, especially if I know I won’t fail at doing them. While I don’t believe I do anything right, I know there’s also various ways to fail, and I know I don’t do everything 100% wrong, so at least I’m doing something partially correct, and that’s a success. Monotony is not the mind killer. Not for everyone. Not for me. Monotony is the one thing that saves my mind. The repetitive, the familiar, the known.

The unknown is the mind killer. The unknown is what keeps me from moving forward. Two cars if every garage and one shark in every pool. I do plan to one day remove the thought shark from the pool of my brain, and I do plan to do it successfully. I just haven’t worked up to that point yet. And maybe then I can move forward. Maybe then I can make change. Maybe then I can swim in water. But until that day comes, I’ll take my monotony, thank you very much.

You can keep the shark infested pools.

[This is a repost from a Medium article I wrote.]

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I’m Maggie. If you like this thing I made, you might like some other things I make, like my depressing webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, the new season of my podcast “Coping With Tonal Shifts In Reality”, or my writing over at Medium. You can also find some published work for sale over at my Payhip or support my work at my Patreon! Anything helps & is appreciated, thanks!

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He’s Got Your Best Interests At Heart

There’s a little black shadowesque man who lives in the back of my head. I’m not sure when he moved in, but he’s been there for quite a long time now, I know that, because he’s been guiding me for a while, at least since childhood. He’s faceless, his limbs elongated, and he doesn’t speak. He communicates solely via telepathy. He’s filled with doubt, anxiety, sadness, fear and frustration. He’s constantly getting me to doubt everything I think or do. Anytime I think I might be about to accomplish something, he speaks up, stating, “This isn’t the right way to do this” or “It’ll never work, you know that, don’t you?”

At first I thought he was looking out for me. Keeping me from making mistakes, but no, he’s keeping me from making progress, and yet, since he’s been with me for so long now, I cannot function without him. Sometimes he takes time off, exiting through the small trap door he installed in the back door of my head, and I get left to my own devices. Upon his return, he sighs, rubbing his forehead with his lengthy fingers and says, “Look at this mess I have to clean up now.” He’s been there more than any mother or father, and is just as judgemental as they, but it’s not the same. His disappointment isn’t said with a bitterness, a venomous cynicism, whereupon he’s not actually putting me down but upset that, much like a small child, I cannot be without supervision. He’s upset. He wants me to be okay, but he himself isn’t even sure how to give me that peace of mind.

When in doubt, I often turn to him for advice. If I don’t think I’m making the right decision, I will ask his opinion, and if he even so much as hesitates in his response, I know not to continue with it. He argues with me that others are out to get me, that my family hates me, that I can’t have friends. He doesn’t believe any of that, but he himself doesn’t know how to fix it either. He’s just as clueless as I am. That’s what keeps us glued at the hip, like paper chain children. That’s why he stays. Because he knows I have nobody else, and I need someone to watch over me. Yet I know that there’s the possibility that I will lose him. That one day, I will wake up and feel ok, and he may never come back. That the space he’d occupied in the back of my head for so long will be gone, cleared of his few possessions and he will never return. I will go on to lead a good life, filled to the brim with possibilities, overflowing with happiness. Friends, a good job, a clean safe living space.

And despite this new social life, I’ll always feel alone, because nobody can fill the void that a piece of yourself once filled.

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And So I Make The Bed

So little control. So little control over anything and everything. Feeling like everything is always spiraling wildly out of control; things that I cannot handle or fix or better. I can’t control life, and so I make the bed. I make the bed every single morning when my girlfriend and I get up, because it allows me some level of control over an otherwise uncontrollable universe. Some level of control over a rather uncontrollable life. The universe is wild. The universe refuses to be tamed. Our lives are completely untamed and ultimately out of our hands, and so I make the bed. I make the bed because it’s the only way I know how to fight back against the confusion. Against the frustration. Against the everything. When all is chaos, to have just a tiny bit of order…it’s nice.

And so I make the bed.

Severe depression, severe anxiety, autism, lesbianism. All things that I cannot control. All things that were just forced upon me, that I must deal with. I deal with these things the best way that I know how, but in the end, it wasn’t my choice to have these issues. I didn’t choose to be gay. I didn’t choose to be autistic or depressed. I choose to make the bed. Why? Because I can. Do you know what it feels like? I know you know what it feels like to be scared, perhaps even terrified, but to feel that every single waking second of every single waking day, simply because everything is so out of control? Not even complete control. Just any control. Control over the simplest things, like mindsets you were forced to grow up on and have come to try and reject or who you fall in love with despite everyone telling you that it’s wrong to love that way. That’s me, every single day. That is me. Terrified. I walk around in a a state of constant, overwhelming horror.

And so I make the bed.

I make the bed because the bed is a safe spot. It’s somewhere I can go, sit, be and not worry. It’s warm. It’s inviting. It’s somewhere I sleep that I know I won’t get hurt in, physically or emotionally. It’s separated from all the vitriol and disillusion and insipidness I come into contact with daily from those around me; those I know, those I don’t, doesn’t matter. The world is an awfully scary place, full of awfully scary people who say awfully scary things. I can’t control peoples hate. Peoples anger. Peoples fear. I couldn’t control the way that my mother would scream at me, the way my family ignored me, the way my friends abandoned me. But I CAN control how clean my bed is. I can make the bed, stand back and admire my job well done, and think, “Well, at least I’ve got this.”

In a world fraught with uncertainty, there’s at least one thing I am certain of. I can make the bed.

And so I make the bed.