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Brain on Leave

Imagine sitting in a friend’s living room, reuniting with a group of fifteen friends after a year’s distance. Think of the many different side conversations every two or three people are having. Picture the loudness of the room—excitement in their voices, exclamation at the good food, laughter at their inside jokes, and surprise as they share updates. And instead of being an invitee, imagine being a silent, invisible observer. Can you envision the buzz around you as you float around the room? This is how loud my mind has been these past couple of months. It feels like a loud room and moves around slowly. It does not overthink or contemplate or analyze.

I feel like I am in limbo. I cannot hear myself. And I have lost sense of time. I always seem to be running a day late. Days are turning into weeks and weeks into months; and I am standing still in the midst of this all with lost and confused eyes, frozen as they try to ground me. For the past two months, I have been on a mission to regain mental clarity. My most recent attempt is to rid my life of most responsibilities (i.e. work) and things that weigh heavily on me (i.e. expectations of myself). As I do so, I realize that I have drowned my sense of self. My brain has erased what I like and dislike, what I want to do, and what brings me joy and passion; and I’m working to discover it all again. I recently remembered that I enjoy going to art workshops, and then scrambled my brain to recall how to find one. It was a thought process of three days that finally led me to Google. And of another day that led me to reach out to the studios I found.

This mental work is becoming very arduous. My autopilot is still functioning well, alhamdulila. But anything that requires additional thought—that part of my brain is on a sunbed somewhere in Ibiza, away from me and my depression. So, its hard for me to find myself. To anchor my mind. To do anything.

I know I love art. So, I need to think about how to get to that. Even if I paint at home, I strain my brain to make it happen because with my current capacity, my mind moves quite slowly through the different thoughts: where in the apartment, what time of day, needing to clear the table, what tools I’ll need, etc. And then I worry about having to think of what to paint. I can already imagine myself sitting in front of my Canson paper, staring out my window, and getting lost in thought for a couple hours while my brain finally arrives at what to paint. I also ask myself: what if I get a phone call in the middle? Should I pick up, I would remain absent-minded for at least 30 minutes after. So, while I know I want to paint, getting to painting is a lengthy, exhausting process.

I am washed over with mild sadness every time I notice my limbo state. Societal pressures that have been engraved in me of always having a job and doing something with one's life whisper at the back of my head: if this takes longer than one month, what are you going to do? Who will you be? What value will you be adding? And it is this very last one that I care about. What value am I adding by taking so much time off to uncover my heart and brain? Why can’t I just get better?

I understand that it’s a process. And I understand that I will most likely come out of this more whole and better able to understand and enjoy life. But I guess I’m always in a rush when it comes to accomplishments; always racing to the finish line; always jumping to the next phase. My friends help me fight this off and take it easy. They help me take my progress one step at a time; to accept my missteps; to live by the motto of slow and steady wins the race. But old habits die hard. I think that’s why my brain has abandoned me. It does not like my old habits, and I have not succeeded in changing them, so it resigned until further notice.

Somewhere inside me, I am eternally grateful for its resignation. It is forcing me to stop everything and just be me. It is making me to listen to my body entirely, and to dust off the layers of influence that are around me. It is pushing me to finally just live. So, my friends and I tell myself it will be okay, and that this is temporary. I allow myself to wander through my day like the lost child I feel I am. I allow my life to be in momentary limbo while I try to giving everything a rest. And I remind myself to breathe.

So, although I may bully myself every now and then for not having my life together, I have a lot of gratitude buried underneath that…


Photo: I have been intending to reconnect with my paints for the past few months and I finally got around to it after proofreading this post. This is a watercolour painting of Momo, my beloved plant. I do not usually paint flora, but I decided to paint the first thing I see, to avoid the daunting thought process.

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