“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

#1 the broken brain

I hate my brain. This wasn't always the case, but some 15 years ago, events happened1 and I wound up with PTSD. Worse, I wasn't properly diagnosed until some eight years later and not properly treated until some ten years later.

That's a decade of living with a storm in my head. That's a decade of rumination and depression and suicidal thoughts and endless soul-searching and insomnia and distraction. It destroyed my first career. My brain, which had previously been a sponge, been able to read 800-page novels in a night, could learn almost anything thrown at it, quit on me.

No, I became the guy who would open a book, start reading, and then I would realise that 45 minutes had passed in which I had never made it past the first paragraph. No, a flashback consumed me for all that time, so deeply, so immersive, that I understood nothing else until I emerged from it. This was involuntary. I learnt to sit at work with my hands resting on my keyboard so that when a flashback hit, it looked vaguely like I was still working.

I could no longer do the maths that had earned me my engineering degree. I could no longer do work tasks that I had found relatively trivial only months before. Concentration of any kind was difficult. And I was hurting so badly inside.

You know you understand what hurt means when suicide—oblivion—seems nicer than life. You know you understand anger when you’re genuinely murderous.

I quit my job before they sacked me. I told my friends that I wanted to try to make it as a freelance writer. (Not too much writing got done, unsurprisingly.) It hurt when some of them laughed behind my back at this, unaware of where I was mentally—the deep hurt, the humiliation, the brokenness.

Now, please note how very lucky I have been in my life. I had a wonderful childhood in a prosperous nation. I was usually happy. I did well at school. My family were loving and supportive. Okay, I was a bit of a daydreamer and mildly anxious, but the latter trait never hindered me. So, you can't point to a history of mental health issues before these events occurred. This is so often the case with PTSD.

But ten years of that storm reprogrammed my brain for negativity, for rumination, for distraction, for more. For periods, I tried repressing everything and just moving on. In my experience, repressing just led to obsessive, destructive, egotistical behaviours in other ways with a core of anger and hurt that remained.

At one point, I became emotionally numb. That was disturbing. I felt nothing for my wife, the love of my life, pregnant with our first child. That’s the closest to being a sociopath that I’ve ever felt.

Fifteen years. I now meditate every day. I still have bad patches. I’ve been trying to put the piece of myself back together ever since. I’m still broken in some ways. Still anxious and distracted by rumination and strange.

I remember being normal once. No longer.

  1. Maybe to be discussed later. Maybe never. Don't get your hopes up.

#2 ten days of crazy-making