How To Be Me

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: April 13, 2018

Reads: 438

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Submitted: April 13, 2018

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Rays of sunlight trickle into the room through the cracked blinds. The soft humming of the fluorescent lights buzzes under the sound of beeping medical equipment. In a corner room on the 6th floor of a Portland hospital a young man; with long locks of messy brown hair and a like colored and like messed beard to match, lies in a deep unconsciousness. He is approaching his one week comatose anniversary, anniversary though, makes it seem more happy that it actually is.

“The narrator is right you know? It's actually quite a sad story. Yeah, the guy in the coma is me. You're probably wondering how I got here? I'm kidding, this isn't one of those stories, and you certainly aren't wondering. Like most people you don't even know who I am. Saying I was a shut in is a bit of an understatement. I also had a penchant for living out the worst case scenario to every situation in my head, whether it was happening in reality or not. I was a mental illness parfait... if you will. Anxiety yogurt layered with depression granola, and don't forget to top it with hypochondriac berries!

The other me was just a completely different flavored parfait. Oh, that's right! You don't even know about him or me! I guess I was rambling a bit there. Alright let's start from the beginning then, I'm currently waiting to wake from my comatose state so I've time o'plenty. And well, you certainly weren't wondering how I got here, but here you are all the same.”

 

My name is Richard Reece, Rich for short... obviously. I'm twenty seven years old, born and raised in Portland, Oregon. One week ago I tried to kill myself. You see when my problems all started it wasn't that mine were worse or better than anyone else. Everyone just handles things differently, and well, that's when I met the other me. Richard Two, or as I liked to call him R2 (a little Star Wars humor for you). R2 was like an imaginary friend in ways, I could physically see him, though no one else could. He was my subconscious manifest, and Lord knows I had some crazy brewing there. To understand him though we need to do just a little bit of backtracking.

I had a mostly normal childhood you could say. Not rich, not poor, two parents, a modest sized home and a backyard to play in. But that's too far back, our story starts at the start of my adulthood, 18 years old. Now I had always been a bit odd and anti-social, I spent most of my time in my room playing video games or reading books about grand fantasy adventures, and listening to what the older folks called “screamo” music. All of these things individually weren't super popular with many of the other kids I went to high school with during the early 2000's. The plethora of my mentally impairing problems wouldn't start until I was 18 though, five months after my Dad unexpectedly passed away. I don't think my problems derived specifically from that event, fate lined it up to be a cruel coincidence, but it still certainly had an impact on my troubles to come.

Anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, hypochondria, it was all coming for me, slowly but surely. That's when I had my first panic attack. I was sitting at home in my room playing video games, as I was most days. I had just graduated High School and had no ambition to attend any colleges, but I had a couple of interviews lined up for the following week. I knew I had to at least do something with my life. Anyways, I was sitting there on my bed and suddenly it was like I was Luke and the gang stuck in the trash compactor on the Death Star! The walls looked like they were closing in on me! I quickly looked around and noticed how fast my heart was beating, and boy was it going. The walls kept closing, my heart kept pounding. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! I quickly threw my game controller down and sat back trying to focus on breathing, figure out what was wrong. I gasped out loud for oxygen, it felt like someone was sitting on my chest, I heaved through it, kept breathing.

I couldn't figure out what was wrong. By all accounts I was physically in perfect health, but I couldn't think rationally while my mind blazed through every worst case scenario situation I could be dealing with. I felt weird, and not weird like “why do I randomly feel like I'm dying for no reason” weird, but it felt like my soul was being ripped from my body. Like tiny demons were dragging it to hell to add to their collection of tortured souls they got to play with daily. Doom was the only thing I felt in the moment.

The only thing I could think to do was to put my head in my hands and breathe. It was a terrible technique really. Even though it would only turn out to be a panic attack, I'm a little concerned in the moments I thought I was dying that it didn't occur to me to call someone. Like I said though, my mind was going a million miles an hour.

I can't be sure how long it lasted, it could have been minutes, could have been days. Eventually, my mind calmed, my chest slowed and my breathing felt real again. I picked my head up, and looked around the room, like I had just been in a plane crash or something. Was I alive? How as I alive? My whole body throbbed, I felt an exhaustion I'd never known. If I wasn't so out of it I would have been startled by seeing him standing there in the corner. The day R2 and I first met.

He was an exact copy of me, the always messy brown hair. A little skinnier than most people our age. He was quite nice though, and introduced himself right away. He had an English accent, which I thought was weird but a little cool. Probably because I think I secretly always wished that I had one. He wasted no time telling me who he was, he didn't want me to be afraid, he was genuine.

 

R2 started out innocent enough I guess, and with the best intentions. Even a little humorous, albeit a dark humor. He would say things like, “Hey buddy, I know you just sat down to enjoy those chips, but could I let you in on something? You notice how the bag has considerably less air in it compared to the average bag of chips?” To which I'd begin to realize that he may have been on to something. “Hmm, they do seem to be a more deflated than usual.” I said. He continued, “Yeah, you see here's the problem. The reason there is less air in those chips is because someone SOMEHWHERE (he'd emphasize it with arcing his arms out, like it was a world wide conspiracy) very likely tampered with the bag”.

“Tampered with a bag of chips? How? Why?” I would ask, his reply always incredibly convincing. “Why does anyone do anything? Humans are fucked up. Someone probably poked a hole in this bag with a sharp needle, hence letting some of the air out. Then with the needle they laced these chips with some crazy psychedelic drugs, and if you eat them you are absolutely going to freak the hell out and probably drop dead within minutes. I'm just trying to look out for you. For us.”

I knew that that theory didn't make much sense, but R2 was a man of conviction. It was probably best to listen to him. So that entire bag of chips found it's way into the trash bin. R2 started out as irrational thoughts and phobias, giving me minuscule things to panic about. As small as they were however a large list began to grow. A list of things I couldn't do with out having a panic attack, things I couldn't attempt without the looming threat of “What if I have anxiety about this”, until I avoided these things all together.

After years of sheltering myself and not living outside my bubble, R2 began to become very dark. Most days he would sit in the corner screaming loudly non stop for hours. I couldn't focus, I couldn't breathe, I couldn't do anything but sit around and be miserable. The anxiety, the fear, the depression, the hopelessness, I just wanted it all to stop. I'd go on to try all kinds of different things for years. Medicine, counseling, yoga, exercise, exorcism, you name it I tried it. Nothing would work though, R2 stayed perched in the corner screaming. Maybe I should have listened to him more closely, he always had the right answers. I couldn't get him to speak at all now though.

I got to a point where I couldn't take it anymore. I screamed back at R2. I told him how worthless he was, how he was ruining my life. That I hated him, that I cursed the day he ever showed up. He stopped screaming. He looked up to me from his corner, he eyes pierced me to the core. I wanted to regret saying what I did but I couldn't, I needed my life back. Without a word, he was gone. This is great news I thought, but it wasn't. I felt more empty than I could ever begin to fathom. The few remaining things I loved or enjoyed no longer had any meaning. I was broken beyond repair, it felt like half of me was missing. Like I didn't have a soul, or I was stuck in some time bending vortex forced to live the grief of my own death over and over and over. I was in a darker place than I'd ever been in with R2, but he was gone, no matter how much I called out for him. Months went by.

 

One day I broke, that day to be a week ago actually. The only way I knew to leave the hell I created for myself was to die. I couldn't live in a perpetual state of fear, self loathing and hopelessness anymore. I couldn't see a future, I couldn't see the light. The only thing I knew for certain, was that I needed to die. Originally I was going to go to the tallest building I could find and jump off of it's roof. That wasn't going to work for me though. I didn't want the last thing I do to be yet another thing that inconveniences someone; having to scrape me off the sidewalk. Plus I could have landed on someone's car and ruined that, or landed on a person ruining their day, or God forbid I could land on a dog!

So I needed to find somewhere that was high above water, that way if my body was ever found, it was as easy as fishing me out. There was a bridge near my apartment that could do the trick, but it was a railroad bridge, and the train tracks gave my anxiety. Good grief, I couldn't even find a way to kill myself without being a pansy about it.

Finally I found a tourist spot at a local lake where people could bungee jump from a high platform above the water. That would do, that would do just fine. So I waited for the world to turn itself away from the gaze of the sun. Night fell and the attraction closed, still I waited. Waited for the staff to clear out, waited for area to be devoid of human life. When it was clear I made my way to the base of the ladder. Each rung to the top felt like a lifetime's worth of time passed until I made it to the next. I never turned back though. This was the point that R2 likely would have recommended another option, but he was no longer here. So I kept climbing.

Once I reached the top I stood with my toes hanging over the edge. I was some two hundred and fifty feet up. The high altitude wind rushed through my hair as I prepared for my attempt at flight. I looked down through the night sky at the pitch black lake before, it looked like blotted ink. I took one last breath of the cool mid-August air and made the leap. And the most peculiar thing happen.

The very moment that my feet left the edge, that exact second; I regretted it. My long last epiphany revealed itself in my final moments. I knew then exactly how to fix myself, to put it all back together. To exist in my own version of harmony, to be alive. Alas, I was currently plummeting to my death.

As you could have guessed, I very fortunately did not die. Lucky for me there was a troupe of Boy scouts camping across the lake for one of their weekend badge quests. I don't remember much after hitting the water, besides the milliseconds of explosive pain covering my entire body. Then waking up in the hospital. Well, not really waking up, but whatever you want to call this weird out of body existential crisis I find myself in.

I know what I have to do though; to put myself back together. I don't imagine I'll awake in the real world before then either. Being in a coma, I suppose, is the best way to go digging through the darkest trenches of your subconscious. Because I have to find R2, my other half. I know now that this collection of mental impairments I've amassed for myself isn't about how to be rid of them. It's about coexisting, disputing irrational thoughts instead of consuming them. Anxiety is a human emotion, one that I can get control of, but cannot live with out. It is a part of me, a part of everyone; be ridding of it is agreeing to break a part of yourself off and be done with it. But then, how could we ever feel whole?

This is a story where I desperately scour the far corners of my mind. Through my memories, my fears, my instincts, my every thought. To find R2 and bring him home, to put us back together. For I am him, and he is I. Without him I am nothing, and with him I am me.

 


© Copyright 2019 Jake Slebodnik. All rights reserved.

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