morning comes and it is dawn. that is the best possible scenario. if i awake and dawn hasn’t arrived yet, it simply means that i will be forcing myself to lie in bed and count the minutes until dawn. but this morning i am lucky. somehow i have been able to drive myself into sleep enough times to awake in the light rather than only the glow of the bedside lamp. darkness is anathema. if it is dark, i am paralyzed. light must exist. the more light, the more comforting it is. nighttime means more light, not less. with light, i may even sleep for an hour in a stretch without waking up shivering from nightmares. without it, sleep will only come if i am exhausted to the point where my body simply gives up on trying to stay awake and lasts perhaps ten minutes, if that, before i jerk awake again in unmitigated panic. as i said, today i am lucky. it is morning and i have only had to bully my mind and body into returning to sleep perhaps ten or twelve times since the evening. it is five in the morning and i am thankful for the fact that, in theory, i have had rest. it does not feel like there was rest. i am more tired than i was last night and it will only go downhill from here. but it is better than the alternative. two in the morning means that my reading will be to try to calm myself to the point of sleeping. five means that i can simply read so that time passes more quickly until i can have breakfast.
breakfast is the only thought. there are two possible thoughts in the morning. either i am contaminated and about to be sick or i am overwhelmed with a panicked desperation to eat. these often alternate within a period of minutes. today, i only feel mildly contaminated. which means that the compulsion to gorge myself on food until i am unconscious and in pain and sick is mindbendingly overwhelming. i abhor food but it is the only thing in my life of any significance. at three minutes past five i am so exhausted from forcing myself not to go to the kitchen to start cooking that i am nearly unconscious from the effort. by five past i have given up on reading and taken to walking around. i must force myself to wait until a few more hours have gone by without grabbing something to eat. if i eat something now it is more likely that i will be sick and if i do not allow myself to cook and instead eat something smaller i will not have had a full meal, meaning i will not have the energy to get through the day. it is a constant fight. by ten past i have returned to the bed and tried to read again.
i read a few sentences and then have the thought that i read the first sentence wrong and that this is a sign that i will be sick. so i go back and read the first sentence four times, then the next four times, then the third. but i lose concentration, which is a sign that i might be sick. so i go back and read the first sentence four times, four more times, four times after that, four more times for certainty. i have now read that first sentence twenty times but i have lost count so i must start again. this paragraph doesn’t feel right, though, so i will have to go back to the previous paragraph, which is on the previous page, so i turn the page back and it feels wrong. so i turn it forward and backward again. i only do that sixty-four times before i am certain i have lost count, which is a disaster, meaning that not only will i have to start again but do it slowly, one turn each way per second or two seconds or three seconds, counting them off in a whisper so i do not let myself think that i lost count. i didn’t lose count but it felt like i missed one. i know i didn’t but it doesn’t matter. reality is all about perception. it is forty-three minutes past five and i have now read negative three pages of the book. i am three pages previous to where i left it last night and i have still not managed to move forward. reading is often pointless. the only time when i know a session of reading will result in forward motion through a book is when i haven’t started it yet. i keep trying but there is often no point unless the reason for my reading is to memorize the text in reverse order.
by sixteen minutes past six, i have racked up four trips to the bathroom, thirty-one nose-blowings, which may actually be more if i forgot to count one of them, not hugely important but it is certainly many. but i have read twenty-two pages of this book. i have read many of the paragraphs dozens of times. many of the sentences hundreds of times. sometimes i turn pages forward, sometimes backward. in a life where everything is patterned and compulsive, there is little potential to predict progress. progress is the only thing that is not defined by compulsion.
i stare at my phone, swiping up and down even though there are no notifications. i have read my feed one piece at a time, repeating many of them four times, sixteen, sixty-four. there was one item that troubled me so badly that i read it two-hundred-fifty-six times and then began crying so i just unfollowed them. then i followed them again to start reading that item another two-hundred-fifty-six times but my hand was so numb that i dropped the phone and was crying too hard to find it amid the sheets. i unfollowed the feed again when i found the phone without reading the item. it was easier because i was doing it almost completely by touch because my eyesight was blurry from panic. there was little else i could do. i had already tried to stand up but i was shaking so hard i collapsed on the floor and had to fight my way back into the bed by feel. but i was not sure if i was overheated or freezing. i was shivering but my entire body felt as if its skin was swollen and melting off. i didn’t know whether to try to warm up or cool down. i didn’t arrive at a solution. i just gave up on being in bed and came to sit on the couch, where i knew i would be freezing, in spite of still feeling melting hot at the same time. being on the couch, though, meant that i was closer to the kitchen, which increased the compulsion to begin cooking breakfast or eating something. every few seconds there would be a twitch in my body compelling me to get up and force as much food into my mouth as i could manage and swallow it and keep repeating until i was unconscious from the pain and panic and sickness. i did, however, say that i was lucky today. i made it to nearly eight in the morning without allowing myself to force food into my mouth and swallow it. there was crying and pain and panic. but i didn’t give in. i am, however, exhausted to the point of near-unconsciousness as a result.
at four minutes past eight, i washed the pot four times. then four times more. then i turned the pot around and washed it from the other side sixteen more times. then four more times. then i filled it with water and poured in what i am certain was contaminated food. to mix with the contaminated water, which looked like it had a slick of oil on it, mingling with the grease from the food, which should have had no grease at all, being that it was dry grain. but it looked like it was coated in contaminants, slimy and covered in dirty and effluent and bodily waste. the pot felt like it was, too. i have become used to it. this is a good day. these things are mild by comparison. i wait for the water to boil and spend awhile sitting on the couch while the food simmers, imagining all the manners in which i will be sick as a result of eating the food, of reading things, of seeing things, of imagining things, of smelling things, of being in the wrong temperature, wearing the wrong clothes, beginning to walk in the wrong direction, with the wrong foot, breathing in or out at the wrong time, repeating the wrong words in my head, tasting the wrong sensation. the food is ready. i am overwhelmed with relief that it is done while i wait to force it into my mouth.
i turn off the heat and stir the food until it is cool enough to eat. i have succeeded. i feel like i am dying. the pain is incredible but it has nothing in it to compete with the abject panic that i feel as i have just consumed a series of contaminants and will now spend the hours left of my life before killing myself in desperation with uncontrolled and repeated vomiting. i will let down anyone that i had promised to perform tasks for and with today. i will have to cancel everything.
i have written several pages, edited several more, replied to messages. but i am doing all of those with no more than five percent of my thoughts. the foreground thought is a vision of myself, a sensation from inside myself, noises, feelings, tinglings, twitchings, movements, presentiments that i am not going to be sick in the future but right now, in this moment. and i see myself doing it. i see myself every second doing it. i can smell, taste, see the vomit in my mouth, on my clothes, on every surface. because i know that the food was contaminated, the air, the things i have touched, that there was poison, intentional and unintentional, though malice and neglect, in everything that i have seen and touched and tasted and felt and breathed. my accomplishments today are not that i have written or read. they are that i have not yet been sick, that i have put it off for another ten seconds. the next ten seconds will be the beginning of the nightmare but i have done everything else while feeling it.
fourteen minutes past nine. i have now finished eating but the panic begins in earnest for the day. this is no longer about the distant past of last night. waking up in the morning i am many hours away from being in contact with all the dangers of life, food in particular. it was yesterday. all these hours give relative safety. it is over. if i were going to be sick, it is not guaranteed that it would have happened already but there is a very good chance that it would have occurred in the first few hours. and those first few hours were many hours ago. but now i am in the most dangerous part. i have just eaten what i am absolutely certain is contaminated and poisoned and greasy and full of mold. because i have seen all of those things in the food as i was preparing it and in the pot as i was washing it and the water as i was pouring it. it was there. i could taste it and smell it and see it and even hear the crackling of the slime and grease as it was cooking. there is no escaping it. i will be sick now and forever and then it will be over. i will not survive it because i do not want to survive it. or this moment. life will soon end and with it the panic and fear. because it is no longer a thought. it is real, true, the ending has come.
but there is something worse. there is the planning for the future. so i do not gorge myself on food every time i feel like it, which is every moment that i do not feel like i am going to be sick, and they alternate on a fairly random schedule but have nothing to do with how much food is actually in my body, i have set myself a time for eating. wait six hours between meals if i am going to have a second helping of food for the day and do not repeat the same meal within eighteen hours. so the moment i have finished, fourteen minutes past nine, the countdown starts. have i got the right food for the afternoon meal? how much of it can i have? what combination in what proportions? how bad will the contamination be? has it gone bad since yesterday? does it smell right? does it look right? since it smells like excrement and looks like it is covered in mold, i have to assume that it is fine as this is the typical result. if it were actually excrement and covered in mold, i would not know the difference as this is exactly how it looks and smells and feels and tastes. five hours and fifty one minutes left. i should read or write or go for a walk or try to sleep or meditate or sing or send someone a message or listen to music or something anything truly anything to pass the time. but it passes slowly. i am about to be sick yet i am going to force more food into my mouth and barely chew it then force myself to chew it more because i won’t allow myself another mouth crammed to bursting of it unless i chewed this mouthful first. five hours and thirty six minutes until i can begin that cycle again and i have already panicked so badly that i am crying and i haven’t even put it in my mouth yet. i am forcing myself not to eat again. it’s only been a little over twenty minutes since breakfast but the pain is not as bad as it is some days and it feels like i am compelled to eat another meal right away.
but i do not. i write this instead. i didn’t stop thinking for a moment about it, the food, the sickness, but i wrote words onto the screen with the five percent of my mind that runs in the background while the foreground is consumed with compulsive thoughts, darkness and slime and grease and contamination and vomit and bodily fluids flowing in and out of me in increasing intensity. as i said, this was a good day. some days i cannot move my hands to write like this. some days i cannot eat at all or cook or move. paralysis is frequent. incapacity to think is more common. i am thankful.
i wish this would end.