My brain feels like a game of pong on speed right now– thoughts bulleting back and forth in low resolution. I’m trying to grasp. Feverishly, I extend my palms far enough to touch the hurling notions, but they slip past my reach. I am not good at decisions. I say one thing, and then take it back and do it all over again. It’s nauseating. I can intellectualize the why– it is a panic response. I always want an exit, a way to leave. I never want to be trapped. I spent so long feeling trapped that commitment can make me a wild animal in a cage.

I really hate myself for writing this. Like, can I write about anything besides myself? It’s self indulgent. But I don’t know a way out of this. I don’t feel safe, and the less safe I feel, the stronger the panic response grows. They are proportional.

I try to make my room something other than a panic room in moments when it switches to all padded walls. It’s hard because I never want to let anyone down, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized that in trying to appease everyone, I constantly let myself down. And then, I resent myself. And then, I undecide. And then, I am a dirtbag again. And then, I hate myself again. It all reverts to a cycle of self-loathing.

My indecision applies to my schedule, professional aspirations, relationships. Calmly, I try to reparent myself, “you can make another choice, Marisa. Few are final.” I say inside. But, fuck, I never want to hurt anyone or upset anyone. I wasn’t allowed to upset people for a long time. And when I did, I was reminded how little I matter, how fundamentally defective I am. So every choice now feels like the wrong choice. My own agency feels like a weapon that I clumsily wield. There’s a body count behind it. People I’ve hurt, opportunities I’ve squandered. The problem is that a lot of the people who wanted me to pick them wanted me to pick them over myself, and while I can barely tell up from down right now, I know the only way out of this pattern is to decide on myself. I need to get to know what I really want– outside of the influence of others. I take accountability for my poor choices, because they did and do impact others. It would be narcissistic to ignore that. I could chalk it up to youthful ignorance, but it’s deeper. I’m digging to whatever that depth is.

The first way I learned to move through the world is with my guard up and running away. I struggle to unlearn that. It feels unnatural to move without the weight of a titanium shield. You don’t know how badly I want to stay. You don’t know how much my body is trained to run away.

I once moved 3 times in 1 year. I’ve job hopped. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be when I grow up– do I use my master’s in marketing? Do I go to law school? Do I get a creative writing MFA? How dumb am I to gripe about this privilege that I can pursue these avenues, but I am also so terrified of making the wrong choice. And I want to be in a relationship, but I want to be free and I’m constantly people pleasing in my dating life. I don’t want to be a part of anyone’s trauma, but I can’t control that, can I? I want all the things I simultaneously feel trapped by. I just want to feel safe.

What I’m looking for is grace. What I’m hoping for is safety. I have to give those to myself first. If others can’t offer that to me, I get it. But that also means those people cannot have such close access to me. I’m ruthless with myself right now, and I don’t need to pile that on more. Accountability can be something lighter than an albatross.

I am trying really hard, and I feel like I’m doing everything wrong. I hope read this in a year or ten and laugh, “when you’re young, everything feels heavy,” I’ll chuckle. I have a good life. I’m not unhappy– just perpetually terrified because I know love as a dangling carrot ripped away anytime I didn’t do what benefited them. And I don’t think that’s love. But I can teach myself what I think it is. When I show myself love, the pong game slows down. It doesn’t stop, but it slows down enough for me to see the struggle and the strain. I see the back and forth. Maybe I’ll never be able to control it, but I can direct the game so I can play to win rather than playing not to lose.

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