On Spiraling


Much like the shape after which they are named, spirals start off wide and unassuming. The feeling creeps in slowly, just as you begin to lose your footing on whatever path you thought was ahead. It’s a broad, vague sense that something has been circling you for months, trying to suck you in. The suction intensifies, until you finally accept that choosing to unclench your tenuous grasp on reality is preferable to letting an unidentified darkness swallow you whole.

Spirals let you think you’re in control. They allow you to remain self-aware enough to know that what you’re doing is bad for you, yet apathetic enough to power through the still-drunken early morning walks back to your apartment from god-knows-where and the tense conversations about what you’re doing with your life.

When you are spiraling, you know that, eventually, you want to lead a good and fulfilling life, but you also need a break from the good and the fulfilling to chase the rush that comes with abandoning responsibility and letting your hedonistic side consume you. People who are spiraling haven’t lost interest in the things they love—they just don’t know what they love anymore. They still want to build relationships and experience life. If they kept to themselves for days on end, they’d never be able to continue in this manner; the boredom and loneliness would force them to make a change, but change is what put them here to begin with.

Spirals happen because of time—time takes things away, and it usually takes these things away from you without offering an easy replacement. Parts of you want to move forward in a constructive fashion, but the heavier, more vocal pieces start to inch downward instead. Allowing oneself to get sucked into a spiral is freeing and deeply captivating. You’ve accepted that, at least for a while, there is no path for you to follow. You take things as they come. You believe you’re the happiest you’ve been in a long time. You tell everyone you meet about this new philosophy. You know this is the best thing for you right now.

There is no better feeling than the first time you say, “fuck it” and decide to spend a weekday afternoon wandering aimlessly, chain-smoking the pack of cigarettes you bought instead of lunch. You feel like you’re breaking the rules, like you’re cheating life in some way by feeling this at peace, but then you realize that there really are no rules. You end up at a bar and decide to go in “just for one quick drink,” but who are you kidding? You have nowhere to be today—or any day. A friend shows up and your quick drink morphs into happy hour and then a night out. Over $1 Bud Lights, you declare this the “Summer of Spiraling,” and you laugh. One of you observes that, with school being over and the future being as uncertain as it is, in a way it’s sort of always summer now, and you cry.

Spirals are one of the most self-indulgent beasts a person can unleash. You’re alone with your thoughts 24/7. Feeling this much, this intensely becomes dangerous because there’s nothing to distract you. When you’re spiraling, you cry a lot. You cry in public, you cry in the shower, you cry yourself to sleep, and you cry when you’re watching things that people outside of the spiral generally find funny. Eventually these emotions force you to try to lift yourself out of your spiral.

You go to coffee shops and write cover letters. Maybe you even get a job interview. You think, “My spiral is over. I am going to become a journalist/marketing assistant/social media expert.” You daydream about a successful life in a new city. You scoff at how unfocused and out of control you were during the previous weeks, but are grateful you “got it out of your system.”

You experience the first taste of rejection and disappointment. You realize nothing really changed. In trying to develop an exit strategy, your hope and optimism actually strengthened your spiral.

You don’t go a day without drinking. You drink an entire bottle of wine and feel nothing, so you keep drinking until you can’t feel anything. Every day around five you get a headache, signifying the start of another night. You wake up and three weeks have passed. The people who were apprehensive to your jokes about spiraling and your desire to experience freedom from routine stop talking to you. Others have proven themselves to be true friends. They are ready to go out any night of the week, they’ll cry with you, and they don’t ever ask what you do during the day, unless the answer is day-drinking.

Spirals feed off of insecurity and anxiety. The more people losing control together, the tighter the spiral can wrap itself around you. It injects you with fear and mood-altering substances, and, in turn, you continue to fuel its rabid existence.

Maybe one day you will develop an aversion to the taste of $4 wine mixed with your tears, or maybe, against all odds, you and your co-spiralers will be able to snap the coils that bind you to yourselves. Only time will tell, and time has a way of being particularly unkind when you are relying on it the most. Until then, you have your spiral closing in, protecting you from all of life’s curveballs and uncertainties.

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