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  • Kali Van Dusen

losing your mind is as easy as falling asleep

Sometimes I think about how quickly I could lose my mind. And I’m not worried about it happening, really. Not at all. I just know I could the second I decide to let myself. I’m not worried about it but I am scared. One time I almost did and it felt like when you take one too many shots and suddenly you’re saying things you didn’t think about, ending up places you didn’t want to be, racing down a hill until you get to sleep it off. Except when you almost lose your mind you can’t wake up on Sunday morning with a slight hangover and a few apologies to make. You just keep spinning. Frankly, I don’t think you really sleep at all when your marbles get a little scattered.

I lost my mind in 2014. And then again in 2015. And then almost again in 2022. Except that last time I could sniff it out a mile away and I wasn’t simultaneously dying so it was a bit easier to nip in the bud. The first time I noticed the reins I held on my brain weren’t as tight as I thought I was sitting on a plane to Hawaii. I couldn’t have afforded to go alone, and I only went because my family felt bad for me (which is another story). So I sat on my pity plane, feeling entirely ungrateful and undeserving, as it hurdled across the Pacific Ocean. I didn’t have much to think about for 5 hours above the sea so my mind started to think about everything I had ever thought and when it got bored of that it started on the things I was worried about and maybe, if I was lucky, all the things I hated about myself. It was also the first time I realized how desperately lonely I felt even though I was surrounded by people. I spent the next two weeks living a life I didn’t think was meant for me this time around. Maybe the next life. I surfed, I biked, I dove off a dock into the sunset and swam to shore with a turtle, laid in the sun until I was crispy, and ate things I didn’t know existed - like pork shoulder and starfruit. Of course, I couldn’t get out of this without being Me. This vacation was for Them and I am Me. And when you’re Me, you get Lymes disease in Kauai and have to track down a doctor from San Francisco because they don’t have ticks in Hawaii. This doctor then gives you antibiotics for your new disease and you take one before you go to a farm to table restaurant where everything costs more than the moon. When you’re also Me, you get a text from your dad while you sit in the Hawaii beach house (which was pitched to you as “the one Julia Roberts stays in when she comes”) that reads “hi sweetheart, hope you’re having fun. Yai Yai (grandma) died this morning. See you soon!” Of course you immediately reply and pick up the phone only to get his voicemail so you text again. He doesn’t reply so you ask your mom who replies “yes, do you need to talk?” You think about if you actually do. And what anyone would even say to each other if I did need to talk. And then you remember that the reason you’re even in Hawaii is because your brother is dying. So you decide to leave it alone and nobody ever brings it up again.

I lost my mind that trip. I lost it when someone told me my mom couldn’t love me the way I wanted. And my grandma was dead. And my uncle wanted to adopt us because my mom couldn’t get it together. And every time I held my breath under the warmest part of the Pacific Ocean, which has always felt like the most familiar friend but suddenly felt like a stranger, I wanted to just keep sinking. My life felt like sand in my fingers and I was letting it slip through the cracks.

The second time I lost my mind was in a white used Nissan in the driveway of the worst place I’ve ever lived. I was dying this time, but it didn’t feel the same as when my brother died. But who am I to compare our deaths? I can’t say out loud that I died better than he did, so instead I’m putting in writing. When I died, I went with grace in the back of the white Nissan with beautiful juicy tears streaming down my face and lungs the size of Alaska screaming to my mother about the injustice of her trying to convince me to live. “Let me GO!” I yell at her. “How fun and exhilarating. My mind completely dust in my brain, this car, this house, you in the front seat. You saved my brother with more urgency than you saved me, so god damn it watch me DIE better than he did!” It was quite the production. Of course, I didn’t die. Not then. Actually dying feels different. Much slower and numb. I didn’t cry then - I didn’t do much at all, actually. I sat back, years later, and realized how easily it would be for me to be back in the white Nissan again. Simply spinning out of control. I run a tight ship now, without a lot of room for error. I made chaos my friend, my comfort space. I didn’t count on what heartbreak would do to me in 2022. I didn’t see it coming and it scared me more than anything else. I was angry it stood in my way, like a glorious monster daring to fuck up the path I had spent years navigating. It was beautiful and full and empty and hollow. It somehow tethered my head back to my body as it tore the rest of me apart. This insanity is coming with less terror, and more quiet tears and weak knees. I hesitate more than I have before, I relish in my anxiety and the looming feeling of the world wishing I were less, I question my steps, my words, my motives. I pretend I can hear the whispers of those around me, confirming how I feel about myself, just to feed my own beliefs. But mostly heartbreak left me with the question of I’m not sure how many more times I can lose my mind until I’ll never find it again.

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