Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Li'l World

At least a year after my 2005 breakdown, the world began to appear small to me. The rooms of my apartment, the houses that I walked past, the skyscrapers that filed past the window of the buses and cars I rode in. They all suddenly looked small. For some reason, my visual perception of the size of the world had changed. It was as if the world had been warped and shrunken to fit inside my anxiety-addled brain.

It was a depressing development. Formerly, the world had intimidated and fascinated me with its size. I loved to gaze up at skyscrapers in Minneapolis, Chicago or New York and stare across the vast expanses of flat farmland while driving through the Midwest. I was usually nervous when in public, and being in the presence of a large feature, like Times Square, increased my nerves. At the same time, though, it excited me. 

But I could no longer lose myself in the world's labyrinth. I walked the city streets, but really I was only walking the streets of my own mind. There was no interaction to take me out of my head. The strangers passed wordlessly, reinforcing the sense that this world was just a figment of my imagination, an illusion meant to torment me with the unfulfilled promise of connection.

This shift in perception was later supplemented with increased confidence and a lack of interest in taking part in the world. Even though I had a new-found serenity, I had no desire to put it to use by making friends, dating or pursuing my artistic aspirations. I just wanted to keep watching TV in my apartment and hang out with my roommates. This seems to have been another symptom of depression, the sense that the outside world had nothing to offer me.

I recovered from the apathy, but that feeling of living in a diminished world still crops up on a regular basis. The key to fighting the depression seems to be engaging with people socially, especially strangers. It takes guts for me to venture outside my Minnesota comfort zone, but it's good for me and hopefully my sociability will "go viral," as the kids say.

I think it would be good for most Minnesotans to adopt this habit. Here are some ideas I came up with for a Minnesota PSA: "Friendliness: Pass It On!"  Or "You're an Adult. It's OK to Talk to Strangers Now." Or "Talking to Strangers: It's not just for at-risk youth anymore!" One of those should do the trick.

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