Implosion and explosion
Several times in recent days, Charlotte has told me her hunger for affection, connection, touch, has risen to the level that she feels she will “explode,” if she doesn’t gratify that hunger. We have talked about how we share in common the capacity to feel a catastrophic urgency in the face of being alone. For both of us, this materializes in our bodies – in our chests, which tighten painfully; in our breathing, which constricts, fails to oxygenate properly. That collection of bodily sensations, in turn, gives rise to thoughts, to associations: if I don’t get x, I will die.
And, often, for Charlotte (and far less often for me, nowadays, though not never), to action: texting. Calling. Eating. Shopping. Smoking. Drinking. Drugging. Fucking.
This is one definition of addiction: an intolerance of feelings that inexorably leads to action.
When Shelby canceled with me, she put me in touch with all these feelings, if briefly, if manageably.
As I attended to my chest, to my breathing, I saw clearly something I had missed in Charlotte’s and my discussion. I don’t know if this reflects a difference in our experiences (likely) or simply an imprecision in our use of language (also likely). “Explosion,” the image conjured by Charlotte to describe the fear and feeling she faces, does not, in fact, describe my anxiety all that precisely. Rather, what I fear – what I imagine, in moments like this – stands in direct contrast to explosion.
I don’t, actually, imagine I will explode. Rather, I imagine I will implode – that my chest will cave in under pressure; my bones cracking; my breath not just laboring, but being extinguished, my lungs squeezed so tight they can’t draw in the air I need. My flesh collapsing inward. My organs withering, wilting, diminishing.
Explosion suggests a sort of messy everywhere-ness to my insides, scattered to the four winds, splattered against walls…. A big, visible transformation of me into a palpating glob, diffused widely.
Implosion, though, captures my emotional reality better: I don’t imagine that messy externalization of my pain, my longing; I imagine the opposite. An emotional black hole, with my entire being condensing into a single point of blackness, of infinite density, of smallness.
And then, poof!
Disappearing altogether, leaving me not just “dead,” but utterly annihilated, disappeared.
As if I never existed.
Thankfully, I’m not the man I once was. Though that man surely remains within me.
Over the last decade or so, I’ve added at least two actions to my toolkit in the face of these sensations: writing and meditation.
Those other actions – drinking, drugging, sex, etc. – arise from the delusional fantasy that they will provide relief from the circumstances giving rise to my symptoms. And, to be sure, they do provide (momentary, pyrrhic) relief from the symptoms themselves, as, dissociatively, I replace the sensation of emptiness, deadness, panic, with the mindless but bodily sensation of pleasure; the painful feelings with a numb void.
But that (fantasy of) alchemy – wherein I replace pain and fear with touch, orgasm, and emotional absence – inevitably fails, as alchemy always does.
Dross can’t be made into gold, and I suffer far more from the longing that it can than I do from its prevalence in the first place.