Last night we found out our rent would go up. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I’m in the United Kingdom, here to do my doctorate. Since arriving in September, the Canadian dollar has dropped like a stone. And not into shallow Lake Erie, either. Into icy, heartless Lake Superior, where it is yet to hit bottom. My savings, thus, have been ravaged by the market. I had to pay 25% more in tuition in terms of my savings than what I had expected. That is about $6000 dollars extra. Not to mention that all of our expenses for groceries and rent and such have, in relative terms, gone up. I had enough saved for two years of tuition plus most expenses. I now have used up so much that I cannot pay tuition next year, and have just enough to last until the fall.
Then our rent went up.
The anxiety didn’t come on like a panic attack. I was not rapidly thrown into a storm. But bit by bit, all day long, everything began to stop working. I immediately lost my appetite. I was no longer able to pay attention to the Olympic hockey game final that I had so long waited to see (we won gold, yay!). I snapped more and more as the day wore on.
Patrick did his best to distract me. I had a Skype call with a friend. The day passed. Without confrontation, the snare wound its way around my ribcage, clenching my stomach, narrowing my lungs. A thread worked its way up my spine into my brain, snaking silently past neuron after neuron, until finally, as I tried to go to bed, it hit my frontal lobe.
I cried. The familiar feeling of a body trying to detonate, while simultaneously, desperately, instinctually, holding every fiber together as though by sheer will I could contain the blast from the grenade I had landed upon.
Of course I wanted to harm myself. I wanted to create holes through which the overwhelming force could seep out in a controlled fashion. I wanted to rupture the shell. I wanted to do anything that would let out the gunpowder without making me explode.
What hurt the most was that my reason abandoned me. I tried to explain to Patrick how I didn’t have enough money to continue, how I had to go home, how there was no way I could survive on what was left. This increase meant that the budget could no longer balance. It would topple, and so would I.
My brain was telling me, your savings are no longer enough. They are meaningless. You are broke. You are a fraud. You are going to ruin yourself. You cannot pay. You can no longer be solvent.
But my savings hadn’t changed. They were not suddenly missing from my account. I still had enough to manage. I had amount X in my account, and I did not need more than amount X to survive until September.
Yes you do!, shouted my frontal lobe. You need so much more! It is not enough!
But it is physically enough. The numbers match.
No they don’t. 2+2 = 5. You are wrong. You cannot make it tally.
But, the sum is okay.
No it isn’t.
It’s a number. It’s not negotiable.
It is now.
The debate is running on, still, in my head. After sleeping, the debate feels like it’s down the hall now. I don’t have to be in the same room. I am no longer in the witness box being interrogated. But Brain A and Brain B still don’t agree that the numbers work. They are dealing with precisely the same numbers. Expenses Y. Savings X. Y<X, slightly, barely. Nope, says Brain B.
There is no reason, there is no logic. Numbers no longer hold value. The snaking thread of anxiety is gripping the neurons that allow numbers to be meaningful, to have one, sole meaning. While it is there, the numbers can no longer have but one sum. They can have any definition that B desires, and A’s yells and arithmetic rants fall on deaf ears. I can only hold my head in my hands, fighting the urge to rip out my hair.
EDIT, NINE HOURS LATER
I may have yelled at my students today. Their inability to pay attention or follow instructions or do anything other than stare at me blankly and ask, “What do we do now?” (right after we’d told them what they do now) – all of that typical behaviour continued to break my dear humped back camel self. I began to actually treat them like the children they are. I pointed out their childishness. I snapped at them. When dividing them into groups, instead of repeating myself, I began to call names and jerk my head in the direction I wanted them to go. I actually had to stop and take a deep breath.
Dragon Christina has no time for your rudeness and attitude. Dragon Christina has an army of logic defying equations that will crush you like Egyptians under the Biblical Red Sea. Dragon Christina is deaf to your pleas. Her anxieties are far louder. Death be to any ye that cross her.
(I am sorry for snapping, in the next to impossible likelihood that any of you ever read this. Please pay attention in class. University is not kindergarten. But I will henceforth attempt to take a moment to check my irritability with the door man.)