1. Clean. Clean everything around you. Empty closets and bookshelves. Fill bags with clothes you haven’t touched in years and donate them all without even hesitating. Fixate on the corners of your apartment and find yourself scrubbing at them at two in the afternoon when you should be doing anything else. Watch the paint start to peel from living somewhere for years and too much scrubbing. Vacuum four times in one day. Scour the tub until your cuticles are raw and red and obsess over the stains you can’t get out. Go to bed in a place that smells like vinegar and bleach and some cleaner that was supposed to be grapefruit but reminds you of the summer you exclusively ordered greyhounds to feel classy and think to yourself, “This is better. This will make things better.” Then wake up and convince yourself all you see is dirt.
2. Read. Order four books from Amazon at once. Lock yourself in your apartment and dedicate yourself to remembering what it’s like to “be a reader.” Go to coffee shops, bars, cafes, even actual bookstores alone with a book. Watch the words start to jumble because sorry Gillian Flynn, even Sharp Objects can’t drown out your thoughts. Stare harder, determined to shut out your own mind. Fail and pick up your phone to scroll through Instagram for the 22nd time that day. Eventually empty your bag at the end of the week and find two books inside, somehow a little more tattered and beaten even though you barely touched them.
3. Change your hair. Say it’s because you just need it cut even though you can feel the pulse of “change your hair change your life” repeating itself in your veins. Half-lie when the stylist asks if you’re married to the length in some warped effort to appear cool and easygoing even though you’re really the kind of person who gets stressed if someone walks too slowly. End up insanely upset when it’s too short. Then get even more upset that you’re the type of person who isn’t cool or easygoing enough to not be upset over something as unimportant as a haircut.
4. Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Get sick of being the person constantly checking their phone to see if there are texts because obviously, you’d never miss a notification so why the fuck are you even looking in the first place. Be determined to, once again, be a cool and chill and easygoing individual. And if you can’t actually be that, you can fake it. “Do Not Disturb” will make you fake it. You can be the person who doesn’t care. You can be the person who cares less. You can you can you can you can. Take your phone off “Do Not Disturb” in under 11 minutes. Start checking your messages obsessively again.
5. Ignore people. Don’t talk to your mom, your dad, or your best friend in days. Then weeks. Cancel plans and therapy sessions because you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t really have the words for it. And if you can’t be vague you can just avoid being asked. You won’t have to struggle to find the answers if you can avoid the question altogether.
6. Repeat, “I’m fine,” to anyone who asks. But, when you’re inevitably unable to avoid everything entirely, fall into the easiest answer you can. If you say you’re fine enough, you can trick yourself into being fine, right? It’s like that theory that smiling tricks your brain into being happy. Repeat it until it’s true. Repeat it until everyone believes it. Repeat it until you can force yourself to believe it too.
7. Drink. When all else fails, pour yourself a glass of wine until your hands stop shaking. Go out every night. Drink on the roof of your building when you don’t go out. Look for answers in the bottom of pint glasses and growlers. Realize how stupid that is and roll your eyes for even thinking a try-hard sentence like that in the first place. Pour yourself another glass. It probably won’t hurt.
8. Obsess over your pores. Spend hours squeezing, examining, and being all-too consumed over the idea of ripping and sucking and eliminating everything that could be lingering in them. Fill a Sephora cart with $300+ worth of products to give you ~*your best skin ever.*~ People with clear, glowy, dewy-and-flawless-with-no-makeup skin do not have problems. They do not get up at 5 in the morning immediately feeling anxiety creeping its way up their chest. Anyone with a $125 GOOP facial in their bathroom can’t make decisions that even stump their therapist momentarily, right? Right? (You know the answer.)
9. Fixate over people on social media. It doesn’t even have to be someone you know. Or someone you like. It could be someone you feel so distant from the fact that you’re down to 2016 in their Instagram makes literally no sense. Wonder what their fridge looks like. Wonder if they also found butter from 2016 in their fridge. Know that they probably didn’t. That their vegetables never go bad and they never forget to buy laundry detergent or paper towels. Maybe if you could successfully execute an Instagram theme you wouldn’t have migraines! Or depression! Or think about how none of this matters and we’re all going to die and no one will remember us!! Yeah, an Instagram theme is definitely the cure for existential dread. You can clearly see that as you continue to scroll through the life of someone you will never meet.
10. Sleep. Pass out with all the lights on and with a candle burning and Friends humming in the background. Burrow yourself under pillows and try to drown everything out. Fall asleep at 9 PM, something you haven’t done since you had mono and slept literally all the time. Consider listing “sleeping” as one of your hobbies on Bumble.
11. Stay awake. Find yourself looking for ways to stay up. Looking for things to occupy your time, your hands, the nervous energy you can’t seem to find a pause button for. And suddenly it’s 11, 12, 1 in the morning and you’re still awake. Still unsure what to do or where to focus. So you do a face mask, skim another chapter in that book you swear you’ll finish, and scrub the sink one more time for good measure. And hey, since you’re awake, you might as well check your phone even though everyone else is still asleep. It’s fine. You’re fine. It’ll be fine. (You hope.)