Ascend to the Dungeon: Those Scary Places Inside the Head

I’ve survived my first class. And I don’t think the students suspected anything. Of course, none of them know me, so they really have no way to gauge what is “normal” for me.

As soon as we wrapped up, I bolted from campus. I had to get home. I needed to be inside the safety of my own home.

On the 25 minute drive back, I began listening to a book my mom recommended: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I’m so grateful I did! I’d enjoyed reading Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love roughly 10 years ago. After listening to the first 15 minutes of Big Magic, I already suspect that reading Gilbert’s insight and wisdom is going to be a life-changing experience.

Yorch Fearless 2011

Yorch, “Fearless,” 2011, Flickr


What’s happened to me?

I used to be so fearless. I sought out adventure. I moved to Chicago a few months after graduating with a creative writing. I traveled cross country  on a solo road trip to California and back in 2002. I took a blacksmithing course at the local museum of art just a few years later. I’ve presented at academic conferences in New Orleans, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Tarpon Springs (Florida), Nashville, Fort Collins, Denver, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Chicago.

I guess life slowly chips away at a person. It is like a mental corrosive — acid rain in the brain. Some days, I feel as if I am slowly dissolving. The only difference is that I am washing away from the inside out rather than the outside in.

It is as if I’ve become an expert at corroding away. Funny, because my Depressed Brain usually likes to convince me I’m good at nothing. At all.

I’m more afraid of the dungeon that is my mind than the dark, damp basement of my childhood home.

But maybe it is possible to delight in life again. Listening to Gilbert’s Big Magic, I feel almost hopeful. I don’t know if I’ve held on because of that hope or out of pure stubbornness.

Probably a little bit of both.

Next class is at 2pm.




16 thoughts on “Ascend to the Dungeon: Those Scary Places Inside the Head

  1. I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ a year back, and it still secures a spot on my coffee table. Really amazing. I hope more good things come your way, love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you and so glad to hear others have been positively impacted by her book! I may end up purchasing hard copy as well. Have you seen Gilbert’s ted videos or heard her speak? She’s coming to the St. Louis area and I just might go. 🙂


      • (Not sure if my response got through. I’m typing it out again in case it didn’t.)

        I don’t (can’t) work full-time; it’d be too exhausting for me. I prepare a lot — prepare what I’m going to say and how I’m going to explain things, what questions may be asked and how I’m going to answer them, what I’m going to wear and what I need to bring, what time I need to start getting ready and when I should leave the house, etc.

        For some peculiar reason, I think I tend to come across as intimidating to others (when, really, I feel like jelly inside). I’m always anxious of others noticing my anxiety though, especially the more observant ones.

        What about you? How do you cope?


        • It really is a challenge. I completely understand. I, unfortunately, go the other direction : I joke and laugh, but by the end of the day, I’m spent. Have you heard about the spoon theory? There are only so many spoons we can use in a day. Really applies here. Definitely check out the spoon theory. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution.


          • Hah, the spoon theory is an interesting take. I see it more as a battery that, for me, depletes very quickly and takes a very long time to recharge but never gets fully charged. I particularly like the description of spending more spoons on mundane tasks like bathing and getting dressed — those are like ladles to me.

            Joking and laughing aren’t unfortunate. They make you likeable and approachable. But I understand how it can sap your precious energy resource.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I completely understand and relate to the ladles! Just the anticipation of going out can make the mundane tasks unbearable.
              As for the humor approach, it also opens me up for criticism as well. There really probably isn’t any best way to handle it. Students definitely share more things I don’t think I would share with my teachers…. Different times, I suppose.


              • You’re right, there isn’t one foolproof way of going about it. Uncalled-for criticisms abound everywhere, I suppose. Because others perceive me as being hostile, they tend to either retaliate by hurling insults at me or reject and avoid me. I may not show much emotion externally but it affects me greatly internally.

                Are your students approaching you as a mentor? If so, I can see why. 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

                • How awful. No one deserves to be treated that way. We also aren’t our students’ therapists. That can be equally draining. To give and give and give. It depletes the spoons and the ladles. Some days, I really understand educator burnout. We have to remind ourselves what drives us to teach. 🙂


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