He said he read somewhere that the color pink increased dopamine production. I half heard him as I stared off toward the skyline. I scanned the structures that pushed upward. Hot metal and concrete broke the pattern of clouds, announcing civilization or at least the architectural efforts of the somewhat civilized. I turned to look at him and was taken aback by the intensity of his stare. I shrugged with a half smirk. I told him I didn't know, I would need to look it up. Safe people are the kind of people you don't have to pretend to know things with.
I know about dopamine though.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter from the catecholamine and phenethylamine categories. It is imperative to the human brain and body. The chemical structure of dopamine is an amine that is formed by removing a carboxyl group from a molecule of L-DOPA. It is the genius chemical in your brain that helps you feel so good and, if it gets off balance, so bad. I still don't know if staring at pink increases your dopamine. I know kindness does, though. I know a comforting smiles and knowing eyes and sharing increases dopamine.
I've been experiencing some dopaminergic dysregulation. That is to say, a few weeks ago, I was thoroughly convinced that the world didn't need me. Suicidal. My therapist told me I needed to go to some place safe and take care of myself or to the hospital. The hospital is a dehumanizing place. I've been there before and the attending physician released me. He told me I was too smart and too strong to be with those people. I still don't know what he meant. I wished, at one time, that he could read my mind or live in my head. There isn't strength there. In that space there is only a deep sense of vulnerability and tenderness. So many people don't see that, though, and so I get a lot of right hooks to the heart. Strong people can take the jabs, right? So instead of the hospital I took a road trip to Illinois. I would never kill myself at a stranger's house. I don't like the idea of hurting someone else.
I haven't felt very good in a while. I've been teetering on the edge of knowing. I know I have to move from where I've been stuck for a very long time. When you stand on the edge and balance with one foot it can easily feel like you are about to fall into oblivion. I messaged a friend and told her I didn't know if I could exist anymore, certainly not like this. I left again, to Kansas City, this time to explore and decide.
We can get caught up in the suffering of life. When we do, it can become so easy to believe that there is no light left. There are no warm hands or smiles or curious hearts. There is just pain and endless striving toward more pain. Maybe our dopamine levels are too low.
Maybe we need more skylines and clouds and sore cheeks from laughing and smiling too much. Maybe we haven't stared at enough pink sunsets.
I crawled into bed, later than I intended, and sent a message of gratitude for the night of conversation. The response read: "I am glad you exist." He had no way of knowing how much I didn't want to exist. His words broke me open a bit and I pushed back tears, something I've done every day for weeks now. For that night, that moment, I was glad I existed too. I was grateful for me and my faulty dopamine, pink sunsets, and most of all...deeply grateful for him.