Here’s how I know I’m in a bad way.
I got home not too long ago and went to turn on my fan. I live in a small apartment so all I need to cool the place is a small oscillating fan. If I know I’m going to be in the same place I set it so it doesn’t oscillate. I turned the fan on and was ready to pull up the little stopper doohickey so it wouldn’t oscillate. When it started, it first turned in the opposite direction I needed it to, and my thought was “This is how my life is going these days.”
Except it’s not. Not by a long shot.
I had just gotten home from a trip to Washington DC where, mostly through the largess of a great friend I hadn’t seen in a long time I got to see an epic Bruce Springsteen concert where he played several deep cuts off of my favorite album of his. The week prior (to the day) I was out at Jones Beach to see Jimmy Buffett also with several close friends, including one who has been one of my best friends for more than two dozen years. And this coming Monday, also through the generosity of a friend, I’ll be at Yankee Stadium in great seats, hopefully watching (I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s what would be best for the Red Sox during their playoff run) the Yankees win. Any one of these things on their own would be a great experience. All combined in a 12 day stretch is a pretty incredible run. And yet I let a fan determine how I felt.
Keep in mind that a mis-oscillating fan is nowhere near as traumatic as a pen in the clothes dryer – and if the biggest problem a person has in their life is a fan that first goes right when they wanted it to go left that person obviously has a pretty good life and they need to shut the fuck up – but it’s very symptomatic of what goes through the mind of a person with depression. It doesn’t matter how good anything is, there will always be something bad to point out. All of this helps me categorize what’s going on in three categories that helps me figure out why I am where I am.
1) There are certain things that are mostly out of my control. Right now work is slow and I’m at a standstill on the novel. Even though the few problems I’ve had with my job have been big problems, I truly like my job. To a certain degree, between the sense of stability it gives me by forcing a schedule on me and allowing me the opportunity to show off skills I know I have, the job is one of the best things in my life. But this is the slowest time of the year, as reflected in my wallet, and that can help build pressure with financial concerns that fuel the depression. As for the novel, the creative part is over. Now is the mind-numbingly dull part of editing, formatting, submitting and reviewing that does not come close to offering the same rewards spiritually and mentally that the creative process does.
2) There are certain things I could be doing that I’m not. I can’t do much about work: it’s slow and it sucks. But I can be doing creative work on other stuff. There is the novel I started last November that needs to be finished, plus the the third installment of the Tricky Dick series I will eventually need to get started on. Plus there are other things I could be doing, things I have tried in the past (meditation) and things I have thought about (taking a class in philosophy) that could be put to use in my life, helping to ground me, give me a new perspective or just fill the time.
3) There are certain things I am doing that I shouldn’t, at least not to the level I am. If you’re reading this than you know me, and if you know me then you know what I’m talking about, so there isn’t a whole lot of need to go into further detail. Suffice it to say sometimes the easy choice isn’t the best one, but for the moment you’re in it feels like the best choice, because it has with it, at those moments, the feeling of comfort and security, because it is a known entity.
Now it’s easy and logical to look at this and say “Well if you do A, B and stop doing C, then you’ll get the results you’re looking for.” That is actually a mostly true statement, from a logical viewpoint. Problem is if depression got a report card it would come home saying “does not play well with others, especially logic.” I know all these things to be true, I just don’t know how you convince your own warped and damaged mind that these are best things to do. To put it in comical terms I sometimes think my mind is nothing more than an endless field full of infinite cats and I’m just trying to herd them all.
And make no mistake this is not a plea for sympathy or a cry for help. Like I said I know my fan is no pen and my apartment is no dryer. I know there will be some situational things that will happen – work getting busier and the novel actually getting released – that will help create a more stable base for me to deal with the rest of my issues. (We can deal with my low self esteem and belief that the novel will suck and I’m a failure in November when it actually comes out.) And if depression has taught me anything it is that it operates on a series of highs and lows, and even though you may be doing all the right things (which isn’t to say I am) you may still find yourself dealing with one of the low periods. I know the low period will end.
I just wish I knew when.