It’s been weeks since I have posted anything and there is a good reason: I hate you. Actually it’s not you, it’s me. I’m not trying to break up with you, my (7) readers, I’ve just had trouble writing about anything because writing involves thinking and I sure as shit have been avoiding doing that. After the American Sniper piece, and honestly for weeks before that, I wanted to write something personal. I used to write about humiliation from my past, awkward moments, and my attempts to laugh at my own faults. Lately I’ve been writing about movies, food, current events, and the weather. How original? Anyone want to read about the lowest forms of human communication some more?
I’ve also spent more of my time writing about music for Empty Bottle Evenings. And while I think that everything I wrote was a near masterpiece, it’s a lot easier to wrap your feelings around an album than it is to put meaningful and hopefully entertaining words to your own life. I wanted to write for DayOldDoughnuts, but I just couldn’t do it. Every single time that I tried to write something personal I immediately gave up on it before I really got started. Even writing this, a post on why writing a post is difficult, was difficult to begin. (Come Again?) It took a long time for introspection and a medication increase to realize that I was unable to write about myself because I hadn’t thought about what I was actually doing with myself for months. Every minute that I was at work and wasn’t working, I was reading something. Every minute that I was at home I was watching something. Every minute in my car, I was listening to something. Every distraction available became the shield to what I already knew but didn’t want to admit: that I’m still struggling with depression.
Some of the first questions a professional will ask you if you are potentially suffering through depression is are you still interested in doing the daily activities that you are accustomed to and are you able to function and think normally? Well, I thought to myself, I think I’m doing okay. I’m still going to work, not missing appointments, eating habits haven’t changed, still watching Parks & Rec, I must be doing fine. Then one day last week I looked at my girlfriend/fiancée/partner/friend and realized I haven’t had a real conversation with her in weeks. Or thought about how she was feeling. Or really appreciated her being in my life; not in the rational way, but in the true love, actual feeling emotion sort of way. This was upsetting. How can you sit next to someone on the couch everyday and not feel anything?
What else was I missing? I really thought about what I was doing at work: not engaging with co-workers, reading literally anything to pass the time, texting and emailing people to break up the day (and assure myself that I still have friends), and listening to music to avoid paying attention and trying to hold on to any small sense of personal enjoyment. I hadn’t missed any appointments but I stopped scheduling others, I hadn’t stopped eating but I gave up on that “more salad” initiative pretty quickly, and while I still watched enough Netflix to get me from dinnertime to bedtime, I gave up on watching sports. You know, the one thing on TV that actually made me feel something while I was watching it.
When people talk about depression they tell you about succumbing to “the fog”: the problem is that it rolls in slowly and you don’t realize you’re surrounded by it until you’ve been living in it for a while, and you can’t see through it until someone (usually metaphorically) slaps you in the face. You think you are self-aware and knowledgeable about the thing you studied in college, but the gradual pace and the inability for us to face reality allows us to fall prey to it just as easy. Yeah I haven’t seen any of my friends in a while, but they are busy. Yeah. They must be the busiest friends in the world since all of them have been booked up for three months. Weird, how they are so busy you know they are busy without checking once to see if they are going to be around or making any effort whatsoever. And why try at work? NOBODY else does. Why go to appointments? They NEVER helped me. And it’s amazing how many things you can justify just by saying that you are getting older. Not going out, gaining weight, feeling tired, being sore, being stressed, avoiding social contact, just generally not being happy. People live until they are 100 years old, but there is nothing wrong with a 30 year hermit who can’t be bothered to see people and isn’t interested in trying anything that requires leaving their couch?
People also worry about abusing drugs or drinking too much due to depression, and letting that haze take over your life. To be fair I have been drinking too much and while it hasn’t exactly helped me, it hasn’t been the primary cause of me losing touch with my life either. I’m not getting trashed after work every day and “making it all go away.” Although I admit these are probably things that alcoholics say. Most of my nights are honestly spent on that couch that I’ve become so reticent to leave. If I was sober I just as easily could have spent the past few months sitting there and doubting everything but literally doing nothing. How easy is it to live a “normal” life but still be missing so much? I’m not breaking down in tears or unable to get out of bed. I’m doing ALRIGHT. I haven’t had a panic attack in months and I don’t feel like killing myself lately! Still, insisting everything is okay but spending my nights watching Bones and falling asleep at 10pm is not exactly a self-improvement plan. Sometimes you do need to do that: numb your brain with TV and get some extra sleep, or even spend a night getting wasted and forgetting your problems. But every distraction has its limit.
I told myself I was doing better and that’s not exactly a lie. I still struggle with meaning in my personal life and especially my work life. And I still constantly fight overgeneralized negative thoughts (NOBODY cares about this stuff, EVERYONE is an asshole, NOTHING will make things better). But I wasn’t ready to give up on everything. I don’t wish it was all over. I still had some ability to be hopeful for the future. But it’s a continuous struggle, not one that is just solved and BOOM, you’re now okay to live a quality life. It still stops you from enjoying things, hell it even stops you from thinking about the things that you might enjoy. My future doctor wife asked what would be the first thing I would want to splurge on with all that Doctor Money and I couldn’t even think of anything. I’m become so depressed I can’t even do the Great American Pastime: dreaming of things we can’t currently afford.
Great, I wanted to live, but I forgot to dream. And not just about stupid things that you could buy, but things to actually improve your happiness. I haven’t set goals in as long as I can remember. I do not actively doubt my abilities, but forget that talent, opportunity, and desire are things that exist at all. And lacking the necessary confidence and the self-confirmation that doing anything is “worth it” is enough of a detractor to avoid putting any real effort into anything. I could get off the couch….but why bother? The “distractions” and the avoidance of anything too “real” were too much to try anything that would help my bigger picture problems. And the tunnel vision of avoidance encouraged me to disregard the feelings of anyone around me like a borderline sociopath.
I wish I could say I had some sort of epiphany: that I realized all this time I’ve been wasting my life and ignoring everything important, and that now everything is going to change! But that would be bullshit. And even if I said I was going to give up TV and drinking and dedicate my time exclusively to people in my life, how long would that really last? (Also who the hell wants to see me that much?) It’s like the people who go on a no-carb diet that really love bread. Why set yourself up to fail? Do something sustainable, you jerk. I’m still going to binge on Netflix and I’m not quitting drinking. But I will be spending more time having real conversations with the people I love whether they like it or not! I will focus more on things that make me think and feel, not gorging myself with quick fixes like Sports Radio in the car and Buzzfeed quizzes at work. I will still have to “check in” and make sure I’m aware of how I feel because maybe that will trigger a change if something is starting to go wrong before I’m too far gone into the fog. Living in a world of distraction sure makes it things easier, but it doesn’t mean your life isn’t becoming lousier. Having a good life is hard enough when you are depressed; living a meaningless life even with sufficient distractions isn’t helping anyone.