I think I’m depressed. That probably sounds a little odd, but none of the fireworks that regularly accompany my depression are present for whatever the hell is going on this time, so I don’t know.
I should, though. Depression is far from a new experience for me; in fact, it has been my particular back monkey for as long as I can remember. While the worst of it struck frequently between the ages of 15 and 40, I clearly remember bouts of melancholy as early as eight or so. They had to be obvious to those around me, but there was no counseling or psych meds, the only diagnosis a string of pejoratives. I was a pansy, a sissy, a mama’s boy, weird, too sensitive, artistic, melodramatic. Born 20 years later I would’ve been labeled an emo kid, 20 years earlier I would’ve been labeled too weak to call myself a man.
Those depressions felt cataclysmic, literally like my world was crumbling. I was a failure, and I would always be a failure. I didn’t have goals, I had unrealistic fantasies. I had no friends. I was a fake, phony, fraud. Even my own family hated me. My entire life was a mistake, its only redeeming quality my ability to pull the switch on it whenever I chose. Depression then was a profound sadness that penetrated to the marrow in my bones.
I haven’t experienced that kind of depression for many years. Sure I experience bouts of sadness, but they are proportional to the events that trigger them. If you aren’t sad when bad things happen, you might be as batshit loony as the eight year-old who feels like his world is crumbling. Overall my life is a decent one, no major complaints. My car starts when I turn the key, the beer is cold, and I’ve outlived Elvis (in part because I don’t combine the cold beer with the car keys). I have no addictions or chronic maladies beyond a few aches and pains. That bone weary monkey hasn’t weighed me down for a long time.
Which is what leads me to the ambiguous conclusion that I think I’m depressed. My mental state at the moment is a bit like feeling a few raindrops on an otherwise sunny day. This can’t be right. All signs point to sunny day.
But the raindrops are accumulating. I can’t write–can’t make the magic trick work. It’s not even that I can’t so much as the exercise feels completely foreign to me, like some sort of aphasia preventing me from recognizing my own hands. I sit down to write, and it’s as if I’ve never done so before. How does this work? Where does one begin? Why even bother?
The latter represents the next raindrop. Nothing says depression like the “why bother” impulse. I spent many hours last week considering whether to shut this down–Why It Mattters, writing in general, all of it. None of this is going anywhere. I’ve stopped writing for hire, and I’ve stopped submitting to literary magazines. Who cares? The world is overwhelmed already with narcissists begging for attention. I’m just screaming into the hurricane, adding to the noise.
Food has lost its flavor. I bury my favorite dishes beneath mounds of black pepper so that I can taste something, anything. The first few times I blamed the cook, but eventually I recognized the pattern.
I’m tired, so tired. A couple of nights last week found me in bed by 8:30 or so. I wake up throughout the night, always restless.
I can’t concentrate, which likely contributes to my difficulty writing. I’ll read the same page two or three times and still not know what I’ve read.
I’m quick to anger and I’ve withdrawn from friends. In 2018 that means a reduced social media presence, at least for me. None of those people even like you, screeches the monkey. The numbers back him up: There’s very little engagement with my posts anymore. It’s all just me shouting into a hurricane.
So the raindrops gather, but what makes them feel so different this time around is that they are not accompanied by sadness, and to many of us sadness equates to depression. Never mind sadness: I don’t really feel much of anything beyond flashes of anger. I’m just sort of here, which is another raindrop.
So many of depression’s most pernicious symptoms are present: social withdrawal, disrupted sleep, self doubt, muted senses. But I feel no despair, no sadness as I’ve always understood sadness. My world doesn’t feel like it’s crumbling, nor do I wish to escape it. These are sunny days, yet I feel a few drops of rain. That’s all.
I just wish that I could sleep, or write, or taste my food. Or feel like any of it matters.
It matters, you may not think so, but it does. There are a lot of us who depend on you for our daily chuckles (another way to say ‘brighten the day”). So I guess we are more depressed than you are. So there.
As you know, I’ve been there and felt that. For me it was life in a perpetual fog. Sound, sight, touch and taste were all muted. Joy was a word I could define but a feeling I never experienced. I first became aware of it when I was about ten years old. I always felt different from everyone else. but it was puberty that made me face being gay. At the time I equated the two, but eventually recognized that depression and being gay were separate aspects of me. Pharmaceuticals finally allowed me to function in the world, but it has only been in the past 10 years that I can say I may be closer to genuine normality. I enjoy life each day and can feel joy just by sitting on my front porch listening to the birds sing and being caressed by a gentle breeze. I guess that’s the best encouragement I can offer. In the meantime, listen to all of us who say you are important to us. You make our lives better just by being you.
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Hang in there! You matter! 🌞
It definitely matters but you don’t see it because you’re looking for it. You really need to write for you and if you do it sincerely and meaningfully, people will read it.
Reading this breaks my heart! I hope the raindrops dry up. On the sunny side of the street, you did write this, and you wrote it as you always do. With supreme and subtle eloquence eliciting an emotional response. You moved us. Not too shabby. On the practical side, you might want to get in touch with your doc, make sure you don’t need to tweak something. Or maybe just keep reaching out like this. Sending hugs. Can you feel ’em?
I had noticed that last week there was no Monday post. At first I thought I had accidentally deleted it in one of my tired angry e-mail “clean-ups” (newsletters I subscribed to and never read) but I had not – I went over to the WIM homepage to look for it, I could not find it there either (although I found a whole mini-story you wrote back in 2013 that I totally missed, how that happened I do not know. )
Then a day or so later Tomás noticed that Monday’s entry was not in his inbox, and in our shared half-joking “we have no friends either” way, he said, “James doesn’t like me anymore, he took me off his list, the Monday story is not here.”
So, that was the validation I needed to know that it was not me, there was no entry last Monday.
All week I have had the intention of writing you and asking if you were okay……my intentions are there, but I am going through a similar thing with what I think is depression. I cannot seem to do these things. It is not that I cannot write you an e-mail, it has just gotten so hard for me to communicate, with words in any form – spoken, written – I cannot seem to make my hands and brain coordinate into anything coherent and to the point.
“Hey, Himes, it’s Kel – Did you write anything last Monday? I cannot find it, and if you did not, are you okay? Is everything okay?”
That is all I wanted to ask. Each day I have it on my “I want to….” brain, but I know how long it is going to take, I know I am going to ramble and probably make no sense, and I am also so very tired.
I have even given up trying to give a quick once over to a comment or an e-mail to make sure English really is my first language…..you have a statcounter, you can see how long I have been on your page at times, and then sometimes there is not even a comment. Some part of me still wants to participate but I feel like I don’t know how to anymore.
I do not have a name for this malaise we have, but the symptoms are the same. I see life, I see the beauty of the day and I understand that it is a beautiful day, but I don’t feel it, I cannot seem to breathe it in. It’s like looking at a picture. The food looks nice, it even smells nice sometimes, but it just feels like I am exercising my jaw. I only eat to make my stomach not growl.
I feel like I am existing on the other side of a wall of cling wrap, and my version of “does any of it matter” is “what is the point?” I used to make a half-joke that I was having a “what’s the point attack” but it is no longer an attack, it feels like it is here to stay.
Is it okay to accept that there is no point, or that none of it really matters? When I wonder why I bother getting up in the morning, is it because I am still just trying to show up? Is it okay to take a break from feeling like something has to matter, and just show up whether it means something or not?
It has taken me all day to write this, I fall asleep a lot. In that time you have gotten comments from people who love you telling you that you matter greatly to them.
I hope you keep showing up because I believe at some point you will feel it, and maybe someday you will realize how important you are to a small group of other people who matter, and maybe they feel they do not, too – but either way, your raw honesty gives other people a safe place to speak. There are not many safe places on the Internet anymore, so even though you feel like shutting it down because you think you are just part of the noise – can you trust me right now when I tell you that you are not adding to the noise, you are a quiet, inviting room that gives 100% of itself, and zero bullshit. That is WIM, and you are WIM.
When I didn’t see a post last Monday, I knew you were depressed. Reading this is no surprise, but I wish I had something for you, something more than empathy and understanding. You are not alone on this sunny day with an umbrella, I am sitting in the boat right across from you, and we are both too tired to talk, but I have enough energy to tell you how much you matter to me, from the day I popped into your cutting room half a lifetime ago. This will never change, and through this haze of bland, strange “just here-ness” I can still feel the few people in my life that I love fiercely and unconditionally. I can count them on one hand, and you are right there on my thumb. 🙂
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You matter to me. I look forward to your online presence since we are on opposite sides of the country. I hate you have battled this monkey for so long. Hopefully, you will feel more 😊.
For someone who says they can’t write or feel creative at the moment that is pretty fine writing. Honest and to the point. I find a thing that helps me apart from interacting with my kids is working and tending my allotment where I also have a shed to make art in. Growing veg and fruit is hugely therapeutic and you get produce at the end. If you have a garden or yard and if you don’t already might be worth trying. You are great photographer that pic you took of me when we played at the old cinema was one of my all time faves. Have you got any projects on the go ?
Jim, you are and have always been the bravest person I know. Not to sound maudlin, and not that we have ever been terribly close, even in high school, I have always considered you to be someone I could trust more than most anyone else because you are an honest man in a world full of deceit and petty self-interest. Maybe you are shouting at a hurricane, but some of us are listening intently.
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Just a suggestion. I know you use to paint. Try painting again. When one area drys up sometimes it helps to give it a rest and try something different. I find it helps me to switch between creative areas. I prefer painting but sometimes I build, sometimes I write (very seldom), sometimes I sculpt. I find if I do something different from my norm it gets me over the hump or out of the rut. It may not get rid of the sadness immediately but it shortens it. Plus often really cool things come out of the valleys. I would miss your stories but I would enjoy seeing your color on canvas.
PS: ignore my grammar. English is not my first language. Do not know what is but English it is not.
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I’ve read and appreciated each of your comments, and frankly I’m too embarrassed to respond to each of them individually. Both your suggestions and your kindness are sincerely touching. They don’t require even a hint of pepper to render them tasty.