Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Not (Always) in the Mood

I'm going to come out of the closet (no, not that one) and admit to being in the ring with depression over the past few months.  My affliction, if it is that, is of the mild to moderate type, depending on what scale we use, and whose definition we go by.  This should come as no surprise to those perceptive readers who have tracked my book piles and attended to the web places I visit regularly.  Nor to those who see procrastination as a symptom of depression, or as a cause or precursor.  

My struggle with the blues is hardly remarkable for my place and time.  The most common estimates are that 20% of Americans are currently depressed.  (And the rest aren't really paying attention.)  Not yet nine years after 9/11, in the middle of a  severe economic "downturn" that has slowed our progress but not our frantic pace, and still mired in international conflict, it is little wonder that so many of us "just don't feel like it" these days--"it" ranging from parties, to work, and even to sex.  

I have been reading a lot about depression lately, because that's what I do when confronted with the circumstances of my life.  I was talking with a couple of people after church last Sunday, and sharing what I'd learned from reading about troubled offspring when my own were in situations similar to those another mother was bemoaning.  She asked why I would read about such things.  "Why would you put yourself through that?"  "Because that's how I cope," I answered.  I joked that the book piles around my bed, and work chair, and kitchen table could be "read" like tea leaves to reveal the state of my psyche in any given week.   A stack on grief.  One for depression.  Another for launching the post-secondary dyslexic learner.  

In reading about depression, I have been attempting to learn its meaning in my life, the significance of its recurrence after a stretch of years.  I have also been looking for a way out.  Because depression hurts, as anyone who has experienced it--even the squishy potato-like thingy in the Zoloft ads--can tell you.  Some of the sources I have consulted advise, rather, that the way out is into, and through the darkness.  And so I slog on.

But, even as I question the meaning of life, and the meaning of my life, more searchingly than I have for some time--returning to questions I thought I had answered--I still understand the momentary nature of our existence.  In case it matters, I want not to have "wasted" my time here.  So I am making lists, and making changes.  

It helps that I tend to agitated depression, so I can move, fueled as I am by nervous energy.  I have been buoyed by the humor and wisdom and practical guidance of Therese Borchard's blog, Beyond Blue.  (And I am happy to recommend her recently released book Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes.)  Her journey is more arduous than mine, and her courage an exemplar.   Get it Done When You're Depressed, by Julie Fast, is another useful resource.  As is Broken Open:  How Difficult Times Can Help us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser.

But in the end (or is it the beginning?), it all comes down to doing the next good thing, day by day, until the light returns.  And remembering to marvel at the miracle of it all, even in the midst of pain. 

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