I've sunk back into depression, unfortunately, though it was slightly predictable. My pain management doctor had given me narcotics for control, but she's in San Diego, so naturally I ran out. And I didn't plan my withdrawal properly like I did last time, so I sank immediately into depression. Today is a little better. I made a list of goals for the day. And I'm writing, which is also a good sign. If I keep this palaver up I may convince myself that I'm coming out of it.
What I really hate about depression is how I can be on the beautiful Mendocino coast where the pines parade down to the sea and take no pleasure in it. This is called "anhedonia." Then there is the incapacity to feel love towards anyone or anything; there is simply a blank wall, Sylvia Plath's "bell jar." I am convinced in my bones that my life amounts to nothing and that all would be better off without me. When I asked myself where I might be happy, I could only think of a hole in the earth. My crying jags also arrive on time; right now they are scheduled for about 3 PM. This always happens in my depressions, a clockwork biology where I can predict when I will weep like a mock turtle on a schedule about the waste I call my life. No list of accomplishments can dissuade me from the opinion that I have done nothing. The future is unimaginable; the past is an incontrovertible witness in favor of the prosecution against me.
My "life script," also, a Transactional Analysis term, feeds into this. When I did my fourth step in AA, I reduced my life and the message I received in childhood to this: "If you're not perfect, you're worthless; if you're not the best, you're nothing." I'm sure my parents did not intend me to be branded by these double-binds, but they meshed nicely with my manic-depressive disease. My new psychiatrist pointed out this psychological misperception to me in our first session, and that upset me. But he had me.
Which raises the question, "What good is self-knowledge?" If I know how I'm fucked up, can write about it, talk about it, why can't I change it? It may be too deeply embedded to dislodge. My philosophy is to accept it and try to be aware of it, as it is too late to escape the programming. If you knew the details of my earlier life, you would know how many awards I won, how my GPA at UCLA was 4.0 while married and working three jobs, and how none of my procession of awards and accomplishments were really planned; I was simply driven. And how hollow such accomplishments seemed to me afterwards! As Groucho said, "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." I feel the same way; I refuse to accept any recognition or award because in honoring me the prize is automatically devalued. A lose-lose philosophy.
If nothing I do can proves I'm not worthless, why do I keep trying? When not depressed I think my goals might be worthy in themselves, and my worth is not entirely dependent on them, rather I have some intrinsic worth granted by the Almighty and my loved ones. Nevertheless at the core of my being, like the rubber strands wound around the mystic center of a golf ball, the mantra persists.
In Mexico I counseled an elderly lady with severe myesthenia gravis who was virtually paralyzed, had to have her diapers changed, for instance. She could still talk. How she maintained fortitude and avoided depression under such conditions amazed me. If I became totally dependent upon others, there would be nothing to prove my worth. That scares me. And life is just that thin; "car crash tomorrow." "All flesh is like grass." Everything you trust in today could be ripped away tomorrow. Think of the Christmas tsunami and Katrina.
We can't let the vulnerability of our immediate lives into the forefront of our minds too much or it will undermine our confidence in the things we actually do and strive for, letting the air out of the balloon we have constructed in an unfounded faith in the continuity of our existence and expectations.
I recently read Jack London's Sea Wolf for the first time, where the captain, a thoroughgoing amoral atheist, preaches the gospel of survival, of bigger fish eating littler fish, where whoever gets to indulge in the most "piggishness" was the ostensible winner. The protagonist, Humphrey Van Weyden, tries to counter these arguments with his philosophy of the sacredness of life and altruism, but discovers that his reasoning is not nearly so water tight as the captain's, especially in view of the brutal conditions on the sealing ship where he is forced to work, along with the evil character of most of the hands.
So what remedy remains me? My best philosophy is acceptance. If I accept these features in my flawed self they will not exercise the unconscious power over me that they otherwise possess. In my best moments I will be able to actually laugh at myself and the programs I swallowed whole as a small child. Alas, today is not one of those days, because the biological aspect of my depression does not yet allow me such wisdom.
This too will pass, and I will embrace this ephemeral world as substantial again. But one thing depression teaches you is how thin the spider's thread from which we hang truly is.
Thine in Depression (again),