In my present state it is hard to stay on one task for any amount of time. I try to read but find myself reading the same paragraph over and over. I am blank. The pressure will heat up again, however, after my brain begins to castigate me for all my failures and derelictions until a lump rises in my throat and the faucets come on again.
I did manage to throw out the Christmas tree last night. Being just a local redwood sapling it was rather sparse, but it never shed a single needle while it was up. I threw it out from the deck out back, and we (stepson Derek and daughter Sarah) put our hands on it to transfer the past year's sins onto its innocent bark as a convenient scapegoat. Afterwords I launched it like a spear out into the woods where it will feed the nitrogen cycle.
I ran across a curious article today in which it was shown that men who cease religious activities are actually at lower risk for anxiety and depression, while women who cease religious activities are more likely to suffer from them. They think it might have to do with different social networking styles. I thought it funny in light of my discussion with friend Eric about Christianity and my depression. Religion is toxic for me in this state, something he has difficulty understanding.
Wait--that little possessive adjective ("my") is part of my problem --I want this to be your depression, too! I should not hog all its glory for myself; you, too, can help carry the burden. So if any of you wish to undertake this, please write me and I'll instruct you in the fine art of breakdowns. Chemistry aside, there are some ways to achieve depression without being born into the disease, but it takes a big commitment.
When you get as bad as I am now, the main survival tool is to accept your depression. Like a winter tree, think of yourself as dormant, not dead. Oh, you feel dead, you feel worse than dead. It's a living hell. No one has described it better than Jesus, who said of hell "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," except that he left out the anxiety part. Simply put, the emotion of despair includes sadness, fear and anger, the anger usually self-directed. In psychiatric terms this constitutes dysphoria.
What surprises me about this depression has been its gradations; at times I can laugh, at other times not. Twice I had temporary responses to medications. In the past when the worm turned it was sudden and for a long time; I can remember distinctly noticing the beauty of a fern while hiking during another depression, and afterwards realizing that in that moment of aesthetic appreciation I had flipped out of my depression. Nothing had been beautiful up to that moment for the longest time. Suddenly I was well. This is why I don't get psychotherapy--it just makes the disease worse, since the complaints I bring to the therapist are mainly biological in nature. I wrote a poem about this once, below:
When my soul was sanded so raw
the capillaries couldn't even seep,
I questioned the value of pain.
"You must experience your feelings of abandonment
until you are comfortable with them," you said.
When my suicidal doppelganger
turned me inside out, pulling my anus
through my mouth, you said,
"Now that you are stripped of defenses
you have a better chance of changing them."
When I called you up one weekend
to say I was terrified of inanimate objects
like doorknobs and tea kettles, you said,
"Stay with it. Globalized fear indicates
a necessary therapeutic regression."
Finally the antidepressants kicked in
and I felt like myself.
When I left you gave me another card
since therapy was “unfinished”
and I might be back
on your couch or another’s.
I gazed at your office figurines,
crystal leopards and pewter trolls,
porcelain ballerinas and kachina dolls,
and imagined the souls of all your patients
trapped inside them-- those, who like me,
sought relief through words
when only medicines would do.
I could have been the glass giraffe.