Monday, November 06, 2006

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour...

I saw Mom yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks. I took her out to a show, bought her a gift, tried to cheer her up. She looked better, but still fragile, still grieving. It made me feel guilty that I haven't been doing more to help her aside from calling. More than guilty, devastated.

Over the last week, the depression was beginning to wane. All the effort I put into not moping, from exercising to socializing more, was starting to pay off. I wasn't exactly brimming with joy, but I no longer felt like an emotional black hole. Last night, that awful, hopeless feeling started creeping up on me again.

Then I had this dream that instead of living four blocks away, TV Tyler and Film Felix lived across the hall from me (isn't that a sitcom waiting to happen). One day, I heard a noise across the hall, so I looked in the peephole and saw the two of them leaving their apartment with a couple of friends. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but they were pointing to my door and gesturing, and their muffled voices sounded wry and mocking. Then Film Felix glanced over and, as if seeing right through the door, gave me a dirty look. I woke up feeling all kinds of hated and humiliated. Great way to kick off a Monday.

There are so many days to fill and I don't know what to do with them. I don't have the inspiration to write, I don't have the attention span to read, and all the other things that used to make me happy...don't. At least, not for long. The best I can hope for these days is temporary respite. I thought about seeing a therapist, but I don't think it would help. I know what's wrong with me. I have people to talk to. I'm not suppressing anything or in denial about part of my identity. I'm just trying to cope with the hurdles as best as possible and not always doing the best job. I don't need to pay someone lots of money to tell me things I already know and I don't want to be prescribed anything that will turn me into a shiny happy me. I'd rather slug out this crisis (existential and otherwise) on my own.

Besides, it's more than the fallout from a break-up, death in the family, illness, and work badness. I turned down a possible book deal (long story, I don't want to talk about it) and my agent is leaving her company and agenting altogether (which has nothing to do with me). While I have taken this latest news in stride and not fallen apart like I did in the previous weeks, it has made me wonder if I'm even cut out to be a writer and if I'll ever develop a career I love. This whole finding-your-place-in-the-world thing can be so damn tricky.

I had a feeling the Worst Autumn Ever had more in store for me. These days, it's a struggle to hold on to any shred of optimism and not succumb to cynicism. I try to focus on the good things, really I do. I'm privileged in many ways and taking that for granted only makes me feel worse, guiltier. My problem is lack of perspective. It's inconceivable to me that things will improve any time soon. The best I can hope for at this point is that my outlook does.

23 comments:

Um Hi said...

please feel better! we've all been there...don't worry, you will get that optimism back and find that you're over your breakup before you realize it.

Dolly said...

Juliette,
Thanks for the encouragement. I'm very much over the break-up, that's the least of it. It's all the other stuff that's tripping me up.

Anonymous said...

People are either born to write or they’re born to do something else.

Right now, the writing life doesn’t fit your notion of it. Writers still have to earn a living, get laid, pay the bills and stay out of jail. And once we finish our chores, we sit down and write past bad dreams, death, agents, despair and empty days.

If it were easy, anyone could do it.

Tell me – do you ever respond to email?


Silver

Dolly said...

Silver,
I don't think I ever stated what my writing notion is, so I don't know how you could know claim to know it. I actually have a very good idea of the lifestyle, the publishing industry, and what it takes to get a book out there, to say nothing of having an actual career writing. Believe me, I don't have a glamorous idea of what being a writer is, quite the opposite. I can't tell you how many times I wished I was passionate about something more job-friendly, like accounting or computers, because of how tough it is to be a writer. I have struggled for the last decade as to whether it's the life for me, so telling me it isn't easy is like saying the sky is blue.

Jamy said...

Please go see a therapist.

I think you are great and brave and handling this incredibly well, but why not get more help? Who are you talking to? Who are you sharing with? Therapy can be a short-term aid to get you over the last hump of this depression-- so use it and get past this miserable autumn.

Please.

Anonymous said...

Dolly,
I began reading this blog for, ahem, more prurient reasons. But the reason I continued reading was your voice--it is just so big-hearted and compelling and wonderful. It would be a disfavor to us all, and the world, if you stopped writing. Don't give up. Some day you will find other stories that absolutely must be told. Just stick with it. Best,
KR

StrangerInTheseParts said...

I kind of agree with you that your not really a candidate for therapy. You mostly come across as respecting therapy from a distance. But when considering it for yourself, I get the feeling you see it as self-indulgent and caving in to weakness. If you ain't into it, it won't yield results.

Also, as you point out, you are pretty tuned in to yourself and have lots of friends who help you ventilate. You'll get through this fine without shelling out all that cash for therapy.

But I can't help pointing out that therapy is not a place where you are told things about yourself. A good therapist won't be telling you anything about yourself. A good therapy experience for people like you (the "worried well") is that it is a place where intractable, recurring depressing stuff can be mined and mulled and vented without burdening your friends. It's great to have friends to lean on when you've got the blues. But how many times a year can you do that? How many times a year do you want to do that to your friends?

When the dogs keep barking, it's nice to have a special place where you can dump all that shit, sift through it, and build some new stories for yourself. Therapy is a sandbox for playing with your misery.

Again - you certainly don't need it. You'll be fine. But in as much as you have an image of what other people are doing in therapy that maybe selling the process short, I thought I'd comment....

Anonymous said...

In my life, why do I waste valuable time with people who don't care if I live or die?

:-)

Anonymous said...

Big hug.

It gets better.


Silver

Anonymous said...

Sorry you're feeling so low, hon!

Hang in there...you know what "they" say...everything happens for a reason. It's just our job to try and make sense of it all.

Dolly said...

Jamy and Stranger,
If it gets really bad to the point where I can't handle it on my own, I'll consider seeing a shrink. But I've been depressed before and I've gotten through it on my own and I'm not convinced a professional can offer anything that I can do on my own, like write in my private journal or take a long, contemplative walk in the park. My depression is more circumstantial than anything else and I think most people in my place would also feel pretty down in light of all that's happened recently. Therapy is great for some, but deep down I don't believe it's for me.

KR,
I'm not giving up. Usually, I don't write about these feelings, so the blog has been a nice way to vent through these difficulties.

Anonymous 1:27,
Your comment has been the only thing that's made me smile all day.

Silver,
Thank you.

Isabella Snow said...

Wry and mocking.. never a good thing... it will get better. It has too, no? That's how I always look at it. *hugs!*

LaMa said...

Dolly,

Therapists don't tell you what you already know (by the way, you might be surprised here, perhaps you only think you know).

Therapists, if they are good therapists, learn you techniques to deal with and neutralize the things that are causing depression. Efficient, structural techniques.

You blame recent happenings (the break-up etc.) for this depression. And certainly, they play a large role, no doubt. But it's too easy to assign them the role of being the "real" cause for this depression, i.e. laying its origins outside yourself, in things that happen. That is a fallacy. The real cause is not in the happenings itself, but in how you handle them. And that is where you fail.

Depression, and certainly recurrent (dysthyme) depression as it seems to be in your case, is the result when your coping mechanism fails, is not adequate to the task. If that is structural, and it is if I understand you as this isn't your first depression, you really need to do something about it. You need to learn to structurally adjust your coping mechanism, otherwise you'll have to face depression after depression again.

And that is where a therapist comes in. If you knew how to do this yourself (as you claim), you wouldn't have this depression.

I've been there. For 15-20 years I refused to go in therapy too. I suffered dysthyme depression, off and on and off and on, for years. Until I completely collapsed and then finally got into therapy. And now I am very happy I did, and regret I didn't do it earlier. I could have won 15 more happy years.

So I can only join Jamy: go see a therapist. Please...

Anonymous said...

Having been there, done that (depression), I thought I might mention a few things that worked for me, even though I don't know you. A book that helped me a lot was Feeling Good by David Burns. It's got lots of specific suggestions for helping yourself overcome depression. Not just get out and do stuff, but how you can change your internal dialog to be more positive.

As far as therapy, so much of it is the individual you talk to. I had a really bad experience with Freudian (yes, but how does that make you feel?) therapy, and a really good experience with CBT (cognitive behavioral) therapy. If you do decide to go that route, remember that your first meeting is a job interview, and you're the boss. If you don't like them, leave.

I know, it's none of my business, but I enjoy your blog, and hate to see you feeling bad.

Good luck!

Dolly said...

Lama,
I blame recent events (like, hello, a death in the family) for triggering the events, but not for the sustained depression. If you read my post, I talk about grappling with identity and existential issues. So I'm not just grieving, but figuring out where I fit into the big picture. I'm not using the break-up, my grandmother's death, the loss of my agent, etc. as an excuse to feel bad (though, seriously, don't I have some just cause here?). Also, I am not failing here. If I was failing, I wouldn't get out of bed ever. I am getting on with my life, I just need some time to deal with all the shitty things that have happened. Any depression I've experienced was always preceded by something sad happening, but that does not mean I am mentally ill. It means that I feel my feelings and get sad when sad things happen (just like I get happy when happy things happen). Maybe you feel differently based on what I have written, but I'm the one living in my head and I think for the most part I am handling the horror show that has been the last month of my life pretty damn well. If I wasn't, there's no way I'd be able to write so coherently about it.

Anonymous 4:36,
Thanks for the book recommendation. And I like the idea of therapists who mix Freudian with cognitive therapy, because it makes so much sense to pair the understanding with behavioral changes. In all honesty, I have a fantastic support network and don't need to pay someone to become another part of it. If I feel my marbles escaping, I'll reconsider.

clarissa said...

i think what lama was trying to say is that, those are certainly reasons to be sad, but depression is a different thing altogether...however, it's impossible from not knowing you or talking to you to know whether or not you are depressed, or just really sad. i mean, you're also a multifaceted person, and what you are writing here (whether it be sex or depression or about music) is only one facet of who you are or what you're feeling...so it's kind of stupid for anyone to use this blog to give you some sort of armchair diagnosis. i mean, you know yourself well enough to say "hey i'm not functioning at 100% here" so one should at least respect that you'll be aware of the fact it isn't so good to be saying "hey i'm not functioning at 15% here"

that said, i do agree with anon, in terms of CBT being a much better option therapywise...in general it's starting to be viewed as such by the psychology community as well...psychotherapy has its merits, but if the patient and the doctor don't mesh, it's a huge waste of time... where cbt is a much more rote set of behaviors and reactions and blahblahblah.

honestly, i don't think you need either though...i mean, if depression rears its head more often or more aggressively, then maybe in the future, but you are right in that you have had a lot going on lately, and it's totally normal to grieve, whether it is over your relationship, your grandmother, or just where you see your life going (or not going). it would be juvenile to not have a negative response to all that is going on.

lanterngirl said...

Hey Dolly,

I've been reading quietly for a while. I don't want to be annoyingly spouting advice, but the first instinct I have especially when I read your last post is that it might be good for you to get away for a bit.

Travelling always has the effect of adjusting peoples' perspectives, and maybe within a fresh environment you'd rediscover some of your joy in life.

But obviously you know what you need better than any of us, and maybe you don't want to leave your mum and just take off anyway.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand not wanting to go to therapy b/c you don't think it will help, but you shouldn't have to suffer so much to say that you got through it yourself. There's nothing shameful about asking someone for help. You say you're "sad" but the feelings you write about are much deeper and more itense..."black hole" etc. Sounds like you have something like an adjustment disorder...google it and see what you think. You seem to be intellectualizing your situation rather than accepting that what you're going through is not a normal process of dealing with life stressors. There are plenty of drug therapies that won't turn you into a shiny happy person. If you've tried one, or even several and didn't like them then see a different psychiatrist and try something new. I also understand the undesirability of taking psychotropic meds. I take Zoloft for panic attacks. I hate being on it, but it allows me to function and get through my day.
Anyway, consider going on meds for a short period of time. I would hate to keep hearing you describing this horrible way you feel. I wish you the best.

Jesse

LaMa said...

Dolly,

I might have been a bit confronting to you (I apologize for that), and I want to clarify that in no way I was implying you haven't gone through a rough time recently. That you did, is fully acknowledged.

Clarissa clearly got my point in her first lines. I was not implying at all that you "use" recent happenings as an "excuse" to feel bad (they are indeed very valid reasons to not feel happy. I know, I've seen my dad die): I was trying to point out to you that there might be more than recent events behind it, something more structural. This was mainly given in to me because I understood (and this seems to be confirmed in the quote below) that this has happened more often.

You write: "Any depression I've experienced was always preceded by something sad happening, but that does not mean I am mentally ill"

I never said you are mentally ill. And there is no reason to associate or equate getting help from a therapist with 'being mentally ill'.

I was trying to say the root of recurrent depressive feelings is often in a certain pattern in thinking and behaviour as a response to sad things happening, not in the sad things itself.

With the correct therapy, you can change/manipulate that pattern in thinking and behaviour, and by doing so suffer less negative consequences from sad things happening. i.e., make the dark holes less dark and less deep.

Like one of the Anonymous, I can strongly recommend Cognitive therapy in this respect, as it specifically is about this.

And that is where a (good) therapist could be very helpful to you.

Okay, I think I have said enough on this now. I don't want & need to be telling you what you "should" do, that's up to you of course. I can only give you some well-meant advise.

b.t.w. Clarissa: indeed, I do tend to give "armchair diagnosis", I know (its a very attractive trap to me). But on a certain level, that's what we all do in our blog comments, isn't it?

Dolly said...

Elle,
Yes, I think everyone needs to go through a rough patch to make them stronger. At least, that's the best reason I can come up with at the moment.

Isabella,
I don't think it has to get better, but it has in the past, so I'll trust that it will again...eventually.

Clarissa,
I think I'm at the point where if things felt entirely too overwhelming, I'd seek professional help. As it is, I want to sort through things myself, not as a point of pride, but because deep down I know I can do it on my own and that I'll come out stronger for it. And yeah, the armchair diagnoses bug me. I'm just sharing some of my darker feelings here, not saying I feel out of control and incompetent.

Lanterngirl,
I often get a little irked by unsolicited advice, but in your case I agree 100%. I would love to get away, even for a couple of days, and have been thinking about when and where. A few friends have generously offered for me to visit them in other states, but I may need to go farther afield to properly clear my head.

Jesse,
I think it's okay for human beings to suffer a little bit. I think part of the problem with people in my generation is that we are so cowardly and averse to pain and hardship. As soon as things get difficult, we pop a pill or cut and run or find another way to not actually deal with it. I don't want to take medicine that will numb my feelings, I want to feel my feelings, even if they are sometimes unpleasant. If it gets to the point where those feelings become crippling or interfere with my daily life, that's another matter, but there's nothing wrong with enduring pain and hardship and coming through it with a deeper perspective and greater inner strength.

LaMa,
Though we don't see eye to eye on this, I do appreciate the concern and respect your opinion.

clarissa said...

i think one thing therapy has over talking to friends/family is that a therapist will challenge you where your friends won't...though that is generally something *I* benefit from since i usually don't vocalize my depression to my friends when it happens and my depressions have generally been pretty big disasters...i dunno, i'm sure you know it's more than smooshy affirmations and talking about your mom, but i just wanted to throw that out there as a general statement, not as advice.

it sucks, i hope you don't end up feeling like you need to be on the defensive in the face of all these "OMG GO TO THERAPY" comments, since i think most the people suggesting it are speaking from their own experiences. though it can be hard not to when words like mental illness and depression and therapy are getting thrown around because they do end up feeling pretty weighty.

let me know what your schedule is like, maybe you, me and auntie mom can go to mohegan sun or something

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as an existential dilemma. It's a romantic notion and a great excuse. In reality, it is just a figment of a mind and ego fighting to be.

All answers are available and deep down inside you know them.

I think you should take some time to get to know your self. Truly, from within. You are not your mind (it is simply a tool) and you are not your ego. Your mind and ego are actually creating this existential dilemma as part of an ongoing cycle that prevents you from recognizing your self. Quiet the mind, tame the ego, find your self.

Try to connect with your source of life - meditate, pray, do whatever. But use your heart, not your mind. You will quickly realize that existential dilemmas do not exist. My guess is that you have a fear you need to accept, acknowledge, and work with.

Then again, what do I know?

Good luck ...

Anonymous said...

Dolly,

Check out thework.com

It's a really cool way of finding peace through a simple structure of self-questioning. It's like free cognitive therapy, but it's incredibly fast, because no one can call you on your own bs the way you can.

Everything you need to do it can be downloaded from the site for free.