The most common way my depression manifests itself is a total lack of will power. I know I should advance the latest work project or at least start clearing out my inbox, but I can’t bring myself to begin. While I sit there in a stupor, the unread email count ticks up in both my work and personal email, my voicemail fills up, and my projects begin to grow mold. Beneath the total lack of will, a low thrum of anxiety begins. I cannot start work, so work piles up. Work has piled up and so it seems impossible to start.
Meetings are a bit of a relief because at least I am fulfilling some purpose. Someone has scheduled my time, told me where to be and when, so I get up from my desk and move to occupy a chair at a conference table. Depending on how much energy I have, I usually can let myself be swept away in someone else’s will for an hour or two. The impulse to please people is almost stronger than depression. I want to be cooperative, to be helpful if I can. This is perhaps why it’s the worst when the mask slips during a meeting. A person stops me in the hall outside. “Are you OK?” they ask, keeping their voice down. Clearly, I have failed to occupy my chair in a helpful and productive manner. The person asking genuinely cares, but what can I tell them? My brain is broadcasting static; the occasional station it picks up appears to be a nihilist talk show.
I get home from work and everything feels better. So is it the job? But then sometimes there’s a week where things completely reverse. Work is fulfilling, interesting, I am on top of it and loving the high of getting things done. Home is a slog where it feels like all I do is empty and load the dishwasher, eat, and sleep.
It’s perspective, of course. But what a whole lot of effort it is to cultivate that perspective and keep it alive. When I bought my house a few years ago, I thought, Hooray! No more moving everything year; it’s mine and I’m here and stable now. I learned very quickly that you can’t just buy a house and sit in it; you have to maintain it, constantly. Things tend towards entropy. I’m pretty sure in two summers the wild grapes would tear the gutters from the roof.
I have to tend to my mind. I have to keep up with its maintenance. Take my meds, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, spend time with my friends, time recharging by myself.
Sometimes it isn’t enough. I have to wait those days and weeks out. I have to sit, with my lack of willpower and my discomfort at the things I’m not doing piling up. I try to take care of myself enough not to disrupt other people’s lives or agendas. The “good girl” impulse keeps me functioning, running on autopilot until the depression passes.
And that’s the perspective I manage to keep while I am depressed. This will pass. Tomorrow is another day.