Well, whatever the slump is I went through last week, it has passed. I seem to be able to again experience joy and moments of perfect clarity. In fact I feel like something has clicked, at work, and personally. I feel a new sense of confidence in my own abilities and in the knowledge that I can learn things, that the curious child within can experience wonder once more.
That’s the thing about depression. If you can just hang in there for long enough, if you can just get through the suicidal feelings, some insight occurs. A release. Sometimes it’s not enough to make up for the abyss you have to crawl through to get there, but sometimes it really is. This time it was.
But I wouldn’t wish the abyss on my worst enemy.
And somehow, the release that follows seems so tentative, fragile even. Like the thread might break again at any moment, and you might tumble into the darkness once more, never to emerge again. I really don’t know if I’ll make it through next time. We all have our breaking points. How many breakdowns does it take before you decide that that’s enough, you’ve gotten out of life what you can, now it’s time to move on to the next energy state?
But let’s not be morbid tonight. It’s Friday night, and I just got back from a birthday party. Let’s just enjoy this moment, shall we? An oasis between the miseries.
Why is it so much easier to feel crappy than good? Why does it feel so much more real? Like really real, not just pretend real. Does happiness ever feel that real to other people? If I was able to experience happiness to the same depth that I seem to experience depression, I think I would float up into the sky like a bubble and never come down.
My father once told me that he thought my problem was that my superego (conscience) was too strong and my id (desire) too weak. I should mention my father was a professional shrink, and I was reading Freud at the time. Interestingly I had self-diagnosed just the opposite. I felt that I was evil inside, rotten to my deepest core. I did terrible things like masturbate and think bad thoughts. I was lazy and stupid, or so my mother claimed. Oh, and I was transgender? Surely this all meant that my conscience wasn’t strong enough to keep my evil desires in check?
I think in a way we were both right, my father and I. My superego was strong because my desires and appetites ran deep; two sides of the same coin. But my superego was winning out. And in its authoritarian view, I deserved to die.
Maybe one never truly shakes that kind of self-critical voice. It softens to a whisper when I am drunk, but roars back to life when I’m sober again. I can reduce it to a whisper by healthier means, like practice loving-kindness or just giving myself space to be in all my non-glamorous complexity. But it’s not my default setting. Not by a long shot. Twenty to thirty days. That’s how long it takes, apparently, to establish a new habit.
Can I try to silence the self-critical voice for 20-30 days? Do I have that much control?
And if I fail, how do I make sure that, when I am choking on my own despondency, I don’t choke myself right out of life?
I want to live. There, I said it. Now body, remember.