Friday, March 12, 2004

The Fog Rolled In

I am so tired lately, a bone-weariness that permeates every fiber, every bone, every muscle. It's not exactly depression, which has been an uneasy companion of mine for many years, but it seems like a close cousin to it. There is a fog around my head, and this unbearable and embarrassing sloth that keeps me from catching up with everything - work, bills, laundry, correspondence. I have only enough energy for the things I feel I need to do, and as soon as those things are done, it's right back to napping for me. But it's never enough sleep before it's time to drag the carcass out of bed or off the couch, and face the endless "to-do" list that never gets done.

What's strange about this is that I can't put my finger on when it began, nor can I point to any one thing that is the cause. It's a little of everything, and this depression, or whatever ails me, rolled in like a fog, quietly and imperceptively, until I was completely surrounded and lost in it.

The depression I was used to before was a little different. I became adept at recognizing the symptoms when a depression was coming on, because I experienced it as a nearly a physical sensation. Tendrils of doubt and loss would begin to sprout in my head, around my ears, and snake their way into my brain. I would become aware of whisps of thought intruding into my train of thought, reminders of problems, failures, and a sensation of guilt, shame and helplessness. I'd push away the negative thoughts and carry on with whatever activity I was engaged in, but over a period of days or weeks, the tendrils would grow and start to intertwine inside my forehead, until I felt almost a pressure pushing inward, and a dull ache behind my eyes. The pressure would extend downward, and I became aware of an invisible mask covering my face, causing that "flattening of affect" that psychologists like to refer to, making it difficult to express myself with facial gestures. I image that it must be similar to the facial paralysis that can be brought on by too much botox. It was so much like a sinus headache that I would have thought it to be just that, were it not accompanied by the spiral of sad thoughts.

In recent years, I figured out the difference between a momentary unhappiness, a hormonal swing, and the "real deal". This wasn't an easy feat, mind you, and it took years of therapy, both talking and pharmacological, to get me to the point where I knew when to ask for help.

But this is different. While in its grip in years past, I wasn't able to find amusement in anything, and the idea of going on some of the outings I've been on very recently would have been unthinkable. The strange thing here is, as soon as I am done with the amusement, or I am left alone, the fog rolls right back in, and I am in the soft grey cushion of sadness again. Were I not the one experiencing this, I would hear all this and think that someone was just making excuses for being lazy. But I am not naturally a lazy person, which only adds to the degree of frustration and humiliation I experience with myself for giving in to the sloth.

What made me realize that I was in this state, besides the mounting laundry and need to nap at all hours, was the discovery of the body of Spalding Gray in the East River. I did not know him personally, and although I was impressed with what little of his work that I had been exposed to, I was not exactly a scholar of his monologues. No, what drew my interest, besides the obvious tragedy for his family and friends, was the fact that I didn't think his death was unusual.

Others, far better versed in his craft and life, have commented that he had a long history of depression and at least one previous suicide attempt, so I am not breaking any new ground here. But after a co-worker commented on how she couldn't understand why a person would or could do such a thing, I realized that I was perhaps in the minority. I can completely understand why he chose to end his life.

Now, I am not nearly on the same plane of desperation that Spalding must have been on that evening that he left his home for the last time. But once, years ago, I left my home for what I thought would be the last time too, so I guess I could say that I am closer to understanding his mindset than some. When you are feeling fine, and have a little perspective, you can look at your life objectively and see that there is always hope, that there are options, no matter how difficult some of those choices might be. But when you are in the throes of depression, that sort of clarity of thought is simply not possible. It's as if your mind shuts off access to creative problem solving, and runs an endless tape-loop of misery and despair where hope once resided.

It's particularly perverse that so many creative people seem to fall prey to depression, for whatever reasons. You would reason that a creative person, who is by definition more likely to see things from a different perspective than those of a more linear bent, would be able to think themselves out of the funk. Too bad that isn't true.

As for me, I'm hoping that if I trudge along through the mire, this fog will lift, and I will go back to feeling as good as is possible for me. But for the meantime, if my posts are not as frequent as they had been, don't worry that I've gone the way of dear Spalding Gray. I'm just not in the right frame of mind to write at the moment.

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