In the wake of the news about Robin Williams, a lot of people are talking about depression. I’m no clinical psychologist, so I can only really speak to my own experience, and what I know from friends who also suffer.
Depression, it seems, comes in a lot of different “weights.” A sufferer can experience a variety of these in his or her lifetime. From having a “low” day to “so bleak I can’t even get out of bed.” And then, of course, the ultimate “I can’t take it any more. I have to end it.”
For me, there are days where I just feel “down.” Sometimes this is triggered by a lot of rejections happening all at once, but just as often these days happen “just because.” No reason. I hit a low tide of emotion. On those days I don’t want to write, don’t even want to read. I usually just sit on the chaise in my office. Yeah, I just sit there, and I hate it, but every time I try to get up to do anything, I simply can’t. People coming to talk to me is the worst thing in the world on those days. But sitting there is awful, too, and I can’t even gather my thoughts . . . They just sort of float around. I’ll think briefly about this or that thing, and spiral toward all the things I’m sorry I ever did, or what I should have said back when, or whatever. It’s not useful. But that’s what happens. And it’s too hard to do anything else. Like, getting up and doing something is almost physically painful on days like that.
In a way, it’s like being really, really sleepy. That’s the effort involved in getting up and doing anything on low days. Like I’ve been drugged with sleeping pills but am expected to stay awake and do shit.
And then there are times when I’m really low. And I won’t say I haven’t considered taking a handful of pills on days like that. I’ve come pretty close once or twice. I’ve learned how to prevent myself, though. Isn’t that funny? I have ways of tricking myself out of suicide.
A. Always have at least one project going. Not just any project, but one I really care about, am passionate about. One I want to see finished. As long as I have something like that, I’m not going anywhere.
B. Always have something to look forward to. This is why I plan so many trips and stuff—I love to travel, and as long as I’ve got something lined up in the near future, I’ll at least make it that far.
C. The kids. Yeah. I think about wanting to see them grow up. I know this should be my #1 reason, but sadly, if I’m honest with myself, it’s not. I’m selfish by nature, I guess. I really need me stuff to keep me going first and foremost. Because one day the kids will grow up and move out (one hopes), and I can’t imagine being one of those parents who has put her everything into her kids and is left with nothing when they fly the nest.
Still, there are days . . . When I feel like I’m the only one who does care about me or my work, when I think I’ll never “make it” as a writer or screenwriter . . . Days when the next trip seems way too long off, or it’s a trip I’m less excited about . . .
Well, I’m still here anyway. Today. Right now. And today I’m feeling okay. It’s the most I can do, really: a self-diagnostic from time to time. And today the lights are green. Good to go. For now.