On Depression

Status report: I’ve finished Chapters 1 and 3. Chapter 2 needs some more footnotes, for which I’ll need to read some sources. But since I’ve come back from New York, I’ve been working on the introduction. I have about twenty pages written, meaning most of it. Now I just need to add a section on how my argument fits into scholarship on the Gothic. So I’m reading some books, trying to get that section written.

Once I have the introduction and those footnotes to Chapter 2, the dissertation will be done. And then it will go to the committee.

I know I’ve skipped a few days of posting. I’m so tired nowadays that I get to the end of a day and I just don’t have the energy. Part of that is depression, although right now it’s a depression I’m working through, because I know the only way to deal with it is to go through. The only way is forward.

I don’t know how people with chronic depression deal with it. They have my utmost admiration and respect, because even the few times I’ve had to deal with it, it’s been incredibly difficult. For me, it’s a condition that happens when I’m under extreme stress, the way I’ve been this year. Finishing the dissertation had been difficult, but it’s been more than that – physically difficult circumstances, being out of the city with a long commute, and all sorts of other things. Just a lot of things all piled on top of each other.

So what does it feel like? Sort of like living in darkness. And when you’re out of it but it’s still there, it feels like being followed around by a dark cloud. I read in an article that J.K. Rowling was depressed while she was writing the first Harry Potter novel. The Dementors are representations of that depression. That makes sense, doesn’t it? They suck out all the light and hope.

For me, right now, the most difficult part is the tiredness. I deal with it by doing what I have to do, but all sorts of other things are left undone. There are emails I haven’t had a chance to respond to, for example. But the introduction is getting written. That’s the most important thing, right now. And I try to give myself permission to rest. And I try to eat well. And I buy books.

I will write about the Alexander McQueen exhibit, and I will try to get back to posting daily. But just so you know: I’m going to have a difficult month, so bear with me. I’ll do what I can.

And I think I’m going to try to write about the depression at least a little, because I know I’m not the only one who deals with it. And writing about it might help other people. I do remember what it’s like to be out of it, and that’s my natural state: calm, interested in and excited about life. Happy. That’s what I’m usually like, and this is an anomaly for me. But it does happen, and when it does, I just need to deal with it.

On the way back from New York, I had two seats to myself. The bus was driving through countryside, so I saw trees all around. It was quiet and calm. And I suddenly realized that I felt exactly right, exactly myself – the person I was meant to be, the person I think I’ve been trying to become this year. And you know what I did? I wrote a story. I still need to type it up, but I’m going to do that by the end of the month. And then I’ll send it to a magazine that requested a story from me. I remember what that felt like, sitting on the bus writing, being myself. I want to get back to that. The only way is through . . .

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13 Responses to On Depression

  1. Curt Jarrell says:

    May you find your way forward with as little discomfort as possible. I’m battling a bout of depression myself these days. It’s been a stressful time and I’m also a highly sensitive person. The everyday news of famine, war and disasters of one kind or another sap me of energy and happiness. I press on with varying degrees of enthusiasm because I’m not willing to surrender to it. This too shall pass, as they say.
    Thanks for sharing. Good luck!

  2. I can wait for the McQueen review while I’m rooting for Theodora’s dissertation, and all the stories in the works. Meanwhile do have a five minute bit of cheer here: “Bring Me Sunshine”

  3. Thanks, Michelle. 🙂

  4. sarah says:

    So many sensitive people seem to suffer from depression as a reaction to being physically or mentally overwhelmed. I hope you feel better soon. Do you take vitamin and mineral supplements to help?

  5. As someone who has suffered depression on and off for much of my adult life, you have my utmost sympathies. Just keeping on going, battle through and things WILL get better 🙂

    It’s a promise!

  6. Sofia says:

    “He wanted what he had done those first few times, without awareness, when the page was a pigeonnier [dovecote] flown into from all the realms one had traveled through.” –Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero

    Be well and take the time you need. You have my very best wishes!

  7. Grey Walker says:

    Thank you for writing about depression. It’s as if you’ve distilled the dark cloud and put it into words on the screen.

  8. Nivair says:

    I’m so glad that depression hasn’t overwhelmed your ability to write, because I think writing is one of the absolute most reliable ways to see yourself through. (I actually have a book called Writing Through Depression which has been great — and I would also highly recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living.) And thank you for raising awareness about depression this way. Chronic depression and anxiety have been in my life pretty much as long as I can remember, and usually they’re controlling it. Medical and societal understanding is so far behind on this invisible illness, and it’s near-impossible to climb out of the abyss; I don’t know how anyone does it. It’s definitely one of those days for me when I can’t see the point of taking my next breath, and it helps just to know that someone else understands and is able to fight that.

  9. Jeff P. says:

    “And I suddenly realized that I felt exactly right, exactly myself – the person I was meant to be, the person I think I’ve been trying to become this year. And you know what I did? I wrote a story.” Yes, THIS! This is what it’s about. I’m so glad you had that time of calm and clarity on the bus and just did what comes natural to you.

    I’m sorry to hear of your current struggle. As you know, I can identify. It sounds to me like you’re doing the right thing: moving forward and understanding it will pass. It sucks while it’s happening, though. I believe it was William Styron who said the word ‘brainstorm’ had been misappropriated, because it perfectly described how he felt when he was depressed. Have you read his memoir of depression? I forget the title, but I’ve found it helpful reading when I’m going through a rough patch.

    With the hope that this may help someone who reads this entry who’s having difficulties, I’ll share a little of my experience: I have chronic dysthymia, a low-grade depression that mostly leaves me feeling clouded, lethargic, unfocused and emotionally flat. Two things have helped me in the recent past (I’m 52, and have struggled w/ this all my life): a good therapist, and caffeine (no, I’m not kidding). The therapy has taught me to (most of the time) recognize my thought patterns and divert them, or at least realize it’s only how I’m feeling right now, will pass, and won’t last the rest of my life. I inadvertently discovered caffeine helps when I took a pain reliever last fall that contained a small amount. Now I intake a single cup of coffee or its equivalent every day. My thinking is clearer, I can focus, and I don’t tire as easily. I know some people may say this ain’t a good thing to be doing, but after a life filled w/ lethargy and constant underachieving, I’m gonna use what works.

    Thanks for sharing what’s really going on, Dora. It helps more than you realize, I think.

  10. Ellen says:

    Thank you for posting about your depression! I’m currently in a community where nobody discusses such things, and it’s heartening to know that other people are feeling the same way that I am, and from similar causes. Good luck plugging through!

  11. Michelle says:

    I’m glad you had that moment on the bus where you could recognize yourself again and your gift to write. I’ve been struggling to find that moment now for so long. I always joke and say I’m waiting for my real self to send me a tattered, long-lost postcard.

    It also reminded me of an earlier post, “The Inner Life” where you discussed finding calm and feeling a sense of home when you sit down to write.
    I really like that idea of finding home when you write, especially since it means you can always visit that home, no matter if you’re traveling, or are far away from your hometown. There’s always the candlelight, however faint, glimmering softly to light the way home.

  12. Alice says:

    You make a distinction between chronic depression and situational depression. I wonder how much the experiences are alike.

  13. I honestly don’t know. I’d have to talk to someone with chronic depression, see whether the experiences were different. I think one thing that may be different about situational depression is that at least after a while, you do have the sense that it’s situational: you are able to at least tell yourself that it’s connected to specific events and can change. I suspect that with chronic depression, you may lose the sense that there’s a way out, partly because there isn’t at least any obvious way. It’s an interesting question . . .

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