Now, before you do anything else, go here and read the announcement. In brief: my friend Andrea Stewart has won first place in the third quarter Writers of the Future contest, which is a really big deal. I love it when friends of mine get published or win contests or things like that. I always like to say, haughtily, “Yeah, they’re in my writers’ group. Also I went to a party at their house and it was awesome.” Also, read Andrea’s more detailed blog post here.
Writing about depression is always difficult, but I’m told it’s therapeutic to do so, so here we go.
I’ve talked about kobolds as the metaphor for my depression. The metaphor is only a couple of years old, but it was inspired by my old Dungeons and Dragons days. Kobolds are easily defeated monsters, you see, when they come along in singles or in pairs. They only have half a hit die after all (meaning between 1 and 3 hit points, meaning that they are really easy to defeat). But when they show up in huge swarms, bursting down barricades and pouring into dungeon chambers, they can easily overwhelm and vanquish even the more experienced and high-level parties of player characters. Depression is kind of like those kobolds; there’s always one or two tagging along, knocking on the door, begging for attention, but generally easy to vanquish. But sometimes they show up in swarms, battalions, and then it’s easy to let the darkness overwhelm you and just… stop. For those like me who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, the kobolds sometimes go away completely, but when they swarm, they really swarm.
And for the last few days, boy have they been swarming.
My current angst seems to be centered on three things: my health, my writing, and my age. I’m about to turn 45, you see, and my beard is going gray and I’m getting gray at my temples and some of my joints ache and I get gastric reflux occasionally and so on and so on. Maybe I’m coming down with one of those midlife crisis things that I kept hearing about all my life. Is it time to buy a red sports car, track down a girlfriend who can’t legally drink yet, and get some hair plugs? (Probably not. I hate sports cars, I’m very happy with my wife, and I’m not going bald at all.)
Nah, I think it’s more that in certain areas of my life, I feel like I’m always starting over, and that’s frustrating. I weighed in at the doctor’s this morning, and discovered, to my horror, that I weigh as much now as I did five years ago. So… I feel like I’m starting over with regards to getting my act together when it comes to my health.
And when it comes to my writing, I feel like I’m a failure. I’ve been writing all my life, and eleven years ago I decided to crack down and take my writing seriously. And now at age 45 I have yet to make a single professional sale, or even finish a single novel. I feel like I’m at the start of my writing career, and that, too is frustrating. (And to clarify, because it’s come up a couple of times in private messages on Facebook: No, Andrea’s success has not exacerbated these feelings; on the contrary, I’m very happy for her, and the news actually cheered me up quite a bit.)
But these thoughts… they’re all irrational. They’re the kobolds singing their nefarious songs to me. It’s just the depression talking, and depression lies. That’s an important truth to keep in mind when one’s depression feels overwhelming. Of course, it would be nice to stop up my ears like Ulysses’s sailors and ignore the songs of the kobold sirens, but that’s easier said than done.
And now, three days after the stupid kobolds started singing their songs, I’m still feeling captivated and enthralled. I can’t seem to figure out how to eat nutritiously, how to stop eating when I’m no longer hungry, how to get started with the exercise, and so on. And I can’t seem to focus on my writing at all; it’s far easier to watch old episodes of Futurama than it is to choose a writing project and work on it.
I know that the proper approach is just to get going and start moving, but it feels overwhelming. Everything I’ve read tells me to simply choose one task, a starting point, and focus on that for the moment, but even that seems like it’s too much.
But depression lies. The kobolds deceive and obfuscate. It’s hard to remember that when I’m sitting at my desk at work, wishing I could just go home and go back to bed with my cat, but remember it I must. And keep taking the meds, and keep focusing on the small, individual tasks before me.
Sooner or later, these feelings will pass, and I can go back to normal.
On another note, this is entry 1,000 on my blog, which I’ve been keeping on and off since 1996. It’s gone through several permutations, from when each entry was simply a separate HTML page off my website, through a custom blog program that I wrote in PHP, to Moveable Type (eugh) to WordPress. So, yay.