A week ago, I left the institution for the bemused and bewildered. I was wrenched out of that safe and warm womb where the only appointment is with my bed. What a gift. Only in this place can I forgive myself for lying on my bed like a sea slug watching box sets. The dictator who lives in my head still barks and bullies me with a bull horn to get off my ass but this time I have an excuse, a note from my shrink that verifies I’m sick, I don’t have to go to school or anywhere else. I’m still swamped by those recordings in my brain, “I should do something, I should call someone, I should write a book, I should learn to tap dance.” The ‘I shoulds’ are on constant parade, they never end. Every time I get a blast of one of those ‘I shoulds’ or a memory of screwing up it feels like someone’s sticking a syringe in my heart and squirting something toxic straight into an artery. I try to deflect or accept those painful ‘I shoulds.’ It’s like I’m babysitting myself, trying to sooth a sick child.
Among my thousand thoughts of bad news, I’ve come up with the theory that we pretty much all of us (there are people this doesn’t apply to – see couch potato) come with this innate drive to keep ‘doing something’, moving forward toward some out-of-reach goal. This constant sense of push makes me feel I have some important mission that needs to be done or the earth will explode and I’m the only one who can do it. I’m probably making this up but this drive to keep pushing must be something lodged in our DNA, deep in every cell. We can’t help ourselves, even if we wanted to just stay put, we have this inner pushy mother who nags us to keep moving, keep doing something, win something, get out of bed. Maybe this is why millions of years ago we left sunny Africa to migrate across the world, sometimes to hideous destinations, plodding forever onward like packs of obsessed ants, we moved from continent to continent, crossing seas, mountains, even crossing the Grand Canyon (I always wonder how they did that or why?).
These days we still have that old “Go West, young man” spirit but we’ve already walked and set up camp as far West as we can, so now we have to push on forward with our minds. Migrating with our ideas however menial, often on Facebook, to far off climes. We’re pioneers of thought, using technology instead of the Conestoga wagon to raise our flag in new and far off lands; hurtling our opinions, political stances, our likes and dislikes, our doodles – not on foot anymore – but by the Internet. All this to make us individually feel we have some important message to deliver. This may be because I’m depressed but right now I’m thinking all of this ‘doing something’ is a distraction to keep our eyes off the reality button that basically we’re just a bag of bones, breathing. I’m thinking if you can get that in your head it must be so liberating, sad but liberating.
So here’s my idea, a big part of depression is the inability to ‘do something,’ your body’s just too heavy and that ‘go get’ spirit is dead and gone. I realise sitting here inert that what has always pushed me in the past to achieve something is fear, sometimes I’m interested but behind that, fear. I’ve lived a life by making deadlines and when I hit one, I make another; leapfrogging from goal to goal. It keeps me pushing forward so I don’t have to think upsetting thoughts like if “I don’t hit that deadline, really, who cares?” This theme keeps repeating in my head, “Who am I with no deadlines?” I haven’t come up with an answer.
And because I can’t really ‘do anything’ right now, especially hit a deadline, it came to me in a flash of light that the reason I’m obsessed with finding the perfect side table on the internet at 3:00 in the morning or sponging up microscopic dust balls is my way of feeding the urge to ‘do something.’ When depressed I can’t accomplish any of my usual insane brain busting goals so I’m focusing on easy stuff like buying 200 garbage bags. It’s insane but I’m sort of watching it with amusement so I don’t have to face the fact I’m a bag of bones, breathing even though underneath I know I am.
If you are struggling with depression or other mental health issues, please get in touch with your local Mind service www.mind.org.uk or a medical professional. They are there to help.