The Depression Trap

I’ve been experiencing active symptoms of depression since 4th grade. I started getting them treated when I was 45. It’s been a terrible year, with the triggers directly linked to the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester (as I recovered from Covid, with some symptoms that lasted for months and had to go back to the office because … that was the rule from the bosses). I’m still only just beginning to understand how my brain does and doesn’t work and what to do about it, if anything.

I had a wonderful day yesterday. Hundreds of people poured into a hotel ballroom to hear the brilliant authors Jo Walton and Ada Palmer (who is also a brilliant historian), and me, talk about the Middle Ages. The problem, as my friend Adam (who is a lot of years ahead of me on this path of figuring out how to manage depression) helped me understand, is that when a depressed person succeeds, a disconnect appears between one’s … my … mental image and the seeming reality out in the world. A healthy mind, perhaps, would use this disconnect to mend their mental image. I, on the other hand, just feel intense disquiet and tension, and I don’t know how to fix it. [But am not looking for advice. I have active support from a therapist and a psychiatrist, etc … I just needed to write this down].

Of course, when things go terribly, when folks join together in a chorus of boos, of accusation, of hatred, of dehumanization, now that makes sense to someone like me. It confirms my innermost feelings about who I really am and I’m super ready to just accept all of the worst as true and internalize it.

Another solution is to cut oneself off from all outside stimuli, because then you can neither be disoriented by the disconnect or confirmed by the hate, and I do indeed find some stability in isolation. Except isolation itself is a magnifier for depression; not doing things is safer, but not doing things leads to more not doing things to self-hatred for doing nothing.

It sure is a pickle!

On the whole, though, I’d rather have the disconnect than the confirmation. I’m glad people are reading the book; I believe in its project and that it does the work of reaching people to tell a better, more inclusive, and vastly more accessible, story about the past. I’m glad … I must be glad right? … that it works.

But the safest thing is not to admit it, to stay quiet and keep my head down, lest someone try to lop it off.

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