I have been in and out of therapy since I was young. Let’s say 9, because I remember that my first therapist would treat me to a white chocolate Crunch Bar after our sessions, and that seems like the kind of thing a nine-year-old would like. Although, in all honesty, I wouldn’t mind if my current therapist gave me a candy bar- my love of sugar hasn’t changed much. My next therapist wasn’t necessarily a therapist, his name was Jim and I’d go down to the Noble Education Center every week, mostly to figure out why I was underachieving. I suspect it was because I wasn’t happy. I saw Jim for most of Junior High and through High School. Jim taught me a lot of life lessons, most of which didn’t stick, if I remember correctly.
There is a reason for that, please bear with me.
I did a little therapy in and after college, maybe a year’s worth, and then I dropped it for over a decade.
I started it up again last year, it seems to help, and I don’t intend on stopping any time soon. I have learned a few things which explain, well, a lot.
So here goes.
I have Dysthymia, which is basically mild depression. I’m sure some of you might be asking yourselves “Fair enough, but what is ‘mild depression’? Is it just being kinda sad?”
This is my experience of it- and let me start with a literary reference, because I really can’t help myself. Sam Vimes, of Discworld fame, is described by his fellow watchman as being too sober, a person who needs to have at least two drinks to bring him back to the normal human level of sobriety.
That more or less describes my relationship with happiness. I’m about two good things down from neutral, which means that every day is automatically a bad day. I need stuff to go right before I can upgrade to “ok”, let alone “good” which is why my responses to “How are you doing?” take a little getting through.
To complicate matters, I have trouble recognizing good things when they do happen. I shrug off praise, especially when it comes from someone I know (because they know me right? So they want me to feel good, right? So their estimation of my abilities must be inaccurate.), I am more or less unable to tell how I’m doing on a given project. If I get positive feedback, I assume that whatever level of quality I reached to hit that mark must be my baseline, and if I get negative or no feedback, well, that just confirms what I knew the whole time.
I’ve decided to call that last part “The Grey Weight”. It explains why I don’t write more, even though people have encouraged me to do so, or why I didn’t ask that girl out, or why I didn’t apply for that job. Every time I think about doing something along those lines, my brain reminds me of all of my failed undertakings. All of them. The Grey Weight essentially works like this: “If I had something to offer, surely, SURELY, some one would have noticed already. Since no one has, I can conclude that while I am good, I am not good enough.”
It’s why I never went into professional acting (again, ditto writing), I don’t see the point of letting someone tell me “no” over and over again. I don’t have the patience for it, and I don’t have the confidence to keep going. I already know I’m not that good; if you think differently, I’ve managed to fool you.
It’s much, much easier to open another book/watch another dvd/play another game, because nothing’s really going to get better. If it were going to get better, I would have seen some evidence of that by now. It’s a nice vicious cycle, because, well, it dovetails neatly with my inability to see when things get better.
I’m having a particularly bad time right now, not because things are really bad, but because I’ve begun to realize that I haven’t been “normal” since at least the divorce, possibly before. I’ve spent a good long time medicating myself with media and I’ve come to see that state of being as “normal”. It’s not. And that means I have a lot of work to do.
On top of that, I’ve pretty much spent the last 6 years and tens of thousands of dollars to find out that I do not want to be a Professor. At least, I do not want to do the job I’ve been doing as a teaching fellow, much less as a career.
So, I’m 36, I have no career and I don’t make enough money. Those circumstances don’t help my thought processes.
I will say that my romantic life is good, honestly, better than good, but I’m worried about the impact my financial status will have on my relationship. In my experience, not making enough money destroys my relationships.
And yet…I’m not really motivated to search for another job. Why not? Jobs make me miserable. I have yet to feel fulfilled in at all by a job, and the best thing I can say about the current one is that at least I only work 18 hours a week.
Things have gotten a bit better since I wrote the forgoing. The job situation continues to be iffy, mostly because I’m still dragging my feet.