Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I is for Introspection

I haven't blogged in over the week.  I was all prepared to blog an "I is for Ink" post and showcase/discuss tattoos, but I just couldn't get up the inspiration.  There we go, another I word.  Inspiration is certainly something I'm lacking.

What has brought on my uninspiring attitude?  What else but a big, nasty case of random clinical depression.  It probably has something to do, in part, with my lack of sleep, but other than that I have no reason to be depressed.

It pisses me off when people tell me (because believe me I'm aware) that I have no reason to be depressed.  Work is silly at times and stressful, but not too bad.  I have an understanding and supportive husband and two marvelous, happy kids.  Friends are plentiful.  Autumn is my favorite season.  I've baked, knitted, embroidered, written in my journal, read some fantastic books and have so many good projects going on.

I've tried to explain to folks before that I've had what I like to call Reasonable Depression (aka that depression that stems from a specific cause be it a death or sad experience, ill health, tough times, etc) and Stupid Ass Depression (the depression that shows up for no reason whatsoever).  Personally, the Stupid Ass Depression is worse; after all, I end up feeling like a screwball wondering "what the hell is wrong with me" rather than having the safety of blaming my pouting on a damned good reason.

An analogy:
On my good, normal days I feel like one of those relaxing fountains everyone has in their office.  I bubble up and give give give give give and it all cycles back.  For everything I let go of and freely give: love, time, energy, work, hugs, words, baked goods, friendship... it all comes back to me.

My depression wipes that out and leaves me feeling like a sieve: I give give give give give and .... nothing.  I'm drained, disconnected, tapped-out.  I've nothing left to give and what others try to give me:  love, time, energy, work, hugs, words, baked goods, friendship.... it slips away from my grasp.

Now we dust off those old "coping skills."  The Old Me would quit bathing, working, sleeping, communicating, and functioning and engage in the bad I word:  ISOLATION.  Isolation is when I completely shut-down and give-up on life and any chance at happiness.  The New Me engages in a completely different I word:  INTROSPECTION.

i·so·lateto set or place apart; detach or separate so as to be alone.

in·tro·spect:  to practice introspection;  consider one's own internal state or feelings. 

To me, these two words may easily be viewed as twins; but I consider isolation as being alone and introspection as something that can be done around others, but works best (at least for this introvert) when one has solitude.

Introspection means that I am constantly striving to think about ME.  Not in a selfish Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous sort of fashion, but rather I'm very attuned to what I'm feeling physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc....  Essentially, I want to fill fill fill fill fill that sieve up so much that even though things are draining away I have something to fill me back up.

Several ways I engage in my Introspection:
  • Walking:  I went for a walk -- alone -- to the coffee shop.  On my way I noticed everything; the smell of earth, crisp leaves falling, fabric softener wafting out of a dormitory.  The leaves crunched under my feet, I found a pretty bird feather, I noticed that sometimes pavement looks a bit like the cracked, crusty top of bread.  I didn't hurry, or glance at my phone, or think of my to-do list.  I just observed, noted, squirreled away all of those bits of tangible life I tend to take for granted. 
  • Writing:  I'm back to journaling nearly every evening.  It is a nice end to the day, to look back on everything I accomplished, to reflect on the importance of my family, to plan my future -- even it is only one day at a time -- gives me a sense of purpose.
  • Hobbying:  To sit by myself and do something I love is magical.  Sometimes all this girl needs is to sit in my room alone with an owl mug filled with warm milk listening to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and organizing embroidery floss. 
  • Sleep:  Not the dead to the world terrible sleep of depression where I just sleep on and on and on and am never rested, rather it is constructive napping.  If I'm tired and Sam and the babies are amusing themselves then I dive into cool sheets and sleep a solid hour and a half.  No more, no less.  One solid REM cycle seems to set the world right.
  • Thinking of others:  I almost always think of others, but it is thinking of what I can give (what to cook for dinner, contemplating Atticus's birthday party, signing band forms for Hope, working out my schedule so Sam can tattoo).  Instead I think of what everyone gives me:  Atticus freely cuddles, Hope tells me her aspirations, Sam arranges time for me to be alone and helps around the house.....
Looking back on this post, before I hit the publish button, I find myself dissatisfied.  I don't think I can adequately explain my need for meaningful, thinking, solitude and how much it pulls me out of a depression (slowly, but effectively).  I'm resisting the urge to prattle on, or edit down, or delete all together, because, frankly, it has really helped me to write this all out in a place other than my journal.  I believe it is time to grab that cup of warm milk, cozy-up in bed, and think on that. 


C... said...

I have days like that. I noticed you are using blogger again. Did you not like WordPress?

Thomas at My Porch said...

I am glad that you chose to publish this post. Clinical depression can defy setting, circumstance, and an ocean of good will. Being surrounded by supportive people is very helpful but it doesn't make it go away.

You timing is also interesting. I just started reading May Sarton's journal Recovering. I don't remember if you have read any Sarton or not, but she was an incredibly gifted person who suffered through bouts of depression back before it was understood as well as it is today. Anyway, in Recovering so much of her approach to depression and being alone is right in line with what you write here. It is uncanny. Especially the bits about
keeping busy and giving to others.

(By the way, the Recovering in the title deals mainly with the loss to senility of her lover as well as her own mastecomy.)

Amanda said...

@C I didn't like Wordpress. It took forever to upload pics and I had trouble importing my old posts. Also it seemed to be down alot and I like using things like GoodReads widgets.

@Thomas. I read the Education of Harriet Hatfield in college and enjoyed it. I'll have to check the library and see if I can pickup Sarton's Recovering journal. I love having that sort of kinship with an author, where I feel like I can relate.