Sunday, November 27, 2011

“What have you been up to?”

Or even, “How have you been?” “What's going on in your life?” This isn't a question to you, though if you have an answer you'd like to give by all means share it in the comments. No, this is another thread on living with depression. My third? Maybe my fourth.

I've mentioned elsewhere (not on Stealing Commas so don't go looking) that I don't have experience with the negative voice some other people with depression have. This is a good thing because I don't know if I could cope with what they describe, what I've got already is hard enough. The thing is, sometimes I don't always need a negative voice to make everything seem hopeless and terrible, sometimes the facts of the situation, clearly stated in complete neutrality, are bad enough.

One of the times that that comes up is if I have cause to think about what I've accomplished. That comes up when you haven't seen someone in ages which can really put a damper on a reunion, that comes up in the course of ordinary conversation which means it has the potential to happen a lot, that's just what you ask people. “How have things been with you?” “What's up?” “It's been a while since I saw you, what've you been up to?”

There's nothing wrong with the question. It's what I ask people knowing full well that it can hurt. It's sort of what you have to do. If when you see someone you express exactly no interest in their life or the contents of it that's quite rude and sort of kills conversation. You have to ask if you want to talk about something other than the weather. (It's cold. Conversation over.)

But the problem is that it can lead to unpleasant realizations.

I am reminded of a comic strip* in which various characters are talking about what they've been doing lately. Some of it is plot related but for the most part it's all pretty ordinary stuff and the important part is that there is stuff. They're doing stuff, out in the world, with friends. And then it comes to one character who hasn't said anything yet, and he says, “I've been sitting alone in my basement and inadvertently distancing myself from everyone I care about.”

Except... he's sitting alone in his basement because he has a lab in his basement. He's doing science that should theoretically help his friends and potentially might help the world at large. He's still accomplishing stuff.

I don't even have that excuse. Though on the plus side, unlike him what I have been doing (which is being on the internet) is actually keeping me in contact with people instead of pushing people away. Without the people I know on line I'd have no human contact outside of school and my immediate family, so I don't want to diminish the importance of being online in my life.

One could argue that I've been on vacation for ten days now, though in the absence of vacation only three of those days would have been spent at school. Over vacation I had hoped to accomplish three things. I wanted to get caught up on NaNoWriMo. I have done none of it. I wanted to get caught up on Greek. I have done none of it. I wanted to get caught up on Latin. I have done none of it.

It's hard to put a positive spin on that.

I could even add things to the, “I hoped to accomplish this,” list. I had hoped to write more of skewed slightly to the left on this vacation. I hoped to do it by last Monday. I have done none of it.

(You'll note that none what I had my sights set on was doing stuff out in the world with friends, that's mostly because at this point I'm not even sure of how to go about doing that, and setting it up would be, for me, way more effort than writing a novel. I'm guessing most people's experience is not like that. But for me between, "Write a novel," and, "Try to contact a friend to hang out some time," writing a novel is the small step, contacting a friend is the giant leap.)

Over a longer time period things are much the same. I've been on the internet, I've attended classes but (at least this semester) done very in the way of actual schoolwork. Other than that, nothing. I don't want to lessen either of the things I have done, this blog exists because what I've written on the internet meant enough to certain people for them to ask me to put it in one place so it would be easier to find. I'm accomplishing something here. Similarly showing up for classes is better than not showing up for classes and should not be dismissed.

But the fact that there is nothing else changes things. It chances them enough to justify beginning a paragraph with the word “but”. It makes it very hard to be positive when most of my life is empty space. It makes it hard to be positive when my answer to the question of what I've been doing is, for the most part, nothing.

People don't even have to ask. I'll think, “What if someone says [whatever]?” and start composing a response in my head.** Sometimes that [whatever] is, “What have you been doing lately?” or something to that effect.

I just got distracted by staring out into space. That seems to be a lot of what I've been doing lately. Also a lot of time is spent refreshing web pages hoping someone said something new*** because anything that takes more effort than that is too much for me to do at times.

Say those things with every hint of negativity removed. Report them simply as objective fact, for they are true, and I think you'll find that the truth of them is negative enough in itself.

Of course, I can add one thing to my list of accomplishments. I wrote this post.


* The reason I don't have a link in the above is that the comic, El Goonish Shive, squicks some people out quite a bit. It's never beyond PG-13 in its content, but I gather that actually makes it worse for some people. Anyway, the thing in question is just four people sitting around a table talking about their lives, I don't think it should be a problem if you just stick with original page but your mileage may vary and since I've already described it anyway there's no reason to go if you think it might bother you.

It is here.

** Sometimes the [whatever] involves the evolutionary plausibility of sparkly vampires. That's nice.

*** This doesn't always work out for the best, mind you, even if something did say something new. In a thread about sending Jesus to a modern day high school in which I wrote the resurrection with Jesus as a transgirl. I got two responses at Slacktivist****. Actually, for full accuracy, I wrote two things.

I started talking about my take on the prodigal son parable, got maybe three posts in before I realized that I was not enjoying this topic at all. I've gotten 11 responses so far. The thing that I've now realized I don't really want to talk about got 550% the response of the the thing I do. Even if we adjust for the difference in the number of posts I made, still at least 275% on the one I'm dreading.

Once I post this I'm going to have to start looking through those 11 responses. Right now I only know they exist because of a combination of email notifications and the fact that if you load or refresh any page that uses disqus, a little red notification thing will show up to tell you if you've had anyone respond to anything you've written. So refresh Ana Mardoll's Ramblings to see if anyone said anything interesting about Ana's twittering of Breaking Dawn, and you'll find out that over at Slacktivist you've got all of these people responding to you.

I'm stalling. Can you tell I'm stalling? This is me stalling.

**** And one here. Wooo!


  1. I'm not a mental health expert. If this is making you unhappy, perhaps talking to one might be a good thing? I've often felt that at least in some cases depression is a perfectly reasonable response to an intolerable situation, if not a terribly useful one.

  2. It's not a response, it's a cause. It's the reason I have such difficulty doing anything. The last time I wrote about the exact details of how that works I went on for 5 pages, I'm not going to do that in this comment, hopefully you'll take my word for it.

    I'm not sure if I ever knew where you live, if I did I've forgotten. Anyway, I live in US where healthcare isn't the easiest thing to come by for those without money. I've been meaning to look to see if I might qualify for certain government run things that I thought I didn't but someone else thought I did, but I've been doing about as good a job of going through the motions for that as I have been with Latin homework.

  3. I'm in the UK, but yeah, I realise the US is nearly unique in this respect.

    Making lists is a thing people talk about. I suspect the trick may be not to beat yourself up when you don't get everything on the list done. Which is in itself not an easy thing.

  4. Speaking as someone else in the US going through depression without medical help I do know how hard it can be. Especially when it's so very, very, very easy to just let things slip by or to go and stall and then finish with a cruddy job (I've done both, please, hear no blame in my tone, none was given).

    One thing I do (and this may or may not work for you) is to give myself a time allotment and a "sign" for a task. An example is: I don't want to work on cleaning so... if my ferret puts his nose against my foot (which happens constantly), I'll clean for an hour. No more, no less. The nose is placed, I make myself do the chore and it's not the greatest, but I made myself work on it.