One of the interesting side-benefits of the blog is that I have a sort of fossil record of my behavior and mental states to which I can refer. When I boarded the bummer train a few weeks back, I told my dad that it felt as though my winter depression had started.
"Isn't it a little early for that?" he asked. "It isn't even Thanksgiving."
On Thanksgiving, his question resurfaced in my head, and I realized that there was a way to research the issue.
So I went back and looked up what I was posting around that time for the last three years. Well. It turns out that I suffered a catastrophic failure during the first two weeks of November for at least four years in a row.
Last year it was a trip to the hospital after a stress-induced three-day bout of blood puking. The year before? A shattering fight with the missus followed by a swine-flu enhanced trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art had me destroyed all winter. The year before that? Exactly the kind of flat semi-unmiserable yet thoroughly non-functional depression I was bitching about a few posts ago.
I don't think these four years are aberrant. I think I need to start planning for November. It seems as if I'm vulnerable then.
And that means that I need to buckle down and find better ways of accommodating my seasonal depression. Now that I can look at the record and say that yes, for about a third of the year I am of extremely limited utility. How do I get the best use out of myself under these conditions?
Or perhaps I should look at it another way. When I was experiencing my fall hypomania, once I recognized what it was, I decided to treat it as an endogenous drug experience rather than a dangerous mental state. Set and setting, as they say. By doing so, I was able to re-invent my writing style and rewrite the novel in less than two months, in addition to two short stories, spoken word pieces, art, a fairly heavy web presence, etc, etc.
Essentially, I said, "Free endogenous cocaine? Well, for the next while I'm going to sleep less, eat less, talk too much, work compulsively, be brilliant, be obnoxiously aware of my brilliance, and exhibit a curiously exhilarating magnetism that suggests my state is communicable."
So. How can I make depression less of a bummer? I am experiencing it, I will experience it, but there are degrees and qualities, you know? Right now, the missus and dogs are snuggled warm in the bed downstairs, it's foggy out and the last few leaves are wet and drooping from the fig tree outside my window, and an old friend has come back into my life with his life in glorious turmoil, and it is all mist and shadows, we dance like flames and then vanish...
This is pretty good, so far as depression goes. I've always scorned the whole romantic Goth ("Okay, from sacking Rome to skinny nudes to the Castle of Otranto to the Sisters of Mercy to Hot Topic -- make the connection.") relish for the weeping soul, but fuck it. If it's a biological condition, why not have fun with it? Style might not be a bad approach -- a different persona for different seasons. Now I enter my October Country/Adam's Family persona, stark, grim, poetic, and yet not devoid of a sense of fun. Maybe -- just maybe -- I'll consider becoming an all-black clothing person during the cool months. "I'm not evangelical about depression, but sometimes gloom suits me."
Not a bad start, if I do say so. Take one of my standard prejudices, invert it, turn it into a joke, and there you go. A playful approach to the situation, one which defuses some of the threat. I'll need a couple of pairs of black pants, maybe a non-T-shirt or two. I do have the hat for it.
Okay, that's good. I can use that.
Winter hibernation isn't a bad one either. Last year, when Karen was gone, I simply gave up on everything but laying around with the dogs reading and watching monster movies. As a creative type, it is important for me to absorb information and the creative works of others; perhaps this is also a receptive season.
I believe I shall set out a program of study -- Nabakov's Lectures on Literature and the novels he covers are calling to me from across the waves, and actually reading an entire dictionary of literary terms would do me no serious harm.
And speaking of study. I need to work more on music. It is good for the brain, good for the mood.
Mostly, I need to focus more on taking care of the details. Eating. Sleeping. Exercise. The missus suggested keeping a diary. I think I should. Not a blog, just a simple journal that would let me track my moods and behavior over time. It would seem shrewd to put the observation of my habits on a scientific basis.
Thankfully, this year I have the greatest Christmas present a depressed writer could ask for -- a manuscript line-edited by five different people to worry into shape. It is a task vast, rapid, and immensely gratifying, and it has to be done in bed.
And finally. Finally! There will be a payoff when I'm done. It will be time to start nudzhing agents and editors, and I'm actually looking forward to that.
So despite my complaints, I've actually been having a much better time of it than I did during the last two Novembers, and circumstances favor me for the remainder of the season. The missus and I are getting along fine, despite my irritability and odd sensitivity. Is not so bad.
Bear up, Oafboy. Never say die.
And get back to work on Swill!