Sunday, December 18, 2011
This Winter Sucks Less
I'm having a much easier time this winter than I usually do, knock wood. While my symptoms of depression are fairly acute -- loss of appetite and weight (a bit of a mixed curse), insomnia, lack of ability to function, and so on and so forth, it's not actually bothering me that much.
I'm eschewing a great deal of typical self-destructive behavior now that I'm coming to value myself. And I'm coming to value myself because the world is validating me relentlessly.
It is difficult to walk around feeling like a loser when every few days a person beloved, admired, respected, makes a point of telling me how fucking brilliant I am. It will take a long time for me to get tired of that.
I've crossed a threshold, gathered a certain amount of critical mass -- even if I fall into a state of semi-collapse, folks want me to be with them and they want me to do art for and with them. The world has started to notice me, and it's saying, "Hey! I want to play!"
Almost better? If I ask myself, "What did you do today?" and answer, "Looked at musical instruments online, fucked up the vegetables for lunch and then spent six hours staring into a corner while feeling sad," I then congratulate myself on a job well-done, and go tell the missus how wonderful she's being with me.
See, I'm a registered, official crazy person now -- so when I display clear signs of mental illness, I'm not going to shit all over myself. I wouldn't do it to someone else. Doesn't make sense to do it to myself.
My counselor pointed out to me how much I'd actually done this fall. "Winter is a time to lie fallow. To rest. Maybe you're just hibernating."
And that's easy for me to accept -- I can look back at four years worth of blogs now, and see the shape of my year delineated as if it were outlined on graph paper. There is no reason for me to expect that discipline can overcome neurochemistry.
I get more done in the fall than a lot of people get done in a year, and then I do it again in the spring. I do what I do because I do it, and viciously accusing myself of lack of discipline and praiseworthy zeal strenuously exerted just uses up energy that I'd otherwise devote to my work. Wish I'd figured that one out earlier.
So I'm getting a lot more done than I usually do this time of year, with a lot less accompanying drama. I'm down to about six vertical inches of line-edits, from a high of nine. Things are coming along. When I look at the novel, see how excited the readers are? Again, it's hard to feel like a loser.
And when I remember, I've finally found a creative activity that I can engage in when emotionally distraught. Music, of course. I don't discuss it on the blog to any great degree, but I love playing music. A friend showed me some scales and made me practice them -- which I now know I did very, very poorly -- but aside from that, I'm pretty much self-taught. Bass, ukulele and baritone ukulele, now I'm starting to mess with open tunings on guitars. Drum programming, synthesizer music, singing... I'm not good, but I enjoy myself.
It's the ukulele and the baritone uke that are saving me. Unlike the bass, I can play them in bed, on the couch, in my recliner. And unlike the bass, when I play by myself it sounds like fucking music. I'm starting to be able to pick up chord progressions and hooks by ear, I'm getting some calluses.
And when I play music? It's like running a comb through my thoughts. Definitely soothing. A serious stress reliever. Playing music creates extremely complex patterns of neurological activity, requiring much of the brain to interact harmoniously. It's got serious and solidly-proven health benefits. And I play well enough to reap those benefits. To actually have a little fun and wring a little expression out of the fretboard.
Finally, the missus has been wonderfully supportive. We've had a few spats, but for the most part things have gone smoothly. She's going to visit her family in Ohio soon. I'll miss her, but I'll survive.
I don't have swine flu. I'm not vomiting blood.
This might be my best winter ever!