walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Difficult Days

My post from earlier this morning was written last night, at school, and finished today.  Sometimes I rant about something that seems significant at the time, only to later be swamped in my own stuff, which then later seems insignificant again when I think about Real Problems In The World, like starvation and war and what-have-you.

Though I don't know that the world outside my front door knows it, the past few weeks have been pretty difficult for me, emotionally.  I am not someone who shows or talks about emotions all that readily -- which is, by the way, not all it's cracked up to be, and is something I'm trying to change -- so even when I'm in the depths of despair, the world usually sees me as a sunny little optimist who won't shut up about bicycles (this makes it shocking to said world when I apparently-randomly experience a period of intense depression and fall off the map for a whiel).  It's not that I'm particularly strong or resilient, either -- I think I do pretty well, btu that's not what it's about.  It's more that I'm terrifically afraid of A) showing the world my vulnerabilities, B) running off the people who don't yet know me well, but who might become friends, and C) leaning too much on the love and goodwill of the people who have become my friends.

I'm not sure, in fact, why I'm writing about this *now,* or *here.*  Or, rather ... part of the now factor has to do with the fact that I'm feeling a bit better -- but not entirely, which means motivation is still tough.  Which means I don't even really want to eat, or drink, or ride my bike.  That's the thing that freaks me out a little.

It's strange to be in this position.  Wanting to want to ride my bike.  Prodding myself to go get a glass of water, for the love of God,before my lips dry up and blow away.  Staring into the fridge -- I, who normally embrace such culinary delights as the world offers with the unbridled glee that comes of being able to eat 3,000 calories a day -- and seeing nothing of interest (except yogurt, oranges, and salad -- perhaps what's really wrong with me is some bizarre flavor of dietary problem?).  Wanting to want to practice my keyboarding skills, but having trouble getting together the get-up-and-go to actually pick up 25 pounds of keyboard and play.

The funny thing is, it's all really a crisis of impetus.  Once I get the bike moving, I'm fine.  Once I start eating something, I generally finish it.  Once I have a glass of water, I drink it.  Etc.  In fact, once I'm doing something, it generally helps profoundly.  Yesterday, I had to work, so I had to drag myself out of bed and put clothes on and so forth.  That turned the inertia down a little.  Then I had to go to school, where I had a great organ lesson.  Then I had a little time to kill, so I found myself taking sweeping, banking turns and bounding up little hills on Quicksilver for the sheer joy that comes of riding a really good bike reasonably well.  After I got home, I heated up some buffalo chicken strips to make a wrap for DD, and found the wherewithal to make a salad for myself as well, and to eat it. 

Today, it's like God has turned the 'inertia' dial all the way up.

I experienced a period of serious emotional illness in the beginning of high school.  It was very much situational -- in many ways, a typical response to a serious and ongoing trauma, PTSD taken to its logical extreme.  At times, I experienced anxiety so severe that I found myself in full-on fight-or-flight mode; during those times, I could not stop moving.  At other times, the profound depression became like an anchor.  It was hard to move, to think.  It wasn't that nothing seemed worth doing -- at least, not most of the time -- just that the force it would take to overcome inertia was far, far beyond me.  I was, in a word, overwhelmed.

It's not that bad, now, by a long shot.  In reality, it's not really that bad at all.  At its worst, this depression did start to worry me.  It was worst during the period when I couldn't ride my bike: even speaking was kind of beyond me a lot of the time.  It just took too much effort to organize my own thoughts, to apprehend others'.  Listening was hard, because I had to keep refocusing my mind, which seemed to require Herculean effort.

I wanted -- quite desperately, in fact -- to talk to DD, to my friends Robert and Martha, to anyone.  Yet until someone else reached across the gap, I couldn't find words.  (This, by the way, is one of the things I love about the blog-o-sphere: I read other bloggers' writings, and they act like spark plugs, igniting my mental fuel and getting me past my own inertia.)  I could take about bikes because talking about bikes is kind of like breathing.  I can do it without thinking.  The inertia consumed me.  Last Tuesday, I slept until 11:00 in the morning, simply because I couldn't overcome inertia and wake up (I was also simply tired beyond words, having not slept well for a while).

This morning, at least, I was up with DD before seven, and I managed to get out of bed and put most of the laundry away (this shouldn't really be a feat, I know, but it's progress).  I am washing the linens as we speak (which is to say, they are in the washing machine and the dryer, which are respectively keeping me from having to do any actual work).  That said, the house still looks like Times Square on New Year's morning.  I know this.  And I'm still trying to overcome inertia and go ride my bike.  I have an appointment with my therapist at 2:00ish, so I will soon force myself to do so -- but some part of me is really quite sad that I'm not leaping with joy at the notion that I have an excuse to hop in the saddle.

I don't know whether it's 'normal,' for whatever that means, to have days like this.  Weeks like this.  My own experiences during childhood and adolescence were unusual enough that I don't expect to be 'typical' as an adult (quasi-adult, anyway) -- but I do want t be ... I don't know.  Well, I guess.

Anyway, though the inertia dial still seems to be turned way up, my mood, at least, is a bit better.  Last week, my days off were bleak.  Today, I feel something a little more like myself.

Occasionally, I consider pharmacological support.  This has been one of those times.  I'm not opposed to anti-depressants and the like on principle, though I do think they're overused in cases of situational depression (which is to say, if a depression is truly situational, and can be alleviated through a change of circumstance, using medication as more than a short-term prop is very much like using tylenol as the sole treatment for a broken arm).  I'm just not sure I want to go down that road.  I didn't have a lot of success with them earlier in life, and I did experience a lot -- a whole lot -- of unpleasant side-effects.  Sometimes I fall back on caffeine, on days like this, precisely because it lifts my mood and helps me over these inertia-hurdles without requiring a prescription or a long-term commitment.

Like I said, I'm not sure why I'm writing about this.  I am a lucky guy; I have a wonderful partner who has very nearly mastered the art of rendering me willing to lean on him in difficult times, I have friends, I have a usually-snarky cat snoring in my arms as I write this.  It's not like I have nobody to talk to.  Heck, I even have a really good therapist.  Yet, still, here I am, pouring my own troubles out into the world's common cup.

There's something in human nature, I think, that makes us want to put the things we don't understand on the table in hopes that someone else will explain them.  Who knows.  Maybe I'll be lucky, here.  I don't think my blog draws a lot of readers, but it does seem that the readers who come by are some pretty thoughtful people.

Well, that's it for now.  It's time to go ride my bike.


  1. I'd say you've done a great job in this post of creating a list of items to reflect on to see what is working and what is not. Rather than a single effect that springs from one static cause, minds are shifting systems of tangled and changing forces and effects that morph as we ourselves grow and change. Although it might feel like a single heavy weight, the inertia is actually a complex of many effects from many causes. Keep on this track of examining what's working and what's not, what's breaking through the inertia and what feeds it, and place more emphasis on what moves you toward the positive balance of things. Also go read "The War of Art," it can't hurt. :) Motivation follows action: instead of dwelling on the lack of motivation to act, just force yourself. Just do it. Feed that stubborn streak that overcomes inertia because it is necessary to do so, and for no other reason. Just a few thoughts. From a loyal reader.

  2. JRA, I'm glad you commented on this one. You have a gift for insight, and I think you've nailed a dimension I was missing here.

    I'm also glad you suggested that I keep on this track of examining the shifting layers of this particular challenge. I'm always surprised how much difference simply writing publicly or talking with another person about something like this makes. I think putting things into words makes them easier to understand, somehow. So many problems just seem nebulous up to that point.

    I think I will, indeed, read 'The War of Art.' It looks like just about the right thing right now.

  3. I've read this post a couple of times now, and I don't have any sage advice like JRA, but I think it's good you're sharing this, if it helps you, and it makes others think, also. I would say my sister has similar problems with "inertia," and I've been there myself, to a certain degree, so I think I have some idea what you're talking about.

    I suggest, firstly, learning to rely on loved ones. You have a support network, you should use it. Also, for me anyway, I find I have to keep myself going to avoid slipping into a situation where I don't feel like doing anything. It sounds like you're already discovered that.

    I don't think I can offer much more, other than to say, you shouldn't feel awkward sharing these feelings, and if you do need to talk, there are people who will listen.