I’m staring at the pages I’m supposed to be editing. Nothing is getting through. The words are stuck somehow, stuck to the page in a way that stops me picking them up, and putting them into my mind. It’s not the page’s fault, nor the author’s. It’s my mind, blocking everything out. Maybe it’s full. I know my head hurts, but it doesn’t hurt quite enough for me to get up from the chair, go to the kitchen, and reach for the paracetamol. Not yet, anyway.
I know this feeling, and I hate it. It’s my depression. My own, personal form of that thing that follows so many people around and wreaks havoc in their lives in myriad and often unpredictable ways. It never fully goes away. It lurks in the corners and hides in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity to attack. I can almost imagine it, a little black monster leaping out and enveloping me like a cloud made of tar. Sticky. Everything slows down; my mind closes its shutters, and I am alone inside.
But I’ve got this peephole, I guess, or I wouldn’t be writing. I’d be under my desk sobbing, or diving into a book in an effort to escape. (Sometimes that works, but I have to overcome the little voice inside that scolds, ‘No, you must not do that. You have work to do.’ It’s not wrong, the voice, and yet probably it’s not helping.) No, the darkness hasn’t enclosed me yet. Maybe it won’t, not completely, not this time. I hope.
Did I mention that I hate this feeling? I hate it because I am not under my desk. That would be reason enough to call everything off, to say ‘I’m not very well’, to curl up somewhere more comfortable than under my desk and wait for the storm to pass. Once I am there, I have lost the distance between me and my depression: I have gone under like a swimmer in the LaBrea tar pits. But I am not there. So the little voice that says ‘You have work to do’ is winning. It’s not a big step from hating this feeling to hating myself for feeling it.
It’s like I am caught in a psychological riptide. Don’t swim against it; you’ll just wear yourself out. Then you’ll be swept out to sea (or under your desk) and drown. Swim perpendicular to the current until it stops pulling at you. Which way is that? I wonder. And will I be able to do any of this work while I’m swimming along parallel to the shore?
My back tenses up and the tears press hard, and I press back. I’m not going to win this one. I’m not going to get today back. It’s gone–count it amongst my many locust-eaten days. This is my own plague of locusts, the pest that ruins my crops. This is my old enemy, my shadow, my depression, tearing me apart by undoing my mind and at the same time telling me to work, work, work. I can’t work. If it were a person, I’d fight it viciously. I’d shout, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ But it isn’t a little black monster out there, it’s a gaping hole in here, a black hole into which sunshine and certainty vanish.
If you have never been in a storm like this, I am glad for you, and I pray you never will be. As for me, I think it’s time to head for shelter.