A Short Report from the Dark Side

I have been a little depressed lately. It takes me a long time to figure it out when I am depressed. It used to have to get really bad, or flip to rage before I would notice (nearly getting arrested in Las Vegas one New Year's Eve for screaming at a cop springs to mind).

I don't even know if it is useful to call it depression. I think it's my own special brand of crazy that is very complicated.

But anyway, experience has given me a little crazy inventory which allows me to determine where I am before things get too bad now:

1. Am I managing to exercise?
2. Am I eating total crap. (Uh-oh. That just reminded me I had nachos for breakfast on Wednesday. Things could be worse than I thought)
3. Will I talk to my friends on the phone? (No)

If I just can't quite bring myself to take calls, this is a big hint that my mind is focusing all its energy on the bad neural circuits in my brain. I like to think of these as the bad neighbourhoods. There are three:

a. not taking any joy in anything; a sort of interior deadness spiced up by gripping bouts of anxiety;

b. catastrophising: Here is an example: since I have been rejected by this theatre, I will never be accepted by any theatre and my life is now worthless. I like to thing of this one as the opposite of JKRowling. That is an optimistic state of mind wherein you perpetually remind yourself that JKRowling was rejected by 12 publishers and took five years to write the first Harry Potter.

c. damning myself: I have a perpetual inner voice: the sharpest, meanest critic you can imagine. This bitch sets the most impossible standards for me and really rips into me when I make the smallest mistake, or take time for myself away from the children. Please understand I am speaking metaphorically and I do not actually have a separate voice inside me. But it is easy to imagine what happens in schizophrenia, when a voice like that or worse breaks completely away from your conscious understanding of yourself. The fight against this one is exhausting because I find myself having to defend my life to myself and the damnation neural networks are so strong that I can find myself indefensible. At an early age, I attended a series of fire and brimstone sermons at the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Corning, New York which I think burned this superhighway into my brain.

Having these three neural networks switched on high is really the worst thing I have ever experienced by a distance. It makes life very hard. Because unlike grief or physical pain, two things most people think of as bad, the crazies are not grounded in reality; they are a distortion of reality that separates you from the people you love. To me that makes the crazies much worse. It is not an inevitable part of life to be accepted with grace, it is a fucking battle ground in your own head precisely when you are so very, very not up for a fight.

The good news is that as soon as I acknowledge the problem, it usually means things are getting better. And even at my best I fall prey to a - c above anyway.

I have been sad over Sir David's death, but I am so constantly cheered by remembering him, he was really wonderful that the sadness is not that sad.

What is interesting is watching Owain's brain work its way through the idea. He told me last night that he wished that Taid would come back as a ghost so that Daddy could see him and feel better. I admit I have been very reliant on the idea of heaven in speaking to Owain about this. Luckily, Owain likes a story for a story and isn't so very worried about whether it's true or not.


  1. I love you and am so grateful you are in my life, even separated by an ocean. I'm glad you seem to have strategies to manage this complex challenge. xox

  2. I know of what you speak, Rachel, and I commend your candor and courage. I'm sorry you're going through such pain.

    For me, sunshine, aerobic exercise, and certain techniques borrowed from Buddhism have, sometimes, helped a great deal. But sometimes nothing seems to help, and I know how that is too.

    Have you read "Going on Being" or any of Mark Epstein's other brilliant works? I often recommend this one to coaching clients, in tandem with "The Drama of the Gifted Child." His "Falling to Pieces Without Falling Apart" is also wonderful. Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield explain very well some techniques for cultivating compassion (including for yourself!), like Tonglen, which are priceless.

    Jesus spoke a lot about forgiveness of others, but the bastards got to him before he could explain how we were supposed to forgive ourselves.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts