Checking In

Close up of the face of a large turtle looking inquisitively into the cameraHas it really been a month since I posted? Sorry about that. On something of a whim, I started a daily post series on one of my other blogs. I had been neglecting it ever since I started Sensitive Type. The flurry of posts were an act of defiance against the obstacle that kept me from doing what I loved, even though I knew that obstacle was probably me.

I kept it up for three weeks.

Lesson 1 – Love Your Inner Tortoise

It was a very educational experience. For one thing, I confirmed my instinct that blogging to order is not a career option for me. I write too meticulously, and too deeply, and feel called to do too much research to ensure accuracy. And that’s on topics I already know something about! I don’t believe this style is a bad thing, or a globally limiting one. I think it just means I have to write about what I love, and not have a lot of other claims on my time.

There are strategies to speed up one’s writing process, but thoughtfulness and associative background research are what blogging is all about to me. Without that, writing is just drudgery, and no better than any other work that kills the soul.

Internet misinformation is everywhere, even from sources that should know better, because no one wants to pay a writer for the time that accuracy requires when the “content” is only there to sell something else. Even when the “something else” is a worthy cause, that’s no excuse for perpetuating bad information. End-justifies-the-means rationales, or worse yet, claims that “everyone else is doing it” really bother me. I want no part of that.

Depression Redux

So what happened in that fourth week, when I was finally going to have time to write to my heart’s content, but instead stopped writing altogether? Mostly, winter happened. After 6 months of record clear weather, cloudiness arrived, and with it the desire to do nothing but listen to 19th century novels while doing jigsaw puzzles.

A line of leafless trees along the ridge of a green hill on a cloudy day
I’ve mentioned before that I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I’ve known it since before the term was coined. As far back as high school, my grades dropped precipitately from straight As in the first semester to Bs, Cs, and “Incompletes” by the second semester. I moved to the Pacific Northwest before research had identified the connection between “winter depression” and light, and my life stalled in the northern gloom for the next 15 years.

Yet somehow I am always looking for other reasons when the bottom drops out of my motivation, no matter how precisely that coincides with a bout of cloudy weather. And then I don’t do light therapy, and it’s all downhill from there. I don’t know why I still have so much trouble with knowing, yet not knowing. Or is it knowing, yet not believing? A friend says I constantly “second-guess” myself. I’m curious whether this happens to other HSPs, or is it the result of my less-than-supportive childhood?

One thing that’s changed over this past year is that I’m more tolerant of my own need for down time. This is important for people with depressive tendencies, as self-trashing can result in an endlessly repeating cycle of beating oneself up for not doing enough, then needing more inactive time to recover from the beating, which results in more self-beration, and so forth. But unexpectedly, NOT getting my undies into a twist about down time can also create problems.

Recovery Time vs. Stalling Out

For example, let’s take week number 3 of the daily posts. It was an eventful one. I finally finished the drawn-out exit from one job, and was extra-busy at another. There were violent demonstrations near my workplace that were hugely stressful. Breaking windows and looting random stores was so senseless, so utterly unconstructive. Buses were re-routed and I was afraid I’d have to walk 6 miles through a deserted industrial zone alone after dark to get home. Then my cat decided the rug was as good a place to poop as the kitty box. To top it all off, I attended a social event in another city. A lot for one week, right?

I had cleared the decks for Thanksgiving week so that I could hunker down and immerse myself in a long list of posts I’d been craving to get to. When that didn’t happen the first (or second, or third) day, I just told myself I must’ve needed more recovery time than I realized.

Raindrops on a window pane
That may have been partly true, but by (rainy) day seven, and still not a paragraph in sight (nor any inclination to produce one) I was ready to consider other possibilities. I wonder if it would’ve taken me as long to get around to light therapy in the old self-trashing days? Then again, I might’ve completely overlooked the dark weather, and taken my lack of inspiration as a sign that my insight about being born to write was false, and in reality, I was good for nothing at all. But I wasn’t feeling particularly sad, just inert. Depression can be like that. It can also warp your self-perceptions seriously.

I’m going into the nitty gritty details because there isn’t enough out there about what depression is like from the inside. No, that’s not right. What I mean is that there’s a ton of poetry, song and story from a depressed point of view all over the place, but it isn’t usually labeled as such, which makes it easy for undiagnosed depressives to believe, in all sincerity, that there is nothing abnormal about their experience. That’s exactly what I believed for decades, since there seemed to be people who experienced life the way I did wherever I looked, and none of them said anything about depression.

I’m not blaming anyone for this, but I do think it contributes to a whole lot of people not realizing that they are depressed, and therefore not seeking help, when $10 worth of the right herb or supplement could radically alter their lives.

Balance Sheet

A calculator sits on a table with a pen and a financial reportOn the financial front, I have to find a new income source really soon, or I’ll be in big trouble. I took stock of my financial status, and found that I had made little headway in paying off my debt over the past year. This was no surprise. I’ve barely managed to pay the minimum on my credit card bills from month to month. A quarter of my debt is at exorbitant interest rates, and another 60% of it is probably higher than it should be, given my stellar repayment record, and my history of paying large balances off very slowly over long periods of time. (I’m a credit card company’s dream. In a just world, they would be competitively bidding for my debt.)

There was a bit of good news. I haven’t added to my debt, for the first time in three years. Also, I’m no longer charged to the limit on every card, so I have a small safety net. I don’t want to use it, though, as it would cost me all the laborious progress I’ve made in 2014.

I looked into some of the jobs I mentioned back in October as work that I could blog while doing. So far I haven’t found one that would pay enough to meet my expenses, even if I did it full time along with my other part-time job. Still, that could be a workable strategy, if I am lucky enough to find a position that pays enough, soon enough.

Armed with better self-understanding, I once again searched for a niche profession that I could train for quickly (like in 2-4 weeks). I was looking for something that would either provide me with a lot of on-the-job down time for writing, or at least not exhaust, overstimulate or intensely engage me, so I can’t do anything else with my life except work. I haven’t found anything so far, but if you have ideas, let me know.

More Lessons

Highway sign, with arrows labeled "possibility" pointing in many different directions
I keep reminding myself that HSPs tend to give up too easily1, and that there are always more options out there than I have found so far2. I have been confused for most of my life about when to quit, so that may be the most transformative thing I have learned about being an HSP.

Meanwhile, I’ve moved a step or two closer to emotionally believing that I can really make blogging my work. Not because I’ve stumbled on any secrets, but because it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that I’ve reached a point in my life where nothing else will work for me. I’m continuing to weed through resources on how to do that in a way that fits my values, and it’s my long term goal, if not my long term plan.

Why not my plan? Well, blogging probably isn’t going to become a sustaining income source for me in the next two weeks. I’m just not sure I’ll have any energy left over for moving in that direction if I have to take other work to make ends meet, which I almost certainly will. My daily post experience showed me that doing two things at once is a huge challenge for me, even when it’s two of my own blogs. Add in office politics, deadlines, tiredness, and self-repression, and will there be any me left?

I’m living on hope right now (hope that I’m not crazy!). If you have a moment to will a little good luck my way, I can surely use it.

1. Elaine Aron
2. Marianne Cantwell – The reassurance that there are more options if only I keep looking has been tremendously mobilizing.

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