Inside Depression

A figure walks away from the camera into the fog on a wooden path through treesIt’s been a rough spring. The clouds won’t quit. They’re damping down my everything. I replaced my SAD light bulb, but my light meter showed no change. So I waived my no-new-charges credit card policy just this once, and bought a new light, only to get the same readings. So much for the light meter. But whether the light is too weak or my SAD is too strong, I don’t need a meter to tell me it isn’t enough.

I keep up with housework, just. Since I mostly work from home, I don’t have to shower, get dressed, or go out in public. That helps. But I am impatient with my cat, snarky on social media, and racked with anxiety after the 15th of every month. Will I make the rent?? I stop buying groceries, make do with what I have on hand. It is dispiriting not to be able to afford something as basic as food. So far, things have always come together in the nick of time, but this month, I don’t see how that could happen.

I still have a part-time job, a holdover from my previous profession. Though the circumstances are about as good as a job of its type could possibly get, the contrast with my new work, which hardly seems like work at all, has made it clear just how much I hate that job, have hated it for years. It pays about 3/4 of my rent, so I can’t afford to give it up. And yet I can’t get myself to go in, putting it off until right before payday, then having to work all my hours over a short period.

Meanwhile, my business has fallen off. I’m not sure if this is due to changes in my advertising venue, or the advent of competition in a niche I previously had pretty much to myself, but most of my business these days is with previous clients. Which is gratifying in its own way, but it’s not enough to pay the bills. Why does an urgent need for self-promotion always rear its toothy head when I feel least able to put myself on display and take risks?

Not that I am completely defeated by challenges. HSP overwhelm is an emotional reaction, not true information about my abilities, I remind myself. I apply objective measures: It’s really huge that I am able to pay all of my bills each month, without adding anything to my credit card debt, for the first time in years. I have even been able to move some of the highest interest debt to lower interest cards. In the big picture, I am right on course in my long range plan.

I respond to emotional needs with common sense problem-solving. To fend off monthly funk and fear, I started tithing a percentage of every dollar earned straight to savings. This would be a great response to overspending. Unfortunately, the current problem is underearning.

I can’t seem to get much emotional mileage out of reality-checking and practical measures. They are lost in the shadow of the doldrums of today, which loom so much larger than the distant unknowable future. Depression takes the spark out of your plug. When the sun is out, to think is to act. When it’s not, the chasm between the two is impassable. All I want to do is nothing.

I have some major projects on my list. As you might imagine, they are well and truly stalled. Any tenuous flicker of interest that manages to penetrate the fog is swiftly extinguished by oversized expectations. But I’m getting past that a little, nurturing those tiny flames by not feeding them too much too soon. “Just do one thing,” I whisper to myself. And I do, and maybe a few days later, I do one more thing. After awhile, I am almost surprised when the progress is visible.

But no boost lasts long, not when another day dawns and it’s as overcast as the one before. I fear sunny weather may never kick in. We have summers like that sometimes. I’m in a holding pattern, and it’s getting really old.

When Opportunity Knocks, but it Isn’t Looking for You

How about those women’s marches? I feel better about my country than I have in months.
View of the January 21, 2017 women's march in a major city with protestors filling the street between tall buildings and holding signs
As it happens, I didn’t attend one. Pop-up protests over the past few years have been a major source of stress in my life, and I’m pretty angry about that. The same few demonstrators show up to anyone’s march, looting, breaking windows, vandalizing random cars, and stoning police. Not a constructive way to espouse a cause. I depend on public transit, and a few dozen demonstrators can close it down for hours. As I result, I have often been stranded far from home, in the middle of a very tense situation, lugging 30 pounds of perishable groceries.

Because of this, I am on alert lists for the bus company and police department. Which is how I heard about the women’s march – the bus company sent out an advance email about expected service disruptions. Other than that, I saw only a TV commercial, which surprised me. Protest marches advertise? That’s new. But given aforementioned experiences with protests, I wasn’t intrigued enough to find out more.

But on the day of the march, when texts from the police department started coming in with massive numbers, I realized something different and historical was happening. I briefly considered going, until I got a text from the bus company saying they had completely closed down bus service to the downtown core. I texted back “completely unacceptable!,” but I was relieved from the decision of whether to enter an intensely crowded, noisy situation where my ability to retreat would’ve been severely limited.

Maybe I would’ve risen above the limits of sensitivity on the group high. Then again, I tend towards disturbed-hibernating-bear syndrome in January, so maybe not.

But even from my armchair, it was pretty cool. And the more I learned about it, the more amazing it got. It wasn’t just the massive turnouts in major cities. There were also hundreds (not an exaggeration) of marches in smaller towns, and even tiny villages, some of them in very bad weather and/or unfriendly environments.

I’m something of a coward about putting myself physically and visibly on the line. I’ve found some peace with this reluctance, now that I understand it’s a pretty natural reaction for an HSP introvert. There’s more than one way to be an activist. Still, I respect people who expose themselves in that way, even if it feels less risky to them than it would to me. If you participated, thank you. A lot. Thank you for showing me I wasn’t alone.

But this post isn’t about that. The rest of it isn’t, anyway :)

What’s New – or Not – with Me

My self-employed career isn’t going well. It turns out there is a fatal flaw in my business plan (this is a figure of speech. If you happen to be comparing yourself with me, I don’t want to deceive you into thinking I have anything as organized as a written plan). I’ve done a really excellent job at finding people I emotionally resonate with as clients. Over and over, they tell me they chose to work with me because they felt I understood them.

And I do. They are people who are going it alone, carving out their own career niche, plus a few passionate bloggers who just have to write. Like me. Most of them are struggling financially, also like me, with a very limited budget for things like… my services. I have done an excellent job of finding my peers. At creating myself an income, not so much.
Continue reading

Turn, Turn, Turn

A Graph showing a sharp dropMuch has happened since I last posted. My first month in my new consulting career was pretty good. My second month was slower, but I figured there would be ups and downs at the beginning. However, when I had zero clients in month three, I realized I’d drastically overestimated demand, or else drastically underestimated how much promotion I’d need to do. Before I had time to figure out which, my tottering finances crashed. Continue reading

What have I got to be grateful for?

If my last post sounded a little blue, put it down to a cold which arrived before Christmas, rendered me voiceless for 4 days, and then departed, except for an annoying and unproductive cough. And I was fine for a week. But now it’s back, like a viral boomerang. No fair! I have antibodies!

But that’s the least of my problems, rationally speaking. My economic situation is dire. I’m counting and budgeting every cent, walking miles to work (when I’m not running a fever) to save bus fare, reducing my breakfast eggs from 2 to 1 and slicing the bread thicker.

I’m finding myself curiously calm about this. I’m doing everything I can think of to do, and I’ll just have to deal with whatever comes. It’s not like me. My motto has always been “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” I was the woman with the backup plan. And even so, anxiety was my middle name.

Now I’ve been thrown on the mercies of near-strangers who never struck me as empathetic, and who are not responsible for me in any way. And they have been altruistic beyond all bounds of logic or self-interest. I’ve also received a number of random and very timely gifts from completely unexpected sources. The unthinkable has happened, and I’m not only alive and kicking, I’m grateful.

I’ve never been a devotee of gratitude as a practice. Too many people have tried to shove it down everyone’s throats as a cure for “negative” feelings, like anger. Most therapists will tell you that healthy, constructively-expressed anger is a normal and necessary thing which does not need to be cured. Discomfort is a spur to action. It isn’t supposed to be pleasant. If it was easy-peasy to examine feelings you’d rather not have, stand up to that bully, protest that injustice, you would already have done it. Continue reading