Making Do With Depression

I’ve been cleaning my apartment. After months of doing just enough to not feel gross or awful, I’m finally doing a deep the-inside-of-the-fridge-is-sparkling-just-like-the-stove-interior clean. I have taken time off of work, I’ve created my to-do lists, and I’ve done my best to get my mind clear so I can focus on the work of cleaning without getting distracted. Got an old favorite podcast queued up to keep me entertained, got fresh cleaning products, and I’ve once again confronted the fact that mass-produced rubber gloves for cleaning almost never come in my size. I’m all set to clean and then maybe file my taxes if I have enough wherewithal left to string together the coherent thoughts required to let TurboTax file my taxes for me.

Which is great, in concept. Was great, since this is posting after the cleaning will be done and is even being written most of the way through the cleaning. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that Mail Pile only became Mail Pile because I’ve been struggling with my depression more than usual of late. Things have been rough so far this year, continuing a years-long trend of what feel like never-ending rough patches. Not one endless rough patch, but lots of rough patches with never enough recovery time between them. Which isn’t to say that my life is joyless and miserable, just that I feel joyless and miserable.

Work has been rough for a lot of reasons I don’t feel like going into right now and my life outside it has been rough because I’ve been confronting a lot of personal issues and traumas and things that are the long-term side-effects of traumas. I’m making progress, of course, and the day may soon arrive when I’ll finally hit the end of this combo of personal confrontations and awakenings, but it’s still rough to be in it right now. All of my energy is going to the required hefty degree of mental processing, making sure I can get through the day, and keeping myself going when it comes to my personal goals in my day-to-day. It might be easier to save energy for stuff like cleaning and filing my taxes if I wasn’t pushing myself to exercise six days out of seven, update a blog six days out of seven, and work on a myriad of personal creative projects like dungeons and dragons campaigns, recording poetry, and doing a re-write of a serial story I posted on my blog. But I’d also feel a lot less productive and a lot more like I’m somehow failing myself.

The way my depression works, most of the time, is by making me feel worthless. When you grow up being told your only value is in what you can provide to other people, it sticks with you. By spending what little energy I have every day by continuing to pursue the goals I’ve laid out for myself, I can at least rob those thought processes of any shadow of legitimacy. It’s a lot easier to argue with yourself about your own value when you can point to concrete things you’ve done.

The only reason this stuff is possible is because what my depression does to me isn’t really steal my energy. It increases my inertia. It makes it incredibly difficult to alter my current course of action. For example, it took me ten minutes to move from staring at this blank page to writing the first sentence. The entire rest of this blog post took fifteen minutes to write, edit, and schedule. When I go from resting while writing this blog post back to cleaning, I’m going to stare at my chore list and feel helplessly overmatched by my to-do list. Eventually, I’ll find one thing I think I can tackle easily, bargaining with myself that I’ll do just that one thing before resting again. Once I’m finally up and moving, though, I’ll move on to the next chore immediately. I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning because of this. I have a hard time stopping whatever I’m doing to eat, rest, or get ready for bed at night because of this. Changing direction, forcing myself to change from one thing to another, takes so much more energy when I’m depressed.

Which maps pretty well to spoon theory, though my explanation is far wordier and feels more specific to me. I never have a problem doing stuff, it’s just overcoming inertia that costs me so much more when my depression is flaring. Which means that cleaning is usually periods of cleaning until I’ve pushed myself too hard (with frantic, heavy-duty cleaning) with intermittent periods of rest until I’ve recovered enough to push myself again. I know it would be easier if I paced myself, less taxing if I worked at a measured pace throughout the day rather than cramming it all into whatever remains of the day once I finally managed to get myself cleaning initially, but you make do with what you have, you know?

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