Most of the time I’m pretty logical and clear-headed, but it’s been a few days since I felt that way. I’ve noticed that my thinking really shifts when I get down. It’s hard to explain, though. Uncomfortable, to say the least, because it’s clearly a warped view of the world. I deny thinking this way because most of the time, I don’t. The nasty internal critic only shows up when my brains are more scrambled than usual.
I hear my own thoughts as though I’m watching myself in a mirror, constantly scolding, deriding, judging, angry, disgusted, disappointed. I see that it’s a sick dialogue with myself, but I’m paralyzed by waterfalls of emotion, watching the train wreck unfold.
It goes a little something like this:
Having given up on working for the day, begin making pie. Start assembling ingredients and chopping up the fruit. Add too much tapioca. Start making pastry. But somehow, the recipe I know by heart isn’t coming out right. You can’t do anything right, can you? Try to fix it, make the situation worse, realize I had egregiously miscalculated the yield. Sniffle, look at the ceiling, eyes brimming. Not going to cry over this.
Still screwed something up, there’s just not quite enough pastry. Start making a second batch. Really can’t do anything right, not even fit for food service anymore. Who is ever going to hire you as a professor? Blend the pastry, worrying about work that isn’t being done because I’m too depressed to handle my email, let alone manage to start up new projects. Feel queasy thinking about the 41 messages in my inbox (usually close to zero.) You thought you could handle a postdoc on the way to the faculty job, but you should have known better. Let’s be realistic. You can’t even hack it as a postdoc. You’re going to disappoint everyone. Computer pings. Hands covered in flour, check email. Sigh in relief – it’s just an Amazon ad I can delete right away, not something more I need to worry about.
Start making quiche filling. Sharpen the petite chef’s knife for chopping scapes and asparagus. Turn on Soothe playlist, Lullaby starts to play – “everything’s gonna be alright…” Promptly start crying. Put down the knife. Deep breaths. Why do I feel so awful? Wipe off my face, finish chopping the vegetables. Can’t see the pie shell as I put the veggies into it; salt spots are building up on my glasses. Stop sniveling. You have an incredibly good life. You have no right to be depressed. Worry about being depressed; how long is this going to last? Why hasn’t the sunny weather made me feel better yet? What if I can’t finish that paper by the end of the month? I’ve already squandered two weeks. What if being mental ends my career before I even get it started? Cry harder. Brilliant. Bravo. Keep it up, Dr. Horrible. Why don’t you just file for SSDI now? You’re going to end up on disability someday anyway. Beat the eggs. Pour in some milk, hands shaking. How much milk? No idea. Wipe eyes before trying to put the quiche in the oven; barely miss burning hands on the rack. Wouldn’t that look lovely with a summer tan and all your other scars? But that would just be an accident, of course. Just like the others. Wash hands, blow nose, wipe glasses on shirt tail. Sit down at computer. Start sobbing, head in hands on the desk. You could just pull that knife back out.
No. It’s not that bad. Really, it isn’t. Are you sure? Are you sure of anything? Still crying. Go outside, flop down under the tree, light a cigarette, wipe eyes again. I can’t believe I’ve gotten no work at all done in three days. But it’s not that bad, really, it’s not. Nausea rises to the back of my throat, hands start shaking again. Impressive distress tolerance skills. You should’ve gotten a PhD in maladaptive responses to perfectly normal situations. At least I watered the plants and made dinner. If I’m still taking care of the basics, it’s not that bad. Go ahead and keep on lying to yourself. You thought about the knife. If this keeps up, I’ll go to the psychiatrist. It won’t get that bad again. It can’t. Really?
- Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again) – Wilco
- All Is Full of Love – Björk
- Aloha Oe – Johnny Cash
- Just Happy to Be Me – The Fugees
- Pursuit of Happiness (Kid CuDi Cover) – Barbara
- I’ll Fly Away – Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch
- Lullaby – Shawn Mullins
- At The River – Groove Armada
- Born To Be Loved – Lucinda Williams
- Whole Love – Wilco
- With A Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles
- What a Wonderful World – Nick Cave & Shane MacGowan
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
- One Fine Day – Brian Eno & David Byrne
- Nothing But Heart (Album) – Low
- Pinball Number Count – The Pointer Sisters
- Crazy – Afghan Whigs
- This Is It – DDT
- Kid A – Radiohead
- Leopoldstadt – Fields of Industry