The Starfish in Finding Nemo chants to herself to “find a happy place” when the situation becomes unbearably anxious. Maybe it was a peaceful beach where a lot of people could have found a happy place. I have to confess that in addition to a happy place of mine, one of which is a high point on the Disney Wonder out at sea, hours before dawn, I have another place that isn’t happy. It’s easier to go there and they all know me.
Of course it’s easy to hide in a veil of self created misery and have a sorrow soiree. A sorrow soiree is a place I can go and wallow in self pity, listen to the voices that tell me how no-good I am and everyone else really doesn’t care for me. If I wallow long enough, I will begin to believe the voices and sing along with them. Nobody ever comes to my sorrow soirees, maybe because it’s just a pity party.
When I sat by the side of the road last week in my disabled truck I distracted myself by reading. It was the ride back in the tow truck where I started really feeling sad. I saw my sabbatical disappearing, never to be seen again. And I saw my truck out the back window of the cab of the tow truck. I wondered if it would ever move on its own again.
For a lot of my life I have battled depression. I have been able to work through it very well and am a lot better than I used to be. But back in the day it could be crippling. The thing was, I didn’t coast to the side of the road and wait for help. I kept on. I went to work and tried to function as if nothing was wrong. Here is where one of my biggest problems was. I tried to ignore it all and just keep on keeping on. I tried to be strong in the face of an rainy wind with lightning all around. What a strong guy I thought I was. And in reality (for in fact I never escaped that) I was in denial. And while I would try to press, all along I would be at that sad little party in my head. Withdrawn inside, pretending outside.
It would have been so easy to play the card of depression last week and fall into a nice funk, be miserable and have one of those old parties with myself. I would have been willing to go there but for a few things.
First, I remember what it was like being sick with clinical depression. It’s a quagmire that is very difficult to escape from. I remembered well enough the damage it did and tried to have the good sense to not go back there. But just wanting to not go there wasn’t enough.
The afternoon I was supposed to be driving into Death Valley there was a mandatory meeting that I had been excused from. It wasn’t an easy decision to go ahead and attend. I had excitedly told everyone my plans to be away. Everyone would wonder what I was doing back so soon and some people might ask and I might have to repeat the story. But I went to the meeting. People did ask me and I told them my truck broke. And I saw sincere sorrow.
All week people asked me how my trip was and after I told them I got empathy. This was not something new to me, people being nice to me. But it went against the theme of the pity party. The thing about the pity party is the music that I mentioned. It’s not a melodious thing to enjoy. The words repeat over and over how no-one cares. When I tried to avoid the party and stay in the real world, I was hearing things that went against those voices. People cared.
A setback like the broken truck makes a lame excuse to withdraw from everyone. But any excuse will do when there’s a party waiting. I wanted to plan my NaNoWriMo novel while I was off alone. I could have canceled that writing too. But I’m trying to press on. It isn’t easy because keeping my head up after things go wrong is something I haven’t done in a long time. But I’m trying to stay out of denial this time. That means accepting that I am disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world and I can still try to write a whole novel in the month of November, which I have been looking forward to even more than a sabbatical. I also can’t deny that there are people who care about me. And does that ever make a difference when I remember that each day. Thanks everyone.