I missed you all.
I’d like to explain why I was gone, but the reason is still a little unclear to me. Have you ever returned home after being away for a few days and found that something is just off. You walk around the house, check the lights, see that all your things are still there, check the water to see that it still has that vague metallic flavor to it, you check everything and find nothing out of place. Still, the feeling persists. You go about life like you always have, but something is off. You order Thai food, eat it with the same pair of chopsticks you took from a Panda Express one time when you were feeling ambitious about how articulate your fingers are. You make a stack of plates at the foot of your bed like you always have, but still the feeling lingers that something isn’t as it should be.
You may never notice that the cream you had in the back of the fridge has spoiled and saturated your home with a slight eggy rot smell, and it’s not even your fault. Nobody suspects the cream, the foundation of our morning tea and the cornerstone to a good creamy tortellini soup. In the same way, I’m not really sure why I stopped writing, just that some foundational part of me stopped being able to. My therapist would say I’m depressed, and her degrees are more impressive than mine, so I’d be inclined to believe her.
But I’m not really sure why I’m depressed. That’s not the point though. I don’t really know why milk spoils, other than that cheese is an essential part of the universe and maybe that is just what needs to happen for life to be worth it. I don’t think I need to know why I’m depressed, just that it feels different than it has before.
Something insidious about depression is that it doesn’t need a reason. I’ve been reading back through some of the fantasy comfort food I read in middle school, and I’ve noticed most of the villains are just evil. They want to end the world, raise an army of the dead, rip the soul from the main character, but there’s never a good reason beyond it’s just what they do. The villain does villainous things and there is no depth beyond that. This is my experience with depression. Sometimes it’s a well-rounded villain with clear motivation and some sympathetic qualities. Other times, it’s Evildark Shadowknight, scourge of the plucky teenage protagonist who has a destiny.
This time, I’m just down. There’s no real thing causing it. My life is actually easier than it has been in a while. I made it to a new plateau, and things are just going. I made some nice soup a few days ago, and my cats are getting along. I like all my students, and grading is going fine. I haven’t made any progress on some major projects, but there aren’t any real deadlines for them. Things are finally ok.
And it’s hard.
In all this okayness, it has been hard to write. My working theory is that there are things we do to pull some control out of times when we don’t really have any. That was writing for me. I had school, and work, and early mornings, and trying to be healthy, and moving, and remembering to dry my hair before I left the house, and in all that, the one thing I didn’t have to do was what I wanted to do most because it was my choice to do it. But now I’ve got… just so many options. I can nap on weekends and nobody will tell me I’m failing my community. I can publish what I want, and there isn’t anybody to say I’m wasting my time or hurting my reputation. I can look at my LinkedIn, take a long, luxurious breath, and release the most satisfying, most self-indulgent “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck offffffff” I can manage.
And that’s weird.
But I’m getting used to it. I’m getting used to just working, to being able to finally have only one full-time job, to being able to sleep every night, to being able to afford the good veggie burgers, and to be able to see what I’m like without the constant threat of failure.
Writing feels different now because I’m not writing in opposition to anything. I’m just doing it. That’s a nice feeling, like napping because you want to and not because you’ve been awake for 4 days straight crying and writing until a panel of sociopaths have decided you’ve suffered enough…
See you all in a few days.