When the darkness and lethargy of depression hits me, I constantly push myself. I must be doing something, anything. Mooning around the house, I see a million projects I should be undertaking. I’m a writer. I should be writing. But when I sit down to the computer, nothing happens. I start and stop, start again. Somehow, I think, if I can just get something going, I’ll be all right.
My new turn is to embrace it. I’m down and I’m going to be. Nothing I do will stop the downward spiral. My inability to do much only exacerbates the challenges. I might as well go with it, flow with the darkness
So, here’s how I’m doing today: Not good. I have yet to feel the creative spark that will get me going on a piece of writing. I don’t feel the poems all around me. I know they are there, and all I have to do is reach up and grab one. But I can’t lift my arms. I have no fingers that will pluck a poem from the air.
So, why try?
How about if I go this direction: Life has no point. Everything I do is meaningless. I will never be a writer who shows real insight into the affairs of human beings. Those writers who publish in magazines like the Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and the New Republic on a regular basis have something I don’t have and never will. All around me people are writing poems, books, articles, essays. I just don’t have it. I’m old. Most writers my age have already written their best stuff, what makes me think I can do any better than them?
If I had any talent, things might be different. But I have no talents or skills I can count on. I’m only a mediocre poet. What I write is drivel that even the most amateur school kid can outperform. I’m not even a good historian. I’m too taken up in the details and not enough with context. When I’m an essayist, my work is predictable and regular. Nothing stands out.
That makes me feel a little better, having said all that. The above things are the inner struggles, the doubts and fears that bubble to the surface when I’m down. I’ve been out sorts for months now. From the perspective of the moment, it doesn’t seem that I’ll ever be out of this phase, if that what it is.
Waiting out the passing of this gloom is agony, which is why I think I should think about the deaths of hundreds of people today in wars, terrorist attacks, revenge killings, and outright murder. Corporations and governments create famine. Adults molest children. People rob, steal, and cheat. The shoot each other. They terrorize, frighten, and torture. Militants destroy entire landscapes and turn verdant valleys into a sterile wastes.
My culture, American silliness, paralyzes people. Endless emptiness haunts television and music. Little of significance comes without pain. But I don’t feel pain. I feel nothing and nothingness. Empty. Void. My head is just another television with inane programs playing on and on and on.
It’s happening all around me. There’s nothing I can do. Nothing I can write will ever stem the flow of human misery. I can’t move myself to tear my eyes out or drive a nail through my hand. The energy escapes me. I just don’t have the drive.
Of course, I know, or hope, at least, that this dark period will pass as all the others have done. I will emerge into the light. The sharpness of the sounds will abate. My nerves, so frazzled now, will mend.
Writing about this reinforces a couple of important things. The first is that I’m in a spot familiar to me. Throughout my life, I have gone through periods—some as short as a day, some as long as a few months—when I become paralyzed, when I cannot muster the energy or drive to do more than get up in the morning, read the newspaper, and go back to bed.
The second is that writing, no matter how hard it comes, helps. Even this piece, this scattered, unorganized, even whining piece helps me break through the creative block that stoppers me up during these periods of despair.
I worry, too, that such pieces will lose readers, those few faithful who stick with me through good and bad. It’s another bleak essay about paralysis, I think. Who can be interested in one of these after they have read a couple? No one likes a whiner. Who can stand a constant complainer?
No one. That’s who.
Fortunately, anyone who’s kept up with me over the years, they know that the glum Patrick has a companion who’s fired up, creative, and inventive. That Patrick, let’s call him the healed Patrick, will be back. It will just take a while.
I look forward to that time. It will come, but here’s the thing, It will take steps on my part. I know I can unlock the doors tomorrow if I wanted. All it takes is for me to force myself out of bed at a decent hour and sit down to the work. When I sit down and start the discipline again, it may take a couple of weeks to come together. I will have to stare at the computer for hours and get nothing done. But then I will do it again. And again. Sooner or later, something will come. It always does.