When I crawled into bed last night, I was thoroughly and utterly exhausted, which I don’t see as a surprise considering I’ve worked nine days straight and have to maintain said pace for another three days before I have successfully unlocked my Three-Day Weekend Achievement.
Per usual, I didn’t sleep well, though it wasn’t for the usual reasons. We’ve been blessed with a week of very comfortable weather in the desert and the evenings have been blissfully cool after about eight weeks of sleeping in a sauna otherwise occupied by chain smokers on a cheap tobacco bender.
The problem, I’m pretty sure…is my sheets. I bought them when I got my first solo apartment four years ago and while they say they’re designed for a queen-sized bed, I wake up every morning with half my mattress cover pulled off from the opposite side and all my pillows piled up next to (and in the case of this morning, somehow on top of) my bedside table where my alarm clock is.
Editorial Note: I do have other sheets I can use, of course, but as summer is often a time where the heat saps the motivation to do much out of you, I chose the ol’ Grin-and-Bear-It method instead. Fortunately I have the upcoming weekend to address my bedding and a bunch of other stuff around my house that’s languished for the last few weeks.
I got out of bed, readjusting the sheets for the 81st time as I did, ate breakfast, got showered and ready for work and headed out the door, and it was about an hour later, driving back from the lake and covering the first day of school for the incoming freshmen that something very abruptly dawned on me.
I feel good today, though not in a,”Golly gee, ain’t the world always such an awesome, wonderful happy place where it’s all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns!?!” way. Truth be told, I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever reach that level of Pollyanna-esque optimism with the things I’ve experienced, nor do I see that as a failing on my behalf either.
That said, it was a simple moment where I was driving down an open road on a rather gorgeous, sunny and cool day, being able to see for miles around for the first time in I almost don’t know how long and I felt myself able to take a long deep breathe, both physically and emotionally, just enjoying that moment.
In using the word, good, it’s one of those few moments I get where as the smoke has cleared out of the desert, it’s also cleared out of my head.
Stuff doesn’t feel as heavy as it usually does. I can think without the impending feelings of dread, guilt, fear, envy or pain looming over my shoulder saying, “Hey chuckles, don’t be forgetting about us now.”
It’s like that moment after you’ve been dealing with a wicked migraine for what seems like forever and you suddenly realize that it’s gone. You’re reluctant to be hopeful because that next throbbing sledgehammer shot could be right around the corner and you know it. But you take a breath and open your eyes a little wider and the hammer blow never comes.
So you take another, and then another, and all remains well.
It’s a strange sensation to find myself in because it was both rather unexpected and a totally organic thing. I haven’t started taking any medication to combat my depression or anxiety yet and it’s not a matter of procrastination as much as I’m looking into a new doctor and haven’t gotten it all worked out yet.
Despite that, my brain somehow decided, in absentia of my own conscious say in the matter, to give me a bit of a break, and I appreciate it rather much.
It also got me thinking again about something that both concerns and bothers me.
There’s been a longstanding debate about not only what we as Americans should do to address the mental health epidemic in this country, but also whether or not things like Depression actually exists in the first place.
I read an op-ed in the New York Times this morning called, Psychology is Not in Crisis, following a report by University of Virginia about the inability to replicate the findings in most of 100 published psychological experiments. Their conclusion, of course, spurred an uproar which has been both simmering and boiling since the days of Jung and Freud.
On one side, you have the clinicians, doctors and theorists who have taken the time to learn about and examine the human brain, how we use it, what happens when something goes wrong inside it, and if or how it can be repaired.
On the other are those who believe the entire fields both psychology and neuroscience are completely incorrect. That they were conceived by witch doctors, snake oil salesmen and (and I’m not making this up) everything from aliens to the Nazis and the Illuminati as a means to confuse, subjugate and rob us blind.
One need look no further than Scientology to find a group of people who believe psychology is a sham run by megalomaniacal quacks, even though their own ideology of Thetans and “Going Clear” wilts drastically as well under equal scrutiny.
It’s a similar dichotomy that I’m finding in other avenues of American society. We seem to have become so polarized that we no longer care about the central issue, regardless of what it is.
All that counts at the end of the day is either I win or you lose and I’ve been on both sides of that, in various guises, throughout my life, but especially when it comes to determining whether or not I actually have Depression or if I am just some broken or otherwise mentally-deficient version of a human being.
The simple, unpleasant and at times unnerving reality is I, myself, do not know what is wrong with me. I can spitball ideas, offer conjecture, postulate hypotheses or theorize over a blog based on what I do know until I’m blue in the face and probably never get any closer to having a definitive answer…
…or I can walk into a session with my therapist and with her knowledge base to work from, maybe we can figure it out.
Conversely, I could’ve also walked into a church or a bar and asked them what they think and I’d have gotten a lot different feedback of which at least 10-25 percent may have been actually therapeutically sound.
The fact that I chose instead to see a therapist instead of a priest, brings an immediate reaction from some people, whereas the fact that I see someone at all, instead of just doing the whole “bootstrappin’ and soldiering on and talking about it in the open, because don’t I know what I’m opening myself up to by admitting I am not an absolutely pristine, super-special snowflake, which I should be falling over myself to post on every social media outlet in existence instead?” approach brings me an even higher level of scrutiny.
One would think that it didn’t really matter how I go about the task of feeling better, so long as at the end of the day, I actually feel better. But even that isn’t always acceptable for some people because it may leave them having to feel something about why and how I ended up feeling like this in the first place.
The even more insane thing is that my ability to hold myself accountable for the stupid or hurtful things I’ve done or said to those people, or perchance someone else, recognizing both the hows and the whys of said actions and the impact they had, even that is met with some level of scorn or indignity because it means, like it or not, that I’ve owned up to it.
I’ve taken the time to understand, empathize and reach both the rational and logical conclusion of being in the wrong. That leaves the other side of the issue to react, and especially nowadays, such a possibility for reconciliation is somehow seen as a defeat.
Except my goal was never to win, but to simply to seek atonement. In that situation, I gain more in both sides feeling as if something was accomplished rather than saying I got what I wanted and to hell with you maybe feeling short-changed.
What we’re left with, therefore, is a constant zero-sum game and both dealing with mental health, as well as life in general, is not and cannot be a constant zero-sum game.
There has to be some room for flexibility and accepted difference of approach to reaching the same goal, which is to simply be happy and have as good a life as you can manage. I make no bones about being an atheist, but I’m not out there smacking down people who opt for going to church every Sunday. If that’s what they need to get through the week without feeling like their world is crashing down around them, fine and good for them.
I don’t lose anything by their doing that any more than they lose nothing by my opting to sit down for 45 minutes with my therapist every month. At the end of the day, we both get what we want and need, which is just a little peace of mind and some reassurance that we’re going to be okay.
I know I can’t change people’s opinions, to say nothing of people, in general. It’s always going to be a case of perceived underlying motives or duplicitous actions because that’s how we as a culture have learned to read each other over decades of full-scale interpersonal warfare, all in the name of winning what is ultimately a zero-sum game.
Nobody wins if everybody loses. So, to paraphrase a fictional and rather obstinate Cold War supercomputer, perhaps the only winning move is not to play.