Friday, April 15, 2011

"The Wind Will Rise, We Can Only Close The Shutters"

An episode of depression is often characterized by an utter lack of will to do anything. Let alone work, school and other such tasks, it becomes a humongous effort even to get out of bed, have a shower, and fix breakfast for oneself. Needless to say, everything suffers. Backlog of work piles up, people get upset with you for not taking their calls, for not returning their calls... And you cannot understand why you face so much resistance, from yourself, to pick up the phone and wish your friend on her birthday.

I find it very hard to do anything at all when I go through my phases of depression. It is like I am wading through a long stretch of greyness, surviving and getting spat out of which is a blessing enough. It almost feels too much to ask for to want to be productive, to push oneself to finish some tasks, to get up from that chair or bed to the bathroom to wash one's face, to open that file that needs to be looked into, to start writing that article you committed to. It is even harder not to hate yourself for being so dysfunctional periodically, for having gained a reputation for being flaky. I cannot insist enough that the most useless and unproductive thing to do is to blame yourself.

I am definitely not at my productive best when I go through these tunnels, but I have, in course of being committed (varying levels of commitment, I agree) to help myself cope with clinical depression, tried out different strategies. One of them is to work in collaboration with a friend or two. I keep at least two of my friends informed that I am slipping into a depressive episode, and that I am going to need a lot of push to be able to do even the simplest of things. I make a list of things I want to be able to do in that time, and I share it with a friend and ask her/him to push me to do them. I even ask them to force me to get out of the house for a walk, a concert, a visit to the temple. I tell them that what I am going through is not my often-touted "need for space," but, largely, an involuntary journey through long and dark tunnels.

One important thing to remember while implementing this is that you should be careful which friend you entrust this work to. It is good to pick someone who can be firm and loving, and who does not have a lot going on in her/ his life at that time. I try not to overload someone who already has enough on her plate. What is best, of course, is to work with someone who understands clinical depression, even goes through it, with yours and her depressive episodes staggered enough to allow you to work with each other.

I know how hard it can be. To get out of a phase of depression and find that your immediate world has moved ahead of you, that your deadlines, far from being dead, are now chasing you with great vengeance can all be very difficult to handle. That is why it helps to do what one can, even while smothered by the dark clouds, to push oneself to do some basic things. Besides all these, I do hope that you have a healthy attitude towards seeking professional help, to get the right medication prescribed.

A line from one of my favourite poems by the American poet Adrienne Rich comes to mind: "the wind will rise,/ We can only close the shutters."


Vrinda said...

I know this so well, Ani. Hugs.

Vrinda said...

Rilke on solitude:

"...But when you notice that it is vast, you
should be happy; for what (you should ask
yourself) would a solitude be that was not vast;
there is only one solitude, and it is vast, heavy,
difficult to bear, and almost everyone has hours
when he would gladly exchange it for any kind
of sociability, however trivial or cheap, for the
tiniest outward agreement with the first person
who comes along, the most unworthy. . . . But
perhaps these are the very hours during which
solitude grows; for its growing is painful as the
growing of boys and sad as the beginning of
spring. But that must not confuse you. What is
necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast
inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet
no one for hours — that is what you must be
able to attain. To be solitary as you were when
you were a child, when the grown-ups walked
around involved with matters that seemed large
and important because they looked so busy and
because you didn’t understand a thing about
what they were doing.."

December 23, 1903