I’ve started to talk about it.
I mean, the mask was slipping anyway; I have some very astute friends and I can’t avoid them all indefinitely. But still, talking about how I feel with others – as opposed to the continual private rehearsal of my wish to disappear like some perverse mantra – feels like an important step.
Today I let myself cry on a friend’s shoulder. It was, I think, the best thing I could have done in the circumstances. I’d got into a spiral of anxiety and shame because I thought I was a lousy academic. Then, in an effort to make my problems go away, I’d started acting in a way that was at best childish and stupid and at worst morally reprehensible.* Then, of course, I got even more anxious and ashamed because now I had proof positive that I was a lousy academic. Rinse, repeat, and think of...
Fortunately, my friend had a few minutes. Even more fortunately, he is a truly excellent human being.
You’re not shit, he said. This work is hard. You do… know that?
Whoops. It hadn’t occurred to me to think of it that way.
Half an hour later I’m working reasonably effectively on my problem. Two hours later, it’s time to go home and I can do that without panic. I’m going to meet another friend for dinner.
This time I’m feeling even braver. Also, we’re not at work. I spare him the messy details but I do manage the words “I’ve been depressed for a while.” Damn, it’s a relief. There’s the warmth of sympathy without the distance of pity. There’s concern, but no scramble to fix me immediately. He is just there with me. I feel profoundly grateful not to be doing this alone. And even a little bit hopeful.
It is about six hours since I played my game.
*Another label for what I was doing is, of course, ‘human’.