It’s All About Me

I went to bed the other night with joy in my heart.

My phone, and other devices I use, have immediate and unlimited access to millions of books. Books are my favorite things in the world. I always prefer things in book form over other forms. It’s not a contest—I love movies, music, and short stories, but books are my first and greatest love.

The joy I felt came from the vast piles of books I have not yet read. I will never run out of books.

The Joy Didn’t Last

I have spent the last 18 months depressed. I am in the deeps of it now, though some days are better than others. Don’t worry, I’m fine. I mean, this is part of being me. It happens. I say “I’m fine” because I’m not the kind of depressed that leads to self-harm. I always feel the need to say that, because I don’t want anybody to worry about me.

This particular bout of depression is notable not for its intensity but for its length.

What Kind of Depression Is It?

Two mornings a week, I don’t have to get up for work, so I sleep. I sleep 12 hours, maybe more. I have almost no appetite, yet I’ve gained every pound back that I had lost just before it started. I am disgusted by the very sight of myself.

This is not the largest I have ever been, but it sits differently than it did. Rather than distribute itself around my body, it now sits reliably in my abdomen. I feel more like Orson Welles than I ever have, because I resemble him more than I ever have.

Orson was exactly the same age as me when he recorded this interview in 1960.

 

He was big, brilliant, big. There are other huge differences between me and Orson, but it’s the similarities that plague me.

Enough about that. There’s more to depression than the physical features. There is a spiritual toll, too.

The things that brought reliable joy no longer do. I find it hard to motivate myself to do anything that doesn’t keep the lights on.

Work is something I still am able to do, enthusiastically, as I find a great respite in the reliability and challenge of work and it is only during the work day that I feel distant from the cloud that follows me. Sidebar: I’m reminded of the many stories about David Letterman and his intense self-punishment and loathing that he endured in every hour of the day that wasn’t spent at work.

Spurts of extra motivation go to cleaning. I’ve never been very messy, but I’ve also never been very clean. The litter box and the bathroom and the kitchen and the living room and the laundry all get cleaned regularly, and when those tasks are completed I reward myself by doing nothing. I’ve gotten very good at doing nothing.

I work, and then nothing. I don’t do anything.

I spend many nights nights on my phone, reading articles on Reddit and Twitter. I have friendships that go unattended, hobbies ignored, movies remain unwatched, tv shows unbinged.

Everybody talks about how great a show is, and, rarely, I might watch a few episodes. I watched the entirety of Squid Game, but I found myself entranced by the difference between the subtitles and the dubbing (I watch everything with subtitles on, because I’m much more annoyed by loudness than I am by closed captions).

I didn’t really even watch the show for the plot, which I found unremarkable, or the characters, which I found familiar, or the message, which I found pedantic. I watched one episode, the one with the glass bridge, in bursts. I fast forwarded through most of that episode. The drama and suspense of the game itself didn’t thrill me.

I don’t say that to brag. I don’t think it’s a good thing to watch a popular suspense/thriller show and ignore everything except the subtitles and the dubbing.

Breakthrough Happiness

When people who are being treated for depression and anxiety are stable and adequately treated, the brief bouts they get of their symptoms are called “breakthrough.” I have breakthrough happiness. It comes in brief blasts. It can come from many places, or, indeed, any place. My cat is a frequent source of joy. My family. My friends. The usual suspects. But it’s elusive.

I have felt lately that some of the fog is lifting, though I am reluctant to celebrate too early. Early signs are good that some of these struggles are becoming less struggl-y.

I wrote a bunch of new words for my second novel, which is almost done and needs only a great opening chapter (and then a great deal of editing, which I enjoy). That was impossible only a month ago.

I gained weight, yes, but I really just returned to the weight I was before. What is more alarming than the weight I gained was that I lost it in the first place. I was living under a different cloud then, one of anxiety. I was an anxious wreck. I didn’t eat. What was terrible for my happiness was great for my waistline. I would say it was good for my health except it most definitely was not. My current weight is bad for my health, too, and I have already made great strides to getting closer to where my body wants to be.

My life was extremely different when it was bad, and I am still trying to fix some of the things I broke. I fear that some of them never can be fixed at all, but that’s life.

I fully expect that the next edition of this newsletter will be about something other than me, because I’m frankly tired of myself. It took me weeks to write this newsletter, and I push publish with the relief of having finished something.

I direct you to the most recent League of Lensgrinders, where we discuss our depression specifically in the ways it intersects our creativity. We took most of 2021 off, but my friend Evelyn Pryce and my brother Robert Long Foreman are still excited about the League. It’s far too much fun for us to stop altogether. Frankly, I don’t think I could stop it if I wanted to.

I leave you with one of my favorite songs. I used to listen to this with my father, who is in my mind a lot lately. He’s still around, but, you know, getting old. Parents tend to do that, if you’re lucky.

7,512 thoughts on “A Touch Too Much Orson

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