Am I Depressed?

That title isn’t really a question; it’s a joke. See there’s this guy, or there was this guy maybe, named Dan Ashwander, who was pretty, well, nuts, and he wrote this book called, Am I Insane? So I made the title of this blog post, “Am I Depressed?”. Funny.

Actually it is kind-of a question. I don’t know what it means to be “depressed.” other than the colloquial “gee I’m depressed because my sandwich got wet.” I’m sure that real depressed people who are unfortunate enough to land here probably think I’m a total poser. My apologies, really. My apologies also to anybody who’s wondering why, like the rest of the American population, I don’t go see a doctor who’ll tell me whether I’m depressed or not and send me on my way with a sack of pills appropriate to either answer. That’s not the kind of thing I ever imagined myself doing back when I wasn’t wondering whether I’m depressed, and I still have this quaint, feeble idea that clinging to that conviction gives me some connection to my ordinary sane self.

The chronic feeling that there’s a hedgehog inside my chest is so familiar now that I’m startled every now and then when it temporarily abates. When that feeling is strong I literally cannot eat, so of course the consequent lack of bodily nutrients only makes everything worse. My powers of rationalization and self-policing are all haywire, and I have periodically realized that the “good sense” I’ve been repeating to myself is completely wrong. That makes the hedgehog happy, of course, but it’s really starting to piss me off. Now I’m typing this, and I know that what I’m doing is burdening various nice people with having to think about me and this stupid rodent.

I have this sophomoric concept of the “meaning of everything.” I figure that the universe is just here, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Yet here I am, thinking, “Here I am,” and thinking about thinking, “Here I am.” Thus maybe those things go together: the universe is here to be thought about by creatures sitting there thinking, “Here I am.”

I asked Pat one day, “Pat if a big tree fell down in a forest, and there were no people or creatures near enough to hear it, would it make any noise?”

“Probably not,” was his immediate answer. That, I felt, strongly supported my theory. The universe needs me to think about it. It struck me back a while ago, while listening to a lecture about dromaeosaur taxonomy, that during the Mesozoic the Earth was covered with millions and millions of creatures running around gnawing on plants and eating each other, and yet none of them, nobody anywhere, was thinking about that reality, or thinking, “Here I am.” How did the world manage to exist? Day after day, year after year, like a model train setup in a store window, just existing without awareness. Well, I “reasoned,” maybe it works for there to be creatures somewhere, anywhere, thinking, “Here I am,” and thinking about thinking, “Here I am.” Maybe that makes things work out for the universe as a whole. Indeed, maybe me thinking now about the poor lonely Mesozoic is what made the Mesozoic exist.

Therefore, we have this obligation (so my infantile philosophy goes) to keep things rolling by thinking, “Here I am,” and by thinking about thinking, “Here I am.” It’s consequently important to be supportive and charitable to all those other people who need to be thinking, “Here I am” – my kids, wife, friends, and ultimately everybody. I now find myself in this situation where I’ve dropped the ball and kicked it into the neighbor’s yard. I’m leaning on kind normal people, hell virtually slobbering on them, stepping on their feet as I emotionally stagger around, and I have no business being such a mess. It’s totally unreasonable and horribly embarrassing. I know objectively that I’m not a super-being, impervious to mental maladies, but honestly it’s humiliating. Of course, feeling humiliated and weak doesn’t help my overall outlook.

OK so I don’t know where I’m going with this. The rodent is still there. I’m getting better at keeping a grip on things, and filtering out wildly inappropriate self-advice, but it takes a lot of energy and I can’t keep it up all day. I’ve never responded to stress this badly. I think the best I can do for now is sincerely apologize to the people who seem so inexplicably willing to put up with me. This really has got to stop, so please believe me when I say that I’m putting everything I can into snapping out of this funk, and I vow to make it up to everybody somehow eventually.

I should note in closing, as I proofread, that it’s extremely important to me that nobody take this too seriously. My innate fear of pain is a giant bulwark of strength, regardless of anything else going on in my head, so it’s absolutely not the case that I’m in danger of damaging myself. I’ll get better.

6,674 Responses to “Am I Depressed?”