31 July, 2011

Mental Hygiene

I suffer from depression. Is it a condition of my ideas, or a condition of my body? I like to think of it as one of the flesh. I like to think this because I do not tolerate mental suffering well. I like to push it away and think happier thoughts. The condition of my body is fat, strong, healthy, and in many way glorious. But I do not have a lot of endurance with things that I find difficult, and I may have an upper limit on the things I can engage in per day that is VASTLY LOWER than what “you” can handle.

Participation costs usually are more effort that I’ve got to spare. If I go ahead and throw myself into something carelessly, without adding up the effort involved, sometimes I will run out and stop moving and start crying. It’s not really an emotional outburst--I haven’t been hurt by something someone said (though harsh words can be painful). Ten minutes or an hour later, rest alone will have restored me to some level of function, and I can go on, but if I pick up at the same level of effort I will crash again soon. If I take it down a couple of notches, I can party on, if everyone around me will just let it go and forgive and forget me breaking down into tears like a giant baby. (This is not what everyone around me will do.)

Instead of jumping in, these days I like to evaluate the participation costs (steps involved. effort needed. probability of tears.) very carefully. A lot of people, if they have any compassion for me, feel sorry for me. I try not to, because sorry doesn’t help, and instead of just doing the best I can, then I do a little LESS, and feel miserable. 

This is good mental hygiene, but it is not honesty. 

It is not truth. It is putting on a happy face. By capping off the feelings of frustration and despair, It’s not just capping off bad feelings. It is an effective tool for getting a bit more accomplished in a day. And where brushing my teeth and washing my feet with soap are things that have been a lifelong struggle, every little bit fucking matters. But the things that are getting pushed away along with the bad feelings are often wonderful fountains of inspiration and joy and stuff I am sort of really excited about being part of my mental landscape. I just don’t know where I’m going to fit them in if I drop any of my productivity to deal with bad feelings.

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