Depression is ferocious.
It went from not being there on Monday to a raging rash by Tuesday evening. Yes, I’m taking my vitamin D and anti-depressants as I always do. I haven’t left the apartment since the meeting with my supervisor on Tuesday evening, wherein I was already feeling the slide.
What’s troublesome about this is the pickle of not being to ascertain why it happened — and why now. By writing, I’m trying to talk my way through this to see what I might have missed.
That I’m listening to seldom-heard music right now probably helps a little. It is, after all, one of the three great dopamine triggers alongside food and sex. I tend to only experience two of those.
The realization that I am moving back to Toronto in March should come with a great sense of relief and joy. But it isn’t. Not yet. I still haven’t found a place yet, which can be mildly annoying. Atop this, I feel that exhaustion which sleep cannot really stab.
No. I sense an incompleteness, a lack of resolution, stemming from the sense that I did not get what I wanted from McGill — that is, a momentum of, on balance, good pedagogy on calibre with what I generally experienced at the UofT. Yes, almost every year, there was that one prof or course which was hell on earth and sometimes necessitated dropping or withdrawing. But the quality between the two competing institutions is indisputable: I went from good instruction to institutional laziness. It’s not the kind of thing McGill administration are ever interested in hearing.
The stress of preparing for, tossing out, packing, and finding a new place to live might partly be the cause for stress that might have pushed into a mild depressive episode. Over the last three days of hermitage, I have gone through and tossed out three garbage bags worth of paperwork I either no longer need, no longer see the need for, or have an unnecessary surplus.
This basically meant tossing out tax records between 1988 and 2004 (they say you really only need to hold onto the last seven years anyway); tossing out old client paperwork from a career I no longer pursue; tossing out most of Minnesota detritus (was I holding onto this stuff, such as the human rights lawsuit, for sake of fuzzy-warm memory?</pure_sarcasm> if so, why? do i need any reminder?); and duplicate copies of my old portfolio samples, which in some cases numbered in the hundred or so.
The stuff I’d saved all this time wasn’t spectacular by any stretch, and in hindsight it is a lot clearer to understand what creative directors didn’t see in me. I didn’t know any better, and I had rent to pay. I guess this means I move on. But really: the results were truly crappy. Then again, with these 2011 eyes, very little by anyone out there is able to impress me with graphic design. I feel like I’ve seen it all.
Of course, as anyone who has gone through their old stuff knows quite well, memories are dredged up — good, bad, and lots of ugly. It’s like playing about in the organic muck along a brackish water line; sometimes, dredging through the black mud releases little pockets of foul-smelling gas — methane, hydrogen sulphide, a bunch of other junk — which has been festering and building up slowly.
Going through paperwork and material items is basically just that. In lieu of nasty odours, you get these little pangs of cognitive distress from unpleasant memory. It happens this way every time I prepare for a move. This was less so last time, since I indiscriminately shoved things into boxes in my hurried move to Montréal (I was resistant to the idea of leaving Toronto — considering how hard I’d clung to the goal of moving there in the first place, my resistance comes not at all as a shock).
Realistically, I shouldn’t be wasting time on this right now. I suppose I could have left things be for the move, since I won’t really have much more time beyond this to go through things. I’ve already made the first-for-me tough decision of not handling the move myself, partly a function of available time and mostly because my body cannot handle it this time. Although I’m recovered from the accident, I knew that it had left me changed. Up until now, I couldn’t describe how. But as I look at what I carried and later assembled when I moved here — which was already getting harder then — I realize that the body I have now can no longer deal with it. This must be ageing.
I was reminded of this on Monday when I fell from a staircase and crash-landed hands out with forehead striking the wall. It was only a couple of steps, but it was enough to cause me to go flailing. I’ve been nursing a screwed-up right shoulder since then. It feels like my left shoulder from two winters ago when I had to dodge a drunk guy indiscriminately stumbling out of the James Joyce. I was riding (very slowly and casually, I might add) on black ice when this happened, and in falling, tore my rotator cuff (as later verified by ultrasound). Short of surgery, these tears are permanent.
Throughout this exercise, though, I get to remind myself what I almost always do when I move away (the moves to Everett and Toronto excepted): that I am still by myself. Sometimes it’s solitude, while other times it’s lonely and even downright isolating. I’ll be 38 this year. It’s creepy, depressing, and mortally sobering. That I’m this old — the age my mother was when I ran away from home in 1989 — and still not with anyone is testament to what I intuitively knew years and years ago: that I will be alone for a long, long time to come.
It’s not a question of whether I want it or not. Rather, it’s a matter of how well I can live a life on my own for as long as I independently can. There won’t be a Mme. Right. I am incompatible with every trope.
There will come a time — hopefully not for quite a while — when I won’t be able to do this anymore. I am sort of mortified by that ignominious prospect. What’s really more unpleasant about this is knowing that I can take care of myself for now, but I also want to be there for someone else through the tough and the hopeful, the frightening and the joyous. I do have that capacity. It will not, however, be part of my future.
And as if this isn’t all on my mind, there’s also the sober reminder that I’m an academic hack. There is nothing about me, despite what Taleen insists, which hints at my being a scholar. I’m apparently “intellectually lazy” or whatever it was my semiotics prof once accused me of. If I knew that I could dive headfirst into my research without constantly worrying about how to pay for my month to month living expenses, I’d so be there. That isn’t likely to be solved.
It doesn’t help that everything I want to research now is of little to no interest for anybody else. I do not have the intellectual capacity to write one of those paradigm-breaking theses which provokes years of critical discourse. I mean, I know I’d have fun for a long, long time to come to be able to bury myself in archives and libraries, writing with some semblance of quality and reputability, even if it is quite dull. But I don’t see that in the cards — which is to say that my one planned year away from university from fall 2011 might end up being permanent, not some return to doctoral work as I really want.
Perhaps the ending of a creative medium I was coming to really enjoy and use as my palette — Kodachrome emulsion — informs why I slipped on Tuesday. It was a stunner to hear that the last lab in Kansas had just run through its last roll. It’s not the loss of a film or some legend. It was a medium through which I had come to see the world, using it to capture light with any kind of camera, whether cheap and plasticky or my tank of a Nikon F4s. I don’t know what to use now.
I don’t know. All I know is that I hate depression, and I wish it would die. It reminds me of my own irrelevancy.