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Monday, 19 January 2004

You do what you can, and you dump what you can't

Today I woke up not wanting to wake up. Ever.

I let the alarm go off at five in the morning, and let it continue to drone itself into exhaustion, emitting another screech every ten minutes till six forty-five.
It wasn't that I was tired - I'd gone to bed at half six the night before, figuring that lying awake staring through the window at the tree branches across the night sky was going to be more fruitful than pretending there was anything to be gained by sitting in the darkened front room listening to the reverberating echo of the neighbour's playstation game.
I just lay there, like ice, wondering if I'd ever get out of bed again. If I was ever going to go to work again. If anything would change if I didn't. Eventually I reasoned that it would be humane to tip a giant bag of cat food out in the kitchen and turn the bath taps on before going to bed and boring myself inescapably with my sheer me-ness, till death released me from the utter tedium of being myself.
I got up in the end, simply because if I stayed there, a social conscience would have forced me to contact a medical professional, for my own well being, and in the end it seemed less fuss just to give in and go along with the pretence that reality is still real. If you know what I mean. That any of the tedious stuff matters.

Don't get me wrong, I don't feel sad, or upset, and I'm not about to do anything stupid. I'm just incapable of doing anything at all. I eat things that I know will make me sick, for something to do. I sleep almost all the time. Really simple things seem beyond me. (I've washed the BNPSEA sweater about four times this week, because I keep failing to hang it up to dry.)
I like my job, and I'm good at it - one of the best. I even got a raise this week, for outstanding performance, for god's sake. But I can't summon up the empathy to care if I'm there or if I'm not.
That's new, because no matter how horrific or over-emotional things got over the last few months, I could always rely on the frantic pace of work to cheer me up and snap me out of it. To take me away from being me, and into a safer territory of being there for other people.

I wondered if it was the time of year - it's notoriously grim, grey and stern looking till March or April, here. Most people seem to have emerged from Christmas with gritted teeth and a spark of fire in their eye, as if it's going to take guts to get through it till Spring.
No doubt having to come face to face with Wickedex every single day, as she removes my things from the steadily emptying flat doesn't help. Each room is gradually being wiped clean of its personality and its resonance, until it stands bare and white, for me to echo in. I know for sure it's been utterly mind blowingly difficult for her, too. But that doesn't explain why I spend my weekend lying prostrated, teeth grinding slightly, refusing to move.
Then I wondered if sleeping all the time is itself a symptom of a depression. It's an easy way to hide. And I've been getting the stupidest most basic things wrong, lately. This morning, I forgot the way to work, got lost and missed the eight fifteen meeting. (The one I've missed every week since October, somehow.) I forgot the way.
I've worked at this place since 1994. If there's one thing I fear deep within my bones I will never ever forget, it's the way to Catford. It's beyond belief that I should look around me and not know where I am on this journey, but that's exactly what happened this dank and steely Monday morning.

So at the third meeting in a row after work, when I stupidly managed to inflict upon myself the worst paper cut in history - blood spurting everywhere, real thick gobbets of it, and all round my mouth too, because without a tissue or a plaster, I kept trying to lick it up - I decided to talk to my newly-minted boss, Peachykeenyboy, about all the extra work projects he's been ladling on me.
I told him about splitting up with my partner of nine year's standing last October, about not sleeping, then sleeping too much, and about having her here daily to sort my chaotic flat out to sell it, and trying to find another. I took care to say that the reason I was telling him this was not for pity but to set a context for my behaviour: catching so many bugs and colds, for being late with reports, and for forgetting things. That he might need to give me more reminders than other people this year. And that if he gave me extra work, on top of any reasonable expectations, he shouldn't be surprised if I didn't do it.
I pointed out that I didn't care if it didn't get done. I didn't care if he thought that was crap. That I thought they were stupid for ladling extra pressure consistently onto someone they knew was having a hard time at the moment. And I pointed out that I don't tend to tell people when things are getting too hard, I just push myself harder till I go under.
I mean, really, has that line ever worked on an employer? The truth line?
He thanked me for being honest, and gave me another job to do. I trudged out, carrying a pile of memos and folders, trying to remember the deadlines for this report, that poster, the other data collection. Dripping thick scarlet blood on his carpet. As I left, he pointed out that his life was difficult too. After all, he had a lot of highlighter stock to count up. Someone had stolen his coloured pens, he was convinced of it.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:25 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 19 January 2004 8:48 PM GMT
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Monday, 19 January 2004 - 8:46 PM GMT

Name: jatb

Um, yes, sleeping all the time is a sign of depression.
(Though I haven't been able to get up before 9:30 on any workday so far this year, so it might also be a particularly miserable January.) Have you considered seeing your doctor?

Monday, 19 January 2004 - 9:51 PM GMT

Name: em
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ditto forgetfulness. but i believe giving that moron boss of yours a good crack in the ear with a heavy book would do wonders.

Monday, 19 January 2004 - 9:56 PM GMT

Name: Kat
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Vanessa, it was a good idea to tell him, unfortunately it didn't help. My boss does a similar thing - he'll ask what's going on and no matter how short my answer is I can tell he doesn't really give two sh*ts.

Monday, 19 January 2004 - 10:20 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

He's about five years old, and trying his hardest to do empathy. I quite like him. He's just not what I need right now.

Monday, 19 January 2004 - 10:22 PM GMT

Name: Dave


Can you come and say that to my Professor Peachykeeny please? That's exactly what I've wanted to say to her for the last year - @#%$! it, three years minimum - only just now reading that did I realise what it was I wanted to say.

On the other hand, outside work I am OK, so am not comparing your non-work life to mine, but the words fit, so thanks.


Monday, 19 January 2004 - 11:28 PM GMT

Name: lemonpillows
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It's hard. Sleeping and forgetfulness are definitely symptoms of depression. As are general apathy and zombie-like states which can last for days. The fact that your 'safe space', the flat, is becoming more and more unlike the home you once knew, will only dampen your mood even more. Believe me, it can get better. This is not forever.
Very big pillowy hugs to you

Monday, 19 January 2004 - 11:39 PM GMT

Name: Swift
Home Page:

Vanessa, read this post, made me think of myself and how I get sometimes. Made me decide to write about it. If you want to check it out, it's Here Or just click on my homepage. It's titled 'Life'.


Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 12:26 AM GMT

Name: e
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It certainly sounds like a particularly self-aware type of depression- I don't think I'd expect you not to react intelligently even to this. Your sleep patterns are all over the place; you're probably not eating properly; you're upset; you're grieving; your boss is not Mr Sympathy (when are they ever?); your familiar things are fast disappearing around you. Who would not be depressed in the circumstances? You have lost focus bacause your brain is busy trying to sort everything out.
You have two choices (I've probably over-looked some):
1) Do nothing; stay depressed until your brain has finished processing all the changes and you emerge at the other end a happier, more tranquil Vanessa. Disadvantage: might take a long time, and your boss and friends might not be able to stay sympathetic that long.
2) Go to the quack and get medicated. Disadvantages: you'll be accepting outside help, which might seem hard at the moment; also trying to stop taking them later can be a pain.
3) (see, I told you I'd overlook something) Force yourself back to good humour, by setting small, achievable targets every day: it will force some focus back in your life. eg resolve to go to bed at, say 11 (pm!) every day and stick to it no matter what. Force yourself to find the good in something or someone every day, at least once (read Pollyanna if you have to). You have a big advantage if you attempt this, of being able to be relatively objective and to cast a sanguine eye on things- at least that's how you come across.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do, and keep writing; I have a feeling it is your therapy.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 12:51 AM GMT

Name: cacoa

yeah sleeping too much must be a sign of depression. You get to hide, and not face anything. I'm doing it to. You sound like you've really been through the mill, i won't offer advice because i frankly haven't got a clue..*hugs*

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 1:03 AM GMT

Name: The Hard Artist
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I dunno... I'm depressed as hell and I can't sleep at all. Hang in there. We all seem to have to.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 3:35 AM GMT

Name: The Rev
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When I was 16 I was in a community theatre production of 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' and it ruined me for the next few years. Imagine spending week after week reading, rehursing, singing, dancing, and basically BEING Charlie Brown. It absolutely destroyed my self-esteem, because at that point in my life I was all about BECOMING the character (an interesting side note: I ended up with the biggest crush on the girl who played Peppermint Pattie - a character not in the script but added by the director along with some additional scenes. Of course, that never worked out and she ended up with, alternately, the guy who played Snoopy and then the guy who played PigPen). Singing lyrics like "Oh whyyyyyyy was I born just to beeeee... one small person as thoroughly, totally, utterly blah... as meeeeee" has an effect on a guy after awhile.
Anyhow, the reason I bring this all up is that after the opening number, good old Charlie Brown has this monologue that begins with:
"I wonder if anyone would notice if I never got out of bed..."

The moral of story.... yes.
So, where was I going with this? I don't exactly know as I seem to have lost my way here in the midst of these ramblings. Oh, right... yes, sleeping a lot or too much for a reason of escape IS a sign of depression. Toss in a sprinkle of the relationship ending, a hefty helping of winter dreariness, a dash of too much work, and a boss that sounds like an 'Office Space' reject, and you get one very worn out and emotionally drained Vanessa.
I'd say drink, but you ended that outlet. My only other suggestion is to find an old lady and trip her. Or drive by a church and scream, "GIVE US BARRABUS!" on a Sunday morning. There are no easy answers, truth be told, but that fire in the eye, that grim determination, and the unflappable will to see the end of winter, the completion of the move, and the dreaded highlighter stock count are the only things you have to rely on.
And if it gets to be too much, you can always give your fingers matching gaping paper cuts and then twirl about his office like some deranged lawn sprinkler while laugh merrily.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 5:42 AM GMT

Name: emma
Home Page:

yes, sleeping all the time is definitely a sign.

having battled depression, mild to more severe for several years, i feel for you. find a professional to talk to. if you don't like the first one (my first asked if i talked to teddybears and thought that they were real when i was a kid... ahem... and basically didn't get me at all.) try another. talk to friends and more importantly just spend time with friends. and stick to the little things that usually bring you enjoyment, even if they don't at the moment. hang in there, i hope you feel better soon!

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 2:19 PM GMT

Name: sarah

I vote you steal your bosses medication, it sounds like fun. No! Better idea: steal your bosses medication, and put it in some coffee for Wickedex.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 3:28 PM GMT

Name: Joe

I know that feeling all too well, not wanting to wake up. I have to prepare for a funeral, my best friend was killed Sunday in a car accident. Anyway sorry to be depressing.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 4:51 PM GMT

Name: Francesca
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What lemonpillows said... seconded.

It gets better. Eventually. I promise.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 5:47 PM GMT

Name: Legomen
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I can't add anything meaningful to what's been said already. Only to say that like all things in life, whether you deal with it yourself or whether you get help (and to be honest both can work fine) it takes a bit of time. You need a bit of perseverance, a bit of two steps forward, one back but eventually you will get there if you want to. The big thing is taking the first step and getting a bit of momentum.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 7:36 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oh cripes, and there's me whingeing because I feel vacant. Sorry to hear that, Joe.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 8:19 PM GMT

Name: tess
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Don't feel bad for complaining Vanessa, depression doesn't need a reason!

Sorry to hear about your loss Joe.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 8:43 PM GMT

Name: Cyn
Home Page:

Can't add a thing to the thoughtful responses that you've gotten here.

My life is enriched by your writing (by you).
Please continue to wake up.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 10:29 PM GMT

Name: Dick Jones
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Nothing to add in the way of advice - there's a shed-load here, some of it perceptive & on the nail, all of it caring. I would merely make the observation that your passionate & eloquent post & the nature & quality of the responses it provoked add up to an absolute confirmation of what is best about blogging. This isn't CB radio, text-babble or instant messaging: it's intelligent, articulate people talking from hearts & minds.

May the clouds lift soon...

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 5:35 AM GMT

Name: Lux

this was a beautiful post. i'm sorry you're suffering.

take care.

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