When It All Comes Crashing Down

Do you ever have those moments in life where everything seems to come crashing down at once? When both your internal and external world just seem to fail you, and you’re left reeling in the void with nothing to grasp, no frame of reference to center you, and suddenly it seems like you’re free-falling into the pits of despair?

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

I feel that way right now, for a number of reasons, both – as I mentioned above – internal and external. On the personal side, I’m feeling a little let down and disappointed; without going into too much detail, I’d been building myself up for a social event that didn’t turn out the way I expected, and it’s left me feeling depressed and lonely. As I forced myself to put away the drinks and snacks that no one touched, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of it all is; why people put so much effort into things that others just … just really don’t care that much about.

The same could be said of so many things in my life; I pour my blood, sweat and tears into writing stories that no one reads, and those that do often don’t even like. I slave away at my day job, and wonder at the end of each day who would miss me if I just didn’t show up the next. So often I just exist, day-to-day, and I’m left wondering why I bother.

I feel hurt, and disillusioned. And the stresses pile up on top of that. The other day my son was in a car accident (no major injuries, thank goodness), but the stress of dealing with insurance, and repairs, and quotes … I can’t face it. I have a call to make for this that I’ve been postponing for four days. I don’t know where the money’s going to come from if the insurance doesn’t pay out, or what’s going to happen to our premiums.

And then there’s the world, and everything that’s wrong with it.

I’ve spent this entire past week in a vapid stupor, sleeping most of each day away in bed or on the couch, not getting anything done that I wanted or hoped to. It’s been a week off from work – a vacation that didn’t pan out – and I’ve completely squandered it. I go back to work tomorrow, and I don’t want to do that, either.

I was talking to my wife about it, and she sort of threw her hands up and said she’s done all she can. She tried to tell me I should approach it differently, with a different mindset … which feels like the worst advice you can possibly give someone who’s depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, but I don’t think she really understands depression – at least, not the kind I suffer from – and thinks it’s all quite selfish. She said that even when she’s been horribly depressed she never stopped being considerate for others, and it helped bring her out of it.

There is no ”coming out of it”. It doesn’t work like that. Depression literally is a mindset. It’s how you think, not something external that afflicts you – not something that can be cured with the right drugs or therapy. The meds help, certainly – but they’re not the answer. For over twenty years I’ve never been able to explain this to her. The only way for me to come out of this depression is for it to run its natural course, and what I need is not help – I don’t need a fix – I need support to weather it. I need empathy, not sympathy, and I need someone to understand that right now, I’m hurting.

Sometimes I wish people could understand. I wish they could realize that what I need is someone to validate me, to say it’s okay to be depressed, it’s okay to get nothing done for a week or two. Someone to tell me that I’m not worth less because I don’t do things. I feel like sometimes my worth is only ever measured in what I’m able to produce – whether for work, or at home, or in my creative endeavors – and if I don’t – or can’t – produce, then I’m essentially worthless.

And it doesn’t help to tell myself these things, because of course I don’t believe myself. I feel like a fraud, full of shit and lazy – a mentality indoctrinated into me from a very young age.

So here I sit, miserable and depressed, with no one around to tell me it’s going to be okay. And at the end of it all, I know I’ll probably be fine, but it doesn’t help to get through it in the moment.

Damn, I hate myself.

Tales of Despair: Metamorphosis


School has a way of taking beautiful works of art and literature and turning them into the most abysmal, monotonous and over-analyzed trite. I was very glad to have read To Kill a Mockingbird long before high school, because it most certainly would have ruined for me. The same is true of The Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men; thanks to my mother’s literary promiscuity (now that doesn’t sound good, does it?), I was exposed to a great canon of wonderful books at a young age, long before school was able to ruin them for me. Some were unsalvageable; I can’t see Macbeth without my mind involuntarily calling up hours of drudgery, trying to find the social implications of the blood on Lady Macbeth’s hands.

One that I barely escaped with was Franz Kafka‘s bizarre tragedy, The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung). I discovered it in the school library one day, after someone had suggested it as a great example of existentialism. I’m not to convinced of this anymore, but at the time existentialism was one step away from nihilism, and I was sorts of crazy.

The Metamorphosis is only short, and is very nearly a study in fictional writing taken to an extreme. The best fiction is that which is almost real – introducing a single fantastical element, and watching the fallout. Such is the case when traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up as a giant insect. This is, in a way, the only fiction in the tale; the rest is reactionary.

Imagine being that insect; there is nothing tying you to the reality you knew only the night before; your very body has betrayed you, you are unable to control your movements, and your voice is unrecognizable. Your family, those closest to you, are disgusted by your appearance. Your father wishes you dead, your mother pretends you aren’t there, and only your sister – your closest friend – has even the courage to throw table scraps into the room.

Gregor begins to hide under furniture, all the while desperately clinging to his humanity. His family, seeing his grotesque form, are unaware that he is still able to hear and understand their every word…even when they discuss his own demise.

And eventually, of course, the tale ends; as befits a cockroach, Gregor eventually crawls under a couch, and dies.

Kafka had the strength of will to push his story to its final, logical conclusion; so often remiss in modern fiction, he realized the nature of Gregor’s metamorphosis, and the importance of its permanence. The great changes in life are undoable – both the good, and the bad. Many of us, I’m sure, have at times felt as though we are that insect; deviant, shunned, unwanted and loathed, a burden on those closest to us. And in this, Kafka doesn’t shy away in asking: are we all merely looking for that couch to crawl under?