The Boring Side of Mental Stability

I have to admit, I’ve been on a good streak lately. No major ups or downs, staying (mostly) on my meds, and sleeping well at night, I’ve managed to get my second YA book published (released a few weeks ago), and I’m doing well at work and at home. No drama, no fights, no arguments – except maybe about those seedlings I promised to report and haven’t got around to you – life is good. I feel stable and well-adjusted, and even interviewing for a new position at work isn’t getting me overly stressed.

I also feel incredibly boring.

Not bored (although that’s a side-effect) – boring. I feel like I have nothing exciting about me to talk about, write about, blog about, or otherwise share with the world. Years ago when I started this blog, I was wildly unmedicated, and whilst it was incredibly unhealthy for me mentally – for my relationships as well – it gave me plenty of fodder for writing. It led to The Redemption of Erâth, in the sense that I wanted to write an allegorical tale about mental illness and depression, and it let to hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts, some of which garnered a fair amount of attention (one on mental illness was featured on WordPress’s front page).

But now, I just can’t feeling like day after day comes and goes without drama or excitement. I wake up, drink my coffee, go to work, come home, eat my peas, and settle into a routine that is far more midlife than crisis.

I don’t even find myself having particularly strong opinions on things that I otherwise would have had plenty to say about – mental health, racism, gun violence, or the blandness of most pistachio ice cream. It’s all just a blur of uninteresting blah, the world spinning rapidly around me while I just watch, idly interested but without significant input.

Of course, a lot has changed in the past almost-ten years since I started writing about things. Instead of dreaming about writing, I went and actually wrote three fantasy novels and two YA books, got them published, got them into readers’ hands, and learned from the process about what people like to read, and what they don’t. I’ve changed, too; I’m stably medicated, and despite dropping off from time to time (periods where I become more … interesting, at least), I haven’t felt like I’ve had a significant wagon-fall in almost eight months, if not longer.

The funny thing is that it leads to me feeling very dispassionate about life, even to the point of sometimes – sometimes – wishing I was a little less stable, and a little more crazy. It’s not that I necessarily enjoy feeling depressed and miserable, or in the throes of a manic fugue of whirlwind creativity, but at the very least it makes the days pass quicker, and gives me fuel for writing. I mean, look at this blog – my last post was almost a month ago, and the one before that was even longer ago. I used to write 2-3 posts a week!

And I want to continue being creative, and writing, and thinking of things to do; I really do. But I’m not willing to sacrifice my mental health and stability for it, nor my relationships at home and at work. A couple years ago I was calling out of work weekly because of the severity of my depression; now I look forward to being at work and the challenges each day brings. When I’m off my meds, I turn into a rage-monster, constantly fighting and arguing with my wife over the most trivial of things; now I feel like we’re actually able to get along like, well, you know – a married couple.

It’s frustrating, because I typically see myself as an inherently creative individual. But with no inspiration from strong feelings about things, I find myself with very little to create. My first YA novel about depression and self-harm was largely fueled by my own teenage years and the life I lived into my early twenties; my second, largely based on my love for music. The Redemption of Erâth, as I mentioned above, was all about describing depression in a fantastical setting. Now, I just feel like I’m … running out of creative juices.

So while I come here to WordPress from time to time with all the intention of keeping up with this blog, more often than not I find I just … don’t have anything to say. Even here, we have an 800-word post about how I can’t think of anything to write! I feel bad for seemingly abandoning the world I created, and I don’t really think of it as such, but if I’m absent more frequently these days, know it’s because I’m doing well, rather than the opposite.

So here’s to many more years of blogging, whether it’s every day, every week, or a couple times a year; fear not, for I will always return.

It’s Funny How Time Slips By

I had the strangest sensation earlier (it might have been the hallucination of a pre-wake dream) that April was almost over, and we were barreling toward September. A kind of grand perspective of the year, a notion that with four months down, it really isn’t that far until most of the year is gone, and then not much further until all of it is. And in that thought, it occurred to me that the year is really only made up of days, and it doesn’t take much for a day to go by without consequence – so that by extension, the rest of the year can go by without us really even being aware of it.

Time is a strange beast, gnawing away daily at our lives until there’s nothing left. Even into the minutes that make up the day, they can pass like treacle – so slow that you hardly notice, and it seems an endless moment until something else happens – or they can fly by like the Flash circling Superman. For example, I woke up around 8 AM this morning, and I didn’t have to leave for work until around 11:15 AM. That’s a lot of time to do stuff – theoretically. Here’s how my morning played out:

  • 8 AM – 9 AM: Lie with the cat.
  • 9 AM – 9:15 AM: Have coffee.
  • 9:15 AM – 10:30 AM: Nap.
  • 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM: Write this post.

And trust me, I almost didn’t write this post – mainly because I couldn’t think of what to write. I was lying in bed, cozy and warm under the covers but wide awake, and thinking to myself: What on earth should I do now? It was one of those moments where it felt like I had all the time in the world, and nothing to do with it.

But the scary part about that is that the attitude of “there’s plenty of time” is also what leads to lost time. A kind of procrastinator’s curse, if you will. It’s one thing if you put off until tomorrow in order to get something else done, but when you put off something in order to get nothing done, not only does it feel like you’ve wasted your time, but it also feels as though you’re wasting your future time, knowing that you’ll now have to do something when you might not really have the time to do it.

For what it’s worth, I’m not saying that having a warm, cozy morning nap is a waste of time; sometimes it’s exactly what you need. I’m no stranger to self-care, and dealing with mental illness most of my life has taught me that I really do need that ‘me-time’ – at least from time to time. But this morning was different; I wasn’t feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, or really anything negative at all. Instead, I think what happened is I fell into a routine, a habit that has spawned out of the need for sleep and self-care, which led me to, if not ‘waste’ time, at least not use it productively. I could have done any number of things this morning, and I actually would have felt like doing them. But I didn’t.

This sort of philosophy, this kind of behavior that I know I fall prey to really quite frequently, I think, is why I feel like time is slipping away. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how many months – perhaps even years – of my life I could have back had I not spent them sleeping, or moping, or feeling like there was no point doing anything. Not that any of that was really under my control – depression is a real villain, sometimes – but it makes me wonder if, for example, The Redemption of Erâth would be complete by now if I was some other person. Or perhaps I would be further ahead in my career at work.

All of it amounts to the thought that my life is really very limited, and having lived through a decent chunk of it already – all of which is time I’ll never get back – I worry that there isn’t enough of it left. I mean, I could die tomorrow, of course, but assuming nothing untoward happens to me, I still only have maybe four or five decades left. Which, right now, sounds like a lot. But I know me, and I know that I’m going to wake up one day and find that I’m actually old, and that I’ve wasted my life.

Maybe this is all coming across as a kind of midlife crisis rant, and perhaps that’s exactly what it is. I’m certainly not here to commit to ‘doing better’, or not wasting my life anymore, but at the same time, I’m very conscious that every day that goes by without an accomplishment – however small – is a day I’ll never get back.

So here’s my accomplishment for today: I wrote this post. Perhaps no one will read it, but if you do, let me know what you think about life, and time, and whether sleeping the day away counts as a waste. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Little Exhaustions

meh
/me,me,me/

INFORMAL

exclamation
expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm.

Oxford Languages

The above is a great word to express an utter lack of greatness. A wonderful phrase, implying a complete absence of wonder. Perfect, in other words, for describing how I so often feel.

Do you ever feel like there are so many things to do in the world, if only you had the energy? Do you ever think to yourself that you might like to go for a hike, or write a song, only the draw of TV or a warm, comfortable bed is just too great? Or maybe you just feel like you need to get off the couch, but your cat won’t move off your lap.

I was talking to my therapist the other day, and of course at the start of each session she asks how I’m feeling. Every time I smile and say ‘fine’, even though it’s far from true (and she knows it). We do of course end up discussing how I’m really feeling, but to begin with there’s almost this sense of denial about that fact that, most days, I struggle to find the enthusiasm to simply get up. It’s strange, because if I was outright depressed I might be able to admit it, and if I was riding high on a bipolar manic phase I’d know it, but somehow the largely flat, emotionless in-between is much harder to admit – even to myself.

It feels like a constant struggle against little exhaustions, an endless stream of tiny efforts that, compounded one on top of the other, make life an overwhelming, unscalable mountain with no reward at the top. And yet you still get up in the morning, put your pants on one leg at a time, brush your teeth and go to work, even though you don’t know why you do it or what the point of all of it is. Like climbing that aforementioned mountain, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, minute after minute and day after day, without looking up because you don’t want to know how much further there is to go.

And what, really, is the point of it all? What happens when you get to the top of the mountain? Is is a false peak, another even higher summit to get to afterwards? Or is that just it – the end?

I was thinking the other day about this, and contemplating the idea that, if you knew when you were going to die, you might live your life differently. You might write that song, or take that hike, because each day that goes by wasted is another day closer to your end and you won’t ever get it back. The funny thing is that, even when you look at life this way – that every day gone by is a missed opportunity – it doesn’t seem to change how you feel. It doesn’t change the sense of exhaustion from all the little things that build up, pile up, collect in the dust, and end up never getting done.

I suppose, at the end of it all, you only have so much time in the world, and of course you’ll never really know when it’s all going to be over. And life itself is really just about getting through it, doing stuff, because otherwise you might as well just die now. And whether you write a song, go for a hike, or simply do the damn dishes, in the end, it’s really all the same. One day you’ll be long gone and forgotten, dust in the wind, and life isn’t about what you have to show for it at the end of it – it’s about what you experienced for yourself while you were alive.

And really, life is pretty ‘meh’. Most of it goes by in a blur, each day the same as the last, with no distinction between what was and what wasn’t wasted time. So maybe the way to feel better about it is to think not ‘what did I do’, but ‘how did I feel’. And even if you don’t have control over those feelings, the truth is that in a world of shit and lies, ‘meh’ isn’t really all that bad. It could be worse. And of course it could be better.

So if I felt ‘meh’ today, that’s fine. If I feel ‘meh’ on my last day on earth, I’m okay with that. I don’t have to be enthusiastic about everything – I can’t be. It’s exhausting. But I know I’m not going to be depressed all the time either, and that makes me feel better, too.

Meh.