I woke up cold, in a little pain, and more than a little cranky. It’s dark outside, there’s a lot of wind and rain, and I didn’t want to get out of bed.
These are triggers for depression in almost any human being, but my brain still sometimes has a tendency to take the excuse of such triggers and double down on the resultant feelings.
This morning, because I also slept late — on a Sunday before a Monday off — I started to beat myself up a bit.
The dog had gotten into the trash. Because I hadn’t taken out the trash when it was full.
Not her fault. Annoying, but not a big deal. Still, instead of making a note to take the trash out sooner next time, I turned the annoyance on myself.
Why didn’t you take out the trash sooner this time?
I ambled to the kitchen to make tea. We’re almost out of tea.
Why didn’t you get more tea?
Yet there is still tea enough for a few days. Then the cat started yelling for food. She does this whenever she is awake. And she had a late dinner last night, so it really wasn’t much of a problem that she was going to be eating a late breakfast today.
You don’t take good enough care of the cat.
I made tea. There was only one clean mug, and I usually make tea for myself and my wife. These things often happen after a busy week working and art-making in New York City.
Why didn’t you do the dishes? You’re dirty. You’re a dirty garbage-person.
I cleaned a mug. Our sponge needs replacing soon. Of course, this morning, my brain interprets this as something I failed to do earlier.
Nice job. You didn’t do that either. Dirty sponge for the garbage-person. Fitting.
By now, I suppose you see the pattern. These are all minor things, and none of them a big deal. But they roll down the hill of my head and combine forces and gather momentum.
Shut up. Stop complaining.
So, what to do in this situation? Do I just give up the day?
No. Not anymore.
I can’t do anything about being tired, in pain, or the shitty weather (except maybe rest). I can’t do very much about yesterday’s mistakes — except let them go and forgive myself for them. I can do something about the dishes, the tea, and the sponge. One task at a time, when it’s reasonable to do so.
Still, my self-worth does not depend — definitely not completely — on any of these things. More so, it depends more on how I defend myself against my own reaction to my “mistakes and failings”.
Right now, for the rest of today, you can watch The Videoblogs for free. I mention this because I made the film as a means of contributing to the conversation about mental health in this country. Which is what I’m trying to do as well, in micro, right now.
Mental health isn’t something we talk about enough, on average. Later today, I’ll be talking about it a bit with some collaborators and fellow storytellers. I’m sharing these details about what sometimes happens inside my head, because all of it just happened — because it seems important to keep talking.
Especially because I’m a man, it’s important. Men have some catching up to do in the department of squaring up to our feelings.
It’s not weak to struggle with your sense of self-worth. It’s human. What’s less human is to externalize “negative” feelings about ourselves by diverting them into attacks or mistreatment of others.
Anyway, I’m feeling a little better now.
First — once I realized what was happening — I stopped. Paused. I breathed.
I thought about the rain, and decided to employ a practice that has helped me in the past, also called RAIN. The more I do this the more effectively and efficiently it works.
Then I started writing. That always helps.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment, here or on social media, if you have anything to add to what I’ve said. And please join us later today if you’re available to participate in the Live Commentary of The Videoblogs. The event is free.
My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmakerof hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.