I like to call it his bi-monthly angst. He mopes around the house and questions his choices, his career. Feels like all is fruitless, doesn’t matter. Wants to change the world, but feels like he will never change the world. I wait it out, fight my own descent into it. I am an optimist. I will not be taken down by the sink.
But then, it catches me, completely unawares.
What? I don’t do this. I am not depressed. This is not my thing.
The first day, I just feel antsy, full, like there is something inside me that needs to break out. I am restless around the house. Tired of cleaning, tired of laundry. I run 2 fast miles, but it’s not enough. I do some research. I read a book. I plan an outline for a class I could teach this fall. I want to teach my children, play with them, but they are wrapped in a lovely imaginary world together that requires no facilitation on my part. I am just an interruption.
I feel stagnant. My house is stuffy. I am stuffy. I am not progressing the way I would like to. I have all of this frantic energy and it is tiring. Time, money, guilt, fear of failure, all keeping me in this room. Do I need sunshine? More friends? Am I lonely? Most of my connections are online, and on days like this, they feel like imaginary friends. My computer is quiet and doesn’t drink coffee or wine, or make me laugh…
By the end of this day, I am unhappy with everyone. I don’t really notice, but they do.
The next day, I wake up in the “depths of despair”, as my dear Anne Shirley would say. I make myself get out of bed, drink my coffee, try to write a little, but mostly just stare at the screen.
My thoughts swirl around me while the rest of my household sleeps in peace.
What am I doing with my life? I should go back to school, get the degree I set out to get in the first place. The resources are 10 minutes away, but the money has been spent…I owe debts for a job that I no longer hold, to pay for a degree I don’t want to use anymore. Am I doing the right thing, staying home with my children, letting them explore the world? Should I be teaching them more structure, using more curriculum? Are they going to end up in their teens having learned nothing about discipline and perseverance, because their mother didn’t push them hard enough? I want to change the world…I will never change the world. I need a good cry.
The air this morning is suffocating, closing in around me. I feel disconnected.
The kids wake up. I struggle to get them breakfast. C, my three year old emotional barometer, begins to act up. She is defiant, pulling at my clothes, hurting me, refusing to comply with anything. My frustration rises and I lose my temper. I hold her and try not to cry and apologize. She takes my face in her hands and looks into my eyes with understanding. She is once again feeling, reading, responding to my emotions. She is acting out my defiance, my pain, my frustration. We sit and snuggle for awhile and both feel better.
I have to find my happy face, or it is going to be a difficult day for everyone.
I wait for it to pass. I hope I am not just burying it further, to grow stronger roots.
I remember reading a beautiful description of self-portrait color therapy by The Younger Mrs. Warde, and decide to give it a try. I am not able to be all alone while I color as she advises, but my girls get out their paints and we all create together. It’s nice. I begin as suggested, with a face profile, and make random shapes from there. I don’t choose my colors in advance; I use what strikes me. My daughters admire my art while I again push back the tears.
When I am finished, however, I feel remarkably better. The fog is beginning to lift. I smile for what feels like the first time in two days while the girls show me their artwork.
We play together and I look at my picture every now and then. My husband returns from his job. The girls show them their “work” from the day. He looks at the bulletin board and asks them about my picture, which conveys more than I intended. “Who made this sad lady? It looks like she is crying an ocean of black tears. I hope she gets to that green part soon; it looks peaceful.”
My children continue to react to my emotional state…all of these sensitive souls bouncing off one another. B is disrespectful and angry. C is sad and clingy. I end up asking my husband to put them to bed, instead of following our usual bedtime routine. I feel guilty, neglectful.
I wake up a few long days later and stay in bed. I keep my eyes closed and assess how I am feeling from head to toe. I think I am better. I lay completely still until I am sure that I feel better than yesterday. I get some coffee. I don’t check email or look at my computer at all. I just sit, and drink the coffee, and think. I go for a run, but run more slowly, paying attention to the trees and mountains and lovely views in my neighborhood. I eat breakfast. I sit in quiet and do nothing. I take a hot shower. I cautiously approach my day. I look at the picture I drew a few days before, and don’t feel as connected to it. I give in to the temptation to turn on the computer, and spend some time reading articles from Sarah at Left Brain Buddha, whose blog always gives me something to think about. I bookmark some mindfulness activities.
The kids and I have a good day. My husband checks in on me and acknowledges that I sound much better. The hopelessness has lessened. I start making plans, researching options, clean up the house. It’s sunny outside. We share happy hugs and have fun. The storm has passed for now.
To learn more about existential depression and giftedness…
Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals
Gifted Sensitive, in Need of Meaning: Existential Depression
Dabrowski’s Theory and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults
What is Existential Depression?