19 February 2011

How much of your blessed depth is due to being an introvert in an extrovert's world?

by Nia

In 2003 I read an essay by Jonathan Rauch in the Atlantic, "Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group," that stated that socializing energizes extroverts and enervates introverts. My brain went, "Ohhhhhh." Up to that point I had only heard introversion discussed in terms of a deficiency or a lack or a handicap or Not Trying Hard Enough. This was the first time I'd encountered the concept presented as a matter of how your brain is wired.

I will walk up five floors if I'm not in the mood to talk to a neighbor in the elevator. The idea of socializing with coworkers outside of work is appalling to me. As a similar-minded relative once put it, "I walk into a crowded room and there are just too many brain waves." (That's right: we can read your minds.)

If you too are fatigued by the social expectations of modern life, you've probably also figured out by now that the world is run by extroverts. Some of them leave us alone. Many others, even seemingly intelligent, mature people, treat us like freaks. And, since they rule the world, this is a problem.

Exhaustion and oppression. Not exactly conducive to a blissful mood.

I just found Susan Cain's Quiet: the Blog. (It's less than a month old; I think she started it after she got a publishing deal for a book on the same subject -- that is, "the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.") I perked up when I got to item no. 3 on her "Twelve Things She Believes" list:

"Introverts in 2010 are where women were circa 1963, when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. Women’s status has changed radically since then, and so will that of quiet, sensitive, cerebral types in the decades to come."


And so begins our rise to global domination! Prepare to be crushed by the soft-spoken forces of our reflective darkness! You cannot resist the deadly motion of our hesitant but thoughtful momentum!

Coming soon to Blessed Depth!: How has your depression been affected by the Glorious Revolution against the Extrovert Tyranny?

Illustration by M. Rhea.

13 February 2011

What have you jettisoned from the depression lifeboat?

by Nia

What have you cut out of your life to preserve your sanity/protect your mental state/reduce stress?

In my twenties I started saying no to most social invitations. A lot of times I would accept and then my mood would be so lousy the day of the shindig I couldn't force myself to go. The anxiety before the event made me miserable, so I just cut them out altogether. Plus I didn't like my growing reputation for flakiness.

I also stopped buying presents and doing things for people. I realized I had vague expectations of reciprocity that were making me irrationally resentful, so I stopped offering rides to the airport (a big deal for starving 20-somethings in Los Angeles) and recognizing birthdays.

I'd say I gave up alcohol except that I was never able to start a habit to begin with. It gave me instant, maddening restless legs. I'm still kinda bitter about that.

In my thirties, I discovered that dairy made my depression worse, so that went for a few years. Thank the lord for dairy-free chocolate, or I'd be in the loony bin. Or a cult. (I later discovered that the intolerance was caused by a zinc deficiency, but that's another story.)

At some point I developed a mantra: you gotta get rid of people. Life is hard enough without acquaintances/friends/relatives telling you what you're doing wrong, reminding you of your mistakes, making inappropriate (ahem!) comments, giving you back-handed compliments. I have always made friends wherever I go, but at the same time I am a classic introvert -- social situations cost me more energy than they give me -- so dumping people is easier for me than it might be for others.

What I have to avoid even now is the news. I can't handle hearing about slavery and disappearing species and abject poverty three miles from my house. This does lead to embarrassing situations like driving into a deserted city because you missed the bulletin about the mayor closing downtown due to a water main break. (Hint: if the freeway is empty at 8 a.m. on a weekday, you should wonder.) Every year I get trapped in my flipping apartment for an entire Sunday morning because I forget about the marathon and my street is on the route. And once I called the police about gunfire in my neighborhood because I forgot it was July Fourth.

I look at the front page of the New York Times every day just to make sure the West Coast hasn't fallen off, and I assume someone will call me if FEMA ever takes over the local government, but for the most part I am blissfully In the Dark.

Illustration by M. Rhea.

12 February 2011

Alternative terms for "depressed"/"depression"

by Nia and Pastor Jayne

blessed with depth
AOI: administer opiates immediately
CAIWOSHI: crushingly alone in a world of slap-happy idiots

mood shadows
LTI (less-than-ideal) mood
epic funk (alt. ESF: epoch-shattering funk)
killer woe
The Olduvai Slide (A ravine full of buried bones. For The Far Side fans.)
Double-D: dolorous dejection
EEP: ennui of egregious proportions
GDAAM: "Gloom, despair, and agony on me" (For "Hee Haw" fans.)
MAAFU: mood abnormal all fu--ed up (cf. snafu)
Triple-D: disastrous dolorous dejection
W-2: wretched wretchedness

For depression with a hint of irritability
BOOD: back off or die (variant of KYDOD: keep your distance or die)

Image: detail of Niccolo dell'Arca's "Lamentation Over the Dead Christ," 1463-85. {{PD-art}}. Wailey face by M. Rhea.

10 February 2011

What exactly is "blessed" about depression?

by Nia

Don't get me wrong. I think depression is evil. Well, maybe not evil. More like a tornado or sepsis: a natural occurrence, but just try constructing a normal life around it. It wasted a lot of potential, made me treat people like crap and ate up a lot of my family's resources. I don't even like thinking about big swaths of my life -- including some very expensive schooling paid for by my parents -- because they were such a blight.

But for all that, having had it might have some benefits.

1. I can recognize the behavior it can cause in others and better size up a personality. Snippiness, laughing too much (watch "Crumb" for extreme examples of this), unfounded accusations -- knowing why people are doing such things has saved me from being sucked into a few office dramas. It's also kept me from strangling a few relatives.

2. Because I can recognize such behavior, I can avoid people I know will be too much work. (Knock on wood.)

3. . . . and I can recognize people who have my ideal scar tissue-to-healthy tissue ratio. AKA the Morphine:Celine Dion ratio. They can see the dark edge and play a lot of bass and make morbid, unsettling jokes but also be cheerful and encouraging and prance around in white spandex catsuits that do not suit their body types.

Never mind that if I had never been depressed in the first place, I never would've needed the company of well-balanced former depressives for support.

Never mind that the number of people I can empathize with as a result of blessed depth is far, far less than the number of relationships that were closed off to me by my depression.

Never mind that the richness of the life I could have had without the blessed depth would have provided me with plenty of experiences to learn about navigating through life and human frailties. It's not like depression saved me from a serial killer.

Nooooo . . . we shall ignore all those smart-ass retorts, because we are limited by an annoying feature of quantum mechanics wherein time only goes one way and what's done is done and I for one can no longer afford the energy to entertain such circuitous thinking.

So maybe that's another benefit:

4. Having recovered from a vicious, endless depression enabled me to eventually recognize that my path is my path.

(Never mind that, according to a recent Economist article, every human, depthfully blessed or not, comes to that same conclusion at about the same age -- 46.)

Oh, and . . .

5. I appreciated grunge rock better than I would have otherwise.