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.