anhedonia, blog, depression, monthly theme

Latent Lollygagger Blog: When You Can’t Look Back or Forward, Look Around

This month’s theme at the Bank of Erin is Gratitude and Appreciation

It’s a week into the new year, so have we safely made it through Reflection and Resolution time? So now I get to write about Reflection and Resolution time?

I’m a goal-oriented person, so usually this time of year helps me justify my desire to plan and scheme. Lists of dreams! Plans to follow!

And last year I did a lot of written reflection, which I had looked forward to doing this year (there’s still time).

But this year, a depressive episode prevented me from getting into that headspace. It’s hard to look forward when you can’t see past the end of your own nose. It’s hard to look back when everything is colored gray.

Anhedonia is a trip, y’all. I can make statements in my head, like “that’s cool,” or “wow would you look at that,” or “think of where I was last year/last decade and where I am now, go me.” They are true statements. I’m not being disingenuous or lying or denying something else that I’m really feeling, instead. Rather, there’s a sense that I don’t really feel the words I’m saying. Like, it’s completely an academic exercise: observe the excitement, pride, celebration. Look, there they are. Yup. The same way I used to observe nematode worms in petri dishes crawling around.

And then not feel the pleasurable feelings that come with those things.

(I may have gotten more excited about the worms, because when one of them crawled funny, it was at least getting me data points.)

It’s like being a droid (you need to imagine a robot voice): “My orbital units are processing that this is a aesthetically pleasing rising of the sun but I do not feel human emotion so cannot say if I find it beautiful.”

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, January 3, 2020

So then, this month’s theme of gratitude and appreciation: in the context of this lack of feeling, what good is it?

I’m supposed to do (prescribed by my therapist, not just me wanting to plan stuff) the things that I know make me feel human, even when I’m not feeling well—not with the expectation that I’ll magically make myself feel better, but to nurture the Erin that is hiding somewhere under the depression and keep her healthy enough to keep coming back out.

(I suppose it also gets me out of the house so that I can be grateful for more than just a wifi connection).

Gratitude and appreciation sometimes feel like one of those boxes—and it can be even more depressing to think that having gratitude and appreciation is a motion to go through. Is it really gratitude if I don’t feel it in my bones?

I think the answer has to be yes. Just like a run still counts if it isn’t the run of a lifetime, a shower still counts as self-care even if it feels like a tedious chore, being touched is a necessity even if I feel like a monster. There’s serotonin and dopamine released, there’s a stirring in the heart that reminds me that I am not my depression.

If I think about it as keeping healthy the Erin underneath it all, I can imagine her in there somewhere, smiling at a beautiful sunset, even if my depression garbles the message a little bit into robot-speak.

How do you practice gratitude and appreciation in your day-to-day life?

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