Some days, when the hunger feels almost unbearable, I don’t have the energy to try something new at the metaphorical restaurant. I don’t even have the energy to read the menu. The best I can manage is to order my hamburger and make myself eat it slowly enough that it doesn’t make me sick.
And that’s okay. On Wednesday, I’d planned to leave the house in the morning, bike to a local coffeeshop, and meet a friend to get work done together for our respective jobs. I ended up spending the day watching a silly TV show and doing rote (but necessary) work on Akkadian. But I made that choice deliberately; I assessed my mood and energy, and I decided that it was better to choose to do something low-key but mildly productive than to spend the whole day trying to do something more ambitious, and berating myself when I didn’t do it. I don’t feel bad about Wednesday.
Today started reasonably well; I made breakfast (hot cream of wheat with maple and mixed nuts) and took myself and the spousey to our respective therapies. As is sometimes the case, today’s therapy made things worse in an immediate sense, because it forced me to stop and confront certain situations and mental habits. It didn’t help when, afterwards, I spent two hours wrestling with moronic health insurance representatives and phone trees and pharmacy bureaucracy, just to try to get the spousey the meds he needs in order to function. I came home beaten-down and exhausted. I knew that an evening home alone wouldn’t help, but I effectively had to bribe myself to get out of the house for the evening.
I’m glad I did. My bribe (and my New Thing for the day) was a half-hour soak at a local spa that has a large community hot tub. The hot tub was delightful, but at least as rewarding was my reading material: an introduction to behavioral analysis, a gift from a friend. I’m still working through it, but its fundamental message, which I really needed to hear, was this: behavior can change. People can be trained.
On a day when I felt hopelessly overwhelmed by my perceived brokenness — my inability to focus and achieve things that I want, even things that should be enjoyable — that message, and the accompanying techniques of behavioral science to facilitate change, helped immeasurably. I had dinner on my own, continuing to read the book between bites, and I picked up some “supplies” at the grocery store on my way home: I want to try to train myself into better habits.
Hope comes in different forms. Perhaps the meta-lesson of today was this: too often I look for an instant fix to the listlessness and despair of depression, something to magically Make Me Happy. But the fact is, I’m doing this Sweet Potato Project because I don’t know how to accomplish that. I went out this evening expecting to enjoy a nice hot tub soak, and I did, but the biggest breakthrough of the day came because I strayed from my normal reading material and habits. Here’s to continuing that wandering.