One of the more insidious aspects of depression is its ability to foment self-doubt and nurture anxiety. Admitting that I struggle to develop and implement coping mechanisms for my jerk brain is humiliating. I have always internalized other’s selfish and hurtful behaviors. Intellectually, I know that bullies are acting out of their own insecurities, but emotionally I don’t process their words and actions that way.
Up to now, I have remained largely silent on the environmental aspects of my most recent, and rather extreme, bout of depression. There are several reasons, but the primary one is shame. I am ashamed that I let the bullies and their narishkeit get to me. I’m even more ashamed that I don’t know how to stop it from happening in the future.
In her 1964 play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window: A Drama in Two Acts, Lorraine Hansberry’s title character proclaims:
I care! I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care!
That line resonates to my core. It’s me. I care to the edge of chaos. I’ve been counseled that the solution to my problem is to stop caring. That is anathema to who I am as a human being. I’ve tried not caring before and it was soul crushing.
I think about the period I am living through in my life right now as an example of what paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould first described as punctuated equilibrium (PE). Essentially, PE is an evolutionary biology theory that argues that organizations are made up of inculcated systems, known as deep structures (a rather intellectually lazy take on this idea is where the mythology of “Deep State” conspiracy theories comes from), engaged in smooth, gradual, and continuous change punctuated by revolutionary events. PE has been long used as a theoretical framework in the social sciences as a way to conceptualize change management (See Gersick, 1991).
Right now, I am experiencing a revolutionary shift in how I think and relate to myself and the world around me. My long-held beliefs and routines have been disrupted. The thing about change is that sense making can only take place meaningfully in hindsight. The process is messy and I’m in the middle of it.
Gersick, C. J. G. (1991). Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 10-36. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.1991.4278988
Over-intellectualizing is destructive. We’re taught thought can solve all problems. Except it can’t; sometimes the only answer to a bully is to fight. I have found that a timely, well-placed “FU” beats a dozen footnotes.
Great post Liz – been enjoying your blog a lot. As I face the reality of no external employment, COVID-19 has certainly taught me a thing or two… The challenge for me is to see this change as an opportunity to grow rather than brain telling me I have no skills and a has-been.