I’d been expecting the dysthymia to intensify for over a week, and then last night it started to do just that. Nothing major had happened. I’d been ill for almost two weeks and unable to really exercise or do anything productive – musts if I am to maintain any semblance of sanity. One listless day too many, I suspect.
I start to dread the following day. At least at night I’m guaranteed some respite during my hours of broken sleep – a slumber so often disturbed by night terrors and apnoea. The thought of waking like this, however, fills me with dread and loathing. I try to remain in the present, telling myself that I might not feel as bad in the morning. I don’t really believe it though, but hope dies last.
I awake with a start, and, out of desperation, thrust myself out of bed before my mind has chance to remind me that’s there’s really no point. I perform my morning ablutions, eat and take a moment to reflect on how I’m actually feeling; pretty awful, truth be told. Fuck!
I’m rarely – if ever – not depressed. On a scale of zero – ten (zero being no depression, and ten being overwhelmed), I fluctuate between two and eight, yet usually hover around three or four. Naturally, I do experience an oscillation of other emotional states, but no matter how enjoyable a particular moment, the dysthymia is always in the background. On this particular morning, I’m a solid eight.
I do a deal with myself: I’ll crack on with the housework until eleven o’clock (three hours away), whereby I’ll have a coffee; perhaps by then I’ll feel better – perhaps! All I need to do now is focus on the task at hand. A memory of a doco on the Korean war comes to mind, as it often does when I feel like this. An American GI was asked how he had managed to survive the death marches when so many others had perished. He replied by saying that he picked a tree in the distance, or some other landmark, and repeatedly told himself that all he had to do was get to that tree; upon reaching than one, he’d pick another. Coffee was to be my first tree of the day.
Twenty minutes in, I’m struggling. ‘It’s so fucking pointless, ‘ my mind reminds me. ‘You don’t want to be doing this, do you?’ No, I concede, I really don’t; but what’s the alternative? An ever worsening depressive state that could go on for god knows how long, that’s what! I push on, as I’ve trained myself to do. It’s nothing heroic, I’ve simply learned to harness the desperation.
I’m starting to get antsy, and fidget. Hanging out the washing is getting the better of me. I just want to pick up the clothes line, and throw it in a tantrum; I don’t, continuing to hang it out. When that’s done, straight onto the next task, each one taking an age; progression seemingly none existent.
Finally, eleven o’clock arrives. Those three hours feel like an entire day. I’m really flagging by this point. Unfortunately, I have to take some responsibility for that, as I should have eaten earlier. I have hypoglycemia, you see. I feel fucked. I get my food and my coffee, and watch a military documentary. The caffeine starts to kick in, and I experience a mild wave of relief.
The coffee has done it’s job, making me feel a little better, at least momentarily. I decide to have some more, and contemplate my plans for the remainder of the day. It’s only twelve-thirty, which means I’ve got about another twelve hours to get through.
By the end of my second coffee I’m feeling a bit peppy, and, motivated by the military documentary, I decide on a five K run. As soon as I’ve made the decision, my mind is off again, questioning whether I could really be bothered to exercise. I ignore it as best I can, put on my running gear, play some Biohazard and hit the treadmill.
Twenty five minutes later, I’m exhausted, but elated – the runners high. I now have what I call the ‘golden hour:’ a period of time post-exercise, whereby I essentially feel pretty good and energized. I finish the remainder of the housework. That done, I shower, eat, and fall on the couch, too exhausted to do much else.
I spend the majority of the rest of the day there. Although the dysthymia is still present, it’s dropped to about a four now, and besides I’m too tired to care. Regardless, today was a good day. I’ve reached my final tree – for now!
Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin