Stuck Out At Sea
Posted on July 23, 2021 Posted by Athena Scalzi 44 Comments
a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.
Like a ship in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, I am going through a doldrum. July has been my least productive month on the blog in the past year, and I’m not very happy about that. I’m not really sure why I’ve been more inactive than usual. Even though I can write about anything and everything, I can’t seem to think of anything to write about. And even if I do think of something, I don’t feel like actually writing it.
Sometimes, I’ll think of a good topic, and then when I think about how much effort goes in to that topic, I decide not to write about it after all. It’s like, I can only bring myself to write the things that don’t take much effort, and even then I would just rather not. Even doing something as simple as the Big Idea takes me hours of telling myself I should do it, even though it only takes me around ten or fifteen minutes.
I keep trying to brainstorm things to write posts about. Lord knows there’s no shortage of current events and political things to be talked about, or movies and shows to review. But that sounds like a lot of effort. And effort is not something I feel like putting in right now.
Not just for the blog, but for life stuff, too. I’ve been sleeping later in the day, moving less (a lot less, even), going outside less, you get the idea. I wish I could blame something like seasonal depression but it’s literally the opposite season of when seasonal depression happens.
I can’t even bring myself to bake anything for the blog, or take some photos to post, or muster up a Charlie post. I just don’t feel like I have it in me right now.
And I feel bad about it. I feel guilty for not providing you all with content as regularly. I feel guilty for not doing the posts I told my dad I’d do. I feel like I’m skimping out on posts, blowing them off left and right. Basically, everyday I think, “yeah, I could do a post today” followed by “…or I could not.” And that always seems to win.
Anyways, I just wanted to be open about what I’m going through right now, and offer some insight as to why I’m not really posting much. I hope you have been enjoying the stuff I have managed to post this month, and I am hopeful there will be more to come next month. Have a great day.
I will note that inasmuch as this novella I’m currently writing is taking me longer to write than the last novel I wrote, despite being 40% the length, I’m not unfamiliar with the feeling my kid’s got going on at the moment.
Hi Athena – just wanted to say, yes, it’s classic depression symptoms. Just look after yourself, do things that make you happy normally, and it should come right with time, given you’re not usually in this position. If it doesn’t, time to check in with a pro. Either way, hugs and stuff, and don’t fret about your production. You have to do self-care before you can look after anything or anyone else.
Welcome to something that happens, sometimes, to most writers, says the guy who has not finished a novel in 9 years. (But they’ve been 9 pretty good years of his life). Maybe you’ll be all recharged by Labor Day and maybe some whole different future is about to open. Nothing to feel bad about; just where you are right this second. Think like a Tralfamadorian!
“I wish I could blame something like seasonal depression but it’s literally the opposite season of when seasonal depression happens.”
Eh, I get seasonal depression every Summer. And, of course, the non-seasonal kind can (and does) happen any time of the year.
My sympathies and hope that you get out from under this Black Dog sooner than you expect.
It sounds like you are suffering from a bout with depression. I have suffered with depression all my life. Take time for you and I echo what Cait said. If it doesn’t get better then seek help from a professional. I always find that when I am depressed that it helps to focus on something outside of myself. Thankfully, I have had a job where I have to focus on other people ( I work in a nursing home) Maybe go volunteer at an animal shelter or something.
Hugs to you and hope you feel better soon
It is winter in Australia. And Argentina! In a quantum universe there is a discrete probability that you are in either. Or both!
When I was your age and very depressed I sat in the window of my studio apartment in Paris and played Leonard Cohen songs on my guitar because I could afford neither a radio nor a record player.
How’s the bedroom? Time to clean it again yet?
Not to make light of the seriousness of potential depression, but I wanted to say…
I’m feeling the same way (and I’m 20 years older than you are). I spent some time in my closet yesterday in the dark with my door closed which is one of my comfort things (back when we were living in apartments/dorm rooms, I would hide under my desk). My to-do list, both easy and challenging is piling up and it’s taking me hours to do simple tasks, even with twitter blocked.
I think for me what it is is nervousness about school starting up again. I’m worried broadly about mask mandates not being allowed (especially in my 9 year old’s middle school) and specifically about how I’m going to handle them in my own college classes. I’m worried about teaching and service on top of the research work I’m not doing right now (and people wanting to TALK to me all the time). I’m worried about what to do when these projects are done because I don’t have any big ideas lined up and what to do if I don’t actually finish these projects or make significant headway before school starts again.
I’m worried about not doing as much political activism as I should. I hate calling people but if nobody calls then children will die, get long covid, lose their senses of taste while they’re still growing…
My worries are not irrational, even if my response is.
The blog post I read right before this (theshubox) was also talking about a lighter version of what you’re feeling right now. So… there’s definitely a general despondency going around. I think the Atlantic (or NYTimes?) had an article about it a month or so ago, but I wasn’t feeling it then. Too busy. I feel it now.
I read somewhere that countries with the highest rates of self-reported happiness also have higher rates of suicide (bear with me): turns out that, when the sun is shining and there’s nothing you can point to to explain why you’re feeling down and everyone else seems happy, the very fact that you can’t point to a source or a cause makes you feel worse.
I used to feel the way you’re describing a lot and eventually I stopped blaming myself and just allowed for uninspired days / weeks / … It’s a lousy way to feel, so my heart goes out to you, but remember it’s not your fault — obviously you’re not choosing to feel this way :) & it will pass, eventually. Kudos for sharing – don’t think I ever could’ve done that when it mattered.
Be well (or rather, be how you are, it’s already good enough!)
Seasonal depression: It’s not just for winter anymore. In case pasting URLs in comments doesn’t work, search for “seasonal depression” on smithsonianmag dot com.
Oh also, if we’re talking about biological causes… I have low vitamin D which makes me depressed when I don’t get enough sunlight or forget to take a vit D pill… that’s something to get checked out at the doctor because it is such an easy fix if that’s the problem.
Welcome to the club. You should know I think this is also part of being human. There is not a single person that I know who hasn’t at some time had the same feelings you are experiencing right now.
I don’t have any helpful suggestions for you, this is a personal and individual situation that you are living through. The characteristics are much the same for everybody, the specific situation is always individual and so will be the things that will get you through this.
What I CAN say is this:
– You are not alone. You are part of a family, of a community. You are loved and appreciated. People will be there for you. Just give them the opportunity to do so.
– You are not the first, nor will you be the last in this situation. While your situation and your feelings etc. are unique (they are yours, not mine or anyone else’s), the experiences are or have been much the same for the rest of us. Let this 50+ old fogey from across the Atlantic tell you: you will get through this. Not today, not tomorrow. But perhaps next week. If not next week, then next month. It will happen.
– There will come a day when you will see the sun come up and write a beautiful piece about it in about five seconds flat. Or go to the kitchen and bake an awesome cake. Or… whatever. It will happen. Have faith.
Blames the weather, it has been downright brutal all across the world.
When you are done with that, blame the Delta variant.
In other words, it is not your fault. We had such high hopes for 2021. We needed a brave new world to take us away. It started okay, vaccines and all that jazz. Then the bottom dropped out and it is deja vu all over again, we are stuck in that loop recording of 2020, with a few technical difficulties, like the weather, anti-vaxxers, gun violence, and a shortage of everyday things (like canned cat-food).
I have a recurring nightmare of my cats nibbling on my toes at night because I can’t feed them the way they want.
The past 18 months are taking a toll for many of us. You aren’t alone in feeling this way.
Since the comments have turned toward depression, I’ll share some lessons learned. This is no comment on your state, Athena, as I’m completely unqualified to diagnose depression in others. I’ve been managing depression since I was a teenager. If you want to talk to a professional and don’t know where to start, you could talk to your primary care doctor. They may be able to refer you to a good therapist. You can also ask a trusted friend or loved one to help you schedule appointments. When I am in the midst of depression, making a phone call is incredibly difficult; navigating the bureaucracy of the health care system is impossible. You might ask well as someone with a broken leg to hike to the ER for treatment. But a loved one can help make the arrangements to see a therapist.
It also helps me to think of a “depression emergency kit.” When I’m feeling better, then I can track down a therapist to contact when I’m low again. Take good care.
Given that according to my personal calendar today is March 510, 2020, I wouldn’t be so hard on myself about it. In difficult times–and goodness knows, we’re all going through them these days–merely surviving counts as an accomplishment.
Thank you for sharing. People are feeling free to diagnose you with depression, so I’ll suggest Long Covid, possibly, since you did have a positive test. I have ME/Chronic Fatigue myself, and have had it for 50 years, so having no energy is my normal state. Now that at last I am retired, I can just say things aren’t going to be happening today, and that’s OK. I spent a lot of years forcing myself; deadlines were helpful, but I often found that work done when I was feeling the most lacking, was lacking in quality as well.
I read a lot of murder mysteries and take a lot of breaks through the day.
Hang in there.
Not all depression is seasonal. You definitely have symptoms of depression. Take the time you need for yourself and maybe seek out therapy if you can. I’ve found it to be super helpful for me.
Hi Athena. I really feel you on this one. I’ve had depression most of my life. Here’s what I suggest:
Therapy, therapy, therapy.
You’ve talked about things in the past on the blog that were upsetting you, or that you were unhappy about. Every time you post something like that, I think, “Man, therapy would really help her.” Haven’t said anything till now, though. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long.
Therapy doesn’t mean you’re broken. It means you’re being proactive about the things that upset you. Therapy can give you tools to deal with all the negative emotions and situations that come up in life. Therapy can teach you how to be more resilient, flexible, and serene.
Of course, that’s a best case scenario. Worst case scenario, you have an awkward conversation with someone, and then don’t reschedule with them, and find somebody else. When you find the right therapist, it can give you wings.
Also, with regard to the dietary concerns you’ve expressed in the past, I think you might be interested in looking into intermittent fasting.
Good luck! We’re your fans, and we’re not going to be mad at you or blame you for your doldrums. Remember that the way you feel right now is not the way you will feel forever.
PS Also, yoga is worth investigating.
If the pollen and mold counts in Ohio are anywhere close to what Oklahoma is having right now that could be contributing as well. One of my friends described it, feeling hungover without the drinking. Here’s wishing you the best.
Lots of wisdom here. I hope you feel better soon.
If you are uncomfortably warm and not sleeping well, that absolutely kills productivity. If you’re personally just too warm while trying to work, that can also trash productivity. So there is that (in addition to: taking a look at the world and being overwhelmed; potential regular ol’ depression; being stuck because you’re stuck).
So! If you are too hot and if you have AC but aren’t using it, or if the basement is cooler than the rest of the house, or if you can rig up a swamp cooler, then get yourself to somewhere that is not sauna-blah-hot, especially for work and for sleep.
gradual progression toward being a slug if it gets over 75F
I also suffer from the doldrums (such a colorful word! I wish we used it more). It’s less depression and more a symptom of runaway anxiety leading to fatigue and malaise. I treat it primarily by treating the anxiety; exercise, nutrition, simplifying my life as much as possible, and yes, therapy!
The long arm of the pandemic has made this year into one of extreme highs and lows. I’ve reconnected with friends, been rehired at my job, and am looking forward to my youngest kid’s senior year of high school. The fact that all this could be jeopardized because of mismanagement is both predictable and horrifying. I don’t think most people are doing well handling the uncertainty right now. You are definitely not alone, and I have no good advice beyond hang in there! And read comforting books because they help.
You know, it’s okay to take a break. The blog is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Pace yourself. Do you have a favorite poet? Post some poems then. Check out one of my favorites: Mary Oliver.
Of course, there are likely copyright issues… sigh. So likely you cannot. But you could post links!
As you know, every cloud has a silver lining, often in the form of a discrete lesson or an increased awareness.
But the silver has to be thought about in order to be perceived.
(Related: Although I’m a bookworm, when I first needed to write dialogue I had to reach under my bed for a western to model from: I had never perceived until I chose to think.)
For example, Jlanstey, above, found by conscious experience that deadlines are helpful. I am still learning that normal people like me and your father, in the first comment, are not always at the top of our game. Good to know if I like reality and forgiveness.
For me, in late middle age, I am still learning that it doesn’t work for me to simultaneously believe “I must” and “I can’t.” But at least that lesson comes around less often now.
What you describe happens to most of us I believe.
On tasks that are short vs long and then ignoring the long… I’ve found that it sometimes helps to just note the potential “long” blog and just add notes to it. Don’t write it out. Just add to it. meanwhile write the ones that are easier. After a bit you might have enough notes for that longer one that you realize it will now only require the effort of an easy one?
On general laziness. Might be time to mix up your day. And yes, this will require effort. But do you exercise? Even going for an hour walk, (or shorter) to just move, clear your head and think… or not. That could help. Or some new hobby. I have a bunch of friends that are talking up drawing, painting, something new.
If you’ve really been at this, well, nothing wrong with realizing you need a vacation of a week or two. Harder I know with the pandemic still. But when I worked there were times I hit the wall because I wasn’t taking time off. I needed to recharge my batteries.
No easy and obvious answer. Your self reflection and posting about it is honestly a great first step. As your dad noted, it happens to the best of us.
Take care and look out after yourself.
This is your brain telling you to take a break. I used to write columns and I’d go fishing to have something to write about, instead of just having a good day out fishing. Talking into a recorder (yeah this dates me…)
When I stopped trying so dam’ hard it got easier to sit down later and just write.
Not everything has to be a ‘topic’.
Sympathy. Seasonal depression isn’t limited to the winter, especially any part that’s related to events. July and August were tense times in my childhood; in addition to the regular tension, several family crises happened then. Even after much therapy and medication, late summer is the lowest time for me. Do whatever you need to do; time will pass. Good luck.
It could, of course, be one of the many things people upthread have mentioned.
But I know a lot of people, including both me and my husband, who are feeling somewhat that way these days. It may be a factor of how … ahem… stressful last year and the early parts of this year were.
We love to think that when bad times or stressful times are over, that we’ll bounce back and everything will be all energized and wonderful, when sometimes, it’s just a matter of physical or emotional exhaustion that takes time to come back from.
And “the bad times” aren’t even completely over – even for those of us who are vaccinated and getting back into something approaching normal. Still plenty of stresses, even if they’re not quite as immediate.
By all means, take any serious indications, well, serious, but at the same time, be okay with letting yourself be in the blahs.
Filed under “A lot will go wrong”, wondering if you can have readers submit suggestions and you pick one out of a hat.
I suggest “what is it like having a dad who loves Journey”?
Hi Athena – what you are experiencing could be depression, but it could also be just a sense of languishing. (Very good article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html) Or both. Or something else entirely. The point is you’re not alone in this. Everyone had a pretty much crappy year, and we’ve reacted to it in very different ways. Some of us adjusted medications we were on (or went on ones we weren’t), some went to therapy, some worked through it on their own.
But it’s the same, even if it affects us differently. COVID, lockdowns, and now a (ahem) lack of awareness that we’re not out of the woods, and we know exactly why that is. It adds up. It’s not just annoying, it’s exhausting.
I won’t say “cheer up” because that seldom if ever helps anyone. But know you’re not alone, thank you for reaching out to us, the readers of this blog, and sharing your feelings. We, collectively, will pull through, maybe in very different ways, but still together. Be well.
Would chocolate chip cookies help? Because everything is better with chocolate chip cookies.😜 Seriously though, I hope you can find joy in your writing and joyous things to write about, or just in your life that will help motivate you. I wish I knew a sure-fire way to help. Good luck!
Kincaid spoke of posting poetry, and the copyright issue.
I used to have a thick volume called Poems Worth Knowing that made for an emotional evening of reading.
Copyright was fine, as the poems were all from 1950 or earlier, back when they rhymed. I ended up memorizing about a dozen, (while riding the greyhound) and that has enriched my life. That and the Gettysburg Address. (I’m Canadian: We aren’t “forced to” take the Address in school)
I know you mentioned seasonal depression in your post. Coincidentally, this article about seasonal depression that happens in summer showed up in my email just a few hours after I read your post. Don’t know if it will be any help, but I found it interesting.
Every time I see the word ‘doldrums’ I’m reminded of the fabulous book “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. Perhaps an afternoon curled up with that book (or the movie) might provide some relief / hope / inspiration?
Here’s a different slant on it: you are the author of your own life story. You are the one to play the hand of cards you are dealt. Choose your own course. Make it fun and rewarding! 🙂
It’s July. It’s the heat. It’s the humidity. August will be worse.
We can all be productive in the spring and fall.
I always feel worse in summer. What it us, for me, is I have trouble sleeping when it’s light out, so I spend the whole summer not quite tired enough to actually nap. Winter being rough is more common, but if your particular body has trouble with summer, that’s just as valid.
Could be depression, but what’s the weather like where you are? We’re entering that season here in NC where heat and humidity begin literally sapping my will to live. And don’t get me started on the bugs.
If it makes you feel any better: I really enjoyed the stuff you have written!
Hey, just do what you can. Continue the motions to keep your chops, but don’t sweat it too much. Find something you’ve wanted to do or something completely different and do it. Switch it up.
Don’t beat yourself up, it’s just part of the journey. We all need to mix it up at times. Believe me, your brain is working all the time but it works best on its own a lot of the time. Let it go figure it out while you take advantage of the break.
Dunno if that helps, but I’m rooting for ya.
One of the things about the human body that deeply annoys me, is that more physical activity equals feeling better. Netflix and Chill is not effective.
My psychologist is correct on about the body in motion producing the right chemicals to moderate sleep, stress, anxiety, etc.
When my walk behind mower broke, I wash pushing the 1950’s reel lawn mower. An hour of pushing that hunk of metal with my arms. After the 3rd week, I felt much better, and it took me less time to mow the lawn.
Go out side and do some physical yard work, while listening to some tunes. Throw the stones from the grass into the drive way. Weed wack, clean out the cars interiors. Small steps towards larger goals.
Kinda dull, but it gets you up and out, and you can look back and say, “Yup, I completed that job. And it is just not for the job but for my body and mind.”
Lots of people are suggesting therapy. If you want an easier way to find a therapist, there’s a digital therapy provider called better help. I have not used them, this is not an endorsement, but it makes the process of finding and, if necessary, changing therapists easier and all sessions are via video chat. They have therapists all over the country and in some other countries.
Last year, during the pandemic, I really started struggling with brain fog. I never caught COVID (at least to the best of my knowledge, and I am vaccinated), but I really struggled to complete tasks.
This year, I was diagnosed with ADHD. The treatments have really helped clear things up, and my productivity is much better.
But I understand the frustration you’re going through, and I hope you find the help you need. You deserve it.
If it’s depression, there are 3 broad approaches.
Talk therapy. Self-affirmations, inspirational texts, conversation, counseling, psychologists, psychiatrists. These last being medical doctors who can prescribe drugs, and therewith:
Medical (i.e. drug) therapy. Favorite foods & beverages, endorphin-producing activity, recreational substances, over-the-counter preparations, prescribed medication.
Wait it out.
What you describe, Athena, evokes thoughts of creative people of my acquaintance who talk of losing their mojo. “I’m in a total slump; haven’t come up with a new idea in weeks; getting desperate, help!!”
The consensus on that seems to be, “It happens to all of us at times and you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Relax, take time to enjoy nature, read a good book, do things you love. The urge will come back when you are refreshed and the time is right.”
And indeed the creative impulse can come back so strongly that it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all, and the fallow period is utterly forgotten!
All good wishes; you will get through this.