Emails and failure

First, a quick catch-up : had therapy, good session, he didn’t interrupt much, I got some bad stuff out of my system, and I finally cashed my monthly cheque after having had it in my pocket for an entire week.

Because I was too lazy to go cash it myself, that’s why. I missed my chance last Thursday’s after-therapy period, and so I ended up just waiting till the next one.

In my defense, the weather was horrible. If there had been a day as nice as today in the last week, I would have cashed it then.

Luckily, I had enough money left over from last month to make it through the week, and only had to dip into my savings once.

Anyhow. Back to my actual topic.

today, I am going to try to describe a phenomenon I have noticed within my depression and I suspect in other people’s depression as well, and to do that, I will begin with a small detail of my life that I hope will help illustrate the point.  To wit :

I have a funny relationship with email. Like everybody, I have a lot of spam coming in, although thankfully, in this day and age, it’s all stuff I signed up for at one point.

Just think of that, though. We beat spam. It’s not a thing any more. Amazing.

Anyhow, I get a lot of the modern form of spam, and every once in a while I get so sick and tired of it that I go on a unsubscribing spree and unsubscribe from like the last five things I got and that makes me feel better.

But I know that I dare not get rid of them all, and the reason why is, I believe, highly illustrative of what I am talking about.

I don’t get rid of them all because I know that when I check my email and there is nothing new, I will feel like I failed. .

I failed at getting email. I tried to get new email, and it didn’t work, therefore I failed.

And that’s stark raving wrong. I didn’t fail at anything. I set out to check my email, and I checked my email. It was a total success. I now know whether or not I have email.

But that is not how my mind will record it. Checkng my email produced no result, and therefore It writes it down as a failure and adjust my mood downward accordingly. And if that happens too many times in a row, I will simply stop checking my email because it is far too painful.

And then people can’t contact me via email,. and my life becomes even more tragic and absurd because now people are mad at me for not replying to their emails.

I know this to be true because it’s happened to me in the past. I know better now. But the fact that such measures are necessary means something is very wrong.

Now my email example is picayune, to say the least, but this irrational bias towards viewing things as failures has deep and grave implications.

It certainly explains why us depressives are so reluctant to try new things. We know that if it doesn’t produce a strong positive effect, we will feel like we not only failed, but that we gambled and lost and are now worse off than before.

And when I say a strong positive effect, I am talking about a level of reward that is so strong it can make it through both our thick hide of protective apathy and our depression’s tendency to maintain itself by setting absurdly high if not downright impossible standards for what constitutes a success.

Depression stacks the odds against us in a very intimate way.

And when I speak of trying new things,  I mean across the board, whether it’s a new novel or therapy. The feeling of there being little to no chance of success makes us cling tightly to the sources of reward that work for us and therefore have become deeply embedded addictions that come with huge blind spots as to the harm they are doing to us and even bigger ones to the idea that anything in the universe could replace them.

And I mean anything. That’s how addictions hollow you out. The deeper they embed themselves, the more they turn off the pathways to the reward center of your brain for other things, and by doing so, they displace those other sources of reward, even if those sources are things like the love of their families, the trust of their friends, their reputation in their community, or even the paycheck that pays for everything.

It’s downright terrifying to think about, at least for me. Like demonic possession, but real, and quite deadly.

Anyhow. Where was I? Right, the bias towards viewing everything that is not an overwhelmingly positive experience as failure.

And depression will negate those too, it just takes longer. That’s why you have people who feel like failures despite objectively massive success. No matter how mjuch success they have, these depressivess depression is so strong that it will negate all potential threats to its dominence without any regard to truth, logic, or evidence.

So you can have someone with three gold medals and a Nobel Peace Prize who think of themselves as failures because they still feel like failures. Whatever joy they got from their achievements has been attacked and destroyed by depression’s immune system and now they feel hollow and empty and fraudulent.

Because I am aware of this, I have vowed to fight this negation as hard as I can. I wll not give in to the forces of “yeah, but that doesn’t count, because… ” and “well, technically, yeah I did that, but…”.

I did a year at Kwantlen and got great marks. That happened. That’s real. And that belongs to me forever.

I am a graduate of VFS. I did that. That, too, is mine forever.

There are two thriving communities, namely the local furry scene and Vancovuer freecycle, that only exist because I started them and ran them until they were big enough to survive without me, then set them free.

These things are real. They count. They matter.

And the voice in my head that sardonically asks “Yeah, but what have you done LATELY” can go straight to hell and die.

Fuck YOU. I’m a survivor.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.