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Emails to my Therapist

Writing Myself Out of Depression (trying to)

Dear Nicholas, I’m depressed. Have been most of the time since Christmas night. Writing usually helps, so here goes…

Why I am so low is not clear, as is so often the case with depression. Christmas with my brothers and their families was wonderful. When we got home I began to sink. Bob’s theory about why was that my mother is no longer with us. I didn’t feel any direct connection to that as the cause.

Four days later, we both think it’s largely because of the loss of my office and workspace with my friend Carrie at the next desk for the past 16 years. I still don’t feel the direct connection, but then I almost never do. I generally experience grief and sadness as depression, as aimlessness/apathy/bitterness/heavy painful gloom, detached from any cause.

I think it’s the office with Carrie and all the illnesses and deaths coming along at this time of life– which are summed up in the pile of 49 years of office stuff I’m trying to wad into half of an already-full room at my house. I’ve been working on this for over a week. There are still boxes to unpack, papers to sort, and stuff scattered all over the floor. My plan is to have this all done and get back to work on Monday. Because I’m not retiring, I’m only moving.

I Have So Much to Be Happy About

I’m physically healthy, my husband’s recent cancer treatment worked, I have wonderful friends and family still with me, and I have a new novel coming out in the next year.

No Doubt I Should Shut Up and Buck Up

But emotions do not respond to “should.” And I do seem to have a natural-born depressive streak. I can just imagine the weight of this mood if I weren’t already taking an antidepressant.

I could up my dose a little, but I don’t want to medicate grief away, even if it comes in disguise.

What’s Such a Big Deal about an Office, Anyway?

Well, it wasn’t just the place, though that was very nice. It was  Carrie’s company and all the lunches and shoptalk. And it was probably a piece of my identity.  I like feeling out-in-the-world, in the middle of traffic and action. I don’t seem to have the energetic crackle or desire just now to try to re-create that.

I know that to some–maybe a lot of people–this seems like a nothing as a loss. In fact, after my other post about this move quite a few folks unsubscribed and that was while I was still feeling reasonably cheerful about it. I understand not wanting to listen to a fortunate person gripe.

But losses–and joys–are individual. They don’t come in categories with appropriate ranges of reaction.  The changes I’m in the midst of are a big deal to me.

A Diagnostic Selfie

People often don’t seem to notice when I’m feeling low. I’m good at putting one foot in front of the other, one chatty anecdote after another. So I took an unprepared-for selfie to see what my depression looks like. Noted I had put on lipstick in an effort at mood rehab (didn’t work.) Otherwise looked like a person of my years who likes purple and is watching TV or gazing at a book. Mood didn’t much show. But now you know.


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  • December 29, 2021 at 9:36 pm Reply

    I’m sorry to read that you have become sad or down, Peggy. You always seem so upbeat in person, at least. But Christmas has a way of making us miss those who are gone, or making lost dreams come to mind. I hope you can find an answer or be able to move on from this – and that it is short-lived.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 30, 2021 at 3:28 am Reply

      It’s 10:30 pm now as I write this, kenju, and I already feel much better. A lot of human contact and some on-line company have helped. I doubt if this period of sadness is over. But right now, I’m in good spirits again, ready to tackle the new workspace again in the morning.

  • John Manuel
    December 29, 2021 at 9:46 pm Reply

    Scary stuff. I’m sure leaving the office and the cheery presence of Carrie (Knowles?) has a lot to do with it. I also suspect part of our psyche knows that our time on Earth is winding down. As my never-complaining aunt said a year or two before she died, “Well, John, it’s just not as much fun as it used to be.”

    • Peggy Payne
      December 30, 2021 at 3:26 am Reply

      Yes, Knowles, John. And I suspect you’re right about the winding-down issue. Probably if I were thirty, I’d be hunting for another little writing space near downtown. I’m still having fun though, most of the time. And I hope you’re running lots of rivers yourself.

  • Lynne
    December 29, 2021 at 10:04 pm Reply

    aww sorry Peggy I think for msny its the norm for this year wnd sensitive as you
    are you may be pucking up
    some on the collective mood.. So msny losses including my bff writer Tracy Knight.Her husnand came out Christmas day and we cried then reminisced together.Best to sit with the sadness rather than over medicate and know we are not slone…. thanks for sharing your authentic self. Tracy had so much more writing she wanted to do.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 30, 2021 at 3:23 am Reply

      I’m sorry about your friend, Tracy, Lynne. I think it’s every writer’s fear, to die before finishing their work. I remember reading Keats in high school: “When I have fears that I may cease to be/Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain….” Even then the thought of being suddenly stopped made an impression. I agree about sitting with the sadness. It’s hard sometimes to distinguish sadness from depression, though. At this point for me, it’s pretty clear it’s sadness.

      • Anonymous
        December 30, 2021 at 3:59 am Reply

        yes , same ..sadness as opposed to depression and agree there is a difference…staying with it and allowing it seems the best option.

        • Peggy Payne
          December 30, 2021 at 4:36 am Reply

          We do agree, Anon. Though I’m relieved that it seems to have passed for the moment.

  • Lee Grohse
    December 30, 2021 at 2:41 am Reply

    Sorry you’re having this rough period. The loss of the office and regular contact with your friend and colleague does not seem like an insignificant loss in any way. It sounds like it was hours of immersion in a stimulating and nurturing environment and relationship on an almost daly basis. That’s big and important. I’m around the same age as you, and I am finding the increasing, accumulated loss of people through death and distance to be numbing and exhausting. Recently I have found myself listing the folks I know who have died in the last five years. I mentioned that to a friend of mine who said, “Stop that!” But I do it to make myself remember them and counteract what feels like the emptying out of my treasure chest. No individual loss for me has been crushing or caused any major upset in my life. And like you described your life, mine is quite rich, with health and comfort and love. But damn, I could use some help with filling up those dark little holes where there used to be treasures. I’ll look forward to reading your ideas and insights as you move through some of these life losses.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 30, 2021 at 3:17 am Reply

      You describe the office-work-nest well, Lee. And yes, the continuing disappearing faces! I remember once when I was a mere forty hearing an older man say, “It’s the hardest thing in life, the disappearing faces.” The thought stuck with me. Thanks for your insights about this.

  • Linda
    December 30, 2021 at 3:14 pm Reply

    With all this change who wouldn’t be knocked a little sideways?? And in the middle of the holiday season! I would take up a project that you couldn’t do in your urban office. Hands in the dirt. It might bring joy to your new situation.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 30, 2021 at 3:31 pm Reply

      Good idea, Linda. Maybe I should take a break from all this indoor activity and get outside. That has been the good thing about working at home during covid.

  • Stephanie Bass
    December 30, 2021 at 11:28 pm Reply

    I’ m sorry to hear you’re feeling low— I’ve had a really long spell of it and for me so much of it has to do with trying to work at home alone amid a pile of ancient boxes full of paper. And, the ever-looming time horizon….and the near-weekly notification of yet another friend’s passing. Very helpful to hear that I’m in good company with the Unsinkable Peggy Payne. I’m up for a occasional work chat if that would be useful to you. I have a weekly Zoom date with my writing partner which is a life-saver.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 31, 2021 at 2:05 am Reply

      Thanks for the Unsinkable moniker, Stephanie. I’ll try to live up to it. And, yes, we’ll talk. Thanks. I thought that today I’d go into my home office like a whirlwind and finish it all, making fast and ruthless decisions about stuff. I have not so much as walked in there once. We’ll see about tomorrow.

  • December 31, 2021 at 2:23 am Reply

    I’d be surprised , Peggy, if you weren’t feeling the loss of your long years of space sharing with Carrie, in the context of no Mom, and our time growing shorter and shorter. You/we’ve had a pretty good run, and you nor we are on the edge of ending – as far as we know. You never know, tho I do know all is as well as can be for now. As your grief eases the transitions, I expect you’ll get your balance back. For me, balance at this time of life is lots more challenging in many ways than the previous decades, and when I remember how good it’s been together with you, I’m comfortably centered again in the present, focusing on how good things are now, and have been for so long.

    Some holiday time off’s likely to help as well – everybody needs to cut themselves some slack and vacation a few days – even God rested the seventh day.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 31, 2021 at 5:19 am Reply

      I’ll keep that in mind about God and the seventh day, Bob. Good point! Balance will return. I wouldn’t like being in such a mood without you.

      • Lynne Wogan
        December 31, 2021 at 2:38 pm Reply

        Such helpful thoughts.Thanks, Bob! Yes it
        us likely a combination of things for many of us creating these sad moments. Good suggestion to rest and refocus when possible to regain balance.

        • January 1, 2022 at 2:49 am Reply

          Thanks Lynne, I’d give you a thumbs up emoji if I knew how in this format.

  • lynne
    January 2, 2022 at 8:30 pm Reply

    lo yes
    my skills in this format especially using a tiny phone keyboard are very limited

  • Ruth
    January 4, 2022 at 11:19 pm Reply

    Peggy, two of the most hideous words in the English language, taken together, are “Buck” and “up.” It was a signature phrase of my mom’s. I loved her dearly and we were very close, but that phrase just set my teeth on edge. I think you should give yourself a break on the unpacking. And if there is one thing that still crackles with energy it is your prose.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 4, 2022 at 11:50 pm Reply

      Bless you, Sister-in-Law. I love your crackle comment–and you! I feel better this week. Though the office in progress is looking worse. I’ve taken the cover off the three part futon to wash. So now there are huge mattress pieces everywhere and I wonder how I will get them back into the thing they came out of. It took Bob and me together 20 minutes to wrestle the too-tight cover off. But I’m now back to work, trying to write crackling prose. So that’s progress.

    • January 6, 2022 at 7:11 am Reply

      Right On Ruth!

  • […] Last time I wrote I was depressed about moving out of my office and the scattering of loved ones to illness, death, and far-flung new adventures. It lasted about a week and I got over it. Mostly. For the moment. I’ve decided to view this period of my life as the Age of Change, and who knows what exciting new possibilities may develop. Embarking on the Age of Change seems to require a lot of energy and some naps. (Just now when I tried to type the word “the” in “the age of change,” auto-correct changed “the” to “fate.” Change does seem to be our fate. Auto-correct is correct about that, though how it got it from the word “the” is baffling.) […]

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