Monday, September 27, 2004
Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *
Shame. Poor Sophia. No. Really. I really, truly mean it. I feel sorry for her. And it's so easy to feel magnanimous about someone you're beating. Pity becomes a way of life.
We're at Rob's restaurant in Sandton, having moved away from the backgammon club's winter headquarters. We're stuck here for the whole summer. Which would be fine if the food weren't so demonically expensive. Lemme clarify... it's not too expensive if you're going out for a special occasion. But c'mon... we're here every Monday night. So late R40 for a pizza gets steep after a little while.
Mind you, Rob's cooking is legendary. His oxtail stew is amongst the best I've encountered.
But back to Sophia. And the tears falling into her pure leather backgammon board. Her tears. Cos I'm currently ripping the gusset from her panties, and she's totally helpless to prevent it. Thwang! I flick my invincible dice wrist, and the Shaved Tormentor takes his latest victim... Sophia goes down 21-12.
There's just one complication. She's my new boss for the next four or so months. She owns the production company I'll be working for. We're putting together 13 half-hour episodes devoted to open source software. I'm writing and directing six of them, and we've been in a meeting all afternoon before backgammon to try and resolve some money issues.
Which we do.
So, from now on, you can call me Herr Direktor. Hmmm. Nah. I prefer Shaved Tormentor.
Something I need to come clean about right now. For the past two or so months, I've been sinking ever deeper into a clinical depression. It's something not very many people know about me, and even my closest friends don't actually GET the fact that I'm a sometime sufferer from the great black beast.
Even at my worst, when I'm up and about, I'm quite cheerful, and am even capable of great happiness. It's just that it's all tainted, and requires enormous amounts of energy for me to keep appearances up. The reason I've decided to write about it here is that I've just contributed my comments about depression to a writer in the States doing research into depression. She's asked various people to report their experiences, and what works for them. Here's my contribution to her research:
I've had about three really hardcore depressions in my time. I'm currently skating around the edge of a fourth one. I'm 36 years old, a heftily dynamic dude, a bit of an over-achiever, and generally exceedingly energetic. I describe myself as an "Artist-at-Large". I sketch, make movies, write, perform, am a radio presenter. All sorts of arty things.
One of the phrases that I hear from my friends that sets my teeth on edge is this: "But Roy, you don't SEEM depressed. You're doing SO MUCH! Maybe you're just a bit down?" Aaaaaaaargh!!!!
The reason it's so galling is that there's really no way to explain it to anyone who hasn't been depressed.
Just a bit of a note here... I'm HIGHLY psychologically literate. I'm a trained crisis counsellor, and I enjoy therapy once a week, and have done for the last ten years, give or take a few months here and there. I KNOW the difference between sad, down, and depressed. And right now, I'm depressed.
Here's what I experience in my depressed state...
o Seriously low energy.
o I sleep 10 to 12 hours at a stretch, and wake up feeling very tired, often spending an hour more in bed. (My usual, non-depressed sleep need is 5 to 6 hours.)
o I procrastinate more than I usually do.
o I find it very difficult to feel excited about most things. There is a sort of narcotised feeling to my emotions. (I CAN feel excited, but it takes work, and it feels to me as though I'm faking it.)
o I experience the depression physically as a kind of a squashing down of my brain. It literally feels as though there's something in the top of my skull pressing my brain down towards my nose. Very unpleasant, and constantly with me.
o I experience a touch of paranoia. I'm VERY quick to judge that someone's comments are directed against me, and I somehow twist their words to make a case against me. I feel that they're judging me as worthless and unloveable.
o In company, I'm able to be affable, witty, bubbly. I portray myself very well as someone who is light and carefree. This is because I have strong will power, and I'm able to fake it. As a performer, I've learned the skills to appear how I need to appear. On the inside though, I feel sort-of deadish.
o I find it VERY difficult to answer my phone, and tend to leave it to ring to voice-mail. I sometimes don't reply to the message for some days. Very frustrating for those trying to reach me. (One of the quirks I have, which becomes deeply bothersome in times of depression, is that I have some kind of pathological aversion to messages that have no details. If someone leaves me a message that says, "Hi Roy, Mandy here. Call me back," I have almost no ability to actually call them back. I know I know I know. Silly. But that's how it is. And it gets worse when I'm depressed.
o I spend a lot of time reading.
o I buy books. (But actually, I buy lots of books whether I'm depressed or not. But the reason it appears in the list is that when I'm in a bout of depression, it's usually allied to my not taking on freelance work, and hence, being slightly broke. Which is a really bad thing to be when armed with a credit card in a bookstore.)
If people want to help me in this particular space, I'd really appreciate them NOT giving me advice on how to snap out of it. I really don't want their opinions on how fine I appear, and how it's probably not depression. That just makes me switch off, and I simply find ways to cut the conversation and get them out of my space.
Having the wherewithal to actually confide in someone that I'm depressed is huge all in itself. To then be advised is just plain ugly.
I would like people to simply hear me, and use reflecting techniques to demonstrate to me that they've heard me. (I had a girlfriend who was depressed, and this tool worked for her too. And it's also worked with bipolar friends of mine when they've been in a down cycle.) Reflecting is very easy, but for some reason, people feel very self-conscious about doing it, and they assume that they're not being helpful.
Here's what I mean by reflecting.
o Look interested in hearing what I'm saying.
o Make non-vocal signals to show that you're hearing me. For instance, the odd nodding of a head, eye contact, positive body language, a few "aha", "yeah?", "oh", "hmmmm" go a long way.
o Every now and again, for you to say, "Can I just summarise what I'm hearing, Roy? You're saying, 'you feel trapped, unloveable, as though you have no energy'. Is this right?" Then SHUT UP and allow me to continue.
o If I'm crying, please don't try and make me laugh or smile. I'm not crying as some kind of attempt to test your comic skills. I'm crying because I'm in severe pain. Rather ask if it's okay to hold me, and do so, paying particular attention to whether or not I'm displaying signs of claustrophobia.
o DO NOT GIVE ME ANY ADVICE. You do not know what this space is. And even if you're depressed or depressive yourself, there is NO way you're going to prove to me in this moment that you know what I'm going through. Your advice instantly identifies you as someone who wants me to snap out of this. Just don't do it.
o If you have to say something, say something like this: "Roy, I'm hearing that you're depressed. I can't know what that's like for you, but it sounds hard. I'm not going to try and make it go away. I just want you to know that I'm here, judgement-free. I'm your friend, and I love you no matter how you're feeling."
I hope this gives you something useful, Jode.
May the book be a huge success, and may it help a lot of depressed people and those around depressed people. It's one of the most helpless-making diseases around. EVERYone feels helpless. Sigh.
Right now, I'm doing everything in my power to curb the thing. Gym is my biggest weapon. Physical activity helps a great deal. Also, doing small-but-positive things also helps. This Jacana novel competition is a godsend, cos it's helping me focus, and I'm getting a tremendous sense of achievement from it.
Beating Sophia is also quite good. Even though it might make her feel like she lost both at backgammon and in my price negotiation. Ah well. The price of victory.