Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Darkness Visible"

It is a well-established fact that I become depressed during illnesses, especially the common cold. Not just "blue", but William Styron, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf-ish depression. Fortunately, having read in countless novels about characters committing suicide following a bout with the flu, I'm aware that I'm not alone in this. It did take me a few years to catch on to the cold/depression connection, though, and I could have saved myself tons of consternation/desperation had I put one and one together to come up with two during my formative years, when fourteen colds in a year was de rigueur.

Nowadays, if blowing my nose coexists with a feeling that I am but a walking bag of carbon and water molecules, worthless to the world except as an organ donor, I say to myself "Aha! It's that depression-while-sick thing again" and skive off of committing suicide, and consider other options.

My favorite other options are 1) wallowing: lying in bed with a box of tissues, a half-gallon of Rocky Road ice cream and a six-pack of Diet Coke and a favorite murder mystery, consuming all of the above between bouts of tears, allowing myself to be just as sad as I want to be, which lasts only so long before I'm needed elsewhere and become distracted, 2) figuring I'm useless intellectually in that condition, and focusing on tasks I can do without a brain, because my self-esteem is highly connected to checking items off my to-do list; I've found that by listening to a favorite murder mystery on tape or mp3 while vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, folding laundry, cleaning animal cages, or any of the other endless tasks that are always available, I can stay clear of other living beings in the home who I'd otherwise bum-out, and after a few hours of that, I have a softening of the darkness having achieved something quantifiable.

My least favorite option is interacting with other humans: give me isolation or give me death.

But as a mother, neither death nor true isolation are really possible. The first puts me in the rogues gallery of bad parents forever, no mothering choice I'd ever made would matter if I pulled the plug on my good intentions with an abrupt exit, and true isolation isn't a possibility when you have children young enough to need supervision on a moment-by-moment basis. My second favorite option allows for a fair amount of supervision as I sweep through the home on a cleaning frenzy, and television becomes essential.

My current cold is halfway through the typical ten-day span, and I am on the usual roller coaster of emotions, one minute fairly chuffed about life, the next, well, not. Yes, my spouse is out of town, my mother-in-law is in the hospital, and I have two other sick kids moping about the place instead of in school, but the good thing is that I know the darkness will pass. I'm on the downhill slope and things will start looking brighter in about four days. I'll just stay clear of any rivers in the meanwhile, and ride this one out. I haven't purchased any Rocky Road yet, but there's still time.

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