A Window Into Apathy

“I found myself losing interest in almost everything. I didn’t want to do any of the things I had previously wanted to do, and I didn’t know why. The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends I would think, “What a lot of people that is to have to call back.” Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.”

dark clouds over hay fields

The TED talk by Andrew Solomon about depression that’s quoted above has been open in the browser on my phone for ages. Weeks. Months, maybe. I wanted to watch it but hadn’t yet, so it stayed hidden away, only occasionally glimpsed when I clicked on another link and saw the window whiz by as I opened a new one.

And then last night I was putting Connor to bed, and as he wiggled and settled and drifted toward sleep I was scrolling through the open windows on my phone trying to clear them out. (Because there are so many things sitting on my chest as obligations, and open windows on the browser on my phone felt like yet another series of things I really should get back to, which is ridiculous, so I decided it was time for those windows to go away.) I scrolled through each window one last time and thought, no, I’m not going to make those quinoa cakes and I really don’t care what 29 awesome things I don’t know about Google and I’m sure those stock photos that don’t suck are great but I don’t really need more stock photo sources and I closed each window in turn.

And then I got to the window for this TED talk.

lightning-strike

You know how sometimes something ends up in front of your face and then later you look back and wonder at the timing? It gets pushed in front of you through some kind of cyber-magic and you finally pay attention to it and suddenly all sorts of things make sense. That’s what happened with that TED talk. I somehow—not deliberately—ended up on the transcript page and as Connor wiggled and settled and drifted to sleep I started reading.

In January I wrote about how I was missing inspiration and some of you said, “That’s okay” and “Some periods of your life are just like that” and “A different path is not a bad thing,” and I thought no. And I even said it—I said This is not how I wish to live—but what I didn’t say at the time was Something feels wrong. Something is wrong. I just let it float around in the back of my awareness and I thought about words like apathy and how I don’t remember ever feeling so strongly that I just don’t give a shit and for more than three months now I’ve wondered what it’s all about.

But last night a window appeared in front of me and I didn’t close it. Instead of closing that window I opened it, and now I can actually see through to the other side. I’m not sure what’s over on this side—because I do feel like I’m on the right side now—and I don’t know exactly what to do about it, but at least now it has a label. At least now I’m no longer confused about what’s happening. I went from thinking I’m slipping and not really understanding why because it felt different than in the past to knowing that, in fact, I slipped.

Now, as well, I know that apathy is a symptom of depression. And as wrong as it feels, the knowing of it feels much more right.


 

Comments

  1. This is powerful for both you and your readers. The raw emotion that you write about so honestly is a break-through. I can feel your feelings because I’ve been there and I’ve written about it, scared to hit the publish button and send my fears and anxieties and apathy out into the blogosphere. I hope writing this post helped you work through some of your feelings. I have found that writing about it helps me. I’ve been sharing these posts with my readers since last fall. I don’t often write sad or depressing posts, but when I am in a funk – a depressed stage – I find that my writings get huge responses from other women who can relate. So, as scary as these posts are, it’s important that we publish them. Here’s the link to my archive of posts about my depression. Maybe it can help you a little, too. http://rocksnosaltmommy.com/category/postpartum-depression/. And know that I completely understand that “as wrong as it feels, the knowing of it feels much more right.” I get that. I’ve been there.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth. Writing about it definitely helps me. And I find the same with the posts I hesitate to share – it does seem to resonate with others and that makes me feel better about putting the vulnerability out there.

      Thanks for the link to yours – will check out those posts.

  2. I agree – so incredibly powerful. It’s a relief to recognize those symptoms that we never knew were actually symptoms, and by sharing this you are helping SO MANY people. I’m so proud of you. I just watched our original Kickstarter video the other night as a reflection of how far we’ve come and I was reminded of how lucky I am to know you and have your support. You have mine too, mama. oxoxo

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post. I’ve often felt apathy, but I’ve told myself it’s not “bad enough” to be depression so it’s okay. But that’s not right… so thanks for sharing.

  4. I’m glad you know.
    I hope things …. pick up? Get better? That you find a way out?
    Whatever it is, know that I’m thinking of you.

  5. I love you sweet friend. I know this feeling well and it sticks. I am so proud of you for writing this. Please keep writing.

  6. Robin! I too have felt apathy, what I called loosing my creativity. I didn’t understand it, the only thing I knew was that I hated it and missed my creative, idea popping mind so much. It was an overwhelming thing… getting up every day and continuing on when all I wanted was to pull the covers over my head. That creativity is coming back to me, I am so grateful! There are days when that feeling of covering my head with my blankets is strong, does that ever go away? I don’t know? Is it a matter of learning to live with it and giving myself a break when I need it? I don’t have the answers, I just recently wrote a gratitude post, for me writing is so helpful and somehow therapeutic, it’s like all of those jumbled up overwhelming thoughts get purged and organized in a way that I can, “stand back” and see what needs doing. Does that even make sense? I just wanted to tell you that not only do your words touch me; I just watched your TEDtalks video! I am still battling my tears and think you are a brave and beautiful person! Thank-you for removing some of your masks, I hope there are none left for you to battle with. Huge respect and admiration, again thank-you!

    • Laurie, this is awesome. Thank you for such an uplifting comment.

      Does it ever go away? I don’t know. I’m starting to think not, but maybe that’s okay.

      I’ve been thinking about gratitude lately too, and noticing things more. That’s always a good sign for me. If I can find things to be grateful for, I’m not entirely sunk yet.

  7. I know what you mean about the “windows” opening at just the right time. I hope this open window lets in the fresh air you need. Thinking of you, Robin. xo

  8. so glad you opened up and wrote about this. I’m here if you need to talk. Thinking of you. xo

  9. Sending you lots of love and support, Robin. I’m glad things have become clearer to you now and I hope the begin feeling better soon x

  10. Is it a symptom or a coping mechanism? I’m not sure, but I’ve been struggling with the same thing. I give into it though, let myself sink into the nothingness of apathy so that I can escape the anxiety a bit.

    I hope this is the beginning of a positive change for you. Miss you. xo

    • I think for me it’s a symptom. I can see it being a useful escape from anxiety, but I don’t think that’s the issue for me. But who knows. This is a new one.

      Miss you too. xx

  11. This is a beautiful post Robin, on a difficult topic, but I think it is really great that you opened up about it. x

  12. Beautiful post.

    I used to revolt against my own periods of apathy, and I used to refuse to be “down”. Now I consider it a normal part of life… as long as it doesn’t last too much, and as long as it doesn’t go too far. I sure keep an eye on it.

  13. So glad to hear that you’re on this side of the window, Robin. When I get apathetic I allow myself to roll around in it a bit. When I get sick of myself I name it – I’m sad, I’m depressed, I’m angry, I’m tired, whatever it is. It usually gets better then. I hope you are able to feel better soon.

  14. I’m glad you hit publish on this, Robin, glad you are sharing, that many of us are able to say the ubiquitous “me too.” I don’t feel like checking to see if ubiquitous is the right word I want. I don’t think it is, but I’ma allow it. I am thinking of you and hoping for your ability to muddle through this and come out better. I am glad you are able to recognize that this is different, and address it. It’s a testament to your will and your strength and your knowledge of self.

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