Today is a bad day

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Today is a bad day. I won’t explain why in a public post, and really the reasons don’t matter for what I’m about to say. It’s sufficient for me to mention that my mood is the worst it’s been in a very long time. For those of you not familiar with my history, you might want to start with my open letter here.

I should be sorting accommodation in Seattle this weekend. I should be processing photos. I should be writing talk proposals, and hacking code, and catching up with friends. But right now nothing seems appealing. The least horrible thing feels like going home, laying down, and just trying not to exist for a while. I’m writing this through a fog of psychomotor retardation, and so I’m pretty sure if I wanted to, I could do exactly that.

But I won’t.

I can’t seem to find much joy right now, but I can share my experiences. People seem to take comfort in knowing they’re not alone in how they feel. If anyone else can find solace in these words, then at least some good has come from all this.

I describe myself as “recovering” from depression. While the episode itself has gone, so many lingering effects remain. One of those, one that I struggle with most often, is loneliness and social isolation.

If you find this ironic, then you’re not alone. I find this ironic. I’m well aware of how easy it for me to make friends. I’m well aware of how well connected I am. I know many people—including myself—view me as a social hub. That’s why it’s even more important that I write about this.

My support network is not what it used to be. That’s not because I have terrible friends who don’t care about me; my friends are still the lovely people they’ve always been. But I’ve changed. I’ve become more withdrawn, I’ve become less willing to share, less willing to communicate, less willing to ask for help.

There’s a greater irony here; feeling lonely makes me less willing into interact with others. All the typical thoughts are here; I know I’m not much fun in this state, I don’t want to burden others, I’m scared that if I ask for help it’ll be rejected. But there’s something else, something I’m struggling to analyse; the desire to interact with others just isn’t there. Interacting with people just feels like work.

Despite the irony of my loneliness increasing behaviours that cause more loneliness, I’m not surprised. I’m very certain I’m not alone here. I don’t have my library around, but back home I’m sure have a paper that demonstrates this is common. Citations welcome.

There’s a further level of irony here, too. Denise Paolucci has done some excellent talks on Impostor Syndrome. It’s very common in my circles for people feel that they’re somehow faking being a programmer, or an artist, or a writer. When they receive praise, they think “if only you knew…”. Well, I very often feel that I’m faking being me. It’s the exact same feeling, the exact same thoughts. Someone says how cheerful I look, or how easily I manage people, or how interesting I am, and I think “if only you knew that I’m totally faking this…”

If you’ve found me to be quiet recently, if you’ve found that I talk to you less than I used to, if you’ve found our conversations less satisfying and more shallow, then I’m sorry. I really am. I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to shy away from interactions. I don’t want to be less of a friend. I truly don’t. I am working on this, but it’s hard work, and sometimes I stumble.

And when I do stumble, I try to write things like this. Thank you for sticking with me while I find my feet again.

~ Paul

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