It’s going to be an important one, but I guess in the US–and the world, given US power–we won’t know if it’s a happy one till November. Still, we can do our best.
So far so good for me: I’m several hours into 2020 and in a pretty good mood. In the last couple of months, I’ve had two revelations that, I hope, will help me get myself in hand and move forward.
The first came as a result of attending the Anarres Project Symposium on Just Futures. I did not expect this symposium to speak to me about my trauma at being abandoned, but amazingly one of the panels struck right to the heart of it. It was a panel on care ethics vs. rights-and-duties ethics. And it clarified why I have experienced such intense cognitive dissonance in the social response I’ve received to having been abandoned. It’s because the dominant social response is predicated on rights-and-duties ethics while my own response is grounded in relational (if not care) ethics. Simply being able to identify that was like a huge leaden weight lifting off my shoulders, right there as I sat in that panel at Oregon State.
The second realization was that I have become chronically depressed, albeit fairly mildly on the spectrum. Now, I have spent a lot of my life unhappy. But that depression has always been what I’d call acute. That is, it’s been based on very clear, identifiable things wrong in my life. When those things were alleviated, the unhappiness was fairly immediately alleviated. And even when I wasn’t actively thinking about those things, I could be in a very good mood. In contrast, over the past few years, I’ve slipped into a more chronically depressive, persistent state of sadness. It certainly has external triggers: abandonment, climate grief, our property burning, Trump, financial insecurity, overwork, aging, my dad’s death, etc. But it has become settled as my dominant mood in a way that resists elevation. Even the characters in my head had become persistently depressed, even when they had nothing at all to be depressed about–and this is very new in my psychological experience. Having identified this, too, almost immediately helped me begin to pull out of it. It’s still with me, but having clarified it, I can better use tricks of mindset to pull myself in more positive directions. (And for all it’s contentiousness, I want to shout out to Star Wars for giving me a fun fandom mood boost.)
I have a friend who is a psychoanalytic therapist, a sub-field less and less common today. But he told me he likes psychoanalysis over more behavior-based therapeutic approaches because sometimes you cannot move forward until you do, in fact, uncover the root of what’s going on. Mental health not just about modifying behavior or even habits of mind; it’s about figuring out why your mind is the way it is. This has proven true for me before. The last time I had a great breakthrough in my mental health (c. 2012), it also came very fast on the heels of a realization about why I experienced the cognitive dissonance I experienced. (In that instance, it was, in a nutshell, that I’m a friendship bonder and our society does not recognize our existence.)
I have high hopes, therefore, that this couple of late 2019 realizations will lay the groundwork for significant improvement in my mental health in 2020. To facilitate that process, I’m adopting the following resolution: to process my realizations about abandonment by working on a book about it (non-fiction) and to do that in conjunction with resuming therapy, which I dropped (or was dropped by) when my therapist left her practice.
That’s me, heading into this portentous year. I wish everyone else wellness and support in a frightening time. If you ever need to talk, reach out. I’m here.