Hello and good morning. Once again, it’s not Thursday but Friday, this time the 26th of November in 2021. I intended to write a blog post yesterday, though it was Thanksgiving here in the US. However, I’ve come down with a moderate cold this week—nothing horrific, not Covid-19 or the flu, but an irritating and enervating process that includes sneezing, coughing, runny nose, some laryngitis, a bit of achiness, and just generally feeling blah. So, I decided that I’d take the whole day off yesterday and sleep in, then sleep quite a bit off and on throughout the day. I have done so, and now here I am, in the office on so-called Black Friday*, writing this week’s blog post.
I did try to make the fact of being sick productive—I recorded a roughly twenty or so minute video reviewing the differences between viruses and bacteria, the different types of illnesses they cause, and the differences in treatment for which they call. It’s the sort of thing that I would have thought was common knowledge that most people learned and pretty well mastered by the time they were in middle school, at least on a broad level, but this is plainly not the case. I haven’t edited and posted that video yet, but I will, probably this weekend, unless I’m too under the weather still.
Being sick and so on has seriously diverted me from my work on Outlaw’s Mind. Between Monday and Tuesday, I only wrote 2450 words, and I wrote nothing at all on Wednesday (nor yesterday). Part of this is due to the respiratory infection, but another portion is due to the ennui I continue to feel regarding writing any story. I’m far more stubborn than the day is long, but even I can have difficulty staying motivated. It’s not that I don’t like the story. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite ever story idea, but it’s also far from my least favorite, and no other story that I have waiting in the wings seems eager to push it aside.
Some of my apathy is probably due to the diminishing day length, which leads to worsening of my dysthymia—which has itself been persistent, more or less, in this iteration, for at least a dozen years and probably more. In fact, the last time I can remember being truly free from it must be from roughly 1996 or 1997 through sometime in 2002 or 2003. I was well-nigh unstoppable then, though I was in late med school then residency then the beginning of medical practice, and moved states, and became a father to two children.
After that time, especially after my back injury, I’ve been under the pall of depression/dysthymia, overlaid with personal catastrophes of several kinds. The external stuff is comparably tolerable, however, though that might be hard to believe, since it includes injury, chronic pain, illness, loss of career, imprisonment, loss of family, isolation, etc. But it’s true.
I liken it very much and quite seriously to being undead, and not in a cool, darkly sexy, Anne Rice vampire chronicles way. One of the best literary quotes that describes, for me, what dysthymia is like is when Gandalf speaks of the Rings of Power to Frodo, describing what happens to someone (such as Bilbo or the Nazgul) who keeps one of the Great Rings:
I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t intend this to be a metaphor for dysthymia, but it really resonates with me. Interestingly, as I looked up the specific quote above, I realized that I had subtly altered it in my head to read: “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps a Great Ring does not die, but neither does he grow or obtain new life. He merely continues, until at last each breath is a weariness.” The gist is the same, and I don’t know how to account for the differences. Do those two wordings strike any of you differently, or are they basically indistinguishable? I would honestly be fascinated to know.
Writing new stories has often been a source of some relief from depression; I’m not the only author to have noted this fact. But rather like the notion that exercise is good for depression, it doesn’t do you much good if your depression keeps you from doing the thing that helps. I’ve often wondered whether the causality was misconstrued in the studies of exercise and depression; perhaps the people who were able to do the exercising were already experiencing improvement in their depression, and so they were able to participate fully. I’m pretty sure that the various study designers thought of that issue, and randomized as best they could to counter it, but it’s not always completely doable.
Anyway, that’s a summary of my status. Maybe I’ll review all my old story ideas and see if any of them really grabs me and makes me want to write more than Outlaw’s Mind does. I have this weekend off (after having worked the last two Saturdays), so perhaps the extra rest will help.
I hope all of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that everyone else just had a lovely week and a nice Thursday. Christmas approaches for those who celebrate it, and even those who don’t can’t avoid its presence in the West. Best wishes of the solstice season to all of you out there, no matter which one you’re approaching.
*Though they’ve started with “Black Friday” sales right after Halloween, frankly, so they’ve rather spoiled the whole mystique of the Day After Thanksgiving being the biggest Christmas shopping day. There’s no good and interesting phenomenon that we in America—and probably the rest of the world—can’t squeeze and overuse until it’s lost all sense of fun and use that it previously had.