Depression & Apathy

I was tired all day and I’m still tired but this morning I’m feeling bleak.  It would be depression except that I know intellectually that help is just around the corner.

I want to think about the difference between apathy and depression.  I’ve felt apathy many times in my life — “Why bother?” “What’s the use?” —but it’s almost always been accompanied by depression so there’s been also a hopeless, stuck, weighted down feeling about it.  Apathy lacks the invisible weight of depression.  I used to say that when I was depressed, it was like dragging an invisible 500 pounds behind me.  That, of course, was after I knew what it was like to not be depressed.  It’s not OK to be depressed and I would desperately try to get out of it.  Or push myself to get things done.  With apathy now  it’s OK to be apathetic, to just sit here and stare out the window.  The being OK is because I know this is something that happens to a baby when she’s left alone too long.  It confirms that there was neglect in my childhood and validates the work I am doing to heal.  I wonder if this basic apathy becomes depression when I start to have thoughts and try to make meaning out of it and decide that it’s my fault rather than understand that my mother was incapable of caring for me.  I wonder if the basic source of depression is feeling miserable, believing you are responsible for feeling miserable — I remember my father saying “You just want to be miserable” — but I couldn’t stop it by my own efforts.  Feeling responsible for making something happen yet not be able to stop making it happen — that double bind is at the root of depression.

I’m glad and grateful that I’m far enough out of it to be able to see it.  I remember saying the serenity prayer: “God give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  When I found out about children of alcoholics, that we are damaged by our parents’ drinking, I realized that I learned from my alcoholic parents that I could change what I in fact had no power to change — namely their behavior — and that I could not change what I was really responsible for — namely my own thinking.

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