Friday, January 10, 2014

I have come to know my place

I've experienced depression for many years. Like a lot of people, I did a lot of self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, and I kind of liked that. But I discovered that I was a poster boy for the wonders of Prozac and have been on some form of antidepressent for nearly 20 years. I've never felt suicidal (although a good argument could be made that I have been self-destructive) or whatever term there is for the desire just to remain in bed. I have no trouble moving around and getting my day going, although sometimes it's hard to understand to what purpose. My depression leaves me angry more often than not, sometimes with myself but usually with society.

All this is to say that, when it comes to depression, I'm not un-self-cognizant. It took me a long time to recognize a need for help, and even longer to accept it. I'm not proud of my tendency toward do-it-myselfism, but realize it's a battle I fight continuously.

On Wednesday I had a counseling appointment with a new counselor I started with late last year. Before and after I left for the appointment I took out my aggression that had been building for months on the three dogs I love most, hitting one with a book, pushing another down the stairs, and kicking the third. I was devastated by this behavior and am so ashamed of myself that if I was suicidal I might consider it. None of them was hurt, although all three looked surprised, which is of course being hurt, and like an abuser I tried to make up for my behavior immediately. But it didn't do any good for how I felt about what I'd done.

This is not to make too big a thing of it. I know every animal lover has done something in her thoughtless moments that he regrets and I know that this is really no different. But one thing I've prided myself about is the immeasurable love I have for my animals. But my depression makes them fair game, I know, and my wife just a few weeks ago said she was sometimes anxious about leaving me alone with the animals in winter, knowing that I could take my anger out on them. I told myself if that happened I needed to make a serious change.

So here is the change I'm making.

It's really not a big thing, more a recognition of something in front of me all along. For decades I have tried to be something better than I am, socially and economically. I have gotten several degrees and trainings--I hold two masters and a master of fine arts, and I've trained as a chaplain and a minister. I was a college teacher for a decade and a part-time minister for another decade.

But those are middle class ambitions and I didn't come from that. I am a lower-class prole straight out of Orwell who lucked into those positions and now, in the current employment market, cannot find a way to make lightning strike twice. The market may not be right but it is what we live with and I have come to hear it loud and clear: it does not want me to make my way as a professional. I must make it as a minimum-wage employee.

I have gotten above myself and have been suitably punished for it.

As a result, I renounce my desires to be a minister or chaplain, as I more or less gave up my desire to be a teacher any longer, and starting Monday I will look for any full-time job within ten miles I can find. Keep in mind where I live, deep out on the rim: the best I could hope for around here is work as a machinist and I don't have that kind of training.

Is this a reaction to both my depression and my acting in a way I'm ashamed of? Perhaps. Probably. But I feel lighter as a result of making this decision. For the first time in a long while I feel less like a victim of economic forces and more like someone who's accepted his fate.

This doesn't mean I intend to give up ministering, as I haven't really given up teaching. I've just given up the hope anyone will pay me a living wage doing it. I've come to recognize my place, and it's behind a broom or a cash register, not a lectern or an altar.

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