There is no day that goes by without someone checking out my post Writing a thesis while being depressed, mission impossible? It is by far the most read post on this blog, some examples of the search words that lead people to it are on the tone of: dissertation depression, I’m depressed and my dissertation is failing, I’m afraid of my thesis, I’m depressed because of my dissertation, my thesis is torture, I’m too depressed to write my thesis, and so on, you get the idea.
When I first wrote that post, I remember googling for similar keywords, and found nothing helpful, so I can only wish what I wrote there is helping someone. That post was written last November, 5 months ago, and I can say that all those search terms above still apply to me. I’m terrified of my dissertation, it’s torture, it’s making me depressed, and I believe it’s failing. The first draft is written, but I can’t go any further than that, I’m absolutely and completely blocked. And I’m not that dumb, I know there are underlying reasons for my depression other than my thesis, and what I feel about it is actually a sign of something deeper. But it’s also a vicious cycle: if I could only get it done, the main stress factor in my life would be taken away from me and I’d be able to concentrate my strengths in making my life the way I want it to be, on getting better, but the weight is so big that it paralyzes me, and I’m left contemplating all the things that I could have and could do but I can’t because I’m depressed.
So if you’re in a situation like that, I can only let you know you’re not alone, though writing a dissertation feels like one of the loneliest things to do in the world. Also, your thesis is probably not creating your depression on its own, there’s probably something else on the background, and you should find out what it is before it becomes and even bigger issue. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with therapy, though it not always goes well, just like today.
This afternoon I found out Mr. Shrinky is pregnant. He works with his wife, who’s also a therapist, and as I arrived some time before my session they walked right by me while I was waiting in my car. Her belly was not something that could possibly be ignored, so when I came in, the first thing I asked was: is your wife pregnant? Of course she is, there’s no hiding it, but I still had to ask. And the first feeling that came to me was a huge sadness because I can’t have what they have. They’re a couple of succesful proffesionals who obviously do well, work together, and are having a child whose emotional needs are probably going to be perfectly covered. Come to think about it, I think it also made me sad because it reminded me of all those emotional needs that were systematically ignored when I was a child.
To make it all worse, a while after my session ended I saw the mother, who said something to me that made me want to punch her in the face. She told me how a co-worker whose adolescent son is temporarily working with them screamed terribly at him just because he forgot to pack lunch. She said she felt awful for the kid and that from the outside she could see his father was tired, not having a good day and taking it out on his son. Then she said something to me, while making a silly face as if she were a child who just got caught eating too much candy: “I know I did this too, and I’m sorry, I was too harsh on you and it wasn’t your fault, would you forgive me?.”
What I wanted to say was something like: “Too harsh? Are you fucking kidding me? You traumatized me for life! You’re probably the reason I’m in therapy three times a week and on antidepressants, and you’re damn right it wasn’t my fault, you neurotic bitch! The least you could do is pay for that damn therapy because it’s costing me half my paycheck!”
However, what came out of my mouth was an almost inaudible “yes” and a bitter smile put on a face that I quickly turned away. I thought I had been doing a lot of healing in the past months, learning to forgive her for the things she did, because after all she suffered a lot too at the hands of her family, A LOT. But when she comes up with stupid apologies like that, it just makes my insides want to explode.
Right now I’m just sitting here writing, trying to cool down from so many emotions in one afternoon and I’m thinking: it’s just not fair. This child about to be born will have everything I lacked. And I’m glad for him and for his parents, I truly am. But why did I not get half of those things? Why was I stuck with this twisted, tortured family, filled with dark secrets that I’m not even close to uncovering? And I feel so selfish writing this too, I know millions got off worse than I did, I shouldn’t be whining about it, but it hurts. Life is not fair, and that aches like hell.
One of my coping mechanisms is cutting, and I haven’t cut for a while, in about three months or so, but I’ve recently taken up on scratching again. It worries me because it’s something I can control even less than cutting, I don’t realize when I start and by the time I notice, I’m usually bleeding. Wounds are far less profound, but they’re more uncomfortable in the long run; also, because I’m not really conscious when I scratch, I tend to end up with pretty visible, ugly crusts for which I’m running out of excuses for.
There are the more practical concerns regarding the baby I envy. Mr. Shrinky will obviously be taking a leave of absence, he said it’s going to be about three weeks in June. Fine. I totally get it, it will be hard, but how could I not understand? And I can do it. But once he’s back, how can I even imagine that poor me with my silly problems and my pouts is going to occupy any space on his mind compared to the dazzling, beautiful, charming baby boy that’s going to be waiting for him back at home?