what unwillingness to feel felt like
I was depressed from about 2022 April to 2022 November; I think there were two overlapping depressions there, and in this post I want to write about the first one.
This depression had much to do with being unwilling to feel. The general sense was one of…
"why do anything?", "why learn anything?"
"i don't know what i want to do. — am i even interested in anything anyway?"
a fear of "trusting" my intrinsic motivations ("because i might get uncontrollably sucked in to doing something trivial, like those mathematicians who work on all that trivial stuff just because they're 'just following their interest'")
some general anhedonia towards most activities
"efficiency mindset" ; "everything i do has to be useful"
generally, needing a 'rational reason' to do things, instead of needing a reason *not* to do things
During this time I also noticed that it was not (and maybe never had been) typical for me to, for example, look up what I was doing in any given moment and pay attention to sources of beauty that were before me.
Meanwhile, all of the women I found attractive through this period seemed to do this often, and I found it very cute when they did.
E.g.: We were walking together on a snowy Boston street. Then, suddenly, she stopped in her step and looked around. I looked back at her, and she seemed almost overwhelmed by the beauty she was soaking in.
And, despite how cute I found this, I also noticed that I didn't do this at all myself, and that was odd to me.
The first time I consciously noticed this first depression was around 2022 March (around when I resigned from my job), but I think that it had already been present for many years at that point.
Overall I seemed to be disconnected from how I felt. And because I didn't have access to how I felt, the only other ways I could make decisions were by relying on 1) rational/instrumental reasoning; and 2) external advice. (e.g. I wasn't feeling my posture so I relied on external advice instead, and that went poorly.)
In the months that followed noticing this depression I meditated a bunch on feelings and stuff, did some coaching, other stuff I won't write about here, and I slowly released whatever 'unwillingness to feel' that I had been clutching. And I'm sure I had reasonable-sounding internal reasons to believe that feeling was dangerous, but whatever they were I released them as contradictions, and can no longer remember any more about what those reasons felt like.
As I got better, I began to surprise myself:
that I liked walking my favorite dog, and, I enjoyed this for its own sake
(and, i didn't have to be thinking about anything else or doing anything "useful" for it to feel worthwhile and therefore be worthwhile!)
"oh, i liked going on long, meandering walks. i forgot about that"
"oh, i can go hiking all day and that's fine— and even pretty great, actually"
i was surprised when one day i noticed that i wanted to drive to the ocean and watch the waves
(i did, it was fun)
"oh, i do like animals"
for the first time in my life I started paying attention to fashion. i had never realized that when i look at others' clothes i feel different things depending on their fashion! during this period i also figured out my taste and what i want my fashion to be
i watched a TV series (for the first time in years!) and i was surprised that i actually enjoyed it. A few weeks later I was surprised once more when i noticed that I wanted to rewatch the same series! (aw, buddy.)
(and i did rewatch it; it was great)
"oh, maybe i'm actually not ambivalent about death"
while I was still in the depression: it felt like that if there was, for example, a button that i could roll over onto and just immediately and painlessly cease to exist, then i'd be sort of ambivalent to whether i ever rolled over onto that button in my sleep. Overall I didn't feel a whole lot of glumness towards the possibility of semi-accidentally rolling over onto that button. (Now it's a bit terrifying? My stomach grows legs and jumps away from the hypothetical. Unwanted.)
"oh, meditation can be fun, even if it's not done for any specific/external purpose"
"oh, feeling is fun. and infinite gamey stuff is fun. And they needn't be of instrumental purpose"
I notice that when someone asks me "Why do you do that/why do you like that/?…" (e.g. "Chris, why do you want to have like 6 kids??"), I often find myself answering, "cuz I wanna!", and that's really the truest answer I can give. — But until recently I felt like I had to have an "acceptable" (i.e.: legibly explainable) reason for my feelings and decisions, and so this is surprising to me. But now, yeah, it feels like "feelings are at the bottom". That my feelings are the real thing (and not my processes of conscious reasoning).
It’s also interesting to me how I was able to get this long without noticing how dissociated I was. I think I was able to get by until only recently because during 2018-2021 I was still with my ex/best friend. She was exceptionally feely, and I was able to experience a lot of the thing that I was missing through her, but we broke up in 2021 December, and this all became clear to me a few months after that.
Anyways, eventually, by 2022 September I felt that I had fully "chilled out", and that this area didn't confuse me anymore.
"Oh, I can just do things because I want to. Because they feel right. Of course! How could it be any other way?"
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