Funny that The Princess Bride keeps rattling around inside my head when I’m in the midst of rapid cycling. Well, funny might not be the right word. Inconceivable, maybe.
It’s a dire warning when I’m more depressed getting out of the water than when I get in. My deep water aerobics class is the highlight of my day, nearly guaranteed to jump-start a little feel-good chemistry. It may not last long, but even a couple of hours of relief when the depression is mighty feels like heaven. Lately, it’s been more like the Fire Swamp with lightening sand and Rodents of Unusual Size sucking my energy.
There are days when nothing helps, not even my most radical back-up plan. Driving through the beautifully cool morning? Nope. Starbucks and my journal? Just pisses me off more. A double feature? Blowing a credit card wad on British DVDs? A healthy, vegan dinner at Hu Hot? Distracting and numbing, but once finished I’m back in The Pit of Despair.
There are times when my skin is just too thin. Everything seeps in. I checked out the Masterpiece Mystery! series Wallander from the library last week and devoured it. The BBC adapted Swedish writer Henning Mankell’s murder mysteries with lush photography; tight, complicated plots; and a jaw-dropping performance by Kenneth Branagh as Wallander. The music is haunting and images of the forlorn Swedish countryside painfully beautiful. Wallander himself is just as haunted. There is no doubt that this deeply depressed detective will never gain a shred of insight or be able to change his self-destructive ways.
I feel the guy’s pain. Literally.
I walked into my mom’s nursing home on Sunday to a dining room full of drooling, slumped souls waiting to be fed, or cleaned up, or wheeled elsewhere. My compassion turned tail and yike!yike!yiked! it out of there. The only thing left was my wide open nerve ending and a smattering of guilt. I ducked my head to keep from making any eye contact, but I still needed to wade through the moist miasma of smells to the other side of the room. It was as horrific to me as anything Stephen King ever put his name to. It crawled under my skin and festered. And in the back of my mind, The Dread Pirate Roberts smirked, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Yesterday I researched a little for my story Technical Consultant. Carrie Severide will have to go to London, and I needed to find out what that might look like. Getting a passport, managing a long and lousy flight, jet lag, bad food—it all started to make me sweat. I got anxious for her, this creation in my head, and had to stop.
My internal stimulus can be just as overwhelming as the external. I’m water-boarded with wordswordswords. Images tumble over each other like a litter of snarly opossums. The brain red-lights into overload all on its own.
It takes a lot of deep breathing to pause and step back from all of it. But, that’s the Work. That’s always the Work. To untangle and get the tiniest bit of perspective. And it could be worse. It could always be worse. As Inigo Montoya says, “Let’s look on the bright side: we’re having an adventure, Fezzik, and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are.”
That’s it. An Adventure. Why didn’t I think of that?