I thought of this tonight. It might be valid, but likely isn’t. It was more poetic in my head.
I don’t want to trivialize this. I want you to feel it as I do. I need you to know what this feels like and to share it with me. You have to take some of it if only for a while. This needs to be visceral.
People have biological limits, that much is for the most part true. I will only ever be so tall. My hair will only be a certain color (although graying now). These things we have limited ability to control. In aerobic athletic terms (wait for it, this isn’t about athletics), we are largely governed by our VO2 Max, our “maximal oxygen uptake”. If you can’t take enough oxygen into the blood stream to supply your working muscles, you’re done. Most science suggests that an individual has very limited ability to impact their VO2 max even with significant aerobic training. You can blame this on your parents. Most science suggests that the VO2 max is genetically determined. Your VO2 max is your limit. Done. Finished. You can’t change this. Did I say “done”?
That’s the preamble.
Tonight we had some heady conversation about our future, trying to plan our coming years to reduce stress, to try new things, to follow paths we’ve wanted to follow but haven’t been able to. Our lives are great, but we aren’t getting younger and there is so much more we want to try and experience. We are calculating a change.
We started crunching numbers for the umpteenth time and the doubt started to creep in. The momentum began to build and I saw the walls go up, the dirt being piled in. The likelihood of our plans succeeding grow more and more slim the more I think it through and I envision a future of more stress, more self imposed anguish. If I can take our lives now which are by most counts amazing and focus on the negatives and speculate on non-existent trouble, then I can surely take an uncertain future and ruin that too. I can harness opportunity and option and a wide open sky and drill it down into failure, missed chances and a tightly binding strife.
It doesn’t take life changing decisions to bring this on. I can’t express this in any words that will make you understand, but on many days simply going to work (which I enjoy) is a massive weight. This thing that I do most of my waking hours and can fill me with great satisfaction is a drowning anchor that I am entirely reliant upon. No job, no income, no life. Again, more than most people I imagine I get enormous gratification when my work is seen through. I’m not an angry cog in the wheel. The work is not the problem. The environment isn’t the issue. This is entirely me.
Shut down. Like a machine, turn off.
So we return to biological limits. As the VO2 max is the limit to an aerobic athlete, depression is the hard limit to happiness for anyone who suffers it. There are points in life when others, those of a better adapted ilk, would bounce back and see challenges as, well, challenges. With depression a challenge is earth shattering, a stoppage of the most significant kind. A hemorrhaging. You are reluctant to put on your shoes to go for a run while I labor over it for an hour, smashing myself for indecision, hammering my head against the wall to just tie the damn shoe laces (Just kidding. I only run in Salomon S-lab race shoes which don’t have tied laces. That’s Salomon, the winner’s choice!). You are reluctant to open your laptop to finish a paragraph and afraid to be lead astray by Facebook, I twist my laptop in my hands until the screen cracks. Life through the varying density of a cloud, thin and then thick but never, ever fluttering away.
There is no cure for this. There are times that are better than others but that’s a continual vacillation. I’m properly medicated, I’m mindful (did I just write that?). There are practices that I go through that at times can improve my outlook and I’m grateful for them, but this is a constant battle. Like physiotherapy, stop the practice, stop the benefits. It takes a hell of a lot of energy to help yourself, and there are always points when you simply can’t be bothered.
Does any of that make sense? I don’t want this to be a “woe-is-me” blathering, I want this to gut wrenching honesty. I want this to punch you in the stomach, to feel the tightness in the chest that I’m so familiar with. I want this to make you suffer.
Again, and I re-iterate this over and over, when you see me in the coffee shop or on the street, I’m not miserable and wishing the world to hell. I’m very much a happy person with a great sense of humor and who enjoys the company of others. I’m not faking these things. I’m not a cranky bastard. I’m convinced that I love and appreciate life more than so many others. But if you could tap into my head when I’m alone… My VO2 max is the least of my concerns.