“You need a big project”


noun: lack of pleasure or of the capacity to experience it.
OK, so I am suffering from anhedonia in a really big way. As you know, my sex drive is dead as a dodo and I have no physical response, which I find completely alarming and as though I’ve lost a big part of my personality. I also have little to no interest in food, which I am not actually complaining about, should be able to get those extra few pounds off without too much trouble, I have a fridge full of food that I am not eating (yes, Mom, I am taking vitamins). I was at my wits’ end after work this evening because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt too weak to exercise, not tired enough to sleep and anyway going to bed at 8pm is hardly successful living. I didn’t want to read or knit or play video games or do any of the formerly enjoyable activities with which I am so extremely blessed to be surrounded.
So instead I sat around uninterestedly looking at things on the internet until things started being interesting. In fact, there were three things. Here they are.
Thing #1: Anhedonia and Stress.
OK, so without going into all the sciency details, it looks as though prolonged stress, which would be a good description of the last 6 months, can burn out the special neural pathways in your brain that are responsible for you being alert and excited and giving a damn about things. I am all out of damn. I have no fucks left to give, metaphorically as well as literally. I am somewhat relieved by this story as it supplies a logical and sciency reason why I can’t take pleasure in things or get excited about things. It’s not that I’ve wandered into the Enchanted Forest of Misery from which there is no exit, I just burnt out the part of my brain that cares about things, through over-use. All I have do is relax as much as possible, try not to worry about it and wait for my brain to start working normally again, which it will do as long as God, who apparently hates my guts, allows me to have a reasonable amount of peace and quiet for about 6 months.
Thing #2: People who don’t care about you will abandon you the minute you start being a problem.
I was surfing around on the internet looking for stuff about anhedonia and I found this. There was this harrowing story in the comments. The author is really telling a story about how he overcame his depression by acting happy until he felt happy – the ‘fake it til you make it’ strategy, and I can see how that strategy works. But that is not actually what caught my attention. What attracted my attention was this guy’s story about him and his friend. I could have sworn we were friends with the same person. Look:

I’ve been through this before. You want to get mad at the situation but you can’t even manage that.

What’s remarkable, to me, is that I found my way out of it through the worst person I’ve ever met. He was the only friend I had at the time, if you could really call us “friends”. We were playing pool and I was talking about how I had been feeling over the last couple months. He said “That’s probably the kind of thing you should keep to yourself.” And I said something along the lines of “you know, when you say stuff like that it makes me feel like you don’t really care about me.” And he said “I *don’t* really care about you. The moment you become even remotely burdensome to me I’m just going to stop answering your texts.” This led to a rant on my part in which he just repeated that my problems weren’t his problems and that I had to deal with them in private or he would just leave. The prospect of losing my *only* friend was something I was scared of, so I just pretended to be happy around him. After a while pretending got easier, and a while after that I realized I wasn’t really pretending anymore. I was finally feeling well enough to ditch his sociopathic ass.

Your mileage may vary. This is not advice on how to deal with depression.

We know someone like that, don’t we, readers. So that’s why I’m no longer waiting for an email or text message. I am no use to him because I am not happy and full of the joys of spring, in fact I am explosively short-tempered and in need of sympathy, supplies of which he does not have. That much is clear. So I am not waiting for him any more, he can wait for me instead. I have bigger things to worry about and he’s not delivering any happiness, which is his sole function, so fuck him. He can sit in his little house and rot.


Thing #3: “You need a big project.”

And finally. While I was in Skype, deleting the Honcho from my contacts list for the 50th time (he didn’t unblock me, by the way, it was just Skype playing a cruel game), I had a chat with Nurse Moody, who I haven’t spoken to since he moved out of here just before I went travelling. Nurse Moody has considerable experience with depression. I solicited his advice about anhedonia. Here is what he said:

You need a big project… Sounds counter intuitive. You want to find distractions that focus many parts of your psyche as opposed to one. Start with broad strokes and when you get yourself in focus a little more go to the next layer and so on

 This was extremely helpful to me. Over the last few days I’ve abandoned work on the house and I’ve been trying to involve myself in small, easy tasks because they are small and easy. This has not been working, I have no appetite for anything at all, I can’t engage my attention. So I like this because it is a different approach. What I need is a new project, a big project, something that requires some planning, some physical activity and that provides for those broad brush strokes. I have always liked big projects, hence TLYW, so I just need to think of one, which is a reasonably absorbing activity all by itself.

And that is where we are up to this evening, and now it’s 11.30pm and I can go to bed without feeling like a pathetic loser. 1 Survival point, if such a thing existed.


2 thoughts on ““You need a big project””

  1. Agree with all of this. We’ve also discussed ‘Big Project’ ideas before, and as I’ve said before to you in private but will now say in front of the world, I think you have so many amazing skills G, it’s a criminal waste for you not to put them to great use for the benefit of yourself and others

    Ideas for Big Projects:

    Charlty – maybe something with the homeless. Could be as simple as fundraising but anyone could do that – I’m sure you could get deeper and more effectively involved if you approached suitable charities – (eradicating homelessness? – I’m sure I remember you saying something along those lines recently but in a different context) Working with the less fortunate also has the added benefit of making you feel your situation is not as bad as it seems

    Writing that book. Maybe a bit ‘cerebral’, for now, and what might suit you better at the moment is something where you think less and do more, but the world definitely needs to know the lessons learnt from the HH

    In the vein of ‘Doing Stuff’, set yourself a target to do a marathon, or an Iron man race.

    Travel – you know it always does you good, and maybe you could link with charitable/volunteer work also (eg go and rebuild houses in earthquake hit parts of the world)

    Once you get moving on something (anything really) things will fall into place and it will be easier to think. As you have intimated, the hardest part is starting. My favourite metaphor, and one I have used a lot for myself – ‘It’s easier to steer the car once you are actually moving’, so just jump in and JFDI. Doesn’t actually matter what ‘It’ is at this stage………………..just something that feels ‘big’ and ‘different’. You can always refine things later

    Willing you on G

    Lots of love


    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and unfailing support. OK. I’m working on it. Btw, I am categorically *not* writing a book about the HH. LOL! I think I already wrote one. God help me if he ever finds it. It makes me laugh and it makes my blood run cold.

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