Warning: this post is not about photography per se and touches on some unpleasant topics, specifically anxiety and depression. Probably best not to read it.
How do you fail a medical exam? You don’t, usually. You get results which tell you what’s wrong. I get results which tell me what’s not wrong. I’ve got a long list of what isn’t ailing me, with no diagnosis of what is. That’s failing the exam. Or the exam failing you. Whichever.
It’s a good thing I’m not going out much these days because the morning cough would scare passers-by into thinking I’m contaminated with COVID. It’s really just that the lung muscles need some encouragement to get going because they are muscles and whatever it is that afflicts me affects all the muscles, including the heart. Recently I nearly choked to death in the night because certain muscles decided to misbehave. Or there’s the joyous ‘rebound effect’ of taking the muscle relaxant so that I won’t have that problem, which is the equivalent of a severe hangover for which there is no cure. The day after that I got to wake up with arms and legs in contraction which makes them tired and sore before I get out of bed. I have to lie there and rest before getting up. I then went through a morning of being weak in the limbs and torso with my face hurting. Try telling your doctor that your face hurts and see what reaction you get.
Only you can’t see a doctor right now because of the pandemic. It is really complicated here and they are relying heavily on phone-in and on-line service to assist patients. A lot of people are suffering more as a result, and there’s no way to determine if the COVID situation would be worse if they weren’t. Our daily new cases here have gone up 100X in the past few weeks: everyone is in trouble. The USA with its moronic leadership has the highest infection and death rate in the world, so at least we’re not them. I digress.
Okay, let’s try the non-interactive medical service and see what it comes up with.
According to results I’m suffering from Anxiety and Depression.
I’ve got plenty to be anxious and depressed about. But they’ve put the cart before the horse: assuming my physical symptoms are a manifestation of the psychological state instead of the other way around. Let me tell you, when you’re old and infirm with no chance of getting better and the world keeps dumping merde at your doorstep it is unlikely you will be calm and cheerful. It triggers a vicious cycle, then, where the induced mental state aggravates the physical symptoms. How then to break the cycle?
A paradox! A paradox! A most ingenious paradox!
The medical profession likes to prescribe pills. Well there is no such thing as a “happy pill” no matter what they say. Altering your mental state chemically so that your mind is unaware of or unconcerned with the problems at hand is not a solution. It is a sure-fire avenue to addiction, though. (Note this is not the same as replacing a known deficiency in neuro-transmitter chemicals.)
Let me take a moment to explain that anxiety and depression are not illnesses in and of themselves. They are normal feelings under certain conditions. Anticipating a visit to the dentist is bound to cause anxiety in anyone (if it doesn’t, that is another problem). When your pet dies you should feel depressed (again, if you don’t that’s a problem). The actual illnesses are anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Either can be defined as an abnormal level of reaction to circumstances (as in causing an inability to cope with anything, not just the situation at hand) or reaction to imagined circumstances that are unlikely to occur (like worrying about the world being hit by a meteor).
So when your normal day amounts to “consciousness = pain” and routine actions require major expenditure of energy and effort it is normal to feel anxious about having to do anything and depressed about the situation in general. That’s the paradox: the physical problems can be caused by the mental state, or vice-versa. In this era of pop-psychiatry where reality is a matter of opinion and scientific facts don’t count, there is a tendency to ignore the physical in favour of the mental. (Another paradox is the popular trend of normalizing mental illness while at the same time ignoring certain behaviours that are such illness; only certain kinds of mental illness are okay to have. Similar to the hypocrisy of social behaviour patterns. Boy could I start some major arguments with this. I feel smug in knowing that those arguments would prove my point and the arguers against would never notice this fact.)
Okay, I’m wandering again. Where was I?
Oh yes: suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune.
So here I am with the unknown disease flaring up at a time when so many other things are going wrong, from the weather (4″ of snow this Saturday morning and -12°C) to unexpected expenses (CRD being incompetent) to whatever little pleasures I might still be able to indulge in being taken away. Removal of any one of these factors would do more towards relieving the negative mental state than any chemical compound ever could. Better weather, a financial windfall, some opportunity to photograph, any disruption to this steady stream of unpleasant eroding of my state of mind would help. This is unlikely to happen, thus I am stuck in a pattern of reciting the mantra of “get through the day” every day. I don’t even want to think long-term, as the projections for that can only be worse.
All these things have been wearing me down. The physical and the mental. Things like having to get the wood in and the cabin closed up, neither of which has been completed. Things like the sudden awful turn in the weather, which interfered with the first two items as well as photography. Things like the government suddenly coming after me demanding money and creating hassles I do not need. Even minor things like the changes to certain on-line sites which make them more of a pain to use rather than a pleasant distraction from other things. Never mind things like not being able to advance on wishful plans such as acquiring new equipment – or even purchasing a favourite chocolate bar. I do not create problems for myself (unlike some people I know). I don’t have to; there are plenty of people willing to create problems for me either through direct and deliberate action or simple disregard for the existence of others. Hell even our recent local election went against my wishes, although I doubt it will make any actual difference to me specifically. Lots of little, annoying, and completely unnecessary events which grate away the calm and collected demeanor. All that is left at this point is a facade of that, and I’m not sure how long it will withstand the onslaught.
Some people might not take this seriously, because there are dashes of humour in this otherwise bleak diatribe. It is an absolute truth that even in our darkest moments we still see light, although it is likely the headlamp of an oncoming train, which tends to detract (or distract) from the seriousness of the situation. Often the person most likely to commit suicide is not the habitually morose one but the seemingly stable one whose problems are kept locked inside until they overwhelm. (Oddly enough statistics show that the suicide rate has gone down during this pandemic, which is a situation probably worthy of greater study.)
Therein another paradox. The world is full of them.
It’s full of something, anyway.
Addendum: cleared the driveway of 6″ snow. Snowblower wouldn’t start because I didn’t get to service it yet this year (we usually do not have so much snow so early). When I did get it done my hands were burning numb with the effects of cold and gripping the handles. See what I mean? Every day tasks are becoming insurmountable. It doesn’t help having animals, which must be looked after every day even when you don’t feel up to getting out of bed.
My wife is not immune to the effects either. She canceled her hair appointment because, once again, she was worried about going out. The pandemic has inflicted on her a case of agoraphobia which she tries to deny, but caves in to almost every time. We are too old to have so many problems dumped on us like this. Can not cope with it all.