Crawling Back Out

Hey, y’all.

It’s been a while, I know.

Here’s the truth: I’ve been pretty depressed for the past few months. In January, when I basically stopped sleeping altogether, I finally got up the nerve to admit defeat and march myself down to my old therapist’s office, who promptly referred me to a psychiatrist, who promptly prescribed anti-depressants.

The adjustments to the medicine — something I’ve always been ambivalent about anyway, but hey, I’m trusting the good doctor for now after “healing myself” definitely did not work — have been weird, and I don’t think it’s over: while I’m generally feeling better mood-wise, these last ones have made me so sensitive to caffeine that even some chocolate triggers a migraine; all of the ones I’ve tried have weird sexual side-effects that I feel fairly certain would simply not be tolerated if antidepressant use were as prevalent among men as it was among women. Switching makes me impossibly sleepy or keeps me awake, and I’m never quite sure which a change will bring.

My therapist, a lovely and wise older woman who reminds me of some kind of lion goddess and who I’d basically like to be by the time I’m her age, has gotten me through some tough times and is doing so again. Her advice was simple: “Do the minimum you can, and don’t put pressure on yourself. Pretend you’re hibernating while you heal; there’s no way around slowing down for a bit; hunker down until the spring, the natural season for waking back up anyway.”

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. It turns out, though, that even in doing “the minimum,” there’s still quite a lot to do to keep my household afloat. Most of my various jobs are somewhat erratic: it’s fairly impossible to keep a schedule because, for the majority of them, tasks are offered to me when they’re needed, which means I’m constantly playing a making-money version that fruit ninja game with little control over when/if it comes flying at me. I did manage to get a steady-ish gig, at least, which has me feeling a little more tranquila. It doesn’t pay as much as the others which means I have to spend more time doing it, but a little security can go a long way when it comes to one’s mental health.

So, I haven’t done too much creativity-wise other than what I’m paid to do; for the rest, I’m still in hibernation, though the sun is starting to peek into a crack through the door, at least. Will spring really and truly arrive? Like, all the way?

That said, I believe my depression is situational, perhaps with a dash of genetic predisposition thrown into the mix. The world is crazy and sad. AI is coming, inevitably, for all the ways I make money in a world where no one has to give you a job but you do have to work to survive. My ex has been, preposterously, insisting for over a year now that he doesn’t have the couple of hours to spare needed to mediate our divorce, meaning I’ll have to sue him at some point if I ever want it to happen (I very much do).

But I’m trying. I’ve got a list of project ideas if I can ever work up the confidence and energy to see them through. I’m happy with my partner; I’m happy with my daughter. I have a nice family and good friends. And I came over to write to you, so that’s progress, right?

Soon, soon. Finding the strength to make things better for ourselves and each other is all any of us can hope to do.


Teenage Bird

There’s a video making its way around social media that’s meant to be adorable but won’t stop haunting me.

In it, a small open-mouthed bird marches after a worm. It gets close to the worm, and the worm wiggles away. The bird seems nonplussed for a moment, then follows it and opens its mouth again.

This repeats a few times, and a text appears to explain what’s happening: when baby birds leave the nest, the only way food has ever gotten into their mouths up to that point has been from their parents putting it directly into their mouths. Apparently, there can be some confusion about how to make it happen on their own.

It’s pretty adorable unless, as I do, you horrifyingly see your current self in the baby bird.

But the bird’s probably got it easier than you or me. We all see the straightforward solution to its plight, and we know that it will eventually figure it out. It’s got instinct on its side, after all.

For me as for many others, those open mouths might stay open for a very long time. I know I’m the bird, but what’s the worm? In my case, it’s a symbol for nourishment: work that can get me the things I need like food, shelter, and possibly massages.

The video showed up for me during what’s turning out to be quite a rough time. As a writer and translator, I’m a contract worker everywhere; though I’m constantly on the lookout, I haven’t managed to nail down an actual full-time job with fair pay or benefits. It seems my generation was 10-15 years too late to the good employment party…what a difference I see between the opportunities of those currently in their 50s and 60s and my generation!

For most of the year, things have been great: I’m good at what I do and have had a constant stream of assignments that have kept me living well (in Mexico, anyway) and able to provide myself and my family with the benefits that a job won’t, like health insurance and some meager savings.

But since October, things have gone down. I’ve gone from being constantly busy with tons of fun work to having almost nothing to do, and am facing some very serious financial setbacks very soon if something doesn’t change.

Being in Mexico means that most new job offers want to pay much less than the going rate (“You don’t need that much, you’re in Mexico!” being the main assumption).

I’m officially “hired” at several different places (never put all your eggs in one basket, as they say!), but I can’t force anyone to actually give me work assignments. The word for the past couple of months has been, “Sorry, we don’t have anything for you right now…but we’ll let you know!” In the meantime, my savings are dwindling and there’s no new money coming in. Like that little bird, I can’t oblige anyone to give me work, no matter how willing and talented I may be. If I stay a contractor forever, this will be my working reality forever. I just can’t seem to get that steady job worm to hop into my mouth, and I’m not sure how to scoop it up myself.

Humans being the superstitious creatures they are, and me being human, I’m of course trying to find some meaning in all this.

Is it a sign? The message from the gods would seem to be to not depend on outside employment for income, but how do I “do my own thing” and make enough money at it to live?

I’ve long dreamed of becoming a professional organizer and decorator, which is another creative passion of mine: making places beautiful. But how, especially when I live in a place where people would likely not be able to afford what I’d need to charge to make it a real business and not simply volunteer work? And more importantly, how do I get money to support myself and my family in the meantime? It’s not that I’m trying to make excuses to wiggle my way out of a new venture, I just need to see a path where we’ll get to keep eating while I figure it out.

How, oh how, do I scoop up that little worm?

To end, here’s another great meme I saw, in the form of a headline (the satirical news site Reductress always brilliantly saves the day): “‘I Need a Second Job,’ Says Woman Who Actually Needs Different Economic System.”

Ah. There it is.