I’ve fallen into a hole today. Call it alienation. Call it depression. Call it longing. Call it whatever you want. There is loneliness in this hole. There is bitterness. There’s hurt and anger.
I need to stay away from most people today, because I’m not my best self when I’m in this hole.
In a private letter, the writer Edna St. Vincent Millay once gave me this metaphor. She wrote, “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
I woke up feeling this way — as though I had fallen into a hole during the night — but it was hours before I was conscious enough of it to realize what was going on.
When it was time for lunch, I drove around from place to place, confused about what I wanted. Any time I have this much trouble deciding what to eat, the food choice isn’t the real issue, which I wrote about just a few weeks ago.
For me, depression is always a situational thing relating to unmet emotional needs. It’s in those times when I act in ways that I know are dysfunctional, mostly related to “self-medicating“ with food. As I thought about this at lunch, I realized that I really did fall into this hole last night, because I ate more poorly last night than I have for a couple of months.
Many people have no idea what it feels like to fall into such a hole. When I describe it to them, I get a blank look in return. Others know exactly what it’s like and freely acknowledge it. Yet others recognize a time in their past when falling into such a hole has almost destroyed them, so they prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist.
So we have an odd situation in our culture. Those who fall into this hole feel all alone — and when that happens, we’re painfully aware that hardly anybody else wants to hear about it. Almost everybody else prefers to look away, either because they don’t understand or because they understand too well.
The sense of aloneness is overpowering in this hole. The alienation from the world is profound. It’s not that I think different things than I normally do when I’ve fallen into this hole. It’s that I admit things to myself that I would prefer not to admit — because they’re things that scare me.
I always feel somewhat alone in the world — and I’ve always lived with the feeling that I was an alien among humans — but I normally make myself believe that can change. Maybe it’s just for the sake of my sanity, but I typically believe that there are people like me and that I’ll find them some day — that they’ll understand me and that they’ll want to hear what I have to say.
But when I’m in this hole, I come face to face with the knowledge that hardly anybody wants to hear the things I consider worth saying. I know how to attract a large audience by telling people things they want to hear. When I did that five or six years ago, I had 30,000 readers a day at my highest peak. But then I quit saying obvious things that they already agreed with. I started writing things which were far more personal to me — things which I consider far more important — and I’m lucky to have 500 readers on a good day. Hardly anybody cares.
I’ve become quite pessimistic about the possibility of people — even well-meaning and bright people — ever being able to agree on much about objective reality. Part of that is that we all have our subjective points of view, but a good part of it is that there seems to be some degree of insanity and irrationality that’s built into every single one of us. The thing that makes me feel truly crazy, though, is that almost all typical, normal, stable people assume their version of reality is objectively correct. When I’m able to see different people’s points of view and understand that multiple ones seem reasonable — and that they can’t all be true — I’m confused about why that isn’t obvious to everyone.
And from down in this hole, I also face my worst fear — that I’ll always be alone. That I’ll never find a partner who wants what I have to offer (and who also offers what I want in return). Most days, I can convince myself this will change. In this hole of alienation, she no longer exists.
I realize this isn’t interesting to most people. Maybe there’s absolutely nobody who really cares about it. (Probably, come to think of it.) I realize I’m indulging my need to talk about my fears. I’m down at the bottom of this dreadful and lonely hole and I’m shouting into a void. I honestly assume no one’s listening — and I don’t blame you.
I know I’ll climb out of the hole. Maybe tomorrow. Surely by Monday. I have plenty to get done, so I won’t have much choice. But I’ll just be numbing the feelings temporarily. I’ll just be pushing forward to do what must be done.
What’s worse, I know that until something changes — if it’s even possible for something to change — I’ll be back to avoiding the hole as much as I can for days on end. But I know I’ll eventually fall into it again and I’ll feel depressed and alienated and angry and hurt.
It’s my own personal version of hell in this mortal realm — and I don’t know how to escape it.