What do I want to do? Nothing. Not a damn thing. There is nothing whatsoever that I want to do.
You ever been there?
If you’ve ever been depressed enough that you literally don’t want to do anything at all, nothing in the universe, you will realize what a tremendous luxury it is to want to do something. For reals. “Wanting”might seem like “breathing,” if you think it’s something that just happens as long as you’re alive, no matter what. I’m alive, so I want stuff. Except that isn’t how it works. I learned this some years ago, and get helpful echoes of the lesson from time to time.
Normal folks who are feeling okay want stuff all the time. They want to be entertained, and they want to eat, and they want to drink. They want to sleep, and they want to make money just enough that they “want” to go to work.
But there’s more.
They want to watch their favorite TV shows, they want to check their social media, they want to watch a basketball game, they want to go out of town on the weekend, they want to have sex, they want buy some stuff for the house, they want to visit with friends, and they want dessert.
And and and…
Because they want things, they do things, which is awesome. But what happens if you don’t want anything anymore? What happens when depression settles in your bones and nothing is good and nothing appeals to you and nothing is worth getting out of bed for?
I looked into this about thirteen years ago–you’re welcome–and you wanna know what I found? You do nothing. You go to bed, because that’s ground zero, and you stop doing. You stop planning, you stop caring, and you stop thinking. It’s like dead, except dead supposedly doesn’t hurt like depression does. (Depression feels like a broken heart all over. That’s my best approximation.)
It has a word, which makes it feel all medical. Anhedonia. Without pleasure.
If your brain has too little want-to-do-stuff juice, you don’t even want to eat. That’s the weirdest thing. You literally do not want to chew food and swallow it. No appetite. No desire for food. Eating becomes an imposition, an intrusion, an annoyance. I ate a handful of saltines each day because I retained enough humanity to realize that this was literally the least I could do. I also drank a glass of water because I was only mostly dead.
Life went on in the house around me. I was the ghost in the bedroom. I forget how long. A month? Six weeks? I came out a couple of times, play-acting at “living person,” all plastic-faced and dead-eyed, but would go right back when I was done with whatever human interaction had been forced on me.
I had the TV on even though I couldn’t stand to watch any shows. I didn’t want to be entertained. But noise and movement was good, for some reason, so I watched every second of the French Open tennis tournament. I didn’t really watch; it just played in my general direction. I think it kept me from thinking. I didn’t want to do that, either.
The French Open lasted a while. When that ended, I endured this and that until the British Open golf tournament came on, and then something else after that. If I had had an “ocean wave” channel, I would have put that on.
Eventually, with a new doctor, some meds, and slow, incremental improvement, I started to do some things again. I went to other rooms in the house. I started to see other humans again. Nothing was fun for a long time, but I ate food again. I actually wanted food. I kinda needed to put back on the 25 pounds or so I had lost on the saltine cracker diet. In time, I’d go way past that, but them’s the breaks…
I got better. Not everybody does.
So here’s the moral of the story, boys and girls: go do stuff. Have fun, and notice that it’s fun.
Because if you feel like doing something and then do it, and you feel the least bit of joy in doing that thing–whether it’s eating a snickers or watching the Kardashians or petting your dog–you’re alive, and doing okay. You need to appreciate that moment, and the fricking chemical in your brain that made that moment possible. Tell the chemicals thank you. Wanting is awesome. It’s human and happy and absolutely not to be taken for granted.
Then go do something else that you want to do, and enjoy the hell out of it.
Rinse and repeat.