Ever since I saw my father sink into depression and drag all of our family with him in his self-destructive attitude, I have blamed myself for not being able to catch the hints early on, and I have also started keeping my mind under observation.
Scared of losing it? You bet.
I have written in the past about the ups and downs of pursuing what could be described rather presumptuously as a creative career – be it writing, or teaching, or scientific research.
The condition of being constantly engaged, the mind constantly working on ideas, connections, developments, is in my opinion a big help in keeping dark mood at bay, but when it fails, it helps the dark moods to come on and do their thing.
In the last few weeks, while battling with insomnia and other things, I noticed a curious thing: I’d be perfectly fine until sunfall, and then a sort of exhaustion would creep over me, stopping me from doing anything constructive.
Even reading a book becomes a fight, while a deep sense of unhappiness sets over my spirit.
It really got me scared.
What is this? Some kind of melatonin-related form of fatigue? Me feeling the weather (we have been alternating rain and fog these last three weeks)?
Not enough vitamins?
Too much tea?
It’s not the restlessness caused by having too many stories to write and not time enough to write them. I know that quite well.
It’s more like a feeling of physical and mental burn-out.
So I talked to my doc, and he found nothing wrong with me physically.
Go out more, he said. Take a good walk once in a while.
Then I tried a simple experiment.
Starting at 5 pm, and until 6.30 pm, I stopped checking Facebook. This is awkward, because I use Facebook to keep in touch not only with a lot of good friends, but also with clients and publishers and people I work with.
But for the sake of experimentation, I put up some music, and spent one hour and a half listening to music and reading.
And it went fine.
Best evening in almost a week.
So I did it again – changed music, changed book, changed chair… same effect.
And again. It works.
Of course, after 6.30 I went back online and I checked out a few discussions – like the one about translating Hope & Glory in Italian – and replied to a few posts from various friends.
And I also found a cartload of stupid comments to my posts, aggressive reactions and various signs of the creepy authoritarianism that’s taking a hold over my country.
Post a photo about the Great War? You get a nationalist comment.
Post an article about climate change? You get climate crisis deniers making circular arguments to show that black is white and everything’s grey anyway.
Post a music video? Somebody will feel compelled to tell you in detail how much your musical tastes suck.
I think on social media the first after-office hour has the highest concentration of hostility and animal aggression in the whole day. I think it’s because a lot of people feel repressed and stressed out in their day-to-day job, with mindless talk with their colleagues, meaningless rules and overbearing bosses, and when the cages are opened, and they are free, they are in a hurry to go out among the tribe, expose their genitals and start screaming like frigging primates to assert their dominance.
To feel alive.
And if you are the kind that does not like hostility and aggression and opinions presented as fact and all that… if you are someone like me, living through that hour, especially when your life’s already stressful on its own, can be shattering.
But take one hour off, and it will all be fine.
Because after one hour/one hour and a half, the comments and the screaming have lost their immediacy. Is something that happened in the past, and involved unpleasant individuals.
You shrug them off, and go to dinner.
And then, you brew yourself a cup of tea, fire up Scrivener, and start writing again.
It’s a beautiful world.