Saturday, March 26, 2005

Depressing depression

I’m feeling pretty down on myself lately. I know that I’m depressed – clinically that is. There’s really no question about that. I have good days and bad but the trend is increasingly downward. I’ve read the signs, the list of symptoms that the American Society of Psychologists, or whatever the proper name for that group is, and I must say, as modestly as possible, I scored quite high.

So, I sought help.

The only mental health facility in town that my insurance covers is a place called Community Counseling Center. After hesitating for months, I finally called them. I felt like crying when I did. I remember when I was a kid I was constantly getting an upset stomach. I threw up so often it’s a wonder that my esophagus wasn’t eaten away by stomach acid. Anyway, I remember bursting into tears every time I’d tell my mom that I was sick. I never knew why. I considered it from every angle but I just couldn’t make sense of it. But there it was. I cried when I told my mom that I was sick.

So when I called the seemingly annoyed receptionist and found myself having to tell her why I thought I needed to see a counselor, I thought that I was going to cry. I still don’t understand it. What, am I so full of my own self pity that I’m driven to tears by my condition?

Anyway, I set up an appointment. I forget her name at the moment but they set me up with a woman. I wouldn’t mention it, actually I was glad it was a woman, but the receptionist asked me if I was OK with a woman. It was strange, like it was a given that I’d be OK with a man but a woman? Well, we’d better clear that with him first.

Through all of this I never felt crazy or that I was being stigmatized as a lunatic. No, I felt like one of slimy, self-pitying heaps of disgust that regularly show up on Springer and Oprah talking about their feelings. I felt like trailer park entertainment. I felt like those stupid kids that have meetings where they talk about how each other made them feel on the Real World or in impact groups or in group counseling. Do you get the picture? I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on the feeling but it inspires me to shower in really hot water to wash the filth away.

Anyway, they gave me her name and set up an appointment. The first thing that I did was to search for her name on Yahoo. I wished that I hadn’t. I quickly learned that, politically, she was the polar opposite of me. A woman I can handle, but a Republican? Brrrrr!

Luckily I had a week to reconcile myself to this truth and I did. I imagined sessions with her where my political position would come out – “I don’t know, doc, I’ve just been really depressed since Kerry lost. It’s like I’m an outcast in my own country and the majority is hostile toward me” – at which point she would kick me out of her office. But I got over that. I have customers that are Christian conservative and occasionally send me emails dripping with Jesus’s blood. I simply delete them and move on. I’m sure that she’s a professional, I told myself, and she’ll do the same.

So, I showed up the first day. The receptionist was still annoyed and told me to sit down. I did and waited about 5 minutes to make sure that they weren’t getting the inevitable paperwork together for me and that they had actually forgotten about it before I went to the desk and asked. Caught in a mistake, she was suddenly very nice and accommodating. I filled out stacks of paperwork, most of it repetitive. When I finally finished, I still had to wait another 20 minutes or so.

Finally, with 15 minutes left before I had to go back to work, Madam Counselor decided to grace me with her presence. So, I started miffed at her. She had a large bandage on her neck with a hint of blood having seeped through. She apologized for it but didn’t explain it. It was very distracting.

So we got into it. I told her why I thought I needed help: mild depression and anger management. I was quick to tell her and, now, you, that I’m not a violent person. I internalize a lot and I know that it’s going to slowly kill me. People usually do a double take when I tell them that, at 32, I have hypertension. My diet isn’t perfect but I’m sure that this anger thing is a big part of it.

So we talked about that. I was quick to qualify every word that I used that I thought carried baggage. I explained that I didn’t want her to get the wrong impression, that I wanted to very clear and that it sometimes takes me bit to get my ideas across, especially when I speak. I had even considered writing her a letter before meeting her but that would have made me want to shower in especially hot water. She laughed and assumed an attitude reminiscent of a wise grandfather character from a Disney film. She gently explained, and took far too long to do it, that I wasn’t crazy. That wasn’t my concern, see above.

If her politics didn’t tip me off, which they didn’t, this should have. She wasn’t the one for me.

But I pressed on. I had to leave for work shortly after but we made an appointment to finish up in a couple of weeks.

She was late for the second session as well but we still had enough time to get through the initial interview. She concluded that my root problem is social anxiety disorder. She agreed that I have mild depression and could use some help dealing with my anger in a healthier way. But social anxiety disorder is the real problem. Now, she told me, she could put me in an anger management course and would take 6 – 8 sessions to work through but it would be very difficult for me. That seemed curious since she says that social blah blah blah is the real problem. But for that she wanted to give me drugs. I made it clear from the beginning that I didn’t want drugs. She made it appear that drugs are the only real answer.

I found a better answer in the exit door and with just a few steps I had removed one source of stress from my life. For now I will continue to seek therapy from Drs. Bushmill, Walker, and Guinness with occasional restive cures at Newcastle. This therapy had gotten me this far…

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A nicer kind of rejection

Well, I received my first personalized rejection in the mail yesterday. To date, I have only been getting form letters, most aren’t even signed.

What I received was a form letter, about five lines printed at the top of an 8/11 page. On the bottom the agent added a handwritten note that said while my idea is intriguing, my book is simply too short for her to try to promote. I’ve always known it is a little light, the final draft is only 46,000 words. The first draft was well over 100,000!

It’s a bit a quandary. The story is told. It doesn’t need to be longer. (She asked for 90-110K.)

On the other hand, it’s no quandary at all. If the question is “do I make it more salable or do I respect the piece,” I hope that I would choose to respect the piece. But if the question is “do I make it salable or respect the piece,” where respecting the piece leaves it unsalable, there doesn’t really seem to be much of a choice.

Don’t get me wrong, if I ever get to the point that I’m working with an editor I’m prepared to slash here and add there as they ask. What I’m talking about in the paragraph above is adding material that is, in fact, extra. I’d have to double the length of the book and that would mean adding a lot of unnecessary stuff to the central plot.