Wednesday, February 15, 2012

depression is stupid - part 1

I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow. This evening while vacuuming I was thinking about the cognitive therapy I had before, and how it helped me identify bad mental habits that reinforced depression - in particular the "I'm fraudulent," "I'm not worth shit," and "I'm doomed" parts.

One thing that I need in order to feel happy is social and political involvement. Getting involved in the Society for Phenomenology and Media back in 1999, and getting involved in CFA in 2002, helped me through two dark periods. In particular, CFA activism consistently restored my sense of genuine meaning, purpose, and my own value to the world.

Being in on the politics on campus helped me to understand what was going on, to see my own troubles in a context that showed I wasn't being judged on my merits, but according to a distorted, managerialist, authoritarian model of control that is experienced by the majority of faculty in the US. Learning about our working conditions from my CFA colleagues, and from the contingent faculty movement, was empowering and gave me hope.

A couple years ago, my depression and anxiety symptoms started to return, triggered in part by the last few horrible years of administrative malfeasance, hypocrisy, and greed, and in large part by the resultant increase in my job insecurity. At the same time, I became even more involved in activism, more involved in resisting the autocratic management in whatever way possible.

Much of that effort has seemed to fail, from my perspective. The autocrats remain, they hire more autocrats to carry out their bidding, and they gleefully spend education budgets on union-busting and on consultants whom they hire to figure out how to get rid of more faculty and staff. The stress I'm experiencing from all this is ridiculously high.

Thus, I have a dilemma. I have relied on this range of deep involvements in my institution and in the faculty labor movement for creating meaning and purpose in my life. Besides which, the person I am just can't sit by - I'm simply a born dissenter. On the other hand, the stress is definitely a factor in my depression and anxiety. If I reduce or eliminate those involvements, I will increase the anxiety I feel for not being involved, taking some control over my fate. If I continue, I will maintain or increase the stress that contributes to my anxiety.

My therapist would ask something at this point like, "Is it realistic to think you can control your fate, either way?" Or, "Is that the only way you can control your fate?" One or two of my friends would likely tell me to give up on the union and campus politics. While I get that, I also feel conflicted. Even just last week, a CFA meeting followed the next day by a committee meeting (on college dean evaluation) lifted me from a point where I wasn't sure I could continue going to work. Then on Tuesday of this week, a discussion in academic senate weakened my hope and resolve.

So my conclusion for now isn't that I should or shouldn't stay so deeply involved with things. It's simpler: depression is stupid.

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