It’s almost impossible for me to trust myself during, and just after, a depressive episode. I wrote this piece about confidence, Confidence | Nutmegger Daily – Quality writing on many topics, a little bit ago. Not trusting myself seems like a similar phenomenon to lacking confidence, but I think it’s different in some important ways. Let’s start with some examples.
Over the weekend, I saw a play at the Hartford Stage, and I had a terrible time. It was a musical. The songs were completely forgettable. I felt like I was sitting there for about eight hours. I recognized the jokes as jokes but didn’t laugh once. However, I’m unwilling to pass judgement on the play or the performance.
My writing projects (including this one) are either being left unfinished or taking way, way longer than they should. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something obvious. It’s like there’s something that needs to be said for the piece to makes sense, but it escapes me.
Decision making is a lot like the writing. I constantly feel like I’m missing something that I should know. As a result, even the simplest decisions can be paralyzing. How do I know what to do if I don’t have the relevant information?
There are more, but, hopefully, you get the idea. In thinking about these, it really feels like a trust issue rather than a confidence issue. With my lack of confidence, there is a lot of fear, mostly fear of failure. I don’t feel fear in these cases. I just can’t convince myself that I know the things that everyone else knows. I don’t trust myself. There are no real consequences for saying I saw a bad play or writing an incomplete essay or going with cereal instead of a bagel, but I struggle anyway.
Strangely, the one area where I do trust myself, and feel confident, is parenting. I know how to treat my kid. I know when to be permissive and when to be strict. I know when she needs to be pushed and when she needs to be supported. I don’t know how or why I know these things, but I do. There’s some comfort in knowing that I trust myself in the most important area of my life. I just can’t get there in any other part of my life.
Someone left a comment about imposter syndrome on my confidence post. This lack of trust actually feels more imposter-y than the lack of confidence. There’s another piece to it, though. I know where it comes from. I’m constantly asking myself if it’s me or the depression. When I saw the play, did I not like it or did the depression not like it? Did I actually want cereal or did the depression want cereal? In my writing, am I saying what I want to say or what the depression is making me say? There’s no easy way to answer those questions. It almost feels like if I say or do what the depression wants, then I’ve lost a piece of myself. Depression is a jerk. I don’t want to let it win.
I’ve tried several things to make it better. I’ve tried heuristics and gut checks and time limits. None of them work, though. I think the only thing to do is get through the depressive episode. Unless I’m missing something obvious, that is.