Mental Sprawl

According to a news story I read a day or two ago, scientists or physicians or some other academically qualified researchers have determined that anger can be a symptom of depression. As I recall, the piece suggested that people who easily erupt in anger may be depressed. That seems to be the case especially when displays of anger burst forth against those close to them. And, it seem, it may be true for those who have a “hair trigger” that causes them to explode, then quickly recover. Reading the article made me wonder whether my life-long tendency toward spontaneous, but short-lived, gusts of anger may be symptomatic of depression, rather than an emotional system that never developed beyond the juvenile stage. I’ve long suspected, for a variety of reasons, that I may suffer from a fairly mild form of depression. But I’ve never shared that suspicion with anyone; certainly not with a medical professional who might be able to determine whether my suspicion is well-founded and who might be able to help address it, if it is. As much as I’ve always thought myself more intelligent than to stigmatize mental illness, I’m not so advanced when it comes to considering that it might affect me. Maybe I’ll overcome that embarrassing character flaw and actually look into it. Next month, I have an appointment with my primary care doctor. If I can muster my courage, I’ll explore it with him. The brief visit with him could become more involved than either of us planned, if I actually pursue all my questions with him.

Of course, I may be suffering from nothing more than hypochondria. But, then again, if I were to learn that a prescription anti-depressant can reduce or eliminate my propensity to erupt in unjustified anger at the slightest provocation, I may get even more depressed for having waited forty-five years to investigate possible solutions. But that’s not true. I have investigated solutions. I’ve read books on anger management. I’ve tried meditation. I’ve done all sorts of things that can, ostensibly, address anger. Zip. Although, I think I’ve improved dramatically since I retired.

I was never suited for a career so utterly imbued with stress as the one into which I fell. I would have been far better off as an academic or an electrician or an organ-grinder. Those careers, I suspect, have their own unique stresses. I can’t undo what I did for a living and I shouldn’t regret the years I spent doing it. Shouldn’t. It had plenty of upsides. World travel. Lots of discretion over my time (but lots of absurd demands on it, as well). There must have been more. I look back on it, though, and have absolutely no regret that I got out early. Early retirement was, I think, one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’ve been able to spend eight years, up until the very recent past, carefree and relatively healthy, enjoying my free time. Good call, John. Actually, I can’t claim full credit. My wife had a lot to do with it. A lot.

Back to the issue at hand, though. In spite of the potential that I might be forced to kick myself repeatedly for having failed to act earlier, I would be absolutely delighted to learn that my life (but, more importantly, the lives of people with whom I interact) might improve immeasurably if I were to regularly take a simple pill (though I have no idea what pill that might be). And, again, it’s not just the matter of anger. It’s the sadness, the pessimistic sense that there’s no point in trying to change the world, the feeling that my life ultimately just doesn’t matter. Maybe those things contribute to my susceptibility to certain music causing a flood of tears to flow. Or maybe that’s natural, but most men have succeeded in learning to control the spigot.  I would just like to feel generally happy. I do, I suppose, most of the time. But there’s always this underlying sense that it’s temporary, that happiness is an artificial condition we strive to achieve but one that can never envelope us completely for long.


I’ve written so little fiction lately that I wonder whether I’ve truly lost interest in it. I haven’t had any real impetus to write fiction for months. Oh, I’ve written a little, but it has been weak and uninspired and generally substandard fare. Maybe fiction isn’t the escape it once was, though I don’t know how to quantify just how much of an escape it was before versus now.  I am not going to berate myself (much) for steering clear of fiction. I have other, more pressing, things on my mind. Like cancer and the potentially long-term side-effects of its treatment.


I hear the wind outside my window. It’s fierce. In the pre-dawn darkness that’s just now giving way to dull grey light, I can see the trees sway and bend. Though I haven’t seen them fall, I know the ground beneath the trees is littered with dead branches that weren’t there last night. Occasionally, the noise of the wind changes from a roar to a high-pitched howl. Suddenly, the cacophony morphs into an eerie silence, as if the wind senses that it’s being heard and watched and, in response, it reciprocates by watching and listening. Today’s weather will change drastically as the morning goes by. Forecasts call for a 50 degree drop in temperatures by early tomorrow. The temperature now is 72 degrees. By 11:00 a.m., we’ll see it drop to 50 or below. Steady 10 to 15 mile per hour winds from the west-northwest and northwest will bring colder air with them, so that we experience freezing temperatures by bedtime. In the morning, I can expect to awake to an outdoor temperature of about 22 degrees. Ach. I prefer warmer climes.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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