Some observations from spending far too much time with myself:
- Competence seems like a pretty cool, objective thing on which to base your self-image...right up to the point where you can't do what you've been doing. Then it all just sort of falls apart. What was the last thing you accomplished? How long ago was it? How good does that next thing need to be to make up for everything undone?
- Social conventions are basically worthless when things aren't going well. The answer to "How are you doing?" is "Good. And you?" It isn't "Just anemic enough to huff and puff every time I walk up a flight of stairs." It isn't "Too wiped out to figure out how to get to see you but too proud to ask for help if you won't think of it on your own." It isn't "Bored out of my skull from sitting here alone day after day. How would you be doing in my place?"
- Breaking the social conventions isn't worth it. It just makes more work. It requires reassuring all the friends whose lives have just been shaken up. It requires holding your tongue on things like, "No. I don't need to see a professional to have my attitude adjusted. I need to stop being reasonably anxious and in pain for a while. Barring that, I need a fucking hamburger and someone who can moderate their conversation to the right degree of challenging. Not that you asked how you could help."
- There are some social conventions you just don't break either way. You don't get sad because someone else's happiness is a contrast to your situation. You don't get angry at people who can't figure out how to say something while you're doing the work to keep up a good front. You don't get envious that someone else is moving ahead with their plans while you're stuck. You don't get jealous that people flock to the social butterflies while you hold yourself back from bringing storm clouds. Not publicly.
- Being able to read people really well is not an advantage here. Yes, I can tell that my illness scares you. Yes, I can tell that you're fooled by the fact that I gather up all my resources for a public appearance and wonder how sick I can be. Yes, I can tell that your respect for me is based largely on what I accomplish and drops off the same way my self-respect does. Yes, I can tell that you resent the dragging anchor that I've become and that I've stopped taking care of everybody around me. Yes, I can tell you're bored. Yes, I can tell you think I'm whining.
- Being used to being able to read people well isn't an advantage either, particularly when it comes to ambiguous or incautious statements and very low days. It's hard enough to shake the certainty of depression, harder still when you can't tell yourself that feeling that certain is abnormal.
- Introverts really hate talking about themselves. Illness brings on a self-preoccupation that gets really damned tedious even to the ill. Combining the two is roughly equivalent to turning into one of those "See no evil..." figures. Blinded, deafened and muzzled.