Ennui & Thoughts of the Fall

People who have never experienced mild depression generally don’t get it. They think they do, but they confuse it with that emotion that comes from waking up one morning to find a dead puppy. It’s not always that clear-cut. It’s more like having your mental leaf-blower on the fritz, and not being able to work up enough energy or give-a-damn to rake. The leaves (and everything else) pile up. The windows grow dark. The only light is filtered through ash and cobwebs accumulated in the chimney.

If you’re lucky, one day, you climb out – through a cold and empty attic – onto the mental roof, see all the leaves that have piled up, cover your eyes with one arm, yelling, “Goodbye, Cruel World!” (or “Cowabunga!” which is my personal fave when jumping off imaginary rooftops) and jump – and of course the leaves catch you. You can’t quite end it all – not even in your imagination. The whole thing strikes you as so ridiculous that you begin to laugh.

This isn’t “major clinical depression.” This is just a glimpse into the mental processes of a writer who isn’t experiencing writer’s block at all, but simply cannot work up enough enthusiasm about anything to pick up a pen – even a fountain pen. Who feels nothing on realizing that the ink is in the cartridge has literally run dry – and now clings to the nib in flecks and flakes. “Oh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?” A writer who cannot even muster the energy to exercise fingers on the keyboard finger-stepper except to click “Like” or “Share” or type “Hah, yeah.” An award-winning commenter who, upon skimming the most thought-provoking of blog posts, manages only to eke out, “Nice post” and resents CommentLuv (normally their favorite plug-in in the whole wide world) for enforcing a minimum word count that no longer seems an entertaining challenge, but a chore. Okay, fine… “Nice post. Whatever.”

It’s not unhappiness, sadness, melancholy (although, if you can work up one iota of any of those feelings, you kind of know in the back of your head that there’s still a very real hope for climbing out of the well of ennui and lassitude, at some point). That well, of course, is as dry as the nib on the fountain pen. It’s a very dusty dry that feels like an attic and smells like a root cellar. Except that, if you’re a writer, the only word you can think of to describe it, when you’re in it, is dry. The phrase “dry as a bone” crawls contemptibly through your brain; you kind of remember that clichés are the enemy, so you just keep it to yourself in the certainty that nobody wants to hear it anyway.


That isn’t a pity-party, by the way. It’s not a “nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m going out to the garden to eat worms,” kind of thing, that “whatever.” It’s the certainty that no one wants to see a friend whose love of language has been reduced to shrugs and eye-rolling and simple words like, “Meh.” So you keep it to yourself, hoping they’ll still be around when you’re ready to floccinaucinihilipilificate* the whole thing.

When you’ve finally bored  yourself half to death with your “meh-ness,” you think of the roof and the leaves and the smell of October and apple cider and you leap – not into the arms of death (or anything half so melodramatic, because, remember, this is just a minor depression – nothing suicidal, just nothing particularly life-affirming) – but into the giant mental leaf-pile that you hope (a tiny fraction of a second after yelling “Cowabunga!” or “Cannonball!”) doesn’t contain a pitchfork.

And somewhere, at the crack of dawn, you hear a leaf-blower.


* Supposedly, the proper form of the verb is “floccipend.” Whatever. 😉

7 thoughts on “Ennui & Thoughts of the Fall”

  1. Your lead paragraph summed it up well for me. That lack of energy is one mighty force: keeps you from shaving, having your hair cut, and other necessary grooming routine you normally do – unless you absolutely have to, to put up a veneer of normalcy. Otherwise, those around you will notice and the concern seems to you as another aggravation.

    You glare at the phone when it rings and you despair when it remains silent.

    You shun human contact and call the television your new BFF. Or call it your happy pill.

    Luckily, you have friends who have impeccable timing. They wait for the right time when you can climb to the roof and jump to the pile of leaves. They made that pile of leaves themselves and put the pitch fork back in the tool shed just to be sure. You’re one lucky Eeyore indeed.

  2. Apparently, I’m out of my mehness, because I have the energy to say that floccinaucinihilipilificate is the dumbest damn word ever Latinated together. ~snort~

  3. I’m glad to not having been in that place in a very long time but I’ve been there. The first time it lasted 2 years; talk about functioning on auto-pilot but not really caring about anything. The second time was months, when my dad passed away. At least I had an excuse for that one.

    Thing is, I was able to keep the first one from everyone while I was going through it. I’d come home, play piano for 5 or 6 hours straight writing my depressing songs, then go to bed. On weekends I’d come home, disconnect the phone so people thought I was out (as if anyone called) and play all day. I got good but who’d know?

    You’re right though; one day you come out of it, unsure what put you there and often not knowing what’s changed to pull you out. But we accept it and move on; that is, if we still have enough self respect for ourselves that we haven’t tried to kill ourselves. Luckily for the majority it’s in there somewhere.

  4. Life is a bicycle. One pedal will always be up and one will always be down. I spent most of my career obsessing about food. When I left that world, there were many who didn’t want me to go. While I did mourn the loss of my obsession – and felt depressed that it left me so easily – it was time to move on. But I still cook when the spirit moves me. So write when the spirit moves you Holly.

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