The other reason I feel terrible working in my original field is the infantilization — I associate it working in it with shame and humiliation. And of course all the advice I rail about, the advice I tried to use to get myself to keep working on it, is infantilizing advice, so the entire atmosphere is quite toxic. Yet if I did not continue, I would hurt and disappoint everyone, and be killed.
It was all quite paralyzing and I understand perfectly why I wanted to leave and not return, even if no-one else does, or if everyone else says that they would have been strong enough to withstand the situation, or that their love of field would have been enough to sustain them, or that I had a tenure-track job and should not complain.
So now, many years later, I am depressed because I do not work enough on the things I really like, and yet do not work enough on those things because I am depressed. Then I am further depressed because I claim I should use discipline and time management to work on those things, and it doesn’t work, although I am good at task management strategies and they always worked for me before.
We have seen that self-hatred and self-torture are evils to be eradicated but here is a postscript from my letter-writing friend: I needed kindred souls. If I could have found kindred souls, or were in a place where they were easier to find, I would not have become or remained so depressed, or doubted my interest in field, he says.
And I suddenly see it is more than true: this is why I find I am interested in field and able to write easily during conferences and on research trips, although not otherwise — even being in the vague presence of people who might be kindred souls seems to be enough. And it is why, if I were to live here, I wanted a different profession: there were kindred souls doing that.
(Of course, once again, I know what some will say: that even bound hand and foot in an isolation cell, they would sing their most beautiful poems and publish new theories in first-tier journals, because they are committed.)
And I see that improving the depression is like language learning, or research and writing. It has to be done incrementally — everything I have tried has been either too slow and vague or too much of a whirlwind or crash course. I would never have said living well was anything but a daily activity and a slow practice, before.
On the other hand, letting it lift is like jumping. I hesitate to walk into torture chambers, yes. But what about that hesitation to jump into a beautiful pool?