Learning to read the daily newspaper as a depressive is like learning to feed the ducks in Annapolis without getting crapped on by the seagulls: it demands good timing, a certain strategy, and an obnoxiously wide hat (to shield your head).
I can’t check CNN.com every half hour for the most recent headlines like Eric does. I’m way too anxious about the world’s doom and gloom. Like all the other important activities in my week, I wait for the right moment: when I have a full stomach of protein and fiber, when I’m semi-rested (very rare with two insomniacs as children), when I’m not too caffeinated (even rarer), and when I’m not ticked off at a family member (rarest).
When all these circumstances align, which happens as often as a lunar eclipse, I take my stack of newspapers (a week’s worth) and sit down with a cup of Joe. I then inhale deeply, exhale even more deeply, and begin to read the print.
When my eyes reach headlines like “Bombings Kill 60 at University In Baghdad: 34,452 Iraqi Civilians Died Violently in ’06, U.N. Says,” or “Harsh Winter Has Afghans Struggling For Survival,” or “200 Die in Darfur During Week of Intertribal Battles,” I put down my coffee mug, fold my hands, and say a prayer.
And I visualize myself as the Michelin Woman (think tires): with padding covering my entire body to absorb the torment and affliction and to protect me from feeling too much heartbreak in a messed up world.
This sounds like something my neo-pagan friend (whom I love very much) would do. But it kind of works.
Let me explain. The medical intuitive (politically correct term for psychic) I called up a few years ago (when this Catholic stepped outside of her faith in a desperate search for answers) revealed a few contributing factors to my pain. There was my mom’s induced labor that forced me and my twin sister into the world when we weren’t ready (a piece of info I discarded). And there was my lack of filter in receiving news of trauma and distress.
“Soaking in all the anguish is destructive to your being,” the psychic told me. “Your body and mind can’t bear the unnecessary weight and responsibility.” Unlike the birth comment, this made perfect sense. In fact, I was already working on it in therapy.
“I don’t know if it’s because of my Catholic upbringing,” I explained one day to my therapist, “but I have always felt guilty and somewhat responsible for the suffering in the world. In grade school, I remember singing ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ for Sister Marie Karen, our principal, because it was her favorite song. I took the last line literally: ‘And let it begin with me.'”
Normal ten-year-olds could belt out the lyrics and forget about them by recess. But I held them in my heart, obsessing about starving children in Ethiopia. When my dad gave me quarters to go play Pac-Man, I saved the coins and gave them to Unicef because the money could feed several families in China.
It wasn’t about charity though, it was about guilt. I resented my sisters for having fun at the arcade. How could they waste their quarters watching a yellow dot eat smaller yellow dots when there were empty stomachs across the globe?
“Imagine yourself with containers all over you,” the psychic instructed me, at which point I almost hung up. I closed my eyes and pictured myself with a black crate on my head and black crates hanging from my four limbs. I was the poster girl for The Container Store, still feeling every single disappointment of every family member and friend.
I tried again and again at this visualization method. Eventually I got to me in the Michelin Man suit. It’s far from perfect. But it does keep a bit of the crap from landing on my head as I tackle a week’s worth of headlines.