My therapist asked me how severe a particular depressive episode had been, and I started thinking about those pain scales they use in hospitals, and how I could adapt one to be useful for our conversations. This is mostly/kinda/sorta in jest, but who knows. Here’s my first draft.
The Moss Depression/Hypomania Scale
- -5: I’m in serious darkness. I’m probably crying off and on. I am not talking to anyone. I’m engulfed with shame about mistakes I made decades ago. I can’t imagine a future that doesn’t involve sitting on my couch with the lights out. I’m thinking about drinking vodka and beer.
- -4: I’m shut down. I’ve been spending days watching old movies I know line for line. I’m probably binge eating. I’m trying to avoid thinking of stupid and hateful things I have done and said. Before I stopped drinking last year, I’d doubtless be well into my second six-pack. I’ve probably decided to cut off contact with people that I think I’ve inadvertently harmed or disappointed.
- -3: I’ve spent the weekend streaming Netflix series involving explosions and guns or dark dramas with emotionally wrenching plot lines. I’m feeling guilt about not doing anything on my to-do list. I may be seriously considering giving all of my belongings to charity.
- -2: I’m distracted, uneasy. There are times when I can’t catch my breath. I might be reading a book I’ve read 12 times before or I might be counting a jar of pennies for no particular reason. I’ve probably ordered something I can’t afford from Amazon, and will be surprised when it appears a couple days later.
- -1: I’m researching obscure political systems or refreshing Twitter hoping someone will comment on my recent tweet. I’ve been doing this for 6 hours now. I’ve made an extensive to-do list which will provide me with guilt for the entire weekend.
- 0: Life is good. My mind is quiet. I’m cleaning the house, writing blog posts, going to breakfast with friends, or being productive at work. Nothing bothers me, and I can’t imagine why I had such a bad weekend. I’m aware of how fortunate I am. I have an ironic detachment from topics I’m usually upset about.
- +1: I have started a huge project to put flooring in my attic, or am washing and vacuuming my car, which hasn’t had the slightest attention in months.
- +2: I’ve cleaned the kitchen, including taking everything out of the fridge and sanitizing the shelves. I’m composing blog posts between chores.
- +3: I have discovered a fascinating new hobby and have read dozens of posts on 27 blogs covering the hobby. I’ve memorized stats and have created a long shopping list and am thinking about driving to a specialty shop to start buying books and equipment.
- +4: I have consumed entire books about a philosophical system that I’m convinced will change my life and possibly the course of history. I’ve probably started a blog about it.
- +5: I am composing poetry and have convinced myself that I’m capable of expressing the deepest truths of humanity using interpretive dance. I’ve found a new favorite person and have set about charming them. There are sparks sparking and I weep at the thought of the heroism of the people I admire most. I’m certain that my favorite person reciprocates my love and admiration.
Reading through this list, it’s clear that I need to put some guidelines in place. Like the warnings you get when you have general anesthesia… ‘do not sign any contracts or make any significant decisions for the rest of the day…’
I need to put those rules in place for anything at or beyond a 3 rating, in either direction. The emotional and financial fallout is just too expensive to afford.
I need to have a mantra like the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear , something that will remind me that these storms are going to pass in a few hours or a day or two; that while the emotions are valid, the fears or enthusiasms those emotions are rooted in may not reflect reality very accurately. In either direction on the scale, I end up in a state of emotional intoxication. The very first time I ever dropped acid, as the trip came on, my first thought was ‘oh, I know this feeling.’ The bad trips and the good trips both seemed very familiar.