As I've said many times before, I have the best job in the world. I get up in the morning, and I get to play board games. On top of that, I get to spend pretty much every minute of every day hanging out with my best friend. There might not be enough hours in the day, but those hours are mine; I'm not spending eight to twelve hours of my day doing what someone else is paying me to do.
So, I am living a very charmed life indeed, and I count my blessings on a regular basis. I know how lucky I am. I know there're guys and gals who'd give their left arm to have what I have (which, please keep your arm, I presently have a sufficient number of arms thank you). I am deeply grateful to everyone who made this happen - to our customers, to our collaborators, to my Mary, and to almighty providence. In the grand scheme of things, I know that I have very little to be unhappy about.
Because of that, when I am unhappy, I feel deeply uncomfortable about it. Like I'm somehow squandering my good fortune. Like I'm being ungrateful. Like I shouldn't be allowed to be unhappy. There are other people who are far worse off, who have legitimate reasons to be unhappy, who have earned it.
Now, I don't want to be unhappy, of course, and being an optimistic sort, I generally trend toward happiness. In fact I would say that I have a talent for finding happiness. It helps that I can throw myself into my work, which I find very fulfilling, and I'm generally able to do so without much outside prompting (I'm a "self-starter", to borrow a cliché from a resume).
The problem is that I have, for most of my life, struggled with depression. On a chemical level, something clicks and suddenly all my energy is gone. Not only do I not really want to do anything, but I find that even if I force myself, I can't do anything - my brain becomes clumsy and numb. It's such a different experience than the way I am "normally", to the point where it doesn't feel like me.
The thing that always strikes me about depression is how very sneaky it is; it has a way of convincing you that this feeling that you're feeling right this minute is the only way you've ever felt, and the only way you'll ever feel. Any evidence you have to the contrary feels far away and distant, and maybe feels like it doesn't matter anymore. When you're making your living as a creative person, it also capitalizes on those little self-doubts and anxieties that are always buzzing quietly about: sure, maybe that game was great, but you'll never do one that great again, and also it actually isn't as great as you'd like to think it is.
Now, putting aside the chemical component, there's also the environmental side of things. When I was working at my last day job, my depression and anxiety were working overtime, especially in the last stretch. Before I found that job, when we were always this close to losing everything, that depression had twisted me into a very angry and unpleasant person. Now? Now most of that stress is gone. There are things that concern us, sure, and some months are better for us financially than others, but on the whole, with less things to worry about, I spend a lot less time being worried.
But the depression remains. Some days it's hardly there at all, and I can go about my business, and some days it's very much in full force, and everything grinds to a halt. And, like I said, because of the newer and more agreeable circumstances in which we find ourselves, there's this new twist where I feel churlish and ashamed of the very fact that I'm depressed. If I am the happiest I've ever been - and I am - what business do I have getting down in the dumps? Don't I know there are people with real problems? Maybe I'm not really that happy; maybe I can't ever be happy; maybe the thing I'm feeling right now is all I'll ever be able to feel.
I know this isn't true, because there are days where I feel like myself. But there is a discomforting permanence to the thing. For most of the last thirty years, it's been there off-and-on, and I'm pretty sure for the next thirty years, it's going to be there off-and-on. There will be days where it's going to crush me, distorting me into something that doesn't much resemble how I like to think of myself, and there will be days when it leaves me alone. Some days are better than others.