Do I Really Like What I Like?

I’ve been struck by the leaves changing over the past few days as if I’m seeing them with new eyes. I don’t think I ever realized how much I love this season, just how beautiful is this natural wonder we call “autumn.” I know that sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s true. One of the many horrid aspects about depression is that it dulls the senses and forces you to question not just your likes and loves, but your entire existence.


Autumn colors in Little Neck, Queens


When I had my first nervous breakdown back in 1996, I became very existential about life. I broke down religion, societal rules and mores, and the mind to the point where the floor had been swiped from beneath me and I fell like I was flailing through space. I came to the conclusion that everything was arbitrary, that had I been born in Africa or the Middle East or in a different time period,everything I believed would be different, and that everything I’d ever known was somehow affected by those who came before me. I did my best to convince everyone I knew about this and found it astonishing when some people refused to accept my newfound discoveries about life. Eventually I recovered, though not fully. My existential beliefs are still with me (though not to the point where I cannot function), and after my second breakdown in 2010, I began to attack myself more than ever. One of main questions was: Who am I? And coupled with that was: Do I really like what I like?

I’m not talking about people. Obviously I love Elaine and Sienna, my parents, my sister, my friends. What I mean by this is if someone led me into liking something, say baseball, can I really claim it as my own? Further, I’ve become the person who needs to check reviews before I can decide if I like something. If it’s against the grain, I’m scared to say I liked it. If gave a film 96% positive and I didn’t like it, I’m afraid to voice my opinion. It’s a horrible thing when you no longer trust your own opinion. I love reading, but sometimes I feel like I’m doing it just so I can say I’ve read x number of books. Since depression has deeply affected my memory (another aspect of the disease…I have so much trouble remembering film, books, etc., now), it makes me doubt myself that much more.

But over the last couple of weeks, a couple of my true likes have come to the surface. I went fishing with one of my best friends in Florida a couple of weeks ago and I had an amazing time. I realized just how much I love fishing even know I’d never eat what I catch because I find all seafood disgusting. During therapy the following week, I talked about how much fun I had and my therapist asked where that love of fishing came from. I had no answer like I do with baseball, film, television, reading, G.I. Joe, and about a zillion things which I attribute to one of my other best friends. I’ve always been fascinated by the underwater world, by the creatures that dwell beneath the surface. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid. Even the theme of Bar Mitzvah was “underwater” with styrofoam sculptures of an octopus (my favorite animal) and a manta ray standing on each side of the kids’ table. To this day I love aquariums and fishing and so I claim those likes.


Fishing in Tampa. I can’t deny the pure joy on my face

I also claim Greek mythology. I’ve been enthralled by Greek myths ever since I was first introduced to them in elementary school going so far as to write really terrible plays in second grade with names such as, “Dionysus Goes Bad.” I was like a kid in a candy store when I visited Greece, jabbering and taking pictures of a valley where Oedipus supposedly met and killed his father while my sister said, “It’s just grass!”

I also claim my likes of animals and natural beauty: wombats, The Grand Canyon, vampire bats, autumnal leaves. I like media and its cultural impact. I like satire. I like “Breaking Bad” and “Arrested Development” and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I truly like, nay, love these things.

But here’s the biggest thing. I’m claiming all my likes and loves including those I believe didn’t come organically to me. Baseball is a part of me as is film, ’80s music, G.I. Joe. I don’t care that the first G.I. Joe film got panned. I loved it! It made me feel like a kid again!.

Depression, as I’ve often said, is a war. You’re constantly attacked by irrational thoughts and self-doubt. I can’t say that I’m going to be able to hold this feeling each and every day, but for now, I’m staking my claim and realizing it shouldn’t matter if my friend got me into something.Nothing changes the fact that the leaves of autumn are beautiful.

The war will rage on, but at least now I have this blog to look at when the irrational thoughts try to take me down.