"It means you don't derive pleasure from anything," says the Doc.
"That's what I got."
Been trying to put a finger on that one for a while. Or more accurately, how do I answer...the question. The one that comes after I do something stupid and someone's face twists up like they've just smelled a terrific fart, and they invariably say, "What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
Now I have my answer. "I have anhedonia, mutherfucker. Back the fuck off. It's, like, an ailment."
Everyone wants to believe his or her problems are unique, that he/she is special. Or to quote Gordon Gano, "How can I explain personal pain?"
In my case, I can explain personal pain with a new word I learned today. Although, I should've known that one already, since I am an "English guy," and when the Doc explained it, I felt like a fucktard.
"You know 'hedonism,' right?" he said, "and that 'an' means 'non'? Anhedonia."
Really sounds like the name of a prog metal band, or a crappy Ayn Rand novel. "He wanted to built a freeway on the back of a poor man. They called it a violation of human rights. He called it progress. The posthumous novel by one of the biggest asshole writers of all time. The eternally boring Ayn Rand. Anhedonia." Either way, I was glad to know I wasn't just a mopey teenager who turned into a miserable adult. I am a survivor of anhedonia. Makes me a goddamn hero, really. Funny the power of a definition.
Of course, when you're talking about mental illness, we're not exactly dealing with an exact science, are we? For one, I'm not even sure I believe in that term. Like calling addiction a "disease." Convenient. Just not sure I buy it. Maybe it's a little too convenient. Could just be an asshole, right? Plus, it smacks of victimhood, and no one likes a victim. Maybe if you are the victim of a bombing or something like that, an attack by a feral ferret maybe. But not when your main gripe is being sad.
That's what anhedonia means, in essence, being sad. I remember being in rehab. It was, like, my 16th trip. Or maybe it was the 15th. I don't know the exact number. I do know it was the time I shaved my head because I was afraid I was going to go bald (a reoccurring fear), and so I shaved my head, just to see if I could pull it off if worse came to worse. If "worse came to worse" didn't mean, "What if I can't get clean this time and have to back to living in a shooting gallery and eating dead mice." No, my biggest fear was what if I go bald and lose my pretty. (Fortunately for me, I soon learned, I have a very pleasantly shaped head.)
So I'm sitting on the smoking porch, because that's all you do in rehab: smoke cigarettes and eat candy (and, yes, that is where I got the name for this blog. Actually, I named the blog after the second chapter in my memoir. Which is how I picked up girls in rehab, by offering them candy and cigarettes. Junkie girls crave the sugar, and everyone is poor as shit and always mooching smokes. I, however, always made sure to walk in with a carton of Camels and several bags of Skittles). And it's probably 6 a.m., which is when the smoking porch would open, and I was always out there at 6 a.m., because I could never sleep and used to chain-smoke like a bastard. And I remember this little old cleaning lady comes out to sweep and dump the ashtrays, and we get to talking, and I must've been bitching, because that is what I do, only in there it's worse, because I am in rehab, without drugs, and now I look like a bald man. And the finches are chirping with the rising run, and the cleaning lady says, "Don't you wake up just happy to hear these birds?" And, I'm like, "Fuck no, I don't wake up happy to hear any birds. Why the fuck would I care about any birds?"
It took a while. But I realize the cleaning lady was right. I don't mean to say I ever wake up happy to hear any fucking birds. But it is about gleaning satisfaction from the everyday and mundane. Because that's pretty much all we've got to work with. Very few days are carnivals. Which is good. Because I hate loud noises and bright colors. But I'll tell what I do wake up to, which makes me far happier than any birds ever could. My boy. I wake up every morning, early, to my boy crying in his crib, and I go to get him, and even though I am tried as shit and cursing under my breath because it's still dark and I don't know when it happened, when it became an unspoken understanding that Justine gets to sleep in and I have to get up, but I still usually do some goofy entrance to his room, like knocking first or swinging the door open and jumping in because it makes Holden laugh, and he's got this adorable little laugh. I change him, give him a couple belly farts (because that is what dads do. Belly farts. Throw the kid in the air. Two dad tricks. You want to be a father, you learn these tricks). And since it's so early, my screwy brain isn't firing on all cylinders yet, isn't yet able to undermine amelioration, sabotage my best efforts and remind me of something embarrassing I said to a pretty girl in the 7th grade or convince me I am dying of tongue cancer. Just me and my kid. And he's smiling at me with big eyes, trusting that I will protect him, and I feel like somebody good. It's the best part of my day.
We all need labels. Like, Tim Tebow: Superwinner, or Ayn Rand: Fascist Douchy Shitty Writer. It helps us define our lives, compartmentalize, saves time.
I don't know what the technical term is for why I seem to have a tough time leaving the house or interacting in public, why I don't seem to elicit much satisfaction from the things others seem to get a bang out of, like going a party or to a dinner with more than two people. Asshole. Anhedonia. Doesn't really matter, does it? They are just words, which we assign meaning to anyway. And those definitions, like who we are, are always changing.