There is a fine line between apathy and grief, grief and depression, depression and bottom of the barrel not happy at all or ever again for as long as I live.

Or is there?

“Apathy is lack of connection to emotion,” my therapist relayed in her usual observant and interesting manner. We were having a telehealth therapy session, which often feels more like a coffee chat.

As an aside, there is no reason “on God’s green earth,” (as my mother used to say), why I should be late for an appointment that requires me sitting down at my computer and pushing a button. And yet at 11:58 a.m. I am rushing to the other room while balancing a glass of water, a headset dangling from a phone, and notes from previous sessions. The appointment is for noon. My time-debting behavior knows no bounds.

“So this is a protector?” I ask, scanning my hand-drawn diagram of newly discovered feeling and emotions.

“Indeed.”

A protector. And here I thought apathy was a feeling my addictions were protecting me from, not something working in cahoots with them to seal the deal. Cahoots. That word speaks volumes of apathetic behavior. Because I’m seeing how it arrives in a subtle and manipulative manner. “I don’t care” only appears more innocuous than venomous rage or hysteria. But “I don’t care” can lead to impulsive and sweeping actions of irreparable damage. Apathy is small, but mighty.

I’ve started diagramming these feeling and emotions and their misadventures and goings on inside me. They have developed like characters in a forthcoming novel. I suppose for a sports enthusiast they might appear as teammates or opponents on a visiting team.

When I do this, an interesting thing happens. I am able to see them for who they are and what they might need. I am able to explore them in ways previously unheard of and ask them questions: are you hungry? thirsty? Irritated? just need to be heard? I ask them questions and most surprisingly they reply back.

This could be similar to what some people call conversations with an inner child. Although I often feel like I have a whole daycare running amok and depending on the day it can be quite unruly. Sometimes we are at a birthday party with store bought sugar frosting cake and we are all on piece number three. With no nap.

Apathy can appear in front of the door of perceived failure, when “practice” gets mixed up with “perfection” and, “If I can’t do it perfect right out of the gate, then forget it, I don’t care.” What I see today is that I do care, desperately. That reaction is actually a signal of overwhelm—when I’ve shut down and cannot take any more input. It signals that my feelings and emotions barometer is at capacity. It is an opportunity to pause, not power through.

Remember—small, but mighty.

Sometimes apathy tells me I feel afraid. It tells me there is fear of having to practice, be it a skill or just a decision I have to make. Because if apathy makes an appearance, I don’t have to practice and I can just be—there are no expectations. There is no success either but the temporary payoff appears better because there is no risk of failure. And failure isn’t really an option because failure means abandonment and eventual death.

That’s not too big of a burden or anything.

I’m impressed with all the goings on in here (me), and grateful I want to learn from it today instead of before program when I was in active addiction trying to shut it up. Today I feel we are more in right relationship and learning.

Today even though we are a handful, I’m glad my Higher Power is on my team.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” said Alice. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”
—Lewis Carroll