October 19, 2021:

My colleague is gregarious to the point of insensitivity. She insists on photos at every occasion, gainsaying or pooh-poohing or flatly denying my emphatically expressed discomfort.

She's the colleague I feel most friendly toward: the one whose personal life I'm most comfortable discussing and to a degree being part of. She means only well — in fact she means to reciprocate by pushing me into some sense of ease with my own skin. What she ignores is how deep my depression runs.

In photos I see struggle. Clearly, unambiguously. My colleagues perhaps see a disheveled mad scientist type, an Einstein let's say whose chaotic appearance reflects lack of focus on the superficial. I see fear, and failure, and frailty.

My supervisor praises me for "ownership" — taking responsibility for the problems that arise. That's kind, but misses the point. To me, these problems are shelters: refuges. They allow me an external focus which takes me away from myself long enough and thoroughly enough to heal, even just a little bit. Photos of myself yank me violently back inward, in destructive, ugly downward spirals. I see the pain and the fear, and one or more than one of my inner voices begin to speak with frighteningly negative language.