Beating myself up for not accomplishing what I planned or simply doing a piss-poor job of it is a hobby of mine.

What triggers these episodes varies. Sometimes it’s just a silly little thing like wasting money by forgetting to use food before it goes bad. Other times it’s major mistakes related to family or career. The problem is that the scale of the mistake is not proportional to the self-punishment. And when one of these triggers click, the collapse is fast.

This is not full-on depression, an enemy that Matt Gemmell recently described so well—I battled that foe 15 years ago and am wary of its return. Still, these dark moments are not harmless. They obscure the light and warmth. They make me stumble and slide down a pit of despair where I find more reasons to remain there. They cause me to reject the help of others.

Because I’m not worthy of their affection.

Sometimes I just want to give up on the day or a single task, but other times these dark thoughts thrive. I slide deeper into the darkness where I am blind to the worth of my existence. I see no hope for my future, no reason why anyone would want a loser like me around.

I hide it well—I’ve been practicing this since before the Beatles broke up—and still smile and joke around. My wife, Judy, sees through my facade and suffers more because of it. She knows how to gently remind me of all my blessings and to wait for me to let go of the trigger. I honestly don’t know if I’d be here without her.

The saving grace of my dark thoughts is that they don’t last long—sometimes only hours and rarely more than a day. I’ve also learned to recognize them and try to maintain some perspective.

“You’re doing it again, Hoctor. This is all bullshit that you are using to build a false reality. When it’s over, you’re going to be annoyed that you wasted any time on this crap.”

Unfortunately, knowing that I’m sliding into the pit doesn’t empower me to walk away from this darkness—there first must be punishment. Reality is out of reach and I’m not worthy of happiness just yet. Maybe later.

This all has something to do with records playing in my head that say, “I could have done that better. I’m underachieving and should perform to my potential. Don’t screw up again; you may not get a second chance.”

Countering these negative records is the sound of Judy’s voice saying, “You need to stop beating yourself up! You don’t deserve this kind of pain. You are a good person!” But I’ve tried so often to quiet these demons without success. They are like stains that most of the time I ignore, but when pointed out, I can’t stop staring at them. I look to the positives in my life and see how wonderful they all are, but those damned stains are right there.

I’m ready to let go of this unhealthy behavior. The solution that my brain supplies is wrong and just as messed up as these episodes: Just do everything right, which is an impossible solution. It’s also counter to learning from my mistakes—a method that has worked really well for me.

They say that the sane person questions if he is crazy and the crazy person defends his sanity. I guess I can take comfort in my sanity and just work every day to serve others and stay out of my own head. I need to feel worthy.