The Magic Pill

I have talked about this idea before[1], but I want to go into greater depth tonight.

It starts with a simple question for all my fellow depressives : if there was a pill that would cure you of your depression forever with absolutely no possibility of it coming back, would you take it?

Sounds like a simple question… if you are not a depressive yourself. Depression is a terrible illness. It can even be fatal. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of it forever?

But for people inside the world of depression, it is not that simple. (Nothing ever is. )

Depression, as horrible as it is, serves a function in the mind of the depressive. What we call depression is a product of the psyche trying to protect itself from trauma by numbing itself. Hence, the person is left feeling cold and tired and listless and like happiness is not even a possibility.

The numbness blocks the very inputs that would help cleanse and heal the trauma that is the real problem.

Over time, the depression develops a powerful secondary function : it provides the depressive with excuses.

Depressive wear excuses like armor. When something suggests action on their parts, no matter what it is, great anxiety is released by the depression in order to protect itself and its mission. Motion and activity awaken the sleeping giant of trauma and your depression’s whole mission is to keep it asleep so you can go on with life without having to deal with it.

Anyone who has tried to suggest positive possibilities to a depressive has learned this. They shoot those positive possibilities down rapidly and with great accuracy. What you see as ways out, their depression sees as a threat, and so they will reject your suggestions however they can before they can even rationally assess them.

Hence my question about the magic pill. How does the depressive mind react to the thought of what would be, in a sense, its own death? What would it do when faced with something it has no ability to reject, even by the flimsy standards of depression? Would rationality prevail, and the pill be taken? Or would the depression win, but at the cost of the truth being laid bare about how the depressive needs their depression?

In fact, let’s throw the question wide open. Imagine that absolutely every single one of your excuses for inaction has been cured. You are rich, thin, beautiful, intelligent, well connected, and guaranteed success at whatever you do, in addition to being cured forever of your depression with no chance of return.

What then? When you picture it in your mind[2], how do you feel? Do you feel joyful? Or terrified? Do you think it would change things for you, or would your life stay exactly the same? What is holding you back from achieving your dreams now?

Without your excuses… well, you’d have to actually do it, wouldn’t you? And that’s a good thing… right?

It is through this question… what would you do if you were out of excuses… that the true nature of depression is revealed. The doors could be flung wide open, and some part of you still wouldn’t want to go through them.

And that part of you might actually win. You would reject the open doors until they closed again, then bury the whole incident in your mind to keep it from threatening your depression any more.

And you would go right back not just to your depressive life, but to your insistence that your life is terrible, everything is hopeless, you will never be happy, and you could never escape your depression because X Y and Z are in the way.

Even if you have just learned that the exact opposite is true.

Myself, I think I am strong enough now that I would take the pill. I would, in fact, grab it and take it immediately so that my depressive mind doesn’t have a chance to stop me. I am ready to have this burden lifted from me forever, and damn the consequences. I want life.

But I also feel the terror I mentioned. When I imagine myself forever free of depression, I feel scared on that primal level that requires no focus and denies all rationality. The kind of fear that is stronger than thought.

And I have to ask myself, why? Why am I afraid of what should be my fondest wish coming true? Why does the idea of leaving depression with no chance of returning make me feel exposed, vulnerable, and alone? What vital function is it serving that I would lose if it was gone? What is this great evil it protects me from?

Why do I need to be depressed?

And how many of my fondest excuses, the things I use to maintain the status quo against all potential momentum, would wither and die if I fully face and embrace the fact that my depression persists because I still need it?

These are questions worth pondering. The fact that thinking about them makes me fearful and uncomfortable proves that. I am not the victim in this scenario, or if I am, I am also the victimizer. This system is set up for my own benefit, and I will only be free of depression when I find the trauma that impels it, and cure it.

This is my new mantra : I am not the victim.

And if any of you, the stalwart few, who read my words suffer from depression yourself, I implore you to think hard about these questions yourself, no matter how scared or uncomfortable they make you.

If you stay with these questions, they can be the foundation of your own magic pill.

Then it will be up to you to be honest enough with yourself to take it.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. I swear, when I am done with an idea, it goes to the back of a very long line and waits to come up again.
  2. Assuming you can. And if you can’t, ask yourself.. why not? What it keeping you from imagining it?

The Brunch Club

Okay, so I have now seen the entirety of The Breakfast Club, and I feel compelled to talk about it.

Why? Because I loved it, essentially. I have no problem AT ALL seeing why it is considered a classic film and an iconic film of the 80’s. It does the ensemble drama thing extremely well. The characters are all recognizable types, and yet they don’t feel stereotypical. They feel like real people, people who know, maybe even people you’ve been.

And of course, they are of my era. They seem exactly like the sort of people I knew at the time. They dress like people of my era, they talk like people of my era. They all seems so…. normal to me.

And that makes the drama penetrate all the deeper. I almost feel like I went to school with the characters.

My favorite scene was the one where Molly Ringwald (Claire) tells the brutal truth about how they will all go back to their regular lives and have nothing to do with one another once their group detention ends.

That’s the truth laid bare. And yeah, that’s a really shitty thing to do, especially to Brian the nerd. He is the one who would suffer the most from everybody just going back to their lives like none of it had ever happened. He’s the lowest status member of the club… even the basket case with no friends ranks higher than a nerd… and also the most vulnerable and sensitive. He wants to keep the cool friends he thinks he has made.

And the thing is, we don’t really know what happens after the movie ends. Maybe they do stay in touch. Maybe they don’t.

But I would understand if they didn’t. They all have their roles in their peer group. That is the context of their lives. Everything they know about who they are and where they fit in comes from their peer groups. Expecting someone to leave that and risk not ever being able to go back is asking one hell of a lot of a human animal.

And while Brian says that he would never reject the other four if they met in the school halls, I am not sure that would be true. If all his nerdy friends were there, I think he would be just as prone to wanting to preserve his position in his peer group and would feel compelled to say something about how he and the others aren’t friends, they just “know each other”.

Even us low status types have our status and our role.

The one most likely to be able to stay friends with the others is Allison, described by the film as “the basket case”. I think that’s a tad harsh. She’s definitely kinda nuts and has a deep need to be dramatic and mysterious and dangerous. But I don’t think she is a “basket case”.

It’s just that goth and emo didn’t really exist in 1984. So they didn’t know what to call her.

Speaking of Allison, boy did I ever hate it when she got the preppy makeover from Clair. It’s like Clair took a really interesting, unique girl and put her through the conformity meat grinder and out popped some boring chick who looks like a million other girls.

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Give me back the interesting version of her! Sure, she’s nuts, but at least she’s an individual.

Moving on, the movie’s villain (inasmuch as it has one) is clearly the “criminal”, John Bender (no relation). He is the one who acts as the agent of chaos that adds the energy to the system to enable change. Of course, he does it by being an abusive asshole with an entire lumberyard’s worth of chips on his shoulder and attacking everything and everyone in sight, so he is not in any sense a good person, but he ends up being the one who pushes people’s limits and thus getting the truth out of them.

There is also their hardass teacher, Richard Vernon. Mister Vernon. Hard to believe that there were ever teachers that could get away with being that aggressive. I can’t imagine any of my teachers acting like that. I have seen enough references to that sort of teacher in things to believe that there were really guys like that out there, but I never met them.

It’s just so un-Canadian.

And counterproductive. If I had met that kind of teacher when I was a teen with a head full of testosterone, I would have made it my full time occupation to destroy him. He would have been my nemesis, and I would have done whatever I could to fuck with him in every way possible.

I am not saying that would be justified. He’s a man trying to do a very tough job and I respect that, even if I think he is going about it the entirely wrong way.

But I know what I was like as a teen and I am positive that the only reason I didn’t have any behavioural issues is that nobody was messing with me. I had no such convenient a lightning rod for all that anger as a Mister Vernon.

Instead I had…. nothing. In high school, I was a ghost. No friends, no peer group, wandering around the edges of what was happening but never truly being a part of any of it. I went to class, did the work, went home. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I wasn’t completely invisible. In class, I sat at the front and asked (and answered)questions. The typical ghost sits in the back and avoids attracted attention. I… did not.

Like I have said before, I am a strange blend of extroversion and introversion. In many ways, I am incredibly shy. But in the right contexts, I have total self-confidence bordering on arrogance, although of course, I don’t see it that way.

I have total faith in my intelligence and creativity.

It’s everything else that I have a problem with….

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Who am I?

I’ve just started watching The Breakfast Club (I’m around a half hour in) and I thought I would take inspiration from it.

In the movie, five teens are given a full day’s detention and an assignment : write one thousand words about who they think they are. Hmm, let’s see… write a thousand words of deep self-examination about identity.

Yeah, I think I can handle that.

It is a very difficult question for me, however. This is no easy assignment for me. That is the exact reason I am choosing to do it. The challenge and depth of it fascinates me.

So let’s start with the basic and mundane details of me. I am Michael John Bertrand, son of Larry and Betty Bertrand of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada. I have three siblings, Anne, Catherine, and David. I grew up in Summerside, and went to Parkside Elementary School, then Summerside Intermediate School, then Three Oaks Senior High.

I was born around 10 am on the morning of May the 19th, 1973, in Prince County Hospital. According to witnesses, I was a healthy and happy baby, just a little on the quiet side.

But this is not a biography. I feel the pull of turning this into my life story. It would be so much easier to do than answer the uncomfortable question of who the fuck I really am.

Because I don’t know. I have no true image of myself. Years of toxic self-loathing and lack of real world experiences have thus far prevented me from developing one. I just plain don’t know who I am.

But who does, really? In this modern chaotic age, with all the external sources of identity torn away?

Especially for me, because I have never even had a full time job, let alone a career. Never finished a degree, so it is not like I had to figure out what to do with my life then go for it. I don’t feel close enough to my family (in both sense of close) to get identity from them. No religion either. No party affiliation, no team, no movement, no subculture.

I am a being without external support.

I know a few things about myself. I know I am a nerd. Nerds are my people. I knew that instinctively when I first had a chance to have a group of nerdy friends in college. Nerds are a varied lot, but just knowing someone else is a nerd means I know that I have far more in common with them than with 90 percent of humanity.

It’s amazing, really, how nerds just naturally occur in modern society, like homosexuals, and are then drawn to one another. Nobody has to make that happen. We are a self-sustaining emergent phenomenon.

I also know that I am a writer, and not just because I write this thing every day. I also enjoy writing, and I like to think I am damned good at it as well. I have that deep need to communicate and that feeling that I have something I want to say. But I am too shy and/or antisocial and/or badly under-socialized to tell it to people in person, so I write it down instead.

That way, instead of talking to one or two people, I potentially reach thousands or even millions of people and have a real and lasting effect on their lives, all from the comfort and safety of my agoraphobic little nest here.

It’s big talk for small people.

So obviously nerd plus writer equals science fiction author, although I have also written fantasy. Basically, I just grab whatever bag of metaphors and plot elements seems to fit eh story I want to tell.

Sometimes that’s science fiction and sometimes it’s fantasy. If I want to get deep into things like ghosts or Heaven or magic, I am obviously going to go for fantasy rather than science fiction.

I suppose I could do what Doctor Who does and just write whatever story I want and then tack some science-y explanation on wherever it seems to fit. Those aren’t really ghosts, they are… um… spectral energy beings from another dimension!

What do I have besides nerd and writer. Well, I am definitely an intellectual, which on first blush seems like the same thing as being a nerd but the reality is far different. You think a room full of professors would admit they have anything in common with a convention full of nerds? And how about all those people in opera and the theatre?

Nerd is merely a subset of intellectual. A big one, as it turns out, but still. We are not the only kind of intellectual.

We’re just the best kind.

Besides nerd, writer, and intellectual, I only have descriptors. I’m highly intelligent. I have a lot of raw talent. I suffer from depression. I am obese. I’m funny. I’m charming. I have a big personality. I’m gay.

But what does that all add up to in the end? I have no idea. I get the feeling that I am not the sort of person to whom labels stick. I am just too complicated and multifaceted for that. Which is great for rugged individualism, I suppose, but it does not help much with the identity question.

So I am stuck wondering who and what the fuck I am. So much potential, so little realization, and even less resolution.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. I don’t consider myself a bad person for not knowing, nor do I think everybody but me knows and I am the broken loser who doesn’t. It’s not a question that I feel I absolutely need the answer to.

It’s just that I would really like to know. I am very tired of this identity fog of mine and the effort it takes to hold my shape against the onrushing chaos of identity death. Maybe I should just let myself fall apart and see what happens.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

It’s good to be back

Back at my normal level of finances, that is.

I had to go through three weeks in the wilderness after the convention, living on $60/week. That broughtback unpleasant memories of what life was like before I got onto full disability, and while I got through it, I had to worry about money again and hence it was a drag on my mood, specifically my feeling of security.

But now I am back on $100/week, and boy what a difference that $40 makes.

My sense of security is key to my personality. I can’t stop worrying about something until I know it’s taken care of, or otherwise will be okay. Till then, I fret.

So yeah. Mood equals money. Money equals mood. More money means better mood, and vice versa sorta.

It sounds crass. Part of me doesn’t like admitting that. It makes me sound shallow and materialistic to myself. But poverty is its own beast. Being poor forces you to concentrate on things like money, just like a starving man can’t stop thinking about food. When you lack something, you tend to think about it a lot.

To me, the definition of poverty is having to think about every single purchase, no matter how small. Every single time you open your starving wallet, you have to make absolutely sure that you can afford that pack of gum and there isn’t something a lot more important you could be spending that dollar and a half on.

The less you have to worry about money, the further out of poverty you become. This maxes out at around a middle class income level. If you are making $40K to $50K a year, you do not have to think before making everyday purchases at all. Going out to dinner, going shopping, going to a movie, even charging that big screen TV to your credit card… the world is open to you in a way a poor person can barely comprehend.

Obviously, you are not financially omnipotent. You can’t buy a yacht or a sports team. But all the little pleasures of modern life are open to you.

Poverty is especially draining and discouraging for those of us who grew up middle class. No matter how we scoff at middle class pretensions or throw around words like “bourgeois”, when you are raised middle class, that is your “normal” and anything below that feels very wrong to you. Part of you will always feel like a failure because you do not live like you did as a kid and all of society radiates the message that loss of status and privilege means you are now a lesser person.

Even if you have never had a mean thought about the poor in your whole life, you never lose the status judgments you were raised with. Sure, it’s okay for THEM to be poor…. they’re poor people! But for YOU…. it means something has gone terribly wrong and it is all your fault.

It’s not something you think about every day, but it’s always there, like it’s in the air you breathe. That pressure to return to your previous level of status as a middle class kid never goes away, and if for whatever reason you feel like you are unable to get to that status (which your social programming insists is the bare minimum), feelings of despair set in and make your life even worse.

I am fairly sure that a majority of my depression would go away if I simply had a higher income. Not all of it, but relieving that pressure would do me a lot of good.

I live on around $11.4K a year. And that, to me, is the good life, after living on a hell of a lot less.

Plus I would feel more secure. Like I may have said before, it is no mystery to me how someone like Scrooge ended up a miser. He was insecure and felt the bite of poverty, and gaining money made him feel better. It’s like he was building a wall against the world with that money in a desperate attempt to feel safe.

Of course, in his case, the real problem was inside his soul, and no amount of money can fix that.

But it is so easy to think that it will. For a while, every gain in wealth really does improve your life. Worry disappears, a sense of security sets in,. and the world seems like a much nicer place.

But as with all decadent addictions, you end up requiring a bigger dose to get the same effect, and even then, the effect diminishes over time. You desperately seek higher and higher doses of cash to get that feeling of security back, and as with all addicts, the addiction hollows you out and replaces any emotion that gets in its way.

Love, compassion, restraint, moral duty, even ties to family can and will be ruthlessly excised if they dare to even seem like they might get in the way of you getting more and more and more, and to hell with how.

There was a time when I thought I would be a business student and become an accountant. That might well have put me on the path to that kind of life. I know that, deep down, I have a terrible greed fueled be a terrible need, an all-devouring never-satiated monster that would eat the world if it meant I could feel safe and whole just for a few seconds.

As with all addictions, it promises to be a cure, but it is only a treatment, or at least a distraction. The problem remains, you have just masked the symptoms for a little while.

And yes, I am as guilty of that as anyone else. It’s just that for me, it’s carbs.

And as a fat person, I am a member of the least sympathetic group of addicts there is, accord to society.

With that happy thought, I bid you adieu.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Blue and Jewel

Been watching Rio 2 tonight.

The original movie was about a blue something-or-other toucan, thought to be the last in the world, who lives a comfortable life with some enthusiastic yet dorky ornithologists who ends up in Rio because they found another of his species… and it’s female!

You can imagine the awkwardness that ensues. Talk about pressure!

But of course, Jewel (the female) eventually falls in love with him when she sees how brave he is in some contrived danger or other, they make friends with wacky characters along the way, and it all ends happily.

In the sequel, Blu and Jewel have three kids, consisting of the crazy adventurous “that was awesome!” one, the nerdy “by my calculations” one, and the apparently teenaged “What-EVER” one. I say “apparently” because according to a throwaway line, she is only 3.5 minutes older than the younger of the other too.

Why do movies do things like that to innocent people like me? These kinds of continuity paradoxes hurt people of the “always thinks things through” variety like me.

Anyhoo, this time their adventure starts when a flock of wild blue whatever toucans is discovered in the depths of the Amazon rainforest, and they go on a trip to find them.

Blue is a likable character because he starts out as a pampered, spoiled city bird with no idea how to survive in the wild, and has what to me are entirely sensible reactions to situations of danger, discomfort, and distress. Almost all of his reactions are the same I would have, and he says what I would say, more or less.

Still, I am enjoying the sequel more than I did the original. The first one felt formulaic and forced. This one is far more original and has a lot more personality, especially in the character animations.

Plus, it isn’t CGI, so it looks all warm and pretty.

Other than my adventures with a certain hapless but lovable toucan, today has been quite quiet. The wrestling match with my life as I know it and my life as I want it to be continues. It takes a lot of rounds to win a fall against the habits and securities and especially the false beliefs that are deeply ingrained in my mind, but the fight never ends, so victory is inevitable.

Every day, I ask myself why I am still spending most of my days playing video games or sleeping, like I am always semi-hibernating. What is wrong with seeking out more active things to do? It sure beats letting the days go by.

Yesterday did me a lot of good, despite the fact that my body did not stop hurting for the whole time I was walking. I guess it has been so long since I have done the out and about thing that my body got rather rusty. What usually happens is that my body complains at first, but at some point, it grudgingly admits that we are doing this and kicks into a healthier gear.

But not yesterday. I get the feeling it was the lack of sunshine that did it. Being out in the dark and the rain is always a little depressing, and there was insufficient positive stimuli from my environment to arouse me fully from my torpor.

That’s the only way to describe my standard lifestyle : torpor. I don’t do much, I don’t say much, I keep things ridiculously low stimulus, and I can sleepwalk through my days, weeks, months, and years.

My advice to all young people : get your shit together now and DO THINGS. Don’t let yourself become a basement troll who plays WoW all day. Or if you do, be the one who organizes the raids, or the reliable DPS guy, or whatever.

You are young, resilient, and energetic. It will never be easier for you to take risks and try things. Go find the world you belong in, then hang onto it.

As for me, I am 41, soon to be 42, and I am just now finally going through a weak form of emotional teen-hood. It is entirely possible to have a severe form of arrested development and not realize it for years… decades, even.

And it is a tough pill to swallow when you are my age. Your pride resists the realization that you have a whole lot of growing up to do. Nobody wants to admit, even to themselves, that they are still a child inside and have never matured past, at best, the junior high level.

But to be honest, it’s more like elementary school, at least for me.

I try not to blame myself. That’s a wrestling match too. Depression makes it so the most negative and damning thoughts are the easiest to think. You even take a terrible sort of comfort from being the worst.

After all, nobody expects anything of you then.

But a lot of shit happened to me through no fault of my own. Nobody was looking out for me or trying to teach me how to live. I was left entirely to my own devices. I grew up wild. I grew up free. I grew up with all the doors flung open.

I grew up scared. And meek. Too meek to stick up for myself and demand my needs be met.

I would love to be able to go back in time and ask my parents why I was treated differently than the other 3. I would love to see if I could get them to admit it was because I was an accident and they just plain did not want to deal with an extra kid and so they arranged it so I would take care of myself as much as humanly possible and make it as much like they had never had me as I possibly could. No wonder I grew up feeling abandoned, despite what on the surface appeared to be a cozy middle class life.

No amount of money can save you from bad parenting.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

On The Road : Rainy Wednesday edition

Well they call it Rainy Wednesday
ButThursday’s just as bad…

You know where I am.

Proud that I got my big bear bottom out the door today. It wasn’t easy. I argued with myself, on and off, all afternoon to get here.

At least it’s an argument now. For many a year, there was no argument, just m3 doing whatever my depression told me to do.

In fact, for a lot of that time, I had no idea that there wad a thing call depression and 8 might have it.

But now I have developed a still crude but nevertheless effective inner parent. It is a somewhat exasperated and weary parent, but honestly, I was quite a handful as a kid and any caretaker tasked with getting stubborn and argumentative me to do things I didn’t want to do would would have ended up exasperated amd weary anyhow.

Instead I had… nothing.

So this inner parent of mine is, in a sense, giving myself the parenting I never got and didn’t know I was missing.

Every family seems normal to its members. It never really occurred to me as a child or teenager thst I was being mistreated. I knew something was wrong and that I was not like other kids, but it took being away from home for a very long time before I could figure out that I had been neglected and ignored by my parents.

Every family has its own culture, and mine taught me to disappear. To ask for nothing, need nothing, want nothing, be nothing.

So that is what I am left with : nothing.

And I am back home, moistened but unbowed.

Today, when I was leaving, I went to all the trouble to get my headphones out and get them working with my tablet (theirs is not a particularly harmonious relationship) and left with my head held high.

Only to realize it was raining and so the headphones were useless to me. So I thought about it for a few seconds, then asked Ali, the concierge on duty today, to hold on to my headphones till I got back.

I didn’t want to go back up to the apartment to drop them off. Partly this was laziness, but mostly it was that I did not want to give myself one more opportunity to chicken out and stay home and end up locked in the cycle of video games and ennui again.

So I headed out into the dark and rainy day (ick) and headed to our bus stop and sat down, ready to face the day.

Only to realize I had forgotten to get my cheque out of the mailbox, an omission that makes cashing damnably tricky. So I had to come back to our building, get it, and slip back out again.

No wonder my inner parent gets exasperated!

So there I was, waiting for the 401. Suddenly, I realized : it doesn’t have to be the 401. All three of the buses that stop at our stop go direct to the Skytrain after, and then on to Number Three Road and Westminster. So I could take whatever bus came next no matter which one it was.

I love it when my cleverness pays off like that.

And I lucked out at Money Mart. There were absolutely no customers there when I arrived. It was suppertime, and I guess everyone was eating. So I had zero wait for my financial transactions.

And this on Check Day!

After that, it was a leisurely walk to White Spot, where I had a Hot Turkey Sandwich (the power of my dream compels me!) with fries, and for dessert, a Hot Brownie Sundae.

Yeah, I know, I should not have such things. But in my defense, I had not eaten since 9 : 30 am, and I ate at 7:30 pm, so I had gone ten hours without food. And I had a decent meal beforehand, so I was not eating something sugary on an empty stomach, which would have been a REALLY BAD IDEA.

And the one thing I was worried about when I ordered it, the chocolate sauce, turned out not to be a problem because there was none. In fact, what I ended up receiving was a plate with the brownie pieces, a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and a squirt of whipped cream with a cherry on top, all separate in their own zones.

Kind of a deconstructionist sundae, or an exploded diagram of one. White Spot : stretching the boundaries of the concept of “sundae” in a way that confounds your bourgeois expectations of antlike dessert conformity.

In their defense, it was super busy. I showed up right in the middle of the suppertime rush. So my waitress had a reason to maybe do a bit of a slap-dash job on my sundae. And I have never been big on presentation anyhow.

Plus, she noticed my runny nose and brought me extra napkins without me even asking, and that counts for a lot in my books. So much so, in fact, that I left her a tip of over 30 percent of the tab.

That kind of unforced conscientiousness ought to be rewarded!

After that, I walked home. At the crosswalk at 3 Road and Cook, some fool kept pressing the button over and over again, apparently transfixed by their ability to press a button and hear an electronic chirp.

That got to be pretty annoying. I wanted the computer voice that tells blind people what street they are crossing and where to tell this person “Stop fucking around and cross the street!”.

Then again, that sounds like something I would have done as a kid. So if it was a kid, I guess I can partially forgive it. I was fascinated by buttons that do things back then too.

Somewhere in there is a point to be made about how I still press buttons all day (some virtual, some on my keyboard) but I am too tired to dig it out.

Instead, I’mma go nap now.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Living on the edge

I am addicted to something which could drive me crazy, and has in the past.

It’s isolation. My depression compels me to hole up in my room most of the time. I have talked with my therapist about it, how my anxious nature (usually well hidden) causes me to seek up hyper-familiarity and hence very low physical stimulation levels.

It’s a very poor solution. Better to be out there in the sun, learning to find the joy in life. I am positive that is the key to good mental health : being willing and able to find and experience all the great things life has to offer. That’s what happy people do. And because they do this, they can maintain a positive attitude. Life gives them all they to keep doing, and then some. They never lack primal force.

So far, for me, that has been out of reach. And so I live in my cave, where I can keep all my stimulation mental and thus keep myself calm and in control.

It always comes down to control, doesn’t it?

But because I wallow in continuity to such a deep degree, my world does not feel real to me, and I don’t feel like I am truly a part of it. The mind automatically tunes out repeated stimuli. That’s why you never notice the feel of your clothes except when you first put them on. And so my hyper-familiar little cave doesn’t feel like it’s real, my mind tunes it out.

And when the only place where you physically connect with the world no longer feels real, neither does the rest of the world. I feel like there is a shell of numbness around me at all times, a shell I made myself, but that is slowly killing me as it cuts me off from the real world.

It’s a little like sensory deprivation. Perhaps that is why I have so vivid an imagination.

I guess the mind needs physical stimulation in order to maintain its grip on reality. That’s probably a big part of why I feel so much better after I have been out on my own for a while. Suddenly, the world is real!

Because when the world is not real, it is not stable. You constantly feel vulnerable because you are constantly on the edge of unreality and it scares the hell out of you. You end up feeling like you are just barely holding on to the edge and that it would only take a little push to drop you into the screaming void of insanity.

This is probably not actually true. I could probably let go and be perfectly fine after a period of adjustment. I don’t have to go around holding my guts in with both hands. Nothing bad will happen if I let go.

But I can’t, or at least, I can’t do it all at once. I have to slowly and carefully climb down the cliff face to more solid ground. And I never know when the waves of depression will leave me stranded up the cliff again.

Life’s funny like that.

My true enemy is always the void. The void manifests itself in many ways, but it all comes back to my demon, a demon called Nothing. Nothing happening in my life, nothing to do for most of the day, nothing to show for 41 years of life on Earth, nothing happening in the world of sex and romance. Nothing ever changing. No physical stimulation, no wellspring of positivity, no reality, no hope.

I have wrapped myself in the void in order to stay safe. I am like a Thermos, with a layer of vacuum between me and the outside world, and no matter how warm it is out there, I stay frozen by the cold of outer space.

And I am so very cold inside. I am losing my coldness over time (guess my Thermos leaks), but there is still far too much nothing inside me. I look inside myself and feel this enormous aching lack, a cold dead space where life should be.

One cannot live on mind alone. No matter how much the mind resents it, I am alive and incarnate and part of the living world, even though I can’t feel it. The icy chill of intellectualism is all well and good, and enormously powerful if applied correctly, but the best it can hope for is to be half of a life.

The other half can only come from life lived in realtime, exposed, without the distance needed to maintain objectivity or think things through before you can react. Only then can you take what you need to survive from life, the vital primal deep nutrition that makes the whole mental machine run.

That’s where hope lies. That’s where starvation ends. That’s where depression dies, and with it, all the mental machinations that make up your too-small cage. You are your own victim, and the only way out of this cage is to stop needing it.

So day by day, I spill my guts upon this page and lose a little bit of my darkness and with it, my pain. The process seems endless, and yet I can definitely say that I am different, healthier person than I was a year ago, or even a month ago.

So progress might be slow, but writ large across time, it is powerful indeed.

And maybe, just maybe, as my void diminishes, my inner world becomes a warmer, safer, more solid, more welcoming place, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin.

This is my life. These are my variables. This is my starting point, my eternal beginning. I am free to go wherever I like from here, but my journey has to start where I am, not where I want to be.

Longing for things to be different is a waste of time and energy that could be better used making them different.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

So, what happened?

Had my little talk with this VFS guy named Daniel today.

Called at three o’clock, and he picked up. There goes my theory that he was screening me. Apparently, he did not get back to me on Friday because he didn’t have my number and I hadn’t left it in any of the three voice mails I left.

Um… I am pretty sure most voice mail systems have an option where you can tell it to dial the person who left a message. Plus, it’s in their files, and Patrick has it too.

Guess he didn’t want to talk to me all that bad.

Anyhow, I got in touch with him, and I made my pitch. Told him all about my blogging 365,000 words a year, plus writing four novels, plus writing a million words in 11 months, and so on. I told him how talented I am (he snorted…. in retrospect, that was a dumb thing to say, oh well) and how it’s my disability that has kept me out of the loop and all that.

He was not too impressed. Turns out he is not actually in charge of admitting, though, so my pitch was sort of wasted on him. He’s the one who deals with the disabled people for VFS, and he pretty much just repeated the party line that without a recent education or job history it would be “very hard” for the people in admissions to have enough faith in my ability to complete the intensive one year program to admit me.

My sentences are often quite long. Not always, though.

I asked him “If the course is so intense, then what difference will it make if I take a few writing courses? It won’t me anything like the VFS course!”.

He was silent for around three seconds, then his brain reset and he said “Look, I don’t know how I can make this any clearer… ” and went on with the talking points.

That’s when I knew it would be pointless to torment the guy any further and it certainly wouldn’t help me get into VFS if I crushed him with my powerful logic muscles, so I just apologized for being difficult and told him I would be back in time for the September session with the educational requirements met.

I can’t say I am surprised, it was an extreme long shot to begin with. I don’t feel too bad about it this time because it didn’t really cost me anything this time and I didn’t get my hopes up too high.

Still, after I got off the phone, I had a pretty major stress/depression/post-freakout type reaction. But I didn’t pay it much attention. There is a great power in being able to recognize what is happening in your body and detach from it. I felt bad, but I knew it was just chemicals and simply waited for things to go back to normal.

And sure enough, about an hour and a half later, everything was calmed down. I still feel the residue of disappointment and depression it left behind, and it will take a while before I get that taste out of my mouth, but the crisis portion of the event is over, and now I am just recovering from it.

Stupid chemicals. Always wrecking my shit.

What bugs me, though, is that if I had just thought to include my number in the messages I left on Friday, I would have done a way, way better job of “pitching” myself. I was ready on Friday. All my energies were aligned, I had my mojo workin’, I had all my arguments primed and ready, and I was in the right frame of mind to turn my charm all the way up.

But that seems to be the pattern with me. Nothing ever happens when I am ready for it.

Instead, today was a day where I slept really badly, spending a lot of time unable to wake up or go to sleep fully, and when I made the phone call, I was feeling very burnt out and fragmented and null.

So I was not exactly my brightest and warmest and most charming when I made that call. Instead, I am pretty sure I came across as pedantic and whiny.

Not that it really matters… I wasn’t talking to the decision-maker anyhow.

And I suspect I never will. I am sure that I have been marked ‘difficult’ somewhere, either in their files or just by word of mouth. So I somehow doubt I will get a chance to pitch myself to them in person, on the phone, or even by email.

I would love to do it in person. Then my charm and power of personality could really kick in. I am not above getting people to do what I want them to do by power of personality. Sometimes you get get what you want simply by leaving a powerful positive impression on people, getting them to both like and respect you, and therefore happy to do what you want.

Because you are now their alpha.

That is pretty much the secret of why some people waltz through life with apparent ease. The classic example would be very good-looking people. Their beauty has such a strong effect on people that it makes said people want to do what the beautiful person wants them to do purely to make the beautiful person happy.

It also happens with people who have very strong personalities, for the same reason.

I would even go so far as to say that these factors actually make someone more “real” than others. Because these people stick out from the background, they rise above the noise of everyday life, and we have strong instincts to obey people like that.

I think I have been that sort of person all my life without knowing it, and it is high time I put it to good use.

I have hidden my power away from the world for too long.

And I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Walk like a man

I’ve been watching a documentary called My Own Man via Netflix and it’s got me thinking. (Which is good, because that’s what documentaries are supposed to do. )

In it, this documentary film maker named David is prompted by turning 40 and by finding out he’s to be the father of a baby boy that go on a journey to find out how to be more of a man so he can raise his boy right.

You see, David’s always been a timid, cowardly fellow who has a lot more feminine qualities than masculine, and he is worried that this leaves him inadequate to the job of raising a boy.

One thing he tries is hunting. He actually goes out into the woods, learns to shoot, and kills a young stag. (Luckily, it’s a clean kill, so the deer does not suffer much. Bullet to the heart (or is that hart), game over. )

A younger me would have said, with total conviction, that I would never hunt. But as I get older and get more in touch with my primal id, I am not so sure any more.

There is nothing inherently wrong with hunting food that isn’t also wrong with eating meat. Either way, an animal dies for you to eat it. It might be argued that David’s stag had a much better life than most cows or chickens. It just fell to a different kind of predator than usual.

David does this to feel more like a man, but it doesn’t take. He feels the same afterwards as he did before. And I am pretty sure I know why.

It’s because he maintained emotional distance from what he is doing. He’s a nerdy liberal-ish guy who, like a lot of us intellectual types, is not comfortable with strong emotions that put him in a position where he has to go from the gut because the emotion suppresses reason.

This is true for all us intellectuals, and it is especially true when it comes to instinct. We have instincts for aggression, struggle, dominance, submission, and all kinds of other things that come from a place far deeper than reason and therefore make people who “lead with their head” extremely uncomfortable.

We only trust impulses from the intellect. That’s why we tend to intellectualize everything. David did not get a primal rush of masculinity from the hunt because his mind fiercely suppresses that kind of thing.

That’s why there is this dichotomy between intellectual liberals and primal conservatives.

Conservatives are comfortable with deep, instinctual emotions like ambition, love of family, fear of change, and greed. And they are not at all comfortable with acting on products of reason, which can be confusing and upsetting. So they strongly suppress their reason and listen only to their instincts, or their “gut”.

Liberals are comfortable with the products of reason (and compassion and cooperation and so on) but like I said above, they do not trust impulses than come from deeper than reason and suppress them strongly.

But the thing is, you need both. As we learned from the Star Trek : The Original Series episode “The Enemy Within” (aka the one with two Kirks), you need your primal aggressive side in order to be decisive, in order to be fully in touch with yourself, and most importantly, you need it if you want to feel truly alive.

The id is not the enemy.

So David got no rush from his deer hunt because he didn’t open himself up to the experience. He approached it as an intellectual exercise, and suppressed the very manly emotions he was seeking.

This intellectual approach at the cost of suppressing primal motivations is at the heart of what is wrong with modern liberalism. The liberals are, unquestionably, the side of the angels. But without their primal ids to drive things, they end up diffident, uncertain, and unable to stick up for themselves, let alone aggressively pursuing their agenda with no apologies.

So liberals are wimps, and get bullied by the stupid but definitely in touch with their ids conservatives, and it is the schoolyard writ large upon the globe.

Of course, we can’t visit the topic of manliness and such without touching on my own gender confusion, or is that gender diffusion. I have never felt myself to be strongly in either camp. If I had to tally it up, I suppose I have more feminine traits that masculine, but it’s a pretty close call.

As with a lot of things, I am in the middle somewhere.

There are times when I feel very manly. Aggressive, directed, killer instinct in full effect. Ready to take on the evils of the world and kill them one by one. Ready, in that sense, for war.

But there are other times when I feel quite womanly. Deeply sensitive, with great emotional depth, and caring about every little thing. Wanting everyone to get along and be happy.

So my position is this : cooperation and accommodation up to the point of facing evil, and then it is time to stop cooperating and bust some fucking heads.

As for my own gender identity, I really can’t say. Or perhaps I just don’t want to. To pick either side seems like it involves suppressing a vital part of myself, and given the choice, I decline to do so.

I sometimes think of myself as a maternal male, which sounds like a contradiction in terms to those still trapped in an outdated gender binary. But I am a man who is not afraid to be loving, nurturing, supportive, and even submissive (though not necessarily obedient, if that makes sense).

I don’t always have to be on top.

I love kittens and cats and other animals too. And not in some lame “I guess they’re okay” defensive male way either.

Throw in advanced communication skills and a certain flamboyance, and by gender binary standards, I am practically a woman.

But I’m not a woman, and I am not a man. I am both, in full force.

In the end, I am simply myself.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Thought on dragons

And manifold and diverse topics of general interest.

Just finished watching How To Train Your Dragon 2. It was quite awesome. I would say it’s ninety percent as good as the original, and it loses that ten percent only because we already know that dragons are good and Hiccup is awesome and so on at the beginning of the movie, and other revelations can’t stack up to that.

When I saw the original in the theater, I knew nothing about it (always the best way to enjoy a movie, in my opinion) and so I was completely convinced by the opening scene that these dragons were evil beasts from the Devil’s nightmares.

So when they pull a Lassie Meets Alien Mine and had Hiccup befriend Toothless and found out that dragons weren’t so bad after all, I was totally with him on that journey. And being an animal lover, it is the sort of journey that really struck a chord in me. I should have known better than to attribute evil to an animal. They are only as good or bad as we have been to them.

And it was humbling, but in a very good way, to be reminded of that.

One irony that struck me while watching 2 about 1 is that in the first movie, the Viking of Berk are at war with the dragons because the dragons attack their village out of nowhere, burn everything down, and take their cattle and anything else they take a fancy to.

That is only a handful of anatomically improbable rapes away from being pretty much what the Vikings are famous for doing.

And who bore the brunt of the Viking raids? Northern Scotland, which to this day is half Viking. Some of the people are more Viking than Scot, and a lot of the villages and towns there have Norse names and even Norse festivals and holidays (along with the proper Christian ones, of course).

They even say that it was the Vikings who introduced the redheaded gene to the UK.

And so it makes perfect sense that all the Vikings have Scottish accents. I don’t know enough to say if they are Northern Scottish accents, but I like to imagine that they are.

The only Scottish accent I can recognizes is the Glasgow one, and that’s because it is practically its own fucking language.

Other than my dealings with dragons, it’s been a typical quiet Saturday. Joe and Julian are off at Joe’s parents’ house for board games, and I am left alone in the apartment.

On the one hand, it’s kind of lonely. I grew up in a busy household and so the sounds of other people moving around and doing their thing is normal to me. Saturday nights are always a little too quiet for me.

On the other hand, if I want to sing along with my music or make weird silly noises to amuse myself, I can. without worrying that my roomies will think I am that other kind of insane.

You know…. the reality issues kind. Depressives interpret reality in insane ways, like thinking some random person they are passing on the street who is laughing is laughing at them because they know how stupid and disgusting and lame and pathetic you are and thinks you should just crawl under a rock and die.

I know that one all too well.

But thankfully, except for a few moments when I was falling asleep or waking up and I thought I heard someone say my name, I have never had that kind of insanity. Depression is a horrible illness, but it’s no psychosis.

Although I dunno. Maybe psychosis would be better if it was a happy psychosis.

That’s why I always keep going completely and utterly crazy as an option. If life becomes too fucking horrible to endure, I can always pull the plug and go to Crazytown.

I’d rather it didn’t come to that, obviously.

I can’t say my mood is wonderful right now. In fact, lately, I always seem to get depressed after I eat. Maybe it’s just the product of my blood sugar spiking than crashing. I don’t know.

But right now, I feel quite melancholy and very fragile. That seems to be a pattern with me too. After I make any significant progress towards recovery, I have a period of mild depression as I recover from the surgery, so to speak.

I feel quite emotionally cold. I really feel like my recovery involves birthing the cold dark void within me. I have to let the cold out, and thermodynamics be damned. That’s how it feels to me : like I am radiating the cold out of me like a reverse space heater and when I do, I thaw a little more inside.

I still have so much of it inside me that sometimes it seems like I will never be rid of all of it.

But it doesn’t matter if I am ever rid of it all. Who knows, maybe I need to keep some of it around to continue to be me. What matters is that getting rid of it makes things better for me in the long run, and that is more than enough to make it worth doing in my books.

I’ve written four of them.

But it is painful and redious to disgorge an iceberg an ice cube at a time. I am always looking for things which speed up the process. This is usually some form of media that moves me deeply and thus provides the necessary heat energy to melt a big chunk of my personal glacier.

After that, I just have to hold on till the flood recedes, and I witness a new and better land.

Strong urge to link Peter Gabriel’s song Flood yet again. But no.

I will just quote it.

If again, the seas are silent
And any still alive
It will be those who gave their islands to survive.

Drink up, dreamer, you’re running dry.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.