Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Don't Ask Me To Smile.

So according to twitter today is World Goth Day, not exactly clear on who decided this, or why but I hope my neighbors don't hate Sisters of Mercy too much because they're going to be hearing an awful lot of it awfully loud today and I may hunt out some black nail polish or something, wonder where I've put that? I could also point out that I'm wearing black (and purple) velvet but actually I do that every single day of my life. Or rather I do that on the days when I can get the energy together to get dressed at all which sort of brings me to the subject that I was going to talk about today anyway, I want to talk about depression, and partly I want to talk about how it's not at all the same thing as the kind of exultant misery that I used to (and still on occasion do) enjoy when listening to what others might term 'really depressing lyrics'.

As you may have already gathered from the above I have depression (and also a fairly gothic taste in clothes and music, though that's not as relevant as it might appear), I've been told I shouldn't say that I suffer from depression, but honestly, as well meaning as the woman who told me that was, I find it doubtful that she's ever experienced it for herself. Which is actually why I'm writing this, I'm not looking for sympathy or pity or help (I have help actually, both professional and non-professional) I'm not even especially demanding understanding, although I will admit that would be nice. I'm writing this because I'm aware that many people have never had depression and perhaps, in the same way that some men strive to understand what the experience of childbirth is like, some of them would like an insiders view. I don't know if I can convey what it's like, but I can certainly try and of course I can't claim to know what depression is like for anyone else (although in all probability I will slip and say something to that effect at least once or twice). What follows is a record of an intensely subjective experience. It may often seem self-pitying and pathetic, that is I'm afraid part of the nature of the beast. Oh and triggering as hell, discussion of suicidal thoughts incoming after the paragraph break for example, you have been warned. Also swearing, ditto.

It speaks volumes about your mental space when contemplating suicide actually rates as an emotionally uplifting experience, but very often that's how I feel about it. It makes a fucked up kind of sense if you stop and think, by planning (sometimes in great detail) how I can take myself out of this world I'm reassuring myself that I have power, the power of life and death no less, over myself and my situation, sometimes I need that, albeit twisted, sensation of empowerment. Of course, there are other times when I just want out, those are the dangerous times, the times when I have to remind myself that if I do that I'll never finish my novel. No seriously, quite often that's literally the only thing I'm holding on to. My partner will try and remind me that there are people that care about me, but all I can see is that I'm a burden on them and really they'd be better off without me whatever they might think about it. Is that objectively true? well obviously I think it is, otherwise why would I believe it? On my best days, my most positive days when my self-loathing is at it's lowest ebb I can see that I do have a few redeeming features, I'm pretty good at listening to others problems for example. Even on those days I'm not sure that that's enough to compensate for all the bull-shit they have to put up with from me, but maybe it's enough to earn a stay of execution if I'm really trying to get better and, on my good days at least, I am.

There's two things to be taken from all that I think, one is that when trying to talk down a potential jumper it's helpful to have some idea of what they value about themselves, because that's what will make the difference and the other is that, things are not always what they seem with misery. Even within a single mind it's possible for one line of thought to exist within two very different emotional contexts, one truly dark and self-destructive the other a warped, inverted even, kind of positivity. Not that I'm suggesting that suicidal thoughts are ever entirely healthy, clearly that's ridiculous, all I'm saying is that sometimes, paradoxical as it may seem, they can actually provide the impetus to keep on living, perhaps even with increased motivation to take on challenges and well, to live rather than just survive. How do you tell the difference? No fucking clue, and it's my damn head. Then again, if I had all the keys to my own psyche I probably wouldn't be depressed. Not that I think I'd be likely ever to be happy, just not interested in happiness and that's what I'm going to talk about next.

There is a sort of general assumption that everyone wants to be happy and normal, there are plenty of people that know and understand that these desires are not constants but still, that is the cliché, the yardstick if you like for what people 'should' want, I mean who wouldn't want to be happy and normal? Me that's who, no thank you, not interested. More than not interested in fact, the idea of being either gives me the creeping horrors, but for quite different reasons. The idea of being happy creeps me out because the notion is so utterly alien to me. On those rare occasions when I actually find myself happy about something my first, instinctive reaction is to do something, anything, to make it stop. This sounds completely crazy I know (largely because it is) but being happy feels like a kind of possession, as though the happiness is a separate emotion based creature that's temporarily invaded my body. It's been so long since I actually experienced happiness that I no longer recognize the emotion as part of myself. Happiness is something that happens to other people.

I might eventually, with much, much therapy come round to the idea that it's all right to be happy sometimes, on my own terms. Anyone suggesting that I should want to be normal though can fuck right off, normal people are dicks. All right, that might be a bit of a sweeping statement, but in general if someone claims to be 'normal' and you should be too, then what they really mean is that no one has the right to be different and they are wrong and also a dick. The other thing is that normal can often mean ordinary and seriously who the hell wants to be ordinary when they have the potential to be extraordinary? Quite a lot of people actually, I was once having a conversation with someone about my son and how it was tiring keeping up with his questions because he's so smart, this wasn't actually me complaining (mostly) it was more like camouflaged bragging but she took it as a complaint, with a response something like 'Oh I know, you think you should be proud but actually you just wish they were normal don't you?' no, fuck no, I may not be the greatest mother ever, what with the depression and everything, but I would never, ever be so fucking god-damned awful as to wish my kid dumber just to make my life easier, what kind of sadistic hell monster selfish bitch queen scumtard would I have to be to even think that? (not that I said any of that of course). A normal one apparently, so yeah, fuck normal, I will continue to be me, thank you so very much (and I will continue to be proud that my kid wants to be a theoretical physicist as well, daunted I admit, but proud).

So if I don't want to be happy or normal then how can I claim to be trying to get better? Well because my definition of 'better' doesn't include either of those things, my definition of better could be summed up as 'functional'. I mentioned right near the top of this post that some days I struggle even to get up and dressed, I would like that to stop, it's ridiculous, infuriating, and possibly the hardest thing of all to explain. I don't know if I can describe the sheer over-whelming resistance to doing... well anything that can descend on a bad day. It's not 'can't' it's not even 'can't be bothered' it's 'why should I' and 'I don't deserve to succeed' not even at something as simple as, say, brushing my hair. On bad days I loathe myself so completely that even that would be a travesty, and worse than that it would prove that I'm capable of something, anything, and if I can do that then why can't I do... well anything, and that's terrifying, absolutely terrifying because the length of the road between here and achieving anything I consider worthwhile is almost unimaginably long and hard and complicated and full of unknowns, far better just to stay here where it's warm and safe.

At the same time, I desperately want to achieve something, anything so that I can remind myself that I'm capable of of achieving anything I set my mind to. It's that same double-sided thinking really, isn't it, one train of thought, one mind, two completely different emotional outcomes. It's easy to say that I should only allow myself the positive version, but it's not as simple as that. Last night I managed to get a bunch of edits I'd promised to someone done, and not just done, but done in a timely fashion (more or less) and instead of letting myself be happy about that and get started on the next thing, I immediately started beating myself up about all the times I hadn't managed to get what I set out to do done, and essentially, how dare I think that this one little success made a difference and within half an hour or so I was back to wishing I was dead... for succeeding at something (however small) how fucked up is that? Very is the short answer, and worse than that, I know it, just like I know that all this wallowing in self-pity is pathetic and I know that not being able to get out of bed in the morning is both lazy and worse than pathetic. No one needs to tell me those things, I tell myself them, all the time and I utterly loathe myself for it all, just as I loathe that I can't get anything done for all the fucking self-loathing going on in here.

It comes down to this, the thing I hate most about myself is that I hate that I hate myself.

One last little thing: I realise that I haven't really said anything about the stuff that got me depressed in the first place, but honestly, this post is more than long enough already and I really just wanted to get across the cyclic nature of depression. Not sure if I got that across. Also not sure that this post will be of any use to anyone whatsoever. Well it was kind of cathartic to write at least, so if nothing else there's that. Maybe that will have to be enough. If it is useful to anyone, perhaps as fodder for characterization perhaps? this is supposed to be a writing blog after all, then go ahead and use it. If you just want to use it to paint me as a pathetic tortured artist, waste of space, go ahead and do that too, after all it's what I'd do.

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