This is a blog about my depression

I realize, or I have always known, that this is a blog about my depression. About recurring episodes of depression I experience. I have succeeded in avoiding admitting this, that I have recurring and stubbornly persistent depression, for a long time.

I don’t know why I am writing about this, other than that I have been writing all weekend long. I am sitting on a bus, coming home from a long weekend in [undisclosed location] that I decided to take by myself. I hitch hiked here. It was remarkably easy. So easy it was disorienting.

And I felt like I was doing something wrong. I took on a high paying job earlier this year, an action I basically regard as a mistake but which was wholly rational at the time. I wore a pair of fake glasses while I was hitch hiking, and for a little while once I got to my destination. I wore them out of a belief that they enabled me to be someone else, but for most of this weekend I didn’t talk to anybody who was not already a good friend, and when I did it went horribly wrong.

So I’m not sure why I wore the glasses. But I am sure that I felt strange riding in the car, getting a ride for free from a person who was paying a lot of money to drive the distance they were driving. It didn’t make any sense for me to be getting anything for free. I should have paid for gas at least.

I came here because I am bored with my life in [other undisclosed location] and I am afraid I am building walls that will close in on me and kill me. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that I have two committed romantic partners right now, and the last time I felt like I was suffocating was also a time I had a committed partner.

I want to run, far away. I want to quit my job and get on an airplane to a place where they do not speak my language or share my culture, and I can bring a backpack filled with nothing but books. I will set up in public places and read books, and write, and take meals in public places and drink in public places and talk about nothing except the books I’m reading — the ideas, the authors, the times in which they were written. I will never talk about the life I left behind. It will be a struggle to talk at all because in the place they will not speak my language but I will learn, dilligently, and when I feel lonely I will write my friends and family post cards without return addresses.

Maybe I will get a post office box. Not being able to receive letters sounds terrible.

I keep saying that if I make it through this year without killing myself, it will be a miracle. I don’t know why I believe this. But my heart is heavy with despair just the same. It’s a truth I can’t avoid, as much as I’d like to. I know I am not happy and I am living a life that does not make me happy. I am on what I tell myself is a short-term contract to enable a life I actually want. Because I went the route of “just living the life I want” and I ended up broke and precarious.

There is a part of me that says that happened solely because I didn’t try hard enough and I believe it. I have ultra high expectations for myself that I rarely meet. But what I do come up with is pretty good I guess.

This year has been a hard year. I don’t think it’s going to quit.

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Security through obscurity

I’ve never been able to keep a blog for very long because the idea of being vulnerable in public terrifies me, and I feel like everything I would write if it were attached to my name is a serious liability. Something about personal branding. I’m still hanging on to this idea of being a Serious Professional Person instead of a committed wingnut, so I had to start this blog out of frustration so I could talk about depression and hating people.

Re-reading these posts always makes me happy because of brutally true they feel. I pull no punches here and it feels genuine and raw every time I come back to it, unlike the vast majority of the rest of my work, where I’m just telling all sorts of lies about how I feel about what I’m doing to make it seem like the most amazing thing that ever happened.

 

Progress

My life changed when I stopped having to suspend my disbelief in the supernatural and instead just started believing in it.

It started in 2013 at the temple at Burning Man, where the overwhelming collective sadness and hope the city’s residents had imbued the place with came over me like a flash flood, and I felt emotionally moved, or really, shoved, for the first time in many years. That was the point when I really “got” Burning Man, and when I stopped reflexively turning my nose up at a whole class of vague, “woo” spiritual beliefs common among West Coast new-agers.

Later that year I found myself at a funeral procession in New Orleans, at the close of a week where I stopped questioning whether I believe in magic,  bathing in the glow of a ritual where a big group of near-strangers created a moment so rich with a power and meaning you could taste it in the air.

When I got on the bus to go on that trip to New Orleans I had a burning branch of sage waved around me. I scoffed inside, as I usually did whenever burning sage showed up at various political events here in [undisclosed location]. Less than a year later I gave a bundle of sage I got from Lakota Sioux country to my cousin as a housewarming gift.

I found myself among the Lakota earlier this year, hitch-hiking across the country for various reasons. At some point on that trip I started talking to God, and at some point God started talking back. I stopped questioning whether believing in this made me an idiot or a crazy person. I learned to pray from my heart, trying to lean less on words as a crutch.

I stopped questioning the idea of chakras and energy flow in my body after two experiences – one was falling in love for the first time in years, followed by a devastating breakup, when I realized I felt different emotions in different physical locations in my body. The other was some experimentation with Taoist sexual practices. I realized that if one thing that defines something as “science” is a series of actions with predictable results, it doesn’t matter what language or attitude is used to convey those actions. If it works like it says on the tin, it’s still science.

At Burning Man this year I burned Fear, Resentment, Mediocrity and the Hungry Ghost. I finally understand what people mean when they talk about Burning Man as a place and time of spiritual renewal. It’s church, for a generation of people who experienced church as a reified, hollow, meaningless chore.

I could physically feel these things leaving my body, as a chill that ran up my spine and left, swept into the updraft of hot air coming from the burning debris of the temple, just as I saw individual paper effigies float into the air, red-hot, just before disintegrating and melting away into ashes.

I quit smoking three days before Burning Man and spent two weeks in the desert staring down the hungry ghost inside me, in a place where instant gratification is always just around the corner. I might’ve used sex as a crutch if it hadn’t been for a fateful drug use accident that ended up triggering a cold sore. Alcohol was ever-present, but I can’t really say that I drank to get drunk more than a few times, despite loud, jubilant proclamations of “LET’S GET WRECKED!!!” all week long.

I’ve resolved to not drink at all until leaving on my next trip in the middle of September. It’s been three days and I am feeling no loss. Everything feels eminently possible.

I realize that if I come back to this blog years later it’s going to read like a long, slow crawl out of a deep depression. I don’t perceive my life for the last 4 or 5 years that way, but I do feel like I’m turning a corner, and if I’m turning a corner it means something must have been wrong before.

Maybe that’s why keeping a journal is a good idea. Who knows. But there it is.

Dopamine

I can actually feel myself chasing it. I feel the drug released in my brain when I’m getting way too drunk and smoking. I could feel it when I was sipping on whiskey first thing in the morning despite my hangover the other day. I can feel my brain rewarding me for overdoing it. And I am worried.

I keep repeating to myself this dumb mantra from that, it turns out, comes from one of those obnoxious inspirational posters, the kind of thing that gets chopped up and redistributed on social media by total airheads that are always so ready to get their lives together, any minute now. It says:

“If you’re looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.”

I realized over the weekend that my ex-girlfriend is probably an alcoholic. I am beginning to be concerned that I am, too, because I can feel the hungry ghost inside me whenever I try to kick all the chemicals I put in my body. I’ve never had a problem with any other drugs besides nicotine, and I have experienced real, destructive alcoholism, so I know enough to know that’s not a real problem for me.

But I feel like it could become one, easily.

I may just be saying this because I easily could have been killed two different times last night and I embarrassed myself. Maybe also because I, like all of those wishy-washy motherfuckers that post dumb inspirational bullshit on social media, feel a serious need to “turn my life around”.

I keep saying “today could be the day”. I could stop hurting myself and start the healing my body and soul desperately need. I could read more, learn the things I want to learn, and start surrounding myself with people other than dumb troublemakers.

I want to create and learn and I want to be prolific instead of wasting all my goddamn time. I have wanted this for as long as I can remember wanting things.

This is not a conclusion.

“Fuck you.”

Keeping in the front of my mind that I am quitting smoking for myself, and not to make anyone else happy, is a constant struggle.

I’m on this journey. The details aren’t important. What is important is that I undertook this journey with this romantic partner. We got together before my most recent long-term girlfriend and I broke up. And I am starting to believe it was a mistake to go on this journey with them. I don’t think this partner and I should be together. We are very different, the main difference being that they are painfully naive and politically correct to a fault, and I like beer and rap.

After having badgered me for weeks to quit smoking, passive-aggressively intimating that it was disgusting to them and I needed to stop, I agreed. And I told them, “If I do this, I’m going to be a complete asshole for three days. I’m going to hate you for no reason. I will not be rational. It will be extremely emotionally difficult for both of us.” And they agreed.

Two days pass. Both of them were travel days. I scarcely say a word to my partner, silently hating them, my life, and the whole world. When I do speak my anger surfaces, like seeing a flash of slick grey briefly breach the air above the ocean, not enough to tell if it’s a whale or a nuclear submarine.

There are two actual conflicts that take place in two days. In one of them, they ask if they can kiss me. I say “no.” They are disappointed. The second involves me talking over them, briefly, which elicits this completely overblown death stare, the stare that says “you-talking-over-me-means-you’re-not-a-good-feminist-ally-and-somehow-a-misogynist.”

Last night, all I wanted to do was get drunk on whiskey and eat a plate of onion rings. It didn’t happen, because after drinking a beer with dinner I had a massive headache and wanted to go take a nap. By the time I woke up, it was 10:30, which is late for my partner, because they are unbelievably fucking boring.

I decide to go out on my own. I put my clothes on. My partner says “I can’t believe you’re actually going out.”

I tell them I already feel guilty, because they make a huge deal out of every time I want a drink, as if any kind of wanting a drink is automatically equatable to alcoholism, that I don’t appreciate the attitude, and that I said, when I decided to quit smoking, that I would need support.

“You never said you needed support.”

“Fuck you,” I said, without thinking.

Because this was exactly what I was afraid of. Quitting smoking is hard. The emotional toll will cause you to hurt the people around you. And you warn them. And then they turn on you, as if it’s a shock that you’re acting this way, as if they can’t fathom why you could possibly be so irritated, like “why don’t you just chill out?”, and the fact that you’re fighting physical withdrawals worse than heroin somehow becomes less important than their wittle feewings.

So I have to keep in the front of my mind that I am doing this for me. My partner can go fuck themselves. They’re an idiot. A naive little child playing lifestyle-anarchist make-believe and trying to drag me along for the ride.

I’m quitting smoking for me. I’m doing it because I need my teeth. I’m doing it because I don’t want to go bald. I’m doing it so I don’t get winded anymore. I’m doing it so I can have my sense of smell and taste back. I’m doing it so I can have my sex drive back. I’m doing it for my dick. I’m doing it so I don’t smell terrible all the time and waste my money on death.

I’m doing it because cigarettes are a cheap prop, and if I want to make being an asshole a real part of my identity, I have to own it. Show, don’t tell.

Victory

Every cigarette I don’t smoke is victory. Every time I feel the impulse and deny it I am winning.

Every time I don’t procrastinate, every time I choose focus over idling, every time I choose to take a risk instead of being safe, is victory.

I don’t have to be perfect, or give up completely if I’m not doing absolutely everything right. Just small victories.