Survival is so hardwired into the earliest synapses of life that it is very normal, even healthy, to find suicide disturbing. The problem with disturbing things is that, by their very nature, we prefer not to examine them. This gives disturbing things an extraordinary power to persist in the shadows, surviving through generations, affecting vast swathes of the population in silence.
Most of the people who knew me when I was depressed did not detect a major difference in external behavior. This was partially due to the massive amount of time and planning I took to minimize depressed behavior while in public, but it is also due to the uncomfortable truth that the psychological distance between a healthy and a depressed mind is much shorter than most realize or admit.
The most insidious aspect of depression is this:
depression feels more like a solution than a problem.
If you break your legs, you are unlikely to see broken-leg-you as your “true” self, and will likely do everything in your power to expedite your recovery.
When you break your mind, their is an overwhelming sense that you are “seeing the truth.” That it is reality, not you, that is fundamentally broken, and those who seem happy exist only in some pathetic delusion.
There is also a cultural tendency to mythologize the depressed, with no end of historical artists and geniuses to reinforce this idea.
If I had to hypothesis why this correlation exists between depression and artistry, it would be similar to the blind-improved hearing hypothesis. That is, a blind person will often have improved hearing, not because the lose of vision improves the ability to hear, but because the person will naturally focus and be more in tune with the sense they can rely on. So then, when the cognitive, social, and emotional management section of this mind is impaired, the artistic and instinctual sections are forced to take a front seat.
The problem with viewing depression as something artistic, or normal, or honest, is that many people will allow themselves to remain depressed, keeping it a part of them like some sort of character trait.
At least, that’s what I did.
(finale next Tuesday)
part 4 next Tuesday
I went to buy coffee today. The employee took my order and asked my name. When I give people my first name, I usually have to repeat it, so I gave him my last name, which is more common.
Sometime in High School, I became obsessed with the concept of authenticity.
At that point in life, identity feels essential, but your life experience is too limited to create something unique, so every choice is both deeply personal yet inescapably shallow.
Honestly, at that age, trying on different personalities is a natural and probably healthy development. Still, I developed a distinct mistrust for any person whom I felt was leaning too heavily into a prepackaged identity.
I thought college might offer some respite from socially-mandated roles. That was what the movies promised – a place where the social facades of high school faded away. A place where people were just people, not a collection of labels.
Perhaps I was naive.
I had always considered myself a liberal, but I simply could not relate to the identity politics which dominated the cultural narrative in liberal higher education at that time. It seemed every legitimate philosophical point had to be wrapped in a toxic, exclusionary tribalism. No idea could be trusted to stand on merit. Any challenge, no matter how minor, was treated as sacrilege to be burned and censored and excised from reality.
A clear social hierarchy began to emerge. I had genuinely believed that, within the realms of college, ideas would be valued over race, class, or gender. And to be fair, in the classrooms, they usually were. But outside the classroom, a clear social shift was occurring. The more oppressed you felt by society, the more legitimate your opinion was. You need not make the clearest argument, you only had to be offended. The more offended you were, the more seriously your opinion was taken. So of course you were now incentivized to be offended, to draw fourth and nurture as much vitriol and disgust for your ideological opponents as possible. People wanted to fight racists and bigots like in the history books, but such blatant villainy was hard to find in the modern era.
So the definitions loosened.
This may reinforce the theory of my nativity, but up until college I genuinely believed there was an intellectual consensus that skin color and gender were the least important characteristics in determining a person’s worth, and any contrary notions were historical remnants lodged in the minds of the misinformed and uneducated.
It played to me like a comic farce: large groups of people my own age, smart enough to receive a college education, demanding segregation, characterizing individuals solely based on race, and the rigid censorship of any conflicting information, regardless of factuality.
This is me.
If it helps you relate, it can also be you.
A few years ago, I was very depressed.
Have you ever been depressed?
UPDATE: Keep commenting. Rather than responding one at a time, I’ll compile the drawings into a post next Thursday. Also, thank you for all the very kind, very thoughtful comments.
Hello everyone. First off, let me tell you that you’re beauty is outweighed only by your sparkling intellect and management skills.
Let me tell you, life is really wearing me down. I’m dealing with some medical shit, which leads to emotional shit and also monetary shit (money is the emotion of America).
I’m going to take a break from blogging until May, just so I can finish up school and try to get my life back on track. I’ve been humbled by all the amazing feedback and encouragement I’ve received here. After years of believing comment sections to be evil places of dangerous vitriol, I’ve been amazed by the intelligence, insight, and general good will of those who comment here. This blog has received almost 500 comments, and I haven’t had to block a single one. That’s kind of amazing.
To prove I’m not vanishing (and to prove I love you), anyone who comments here will get an original, ms paint, digital art picture. Ask me to draw anything, and I swear to Vishnu-Jesus I’ll do it.
My hair grows very fast. I know this because, in my family’s lean and early years, my constant haircuts were a source of contention.
As the member of our little family that contributed least to our financial security, I felt it my responsibility to keep the monetary burden of haircuts as minimal as possible.
I kept my haircuts down to one or two a year. As a result, this cycle of growth and removal became unintentionally ritualized – a trend that continued long past the age when it is appropriate for parents to pay for personal grooming.
I did not realize to what extent this cycle had on me until several days ago when I decided to cut my hair before the new semester and found I was deathly afraid.
There’s a barbershop I pass every time I walk to the grocery store. It’s just some guy’s house with a sign and phone number outside.
This house used to just tell me I was one block away from packaged food. Now every time I passed it, the house was like a guilt-machine reminding me of my crippling personality flaws.
I bought more and more groceries to force myself to keep passing the house, until finally I had mustered up enough courage to schedule an appointment.
Three sunsets later, I returned to the house/barbershop.
The Barber washed my hair and then cut it.
I had 25 dollars in my wallet. He charged 20 dollars, so I gave him a 5 dollar tip. He said if I ever needed a quick trim it was free.
When I looked in the mirror, I was amazed by how symmetrical the haircut was. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that haircut was actually asymmetrical, but in a manner inverse to the way my face is asymmetrical, making the face as a whole therefore symmetrical.
Most haircuts I’ve had try to be perfectly even, but the human face isn’t perfectly even.
I guess if you decide to cut hair in your basement, you probably know what you’re doing.
Here’s to new beginnings.