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)
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.