So that was the holiday

Seriously, WTF with life

I wrote this yesterday and didn’t bother publishing it… which is quite common. Then I read something interesting in the Guardian online.

The whole is summarised here: [Anti-depressants don’t work]. When I interviewed social scientists all over the world – from São Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London – I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

So I’m publishing this after all.

It’s the 8th January and I’ve been back at the desk almost a week. Today I was sent a link to a training video and asked to add it to a website I manage. This is one of three ‘charitable’ websites I volunteer (or work for peanuts) for – two dedicated to mental well-being and one to suicide prevention.

The video is a collection of shorts you click your way through. They offer advice on how to spot the signs that someone may be suicidal, and how to have conversations around this to help prevent suicide.

I spent a large part of the holiday in thought-trains such as this. “Life has no joy. I am alone. It’s entirely my fault. Everyone tells me what I need to do to feel better, but that just makes me feel more useless because it suggests my pain is easily cured, so I must just be too weak or stupid to fix it myself. I am a failure, my life has done no good for anyone – in fact I’ve hurt more people than I’ve helped. I am full of tedious self-pity – and it’s quite possible that all I am is self-pity, so that my entire sadness is self-created out of this infinite well of pity. My sorrow has no reality, but then, reality has no reality. I wish it could get better but since it never seems to I wish it would all stop.”

Does it help to learn that I am in the highest risk group for suicide? Divorced, late forties, living alone, prone to depression. Not much. I know this already because I have a ‘suicidal thought’ on average three times a day – and have had for several years. In truth there have been very few weeks in my life during which I have not had at least one ‘should I just kill myself’ thought.

Yet here I am, still alive, with no intention of killing myself yet I think perhaps with no particular interest either way.

I was to re-start my blog, but I’m not sure why. Aside from my initial posting from Lady Anon, the ‘team’ who were to help have backed off. I am left alone with no idea what to write. What will change if I write?

Everywhere, including in the mental health charities, I see people treating symptoms – yet no-one treating the disease. How can we cure mental illness when it is necessary to be mad in order to tolerate the awfulness of living? Inequality, over-population of humans, decimation in the population of insects, global warming, wars based on spurious religions, a tiny minority living in luxury while millions fight every day to feed the machine which keeps the privileged – privileged.

What if that will change if I write?

Do I have suicidal thoughts because I’m depressed – or because I’m in an unwinnable war? Do I see it as an unwinnable war because I’m depressed? Am I even depressed – or just AWARE of how things are. Most happy people I know live in deliberate ignorance of the damage in our world.

I can say with certainty that the majority of suicidal thoughts feel more like letters of resignation than fits of despair. I could work every day for too long for too little, fail to effectively parent my son as I watch him consumed by a sick society, accept that luxuries and many basics are out of my price range, give-in to the Ground-Hog Day nature of my repetitive struggle… or go to sleep…

My thoughts are not “the pain is too much…” or, “I am so alone”. The thoughts are more like “I’m so very tired, would it be so bad to rest” or, “is there any joy in the future?” Equally, I’ve had these thoughts all my life, and so they have become as passing and irrelevant as an itchy nose.

While I feel most positive about my work for charity – while it provides the most meaning for my existence – it still feels like another exercise in damage control. Depression is not an individual illness – more a symptom of our individualistic society. If one’s soul cries out to be a musician, yet one is resigned to mopping floors all day – is it any wonder one might feel a bit down? Until ‘we’ create opportunities for every ‘I’ to find a meaningful life, people will get mentally ill.

There is so little access to anything with real substance, with value to the human spirit. We are constrained into a system which asks us to work in meaningless jobs for empty purposes – keeping the machine going despite that its only purpose is to be a machine we can keep going. Our leisure and entertainment is increasingly vapid – further empty pursuits to encourage us not to notice that we are just a machine that’s here just to be a machine.

Therefore the irony continues. I am regularly fed suicide prevention literature, mental health advice and meet with practitioners. I tell none of them that I have suicidal thoughts because there is no cure, and I don’t want to be made ‘a patient’. To live well I would need to live in a different world.

… and reading that article today I feel like perhaps I have a point.

18 thoughts on “So that was the holiday

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  1. I’ve long felt the same way about the state of the world today, that we’re nothing more than cogs or gears made of flesh, compelled to keep the Machine running for the profit of very few. I don’t know the answer, either, but I’ll keep looking 🙂

    1. What else can we do… There is more. I find rare people who are ‘on that train’. I may even have just found what I need – though whether I can harness it I don’t know… Let’s keep looking Sofia – thanks for dropping in 🙂

  2. Yeah, I read it and glad I did. I think futility is a major force in how one feels about life. That is why small accomplishments on one’s personal side go a long way in keeping the futility demon from the door. To think of the world and its state in this context causes an otherwise normal person a feeling that all is lost. Suicidal thoughts in my mind do not need treatment. Suicidal thoughts need to be managed in the context of control. “It is sort of like the kid who says to his dad, “Dad my arm hurts when I do this.” The dad responds,”Don’t do that.” I think containing the points of futility begins with a focus on something very close. (like a killer blog) You can ignore this advice as well.

    1. You have a point JW – though I wonder – isn’t a tight focus rather like blinkers. But then isn’t it better to be happy – if one can’t change anything anyway… ah, questions questions…

    1. How dare you – it’s always the best blog post ever!! But in fact, I think I may well just write for a bit. Much as though I’ve always railed against the heart-on-sleeve blog – I think I need a vent and this is it. Lovely 2cu Bear 🙂

  3. So that article made me immediately think of a quote from Sarah Manguso:

    “There will come a time when people decide you’ve had enough of your grief, and they’ll try to take it away from you.”

    I think perhaps that really, it is they that have had enough of your grief, your anxiety, your depression. They are indicators that their world is not as hunky-dory as they want so desperately to believe.

    She also says in the same book:

    “After I stopped hoping to outgrow them, my fears were no longer a burden. Hope is what made them a burden.”

    Which maybe doesn’t make the fears any less fearful, but perhaps it does make them more understandable.

    It is in fact anxiety and an impending sense of doom and personal impotence regarding said doom that I think is behind my difficulty lately (for the last year?) in writing anything that I find remotely of any value. Most of it just seems like so much more drivel added to the already vapid pile of drivel that’s already out there.

    But I just keep telling myself that it’s kinda like poop or puke.
    Better out than in.

  4. And for what it’s worth ($.02?), the mention in the article of the town in Brazil that banned advertising brought to mind that for me at least, saying no to social media helps. I understand that doesn’t work for everyone due to social/family/work obligations. There are far too many interactions these days that seem to only happen in that space. This is why I am on-again/off-again with Facebook myself. The need to connect with some person or group always seems to draw me back in. But lately it seems to be taking less and less time for me to start feeling the janglies set in and it’s time to go.

    Also meditation (have we talked of this before? I feel like maybe we have). There are a bazillion different kinds and methods that variously work to greater or lesser degrees but it’s worth exploring. I am attempting to get back to it myself. I have fallen out of my practice and I am definitely noticing a difference.

    All if it comes down to noise for me. It’s very difficult to even know what you’re thinking if there’s too much noise and our world gets noisier and noisier by the day in so many ways (actual aural noise-polution, advertising, pop-culture, media, etc.).

    I’m yammering, aren’t I?
    I’ll shut up now.

    1. Bloody hell Crabby – don’t see you for weeks and then *SPLURGE* you’re all over the place waxing lyrical…
      Love the Manguso excerpts – name of the book?
      And it’s comforting to know the great writer Cab-crakes, who I admire, also feels like he’s just pissing and drivelling into a huge pile of others leavings. I’m sad for you – but glad not to be alone.
      Selfish Bastard ain’t I 😉
      Finally – yes – I found some peace with meditation. Since moving house i have stopped and that isn’t good. Making time for ’emptiness’ is vital in this full-to-choking world.
      Good to see you JC

      1. The book is tittied–oops–titled “300 Arguments” It’s kind of like a book of aphorisms for the aphoristically challenged. Lots of good bits in there.
        *Blush* you are too kind.
        Glad to share the pissing and driveling pile with you too. Let’s wallow together, shall we?
        See you soon.
        Trying not to be such a stranger (but still strange, of course)

  5. First of all, a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ for your post… the most honest and raw treasure I have encountered in quite a while – so glad I had the priviledge to read this!
    I am very familiar with quite a few of those thought patterns you describe above – life can be such a challenge in this fast and destructive world – even to the point of futility… which makes me even more grateful to find something like your post… just to see that someone else ‘sees it, too’ is so precious.

    “Am I even depressed – or just AWARE of how things are. Most happy people I know live in deliberate ignorance of the damage in our world.”

    … I think you are very aware – awake even. You’re no longer in ‘the Matrix’. Your Snow Globe shattered somewhere along the way, scattered all that Rainbow-Unicorn-la-la-Wonderland-Shit everywhere & left you in the fucked-up ugly grey of reality… sitting on your bare ass, wet & shivering.
    Guess what, I’m sitting there right next to you. 😉

    I don’t understand what is going on. I don’t understand how this world can value Stuff more than People… how life can revolve solely around work… how people can survive on filling that void with whatever stuff they can buy, other than asking themselves what they REALLY need. I don’t understand how the human race can create a world people don’t want to live in anymore. We’re killing ourselves off by neglecting our psychological needs.
    It’s hard when you don’t belong… but on the other hand, I’d much rather stay where I am… stare at this grey, steaming pile of shit we call a world nowadays from the outside… I’d much rather not belong than still be ignorant.
    There are moments that give me hope. Reading your post was one of them… and I am grateful.
    It’s great to know you’re not alone.
    (And it’s great to be able to use curse words on your blog.)
    Thank you for your honesty… it made my day.

    1. Fuck, piss, shit, wank, bollocks… There – now you can use curse words whenever you want. I’m with Stephen Fry – swearing is also for clever bastards.
      It’s good to read your comment Miri, though as with JC above – it’s not good that others suffer – but good not to feel alone.
      The not belonging thing – it’s a sticky one. I’m forever hearing that one has to belong, that it’s unhealthy to think of oneself as ‘outside society’. Often ‘spiritual types’ say ‘it’s not about escaping the world, but about embracing spirituality and making it work in the world as it is.’
      Me, I think that’s balls. Making spirituality work inside capitalism is like making love work in an atom bomb. Love it all you like, it’ll still melt your face off.
      So – hello – and thanks for sitting next to me (sorry about the smell!). We are not ‘outside the world’ – we are inside our own world 😉

      1. You are absolutely right. Capitalism and spirituality could not be farther apart – it will never ever work… so I guess we get to pick sides. 😉
        And yeah, we are inside our own world… and we can fill the gaps with all kinds of color.

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