Four months ago, I announced that I had a third book in the works. Today this book has a title: Double Meaning. I hope to publish it via CreateSpace by November 2018. Details to follow. Meanwhile, check out the new design of the blog.
I don’t have any details, but today I began working on my third book. More to follow.
Matthew Ratcliffe’s Experiences of Depression: A Study in Phenomenology contains the most accurate description of depression I’ve ever read. For the depressed person:
The practical significance of things is somehow diminished; they no longer offer up the usual possibilities for activity. Associated with this, there may be a sense of impossibility; possibilities appear as ‘there but impossible to actualize.’ There can also be a sense of estrangement, as possibilities that are inaccessible to self appear as ‘accessible to others with little effort.’ Other people might continue to offer possibilities for communion, but these possibilities appear at the same time as ‘impossible for me to take up.’ Together, these alterations in the possibility space constitute a feeling of isolation, which is experienced as irrevocable because depression does not include a sense of its own contingency. The resultant estrangement from the world amounts to a change in the sense of reality and belonging—things no longer appear available; they are strangely distant, not quite ‘there’ anymore. Certain kinds of possibility may also be heightened. A world that no longer offers up invitations to act can at the same time take the form of an all-enveloping threat, before which one is passive, helpless and alone. Hope, practical significance and interpersonal connection are not just gone. Their loss is very much part of the experience; it is felt. (71)
Ratcliffe argues that most people see the world (without thinking about it) as a possibility space open to practical actions and meaningful projects. The depressed person inhabits a different world altogether, even as she stands before us in the same room. Her depression precedes her experience of being present in the world.
It’s not a matter of losing one’s hopes; the depressed person lacks a capacity to hope for any meaningful life at all. She is estranged from the world of non-depressed people for whom possibilities appear “accessible with little effort.” The possibility of believing in possibility itself feels impossible.
Hers is an altered world marked by inhibition and indecision in which she feels trapped. Her future is not her own, and she is “passive, helpless and alone” before it. Good things won’t happen for her; only bad things will happen to her.
While Ratcliffe’s detailed analysis of depression helps me understand my illness, I wrote this post for people who don’t know how awful depression feels. I hope my blog offers possibilities for communion regarding an illness millions of people across the world know all too well but often lack the words to describe.
In Please Follow Me, Jean Baudrillard sees a familiar game in a new light.
Consider one of life’s original situations: that of a hide and seek game. What a thrill to be hidden while someone’s looking for you, what a delightful fright to be found, but what a panic when, because you are too well hidden, the others give up looking for you after a while and leave. If you hide too well, the others forget you. You are forced to come out on your own when they don’t want you anymore. That is hard to take. It’s like turning too fine a phrase, so subtle that you are reduced to explaining it. Nothing is sadder than having to beg for existence and returning naked among the others. Therefore, it’s better not to know how to play too well; it’s better to know how to let others unmask you and to endure the rule of the game. Not too fast, not too late. (85)
When I was a child, an angry boy masquerading as my best friend bullied and abused me when nobody was looking. For example, after defeating me in a game of basketball, he’d hold me down and call me his bitch. Things only got worse from there.
I learned that it is safer to not play at all—to stay inside and curse the game, resent the players, refuse to participate.
I can’t say if trauma caused my depression, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Whatever its origins, depression is my default state, and my body won’t let me forget it. I’m tired all the time and spend hours in bed, hiding in plain sight.
Still, there’s more to my distress than meets the eye. When life is but a dream, an eight-hour nap is an act of defiance, and I won’t let my family forget it. I play dead for (negative) attention. The sick role suits me (un)well.
Before new people in my life figure out I suffer from depression and anxiety, I end up telling them (by putting myself down or cancelling plans at the last minute) that things “aren’t right” with me. The thought goes: I’m going to fuck things up anyway; I might as well get it over with.
Therefore—playing on Baudrillard’s words—it is better to unmask myself, on my own terms, before others expose me and deem me unlovable.
Take off one mask, and three more appear. In college I wore myself out trying to be the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect perfectionist. I gained recognition for my academic achievements but needed others to verify my self-worth. If everyone liked me, then no one would hurt me.
Today I seek validation by composing (and obsessively editing) obscure blog posts that I hope family, friends and digital strangers will find profound. I cite sad philosophers and wounded romantics to demonstrate, poetically, the complexities of living with my depression. And then I write obscure blogs about writing obscure blogs to sound intelligent.
Layers folding into layers, thoughts unfolding into thoughts—my blog is a revelation hiding in plain sight. Under the guise of a wise soul, I use words to cultivate an (in)active being-towards-death. As a philosopher, I always assume the fatal position.
However safe my bubble feels, I can’t live forever in theory. I can’t practice my faith in philosophy without other people.
The chaplain at my mental health clinic told me that everyone needs human connection, but trauma survivors whose trust has been broken need connection even more. Yet out of shame they hide from the world, and no amount of love or support from other people can save them. Survivors must learn to love themselves again.
But hope isn’t easy. Despite the power of positive thinking, it’s hard to flip the script when your reality is inverted. Somersaulting your way through the world is bound to cause vertigo.
In the mind of a child grown up too soon, youth is a weapon. Innocence is self-defense.
An early violation breaks more than the rules.
I have nothing to say
Nothing to say I have
To say I have nothing
Have nothing I to say
To have nothing I say
Nothing I have to say
Say nothing I have to
Have I nothing to say
To nothing I have say
Nothing to say I have
I have to say nothing
I say to have nothing
Nothing to have I say
To have nothing I say
Have nothing I say to
Have I to say nothing
Nothing speaks to me
I can’t write anymore. I hire an editor. She recommends a therapist.
I arrive at the front desk. I share a recent dream in which I tell a stranger nobody understands what I’m trying to say. The stranger agrees but this resolves nothing.
The receptionist says she’s not a therapist. She will be with me in a moment. I give her my name. She looks thirsty. I’m talking about the receptionist. I am told in no uncertain terms to keep my voice down.
I author a book from front to back in a waiting room. I quit dreaming.
I tell a stranger I’m vulnerable. I don’t recommend announcing this in a dark alley after midnight. Or on a first date if you’re into meeting people. A blog is fine. I’m done with books.
I am vulnerable. I write books nobody reads. Books nobody bothered to write but me. Nobody understands what I’m trying to write. Books aren’t blogs aren’t dreams. I fire my editor. This resolves nothing.
I enter a stranger’s dream and say nobody understands what it’s like to tell people on the internet you’re vulnerable. He’s angry with me. I bite my tongue. He throws his voice.
Books are for dummies. I buy mine on Amazon. Books are finished.
A stranger tells his therapist in my dream I don’t understand what I’m trying to say. I agree and this resolves everything. I decide to write cryptic blogs to throw off people on the internet.
I fuck my editor in a dark alley. She says I’m a bad writer. Repeat after me. I’m a bad rider.
I take back my book. Every word.
I write what I know. I quit therapy because I’m too smart for this shit.
I am dumber than a blog post. Someone buys my book and it arrives by drone.
I am thirsty. An author waiting for my therapist tells me he can’t write any more. I ask him to elaborate. This adds words to the universe. Words aren’t people aren’t drones. I see right through the universe. My book drops. Nobody picks it up.
A stranger will see me now. My therapist asks me to elaborate at the same time I ask her to elaborate. She doesn’t get paid to analyze dreams.
I ask my therapist for water. She gives me a voice. So to speak.
She says I am valuable. Repeat after me. I am vulnerable.
Thank you to everyone who supports my writing. This was a fun process. Here is the Amazon product description:
“Poetry is the language of language.” So writes Charles B. Snoad in the introduction to Nervous Lethargy, a collection of poetry obsessed with the power of words. Snoad asks difficult questions about the nature of truth, the existence of God, the joys and frustrations of desire and falling in love, and the persistence of anxiety in today’s technology-driven global society. The highly sensitive, self-aware speakers in these poems take readers on an existential journey through tragedy, hope, and longing—attuned to the beauty and absurdity of modern life. That feeling when your head spins so fast you can’t get out of bed—this is Nervous Lethargy.