Embracing Resistance

In Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays, Hayden Carruth states, “Everything I know as a writer and critic, everything I know about poetry and life, tells me that the effort to analyze a feeling makes that feeling stronger, not weaker” (60).

As a confessional writer, I analyze my feelings often, but compulsive self-analysis can turn into self-judgement when I label certain feelings “unacceptable.” Debilitating sadness is unacceptable. I need to toughen up and become a productive member of society. Chronic anxiety is unacceptable. I need to loosen up and take charge of my life.

I assume that Carruth, who battled depression and anxiety for decades, understood the power of shame to compound suffering. Living with mental illness is hard enough. Fighting the stigma of mental illness, the shame I’ve internalized, is equally daunting.

Shame stifles my creativity and restricts my being. I write best when I acknowledge, without judgment, how I really feel. When I’m depressed, my body feels heavier than a pile of anvils. When I’m anxious, my body feels like a desert trapped in a grain of sand. I worry that sharing details like these makes me look bad, but if my depression and anxiety won’t shut up, why should I stay silent? To write freely, Carruth might remind me, is to heal.

But where my body is concerned, I’ll never have the last word. In the throes of a depressive episode, my body won’t get out of bed. Nothing and no one, not even me, can force it to rise. There’s an anger immune to reason flowing through me, a defiant inner child reclaiming his power.

When it’s fed up with the world, my body says no. It accepts that it doesn’t work right. My body owns what it lacks. Rejecting the false memory of a unity it never had, my body challenges society’s bogus requirement to always be rational, driven, and self-sufficient. My body pushes back against the double trauma inflicted upon it: the trauma of having a mental illness and the trauma of feeling ashamed about having a mental illness.

I keep using the word shame, but defining it isn’t easy. On my worst days I feel like my soul is damaged. I blame myself for being depressed and hate myself for hating myself. Hearing people I care about tell me they love me doesn’t stop my internal critic from judging me. I feel unworthy of love and acceptance despite the fact that everyone, by virtue of being alive, deserves both.

Depression is hidden; it doesn’t look like a broken leg or third-degree burns. People fear what they can’t see and judge others for exhibiting odd behaviors they can’t explain. We’re aware of the stereotype of the madman or madwoman. I know how alone they feel.

No matter how society tries to define me, I live my depression in my own way. I’m free to write that I feel like my soul is damaged, but I can’t prove it. I can’t prove that I have a soul in the first place. But writing that my soul is damaged is my (hyperbolic) statement; it is unique to me. Everything I write is an expression of my singularity. My resistance, too, is an expression of my singularity. Everything and everyone I resist, I resist in my own way.

If I wake up one morning and my body feels like a pile of anvils, the first step I should take to get out of bed is to not get out of bed right away. Stay numb. Be one with my mourning. When I feel depressed, to feel better later, I must do depression well.

It’s important to challenge negative thoughts, to take my meds, and to go to therapy, but it also helps to recognize that parts of me haven’t healed, can’t be healed, or refuse to be healed. My body is stubborn. I need to embrace its resistance.

Sharp Left Turn

Last week I risked bodily harm to prove a point. It was not my finest moment.

I was in the left turn lane at an intersection not far from home. Four or five cars ahead of me turned left on the green arrow, but as I approached, the arrow changed to a solid green light. I inched into the intersection, waiting for oncoming cars to pass. After maybe ten seconds, there was an apparent break in traffic, but I hesitated and lost my chance to turn.

That’s when the guy behind me drove around my car, on my left side, into the nearest oncoming lane, from which he made a sharp left turn. I gave him the finger but he made his maneuver so quickly I doubt he noticed. Luckily nobody got hurt. I made a left on the yellow light, fuming at the sight of his tailpipe.

In full macho mode, I felt compelled by an unconscious, Darwinian force to chase after the guy. Of course, he was the first car at the next red light. I pulled beside him and rolled down my window.

Shit was about to get real.

“Why did you go around me?”


“Why the fuck did you go around me?”

He laughed. Words poured from his mouth, but I can’t for the life of me remember what he said. He kept lifting and lowering his arms like a giant battery-powered action figure. Before the light changed, he summoned the strength of just enough brain cells to string together a heartfelt piece of advice.

“Why don’t you learn how to drive, you little bitch!”

I was shot back in time, twenty years erased in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t 35, but 15—an awkward collection of bones and hormones trapped in a high school locker room. I’m a mama’s boy. A pussy. A dumb jock’s little bitch. To top things off, this all took place in front of my old high school, a place I was forced to leave during junior year because of a bully who threatened my physical and emotional safety.

As adults we bear the scars of adolescent wounds. I struggle with the thought that I’m not manly enough and therefore don’t deserve respect. Although I’ve learned there are many ways to be a man, I still see the buff, hyper-aggressive alpha male as the prime model.

But I was extremely aggressive in confronting this reckless driver. He triggered memories of the anger I’ve tried to conceal, my latent capacity to lash out and hurt others. He had insulted me as a driver and a man—two roles intimately linked in American culture—and I felt the need to defend myself. I could’ve been shot. He might have been on drugs, unaware of his actions. What if he had followed me home instead of driving on without looking back?

Anyone at any moment has the potential to be a perpetrator or victim. Often we are both at once. Either way we suffer the same. As we battle inner demons, it helps to consider what monsters the other guy might be fighting.

Words With Adversaries

Yesterday, a thought: I’m a college-educated, middle-class white American male with a loving family—how sad can my universe be? Yes, I have an illness, but it’s not who I am. It’s time to get my head out of my ass—even if it’s just a slow, calculated maneuver. Listing people who piss me off is a good start:

  1. Trump Supporters. Go ahead and vote for the Donald. He’ll make America great again—for rich white assholes looking to make billions on the backs of the weak and exploited.
  2. Frat Boy Alpha Males. We get it—you’ve got a big dick. Stop posturing—you’re just as small in the grand scheme of things as everyone else you put down.
  3. Militant Pro-Lifers. Murdering innocent people sounds more like you’re anti-life.
  4. Obama Haters. We get it—you don’t like black people. Or Mexicans. Or adults who can read beyond a fourth-grade level.
  5. The National Rifle Association. Protecting the rights of domestic terrorists across the USA.
  6. Religious Fanatics. No, you don’t know God’s will. Stop enumerating my sins while discounting your own.
  7. Ted Cruz. We get it—you don’t like black people. Or Mexicans. Or adults who can read beyond a fourth-grade level.
  8. People Who Love Their Smartphones More Than Human Beings.

In Love And War

I’ve been listening to Rage Against The Machine again. Yes, I know it’s not 1996. Some twenty years later I still admire their energy. Lyrics like: “Is all the world jails and churches?” and “Fear is your only God” serve as a call to arms.

The Revolution grand narrative to which the band attached itself implies cooperation and order. Oppressed persons from different regions and from different backgrounds would need to rise up together. But the world is chaotic and contains too many moving parts. People have conflicting interests; uniting behind one cause doesn’t mean that everyone will agree on other important issues.

We can’t en masse reverse the System, only protest against it at the individual level. Embracing the sentiment behind “all politics is local” is a good place to start.

Also, much of life exists beyond reason. There’s no quantifying impulse, desire, feeling. Scientific analysis of the spontaneous and sublime diminishes the already-fleeting intensity of the High. An actual revolution would take more brain power than muscle, and it would require a great deal of faith in unattainable degrees of logic.

Love is personal and irrational. It’s you losing your mind but knowing exactly what you’re doing. I meet someone who’s “on my side” and share my life with her. Talk about solidarity. I aim to satisfy the needs of someone other than myself simply because my “heart” tells me so. Now that’s dedication to a noble cause.

Releasing anger feels good, but there’s little to cheer about after the passion subsides. After years of sticking it to the Man, a band with rage in its name could use a little love.

A Healthy Argument

I remember returning to my hospital room in the dark one night in full-blown Woe Is Me mode. What had I done wrong? Why this illness? Why was I stuck here?

Desperate for answers, I took God to task. My larger concerns focused on why I existed, why I was suffering, why I was left in the world all alone. What’s the point of believing in a god indifferent to my plight?

Anger overtook my sadness. And I felt relieved. In examining the basis of existence I claimed my suffering as my own. But I also took possession of my greatest joys and everything about my life I valued.

Questioning, searching, demanding proof—these are divine pursuits. Knowing that we’ll never know and still going about the business of being alive—this makes the everyday spectacular.

After years of trying to be smarter than everyone else, of being a good boy and following the rules, of being the perfect student, the perfect employee, I was finally able to sit still and cry. My healing began in sadness, strengthened in anger, and took hold in letting go.

A Guy’s Guide To Speaking American


Forget your accent first. Give up
your allegiance to all foreign flags
and tongues. You must be here
legally, not an alien from Mars
or Mexico stealing social security.
Be a man. If you enjoy a good pistol,
texting while driving and protesting
pesky taxes, you’re almost there. Must distrust
all communists, especially the president.
Keep a safe distance from Europe
and queens who threaten your manhood.
Act natural, like you were born here. Pull
yourself up by bootstraps, looking to no one
for help. Forgo ethnicity. Believe in freedom
but deny outsiders the right to be free.
Above all, ignore poems that don’t express
the status quo or faith in God and the military
or elicit questions of any kind. Whatever
you do, don’t you ever, ever tread on me.

c b snoad
2-4-13 & 2-9-13

Can You Feel My Love Buzz?

I like my music loud and aggressive. It’s been that way since I fell in love with Guns N’ Roses in grade school. By no means have I outgrown my passion for rock n’ roll. My anger, as with the frustrations that accompany adulthood, remains stronger than ever.

Indeed rebellion plays a big role here. But what am I rebelling against?

Perhaps it’s from the sublimation of my desires. That great twentieth-century psychoanalyst was on to something when he outlined this idea. In order for each of us to live safely in society, we must forgo dangerous impulses toward things like sex and violence. We sacrifice our strongest urges for the comfort of community.

But civilization, in domesticating us, ultimately fails to tame our inner beast. We still crave action, especially where it’s prohibited. When I can’t get what I want, this very moment, I get angry but refrain from expressing my fury lest I be judged a threat to myself or others.

Bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against The Machine bring me temporary relief through the guitars, drums, microphones and amplifiers they employ. Or so this theory goes.

Here’s another, less complicated take.

My high school graduation was over fourteen years ago, but I still remember the daily battles between the jocks and freaks—the clever label given to artsy kids who liked to skateboard and don super baggy jeans. There’s no denying that I embodied the essence of the anti-jock, but I wasn’t a full-fledged freak either.

I was just a geeky teen looking for love. Listening to grunge and punk songs made me feel special and immune from the herd mentality. It gave me confidence and helped me tackle the day.

Better yet, it helped me impress the ladies.

The jocks had their games (and gym class) to show off. I had poetry, music, art. We both wanted the same thing, though: to get laid. Rather than simply allowing me to release my rage, music afforded me a chance to turn my experience of it into a performance to wow the crowd. A crowd, I still hope today, with at least one chick that digs me.

Another Ironic Poem


I shadowbox the truth
begging for a fight
high on inferiority
we take our places
all made up for the show
every word matters
flung from my soul
abstract boomerangs
never returned
my anger is implied
find it deep in thought
content to sabotage
my best laid plans
need a pill to get it up
can’t wine you
can’t dine you
dates keep passing by
alone on Sunday morn
you praying to gods
I’ll make it through
thick and thin
my insides and my act together
if there is a conductor
he’s drunk
and out of tune
everyone playing
a shattered instrument
nobody hears

Little Secrets

Little Secrets

we were children once
and nothing more
taught to keep
our little secrets

chaos in control
the past comes back in a flash
nightmares in the noonday sun

we overindulge in spirits
too meek to inherit
the weight of the world

at home in fear
there’s danger beyond strangers
no need for make-believe
when everyone pretends

we find ourselves in hiding
passing souls composed of air
fighting to forgive
the trespassers against us

A Name For Myself

One thing I’ve learned from my inability to assimilate into the working world: To get by, to be successful, to be self-sufficient, you have to be a little dull. And by dull I mean unaware of things and people that don’t matter to you and your overall earning potential.

When I’m deeply depressed, I’m numb to reality. But I’m often depressed as a result of feeling too much anxiety, of being too focused on the bigger picture. What I need to break out of my funk, is less feeling and more doing—more doing that helps me get what I want out of life.

At its core, therapy has been about making me a better consumer. If I’m “healthy” enough to work, then I can earn my own money and go out and spend it on things I don’t really need. When I’m in the throes of mental illness, however, I’m not at all productive; my “inward numbness” pits me against the system.

But people who display what I’ve dubbed “outward numbness” contribute to the economy, all the while caring less about what others think of them, or how mundane their money-making lives are.

Rather than turning my anger inward, into depression, I now realize that I must direct my frustrations out onto the world, so that I might make a name for myself—and a little cash in the process.