I’ve been celebrating this within for the past few days. Now I finally get the chance to honor the nomination that has sparked something inside of me. This whole – should I call it incident? – made me realize how many nice people are out there in the blogosphere. This award means I now have the opportunity to bond even further with fellow bloggers. It gives me a sense of belonging and what a wonderful community to belong to!
Out of all these really nice people, one thought of nominating my blog and I feel most grateful to them. Thank you, Non-Euclidean Sofa! Your enticing humor, sarcasm and creativity are more than adequate to me. Needless to say, this is the first time I’ve ever received any kind of award in the two years since I’ve been around (and now, of course, I’m hungry for more).
Before I answer the 3 magical questions, here are the rules each of us is supposed to follow (I’m not sure what happens if we break them – burn in bloggers’ hell?). So, here we go:
Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
Answer the questions.
In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.
Ask them 3 questions.
These are the 3 questions I was asked. I hope my answers make me worthy of this magnificent award.
1. What is something you’d show from a rooftop on a Sunday night during a rainstorm? Also, explain why at your leisure.
I wouldn’t show people anything. But I would put on a show, a mask, anything to make them escape the fires of reality. I would most likely be covered in glitter, singing at the top of my lungs the most acute sounds anyone has ever heard. And then, of course, a rainbow would appear. Even if it’s dark outside. It’s a show after all so anything is permitted.
Why? Because “there’s something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself.” So a little bit of music and glitter wouldn’t hurt.
2. What is something you could enjoy complaining a lot about?
I’m not sure I enjoy complaining about anything lately. But it’s probably either the unbearable heat (I can’t stand summer), politics (national, international – all of them), or stuff related to gender (and how society thought it was a marvelous idea to pigeonhole and label us – I could actually go on forever on this subject).
3. What is something you think about that keeps you awake?
The sound of my thoughts (they can get pretty loud), or thinking about the sound of the alarm clock in the morning. But most of the times they range from crucial philosophical or psychological questions about consciousness, the Universe or quantum physics to the sudden realization that I forgot to take out from the freezer the schnitzels I was planning to cook in the morning (for lunch at work). And the latter is what I call the quintessence of adulthood.
By the power vested in me by a unique blogger, I now nominate the following 10 bloggers for the title of Unique Blogger (so that we can all be unique in our own ways):
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your greatest fear?
Failure (and cockroaches). One stronger than the other.
What historical figure do you most identify with?
Which living person do you most admire?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Long live the mask.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Politicians. The worst kind (of politicians).
What is your favorite journey?
The road to awe.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
What is your greatest regret?
What is your current state of mind?
Into creating mode (and more).
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
Place of birth.
What is your most treasured possession?
Language. And a book.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Staying in that low depth of misery.
Where would you like to live?
What is your favorite occupation?
Breaking into song in the middle of the day.
What are the qualities you most like in a man?
Cleverness and kindness.
What are the qualities you most like in a woman?
Cleverness and kindness.
How would you like to die?
Enthralled by the joy of having lived.
What is your motto?
The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Vanity Fair
So I’ve decided to write another post on depression. Most of us are going through something right now. Looking at the current world affairs, I would dare say there is something wrong with you if you aren’t depressed, or at least discouraged. But I’ve come to tell you a different story this time.
If you’ve been ricocheting between severe absence and presence, between maddening thoughts and mere seconds of tranquility, then you must know how debilitating this imbalance can be. One minute you think you’ve had everything figured out and you even manage to discern something that looks like a gentle light. Then minutes or hours later you remember something, a harsh word, a loss, a mistake you’ve made or you think you’ve made, and you’re spiraling back downwards. And you know there’s no off switch for your mind, you can’t erase memories, and you certainly can’t escape this back and forth – the ultimate emotional uproar.
But between those moments of pure self-torture, behind the thoughts triggered by an inner world that is decomposing, there are a few instances of clearness. And those brief moments have brought me here.
No one denies that clinical depression is a disease much like cancer or diabetes. And I’m definitely not here to diminish its gravity. But what if it’s not always an illness? This doesn’t mean we can discard what we’re dealing with. It’s important to talk about it, look for support, ask for help. It’s equally important to make sure you go through your emotions and not past them.
So I observed and mind-wandered as well as wondered (it may sound painless – it’s not). And one day I was staring at my nephew’s toys and thought: why can’t I be like a kid again when receiving a toy I liked brought me so much joy? How come I have no idea what I want for Christmas when family asks? Why can’t I find pleasure and happiness in most things and activities that would once get me out of a bad mood? Why is nothing working anymore?
We know that one symptom of depression is losing interest in activities you once enjoyed. But what if – and this was an if which changed my relationship with depression entirely – this loss of interest is a symptom of something else, of a larger picture that I couldn’t previously access?
I’ve known for a while now that whatever is happening to me is changing who I am to the point where I can barely recognize myself. Perhaps what I identified as depression is nothing but straying from what no longer fulfills me at a deeper level. I have lost any interest in material possessions, entertainment, politics (this transformed into a more profound preoccupation with the world), in drinking-partying-and-dancing (that could also mean I’m just getting older), small talk irritates me even more than before, and many other such symptoms. I’ve always played the part of the outsider, but the feelings of not belonging and not fitting in are more enhanced now.
Last year I said I had lost any sense of direction and my ambition. But what if the success story we’ve been programmed to follow no longer fits my story? I don’t strive to achieve things and be successful simply because there is nothing to attain, there is no future instance where I can wake up and say ‘I have achieved success, now I’m happy’. It actually baffles me right now to think people still fall into this trap. They turn away from what really matters to them and turn towards something that they think it’s been promised to them. What I do strive for is to give as much of my attention to things that are meaningful to me. For every thing I’m drifting away from, I gravitate towards others such as psychology, consciousness, and how the human brain works, but I also return to childhood passions such as my fascination with space and astronomy. There must be at the convergence of these that I think I will find some answers, answers to what has been troubling me lately, answers to this existential and seemingly never-ending query.
If you are experiencing something similar, then you know you are walking away from trifles and the ordinary into what actually matters to you. And you may have also found that we’re nothing without human connection. You know now that in the midst of all chaos what truly makes you a little bit more hopeful about tomorrow is to have someone near you with whom you connect at a deeper level. It’s been said that isolation from family, friends, and peers only worsens depression and anxiety; at the same time it’s not mere social interaction that can relieve feelings of sadness, but connection. So I’ve learned – the very hard way – to listen to what that lack was telling me. We abound in internet connections, friends lists, we have instant access to entertainment which make it far easier nowadays to give in to the trivial, to developing addictions. But when you stop for a second and think about what you are actually looking for you become aware that above all else you want to feel.
Depression is in a sense the absence of feeling, a hollowness, an acute feeling of nothingness, of meaninglessness, hopelessness, helplessness – yes, all the less-es. My problem is that I feel too much, too intensely – that goes for the sadness as well. And no, not just mine (as if that weren’t enough), but the world’s, the people’s, the planet’s, the trees’. In my world, even the leaves are crying. And the poets, oh the crying poets… As cliché as this may sound, I understand now that to write poetry is to feel. You cannot experience poetry (whether you’re reading or writing it) without being at least partially in touch with your emotions. Poetry demands that you access the deeper layers of your being. There have been moments when I dreaded writing poetry for fear that I might have to go to that place. I refused.
But what I need above all else is to feel, and to feel connected. It’s rather ironic and very tragic that antidepressants often stifle and suppress feelings. Although I haven’t tried them myself, I’ve heard of many people experiencing numbness while on treatment. And numbness is the opposite of what could carry you beyond the realm of impossibilities and heartache. This is not to say that I haven’t had moments when I wanted to feel nothing.
But I believe that no matter the hardships you’ve experienced, no matter the severity of the hurting, and regardless of how broken and damaged you are, the triumph is in retaining your ability to feel, despite all the pain you’ve been through. The key lies in dealing with your every emotion, bit by bit, as excruciating as the process may be, without becoming cynical or bitter as these won’t get you anywhere. Disregarding the quietly deafening sound of your emotions only amplifies the very thing you are trying to escape from: pain. The healing is in the aching.
At the end of the day, just know that the very agony that is stretching its arms to asphyxiate you and grapple your last traces of joy is maybe the same agony that its stretching its arms to help you shed what is no longer needed in your life, the agony that you will befriend in order to get to the other side, beyond what is keeping you down and into a space of clarity and openness. In that sense, the downfall becomes your ascendancy.
The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight. Joseph Campbell
Only writers – and perhaps painters – know the terror of the blank page. For people with depression, it’s living with the terror of a blank life. Every. Single. Day. A blank life only to be colored by dark spots – those “friends” I was talking about last year: thoughts, ruminations, feelings, emotions that wreak havoc… The ever present enemies, the greedy monsters, demons, skeletons, snakes. They have become your worst nightmare. And they promise to stay until they’ve learned to master the place. And you’re not being evicted. They set the boundaries. They set the rules. You just have to learn to live with them.
One in two or three people I know are dealing or have dealt at one point in their lives with some form of depression. That includes people who are closest to me: family and friends. Last year when I started the monologue on depression, I was going through something but couldn’t put my finger on it. One day I found the energy to write about it. I knew nothing about mental illness at the time. I was merely describing my feelings, but I was being cynical and sarcastic about it. I hadn’t yet begun to see how many people were struggling with the same intense feelings or to realize the gravity of this issue.
Last year I was lucky enough to have my spirits lifted up by vitamins for hair loss, which also happened to provide me with what my organism lacked (certain nutritional deficiencies or gut imbalance can lead to feelings of depression). The problems I was dealing with had not been magically solved, but I started feeling a bit better, with a bit more energy in my body. And that was everything. It was enough to keep me going and to be able to head for a new start. That new start gradually came. I felt happy again. I’ve been through some of the happiest moments of my life this year. I had regained the sense of meaning and direction, there were colors and music again, the glitter, the magic. But the fear of relapse, of having to go through what I briefly went through last year lurked somewhere in the background.
I had read a vast amount of articles on depression ever since – mostly in an attempt to understand it better and to be able to provide my loved ones with the support needed – watched videos about it, looked for causes, symptoms, consulted natural treatment programs, even played a video game entitled Depression Quest (heart-wrenching!), read about what other people dealing with this wrote on their blogs.
And now I’m here, at the mercy of my own thoughts again. Dealing with loss. And it far extends hair loss. But it’s not mere emptiness or apathy, there is pain and grief and they’re threatening to stay for a while. It’s intense, but is it better than numbness? Because this time I feel. I really feel. And I feel the cries of people who are screaming for help, but only on the inside. And I feel the failure of comforting those who needed me.
All people suffer and feel sad every now and then, but what is so distinctive about depression? Here’s a really good quote I found while browsing through a psychology book in a library:
To turn natural sadness into depression, all you have to do is blame yourself for the disaster that has befallen you. Dorothy Rowe
The self-blame abounds. It’s practically endless. Someone said that living with depression is very much like living with an abusive partner – your mind. Not the light side of it, the one that creates, forgives, loves, the one that helps you plan, organize or play. Not the mind that observes quietly and doesn’t judge and is aware. But the ruminating one, the heartless murderer, the poisonous treacherous one that makes a vegetable out of you, a slave to its own patterns and convoluted ways.
The one that tells you lies so that it continues to live, the one that sabotages you relentlessly, remorselessly, ruthlessly because it wants to live. It keeps you away from your loved ones, from opening up, from talking to family, it distorts everything that is around you and prevents you from keeping an objective eye on things. Buddhists (and not just Buddhists) would call this the ‘ego’. It’s the reason why, I believe, depression and anxiety are often related to self-esteem, self-image, self-blame, self-sabotage. It may also be why people with depression have been called selfish or narcissistic. But that is limiting the severity of the experiences these people are going through.
There is one thing to look forward to when facing this illness: going to bed; they look at sleep as that eternal savior, when they finally don’t have to deal with the noise in their head. At the same time, what they most dread is probably getting up in the morning, they dread the thought of having to go through another day, knowing themselves still prisoners of the ever nagging and accusing mind.
I’ve tried almost anything lately (I’ve mostly tried to stay away from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes): from coloring and painting, to more reading (fiction, non-fiction), writing, music, TV shows (one in particular), Facebook, YouTube clips, a night out with friends, meditation, walking, mindful walking, listening to music while walking, a bit of cooking, more reading (on depression and anxiety), more painting, music.
Nothing quiets the mind, not permanently anyway. For a few minutes, yes. And then comes another round of self-blaming, and torment and torture. And another round. And it’s becoming clearer to me that until we learn to be alone with our thoughts and emotions, and be at peace and in harmony with and within ourselves, the master machine won’t stop.
I am now far more equipped with knowledge and information on this compared to last year. You’d think it’s enough to be able to control it, to be able to stop it from turning into something more serious. I know that a prolonged state of deep relaxation during the day would help better sleep at night. I know the voices in my head do tell awful lies, about how I’ll never achieve anything, about how I’ll never be happy again, about how I’ll lose my way and give in to a sedentary, unhealthy, mediocre, boring adult life. And yet, there is nowhere to hide, to run to. From the turmoil, the overthinking habits, the worrying.
So you stay and listen. And observe.
Last year when I wrote my monologue on depression, I thought this was something ‘reserved’ only for the few. It was only after that post that I realized it was almost everywhere I looked, hiding under invisibility cloaks, and fake smiles, and really lonely people. Now I know it has devastating effects and that it’s devastatingly ubiquitous. At this point I should say ‘don’t give up’, ‘look for professional help’, ‘there is life after depression’, ‘it gets better’. It can be a solitary journey – working relentlessly to quiet the mind – but once you break free from the oppressor within, you will begin to appreciate the stillness and the flow of life.
Nobutada: Please forgive; too many mind.
Algren: “Too many mind?”
Nobutada: Hai, mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind enemy – too many mind.
Language will always fail music. Where language cages and limits, music releases. And finds a way. A way to convey the meaninglessness of it all and give it some form of meaning. I wouldn’t be surprised if scientists found that music boxes literally “inhabit” the center (or singularity point) of black holes.
And yet, I feel the need to express – non-musically – how much this band’s music means to me at a deep level. Their music magically managed (I always love a good and unintended alliteration) to bring all issues of personal and professional/academic interest to me under one all-encompassing umbrella. The pillar that holds everything together is still undoubtedly and everlastingly the one and only: music. And if that fails to make me see the light, then nothing will.
Music is one of the reasons – for there are a few – I will continue to fail at poetry (the other main reason being that I do NOT READ poetry). With the risk of hierarchizing arts, poetry will always come second to me. Here’s what abstract painter Agnes Martin has to say about art and music:
Art is responded to with emotion … and the best art is music — that’s the highest form of art. It’s completely abstract, and we make about eight times as much response to music than any of the other arts.
Why Muse again? Their music has grown on me episodically since my first encounter with it as I was fascinated as a kid/teenager in love with space by their Sing for Absolution video, not knowing that years later – more specifically around 12 years later – I would sing (my lungs out) for absolution at a live Muse concert.
And it was the music that gradually crept under my skin and built a nest there overshadowing almost any other bands or types of music I’d care to listen to. They have taken over completely but only because I let them.
~ ♫ ~
Because musically, they complete me and put on sound world issues I’m yearning to hear more in music (and why not, since we’re at it, on the news). And whoever dares to tell corporate and capitalist fucks to kill themselves and do us all a favor – and sing about it – has earned my utmost respect (reference to Animals song).
If you try to find the chemical formula or the magical potion that makes up Muse, you’ll find Queen and Pink Floyd nuances (two other bands whose music speak volumes to me), coupled with the genius of classical music, accompanied by the sound of space as they have clearly explored their affinity for space – in songs like Starlight with its black holes and revelations which also gives the name of the album, Space Dementia, Shrinking Universe, Dead Star, Supermassive Black Hole, Exo-Politics, Neutron Star Collision – and finally, mixed with Orwellian resistant flavors.
George Orwell happens to be one of my favorite writer (see my post on Orwell and why he writes) and 1984 one of the best novels I’ve read, if not my number one. No wonder this has contributed to making The Resistance album my most treasured one (alongside the chaotic Hullaballoo and the aggressive Drones).
Another key ingredient that is more of a Muse trademark is the unexpected passage from rather tender tones to more aggressive ones – even the rage and the violence are delicate, but it’s a delicacy that shuffles all of your senses and makes you explode in colors you didn’t even know existed. It’s a subversive tonal violence and the live version of The Globalist song was one such experience for me.
~ ♫ ~
Lastly, the unifying element in this Muse symphony is the concept of freedom. It’s at the core of my personal and academic (past and future) research interest as well as the reason why I founded this blog. Muse never ceases to urge us to fight for our rights (Uprising), for our freedom, to defect from an oppressive and unjust system (Defector), to Revolt, to save ourselves from absent gods and silent tyranny and to make Love our Resistance against the dark forces, be they capitalist or simply inhumane.
With themes ranging from deep ecology, the empathy gap, and World War III, the concept album Drones (2015) rebels against modern warfare and the evils of technology:
To me, drones are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behavior with no recourse. The world is run by drones utilizing drones to turn us all into drones. This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors. Matthew Bellamy
In that sense, the tale being told is rather an optimistic one. The more activist side of the band surfaces in many other past songs and this reinforces my idea according to which artists are the ones changing the world and never politicians.
~ ↑ ~
Of course, not all art is activist, as some of it is mere aesthetic, but there is something about merging aesthetic pleasure with an urge to not simply please, but wake people up to act against whatever wrongs or wounds this marvelous society of ours may inflict upon them.
And if you feel like you can’t speak up, write a good song and it will speak for you. There is healing in the process of creation. And there is healing in feeling like you’re on the same (political) side of the Universe as your favorite band.
A few months ago I was dealing with depression thoughts and resorted to pen and paper to try and well, fix it. And Monologue of the Déprimé was born which turned out to be more of a dialogue. I feel gratitude for the conversations that followed and for the daily vitamin fix that proved unexpectedly helpful (did you know that vitamin deficiency is linked to depression?). But what about my soul treatment?
I have emerged safe and sound (and perhaps sane too?) from the dark place I thoroughly described previously. Only to stand here before you today with the weight of an entire year of misfortunes and complications. And a mind that never shuts up but who (not which but who because it’s a being of its own) is constantly plotting to bring me down.
You cannot grow without suffering, they say. Well, it’s true. You not only grow, but multiply and challenge yourself and your entire system of beliefs. So I will arm myself in the years to come with what I’ve learned this year. There has been a lot of learning, introspection, and reflection, but a lot of unlearning too. I have allowed myself to question what I know, believe, want, think. Imagine the chaos of not being able to hold on to any solid pillar. I could go on and on about how much I’ve been through lately and turn it into a success story to sell and set an optimistic tone and leave you with a happy-ending. But if I do that, I will probably fail at this post as well. Because this year has been about failure, including failure to see the light at the end of…darkness (but aren’t they always one at the end of the other?)
This year has also been about death. I’ve lost a dear friend and the shock waves of recent events in Romania (read more here) are still sending chills down my spine. My nephew lost a grandfather, my sister a friend. Death of dreams, illusions. Faced with death, I was forced to look at things with a more clear vision. But then I would again lose sight of what is important. And I would feel tired. Exhaustively so. And it felt like my access to happiness had been (almost) entirely blocked during this whole time. But things don’t always turn out how you plan them. If I take the corpse of my late(ly) being and cut in search for whys, excuses, lamentations, I will find plenty. Sadness and remorse. Disease and despair. Growing tumors of rotten ideas and bad habits. Black thoughts and quitting scenarios. All enveloped in a tiny corpse, dead on the inside, flashy and smiley on the outside, living in death. Chaos has been howling, between my sheets, between my cells, between these lines, between my acts.
In the end, if I can’t make sense of myself, who will? The little red notebook in which I write, or the red pen that paints these signs we magically call language? My mind strives to make sense out of everything that happened, give it a value, a meaning. But what if there’s more random than we’d like to think? No control, no free will, no freedom? Just random? I have quarreled with myself a lot this year, and have not reached any fixed conclusions. They are all free floating. Ideas, opportunities, beliefs – instead they have made room for an open field, a space of growth. I’ve been in desperate search for solutions, escapes, right choices, right decisions. And it’s the end of the year and I’ve almost come full circle. And I realized I have the right to not know, to be unsure. To seek. To try-error-try-error. Even to delude myself every now and then. And I feel determined to let myself catapulted into what releases and magnifies my spirit and build bridges between dreams and reality, actively working at what remains meaningful to me: singing, writing, reading, giving people chunks of my time, traveling and staying focused and grounded.
The question remains: how do you take a look at the world around you (there are as many worlds as perspectives and standpoints, but still) and not fall into a deep depression that no amount of pills could cure? I don’t have an answer, but I can tell you what I do. Build threads. Of HOPE. Threads, bridges, and occasionally knit fire escapes. I’ve done more writing than ever this year and started this blog as a means of coping with what I usually keep bottled up; also for a sense of belonging, community and to have a venue where I can express freely artistic thoughts and the maddening torture behind the mind of the ever moving pen. A clamor and clutter that master my mind, with nascent colorful flowers that bloom into letters, words, lack of punctuation, poetry, and politics.
Leave not my side for the journey continues. I am forever in gratitude to every person who’s read my tiny works. And tell me, what are you leaving behind this year? What are your future projects and dreams? What are you spiraling/aspiring to?
Here’s a New Year resolution. I want a happy new year. Some stability, peace, harmony. All those things you can’t buy at your local supermarket. And I aim for labors of love. FREEDOM. Music. For no more turning away from what is meaningful and elevates the spirit.
For all those struggling with depression, have faith that you’ll get better next year and be able to find a way out of it.
For all those struggling with life, strive to find a way in. Into what matters the most to you. And all the other clichés. Laugh. Love. Blog. Breathe in and out and wonder. And seek. Just seek. The finding is not so important. Take the night train you’ve been longing to take – and in the nowhere, seek the somewhere.