November, depression, and the illusion of another world

November, depression, and the illusion of another world

“This is so depressing.”

It’s a common expression. I don’t begrudge it to people and frequently use it myself. I don’t like the self-righteous condemnation some people will heap on you if you use “depressing” or “depression” as throw-away words in casual conversation. If you get horribly offended by that, you may need to get over yourself.

Language evolves constantly, and our language has evolved in such a way that we regularly use “depression” without meaning “serious illness that can really fuck up your shit.” There is nothing wrong with that, and I think it has actually gone a long way toward normalizing the illness and people who suffer from it.

Having said that, depression is still very much a serious illness that can really fuck up your shit.

I am most prone to it in the month of November, and, as I have discovered from living in sunny places like Dubai and Greece, lack of sunlight may not be the main culprit. Maybe it’s due to the tilt of the earth. To the days getting shorter. To red leaves framed by a blue sky. To something.

I would love to write a buddy-cop-like parody novella about November and depression. Here they are, on yet another adventure together, barrelling through the mind, fucking it up like regular buddy cops fuck up city blocks. Here they are, making the lights go out behind the eyes while tossing comic insults at each other.

A lot has been written on the dangers of depression, but there is one particular danger I think is seriously overlooked:  Continue reading “November, depression, and the illusion of another world”

Love thy neighbor: in Trump’s America, some of your neighbors need it more than ever

Love thy neighbor: in Trump’s America, some of your neighbors need it more than ever

I’m going to share with you guys two stories sent in to me since the election. Two events that occurred in a country that has elected Donald J. Trump.

The first is from a Nepalese American woman who lives in the Midwest. Let’s call her Kyrah. It’s necessary for her to keep her identity hidden. Her bosses have warned her, alongside all of the employees at her company, that “politically themed posts” on the internet “will not be allowed” following the election. They are ostensibly doing this so that the company “will not attract any negative attention.” I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not this is responsible policy.

Although she lives in the Midwest, Kyrah grew up on the West Coast. She came to the United States as a child. She describes herself as “not very political.” She did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, having been put off by both of the major party candidates, a decision she now regrets. Here’s why she regrets the decision. I am republishing a portion of her e-mail to me, with permission, and with a couple of edits for clarity:

“A lady who was my neighbor in my hometown for 20 years sent me hate mail after Trump was elected. I am calling it hate mail because I have no other way of describing the message, although it’s hard for me to believe…that somebody could really write this to someone they know…

Here are the exact words. I am not making them up:

‘Your nice job and nice home could have been a real American’s nice job and home. Its [sic] simple math. By coming here, you are taking away from someone who has been here longer and has more of a right.’

She thinks I should leave. This is someone who knows me. She watched me grow up. Now she treats me worse than a stranger, she treats me like the enemy. My husband [and I] are upset and grieving.”

The focus now isn’t just on migrants, on people deemed “foreign.” The focus is on who is and isn’t a “real American.” As you can imagine, this issue is close to my heart. I have also frequently been compared to “real Americans” – and found wanting. The fact that Trump’s wife is an immigrant herself is completely irrelevant to the people who now demand what amounts to a witch hunt against those of us who “aren’t pure enough.”

I also had a conversation with an older friend from North Carolina. This conversation was even more shocking and upsetting.  Continue reading “Love thy neighbor: in Trump’s America, some of your neighbors need it more than ever”

Tornado of Shrieking Demon Heads (The Calm the Fuck Down Song)

Tornado of Shrieking Demon Heads (The Calm the Fuck Down Song)

Calm the fuck down, bitch
Calm the fuck down
Get it together or get out of town
Oh you crave a crisis
Just to feel important
You’re jerking off again
To a tornado
Of shrieking demon heads
And other fucked-up shit
Bitch, calm the fuck down
Jump in a lake
Sink to the bottom
And listen to the sound
Of nothing and everything
Of water worshipping rock
No one acknowledging you
Or measuring your cock.

Nothing in nature or in the stars
Cares for your shit, bitch
So calm the fuck down.

I wrote this song a while ago for a musician friend and it feels especially appropriate to post it today, in light of everything

Stephen Fry is right about trigger warnings – he’s especially right about self-pity

Stephen Fry is right about trigger warnings – he’s especially right about self-pity

People are calling Stephen Fry’s comments about sex abuse victims “an extraordinary attack,” because he had the temerity to suggest that trigger warnings on literature are bullshit and that self-pity is an ugly, self-defeating emotion.

He stated this bluntly and without the usual hand-wringing and tiptoeing that accompanies discussion of sex abuse in liberal circles. OH NO. WHAT AN EVIL JERK.

Here’s the thing though – he’s right. Trigger warnings amount to nothing but clumsy, amateur “therapy” that can have an adverse effect.

The truth is – and there is a wealth of literature and studies on the subject, really – triggers are random. You’re not going to precisely KNOW what it is that triggers you on a given day, that’s kind of the whole problem of being psychologically vulnerable.

Being triggered can actually be useful, because it helps you understand and potentially expand your boundaries. It can allow for a dynamic process of healing.

And environments that are meant to be safe spaces for victims of abuse work when there are professionals around, when the safe space is part of therapy.

Amateur “safe spaces”, on the other hand, are frequently more stressful than your regular, bunch-of-normal-people-who’ll-occasionally-say-bullshit-to-you spaces. Why? First of all, because everybody’s worried about saying the wrong thing. Interaction is so thoroughly policed that it becomes a maze of potential wrong turns.

I experienced abuse as a child. It destroyed and remade me, and – yeah, it was a terrible thing. You can trust me on this.

But let’s say I had my choice of whom to hang out with: Option 1 is a group of college students who think that it is important to never! say! the wrong! thing! to people like me – and who would accuse me of being a self-hating sell-out should I disagree. Option 2 is some loudmouth who can push my buttons and even – dear God! – call me on my bullshit, i.e. treat me like a fellow human as opposed to a glass vase that will shatter if mishandled.

I’m going to go with Option 2. Option 1 is re-traumatizing.

This goes to Fry’s point about self-pity. Amateur “safe spaces” absolutely foster self-pity. Because the only real power they afford to members is the power to call someone out when they’ve been triggered. Agency depends on their status as victims. Agency = “You triggered me! You said something offensive! How dare you! Asshole!” You can’t exercise that kind of power if you’re generally committed to practicing self-care and living a better sort of life. And your energy doesn’t go towards untangling your own issues, it goes toward reminding everyone that DAMMIT, YOU HAVEN’T MOVED ON.

The notion that these amateur “safe spaces” are liberating is a lie. They just introduce a different hierarchy. The bigger “victim” you are, the more “rights” you get to have in policing others. Interaction as equals is impossible, because someone is always a bit more ravaged/in pain, and that person gets to shut down others. It is a poisonous dynamic. It harms people, because, again, status is derived from pain. Dealing with pain means losing status.  Continue reading “Stephen Fry is right about trigger warnings – he’s especially right about self-pity”

Nobody’s hopeless, everything is broken

I woke up today and immediately saw two bits of news:

The Russian Patriarch gave Dmitry Kiselyov, Russia’s top propagandist, a church award. I was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church and, even though the church has always taken orders from the government in Russia (it was never the other way around, as many people think), such acts still somehow sadden me, especially because I still go to church, and still find it a powerful experience. Churches have always been horrifyingly imperfect – I suppose they’re forever making up for it with rhetoric about hell, and casting undesirables out, etc. – but there is something about this particular church, right now, that rubs its imperfection in your face so much that it tempts you to despair. When even your conservative, God-fearing relatives are bitterly saying that “the patriarch is a bad one,” it really makes you wonder, just how bad it’s all going to get in our lifetime.

On a related (yes, related) note, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the most loud and loyal of the oprichnina, has now opened a criminal investigation against the wife of an Alexey Navalny ally (Navalny is Russia’s most prominent anti-corruption crusader; the latest politically motivated case against him will see him go away for a decade if the prosecutor has his way), who organized literary festivals. The Investigative Committee’s statements and criminal investigations oftentimes seem deliberately farcical, but the farce involves real victims, people with families. Writers are often curious about what goes on in the heads of people who victimize others in the name of carrying out orders – but the truth is, compartmentalization is an awesome tool.

I have this idea that a lot of us should be grateful to be alive in this horrible time – and not because, as the constant refrain goes, “It can always get worse.” It can, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about how this time has forced so many of us to turn mental corners we were too lazy or too scared to turn before. How this time has burrowed into our hearts like a worm, a reminder that the number of heartbeats is finite, always finite. And what will you do with your nearly imperceptible, finite heartbeats? And what will you do? Goodness, for example, can never attack, it can only defend itself. A lot of people have forgotten about that right now, but one day, they’ll remember.

Every day is a chance to turn it around. Every day that we are alive. Tick tock. Don’t despair. Don’t despair. You’ve no right.