The Trendsadder: Rumours about my demise have been pretty spot on
For those of you who have followed The Monolith since our inception, you may remember Leviathan, who used to write weekly takedown pieces via his Trendshredder column. It’s been close to a year since Leviathan brought us a weekly dose of intellectually stimulating laughter at The Monolith, and we’d like to give him a chance to put this column to rest with dignity. Here’s his article about depression, and as with all of his previous work, it’s a must read. If you’d like to revisit his previous work, check this link. Enjoy, and remember to share it with your friends.
There isn’t much to say about depression that hasn’t already been masterfully and definitively covered by the brilliant Allie Brosh of Hyperbole & A Half, but I’ve been asked by The Monolith’s brass to write something about the subject, and I figure writing is more productive than playing video games and masturbating all day so I decided to give it the old college try just the same.
I used to have a weekly column or article or word-written-speaky-talky thing here at The Monolith that I took tremendous joy in writing. In spite of vocal critics, I gradually developed a modest yet respectable readership and although I still had to work a real-world job I finally started to feel like I could call myself a writer with some measure of clout to back up the claim, putting me among the esteemed ranks of people with laptops in coffee shops the world over.
Can you please keep it down? I’m writing an allegorical novella about ironic facial hair.
As little of a thing as it was, it gave me a sense of purpose. I was kind of surprised by how consistently motivated I was to keep writing it, given that on average I’m only about 30-45% motivated to continue existing at all. The sudden rush of inspiration and the gratification of starting something and finishing it lent to a sense of responsibility and stability that my life had otherwise lacked, as I drifted without direction or ambition through dead end jobs beneath an unending tunnel of glass ceilings.
Like this, but without all the awesome.
Everything was going great until I abruptly and resolutely gave up and decided to abandon the whole thing, and then writing entirely, and then just about everything else in life for about 14 solid months. One day the motivation that was driving me simply waned, and soon after, it left completely. All of a sudden I felt nothing but hatred for writing and myself and [name a noun] for what seemed like no reason, which wasn’t cool or fun at all.
Just like Emo-Spiderman.
Because I couldn’t figure out a reason, my old friend the anxiety monster took the liberty of offering a million jagged little assumptions and fears to convince me not do things anymore, which I popped like pills. Like jagged little pills. These thoughts kept persisting until I was sold on the notion that I should just succumb to the impulse and dive into reclusion without excuse or regard.
This wasn’t my first encounter with depression, or losing the will to do something I used to enjoy, or even with completely isolating myself and burrowing into a pit of self-pitying, anxious misery. I’d say it happens on average three or four times yearly, for an indeterminate period ranging anywhere from a few days to a few months. Now if you’re the mathin’ type, you may notice that a few severe incidents along that timeline could easily comprise the better part of a year, which it most certainly has and will no doubt continue to do.
I’m so sorry, but I can’t come to your wedding. I’m booked solid with crushing despair ‘til mid-july.
So all at once my life began to fall apart, as if it was inches from doing so all along. I stopped submitting my articles. I was barely able to show up to work. My bed became my world. My friends didn’t understand why I never wanted to see them anymore. My 4 year old niece literally thought I had died because I couldn’t be bothered to visit, and perhaps most regrettably, I began to drift away from someone I loved very dearly.
Through it all, I was apathetic and self-involved, the way a person tends to be as they sabotage their own life. I found ways to assign blame to everyone and everything else to avoid facing up to the reality of the matter. I started to become paranoid, narcissistically assuming that in my absence, I was spoken of negatively or betrayed by those I claimed to trust. All of this only served to drive me further into isolation, in turn refueling the social anxiety and compulsive thoughts, which once again lent more depth to the depression, etc, et al.
I started drinking excessively, which by my standards means like, super-hyper-extra-excessively. Given that I can effortlessly put away an ungodly amount of alcohol over the course of a jubilant celebration thanks to my German-Irish dream team of alcoholic genes, things got downright dangerous when I started drinking with extreme prejudice. Poor decisions were made, scars and regrets were acquired, and loved ones were deeply disappointed.
Just like Emo-Spiderman!
By the time I got a handle on myself, I was at rock bottom. My girlfriend had left me, I was on the verge of getting fired, and my friends were sick of my wallowing bullshit; I hadn’t written a word in nearly a year, and I was spending the lions’ share of my pay on booze just to drink myself to sleep, or death, whatever.
I was Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.
Who am I kidding? I’ll never be Nicolas Cage.
My mental state had cost me nearly everything. While everyone I knew was having kids and leasing cars and getting promotions and seeing the world and climbing fucking mountains, I was lying in bed chain-smoking, watching Fairly Odd Parents and casually contemplating suicide the same way normal people think of microwaving a burrito.
Here’s an adorable baby owl to compensate for how brutally sad that last paragraph was.
Depression is like gradually growing armour that starts as a thin shell but eventually hardens into an impenetrable barrier, except it somehow makes you weaker and more vulnerable the more covered in it you become. Day by day it continues to encase you, and while you’re either unaware or unable to stop it, it slowly consumes your entire being until you’re just a miserable little cocoon that is of no use to anyone.
Am I right, 90’s kids?!
And then people start treating you differently. They watch what they say carefully and speak in soft, gentle voices like you’re a small woodland creature they hope to befriend and feed trail mix to. They suggest simply not being sad, or ignoring the sadness, or doing happy things to make it go away. They’ll offer their expertise based on that one cousin they had that was super depressed one time, years ago, but is okay now, or dead, they can’t remember.
Occasionally you’ll meet someone who is suffering from something similar and at first you’ll think “Great, they’ll get what I’m going through”, but you’ll learn quickly that two depressed people will always inevitably end up in a pissing contest about who has more things to be depressed out. Each time you express some form of sadness or negativity about something, they’ll counter with their own morose and bleak observation, and suddenly you’re locked in a game of bummer chess, trying to out-sad each other while doing nothing to help yourselves. These kind of cyclical, redundant relationships are at best a lateral move toward overcoming depression, and at worst, an active catalyst for breeding it.
Depression steals your sense of confidence and security, leaving you hyper sensitive to any and all occurrences in the big scary world outside. You’ll tirelessly over-analyse every word you’ve ever said as if you’re sifting through a cerebral rolodex of things to be upset about. Each mistake and failure and embarrassing moment you’ve ever experienced will drop into your consciousness like guest stars on the finale of Seinfeld, while you’re bound to a metaphorical chair being forced to stare deeply into them, and yourself, through the worst filter imaginable.
Ludwig Van will be ruined forever.
It’s just a really shitty thing. I wish there was more depth or explanation to it than that, but unfortunately that’s all I know. The only thing I’ve learned about depression after dealing with it my entire life, having it deteriorate and defeat me, is that it sucks and it will cost you everything you care about if you let it. Far too many people suffer daily and say nothing, because of the perceptions of weakness and instability associated with mental illness, though I suppose that on some fronts that’s a justified stereotype, because there are a lot of times that depression has made me weak and unstable. That’s kind of depressions’ thing.
The worst part about it is that it comes from within, giving you the innate knowledge that any anger or blame aimed at anyone but yourself is misplaced. This perpetuates the cycle, and deepens the path of self-loathing to unbearable depths.
Feeling broken, and awkward, and strange and like you should just be alone forever is dangerous because of how easily the prophecy fulfills itself. A moderately unhappy person can easily exaggerate the condition to an extreme degree through nothing but critical self-analysis.
I was gonna do stuff today, but then I remembered how much I hate stuff. I’ll just pretend I’m paralyzed instead.
People get sick of that kind of bullshit real quick. For the first few months they’ll try to see you through it in the way non-depressed people do, by taking you aside every now and then, touching your shoulder gently, putting on their best impression of an empathetic person’s face and quietly asking how you’re doing; after a certain point though, even the most noble and concerned of friends will wash their hands of your self-involved meandering and continue on with their precious happiness and fulfillment, and you’ll quietly resent the ever-loving-fuck out of them for being the lucky, mentally sound pricks that they are.
Look at him out there. Just mowing his lawn like life is worth living. Jackass.
Depression doesn’t show up to your party alone, either. It’s that asshole that shows up with a group of other assholes that you’ve never met but instantly hate, setting you up for a long ass night of reminding people to use coasters and hiding your valuables.
“Yo, This is Nicky Neurosis, Anxiety Alvin, Mikey Mania and my boy O.C.D Phil. Don’t worry, They’re cool.”
This led me to feel embarrassed and ashamed around my friends, who still very openly loved and cared about me, but were shut out by my inability to be at ease. As a result, I began making new friends, or reconnecting with old ones, trying to forge relationships with those who weren’t acquainted with my supremely pessimistic disposition. This was a good catharsis at first, as the novelty and excitement of meeting new people forces the mind to sharpen, at least marginally, and that brought me out of my shell for a little while.
But soon enough the veneer cracked and my inner desperation came oozing through, much to the chagrin and confusion of my new companions, and all over again I found myself surrounded by fellow-sad sacks, uninterested parties and amateur motivational speakers, all trying to relate to my struggle, avoid me, or kick-start my self-worth with pep-talks, respectively.
Buy my new book: Ten successful habits of people who don’t hate themselves!
All of these people were and continue to be completely awesome, both to me and in general. All my old friends are, too. I’m incredibly lucky in that I’ve always found a way to surround myself with wonderful people, a small consolation to my shitty outlook on life that has carried me through more dark times than I’d care to admit. They were never the problem, the only thing any of them are guilty of is trying to help, something I’ll never stop appreciating.
The problem is that there is no helping. There is no effective combination of words that I’ve ever heard that can diffuse a depressed person’s mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re a passing acquaintance or a lifelong friend or even a significant other, if a person has convinced themselves that they don’t like living then you could be Tupac Shakur for all they care and it won’t make any difference in how they feel.
Maybe that’s why you see no changes, smart guy.
Because of this, I slowly started losing people. Good people. They eventually realized they were fighting a losing battle and just moved on, either frustrated by my obstinacy, or just generally put off by my vulnerability. Regardless, my condition and disposition exasperated everyone to the point that worrying so much about people not wanting to be around me actually made people not want to be around me.
You guys like me, right? No, of course not. Why would you. I’m stupid and useless. So what’s going on this weekend?
So I started partying like crazy to avoid having to think about my situation, a lot like Jesse Pinkman after he [SPOILER REDACTED]. I wore alcoholism and social exuberance to cover my sadness like some sort of soul-toupee. After a few months of binge drinking and blatant overcompensation to obfuscate the misery eroding at me, I had reached my quota of embarrassing antics, and the act stopped being endearing.
My phone stopped ringing, and that was when I realized that I had been horribly lonely for years. It’s almost funny to me now, looking back at how earnestly people tried to involve themselves in my life and help me through my problems only to be completely stonewalled, just to be missed dearly when they finally decided to move on. On second thought, no. That’s not funny at all. That sucks donkey balls.
I want everyone that I’ve pushed away to know that I’m sorry; that I love them all and I understand completely. To everyone who stuck around, who tolerated my shenanigans, picked up my slack, and helped me up off the ground, both literally and figuratively, I want them to know that it is there but for the grace of the company I keep that I still walk this earth. I have no words to express my gratitude, and as a person trying desperately to cultivate an image as a writer, that statement should bear weight.
There may not be anything to say to help someone through depression, but just being there means everything. A troubled mind considers all things as variable, and to prove yourself a constant can make a world of difference, even if you don’t say anything at all.
This is usually the point in discussions of depression where the author will offer some sound advice on dealing with the problem, or some insight on how to better yourself, or just generally try to summate the topic on a positive note. Sadly, I’m not that author. Depression is an awful, noxious bitch who will no doubt continue turning up in my life like a bad penny, and no amount of therapy or medication has ever abated the assault, leaving me to fly solo in the battle against it. This isn’t a success story as much as it is a progress report on my ongoing personal war.
Like this, but without all the awesome.
Because the problem comes from within you, so too must the strength to carry on be derived internally.
For my part, I’ve re-caged my demons, banished my addiction, and have asserted dominance over my mental state, if only for the time being. Foresight assures me that it’s only a matter of time before I am overtaken again, but it also prepares me to steel my resolve not to let it defeat me.
Depression is a curse. It’s followed me my whole life and it seems that it always will. It has stolen relationships, jobs, friendships and countless opportunities and I know as soon as I allow it to retake the helm of my thoughts, it won’t hesitate to do it all over again.
Because of this, however, I am vigilant. Every dark patch that I survive is rewarded with a period of optimistic happiness, my prize for enduring the pain. Sort of like a reverse hangover. By that logic, although my depression may not be curable or controllable, it is most definitely endurable. Maybe even worth enduring, if every onslaught survived makes me stronger in the long run. The anxieties and fears and insecurities that cripple me at my worst also drive me at my best. Pushing me to outrun the dark clouds and challenging me to achieve in spite of my disadvantage.
In that sense, and in a very strange way, part of me is grateful for my depression, or rather more specifically the unique perspective it has granted me on life. As much as it sucks to be depressed, there are perks to it I suppose. I see things in more detail by over-analyzing them, I describe things more clearly having obsessed over them and I remember things more vividly having relived them; I feel and experience everything in a deep and poignant way that a great many people are blissfully ignorant to; and most importantly, by testing the tolerance and loyalty of those in my life I am better able to identify the people worthy and willing to stay in it.
So maybe I can try to shift the tone of this to some semblance of positivity after all. If you’re struggling with depression, the best advice I can give you is to just hold on. It passes and it gets better, and then worse, and then better again. That’s just the hand you’ve been dealt. That’s your curse.
Just remember that it’s not just a curse. It’s also a gift.
A gift and a curse.
JUST LIKE EMO-SPIDERMAN!