Just under six months ago, I decided to take a run at exorcising a demon.
Everyone’s heard the axiom, “write what you know”.
Well, I took that to heart. I took it to heart so deeply, I had to ask what is the one thing I’m truly good at in this life?
Is it pessimism? A bleak, cynical, almost fatalistic outlook on human behaviour?
Close. I decided to write about depression.
I was a relatively blissful child, with lots of friends and a relatively innocent outlook, even after we relocated in grade 3 from what seemed Ontario’s equivalent of Pleasantville. The new place was more… crude. I recall being very confused at age eight, suddenly confronted with words like boner.
I held on to some innocence. I even started studying for confirmation at age twelve. Because I was a wee bit of a nerd (and still am), I decided that if I was going to do this whole religion thing, I’d do it right. After all, I was looking for a guiding light, an ethical framework, a purpose, like most everyone (though too young to yet feel angst about it).
So I decided to read the entire Bible, front to back.
I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Bible in its entirety, but let me tell you, by the time you get out of Exodus, if you don’t have serious questions about the morality and veracity of what’s being presented… Well, I hate to say it, but you’re some serious kind of dumb shit.
Add to that the Semtex of my closest friend at the time (and his punk rock brother) introducing me to Dead Kennedys and the like, following within a couple of years by the punk/grunge explosion and well… things went a little sideways.
Disillusionment is the biggest letdown. I’d rather be eyes open than blind, but still, it stings knowing that what you’re told is good and right is actually just a way for people to control you. A way for assholes to justify terrible shit, behind a pack of lies.
Extrapolate that out to a looming distrust for all institutions, a narcissistic genius complex brought on by years of people telling me how smart I was (a fact I know believe could only have been done in sarcasm) and a natural propensity to be a chicken shit and you’ve got denial, depression and a passive aggressive tendency toward disobedience and self-destruction.
Screech forward twenty-three years.
I hate my job. I hate everything about it. I blame everyone and everything for what’s wrong with my life. I spent my twenties being a self-absorbed dick who lived in his own filth and couldn’t get his head of his ass.
And I read a book.
I don’t even remember which one.
I’d just reached a breaking point and needed a change. I don’t even remember what the book was about.
What I do remember is that it reminded me that I am responsible for my own behaviour. That good people don’t sit around pissing and moaning. That leaders take responsibility for their actions.
Of course, it took another six or seven years of steady growth for that to really sink, but hey, no one’s perfect. Who’d want to be, anyway?
Of course, the inversion of responsibility for the state of my life meant I started punishing myself. Awash with guilt and shame and regret, which is still a regular tendency, I found myself even more depressed.
And thus was born Dead Talker (now renamed Requiem For A Doormat tentatively).
Dead Talker was an attempt to exorcise depression from my life. It has not done that. At times, mired in the logic of depression, I’ve been worse than ever.
What it has done is taught me how depression behaves, and in particular how my depression behaves.
I’ve learned how to defeat it, what I need to change in my perspective (which is often the key) to move back to something more normal. I’ve come to realize the tremendous burden of guilt I carry.
That’s the next thing. I understand the enemy now. The next step is to work on perspective, to find ways to see things from a different angle, so things aren’t quite so… bleak.
Reality is reality, but perspective plays a huge part in that. Objectivism was something I bought into in my late teens and twenties because the idea of absolutism and individualism in truth sucked me in. I still think there’s value there, but it’s expanded. No one can claim objectivity who ever only sees black and white. Objectivity cannot exist where there is no perspective.
In my opinion, it cannot exist where there is no sympathy. No compassion. No empathy for the subject.
Dichotomies in philosophy are almost always false, whether it’s pure philosophy, politics, or ideology.
That’s what depression has taught me. It’s not always negative. It’s not always me. It’s not always “them.” Positivity has value, as does cynicism.
The balance of different perspectives, and choosing the ones that best serve to create a happy life for as many people as possible, including yourself, is the way forward.
I suffered for this book, more than I’ll ever likely admit. In the end, I believe it’s allowed me to tap a mainline into the depths and create something that I hope will resonate with people. It’s dark and at times, bleak and hopeless and isolated. It’s painful.
That’s not a lot of people’s evening reading fare.
I’m okay with that. Because while I might not have excised the demon, I have got it on notice.
For that, this book was worth it.