My original intention for this blog was to tackle and discuss my love hate relationship with the art world, my struggles with the creative process, and a place to state my opinions, vent my frustrations, rant, share, and hopefully start a conversation. Above all else I wanted this to be unflinchingly open. That in mind I feel I needed this first post to be about my artist statement and what exactly it means to me. I feel ultimately that statement comes down to two things, connection and emotion. And those two abstract things are something I feel I have struggled with a great majority of my life because of depression which, in turn, has been the fuel for almost every piece of art I’ve ever created. Originally I was going to discuss my thoughts on the tie between creativity and mental illness, especially the debate I’ve heard so often, and indeed used myself, that medication will stifle my creativity or that I needed my depression to be an artist. I still intend to do that post but I feel before I do that I need to define what depression is to me. There is still a great stigma on depression and on mental illness and I feel the best way to combat that is to be as open and brutally honest and own what this is and what it does. What follows is the most open I have ever been about the reality of my struggle with this illness and I hope that because of it even one person be it friend, family, or complete stranger feels maybe less alone. And I apology for my utter disregard for grammar.
Depression is an insidious thing. It’s manipulative and cunning. It saps you of everything you love, smothering the joy out of you. Its slow and patient. It’s not always huge fits of uncontrollable crying although there are plenty of those. Sometimes depression does not equal sadness, sometimes it’s just the death of motivation. And there’s so much anger because this is illogical and irrational but that doesn’t matter I can’t stop it and that just feeds it. Sometimes depression is a profound sense of apathy where literally nothing matters it’s a complete disconnect, absolute in its finality. Getting out of bed is a fight, getting dressed is a fight, showering fight, eating fight, responding to texts fight, sometimes it feels like just existing is a fight. And a great majority of the time there is no real reason, there is no death or great tragedy, there are stressors but nothing extraordinary. Sometimes I’ll just stand still for hours not moving because there’s just no reason, constantly on the verge of tears for no discernable reason. Sometimes I stop after crawling halfway out of bed or off the couch, draped across the floor and I’ll just stay, obsessed with the microcosm under my bed or couch. The grocery store has become my kryptonite. Every time I go I am inevitably, unavoidably gripped by the knowledge that I am a failure as a human and most specifically an adult. The fact that I am so terrible at grocery shopping is proof positive that I have failed. Its as if I walk through the doors and the onslaught of food and decisions evaporates my ability to reason, decide, or handle anything more complex than one foot in front of the other. Quite seriously six out of ten times I will abandon my cart, run out and succumb to a panic attack the other four times I manage to buy the exact same things and still go out for most of my meals. That seems so completely ridiculous to put in writing but it is a very sad reality. Anyways the longer the depression lasts the more I turn on myself, getting angry and frustrated that I can’t just get over it. Or “change my perspective”. And that in turns eats my remaining self-esteem. It’s a toxic vicious cycle. I feel so deeply for my loved ones who don’t understand but try so hard.
“if you only did (insert thing here), I’m sure you’d feel better.”
“you just have to “X” and things will be ok.”
I know they just sincerely want me to be happy but it hurts sometimes to feel so misunderstood or worse yet to feel like I’m failing at their expectations of me. I’m not strong enough or I’m doing something wrong. Or maybe they just don’t want to put up with it anymore which as sad as it is, is completely fair.
Things just keep getting worse and not necessarily in the “when it rains it pours” sense more the “this beast won’t stop growing and this cloud won’t stop suffocating” sense. It gets harder and harder to put on a mask every day, I’m so beyond terrified someone will see through to how utterly miserable I truly am and will leave. I’m afraid everyone will leave eventually. Unless I get better. I don’t blame them, depressed people are impossible to be around, I wouldn’t want to hang out with me either. Depressed people can drag you down if you’re too empathetic. Other people’s depression feeds my own too. I feel like I can never be fully open with any one, not even a therapist. All these things just trapped and swirling, pulsating, metastasizing in my head. I can’t say certain words without enormous alarm bells going off, people going full on defensive or caretaker, and I need to talk about those things. Suicide shouldn’t be a pariah or stigmatized. It’s very real and I need to talk about it and I hope I’m far from the only one. And it’s not like I don’t try; therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, art, journals, yoga, climbing, motorcycle therapy, diet, sleep schedule, being social, it all fails in the long run and not because I give up but because the depression grows stronger. I live in a nearly constant two-year cycle; life appears to blows up, spiral, hit bottom, or at least what I think is bottom, get new meds, adapt to the new meds if they’re effective I feel much better and those times are truly magnificent I’m creative and remember what enjoyment is and I feel as excited as a child about all the possibilities. Then slowly almost imperceptibly over time I adapt, meds become less effective, but the self-destructive mantra creeps back in and the world starts to look greyer again so I up dose, add new meds and repeat until I seemingly inevitably feel as awful as I did before meds only this time the hole appears much deeper. And every time I run through a med the remaining options are less and less appealing. I go to therapy and I feel I have had the same conversation for 20 years. It’s crushing. I get to a point where I just stop talking because I feel guilty for being depressed and for complaining, for being a cloud, or at times abusing the bounds of friendship and I’ve never been good at dealing with guilt. And so I retreat and collapse. At this point I have chosen self-medication, studies have shown hallucinogenic compounds can help and they do, immensely it has been the most effective treatment I have ever experienced, but outside growing my own mushrooms or building my own lab there’s no way to guarantee a constant source. Not to mention the homogeny problem it’s almost impossible to accurately micro dose especially with Psilocybin and if the dose is too much I can’t function normally and if it’s not enough I just get more depressed. Also, the it being a controlled substance and illegal thing, gets in the way. I’ve considered ECT even had a consult. I’ve even tried the homeopathic bananas which, I know is scientifically ineffective, but I could always hope for the placebo effect I guess. I’m utterly, achingly desperate.
It’s gotten to the point where I’m quite literally terrified of silence, I’m terrified of the space between my ears. I need constant noise and distraction. With rare exception, there have been moments and I’m lucky to have people who can calm the noise, I have headphones in. Right now as I pour my heart out I have a Podcast staving of the silence. Listening to TV shows makes me feel less alone almost as if there are people and I’m part of something but its on my own terms. I have a playlist on my phone of audio files of several movies that I play on repeat literally ad nauseam. I can waste an entire day staring at my phone attempting to make the five inches in front of my face the entire world, staring at useless ridiculous things as my playlist repeats. I’ll set up my laptop to run movies while I play video games, there must not be a break in the distraction, as a show, podcast, movie, or episode approaches the end I can feel the anxiety growing until I figure out what to listen to next. Sometimes, far too commonly actually, I feel like I’m just killing time until I can acceptably go back to sleep. Dreams have become exponentially better than the waking world. But sometimes my dreams are the only joy I get. A place where problems melt away. When I’m alone I want people to be around and when I’m with people I want to be alone. But sometimes when I’m alone, lately at least, I’m afraid of people coming home or my phone ringing and it adds a significant amount of anxiety. This must be what it feels like when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
I feel life within in the four walls of whatever I call home is on pause and I feel as close to safe as I can. I can hide. I know this is ridiculous and untrue but it can help or it can trap me. My apartment is big enough that I don’t feel claustrophobic and even if I do there’s always the roof. And the shower is a blanket. Sometimes doing nothing is too much and I beg to be in a coma if I can’t be dead.
Depression is such a pervasive, omnipresent, individually omniscient and suffocating cloud. I’ve struggled for almost my entire sentient life with this constant roller coaster, but as the ride continues it seems there are far less frequent but larger hills and longer and deeper valleys. When I’m at my worst I’m not a person I’m depression with a person suit on. Since early adolescence there has been an almost incessant droning mantra, not necessarily about suicide but definitely about dying. I had no plans or schemes nothing resembling concrete. It was all so amorphous. As I grew older it became more tangible, almost obsessive. If I’m honest there are more days where I think about dying and/or suicide than not. I’m almost constantly hoping for an accident; getting crushed by a bus or a semi, stray bullet, fatal allergy, my car or bike randomly explodes, cut brake line because someone on a rampage of vengeance mistakes my Element for their target’s, disease, fast acting cancer, drunk driver, lightning, gas line explosion, meteorite, carbon monoxide leak, intruder, gang violence, freak microwave accident, slipping in the shower, sudden onset sleep apnea, sink hole, building collapse, massive fire, etcetera. At my darkest I have come up with convoluted plots to make it look like an accident or a crime or some unknown health problem. I’ve thought about going to the shitty part of town and putting a bullet in my back, or knife wounds to the torso and heart, and there are Rube Goldberg-esque almost comical methods I’ve devised to do so. I’ve thought about shooting myself and swimming out into the lake to make it look like I was robbed, murdered and dumped. Maybe I got drunk and over-estimated my swimming prowess, maybe too many hallucinogens lead to a bad trip and I thought I could fly. I planned to abandon my motorcycle or car and just walk off to drown myself or travel to some far flung place and end it deep in the woods or mountains. At one point I almost bought a one-way ticket to Europe to go on a bender then drown or overdose in some pseudo romantic way. But then I fear for the lack of closure that would provide for my loved ones. It’s a near constant tortuous droning mantra in the background no matter what is going on in my life happy, sad, angry, depressed, tired, hungry, snacking, always unceasing, sometimes louder than others. When I was 22 I was diagnosed with Wolf Parkinson White and literally every time I was symptomatic or thought I was I closed my eyes and begged for it to be my heart’s last beat. When I had surgery I wished for complications; blood clots, infections, aneurysm, exsanguination. I bought a motorcycle thinking if I wreck and die it’ll be a tragedy and not suicide which somehow is so much more acceptable. There’s a reason I don’t wear a helmet. I thought about overdosing because once again that’s an accident and obviously better than suicide. At my most hopeless I had a prescription cocktail of opiates, Benzos, and tranquillizers all to be washed down with an uncouth amount of alcohol. I thought about injecting potassium chloride to stop my heart, literal self-inflicted capital punishment, until I learned how painful it was. I had a plan to overdose on nicotine by injection since it can mimic a heart attack. I thought about ways to set up an accidental electrocution to stop my heart. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I hang on is because I’m afraid of the pain, stigma or the shame, but there are so many things that have stopped me. Sometimes they’re stupid things like I wanted to see Civil War, or I still have a bunch of LSD I shouldn’t waste, or I just got my bike back, sometimes they were bigger like the birth of a nephew, or a friend’s birthday, my loved ones reaching out at the right moment, or the suicide of a cousin. I once stopped at my moms and even said goodbye and cried the whole way home convinced I was going to do it.
But I didn’t. And I hope that I won’t.
Because amongst all of this, the crushing depression, the apathy, the self-loathing there has always been an unquenchable hope, curiosity, wonder, beauty, and always so much love. I know that I’m not done yet I have so many innumerable things to do, to create, and to see. To quote Robert Frost.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”