Saturday, September 20, 2008

Act of Contrition

Bless me, friends, for I have sinned.
It's been six months since my last blog posting...
I marvel, from time to time, at the irony of contemporary living. A year ago, I made a few friends via a small online community founded by my wife, Gwen, for creative purposes. A sort of digital retreat for like minded right-brainers. Since then, these new friendships have grown into something precious even though we still, in actuality, have yet to meet.

It is due to the encouragement of these new friends then, that I am making the bold move of posting something really real. I write often since always. Mostly, it's in my private journal that I keep hidden from everything and everybody, leaving this blog for more edited content and my other (at Myspace) for more "art oriented newslettery things" or the occasional punk-guy rant. Until last year and excluding "filler and fluff," I never put anything I had written "out there."

The "real stuff" I write for me, so I won't forget anything worth remembering.

Thing is, I mostly write when I'm troubled. My happy times are spent painting and lounging about in my pajamas with my wife; celebrating each other.

A few weeks ago, I caught myself being hypocritical. I can often be heard preaching the need for artists to be honest with their work. That is, don't hold back. Do it because it's in you and needs to be done, etc, etc. It then hit me that, while I am excessively honest with my visual art, I have not been forthcoming with my writing. At least, not publicly. That makes me, for the lack of a better term, "radio friendly."

We can't have that now can we?

SO. The following is taken from my personal journal corrected, but unedited.



I have been floating in and out of a nasty depression for nearly a year and not knowing exactly why or how to get past it is really frustrating the hell out of me. It’s the longest low I can recall, even since the dark times of my 20’s. It’s bad. I keep getting tripped up by intrusive thinking. I think about what it’d be like to let myself drown in the tub or to overdose on pain medication or what throwing myself under a speeding truck might feel like; a mouthful of coppery blood, dislocation, Cadaver Expasim. The big question realized. It’s more existential musing than an actual plan for suicide.

This is when, in the past, I’d cut myself; small gashes on my thighs, my arms – my chest.

The need to cut is difficult to explain, like the need to drink or the need to fix or the need to cum; the sudden flood of adrenaline, the hot rush of survival, the purity of release. For a few moments you live in a sense of aching oneness, of absolute calm. In those few moments, there’s only right now.

Right now, I’m cut.
Right now, there’s blood.
Right now, I’m alive.

If you accept that psychology is actually a science and not just a dull reflection of carnival fortune telling, then I am what convention refers to as a “High Functioning, Rapid Cycling Bipolar.” Whatever.

Fuck convention.

As an artist, I am at peace with my mental hiccups and consider myself in good company:


An unrestful mind, a conflicted temperament; it’s the price of clarity.

So now, over the years and through considerable effort, I have become – for better or worse – self aware. This roughly translates to me being able to recognize when I’m spiraling up or crashing down, whether it’s due to some outside circumstance or if it’s merely chemical and then, how to deal with it. Yet despite my best attempts at optimism, positive influences and outlets – even self-analytical reasoning – I still get down. I can’t help it. I’m upset and can’t quite put my finger on why. This doesn’t, however, mean I need to be drugged.

Been there.
Done that.
Moved on.

And, this isn’t to say that I haven’t gotten caught up in the occasional quick fix. Call it a lapse in judgment, but really, truly, medication just isn’t an option for me; I learned that the hard way. Pills are an easy convenience that society uses to sweep us under the carpet. Detachment is the new American way, after all. I mean, why learn how to cope and take hold of your own life when you can just shut down and let someone else do it for you? Whether we’re talking about Lamictal or Heroin, Lithium or Bourbon, Zoloft or Marijuana, all it really is, is a numbing agent, an escape. It doesn’t actually help you; it just pacifies you so that those around you can stop feeling bad about themselves.

Frankly, I’m better than that so, I box. I push myself to the breaking point, fighting through the hurt until I’m high with exhaustion. Perhaps, it’s the manifestation of internalized conflict looking for closure or maybe it’s a baser, alpha need to hit something. The means don’t concern me, only the ends. The ends of course, being a coping mechanism that allows me to reset; to keep from going numb and at the least, I’m not cutting anymore.

I realize that this line of thinking can make people very uncomfortable. I’m OK with that. Maybe they worry and want to help in some way. Maybe they’ve been there. I couldn’t say. Maybe they really do want to help or maybe -- they’re just afraid of this level of honesty.


little miss gnomide said...

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to talk, mad to live, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’" (On The Road, Jack Keroac)

Okie said...

I gotta lot to say about this but, first, thanks.

The more we are vulnerable, the more others feel less lonely -- and I'm the "others" here.

In an essay from Maps and Legends, Chabon talks about writing and says that you can't be a good writer without people misunderstanding/misreading you. You write a homosexual scene, and people see you as gay; you write a drug addled manic character, and people want to counsel you; you write in the first person of an asshole, and....

No matter what we do artistically, if we aren't exposed in some way, then we're not creating anything worth creating. This, of course, does not mean that we need to be Kerouac, create our myth, and die from it.

Because it's from your journal, there is no fictional veil at all in this piece. And I think that's equally healthy, if not healthier in small doses.

Because you were honest and wrote without a filter, I feel closer to you and to myself.

Thanks again.

PS. I would recommend a cool book that has allowed me to be me as you have discovered how to be you, but I don't think you'd have anytime to read it with nanowrimo 'round the corner. And it's a book that needs plenty of time to marinate.

Sideshow said...

Thanks for posting this! I have to admit, it's nice to know I'm not the only one (especially among my "productive artist friends") that feels depressed from time to time. It was great to hear a first hand account from you about what's going on in your head.

Also, just a side note, moving to another city and state is HUGE! Just because the physical transition is over doesn't mean the transition is over in its entirety. Those things play a huge part on our psyche, feelings, outlook, productivity, etc. I think it's great that you've been doing all you've been doing in the midst of major life changes.

Go you!

Lizzie said...

I love the honesty. I love, even, the feelings of uncomfortableness, the feelings of wanting to help or to fix, the feelings of being closer and farther away i get when I read this entry. i simultaneously understand more and less about you. I resist the urge to suggest remedies. I fight the uncomfortableness I feel even at commenting on something so personal and close to who you are.

We all fight our own demons. We all have to find our own weapons for that fight. And I think that one of the major shortcomings of our current society is that we are so distanced from each other and so worried about looking like we AREN'T fighting that we all feel like we are the only ones fighting, and that we are fighting alone.

Mrs.scribblerJones said...

Honesty will alway be our best confident, especially in writing. Depression is in everyone and we all face very similar battles in each of our beings.

We often think we are alone, people who are honest, and tend to seem the least imbalanced. But I beg the differ. We just confront who we are and don't hide our weaknesses... this makes none superficial friends in return. Ones that can handle post like this are also honest with themselves. I think this is true art. This draws the biggest and most secure crowd. Many well known artist have been true with who they really are. And people are comforted by it and can be encouraged. Thanks!