Categories
depression

Depressed, but Never Alone

What I’m going to share with you here is a model of the human mind. This is the concept that took root in me several years ago, and since then I have never returned to the suicidal depths of depression that I suffered through for so long before.

I will not say that I do not still sometimes sink, but it is not that long soul-wrenching drought that ruins my life.

It started as part of a search to heal myself. I was encouraged by the news coming out at the time about the therapeutic use of magic mushrooms in the treatment of mental illness. In exploring the idea, I encountered a suggestion to read Carl Jung’s “Psychology and Alchemy” as a means to understand the psychedelic imagery I might encounter on such a trip.

Psychology and Alchemy

First, let me start by saying that by the time I was 20 pages into this book I had all but forgotten about taking a mushroom trip. I had effectively fallen into a dream – a state of continuous epiphany that was very much the experience of conscious reframing that I so desperately needed.

At the time I was still in the habit of squelching the pain with whiskey, weed, and cigarettes. As I became immersed in thought, developing a relationship with these new ideas, I would pace incessantly over every inch of my backyard with Black Velvet on ice in one hand, a Pall Mall blue in the other, and a loaded glass bowl in my pocket.

There was a point where my thinking would become foggy and unproductive for obvious reasons, but that usually didn’t happen before about 2 AM. For the hours leading up to that, I was reconnecting everything I knew and all of my life’s experiences into a new, more coherent pattern.

The Anatomy of a Mind

As I’m so keen to do, let’s take a moment to reflect on our reflections again… what do we see when we step outside and look into our minds?

So much of our private inner-experience is spent in imagined conversation. Perhaps you have a figure from history to whom you find yourself explaining the workings of the modern world. Maybe you have a friend from the past who was too critical of you and so you imagine defending yourself from their judgments. There could be a celebrity you admire whose respect you’re trying to earn by sharing with them your best ideas, or a family member who disappoints you and so you tell them exactly what you think of them.

While these characters of the mind will vary by personal nuance from one individual to the next, what I will assert to you is that they are in essence the same for all of us. They are discreet appendages of mental anatomy that are as much a part of each of us as our feet and hands.

I’ll go even further as to say that these conscious figures that we so often find ourselves in communion with have been projected as cultural totems for all of human history. I find the clearest example of this to be the pantheons of Gods as seen in ancient mythology.

If you find that hard to believe, consider the words of analytical psychologist James Hillam, “… psychology shows myths in modern dress and myths show our depth psychology in ancient dress.”

The Collective Unconscious

Categories
depression

Depression: The Silent Savage

I am the Face of The Void, and like you, I labor under depression.

Mine has been severe, and long-lasting, and quite honestly I am on borrowed time. I am lucky to still be here, and at this point in my development, I feel I owe a debt to the world for having languished in darkness for so long.

I owe a debt to you, a debt of knowledge and of inspiration. I have struggled for more than 2 decades of adult life, so often staring down the barrel of suicide, horns locked with the primal evil of my fundamental nature, that I have wondered if I should exist at all. That is what I want to start by talking with you about:

The Evil Mind of our Darkest Times

These dark times, on the surface, are characterized by compulsive inactivity and a disaffected attitude. We can’t get up to shower. We can’t commit to regular meals. We are stress reactive and we appear to the outside world as though we have given up, and that we are easily bothered. We develop a negative worldview and hold ourselves to be superior for it. We seek to be alone because the outside world seems such a stressful place, and it places demands on us that we simply don’t have the energy to meet.

What’s inside, though, that’s what I want to talk with you about. Your private reflections; they are many and they are severe.

I very much operate on a philosophy I derive as a layperson with an interest in evolutionary psychology. In many of our darkest reflections, we are imagining unspeakable acts. They are not only suicide, but they are also murder and deviant acts of all kinds. I will not spend much time on these, but just take a moment to say that these are normal.

They do not mean you are a bad person.

They are survival mechanisms evolved over geologic time in ancient humans as well as species predating humans. If you consider them carefully, it should be clear how each of them might have worked in the interest of survival in older, far more brutal versions of the world.

Everyone has that primal machinery, it isn’t just you. There is a savage living deep inside all of us; a vestige of our stone-aged ancestry. The important question to ask is this:

What Stirs the Savage?

Since we understand the savage as a primordial survival mechanism, a more precise question might be: what has prompted us to fight for our lives?

I think two things: a continuous state of stress, and our own decision to withdraw from the world. If we remove ourselves from civil society, our animal nature loses context and the mind expands beyond its conditioned, modern social norms. We begin to have a conscious experience of our own capacity for brutality as a primitive stress response.

Part of what we need in order to remain above this state is a social, civil environment. Isolation is not the answer.

Even given that, what really needs to be addressed are the sources of stress. These are myriad and complex, both internal and external, and will be the subject of many of my future blog posts.

For now, though, there is still an elephant in the room:

An Elephant Called Suicide

Grey and long in the tooth, this is a beast we know all too well. It lumbers through our thoughts and crushes us under its weight. Suicide plays out in our minds in every way we can imagine: do we jump, cut, or overdose? Do we drown, starve, or crash… or do we just pull the trigger?

While the means we can imagine are many, understanding suicide requires that we carefully consider the setting that these thoughts take place in. Let’s take a moment to reflect on our reflections…

I know my own thoughts always included other people. My mind would be a stage for conflict, engaged in bitter self-defense from perceived judgments. I might have imagined a scenario with a family member who had lost patience with me and seemed insensitive to what I was going through. I imagined their criticism, and how harshly I would respond to them.

Also on this embattled stage, I might deliver my own eulogy to a panel of relatives mourning over my corpse, telling them everything they never knew about all the pain I was in, and how they didn’t care until now. This is what I wanted for my life, and that is why I couldn’t have it, but what was the keynote of this speech?

It Wasn’t. My. Fault.

It wasn’t my fault I killed myself.

It wasn’t my fault I was in so much pain.

It wasn’t my fault I was ashamed of my life.

The world was so cruel, and I was so hurt, and I was abused. I was lied to and betrayed, I was sick and abandoned, I was shunned and bullied, I was neglected and beaten.

It wasn’t. My. Fault.

That’s what I would tell the virtual accusers who lived in my mind.

This is what we do to ourselves when we are depressed. We lay flattened under our negative emotions, all too eager to buy the story that they are a disease.

While we are certainly in a bad way, we do better to recognize these thoughts and feelings as the price of entry. It is just that the price is higher for some than it is for others.

Healing starts when we accept our negative emotions and is only belabored by our efforts to avoid and irradicate them. In my view, a well-balanced individual is still laboring under negative emotions about half of the time. The sickness comes from our avoidance and evasive rationales, not from the negative emotions themselves.

The Ultimate Escape

Despite our efforts to avoid these feelings – the stories of shifted blame, our drug use, unhealthy co-dependence, and our search for simple comforts and distractions – we still suffer.

It is no wonder that when we find that all of these fail to spare us of our suffering that we start to contemplate death. That would most certainly end the pain.

Yet here you are, reading this, alive… suspended by a shoestring called hope. Are you so sure you want to die, or is it just that you would die if it could mean you have finally been understood?

Thank you for reading with me, this is the first of many blog posts to come. I hope you’ll stick with me as I make my own efforts to be understood, and share what I have learned thus far with those who are still so much in need.

In the meantime, stay alive and welcome to The Void.