Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Devil Jumped Up And I Said "Which One Are You?"

A few correspondents have suggested that I seem to have lost myself these past few weeks. I was going so well, they say, being so positive--and now I am even classifying myself as a depressive again? Writing such miserable, self-indulgent drivel?

Hmm. Well, I don't see it that way, though I know there's a visible difference. Because the lessons I learned while I tried to pick myself up from the floor this summer hold true. They just might need to be applied in a different way than I thought.

I was so depressed after my relationship finished I went a little crazy. Started to identify too much with the philosophising of a Christian work colleague who seemed to have the capacity, because of her faith, to deal with much worse than a relationship breaking up: she, after all, had seen a parent and her best friend die within six months of each other and was still standing, still smiling, still moving forwards. When I asked her how she managed it she said, "God."

So I tried to get back to God to stop me feeling that everything was f*cked, everything was finished. I prayed, I asked God to forgive my (many) sins, I told myself I forgave everybody who had ever hurt me (like it's that easy), I imagined, as she does, that the terrible feelings I harboured signified the presence of unclean spirits or even the Devil at work inside me trying to prevent me from a true reconciliation with God. I let myself believe that all you have to do is drive them out of your body in the name of Jesus and everything would be better.

I even put away all my Buddhas and considered (though thankfully I never did it) throwing away the journals I have written every day--until the advent of the internet-- since 1986.

It wasn't her making me do this, it was my own desperation to find a solution to my depression. Can you think of any greater proof of self-hatred than trying to destroy every trace of the person that you were--which is effectively what I was doing? The only way you can be happy is by not being you anymore? As revoltingly contented as I may have sounded at times over the summer (and sometimes it was a lie), I was actually committing a kind of slow and cowardly suicide.

But I couldn't do it. I couldn't con myself that this new person was me, or that the philosophy (or theology) that underpinned it--as attractive as it was--made complete sense.

My periodic depressions aren't caused by unclean spirits, or the Devil. There may be a Satan, but he's not going around putting people into bad moods so they diss their friends or take the razor from the cupboard. Satan's too busy convincing people that their problems are over because they have a copy of the Bible. Satan's too busy encouraging people to hate homosexuals (Christians say that don't hate gays, but they hate what they do--which seems a very hypocritical and intellectually and morally spineless distinction to me). Satan's too busy judging the neighbour because he's having an affair, gossiping about work colleagues, backbiting, being certain, exercising power, invading foreign countries. If I have four or five weeks out of every year when I have to take to the sofa and cry all day and half the night it's because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that makes such measures necessary and unavoidable. It's because I have a world of repressed anger and emotional constipation I need to deal with.

Anyway, my Christian phase didn't last very long (thank God). I actually got crazier the more I tried to embrace it: you can't (as Janey pointed out), dismantle a personality that quickly without things getting ugly. And they did. I reached a point, recently, of feeling a despair worse than anything I have ever experienced because I had none of the old supports that provided such a crutch for me in the dark times prior to being "saved". Something had to break.

And it broke. Boy, did it break. I got pissed, I accepted that I was heartbroken because I'd lost the woman I loved (which I'd been trying to deny all summer), I brought my Buddhas back out, and I destroyed my friendship with the Christian woman by telling her the truth, at least as I saw it in my half-crazed, probably distorted mind. Now I am writing poetry again (that had gone), and I feel a sense of true balance in myself spiritually and emotionally for the first time in months. Even if it does sound like I'm ready for the hemlock.

Oh, and my former friend is going around telling lies to everyone who knows me. Which makes me wonder how real the message was that I couldn't take on as my own.

6 comments:

Bobby said...

Hey Bruce. Here's a big cliche for you - one that is so true it's actually true: You only have to answer to yourself.

Is that true? You have to answer to others, some, I guess, but only in as much as you care to - you know? Wow - it gets confusing.

I try to keep my brain moving, looking here looking there, and when it gets tired from moving, I'm glad, because I finally get some rest.

I wish there was not an ocean in the way or I'd suggest we went and got some coffee or tea or threw a frisbee or kicked a socc... I mean football ball.

Bruce Hodder said...

I think you're right, B., you do only have to answer to yourself in the long run. But too many people find it easier than they should, and they end up pissing all over everyone. I myself find it incredibly hard sometimes.

But anyway. I'd probably be in better shape for a cup of coffee than physical exercise since me and it are not overly familiar with one another--you know what I mean? I have free gym membership with my employers and as far as I know I'm the only employee who doesn't partake. But catching up face to face would be interesting, you're right...

Janey... said...

Bruce...

I know it sounds odd...but I'm glad to hear you got pissed...It means you have the fight in you and you aren't desperate enough to lie down like a doormat and hand your soul over...
I know somewhere in these SP pages...we've discussed that Depression becomes the wet blanket for burning anger...And once the blanket is lifted from what smolders beneath...it doesn't take much fanning to re-ignite...
There's a reason for the fiery metaphorical reference though(I know it sounds cheesy)...

"They" teach kids(well anyone, really) that part of fire prevention is to be prepared in the event of a fire...It's why we have fire drills...As difficult as the thoughts might be to envision your house ablaze, it's essential to have planned for escape routes... for getting help...for evacuating loved ones, for what to do if trapped etc. The time to plan for how to react to a fire is not when the smoke is seeping through the door...
For any crisis, the same steps should be taken...plan ahead..."We" plan for walking to the car in a parking lot at night...we plan for what to do in the event someone breaks in your house...You know what I mean...

It's the same for emotional crises too...the time to plan isn't when despair has set in and you can't stop crying with the blinds drawn as you sink into your sofa...it's before that...because lord knows, that feeling of despair will surely come...but is the "sofa intervention" the best? Plan when you're pissed...with anger comes energy...It's been the catalyst for me in taking my life back...

kick ass, Bruce...kick ass...

Bruce Hodder said...

There was a joyful homecoming sort of feeling associated with abandoning my unconvincing attempts at piety and re-embracing all of my old bad habits, including the anger. But I don't feel it was a negative step--just a return to a more balanced, more adult, outlook. Grown-ups get cross. Grown-ups argue. Grown-ups say things they don't mean. Grown-ups are flawed. But that's okay, and there's beauty and even nobility in those flaws that vanishes as soon as you try to bland a person out using religion as your hot iron.

As for fighting depression--I agree, you shouldn't just accept that the time on the sofa must come because when it does, it's horrible: a "temporary death", as I said in an earlier post.So in these times when everything is okay, more or less (out of sheer superstition I don't like to declare that too boldly), perhaps I should start asking myself what I'm going to do to prevent the next crash. Figure out, if I can, whether past crashes have been triggered by circumstance or if they've just happened out of the blue. I think I'd find that circumstances triggered them all. And I think I'd find, moreover, that repressed anger or some other powerful emotion not being given an airing lay behind the circumstances of each episode. But I don't know. Certainly when I had counselling a couple of years ago my inability to vent my emotions properly at the time was identified as a really destructive force in my life.

Ralph Murre said...

I'm glad to see that the other Bruces are alive and well. I genuinely liked this summer's Bruce, until he took over competely.
The thing about faith, I think, is that it requires so much . . . well, FAITH. And faith is not easy for a thinking person to put on, the way he might a new jacket. I have come to to do less DISbelieving, but that doesn't mean I am a convinced believer.
As to this summer's love, does your dissatisfaction stem from the fact that she changed during your relationship, or the fact that she didn't?

- R.

Bruce Hodder said...

It seems like a strange period, on reflection, now that I have kind of settled back into myself. The last thing I ever thought I'd do is try to embrace Christianity. But after things going wrong with ****, and Maureen dying suddenly, I was looking for new answers, and my erstwhile Christian friend seemed to have them. Turns out they weren't the answers for me, though I maintain that the connections you make with other people are vitally important to your well-being, if they aren't the ONLY thing that can contribute positively to your well-being, as I proclaimed at one point over the summer (if you can't live with yourself, I'm damn sure nobody else will be able to live with you either).So, what do I believe now, theologically speaking? I don't know. But who cares anyway?