Friendship: Then and Now

friend-def

 

Recently, a close friend of mine, whom I had associated with for over five years, decided to end our friendship. I am not upset by this turn of events; the truth is, the association was a long-time in circling the drain. Simply put, each of us had simply gone in two different directions and life paths. So, in a way, this is liberating since it frees me from the psychological anxiety of interpersonal conduct.

Many people would not take this happening as mellow as I did; others may rant against their former friend and perhaps swear ugly accusations or vendettas. I, of course, felt otherwise and as though this was a natural culmination which needed to happen. But, it should be said, that my history with people was not always so straightforward; indeed, when I consider my past associations, what I notice is a stark uneven quality. A quality which I now hope to sketch out in hopes of connecting with anyone who has undergone the same ordeal.

I will talk of several different modes of friendship which cover different aspects of my life. Some deal exclusively in cyber-space while others are handled in the real world; each section is a vignette and will explore a different understanding of friendship.

 

~

 

Elementary School: Coerced Association

                Elementary school (grade school) is an interesting period if for no other reason than hindsight; it is the period that you do not think very much of at the time, but is fondly remembered during the first trying weeks of middle school where you realize, in the social anxiety fest of meeting new students, that the safe and secure pastures of K-5 was the location of your comfort zone.

Looking back, I had three different friends in elementary school: David, Chris, Jacob.

David was my first friend. We had bonded over our mutual delight of violence; I still remember that day in first grade where we repeatedly drew Christ’s crucifixion because we loved to make it violent and adorn the landscape with spikes. We did many things together and were inseparable nigh. I would give him Pokemon and some Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards and we would joke around on the bus.

But things did not last much: around the third grade, we began fighting. At first, it has to the trading card but soon evolved into him being jealous over me befriending a new boy, Chris. Although I had only originally bonded with Chris due to his love of my trading cards, after a while he gained an affinity for me and we started hanging out as friends, not just as ‘kids who only like one another for the things they own.’ David was pushed out of the picture; although there was something approaching a kind of reconciliation, things with David never again reached their pre-Chris status—simply put, I was the subservient friend in the relationship and David was bossy; Chris was more equalitarian and treated me less as an attendant and more as an equal.

But, Chris was also a year ahead of me in school. So, there was always this black hole during the class. So, I bonded with another student, Jacob. He and I enjoyed writing stories together. We would design a universe and split our short stories evenly between one page of writing and one page of illustration. He sat with me on the bus during field trips and we also had our desks next to each other. It was a great time; and although I never truly felt like he was a good friend since I honestly didn’t know why he liked me, it as likely simply my own insecurity which troubled me.

In elementary school, I only truly began feeling comfortable during the fifth grade, just as sixth grade loomed. So when the year ended and I ‘graduated’ to middle school, everything which took so long to make, was destroyed.

Middle & High School: Coerced Loneliness

                I didn’t adjust well to middle school. Everyone I knew from elementary school was divided into different wings, and we barely saw one another; drifting happened… I did not respond well. To cover a lot of time, I will just say that in order to cope, I simply refused to attend. Obviously, this behavior made it difficult to learn the curriculum. I was held back twice and isolated myself, only making a couple of contacts whom I faded from associating with as time moved on. I was alone. And that was the way it remained for the remainder of my time in day school; by the time I dropped out, and was studying for my G.E.D, I eventually began to wonder what happened to those old friends I had and ponder if they may be interested in hanging out with me.

Internet Hoopla

During my lonely time studying in night school, I reached out via Facebook and Myspace to some of my old friends. Contacting them was awkward. I was awkward. I didn’t know what to say. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to interact with people online, what some of the slang meant and whatnot. So, the internet helped but what I remember realizing was something that though simple, was deep: in the years I had been missing in action, they had had lead their own lives, lives which featured those meetings of new people and growing up without me. Part of the reason why I found it so hard to relate to them was because they have had a time going through high school and finding themselves as adolescents. Their subjectivity was alien to me, as mine was to them. The void that was temporarily filled, opened back up, if only a bit.

 

~

 

Now that I have offered some brief remarks on my school day interactions, I wish to offer some memories on the decline of friendship.

Daniel: A Gamer

Danny was one of my early online friends; he and I did the sorts of things which you could expect two young Queers to do; though based largely on me advising him and just talking about video games, the friendship was complicated because I eventually grew feelings for him that were never returned. Although the friendship did not breakdown due to our different standings on affection, but rather my own behavior while intoxicated (talking about suicide and depression and the like, as well as begrudging him into a forced obligation), his disassociation was hard to take; upon finding out the Fall I had returned to university that he had blocked me from Steam (out chatting platform of choice), without so much as a message why he no longer wanted to associate with me, I took his rejection hard and nearly drank myself into a coma. Our friendship, though only ever based through the internet, was a long lasting one which had, over the course of around four years, had traversed many an obstacle. I was not well with this happening for a long while. It was the secretive nature of how the friendship ended, that bugged me—during our interactions the previous year, he never informed me that he felt uncomfortable with my actions, nor did he ask me to change my behavior in regards to him; in fact, I did try to isolate him from my actions via encouraging him to go to bed when I got bad. But, he never confronted me on what disturbed him; instead, he waited until the summer break, when he knew that I would not have an internet connection, and removed me from his life. I supposed that I should have suspected something when he didn’t text me over the summer, but I always assume the best in people and had presumed that he had difficulties of some kind and perhaps lost my number. But, he didn’t and under the cover of technological night, had removed me from his life. Though I attempted to apologize via cell, he would not respond.

Justin: False-Friend Obsession

In terms of university contacts, Justin is likely the only person whom I could have honestly called a friend. But all of it was based on pity for my depression and loneliness. First meeting during a summer event at university before we entered as first-year students, I got eyes for him right away. Once the school year began, and the water separated from the oil, I gained an audience with him as a friend by helping him out one day with his schoolwork. From there, I tried to deepen our relation by email and sharing in our mutually shared interests. Well, as time went on, and I sent messages which I regretted and apologized for, and he forgave me while still pitying me, one day I simply gave up and sent him a level-headed, non-hostile message asking him if my accusations—that he was only friends with me because he pitied me; he never responded.

I still feel unsettled by these events, over a year later. I had not held feelings for a guy like I did for him since middle school, but, like middle school, I was destined to be rejected, not only as a lover but as a friend.

Morgan: On the Christian-Secular Redux

                I met Morgan during my internet hoopla spree; part of this spree was discovering my identity as a gay man. At the time, I had joined a support forum for gay youth. A little later, Morgan joined. At first, he and I were on opposite spectrums—he, a Christian (Methodist), and I, and atheist. We butted heads in the religions forum a lot but managed to find some common ground.

We became Facebook contacts and would keep in touch that way. However, I am not a person who has a stable emotional life and after a protracted period of us not talking, I deleted him, with a bunch of other people I knew from day school (this was what I called ‘the great purge’). Some years went by and I decided to search him out and friend him once more; we exchanged some messages and became FB friends again. I was surprised to learn that during his time in college, he abandoned his religion. Things were good, for a while, but one day he deactivated his FB account and would not respond to the email that I sent inquiring why. Then, one night, after having a bit too much to drink, I sent him an angry, accusatory email. This earned a response from him (level-headed) which had boiled down to the following: he was entering a new time in his life and wanted a fresh slate.

I wasn’t among those he had deemed important enough to retain; though that was the truth, it was still hurtful nonetheless. As of writing, I have yet to respond to his original response as I simply do not think a response is needed: I accept his proposition and must accept it as truth.

Chris: A Causality of Distance

He was one of my oldest friends. Aside from David, who did come before, Chris and I spent the latter half of elementary school and the whole of middle-school together; for a time, he was my best friend. I would spend many a night at his house and we would stay up late playing video games and talking. Together, with his brother and his friend, we would have a grand old time just fooling around. But, as my depression grew and I felt increasingly confused about my place in the world while my absences piled up, I distanced myself from him. Finally, when I stopped going to school entirely, I dropped out of contact. Though we would eventually, close to a year or so later, reunite on Facebook, things simply were not the same. I would be the one to put in the effort to call him and text him… but never he to I. During my so-called ‘great purge,’ I deleted him from my FB account thinking that things had reached their normal end—for a brief time, we were close, but that time had ended and now we each had our own direction to go. I didn’t even know him, anymore. Better to let the past remain where it thrives and not in the future, where it withers. I will always remember Chris.

Lucien: a logical conclusion

                Soon after I met Chris, I re-acquainted myself with Lucien, a friend who had been there in both elementary and middle school, but not in my general sphere. Actually, we had met again when I had been out for an evening walk; since he had lived close by on my very same road, my walking trail had gone by his very house and one day, while some guests were leaving, he saw me walking and ignited contact.

From that moment on we planned many a weekend together. Indeed, over the course of the next five years, we would be very close—this young man is, in fact, the subject of this piece’s opening lines, the boy I had known for five years who had recently distanced himself from me. Instead of talking about how our separation happened, I will simply re-post what I had commented on my FB:

Unfortunately, today seems to be the day that a long term friend of mine (one in real life, mind you, not the internet) has decided to end our friendship, a 5+ year association; recently, he deleted me from Facebook but the signs were there before as he didn’t acknowledge anything I tagged him in and nor did he respond to my private messages asking him about his life.

I do not know why he refused to respond to my entreaties, but I suspect it has to do with either the content of my FB postings (in which case, he may just want to withdraw from FB), since we never really talked much about politics and whatnot in real life; or, the other reason could be that he no longer wanted to handle or be in the way of my depressive episodes. As he has remained silent on his course of action, I can only grasp at straws.

I supposed that I should be upset, but I am not.

Honestly, each of us has just gone in different directions: he, a blue-collar worker, and I, an academic; even a couple years back, we never had much in common and there were moments where I needed to ask him to talk about more serious, relevant issues than the sort of abstract humor we usually conducted; I had told him that it was simply hard for me to spend so much time with him, and yet not having anything concrete to talk about during that period: I liked joking around and playing video games, but there comes a point where discussing current events and real life needed to make an entrance. He agreed and things during the last couple of years have been swell; but, university happened and it grew increasingly hard for us to get together.

Lately, I have, admittedly, been distant– I did not make any great efforts at getting together (provided, transportation, financial matters, and simply scheduling made it hard) but neither did I talk with him much via cell due to both my irregular service and my own psychological hesitancy in contact. This, in addition to my own (recently), intensified battle with depression, and how it has put him in some difficult personal emotional situations, may be why he has selected this path.

It has placed me in an uncertain spot. On one hand, I feel that it would be a concession to my depression should I let this friend go, but on the other hand, with my own studies intensifying and graduate school being a real possibility for the future, and subsequently, it meaning a time when I will not be able to see anyone from Maine except for on special occasions, I feel that with everything considered, it could have ended far more acrimoniously.

I mourn the loss but it is a part of growing up and defining your own personage. One one side, I have lost a good friend, on the other, I almost feel liberated in my deepening isolation because it releases me from the psychological stress associated with talking with him on the phone and planning a get-together– it means that I can go forward in life knowing that the past is passed and the future is golden from this point forward, in that, I am able to press forward.

Well, there is still grey areas to fill in so maybe I am making too much, but there has also been no effort on his part on establishing contact or informing me of his non-communication (he was always the better at maintaining contact; my phobia prevented much proactivity on my part). At any rate, I will treasure those moments with him and wish him the best in his future; hopefully, everything works out for him and his decision.

If this is not defined as ‘self-explanatory,’ then I do not know what is.

~

Why do you make friends? Because you are forced: the situation you are thrust into, whatever it may be, such as, during elementary school—and like middle and high school, or like the job you toil in so as to avoid eviction—you are forced into association with people for a quarter of the day, five days a week, or more, for the next twelve years (or life). You have to find someone who shares your interests, or at least, doesn’t hate you or mind you hanging around.

So, what did I learn from all of these experiences? I have some extrapolations which should clarify my views.

Meditation 1: Be proactive, not Overactive

                When making new friends, whether you are a student or an adult, the key to building friendships is not to be overbearing. There is a difference between sending a few emails and spamming. Generally speaking, unless someone is greatly put off by you, they will not mind you asking them or messaging them a few times to hang out or do something sometime, especially if it is for a shared interest. What puts people off is the over activity, where you spam them nonstop with the same request every time you see them. Although it can be difficult if you are desperate to make a friend, remember that every interaction you make registers on them on some level; if the only thing they are registering is you single-mindedly perusing a certain interaction, then that tells them very little about you the person while telling them a lot about your personality. Interspace your desire for quality time with some small talk. Don’t give up trying to do something with them when their schedule is busy, but neither incessantly hound them. Maintain a good distance between reality and the future; if you try and rush things before the burgeoning bond between you two matures, then it will make you look either manic and odd, at best, or mentally unstable at worst.

Meditation 2: Best-Friends forever do not exist

                I know it seems like a downer to say that BFFs aren’t real, especially with all the media which likes to say otherwise, but it is true, they do not exist. Yes, good friends whom you have known a long time and are close to, do exist, but to take that concept and extend it to absurd lengths with the BFF concept, or even best friends, is simply ridiculous.

In some measly twenty-something years on this planet, there have been three different people that I have called my ‘best friend’ at one time or another. All of them are no longer my best friend. Why is simple: life happens. In something as loaded as existence, where you, as a person go from a young person with (likely) little life experience to a full adult with their own existence and history spanning decades and decades… how can you think that any one person will be able to sympathize with you (even if they have the time to do so with their own life) throughout the vast changes which transpire over the course of you living and changing? Throughout high school college, a job or career and the building of that occupation, of you maturing and possibly starting a family or seeing someone, of you moving to new cities where seeing someone you knew from back home, or wherever, and then gaining new hobbies and tastes and interests… the list goes on; assuming that your BFF remains as you knew them from your time together, and, perhaps, takes up your new interests with you (something that is both unlikely to happen as well as, if it did happen, a clear sign of co-dependency) , how could you expect that you two are still ‘compatible,’ that is, still share the same interest and personality traits which brought you together in the first place? Exactly, there is no reason; this fairytale idea of BFF, where two close persons know each other for life and never tire of one another’s company over the years, is just a premise for melodramas and comedy films. Good, long term friends exist, but they come and go.

Meditation 3: Friends are Ephemeral

During my first year in college, I briefly talked with a consoler there about how to associate with other students. A remark of his made an impression on me; though incredibly basic, something which should be known by everyone without thought, it had never really occurred to me precisely because it is so basic. He said that my friends at university would likely change semester to semester depending on my friends’ schedules. At the time, this allowed me to conceptualize my exteriority and making sense of my reality enabled me to find some degree of inner peace to the troubles which had been plaguing me.

But this bit of information, this advice, is also applicable to really anyone: the people in your lives have their own thing going on and are only going to be able to associate with other people to the degree that they are free and find you compatible enough with them that they wish to share in your company. Many of these friendships will blossom as quickly are they fade since they are based on momentary collisions and random exits; you meet one-another for but a short time (a week, a semester,  couple of years, etc.) and then, through a vast agglomeration of factors and variables, are torn to new directions depending on your respective goals and hopes.

Losing and gaining friends, when considering these factors, thusly becomes just a part of life—you associate with those whom you find valuable in some regard, and then are forced to part with those friends and make new ones depending on your circumstances. Lacking friends or lacking close friends is therefore not a rejection of your value as a human being, but just an indication that other factors in your life, or your target friend’s life, are preventing you from realizing a friendship (a busy schedule, professional or recreational obligations, etc.). Lamenting a lack of friend or close friends serves no one save your own self-doubt and simply does not match up with reality; perhaps there are personal issues which many people, save a select few, find it hard to put up with, but there is additional variables to consider as well, many of which you have little to no control over as you prepare to live and lead your own life.

Meditation 4: Leave the Past Where it belongs

I am not going to tell you to never reach out to people you used to know; sometimes, checking in on people and getting to know what they have been up to, will result in fantastic premises. But, honestly, most of the time, it will not. For the most part, I am of the opinion that the past should be left where it is—in the past.

Friendships are odd. You meet people and then, for whatever reason, you fade away and find new people. When considering whether to reach out to someone you used to know, you have to ask yourself this: “Why did we stop seeing each other?” More often than not, the reason was because that you either, didn’t, and never did, share much in common (really think about this), or because you diverged on what brought you together in the first place, or, additionally, because something came between you two and conflict ensued.

The thing about time is that it exacerbates difference (both positive and negative); as the old saying goes, time heals all wounds. In terms of the first two reasons why you and the ‘blast from the past’ that used to be the person you associated with, should think twice before reaching out is the following—do you really believe that someone you fought with, or someone whom you never shared many interests with, is going to be different? With the passing of time, do you believe that your interests will collide or that the altercation which drove you apart will have healed? I supposed that there is always a chance, but one has to be realistic and remember that although people do certainly change, and time does heal some wounds, you have to consider the plethora of other variables as to what may have happened in the interim, and what did happen between you and how things may not even be worth touching on again.

Everyone is haunted by the ghosts of their past and the point is to move on, not to befriend your ghosts in the hope of becoming ‘best bros’ with your demons. If you hold onto the past, then you cannot move into the future; it is such a cliché but a cliché for a reason. If you constantly ruminate on what has happened, then you become paralyzed and do not undertake the necessary actions to actually triumph over your past. The point is to be your own exorcist and rid your body of the need to re-do the same thoughts over and over again.

 

~

 

Well, those are my remarks on friendship. Perhaps in certain places it was overly negative or preachy, maybe in others still, it was an inspiring moment. Whatever the case, however, those are my own idea on what friendship constitutes.

As always, feel free to share your own experiences and ideas regarding friendship and friends in the comments.

‘When Everything Feels Like the Movies’ (A Review)

UMF English Department Blog

RazReidReview by Curtis Cole

The funny thing about living in a capitalist society is that narrative runs your life, whether you recognize it or not. Jude, the young protagonist of Raziel Reid’s first book When Everything Feels Like the Movies, does understand this principal and so utilizes it as a coping mechanism, as a tool for him to help him deal with the homophobia present all around him. Jude is a movie star…! Or is in his mind, at least; he is correct, however, for he is the star of his own life: Jude, the Movie! We are all stars of our own lives and so it is the same with Jude: homophobic graffiti on your locker? Looks like the tabloids are running wild with speculation again; the betrayal of a former friend? What a plot twist! Bullies? You mean rapid fans. You get the idea—Jude’s life is one…

View original post 765 more words

A Short Guide on Long Distance Relationships

ldr

Being Queer also means being alone; or, at least, this is what it means for many of us who were born in rural areas and lacked access to diverse peers. One way we managed to surmount this loneliness was through long distance relationships—we found a nice guy online and took things from there, substituting communication for physical presence.

The issue which came, however, was the difficulty in maintaining these relationships. Many people find that these relationships eventually break down. Why? For several reasons, reasons which I will talk about while giving my own thoughts and experiences; although I am far from an expert in this area, I have had my own long distance relationships and have had substantial time to muse on them. So I share my musings with you in the hope that you will take something out of it.

 

~

 

Jealousy and Romance

                A long distance relationship is essentially a compact, an agreement between two people outlining their desire to be with one another despite vast distances. However, part of this agreement is the human factor: eventually, one person or the other may meet another person whom they see a romantic future. One of the first details hammered out when discussing the details of the long distance relationship with your partner should be how dating is handled, whether the long distance relationship is a de facto relationship and all newcomers are shunned, or if the long distance relationship is more of a ‘forcing,’ something which acts as a substitute until either the two of you meet, or you find a local guy.

Sex is much the same way; early on fidelity should be established. Meaning, whether it is okay for each member in the partnership to have sexual encounters in the flesh: is your long distance relationship going to be comprised of emotional and sexual monogamy where hookups with strangers is not allowed—i.e., considered cheating—or is the relationships one which allows for hookups with the understanding that as long as an emotional factor doesn’t develop, it is an acceptable substitute for sexual activity with your partner?

In this sense, time plays an important role because even the fiercest romances can burn their selves out if left at the long distance angle. I would strongly advise planning a meet up during the trial period of being together; you should discuss with your partner how and when you two will meet and perhaps even consider calling the long distance relationship off if you find that you two are repeatedly unable to meet (since this would mean that something is likely profoundly wrong with the relationship). How the dynamics of breaking up or remaining together are to be handled is of paramount importance.

Trust and Suspicion

                I am going to be direct here: unless you and your long distance partner trust one another, it is just not going to work out. If one of you is constantly looking over your shoulder and suspecting the other of cheating on you with somebody local to them, or filtering online, or what-have-you, the entire relationship is just not going to work out. Being suspicious of the other is going to produce drama and conflicts which do not need to exist; it is going to rip you two apart (hence the need for there to be a frank discussion on what is acceptable and what it not acceptable when it comes to sexual activities). Each of you should be more than ready to have a frank discussion on limitations but more than even that, be prepared to trust that the affection which exists between you two and trust in what you have; after all, there is no use in fretting over your partner cheating on you if you have no way of either controlling him/her or even knowing—assume he is loyal and if everything works out, then the mutually trust built by each of you will persevere.

Sexual Activity

                Obviously, you and your partner cannot physically get together for romance. However, there are one or two widely known ways to stimulate that erotic appetite. One manner is sexting—both with pictures of genitals as well as with sexual instant messages being sent back and forth between you and your partner (usually these messages describe a fantasy scenario which you and your partner build, but can also directly pertain to sexual intercourse). The second option you have is to go onto Skype, or a similar webcam mode of communication, and, well, sexually stimulate yourself on camera for one another. I’ve done both in my time with my own long-distance partners and each session was, from what I remembered, always the highlight of the day. With proper communication, long distance loving can be a decent substitute for the real deal.

Communication

                Talking, when and how often, is going to be extremely important in a long distance relationship; it will be up to you and your partner to figure out how much you need to communicate and through what medium. For instance, it should be delineated when, and if, texting, Skype, Facebook, calling, or other social networking is a mode of communication; do you want a form of communication which resembles a ‘string,’ where you each simply respond to messages when you have the time and there is a constant stream of information to chat about, or would you prefer several protracted periods of communication where several times during the week you call one another on the phone, while during those space of time which are not reserved for communication, you have to yourself without the expectation of communicating? Figuring out and maintaining, and adjusting as needed, how and when you communicate is going to be the cornerstone of your relationship.

When to Break it Off

                A vital component of any long distance relationship is knowing when you need to break it off. As I said earlier, defining the parameters of your relationship will be vital for a healthy long distance bond, but part of this understanding also means knowing when ending the relationship is better for you then continuing to participate. As a general rule of thumb, I would say that prime examples of when to break it off are when either (1) your partner has been repeatedly, and without care, breaking the established rules of your relationship, and appears to have little interest in altering his/her behavior, or (2) when you find yourself apathetic to the relationship itself, and feel that the relationship simply isn’t going anywhere, like you two will never meet despite being together for a long time, or when you find yourself presented with new possibilities for personal relationships and simply feel that it would be better for you to explore in order to fully realize yourself. You should talk with your partner about these feelings and your relationship. A long distance romance, emotional, sexual, or otherwise, is a hard effort to keep together. You can be rest assured that if one of you is suffering then it will not endure; at the end of the day, it is better to be happy then it is to remain in a loveless bond with someone whom who only share shadows with.

 

(Okay, that is all I have for the moment; if you have your own experiences with long distance relationships, then please share– I may edit this post to better reflect the actual experiences of those and where mistakes could interrupt the flow of love, so if you want to share your own time in these relationships, feel free to post below. You never know if your engagements will help!)

Beating Back the Demons: Some Tips on Living with Depression

depresmap

Depression fucking sucks. No need to moderate our language here: it sucks big old donkey balls. There you are, minding your own business, when BAM, it hits—a wave of lethargy and emptiness draining the color from your world and motivation to get up in the morning, making your world one of ‘going through the motions’.

There are different forms of depression: mild, moderate severe, Bi-polar… but each have something in common: they make life difficult. Some people lose the battle and take their own lives. Others live with it in an uneasy truce. I struggle with depression and so I understand the feeling of never-ending strife. Like there is no end to the war and you will always be either dependent on pharmaceutical aid, drugs, or alcohol. It is not a happy situation to be in.

This guide doesn’t exist with the presumption that it is a superior guide to the plethora of other such guides on self-treating depression out there. However, it does hope to do two things: (1) give a down to earth perspective on treatments and various self-help methods, and (2) provide a platform where others can share their experiences of depression, treatments, medication, and the like. The points contained in this guide are, one the one hand, provisional: they are but my own experiences, while on the other hand, they are open to criticism and input from other persons struggling with depression.

This guide is meant to be interactive—please leave a comment below; feel free to discuss your general feelings, struggle, and experiences about any aspect of living with depression: to how medication makes you feel, to how your cope without medication (if you take medication at all), and what you think triggers a particularly severe episode; feel free to even pontificate on the philosophical ramifications of depression. I figure since this “guide” will be me running my mouth, it is the least I can do in return to you, dear reader, for taking the time to devour the lines.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

 

  1. Some Tips for Living with Depression

Take-up a physical activity.

                As has been said in many guides over the internet, and by many commentators in the mental health complex, physical activity helps release serotonin (the so-called ‘happiness’ hormone): this in turn wards off some depressive thoughts and moods and feelings. To get the full benefits of this release you have to, what in traditional parlance, is known as “working up a sweat”. Only when you have gotten a real physical work-out will your body produce serotonin.

Now for the real question: does this actually work?

Yes and no. Yes for the fact that working out or walking will produce serotonin which will, in turn, take the edge off of a depressive episode; but that is the devil in the details—at best it can only lessen the impact of a depressive episode or temporarily lift you up for a little while. It will not have a real (lasting) impact.

In my experience, when handling a major depressive episode, rigorous activity only blunted the emotional deluge while numbing my body. During such harsh moments the work-out did help but only minimally. Outside of depressive episodes, where I handle the everyday effects of depression, my work-out activity (fast-paced walking), though helping when done on a regular basis, lost its edge if I didn’t consistently perform said activity; additionally, much like an addict, every once in a while I found that I had to increase (sometime dramatically) the amount of walking I did to receive the benefits.

Now, it should be mentioned that I enjoyed walking even before I found out that it released serotonin. So that helped to a degree as well: of course one is going to be happy engaged in an activity one enjoys. I would sometimes walk as many as fifteen miles a day (that certainly helped with the serotonin!)! While I do not do so much walking anymore, not with academic work eating up so much time, one has to consider that though an effective activity, physical activity will only ever be a crutch in a hard time and at best can only serve as a distraction. One shouldn’t expect it to have a significant impact one living with depression; this being said, I would still recommend taking up such a physical activity since it will help at least some, in addition to keeping you in the health zone.

Music and Art and Hobbies

I have found that art and having some kind of diversion helps. With me, it is music and theory. Mostly music, though. I enjoy listening to the track and finding its emotional and psychological resonance; when I do so I feel as though I am connected to something a bit greater (though not in a spiritual or religious sense). The same can be said in terms of theory (both academic and philosophical): when I read and study texts and investigate society and how it might be changed, I extend myself to new horizons and make my voice be known—I contribute to knowledge and the discussion pertaining to that knowledge and so make myself greater than I am alone. These things give me meaning in an otherwise un-meaningful world. They augment my personage and give me a kind of closure which, although not chemical, does help me through those instances which try and strip me of my voice. Capitalist society is superb at alienating us from each other, even as social media connects us more than ever; this, of course, exacerbates depression and causes us to feel isolated when, in reality, there are others… they are just difficult to find. Understanding how you work in relation to the arts, crafts, and intellectual traditions of the world, and then finding your place, should you desire, in those traditions, may be a useful way to find some deeper meaning to an otherwise blank existence.

  1. My Nuance of Living with Depression

Do I take Medication?

Many people living with depression take medication. Some are forced to take it, others do some voluntarily; some find it helpful while others don’t. Whether or not to take medication is a question everyone living with depression has to grapple with at one time or another. So any long-time reader of this blog may be wondering if I, as a Queer Liberationist, take medication.

The answer is no, I do not. The reason can be boiled down to simply the fact that I do not want to become dependent on it; I don’t want my body to barely function should I run out of doses and have a day lost to mental dysfunction. Additionally, being a creative person, I find that while depression is no walk in the park, it does influence my academic and creative outlooks: my disposition allows me access to perspectives normally closed off to the medicated or non-depressed.

I am not saying that because of this depression is a gift, or even a “blessing in disguise”, but that I value the methodology of my mind as it currently exists and wouldn’t want to jeopardize that ability because the negative aspects are intensifying. I prefer to be able and find coping mechanisms which eschew pharmaceutical help. This isn’t because I loathe “Big Pharma’s” business practices (they are much like any other large corporation with a monopoly) or because I hold incorrect conspiratorial views on vaccinations or New Age homeopathy medicine. No. Although I view medication as being highly valuable in many situations to many people, the flip side of this ease is—as I said before—dependency. I simply enjoy creating my own methods of survival instead of finding one in a pill, one which alters my brain chemistry.

Do I Self-Medicate (illegal drugs, alcohol)?

If I am honest I must say that I do, on occasion, self-medicate. When depression has hit hard and I feel paralyzed, as though I can’t or don’t want to do anything, I have been known to either take a few prescription strength painkillers or to down some glasses of high-purity liquor. However, I rush to add that self-medication comes along with the same guide as medication: dependence. Whenever I self-medicate I am careful to ensure that my usage doesn’t evolve into an addiction. Because of this I only self-medicate on occasion, and not every time a depressive spell hits.

Would I recommend self-medication?

Painkillers and alcohol run with increased risks of medical consequences which are otherwise absent from prescription based medication. Alcohol dependency is both an expensive and cancer causing cause of death worldwide. People react differently to alcohol and it has a tendency to overwhelm someone’s life and destroy relationships. Much is the same with painkillers or any mind-altering or numbing substances. Due to these risks I would say that only use self-medicating techniques when recourse to other forms of help are not available. Do not utilize self-medication as a cure all miracle every time you suffer a bout of whatever ails you. If you do drink yourself into a stupor or swallow a few pills every time an episode hits then expect to become an addict in a short while. Only self-medicate as a last resort and sparingly. Be aware of the dangers which come with using drugs and alcohol. The negative effects will sneak up on you, so don’t think you are somehow immune. Be smart about how and when you self-medicate and don’t think you are above the chemical hardwiring such substances have been known to induce.

Views on professional help

Personally, I am conflicted about mental health professionals; not because I feel their career is irrelevant, but rather because of their tight connection to the state and the pharmaceutical industry. Although I did enjoy those times when I was able to discuss my issues with another, qualified individual, such sessions never got very far since I refused to take medication—if you refuse to take medication, then you will find yourself at a dead-end fairly quickly since you are, to the professional, refusing part of your treatment plan. Additionally, with professional help comes the attached legalism: you have a record, essentially, under surveillance via your consumption of medication and usage of mental health professionals. It is easy for assumptions to be made and for your history to be used against you (or it is to me, at least). I would prefer to avoid this baggage. Why pay the funds to receive, at best, if any, treatment, especially when said treatment will give you that background which may, or may not, hinder your future? I would not go as far to say I see all such professional services as pointless; on the contrary, they are capable of helping immensely for many people, but that for me personally, I see such services as more of a trap than anything else. If you find yourself at the end of your rope, then perhaps said services are worth looking into as they could help you greatly… but perhaps not.

  1. Alienation and Connectivity

I am an introvert. Social interaction does not come easy to me. And yet, here the contradiction lies, for humanity is a social animal, and though everyone, bar those with mental disease, has their own toleration when it comes to interaction, everyone does need interaction—to a degree.

This does not mean any interaction but rather very specific interaction, interaction which completes you as a person. Now, ‘completes’ is a strong word. So perhaps it is better to say ‘adds depth.’ The point is, you need more than the cold nothingness of the void. And, as I said, here is the contradiction: capitalist society is an expert at tearing us apart and alienating us through the mode of accumulation; our social interaction becomes devalued, as a means to an end—profit, while everything else is pushed to the wayside. This is doubly so for Queer people, who experience alienation not merely as the alienation of their labor, but their identity as well; add in mental illness, something which is strongly regulated and scapegoated (think of a mass-shooting, now remember the inevitable ‘blame the mentally ill individual the media pundits play), and you have a third layer of alienation.

If you are stuck, if you are caught between a rock and a hard place and don’t know how to get out, think of the following: why? What role does alienation play in keeping you glued to this abyss? More than you think; to overcome alienation is a difficult task because we are alienated everyday through not only our surplus-value being appropriated by the capitalists, but by our class position: when you lack transportation, when you are dependent on others, when you lack funds to ‘move up in the world,’ when you can’t do what you love, when you don’t have access to those individuals who may help you cope… what can you do?

Very little alone. You need others. But, as was just mentioned, how do you find others, especially when you lack so much? The big picture is to participate in a mass-revolutionary movement which seeks to violently overthrow alienation—however, we are focused only on the small picture, and that is to find your muse, that noun—person, place, or thing—but let’s say person, who identifies with you more than merely a friend.

Your muse is not merely a friend, though. It can be a combination of people, support groups, online communities, hobbies and art, and emotional and psychological fulcrums and the like. But primarily, it is people: people who perhaps you don’t consider well enough to be buddies but individuals who don’t run away from you when you begin discussing suicide (as a concept or personal contemplation), people who not only listen to your stories of daily struggle, but maybe share their own as well; muses become an integral part of your life because they are part of the same assemblage you are a part of—struggle under alienation. Muses are other introverts (for me, anyways), people who feel the sting of capitalism more acutely than those individuals who have privilege within the system—muses are not merely friends because friends do not always understand your struggle; muses are ‘friends+1,’ fellow travelers on the road to a better life.

I will give a simple example from my own life.

One day, while in the university cafeteria, a woman sat down across from me; she asked if she could sit with me (something she would repeat every time we eat together). The funny thing was that I did not remember her… yet, she knew my name and asked to sit with me; perhaps we had a course together. IF I thought hard enough I seem to maybe recall that class, but perhaps it is merely false memories. Regardless, she was a kind woman and as we conversed together; as we conversed, and told her of my research with Queer Marxist theory, and she told me of her ambition to be a filmmaker, I got this fuzzy feeling in my head. Thankfully, it was a nice fuzzy feeling.

The feeling is complex because it was built over time: she did not forget me and I did not forget her, despite my bad memory. Unlike with other students, who if they talked to me, it was never more than for a fleeting while and for but a day, this interaction, innocuous in the extreme, and built on truth, was based on difference, I think she was rather conservative, and yet respect; we listened to each other with manners and allowed one another to speak. Our banter was not juvenile diatribes (unlike a lot of what you see on university campuses).

One day, as we were discussing things, specifically, how interpersonal friendships, she told me something fairly personal: I won’t repeat here what that activity was but let’s just say it was something which society at large would view as ‘deviant.’ I replied to her that I didn’t feel it odd at all, because you never know when others will leave you. Upon my saying that, she got this smile on her face; it wasn’t grandiose or sentimental, but peaceful and sincere, it was a smile which said, ‘someone who understands.’ I was honest in my remark since I have plenty of ‘deviant’ habits myself and just because the wider society looks down on certain behaviors, does not mean they are wrong.

I remember this moment and speak of it now in relation to muses, because when I had these brief luncheons with this woman, I felt my despondent mood lifted. Here was another individual who was not like the others: she was courteous, polite, not obtuse, and she had her quirks which others would frown upon if they knew. We had a link.

We were only ever acquaintances. We never hung out. Honestly, I never even learned her name. But I can honestly say that I enjoyed her company far more than any other student. She was a muse for me. Someone who, though not a close associate or someone who I would call if my life was falling to pieces, she was a person who made me feel less alone—we glimpsed at each other’s deviances and found them refreshing.

Muses can take many forms but they all share a single frame, to help you. They help you pierce the alienation, if only momentarily. These people are difficult to find, yes, and more often than not they are only people you stumble onto, but that is the point: you stumble onto them during your everyday routine. They require you to have that minimal level of interaction which is needed, however painful it may be, to help you help yourself (and while doing so, helping another).

 

~

 

Well, this is the end of my guide. As I said at the start, I am not saying this is the ‘end all’ guide or your one-stop shop for dispelling depression, or that these tips and stories will even help, just that these are the things I have experienced as a young man living with depression, and they have brought me both help along with a degree of comfort. So feel free to share your own thoughts and to help me make this guide better or to just add your experiences. Per the norm, I hope this helped you to some degree, made the darkness seem less monster filled, or just gave you a smile for a second. Till next time.

‘The Revolution Starts at Home’ (PDF)

Revolution-starts-at-home (click to download PDF)

revhome

I am pleased to post the following PDF booklet from South End Press that deals with domestic abuse within activist communities; any young activist, but indeed people in general, should strongly consider giving these pieces a browse when you have some free time.

For a more in-depth description, please see Incite!’s post.

Obsession Reprise: The Dialectic of Desire

graphe-complete

A few years ago I posted an entry on “overcoming obsession: outgrowing infatuation with straight peers” and it received a warm reception. As some of the commentators noted, this piece was written from the heart from first-hand experience. I enjoyed writing it because it was, in many ways, a soothing experience after the maelstrom of unrequited, non-returned interpersonal affection. However, nothing in this world lasts and lately I have found that this peace and tranquility has been shattered by a new obsession.

 
Much in the same manner previously, what shattered this peace was a boy. An asexual boy (a fun divergence from heterosexual), as I would later discover. First meeting as freshmen during our university’s summer bonding event, it was one of those ‘at first sight’ affairs; one of those moments where you can just tell from their looks, how they conduct their selves, and the information you have on them, that if only given the chance, you could make them happy. Speculation aside, I followed my instinct into the rabbit hole, wishing the best.

 
By now, you are likely guessing that the rabbit hole ended in a snake-pit of some kind; you would be correct: relations between the boy and I… ended poorly. I do not wish to bore you with the intimate details, especially since I find them too personal to share online with you kind strangers, but suffice it to say, I discovered parts of myself which I did not previously know existed and these parts caused some havoc on our friendship. I admit I did wrong, I maintain that he did wrong likewise; now we are suspended in a field in which we have mutually rejected one-another, and yet, tension exists between the two of us, tension which I do not know how will play out, tension which as much as I wished it dispelled, also want it resolved… perhaps a futile desire.

 
And yet, I am still stricken by the idea of this boy and confused on how I want this tension resolved. I feel that on some level that it is irresolvable, that I can do nothing, and that he must be the one to initiate contact (since I feel I squandered my ability to maintain healthy communication; for more on this aspect, and how I self-learned to communicate more effectively, see here); yet I feel he will not do that, though he sometimes glares at me should we notice each other on campus. I am confused. But should he send an email, what would I say, assuming it requires a response? How do I want things to end between us? Is anything possible? It seems like a shame to leave things as they are and let disease fester or scars fade until but a shadow of a remainder is left. Some things are funny that way… some things cannot be resolved while others you cannot force. What needs to happen will happen regardless of hope or desire, wish or ability; it is part of the void which is our existence.

 
But, what did I expect? This is a serious question. What did I expect would happen, that we would become partners and ride away into the sunset? That is what I hoped would happen, but it wasn’t what I was expecting; no, I was expecting friendship, and yet, why? That is ephemeral; even had we become close buddies, what could happen with graduation looming? One must remember that university is not like the propaganda videos… those ‘life-long’ friendships the cronies yap on about exist for but a tiny minority. So the question is—how long would we remain in contact post-graduation, should we have been friends throughout our time attending? A year, two… five? Sooner or later we would drift out of communication, as inevitably happens with people you never physically meet. So, in a sense, would this not have been more painful to lose a genuine friend to time, then overcome the generalized Angst resplendent from missteps? It seems likely. Though still, it never feels like so at the time, with the wounds still fresh. I have to learn, however, learn that this is a facet of my life and it is not going to go away. I need to master my own inadequacies and remember that life is rarely as intense as it appears.

 
In a way I feel burned. Though I do not know if it is connected to the ordeal I struggled through in regards to this boy, there was a point last year that I simply lost the desire to find a partner; this desire (mostly) continues to this day. Something in me simply snapped; I would see the various Breeders holding hands and ruminate on romantic entanglements and find myself musing, “Why would I want that? That which interferes with my studies and complicates my future? Why would I want to risk becoming side-tracked on a possibly futile romance?” Was this me being a realist, an attitude born from my failure to secure what I had hoped to be a viable partner? Maybe. Maybe not. I simply do not know. But I do know that I still feel little, if any, desire to find a partner at my current stage of life.

 
Nonetheless, this is a part of life. It is a part of my life. It comes in waves; I resolved the previous wave only to be confronted by a new one in a different form, one which demands different tactics and more nuanced navigation. The best we can do is learn from each wave. Study the past to learn the future; analyze our mistakes so as to not make the same ones again; compose and conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our station as a human while understanding that language will only ever represent us, our desire as well as our personage, to an uncomfortable degree. For people like us, Queer people and youth especially, bouts of obsession act as a fulcrum to our everyday lives—it latches onto the event horizon of a possible future and sees potential held within; what we see in these special people is our life, that other who shares our otherness and assuages the demons within that feed on the struggle to acclimate to a heteronormative world. The sad truth, though, as you know, is that this other only occasionally responds with gusto, and rarely in the manner had we hoped. So the trick is to learn to overcome, to watch our behavior and modulate our feelings, becoming, in a way, affect scientists, in order to meek out a living in a cold, violent world, occasionally blessed by those walking refrains which catch our eye.

Queer Fascism: Why White Nationalists Are Trying to Drop Homophobia

Featured Image -- 335

Anti-Fascist News

The National Policy Institute’s conference for 2015 just wrapped up, one of the most popular intellectual events for the white nationalist movement in the United States.  NPI is run by youngish nationalist Richard Spencer, who encourages the movement to be hip and young.  Out of the almost 175 attendees, a huge portion of them were millennials as they were given significant discounts off of the expensive ticket price.  One person that was disinvited, according to associate Scott Terry and even Spencer himself, was the Traditionalist Youth Network’s Matthew Heimbach.  Matt, who helped to found the Townson University White Student Union before forming Trad Youth, has made statements publicly about queer people infecting others with AIDs purposefully and that they need to be put in “re-education” camps to cure their “mental illness.”  Because of these statements, Spencer decided that he should be banned from the NPI conference.

Matthew Heimbach Matthew Heimbach

In…

View original post 1,173 more words