Apparently, the strategy I came up with last time when writing about this topic works somewhat (Why invite depression for a chat when not depressed?) – that strategy is simply not freaking out (anymore, for the 5,000,000 time) about the repetitive and unavoidable.
At least it seems that when darker episodes come … they come and go somewhat like a stomach flu. I treat them like that. I don’t know how long it will last – fine. But without the panic (“oh my God what if this lasts forever? then life is not worth living” etc.) … they remain what they are, more or less: episodes of various shades of depression-like moods (blockage, self-loathing, inner disconnection, mental autoimmunity, apathy, despair; as soon as they dissolve into grief, sadness, anger, or something else, the flow is restored). They don’t seem to become a major spiral-vortex sucking in everything in the radius of dozens of kilometres, past and future, like a wildfire.
They don’t develop that characteristic of infinite hunger, consuming fire, suction. They stay delimited. That’s interesting to see, because this has basically never happened before: I have (perhaps?) never seen any one of these episodes dissolve without a crisis – without getting to the brink of some major mental abyss-catharsis, and jumping, then somehow coming back to consciousness gradually.
Well, just a week or two. Could be random. Still, I think that’s why. Without the energy of fear (panic), the usual gushing eddy remains just a puddle, it seems. A puddle in which it’s also, perhaps, easier to see what’s swimming there.
This version of it seems mellow and almost relaxing (well, perhaps that was one overstatement for the usual understatements).
Ingrained mind traces
I wanted to write about a recent insight into the nature of the mind, afforded by this slowed-down, mellow version of depressive episode that seems to be the thing now.
Since the whole thing is not just an agonising spiritual-visceral cramp, I’m actually able to discern and follow up the thoughts that appear in the process.
I believe “usually” (in my more typical version of this) these are not discernible because they acquire a density so high that all they become is … one ball of near-physical pain or nausea or palpitation or other.
I do believe this pain is probably actually thoughts and emotions, in a knot, condensed to become more bodily than mental (as I see this as a continuum), although still in the in-between no-man’s land. That land where I’m sometimes not sure whether it’s a flu or indigestion or the start of this, and where one can dissolve often through working with the other.
The thoughts I’ve seen appear lately were moderately humorous down to ridiculous when looked at without context. Someone doesn’t want to meet => life’s not worth living. Random amazing things didn’t fall from the sky today (though they did precisely that, yesterday for example … and a few days before that, too) => this is not worth dragging on. I’m not getting younger => what’s the point of waiting it out? I don’t really know what to do => let’s just tune out or best get out of here. It’s too loud here => just f* this all, why care about anything or anyone? Not worth it. Etc.
Obviously that’s just the surface of it.
The intersection being too loud isn’t the reason for going down the path of “why care about anything?” …
At least the thoughts that set all this in motion were more reasonable and well-founded. They were thoughts like, ok, I have no bearable place to live, no job no home and no reliable friends, not to mention being outside most institutional systems (except for having not thrown away my 1st world passport) that commonly stabilise people and unable to re-join them for a medusa of interlocking reasons (a good part of which are mental-health related rather than “objective”, another reason to blame myself). Family trouble, and somehow can’t make the friendships or relationships I’d want and need. Deeply ingrained traces of old feelings of isolation. Etc.
The good thing about this was for a long time that when things got better, the feelings got better, too. That’s why I refused to treat this as some kind of “mental health” “brain chemistry” etc. thing (apart from having my own opinion on that as a neuroscience graduate) – preferring to look at it as the upshot of a human condition. As an existential crisis, somatising (moving into the body) in part.
Sure, the scary, really scary moment came the day when, after years, it seemed like it stopped getting better whenever things got better. “Objectively” at least.
That was a bit like, “ok now I’ve really lost the handle on this – seems like the moods and bodily sensations have taken on a life of their own, a life that doesn’t seem to be a direct function of my circumstances, anymore”. Crap.
The question is, is that true independence, or is it a time-lag response. Is it just that the stresses of the last 10 or 20 years have to be paid off in sadness, grief, pain and feeling and that’s taking a bit longer than instantaneously – or will this keep dragging on even if life is externally very liveable.
Because – well perhaps because the internal traces, pathways, have become ruts – quick, automatic shortcuts teleporting the mind from “I have a headache” to an all-encompassing, suffocating sense of “look, why are you even forcing me to be here on Earth?”
Both points I’ve made here are probably obvious.
- The fact that fear of disliked feelings makes them go out of control far more than they would otherwise (heck, would someone have taught me that earlier?).
- The fact that going down certain feeling and thought pathways over and over again may, after years, give them something like a life of their own … like some kind of magic elevator-teleporter; dip in your toe and you’re suddenly 10 floors up or down. (But what’s the way to work with that?)
The way to work with the latter, at least for me, is not trying to stop or suppress or avoid the thoughts. Doesn’t work.
Could try applying the same method as in step 1 here: watch the full movie, and lose the fear of it.
These are thoughts –
and this is the most evident when they change from day to day.
I’m “lucky” in that regard: my feeling of being can go from gut-wrenching despair to expansion and inspiration, and back, something like every other day if it feels like.
Perhaps the milder (without the dragon black hole vortex) version of it that I’ve been enjoying recently allows me to see that more clearly: to compare the world as it’s painted to me one day, by the mind, to the world that’s painted the following day.
I used to get dizzy, confused, bewildered from the contradictions.
How could it be the world, the basis and outlook of my existence, the meaning of everything, even the spirit of people and places around me (apparently) and the logic of all I do is totally different today from what it was yesterday?
This would put my brain in knots, making me wonder whether I’m crazy (today), or whether I was crazy yesterday. What is a reasonable image of reality? How catastrophic, how optimistic, what colour does this world actually have? What am I actually like? What are people actually like? Is this world of samsara going down in a particular crisis, is it evil, or is it merciful? Is it oppressively suffocating, piercing and excoriating, or is it full of sustaining life force and space and nourishment for expansion of the spirit? Is it essentially vain (Hevel havalim, hakol havel, as says Kohelet) or is there immanence in things, even in ugly things? Is this all pointless, or is it a tapestry?
And the same goes for particular “things”, strands of life, situations, places, plans, persons. Most agonisingly perhaps, despite all, for the latter three.
Heck, every day seems to defeat the profoundly felt, accepted-by-capitulation conclusions of the last.
As if I had the mental capacity to parse the contradictions – yes, I actually did, to the exclusion or neglect of other, more mundane tasks.
The banal 2
So yes, it’s taken me almost 20 years (around 16+?) to realise that the full-scale, graphically detailed images dished out to me are what they call … essentially thoughts (as distinct from realities).
And I essentially know nothing, or very little.
Because I’m not touching what is, in any of these thought-image-feeling states (“positive” or “negative”) of the logos …
I’m perhaps touching who I am, or aspects of who I am.
But the truth is, I do not know and cannot name what is; nor what will be, nor what was. No human can. Yes, we can feel our way through. We can dance a dance with reality, with processes and events that create a sense of solidity in the flow through its recurrence.
Then perhaps it seems like we know.
My “blessing” has perhaps been that the flow has never been stable enough to allow me to create a feeling of “world”. At least not after childhood, after my mind started getting far too adventurous and my emotions far too mobile, volatile.
Still, heck, for 20 years I’ve been trying to create just that. A stable image of the world. From what my mind serves me. Not doable. Full stop: I see that now.
So still, there is no world: but there is increased intimacy with the mind.
Thinking, the world may be what remains;
What happens when the mental devices have been used up,
feeling has been exhausted,
but still – something new happens.
Something we couldn’t see, know, simply emergence
often the emergence of everyday life, but an emergence it is
when the forks, knives, shovels, spoons and ropes are laid down
Even hands, and eyes, are not always useful.