Looking Back On The Fall
The Best Doctor Who Christmass Special ever (By which I mean the only good Doctor Who Christmass special because it has flying sharks that can be tamed to give sleigh rides by singing.) has a line that christmass is this great big festival that we hold every year as if to say to each other “Well done everyone, we’re halfway out of the dark!” well it’s the third of December as I write this and the shops have been selling mince pies since August, I think it’s Christmass time now and I would say that I am halfway out of the dark.
Alexander Gordon Jahans
You see I caught up with a dear friend who has been struggling with depression and self loathing for sometime now and I happened to mention that I was over mine. My friend asked how, when does it end?
When you’re depressed all that matters is survival, just getting through another day without ending it, at least that’s how it was for me but there comes a point when the problems that caused the depression are solved or in the course of being solved. At least if you are lucky enough to be in a position to do something about it. When the problem, the catalyst, is removed then the healing can begin.
I don’t do routines and I don’t do sleeping patterns or schedules. I just do what needs to be done. Which makes things difficult when nothing needs to be done or something needs to be done at a time when you can’t at the moment easily do it. This means I’m good when stuff needs to be done regularly but not so otherwise. So I end up creating things which “need to be done” to justify my existence to myself but which can be done at any time or shelved indefinitely on a whim.
I have thus created 3 separate meanings to describe my life and things in it. Safety, Different and Comfortable.
Safety is where I can be a mess, where no matter how bad I feel I know that I can recover. I have low growth hormone disorder which means if I don’t take pills I could get so tired I die and mild Asperger’s Syndrome, which means I can understand and perform in social situations but it takes energy, energy I don’t have much of. I take my pills to not die and I drink diet coke to function in public but there usually comes a point, particularly if I decide to walk home when the energy runs out and the mask slips. This is a time when I am drained and all I want is safety. Sometimes, to pick purely random and hypothetical examples, my feet might also be bleeding and I may be in dire need of a shit. My safety, my safe space, is not some mere salvation from mean words but rather a place I can feel safe tending to my problems. If I am hurt, if I am tired, angry or shit my pants. Safety is where I know I don’t have to worry, a beacon of hope and warmth to head for.
Different is different. Everything I do takes effort, a little mental will power, even things it occasionally takes more effort not to do like sleeping eating or masturbating but different is a anything so unusual It creates ripples before and after, screwing with my sleeping pattern in advance from, the stress of it and wrecking it afterwards from the effect of it. Different is a clusterfuck even if it’s a terrific success that goes off without a hitch. Different is not just a nerdy “They changed it, now it sucks” but rather a lovecraftian eldritch terror you know is ggoing to come that you can’t do anything about and you just hope to ride out half sane.
Comfort is my normal. Comfort is anything that is engaging, challenging but enjoyable, dependable and infinitely delayable. Comfort can only be comfort if it can be dropped at any moment because otherwise it’s a burden. This may be why skyrim, minecraft and now civ 5 are games I play consistently despite bitching about them and wanting to quit them and also why the surest sign that I will abandon a writing project is enthusiastically promising it, comfort isn’t comfort if you have to do it and there are standards to meet. Comfort has to be done purely for the sake of it but also because doing it for the sake of it brings meaning to me. Bollocks to the viewer, the reader or the listener, if I’m not enjoying it at that moment I’m just not going to bother. I only have so much energy why would I waste it on things I don’t enjoy doing. Something I hate for how cold it is but I know regrettably I can’t change because of how terribly finite my will is.
Of course then there is the fourth. Work. Work is not comfortable, nor safe nor different. Work is something that needs to be done, that I know I can do, that I will do, regardless of what it does to me but that won’t ever be what I choose to do for fun yet I know I would go mad without.
I got over my depression by repetition of these things. Safety isn’t safety until you’re coming back to it from somewhere different. Work isn’t work unless you’ve got comfort and different. Repetition gives you confidence in safety, confidence in safety lets you do more different things and different things are usually the most productive long terms. Confidence in safety and you’re ability to handle different lets you have the confidence to work. And once you have a routine of working and doing different things in the confidence of safety and comfort when you get home then the big long term problems can start to be addressed.
The problem with being a writer and a fan of writing is that I get used to narrative resolutions, to the plot devices, chekov’s guns and deus ex machinas. This is why I’m so on edge right now. The rule of three says that after Brexit and Trump the shit must hit the fan again some other way. But life is not The Lord Of The Rings, Word War Z, A Game Of Thrones, Blackadder or Skyrim. Instead it’s all 5 at once. We don’t have a series of conveniently timed emblematic cinematic battles, there is no denouement, no one ring to rule them all, no taking back of the world from the shambling hordes of the undead, no witty jokes and sure as shit no dragons. What there is however is the end of one era as the establishment burns itself up to defeat the evil that now threatens global security while the environment quietly withers in the background, threatening to render all efforts for good or ill moot.
My friend who asked me that question earlier refuses to watch things he likes when he feels like shit lest he taint the awesome with the memory of feeling shit but for me I have learned that it is not about the individual things but the tapestry they weave in your head. Doctor Who doesn’t matter, Blackadder doesn’t matter, World War Z doesn’t matter, Game Of Thrones doesn’t matter, The Thick Of It doesn’t Matter, Hannibal doesn’t matter, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History doesn’t matter and Skyrim sure as shit doesn’t matter. Yet they all matter combined. It matters not what I am obsessed with today but it matters a lot how I am changed by it tomorrow, how I become a different person with exposure to new ideas.
Fair and Great people across the grand spectrums of time and the multiverse, I believe there is now a distinct probability that within the next 8 years there will be a civil war in America and a world war against America and Russia. I may be wrong and I really really fucking hope I am but I the reason I mention this is that for some time now I have wondered what my point was, what my purpose was. I mean look at me? Fat, autistic, kallman’s syndrome, gynaecomastia, low growth hormone and I’ve got cataracts growing in my eyes requiring me to wear glasses. How can someone as low and morally hypocritical as me exist? Because a war is coming. A great big bad war and humanity needs every single chance it has, even the bad chances, sometimes even a critfail is better than no roll at all. And if after 8 years I’m not dead and neither is half the world then I guess I won’t be so glum anyway, 8 more years of VR development, gonna be a hell of a thing to see.