Notes of a Dirty Young Man (or, Rambling About My Depression)

I wrote this, stream-of-consciousness, straight through because I just needed to let things out of my head. I wasn’t sure at first if I should put it out, it feels kind of like a lot of whining to me, a big “feel sorry for me” sign, but I suppose people I care about deserve to know this stuff. So here’s the warning: this is dark, this is about self-hate and depression, this is about guilt, this is about suicidal thoughts, and there’s not a happy lesson or encouraging message that I’ve tacked to the end. The most positive thing I can say is that I don’t feel like I’m going to do anything bad, but I don’t doubt I’ll continue feeling these things in the future. I’ve felt bad before, I’ll feel bad again, and I guess I’m driven by the knowledge that in between there’s always time to feel good, or at least stable, too. So there: that’s the positive takeaway if you do or don’t want to read the rest. Anyway, that’s that:

This is, more than anything, a catalogue of myself for myself. Everyone and everything else is incidental. All of this: the blog, the essays, the schooling, the reading, the poems, the songs – it’s all fundamentally a selfish journey inward. I remember how, as a boy, I cared so much about everything. My time was spent studying, searching, trying to fix and make right. I was in a community garden for years, I represented it and spoke on its behalf, I was involved in the creation of the first Idaho Celebration of Human Rights Festival (along with many other students in my class) and spoke at a national education conference on holocaust education and human rights activism. This may sound like bragging, and it is, but I can’t brag on my own behalf because I don’t feel like that person anymore. There was some point where it just didn’t feel worth it, I didn’t feel like a person doing good. There was a strange sensation that I didn’t know anything about myself, or what I was doing, or why I was doing it; how many bloated, skeletal bodies and islands of trash can a person constantly look at and feel like a person? Feel like they’re doing anything? Mix that in with the ever-present pressures of social interaction and school and you’ve got an explosive person on your hands. I had grown up working so hard to change things, to believe in my own abilities as a single person without attempting to be a person, that I just turned myself into a raw nerve of emotion incapable of dealing with anything. Caring about things so deeply that you get lost if you lose them is one thing with trees and distant wars and global warming and art, it’s another with people. Most of the people who know me chuckle at my role of the bitter old man; the aloof artist; the wannabe hermit, and they should. It is a show. But the truth is there’s a young man just torn up and raw who doesn’t know how to handle anything any other way. Eat, sleep, talk, fuck myself, to porn, to the thought of people I know (probably all the people I know), dream of getting away, drive out to some other country, make myself a name, write on receipts, die young, die too young, hope people talk about me. These are the things in my head all the time, everything serves as a distraction from something I don’t know. That’s what frustrates me so much: there’s a kind of anger and sadness that’s just inherently part of people, and some people have more and some people have less. I guess I have a lot, and it doesn’t even seem to come from anywhere, I just have it. And sometimes I look at my friends who are just as depressed as me and who have been just as regularly suicidal and I think God-damn they’re so much more justified to feel these things because they live through real shit that I get tired just from reading about. And everything feels like I’m just wasting people’s time because I’m a silver-spoon bobo who just gets kicks off of the attention earned by his façade of intellectual bullshit and artistic snobbery and some childish attempt at sincerity: I’m a man who convinced he’s Pinnochio convinced he has to be real. Sometimes I want to be locked up in a white room where I can just scream and cry and be furious at everything because at least I can be somewhat honest then and not have to pander to my own expectations of what people want from me. You want to know how often I think about killing myself? Really? Every fucking day since I was fifteen. Obviously this is mostly abstract, not like “I need to kill myself now,” but “That could happen someday, given the right circumstances.” Or just thinking about it as a thing. What is suicide? Why do I think about it? What happens to people afterwards? Is it really just for the attention? Makes sense, I usually think about it in relation to legacy and the hope of being a Van Gogh. That’s how I think. Someone once told me how it’s amazing that I can see the world from so many angles: “you look at something, then you can turn it upside-down and look at it again, then turn it around again when nobody expects you to.” It was a compliment, and I took it as one, but it’s probably much more amusing for other people than it is for me. It’s not much fun flipping through thoughts constantly in your head. It’s not much fun being awake at 6:30 in the morning with classes in a couple hours because of an idea caught in my brain that I’ll forget until it keeps me up again. It’s not much fun to go from being relatively okay to thinking about a shotgun in my mouth and a blank canvas behind my head because a terrible conversation from seven years ago just popped into my mind. It’s not much fun to be afraid to be happy because when I’m done being happy my brain will force me to claw at things dangerously in the hope that it will stop me from sliding down back into depression. It’s not to fun to legitimately consider tearing out one of your eyes because you’re so bored you want to make a fuss and see things differently when you’re done. It’s not fun that I don’t know if I’m justified in being angry with my friends when things they say make me feel worse, because sometimes its so tied up in these big issues that I can’t speak about. I like Bukowski as a poet and as a writer. Here’s The Laughing Heart, one of my favorites:

“your life is your life

don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.”
I find it simple and beautiful and it puts my mind at ease. When I tell lots of people I like Bukowski they roll their eyes because it’s such a white man thing to do. And it is, isn’t it? “If a man likes Bukowski they’re probably a sexist.” I don’t know, maybe? Maybe most people are. Maybe I am. I probably am, on some level. But why should that matter in relation to this poem making me feel good? Some of my close friends, my best friends, love this little piece that circulated around about the “types of men” on campus. So funny it made me want to kill myself. Not hyperbolic. It makes me want to fucking die. Because to me reading that little diagram said: You can’t escape from any of these. You are one of these men and we would be better off without you. And who am I to argue? Who am I to argue that I don’t use my sensitivity, my distance, my depression to my advantage to feel like a man? Who am I to say that I don’t try to make myself into a Bukowski: some wandering asshole who gets off with some good words and a distance from everything? Sure sounds like me. But I do care about people, don’t I? Well caring’s not enough and has never been enough. And I try to be kind but that doesn’t matter much does it in the scheme of consequences. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes on the street I think “I’d like to fuck so-and-so” and because I think that I think every person on the street hates me, and is afraid of me, and thinks I want to hurt them. And shouldn’t they be afraid and think that? I’m a young, privileged, white man who never suffered anything but his own stupid thoughts. Sometimes I see those men who are so ignorant and convinced that their rights are being crushed by some liberal conspiracy and I can’t help but think “but I understand the anger.” They’re wrong, but that fear and anger, sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with a fear of losing power or what you’ve been given at the expense of someone else. Sometimes its just feeling bad. Not a justification, but I do feel that. There’s so much to fix where I am part of the problem and how do I say “let me have a break for a moment, I’m really feeling angry, and depressed, and hurt” when I don’t know if I’ve earned it? Comparing problems feels so cheap, but isn’t that what walking in someone else’s shoes is when you really think about it? There’s no good ending here, there never was, because I’m just trying to get all this bad shit out. Maybe I’m just whining, but it feels good to say, and that’s better than feeling bad.

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