How are we holding up guys? I’m
not fine. I’m usually fired up to write this column. Pop culture has always been something between a guilty pleasure and my own millennial application of sociology, and analyzing its quirks and chain reactions is as satisfying to me as popping bubble wrap. But I’m not going to lie to you all right now—I don’t fucking care about anything today. We’re family here (mostly because I leave my inbox open to hate mail and that feels pretty familial to me), so let’s all take our drinks to the living room and chat.
We’re all getting acquainted with every week feeling a bit more bizarre than the last, like a fun mirror with no way out but through. For instance, five years ago I would have been elated for Obama to endorse a Biden presidential run; now it feels kind of like a stressful killjoy of a dream that died a long time ago. Anthony Hopkins is eerily telling us to keep smiling. Patrick Stewart is reading us Shakespeare. Chrissy Teigen is still posting noxious musings and opulent bullshit on Twitter that is reminiscent of the rich folx in The Hunger Games.
**That is the biggest pop culture hot take I can muster right now…but seriously, she deeply upsets me, and I wish you all would stop blindly worshipping her because she curses and seems like someone who’d be fun to get drunk with. Actually, stop liking people on that merit all around! It’s nonsensical and how we end up with such incompetent leaders and famous people in general!**
Last week we had a wonderful piece by Sady Doyle on the odd inclination of humans to compete in their suffering (especially privileged white humans), and this pandemic has been a circus for that behavior. But once we acknowledge that folly and put it aside, and ordain that we’re all well within our right to feel like shit right now no matter our individual circumstances, what do we do with that?
I’m not a stranger to clinical depression and severe anxiety. Those feelings are not calmed by the fact that most of the routines that usually help me keep them at bay are no longer allowed, and it also it feels like the safety nets for worst case scenarios are not as reliable during the lockdown. Every person with mental health struggles right now is more at risk than ever. I’m not trying to scare you more than the daily dose of existential dread and doom we’re getting; it’s just a fact.
This group of those who are maladjusted, or high strung, or empathic, or whatever trend word your therapist has thrown at you recently, also feels larger than it ever has in our modern era. There are theories about why it seems so many more of us admit to and face profound sadness these days than ever before. Some people say it’s because our generation is more comfortable talking about our feelings than the boomers who came before us (F*CK BOOMERS I’M SO SICK OF THEIR REDUCTIVE FINGER WAGGING). So essentially, it’s always been this way, people just hid it better before due to the extreme stigma (which from currently re-watching Mad Men and having boomer family members, seems to check out).
I’ve also heard some far the fuck out there theories. One being that the earth is a living organism with energy just like us, and boy is mother Gaia stressed and sad these days. Therefore, we as her not so humble stowaways soak up that sadness and stress, and it emits through us. Hit a smoke pen of choice and let that one sink in; it definitely flipped my lid for a while. I certainly don’t disagree with the idea. Ultimately, I think the answer to our existential and clinical woes lies somewhere in between spirituality, science and our twisted reality. Who the fuck knows anymore?
The point I’m trying to get to is that for those of us who struggle with darkness, where do we go when even in supportive online communities for spiritual self-help and mental health services the running dialogue centers on accepting and validating your feelings. That somehow just Namaste-ing your bad thoughts is supposed to make them bearable. That knowing you’re not alone or that mental illness is normal is supposed to be soothing.
Those are not bad techniques or processes, but what if your feelings today are, “Fuck this shit and the gang-fucked hell hound it rode in on!” I don’t always want to, nor does my mental illness always allow me to sit around and accept my depression and anxiety as valid and common, and meditate on my gratitude to try and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes I want to scream, and cry, and dance, and fuck, and dig holes with my bare hands until I’m so tired I pass out for twelve hours to repeat another emotionally grueling day. Sometimes I want to give in to maybe not its malcontents, but at least its madness.
I’m sorry you’re getting me on a rough one. And it’s not my intention to trigger anyone. Simply put…yesterday, even though I was probably having a manic episode and had four cups of coffee to top that off, I did a pretty good job of being productive and convincing myself I was having a nice time doing so. Today I was in such a rut of depression that I worked from my bathtub for three and a half hours, and only got out because I had to pee. A couple of hours later, I genuinely considered getting back in, only to exit the bathroom with a deep sigh that my boyfriend heard from the other room.
I don’t have slap stick revelry and cutting digs at celebrities for you today. I don’t have a clever take on why the current dialogue on a given trend is absurd and irrational. Today, I’m here to tell you I’m really not fucking okay. I’ve struggled with this kind of thing long enough to know deep down that I’m going to be fine eventually. I have been to the doctors and facilities, I have my ‘in case of emergency’ protocols, and I have just gotten used to the ebbs and flows of this mucky river a lot of us wade through.
I feel like that’s the very uncomfortable place that a lot of us who struggle with mental health are in right now. We know we’re going to be fine, but we’re not right now. No candy-colored meme about making art, loving one another more, knowing it’s okay to be sad, or taking deep breaths in nature is going to make me feel better. Frankly it’s starting to embitter me that some people can be adjusted enough for those kinds of things to be consistently helpful.
Maybe this made you feel less alone. It’s really all I can offer right now. I feel less alone in writing it to you. Do what you can, and go dig a hole with your hands if you really fucking need to.