The Recursive Nature of Isolation

Depression is a persistent part of my life.  My depression isn’t just a soup of sadness or a bland numbness gruel–it’s quite frequently a chili spiced with anger, frustration, jealousy and even rage.  It’s a negative emotion gumbo of everything you don’t want to eat all mixed up together. I’m also one of those depressed people with suicidal ideation, and I seem more inclined in that direction when I’m angry than when I’m numb.


Another frequent feature of my depression gumbo is loneliness, which the mentally ill such as myself (yep, depression is a mental illness) like to handle in exactly the opposite way that a well person handles it.

A well person will feel sad or lonely and immediately think that inviting a friend out for drinks, either to talk about the feelings or avoid them altogether, will alleviate the feelings.  And often, they’re right, whether the feelings are addressed or not.

A mentally ill person will want very much to ask someone out for drinks but is afraid it will be a) perceived in the wrong light; b) rejected, because who wants to hang out with a depressed person and talk about feelings or avoid them altogether; c) accepted and then regretted, because how much fun can you have with a depressed person or d) all of the above (which can totally happen all at once in a depressed person’s head).

So the depressed person will double down on the isolation, perhaps with the excuse that introverts need alone time to recover.  And this would be true, if it were an energy and not an emotional recovery.  Introverts also need social interaction, in small doses and safe environments, when they are lonely or sad. We don’t stop being human just because we process energy differently.

Or maybe the doubling down just comes from the fear that the bad feelings will be unwelcome, and let’s face it, in this society of “fake it til you make it,” they often are. Remind me to talk about my mother someday.  Just not now, because I’m already an inch from a Hulk rage.

Or maybe the doubling down comes from knowing that the friend who is your go-to in sad times is a bit of a depressing sad sack herself and the two of you together could create a black hole of depression, swallowing everything in the vicinity.  (If you have been depressed as an adult for more than 10 years, this event has probably happened to you, so it’s not an unreasonable fear.)

So, the depressed person withdraws further into herself.  And, being mentally ill, it’s not an enlightening experience.  It increases the mass of that potential emotional black hole, which makes her more alone, more lonely, more sad (and in my case, more angry, because I know goddamned well I did this to myself, and hey, look, it’s our friend self-hate come to swim in the gumbo!).  The whole thing becomes a bit like those David Hasselhoff gifs where you fall into his underwear forever.

Yes.  That horrifying.

I haven’t figured out a foolproof, surefire way to escape the recursion every time.  (If I did, I would be on late night infomercials every night on TNT.)  I just somehow get out (still here, yes? I got out). It usually takes another person finding joy in something, but sometimes, it’s just a glimpse of bright sun in winter, a particularly beautiful flower, or a friend writing to check on me.

How bad is it right now?  Well, I have two letters here, one I’ve opened and one I have not.  The one I’ve opened, I’ve reacted quite badly to, so I’m afraid to open the other.  Oh, and I hate the kittens.  Yep.  Castor and Polluxia, the what, six month old kittens (maybe?  not sure) that my husband lets cuddle with him all the time, the kittens who lie on my feet and try to follow me into the bathroom.  I hate them.  I hate both of them.  I hate the sight of them.  And I hate myself for hating them.

My counselor had to cancel this week because she’s got the illness going around (the one I had badly for one week around New Year’s and has just annoyingly hung on now, still, today, rasping my voice and burning the inside of my nose), and I won’t see her until next week.

I am lost in David Hasselhoff’s underwear, dude, and I don’t know how to get out.  Any suggestions?

Puritan Rage

Today, JK Rowling smartly slapped her ruler down on the waving hand of a reactionary critic doing my favorite thing:  telling her to shut up and go back to…well, not even writing, because he doesn’t like that, either.

The “Satanesque” stab is a giveaway; this is a person who probably professes Christianity, but would be better described as a Puritan.  The Puritans were (and are) more obsessed with the Old than the New Testament.  They can quote at length from the parts of the Bible they agree with, which are usually confined to the Pentateuch, but go into a slobbering, screaming rage when confronted with the actual words of Christ. Their religion derives less from the Bible, however, than from the writings of John Calvin, a French theologian from the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin is also the source of what we refer to today as “Prosperity Christians.”  Calvin preached predestination–that is, that anyone was who was saved was predestined to be so, and that one of best ways to tell who had Gods’ favor was to see how prosperous they were.  He also preached in God’s absolute sovereignty over man, and thus the clergy’s absolute sovereignty over the populace.  In other words, give yourself over to God and God’s self-proclaimed representatives on Earth.  (But of course, only certain representatives.  The Pope doesn’t count.)

The word “absolute” there is not an exaggeration.  Absolutism colors virtually every facet of the Puritan’s life.  He cannot abide a gradient, so anything that even slightly disagrees with his beliefs must be either strenuously disparaged and discarded, or, if his desires conflict with his beliefs, compartmentalized carefully, much like a child cannot have his potatoes touch his vegetables on his plate, or they are contaminated.  This is how anti-LBGT politicians end up playing footsie in public bathrooms to solicit gay sex. If no one knows about it, it never happened.

This absolutism, this inability to recognize or accept the dirty messiness of life, leads to hypocrisy, as above, with Senator Larry Craig’s scandal, or cruelty, as in the pray (and beat) the gay away reorientation camps to which Puritan parents subject their children.

And all of it, all of it, is infected with rage.  There’s a lot of Puritan rage right now.  Because a Puritan’s worldview is absolute, disagreement is not an option.  By disagreeing, you are insulting and rejecting their God, who will show you, you’ll see.  This sets off the most ridiculous and terrifying spews of language and violence completely at odds with everything Jesus ever said.  Hence, “shiterature,” which is, I think, supposed to be funny, but I’ve never met a Puritan yet who fully grasped the concept of humor beyond a child’s idea that if once is funny, a thousand times must be hilarious.

What is that rage?  Is it really the idea that their God is that offended and helpless that He requires the aid of a human to scream, spit and strike at others?  I doubt it.  I think it has more to do with the idea that Puritans are so terrified of having the wrong answer, that since there can only BE one right answer in their gradient-less worldview, that any hint of wrongness on their part is an indictment of all.  Every part must be defended.  Every absurdity, if part of the belief, must be fortified.  Every challenge must be not merely averted, but destroyed.

Or the whole thing falls, and that is impossible.

It’s the absolutism that is the problem with such Christians, the Seven Mountains proponents, the Dominionists, the Puritans.  It’s their absolutism which has to be broken, in order to reach them.  Until it is, there is no capacity in them for empathy, compassion, kindness or cooperation.  They actually believe they are in a war against anyone not like them.

And I really don’t know how to deal with that.  Because reminding them who Jesus was and what he preached is ignored, since they are now convinced that Jesus is coming back on their side to kill us all.

How do you deal with that?