Posts tagged crazy
anyway I am really aggressively optimistic and the reason for that is that I’m pretty vulnerable to bleak and all-consuming depression
which sounds similar to “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” but I don’t think it is, I mean I can’t afford to be pessimistic, ever, I can’t even entertain the possibility that there is no hope, because that will bring it into reality (despair as performative, I guess)
consequently I’m really interested in breaking down the barrier between Thought and Feeling/Theory and Affect
in sum, the whole Left needs a course of CBT
something I see a lot in people with depression is a sense of oneself and others as unreal, without substance, and morally depraved — and consequently, an obsession with authenticity. think Holden Caulfield, if you must
ideas of authenticity can also be a form of protection against having to challenge your ideas or change — temporarily painful things that are necessary if you don’t wanna be depressed your whole life. short-term, it’s easier to sit with an idea of yourself as worthless and the universe as hostile than it is accept that your whole worldview might be affected by mental illness, that you can’t rely on your mind, I mean that’s terrifying, how can you even begin to fight that? and it feels right to wallow in that bleakness, it feels like you’re facing a harsh truth, it feels good to hurt yourself like that.
if I wasn’t opposed to a radical separation between mental illnesses and authentic (lol) personality I’d say that ideas of authenticity are a form of parasitic self-protection by the depression itself
so Authenticity is obviously an idea that’s really damaging to a lot of people with mental illnesses
but that also means people spouting a lot of nonsense about authenticity who are themselves mentally ill, rather than just opportunistic New Agers, should be cut some slack, because it’s literally part of that illness
everybody wants to talk about how oppression affects people deeply and personally and traumatically but nobody knows how to deal with people reacting in emotion-filled ways to oppression
either 1) they’re just crazy and fucked
or 2) their behaviour is totally righteous and reasonable
it’s so black and white and unfair
the problem with 1) is obvious and well-established
but I also have a problem with 2) as a framing, partly because it leads to a lot of pretzel-like justifications of shitty behaviour that doesn’t become less shitty because the people acting that way are suffering. But also, I don’t think it’s actually fair to the people it purports to work for. I think it reproduces the conventional liberal ideal of reasoned and measured political engagement — it just shifts the ground of what’s “reasonable”. it seems helpful at first because extreme anger and sadness and pain become comprehensible as rational, proportionate responses to the enormity of oppression. but that only works for certain very specific and direct emotional responses.
what if you respond to oppression by nodding and smiling but later screaming at your housemate for an hour because she tried to talk to you while you were cooking
what if you respond by cutting yourself off socially and refusing to contextualise or justify your occasional outbursts
what if you respond by storing up all your rage and pain and then exploding at a sixteen-year-old who made some vaguely off-colour comments
what if you respond by pouring all your energy into self-destructive revenge plots
what if you respond by turning on someone even further down the social hierarchy
what if you respond by taking so many drugs you are constantly having rapid mood swings and become impossible to engage with
what if you respond by refusing to sleep or eat or wash
the attempt to reframe emotional responses as reasonable responses just erases emotion, denies that poor mental health is a thing — not just a thing that you suffer, but a thing that affects your behaviour
and it’s not really very compassionate, because sooner or later someone’s responses become impossible to parse as reasonable, and we don’t know how to deal with that, do we, they’re on their own, they’ve stepped off the cliff
this is a gross story about throwing up and more broadly about fluids and bodies
one night a while ago I was out in the city and I was a bit drunk, ok, fine, but I think I also had food poisoning because I very rarely throw up but this time
I threw up in a bin outside a bar and concluded it was time to go home — I started heading to the station pausing only to throw up in another bin — when I got there I threw up in the bin on the concourse — staggered down to the platform and threw up in the bin on the platform and then got on a train — so then I was on the train but I needed to throw up again but there are no bins on a train —
so I threw up in a plastic shopping bag I found in my backpack, which is fucked because there’s a lot of splashback and stomach acid goes up your nose
and it’s worth mentioning here that I was convinced plastic shopping bags were partially permeable, full of tiny holes that any liquid would eventually seep through at an even pace
so for about three stops I was holding this bag of sick at arm’s length and just waiting for the seepage to begin and praying that I wouldn’t spill any or tear the bag, because like, I’m not a jerk, clenching my teeth and trying not to throw up again, trying to hold still
carefully, tenderly carrying about this infinitely fragile, infinitely polluting thing, so determined to breach its membraneous boundaries
and that’s what I think about when I think about having a body
I critique radical self-care rhetoric a lot but one of the main reasons I don’t like it is that it conflates work for social change with work to heal yourself, in ways that can really bog down political projects by bringing them down to the scope of the individual. so it’s bad for movements. but it’s also bad for individuals: if you’re going to be happy you need to develop the capacity to ameliorate your problems within the society we live in, not just the capacity to identify the systemic factors causing your problems. you can fight them as much as you want but they’re not gonna disappear in your lifetime and even if they do you’ll still have to deal with the scars. systemic oppression and personal suffering are obviously linked, but they are different things we need to deal with in different ways. it’s prevention and cure.
that’s one reason why an end to self-care by B Loewe — the principal claim of which is that “movement work is healing work” — is…not a good critique of self-care rhetoric. it’s the exact same idea, that social movements and self-care are the same thing, it’s just kind of callous about it.
you should read for badass disability justice, working-class and poor lead models of sustainable hustling for liberation, a more in-depth response to Loewe’s article by leah-lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha.
2 Girls, Ania Walwicz
2 girls. 1 girl and another 1 girl. That makes 2 altogether. That makes 2. 2 is a bad number. I don’t like 2 now. 1 girl. I can have 1 girl. But I don’t want 2 girls. I don’t want 2 girls. It’s alright to have 1. But 2 is no good. 2 is bad to me. There were 2 girls. I only want 1 girl at a time. I want 1 girl only. There were these 2 girls. A 1 and a 2. A 1 and a 2. I had nothing to do with this. I didn’t do it. I didn’t know it. It happened to me. How can I have 2 girls when there is only enough room for 1 girl in me. For me. How can I have 2. Only 2 arms 2 legs. Where can I put the other 2. 4 eyes in my mirror. 4 legs. I get to be a dog. Can’t stand up at all. There was girl 1. That I was to begin with. There there was the girl 2 in me. I had to have more clothes for them both. Different ones for each. Girl 1 clothes and girl 2 clothes. Girl 1 that I was wore old ones and different. Girl 2 wore what anybody else. Tartan skirts my mother made nice and clean and not really me. I didn’t like girl 2. I only liked girl 1. I was girl 1. To begin. I was girl number 1. I start as 1. I begin 1. I began 1. I started 1. I was only 1. I get born 1. I never lost 1. Not completely. I was only 1. I had that 1. I love 1 only. I was 1. In bits and pieces. In parts. At times longer or shorter. I hid in my corner. While girl 2 took over. Girl 2 took me. Girl 2 was a model girl. 2 was somebody else that grew in me. Girl 2 was an act girl. 2 was a cover girl. 2 was a mask I had at the start. Then she got stronger. Girl 2 got big and bigger. Girl 2 was my sister. Girl 2 wasn’t me. I was told to be a good girl. I was a bad girl. Girl 1 was a bad girl. Girl 2 was good. What is good. I wanted to be good. I wanted them to let me be. I was going to hide till it was time to leave home. I was going to get another girl on me to cover me on top of me to act me that wasn’t really. To hide in and on. I invent girl 2 to be an act to be in. To act somebody else. To get by. To hide. So they wouldn’t hurt the girl 1. So the girl 1 stays safe until it’s time to go away to leave home. I was going to be girl 2 to protect me. To be girl 2 only surface. Cover girl 2 was an act a lie. When you lie you start to believe that it’s really true. When you lie all the time you don’t know where you are. Girl 2 that began as a mask grew on my face. Girl 1 was me. Girl 2 was another. Was my bad mother. I was 2 girls all the time. I go out of focus. I get double. Before I was only 1. I was single. Then I got to be 2. And 2 and 2. I tried to be my sister. To lie the good girl. Don’t be too clever be nice. Not too clever. Girl 1 is clever and me. Girl 1 says what I think. Girl 1 didn’t get on. Girl 1. They didn’t like girl 1 at all. Girl 1 is quick. 1 does what she wants. Girl 2 was slow and cute girl. 2 is like a girl is supposed to. Girl 2 did what she was told. Girl 2 was stupid and good. Girl 2 as all pleasant and please. Girl 2 loves her mommy. Girl 1 doesn’t. Girl 1 hides behind girl 2. That is only an act that becomes her. I had 2 girls in my bed. We wore the same shoes. At the same time. Girl 2 lives in a dream. Hazy. She can’t think. She can only do what other people tell her to. I made her up. She took me over.
this starts strongly but I’m pretty disappointed by the way it develops — specifically the good girl/bad girl dichotomy and the specific characteristics attributed to each and the way girl 1 is presented as the underneath, authentic self. it’s a bit cliche, I think, a bit cringeworthy, but mostly it just doesn’t resonate with me. Like, many women I know have a massive case of imposter syndrome, but they most often think it’s their clever, quick, flashy, offbeat self that is the act, the mask. I guess that is about the world, though, not the family, and this is a poem about dissembling within the family home. whatever, no reading is definitive, no experience is universal, etc.
even so, I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot today. I keep returning to the feeling Walwicz conveys of the divided self as two individuals in a suffocating relationship, or two different love interests chasing you: “I had 2 girls in my bed. We wore the same shoes. At the same time.” to me this is about queerness, I guess, and internalised homophobia. when I think about presenting different selves to the world I think a lot about sexuality, presenting a straight self, being pursued by your other self — by another girl, by the idea of girls, by girls together, 2 girls. and also more generally of something seemingly apart from you that is revealed as a part of you.
but the thing I am particularly struck by is the sense of being overfull and invaded and bursting at the seams that Walwicz attaches to multiple identities and forms of self-presentation — the sense of having multiple bodies trying to occupy the same space, of having too much body (2 much body). “How can I have 2. Only 2 arms 2 legs. Where can I put the other 2. 4 eyes in my mirror. 4 legs. I get to be a dog. Can’t stand up at all.” ugh, yes.
why be happy when you can be interesting?
Slavoj Žižek, ‘Why Be Happy When You Can Be Interesting’ (2 min 11)
For example, let’s be serious, when you are in a creative endeavour - in that wonderful fever, my god, I’m onto something, so on - happiness doesn’t enter it. You’re ready to suffer.
This is the silliest and most pervasive cliché about creativity but it showed up on my Facebook feed today and it caught my attention because I’m feeling pretty much the opposite of this. I’m done with interesting and ready to be bored by happiness now, please, thanks.
Thinking further: Maybe the relationship between creativity on the y-axis and happiness-suffering on the x-axis is like a negative quadratic function (frown parabola), where creativity peaks with mid-range emotions. Total happiness flushes out creativity and total despair paralyses any endeavour. I’m not sure how to factor time and variety into this graph but they might be the most important factors, because if you’ve been feeling any one thing for long enough, eventually your mind stops responding to it creatively. The best writing about a feeling comes after the feeling.
In the midst of it there’s just the sensation, which is unintelligent and unintelligible. The sensations are all too similar - just a scattering of spaces inside the body in which you feel heat and pressure. For me all emotions are this: heat, pressure, being conscious of a space inside the body in a way that doesn’t make physical sense. Being haunted inside your body, by your own memory or imagination. Probably this doesn’t apply so much for other media and modes of creativity, and maybe not even for other people, but for me with words, when deep in a feeling, there’s just no point trying to tell it. What does it matter if anger sears through your spine or sits heavy under your lungs, dragging down your breath? I don’t know that anyone else’s psyche locates things in the same places; all I know is weight and pain in strange pockets of anatomy means nothing to read.
I’ve been kind of fragile and despondent lately and it makes it really difficult to do any kind of work. It’s like I’m all out of focus except for this hot blur of grief. I can’t concentrate, I can’t prioritise and I don’t have much capacity to deal with criticism or confrontation or failure, all of which seem essential for creative or political work and especially those projects at the intersection of the two, where everything is so tender and profound, so intimate and huge, and everyone seems to be angry at me about something I did or didn’t do, and there’s just so much shouting outside my face that’s pushing up against the noise in my head so the pressure sends cracks down through the lines. All my thoughts noise and contradiction. And if I try to stop there’s the kick of guilt because somewhere along the line I came to believe in this ethic of work and suffering, I came to see work as rent for living and then the payments spiralled out of control into several lifetimes, so in this one I’m just so damn tired. It’s a stupid way to think, and it makes me unhappy and uninteresting.
So basically I think Žižek is being an arse. I don’t know if happiness is the name of what I want either, though. Maybe I just miss the resilience I had for a little while, which made a lot more things possible. Everything got very tight and small all of a sudden. I feel very small and closed and unable. Something like the feeling you get in an aeroplane as it rises and the air starts to thin. You’re belted to your seat but the ground is falling away, and there’s a rush of noise and pressure, and then all you can hear is inside your own head. You’re supposed to be going somewhere, and you’ll know it when you get there, but in the meantime you’re locked in and all you can do is swallow and breathe.
I kind of want to go somewhere with what you’re saying about suffering and the body and debt, but I’m stuck on how that Žižek quote is actually the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard from a major philosopher. not the most offensive, although it is offensive, but definitely the most flat-out stupid. I’d hope that the context makes it slightly less stupid but I can’t be bothered checking it out because honestly, Žižek makes my skin crawl.
anyway, it’s true that sometimes creativity is about exploring a negative emotion, writing-in-your-diary style, something that’s plaguing you. that may not be pleasant, exactly, and sometimes it can make things worse, but you generally do it because you’re stewing and it would plague you regardless. I find a lot of joy, or at least relief, in creativity. I experience the more stable emotion of happiness or contentment when I have consistently laboured to achieve something. this idea that happiness is in conflict with achievement, creativity, that which is most vital in life — that is some serious angsty teen bullshit I would’ve pulled out when I was sixteen. I had never been more miserable; I have rarely been more bored and boring.
in fact… once, when I was a teen, my friend K and I were staying overnight at another friend’s house in an outer suburb. late that night, our other friend’s mother heard us talking through the wall and became convinced we were talking shit about her. she tried to kick us out, in the middle of the night, long after the buses had stopped, far from home. Worse things have happened but it wasn’t great. We froze up. her ten-year-old son, with the eerie calm of kids for whom this shit is normal, talked her down and we were allowed to stay. I tried to make light of the tension by remarking to K that at least it wasn’t boring. She thought about it, looked me in the eye and said, “actually, I think it’s extremely boring.”
I realised she was right. I’d been frightened, confused, unhappy — and also found the whole situation tedious. misery is grinding, it’s endless, the same shit keeps happening and you don’t know what to do about it. for both you and the people around you, unhappiness is dull.
(You, Lia, are always interesting, happy or unhappy, but I’d obviously rather see you happy. If your unhappiness is interfering with your writing — and I can’t imagine how it couldn’t — then that’s one more reason for the rest of us to regret it. )