I distinctly remember the first time I ever tried boiling pasta. When I went to strain it (far too early, I might add), I instinctively turned the faucet on over the cooked noodles and stood there for a good minute before I realized exactly what I was doing. This may or may not have happened in the presence of other people. The age I was when this occurred is a bit embarrassing.
There's always an inverse correlation between how bad my depression is at a given point in time and the complexity of the meals I prepare for myself. When I'm feeling alright I'm inclined to experiment or try something new (and for me, the list of "something new" when it comes to cooking is quite long), but when the clouds are hovering over my head I rarely even want to pour a bowl of cereal for myself. I started accommodating myself by stocking up on "easy" foods when I shop for groceries--the stuff that I used to be embarrassed about at the check-out counter has been a sort of staple for me lately. As for cooking, I've found that the trick is to find the ingredients that won't go bad any time soon so I have whatever I need ready when the curtain begins to draw back again. This is mostly so I don't have to go to the store and stress myself out, thereby causing my condition come barreling back, forcing me out of the building empty-handed. Freshness is one of the things I've learned to sacrifice for the sake of not starving myself.
It's good to learn to laugh at the things you aren't in control of, good or bad--especially if it's a condition that more or less inhibits your ability to laugh at anything, let alone the condition itself. The copious amounts of time spent in bed, the enveloping nihilism that surges forth in the mornings, the number of episodes of a stupid television program viewed whilst lying on the couch paralyzed by nothing but gravity, the sudden urge to get things done on days that don't seem so gloomy ("Let's hurry up and run those errands before I feel like I have to go back to bed" is something I've told myself while more than a few times while rushing to get dressed), the sensation that bears a striking resemblance to trying to drive a car with the parking brake engaged as you try to navigate your day-to-day life--all of the stupid things a mental illness sort of corners you into doing, almost like you're its marionette, are worth cracking jokes about. Depression is a peculiar beast that is best tamed with contextualization.
I am going to touch base here before I go on a brief internet hiatus. Since I opened it ca. 2001, this blog has served several different purposes for me. I can't say that the public exposé of thoughts and feelings in itself has always been an element of my consciousness from the beginning--so to say my intent has always been that way, even as a seventh grader, would be haughty and revisionistic (which my browser is telling me isn't really a word but we'll go with it) to say the least--but as a child of a budding internet age, I hope I can claim to be aware enough to look back and appreciate just that: a life lived in relative public. I can attempt to wax philosophical about a culture of voyeurs and exhibitionists as if it were an affliction upon humanity, but I don't think I could do so with a straight face. These shifts in consciousness might take the world by some sort of weird retrospective surprise, but to see them as death knells for humanity is to fail to understand what's really going on. This isn't to say that there are not forces at work (and I urge you to interpret that as metaphorically and abstractly as possible--we'll deal with metaphysics some other time) that are harmful to the human condition (tea party, anyone?); however, I get the impression that to react negatively to the onset of the awareness of any change in general, no matter how long ago the change actually happened, is some sort of hard-wired (again, metaphorical) subroutine most of us tend to undertake. The outcries I see whenever Facebook changes its layout is a pretty good mundane example of this.
I'll try to keep the sentences shorter. Did you know that people in disability rights circles use the term "temporarily able-bodied" people (or TABs) to refer to what turns out to be most of the general public?
I get the feeling a lot of people (myself included, sometimes) create these small blogs because they have a sort of cognitive dissonance about saying exactly what they mean to the people they have direct access to, so they feel like this might be an acceptable way of having the conversations they aren't able to have day to day. Like knitting but don't have any friends who knit? Start a blog to share your creations! The scheme coils back in on itself, however, when you realize how little traffic you receive, and sink into an existential crisis and obsess over just how much people care about what you have to share. The hyper-popular blogs (and other content sharing feeds) tend to be the result of excessive creativity or charm--qualities which are bestowed upon a fortunate few. Others achieve their internet fame with a single piece of viral genus (I suppose 'viral' has become sort of a dirty word now) and end up riding a wave of success from it*. The rest of us are stuck in our trend of watching our pageview graphs bear the resemblance of the EKG of a Buddhist meditation master. That's why people like participating in games that generate pageviews and comments on sites like Flickr. It's sort of nice to see double-digit (let alone triple-, or quadruple-, or quintuple-?) numbers sometimes.
Once I'm done unplugging for a while, I am going to try to follow these threads and others like them. I'm doing so because I am trying to get myself to write more, for the sake of working up the momentum to try to get some projects finished. I'm going to warn, though, that I'm going to make little sense and that I will definitely contradict myself sometimes. It's going to start rough, and probably continue that way, but it'll be fun.
*I find it really funny how corporate media are trying to adapt to these phenomena. I'll have to write about it later.
Twenty-six lives were lost last Friday at the hands of a person I will not name. The void left by the victims, though I likely would never have met any of them, is vast and indelible.
The conversations following shootings like the ones that happened in Newtown, CT are unavoidable, and though they appear at the surface to ignore the suffering of those most affected by the incident, it is best to bear in mind that nobody can monopolize suffering by criticizing how others react to tragedy. That said, it has been interesting to watch the dialectic unfold over the internet among both friends and strangers. There are two narratives at play: the dominant one between gun owners (and their advocates) and those who want tighter control on public firearm proliferation; and the other, drifting in the undercurrent, about mental illness and the status thereof. Rumors of the shooter's place on the autism spectrum have ignited further (and largely irrelevant) controversy about his parents and his upbringing. The real conversation seems to stop at the mere suggestion of an increase in resources for public mental health treatment in this country.
I present a Modest Proposal (tm) for a way to reconcile both debates which brings mental health to center stage. In so doing, I will not ignore the topic of gun control, but will instead shift its role to a perspective that may be more effective in debates moving forward, as well as policy decisions down the road. To better understand what I mean by this, it is necessary to explore the rationalizations behind the desire to own a firearm.
The gun owner often justifies his purchase as a mode of self defense. This justification is usually backed up by hypotheticals in which an armed robbery or something of the like is heroically averted by some law-abiding citizen practicing his second amendment rights. Though I don't disagree that this happens on occasion (and I know some gun advocates who will jump on every news story in which situations like these do occur), I suspect that most would agree that the situation would be better if the armed robber wasn't armed in the first place. I'm also willing to put money on the fact that, in most cases, the gun that the robber used was legally obtained in exactly the same way that our upholder of justice got his. I don't want to belabor this particular topic too much, but my intent in discussing it is to point out that there is quite a bit wrong with the self-defense justification. Drastic measures such as the desire to carry a gun in case of an attack is the pinnacle of paranoia. Though there are regions in which the threat of an attack with a firearm is real, not only is the arming of more people the ethically reprehensible decision to make, but most people who advocate on these terms likely do not live in places where such a threat is relevant on a day-to-day basis.
So to emphasize a point, the desire to own and carry a gun for no other purpose than in case of an armed attack unveils a general, delusional distrust toward people. So the self-defense argument backfires. However, I highly doubt this is the real reason most people want to obtain a firearm--furthermore, if it is the reason, a case can be made against the ability for those people who get one for the above reason. It is a pathological paranoia.
At this juncture I must admit that I cannot think of any other reasons for purchasing a firearm. "Just in case" scenarios do not justify the propensity for accidents, thefts, and temper tantrums to occur. A device designed for nothing other than harm (let's face it) is not only inadvisable to permit the private possession of, but the widespread desire to own one speaks volumes. I will not try to make any Freudian assumptions about the will to power or, or the inner psychological workings of a gun owner, or any such nonsense. Instead, it is my intent to argue that the desire to possess a firearm is maladaptive and, as such, should be seen as a form of mental illness.
What else could explain the motivation to own something engineered to propel metal pellets at lethal speeds? It is one of the most counter-intuitive desires imaginable. The dangers of such a device vastly outweigh any conceivable benefit (of which I can think of none) it could possibly bring about. Even the potential benefits are laden with pathology, as we have seen above. This shockingly common urge has "mental disorder" written all over it.
So here I propose a new addition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: gun ownership disorder (abbv. G.O.D.). While I do not have the qualifications to suggest a way of diagnosing and treating such a horrible disease, this change in perspective is indeed necessary in order to begin research for and the possible development of therapy methods as soon as possible. We've got a long road ahead of us, but the benefits of such an ordeal will be truly remarkable. Granting the pathological status of gun ownership disorder will reveal a disease far past the epidemic threshold.
The key consequence of this paradigm shift is that it will allow us to kill two birds with one stone. If we are successful in gaining G.O.D.'s status as a mental illness, we can then push legislation to restrict those who suffer from it from obtaining a license to own a firearm, much like the current rules in place for other mental illnesses. This would thereby eliminate the need for any further gun control debates, as guns will only be available to those who do not desire to purchase them. Q.E.D.