Sunday, October 26, 2014

on stupid, stupid rat creatures

When I first encountered Jeff Smith's Bone series, I found it to be revolutionary. Not for the wondrous artwork, surprisingly funny dialog, or the unexpected depth of emotion, narrative, and complexity which continued to reveal itself to the reader. It was for one reason: the inclusion of the stupid, stupid rat creatures.

For those unfamiliar with Bone, I do pity you, but a bit of orientation is required. It is the story of (to employ the brief movie pitch description) three creatures who get lost in a strange valley and find themselves in the midst of a war between several magical species. One of these species is the rat creature. Bone introduces us to them with two deserter soldiers, who are fierce, a little scared, very hungry, and quiche-obsessed all at the same time. From that point on, though, most of the rat creatures are soldiers, dedicated to wiping out the opponents. While the first two are cute in a way, the main body of the rat creature army is downright frightening. None is more scary, though, than their leader: Kingdok.

When I first ran across the drawing of Kingdok, I stopped in my tracks. It was not just because of the excellent character design.  What truly struck me was Kingdok was the closest thing I've ever seen to capturing how I feel my depression monster must appear.

As soon as I realized I suffered from depression, I started to look for metaphors to help explain how the disease makes me feel. It's not easy, because depression is much, much more than feeling sad.  I feel like my body is being smothered with a heavy bag pressing down on me.  I feel the weight on my head and shoulders.  I feel the doom and sadness flowing down on me.  It doesn't matter how I feel about the particular depression triggers, whether they make sense or not.  It's coming to get me, and there's little I can do to avoid it.

With all respect to Toby Allen's wonderful concept, Kingdoc is the perfect embodiment of my depression monster. He inspires the right amount of fear to set me on edge, but he's also imposing enough to know there is no escape from whatever he has planned for me.

I've been battling the depression monster this week. This time, there are many triggers at work, some I'm open about (the failure of my last surgery, another impending surgery, the financial hit of this all, falling behind at work under a pile of never-ending grading, not being able to get solo music shows, not one person I know taking an hour out of their Friday night to come see my band), some I don't want to discuss. And there would be value in discussing many of these.  However, when the depression monster comes, all that goes out the window. Instead, I just feel doomed.

Stupid, stupid depression monster.

Monday, October 20, 2014

on questions better left unasked

In one of the Hitchhiker books, Douglas Adams introduced the idea of "questions where, if you think about them too much, the answers will only drive you insane." One of the major advances I made after my 2011-2012 mental break was to adopt this concept and make it my own.

You see, I've always been a moper. I've been the kind of guy who will dwell on the negative and the difficult, often in a possibly fruitless search for a way to conquer a difficult or nigh-impossible obstacle. This is almost certainly rooted in my depression, yes. But it was not without its benefits. It made me tenacious and bull-headed in my quest to get in and through grad school, for instance.

Part of the problem, though, is that there are walls which one cannot push through, obstacles that, for whatever reason, cannot be overcome. My magnificent failure at the academic job market is a sterling example. I did everything I could do...yet I was crushed by the market regardless. My tenacity could not overcome the dwindling opportunities for scholars in general. And, as I was a dweller, I could not quit analyzing my lack of success...and consequently blaming myself. Being able to shove the whole thing into the "if you think about it, it will only drive you crazy" folder took a very long time, but I eventually learned to let some things go...and became a much happier and healthier person as a result.

But every so often, I have days. Today, on my way from the university to the hospital, I started to think those thoughts even though I knew they would drive me mad. I couldn't stop myself. I don't know if it was the last 4 days grading until 10pm, my current social isolation, or that I was listening on the drive to an album which was on regular rotation during the adjunct hell years. Maybe it was just one of depressive turns. I dunno.

Sometimes, I wish I could just cut certain things out of my brain. Maybe I should just listen to more pop music.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

on being a pseudo-rock star

It occurs to me that, while I play in a cool band and am a solo musician with album, I additionally have a surprisingly extensive pseudo-career.  If you want to get technical about it, I am officially in two other bands: a screamo/experimental heavy band and a folk/metal comedy duo. Neither of them have done anything at all to this point, up to and including playing together. I think in each case we still actively plan to do something, though, so these exist more in the realm of quantum possibility. 

Others are more nebulous. I have also agreed to be in a backing band for a singer/songwriter colleague, but as the singer joined another band, I'm beginning to suspect this won't ever happen. The other singer in my last band had asked me on at least ten other occasions to play with him in side projects. He has now (according to his own claims) "quit music forever."  I'm not sure why anyone would make such a proclamation.  Personally, I don't trust anyone's judgement when they say they will never play with people at any point in time until the day they shuffle off this mortal coil. However, I have to accept such a statement as probably spelling the death of all these side projects. Nevertheless, I still really feel the need to count them as elements in my pseudo-career...for whatever little that is worth.

It is strange, though, that the catalog of probably-never-gonna-come-to-fruition acts is so sizable.  I wonder what this says about me.  Is playing with me the kind of thing that sounds like a good idea right up until the point one sobers up?  But this sounds like a candidate for the ever-growing list of "if you ever thought about it, the answers would only keep you up at night" questions. So I'm better off just moving to other things in my mind.

Still, though, I can't help but wonder what it would be like if I could move any of these possibilities from the quantum realm into the actual world.  Shame my math skills were never good enough to allow me to become that kind of mad scientist.