The funny thing about depression…
First of all, let me say that I am in no way making light of any kind of depression… except that I have the less intense kind of depression…. depression light, as it were… I mean, I’m not crushed by overwhelming waves of despair or suicidal thoughts or anything. I have just never been a particularly happy person… and before you decide I am backpedaling because I don’t really suffer from any real type of depression, let me assure you that I have (in fact) been diagnosed as manic-depressive by someone I really hope was a qualified doctor of some word that begins with ‘psy’, although to be honest I never really looked at the diploma on his wall… assuming it was a diploma. I was given medications that did sort of get rid of the depression… and the love, hope, joy, and all the other emotions too… they were just sort of plowed down to a nice, flat expanse of sameness where not too much of anything stretches endlessly off into the horizon… you know… sort of like being in Kansas. I stopped taking them.
Let me back up a little and give you some background. I was born in 1960 in the San Francisco Bay Are. I grew up just north of Berkeley. You can probably see where I am going with this. The 60’s and 70’s in that particular place were full of people experimenting with a wide variety of drugs. Not all of them came out of the other end of those decades unscathed. Also, there has been an ongoing tendency for towns and cities all over America to send their ’emotionally unfocused’ and ‘dazed and confused’ citizens to Berkeley, because Berkeley has always had an infrastructure to deal with them. With free health clinics of all sorts and an inbreed desire to aid the underdogs.
Berkeley, between the local varieties and the imported ones, had more people per capita who carry on conversations with inanimate objects than any other place on this planet. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have quite a bit of experience with everything that can go wrong with the wiring in the human brain, up to and including my own.
So let’s talk about my brain, shall we? In a weird way, manic depression is a depressingly undepressing depression… which is, in itself, sort of depressing… if you see what I mean. You aren’t depressed all the time, so you don’t have a chance to really wallow in it. And to get noticed because you are depressed these days takes a certain level of depression that I am not ever likely to achieve. The fact that you have the manic part, well, that just confuses the hell out of people… because you aren’t depressed all the time… quite the opposite in fact… you seem almost perky and upbeat part of the time and this just makes people assume that you must have kicked the whole depression thing and moved on to something else… like crack cocaine… which would explain why your are bouncing off the walls and your ideas are pouring out of your face like someone stuck a fire hose full of ideas up your… other end. You can see how this roller-coaster can be hard on the people around you as well as just on you… and that led me to my years of experimental… emphasis on the ‘mental’… self-medicating because hey, at least then I had some control over when I was up and when I was down. Just so you know, this is not a good long-term solution.
Now, bear in mind that this was way back before we began our current system of deciding to label every single difference in how each human mind works with a nice little tag of capitalized letters. It was before the pharmaceutical giants made it their crusade to come up with a drug for each and every one of these acronyms.
Has anyone else seen the TV commercial for an antidepressant medication that lists these possible side effects: thoughts of suicide or worsening thoughts of suicide? Am I the only one who thinks that sounds just a little bit crazy?
I got sidetracked off on a tangent. Maybe that is a good thing, because while it makes it hard for me to make a specific point, it does show you a little of the way my mind tends to work. The running gag that I always end up telling people is that I have a head full of crack squirrels… (Just so you know, this is a real thing, because it turns out that crack dealers all over America hang out in parks and hide their stash in hollow trees and under bushes, and squirrels are inquisitive and always hungry and so more and more often they are ingesting crack cocaine).
Obviously, I do not have actual crack squirrels living inside my head. It is just a way to both explain my mental workings in a quick way and make light of them at the same time.
The other thing that is weird about my head… hey now, I’m talking about the inside… is that I am all art-side-of-the-brain. I mean literally. I took a test done up by psychiatry students at some big university and I got results that have never been seen before or since. It is too long of a story to go into here, but this is why I started my blog, (pouringmyartout.com) so that someday my future descendants that are born with a brain like mine could learn something about what it is like to have a head full of hyped-up vermin… and so I would have a place to share all my art and poems and songs and crazy stuff, because I do like every kind of art there is from music to carving tikis.
I only have two modes when it comes to meeting people… I am either interested in you and your opinion and find myself trying to show you everything I ever wrote or drew or carved or painted all at one time (my family calls this the Arthur Browne show, and it can overwhelm people) or I just don’t care about impressing you and I am not good at pretending otherwise.
You can see how all this makes interpersonal relationships a challenge for me. I mean, in small doses and short term, I am freakin’ awesome and fun. But, how I ever got someone to marry me and have two daughters with me is a mystery. Don’t worry, my wife is mostly logic-side-of-the-brain so our kids turned out awesome.
Combine all this with the fact that I dropped out of high school in 1977 because I was waaaaay too smart for school… (that was sarcasm in case you were wondering… why is there not a sarcasm font?). It is okay, because I got my GED and I am intensely self-educated. Even though the whole all-art-side-of-the-brain thing means I have no real life skills at all, and I can’t market myself or my stuff so I don’t sell many novels or paintings or tikis or custom t-shirts of whatever.
Now you have a small taste of what it is like to be me.
I often say that watching me be me is a lot more fun than actually being me. I don’t know if any of this helped us learn anything… or if it helped you in any way… or even helped me all that much… but I had fun doing it. I hope you had fun reading it.
Thank you for a mini-Arthur Browne show. I enjoyed it. Found myself smiling and giggling, especially at the wardrobe malfunction. Do you ever try to tame the vermin on crack? Meds have improved over the years. Well, I find them helpful, and I’m still very much crazy. I promise.
What a great post! I related very much…Lately I’ve noticed how I’m just the way you described with people I meet and am interested in getting to know. It’s nice to see I’m not the only person who wants to share my life’s work with people – immediately – when I find that I’m excited to get to know them. People seem very surprised by that behavior, but it seems natural to me. As for the crack squirrels, that makes total sense, too. I’ve got bipolar disorder, and I used to smoke crack to try and induce mania. My younger self had excellent decision-making skills and impulse control. Ha. But seriously – great post and I’m off to check out your art. I also relate to Kitt! I like that the meds help, but I’m still way crazier than I appear.
Excellent post, Arthur! I love your easy and amusing writing voice. Thanks for this.