I have chronic depression. I’ve had it for close to 20 years, probably longer but I never went in for a diagnosis until I was in my mid 20s. I’ve been on various meds for it, some effective, some not, some with hilarious side effects like incredible weight fluctuation, chaotic mood swings, and the inability to ejaculate for long periods of time without someone singing the theme to Friends. Most of them have been cripplingly expensive. I’ve grappled with the guilt of knowing everyone in my life is impacted at times because of this condition. I’ve attempted suicide and spent countless hours fixating on it. And I’m like many of you, struggling to keep on track day to day without allowing the smallest thing to fucking devastate it.
I don’t disclose this to ask for sympathy (though cards would be nice) but rather to shed some light on why this subject is important to me and why I keep returning to the well of depression for inspiration either musically, or in writing these articles you read while taking a shit at work.
Last week was “Mental Health Week” and I was going to take a stab at this then but, ironically, depression had sapped any kind of inspiration I had to make classy jokes like the prior fecal-themed gag. But after reading about Chris Cornell’s suicide as well as seeing half a dozen people on my social media feeds eulogizing someone they loved who has taken their life in the past week, I suppose that this is the appropriate time.
Mental health awareness, it seems, only ever comes up in the news when it’s in regards to the “inevitable” outcome of someone either harming themselves or others, but on slow news days never seems to draw any attention. Considering the National Mental Health Alliance issued the statistic that one in five adults will suffer from some kind of mental illness in their lives you’d think this would be a more visible topic, especially since you can’t watch television without seeing four commercials an hour trying to sell you on some new depression treatment-most of which have “suicidal thoughts or actions” as side effects. If this is an obvious financial boon to the pharma industry you’d think it would be considered more of a mainstream topic, at least as something that fuels part of the economy.
But that’s the mainstream, the “normal” people. We’re not them, not really. You see, the arts, be it music, painting, writing, interpretive dancing while shovel fucking a stuffed animal etc, has a eternal foundation of those whom suffer through various conditions and seek a way to alleviate them or at least try to find understanding in why they’re wired like this. And we seek this understanding through the works of others, or at least some kind of comfort in what can be created out of these conditions and experiences.
But this can be, and is, exploited.
There tends to be a romanticism of suicide and depression, especially in black metal, which on the surface makes it seem as if there is a gathering of broken like-minds who are crafting some kind of movement. But if you go deeper you’ll see that it is a movement; a bowel movement. Much like how emo was coopted in the punk scene by kids with haircuts that should be made illegal as child abuse to anyone under 18 who tries to get one, black and doom metal too suffer from kids going through a phase. Typing in “suicidal black metal” into bandcamp is like walking into a kindergarten on show and tell day to see every kid brought in a drum machine. It becomes a celebration of depression, not as a condition which creates a different life experience along the way, but as a fashion statement; a “fuck you Mom and Dad”; a mockery.
This joke makes light of bands like Strid or Abyssic Hate who pioneered depressive black metal through honesty when it wasn’t something cute to put on t-shirts and, more importantly, it waters down those who truly suffer with dozens of boys who cried “wolf.” I suppose I shouldn’t be the one to judge who is sincere here and who isn’t, I don’t have to live their lives and I’m thankful for that. But it helps create a fog around those who may truly need reaching out to because it might just look like they’re in it to be lauded, not to escape whatever hell their inner lives truly are.
People deal with this in a myriad of ways; being creative, isolating themselves, forcing themselves out into the world to numb themselves with drugs, sex or whatever vices helps dull the roar. Gallows humor cannot be understated as a way that people deal with it. There’s a million different signs and it’s fucking exhausting to watch for all of them. A lot of people who are coping with depression aren’t suicidal, and are not inclined to self-harm. But it never hurts to reach out to someone you think is drowning and ask if they can swim or if they want you to throw them a line. Letting them know you care could be that one thing that gets them through a shitty day, no matter how small of an action it is.
One thing I cannot stress nearly fucking enough is that if someone commits suicide and you get on your high horse and express your (misguided) opinion that it’s cowardly, or you try to shame the people who are left behind trying to pick up the pieces; you’re an asshole. This is one time you need to keep your shitty opinion to yourself even if it (hopefully) kills you.
And to you whom are afflicted, there’s always a way out, even for just a little while until the next catastrophe occurs. It’s a never-ending cycle and I know you feel guilty for being this way, for being a “burden” but the whole trick of life is finding your way through it. You’re not alone and there are resources out there. Do not feel shame for how you are. Do not feel shame if meds don’t work. Just keep fighting as long as you can, and then fight some more. Find a reason, no matter how small, and fixate on it. Depression may feel like an endless tunnel but you’ll never know if there’s an end unless you keep walking.