Tag Archives: depression

Not Talking About Suicide

carnival

I used to occasionally go to suicide forums and talk to people… because why not? Like many people who suffer from depression, the thought of suicide has come to my head, but I’m much of a coward to really give it too much serious thought. It was more like, “if I’m going to kill myself, I’d do it this way” or “if this happens, that would be the thing that would make me go ahead and kill myself.” It was a thought experiment more than anything else. But as for the forums, occasionally I would read people’s posts. They were mostly young people, complaining about their lives, or people frustrated by their significant others. It’s rare, but sometimes, I would respond back. Instead of being a community of people seeking help before they do what they shouldn’t, I think it’s really more a community of people just trying to get their voices heard. It’s a place where a person can say their troubles instead of being deconstructed or given solutions to their problems. There was no judgment. It was a place that tells people that they are not insane, nor are they alone. That there’s nothing new under the sun and that they’ll get through whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. I suppose I might be accused of being a tourist for being there, but for a time, it really helped me with my depression. It felt good telling a complete stranger that things we’re going to be alright.

I live in a place where suicide is quite common place. People often regard Japan as one of the suicide capitals of the world, but really, South Korea has it beat. Even the former president committed suicide and in some ways normalized the whole thing. But as horrible as South Korea is when it comes to its suicide statistics and the reasons for why so many people are committing suicide (societal pressures, money troubles, elderly depression, stigma against seeing psychiatric help…) it surprised me to learn that Canada isn’t doing too well when it comes to suicide either.

Canada’s in the thirties when ranked with other countries. But when you look at that ranking, it disguises the fact that some communities are more susceptible to suicide than others. Aboriginal males are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal males. In 2000, out of 100,000 Aboriginal males, 126 committed suicide. For non-Aboriginals, it was 24. If you consider the size disparity between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, the suicide rates affecting small areas in the country is staggering. It’s gigantic compared to the suicide rate in South Korea (27 out of 100,000).

What’s shameful is that with countries like South Korea and Japan are actively doing things to help stop their suicide epidemics in the face of the horrible statistics. The police are patrolling suicide-prone areas, and there are groups which monitor vulnerable people. People are talking about the problem and how to deal with it. And while Canada has been helping some communities deal with depression, addiction, and mental health issues, I’m not sure if we’re doing enough to help prevent the high rates of suicide. I think it’s such a non-issue with the average Canadian that I wouldn’t even be aware of the problem if I didn’t have an interest in it myself. Clearly, present-day efforts are not enough for Aboriginal communities. There are initiatives that help them deal with problems once they are already dealing with them, but I’m not sure if Canada is doing enough to help prevent depression and mental health issues from developing in the first place. Now I’m not saying that South Korea and Japan are doing a lot more than Canada to help their citizens have more fulfilling lives to help prevent suicidal thoughts (I don’t think they are, they’re just doing more to keep people from committing the act), but I think Aboriginal communities are much more susceptible to this problem that it’s something the country should address. After all, much of the First Nations’ woes have been the result of its history with the Canadian government.

 

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Oh, Hole!

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I’ve been busy with a lot of writing in the past few days that I found it difficult to do much writing on my spare time. This is the gift of Twitter. It scratches my writing itch without sitting down and investing too much thought in it. Not that my diatribes in this Website take so much time and thought, but it’s just not very efficient writing stuff out in this format.

I just finished watching “Hit So Hard, The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel.” I’ve occasionally enjoyed Courtney Love, but I always liked her band’s sound, and I’m guessing a lot of that comes from Patty Schemel’s drums. It’s a decent documentary which touches up on the history of the band, spends a bit of time on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, goes into Kristen Pfaff, homosexuality, the whole getting kicked out of Hole, and never really gets too deep or preachy when it comes to Schemel’s struggles with drugs. Quite frankly, I think the documentary loses direction and forgets what it’s trying to say. I don’t really know who to recommend it to unless you’re really into Hole, Nirvana, Patty Schemel or curious about the whole drug thing.

Not grunge, but the death of Scott Weiland still bums me out. Chris Cornell, another person who was not quite grunge at the time, especially when they opened for Guns N’Roses, was found dead in what appears to have been suicide. He may now have had issues with drugs, not the type of drugs that killed Weiland or Pfaff, but Ativan, something that was prescribed to him to treat anxiety disorders and depression. Now I don’t mind drugs, prescription or otherwise. But I don’t like demonizing certain drugs while pushing others. Don’t use that; take these instead. Don’t take heroin; get a prescription for Oxycodone instead. I think if we just step back, stop demonizing drugs and drug users, and look at what we’re all doing in terms of what’s legal highs and what’s not, we can all be a safer, more responsible society. It may not have prevent all drug overdoses, be it legal drugs or otherwise, but I’m sure it would cut down sad stories.

 

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Korean Elections, Ugh.

Phonograph

I’m trying really hard not to write about depression, so instead about my own personal depression, let’s talk about how depressing the election is in South Korea right now. How depressing is it, let me list the ways!

The election, instead of being divided by regional ties is a divided between generations, the older conservative generation versus the younger conservative generation. Now, this wouldn’t be very depressing. It’s actually quite promising since it’s the younger generation breaking free from old-fashioned thinking, but I really think this push for progressivism would only be short-lived. I predict it’ll die once the political players are safely in their place. One of the candidates (Ahn) used to be popular among young people, that is, until he got wise and learned how to be a politician. In the end, these are all politicians, and the people still high with their victory over getting the president impeached might be disappointed with the un-sexy reality of politics once seats are no longer at stake.

The leading conservative party candidate demonized gay people as harbinger of AIDS. He also had an anecdote on his book about not stopping his friend drug a woman and rape her. Why include it in the book, who knows? He also recently talked bragged about not talking to his father in-law for years until his death. Sounds like an awesome guy. This guy might be president tomorrow.

Despite who wins or who loses, the THAAD missiles pointing at North Korea with a radar system looking into China will probably still be in place. It’s going to be a while before those useless missiles are removed from the peninsula, if they’re ever to be removed. Meanwhile, South Korea will still continue to suffer strained relations with China as long as those missiles exist.

Older Korean conservatives are looking into the US and Donald Trump as if he’s a role model. These are the same people who made the daughter of a former dictator president (she later got impeached). These people are waving the American flag around.

One of the candidate’s (Yoo) daughter got attacked/molested during a campaign stop. The man was arrested and is being charged, but apparently his defense is that he suffers from some sort of mental handicap. Mental handicap. He is a member of a homophobic and misogynistic rightwing group who posted pictures of the incident online.

Speaking of homophobic, the leading progressive candidate doesn’t seem to care much about gay people either. Although he said he wouldn’t do anything legislatively to oppress them or give them additional rights, he said he personally doesn’t have any stance regarding gay issues. Yay, progressives!

In any case, the leading progressive candidate (Moon) will probably be the next president of Korea. He promises to overhaul the country and undo many of the evils that happened during the last two conservative presidential terms. This is all good. He’s quite the experienced politician himself, serving under the late President Roh, who, compared to recent Korean presidents, was reasonably good if not for the allegations of influence peddling later in his term. Oh…

 

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No Facebook, No.

Poster6

A good friend of mine contacted me on Facebook and showed me our Facebook anniversary notification. Apparently, we have been Facebook friends for ten years, and it showed some highlights and some stats regarding our interaction on the platform. It’s a good attempt from Facebook to get people to start using their platform again, although it’s a bit too obvious. I’ve long abandoned my Facebook page. I only use it to keep in touch with family members via the messenger app. I don’t think seeing my history with the platform would really entice me to go back to using it as much as I used to.

I just finished listening to the latest ‘The Hidden Brain’ episode (Schadenfacebook). It explores what I already read about years ago and what I’ve come to belief for a long time now, the more I use social networking platform, the more depressed I become. The show basically says that Facebook gets its users to curate their life, create a show for their friends and family to see. It creates or amplifies this need to appear happy, or at least happier than your friends. Also, the fear of missing out and constantly checking on the experiences of your friends diminishes your own current experiences. You could be traveling in some exotic locale, but the joy from the experience is dulled should you see that your friends on Facebook or doing something else together, even if it’s something as mundane as meeting up for coffee. Instead of enjoying your current experience, your mind is somewhere else, either wishing to be a part of your friends’ experience, or thinking of ways to one-up their experience with your own post.

Basically, Facebook is bad news. It gets you depressed. It turns you into a smaller person. The more depressed you are, the more active you become at the site. And the thing is, you end up competing with people who are probably just as depressed as you are.

Amazingly, one of the most cynical companies whose product is basically preying on people’s ego and making people less fulfilled in the process is one of the richest companies in the world. Good job, Mark!

Facebook started out great. I get to see some friends from back home. I get to reconnect with some people who I’ve long lost touch with. But I also get to see some old romances and basically enjoy how bad their life has become or how their looks have deteriorated since I left them. It is basically a tool that helps me with my ego, telling me that I’ve made the right decisions in life. And while I can only say that about my own experience, I’m pretty sure that’s what motivates many people on the site too. They might as well call the site LookAtHowBadMyExIsDoingTheseDays.com. So yeah, jealousy, depression, unnecessary competitiveness, ego… it’s like Facebook was designed by the devil himself.

So yeah, while I love that friend of mine who recently contacted me (I love him like a brother), I won’t be coming back. Nice try, Facebook. I’m depressed enough as it is.

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We’re all John B McLemore Sometimes.

1 Goat

S-Town, from the makers of Serial and This American Life, is a glorious podcast. What started out as a crime mystery in a rural town quickly becomes an examination of tortured existence. It was good podcast to listen to after finishing Missing Richard Simmons. Both podcasts deal with examining people who have grown uncomfortable with the lives they lead. Though Richard Simmons claim he’s living well and is comfortable with how his life is, the podcast certainly explored the idea that he’s currently living a life of torture, either as someone who’s held captive, or someone who has grown tired pushing himself to creating a persona that has gone out of control. In any case, it didn’t get as dark as S-Town got. Both podcasts remind me of the Hammerstein line from ‘Ol’ Man River’ – “I’m tired of living, and scared of dying.” We all get tired of living. I can honestly say that I’ve been having more and more days where I am just tired of it all. Not enough to end everything, of course. I’m too much of a coward for that. But at one point on June 22, 2015, John B. McLemore got so tired of life’s slow, mundane misery, that he was no longer scared of dying.

Now, the podcast explored many reasons for John’s depression: his family life, his sexuality, his grief over his dog, his frustrations with his town, his obsessions with global ills, mercury poisoning, etc. It was evident that John was actually surrounded by people who are his friends, not just in his hometown, but throughout the world via the Internet. He is, after all, one of the world’s foremost experts in restoring antique timepieces. But despite not being alone, he believed he was lonely, to which host Brian Reed asks, “Is there really a difference?”

Despite being in a rather ideal situation, having money, a stable relationship, etc., can a person will themselves to depression and keep their joys to a minimum? It would seem this is exactly what John has done. He hated his town, and yet he stayed. He could’ve been more open with his sexuality, and yet he chose circumstances which kept him in the closet. He lashed at people who were genuinely his friends. He became addicted to information on the Internet that was upsetting him. He was constantly giving himself reasons to feel bad, like writing daily notes of self-denial instead of self-affirmation.

I wonder if that’s how things really are. That it can all be boiled down to simple mental exercise. Keep telling yourself that there is a God, and every little event in life would be God’s little miracle in your eyes. Keep telling yourself that you don’t deserve any happiness, and every little event would be proof that you don’t deserve any earthly joy. You are a fuck up, and the world will prove that you are. Why should you be happy when the world is a miserable place and you are miserable yourself. Keep telling yourself you’re lonely despite having good days. For as Brian Reed said, “Is there really a difference?” Perhaps at some point, you’ll get so tired of living, that you will no longer be scared.

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A Love Letter

Horseman

The beauty of being married is not being alone when you die. The thing is, if you don’t have children, that scenario is only possible for either you or your partner. Otherwise, one of you will spend a few years alone, missing your spouse, wondering if you’ll ever see each other again. Depression sets in, it reflects on your health. And if you don’t recover, life becomes a nightmare, and death, once feared, becomes the ultimate cure to your melancholy. This is why it is all too common that when half of an elderly couple passes, the other one soon follows. The years missing a beloved spouse can be a long, existential torture.

But worse still is the possibility that you’ll spend many years longer wondering why you got married in the first place, hating the familiar stranger you’re sharing your bedroom with.

As Hunter S. Thompson put it, “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”*

So I say to my beloved single friends, don’t give in to the pressures of marriage. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If you want someone to be there and witness you die, as morbid (and strangely primitive) a desire that may be, I will be there for you. Just don’t get married for fear of facing death in a room by yourself. Know that I will watch you pass away for the right reason. I will do it because I love you.

 

*It is worth noting that despite Hunter S. Thompson’s thoughts on finding happiness, he got married twice. It is also worth noting that he ended up committing suicide, while on the phone with his second wife.

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When People Die Around Me…

Maurice_Riddick

A relative just died a couple of days during another relative’s funeral. See, it’s moments like this that keep me listening to Elliott Smith.

That right there is my problem. Instead of genuinely expressing grief over a loved one dying, I make a joke about Elliott Smith. Someone who wrote the most touching songs about depression, someone whose songs I still listen to to this day, and who he himself died of the most tragic circumstances. Two of my sisters called me about the tragic news, and I did it again, I reacted by making jokes, not about Elliott Smith, but I tried to be lighthearted about the situation nonetheless.

See if I come across a tragedy, I joke about it, don’t talk about it seriously, then I keep it bottled up inside until it gets all black as ink. Then later when it gets too much or when it hits me at a bad part of my day, it comes out through my art. Instead of processing things and talking about it like a normal, functional adult, I keep it inside… that or write entries about it in a site that won’t be seen by people who actually matter in my life. This is why when I asked, “was he sleeping?” after hearing an old relative died, the other person was not sure whether I was being serious or was it another set-up to a bad joke.

If everything is all smiles, no one gets it when you’re being serious.

Anyway, back to what happened. It’s really sad, but both people were a little older and though the first death was kind of expected, the other one, though I kinda expected due to his age, it took everyone by surprise due to circumstances. Death sucks. I realize that one should expect the passing of older people, but knowing this doesn’t make things any easier. I’m still grieving over my mother passing away. I can only imagine how others are feeling right about now. I know this gonna numb me for a while. I haven’t been that close with both people in the past few years, but both have been really there for me and my family back when we really needed their help. We kinda owe them. I owe them. And in the face of such kindness and generosity, the least I could do is feel really bad over their passing and take it a little bit more seriously. Listen to ‘Either/Or’ and just keep to myself.

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Chickens

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I drew this based on an actual cockfight I saw when I visited a cockfighting ring in the Philippines back in 1998. I remember it being a bit gruesome especially in how a much cared for pet quickly becomes a casually manhandled broken animal after losing a fight. Attitudes change after a minute-long fight. I also remember the chaos at how the participants bet on fights: yelling odds and wagers, and throwing money owed. I don’t know how the system works and how it’s policed, but everyone there seems to be content with the chaos.

The birds are beautiful creatures which unfortunately are tied to evils regardless of how enthusiasts wax poetic at how the fights are metaphors to their own struggles. In the end, it’s still about animal cruelty and gambling.

I started drawing another bird last week, the greater prairie chicken, which is really a grouse. I’ve been on a Canada-kick lately, and I think I should do a tribute on one of Canada’s poor extirpated bird. Why can’t we reintroduce these beautiful birds back in the western provinces? C’mon Prime Minister Trudeau! Let’s get this done!

Due to a busy schedule, and honestly, bouts of depression, I haven’t had much time and energy to do art. Usually, working on art gets me through depression and anxiety, but lately I’ve just been torpid and it’s been extremely challenging to get myself out of it. So to artists out there who are making art to deal with their issues, good for you! You might be depressed, but at least you’re making something and have the energy to create despite being in a dark place.

As for me, I’m still looking into this fat bird to get myself to a healthier mental state. It’s easier to draw birds than to actually work on the things that are negatively affecting my life, but that’s another entry for another time. Unfortunately, I’ll be on vacation soon, and ironically, that may leave me with even less time to draw. Hopefully I could finish it soon.

 

 

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How We Are Here

Double_Virgin

Simon and Garfunkel looked at loneliness and isolation as something like a super power, a super human ability to be impervious to what drags most people down. We are social creatures. We take strength from our neighbors. But this reliance on others makes us vulnerable to our neighbors’ weaknesses as well. Looking back at Simon and Garfunkel, after spending an intimate afternoon with Cecilia and forming what I assume are more than just sexual bonds with another person, Cecilia starts having sex with another man the minute either Simon or Garfunkel leaves the room to wash their face. Being a rock, being an island would have been better. At least one doesn’t have to deal with the humiliation and emotional battery.

Unfortunately, true isolation is rarely possible. By virtue of being raised by someone, or the minute we take interest in another person, be it sexually or emotionally, we are trapped. Our lives are connected regardless of whether the other person cares, and the dynamics of this relationship ultimately affects our happiness.

Which brings me to what a friend of mine told to me the other day:

I’ve come to full terms with the fact that my father is a bit of a deadbeat. He is someone who saw the first opportunity to retire and took it, not even caring about what happens in the future. He would rather be lazy, not work and lead a mediocre life, than work and actually do interesting things, be interesting… travel the world, contribute to society, have a freakin’ hobby, do something. And that’s what got to me the most… people like that, and the way they drag other people down into an especially tedious and mediocre existence.

Because he doesn’t work, he relies on his children for money. His children are just starting their own families, their own lives. Instead of saving money for their own children, or maybe using that money to make their lives a bit more exciting, a trip to Disneyland or something, they end up sending that money to their father, someone who has no interest in working. Instead of just one person leading an uneventful life, he drags his children’s life to the same mediocre existence, only they are working harder for it. He isn’t. He’s “retired.” 

Now, this hit me a little close. Being the breadwinner, I have to worry about providing for my wife. Ideally, we would be DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). But for one reason or another, my wife would not be able to survive by her income alone. And by some miracle, the one who graduated with an arts degree is the breadwinner of the family. I don’t mind this much. I believe, as Dan Savage said, this is the price of admission. This is the price I pay for being with my wife. I’m fine with it. My wife is a good person and I am fortunate to have found someone like her. Unfortunately, the price I pay is not limited to money. It is also the scope of what I could dream, what I could accomplish.

This is not news, but marriage ties finances. And because finances are tied to another person, instead of considering just one’s self when thinking about the future, a person has to consider their partner. Now, this would be good if the other person can carry their own weight (or even better if they could help out considerably). But it’s a tad problematic if they can’t. My dreams, what I can accomplish, are tied down by the needs of those that are around me. It’s true to varying degrees with everyone who’s married. A husband can’t get that new car he always wanted, or a wife has to give up on her dreams of moving out of their small town. We are all tethered to each other, and I believe, more often than not, it grounds us. It makes our lives more mediocre. Now, imagine if there was another person in the mix, like a deadbeat dad.

Which brings me back to my friend. It seems that he has surrounded himself with people that tie him down financially: his wife, his kids, and now his deadbeat dad. If he was single, with his salary, he could lead a rather exciting life. But because of his social bonds and obligations, he leads what he considers a rather normal, run-of-the-mill life. It is the price of admission for love and family.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a rock? A lonely rock that has more disposable income?

Life without his wife, his kids, even his deadbeat dad, would be more depressing. It’s easy to dream about all the money we could be spending on ourselves, to be free from the responsibility for other people, but it’s not so fun thinking about a life that we don’t share with anyone. I think it’s more realistic to dream about a life where others contribute as much to your life the same way you contribute to theirs. Instead of people tying our dreams down, they make our dreams possible.

I gave him an encouraging sermon, which is basically what this whole entry is about. He was a tad depressed, but really, who’s married and never had stuff like this to worry about?

Then I introduced him to the uplifting music of Elliott Smith.

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Yeaaargh!

Rat King

Unhappiness is a Rat King that grows, tangles, and gnaws from the inside. It helps however to be distracted now and then, to smile and pretend you’re happy and content. A person can live like it’s not even there. You start getting used to it. It hollows you out as it eats your insides. But it also fills you up with its hairy warmth, despite its teeth and claws. The multiple hearts beating, the friction of fur on fur, the heat from the collecting feces, can be strange comfort sometimes. Like a hug coming from the inside. Life can be manageable with a Rat King.

Unfortunately, it would eventually grow too big and burst forth, grossing everyone out.

As it scurries off, and struggles to run away from the light, it’s a little difficult trying to be happy. Not only are you a hollow shell of your former self, but you’re also a disgusting, bloody corpse on the floor.

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