Zine Release: Depression and Desire (With Bonus Old Zine)

Depression Zine Witch of Endor Piece

Link: Depression and Desire

This zine is concerned with exactly what it sounds like. It contains several pieces of digital art and three main parts. First, there is a sympathetic reading of the story of Saul and the Witch of Endor from the perspective of someone with anxiety and depression. Second, I included a piece on the problems of living with depression in a land and in a space that is also afflicted, especially focusing on environmental damage and the stress that it can cause. Finally, there is a two-page microfiction about angel-capturing monks and their ability to change the world around them.

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1d9t_eb5-tPAURRszuboYVwkRPlHaHEvy

I am horrified of ruins

Bonus Link: Plunge: An Agender Life

Mostly a series of discussions of issues related to (lack of) gender, visibility, and other issues to do with my own queerness. Also includes a great number of art pieces and a few essays.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1fwJuLrLATf14EXxHQp06IfnvFfKxcyLc

I hope that you enjoy them and get a lot out of them.

Out Like a Lamb: Day 10: Depression and Anxiety

OUT Like a Lamb banner

This post will be even shorter than usual. Reasons for this are easy to come by. I don’t feel like giving a blow-by blow of my depressive episodes, nor is this topic one I feel much at liberty to discuss. So I will make this quick.

When I wake up every morning, there is no telling whether I will be able to get out of bed without extreme effort. Walking into a room with people I haven’t seen before, I can go into a panic attack and hide away. I feel awkward making eye contact, I have missed several appointments because of social anxiety and a hesitance to go outside (especially since it takes a great deal of effort to get my look together and feel confident). It’s easy to get me to cry because I slip into depressions where my self-esteem and will to move around evaporate. Even things I enjoy cannot entice, and life feels without worth.

And, guess what? I am fully capable of living a happy and fulfilling life. In fact, I manage to do just that much of the time despite my struggles. What I cannot abide is people telling me what’s best for me, as if they know what will make me happy, if I just listen to them. In no uncertain terms, to hell with that. I am the best qualified person to know what I need, even if I am not capable of solving all of my problems by myself. My input is the most important one, because only I can tell how I am actually feeling. Empathy and sympathy can only go so far, and what people need to get through their skulls is that they need to understand me on an intellectual and emotional level, and give me the autonomy to address my own issues, to reject the impulse that tells them that they know better.

Trans people, in particular, ought to be left alone to develop freely and form our own associations and ways of being in the world. Nothing makes me angrier than people who are trying to “help” but do the opposite because of their ignorance and emotional clumsiness. Good night everyone!

March 21: Tomorrow is my post dealing with all matters religious–at least ones that can be put in under 1000 words. that said, it will be one of the longer ones.

March 22: A lighter touch the day after tomorrow. Time to talk about Magic: The Gathering. My favourite hobby will come to my blog for the first time, at least in full post form.

March 23: Another fun one, this time on my art, especially drawing and poster design. Regular readers will already recognize much of the latter, but there will be fun for everyone in this post!

That Elusive Cheerfulness

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On bleak and frigid days like today, I often find myself paralyzed by an ailment I once named “historian’s pessimism.” Like “tennis elbow” and “swimmer’s ear,” you can get it whether you are a tennis player, swimmer, or historian, or not. And I have long been susceptible to depressive episodes, particularly during dark and confining winters. Those reservations aside, I think my quite orthodox historical training in university confirmed and sharpened my dark outlook on life.

One could chalk it up to the fact that human history is “just” laden with tragedies and heartbreak, which no one could deny. Still, I feel there is a deeper current of sadness running throughout history as a discipline and, perhaps, all of academia. My suspicion is that this current flows from a basic source: the alienation of academic endeavours from practical and liberating activity.

Universities are generally planned and executed as “thought factories” that manufacture particular kinds of people who think a particular way. Under a capitalist accumulation regime, the major and minor academic institutions are all under a mandate to reproduce the professional class––not to mention their own faculty ranks––through both technical instruction and the cultivation of persons with a particular ethos or way of feeling in the world. Every major and department creates a different sort of output, but in the humanities the emotional tenor of the faculty and student body tends to be relatively cynical, detached, and what Spinoza calls “satirical.” Historians make the best satirists of them all, by which I mean those who parasitize on misfortune for their own happiness.

We can run into this in our own research, in our interactions with colleagues, and when we bring it out into the world outside the academy. Passivity, the passivity of pure scholarship and the detachment of “book learning” to the (expected, obligatory) exclusion of political work and real activity, ingrains in us a sense of superiority that conceals a deep and restless fixation on our own weakness. Some of us, we brilliant satirists, can turn even our own weakness into a joke: I do it for the sake of pure knowledge! Look at those chumps trying to change the world that we can’t even understand with all our ability. For me, at least, the professional and intellectual rewards of academia and scholarship pale in comparison to the active intellect, using tools forged in activity and tempered in knowledge to advance real progress in the world and combat reactionary tendencies.

Perhaps, one could allege, I simply haven’t accepted the limits of my own discipline, its prescribed place in the buzzing hive of academic production. In fact, I acknowledge that, in the guise of a historian, I can do quite little other than provide a knowledge of the past and the limitations that it puts on what we can do here and now. I can project a sense of what human society is capable of, chalk outlines of thought and reality checks on hubris or––and this is crucial––pessimism.

What defines a revolutionary way of feeling and desiring? I believe it is the opposite of melancholy or poisoned nostalgia. Slipping into that familiar academic ennui is not a “natural” state of things native to our body but a learned behaviour, a response that we can, in community with others, seek to overcome. Though some would point to the fact that American corporate human resources departments seem to make similar demands for constant cheerfulness, I would point out that encouraging service workers or office drones to plaster smiles on their faces to drive up productivity and/or sales is not the same thing as combating defeatist  and obsessively pessimistic emotions in our own lives. Imposing a false parody of happiness is surely the fastest way to spread real misery.

To finish, a couple of reminders from Spinoza, the master theorist of happiness:

“Cheerfulness cannot be excessive; it is always good. On the other hand, melancholy is always bad.”

(Part IV, Prop. 42)

And:

“And although men are subject to numerous emotions, and so few are found who are always assailed by one and the same emotion, yet sometimes we see men so affected by one object that they think they have it before them even though it is not present. When this happens to a man who is not asleep, we say his is delirious or mad, and no less mad are those thought to be who are fired with love, dreaming night and day only of their sweetheart or mistress, for they usually provoke ridicule. But when the miser thinks of nothing but gain or money, and the ambitious man of honour, they are not reckoned as mad, for they are usually unpopular and arouse disgust. But in reality avarice, ambition, lust, etc. are kinds of madness, although they are not counted as diseases.”

(Part IV, Prop 44. Sch.)

Academics obsessed with their own impotence, I would wager, are just as sick––and more likely to slip into actually harmful behaviour, a tendency I notice in myself more than anyone.