the wastes

I have recently read a book about depression by the boss. It was transporting. You should read it.

Depression was the first way my brain chemistry got in touch with me. When I was 18, 19, I first got acquainted with it. I had crushing depression, grinding depression when I was a young man. But my family had just disintegrated at that point and I did not have a vocabulary for what I was feeling. I didn’t feel like depression. It just felt like mourning.

I had moved into my own apartment and found myself frequently curled up in the center of the carpet, tensing my muscles on and off. I had a little red car and would drive for hours at night, I mean hundreds and hundreds of miles. The idea was to stave off being alone with my thoughts, and usually the road and the radio helped. I found with depression that there was a kind of perpetual disbelief, one that I think made its way into my interactions with other people and made me seem weird, or weirder – what is this thing, inside of me? And I think I looked to other people for answers even as I said nothing coherent about having depression at all. I would hang out with people to avoid the depression and tell them nothing about my struggles and would leave disappointed that no one had diagnosed me even as I never really interrogated what was going on inside of me myself.

People are really down about the brain chemistry explanation of mental illness, and perhaps with good reason. I do see where they’re coming from. There isn’t too much evidence to support the serotonergic theory of depression. But I would not personally be onboard with those who reject any physical or biochemical visions or whatever of depression. Because depression is a feeling. It is profoundly physical. It expresses itself with your whole body. Just like mania.

Speaking of which, that was the turn – not in my condition, not for a long time, but in my mindset. I ended up in the hospital in 2002 and they asked me questions that I could not wriggle out of. Did I experience feelings of worthlessness and guilt? Yes. Did I experience feelings of extreme fatigue? Yes. Did I sleep too much? I did. Had I experienced a loss of interest in things that used to interest me? I had. And so it came to pass that conversations I would never have initiated in a million years had been initiated by my emergency, and that was the beginning of my first brief period of being medicated for depression. The depression had seemed like a sideshow at the time, as it was not the depression that had gotten me there in the first place. But one way or the other I was on my first round of SSRIS. That lasted maybe three months, and then I was in the wind again, untreated and seesawing back and forth again. You’re probably bored of this story.

And then, somehow, the depression began to get better. Sometime in my late twenties and early thirties things got easier. I had never noticed the cyclicality of my moods before I was diagnosed, but afterwards, with the frequency of my manic periods, it was had to miss. But as I grew older, wandering in and out of treatment, I found the depressions came less intensely if not less frequently. I tend to find that people assume that those of us with bipolar have more intuitive tracking of our mood cycles than we do. The whole problem is that you can’t tell what’s your mind and what’s your brain, right? But I found myself expecting to pass into deep depressions that didn’t come. And the best I can make out, I just aged out of it.

Don’t misunderstand me: I still get depressed. I still have depressive cycles. And I am on two antidepressants right now. But I don’t lie in the center of room in the fetal position anymore. I don’t live with that kind of fear, fear of coming into contact once again with the basic question of whether it was worth carrying on. For that I’m incredibly grateful.

But I do miss the clarity of depression. As vulgar as it is to say that I miss any of it, I do. Maybe others who suffer would get offended by that, I don’t know. But there’s something clarifying about depression, something singular. It focuses the mind to an impossible extent – focuses it, that is, on the darkest and the deepest hole in the human condition.

I am trying to avoid returning to professional opinionating but it’s tough sledding

There’s not much news to report from me; the book continues to pop up here and there, most prominently the Wall Street Journal. I have been given no information about sales figures and will not speculate.

Currently I am trying to find a job in the normie world. Many other people are as well and I am fortunate to have a little nest egg to live off of for now. But some sort of income will have to come in soon. (I applied for unemployment benefits from New York State on June 29th and still have yet to be approved or denied.) Part of my feelings of pressure to get a job is that I would like to avoid returning to professional opinion writing out of financial need, for reasons that are complicated. Perhaps the simplest thing to say is that I want to write out of organic personal motivation, not out of financial necessity. And, more, the fact of the matter is that there’s just a ton of negativity surrounding my writing, much of it my fault, and I’d prefer to avoid bringing that negativity into the world. However fair or unfair that’s the reality and if I can prevent creating new internet drama I’ll do that. It’s just that the job market is not cooperating.

Look things are tough all over and I don’t mistake my situation for remotely uniquely unfortunate. For my housing rights group I work on a hotline every week and I talk with tons of people who are in far worse shape than I am. I recognize my advantages. But I knew I needed a new job far before I was actually fired by Brooklyn College – thank you union contract – so I’ve been applying steadily since January, in all kinds of industries and sometimes outside of New York. And there’s the issue that we’re in an employment depression and I’m competing against millions of others, and there’s the problem that if you Google me you find out that I did something really unforgivable three years ago. I have taken to noting my mental illness in my cover letters and my recovery because I want to demonstrate that I have worked very hard and am in a new era of my life, one where I’m medicated and stable and still dedicated to recovery. I have no idea if this is a good idea or not.

Writing for money would have to be a crowdfunding deal. Publications do occasionally still ask me to pitch, including some fairly big ones, but those requests are few and far between. I generally assume that I am not welcome at places where my work used to appear. Luckily this is a new era as far as getting paid for your writing. I have no idea if I could earn enough on Substack or Patreon to live, but I feel pretty confident that I could earn four figures monthly. What would I write about? I would feel compelled to write about politics, including a lot of culture war stuff, because frankly that’s what people want to read from me. That’s a fact that I’ve had to accept over time. And you know I would do my best and I think I would have stuff to say. It’s just that the book was, among other things, a way to get away from culture war and idpol/political correctness/whatever. We knew we were leaving money on the table by not selling the “lefty attacks identity politics” book everybody expected me to write but the whole point of the book was to reflect a new era, to express a different life, to change my fate.

A lot of this, I guess, is bound up in questions of redemption or whatever that are very confused for me. Some people have interpreted my book’s release, and my subsequent attempts to publicize it, as a “comeback,” but I’ve never thought about it in those terms. I guess I just don’t see any connection between a book getting a critical reception and its author having to be redeemed. I have not asked people to forgive me not because I don’t think I deserve blame but because I don’t want to impose on people in that way. I wrote the book, in part, because I was (and am) under a student loan debt burden, and I am promoting it because I owe it to St. Martin’s and their people. And of course I want the book to sell. The book and me are separate entities; the day I submitted the final manuscript, in my mind, we ceased to have a relationship.

Anyway, all of that’s yap yap. The point is that if I don’t come up with a job soon I’m going to have to start a Patreon or Substack. If I do, it will have a lot to do with my financial situation and nothing to do with an assumption that anyone has to welcome me back to “the conversation” or whatever the fuck. Most of the chatter I’ve seen about me resurfacing has not been sincere. (Someone on Facebook complained that I had only been gone three years – as if, had it been four years or five years or ten, he would have welcomed me back with open arms.) Social media became purely about exercising social dominance over others a long time ago and the internet does not forgive. I will not wait for a forgiveness that the current culture of professional opinion writing, thanks to Twitter, is simply incapable of giving. But one way or another I might be getting back on the horse.

well I’m unemployed!

As of today I’m not longer an employee of Brooklyn College or CUNY. I won’t get into the details other than to say that I had a Provost and an Associate Provost who both had my back, then the Provost left, a new one came in who wasn’t enamored of me, and she fired the old Associate Provost and brought in a new one that had an immediate issue with me. Thanks to my union I had 6 months to get ready before they could actually get rid of me, but unfortunately that has proven to not be enough time to get another gig under current conditions. I’ll keep looking.

I have a couple little things going that will help and another book payment which will tide me over for awhile. In the medium to long term the issue is simply that it’s unclear if I can get hired with my history. But I’m keeping up my spirits and trying to focus on the positive, especially no longer having to do a job I didn’t care for in an unhealthy environment. There may be an announcement soon about my future plans, I’m not sure. On to the next thing.

goodbye Miles

I had to say goodbye to my beautiful boy Miles this weekend, after more than 13 years together. I don’t know much what to say other than that I loved him completely and will miss him forever.

Some of you will know that Miles very nearly left us almost exactly five years ago. He came down with a condition called IMHA, and the vets told me he would likely not survive. Then the condition caused him to have a stroke during what was one of the very worst nights of my life. They told me he’d never leave the animal hospital. But thanks to the generosity of many strangers on the internet, I was able to raise the $13,000 his six days in the hospital cost, and he survived. I have never forgotten the generosity those strangers showed and never will. These five extra years have meant everything to me.

Things were not easy afterwards. He had to relearn to use his body, and even years after the fact I could tell the difference in his gait, how he struggled to get onto the couch. We went through, I think, nine different medications at one point or another following his stroke. I came very close to losing him some four months or so after. In order to try and prevent another stroke, he was put on blood thinners, but they were causing him to have terrible nose bleeds. In a weekend I filled a garbage bag full of paper towels saturated with his blood. And after watching him struggle that way, along with all the other struggles, I resolved to end it. What stopped me was a thought that I couldn’t shake as I looked at him: that this was a creature who would never ask, why me?

Today I find myself unable to adjust. It is remarkable how caring for him has determined my schedule, the feeding and walking. Even now I feel like it’s been too long since he’s been out and that I should grab the leash and call to him. He has been the rhythm of my days and I am alone and unmoored without him. Now I am forced to stay inside an apartment that could not feel more empty. Only my cat Suavecito helps. Those last few days Miles had wanted what he always wants, which is to be near me, physically, curled up next to me on the couch or at my feet or in bed, and I am grateful.

Miles was the gentlest being I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. He was everything I could ever want in a dog. I will never have another.

I am recover’d

Hey friends, I’m happy to say that after a solid two weeks or so of illness I have felt near 100% the last two days. The fever is gone and the cough is now rare. I’m not sure if I had Covid-19 but whatever I had I seem to have beaten.

Here’s why I don’t know if I had it. Earlier this week I called the Covid hotline for NYS and was finally able to get an appointment for a test, this morning. The lady said to be sure to write out my appointment number on a piece of paper and bring my ID. I show up this morning to the parking lot of an old Sears and flash the ID number to the state cops. But they say “no walk-ins.” And I said no, I’m not a walk-in, I have an appointment. And the fucking guy says “you need a car. It’s a drive-in test.”

Setting aside the fact that the lady on the hotline said not one word of this, WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE CARS IN FUCKING NEW YORK CITY.

I think I might have Covid-19 but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m on day 6 of a persistent fever I can’t shake. It’s quite mild feeling – I have no idea what the temperature is because I don’t have a thermometer and I’m not about to go to Target to get one. I have a very occasional and sporadic cough but generally I take DayQuil/NyQuil and feel fine. I also have a weird taste in my mouth but what I read says the virus makes you have no taste. I should really call and check but as I understand it they don’t think mild symptoms need treatment and it’s supposedly really hard to get a test in the city right now.

I’ve already been pretty religious about social distancing and I’m being extra careful now. I’ve switched to delivery groceries. The only trouble is getting my creaky old dog out to pee and back four times a day. Keeping the six feet distance isn’t so hard on the street even in Brooklyn, but avoiding neighbors in the building is harder.

Who knows! It could easily be any other kind of bug. I feel shitty when I wake up in the morning and I take some medicine and feel fine. This strange season gets a little bit stranger.

you should mourn

You must socially distance yourself, and I am. It’s our duty in this moment. And it sucks, completely, but no one seems comfortable saying so.

Look, I have always understood the utter necessity of the measures we are taking, and I have followed the precautions recommended by experts from the beginning. I am 100% on board with the program and you should be too. I also am incredibly annoyed that this virus has become yet another excuse for people to engage in the only activity the internet enjoys, which is competitive righteousness. Everyone insists on being the only person who really, truly is down with the program. “I ALONE RECOGNIZE THE TRUE DEPTHS OF THIS PROBLEM! I AM THE LAST RESPONSIBLE MAN!” The sheer pomposity of it all.

And that has led to this atmosphere in which people are afraid to publicly admit their sadness and anger over all that they’re giving up. That’s deeply, deeply unhealthy. The first step in coping with loss is to recognize it, to understand the depths of your own pain.

Think of all that we’re giving up – concerts, museums, parties, festivals, drinks with friends, dates, football games, dinner with loved ones, travel, the presence of others. These things aren’t some trivial luxuries that only the privileged would mourn. They are the stuff of life. In a world that insists on replacing real pleasures with their sad virtual equivalents, these things are more vital than ever. We have been social distancing ourselves for decades – Uber to avoid the subway, Seamless to avoid restaurants, Skype to avoid face to face contact, podcasts and video game streaming to avoid real friendships, virtual reality to avoid real reality. This is the parasocial age, the age of the human facsimile. And now this. We have to acknowledge everything that we are losing, the things that make the human race human. We can’t do that if people treat acknowledging what we’ve lost as some betrayal of the need to look serious. And I’m so afraid that people are never going to come back, that they’ll get used to this new world and our last essential human connections with people we don’t know personally will be severed forever.

A couple weeks ago I lost one of my closest friends. It was a punch to the gut. And mutual friends and I said at the time that what we needed was to come together and mourn together, to memorialize him. Because the only way out is through; the only way to survive the pains of the world is to acknowledge them in their enormity. And now we can’t. We can’t bury our friend, thanks to this. And I’m so mad about it. I’m so mad. And you know what? I get to be mad. I am entitled to it. Just as I get to be mad that I might turn 40 alone in my apartment, that I may not travel again for years, that I won’t get to wander the halls of the Met anymore, that I will have essentially no ability to meet someone I might fall in love with, that I have no idea when I’ll next get to give my nieces a hug. I get to be mad about those things. And high school kids who’ll never go to graduation get to be mad, and the terminally ill who have to spend their last days indoors get to be mad, and so do people who just want to enjoy the spring in their local park. We all get to be mad.

The human cost of the disease and those it will kill is enormous. The cost of our prevention efforts are high as well. You’re losing something. You’re losing so much. So you should mourn. We’ve lost the world. Mourn for it.