There is plenty of literature on depression. It ranges from tween tweets to casual blog posts to self-liberated mothers-turned-mentors; academic articles and drug trials to biopic conspiracies about the “27 club”; accidentally post-modern postmodernist tomes like Infinite Jest to the drug-infused sojourns of truth-seeking psychonauts; spins on each and every theorized root cause from body-image-induced eating disorders to culture-image-induced eating disorders; addiction as a cause to addiction as an effect to addiction as a comorbitiy; from aliens to “our true nature” to New World Orders to old world disorders. Likewise there is an equally unending litany of both linear and circular and oscillating derivative how-tos and ought-tos and should-dos and don’t-do-anythings.
It’s all rather depressing, really.
Depression is a hell of thing – an evil thing, maybe, or maybe not a thing at all, but either way it is some thing for which we have a word and in which we spend a fair amount of time and to which we devote an unreasonable amount of depressive-level apocalyptic seriousness and at-an-arm’s-distance fearful respect; an appropriate-to-nod-at-knowingly-but-uncomforable-to-address-openly thing wedded to our vernacular and culture like a malignant tumor. It’s there, we know it, politely lament it, and on occasion retrospectively and self-empoweringly pummel it with the righteous fists of self-reinvention and communal suffering.
And it ought to be talked about, and serious intellects ought to respect it and take it seriously; but what gets left in the dark for those of us who are bipolar – all of us, really – is the dark and insidious metaphorical minefield of happiness; and, moving still further forward to exclude well-meaning normies and mental “illness” romantics – mania.
You see, depression anthropomorphized is an easy person to beat to death, because in so doing even the most passive of pacifists sees no irony or hypocrisy in the death of Evil; few indeed water the fresh graves of evil things with honest, empathetic saline. “Good” men don’t lose sleep over dead Nazis; “Good” women don’t shriek over the corpses of child molesters.
But for all of us, in living in world slowly being understood to be a little more complex than perhaps we were lead to believe, we are – for the first time relative to the lithic, infinitely patient scale of our bizarre and awesome universe – beginning to sense and even see the evil in happiness.
This isn’t to say pleasant emotions in and of themselves are a “bad” thing – I hold little respect for pure Spartanism or pure self-denial. But so too do I reject unilateral hedonism and self-gratification. The goal of life is not to be happy – it is to pursue the Truth in all directions; and in so doing quite well to date, having already pursued the prophets and fallen heroes, villains, and victims of depression to the terminus of their origins and narratives, we have already in our knowledge of and obsession with depression a mirrored image of the aforementioned minefield of happiness and it’s madman cousin mania.
With depression one must pay attention to what is real and what is not – is X a legitimate, real-world, tangible trigger or cause? Do I really need to care so much about it? Is it making my life any better, or is it making my environment a better place? Is it making everyone’s environment a better place? Am I maybe just being a little melodramatic here? Is not tomorrow another day? Were there not things before people before me, and so too be people before things after?
And yet dissevering emotion for the sake of objectivity, so obvious and efficacious a method for fighting depression (that Bad Guy, that unhappy, ugly evil ), for some reason I seem to be in a minority prone to confusion with its absence as an equally obvious and efficacious method for fighting happiness and mania.
Are not the mines categorically the same?
Why does it seem valid to say my depression is making me miserable, yet not my happiness…? If we’re playing this zero-sum game – that there is an implicit quantity of each that can increase only at the expense of the other – who is claiming it makes sense that happiness is a good thing? No one claims that with mania, maybe because mania is a bit further removed from giving a fuck about decorum and rules. Mania will hurt your friends’ feelings with a level of I don’t give a shit so epic it is now being considered as an emperor-making character trait (when constrained to a functional level). These individuals seem quite content. The individuals subjugated by them do not. The kings often end either as soul-siphoning vacuous caricatures or at the wrong end of a sword; those they oppress with their self-centeredness become either slaves or the regicidal maniacs at the hilts of those same kingslayers.
Your happiness is doing the same thing.
… because it’s not happiness at all.
Take it from one who has hit highs so sublime Christ himself would have been jealous – emotional happiness is temporary and not once, not ever will persist. Emotions roll. Emotions cycle. Mania and depression are a zero-sum game, much like money – one gets rich so the other gets poor, and all the while buried somewhere in your brain is a primal, disappointed consciousness wishing its meat-sack could see and thusly move through the “bigger picture.”
Perhaps the money metaphor serves us in this hypothetical – everyone happily buys and yet everyone buys “money doesn’t buy happiness.” Seem a bit strange? Trust your own brain – it is. I hope you’re ahead of me now and have picked up on the blog/journalism/literature trope material happiness is the evil in “happiness.”
If only this is what I was saying.
No – curmudgeonly, maybe, but I’m saying our pursuit of emotional happiness is the real culprit of this mess we’ve made of ourselves, of what I suspect is what we now call “mental illness.” We treat happiness like it’s a tangible, concrete thing. Our very word for it, in every language, is a noun.
Happiness is a present-tense verb.
To the focus of this article and it’s container (CBTN, the site on which it’s posted, which has its purpose too), truly bipolar individuals will caution you against the insidious nature of mania as much as they will about the awfulness of depression. It is mania, not depression, that gets us into legal trouble; mania that makes us madmen and/or sexually depraved maniacs and/or energetic god-warriors. Mania, not depression, sparks religious conflict and political conflict and relationship conflict and familial conflict. And it’s stupid, and sad, because at its heart it is – admittedly, openly – a delusion.
So is noun-happiness. Because, normie friends, that’s called mania, and you have it too.
Spending 100K on a car is manic. Hell, spending 20K on a car is too. Losing friends over a presidential election is manic. Getting in yelling matches about feminism or football teams is manic. Workaholism is manic, keeping up with the Joneses is manic, feeling like you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, like you’re following the “right path” and that you have moral superiority because of it – that is the very definition of mania. And you have it. Right now. It’s happening.
No one likes to think about this, because frankly feeling right and feeling good themselves feel good; because they get confused for being right and being good, and in the worst case scenario are interpreted as being the same thing. Best case we dissect the word happiness into this material/emotional dichotomy, a causal effect/effectual cause, all the while missing the third, first and only Truth that this is all coming from inside us.
I chatted with CBTN host Randi Fellows yesterday; in so doing I let slip something you’re not really supposed to say as a CPS – something you’re not supposed to say at all, particularly if there’s a cautious doctor or common-sense adult in the room, because it’s a losing argument:
I know, in a way that goes beyond words (or perhaps ends before them), this happiness/sadness or mania/depression game is an imperfect and useless anthropocentric version of TRUE/FALSE. I know I am bipolar, and I both feel and think this dichotomy reducing within me, stripping away the fake egotistical interpretations of True and False as having something to do with my opinion or perception; I feel and see the binary literally and physically, like a transistor looking at itself in a mirror.
Transistors have a third part – a switch that controls the binary True and False, zeroes and ones (and it can be daisy-chained to other transistors so that this proprietary third part can be made dependent purely on outside input). This is, unsurprisingly, exactly how computers are made, albeit unsentient, indecisive passive computers very much simpler than you or me.
It is very easy to just let your attachments to things you’ve accepted as either True or unchangeable (“the world sucks” etc.) become your autopilot. But what gets lost, what is different between a person and a transistor or computer, is that to think in mutually exclusive, irreconcilable binaries is to forget choice 3 – exercise conscious control over the switch. I can’t shake the feeling that outside and independent of these medications and therapies looms a very simple, straightforward, logical statement that would snap me out of this deluded belief that I am a slave to either material or emotion.
I am a slave to myself as much as I am a God of myself, and in a weird way the happiness I must pursue – which isn’t happiness at all, not as a noun – is the synergy between these two interdependent things.
It is very hard to talk or write about without descending into the very nonsense-seeming statements I have now descended into. So with that thought I’ll wrap up this caveat/encouragement to both pursue and evade happiness as a present-tense verb not meant to be penned up and locked down by words.
If you find yourself not remembering what you were thinking about or doing, I’d say you’re on the right track. If you find yourself losing your mind, I’d say you’re on the right track (but be careful).
If you’re not risking insanity, if you don’t feel everything coming apart and coming together, you’re not pursuing the misnomer’d “happiness” I’m not talking about.