First, listen to the song above. Get into the Pisces’ Sunday vibe. Once you’ve absorbed the auditory journey, continue below.
I’m comfortable admitting that I struggle with depression, or some form of it, and have since I can remember. Growing up with whatever cards I was dealt (gay, intellectual), I found myself with a single perpetual feeling: I’m not ____ enough, and don’t have enough. I feel, dwell, react with anxiety and paranoia, and the cycle repeats.
We’re all complex beings, and I am no different. Normally, under such a constant reminder of lacking, one would push harder and harder to simply be and have enough. Work out more, acquire more. But other motivations come into play that temper that force. For some people, it’s laziness, or love of vices (drinking, eating).
My detractors to being a Type-A: belief that I can’t or don’t deserve. And, emptiness in seeing the end result of a mainstream push (my own and observing others’) for material or aesthetic achievement. What do IÂ really get out of killing myself at the gym? Driving a luxury car?
Let me tell you, living inside your head, going through this sort of hamster wheel, is exhausting. Only now, it’s not as much, because I’m taking an anti-anxiety drug (Effexor). It cuts the surface-level mania, which historically caused dramatic,Â unpleasant mood swings.
What it doesn’t do is address the underlying existential questions. Those, I feel, can’t be fixed with drugs.
Negativity and shame are the tertiary effects of the situation described above. The sense of incompleteness. If you think this happens accidentally, you are incorrect. See: media’s and capitalism’s effect on our sense of self. People you surround yourself with can exacerbate or mediate this effect, depending on how much they’re under the influence too.
Luckily, despite a strong undertow that sweeps so many away, I am able to go in search of a solution. A raw aloe vera gel for my soul.
Late last year, I found my first dose of that in The Velvet Rage. It approaches the problem from the perspective of a gay man, living and informing himself within the construct of a straight man’s world. It is fascinating, and applicable to everyone in my opinion.
Main points to take away: authentic validation (sourced from self rather than others) is central to happiness. So is acceptance of self, which leads to truer love and relationships.
I feel like I should refresh myself on it.
This week, I got another dose of straight talk. My friend Alex posted a video of BrenÃ© Brown speaking at TEDxKC. She addresses a broad reason we are collectively unhappy and unhealthy: we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Why? Because we’re told we’re not ____ enough from a young age, that we have to be perfect. Overcoming takes courage. Being vulnerable means we’re open to rejection, to failure, and to sadness.
In order to be invulnerable, we numb (I would say binge) with medications, stuff, food, and debt. Sound familiar?
The effect of numbing vulnerability is that we also numb our ability to feel joy and happiness. Everything is colored gray, instead of sunny days with the occasional storm.
She suggests practicing some simple habits: telling yourself you’re ____ enough daily; practicing gratitude for the good in life; and relishing ordinary pleasures. While trying to be extraordinary, we miss the fulfilling ordinary.
Whew, stick with me now. I know this post is long. Almost done.
Reading VR and watching BrenÃ©, I cried, laughed, and took an honest look at my toxic habits. What sorts of Kool-Aid was I drinking unknowingly, that contributed to my unhappiness?
I have felt shameful about many things over time; most recently and probably at the core: an embarrassing and inconvenient diagnosis of inflammation in my GI tract. Not solved so far, through a range of different treatments. Worst of all, it prevents me from enjoying sexual encounters worry-free. (There you have it, all the cards are out LOL)
I think everyone could benefit from such a self-examination. Though so many people seem pleased with themselves and their lives. I can’t access their brains, but it sure does look like a nice place to be.
Aside from self-help books and videos, I’ve developed my own list of practices to live by…
- Surround yourself with the people who like you for you, not for an inauthentic you. Special thank you to all my friends, who have embraced me, taught me, and included me even during my darkest of times. I love you all.
- Seek out tough advice from people you trust.
- Stay in touch with institutions that enrich rather than tear down. Samovar Life is a periodic e-mail newsletter I get, and love, and always save. It is a breath of positivity and zen that just makes me smile.
- Beware of social media. It’s no secret that curated, tailored, digitally enhanced ‘reality’ of social media networks can be damaging to the ordinary consumer.Â Why is everyone else’s life so great, and mine sucks? Find the strength to turn off, unplug, whatever. Go for a walk, clean the house, or have an in-person social gathering, stat.
- Per the resources listed above… practice gratitude, notice simple but beautiful phenomena.
- Analyze your behavior in moments of discord: is it a coping mechanism? Is it advancing you toward your ultimate goal, or holding you back?
I’ve preached enough today. It’s Sunday…I should be enjoying EVERYTHING that is great: iced tea, low(er) humidity weather, planning for my trip to Austin in October. Yes, yes, yes.
Take a listen to another one of my favorite chill house tracks, which regularly gives me pause and makes me tear up.