Monday, 19 March 2018

Depression and the expectation of pretending life isn't so bad

Years ago, my school organised a trip to the local film theatre, where my fellow students and myself would be watching a quirky Italian film called 'La Vita รจ Bella' [1]. Set at the beginning of World War II in Italy, it follows a young Italian couple and their young child. As the father is Jewish, he and his son are arrested and sent to a concentration camp. His wife - despite not being Jewish - decides to join him as well instead of staying behind.

The point where my classmates and I agreed the film took it too far was when the father began to pretend to his son that they weren't in a concentration camp, but actually there to be play a complicated game. While this could have been a heart-breaking collection of scenes, the way it was handled - with an absolutely disrespectful sense of humour - it completely ruined the mood of the film.

The jarring and forced attempts at brightening the mood with off-key humour became so grating that the most joyful moment of the film was when the father got discovered while sneaking around, and executed. After that the film reverted back to a far more fitting mood, and felt right again. Afterwards, we all felt that it was a shame that they had felt it necessary to force in those 'humorous' scenes.

That film raises the question of how far one can take hiding reality from a person, even if it's done with the best of intentions. As someone who suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, my general outlook on life is rather bleak. Surviving and still living through more traumas tends to do that to a person. Regardless, it is standard procedure to tell someone like me that 'life isn't so bad', and 'just cheer up'. Or the worst one of all: 'things will get better'.

While some types of depression are due to the neurotransmitter balance in the brain having gone off-centre, many of those affected will be so due to external factors. When one has become fully aware of the situation which one is in, the very act of survival may lead to one becoming depressed. As the situation drags on, and survival appears to be all that is left, one's outlook on life becomes one of indifference, fatalism and worse. As one sees others live plain, boring lives, it makes one wonder what the point of being alive even is.

I do not think that my own problem is my outlook on life, or anything really to do with myself. Most likely I'm just really unlucky, with having been born intersex and gifted, suffering sexual and psychological abuse both as a child and again as an adult. Struggling through thirteen years of trying to find medical help for my intersex condition. Dealing with worsening chronic pain.

Then losing my job and facing an eviction, so that I'm losing both a place to live and my body itself. The situation seems hopeless.

As I then look around this world, I can see that Germany itself is a complete mess, both politically and socially. I don't really care to keep living here in this country. Yet where to move? So many countries with massive problems. Nowhere to just work a fun job and have a proper, quiet home. I'm still supposed to pretend that things aren't this bad, of course.

Germany has been an intense disappointment after the hope I felt when I first moved here, without real medical help, acceptance, yet with plenty of divisive and wrongful politics, people living on each other's lip and no real interest in changing things. The Netherlands I cannot move back to after all that doctors and psychologists did to me there. I won't find medical help or acceptance there either.

Within a matter of weeks I'll hear what the outcome of the eviction case against me will be. I expect having to pay lots of money in addition to what I have already paid so far, and be forced to leave the place with a couple of months. I don't care what others tell me to believe, I have years of experience to fall back on, and they tell me that I'll always get the raw end of any deal.

My therapist still expects that we can work on some old traumas and have me feel better. I'm not even sure I can trust anyone. I want to, of course.

I have a few friends whom I trust and where I hope that one day I can work up the energy to invest more time in them. Always 'later'. Survival comes first. Meeting people online can be a positive experience, though I have scared plenty of people away as they tried to befriend me and help me. I try not to be bitter, but I cannot help myself. Not with everything that is going on.

Am I supposed to bop myself upside the head and tell myself that I'm just being a silly ol' goose? That all I had to do all this time was smile and feel cheerful and optimistic. That life is all about your attitude towards it.

I actually remember feeling like that, about a decade ago, when I still had the hope that things would somehow work out. Yet things just worked out for the worst over and over. Every reprieve I seemed to get just led to another dead-end. I cannot bring myself to smile any more. Not at life at least. There are small moments which reminds me of the good times that were. Yet they will never come back.

I don't know where I'm headed with my life. I am too tired to try and steer it any more. I'm okay if it hurtles off the road and into a ravine or whatever. I did my best. I even tried to pretend that life wasn't so bad for a while. And I almost believed it. Yet life doesn't work like that. Life is ugly and deadly. Unless you were born in a lucky way, possibly even in a rich family.  Then you really have to try to screw it up.

I'm expected to smile and lie at the jobs office this week again. Promise the world, even though I know that I am incapable of doing anything more than what I'm currently doing, and got no real interest in just another job.

I don't know what I'm doing, or where I'm going.

Life isn't beautiful.

I cannot pretend otherwise.




Lee Samuels said...

Thank you for posting.

Tom Farrier said...

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." (Courtesy of that party animal Henry David Thoreau).

Maybe he was somehow identifying with Sisyphus -- feeling condemned to keep pushing a rock up a hill only to see it tumble down again. Who knows?

Some who think deep thoughts seem to think that, in some of his writings, he was trying to explain his sense of the difference between being lonely and being alone. I'm not smart enough to build on that line of thinking. But, I would suggest that you can. You might feel alone because of your uniqueness. Lots of other people do, too, for any number of reasons.

Just don't feel lonely. The people in your life are the best part of it. Jobs may come and go; new opportunities may not work out as hoped. But, when you're at the bottom of a valley, if you look up, you'll see someone on top of the ridge ahead of you, encouraging you to make the next climb. And you do, for yourself and for them.

You have energy enough, curiosity enough and intelligence enough to make those climbs and see what you can't see right now. Maybe there will be more disappointments, but maybe you'll find your smile again. I hope it's the latter.

Alexa Kindler said...

Thanks for posting. You need to say it, and we need to hear it.
I've been there and I am still there, though not nearly as bad as in your case or circumstances.
But I've been there, living or life itself is just a joke, with the assurance that things and situations will bring me back down the pits.
Where the so-called "will to live" has been worn out to the point of uselessness through repeated disappointments.
If you want to talk or chat about it, you know where to get me.
Cheers! (really???)