Sun 18 Sept 2016
I have a tendency towards Existential Nihilism. When I was a kid, I was full on Fox Mulder. I loved me some X-Files and was fascinated by the supernatural, paranormal, crypto-zoology, etc etc etc. This also lead to experiments with lucid dreaming (which I still practice – when I actually do sleep) and astral projection (out of body experiences – OBE).
Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong? After months of trying, I was having no luck, but once I stopped trying to force an OBE I had three in rapid succession. The details of the first two are inconsequential, they were rather plain and domestic. It was the third that lead to my lifelong battle with depression and existential nihilism (EN).
I glimpsed, ever so briefly, humanity’s place in the cosmos and I abruptly woke up in bed thinking, “Well, shit”. Eastern mystics have often warned that those who awake the Kundalini too quickly risk madness. In my case it brought a whole load of “what’s the point”.
Now perhaps, over the years, I’ve convinced myself that this, fantastically exotic adventure was the true starting point of my struggles
The reality of the situation is simper; I just realised entropy renders all of human endeavour completely futile, that we exist in a world without purpose or meaning, and the universe is completely indifferent to our presence and our suffering.
For a kid, this was a bit much to take in.
Sun 18 Sept 2016 – Part 2
Perhaps I should explain Richmond? I named my depression after the character from The I.T. Crowd.
I figured putting a name on it wold help me personify and control my enemy, but some days you win, some days Richmond refuses to get back in his cupboard.
Just like the scene where he’s sitting over Moss’s shoulder, quietly uttering nihilistic musings, I’ve woken every day with the words “existence is pain, the only way to end the pain, is to end existence”.
Because I enjoy shooting Nazi zombies and looking at pictures of Christina Hendricks way too much, I’ve decided to use this blog to chart my daily fights and whatever navel-gazing response they bring in a (hopefully not) vain attempt to tell Richmond to fuck off, once and for all.
A few year ago, he almost won.
PS: Though I should caveat this by stating that I’ll probably not post everyday, as there’s going to be times I’ll wake up thinking that there’s no point in this narcissistic bullshit, and once again, I’ll retire underneath my duvet.
PPS: Redheads and big boobs FTW.
Sun 18 Sept 2016 – Part 3
About ten years ago, I started work on my PhD project. It was an idea that spiralled out of control and it originated as I desperately needed something to do. Richmond was kicking my arse.
Though I’d been fighting that goth bastard for years, I’d never sought help; however, I’d reached a stage where if I didn’t, I’d just end up dead. CBT was mostly useless, and the Doc put me on Fluoxetine, which is a Prozac derivative and made me worse. I ended up using private health care and saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed elements of Asperger’s and OCD (double whammy) and prescribed Citalopram. Now these worked a treat, because they made me completely apathetic and I just didn’t give a shit about anything.
I didn’t create, I didn’t interact. I just came home from work, sat in a chair and stared, grinning like a moron, into space.
This couldn’t last, and I took myself off them, a decision that lead to weeks of some nasty, nasty withdrawal. Once that had passed, I swore I’d never return to meds, though recently they’ve seemed pretty sweet.
Now, I understand why people turn to religion (and other opiates). They want to know that their existence has a point, a purpose and meaning; that all their suffering is a test, and if they pass, they are to be rewarded by a capricious, absentee, supernatural father figure.
I just can’t buy that. Not for an instant. I turned to a different mythological figure: Nietzsche.
When I first encountered Nietzsche, it was the same revelation I had when (no puns intended) after watching Bill Hicks for the first time. Here was someone who could articulate the thoughts in my head (yay Aspie poor verbal communication). To say that my mindset matches Nietzsche’s would be the understatement of the century, and as my project continued there was a friend who would often comment “Are you sure you’re not Zarathustra?”.
The project kept Richmond in his cupboard. Yes, there were times I doubted what I was doing, and was harassed by feelings of fraud syndrome, but I emerged victorious from that fight and earned my doctorate.
Once the dust had settled, I saw that Richmond’s door was ajar.
Sun 18 Sept 2016 – Part 4
Lately, I find Richmond waiting for me, as I try to sleep, as I wake, as I take a break, as I try to still my mind at any time. His greeting is always the same: “Existence is pain, the only way to end the pain is to end the existence”.
Try as I may there’s no escaping him. I look around at my daily activities and wonder what the hell I’m doing. Every act is empty, every project is pointless. I’m doing nothing but regurgitating the same old same old, just smudging it around into different patterns, in a sorry attempt to appease the gods.
Right now, nothing is worthwhile. I’m not worthwhile. I’m unnecessary. It makes no difference if I exist. Life is just one trying to not be the next meal. A terror filled chase where the smallest misstep would see your guts consumed before you. Is this all we are? But like the games of the Colosseum that turned death into a pageant, we’ve turned our struggle or survival into a distracting peacock parade, where the deaths occur much more slowly as pieces are taken out of us at every turn.
Have I learned nothing from my time with Nietzsche? He saw nihilism as a challenge (in a modern context) to rail against the vacuousness that pervades our celebrity obsessed, hollow victory chasing, shallow pleasure seeking, materialistic society. Where are the genuine humans? Where are the polymaths and the great minds that will inspire us, rather than the platitudes of motivational posters.
Do I accept that I’m just a small cog in a sociopathic machine, that can easily discard me if I show the tiniest bit of wear and fragility? Dare I dream of being the handle, or even, the one that turns the handle?
Your move, Richmond.
Mon 19 Sept 2016
I thought I’d jot down some of my coping mechanisms.
Smile quietly to yourself. The simple act of smiling at something, anything, seems to trigger a psychological effect (or indicates that madness is creeping in).
Make something positive out of something negative. To that end, I created this blog of my processes! Giving a name and a form to the abstract concept, enables one to control it. So expect little comic strips to be appearing in here soon. The Battle of Richmond Hill!!
Find the positives. I call these my islands. Little islands of positivity floating over the abyss, just as the lily does above the murky waters. Try to be Zen about things.
Level up! As I’m a big fan of RPGs (and The Witcher particularly) I thought, why not apply that gaming logic to my life in some way. The aim of RPGs is to develop your character to be the zenith of their class, so why not focus on what you’re truly good at and aim to become the best that you can possibly be at that?
I’d also add ‘levelling up’ to this. Each new skill learned adds XP, which will then lead to new levels being unlocked (or new skills to learn).
New opportunities could result from levelling up, such as a new job, or in RPG terms, a new quest!
Then there are side quests. Why not employ those skills in either personal projects or for coin?
I’ve done the first step – and am now focusing on the second. The third is a series of tiny wins that one can look for each day, and the fourth is part of the long-term strategy to defeat Richmond.
Tue 20 Sept 2016
Today has been one of such emptiness and despair. I am tired of feeling empty. I go through the day, feeling like a ghost; insubstantial, hollow, moving unseen, always hungry, never satiated. I cannot conceive of anything, or anyone, that can make me feel complete. My mind is caught in an existential loop, always returning to the same point – the transience of things. Nothing stays, everyone leaves and I remain. All we have then is a series of moments, though I don’t want to remain waiting for the next moment but I’m unable to connect, and cannot grasp at them.
It seems then, than I must remain alone. However, today’s win is that I have excellent hair!
Wed 12 Apr 2017
Ok, so it’s been a while! A few things have happened, the biggest is becoming a home-owner; cue much anxiety and depression over debt. I went through therapy, again, which wasn’t a total loss this time. Mindfulness was the treatment, and as I soon discovered, it’s much easier said than done, however, it does provide many little wins, which can soon add up to the big win of surviving another day.
It’ll soon be a year since I graduated and I’ve yet to fully reflect on the fact that I’m now Dr Kilburn! The question now is what to do with that qualification. There may be other jobs out there that could give me the chance to use these skills? I could return to Academia at some point, though the bureaucracy and politics is not my style. However, I have been drawn (no puns intended) to a potential follow up to my graphic novel version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It stems from my therapy treatment: Mindfulness is rooted ion Zen and Zen is rooted in the Tao te Ching. A work that has no context in the West, is extremely aphoristic and requires a paradigm shift to truly understand. Sounds like my kinds thing. It’s either going to be that, or an adaptation of Albert Camus or Jean Paul Satre. All tackle existentialism.
Creating Hierarchy, with Davy, has kept me occupied but once it’s done I’ll need something else to keep me busy and to keep Richmond at bay.
The one thing that’s kept me sane recently is walking. I’ve just gone out to the coast, whenever I get a chance, and explored for hours. Maybe a wandering philosopher is the life?