Carlin: The Funny thing about Depression

The funny thing about depression is it can be there, happening, in the background, and you might not even realize it. I don’t want to be like a six-o’clock news anchor and be all, “You might think you’re happy, but you may really be sad! Find out tonight, at eleven!”

I am very happy with my life. My life is full of joy and love; Sweetie, my animals and surrounded by the beauty and magic of nature. I count my blessings every day, and I am so grateful for this life and all the opportunities in my future.

That’s why I was so surprised to admit to myself last night that I may be experiencing a bit of depression. Weird eh?

Well, really it’s not that strange. Leo passing so close to the one year anniversary of Mocha’s death, and this time last year Sweetie and I were struggling with a business we needed to release. Our lives are becoming progressively more joyful, every day is amazing… yet I’ve got to admit that through all that, the symptoms of depression can seep through, just enough to keep me honest. Like rain on a camping trip.

You can tell when someone is forcing themselves to be happy. It takes a lot of extra energy. I hear this on some of the “transformation talk” internet radio shows, where the host is being so positive and enthusiastic, but you can hear the effort, the push behind it. For me, when I sense this contradiction between what someone is saying with their words versus their energy, it casts an ill light over everything they’re trying to say.

Now, I’ve heard some people who are really focusing on the losses (ie. the “negative”) call into a psychic Mary Sunshine and I can hear / feel the caller’s energy shift, like a weight is being lifted. It is so important to be able to choose what you focus upon, rather than feeling constantly / continually victimized.

So yes, the positive thought movement is fantastic, it’s generating more positivity which is something we and the whole planet really needs. It’s wonderful to see it expand, and I feel lucky to be alive at a time when we can see this turnaround in the earth’s whole energy.

And yet, I want to communicate with people in an honest way, so I’ll get a little personally bloggy wid’ it here: I’m kind of surprised to admit that all of the events in the last year have got me down. I really don’t see the “failure” of our business as an actual failure – I seriously would do the whole thing over again, I’d make all the same decisions. I have no regrets, because I value what I learned, and because I’m so happy where I am… but perhaps all this focusing on the positive has prevented me from actually looking at, admitting to, owning the natural negative emotions that come up in these circumstances. Things didn’t turn out like I’d planned. That’s okay, things are better than I could have hoped – but I still need to experience the disappointment and the mourning of the goals I never actually realized and instead, let go.

Sometimes there is mourning when you let go. It’s okay if someone steals your car, and you don’t immediately skip to “Oh, the Universe has reabsorbed my vehicle. Excellent. Now I am free from vehicle ownership.”

Feel the shit out of your feelings, as Dan Savage would say. (He’s a sex advice columnist, a very good one, and this is part of his post-breakup advice, which is good advice for mourning in general.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Buddhist practice of non-attachment. To be zen, one must not attach themselves to physical possessions, because when you do that it can create a struggle to *hold on* to what you have, which can create suffering. The art of letting go is a beautiful spiritual lesson, and it’s challenging. I can see how we’d want to be incarnated to learn this one, because when you’re in a body, you really feel like you *need* those things, you can experience anxiety or panic at the idea of “losing” something.

This is compounded for those of us living in a culture where people spend lifetimes accumulating stuff. Like George Carlin’s bit about our shit:

I swear I hear really far away laughing at drawing this parallel between George C and Buddhist monks. That’s not what he was getting at, but it’s funny and it’s applicable to the topic at hand. That’s the trouble with being dead George, you lose the final say in what happens to-

Awww f*ck, I never had (that much control anyway) (shows me a brutal touring schedule and the routines he did for the audience, shows me youtube which had -) had all my shit long before I was dead! (Something about copyrights and bullshit, with an ironic-angry face, something about wanting to take it with you, shows me a mean old unhappy miser clutching a gold coin in heaven.)

That’s his (own personal hell – created in his “mind”) he’s got just one coin, he can’t let go of it.

George, why is that guy Chinese?

It’s just funnier that way. (dead pan)

George just likes pushing my boundaries. He was being all intense about the ethnicity of this guy he’s showing me, and I think the only reason he’s doing it is to call me on being so careful about racial / gender / whatever stereotypes.

(I asked George why he wanted me to use the above mug shot series in this entry, and he said “Are you kidding? Look at how happy I was!”)

So yeah, non-attachment, and honouring all of the emotions in an experience. It’s interesting, this cultural shift we’re seeing about creating your own happiness with your thoughts, expectations and energy… but I haven’t really found a place in the new pop culture of positive thinking for allowing “negative” emotions to exist at all.

When you lose a job, your house, if you’re diagnosed with an illness, a big message in the positive-thought movement is to see the positive in all these transitions, and focus on that. I think it’s very important not to get sucked into a negative mindset, because that is going to compound your experience of suffering exponentially – “Why is this happening to me? This shouldn’t be happening! I don’t deserve this! I’ve been done wrong! This isn’t right! Why?”

But neither is it appropriate, or particularly healing, to force a positive outlook. I read an article written by a very pragmatic woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She experienced a lot of pressure to look at only the positive in her situation, and was denied permission to mourn the life she expected to have. She was told things like, when her hair grew back it would be a different, neater colour. She would grow spiritually in ways she couldn’t have experienced without the illness. She was given crayons to do art therapy and pink stuffed bears to cuddle during chemo – she resented the infantilization of her experience. When she communicated that she did not appreciate this forced positivity, she was told it was important for her to be positive because it would increase her chances of survival – which is true, but it was almost like a threat in the context of what she, the patient, was saying about where she was in her experience. She was asking the people around her to come be with her where she was, and instead was met with commands to buck up or she would be more likely to die, and if she did, it would be her own fault.

Life is tough. It is tough for everyone. We need a place in our lives and our culture to feel the shit out of our feelings, even the negative ones. Our very existence is an exercise in contrasts.

I think I’ve been forcing the happy a bit in the last year, because who the hell wants to feel sad anyway? Screw that. I’ll just stop being sad, and be awesome instead! It works, to a point. But yeah, it’s not an eraser, and every Mary Sunshine has some stormy times.

Is it possible to have a positive outlook on feeling depressed? “Oh good!” says Psychic Mary Sunshine. “I can enjoy wallowing in depression, eating lots of ice cream (all the better to be happy about later when I lose the ice cream weight) and it will contrast with the happy days to come, making them shine all the brighter!”

I do believe this positive thinking habit has become a defense mechanism. Ha.

George Carlin, what else did you want to say about all this?

Well, I think it’s true you need to look at your habits and your thought process. Look at it objectively, if you spend most of your life feeling miserable and (drinking, getting high) whose fault is that? The government? Your parents? Your asshole boss? Your wife or your husband?

Uh uh (f*ck-face). Who’s the common denominator, huh? You. You create your experience, and if you want to create (a cancer experience full of anger, resentment, a hissy fit when your car is stolen) we all have our god-given free will to make as big a stink about the smallest things in our lives! I myself make a point of making a hissy fit up here once or twice a day, see if I can piss the angels off.

At some point, you gotta ask yourself if this is how you want to spend your time.

What sort of stuff do you throw a fit over, in heaven?

Jesus Christ! They hate it when you say that up here. That’s a great way to annoy an angel, take the lord’s name in vain a LOT.

Then, you know, you’d think they’d have better room service up here. I like to complain about shit up here, I appreciate the irony (shows me the irony which loses some of it’s luster in explaining it, but too bad – the irony is you create where you are and what you experience in heaven, and so George is showing me a joke of creating his own inadequate heaven so he can complain about it and annoy angels, which is *his* kind of ideal heaven.)

Ah, and touché Mr. Carlin. He just said “There’s no difference” and showed me the earth.

It’s so fuckin’ true too, and a reiteration of what we’ve been hearing from all angles – your create your experience on earth, just as you create your own heaven.

So I guess I’m creating this bit of depression. Like rain on a camping trip. George, do you have any suggestions for me?

Lighten the f*ck up! (laughs) Yeah, you really wanna be taking advice from me, the alcoholic, meth-smoking, coke-snorting died of a heart attack dead guy.

Love you George Carlin.

2 thoughts on “Carlin: The Funny thing about Depression

  1. (Funny, my WordPress user name is Melancholia. ‘Cos I was in it when I set up the account. LOL)

    Ah, George. You are awesome. Cuts through the crap and gets to the point. LOL

    I think it’s less about replacing the negative feelings with positive feelings and more about approaching the negative feelings more positively, if that makes any sense. (It does in my head, but I freely admit that what makes sense there doesn’t always translate to the outside world. LOL)

    Instead of looking at negative feelings as something you shouldn’t experience or have to cover up with happy happy joy joy, you look at them as experiences to have, like new flavours to try out. Everything can be a learning experience so everything has a potential positive aspect, but that doesn’t mean avoiding the negative. For example, over my adult life, I’ve been laid off more times than I’d care to admit and without exception each occurrence, while personally devastating at the time, led to something that was ultimately better for my soul. Would it be better to wallow in the grief at the job losses (sometimes I did, for very long periods of time), or look at the experiences as just that, growth experiences that you can learn from. To me, that’s what this whole “positivity” lark is all about.

    It’s weird, you know, before my mother got sick this last time, I was very attached to my possessions. Now, I’d be annoyed if something was stolen or destroyed or lost (mostly because I’d have to replace it) but I wouldn’t be devastated. I would never have thought that I would be heading down this road, and definitely never would have thought that it would take two deaths to send me down it. I still experience the so-called negative emotions — sadness, grief, loss, depression — but there’s an undercurrent of something else with them that transforms them and prevents me from getting stuck in the sadness for too long a period of time.

    (I’m guessing the woman who wrote the breast cancer article was Barbara Ehrenreich. I saw her on The Daily Show a few years ago — she’s as militantly anti-positivity as the people around her were aggressively pro-positivity, and I question the sense of either stance. BTW She wrote a book called “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America” if you’re interested in reading more from her on the subject.)


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