This was originally written on December 30, 2016. I set a fuse on it to publish exactly one year later to avoid the discomfort of publishing this kind of article in real-time.
They say many of the great writers produced their best work while they were depressed. I’d look up who those people are but I’m too depressed. HA. Good to open with a joke. I just went to google and started typing “famous writers who were” and it finished the sentence for me with “alcoholics.” The first link that pops up when googling depressed writers mentions a research study done by Dr. Kyaga in Sweden:
“The researchers found the strongest link between bipolar disorder and creativity. The writing life is of necessity isolated, stressful, and full of rumination over the mystery of human behavior, as Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Tennessee Williams, and other famous writers’ life stories illustrate.”
Even looking up something about depression brings me back to this bipolar thing. I’ve read before that many creatives-types were diagnosed bipolar.
Carrie Fisher just died – one of the more famous modern figures with a publicly-disclosed bipolar diagnosis. The cynic in me isn’t certain that I consider actresses to be creative, but she was also a writer. Do you need to be creative to be an actor or actress? Maybe…. I think moreso you need to be able to take on the personality and emotions of someone who isn’t yourself… so I would think people with mental illness would 1) have experienced a broad range of emotions and 2) be capable of pretending not to experience them. Meaning, they may be good at “faking it” around people to hide that they are depressed.
I talked with a friend this week who somewhat convinced me I’m depressed. It’s possible. I definitely don’t feel good. I’ve been mostly attributing it to the winter. Or being in New England. Or… I’m not sure, just the swings of life I guess. Maybe financial stresses?
I haven’t been enjoying the things I normally do… standup comedy has been almost painful at times lately. I haven’t painted in over a year. The weather has made physical activity outdoors limited. I switched up my rock climbing gym membership for a yoga membership to try something new this month. What the fuck – how does doing yoga regularly suddenly make me feel shitty? So weird. I think is not quite a strong enough substitute for rigorous physical exercise. I actually am not sure I really see yoga as a workout and think maybe it should not even be thought of as one. Not to say it’s a bad thing, but it should really be treated as more of a meditative activity, one which is important, but is no substitute for “real” exercise. My social environment has been somewhat limited lately. I feel weird being back in Connecticut. My reason for being here is to spend time with family, I don’t feel like I’ve got much of a social purpose here other than that. So I don’t take the time to develop many friendships. And this stay here has dragged on beyond longer than I expected.
I’m headed to Mexico next week for three weeks and then Peru for three weeks. I can’t genuinely say I’m excited to go… I’m nervous. I’m nervous I won’t be happy there. I’m worried I’ll continue being upset and that this adventure which should be fun will be not-so-fun. It’s not like a real vacation as everyone seems to assume, I’m still going to be working. Just relocating for a change of pace. It’s not supposed to be a glamorous vacation though that’s kind of what people keep suggesting when I mention I’m going there. It’s just a place to live for a little while. I’d really like to do some scuba diving there… I’m a little worried that won’t come to fruition. That is something that I’m looking forward to.
I’ve often felt funny about depression in that I always feel very optimistic about the future. That things will turn out well… both personally and for the world. It doesn’t sound rational to be put into this video game of a universe and have the story have a bad or sad ending. It doesn’t seem reasonable. But I think, in this optimism, is really something sad underneath. It’s like I’m convincing myself 1) look to the future because the present isn’t pleasant and 2) the present must be so shitty that I’m making futuristic predictions claiming it can’t possibly be this bad forever.
I’m not sure why I’m always pointing to the future. I’m always chasing after something new. Everything valuable I’ve read about enlightenment, spirituality, self-improvement, balance, etc. constantly says it’s important to live in the present. I can’t figure out how to do such a simple thing. I’m always thinking about what needs to be done next for my bullshit projects or with some exciting grandiose future thing I’d like to get to. It’s a cycle for sure. And if there’s no future exciting thing to get to, then it’s dreary. It happens in waves, new entrepreneurial or creative endeavors that get me short-term excited for something that doesn’t always turn out as great as I’d like it to. Most of the time these things fall flat on their face…. But I always learn something. That’s kinda become my cliché mantra at this point: “it didn’t work out like I expected, but it was a great learning experience.”
I just keep plugging away convincing myself that all of these learning experiences will add up to something great one day… that I’m not actually just flopping around stupidly…. that I’m not just lazy… that I’m not just irresponsible… that I’m not just dodging the real world and a real life… that there is some purpose to my pursuing this non-traditional path. I have definitely come too far to suddenly pursue something “normal.” Am I just some Peter Pan that doesn’t want to grow up? Maybe… I wonder… have kids? Yikes – who can afford the time, let alone the money?
It just never seems like there’s enough time. Let’s think of what I’m coming to find a “healthy” day to be. Get 8—9 hours of sleep… exercise for 30-45 minutes, maybe an hour. Throw in an hour of yoga too. Ok, if we include driving to the gym and showering and all, we’re at two hours for exercise/body health. When I wake up and sleep, I meditate for 20 minutes, that’s nearly an hour there. I read for 30-45 minutes before bed each night. Let’s lump that in with the meditating and say 1.5 hours total for that. So purely for health, we’ve got 8 hours of sleep plus 2 hours of physical activity plus 1.5 hours of mental health equals 11.5 hours just for that. That leaves 12 hours of the day for other things like work. Say you make an 8 hour work day… there’s 4 hours left that would include your eating, showering, and socializing. When I write it down like this, it seems so much more doable. Just never seems enough time to keep it all balanced. I can’t actually bring myself to work 8 hours a day doing web design/development for other people’s projects. I can work on my own projects a bit which bring a different kind of energy to me, sometimes a very frustrating one.
Not sure where I’m going there. I started getting into Kundalini yoga a little. Seems like a pretty good mind trip. It’s part of a quest to find some kind of truth. To find happiness I guess? Or joy? Something is missing which I am searching for. I don’t know exactly what it is… I like to think I’ll recognize it when I find it.
I also fear that things will eventually work themselves out one day and then I’ll look back and say I didn’t enjoy the journey to get there. It would be nice to enjoy the ride along the way. That’s part of my rationale for living the way I do… I anticipate it being a long journey to some kind of entrepreneurial success, so I’ve got to make it an enjoyable journey so I don’t burn out working like crazy. But I still seem to feel burnt out. And here I am writing about being depressed. This is just some kind of writing exercise I guess, I doubt I’d publish this. I thought maybe it’d be cool to have something written while I was depressed as some kind of evidence. Maybe this is helping. This is much more of a stream of conscience than any kind of an informational blog-worthy post. Not that anything I write is actually “worthy.” I just write thinking or hoping something I put down might be worth it.
This modern era where “everyone has a voice but no one can be heard.” Is there something significant about me? Is my work worthy? Am I just a millennial who had it too easy and has too highly inflated an ego who think he’s special when he’s actually useless? It often feels that way. All my efforts feel like they’re kinda weak failures. Maybe if I just picked one thing and stuck with it… that’s what always kinda comes back to mind. I don’t seem to have that within myself… pick one thing and stick with it.
I thought about writing a rap tonight. I thought oohhh… if I’m depressed, maybe I’ll write something great. That’s what all the great writers do, right? I had started writing a rap recently and it was more of an angry, empowering type of “fuck the world, I’m awesome” kinda anthem songs. I thought maybe it’d be better to write when I’m feeling really down. Instead of the writing coming from a place of confidence and braggary, it would be written while I’m down and out as a piece to uplift myself. Kind of like the writing was taking place in the future when I’d be happy. “I overcame this shit and now I’m a hit…” I could do something like that. Write a fictional arrogance thing and then if I actually grew into it, it would be dope.
Eh, that would require consistence and dedication to make a song. I’m not really feeling like doing anything major right now. I’m content to just sit here with this laptop and spew words into Microsoft Word.
It feels like I’ve had a bunch of failed kind of projects lately. I tried a drop-shipping site for the desk lamp which didn’t work out great… the Peer Unschooling site is a sorta flop… Open Source High kind of a flop… I spent a bunch of time redoing my personal site which is great but doesn’t really serve a purpose… somewhat of a flop… standups lately been a flop… and my own web development business is actually going alright but it’s not super inspiring, it’s just an ends to hustle while I do all this other stuff.
Why am I complaining? It sucks so much to complain when all this feels like it’s my own fault. I’ve very much chosen this path and this is what I’m stuck with. Why am I not enjoying it more? What should I be doing right now? But why complain? That’s one thing that’s rough… probably why I don’t speak up more about sadness is I feel like it’s all my fault. I’m pretty sure it is. I hate to think there is actually a genetic thing wrong with me that makes me unhappy… what a weird concept. I think it’s more the human condition in itself, maybe I’m too self-aware. Maybe I grew up near computers and somehow that instant gratification fucked with my system. Maybe I don’t get enough sunlight. Maybe I’m eating the wrong foods.
I am thinking of doing a food transition when I go to Mexico. It will be a good chance to start anew with food-related things because I’ll have control over all my eating. Of course when I go to Peru that will be completely fucked up because then I’ll be with a group and not feel like making all my own food decisions, I’ll be sorta “forced” to cooperate as a group. What the fuck am I doing going on this Peru trip anyway? I met these people once… I still have to do web development work while I’m there, I’m just going to be constantly feeling like I’m not doing enough. I’m going to feel like I’m not spending enough time with the people I’m traveling with… and I’m going to feel like I’m not spending enough time working on web dev and I’m going to feel like I’m not spending enough time on my own out adventuring and exploring and experiencing Peru. So I’m pretty certain I will not enjoy that experience. Mexico has some prospects, I guess the only downside of Mexico is it’s only going to be for three weeks. People who go on vacation would say “3 weeks is a long vacation, why are you complaining” – because it’s not fucking vacation. It’s a relocation to somewhere nicer, warmer, better, newer, etc. It would be nicer to go for three weeks and completely unplug and really enjoy it. Or a couple months.
It’s never enough, right? How is traveling to Mexico and Peru not enough to satisfy me?
What else can I put in writing that will be a failure. Let’s see… the Peer Unschooling Network, the one hopeful thing I still have there is that “if I add a forum to the website… that’ll change everything.” Right… does that even make sense? Suddenly a forum changes everything. Pie in the sky.
I’ve thought of making a cool new physics video lesson. Really, Jim? Another physics video? You already made 5 physics videos about gravity and suddenly making a new one is going to be the “big solution”? Ya, gravity again, why don’t you do something original and new? Oh… this one will be different… this one will be “edgy”…. suuuuuuuure.
Thinking of writing an essay to a physics essay contest about an equation I’ve been working on. That actually does sound pretty dope. Except that it’s completely primitive compared to the physics shit they are talking about. Either it’s brilliant in its simplicity or it basically doesn’t prove or solve anything because it’s so simple. All it states is that basically… we may or may not have free will, but we have no control over the circumstances, and thus the options presented to us. Life is much like a Ben and Jerry’s in that you feel like you have freedom of choice because you have so many options… but then you realize there are actually a limited number… some of them are kinda similar to one another… and someone else came up with all the flavors and forced them upon you.
Been thinking of taking a break from standup. Or shifting a lot more time and energy into it. I can’t tell if it’s not going well lately because I’m burnt out on it or if I’m not putting enough time into it. I felt like I was much better at it before and somehow I’ve gotten worse. Its kinda fucked up to think, though… imagine 5 years ago, I would have been 25… would I ever have imagined I’d actually be writing a blog article complaining about how standup isn’t going well?
That is a trip… to look back 5 years ago right now it would have been the end of 2011… if I remember correctly, this was exactly when I was just about to launch American Relight. I remember that Christmas I was dating a pleasant girl who made me an Elf costume which I wore to my company Christmas party. That was a decent time… was excited about that LED company, kinda carefree, laughing and enjoying myself.
Ughh, that’s why I try not to look back at stuff… it’s much better to look into the future at the unknown. Cause looking back at good stuff I still think of it shifting south. I got involved in that startup, had shitty partners, got pretty depressed and work-obsessed… my mind just constantly running thinking about the business and being distracted from everything. Not a big surprise that nice relationship didn’t last. Maybe that’s a trend. Damn mind always occupied on damn work.
Does writing help at all? I’m not sure. I haven’t posted in my blog in a while, I think since end of October or early November. Not that anyone notices or reads it. I thought of doing a “2016 in review” thing and then saw another guy wrote a blog about that and was turned off by it. I was going to write one last month about “The Importance of Changing your Mind.” I had read Sal Khan’s book about education and really changed my perspective on him. I found we agreed on much more than we disagreed on and that I probably created differences between us in my head as some kind of a motivator to look at him as a competitor when he’s probably much more of a potential-ally.
Ughh… the education project. What am I even trying to accomplish. I met a guy who seems interested in sort of mentoring me on creating a “movement.” What am I even trying to achieve… the spiritual movement? Spiritual awakening? Is it political? I don’t find myself really gravitating to Bernie Sanders… I like his supporters… and he seems decent… just too political. I don’t like that in order for his ideas to succeed, you need everyone’s ‘permission’ via voting. I think the changes I want come from people simply being interested in changing their world without permission. I love the idea of cooperation, collaboration, and sharing… yet I also don’t believe in forcing anything on people. I just want to see a world that exists where aliens visit and while observing us, they can’t figure out if we’re socialist or anarchist.
I’ve been reading a lot of books. I see a pile on the dresser in the room. I count 8 books piled up plus the one by my bed in the last few months. Maybe in my depression I read rather than write. I certainly don’t have some magic motivation to go write a novel. Why the fuck would I want to write a novel if I’m depressed? Who the fuck writes anything useful when they are depressed? This theory of writing something great while depressed must be manufactured. This is completely outside of my understanding of the creative process. The best I can come up with is that idea of writing a rap song that is set in the future when I’m “successful” and “happy” and have spinning rims on my gold-plated unicycle. I’ve rejected the mainstream idea of what success and happiness is… but I don’t think I’ve come up with my own new definition.
Doing some amazing creative work right now in a depressed mood just seems idiotic. Even standup, would I write good jokes now? Is being depressed conductive to writing comedy? Seems like everything is kinda shitty, not funny.
I can imagine doing lots of great creative things while manic (of course). Where is that superpower when you need it? Of course, I’m scared of being manic… I don’t trust it. Scared when I get that kind of feeling. Shit, I’m slightly scared of going to Peru or Mexico… what if I go nuts? What if I get locked in a Mexican jail or Peruvian jail. What kinda fuckin’ paranoia is that, right? How many people travel and worry they might go nuts and end up in jail. Jesus… most people are more worried about getting mugged or kidnapped.
I draw W’s. I’ll take my index finger and draw W’s on my thumb print. Over and over. Sometimes I draw the W’s on the roof of my mouth with my tongue. Sometimes I’ll draw them on my leg with my thumb. Usually I draw the W and then trace back over it in the opposite direction. It’s kind of like an infinite motion. Not sure why that’s relevant. This is just some kind of exercise in writing while I’m depressed.
Am I depressed? Great question. I’m not sure what the symptoms are… I definitely don’t wake up very happy. And I find myself getting pretty agitated or angry during the day at times. What am I so pissed off about? What am I so sad about? I sometimes feel immense sadness for all the pain in the world… but sometimes it’s gotta just be me being an ass hole.
I get pretty pissed about being on medication. I’m slowly going down off it (under doctor’s observation) but not fast enough for my liking. I want to be off this shit. I want to feel happy. I want to be happy. Why is it so hard to be happy?
That’s an unusual premise… is it so hard to be happy? What makes me unhappy? And what do I do to try and fix it? Do I actually make any efforts to change my condition or do I just bitch about it.
Am I trying anything new? Are things improving and I’m not noticing? Are things getting worse and I’m not noticing? Am I stagnant… staying in one place without improving?
What have I accomplished lately…
Traveled around the US a bunch this year. Told and wrote a bunch of jokes though they might suck. Developed web design and development skills and got a bunch of clients, some of whom are recurring. Went on some great adventures with the girlfriend. She then became ex girlfriend. I got to fulfill that Silicon Valley dream of being a wandering, vagabond computer guy. I sorta stepped back from the video-based education website, Open Source High. I launched a chat-based website for unschoolers. I met unschoolers. I got into skateboarding. Did a little rock climbing. Started meditating this year. Took yoga a bit more seriously. I pretty much started my blog this year, I think last November was my first post. I published my comedy album this past spring, though the jokes were from routines recorded a year and two years prior… so that’s more of an engineering feat of producing the album than a creative feat of putting the jokes together. What else did I accomplish this year? I lived? Lawsuit with the LED company has dragged on… it’s like no progress at all was made on that in an entire year! That’s crazy! It was filed in mid-2015 and now it’s Dec. 30 2016 and nothing has happened. And I haven’t really made much progress in getting involved in the healthy lighting industry, though I was on a panel earlier this year at a lighting trade show. I felt pretty out of place though. I did try setting up some drop-shipping sites this fall, that’s a new venture. Even if I’ve been unsuccessful, I’ve learned the skill. I’m on almost half as much medication as a year ago… let’s say I cut it down 33%, that’s somewhat impressive I guess. Wasn’t in jail or a psych hospital all year. Yay, such high standards I’ve got. I did write my “story” and submit a draft to Mad in America which I guess they are reviewing. Supposedly a group wants to interview me for their web podcast about unschooling for my project, though traffic on the site has dropped like crazy in the last few weeks. It was low… then it was high… now it’s low again. Maybe the forum will help. I saw Yosemite this year… that was great to see finally. Big Sur was dope too… but Yosemite was big time on the bucket list. Drove back and forth across the country. Did standup probably 40+ times this year… 5 years ago I did zero standup, so this is a big improvement. Bill Gates I guess said people overestimate what the can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years. Ten years ago I was a junior in college. That was a wild fucking year… definitely some of my best partying. Where would I even find the time to party now? Actually, I was pretty responsible in terms of time with partying, I stuck to the Friday and Saturday night… which now I don’t really do shit. Right now I’m writing this blog on a Friday night. Fuck, I just called it a blog, that suggests I’m going to post this. I am definitely unlikely to write “I am depressed, read my blog” and post it tomorrow. Maybe this will be one of the blog posts I put a one year timer on. I have another one from July called “State of the Startup” that I will publish this coming July. There’s something safe about waiting to publish it. This is a long fucking paragraph. Am I even going to edit this thing?
New paragraph! Great job, Jim. Now that the paragraph has ended talking about the accomplishments of 2016, what about the lows? I was stressed a lot this fucking year. Ruminating all the time worried about work. Worried I’m not getting enough done. Worrying about money. Dealing with a very small but persistent credit card debt. Trying to balance so much like a relationship and a freelance job and a startup and comedy and trying to savor life. Constantly feeling like I’m falling short on everything and thus not actually enjoying the process. Just constantly filling myself with self-doubt. Failures… I already talked plenty about the online education stuff… feels like a failure. But it’s not over yet. Mostly it feels like this thing I talk about to try and convince myself I’m doing something worthwhile. It may actually just be a complete and epic failure. Or it will turn into something great. But In the present, it almost feels more like a hypothetical thing than a real thing.
OK, new paragraph to escape that downward spiral. What can be done in 2017? I know at the Winter Solstice ceremony last week, I promised to leave behind three things in 2016: 1) self-doubt, 2) paranoia that I think I’m crazy, and 3) paranoia that other people will think I’m crazy. I had really felt like after the Solstice my energy was shifting positively… that day was supposed to be a turning point. But I feel like I’ve since dropped further down.
I have to mention my friend Mikey who died last winter. He died on New Year’s Day. Might have been New Year Eve actually… but I found out about it on New Year’s Day. He meant a lot to me. I saw Adam Sandler in concert a couple weeks ago and he played a tribute song to Chris Farley and I just kept thinking of Mikey during it. I wish I could have been a better friend to him, he was the greatest friend in the world to me. I’m not sure I gave him back what he gave me. I believe he communicates with me through the wind. I have different manifestations of some dead people… my grandpa is usually a rainbow or a purple-y sky… my grandma is birds… Mikey is the wind. The grandma and grandpa roles were sorta chosen by my mom… I chose the one for Mikey myself, it’s because of farts. I don’t necessarily have a specific memory of Mikey farting, but I decided I was going to take the initiative any choose his mystical manifestation myself. But I don’t know if I’m actually the source of my own ideas, they may come from something outside of me… so I can’t truly know whether the fart thing was my own idea or if it was delivered to me by him or some form of God or Universe. So as I mentioned at an open mic the other night, now that Mikey is dead, I sorta get to hang with him whenever I want. I never get to see the “real” him, but now I can call upon his spirit all the time. I could not do that when he was alive. So just like Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, Mikey is actually more powerful now after he died than when he was alive. That’s one way to make myself feel better about losing my best friend. How is it possible that at the same time I feel like I’ve been through a spiritual awakening, I interact with the dead, I have this optimistic view of the future and all the potential beauties of the world… yet I feel depressed?
That’s a great question. Maybe because the present isn’t so beautiful. My friend is not here. I’m actually alone in a room and have been staring at a screen punching a bunch of keys for two hours. I should have gone to sleep and the stimulation from the blue light in the computer screen will make it harder for me to sleep… I’ll compensate by sleeping in later tomorrow morning and get off to a bad start to the day. The world is still filled with violence and war and hunger and sadness…. I still feel my contributions to the world are minimal and at times I’m barely staying afloat financially… partly because I am weak and depressed, partly because I’m selfish, partly because… I dunno.
This article is over.