Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Morning Announcements

So if you're one of the nerds who actually keeps track of this (which might be nobody I dunno), you probably noticed that I've been MIA for the last three days. I have continued to struggle with depression, pretty much bouncing back and forth between having revelations and feeling better and then feeling kinda bad again which makes me spiral into further depression because I just want shit to be SOLVED, don't tell me this takes TIME and EFFORT and I can't just have a magic revelation that makes the rest of life glorious forever?

And then Sunday I was up most of the night with a massive headache and nausea (and the thing that happens after nausea but don't think about it) and it took me until like 6 pm yesterday laying in bed in pain to realize that I didn't drink more than a couple sips of my usual cup of coffee Sunday, and of course none yesterday, until after 6 when I was finally able to get the pain under control with some ibuprofen and sleep and risked drinking a cup of coffee. Guess what happened?

Just a quick question, what the fuck is caffeine and how did I get so physically addicted from drinking one cup a day?

Anywho. Don't stop drinking your coffee cold turkey, not even for a day.

In terms of the ol' depression, I've been reading this book called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions. By Johann Hari. I have some criticisms, of course, particularly around the fact that he says he quit his antidepressants cold turkey in the introduction and didn't warn against the dangerous withdrawal effects until chapter fuckin' two, but many of his points about the social causes of depression resonate. Disconnection from people is one I'm particularly interested in because I've felt disconnected from my fellow humans for a very long time. Did you know that loneliness causes high levels of stress?

This does have to do with technology, but don't get me wrong, I'm not gonna call Thomas Edison a witch (on the contrary, he was an asshole). Social media and the internet and smartphones are incredible tools that have allowed people to do a lot of good. But I think the people arguing that social media and online chat can't replace face-to-face interactions. I've often thought that a lot of our problems are a result of our technology outpacing the evolution of our little monkey brains.

But in reality, Hari argues, the problem of disconnection from people began long before Facebook and iPhones. He seems to think it really got going in the 1930s and puts a lot of blame at the idea of the "nuclear family," which is a weird unnatural situation where we've decided one kind of family is the only good one and it's a good idea to seal ourselves off into our increasingly identical houses and not get to know our neighbors at all. And as time went on, even our family bonds started to dissolve, which is closely related to changes in our economic structure as capitalism becomes increasingly unstable.

That last bit was my thought. Hari bumps up against criticizing capitalism but doesn't quite get there.

Something that's occurred to me lately is the fact that there are a lot of memes and joking online about getting less social interaction as you get older, and seeing things like that was a relief to me at first, because it told me that my increasing disconnection from friends was normal. And it is normal in the way that it's clearly happening to a lot of people, but I think it's not normal in the way that it's not good for us. I'm often skeptical of evolutionary psychology, but there is something to be said about how we evolved to be social animals and how social isolation seems to always cause misery and sometimes serious anti-social behaviors.

If you read as much as I do about how young white men get drawn into white supremacist groups, you can see the pattern of social disconnection and the allure of a supportive community. This isn't the only thing responsible for radicalization, but it's a key factor.

As for the rest of us, we're going to have to put in the effort to reconnect to one another. Including and especially us introverts. And it's tough because socializing seems to be more stressful the less I do it, and Hari proposes that this is because of a snowball effect of the stress of loneliness. If loneliness stresses us out because being alone back in the day meant we were likely to die, we're going to be more apt to want to hide and reaching out to people is going to be harder. And that shitty voice that worries "am I annoying, do people hate me, are they just tolerating me because they pity me, etc." does not help. But I'm not gonna be depressed for the rest of my life so if you know me IRL get ready to see my mug pop up in your Facebook messages or whatever.

This might actually be a great opportunity for me to experiment with slowly ramping up my social interaction and passing on how that goes to others. Clearly, I am not the only one having this problem. But I'm trying to remain positive. I am definitely going through a period of change. Kids go through rapid development that I think are called "wonder periods" or something like that, but since they've discovered that the brain really never stops changing and developing, it makes sense that we would all go through these periods. They're hard and chaotic and uncomfortable but they are also opportunities for growth. Right? Is this too corny? Oh well, I'm not sorry. You know how it is.

By extension, maybe humanity as a whole is going through a wonder period. A big one. Hopefully we survive it, but if we're gonna, we need to reconnect to each other. Fuck the negative voice. I love all of you and I want to hang out with you and I enjoy your company because you're great. Okay? Don't make me repeat myself.

Oh and happy belated Labor Day. Have fun.

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