je ne suis d’aucune faction, je les combattrai toutes.
I bought a DVD of Nabucco the other day. It’s the usual story: boy meets girl; girl’s father attacks Jerusalem; Hebrews carted off to Babylon. “Sack, burn the temple,” says the King of the Babylonians. “This cursed race shall be wiped from the earth.” But first, let’s all have a sing-song.
I saw it in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. It was the Latvian National Opera, so I was watching Latvians, in China, pretending to be Jews in Babylon, and singing in Italian. Well that’s all right. I can take a joke.
We generally expect that those whom we love will love us at all times back equally with the exact intimacy, intensity and frequency as we do them. We may expect their affection to match our needs pound for pound and if we perceive the slightest upset in this desired even if impossible equilibrium of sorts, we begin to unravel right at our own core assuming a sense of worthlessness where the assumed rejection of one individual becomes the echo for a larger world outside of us. We become fixated on this one relationship to the extent of excluding every other relationship in our immediate or distant environments – physical, emotional, cognitive, social, spiritual. The first syllable of the word fixated sounds the word fix and that comes to lodge itself in our mind like a particularly sharp splinter. We aim to fix this perceived imbalance because we believe that if they don’t love us the way we want them to then they don’t love us at all. The process of internalization gets more aggressive from this point onward. Every action emerging from a reaction to an external stimulus is immediately weighed against internal self worth. The act of someone else rejecting our love immediately renders itself to a very rigid translation of worthlessness. This, of course, is completely inaccurate, a lot of times the supposed rejection is merely misread cues and situational upsets; even in the case of actual rejection from a loved one, the chances of them rejecting a relationship not you as a person is more likely and plausible.
The extreme fixation on what seems to be slipping away from our hands and thereby taking us with it, is what really sinks us into further pits of depression. We sit motionless in a dark room for hours because the silence seems to be the only likeable company since it almost never leaves. For a lot of people who experience depression, all of the above indicators are also coupled with the constant fear of abandonment keeps circling their stomach like a never ending acid reflex. As part of the learned helplessness that so frequently accompanies depression, the idea that you can’t succeed at pretty much anything and will eventually be abandoned by everyone you love is not a fictitious or purely imaginary construct, it is a very real and palpable fear that you are forced to face on a daily basis. Very often this fear comes to impact almost all parts of your life to the extent that now you start working backwards from this place of perpetual fear of loss to - in fact -inadvertently living your life in such a way that either does not allow you to engage with people in an emotional proximity or it constantly clouds your mind with the possible ways in which someone will betray your trust and eventually depart from your life no matter what you do. The mind then proceeds to actualize what it has visualized.
Is there a central seed to this fear? An atomic core perhaps. In experience, mine and others, I have noticed that each person has what I call a Locus of Trauma from where this fear of abandonment is drawn. Life is not a consistent line, it a series of jagged, dotted connected inconsistencies and platitudes which are lived as well as traveled through in a journey of small moments. Some moments can have a life altering impact whether in a negative or a positive sense. If these life altering moments have a negative and emotionally paralyzing context, it turns into what I earlier referred to as a Locus of Trauma. This locus then comes to determine the remaining geometry of our cognitive responses to socio-psychological stimuli.
We start to root all our experiences in this Locus of Trauma, we come to navigate the whirpool of feelings from this seemingly resistive point in the cognitive diagram. Most if not all depressives begin to distance themselves from every relationship on account of assumed failure in one specific relationship. In short this Locus narrows the gaze to the space where you can only see and experience the blame of a singular implosion of expectations. You find yourself unable to remove your mind from this consistent and pervasive theory that on account of one thing being suspect to failure, everything is suspect to failure.
The Locus of Trauma could be a specific incident, or a group of incidents repeated in succession at an early stage of your life though it very easily could also be something that occurs at a later stage of your life as well. Mostly from experience I think events of early onset phases in childhood, teenage years and adulthood are massive catalysts. This event has somehow gone from being a passage in time to becoming a compass for how you tend to evaluate your time. Somehow the mirror cracks and you come to think that it is you who have developed a fracture throughout yourself. You keep repeating the pattern of this trauma when your emotional needs seem to be unmet, you keep going back to that place and keep trying to “fix” in other situations. Sometimes the wound festers beneath the surface even as the epidermis superficially has grown a protective disguise but the fact is the pain is still raw and ready for the surface right under. This in turn creates a domino effect for Unhealthy Pattern Replication. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I was so desperate to reclaim that part of my life, I entered violent relationships as a teenager so I could “straighten” my partner and in turn feel even an ounce of control over my imprecise premise that had I been a little stronger perhaps I would have escaped that abuse. Each trigger immediately sends you spiraling into the cesspool of shame & self loathing. One of my most frightening schemas was the consistent self-education that I should have not be born because I often pieced multiple Loci of Trauma (my parents’ separation, childhood violence & abuse) to create a mental blueprint for how I was supposed to be and I held in massive disdain this fictitious person I had created of myself. A lot later in therapy (compulsory for me as a young psychologist in training) I recalled an incident where I had heard a neighbor address another guest at my birthday party with some references to how my mother should have aborted me instead of wasting so much of her life & time on a “bastard” child – my parents were from two separate countries & as per the aforementioned paragon of orthodoxy, their marriage was “invalid”. This statement housed itself into the deepest recesses of my mind & coupled with the timing of this utterance (around the time where my abuse was most brutal) I somehow, over the years made this mindset a goto place when I experienced emotional setbacks.
I told myself repeatedly that if I were not born, a lot of things in my mother’s life would have been better or that I would not have suffered. In these moments you neglect to consider what you have truly done with your life, your view of your existence is very microscopic & it labors to nullify everything you have accomplished or achieved. I failed to account for how my mother framed the first time I was published at the age of 17 or how she found her calling as an educationist because she had take an year off her PhD in Clinical psychology when she got pregnant with me. Those things were nowhere in my eyeline when I decided to acquire what I refer to as an Emotional Foetal Position at the root of my Locus of Trauma.
The most harmful aspect of depression is that it makes you distrust your own ability as well as any possibility for happiness or just the idea of your deserving any kind of happiness because it makes happiness seem like an aberration. I remember Dalai Lama during a lecture I attended and he said something very beautifully stark right in the beginning when some of us students started asking him intricate questions on theological practices – We are not here to determine Nirvana. We are here to be happy. If we are truly happy, nirvana achieved!
Depression also convinces you that you are only deserving of loneliness. This is particularly difficult to maneuver if you are disposed toward introversion because I actually do enjoy solitude over conversation or company but it took me a sufficiently long time to differentiate between loneliness & solitude. The primary difference I discerned lied in the absence of choice with former. When loneliness hits, it mostly is without choice however you can choose out of it. One of the most crucial and significantly positive part of my healing was martial arts. As a teenager I pretty much counted days of survival from one kickboxing class to another. Depression for me was not just a mental ailment, it had a thorough grasp on my body as well. I would lie on the floor of a darkened room for hours if not days sometimes. I become intensely agoraphobic and refused to venture outside my room. Once I restarted martial arts, the amount of peace I experienced in bouts was ironic as well since I was mostly involved in what a lot of people perceive to be a hotheaded sport. Kickboxing helped me with a goal setting which was futuristic rather than returning to my Locus of Trauma from the past. Every week the idea was to get a better shot at the bag, to kick higher, to kick tougher. It worked wonderfully. Eventually one to the other, I took on swords as a student of Kenjutsu at 17 years old. It has been well over a decade with that now and I still go back to it to release from the pent up contempt I still sometimes hold in some forgetful corner within me.
Depression consistently makes you question two very compelling conditions of your own existence – your presence & your relevance in your own and the lives of significant others. It is a powerful and tireless interrogator, it will sit there for hours and hand the noose of a loosely dangling bulb with a dirty filament flickering in over your head. It plays good cop-bad cop. It teaches you to deprive yourself and the worst of all, it convinces you to play its role even when it is absent. You become your own torturer.
The idea then is to learn the rituals of resistance. Depression in my own personal and clinical experience doesn’t fully depart but today I treat like I treat my diabetes - I follow a set of rituals, I understand the value of precautionary measures. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I realized that being aware was half my battle won, the other half was planning and suddenly I realized that I needed to employ the same practice for how I dealt with depression as well because both of them are conditions I have to live with for the rest of my life. I don’t fight my diabetes, I avoid sweets so then why am do I allow my depression to keep my imprisoned in my bathroom for 4 hours before my dissertation defense? I can’t predict the triggers always and I know that I can’t reverse my neurochemical anomalies but I can be aware of how they tend to affect me and what makes me respond to them in a manner that refuses them control over my being. I now want to operate from a Locus of Knowledge not Locus of Trauma.
As a child, after an injury sustained from a freak accident, the doctor had to clean the area where I was burned and that was one of the most painful things I ever endured. It felt like my body was turning into my own personal hell. The doctor made me stay back after the whole cleaning and sanitizing process was completed. Once was I was relaxed and had stopped crying, he explained to me that if he had merely superficially cleaned the spot, the lesion would have eventually led to bone level infection and even amputation. He smiled and chided me – If you hadn’t let me do that, you could have lost your leg next week. Aren’t you happy you were so brave and patient for this?
That really is the question then, do you have the patience to address to your hell?
lessons in emotional health : depression embeds a fragile yet strangely persuasive belief in people that owing to their past, they are now so incapable of happiness that they distrust even the slightest hint of it in their lives.
trust your happiness.
It took me 6 years to accept that I lived in constant fear my abuser would kill me and that it wasn’t my fault. Fuck victim blaming, I’m here for solidarity.
i know that fear intimately. i still experience it. i still can’t predict how many nights in a week i can sleep next to someone without nightmares. i met my stepfather again after all those years during a custody battle for my sister (she became my ward coz i would not let him raise her) and trust me all i did the week before was practice eye contact in a mirror. i didn’t give a fuck about anything except for the fact that i wanted to meet his gaze and let him know that i was not afraid anymore.
the years that it takes to undo that fear just so some blatherskite can insinuate that perhaps we, who were abused, should reconsider the effect we had on a violator.
so yeah. this kind of arrogant armchair theorising is cowardly and pathetic.
you’re the seismic underbelly
smoldering; you are
the continental shift,
bien adoré, you are the new
cartography of desire
— Scherezade Siobhan©
Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.
I miss you in a world we have yet to create.
how you came to be an unrepentant candle-mora
inside the immigrant winter that was sharpening
the stray glass of each anguished
icicle against the bronzed urchin’s
while oleander ivories; the weather
in itself was an icebound menagerie or
a hush of diamonds hypnotizing the piazzas
perfumed in a murmur of chrysanthemums
the echelon of bungalows faintly flayed to
a puzzle of their own brick-bones, ashen paint,
bleach-worded halls, the whole spasm receding
within the oblivion of veteran walls. here, my father’s
violin, the knotted decibels of laughter; the recherché carpet
of his coffee-stained diaries; his spice haggler’s enthusiasm; his approximations of the echoed mirror’s math
his nomad’s jazz that always wanes into a nebula of fog
that drags its camouflage behind clotheslines strung from
the iron will of windows you could see the whole diorama
of time as it tread its thread through the fabric of each
fading year that hung itself wordlessly by a snare of lint
you slept beneath the wide-eyed inspection from
the incendiaries of dawns you sat curled under
the dark green accent of the umbrella pines
till the moon came out: just a tongue
-tied sibling for the oillamp of a roman sun. you sat
in a mute entropy, you came to be retailored from volcanic
ash & cinnebar & the satin of a winter that kept sliding in
& out of your shimmering grasp. it stowed its sailor’s song;
its fragile tessitura,whispering its flawless pain
into the back of your knees, begging you for a last dance,
breaking into the pale crescent of a smile, small
like a sandpiper who, when orphaned by the shore,
thought that if it swallowed enough sand, it could
perhaps birth a sea
Night Train to Naples, Scherezade Siobhan©
there are no Lacanians, those are just Freudians who like to eat snails.