Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

The Cure for Depression: The Glass is Mostly Full

Posted on | March 24, 2011 | 1 Comment

“I have a cure for depression,” says the old French-Canadian man, carefully dissecting ginger root with a rather large knife on my kitchen counter.  He is about five feet away from the cooking element I caused to explode in flames almost immediately upon moving into my new apartment making an excellent impression on my new roommates. “It’s very simple.”

I’ll admit that when I hear someone say this I always feel a tiny bit of nervous excitement and my mind jumps thirty years in the future as I look back on the moment when my life changed.  “He was a 60 year old man and he was cutting ginger and then he told me to chew on a three year olds ear at midnight…yes I know…you wouldn’t think it would work. But it will work for everyone. Yes, it is difficult to get a babysitting gig.”

Silence. Oh. He is looking at me like I went ADD during a really good knock knock joke.

I need to ask him before he tells me.

“What is the cure to depression?” I ask.

“The glass is mostly full,” he says sagely. “It’s a choice. It’s not half empty, it’s mostly full.”

OK.

“Some people want to see the glass as mostly empty. But they need to see it as mostly full.”

I’ve been meditating lately, trying to get into the moment. In this particular moment I’m feeling like shaking a senior citizen until he vomits out his organic vegetables all over the floor. I go through my most recent loving kindness meditation mantra and try to figure out the proper way to phrase this.

“Mostly full?” I ask.

“Mostly full, not half empty.”

“A glass?” I ask.

“Yes. Metaphorically.”

“That’s an interesting statement,” I say. “What lead you to that belief?”

Scientific studies?  Years as a psychiatrist?  Enlightenment in a Buddhist temple?  Reading a Hallmark greeting card?  Fortune cookie?

“Life,” he says, cutting into gigantic slices of ginger, which he’s told me will keep him strong and invigorated during his day. “There are people who don’t bask in their sadness. Who chose to be happy and there are people who want to feel helpless against the weight of their problems.”

I wonder if he has ever felt helpless against the weight of his problems.

I wonder how much he weighs.

I bet you I could pick him up and throw him out of my house Fresh Prince of Belair style.

Unfortunately this isn’t practical.

He is staying at my house for another week and my roommate likes him and I like my roommate and I recently lit the house on fire so I guess I owe him one. In this very kitchen that presently smells of marijuana and ginger, Michael Kimber learned the important lesson that plastic teakettles are flammable and house fires can happen to anyone, especially him.

Thus patience, Quimbo. Patience.

“Society tells people that it’s an illness. The corporations want you to need medication,” he says. “It deals with the symptoms not the problem. The kids today cater to it.  They don’t want responsibility for the hard work of fixing their problems. Our culture doesn’t want to do the work. Is the woman depressed or was she raped? They aren’t sad because they have depression but because they have been raped. It’s the way they see themselves.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little bit of bullshit?” I say. Ok. Not as polite as I could be.  “I mean a lot of people suffer from chemical disorders that can’t be broken down to traumatic events they have suffered.  Friends of mine with bipolar disorder for example.  And for the women who were attacked, yes even if they realize that it isn’t their fault, rape is a bit of a shotgun to your central nervous system.  Don’t you think that might not be the anxiety and depression might be something they can’t quite control by looking at a glass and deciding it is half full? I’m sure you are aware of how many years it takes to treat most people suffering from PTSD and how often medication must be used in conjunction with therapy.”

“It’s the way you see life that matters,” he says.

“So is the glass is mostly not raped?” I ask.

Pause.  He continues cutting ginger.

“I have been through hard times,” he says. “I have gotten myself out of them.”

In my mind, one of the greatest difficulties with compassion is recognizing that there is experience you have absolutely no understanding of.  Depression helped me understand people who have been at war with themselves. I also know every war is different. It was the greatest pain of my life. It doesn’t make me understand what it’s like to be raped which was the greatest pain of many of my friend’s life.  I lost a friend to suicide, this doesn’t mean I understand what it was like for a friend of mine to lose their father to long term illness. I’ve been discriminated against when I was fat and had banging tits, that doesn’t mean I understand what it’s like to be black and be discriminated against for the color of my skin. If you want to be compassionate to people you have to admit that you don’t actually know what they have been through.

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who was raped when she was in her teens and and she was angry with herself for having been unable to get passed it. It has been fifteen years since she was attacked. She knows that most guys aren’t like that. She knows that it wasn’t her fault. The insight doesn’t matter. Some things will always hurt.

“You ever do any reading on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and rewiring your neural pathways?”

“No. I lived.”

Good point, fuckwad.

“Well in CBT you learn that insight isn’t enough,” I reply. “That it’s harder to unlearn negative thought patterns than it is to replace them with positive ones. That insight is never enough. You probably know that most professionals will agree that positive thinking actually makes people worse because it prevents people from seeking help and changing the things that are negatively affecting their lives. That positive thinking can’t actually convince your brain. If we can’t get off the couch, if we look in the mirror and hate ourselves we can’t tell ourselves that we are happy and okay because our brains won’t believe us.”

“When you live a little longer you’ll understand,” he says. “They tried to give me pills but I wouldn’t take them. I knew that I could choose to see the bad parts of life. But I decided to live. ”

“I took them and they helped,” I reply, getting ready to show him my Remeron and Wellbutrin prescriptions like depression merit badges. “I haven’t often walked up to diabetics and told them to stop seeking attention. Your pancreas can secrete insulin, you just want us to have sympathy for you.”

He goes back to cutting ginger.

“The smell of ginger is invigorating. Gives you energy. Gives you life.”

I think he realizes I’m slowly beginning to hate him. Which isn’t exactly true. I just hate the symbol I’m making him into. He has probably saved orphans from burning buildings and been through his own turmoil. Certainty usually is just a different flavor of broken and I’m often most certain about the things that I’m most scared of.

I’ve been meditating and reading books about how if you feel compassion for others you will have more compassion for yourself.  As compassion for myself has been an issue in the past I have been trying to cultivate empathy for people I don’t like.

Thus I take a deep breath and try to love this man.

So I try to explain to myself how the old man is a reflection of the time when he grew up, how his hardened black and white wisdom is a sign of approaching death where you need to have learned something from life. Where there needs to be an answer so that if you were to live again you could do it right.

Ok. That isn’t that compassionate. I’m putting this man closer to death to like him.

I’ve recently been told by someone I respect that the things that piss you off in other people are things you hate about yourself. So I look at the balding man closely and try to see myself in his eyes.. Nope slightly different shape.  He has a beard but it’s well groomed and isn’t comparable to the ginger savagery of my own Slavic Jewish masterpiece.  He is shorter than me and right now I feel a little Randy Newman about the whole issue. A part of me doesn’t like the idea that everyone thing I like and hate in other people are things I admire and loath in myself. I like to think my life isn’t that self-obsessed. That some things just bother me about people and there is nothing wrong with that.

I’m taking his opinions as a statement on my life when it is actually a statement on his own.

I desperately wish there was a simple answer to my problems. That I could just make myself think positively then my problems would cease to bother me. How great would that be? If everyone could just want it badly enough and all of a sudden they wouldn’t be poor, lonely, chemically imbalanced, traumatized, all because you made a choice.

In November, 2009 I tried so hard to make myself realize how great my life was. The attempts to force myself to think differently habituated me to worry. I constantly monitored my thoughts, hoping that if I could maintain control over my thoughts I could cure myself of the adrenaline seizures ripping apart my insides and the tension that stopped me from sleeping.

That one day I’d wake up and the glass would be half full.

That if I wanted it badly enough it would just happen.

No one who looked at me during those days could help but notice how badly I wanted it.

How ridiculous I looked when I tried the breathing exercises as our cat stared at me lying on the floor of my apartment. How stupid I was when I told my adopted brother Nole that the reason I was fucked up was because I quit going to the Spartan and lacked a calming chemical you get in eggs. How many simple get sane quick schemes were approved, tried and failed.

It took medication and therapy and love to help me get back to my feet.

I couldn’t be saved by a thought. It took a lot of work and that meant admitting I needed to do the work. That there was a problem. My experience with depression and anxiety is my own. It isn’t a statement to anyone else. Admitting that I had an illness was the realization that I didn’t purposefully make this to happen to myself. That some things are outside of my control.  That I couldn’t have changed before I had to.

I know that I cannot be cured simply by medication. That treating my anxiety means learning to accept and love myself and that’s a lot harder than getting a prescription. However I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that I will never get off medication.

My doctor has suggested weaning off my medication as the seasons changed and the sun lifts my mood.

The internet is filled with people who couldn’t. The internet is also filled with people who feel the need to call strangers fags on YouTube videos. Most people who post online about getting off meds had unpleasant experiences. The people who were okay didn’t feel the need to write in depression forums. I also know that there is nothing wrong with being on medication.

I want to see if I can handle my problems without  it.  I don’t know if I will succeed or fail but I want to try.   So the next few weeks are going to be a difficult time for me and I’m not going to live my life catering to my anxiety and depression.

I have found one way out of this maze.

I hope I can find another.

The reason I am so angry is that he makes it sound easy and I know it isn’t going to be. Yes. I admit it. As always dear reader, this is about me.

I also know that the old man is staying in my apartment for another week and that there is little point in forcing a confrontation that is only going to piss me off further. So I do the mature thing.

I start cranking the most offensive rap music in my music library until he decides to go to sleep.  A few tracks by Noley get him on the ropes. A little Eminem knocks him into an early night’s sleep. And I start writing a blog to tell you about it.

Afterwards I go into my bedroom, close the door and meditate.

And this thought occurs to me:

Maybe the glass isn’t half full, maybe it isn’t half empty…..maybe it’s just a motherfucking glass that has different types of shit in it at different times and maybe that’s okay.

I stop for a second.

Yup.

That was deep, Mike.

Definitely deep.

High five with yourself.

Go to bed.

Fin.

Share

Comments

One Response to “The Cure for Depression: The Glass is Mostly Full”

  1. Penny
    March 28th, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    I can’t respect anyone who tries to use a “glass half full” argument with me, especially if they’re aggressive about it.

    If I’m going to live my life according to hackneyed advice, then I’ll go with turning lemons into lemonade. My perception of the glass’s contents has no effect on the contents themselves, making the whole debate pointless. Pressing the issue won’t make me choose a side. Being a realist, I’m much more likely to create my own purpose for the glass – for example, throwing it at someone, thus ending the argument.

    I just don’t understand people who insist that we should retreat further into our minds, where many of us already feel trapped. Thinking happy thoughts is good but engaging in your environment is better.

Leave a Reply





CommentLuv Enabled
  • Introduction to the Cure



  • Peter Diamond Gallery

  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

  • Archives