Saturday, October 6, 2012

Greyed Rainbow: Shade v Color for Anxious-Depressives

Greyed Rainbow, Art Institute of Chicago, by Jackson Pollock

For the anxious-depressive, sad is not a bad way to feel;
sad has color, as opposed to feeling all shade.


I. The Internal Logic of Grey

"How'd I ever end up here?
A latent strain of color blindness"

This post does not aim to be correct, merely useful.

Anxiety-depression is a spectrum, a constant tension, and its shade is Grey. It is a middle. One could theorize whiteness on one pole and darkness on the other, but very few, fortunately, ever arrive there.

I feel more confident in using the problematic language of grey, white and black, because in this case whiteness is not akin to purity or goodness, blackness to absence, and grey is not a nice medium between them.

Greyness is where all the suffering happens. True, at times anxiety kicks in with intense panic attacks, hyper-ventilating, irritability, the desire to punch something or get punched (anything to make things stop or else to get moving again); but this does not mean that depression is absent. You can feel sluggish, a lack of motivation, detached, repulsion to things and activities that you used to find vivifying --- while you are also panicking. It also works the other way around. Lighter grey pushes your heart rate to a breaking point and dark grey it has lowered to a zombie like rhythm. Mid-grey, well, that's just equal parts panic and despair, but neither need be lessened by any degree.

Lightness is a star nearing super-nova and it shines day and night for the anxious-depressive. It is not suffering, but light that will pull you to pieces. For those that look at it, it is one logical end point for all things; a giant-heat-death. Its gravity asserts such a telos that every feeling, every calculation, every scenario taken to its rational conclusion brings all things beyond this horizon, where they will fall off the earth and into the sun. Those that fear it, fear what the desperation would drive them to do and become.

Darkness is the black-hole and it is at the center of everything, every galaxy of meaning orbits it. It is not suffering, but an abyss that opens wide, and in the deepest deep, a deeper deep threats to consume it. Darkness is fractal as lightness is piercing. Its gravity asserts a chaos that twarts all plans, every joy and every sadness, unmasks (or remasks) all things with an identical face: a face without a face, a hallow face, an empty mask --- not blank, but empty. Those that fear it, fear what they would be willing to give up (on).

Anxiety/Depression operates on terms of shade and promises to grey every rainbow, to pull all thoughts and feelings into its dim regime. As a chronic illness, it is constantly active, in the background if not in the foreground, so that even when one feels in terms of color, they always exhibit some shade as well.



II. The Shade Wheel

"This is the definition of a pointless conversation"
Big Bang Theory

One does not argue with an anxious-depressive, nor does one fix, cure, or correct.

As a chronic condition, anxious-depression is a manner of living, a form of embodiment, whose symptoms can at best be managed. It goes on when no one else is aware of it, even when the anxious-depressive isn't aware of it. In some ways, when symptoms get so bad so as to become noticeable, this can be a good thing, as it usually reveals that it has been going on for a while and if addressed would reduce a lot of other suffering.

I say you can't argue with an anxious-depressive, not because they are always and universally correct, but because it has its own system of logic, it can translate all things into itself so as to display the world in such a way as to ensure the same extreme poles of death by light and darkness, and the same insufferable middle, no matter how you think you should be able to win according to your own logic. Anxiety/depression cheats. It cheats by not playing your game. It convinces you to play its game and you lose. When you won't play, you lose. Yeah, it's a jerk.

In past posts, I have gestured to the usefulness of GK Chesterton's circular model of logic, and it works especially well here. Logic, with its mode of operation (the curve) is perfect in its roundness. Its assumptions are justified by its conclusions, they all come back around. And the circle, as far as it is concerned, is complete. It is also empty. On the inside it sees a void and on the outside it sees nothing.

Chesterton's suggestion on dealing with such cheating logicians is to interrupt them --- make it so their curve can not come back around but must swerve, make it so their logic can't go anywhere by using non-logical arguments. I like penguins. People ask me why I like penguins, but the reason I like them most is that I don't have a reason. They are penguins, what's not to like? Penguin becomes a reason, by its total lack of reason.

In other words, doing things not because they are good for you, heal you, correct you, are productive, or will get out of your depression, but just for their own sake can help bring color back to the life of the anxious-depressive. Find activities that resist attempts to give them a purpose or a reason, so they can't possibly fail. Find things that affect how you feel without having any "right" way to feel about them.


III. Surprised by Color

"Color me lavender. Lavender means impressed"

The other option, is to give the anxious-depressive a lot to feel, explode the shade (now very much like the dim occupant of Hades) with enough color to make even if the slightest splash stand out amid the brightest and darkest days.

The counter-intuitive thing may be that exactly what emotion is used matters less than you might think.

Sadness has a color, as I said, and it is important to know that sadness is not like depression at all -- although they may appear to be like one another externally. Sadness has hues, dangers, even the memory of joys or hopes lost. Depression cancels out all possibility that joy or hope had ever existed, or the chance that they might ever exist.

Anger too has a color, although it is often confused with anxiety. Anger comes from hurt, fear, again the pain and memory of lost joy, comfort, or hope. It rages against injustice, so that even if its means of vengeance swallow up any initial goals of vindication, it at least acknowledges the theoretical existence of peace; it must in order to disrupt it. Anxiety forecloses all possibility of a good end or enjoyment in the process. Whereas anger has the danger of making the end the servant of the means, anxiety makes the means an extension of the end, so that as bad as things are, they will only ever get worse and worse.

The tricky thing is that you can't let the anxiety/depression know what you trying to do. It suspects all tricks and paranoidly prepares a million escape routes from joy.

You need to surprise anxiety-depression. Surprise is the hope for the hopeless. You can't count on it, it is an impossibility in the mind of the anxious-depressive, because shade has no sense of what color can do.

Thus don't argue with anxiety-depression (and at times the condition can become more the identity/occupant of the thing you are talking to than the person it usually is), but keep it around long enough for the impossible to happen; for the unexpected visitor to show up. Break into the laws of its universe with a miracle which it could not ask for but desperately needs. 

To fight the overly Christological rhetoric, this may been seen less as a final salvation than as an exodus from a kind of bondage. The road is not over, hardly, for ahead there is a desert and many trials and future sufferings. They may never make it to a promised land, but the difference will be, that they may again begin to imagine promises as possible and meaningful. 

Such an escape from the cycle of the extreme symptoms of anxiety/depression is not a transcendence of the bodily condition, but a pluralizing of it. What we are doing is allowing for other possible lives, potentially more livable lives, to be created alongside anxiety/depression. The grey is still there, but it becomes less compulsive in its solitude and on its effects/foreclosures on other modes of being. We are helping them paint (again) with color and not only shade.

For more on Anxiety & Absence

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