Introduction – The Ongoing Documentation Of Life
For over 30 years I’ve been consciously saving little souvenirs of my journey through life – stuff to help document the adventure. I don’t know why this is so important to me, but it is, and it affects much of the way I approach life.
Writing has played a huge part of the documentation process – years and years of filling up journals, writing and editing stories posted on the internet and numerous short essays that I’ve never published. Millions of words just trying to capture the experience of one human being during this pilgrimage here on planet Earth.
Here is the latest installment in the story reflecting on the year I had in 2012 – it’s called “Driving Towards The End Of The World”. I choose that title because, you know, the world was supposed to end last year, which it didn’t 🙂
So before I jump into writing about some really nice changes that have happened since the end of the world I thought I should post something to document 2012 from this one human being’s perspective…
After The End Of The World, Part One
Maybe I was just glad we had reached that date we had all been speculating about for years, or maybe the day really did have some special cosmic alignment I was feeling. Maybe it was because my wife and best friend, Tania, had the day off and it was a wonderful happy morning around the homestead… whatever the cause, it was a day where the burdens of the world slipped from my shoulders for a moment, and the depression, which this year had been the worst it has ever been for me, was pushed back for a moment.
Now that the end of the world was behind us I could feel like something else might happen. Like we had passed a giant border sign while driving through a long desert, “Welcome to the State of Now”. At first nothing seems different, but when you stop for gas at the first town across the border you realize you truly are in a different state, and all that entails…
Looking Back On 2012
Back in January I was looking forward to the year ahead because the Year of the Dragon was approaching, our medical marijuana community seemed united in our fight against the forces that wanted to ban medical marijuana collectives here in Long Beach, and this was supposed to be that big year of change or something… and I was feeling pretty hopeful in my thoughts, ideas and projects I had planned for the coming year.
I didn’t expect to get hit with the darkest tsunami of depression I had ever faced during my last 15 years of riding the bipolarcoaster. Awful and cruel would be a simple way of describing the voice that roamed around my brain inflicting mental abuse and walking nightmares of all kinds. The physical sickness of the whole thing was even worse than what was going on in my brain. I had been through some tough stuff in the past, but this was a whole new level of torture.
The depression slammed me during the first week of the Year of the Dragon (late January) and continued for the rest of the year, with alternating periods of extremely severe, screaming banshee level noise to low-grade, constant background level noise. During the Mercury Retrograde in July and August I got a little bit of a break from my own personal hell, and I spent the time putting out seven CD’s of my UFOverdriver sound collages which I’ve released digitally over the last few years.
The depression pretty much ruled my time all year. When it was bad I slept, or tried to… we saw new doctors and we changed-up my medication 4 different times during 2012, but mostly this just seem to make things worse due to the various pill combination’s side-effects and general ineffectiveness at controlling the symptoms of this downward spiral.
When the symptoms would occasionally subside I would throw myself back into my projects, pushing forward until the dark tsunami would crash back in again. I’d estimate that 70% of my waking hours were wiped out by depression this last year while, at best, I got to use about 15-20% of my time in a way I would call creatively productive.
Relationships Are The Threads That Hold Us Together
If our relationships are the threads that hold our world together, then 2012 saw many of the threads of my world slip away as I became more and more withdrawn. Just me and my cruel brain and a distinct feeling that this was the way it was from now on – endless drowning.
One thing that kept me going during the year was the medical marijuana collective (Avalon Wellness Collective) I belonged to here in Long Beach. It was a major part of my increasingly limited social network. Volunteering for various projects when I had the energy helped keep me from slipping away into a recluse-like existence.
In the late summer the collective came to an end as the city’s ban on collectives took effect. Even though ours was the most compliant collective in all of Long Beach that wasn’t enough to stay open as the weight of all the various battles from the year finally took their toll.
At the end of August, when the collective closed, I pretty much walked away from the whole battle for medical marijuana which had been such a large part of my life for years, disillusioned, and feeling increasingly hopeless about the future. Dystopian visions of Big Brother/Secret Society nightmares haunted my thoughts for days on end.
Losing Myself To Depression
One of the things that I brought with me into the year 2012 was a deep and seemingly unmovable feeling that I had a little spark of something inside me, and no matter how bad the depression got to be, I knew I wasn’t the depression. It was an illness happening to me, a genetic hiccup, or something dysfunctional about my original biological equipment. I wasn’t sure, but I knew I was something else – something buried deep inside me like a little spark or an ever-changing wind of light.
This last year the depression hammered away at this distinction, trying to tear down the wall of self-identity between the little spark of me and the condition or illness known as bipolar spectrum disorder and it’s brutal depression attacks.
By the late fall I was starting to feel the distinction begin to dissolve, and I began to view myself increasingly as a depressed person. Depression had just about won the game.
The Highlights Reel of Silver Linings
While I slipped down this ever-increasingly slippery slope of depression I had several creative projects that pulled me back from the brink for a moment, or gave me something to hold onto of myself as this whirlpool beyond my control spun me around and around.
I already mentioned the sound collage CD’s I put out in the summer. This had been something I kind of dreamed of doing for awhile, not really for anyone else but myself. I wanted to see this audio project made physical – into something I could hold on to and look at, stick on the shelf to listen to later… it’s part of my artist M.O. – making souvenirs of the moment, and my UFOverdriver sound collages are definitely souvenirs of the moment.
Living on the unstable ground of a bipolar disorder landscape has made it rather difficult in the past for me to work on long-term projects. This is something I’ve wrestled with for years without finding any solution. I’m very good at projects that take three days or less, but because my mercurial attention span moves me on to new ideas and projects very quickly, it’s hard for me to keep up my concentration on the long-term.
One thing I did during this last year to overcome this perception of myself as “someone who can’t sustain a long-term project” was to start posting a Today’s Image everyday on my Facebook page.
Beginning in mid-September of 2011, right around the same time the Occupy Wall Street movement launched, I started to post one image each day – a collage, graphic, a painting or some other image from my portfolio of art work. The project turned into a kind of personal retrospective from twenty years of creating art objects and souvenirs of the moment.
By the end of October this last year, after more than 400 days, I closed the project down and posted the last Today’s Image on November 1. I had posted many of the best of my art objects, and I felt I had accomplished what I set out to do – re-imagining myself as someone who could work on long-term projects despite the storms of depression.
I’d call that a major victory for me.
The Late Great American Novel
Working on my Today’s Image project gave way to a new long-term project, a novel with the working title of The Late Great American Novel. This project started during the late summer quite unexpectedly, even though it is something I have been walking towards for quite a while.
The story that has unfolded while I’ve been writing began over twenty years ago as a single page of the beginning of a story in one of my old notebooks. I found it while looking for material for my Today’s Image project.
This single page of writing sat around for several weeks. I would pick it up from time to time and I ended up reading it over and over… until one day I could see the story continuing, or at least the next page of it, so I wrote it down, and then I had the next page – so I wrote it down, and then the next and the next until I was 60 chapters down the road into a novel.
Then the story paused so I stopped writing, and I waited for the next chapter to arrive.
Next: A Conscious Change