Left Unity

left unityI don’t usually talk a lot about politics here, mostly because I think politics is a topic best discussed face to face or in 400 page books, as well as I don’t really think it fits with what I want to do with this blog (that is talking about depression and stuff). However this has been on my mind a lot lately since some conflicts in my organising circles has caused me some psychological distress so I guess this qualifies after all. Anyway:

Over the past few years, the question of left unity has been on my mind a lot. I don’t think I will ever arrive at a complete and whole truth in this matter however here are the conclusions I’ve arrived at so far.

There are some things every leftist can agree on, that we can organise around and work together to achieve mutual goals. Things like:

  • Anti-fascism
  • Aiding refugees and the homeless
  • Workers rights
  • Environmental issues

Just to name a few. I gladly organise and work together with leftists of all flavours, even liberals as long as they can respect the radical tendencies in those spaces, organisations, initiatives etc. All lefties also can agree that capitalism sucks and needs to be dismantled. An other world is possible. Etc. Great. Every radical conversation that is held contributes to seeding the idea amongst “the mainstream” that we can break the status quo. However, when time comes to build an anti-capitalist movement, radicalising your workplace, friends and family, when we start to mobilise, go on strike, piece by piece break down the oppressive structures of capitalism, every pretence of left unity goes out of the window for me.

Sure, all (or at least most) leftist share the same end goal. Communism aka a classless, stateless society where every individual is equal. However the difference in how we get there is to great between authoritarians and libertarians. If authoritarians seize power, anarchist organising will be deemed counter-revolutionary. After all, anarchists would view the vanguard party as just an other oppressor to overthrow, and the party in power would do everything in their power to stop them along side the capitalists from hurting the revolution.

If an anarchist revolution would succeed, well, a similar story would develop. Anarchists would exclude authoritarians from their communities the same way they would with capitalists, or at least keep them in check, preventing them from organising.

Now, as an anarchist (and here is where my biases start showing), I believe that should an anarchist revolution succeed, authoritarians would not need to organise because we would have already arrived at the classless, stateless society (or at least be so close that building up the state again would just be silly), however should an authoritarian revolution succeed me and my anarchist comrades would be no closer to communism (power corrupts and all that) and we would be no safer than we are today, arguably even less so because historically communist states have been way more happy to persecute anarchists than liberal states (at least according to my limited knowledge of history).

I know that none of my authoritarian friends would want to harm me or my anarchist comrades. They are all great people and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know them and work along side them. But I also know that they probably won’t be the ones making out the top of “the party”. It will be the most ruthless that climb to the top. Just like in any other hierarchical structure. And those would not bat an eye before ordering us to stop our anarchist organising, forcing us to go underground. They would not bat an eye ordering our persecution, imprisonment and in the worst case, execution.

In conclusion: For short term organising around immediate issues, left unity is great. Long term, in a revolutionary sense, not so much.

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A new way home

Sometimes you just have to put your depression on hold and drag your ass out of your room to do something because other people rely on you. At least I have to and most of the time i actually have the ability to do so. Attend a meeting, go to a funeral, meet up with some friends, whatever. And when I’m on my way home, when the depression starts creeping back up I loose my sense of agency. When I’m in a positive head-space I usually am in a rush to get from one place to an other because I simply hate being in transit. I see it as time wasted not doing anything productive. However, when depression sets in, when I loose my agency, when I know I won’t be able to do anything, productive or no, suddenly there is no rush to get home. So I take this opportunity to find a new way.

I’ve lived in the same city all of my life so I have developed my own road network. I know how to get from important locations I frequent of frequented in the past, rarely straying from the paths that connect them. Sometimes there probably is a quicker route but the familiar path is the one taken because none other is considered. This has made me realise that I can’t honestly say that after 21 years here I know my way around town. So the combination of this realisation with not feeling enough lust for life to rush home has taken me down some interesting paths.

I’ve gone down trails leading into the woods I’ve biked past all my life, wondering where they go but never taken the time to explore. I’ve roamed around at midnight in the industrial area, realising it’s much bigger than I previously realised, just to name two examples. And today I went down the other side of the river where there is only old rusty boat yards and a water treatment facility. Sometimes you discover nothing of interest, other times the light is just right and even the rustiest dump can look like a work of art.

Rant regarding high profile suicides

suicide-preventionAs some one who spend their days wishing they were dead, there is a certain kind of online posts that have been popping up lately that I find really patronising. I’m sure most have seen one at this point.

Whenever some celebrity or community member takes their life there will always be at least one post calling it to attention and giving you the usual lecture that “if anyone reading this is considering suicide, don’t do it” etc and then provides a list of phone numbers and websites. I know it is with good intentions but it always seems like it makes us out to be some sort of irresponsible, childish morons. I assure you. I know these exist. It doesn’t matter.

I hate myself. I hate the way I look, the way I walk, the way I talk the way I smell, the way I think, the way I interact with people.

I hate literally every thing about every aspect of myself. And the things I do not hate I hate even more because I think I should do better, that I am not good enough. Like my acting. I should do better, I should BE better. Or my writing. I HATE the way I write. I think it sucks.

I love acting. I love writing. But I hate it all the same because the harshest critic is not yourself as many believe, it’s your depressed self.

Sometimes depression comes suddenly. After a traumatic experience. Therapy can definitely help deal with that. Talk about what happened, build strategies etc etc and eventually your healthy again, no longer depressed. Other times it comes slowly and nestles into the core of your being. Depression becomes your new normal. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but when my friends go to bed tonight they will think of how nice it was at the lake today and what they will do tomorrow, I will go to bed and wish that I don’t wake up.

And then I will wake up and having to go through an other day of this fucking shit all over again. Dealing with my fat overweight ass, unable to do anything long term because my mind is fucking broken, stuck in my room because the heat is killing me, stuck in my room because I have no where else to go, constantly being a burden on my parents, my friends who have to deal with my depressed ass and every one else for being such a socially inept bastard.

And I know these feelings are irrational, that my friends wouldn’t hang out with me unless they enjoyed my company, that my parents would kick me out if they couldn’t support me and that most strangers don’t care enough to remember that someone was a bit awkward. But it doesn’t matter because depression is irrational.

I’ve been feeling like this basically non-stop for the past six years. Every. Single. Day. I see no way out. Therapy doesn’t help and I refuse to let doctors drug me to the point of becoming a zombie.

I know that me dying won’t achieve anything other than take the few things I still enjoy away from me. Like reading, writing, acting or running DnD games for my friends. But I still wish I didn’t have to deal with the mess of a human being I am.

Thank you note to John Bain

totalbiscuit-john-bain-retiringPC have always been my preferred medium to play games and when I am not playing PC games I’m listening to others talking about PC games. One of them were John Bain. A games and games industry critic.

I’ve followed John Bain and his work for many years. Much longer than any other YouTuber, streamer or podcaster. He was knowledgeable, his thoughts were always well put together and his content well produced. He cared about giving costumers the power to make informed decisions in an industry where the water’s  become muddier and muddier over the years. Our tastes in games were similar so I always turned to him first for his thoughts on the games that were coming out.

When he told his audience in 2014 he had ben diagnosed with bowel cancer my heart sank. No one escapes cancer. Cancer took my grandfather and now it will take my most trusted games critic. It may sound stupid but these people produce thousands of hours of content. Those of us who consume every piece of John Bains critiques, thought-pieces, podcasts, streams etc have spent more time with him than with our best friends. With that context it maybe doesn’t sound so stupid any more. I made peace with the fact that that John Bain only had a few months left. That the steady stream of his opinions would dry up.

Then he beat it the fucking mad man. On the month a year later his cancer was in complete remission. I was over the moon. The impossible had happened. But it was to good to be true. The cancer had moved to the liver and he was given two to three years to live. He got almost four.

This morning I woke up to the news that John “Total Biscuit” “The Cynical Brit” Bain had passed.

I know you will never read this but I have to write it down anyway. You fucking rock, you know that? You were never afraid to speak your mind about the games you were critiquing or speak up when the games industry was was up to some no good shenanigans. I always knew that I could get the facts from you and then your opinion. You never mixed the two.

You were open about your own issues. Your mental health as well as your physical. You weren’t one to hide behind a facade of roses and sunshine. When things were shit you told us, normalising the fact that life can be shit sometimes and that’s okay. The same reason I’m writing this blog. It’s okay to feel shitty. It helped me and many others in our own fights, whatever they may be. We are in this together.

I will not mourn your death. I will celebrate your life. The energy waisted on mourning would be an insult to all the awesome you’ve contributed to my existence and the world at large.

Thank you.

Speaking up

Warning. Longer post, it’s story time.

When I realised I had mental health issues I made a choice. I’m not going to keep quiet about it. I’m going to speak up. I wanted to break the stigmas, the taboos and all the other shit keeping people from being open about their issues. Doing so I hoped to show people who haven’t experienced mental health issues what it can feel like and what it does to you, but most importantly to try to normalise it so that other people who might suffer from similar issues don’t feel so alone and isolated.

Up until now this decision and me acting accordingly has only been something I’ve done for myself. Being honest about how I feel helpt me stay sane and I ressurected my blog to write down my general thoughts and ideas as well as the feelings, emotions, sensations and thoughts I have/feel right as I have an anxiety attack or (lacking a btter word) a depression spiral as a way do deal with them. The hope that someone would learn something or feel better from reading my blog or hear me talk about my issues was always there but never something I seriously considered. Little me teaching someone something? No way. Me having a positive impact on someones life? Never in a million years. Those admirable goals of being a positive change in society were only pretentious excuses to not wear a mask quite as often as I would have to otherwise.

At leat that’s what I thought up until last weekend.

In highschool my mental health (or rather, the lack there of) forced me to change classes from natural sciences to humanities since I was unable to keep up with the pace. I was very open to my new class about where I was coming from and why I still didn’t have the energy to show up to class every day. My classmates were understanding and even though I never really become close friends with any of them I got along well with most of them and actually hit it of quite well with a few (can you say ‘hit it of’ without it implying dating?).

Even though the less intense courses had a slight improvement on my ability to study it was far from enough. After struggling for a year and a half I decided to drop out of highschool having achieved next to nothing. I went on with my life barely sparing a thought to the classmates I left behind, up until last weekend when I ran into one of them at the bar.

After a meeting with a political group we decided to go to a bar and as the evening progresses it gets more and more crowded. Several groups come and go at the table next to us until I notice one of our latest neighbours waves at me. I recognise the face but who is it? I wave back and we both return to the discussions at our respective tables. Of course. Highschool. Now I remember.

Eventually there is some breathing room and we get together at the same table. We exchange plesantries. Ask each other what we’re up to nowadays. The usual. Then they get emotional and tell me how me being open about my problems, talking about it in class and then later writing about them here helped them deal with their own problems.

I know this was exactly the effect I hoped my decision would have, but this was the first time someone told mr about their experiences regarding to my decision. It was overwhelming and beautiful to hear. Even if my decision only helped this one person it has been worth all the strange looks I’ve gotten from people who aren’t used to talking about mental health. All the comments about it not being something you talk about in the public. Because if I don’t talk about it, who will? How else will they get used to it? How else do we normalise mental health issues?

Noise

I am paralysed. I can’t blink. My vision blurs and my skin crawls. The void pressing all around me, seeping into me through the cracks in my facade.

Thank god my friends finally left, my mask was just about to crack. Now I can embrace the pain, anxiety and misery for a while until I go back to my autopilot. But what is this? One of them left their phone. Fuck. I call the others who are with them so they can come back and get it. As I throw on my jacket to come out to meet them I also put on a new mask. This one will only hold for a few minutes, but that is all I need.

I hand the phone over and head back home. The door shuts behind me. My music plays on full volume as I sit down. Everything is spinning and the music fades to a distant noise in the outskirts of my consciousness. I can’t move. My field of view shrinks. I am paralysed. I can’t blink. My vision blurs and my skin crawls. The void pressing all around me, seeping into me through the cracks in my facade.

The Resistance Front

sci_fi_battle_fighting_war_art_artwork_warrior_futuristic_spaceship_space_5400x2388

-Genna! We have one on our tail!

-Taking evasive actions! See if you can hit them with our aft cannons!

I spin around in my chair to access the control panel for our backwards firing lasers. Clutching the trigger I wait for the right moment to fire. The battle around us grows distant as I focus on the ship following us, forcing us into a dance across the battlefield.

For a long time The Terran Empire has terrorised outposts and trade routes of the lesser alliances in Alpha quadrant, hoping to whittle them down and absorb them into the great blob of ruthless expansion that they are. It was not long until the Resistance Front was formed. A loose network of independent freedom fighters from all across the quadrant bound together against a common enemy. To begin with most of us saw them as nothing more than violent vigilantes, seeking thrills and profit in the destabilized border regions. The last thing we need is a bunch of pirates adding to our misery.

-What’s taking you so long Lauren!? I can’t keep this up forever you know!

Breathe in. Lead the shot. Release. Our pursuer weers of to the left, crashing into one of the enemy capital ships, ripping a hole in its port side.

-Ha! Those Terran pilots are focused on their target they’re completely blind to their surroundings! Unlike you!

Genna was the first pilot from the Ripped Banner Project to join the Resistance Front. She volunteered to infiltrate the organisation and report back on their actions. At first it seemed like our fears were confirmed. A significant part of RFs members were nothing but opportunists looking to make some quick and easy money in the wake of the Terran expansion. However as the Terrans grew more aggressive, greater numbers of displaced, angry refugees turned freedom fighters joined the Resistance Front and soon the opportunists’ numbers were reduced to nothing. We in the Ripped Banner Project realised that if there was any chance of stopping the expansion of the Terran Empire the smaller alliances of the quadrant had to come together and stand united against the Terrans.

-That might be true but it won’t help us if you’re going to take that long shooting at the enemy! That bugger chased us right into the mouth of the enemy! Now get back to the front shooters and be useful!

She was right. I intentionally let the pilot chase us so I could make the ship crash into one of its own. No weapon in our ships arsenal could inflict that much damage to a capital ship. As I look around for a suitable target to go after I notice a Ripped Banner ship sporting Terran colours hovering above us. That would be Torulf who sold Green Garden colony to the Terrans and joined their ranks, earning his true place as the lapdog of the Empire.

-Oi Genna, that traitor Torulf is hanging out above us, let’s take him down before we head back for repairs.

-Gladly.

The Ripped Banner project sent every combat crew it could spare as volunteers to the Resistance Front as well as diplomats to the other alliances urging to do the same. Since I’ve worked extensively with Genna before it was natural for us to pair up. To begin with our operation was small scale. Classic rebellious activities. Quick hit and run missions, evacuation of threatened colonies and outposts, the usual. Soon the other alliances followed our example and as the strength of the Resistance Front grew, so did the scale of the conflict, finally culminating in this final showdown between the Terran Empire and the Resistance Front, backed by every remaining independent alliance in this quadrant. All of our resources were put behind this engagement. Whoever walks out of this fight victorious will decide the fate and future of the alpha quadrant. One homogenous empire or a diverse set of alliances.

-Got him! Haha I would have loved to see his face when he realised there was no way he would be able to evade my shots!

-You keep bragging, just know that without me as pilot you would be a sitting duck!

The conversation went on in this manner all the way back to the mothership. Me gushing about thrill of battle and Genna reflecting upon the outcome. She’s always been like that. Cool and logical. As we disembark the ship I notice a tall figure, not part of the repair crew, waiting for us. It’s Commander Garrack, coordinator of the Ripped Banner forces and he doesn’t look happy.

-I should court martial you two for your reckless behaviour! Baiting an opponent like that with no regard for your own safety. However I cannot deny it’s effectiveness. Disabling that capital ship is surely to swing the tide of battle in our favour. And taking out Captain Torulf like that is sure to be appreciated by everyone in the Banner! Now off with you and go get something to eat while those who are less willing to disobey orders finish this of. I don’t want to be seen favourising rulebreakers!

With Garracks words still ringing in our ears me and Genna disconnect from the battle servers and join the cafeteria lobby. Genna grabs a plate and start shoveling roast potatoes and stew onto it. I only grab a glass of water and sit down at the nearest table in the empty completely empty hall.

-Geez, Didn’t Garrack play a pirate before? One would think that out of all of these alliance commanders he would understand the value of independent initiative.

-Yeah, that’s why he only temporarily relieved us of duty instead of banishing us from the alliance completely, Genna mumbled as she stuffed her face with stew.

-Aren’t you going to eat?

-No, eating this virtual stuff always makes me queasy when I exit, I don’t know how anyone can do it.

-Suit yourself. Food is all we will have to entertain ourselves with until the battle is over. Unless you’re exiting prematurely?

-God no, Genna I thought we knew each other! We’ve never exited before the results of the battle was in. Also I would hate to miss…

The rest of my sentence is drowned out as the voice communication system is flooded with cheers. I lean over to Genna:

-Seems like we did it huh!?

-It does seem like that is the case!

-We should reconnect to the battle servers then! As I said, I would hate to miss the awards ceremony!

The ceremony takes place in the hangar of the mother ship, the only place that is large enough to accommodate every person who took part in the battle. We receive our allotted experience and credits for our contribution and those of us that survived an additional survivors bonus. Finally Commander Garrack walks up to me and Genna and hands us a cassette tape.

-For your outstanding contribution in the battle.

That is all he says before walking of to speak with an other commander.

-Well Lauren, it seems like we’re done here. With the Terran threat dealt with I doubt the Resistance Front will exist much longer.

-Yeah, it’s going to be fun to see what happens next. Anyway It is time for me to exit. I should have been in bed several hours ago. See ya later Genna.

-Timezones still a bitch I gather. Take care.

I wake up and ponder the strange dream. My attempts to remember the details are futile as they slip away as soon as I grasp for them. All I can remember is me and Genna fighting for our survival in a space battle of epic proportions.

Us two in space, flying battleships no less! Genna is going to think I’ve finally gone completely mad when I tell her… hang on what’s this? I don’t recall ordering anything.

In the pile of ads that always gets delivered there is an unexpected, small brown parcel, addressed simply LAUREN. No address, no stamps, nothing. Opening the parcel the content is revealed. Bubble wrapped inside lays a cassette tape.


What you’ve just read is a short story based on a dream I had recently. Like most dreams the details fade away very quickly so I had to take some creative freedom since the source material was quite lacking, however the broad strokes are still the same.

In my dream I fought in a space battle with one of my friends. For some reason the only detail I can remember is us flying up along side a giant spaceship, presumably to dock. At some point I realise it is actually a hyper realistic VR space MMO from the future, using similar technology as can be seen in the anime SwordArt Online. The battle is concluded and everyone is rewarded for their contribution including a cassette tape token/trophy/item thingy. Then I wake up. I go about my day, pondering over the strange dream however when I go to check the mail and see a parcel addressed to me. I open it and inside is the same cassette tape. My mind is blown and as I try to figure out what is actually going on my mind starts drifting and I wake up a second time, presumably for real (I don’t want to get into the whole inception thing here).

Now this is interesting for two reasons. First, meta dreams are always curious. You wake up, convinced that you are actually you, for real and not in a dream because why would you think otherwise? Isn’t most dream like that? You don’t realise it was just a dream until you wake up. But then you wake up a second time and you can no longer trust your surroundings for a while until you realise how extraordinary mundane everything is and can quite comfortably relax in the notion it is probably not a dream.

Second, I’ve had meta dreams several times, however this is the first time the first dream has referenced itself in the second. It was an extraordinary sensation standing there and having the cassette fall out of the bubblewrap. That must mean that experience was for real, right? Maybe exiting the game have a similar sensation as to waking up and you have to find the way to access the game each time? Those were the thoughts flying through my sleeping brain as I tried to find a solution to the mystery

I realise this is quite different from what I usually put on this blog, but hey, you need to break up the depression with something else every once and a while.

Reorganising my bookshelf

full-bookcase-of-booksI’m young so I’m yet at the beginning of what I hope to be a long journey of collecting books. Still I feel I’ve already accumulated a respectable collection of writings of various genres and topics. Every once in a while there is a new addition to the ranks which always poses a problem. Where do I put it?

More often than not it ends up on my desk somewhere until one of the rare clean-ups happen when it goes on top of other books because I can’t be bothered to find a proper place for it while also making sense of the mayhem that threaten to not only break my desk but possibility time and space itself. Today however, I had enough. I was tired at looking at the books scattered across my room, or carelessly shoved into the shelf where the chaos from the desk now found a new home.

At some point when I first started filling my shelf there was something remenicent of a system; read fiction, unread fiction, political philosophy, interesting topics in general, plays, theatre related stuff and other. It took time but when order was finally restored I could step back and admire my work. I felt that I had reconnected with my books. It reminded me of why I got my hands on them and why I should read those I haven’t gotten around to yet.

It also helped me deal with my guilt. I consider myself a reader. My family is a long line of teachers, scientists, engineers, researchers and writers. My family home has more walls that have bookshelves on them than don’t, yet over the past few years I have not read nearly as much as I have wanted, or felt like I should. Depression is a bitch. Despite that I have kept acquiring books, maybe hoping to find the one I won’t be able to put down, maybe to satisfy a need to keep up appearances, fooling myself by getting books at the pace I would like to read them despite being unable to.

I felt so guilty. I felt guilt towards my family for not living up to the academic standard set by generations, i felt guilty towards my friends for not having read this or that. However the biggest guilt I felt was towards myself for not consuming this wealth of knowledge, stories and ideas sitting right in front of my face. The simple act of touching my books helped me alleviate at least some of the guilt.

I don’t know why but pulling them out, stacking them and put them back into place gave me the feeling that it was OK. it’s not a race. I can take my time. Feeling their weight in my hands reinforced my bond to my books and reading in general. Stepping back and admiring my new, organised bookshelf was incredible.

My desk is once again a complete mess however.

Disconnected

d-custom-brand-disconnectThe guilt. The guilt of having been away. You’ve got a legitimate reason, after all you have barely been able to get out of bed for the past week. But now that you no longer blow your brains out each time you sneeze and there Niagara Falls no longer is located in your nose you have to go back, but you’re afraid. They will be angry and disappointed because of your absence. You don’t want to face the stares. You are afraid of the mean things they will tell you, that they will scold you and guilt trip you for being unable to function due to circumstances outside of your control. You’re scared that you are no longer welcome, that you’ve become a nuisance, a problem to work around rather than a member of the group.

So you find an excuse. A way to justify being away for a while longer. ‘I’m still sick’ you tell yourself. ‘I have to do this and that that’s more important’ Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s just excuses.

You know none of the things you fear will happen, everything is false because you know the people around you are nice and understanding. But the fear is real so you stay disconnected.

Grey

grey-girlWhat’s even the point when nothing feels real? You feel like shit, wanting to harm and kill yourself for a few minutes or hours before you go back to your old, numb disconnected self. On one hand these spaces in time are the few moments when you actually feel real and connected with reality, on the other hand they’re just an other scale of grey in a bleak and dreary existence.

On one hand these are the few moments when you actually feel anything beyond complete apathy and contempt, on the other they’re nothing more than a flash.

On one hand these moments fill you with a deep desire to do something radical just to end the constant grind, like walk in the middle of the street to see if you’re hit by a car, or maybe punch a police officer in the face so they take you in and maybe then someone finally realises you have a problem.

On the other hand you’re to comfortable to want to change. Its so easy to crawl back to the bed, back to the grind, back to the long road towards death.