Tag Archives: anger

22 Days of Musing: 10

10. The Big Bad Tale.

Two days ago I noted that often, those who need help most desperately are those least able to see any way out of their own private hell. Sometimes, though, the crash to the bottom of the pit can be so rapid, so deep and severe, that it becomes easier to see the necessity for assistance. So following on from yesterday’s scene-setting, tonight I’d like to – well, not like to, but I will – reflect upon the darkest single time in my entire life: the time when I first realised that I needed psychological help. (I speak this way only in the interest of candour; I apologise in advance for parts of this that will no doubt come across as melodramatic.) Yesterday I talked about first recognising depression in myself in 2008, and that many (though by no means all) of my subsequent experiences with depression would, like this first one, have at least something to do with the emotions surrounding romantic attraction. Let me explain: when I fall for someone romantically, I have a habit of letting those feelings grow more deeply than I should, meaning that when those feelings are removed they don’t slide out neatly like a cork from a bottle; it’s rather more like the uprooting of a tree, tearing away not only the feelings’ roots, but also taking little pieces of my heart with them and leaving raw and gaping wounds behind. It’s happened more times than I care to count, and isn’t helped by the fact that I find it difficult to perceive the subtle cues that most people use to signal romantic interest, so often I think someone might be interested romantically when they’re in fact just very friendly, or have particularly extroverted personalities, or whatever else. Because my dysfunctional romantic sense has sought out those connections and been disappointed so many times, I suppose it’s logical that eventually my subconscious would come to use depression as a means to seal off those psychic wounds: perhaps helping to prevent me from feeling the pain associated with sorrow, loss, grief, rejection.

And so it goes, and so it went also in late 2010, at a conference where I met a fellow archaeologist (I swore an oath to commit her name to damnatio memoriae both for my mental health and for her privacy, an oath I’ve broken only on specific request from previous partners), just finishing her honours. We’d spent the last night of the conference lying on the grass under the stars, talking and holding hands. When we had to leave the next morning, we exchanged contact details, and within a week she was already talking about flying to Brisbane to see me. Over the course of six weeks leading into early January, we exchanged hundreds of messages, chatted or spoke on the phone every single day, and she spoke of her intentions and hopes for us in a manner loud and clear that even my incompetent romantic antennae received. But the day she arrived here, she and I and some mutual friends had a barbeque and an overnight stay at a friend’s place, and after I left the following morning, it was as though extraterrestrials had abducted her, leaving behind a doppelgänger. She stopped responding to messages, she claimed she was feeling ill, she put off us spending one-on-one time, she reneged on coming to stay at my house, she wouldn’t engage with me while we were on a group trip to Dreamworld with our friends, and within a week she finally sent a message with the tired, sickening old saws that turn up on Internet listicles of breakup clichés (and all at once, into the bargain): saying how much I reminded her of her brother (excuse number 3 – bing!), that it was her and not me (excuse number 2 – bing!), that we both needed to focus on uni (excuse number 1 – bing!), and she just wasn’t ready for a relationship at all at that point (excuse number 9 – bing!); she also assured me she’d answer any questions I had about the breakup. Because she subsequently didn’t respond to any of my questions, though, I soon sought advice from a mutual friend to determine whether I’d done something wrong. And suddenly, I did get a response: a page of enraged text lashing out at me about how I’d betrayed her trust and how I’d mistreated her by going behind her back. It was through this period of about a week that I fell headlong into a pit the likes of which I’d never experienced. Cast downwards at first by her sudden cooling towards me and the anxiety, confusion, sadness and disappointment they caused – just before she arrived I had decided to summon the strength to tell her about my feelings of gender variance (at least such as I understood them at the time), something that at that point I had shared with no-one – her angry message ignited a rocket rushing me swiftly down through a blackness into which light shone not at all, the very pit of Apollyon. I had just enough emotional strength left to send a single email to her to respond to her anger, speak in my own defence, and tell her I thought it would be best if we didn’t speak for a while. And for two weeks I lay on a futon, picking myself up only to use the toilet; while awake I stared at the television, not really watching it at all, as all 256 episodes of M*A*S*H (120-odd hours of television) played back-to-back from my hard drive. The only emotion that touched me was utter despair. Except when a family dinner had been prepared, I drank only water and ate nothing. I lost five kilos over those two weeks and by the end of the second week I could clearly see – intellectually, at least – that this was in practice coming close to a depressive catatonia and that I wouldn’t be able to climb out of this pit on my own. That was when I realised I needed help, and I’ll tell you more tomorrow about how I began to act in seeking it.

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.'”
– Charles M. Schulz

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22 Days of Musing: 9

9. The scene is set.

In tonight’s reflection I was finally going to tell the story of coming to realise I needed psychological treatment, the one I alluded to previously. But after having attempted to write out a retelling of the story in the fullness it requires, I realise that I’ll need to put that off just one more day and use this post to set the scene first, by talking about my first experience of recognising depression in myself at all. This is necessary to a comprehensive telling mainly because the first experience helped me to understand what depression even was; as I described in the very first of this series of reflections, I’ve felt anxiety to a greater or lesser extent ever since I was very young (at least since I was about eight), but even though depression runs strongly in my family and has had substantive impacts upon it for at least thirty years that I know of, I had no understanding at all of the concept of depression while I was growing up. Indeed, nobody ever really taught me what mental illness was in a more general sense; these were things I had to discover for myself as I grew up. Consequently, I always thought of myself as little more than cowardly or even afraid, rather than having an anxiety disorder, and though I do remember times through all my years of school when I felt isolated and alone and incapable – and cried many tears of pain in those times – I don’t know that I’d have referred to those episodes as depression, not as such. Once older, though, I had a better grasp of what depression truly is, and it was after catching up with an old primary school friend in March of 2008 that I wrote this in my first blog:

I can’t remember the last time I felt something I could truly class as “depression”; whenever it was, it was a long time ago. But I began to feel it yesterday, and can’t yet shake it… Not sad, not angry, not upset; just drained and empty, like there was a black hole inside my head sucking all of the positivity out of me. Perhaps someone who’s had clinically diagnosed depression can say whether this is it, but it sure as hell felt like it. It was a horrific feeling, and I’m still trying to work through it.

For a few years after this I continued to experience phases of this sort; often (though not always by any means) it would happen as a result of a romantic failure. Always the potential of actively approaching someone in the hopes of kindling a romantic relationship has brought on deep and terrible anxiety in me, moreso maybe than all other challenges, though these reflections are not the place for me to go into that issue in great detail (it plays a role in tomorrow’s reflection, though). In any case, this event in 2008 was the first time when I felt the utter emotional deadness and sense of futility that more recently have become almost normalised for me. A most frightening and unsettling aspect of that first phase of depression was not just that it was so foreign to me at that point, but also that it occurred almost as a kind of neurotransmitter crash after an occasion that really was not negative in any identifiable aspect whatsoever. I’d spent a wonderful, pleasant, fun, deep, charming, exciting night catching up with a woman who I’d not seen in twelve years and yet seemed to have a great deal in common with me, from musical tastes to book preferences to hopes for the future to favourite foods and drinks; we were almost the same height (I stand 185 cm, 6’1″ in the old money, and she was shorter than me by less than an inch), and we’d even both undergone exactly the same type of spinal surgery  at almost the same time in late 2007. I felt an extraordinary kinship with her, in addition to all the rich promise that romantic attraction conveys, and to have such an ecstatic emotional state collapse in on itself so devastatingly afterwards – and indeed, so rapidly – felt very strange and unwelcome. But it was only a relatively temporary phase, prolonged though it was by her ungraciously toying with my further attempts to get to know her better, and it passed soon enough without professional assistance. In 2011, however, I was not so fortunate. And this segues neatly into the Big Bad Tale.

Dear Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson, Federal Coalition Member of Parliament for the seat of Goldstein, just recently wrote an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald on why QUILTBAG people should just accept the threatened plebiscite on the topic of marriage equality in Australia and that nothing worth fighting for was ever easy. I didn’t want for my first original-content post to be as angry as this, but Mr Wilson’s post spurred me to a new colour of incandescence, and so I wrote this in direct response to that. Please forgive me this anger, and I promise that the next post will be more interesting, or at least less politically oriented.


To the Allegedly “Honourable” Tim Wilson:
I want you to know that you are a horrifying hypocrite, a terrible representative for the queer community, and should hang your head deep in shame for this revolting piece of self-congratulatory, heavily patronising, deeply prescriptive, and subliminally anti-queer political exegesis for the marriage equality plebiscite.

Oh yes, it’s entirely possible for queer people to do anti-queer things, and this is one of the worst I’ve seen in some time. The debate over this plebiscite is not, as you represent it to be in your opinion piece yesterday, about “ensuring every Australian has full citizenship”. The opposition from the Greens, the Xenophon team, and Labor is not borne of opposition to marriage equality, and you damn well know it. It is borne of opposition to the Coalition’s dawdling and sandbagging over the provision of equal civil rights to Australian citizens. It is borne of disgust with the Coalition Government’s stark abrogation of that very responsibility to “ensure every Australian has full citizenship”. The responsibility of, and ability to change, legislation for marriage is properly the preserve of the Federal Parliament, as indeed the High Court of Australia decided when they overturned marriage-equality laws introduced into the ACT’s Parliament in 2013. You, and all other Members of Parliament along with you, are given the rights and responsibilities to create and amend legislation when you are elected, and under the pretty-shit-but-it’s-all-we’ve-got Westminster system, you are expected to exercise those capabilities, not throw the ball back into the court of the electorate when it all just gets too hard. It’s like going to the shops in the rain, this plebiscite. You’re telling us we should go out in the rain, trying to assure us we won’t get too wet and only one or two of us will probably catch a cold, but you’ve got a perfectly good car in the garage that’d get us all there safe and dry.

Now, let me recast that analogy into reality for you. The shops represent marriage equality. The rain is homophobia, transphobia, anti-queer sentiment of all stripes. The car is Parliament. You’re telling us to suck up the prejudice while it’s happening, basically because nothing good ever happened for people who didn’t put up with some shit while they fought for the good. But we’re reminding you in return that you are a Member of Parliament, that you have the power to get us to marriage equality by getting into Parliament and doing it for all of us in order to help keep us clear of the campaign of bigotry. Because the cold here stands for something, too. It stands for mental illness. For some of us it will be transient – a period of depression, anxiety, insecurity, Weltschmerz, that will pass soon enough – but just as a cold may develop into pneumonia and death for the vulnerable, so too will the mental health issues triggered and worsened by plebiscite campaigning develop into self-harm for some poor closeted trans girl who needed to feel something from her body other than shame and discomfort, into suicide for some self-doubting young gay man who was called faggot once too often and couldn’t take the pain any more.

People will be harmed because of this plebiscite, and you have the power to stop that harm, but refuse. You just don’t get – and I’m saying this as a queer person to whom marriage equality is of course a hugely important issue – that actually, this fight is now even bigger than marriage equality. The fight against this plebiscite is about making you, as members of the Government, recognise that even by offering this compromise you are implicitly stating your beliefs that we are lesser citizens, that we do not deserve equality, that you do not believe our rights sufficiently important to proactively move to address this deficiency in law of the country you swore to serve faithfully, that you will only be dragged to the issue of marriage equality kicking and screaming and crying rainbow murder all the way even despite the harm that your proposed compromise will likely cause.

For that reason, I will not take your veiled “BUT WE’RE GIVING YOU A PLEBISCITE, WHY AREN’T YOU HAPPY TO FIGHT FOR IT?”. I sneer with disgust at your restatement of “the seductive lie that it is better to wait for the fundamental right of equality before the law, than fight for it“, when the ones who are causing the battle to be so difficult are largely you yourselves, the ones in Government. I wave my designated-other-than-I-identify private parts in the general direction of your false equivalence between the Irish referendum (which was binding in Irish law, and you should know that I noticed your cunning omission of any mention of the word referendum when drawing the Irish parallel) and your proposed plebiscite (which is explicitly not binding in Australian law). Indeed, one of the lead campaigners from that very referendum you claim to have been such a rousing success, Grainne Healy, has come out – so to speak – to warn your Coalition Government that the prelude to the Irish referendum was “brutal”, “hurtful”, “upsetting”, “hateful” (her words, not mine) and urge a plebiscite to be avoided if at all possible. And what’s more, this fact was reported just days ago in the very same newspaper you composed your rotten little apologia for. The call to avoid a costly and likely injurious plebiscite is based entirely on this concept that you yourself regurgitate without seeming to have digested any of:

“One of the biggest problems facing LGBTI people, particularly those who are not “out” is the fear of marginalisation. As a result they internalise their fear and doubt their legitimacy in the world. I know that doubt is redoubled when others fail to stand up in defence of those who can’t speak up for themselves.”

By forcing the decision back onto the populace, our fears of marginalisation are being realised. YOU are marginalising us. You are exactly failing to stand up in defence of those of us who can’t speak up for ourselves. You are refusing to play your elected roles as our representatives in Parliament, one of this country’s highest instruments of legislation, on a matter in which our rights to be considered and treated equally under the law you were elected to control are at stake. And to be frank, as a gay man you should know better than to throw in your lot with this refusal, because you are throwing yourself, and your fiancé for that matter, out into the path of bigotry as well when both of you could just get in the fucking car and prevent yourself getting wet too.

Finally – you want us to fight for the type of country we want? Let me tell you the type of country I want. I want a country where the Government is not afraid to change an unpopular policy after listening to an overwhelming and still escalating cry from the populace. I want a country where the wafer-thin majority by which the Coalition holds government is not the most important thing to those in the leadership hierarchy. I want a country that learns from its past, that learns from experiences with the rights of women and Indigenous people and disabled people and refugees and wants to improve the way it works for people in minorities too small to be able to command political respect. And I want a country where the governing party is not so paralysed, cloven in two along ideological lines, that they can’t see that a denial of equality to queer people in this manner belongs to a time long past, a time we should be proud to have moved on from rather than ashamed that we have stagnated in.

And yes, I’ll fight for that kind of country. I’ll be damned if I don’t fight until the very last, and against you and everyone else in your smug, self-important party if needs be, in order to make sure that that’s what we get. Because this is far bigger now than just about getting marriage equality. This is not just about what you give us, but how you give it. This is about true equality of all citizens in the eyes, and more importantly, the heart, of the Government – and right now, you and your party are making it eminently clear that your collective heart is so shrivelled and petrified that you care not a whit for such petty things as civil and human rights, and are more focused on just getting to have your go at making childish brrm-brrm noises behind the steering wheel while the rest of us get sick in the rain.

Fuck you, and fuck your selfish and short-sighted betrayal of the queer community you claim to represent.