Thursday, November 20, 2014

UPDATE ON LIFE

Just having some lunch, and thought I'd get around to updating the blog.

Good news: I started new medication over the summer to treat the depression, and it's been working! For those not in the know, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and after countless treatments, trials, and tribulations, it seems that things are finally on the up and up.

The last time I had a major depressive episode was prior to having starting this new medication. That means I've had almost 5 months without any signs of depression whatsoever. It's truly incredible. It may sound as though I'm bouncing off the walls, but the reality is that I simply feel normal. Not too high, not too low. I have more energy than I did before, and have been able to truly enjoy things in my life for the first time in probably 15 or 16 years.

Bad news: I'm turning 26. The job market is terrible, and my two years of fighting depression led to a big gap in my employment record. Jobs are scarce, and the competition is so fierce now that people are fighting tooth and nail for a chance to work for free... it's insane, but it's the world we live in. I want to go back to school, and I'm currently awaiting a response from a university as to whether or not I possess all necessary prerequisites. Who knew that a 4 year honours BA would be so worthless...

The plan is to get the necessary prerequisites during the next summer, then start a three year program in the medical field starting in September. That's the hope, though again, getting into school is proving to be no cakewalk, with limited spaces and high number of applicants. Cross your fingers for me, I could use some good luck after what I've been through.

More bad news: Have I lost my creative streak? I used to love doing radio, I used to dream of, and then shoot short films. At one point I even enjoyed writing. I wonder if the older I get, the more I lose of that kid creativity I used to rely on. Maybe my hobbies have just changed?

As soon as I started to feel better, I decided to put all of my worries and concerns about the future aside. It was the middle of summer, and I wanted to enjoy life for once. I felt like I deserved a break... so I spent my entire summer and fall up at our property in Muskoka. Our cottage is still several years away from being completed (my dad estimates that it will be another 7 or so until it's truly finished). No matter! It's still a great place to go for a guy like me. We finally got electricity, and with that, were able to install a dry toilet (Separett is the way to go...might write a blog on outhouses shortly). That meant no more shitting in the woods. Thanks to the electricity, we were able to bring up a fridge, and with that my next 4 months were set. I'd spend 5-6 days a week in the country, and come back to the city on weekends to see friends, do some laundry, and pick up supplies. I built a kickass outhouse, see future blog, an amazing extension for our dock (complete with fully functioning pool slide), and started construction on my own cabin. I'm too lazy to put up individual pictures, so simply head over here to see the entire album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/imnotjulien/sets/72157634968291888/

My cabin still isn't done. I wasn't able to run power over to it before the ground froze, and it was simply too cold to keep working, so my last day up there was on October 22nd, I think?

There's still lots to do, but I look forward to one day having a quiet place of my own to rest and relax. So maybe that's where the creativity in me went? I build all these structures from scratch, with only the ideas in my head, and some very rough plans. It's been great to see it all come together, and more than anything, I can't wait to see it when it's all done. Spending a week at a time without seeing another human being was actually a tremendous luxury. No arguments, no anger, no bad news, just nature, swimming, and swinging a hammer.

Aside from that, I started dating a new girl. She's incredibly bright and hard working, we seem to get along real well, and it's the easiest relationship I've ever had, as far as I'm concerned. I still live at home, which is okay but not great.

I haven't written in forever, but if everything pans out with these school applications, I hope to devote my free time in winter to writing and completing a novel.

This is obviously an abbreviated update, but it covers all the bases to some extent. Oh, I'd like to work a little more on this mini-documentary I started shooting a few years ago (reading transcripts later today....hurrah?) and maybe do a couple more posts on this blog. My cabin is a tiny house, so I'd like to maybe write a bit about that, though I'm not tremendously motivated. Also, I think I have a couple of Midnight Caller episode I never uploaded, and from what I understand, all the old ones were taken down from the server, so I guess I probably ought to correct that issue. I just really don't care to sit in front of computers like I used to, so it's gonna take an awful lot of internal coaxing...

In any case, I hope anyone reading this is doing well, enjoying life, and something something.

Cheers,

-J

Friday, May 16, 2014

Not Being Cool

I haven't had much energy lately to devote to writing or really anything creative lately.

The weeks and months keep melting by, and without any real moments or memories to denote the passage of time, I occasionally find myself doing double-takes in front of my calendar when I realize it's been x number of months since y occured. I'm 25 and a half, and things do look bleaker, by the by.


I've never been cool, and even that, has never made me cool for even one second.

I have a hard time nailing down exactly what it means to be cool, but if you wanted to understand the anti-thesis of cool, ie uncool, you could look it up in a dictionary, and you would not see a picture of me, because that would be remotely cool - and cool I am not.

I know a lot of cool people, I've been with a lot of cool people, and not even one ounce of cool rubbed off on me, not even by accident, or even for a second.

I see a lot of cool people, and try to mimic them at times, but I feel painfully uncool doing so, and thereby revert to my old uncool habits.

Eventually, all this negative self-talk leads me to realize that I actually am cool. And that for the most part, I like me, and mostly like the things I stand for, and that I think that's pretty cool, if only slightly under-appreciated.

So the problem isn't so much that I'm not cool (I just built two bat houses - I'm plenty cool!) it's just that everyone seems so much cooler.

Ultimately this isn't a post about being cool/uncool. It's about depression. These feelings aren't everything that depression is, or does, but it's part of it. The skewed perspective, the hopeless sense of alienation, the desperate desire to connect to society and others, and the perpetual loneliness of not being able to.

Throughout my life, I've met one or two people who had the type of depression that I could recognize as my own. One was an Irishman from the east coast, in his mid-40s, but otherwise, just like me. You might think that finding someone akin to you would make you feel less alone, but that's the debilitating thing about depression. You never feel not alone. Not even amongst your own. It seems to defy logic, but it's the experience I've had. No matter where or who I've been with, I've always felt disconnected and alone. It's a terrible, terrible feeling to carry forth in life. But it's one that I live with daily.

At this point I've sorta lost track of all the different meds I've tried over the last couple years. I've stayed at in-patient mood disorder facilities for weeks on end. I've tried experimental procedures through mental health clinics. It'd be an understatement to say that I do not feel well. At the same time, it's barely worth mentioning that it's nothing new.

I hate to cause alarm in the people around me about the state of my health. It's something I have not discussed with anyone, outside of my psychiatrist, in several months. Even among my friends who suffer from a similar condition, I try to veer the conversation away from this affliction.

But tonight I felt I needed to get it out somehow, even if it was just into the void that is the internet:

I do not like to live like this, and do not wish to continue doing so. With that being said, I don't seem to really have any choice in the matter. I will continue living like this until things get better or until things worse.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Embracing Failure (Mini-Doc) - with Mr. Let's Paint!



A couple summers ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with painter John Kilduff, host of the always entertaining Let's Paint TV, at his home in Van Nuys. The music was provided by Rory Landry of Mouth.

The footage sat on my hard drive for more than 18 months after returning from Los Angeles. I remember not having the best interview with John. I think general fatigue or jetlag had something to do with it.

In any case, I spent the last week sifting and transcribing the footage, and was fortunate to uncover 5-6 anecdotes I thought would be worth exploring in a short format documentary.

Ultimately I feel that aesthetically speaking, I didn't do him justice. I had a certain vision for how things would turn out, but in my pre-DSLR days, I was somewhat limited by what I could pull off visually. I hope people still find it interesting.

I've posted links below to a couple pieces done by a Vancouver Film School graduate on John Kilduff, which are far more pleasing to the eye:

http://genero.tv/watch-video/37876/

http://genero.tv/watch-video/36961

Quiettime, a member of reddit, kindly added the short to reddit's documentary section. I don't know how reddit works, but if you do, feel free to chime in here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Documentaries/comments/21mmxk/embracing_failure_2014_short_documentary_of_los/

-julien

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Halfway to Nowhere

On Friday night, I was headed over to my buddy's house to watch the Raptors game, and planning to swing by the burger joint to pick up something to eat beforehand.

The spot is on the same street as an old friend of mine who I haven't seen in over half a decade. I probably roll through there once every month or so since moving back to Toronto. Every time I turn onto his street, I half-hope he'll be outside his house (for reasons unknown) so that we can catch up.

Oddly enough, last night I wasn't hoping he'd be there. I suppose I wasn't in a very talkative mood.

Low and behold, he was out there shoveling his driveway. We spoke for about ten minutes, laughing and joking like we used to, but I couldn't help but noting to him that we were having an 'old man' conversation. I'm only 25 (or already 25, depending what side of the bed you got up on).

The last time we spoke may have been 7 or 8 years ago. At the time I was working a bunch of crummy jobs, about to head off to college, and saving up money to move out with my girlfriend. It's amazing how the time's turn.

I remember, at the time, he told me something along the lines of "wanting to live with one girl is stupid, why would you tie yourself down like that?" Flash forward to present day, and he's telling me that him and his fiancee are saving up money so that they can move out of their folks' home and marry within four months. His older brother was expecting his second child (I didn't even know he'd a first!).

Chronologically, my buddy's evolution probably fits a more conventional narrative. Party hard as fuck through high school and college, find a girl, find steady work, and by your mid-to-late twenties, settle down.

But I was on a weird fast track through all that shit when I was pretty young I guess. By 18 I was already living with my better-half (upon reflection, maybe 'other-half' is more apt), halfway to getting married, and though uncertain about the future, somewhat confident that things would pan out.

Probably at a time while I should have been in residence exposing myself to as many different kinds of people as possible (I'm talking about my genitalia) (okay, I'm not talking about my genitalia), I was slumming it in dumpy apartments, living a fairly solitary life. Over the years, the individual parts changed (the pads, the partners, the schools), but the machine that was my life still operated in much the same manner as before.

I'm now over a year removed from what people call 'normal life' and still struggle to figure out how all the moving parts fit together into a cohesive whole. Having depression forces a person to question every part of their existence. You're constantly searching for things that help, looking to get rid of things that don't, trying to make heads or tails of a coin that never stops flipping. To call my everyday life dysfunctional would probably be a compliment. It's all kinds of fucked up.

Nevertheless, the conversation I had last night reminded me how much time has gone by, and how much, or little, people change. My friend is now the polar opposite of what he once was. Meanwhile, I couldn't feel more like I'm still 17 (which is probably a large part of why or how I've ended up where I am).

I looked at some old photographs of myself at age 5, and 12, and 18, and 22. I can't help but feel like whoever that guy was, he probably deserved something a little bit better than this. The funny thing about it is that I think if I had asked myself at age 12 where I would end up, I probably would have guessed right. I've never understood most of what people call life, and have had a tremendously difficult time (despite my desire) to connect to any of it in a meaningful way. I understand as little now as I did then.

My buddy is well on his way to fulfilling the human being's metaphorical prime directive.

I'm the one floating out in space, unsure of which way is up.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Feb 12

a good heart alone ain't never quite been enough to make it in this ol' crazy world of ours

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Bird in the House


"Ewen told me about the about the last war, once. He hardly ever talked about it, but this once he told me about seeing the horses in the mud, actually going under, you know? And the way their eyes looked when they realised they weren't going to get out. Ever seen horses' eyes when they're afraid, I mean really berserk with fear, like in a bush-fire? Ewen said a guy tended to concentrate on the horses because he didn't dare think what was happening to the men. Including himself..."

___________________

Chris left Shallow Creek some months after the war began, and joined the Army. After his basic training, he was sent to England. We did not hear from him until about a year later, when a letter arrived for me.

Six months later my mother heard from Aunt Tess. Chris had been sent home from England and discharged from the Army, because of a mental breakdown. He was now in the provincial mental hospital and they did not know how long he would have to remained there. He had been violent, before, but now he was not violent. He was, the doctors had told his mother, passive.

Violent. I could not associate the word with Chris, who had been so much the reverse. I could not bear to consider what anguish must have catapulted him into that even greater anguish. But the way he was now seemed almost worse. How might he be? Sitting quite still wearing the hospital's grey dressing-gown, the animation gone from his face?

My mother cared about him a great deal, but her immediate thought was not for him.

"When I think of you, going up to Shallow Creek that time," she said, "and going out camping with, and what might have happened - "

I, also, was thinking of what might have happened. But we were not thinking of the same thing. For the first time I recognized, at least a little, the dimensions of his need to talk that night. He must have understood perfectly well how impossible it would be, with a thirteen-year-old. But there was no one else. All his life's choices had grown narrower and narrower. He had been forced to return to the alien lake of home, and when finally he saw a means of getting away, it could only be into a turmoil which appalled him and which he dreaded even more than he knew. I had listened to his words, but I had not really heard them, not until now. It would not have made much difference to what happened, but I wished it were not too late to let him know.

"Have you heard anything recently?" I asked, ashamed hat I had not asked sooner.

She glanced up at me. "Just the same. It's always the same. They don't think there will be much improvement."

Then she turned away. "He always used to seem so - hopeful. Even when there was really nothing to be hopeful about. that's what I find so strange. He seemed hopeful, didn't you think?"

"Maybe it wasn't hope," I said.

"How do you mean?"

I wasn't certain myself. I was thinking of all the schemes he'd had, the ones that couldn't possibly have worked, the unreal solutions to which he'd clung because there were not others, the brave and useless strokes of fantasy against a depression that was both the world's and his own.

"I don't know," I said. "I just think things were always more difficult for him than he let on, that's all. Remember the letter? Well - what it said was that they could force his body to march and even to kill, but what they didn't know was that he'd fooled them. He didn't live inside it any more."

"Oh Vanessa - " my mother said. "You must have suspected right then."

"Yes, but - "

I could not go on, could not say that the letter seemed only the final heartbreaking extension of that way he'd always had of distancing himself form the absolute unbearability of battle.

- Margaret Laurence

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Island

I finally finished reading HG Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau". It's a really great book...similar in nature to Frankenstein but I think I'm more fond of this one...I think it's because the book revolves around one man facing a madness he did not create.

I don't want to ruin the story too much for anyone who hasn't read it, but I did want to post an excerpt I found pertinent to my life.

"Though I do not expect that the terror of that island will ever altogether leave me, at most times it lies far in the back of my mind, a mere distant cloud, a memory and a faint distrust; but there are times when the little cloud spreads until it obscures the whole sky. Then I look about me at fellow-men. And I go in fear. I see faces keen and bright...perfectly reasonable creatures, full of human desires and tender solicitude...Yet I shrink from them, from their curious glances, their inquiries and assistance, and long to be away from them and alone. Particularly nauseous were the blank expressionless faces of people in trains and omnibuses; they seemed no more my fellow-creatures than dead bodies would be...And even it seemed that I, too, was not a reasonable creature, but only an animal tormented with some strange disorder of the brain, that sent it to wander alone, like a sheep stricken with the gid."

The main character in the novel is one who does not choose his own fate. He is an unwilling participant in an environment he never expected to be in. By chance I was talking to a friend about depression the other night prior to reading this passage, and described melancholia in a similar manner:

"People often say "You're not alone in feeling that way," but in actuality, you truly are. In the face of pain, you suffer alone. That's the hardest thing to shake, that even when people reach out to you, sympathize with you, and love you deeply, you still live on that island. There is nothing more terrifying than the invisible pain that is wrought on by the self, yet through none of your own volition. You have nowhere to run or hide, you're stuck on that island. You can only sleep so many hours of the day to avoid it, but ultimately, you're left staring it square in the face. It distances you from every piece of life you were ever connected to, and haunts your every waking moment. The only thing that mitigates this fear is hope. It seems like a cruel joke at times to tell oneself that things will get better, but it's something one is forced to believe, otherwise, one loses touch with reality."

Oddly enough, Wells finishes the novel in a much similar fashion, albeit far more poetically: "There is, though I do not know how there is or where there is, a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope. I hope, or I could not live, And, in hope and solitude, my story ends."

The difficulty coping with the adversity in his life is described as "a shadow over my soul".

And that pretty much sums it up.