Fear and Lonely: The grips of depression in the depths of comfort

I’m scared and alone. Cold and lonely. Anxiety racks my brain, sending a flood of hormones and electrical signals through my body. I should be running, climbing, fighting. Instead I’m sitting in bed, in my studio apartment, in comfort. I’m well fed, showered, warm. Yet none of these elevate the aforementioned feelings of dread. The thing that scares me isn’t some attacking horde. It’s not a ravenous beast or a natural disaster. It is the silent stalker that hunts and kills many men of today. It is stress. Anxiety over money. 

I sat out on the land today, in the trees and the wind. The sun slowly slithered away, irradiating the evening sky in hues of pink and orange. Dirt beneath my hands. Scratches from shrubs I crawled through. Mosquitos buzzing my ears. Birds on wing, lapping the last of the days light. I’m happy here. I want for nothing. 

I think to myself how long should I stay here. A minute. An hour. Forever. What if I never return. If I do return, what is it that drives me. Hunger? Loneliness? The need to tell someone how cool sitting watching the sunset is? I find nothing overly motivating to drive me to my house, nothing to run indoors from. Happy isn’t the right word. Content would be more suited. Peacefully content. 

Finally my dog finds me. She’s so excited to find me she runs past me several times. If I stay quiet she would have gone right by. I’ll go home and feed her.

Hours later, indoors, staring at screens. Emails. More bills, to be added to the already burdening pile. $1000 bill. It actually feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach. All peace evaporates like the paint being blown off a house in a nuclear test. Fear. Scarcity. I can’t pay that. Instantly my creativity drys up, the darkness of depression consumes me. How can I get money? Who owes me? Where can I get more? 

I’m in a beautiful, comfortable studio apartment. At the same time i’m in a prison. I’m in a tomb. 

I am no stranger to depression. Growing up as an introvert lends itself to a predisposition towards it, and now that dark friend lays his hand upon my shoulder once more. It’s a dizzying spiral down, unchecked, with no one to stop me. I think the thing not often considered with depression is that it is based on the fear of the fall, which is illogical. If you are going to fear something it should be the sudden stop at the end. Only there is no real stop, that why depression can be a trap, a fall in constant fear of an eventuation that never comes. It occurs to me now that the splat would be much better. 

That sounds a tad suicidal and that’s far from my meaning. It occurs to me that it would be much better to fall to my knees and say ‘Help me’, to fall upon the sword and realise defeat, than to languish in this purgatory of descent. 

As a man, this is exactly the sudden stop that I fear. To admit that I failed, that I fell, that I am less than perfect. What will you all think of me? It’s hard enough to navigate the minefield of modern masculinity as it is but this situation is a prime example of how far we haven’t come. We are still Cavemen. 

I should be outdoors. I should be running and dodging and jumping. I should be fighting an epic fucking battle. Instead I’m in my comfortable bed in a nice warm room, experiencing the same physiological response as my Tarzan self would if he were in battle. No attackers. No cliff face climb. Just numbers on a screen of an imaginary system of make believe bartering we call ‘money’. My brain is like a Commodore 64 trying to deal with Mac OSX. Old hardware in a world full of freshly updated operating systems. 

I feel like crying in the shower. I feel like King Theodin before the Orc invasion ‘How did it come to this?’.

I will fight it! I tell myself. I will find more money, more ways to earn, more people to get it off. I will do what I have done before in this situation, which now that I think about it lead me back to where I am now. No that doesn’t seem right. 

No, I will not fight. I will fall. I will splat. I will sit in bed and pour my self out through words onto a screen, the same screen that caused this pain. And then I will show it. Show it to you. Have you look upon me, open, fallen. Understand how hard it is to be a man in this world. Right now I’m not a rock. I’m scared and alone in the dark. And I want you know that that is ok. That it is perfect. 

The problem of being depressed is not being depressed, the problem is not knowing it ok to be depressed. Saying it’s ok to talk is the first step. Actually talking is the next.


What maketh a man?

What maketh a man? What are the attributes, skills, qualities that go into defining a ‘Man’? Unfortunately for me, the answer to that question did not come that easy. For starters I cannot just say ‘this is man’ and expect everyone to meet that standard. The phenotypic expression of man will be personal to the individual. What I am as a man will not be what you are as one. We are all individuals (I’m not). I have been accused of being ‘manly’. Being told that I can be manly led me to question what exactly this ‘manly’ is. I didn’t personally feel overly manly nor un-manly, so I was curious as to what I was displaying to others, what were they seeing there? No one could answer that question with any sort of satifactiory solid response. 

It was just a ‘thing’.

So is this thing inherent in all men? Are there certain qualities that we define as manly that are common across cultures? And are these qualities transferable, teachable? 
The more I searched for the answer the more I found it elusive. In fact there more I pressed people for answers the more it seemed to delve in the macho faux masculinity bullshit that defines the facsimile of man. The only way I could define it was through abstract, by defining what it was not – and in that I found abundant examples.
“He’s like a rock. I just don’t know how he feels”
“Domestic abuse is perpetrated by cowards. They are also probably victims themselves”
“I hate it when a guy can’t make up his mind”
“He takes longer to get ready than I do”
These are all quotes from conversations I have had with women. The list of complaints goes on. And on. To be fair, I don’t blame them for complaining. I was somewhat dumbstruck but some of the behaviors I was hearing about. 
Through this abstraction of man though, I began to find patterns or common threads of attributes that crossed generations and cultures – what seemed to be a ‘natural state’ of man started to emerge. 
I also found that I certainly was not alone in my search for this. The more I dug the more I uncovered other pioneers in this work who, like me, have felt the impending doom of lost Manhood. In fact this theme seems to echo down through the ages, like a cycle. But more on that another time
As I started to see the themes again and again it started to solidify in my head, a kind of ‘treasure map of man’ (cue “It’s Raining Men”).
I saw attributes, attributes that to me could be personified in characters, or archetypes. Ok so I’m a geek and by archetypes I mean ‘D&D character classes’. But still you get the point.
These archetypes came along with a whole slew of psychological ‘backstory’, after all that’s why we have archetypes, to short cut a long explaination. These back stories stating looking a lot like a Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Of course there’s the obvious link to C.G. Jung’s work here (he’s another one of my ‘Dead Mentors’) but one slight difference. The attributes, for me, boiled down to seven. Now where have we seen that before… (Apart from everywhere). Seven Chakras. Surprise, surprise the seven psychological states of the archetypes lined up with the chakras. 

It’s important to point out here that my belief is that we have too much emphasis on the bodily location of chakras (in the western world at least). I see the chakras much more as a psychological step ladder. The points on the body are representative of those states, much in the same way as an archetype is representative (or framework) for a collection of ideas. If I say my gonads we can assume it has something to do with sexuality. I’m not stating my gonads are sexuality.

I now have what’s ended up looking like a hotch potch of ideas and theories throughout time. But it made sense to me, and that’s what’s important, after all this is my search for answers.

It’s through these systems and through observations of my own journey that I began to formulate this construct – The archetypes of man – and thus start to answer my own question: ‘What maketh a man?’
More importantly than just answering it, forming it into some sort coherent legible answer that others can read and furiously agree with (I assume). It’s really a deconstruction of my journey thus far, of the mechanisms I went through to reach a certain psychological ‘awareness’. It’s how I got to outwardly displaying those afore mentioned ‘things’ that are seen as manly.

This is a much more important point that what my rambling notions look like. The fact of self enquiry leads down a path of self analysis, and to know thy self is to know the universe. The question should be asked, and the answer sought, by all people. By asking and then continually searching we start ourselves on a path of self discovery, for both men and women. 

So, what is a man?

The medicine of the US

I am in the midst of major personal upheaval. My path of change has been shown to me, but only the fact that there is A path. I still have no idea where it goes. I have no idea how to get there. I know where I’m at. I’m in Boulder, Colorado. I fly home in 6 weeks. The rest is a mystery. No itinerary. No fixed locations. No accommodation (except the tent on her back). No idea.

And that is absolutely perfect. 

Without the restrictions that we normally place upon ourselves we have opened up a space, a space that affords the great mystery the opportunity to pour in whatever it will. If we are not worried about which way to swim or which rock to cling to, we can just sit back and allow the river to take us. We can sit in Tao and flow.

First stop is a lesson of being in the right place at the right time, of the medicine of the US. Through a contact of a beautiful sister back home, we went to have a chat and a coffee with Mary Sweeny. Mary runs re-wilding camps for children. Her background in psychology and wilderness therapy is impressive, but much more than that is her vibrancy and focus on the work she is doing. The three of us meet for 30 minutes, have a coffee and drop in deep and fast to juicy conversation. It’s one of those conversation where everyone feels like an excited 7 year old that’s just met a new best friend. You want to simultaneously tell them everything about yourself and learn everything about them.
30 minutes later we part ways. We are now staying at her house in 4 days and then spending the week helping on her kids camp. I feel the sense that we are now flowing in the Tao. We also have a list as long as my arm of other people we should connect with (including an equine therapy camp that we went to and helped out on). And here in lies the first clue to the magic of the US – Connection.

There is a willingness to help, to connect you with others and to look after others, that seems somewhat foreign to my Australian (or colonial?) mindset. Americans seem to always see the ‘angle’, to overload people with help. They understand that referring to others with most likely lead to referals back. In my experience Australians are little behind in this respect. Don’t get me wrong, we do ok at it, but not to the scale that is happening in the US. 

But this is really a symptom of the greater medicine that the US offers to me, what I call the ‘Big Mind’. There’s a bigger picture here. There’s more people. The scenery is scaled up. There’s more opportunity. “Everything’s bigger in Texas”. Despite the talk of climate change, Donald Trump and economic collapse, there’s a real feeling of possibility in the air. That air is fresh and sweet to someone coming from a penal colony. The fact that Americans have never heard of the ‘tall poppy syndrom’ is a telling sign

Perhaps it has something to do with the land itself. We toured from Colorado to New Mexico to Arizona to Utah and back to Colrado, and each place in its own unique way was over whelmingly beautiful. Each place had its own grandness, on a scale that seems to wipe the fragile ego of a human away. In these places I could behold the spectacle of nature, in all its unbridled glory. 

Only in Nature can you feel simultaneously insignificant and God-like. 

She’s casting spell on me, I can see that, but it’s a two way street. Yes I am getting a feeling of awe and wonder from the land but I’m also giving something – my attention and presence. It’s easy to discount the magic of this vast nature, to whiz by in a car, to jump off a bus snap a photo and then leave. When you sit, watch and wait however, that’s when the real magic happens. If you give yourself the time and space to be open to what is there, that’s when the medicine happens.There is a realisation that the medicine is a two way street, that which you gives also gives to you. 

As we were leaving the kids re-wilding camp Mary pulls me aside and talks to me, tells me how important is that I give ‘my medice’ to the world. Up until this point I had seen many of my hunting, stalking and other military skills as something to be ‘rehabilitated back into society’. Now, for one of the first times, I’m being told that it’s exactly who I am is what the world needs. Mary’s words are not taken lightly by me, in fact they hit me like an arrow striking a prey. Even though it’s a massive compliment, it’s the first blow to my constructed ego, an ego that must die in order for me to find my true purpose in the world. 

The ego must be hunted, killed and then eaten to be made anew.

These words bounce around in my head, the thought of what my medicine is, what anyone’s is. Just themselves. My behaviours and knowledge isn’t social or anti social, it just IS. Skills learnt that have no place in a society, a society that in many regards is sick, may just be the medice it needs. That I had to take people to the wilderness, teach people the skills and philosophy of hunting, that I had to be open and transparent, that I had to talk about my thoughts on being masculine in today’s society – all this and more was taking flight in my mind. The wounded ego was losing its grip on the infinite possibilities of my soul. 

This was but the first step in a much larger journey, but a pivotal one. This was the door opening, or a least being a jar, allowing me, if I so wish to kick it open and step inside. It’s not an easy path, in fact it’s terrifying. Looking into yourself and being prepared to tear apart all that you are (or think you are), but on the other side is something larger, much larger than I could ever believe. Like laying eyes on the Grand Canyon for the first time, once you step through that door you will struggle to fathom the depth of possibility that await. 

It’s time to start thinking with a big mind. The world needs it.