I’m back! Yes, I know, you didn’t notice I went away, but I did. Since The Great Car Killing Ring Trip Of 2013, things went rather downhill and it turned into, as the Queen would have put it if she couldn’t spell, an anus horribilis – roughly translated as an Arsehole of a Year.
Two of my (formerly) closest friends revealed their true nature and set about causing me as much pain as they could figure out how to, which hit me like a sack of trains and knocked me flat on the floor. I haven’t really got up from that yet.
In the aftermath, it turns out I’m suffering from depression, and have been for some years, which explains a lot.
Depression is an odd beast. It’s a disease. It’s weird how hard it is for that idea to take hold, even for people who’ve suffered from it. Bad events in your life don’t cause depression. It’s just that the depression makes those events hit harder, so it seems like it’s the other way round.
Imagine you’re asthmatic. If you run for a bus, you’ll get short of breath and will suffer a very uncomfortable period of heavy breathing. The running didn’t cause the asthma. The asthma existed before and merely exaggerated the effect of the running. Depression is like asthma. It’s a disease. Well, a *condition* I suppose. But it’s easier to think of it as a disease. It exists in the background, ready to infect anything that happens. A toxic balance of chemicals in your head causes the depression. You can read many experts who disagree with this. They are wrong.
Another common misconception is that depression is the same as *sadness*. No – very much not. Although depression will often trigger sadness, its default state is more insidious than that. It’s best described as *negativity*, but even that doesn’t capture it properly. I’ve spent quite a while thinking about the decision-making process – how we decide to do what we do – and it’s at the core of depression’s harmful effects. When you decide to do something, you present the idea inside your head which, through some mysterious black-box process, returns its decision in the form of a feeling – an instinct. Early in childhood we learned to interpret which feeling means “yes, do that” and which one means “not on your nelly.” Depression buggers up that process, so that everything comes back as “meh.” This means you spend honking great swathes of time doing nothing, or doing mindless shit that distracts you from existence. Every time you consider doing something constructive, your brain chemicals say “meh” and you don’t do it. That applies to work, to having fun, to getting out of bed, to making any kind of effort to help yourself, even to lifting your hand to scratch your head, when it’s at its crappiest. If it turned out that you could cure depression by going to the greengrocer and buying a melon, you still wouldn’t do it because your stupid broken brain would lay down its all-consuming meh diktat on the issue and that would be the end of it.
I don’t think there’s any possible way you could understand that if you haven’t been there. I didn’t. I didn’t understand how it was possible that my own brain could turn against me and stop me doing the things that I really, really want to do. I didn’t understand how I could choose to do something and YET NOT DO IT. I didn’t understand that everything we do, every action we “choose”, every movement and every word, are determined by the current physical state of ourselves (which includes our past experiences as they are encoded physically in our brains) and our immediate environment. THAT’S IT. There’s no choice element. There’s no opportunity to pick between multiple potential outcomes. Our actions are determined by physical laws, and we can’t change that. We think that we choose what we do, but we don’t. We *feel* we have free will, but we don’t. We do things because our physics make those things happen, then we post-rationalise why we did them. Free will doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. The ONLY evidence we have for free will is that it feels like we have it. And that’s no evidence at all.
This is not bad news. The human system with this highly convincing free will illusion is incredibly effective. And we’ll never be smart enough to be able to *predict* what we’re going to do next with any accuracy, so it actually doesn’t make any difference to our day-to-day lives whether free will exists or not. The ball on a roulette wheel doesn’t have free will – its actions are determined purely by physical laws. But to us, it still works exactly the same as it would if it was genuinely random. It doesn’t matter, because its actions are sufficiently complicated to be unpredictable. A human is trillions of times more complex than a roulette ball. We’ll always be mysterious, so you can go ahead and consider me as being a bit bonkers and your life will be none the worse for it. It’s OK, *everybody* thinks I’m bonkers when I tell them this. But mark my words, in 20 or 30 years it will be as unpopular to believe in free will as it is to believe in Adam and Eve today. The revolution is coming.
But anyway, I digress. Chances are you wouldn’t have noticed any changes in me, because that’s how it works. Sometimes the wheel is still turning, but the hamster’s on a break. Fortunately my internal drive to not let people down is strong enough that I kept accepting invitations to go out and play, and whilst I almost always don’t want to go when the time comes, the drive to keep to my word overrides the meh factor and I invariably enjoy myself as a result. Thank fuck for that effect, or I probably wouldn’t have left the flat since 2010. So a big Thank You to everybody who’s innocently invited me out to do stuff, you’ve quite possibly saved my life, almost literally.
I’ve been receiving treatment, which is really rather lovely, and I’m out of the woods now. I know that’s true, because I can think about the future now, just like a normal person would. And I’ve just written a thousand words just because I felt like it, which I would never have been arsed to do before.
But that’s enough about that. This post was supposed to be about the epic Porsche bill. That’s quite a topic shift.