bad taste, bad grammar, bad spelling

now playing: thong song by sisqo

it may not seem like it, but i try not to write about being depressed. not all the time. being depressed is boring. writing about being depressed is boring. and boring writing is bad writing. i can countenance bad taste, bad grammar, bad spelling… even bad language – but not bad writing. not boring writing. 

so what’s up?


another blank page.
another blank screen. 

i spend an abridged month getting high on a hillside. 

i want to scream.

smoking wetly walking 
wet suburban dreams
trudging darkly smoking 
dark thoughts down 
to burnt lips writing 
pink paper aphorisms

sprauchling stonily past lampposts, parked cars, pavement cracks; past lives lived out in living rooms. watching bolton’s boringest best waste away what’s left of their lot in front of their televisions. i’ve always sort of pitied them, like restaurant lobsters. helpless, harmless, hopeless. lobotomised. i imagine attaching rubberbands to their empty, interchangeable mr-potato heads until they explode. nothing comes out but pinkish-grey goo, which splatters all over their sofa, their two kids and their spotless dog. 

maybe i need a television, i think. maybe i need a sofa. maybe i need a job. it’s at this point i realise that, short of a lethal dose, no quantity of legal or illegal drugs can fix my problems. 

i quit. 
every fucking day, i quit.

i quit. i quit. i fucking quit. 
but what else am i going to do?

because all my eggs are all in one basket, and that basket is balanced, badly, over the business end of a band of hungry ferrets. so fuck it. 

fuck trying. 
try failing. 

rotterdam, netherlands

A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.

Franz Kafka

it is november 2022, and you are beginning to understand. this isn’t the first time you’ve felt suicidal, but it feels like it might be the last. you are one bad day away from killing yourself. 

let’s set the scene!

your location:

you’re alone, parked up in a small panel van, on a small campsite in a small country, surrounded by retirement-age belgian m/f couples, in identikit motorhomes with two e-bikes on the back, two chairs and a table out front, writing to yourself, about yourself. there’s a patch of hardstanding, a tap, and a portacabin-type toilet block with fifty-cent five-minute slot-operated showers, full of snails in the evening, attracted by the moisture and warmth. 

it’s cold, but dry. perfect november weather. outside, the ground is already frosty. inside, inside the fridge is warmer than outside the fridge. it’s early, but not too early, and almost, but not quite directly overhead, the planes are noisily taking off from eindhoven airport, roaring, rampant in their ryanair raiment, painting a chaotic criss-cross of silvery contrails on the pastel crepe-paper sky. 


your days, and nights:

you don’t know what to do now, and you don’t know what to do next, where next means after breakfast, tomorrow, next week, next year, next life. you wonder if now, right now, is the time to torture yourself trying to figure out if quitting a relatively well-remunerated but boring career and becoming a full-time bum is an act of self-preservation, self-destruction, or deluded self-indulgence. 

or all three. 

before you get out of bed you list, in order of appearance, all the basic, daily tasks you’re going to distract yourself with this morning, feeling vaguely reassured that you have something, anything, to do, and yet afraid, afraid, afraid, of some nameless, shapeless fear. like you’re going to die. like you’re about to die. impending doom, with claws. this cold, close fear drives you or drags you around, in constant motion, all day long. long, long days of anxious mundanity, breakfast, lunch, dinner, going to the toilet, brushing your teeth. eating, shitting and endless, endless errands.

you want to go home, but you’re already there, and it doesn’t feel like home used to. you’re going nowhere except where you already are, which is nowhere, which is not where you want to be, which is anywhere but here. the place you’d planned to drive to might as well be the fucking moon. you spend the long wakeful nights mentally, mechanically, breaking down on some anonymous lay-by miles from anywhere, getting gratefully deaded, in bed, brutally murdered by some serendipitously passing bloodthirsty dutch truckers. 

you’re miles from anywhere. 


your state of mind:

you’ve got food and clothes and safety nets and a support network and you still feel like shit. ungrateful shit. you feel shit for feeling like shit. and you can’t even enjoy being a starving artist because you’re not starving and it’s all just a game you’re playing and you wonder when it’s going to start getting serious, and you wonder why it has to get serious – who made up that rule?

and on days where it feels like maybe you’re getting better, well, maybe you’re getting better, or maybe it’s just that nothing really bad has happened to you for a full day. which is a relief. and in the words of william s burroughs – perhaps all pleasure is relief. 

and now you’ve run out of ideas but there’s still blank lines waiting, and nobody else is going to fill them for you, so you write about writing again, and it’s no better or worse than what you normally write about, which is nothing. 

which is nothing. 

brussels, belgium

it was one of the worst times of my life. 
but in a distorted, dickensian sort of way, also one of the best.

and both, strangely, self-evidently so. the former, because i was going through hell. the latter, well… why is it that still to this day, when i’m depressed, i find myself wishing that i was back there?

was it the contrast? the emotional chiaruscuro? perdition and the other place? the simple physics of reaching my relative rock-bottom, my all-time low, and what comes next? as yazmin evans once said, the only way is up

definitely. but that wasn’t all of it. 

because there was also something perfect about that place. 
my perfect, self-contained home on my perfect self-contained planet. 

nowhere, and nowhere to be. 
nothing, and nothing to do. 
just me and my old-timey motorhome neighbours and an endless, empty forest. 

planet vessem. 
the perfect place to be depressed. 

not too big and not too small. big enough for exploration, but small enough for understanding. to know where i was, and where i was going. the van, the campsite, the toilet block, the tap, the farms and the village. the shop where i could buy sandwich spreads and bread and chocolate. the forest. it was all there almost within touching distance. i just had to reach out my hand. it was my precious little world and it was just the right size, and if that’s all there was then i would want for nothing. 

my perfect, unpeopled, pineconed world. just trees and tracks. and me. 

peaceful and leafy. 

being there was like pressing pause on my life. or pressing pause on the world, on everyone and everything around me, and going on living, unchanged and unchangeable. 

wandering randomly. wandering non-randomly. it made no odds. sometimes i knew where i was going, sometimes i didn’t. nobody and nothing. shetland ponies and pumpkin patches. robot lawnmowers and leaves levitating on spiders’ webs. and trees, and trees, and trees. 

planet vessem

where i was in no hurry to be anywhere
when i was in no hurry to do anything
to be anything

if i could’ve i probably would’ve stayed there forever

brussels, belgium

and every damn day, without fail, without wondering why, i set out with my sandwiches, my waterproofs, my keys and my phone, and wandered around, listening to audiobooks. all day long. and when it went dark, i sat in the van, and read some more. a book a day. dh lawrence, haruki murakami, kurt vonnegut. i read with a sort of cold, hard fury. non-fiction, fiction, literary-fiction, big books, small books, biographies, autobiographies, classics, modern classics, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, history. fucking self-help. anything i could get my hands on. 

one of these books was matt haig’s reasons to stay alive. the so-called self-help section isn’t exactly my go-to bit of the bookshop. but as much as i’m tempted to pre-emptively shit all over the genre, i’m not going to. not here, anyway. not now. i needed reasons, and i got them. a whole list, for anyone interested. an excellent list. and in a way, it did help. 

in this book, he talks about the things he’s done because of depression. good things. because of. depression. a concept which, when you’re deeply depressed, seems almost perverse.

and (as kurt vonnegut once put it, i’m extrapolating here) there’s more than one type of because of.

there’s the because ofs that just happen. life goes on. good things happen. bad things happen. and the implacable laws of cause and effect say that such is life. things keep happening. so it goes.

i am the person i am today because of depression. because of love, too, and hate, and sex and pokémon cards and mars bars and those fingerless gloves i found, and that hat, and everything else. i am the sum of my parts, the whole of my sums. i am the sum-total synthesis of life, the universe and everything else. the good, the bad, and the ugly. that’s me. 

that’s one. but then there’s the because ofs that you, and i bring about mindfully, to bring some sort of meaning to what happened. to make sense. to make order out of chaos, light out of darkness, and shiny shaving mirrors out of the shattered fragments of my soul. 

this post is both. 

first, this post is the realisation of my life so far. everything, from that first not-so-famous syllable of recorded time, the dinosaurs, the early nineties, november in the netherlands, this morning – everything – has been leading up to this one, definitive moment. and this one. and this one too. and tomorrow and tomorrow. depression doesn’t define me. i define me. 

second, this post is an attempt to make what happened to me mean something. to scrute the inscrutable, explain the inexplicable, make sense of the incomprehensible. to decipher the heiroglyphs and find tutankhamun’s tomb. to find the spot marked x on the dread pirate’s map. 

The birth of a spectre leads to conflict and struggle, but it is important not to attempt to destroy your spectre, because this would destroy part of you. The goal, instead, is to re-assimilate it. Los achieves this by putting his spectre to work and using it in his creative projects. Work and art were always Blake’s response to depression.

John Higgs – William Blake vs the World

there were because ofs back then too. 

i started to do things that at the time seemed so fucking stupid, like long-term projects. not because i needed something to live for, or look forward to, but because i needed to act as though i had something to live for, or that i was living for something.

because i was depressed, i spent a month wandering around a forest
i read a book a day
i started therapy
i started learning a language
i started drawing 

because i was depressed 
i am where i am 
and what i am
and who i am

marnay-sur-marne, france

for a long time i didn’t know what this post was.

i want everything to be definitive. i want this post to be the post about weed. i want this post to be the post about poetry. i want this post to be the post about whatever this is. 

and this?

is this the definitive post about depression?
vanlife? literature? long-term projects?
setting out? sandwiches? november?
the healing power of nature? of art? of robot lawnmowers?

perhaps this is the definitive post about not knowing what this post is. 

perhaps this is the definitive post about nothing. 

therapy questionnaire:

briefly describe the issues you are facing. 

lol. you mean briefly as in ten-thousand words or briefly as in one-hundred thousand?

sometimes i write for an audience
sometimes i write just for me

this post is a reminder to myself

that not everything needs to be defined, not everything needs to be definitive
that i am not one thing, but many
that i have done this before, and that i can do it again

that to figure out who i am, who i want to be, and what it is that i want from this life
takes time, and space, to learn 
to think
and to not think

and finally, that paradise, perplexingly, is a campsite next to a nowhere nature reserve near eindhoven airport, in november, with snaily coin-operated showers, old people, and pinecones.

vessem, netherlands, 2022.11.24

Au milieu du chaos, j’ai trouvé qu’il y avait en moi un calme invincible. J’ai réalisé à travers tout cela que, au milieu de l’hiver, il y avait en moi un été invincible.

Albert Camus