Surviving Progress?

18 08 2012

Surviving Progress – A HowTo?

last Wednesday we went to watch Surviving Progress, shown as part of the Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival, at Dendy (Opera House).  it’s apparently based on a best-selling book A Short History Of Progress, by Ronald Wright.

Possible Worlds billed it “From the makers of The Corporation and executive producer Martin Scorsese comes an absorbing, multi-faceted documentary on evolution, progress and social change”, which immediately got my attention.  The Corporation is a documentary I credit with triggering (not causing) my 5+ year plunge into dysthymic depression after watching it in 2005.  However there is no such reference to The Corporation on Surviving Progress’s website, and from a cursory glance at at their respective producers, only Mark Achbar appears to be common among twelve key creators.

i’m happy to report i’m not drowning in my own blood this time!  unfortunately for Surviving Progress, that might not be a good sign.  The Corporation struck me light lightning, a true epiphany, albeit one in which my path (of the three likely) after seeing it was to become totally overwhelmed & motivationally impotent (the other two likely options being: sticking one’s head back in the sand, or doing something).  Surviving Progress gave me nothing new, taught me nothing I didn’t already know.

even the film’s name, Surviving Progress, is, being generous, enigmatic.  does it mean “this documentary will offer a path of hope, a parable on how to survive Progress”, or merely tread old ground and pessimistically ask “how can humanity survive progress?”.  perhaps i was naive (nice to know it can still happen!), but the former was my interpretation.  unfortunately there are few if any answers on offer in Surviving Progress.

The Corporation was comparatively epic, a roller-coaster that dive-bombed into and out of a selection of topics that left one with the sense that this documentary barely scratched the surface of the myriad issues that face us.  but it was also more than that.  there were rays of hope that shone out, people making a difference and prevailing against The Machine.  even its closing credits had a laundry list of organisations and websites of those who are trying to Do Something.

Surviving Progress had no message of hope, no heroes, no call to action.  and yet, despite it’s depressing lack of hope, it washed over me and barely left a mark.  what gives?

J & I both commented afterwards that the audience was full of lefty alternative types.  that might seem like the likely target audience for such a doco, but really it’s just preaching to the converted – and in Surviving Progress‘s case, doing so with little to contribute to those of us who are already ‘tuned in’ to ‘issues’ (at least some of them).  to a small degree i feel like a senseless consumer, sucked in by the heritage alluded in its promotion and 2 cinema tickets poorer.

i remember thinking after watching The Corporation “OMG!  more people need to see this!  Important people who normally wouldn’t intersect such media need to see this!  the Prime Minister needs to see this!”.  i know, so naive.  to be fair to Surviving Progress, whilst it’s not an uplifting documentary, perhaps it could still impact others who haven’t yet had the wool covering their eyes removed, and effect transformation.  but how do you reach such people?  one at a time, organically, slowly, doesn’t seem to be cutting it against the overwhelming power of The Machine.

and then i look at myself, and think “WTF am I doing about it?”


just another fucking hypocrite.


“depression – my story”, 1 year on.

11 08 2010

it’s not quite a year since i wrote “my story” for, but i’m feeling the urge to talk about this black dog thing again.  seems to be topical lately!

last October 09 i “woke up” and realised that the ground of life was rapidly rising to meet my slo-mo free-fall.  the consequences of 5 years of blocking out life in a haze of THC smoke loomed like a tsunami  SFX in Hollywood movie.  thus began a tumultuous process of getting my life back into sobriety, balance, positivity & connection.

i quit dope cold turkey, which was a huge step forward in clearing my head to re-engage with life.  curiously, this was easier than one might have expected, though i can’t really explain why.  i guess i’d been in the pot-hole-of-depression long enough to finally realise that nothing was going to change, until i changed.

i saw a psychologist for several months, turning over several of the rocks in my mental garden to see what scurried out.  i can see now there were significant contributors dating back at least 10-12 years (5-7 years before Dysthymia struck), all of which layered additively, like blankets over my life’s fire.  sometimes it’s helpful to simply become aware that specific factors in your past have had an impact you were previously unaware of, and sometimes you need to dissect things a little more.  that’s where a qualified psychologist can really help.  i may yet go back for more, if and when i feel the need to peel away some more layers of my onion.  the $80/session Medicare rebate certainly helped there, too!

getting back into my physical self has also been critical.  it’s hard to beat the natural high that comes from a mildly exhausting cardio or gym workout at least a few days each week, especially when it’s one of the first things i do in the day, it leaves me feeling good for the rest of the day, and helps with sleep, too.  sure, it’s hard to break old lazy habits and establish momentum, but i just take it one day at a time, and i don’t berate myself if i miss a day’s scheduled exercise.

having several friends who have used or currently use anti-depressants, i carefully weighed up that option for myself.  i believe they can be of tremendous benefit, even necessity, for some people.  but my gut instinct was that my issues were more – for want of a better word – situational & attitudinal than brain-biochemical, and thus far i’m not regretting that decision.  i’m also wary of the “life on ADs is ‘nice’. nice can kinda suck though” factor, as articulated so eloquently by my friend Richo.

and last but not least, there’s the people factor.  one of those ‘blankets’ over my life of the previous 5 years has been a major erosion of my ‘inner circle’ of friends for a bunch of reasons, leaving me feeling isolated and restless.  i don’t make friends easily or quickly, so it’s a slow process, but i’ve pushed myself to connect with new people, and reconnect with some ‘lapsed’ friends.  it makes a hell of a difference.  it’s nice to complain of not having enough hours in the day when the main reason (other than work) is time spent with friends, instead of time spent in the pot-hole-of-depression in front of the tv!

it’s an ongoing process, a work in progress, and some say that’ll always be so (i’m not so sure about that).  but it’s a state of mind so different to where i was only a year ago, it’s starting to feel like a receding memory.  my spiral upwards out of depression and the things that propel it bear a curious symmetry (equal but opposite) to the habits that dragged me down into it years ago.  i couldn’t have done it without the support & understanding of my friends & clients alike, a professional psychologist, and a huge bunch of awesomely inspirational people on Twitter :).

the road to recovery…

7 03 2010

…is fraught with potholes and roadkill.

i’ve been moving into some interesting territory with my psych lately.  until a few weeks ago, for some reason i forgot that my five year dysthymic depression (2005+) was preceded by two (relatively) short periods in the 3rd quarter of the two previous years.  until recently i’d considered my sense of helplessness at ‘world issues’ as being a pivotal factor.  but like the layers of an onion, the truth is usually deeper, and usually more personal.

those two previous phases were very much about interpersonal disappointments.  the first was a series of let-downs with a few guys i’d been seeing, including a younger couple where i was ‘piggy in the middle’ <evil grin>, but who dropped me like a used condom when a younger hotter candidate came along :(.  the second period was more of the same, but moreso about the loss of a close friendship, for reasons that were never clear to me, but which has been painful ever since.

when i started dating J in early november last year, my social life took a steep upturn, which was symbiotic with my rapidly improving state of mind.  unfortunately J’s contribution to that process came to an abrupt halt just after xmas.  since then i’ve been relying on twitter to continue that process under my own steam, and also been using Grindr on my iPhone to meet other guys.

the life of a recovering recluse/depressive is a fucken rollercoaster.  one moment i have several days or a weekend booked up with stuff, the next i spend a week &/or weekend (or two) ironing my socks.  i still haven’t wrapped my head around the twitter etiquette of social events organised in this public forum by people i know, & recognising when it’s appropriate to just join myself in, and when i should wait for an invitation.

unfortunately salvaging my friendship with J is proving to be difficult.  don’t ask, i don’t know why.  and Grindr, well, lets just say i’m quickly getting over the gay MO of guys who say they’re interested in meeting *friends*, but want to interview you in the bedroom first :(  (in the interests of not doing to someone else what J did to me, i’m avoiding that scenario for a while); or you have a casual g-rated ‘date’ but never hear from them again.  i deleted a few phone numbers from my phone this weekend – they hadn’t been in there long.  i think i might need to put Grindr back in the box for a while – it’s not doing my head any favours.

the word here is obviously rejection.  i thought i coped with rejection fairly well.  maybe i just burried/internalised it?  right now it’s an open question…

…and now for something completely different…

2 11 2009

this blog’s been a vent. a pretty pointless vent i’ll admit, at least from an outsider’s perspective. but it has helped me formulate ideas/arguments/opinions about stuff over the last 2.5 years, so no regrets. i’ve never done, nor had any desire to do what’s needed to attract a readership. (having said that i just checked my stats and am surprised to see hundreds of hits on the Optus contract-cancellation post! maybe that’s not so surprising…)

but i reckon its time to add a new dimension – the personal. so to all you peeps who haven’t been reading my blog, sorry, but things are about to change. i’ll probably still rant from time to time, but…

things seem to be changing. and i feel the urge to output.

i’ve alluded in older posts to the depression that’s gripped my life these past few years. it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster – and that was without meds! in fact i read a blog a week ago by a guy who gave Prozac a try, & hated it, cuz “everything was ‘nice’, which kinda sux”, which i’ve heard many times before. then when its effects tapered off he was faced with the decision to try a different AD which needed a more serious commitment (long-ish ramp-up & ramp-down – no sudden dose changes, potentially more serious side-effects) & decided against it. confirmed my gut instinct.

anyway, back to me. the depression reached an all-time low this year, insidiously infecting more and more of my life, including work. it’d never seriously impacted work all that much before, except for a bit last year. but the situation almost reached breaking point before *somehow* i managed to pull it back from the brink of disaster not much more than a month ago.

i knew then it was time to ditch the self-medication. FUUUUUUUCK! what’m i sposed to do now? LIVE?!?

that’s the fraked up thing about depression & “self-medication”. it’s isolated me from the world, which has been “nice” in its usual fraked up way, and yet somehow i still have the power to put it aside and “open the window to life” again, simply because right now i *need* to to avoid serious shit from hitting the fan.

i’ve been at this stage twice before – giving up smoking, and having to go through the withdrawal & detox, and have my mind come back to life, start looking outward, and rediscovering the world. and the impact that has on sleep (one of my favourite topics!). so that’s why i’m writing this shit at 3:44am on a monday morning. great… it’s been like this for a month. and somehow i let the Doc talk me out of “proper” sleeping pills (Stillnox) last week in preference to herbal shit, which has done SFA.

since i buggered my shoulder in Byron last Feb from what seemed like a minor fall off my skateboard, the Doc said no more gym or skating till its healed, which i think’s also been a big contributor to my low mood this year. it’s taken 6+ months to heal. i’ve only felt ready to put pressure on it this past 2 or so months. but it’s been a challenge just to get out of bed in the morning, forget the treadmill. & now even though my security blanket is gone, the fraked up sleep means exercise is the last thing i feel like doing when i wake up. catch fuckin 22 again… :(

but the most unexpected impact of this slow turning of the oil-tanker that is my life, has been the realisation that i have “significant feelings” for someone i’ll call J. a situation (whose details are now unimportant) evoked a physical stomach-turning dose of jealousy. yes, jealousy! i’d never considered myself the jealous type before. where the hell did this come from!?? we’ve been friends for 6+ months, online chatting nearly 12!

but there it is. the more time i spend with J the more we seem to have in common, the more i like his outlook on life, the more i feel a kindred spirit. and, well, i’ve always had a hard spot for cute asian guys ;) i tortured him with some cryptic facebook posts last week (not really expecting him to even see them), which he saw & replied to. i was so stupidly cryptic he got the completely wrong idea, thought i’d “found someone else”. no babe, it’s you. i couldn’t even bring myself to confess my fledgeling feelings for him when we went out on friday night – no, i had to do it via SMS when i got home (isn’t that what GenY do?!?). such is the impact this ‘black dog’ has had on what used to be my very healthy dose of self-confidence. that, and also not wanting to fuck up what’s turning out to be a great friendship.

anyway, the SMS conversation was, well, kinda nice! at least, not the usual “dear john, you’re a great friend.” so we caught up again the next night. 2 nights in a row, ooher, people will talk! another great night, watched star trek 11. and this time we got to cuddle a bit on the couch – that was nice :) i can’t remember how long since that happened… went for a walk up to the nearby lookout that overlooks the city. nice. talked lots.

not sure where he’s at. possibly still in shock? :) and also has a slightly complicated domestic situation with his ex, and his little brother coming to live with both of them early next year. but he didn’t seem too averse to the idea of taking things slow & seeing where it goes. so, there it is.

this is all pretty surreal for me. that side of life has been off limits for years now, thanks to dysthymia. it’s forcing me to deal with my low self-esteem & body image, and get back into exercise & back on my board.

4:30am. think i’m ready for sleep now. stay tuned…