S NE AK PR E V I E W
DON’T CONFUSE LAZYNESS WITH DEPRESSION AND VICE VERSA
Artwork and words by Mikael Hattingh
I am lazy. There’s no two ways about it. If people really knew what filled a typical day for me, they would probably be appalled. For instance, I’ve never held a full time job longer than two months in my whole life. Currently I don’t have a job at all and I don’t intend to get one. Neither do I have a driver’s license, or any savings, or a ‘life’ by any standard. I’m also getting fatter and heavier by the day – so much so I can barely recognise myself and I’m spotting new stretch marks on my shapeshifting body on each occasion I take a shower. And yet I’m apathetic. I’m 24 now. Oh, and I live with my parents. I’m a creative person but even then I don’t create nearly enough to truly warrant wearing that badge. Sure, I have a few ‘achievements’ to show for myself – some drawings demonstrating skill, folders full of attempts at poetry and short stories, a pointless film production degree, a moderately successful short film that’s won an award, some scripts and a film or two in the works, the ability to edit videos and tell effective stories through montage, the odd painting, a few songs. Some might even look on all this and fall victim to the illusion that I do ‘so much’! Nope. For the past six or seven years its been impossible for anyone to gain a proper understanding of just how lazy I am simply because I don’t allow myself to
be seen. I’m not on facebook anymore. I refuse to buy credit for my phone. I reject event invites and now I no longer receive any. I’m never around. Because for years I’ve hidden myself out of sight in a stinking hot bedroom, ruminating in depression; living as a recluse, a ghoul, emerging only in the odd and unpredictable times I‘ve felt brave enough to polish up my face and show it to the outside world. And throughout my growing and changing relationship with depression I’ve battled with the question (kind of like a ‘chicken or the egg’ thing) of whether or not I’m lazy because I’m depressed or depressed because I’m lazy. For some this is probably a no-brainer. And maybe I have no brain. Maybe if I just got off my butt and went to the gym, lost this weight. Had myself a daily dose of endorphins and learned to like what I see in the mirror. Maybe if I sucked it up and got myself a job – a shitty job – and gave myself that regular routine, no matter what it was. And then I guess I’d have more money and an overall ‘higher standard of living’ than what I’ve acclimatised myself to with the dole. Perhaps the thought alone of ‘earning my keep’ will instil in me a sense of pride. And maybe if I just bit down on my social fears and went out and tried to make friends – maybe it could actually produce a friend? Friends are good?
Maybe if I just dedicated myself to my creative endeavours. Whole-heartedly. And drew every day. All day. And wrote every day. And turned these scripts into films. These sketches into comics. These guitar riffs into songs. These ideas into reality. But this one thought finally occurred to me the other day, which put me at ease, at least a little. Laziness may be a symptom of depression – but depression is not necessarily characteristic of laziness. That is – laziness in itself does not directly result in a damning disbelief in yourself or lead unswervingly to the demonising thought to hurl yourself in front of a train or slash open your arms or find some other violent way to kill yourself. Laziness doesn’t bully you into not enjoying yourself (your time or who you are). It doesn’t strip away your desire to socialise and be with friends, doing the things that give pleasure. Rather, by nature, laziness encourages pleasure. Laziness doesn’t demand that you focus your thoughts on the things that bring you zero pleasure at all and place you in the corner away from the others like a bad child. In other words, laziness does not equate self-hate. So as I have beaten myself up with the thought that ‘I need to do more’ in order to be happy, it’s been depression that has told me not to move. It was
depression that smothered me if the thought to move ever flickered in my brain. It was depression that worked tirelessly to slow me down to a halt at all times and humiliated me whenever I gave it a try. It was depression that ever fed the thought that I was a lazy, no-good-for-nothin’ bum in the first place. But all this being said there have been periods in my life that I haven’t been followed around with depression. I remember one such time last year on an afternoon I wasn’t feeling quite as ‘chirpy’ as I had been. And as I almost slipped into confusion as the familiar feeling of darkness threatened to encroach I had to tell myself ‘Don’t confuse laziness with depression!’ Then it was an easy fix. Laziness is curable. Simply do something and it’s gone. Depression isn’t so simple. And so now the problem remains more or less the same. Nothing changes the fact that for nearly a decade I’ve been depressed. And that doesn’t change the fact I’ve been lazy. And these two problems will continue to fuck like an incestuous family of maggots in my brain until something entirely fresh and new comes into the equation to make more sense of it.
UNTITLED (INTIMATE black hole) by Megan Brandenburg artwork by Valerie Choi
I feel like an orphan in a movie when I’m at the hospital. I can feel the eyes of all the old, cancer-ridden adults, wondering why I’m here and if I’m here alone and if they could adopt me. The guy next to me gets off the phone with who I can assume is his daughter (“just wanted to make sure you got to Katie’s safely!” Only fifteen year old girls are named Katie) and out of the corner of my eye I see him hesitate whether or not he should say something to me. He looks up and back down, leans forward then readjusts. I like being in this role. It makes me feel like the “Earth’s Child” instead of the reality of the situation, which is that my parents work too much and I want to pretend to be an adult and handle doctor’s appointments on my own. It doesn’t help that I look twelve years old and when I sit it’s with my arms wrapped up around my knees and my head buried between my legs.
Being at a cancer hospital means you don’t have to wonder what’s wrong, just how bad it is. It’s at least a little bad, probably worse. I see an adult couple embracing in front of the elevator and I cry. I text a person and tell them I miss them and they respond “please stop.” I need someone to take care of me. I am in hell and act like a child. I stop crying two hours later, after I’m taken into a small private room to prepare for my PET scan. I stupidly sob into my oversized velvet sweater as the nurse tries and fails to find a vein in my arm for the IV. There is no parent or loved one there to soothe me and tell me to relax and to let him do his job, no one next to me to shush me and pet my head. The way children are similar to domestic creatures and need attention and their heads rubbed and ears scratched and someone to feed them, I am the same. No one is there to fulfill this
role so I just cry in front of him, he never stops because he has a job to do but does say “I’m sorry I’m so so sorry” under his breath. I am your worst nightmare. He finally finds a vein in my hand and leaves, and I sit in a room by myself for one hour and cry into the lens of a security camera. The female nurses say to me “why are you here you’re so young you’re just a baby” and they call me sweetie and I ask them for graham crackers and they wipe the tears from my face when I’m secured down to an MRI table and can’t reach them myself. 21 year old infant. Being surrounded by swiftly dying old people will make you want to run the other way really quick. Cancer brings them closer to death, but for me it regresses all selfconsciousness and emotional maturity I’ve developed as an apathetic twenty something. Aging backwards, disregarding the linearity of time.
After the PET scan I ask the technician for water and something to eat and she brings me a huge cup of ice water with a giant kid-friendly straw and a handful of crackers. She sits with me and asks me questions like you would ask someone not well-versed in the English language, a child or a foreigner. She says to me, “ooooh, I like your purple coat! Very nice! Where did you get it?” I respond appropriately, filling my role as Vulnerable Small Person. She is no more than five years older than me. She says, “when you are done resting I will walk you out. No rush, you’re the last patient of the day. I can’t let you leave alone!” Does she feel bad for me? I feel bad for myself. My transformation to stupid weak baby allows me to take my time and relax and cover myself in cracker crumbs without feeling self-conscious. I don’t worry about coming off as a real person who has their shit together and doesn’t cry in front of strangers, or about whether or not she wants to get rid of me. I want to stay so I do.
The wallpaper on the ceiling is as if one was laying on the forest ground and looking up at the trees and I think about how I want to live in or around it, in my vulnerable state it successfully instills peace in me. After about ten minutes I get up and walk to the technician and tell her I’m ready, and we walk down the hallway together. She asks me how old I am and where I go to school and what I’m studying and I tell her the truth but I feel like I’m lying. She still responds to me like a baby though she knows I’m college educated and normally this infuriates me but now I just want someone to fucking coddle me and I am genuinely disappointed when we reach the door. On the way home I get takeout because I can’t make food for myself and I eat it on the train, first with chopsticks but then I drop one so I eat it with my hands. I think about what it means to be an adult and how I will never be one. This thought is not unique and that’s not a comfort but an annoyance. I don’t feel connected with anyone because of it. I am predictable.
Policing: Self-Care as Benevolent Exploitation by Ashley Allan I’ve started to become very nervous when someone tells me I need to do self-care. I know it means they don’t at all plan on being involved in my process. I know it means they’ll quickly mutter to others in the group that I won’t show up for a meeting or two, but that they still have work to do. I guess I’m not quite good enough for the big kid table when I’m cycling in my depression, had my PTSD triggered, had a night terror, or am feeling especially anxious one day. Unless I can contribute in a way reflective of ableist norms, I’m not useful, and therefore not wanted. What people seem to mean when they tell me I need to do selfcare is this: “We need you to go away and deal with your problems, because you’re distracting the rest of us as we do Serious Work.” In a way, my self-care is for them. Managing my disabilities is not a community concern, and so I need to be isolated when doing so. Anything happening to me is not priority because I’m seen less as a person with needs and more as an interruption to the space. I don’t believe I can speak seriously if I overlook how this structure of self-care screams respectability politics, whiteness,
and capitalism. Be productive. Do self-care because we need you to be productive. Don’t show your pain unless it works with this event we coordinated. If you want to be seen as truly revolutionary, you need to be a rugged individual who relegates their hurt to the weekends. You must be impervious to pain in the public light. Appear innocent. If you show too much when it’s not “appropriate” or “necessary,” then we’ll find someone to take your spot. Why does participating in a community suddenly sound so much like a job? How come everyone sounds so expendable and replaceable? When did activist spaces become so dehumanizing? It’s astounding to me, yet entirely unsurprising, how many activists I know who will talk endlessly about Marx but miss the connection between their spaces and a dehumanizing labor structure. How can anyone seriously claim to be revolutionary when they’ll throw their own community off a cliff? How can we call such people anything but opportunistic and exploitative?