Who Is Really Ill? Majical Cloudz + Depression

by Joshua B. Hoe Majical Cloudz Are You Alone Album Cover

I remember it like it was yesterday but it was over a decade ago, I had been feeling very depressed and experiencing panic attacks, and I was in the shower...and I, for the first time ever, felt like maybe it wasn’t worth going on.

For the first time ever, I felt life as a burden…It felt like lifting a boulder to even get out of the shower or to care about anything or anyone...An emotional sadness I had never felt before and that I have never felt since.

I was clinically depressed.

It turned out later, that I was having a reaction to a particular SSRI...but, whatever the reason, things were messed up at the head office.

Don’t get me wrong, I have suffered with depression and panic disorder before, but this was something entirely different...Something that I am almost certain I could not come back from if it returned or if it had continued.

It was a depression that defied everything….

All I could do was contemplate the power of it, try to put it in some context, try to make some sense of it.

Parts of the new Majical Cloudz album (Are You Alone, Matador, 2015) kind of feels like someone else was having some of these feelings, and contemplating the sheer power of feeling deep clinical depression….

Probably not the best endorsement..but I mean for it to be.

For me, the album was cathartic.

I can not be sure what the intent of the artists was...but this is what it made me feel.

Majical Cloudz + The Power of Commiseration

I think music is best when it is sharing common experiences, exposing feelings, making sense of things that cannot be sensical...Commiserating with the damned, soothing the sad, comforting those in pain.

Devon Walsh (of Majical Cloudz) seems to understand this...he says in the song “Are You Alone”:

“Crash your car, lie down in the street, falling asleep because you’re so tired that the world doesn’t spin anymore.”

So tired, that the world doesn’t spin anymore.

We don’t talk about the things that scare us the most...not when Star Wars trailers and candidate gaffes can distract us...but Majical Cloudz are trying to call out about exactly the secret terrors that happen every day all around us (and that people never share).

My mom suffered (suffers) from panic attacks her whole life, most of the time, when she tried to talk about it people would call it hysteria...or back in the day “women’s issues.”

I remember watching Cable Guy and thinking that one of the saddest parts is that many people really do live alone and go from movie to movie or show to show….that most of their social interaction is being around people, not being with people.

We don’t talk about loneliness, we only talk about mental illness when a tragedy happens, and most people turn the other way and pretend most of the people we see around us who aren’t “right” don’t exist.

An Uncaring Society Full of Madness

“So blue, in the rain, I wanted to say that I need you”

“I’ll try not to be...so blue...I’ll try not to be so blue”

The moment that made me feel the most ashamed of belonging to our society while I was in prison had nothing to do with me at all.

I did my bad things sane (or at least knowing they were wrong)...to my eternal shame.

But, sadly, that is not the only way jail and prison goes down.

I was on the prison yard, and there was a man whose hair was all over the place, looking crazy, with one shoe on and one shoe off, asking people if they wanted his radio (he didn’t have a radio)...He was communicating on an entirely different frequency living in the least compassionate place on earth…

If he accidentally pissed the wrong person off….goodness.

Why in the world was someone so incapable of looking out for himself in prison?

And we put him there.

Me too, this is not a lecture...it is a reflection on my own shame.

Earlier in my incarceration, when I was in the jail waiting for prison, I saw people with real mental illnesses drugged up and kept in a tiny cells with no books, no television, and no human interaction for 23 hours a day...Many of them were kept this way for months and years.

I asked one of the jail therapists how that could be good for mental health…

Her response was “It’s not optimal”

It really isn’t

A Brief History Of Mental Health Care in America

As you may know, there used to be mental asylums in the US...But, because absolute power corrupts absolutely, many of them were basically houses of horror for the residents.

So, we let them all go

And now they are treated in jails and prisons.

Hell on earth….we put them in hell on earth...why?

Because, out of sight out of mind.

Nobody cares at all...Nobody talks about it...Nobody gives two damns.

To our eternal shame.

We don’t talk about mental illness….except as a placeholder for fixing gun problems...Not because we care that we have put thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of people we don’t understand into lonely and scary holes...holes empty of hope.

We don’t talk about mental illness outside either...I suspect we never will...because it makes us uncomfortable and we don’t know what to do when we encounter it...we just want it to go away...so we make it go away.

And it goes away...In NYC, hero mayor Rudy Giuliani just evicted the homeless so NYC could attract more tourists and make rent even higher...And most other areas followed suit.

Every Day Is Erasing What Is Impossible

“I am broken, I feel it, I am”

“I know it, you hear me, you see me, you can...You’ve got to learn how to love me...Because I am what I am”

I remember thinking, many years ago, that every “beggar” or street person on every street was not someone we should feel pity for at all...They are literally the portion of our equation that does not compute.

The messy remainder.

We are even able to erase them...or at least to pretend we erase them.

We erase them so that we can continue to see things as we want to see things...We want to imagine that perfect world we feel entitled to, the great job...the great house...the great partner...the great kids...the perfect neighbors...the best job ever….Basically, the neurosis all over the face of David Byrne in the “Once in a Lifetime” video.

And we walk on by, we see them and walk the other way...pretending nothing happened.

And we tell ourselves stories like:

“They are there because they are lazy”

“Any money we give them will go straight to booze or drugs (so we are doing them a favor by keeping our money in our pockets)”

And we walk away...

There is a great scene in the movie Brazil with a bunch of society folks at a restaurant...The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic future (and food isn’t what it used to be)...In this restaurant the food is blobs of disgusting looking goop, but each blob comes with an attractive picture showing what it is supposed to represent.

That picture is what we put in our heads when we walk quickly past street people in our society.

They are the thing we don’t want to admit exists...The people our dream leaves out.

The evidence that proves everyone can’t win.

So we tell ourselves it is obviously their fault.

And yes, I know not all street people have mental illnesses, that is kind of my point...what we are lacking is compassion and perspective about our own social system.

I know I don’t know them...or anyone...I am not saying that they are anything..I am saying what we are.

Anyway...At the end of the day

Rant over...and, in fairness, Majical Cloudz seem to be talking about more personal and less societal struggles.

But, in raising the issues, and talking about the struggles, it inspired me to talk about the things I have seen.

I feel, very strongly, that we are a country founded on ideals of compassion...ideals of equality...ideals of forgiveness and empathy. I feel and have seen how we are not living up to those ideals.

Every day someone with mental illness spends in jail or prison screams what our priorities really are and what we really care about...No matter how many platitudes we use about being a city on a hill.

As I have said before, our hill is starting to smell pretty badly.

I may have deserved to be in prison, but I was ashamed to my core to see how many people were being sacrificed to our real motives.

How we treat mental illness should be a priority because we should care more about the people suffering than just about anything else...Instead, we treat them worse than just about anyone...terrible.

But let's not let taxes go up, let military spending go down, or stop building gated communities...After all, it’s not optimal.

I could be wrong..usually am at some level.

How do you feel about mental illness or depression? Do you like the new Majical Cloudz album (Are You Alone - Matador Records)? I would love to hear your opinion...Please leave a comment!