Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

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Location: South London, United Kingdom

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dreaded E-Word

Well, the good news is I think that I am finally, permanently off Citalopram. The reduction method (spacing the time between doses further and further apart) proved effective. I took the final step of going off it entirely while I was on holiday in Cornwall, with the idea that if I had any of the usual symptoms, at least I wouldn't have to suffer at work. But no... although the withdrawal was more prolonged, it was nowhere near as bad.

The task now, is to stop myself from sinking back down into depression. It's been a question of remembering - or rather, relearning those things that I discovered and knew in the years before medication. It's a question of discipline - sleep right (at least 8 hours, at the same time every day) - eat right (no refined sugar, limit the amount of caffine) but the single most important influence on whether I have a fairly upbeat and bouncy day, or descend into crying jags and snapping attacks at random people on a crowded tube:

EXERCISE.

I hate the fact that this is so. I hate it with every fibre of my lazy body - but actually, that's not true. I am not naturally lazy. I'm perfectly happy to walk - in fact, I often to prefer to walk instead of relying on public transportation. I enjoy dancing and playing musical instruments (often a somewhat physical activity - at least, it was before the Laptop became my primary instrument.)

Yet the moment someone mentions the dreaded EXERCISE word, I drag my feet like a recalcitrant teenager.

And therein lies the reason why. I went to school in the States, where, after the Kennedy-era administration enacted legislation governing school curriculums, all forms of exercise were turned into the dreaded SPORTS.

If ever there is a way to suck the joy out of physical movement, it's to turn it into an athletic competition full of pointless rules and combine it with a vicious winner take all culture that glorifies the winners and vilifies the sad, pale, pathetic computer nerds and bookworms that are invariably picked last for the team and lose every physical competition in which they are forced to participate.

Do I still sound bitter, 20 years later? Come on. You're talking to a woman who, as a teenager, intentionally got her foot broken at a punk show so that she could have a doctor's note off sport for a semester.

This legislation from before I was even born brought in rigorous physical testing for children during their most sensitive years. Like most private school kids, I was used to batteries of tests - the SSAT, the PSAT, the SAT and so on. I was used to acing them with one frontal lobe tied behind my head. But those physical tests that measured how many situps or pushups or pullups you could do, or how fast you could run a mile... run a mile? No fucking way could I *EVER* run a mile, not with M.I.A's Anti-Ginger League shooting guns at my feet.

The results of the SSAT and the PSAT and the SAT all came privately, in an envelope delivered to your parents' house. The results of the physical fitness tests, however, were posted publically in the gym for everyone to see. Kate St.Claire was on the 0th percentile for physical fitness. Never mind that I got a 99th percentile on every other standardised test they could throw at me, that 0 haunted me, as if they'd painted a target on my back and thrown me hogtied into homeroom.

I hate competitive sports. No, I don't hate them - I *LOATHE* them with every fibre of my being. Anyone who repeats that old trope "it's not whether you win or lose that matters, it's how you play the game" has never really lost - not repeatedly, every single time you try, until you finally give up - but no. If you don't go to gym class, we won't let you graduate, we will make you repeat the 10th grade over and over and over, no matter how brilliant your academic grades are - unless you spend a couple of Saturdays running - did I say running? - no, dragging yourself around the playing fields wishing that you could, actually, drop dead of exhaustion.

So if there is so much of a WHISPER that any kind of physical activity might be exercise or - worse - sport - my brain and body simply rebel and will. not. do. it. It's almost like I have to play tricks with myself to get it to work. Add music, and I'll bounce away. (This has been the biggest positive about getting an iPhone - the iPod part of it has been the biggest incentive to getting me to move since my ancient Sony Discman died.) Add Scenics - and the prospect of getting to look at interesting things and I'll walk for, literally, miles, without even noticing.

Perhaps this was an added bonus to coming off citalopram while I was in Cornwall. If there was one thing I did a lot of while on holiday (oh, apart from eating cornish pasties and cream tea) it was walking. Up and down hills, along windy coastlines, tramping all over castles and tin mines - I walked an average of about 5 miles a day, easily.

And walking is, seriously, the most effective anti-depressant I have EVER known, the only one that works every time, works both short term and long term. I'm not saying that doing it makes me feel fantastic - but if I *don't* do it, it's guaranteed that I will feel like shit. And so this is what I must hold on to. Forget those awful teenage competitions, forget the humiliation of the locker room ritual, forget those brainless bimbos talking endlessly about their diets and aerobics routines like steel-abbed robots.

Remember this: it is the ONLY thing that will keep your precious sanity intact.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

That Boy's Got My Heart In A Silver Cage



I've fallen in love with this song. I kept hearing it in Aeroplane mixes (sometimes mixed in with their swooshed out, dreamy remix of Friendly Fire's Paris) - the plaintive tones of Giselle Rosselli burning a hole straight through my ears down to my heart.

It's an odd one. The song's production isn't that special (update: the "Version 2" on iTunes is actually a lot better, a more bouncy house-piano-driven disco a la Spiller's Groovejet) the tune isn't an obvious earworm - but my god, that *voice*. The heart-wrenching longing encapsulated in a certain purity of tone broken by the barely contained emotion, the little swoops on the end of each phrase, as if barely surpressing her sadness.

The lyrics... well, they tread the hinterland between utter banality and sublime wisdom that Bernard Sumner mined so exquisitely. On the face of it, a simple "I want the one I can't have..." lament, but combined with the utterly forlorn delivery, it's just deadly and brings me close to tears every time.

And, of course, it just resonates with the mood I've been in, moping about, that stage where Shroedinger's Crush has opened the box and the cat is dead, you know it's unrequited and never will be and there's nothing to do besides Get The Fuck Over It - except I don't really want to. There's a part of me that somehow really enjoys this feeling, enjoys the sense of pining, the sense of melancholy and unworthiness. This sensation that I have come to equate with love itself. I've never really known it any other way.

I'm avoiding him. It hurts too much to do anything else. I blame myself, call myself for stupid for even thinking that I had half a chance (even though rationally I knew I never did) then blame myself for the fact that he doesn't even notice I'm avoiding him - then blame myself YET AGAIN for being so childish as to actually CARE about all this. The pity party has reached the stage where all my worst insecurities are dancing on the tables, blowing whistles and forming a conga line down the hall.

Today I'm having massive blasts of self doubt. Reading my twitterfeed, I had the sudden (completely out of character) wish... "Why can't I just be one of those girls who cares about clothes and makeup and toenail varnish and boyfriends and just be, you know, all feminine and girly and... normal?!?!?" And then hated myself a moment later for falling prey to that awful trap that reckons that that kind of hyperfeminine gender restrictiveness *is* normality. If I tried to live like that permanently, I'd be even more miserable than I am now. I am who I am, how on earth could I be anyone else? (And even if such behaviour did win me friendship and love, would I really want to be loved for something so false? I don't think so.)

It will pass. It always does, but for now, this song and my mood flutter together, perfectly catching the moment.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pink Elephants & Purple Flashes

So I've got myself a Mixcloud and didn't have a clue what to do with it so I uploaded this groovy old 60s psych/freakbeat/bubblegum mix I had lying around.

http://www.mixcloud.com/masonicboom/pinkelephantsandpurpleflashes/

Tommy James & The Shondelles - I Am A Tangerine
The Marmalade - I See The Rain
Kaleidoscope (UK) - Black Fjord
Sun Dragon - Green Tambourine
First Crew To The Moon - The Sun Lights Up The Shadows Of Your Mind
The Electric Prunes - Get Me To The World On Time
The Nazz - Open My Eyes
13th Floor Elevators - Nobody To Love
Amon Düül II - Archangels Thunderbird
The Rattles - You Can't Have Sunshine Everyday
Donovan - Barabajagal
The Electric Banana - Alexander
Dumbo Soundtrack - Pink Elephants
John's Children - Smashed! Blocked!
Peter Cook - Bedazzled
The Creation - Painter Man
The Turtles - Outside Chance
Kaleidoscope (US) - Lie To Me
Tomorrow - My White Bicycle
The Move - (Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree
Wendy & Bonnie - Let Yourself Go Another Time
David Bowie - Let Me Sleep Beside You
The Fenwyck - Mindrocker
The Factory - Try A Little Sunshine
Aquarian Age - 10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box
Sands - Listen To The Sky
Max Frost & The Troopers - Shape Of Things To Come

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Witch Cults Of The Radiophonic Age

I've really been falling behind in my gig-going this year. Artists I love tour, and I have either neglected to buy tickets (usually forgetting that the gig was evening happening) or worse yet, bought tickets, and then decided at the last minute that I'm too tired or depressed to go.

To counteract this, I've been trying to book more tickets for seated gigs. Yes, I'm (LOL) old and the prospect of being able to sit down and enjoy a gig in relative comfort is far more appealing to me than the thought of standing up for 2 or 3 hours in a dirty, crowded environment. So I bought a load of tickets for gigs at the South Bank Centre and I've even managed to get a ticket for The Knife's opera at the Barbican.

Last night was Broadcast at the SBC - I'd already had sad news via email that Micachu had been volcanoed (you don't realise how much many artists travel until it takes an act of god to close airspace over your country, and reports start filtering in from all the strange places where your favourite artists have been stranded) which was a shame, as I was looking forward to seeing them.

The replacement however... Oh my god. Now, I have quite a high tolerance for meandering artwank. I dated a sound artist for a long time, and put up with a lot of highly conceptual and inaccessible ... material, on a daily basis. This, however. No. A man in floppy hair and a diamond pattern sweater sits on a dais abusing a cello. Although there's sheet music in front of him, the music follows utterly no pattern that I can discern. Across the stage from him, sits a bored looking woman in front a laptop. Occasionally she rises and hits some buttons, and some vague, droney looping patterns echo out across the stage. Hey! Don't get me wrong, I love me some droney loops if they're interesting sounds, well manipulated, and create some kind of textural build and drama. This was just background noise. I lasted less than three songs before pulling a runner out to the lobby, deciding that my iPhone was infinitely more interesting than the band on the stage.

(I realise now that this is only the second gig I've been to since acquiring my iPhone. You don't realise how addicted you get to the little critter until you have to sit through an hour's set without checking it.)

There's an announcement that Broadcast are about to go on, and we all troop back obediently to our seats.

It's been about 10 years since I first saw Broadcast - at the London Scala. It was one of those rare nights when I looked around, and realised I was a *type*. The entire audience looked like me, all the girls in thick black tights and vintage 60s dresses, the boys all dressed like my date, black jeans, turtlenecks, long sideburns. At once it felt awful, and yet oddly reassuring, to know that you were *part* of something, that you were some kind of strange motley youth tribe.

So 10 years later our youth tribe has all grown up, rocking middle aged paunches and bald spots instead of Stereolab and Warp t-shirts. Broadcast, too, have aged in their own quirky off-kiltre kind of way. It's no longer a band, so much as two people facing each other across tables full of electronic gear and vintage synths (always a good look as far as I'm concerned.) Instead of getting more accessible, their sound actually seems to have got *stranger* over the intervening years. The icy 60s cool has given way to a sort of cracked electronic backdrop, the warped hiss of a detuned radio, the plume of occasional retro-futurist Moog rising in an elegant melody above the static.

It's elegant, stately, as windblown and desolate and alien as the Brutalist concrete slab of the South Bank Centre, and yet at the same time, strangely comforting, like the warm glow of an old black and white television. Trish Keenan's voice remains as perfect as the glaze on Ming China, at once both anonymous as the voice of The Speaking Clock, and yet as distinctive and reassuring as the shipping forecast, quintessentially British, and yet oddly accentless and ageless. Occasionally, recognisable melodies drift across the soundscape, as she sings one of their more familiar songs over the intriguing soundscapes.

And yet the true star of Broadcast's show - now, as it was a decade ago - is actually the videos they project over themselves as they perform. Clips of science documentaries, NFB public service films, space age graphics and bizarre occult symbolism flicker and glow across the stage in multicoloured psychedelic profusion. Sometimes the imagery seems to synch with the music, sound and colour throbbing together in harmony, sometimes it seems to pulsate with a life of its own, pulling the music after it.

There's a whole genre based around this sort of thing now - Library Music, hauntology and all that, the synthesis of found objects and lost arts. The synthesis of science and mystery, folklore and scifi phenomena, low budget and high tech. There's something so beautifully English about them, something homemade and yet at the cutting edge of science - British eccentrics from the same school as TC Lethbridge and Quatermass. It's probably a cheap pun to describe a band named Broadcast as being Radiophonic - yet that is the proud and noble tradition they belong to, and continue to uphold.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This really needs no introduction

Do you ever wonder why the comments on this blog are moderated? Because, quite frankly, it's amazing, the amount of bile that people can express towards human beings on the internet, safe behind the anonymity of a monitor and a keyboard. I'm not even going to bother to edit this comment at all, I'm just going to post it, in its entirety, so you can see the full range of anger, hatred, projection and ungrounded assumptions that one stranger feels entitled to direct at another.

I suppose it's kind of testament to something, that my post, about mine own experiences, moved someone to such emotion that they felt compelled to take the time to write this.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Discontinuation Syndrome":

My grandfather has leukemia and is pushing 90. He has recently entered a deep depression on account of you know... facing the inevitability of death and all. Nothing as serious as being a whiny recluse with bad self-esteem, but, then again, nobody is as unlucky as YOU. He was prescribed Citalopram to regulate said depression. He took it, it didn't do much except makes some of his accompanying neuroses simmer down. He took it for a while, then yesterday i find out he had finished his prescription and had forgotten to tell me or my dad to refill it. So he'd essentially been off it, cold turkey, for a few days. Absolutely no withdrawal symptoms.

So yeah, my point is that you're pretty much a "lightweight" (a term i use in substitution of another only to elude any profanity filtering that may occur). Since you're looking things up on the internet, look up "hypochondria", "cry for help" and "grasping at straws to feed said compunctions".

Since i bothered to write this much, here's a bonus: that crush guy will never like you because he's a guy and you're fat, ugly and old. Even fat, ugly and old guys try to date up one league at least. Even where that not the case, you have an abysmal personality riddled with myriad made-up disorders that hide simple chagrin at not being everybody's favorite little princess. Plus you hate women and men equally in various creative twisted little ways that you rationalize as a "feminist" philosophy, simply because, unlike them, you're an amorphous blob.

When you next face a mirror i hope you meet your own gaze and in that terrifying glimpse into the void that is your soul your resolve to leave the internet forever and never take pills again, as the first two baby-steps in emancipating yourself from a super-vocal and well-connected spec of dust to a more demure, elegant, introspective and, ultimately, happier, human being.

Best regards,
Martha


Thanks for your time, "Martha".

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Discontinuation Syndrome

Three weeks into Citalopram withdrawal, and this is the point where I usually give up and go crawling back to the soft, warm, fuzzy druggedness. I was hoping it would be better if I tried a slow tapering instead of stopping cold turkey (apparently, according to online support groups, stopping citalopram cold turkey is harder than kicking heroin) but although that's helped with the physical symptoms, the badtemperedness and quick moodswings from happy to irritable to mysteriously suicidal are back in force.

"Oh, that's just your bipolar disorder coming back" the doctor told me the last time I complained, and I believed him, and shut up and went back on the pills, despite the side effects. That was before I looked up SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome on the internet, and discovered that every single one of the symptoms I was having was on the list. Yeah, sure they might not be considered "addictive" and the side effects not classed as actual "withdrawal" but it's still one of the most physically and emotionally harrowing experiences I've had to go through.

Still, I'm determined to get through it this time. I've been on these things for five years now. Five years of weight-gain, five years of total lack of libido, five years of becoming more and more disconnected from myself, my body, who I am. Sure, it effectively shields you from anxiety, depression, smooths over a host of irritations. But at what cost? I know that it helped me to endure situations I otherwise could not have, but should all situations be endured? Is habituation, acceptance, settling for the path of least resistance always the best option?

It's my birthday this Saturday, and birthdays are always a time to sit back and look at the milestones. Is my life where I thought it would be at this age? Of course it isn't. OK, count your blessings. I'm employed, albeit in an industry that makes me feel morally ill. I own mine own house, albeit in a shitty neighbourhood of a city I no longer love.

And there I stop. I spend my days alternating between boredom and frustration, sleepwalking through my job, too bored to even argue with people I don't even respect on the internet. I've been demonised on every messageboard I've ever joined, alienated and misunderstood, my name becoming slang for some crazy cat lady. I haven't had a relationship in so long I can't even remember how to do it, yet I can't stand the idea of joining a dating site and sorting through more damaged people, trying to make those split second decisions while they judge you with similarly jaded eyes. It takes forever for me to actually be attracted to someone beyond the silly, fragile crush stage and there's just something so meat market-ish and offputting and unnatural about the whole set up that it ends up feeling like harder work than even looking for a job with less reward.

Oh, I feel like stamping my feet. I don't *want* to have to meet new people. Why can't I just have the one I already *like*? Because life isn't fair. This is the problem with outsourcing your emotional happiness to another human being, especially one who is not even aware they have that role.

What am I complaining about? Oh, I don't even know any more. Irritability and impaired concentration is all part of the "discontinuation syndrome" so I can barely even focus on this post. Was that the cat? Wait, I don't even have a cat. Goodbye.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Crush To Crash

I knew the depression was in the post. It started on Tuesday, with that sense of utter exhaustion as I could not drag myself out of bed. This morning, it took the shape of insomnia, ripped out of sleep, wide awake at 6am.

P was in my dreams again, a shadowy reflection, a post of his photograph, and as I woke I realised something awful.

I'm doing it again. I have this awful, negative habit of effectively outsourcing my self esteem to an (usually oblivious or outright apathetic) man for whom I look to for approval or validation or just some kind of *reaction*. It's dressed up in a crush, but it's that old fashioned impossible craving for the distant daddy's attention - come on, just turn around, *notice* me, dammit. Pretend for one second that I'm actually a human being worthwhile of your attention.

It's total self sabotage - I usually do it when I'm about to embark on some big or important-to-me creative endeavour. It's almost like I *plan* some way of stripping away any uplift of self esteem such an event might win me.

And when the inevitable rejection comes, it's crushing, in every sense of the word. It's not just my achievements which are diminished, reduced to nothing, but my very self because I am unable to perceive anything good about myself, except through the eyes of this idealised crush.

The horror he feels at me is the externalisation of mine own self loathing. I'm vile, I'm creepy, I'm grotesque, both physically and emotionally. Even if he does actually like me to start with, my bizarre behaviour and constant attention-seeking will drive him away.

And this destroys what little lift in self esteem I get from whatever mine accomplishments might be - it's worthless because *he* can't or won't appreciate me.

And I load the dice against myself from the state. Pick a man who is flawed to start with - OK, he has to like me enough to pay a bit of attention in the first place, which clearly means that he has disputable taste. Pick someone you know will *never* give you what you need - for example, look for validation from a DJ who has never, to my knowledge, in any of his posted charts that I've read, rated a female artist. That's bound to work out well, isn't it?

So now, on top of feeling like shit about myself, depressed, crushed - I'm also ashamed of myself, and ever so slightly angry at myself for being a Bad Feminist, for looking for validation, love, approval from a man. And here I am, lonely, isolated, miserable, pulling the rug out from the few positive things in my life - and on top of it all, beating myself up for all the ways I feel.