As you can see I’ve worked out how to change the heading for my site. Sorry but I couldn’t think of anything more catchy or fun.
Things are getting better. I’m feeling quite lively inasmuchas I feel interested in things again. Interested in things enough for these enthusiasms to sustain me through a day. I’m not waking up, having my morning Earl Grey, and thinking: Oh god, another day to get through, what am I going to do?
In a way this is as a result of the bookshop I’m am now volunteering in. Before I started work on Wednesday, I had bought myself a book there: Jordan B Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life.
Now, I already more or less know that I don’t like Jorden B Peterson. I wasn’t expecting to feel particularly inspired by this text, but as it is a bestseller in the psychological non-fiction genre, as well as relatively recent, I thought I’d give it a go.
I read a bit of it before feeling like I wanted to know a bit more about the author before ploughing on, so I looked him up on YouTube, plumping for his dialogue with Russell Brand. I’m not a huge Brand fan, it has to be said, but as he interviews regularly, and has a recovery perspective, I thought it would be a good start.
It quickly transpired that Peterson had survived some terrifying ordeal, but neither one of them thought to update the viewer as to what had actually occurred. So I googled. As it turned out, Peterson had been a regular user of Diazepam for anxiety, and had taken himself off to Russia (a bit of a strange thing to do, I thought) in order to detox from this drug. This action had precipitated some kind of lapse into a near death experience that was the only thing he really wanted to talk about.
I was a bit surprised by all of this. Firstly, I had no idea Diazepam withdrawal was even a thing. I myself have used diazepam on and off over the past few years — in not especially high doses, and most of the time didn’t really feel any great alteration in consciousness — and have never had any strong symptoms either way.
Diazepam is known to be addictive. My experience with it was that the first few times I ingested it, it did really calm me down. But this was when I had been medication free for prolonged periods of time. After my first (and last) suicide attempt I was given Diazepam. At that time I was in a state of near continual horror of imagination, believing that people were planning to kidnap and torture me. My state of mind was near on the worst it has ever been. In those conditions Diazepam was a like a miracle drug. I honestly never thought I was going to be relieved from my terrors, and to find relief felt like the happiest day of my life. I thought: I can see why this drug would be addictive. But then my terror abated and I had no real need of the drug any more.
The last time I started to come off my meds: four months ago, I started to use the Diazepam the Dr had prescribed for me to use if I needed it. I was knee deep in an academic essay that an Italian sociologist had invited me to contribute to a book about freedom and art, and working from dusk to dawn, I started to experience severe panic due to my inability to sleep properly; even though I was also taking sleeping tablets. This was not a good state of affairs and I landed up being sectioned again. I was then put back on various meds and have been taking most of them ever since.
Back to Peterson. I must admit that I was not especially impressed that a famous psychologist would be taking diazepam to the extent that he felt the need to take himself off to Russia for a detox, and so I decided to stop exploring his work. But this foray into YouTube, into listening to ideas and conversations from thinkers again, produced a new zest to explore this activity further. As Malcolm Gladwell had popped up in the YouTube suggestions for further visits, I started to listen to him talking about the various books he has published.
Here was a speaker who could really talk! I enjoyed what he had to say about society, institutions in the US, about structural racism, education and our inability to detect a liar; we aren’t built to mistrust people apparently.
Gladwell clearly loves thinking. He’s also a brilliant and inspired story-teller. Humble, self-effacing and compassionate to those he dialogues with. He comes across as a very likeable guy, interested in all sorts of things.
Two days ago I spent more or less the whole day listening to his talks. I had completely forgotten, in my ennui, how much I enjoy listening to thinkers online. My last YouTube binge was with another Canadian thinker: Gabor Mate, but that was quite a while ago.
In the bookshop yesterday, still enthused by the world of writers and thought on a variety of topics, I found a couple more titles that aroused my curiosity: The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion, and Psychiatry, A Very Short Introduction by Tom Burns.
I am happy to report that my latest purchases have proved more exciting than Peterson’s rules for living. Who wants rules for living from someone living on the brink of near catastrophe?