Sunday, November 21, 2010

If I Ever Leave This World Alive

Recently I heard the song "If I ever leave this world alive" by the punk-folk group Flogging Molly. I hadn't listened to it for a while, and it took me back to 2005, when I first heard it. I remember originally hearing it on an episode of The Shield, and being entranced by it. I remember going on a two day road trip with a couple of friends before leaving Australia, pestering one of them to download it for me so I could play it later on the iPod as we drove along the coast. And I remember annoyingly singing bits and pieces of the song throughout the long car trip. But mostly, I remember the friends.

Originally four of us were to go on the road trip; myself, an engineer and a musician (two old friends from high school), and a friend from Korea. Unfortunately the Korean friend wound up having to work on that weekend, so he only spent Friday night with us before we headed off on Saturday morning. But it was a good Friday night. The musician turned up on Saturday morning (having brought only the clothes on his back plus a pair of sunglasses), my Korean friend headed back to work, and the three of us headed out along the coast.

The engineer, had just come back from 18 months or so living in the UK, and was just settling back into Australian life. I was about to up stakes and fly off to Japan to an unknown future. The musician was already starting to get itchy feet and thinking about heading over to South America, which he later did. Australia is very far from the rest of the world and culturally confused, with a physical geography that places us near Asia, but a mental geography that places us somewhere between the US and the UK. This combination of distance and confusion, plus all the usual reasons people travel, has sent generations of young Australians have heading off overseas for a week, a year, or a lifetime.

Not too long after that trip I headed off to Japan. My Korean friend was called back home by his company, and while he often came to Japan on business, schedules rarely aligned. We caught up a couple of times, and climbed Mt Fuji together back in 2008. I had promised to visit him in Korea at some stage, but still haven't done so.

A few weeks ago he told me that he'd be in Tokyo this past Thursday, and we had a chance to catch up. It had been a while and we didn't have a lot of time, but it was great to see him again. We reminisced about the old days in Australia, brought each other up to date with recent events, and talked about what was going on in our lives, good and bad. It was nice. It made me think back over many things I'd forgotten, or not thought about for a long time.

At various times over my three trips around the merry-go-round of depression I've called on these friends, and each of them has helped me at different times, to the best of their abilities to do so. With them, and with others as well, I have sometimes been angry and frustrated that they did not or could not do more to help me. I thought angrily to myself on many occasions that people should see how much I need help, should be there for me more, should check in more often. Couldn't they see how much pain I was in?

For the most part, I have moved past those feelings now. I think that we are all as good as we are capable of being at any given point in time. I said the same thing in last week's blog post, but I think it is worth repeating. Dealing with someone who has depression or another mental illness is tough, and it requires an amount of energy and skill that most people simply don't have.
This is far from ideal. But this is the way the world is. And denying reality doesn't help anyone.

I am far from where I would like to be in terms of my situation in life. But I think I am learning and getting stronger. And harsh as it may seem, we ultimately be able to stand or fall from our own efforts. Others can help, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to many people who have helped me get through particularly rough patches. But at the end of the day we must stand on our own two feet. And I think I'm getting closer to being able to do that.


  1. what memories you brought back with that song... a big thanks for a sunday morning reflection...

    so true about standing on ones own 2 feet... regardless how much we may want someone to hold us up... in the end we can only fully rely on ourselves...

    blessings to you

  2. Hello, I think it is the first time I've posted. I enjoyed this post. It is good to hear somebody so honest. I often feel that way about 'friends', wondering why they seem to disappear. But more often I sit beating myself up, thinking I must be such a bad person. I haven't got my head round it, even now. But I never pin my hopes on anybody anymore. I've found far more people on here, who still listen despite me going on and on, than I have found in my whole life I think!

    Keep getting stronger xx Pixie

  3. "I think that we are all as good as we are capable of being at any given point in time."

    If this is true, then by what rationale might we hold anyone responsible for anything they do?

  4. Flogging Molly, great band! Stop blogging and start downloading their live recordings right now. I repeat...LIVE recordings.

  5. Reading this post reminded me of the time I spent in the United States. That was undoubtedly the prime time of my life, and I made some good friends. I continued to correspond with some of them after I came back to Japan, but it didn't last long. I went through pretty much the same you had when I faced the harsh reality of my immediate community when I first told my parents about my depression.

    I'm feeling strange as I'm writing this because I never thought it possible at first for me to continue to live alone in my apartment while fighting my depression. I'm slowly learning to take everything happening in my life as my issues. I think it is OK to blame others, but it is really up to us how we continue to go on with our life after that. Good to hear that you still keep in touch with your friends - I don't know how my American friends are doing. Good I hope.

    Ever since I met you through blogging, I've always thought you are a man of strength and integrity. I look forward to reading more about you and hearing from you as well.

  6. After reading your article, i realised that you are a man of courage.We all face the problem of depression at different stages of our lives. Our attitudes towards this life threatning sickness determine our getting out of it. Keep up the good work.

  7. Hi D.R., people in our lives will inevitably let us down because of emotional wounds we have received from our biological families. It's part of being human, but if you can learn (like you seem to be doing), to not push away those who really care for you because you might fear abandonment or disappointments first, you'll still be standing on your own two feet, but others will be able to walk along side you on your path.

    "No man is an island, entire of itself" ~John Donne~

    “The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” ~Pearl S. Buck~

  8. Hello everyone,
    Thanks for coming by and commenting. Today was a nice day in Japan, clear skies and autumn leaves. I hope everyone had a good one.

    Mother Moon Message - Music can bring back a lot of memories, can't it? Yes, standing on our own two feet seems like the only real option to me.

    Pixie - I think many of us feel that way about friends who disappear or are not there when they need us, and I've spent plenty of time beating myself up about that too. It reminds me a bit of that great English poet Mike Skinner, AKA The Streets "No-ones really there fighting for you in the last garrison. No-one except yourself that is, no-one except you." I think accepting this is part of the way to happiness.

    Snowbrush - I don't see any compelling reason to believe that we have any kind of magical free will that is unconstrained by our genes, upbringing, culture, education, etc. I think these things just play out the way they will. As for holding people responsible for their actions - I think there is a whole blog post in that, and I'll come back to it at a later date.

    Anonymous - Yep, Flogging Molly rocks. I've got "Live Behind The Green Door". But my favorite album would have to be "Drunken Lullabies".

    Takashi - Thanks for your nice comments man. I think people come and go in and out of our lives, and there is not a lot we can do about it most of the time. The best we can do is appreciate the times we do have with them, however short or long that may be.

    Editor - Thanks for dropping by and commenting. You are right about our attitudes being very important in determining how or if we get out of depression.

    Wendy - You are right, people let us down, and we let them down too. It is the way of the world. To err is human, and to forgive ... is also human. There's no divinity, there is just us. And while it is true that no man is an island and that we are social creatures, from my experience relying on others to fill my own emotional needs has almost destroyed me in the past. I need social contact of course. But more than that, I need to be complete enough within myself that the lack of that does not destroy me. And I'm getting there.

  9. I am not so sure it is that difficult to deal with a person who suffers from a mood disorder. It varies from person to person. Like my bro is Bipolar and very difficult to handle BUT even if he wasn't bipolar he would still be hard to handle. I always look at the person first and label/disorder second.

    I agree that relying on others to fulfill your own needs is kind of selfish and will always end in tragedy.

  10. Hey In The Pink, things do vary from person to person, but I'd stand by the fact that it is difficult to deal with people with mood disorders. I have found it hard to deal with them, and I know others have found it hard to deal with me. I've also observed cases others with mood disorders have been ostracized or abandoned by people around them. Some people may have a knack for dealing with the mentally ill, but most people certainly do not.

  11. I've always liked that Flogging Molly song. It's so unique and well done. Thanks for reminding me.

  12. Hi 4-Lorn,
    I'm glad the post was a happy reminder for you. It is important to hear good music now and again. It does something for us that few other things can. Thanks for dropping by.