Demons, Depression, and Mustache

by John Paul Gomez | November 12, 2014 | 1 Comment


Brother JPG talks about his personal experience with OCD, severe depression, and PTSD. He also shares his thoughts on prescription drugs, dealing with demons, life with Cthulhu, and how not to grow a mustache. 

So I signed up for Movember. My mustache is now 12 days old. I was supposed to raise awareness of my chosen cause which is mental health. Besides the 2 or 3 awkward clean shaven profile pic selfies that I posted (immediately with much regret), I really do not have a clue how to do this whole awareness thing right. But I have a life experience that I want to share.

I have written many drafts and many different versions of my story but none of them seem to work. Too negative that one, a little sad this one, too much information on that one. I just can't get that perfect tone and feel that I want. I end up rewriting pretty much the same thing over and over to the extreme annoyance of my beautiful wife. But thankfully and by the power of that Judge Judyish acidic stare from the better half, I calmly and gently arrived at the conclusion that if I continue to stay at this rate: I will never be able to finish anything, I will have Cthulhu for a wife, I will get no promotion for my business and my craft, I will end up with four hyper-noisy and starving kids, and an effing mustache for nothing. For nothing.

Therefore, my Brothers and Sisters, this time around I will not aim for perfection. For I have learned that aiming for that which is high and unattainable, although meritorious, may cause heartaches more than anything else in this world (if we are not careful that is). This time around, like what my neighbor Mike would say- "I'm gonna let the thought flow." This time around I will not procrastinate in guise of the quest for the ultimate perfection. This time around I will just Nike this shit and not care about what the critics will think. I will just write. I will let it flow. I will totally and completely OCD less on the spelling/formatting/grammar (besides, English is not my first language anyway. I'm sure I will be forgiven), and then, finally, when I'm done dotting my i's and crossing my t's and when I reach the point of no return, I will hit 'Post' with confidence and with  zero remorse- and that I will resist the temptation to read it once more, no expectations, no hunting for errors that could be hiding in plain sight. Successful companies release beta, and so should I. 

My life is an open book. I came from a genetic line of priests, artists, and overall eccentrics (my father went to meet his creator with a mohawk haircut and handpainted shoes). It is in my nature to confess and express myself. If it's not in your nature to listen, then move out of my way. I am your proverbial artist- starving (I'm fat, so take this spirit-wise) and extremely introverted. I enjoy being alone. I love going to the theater alone. I don't mind eating at restaurants alone. I like playing games alone. Not because I'm sad or feeling anti-social but mostly it's because I find it difficult to relate to others and others find it difficult to relate to me. No dramas here- just a fact of life.

I was living in la-la-land happy in my tiny bubble and everything was fine until the gods of tragedy turned its head and smiled upon yours truly. I lost my father, both in-laws, my beloved grandmother, and two of my uncles within the span of 5 years. My middle child was born with kidney reflux and my twins had their first eye surgery before they had their first birthday. I developed apnea, my joints crack, can't quit smoking, and I'm overweight. This plus other life changing events that are better left unsaid can weigh a brother down. My defense mechanisms grew weaker and weaker and weaker then it just went 'PLOP!' like Pacman as he implodes into oblivion.

Before I know it I was having many phantom illnesses. I experience physical reactions to stress be it real or imaginary. I can't pick up the phone, can't check the email, can't face the mailman. I was afraid that every new information will carry nothing but bad news. There were fleeting moments of peace and clarity but then right in the middle of a thought, my memory will simply abandon me. I was unfit for work. I have tasted progressive doses of cipralex, pristiq, ativan, and zoloft. I was diagnosed with severe depression and PTSD. The top psychiatrist at the NYGH knows me.

The wonderful thing about these prescription drugs is they can tame the anxiety and the palpitations, however, they also drained me of my creative juices. I may not be feeling antsy, but if I cannot make art (which happened to be my natural therapy and only source of income), I will be utterly useless as a father provider. So I have a decision to make and I decided to sacrifice the prescriptions for the sake of my livelihood. That means I have no choice but to deal with my problems head on, one demon at a time. So far I am winning with these 3 simple steps:


How to win your demons and triumph over depression:

1. Know Thyself

What I once thought of as one of my weaknesses actually turned out to be my greatest strength. The prescriptions curbed the feelings of anxiety but it also tamed my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Manually crafting intricate shapes using the Photoshop pen tool requires a whole lot of OCD as this involves a lot of clicking and dragging. Soon what I love felt like a chore. Know all your strengths but get intimate with your weaknesses and soon you will discover something that is really positive about your natural self. Demons hate things that are positive. It's true, I Googled it. 

2. Speak of the devil (express yourself)

We are consumed by thoughts. Some good, some bad, and some thoughts can bitch and nag- it's all normal. But when a thought becomes parasitical and gets a firm foothold in your mind, it can have a paralyzing effect on you. The best way to destabilize this particular demon is to own it. Talk to your trusted friends about it, if you can't talk about it express it in art- draw, sing, write, build a gothic igloo. You can laugh your demons off too. Speak of the devil and he would know better to avoid you. You don't necessarily have to tame it, but make sure that you own it and it will serve you well.

3. Take a lesson from Brother Winston Churchill

"If you are going through hell, keep going." he once said. If you count the late Carl Sagan as one of your trusted sources of information, then you would know that you are made of starstuff- when you find yourself in a bottomless pit, remember that stars can't shine without darkness. 

I suppose that's all for now.



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1 Comment

John Haskin said:

Dear Brother, I too am fighting with depression. It is the kind of depression that makes it hard to left my arms, open my eyes and sometimes take the next breath. In solitude I watch from behind a screen at my self move through life. I have sought help and took the pills, but in the end I know that it’s me that has to fight the fight. Bare fisted, no protection. But in the end I also know that I will own it. In the meantime I wait for the next wave to pitch me high to the next mountain top, and when I land up there I pray. I will pray for you and me brother.

March 24, 2015

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