“Depression is not a philosophical failing”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"Depression is not a philosophical failing. It's an illness."

“Depression is not a philosophical failing. It’s an illness.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 22, “How Humanism Helps With Depression — Except When It Doesn’t”)

(Image description: above text, superimposed on image of a cloudy sky above hills and a lake)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“Depression is not a philosophical failing”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

No, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Will Not Help My Depression

Acupuncture needles

Are you seriously going to tell a skeptic with depression that alternative medicine is an emotional cure-all?

In response to yesterday’s piece about meta-depression, I got this comment on Facebook:

“A long course of acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist plus probably Chinese herbs is often going to help anyone with anything emotional.”

Sigh. Okay, fine. Let’s do this.

Dear Person:

First, I specifically asked people in this post to frame any suggestions as things that worked for them. I specifically said I did NOT want prescriptive advice, for me or anyone else. Are you always this careless about violating depressed people’s boundaries?

Second: Your advice is unhelpful at best and dangerous at worst. Even if these methods were effective, there is no single method of managing mental or emotional problems that works for everyone. Suggesting that there is one is dismissive at best, reckless at worst.

And there’s no reason to think these methods are effective. Continue reading “No, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Will Not Help My Depression”

No, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Will Not Help My Depression

“Intimately connected with the universe”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"I feel much more intimately connected with the universe now that I'm not lying to myself about it."

“I feel much more intimately connected with the universe now that I’m not lying to myself about it.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 59, “Letting the World Surprise You”)

(Image description: above text, juxtaposed above image of a galaxy and stars in outer space)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“Intimately connected with the universe”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

Meta-Depression

Sad women sitting in window seat
Content note: depression, obviously. Also, this post has a different comment policy than the usual one.

Dammit to hell. I was doing so well. I’d been depression-free for several months. I’d dialed my meds dosage back down; I was even planning to leave therapy. And then the shit hit the fan. Orlando/Pulse happened. The latest accusations broke about sexual harassment in the atheist community, centering on someone who had once been a friend and colleague. Brexit happened. And my depression is back. It’s not as bad as it’s been in the past, but it’s bad enough.

And on top of the depression itself, I’m dealing with meta-depression. I am feeling irritated, pessimistic, and helpless, about the fact that I’m depressed again.

My depression tends to be set off by two or more traumas at once. So what does that say for my prognosis? The world is extra shitty right now. I don’t think that’s the depression talking: it seemed that way even when I was feeling better, and I’m far from the only person who thinks this. The world just seems to be on a hair trigger. There are some good things about that — I think a lot of the social upheaval is backlash and polarization about real progress that’s being made — but it doesn’t make the traumas less traumatic. Depression is sometimes defined as feeling hopeless, pessimistic, sad, or shut down, when there’s no external reason to be. But what if there is an external reason? How does a depressed person handle the fact that the world often is unpredictably shitty? The best wisdom I can find is that when depression tells me the world is terrible, that’s not a lie. The lie is that the world is only terrible. But as comfort goes, that’s kind of ambiguous. “Hey, someday you’ll feel better, and you’ll be able to deeply experience the unresolvable conflict of the joy of life being deeply interlaced with its pain and brutality!”

I’m also wondering if I’m more likely to get depressed than I used to be. My last round of depression — fall 2012 to spring 2016 — was bad, really bad, the worst it’s ever been, and the longest. I’m wondering if it just wore down some of my mental reserves, or carved the depression paths deeper into my synapses. With some physical illnesses or injuries, you get better, and once you’re better you’re totally fine. But with some, you never get completely better. You’re always weaker in that arm; you always have a harder time catching your breath. Is mental illness like that? Now that I’ve had a three-and-a-half-year stretch of serious, disabling depression, am I more likely to get depressed again? My therapist says that’s a real possibility, although I have no way of knowing yet how often this is going to happen, or how severe it’s going to be when it does. I used to get depressed every few years: am I now going to get depressed every few months? If that’s true, I don’t know what to do with that.

Hence, the meta-depression. I’m depressed — and I’m depressed about being depressed. I’m depressed about how easily I got depressed this time; how much it was triggered by external events I had no control over; what my depression may look like in the near future and for the rest of my life.

The plus side is that I now know what to look for, and I know what to do about it. I now know the difference between feeling sad, angry, frustrated, irritated — and feeling foggy, unmotivated, pessimistic, anhedonic. The day I started feeling low, I started dialing up my self-care routines. I started leaving the house every day, being social every day, meditating every day. I started drawing again. I started asking for help. I had a brief round of denial, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t depressed again, I was just sad. And tired. And headachy. And forgetful. And unable to focus. And amotivated. And… But I was also able to tell myself to play it safe. It’s not like there’d be any great harm in dialing up my self care. If I was wrong and this wasn’t depression, the worst that would happen is I’d meditate more than I needed to, and spend more time outside and with other people that was strictly necessary. Those are good things to do anyway, why not just do them?

As a result, I think I may be nipping this in the bud. Or at least, I’m making it less bad than it would have been, and hopefully it won’t last as long.

But it still sucks. And it meta-sucks.

Other people with chronic depression — how do you handle it, both the illness and the meta?

Comment policy: If you yourself have depression or other mental illness, I welcome suggestions and perspectives on managing it as a chronic lifelong illness — but please frame them as what works for you, not as prescriptions for me or anyone else. If you don’t have mental illness, please don’t give advice of any kind. Thanks.

Meta-Depression

“Whether you’re a baby atheist or a secular elder”: Adam Lee on The Way of the Heathen

Way of the Heathen cover
Some people I like and respect greatly have said some really nice things about my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Here’s the blurb from Adam Lee:

“Whether it’s politics, sex or Morris dancing, Greta Christina has the answers you’ve been searching for and the ones you didn’t know you needed. She offers a succinct guide to life as a nonbeliever, describing all the joys and all the trials you’re likely to face, from the mundane to the cosmic, and gives her patented and pithy wisdom on what to do when you’re in the midst of them. Whether you’re a baby atheist or a secular elder, you’ll find something here to amuse, enlighten, or change the way you think.”
-Adam Lee, author of Daylight Atheism and the Daylight Atheism blog

The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“Whether you’re a baby atheist or a secular elder”: Adam Lee on The Way of the Heathen

12 Things Not to Say to Grieving Nonbelievers

crying woman

When you talk with people who are grieving, you want to make them feel better. At the very least, you don’t want to make them feel worse. This isn’t always true (as you’ll find out in some of these stories). But in general, in the face of grief, the point of comfort and consolation is to relieve some small part of the grieving person’s pain. And I’ll assume that the last thing you want to do is add to that pain.

The bad news is that, if you’re a religious believer, the chances are excellent you’ve done exactly that.

You almost certainly have non-believers in your life. While many of them aren’t public about it, around five to 10 percent of adults in the United States are non-religious. When they’re grieving — whether it’s a personal death or a public tragedy—they want and need comfort. But the standard ways of dealing with death are often religious. When these are offered to nonbelievers, they typically don’t help, and they often make things worse.

I’ve written before with advice about what nonbelievers what they want to hear when they’re grieving. This is the flip side of that coin. I reached out to members of Grief Beyond Belief (the online support group for grieving nonbelievers), as well as nonbelieving readers of my blog and Facebook page, and asked them to share the things they heard from believers that they wish had never been said.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 12 Things Not to Say to Grieving Nonbelievers. Check it out!

12 Things Not to Say to Grieving Nonbelievers

Permanent Struggle

Silhouette of protesters under banner

This is a chapter from The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. I wrote it at an upsetting time: writing it helped me somewhat, and I hope it helps some of you.

I’m trying to make peace with permanent struggle.

I’m trying to make peace with the idea that, in almost every struggle I care passionately about, I am going to live the rest of my life without winning. The day I die there will still be hatred of women, disgust for queers, contempt for black people, revulsion for trans people, pointless poverty, grotesque inequality, stinking rich people who don’t give a damn about any of it as long as they’ve got theirs. I’m trying to make peace with the idea of survival as victory; the idea of harm reduction; the idea that shoving the world into a slightly better place, even a slightly less shitty and unlivable place, is a form of winning. I’m trying to let go of the entire idea of winning.

I’m obviously doing a lousy job.

I’m trying to make peace with how much of our progress isn’t really progress, so much as it is digging our way out of a hole. So much of progress means alleviating suffering, righting inequalities, pushing back against bigotry and hatred and brutality, which should never have been there in the first place. So much of progress isn’t building something new: it’s building a level foundation. It isn’t adding positive numbers: it’s struggling to get to zero. I’m okay with the idea of permanent struggle — well, no, obviously I’m not, but I’m beginning to see okay on the horizon. I am profoundly not okay with how much of the struggle is such a fucking waste of time. Of course the work is worth doing: the foundation is wildly uneven, there are a fuck-ton of holes to dig out of. But we shouldn’t have to do it. We wouldn’t have to do it if we didn’t have a terrible history, and if people weren’t terrible so much of the time. I’m trying to make peace with how much we could all build, how high we could all climb, if so many of us weren’t digging out of these pointless, poisonous, unnecessary holes — and if so many others weren’t digging more holes, digging deeper holes, so they can live high on the pile of dirt and bodies. Continue reading “Permanent Struggle”

Permanent Struggle

Greta’s Podcast Interview with Chris Johnson at “A Better Life”

a better life logo

I did a podcast interview with photographer and filmmaker Chris Johnson, creator of the book and the film A Better Life.

We talk about the strange circumstances in which he and I met; how skepticism can help us cope with hard times; whether arguing about religion is valuable; the stages many atheists go through when they leave religion; how writing my new book (The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life) shaped my thinking about atheism; how my ideas about critiquing and mocking religion have changed over the years; why social justice is important for organized atheism; why the “mission drift” argument against intersectionality is bullshit — and who gets to define the mission in the first place; how atheist organizing is becoming decentralized; what I would say to myself if I could go back in time to when I first became an atheist (especially about mortality); and more. Check it out!

Greta’s Podcast Interview with Chris Johnson at “A Better Life”

“There is peace in being one more descendant of Sisyphus”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

There is peace in being one more descendant of Sisyphus, pushing that rock upward, passing wisdom and experience to the next generation of rock-pushers. There is peace in knowing that without our struggle, the rock would always be at the bottom, grinding people into the ground.

“There is peace in being one more descendant of Sisyphus, pushing that rock upward, passing wisdom and experience to the next generation of rock-pushers. There is peace in knowing that without our struggle, the rock would always be at the bottom, grinding people into the ground.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 27, “Permanent Struggle”)

(Image description: above text, juxtaposed above image of mountains)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“There is peace in being one more descendant of Sisyphus”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

“Loved it”: Bill on The Way of the Heathen

Way of the Heathen cover
I got a really nice comment from a reader, Bill Dauphin, about my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. I’m sharing it here with his permission.

“Finished listening to TWotH on my car trip home from DC Sunday. Loved it. Just to pick out one thing, I thought the analogy between sex and music was brilliant, one of those things that makes you say, ‘I never thought of it that way before, but now it seems so obvious!'”

Thanks, Bill! To others who have read/ listened to my book, I’d love to know what you think of it.

The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“Loved it”: Bill on The Way of the Heathen