Welcome back, internet denizens! Both of this week’s questions touch on feelings of abandonment, albeit in pretty different forms.
First, we address what to do when you wake up one day and realize all your friends now have out-of-state plates. Then we delve into how to negotiate the emotions surrounding a bandmate starting a new group without you. I have strong opinions on both these topics. Let’s get into it.
Losing my friends
Dear Eve 6 Guy,
About a decade ago, I started a mental health recovery process and decided to work hard on my relationships. I ended up with a dynamite group of friends, and I strove to support them through various growth stages and life crises. When COVID hit, the group started to fray at the edges, and at this point, all of my closest friends have either moved away or are planning to do so in the next few months.
I recently realized that I have really centered my life on these friends and spent little energy and effort on myself. At first, this realization seemed like a good thing: Maybe it’s time to step out and work on my own life, create something new for me.
The problem is that rather than adjusting and doing my own thing, my energy seems to have simply disappeared. I’m so depressed that I can't get anything done. Everything feels pointless and empty, and when I think about moving forward, I just feel sick over the loss of my best pals and sink deeper into grief and isolation.
I worked hard to surround myself with this group of people, and that’s just gone now. I don’t feel up to rebuilding, and I’m afraid that if I do, everything will just collapse again. Help?
—My Friends Are Disappearing
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi My Friends Are Disappearing,
I relate to this. Let’s start there. I relate to this bigtime, and a lot of people reading this are going to, too. What does that tell us? This feeling of separateness and isolation is shared. I didn’t go to college, but I think this might be verging on a paradox.
Four of my best friends, including my guitar player, moved to fuckin’ Austin during quarantine like a bunch of clichés. I’m allowed to give them a hard time for it because they left me here all alone, and I, like everyone who has ever slung a guitar, have attachment issues.
I also suffer from depression. I used alcohol to treat it for a long time, and then alcohol didn’t just stop working but started to make the lows lower by fathoms. So I had to quit drinking and figure out what to do with this voice in my head that wants me dead.
Let’s talk about clichés for a second in a less adversarial context. We’ve all been trained to be highly suspicious of them, and for good reason. They are often employed cynically by charlatans to sell books and run for office and stuff. I’m just going to ask that you attempt to hear what I’m about to say as if for the first time, free of any associations, and truly appreciate its meaning: You are not alone. That’s right, you are not alone in your feeling of loneliness.
Every incentive of modern life would have us retreating into a (world wide) web of solitude. For those of us who suffer from depression, this can be catastrophic.
Atomization is epidemic. Every incentive of modern life would have us retreating into a (world wide) web of solitude. For those of us who suffer from depression, this can be catastrophic. I say this with the realization that there are those for whom the suffering is far worse. You can count on this being true for you, too.
This, in and of itself, should not make you feel better. You would be a sociopath if the mere fact that other people experience more suffering than you cheered you up. No, it is only useful to realize this in that it exposes a sly characteristic of depression, which is that your suffering is yours alone and not collective.
We’re going to hover in the realm of the intellectual for a minute more before we get to the practical, AKA the what to do about it. Here’s another useful cliché: You can’t think yourself into a new way of acting, but you can act yourself into a new way of thinking. This is both true and not. Sometimes doing a bit of thinking by way of challenging the prescripts of your depression can help get you to the “act” part, which can literally change your mind.
For example, your depression will tell you that a particular thought and its attendant feeling in the body are “unbearable” while you are literally bearing them. Lie exposed. It will tell you that it is not possible for you to take any action while you are so afflicted, and this too is a lie. Touch your nose. You just took action. And you didn’t need the pain to go away before you did it.
I’m not sure how a therapist would feel about this next bit, but I’m not a therapist. I’m the Eve 6 Guy, and you get what you pay for. Get mad. Your depression isn’t you, it’s a black-robed reaper from hell, and it’s time to take off the gloves and box the motherfucker. The way to hurt your depression is by taking counterintuitive, seemingly impossible action, and I want you to get pissed enough that your desire for vengeance provides the willingness to do so.
Depression robs us of all that is worthwhile in life. It is a despot in the mind, a petty tyrant that wants us to grovel at its feet. It tells you lies, like “I [depression] am too powerful for you to live according to your values while I persist” and “You need to feel better before you can do a thing that will make you feel better.” You are through capitulating to its demands. Fuck this guy called depression — you’re going to take away their power.
You’ve been in a similar place before and proved that you have the requisite strength to do what’s good for you despite your feelings. And you can do it again.
As you seemed to suggest in your letter, you’ve been in a similar place before and proved that you have the requisite strength to do what’s good for you despite your feelings. And you can do it again. You can act in spite of your negative thoughts and feelings, and by doing so you will render your depression fundamentally impotent. If it can’t affect what you do, what power does it really have?
Get out of bed and into the shower. Get dressed and hurl yourself out the door. Walk. You don’t need to present as normal to anyone. You don’t need to have the right face on. You don’t have to not sob, even. Just walk. At least one lap around the block.
When you get back home, get a pen and a piece of paper and at the top of the page write: Things That I Could Do To Find Community If I Were Mad Enough at My Depression to Be Willing to Do So, and I Am. Underline it. Then think of some stuff and write it down. It could be volunteering to help feed homeless people in your area or joining an activist group or taking an art class or joining a book club or a swim team.
Depression is a disease of self, and the solution is to get out of self. I misunderstood this for a long time, thinking that being depressed meant I was selfish. Then I’d throw guilt on top of the depression. But to put it more accurately, depression is a disease of an illusory sense of self. It’s quite literally not you, so you can’t even really take credit for it.
Pick one of the items on your list and follow through. Make the call or sign up online or whatever. When it comes time to do the thing you picked, you will probably experience a strong resistance toward doing it. That will be your depression talking. Play these thoughts on a loop if you have to:
- I don’t have to feel good in order to do this thing.
- I don’t have to present to the people I meet as happy or comfortable or as if I’ve got it all together. I just have to show up.
- Taking this action will hurt my depression, and I am in the business of hurting my depression.
I haven’t done this before, but I’m going to ask you to send me another letter once you’ve done the above. I want you to be accountable to me, at least for the time being. (If things get really bad, you should of course seek help from a trained professional.) Let me know how it goes.
The Eve 6 Guy
Dear Eve 6 Guy,
You probably understand dealing with band bullshit better than most people. I’ve been playing in the same band for 20 years. One guy basically ran the show. Let’s call him Adam. Adam wrote the music, booked the gigs, chose all the covers, etc. All of us in the group were friends. We had no trouble getting along and hung out together outside the group.
About six months ago, Adam started emailing musicians looking to put a new group together. Meanwhile, he emailed us and told us he was considering quitting our band, never mentioning to us this new group he was putting together. We found out when other musicians in the area started asking questions why our band that had been together for 20 years needed so many “replacements.”
I'll spare you the fucked-up details of how Adam has dodged our questions and lied to us — there are a lot of them — and get to my point.
Adam basically fired his band of 20 years and did not have the balls to tell us. I was going to just let this go until there was an article in the local paper about his new band. In this article, Adam says he told us what he was thinking and feeling. Everyone and their mother who read this article has asked me why we all quit, and I have a difficult time explaining what actually happened without sounding like a whiny bitch.
I’ve helped Adam move, and I’ve helped him fix stuff at his house. I was at his bachelor party. I thought he had more respect for me than this. If he can't be bothered to tell me what the problem is, I can deal with that. I can deal with him not being man enough to tell me I’m out of the group. However, when he lies about me and the rest of the group in the newspaper, I can’t deal with that.
How would you approach him about this if you were in my shoes? And how would you deal with all the questions everyone else has about why the band doesn't exist anymore?
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi Dumped Bandmate,
Bands are so funny. I guess by funny I mean strange, and by strange I mean totally predictable.
I’m not convinced that the personal dynamics of a band occur anywhere else in nature. It’s a group of people who enter into a relationship and spend inordinate amounts of time together to the point that they become intimately acquainted with the character deficiencies and annoying idiosyncrasies of one another with no promise of financial gain — and, in fact, more of a promise of financial loss.
I mean, it’s beautiful. Bands are beautiful and skull-rattlingly frustrating. To be in one for any length of time requires death-defying levels of patience and tolerance, and this is why most bands don’t last very long. Twenty years is a very long run. If your band were a human, it’d be a centenarian, so congratulations. Seriously, that’s a feat.
I fear that I may be about to tell you the opposite of what you want to hear. I know that when I have had issues with bandmates in the past and have gone to friends for “advice” what I really wanted was permission. Permission to be mad — to have my righteous anger validated in some way. I’m not going to do that here.
Although your singer may have gone about all this in a shitty way, I read the article in question, and I don’t see what he’s done as firing his whole band. In fact, he says that he didn’t see any reason why the band couldn’t keep going without him. A band’s currency is its name. If you’ve been a band for two decades, you get hired for gigs because people know the name of your band. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like what your erstwhile singer is doing is starting a new band with a new name.
Instead of choosing to feel angry at your ex-singer, let yourself feel sad about it.
When our old drummer parted ways with us, we gave him a percentage of the income we made from touring because he had helped build the name. It doesn’t sound like your guy is asking for that. It sounds like he just wants to be free to do something new, and even though that might be disappointing to you, he has the right to do that.
There is nothing preventing you from hiring a new singer and playing the material that your old singer wrote. You understandably might not want to do this, but it would be within your rights, and bands do it all the time.
It sounds like what you really need to reckon with here is your disappointment. In the answer to the previous question in this column, we talked about the utility of purposefully transmuting depression — which here I will refer to reductively as sadness — into anger. I’m going to suggest that you do the opposite.
Instead of choosing to feel angry at your ex-singer, let yourself feel sad about it. It’s a reasonable reaction. You shared a thing together for two decades. Allow yourself to mourn it without trying to switch to blaming him because it feels more comfortable.
You can’t keep an artist in a box. Ask yourself what you want from him. Do you honestly want him to stay in the band if he would rather not? That doesn’t sound like it would be good for anyone involved. You’d be asking him to fake it. That would be him selling himself, you, and the ticket buyer short, wouldn’t it?
You’re sad, and that’s okay! Let yourself be sad, and that will facilitate closure. Then find a new singer who’s better than your old one and make the former dude rue the day he quit.
The Eve 6 Guy