Even Good Boys Feel Bad, Part 1
A phrase comprised of two words each obvious in meaning on its own but when combined form a concept of nearly superstitious mystery, so obscure as to rival that of even the most weirdly redundant of black metal terms or quizzical of slam grotesqueries. Guttural Engorgement indeed.
But what does it really mean? That is, at the end of the day when we hang up our trickle-down hard hats and rinse off our muck-raking boots, how is that a thing that enters our lives? How do we use it, how do we interact with it, how do we measure it? How are we guided, or misguided by it?
Truth be told, it may seem like it should be some kind of obvious trinket that someone would have a solid grasp of by now, but the majority of the public at large still treat mental health like a rare mythical beast or at the very least like some kind of medieval house gnome that needs to have superstitious offerings periodically arranged to placate its fickle needs. You all know how mad they get if you go one week without reposting vacuous infographic platitudes on Facebook, or even worse, if you fail to adopt the appropriate profile filter after one of the many lethal crescendos of toxic masculinity.
So today, we are going to roll up cerebral hemispheres and get our lobes dirty as we attempt to expose those trifling mind gremlins and feelings faeries for what they are, and coax them from the world of imagination and make-believe into the cold and hard reality that we all know and love or at least live inside somewhat begrudgingly.
That’s right, dear reader, in honor of my upcoming first visit with a therapist, you and I are going to sit down together, grab our favorite chew toy and a pair of headphones and take a mental health quiz as a group to try and exorcise those pesky spirits once and for all! Of course it’s just for fun though, we are all extremely robust and independent individuals here, certainly above average in every way, chock full of boot straps, minds of steel, wills of iron, pants of platinum, fight each other irl, getcha pull, etc.
So grab your #2 pencil, this link, and let us embark in style with our very own Custom Toilet Exclusive Playlist to get in the proper mindset for our impending Mental Funeral.
The first questions here deal with general issues of anxiety and worry, which kicks us quickly into high gear, much like the ridiculous amount of energetic riff-expulsion characteristic of any late-80’s Sepultura release. Their tightly-coiled strings and nearly frantic drumming a perfect accompaniment to an onslaught of incising questions on life’s worries. Let’s face it, anxiety questions are tough, not just because it’s easy to rationalize even the most excessive of worries as being rational but also because it’s hard not to get sucked in to answering the questions the way we think the ‘should’ be answered rather than being honest, but as tough as those questions are, the primal barks of a young Max Cavalera are even tougher so we lace up our big tongue retro sneakers with determination, throw caution to the wind and forge ahead.
As we brave our way into the questionnaire’s unknowns, we are slammed by a glut of radio buttons and sliding scales; enough to leave you stupefied in place, clutching your trembling temporal lobe with nothing but your own Defeated Sanity as comfort. As our Frenzy begins to subside, we venture into the sub-realm of anxiety-adjacent panic disorders, worries and concerned thoughts careening almost as frenetically as the dance of fingers flying over the distorted fretboard of technical brutal death metal. Incidentally, one of my music friends almost certainly has one of these*, including all of the unexpected elements and stark physical symptoms, to include the sudden jumps in heart rate, irregular heart rhythm, and even generating EKG readouts strangely reminiscent of Alcest‘s logo. The onset is both regular yet unpredictable, always jumping to the worst conclusions Against My Will, yet melodically casual and somehow expected.
One thing is for certain, and that is the near limitless talent we humans have for adapting and becoming accustomed to the darndest of circumstances, drawing all sorts of conclusions as to why things are happening to us along the way. And it is also far too easy to forget there is no such thing as a true average from which to easily judge subjective sadness or anxiety, because in one way or another, we are all frogs in one degree or another of boiling water and much more in tune with minor fluctuations than with the actual temperature, no matter how hot or cold.
Following these, the questionnaire takes a turn into giving a solid 15 questions on traumatic events. The topics are very genuine and the impact of trauma cannot be underestimated, especially with the wide range of disgusting atrocities humans are historically willing and even eager to endlessly perpetuate upon each other for the most petty and shallow of reasons, and while an impersonal online test like this one may not seem to be the most welcoming, there is something to be said for the ability for a small impersonal and seemingly innocuous test to provide someone the space they need to be honest with themselves, which is very rarely as straightforward as it sounds, and more often a path of Black Tears than a road of yellow bricks. If only that life path were half as soothing in its driving sense of purposeful harmony endemic to our very own Edge of Sanity.
Moving onward, we barely lift our heavy feet and plod over to our boudoir, and when we stand before our wall we gaze into the Mirror of Sorrow, confronted by questions of sadness and circumstance, in both Solitude and Aeturnus. Like many of the other questions, they can be both simple, subtle and sometimes eyebrow-raising, but in times of little clarity it’s important to take a moment and think about the meaning behind the question and what is it really looking for, because it would a pity to skew your own self-appraisal based solely upon an unfortunate grammatical choice or other minor technicality, lest we continue to squeeze blood from the futile stone in ignorance, certain that if we just adjust our grasp the milk of happiness can gush freely again, like the soar of bittersweet vocals or the melody of a floating guitar.
And of course it is only natural to follow up questions on our waning energy level and poor sodden memory with a volley of queries on Manic Depression, pushing and pulling, both driving and off-kilter at the same time. And while some of them may seem straightforward or even near ludicrous, it is equally important to recognize that in tests like these not every question is written for us, but that every question is written for someone out there, someone for whom what seems like a foreign concept to me is as natural and honestly accurate as it can be.
And finally, the boogeyman of parents and court systems everywhere; substance abuse. Much like how humans are good at rationalizing the situation they are in and their feelings relative to it, humans are also extremely good at self-medicating. Often what and how they choose to do so is extremely informative, as people with anxiety will generally pick substances that work contrary to their condition, depressed people will pick more high energy feel-good drugs, etc. Of course both will tend to use alcohol in excess, as well as other significant swaths of the general population of nearly every country. But also true in every country is that the smooth sounds of metropolitan soul are just down the block in a smoky den, where a rhythmically poetic voice echoes your thoughts and you wonder if It’s Nice Outside.
But what do you think dear reader? What were your results? What’s your mental health playlist?
Do you think my therapist will agree with my results? Or will they toss out the entire web page as hogwash and prescribe me a double dose of emotional bootstraps to be washed down by Monster energy drinks and wing sauce?
*An a purely anecdotal note and ongoing experiment, his symptoms have been greatly helped by CBD, which we will attempt to explore in our neurotransmitter article, coming soon!
Extra bonus thanks to Lady Snoot for giving this article a preemptive look over and ensuring that I didn’t accidentally create and send an articular train wreck off to publication!