Content warning: deals with suicidal ideation, suicide and depression
Crying while riding an exercise bike while watching The Sopranos is weirdly freeing. When lockdown came to Perth, I bought an exercise bike from an outlet warehouse, built it upstairs, cut myself on the cheap pocket spanner it came with, turned it towards the TV, and began peddling. I had just started watching The Sopranos for the second time, though for the first time with someone I love, who is, naturally, living on the other side of the world in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York New York.
They had never seen the show before, and were slowly being seduced by its contained world of malapropisms, malcontents, and melancholia. I tear up at car insurance ads these days, so make of this what you will, but as I peddled as we texted our thoughts on each ‘ayyyyy’ and ‘oh marone’ of season one, I was blindsided by an exchange between Tony Soprano and his ‘nephew’ Christopher Moltisanti where the two men—murderers, thugs, and bullies both—delicately discuss what Tony recognises as, and what Christopher can’t admit to, the spectre of depression and suicidal ideation.
‘I don’t know Tony,’ says Chris, ‘it’s like just the fucking regularness of life is too fucking hard for me.’
I broke down at that line and let the cascade of my pent-up grief wash over me.
The regularness of life is too fucking hard for me. The regularness that has been compacted and compressed by an ever looming global irregularness, pulling off the impossible trick of freezing us in an exhaustingly tedious stasis, while simultaneously throwing us into a frenetic cycle of pinballing chaos.
It is an odd time to be a depressive, or as Christopher cruelly (and tw: ableist languge here) calls us, a ‘mental midget’. At the start of the pandemic, it was a bit like being the grizzled one-armed drill sergeant, barking at a crop of green recruits, dacks freshly crapped. Every ‘sane’ person I knew was suddenly grappling with the paralysing horrors of existential grief, exhaustion, and yes, suicidal thinking. Here was me and my fellow nutjobs shaving our heads with a straight razor like pill-bloated Marlin Brando’s, ‘welcome to the jungle’ tattooed on my chest in the Valdoxan font.
Suicide, that black Palantir that sits in the tower of depressive thought whispering black speech to you day in and out, suddenly found itself struggling for attention in a sea of pie charts, bar graphs, and mass death. Its aren’t you glad we stuck around for this? smugness seemed to suddenly be in bad taste, especially as I watched it tap on the shoulders of those who had had gone unintroduced until this point, this point being global collapse on an ungodly scale.
How strange it was to have that very personal demon exposed as a cookie cutter dud. It was like when you are 15 and you befriend someone who plays bass guitar and think ‘oh wow, what a rare talent’, then suddenly you are 25 and you know 11 bass players who all live in the same share house and just the thought of a Fender Mustang makes your eyes glaze over.
Your own personal suicide, that sweaty-palmed insurance salesman constantly muttering in your ears about your ‘future directions’ and lack there of, has suddenly had his turf muscled in on by a million hucksters in the same shabby $10 Sears suit. And fellas like me, the perennial sucker up until this point, are now more equipped than most at pointing out the limits of this pyramid scheme, as we’ve had it pitched to us every day for most of our ‘100-seat convention room at the Traveller’s Inn’ lives.
When I say depressives are ‘more equipped’ than those new to woe, the equipment I’m referring to are the bear traps that we have ‘equipped’ to our hands, hearts, and of course, heads. I feel like I’ve been giving people a tour of a new apartment while bleeding out from the world’s deepest paper cut.
As the pandemic went on, I felt my goodwill slowly curdle into fatigue and, I hate to say it, resentment. A lot of healthy, abled, normallo types were suddenly acting as though they had been knocked down to our level, a harsh if humbling topple, even if it was one taken with a bungie cord secured to their ankles. When I took that jump with depression in my teens, it handed me an anvil, gave me a shove, and told me to wave at Hell as I zoomed past.
The pandemic has not been an equaliser in this sense, more of an accelerant. It has knocked everyone down hard, but us crazies a little harder. The difference for us is that we’re used to falling, what’s a little more throttle as you plummet towards oblivion? What’s another anvil? The more the merrier, so to speak.
That’s what’s so cutting about Christopher lamenting ‘the regularness of life’. Christopher’s life is not regular. He lives in a state of self-perpetuating violence, paranoia, self-destruction, and death. Earlier in that episode he shot a guys toe off at a bakery for looking at him cross-eyed—it’s this incident that leads Tony to ask Chris ‘RUOK?’. Paulie Walnuts asks Chris earlier in that same episode: ‘What’s wrong with you? This ain’t like you kid.’
But it is like him. That all invading all-encompassing violent death stalking dread is Chris’s regularness. It spreads to those around him as those without are suddenly drawn within. As a larger societal and global violence (9/11, the war on terror, the war on drugs, the mafia et al) cups that of his personal violence, Chris shrugs. ‘Where is my arc?’ he asks Paulie in desperation, not knowing that he’s in it, that it doesn’t bend, but loops. In that scene is my favourite exchange in a show that consists solely of ‘my favourite exchanges’:
CHRIS: Did you ever feel like nothing good was ever gonna happen to you?
PAULIE: Yeah. And nothing did. So what?
To Christopher, what question, that whisper in his ear, is regular.
Like a depressive—like myself—if it was suddenly absent things would seem irregular, and in Chris’s world and mine, that sorta irregularness smells like a rat.