Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How The Black Cloud Works

I've lost a few friends to The Black Cloud.  Several more of my friends are currently involved with The Black Cloud, against their consent (though they're fighting it).

The Black Cloud is a sneaky bastard. It is insidious.

         causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed
a :  awaiting a chance to entrap :  treacherous
b :  harmful but enticing :  seductive
a :  having a gradual and cumulative effect :  subtle
b of a disease :  developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent
Life in the Black Cloud can be as normal to you as is water to a fish. It's what you know. It's what you've always known.


Here's one way the Black Cloud works.

Early on, in the beginning of your unwanted relationship with The Black Cloud, sunny colorful days are punctuated with periods where the colors are not as vibrant as they usually should be. A bit of faded gray, everywhere. Feelings are dulled, less interesting, less felt. The first words are whispered in you mind by the faded, gray thing around you: "Oh, who cares?", and "It is what it is...", and "Why bother?".

After a few days, or weeks, perhaps the gray lifts, and colors are as colorful and music is as musical and experiences are as sensual as before.

The Black Cloud returns. A darker shade of gray this time.  And the whispers in the back of your mind become more specific. "Remember that thing you did to your best friend when you were seven? That was a horrible thing to do. Horrible. They can't ever forgive you - who would? What kind of person does such a thing? Well. You. And you're a horrible person".   And, "You're not able to do this. You're not qualified. You suck. Look at these people - they all know what they're doing. And when they find out you don't? That you're faking? You're done. They expect so much more of you, of everyone, and you'll let them down. Why bother? Save them the suffering, and just stop. Stop."

Coffee loses its taste. Sleep is peppered with the Black Cloud, reminding you of everything you haven't done. Everything you can't do. The wrong thing you said at that meeting yesterday. You know they're going to fire you. The book you're writing will never be sold. No one cares about your crappy work. The music you wrote today is crap, no one will listen. The bowl you threw is lopsided, what's the point of completing the mugs? No one will attend the gig on Wednesday. You're not even good enough for a Friday, that's how much you suck.  Those people are lucky. You're not lucky. You're not working hard enough, you're sure they're going to let you go.  That thing you said when you were ten years old? For fuck's sake, no wonder nobody likes you.

For some, wine or beer or whisky or vodka dilutes the voices to a warbling, filtered drone. There's no taste in the stuff.. only an eventual haze.  Until tomorrow, when you feel like someone emptied the contents of a hotel-vacuum-bag into your skull. The Black Cloud whispers, "You suck. You drink when everyone else is living a life, and working. What's wrong with you? By the way, drinks are at 4pm".

For a long time, The Black Cloud varies it's shade of gray. Some days, less gray than others. But the messages are constant: "You suck. You're a terrible person. No one can stand you. You're not talented. You're not funny. You can't write. You can't run a company.  All of those people who buy your music, your books, your art, laugh at your routines, cry at your performance, give you money for your company or your product? What the hell are you going to do when they find out the truth? The truth that you have no idea what you're doing. You're not funny. Your music is terrible. You company will fail. You can't do it.  Why (says the Black Cloud), are you leading these people on?  What the hell is wrong with you?"

"When people compliment you, it's a lie. And you know it. They're just trying to be nice, to be kind. They pity you, really.  The people who criticize you? They're right. They're always right.  They're the honest ones. The know-nothing high-school kid who says you suck as a guitarist despite your 40 years of constant practice, hundreds of thousands of sales and fantastic fans? He's right. You know he's right. He just knows something that everyone else, whom you're fooling, do not."


The Black Cloud keeps at it.  Eventually, its visits are not intermittent. It's hanging around, all of the time.  It says, "You don't need all of these emotions, you greedy asshole.  Keep sadness, anger, frustration, loathing. Those are emotions, what are you complaining about? There's no budget for happiness, joy, ecstasy, or pleasure for you. Libido? What for? Who says you deserve a libido? Like someone will love you enough for you to use it? Please. Go do something amazing, and then maybe you can have a libido. You have to work for it, you have to deserve it. And you do not.  And don't complain. I'm leaving you some emotions, aren't I?"

Eventually, there are no emotions. And then, when this happens, the Black Cloud has you. It's no longer about feeling low, about feeling sad, or feeling angry. It is now: There is no feeling.

All colors are clear.  All sounds are dull. There is no melody. Art has no meaning. Work is futile. There is no emotion. No sadness, no joy, no passion, no anger. Nothing.


"Don't be sad", they say.  You're not sad, you say.

The Black Cloud, no longer the occasional visitor, no longer an increasingly less faded shade of gray, is now here, around you, and it is black.

The voice in your mind (it's your voice. Your one, true, wise and correct voice) is constant: "You suck. You're terrible. Nothing you say is right. You're worthy of nothing but derision. No one can love you. You can't do anything. There is no point. Someone else will just take credit. You can't do it.  You're not ready. You don't work hard enough. You don't practice enough. You missed those notes in your performance. That shade of blue was laughable and wrong.  They are laughing out of pity. No one is telling you the truth, except for the harshest critics. You are a worthless, useless human being. No one will help you, so don't bother asking. You're just getting in their way, being a burden to them."

And one day, sometimes after decades of hanging around unchallenged, it says you're not even worthy of being a human being.

The Black Cloud has you.  It convinces you.  It says, "You don't feel desire because you don't deserve it. You don't deserve a bath with a sexy partner. But a bath with a loaded rifle is a good idea. And it'll make an easier cleanup for your friends. You don't want them to think you were a slob."

It says, "You're not funny. Never were. All those people laughing? What do they know.  This has gone on too long. There's nylon rope in the shed, and the beam in the dining room is strong. Can you think of a reason not to?"

It says a different thing to different people, and eventually narrows their focus to one thing: nothing. The means are all different, but the end is the same. The Black Cloud has won.


If you're struggling with your own Black Cloud, get some help. A psychologist or psychiatrist who's good and who has experience in treating depression is a great start.  The probability is high that you're a creator of some sort: musician, artist, writer, comedian, actor, etc.  Keep creating, keep working, and get help. You didn't ask for this, and it's not your fault any more than it would be getting cancer. If you had cancer, you'd get some professional help! Right? And so with depression.

Note: Before anyone gets worried, I'm fine!  This isn't a cry for help, or some cryptic message. It's just my way of discussing the problem of depression.   Really, we're good here!


  1. Jason, that was fucking brilliant. Absolute genius. I don't know where this came from within you, but this is sheer poetry.

  2. Thanks Jason, the Black Cloud has been in and with me most of my days. Been there, done that. It's true there is help, yet even with that help there is still time that gets gray, thoughts that creep in. Like you say, it's good here, and equally as you say, keep on with the creation.