The Mother of Gloom

My clash with depression and suicidal thoughts

As news of Robin William’s suicide played in the background of my hotel room, I reached to the small balcony contemplating the beautiful Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. From the 19º floor I looked down and let my brain work his dark tricks. Could I do it? Could I really jump down to the end?

Of course not. I don’t have the balls to do it. But so didn’t Robin Williams back in 2010, even putting the matter in the “What The Fuck” category of things. His balls eventually came around and last week he waved us goodbye for good.

I have considered suicide. Way too many times, for many more years than I can remember. Not constantly, but often enough that I am actually afraid of it. Not so much recently, but still more than any healthy mind should be allowed.

Every time I hear about the suicide of a prominent person, my head gets hijacked into the idea that I could possibly do the same thing. 

Immediately I want to know about the method. “How did he do it?”, I ask to whoever is breaking the news. Only later I start to reflect about the person, motives and struggles.

It’s like I am a lot more frightened of “how” I will do it than “if” I will do it. And that scares me too. Because no matter how much I am able to flirt with such dreadful outcome, I don’t want to ever face it for real.

Suicide thoughts are a common known product of depression, a disease that kills people like Robin Williams. Other people too.

It’s hard to explain to those who never dealt with such misery. I can’t even explain to myself when I am not desolated. If feels alien to anybody who enjoys even the smallest peculiarities of being alive.

Reading an article on this very topic I stumble upon this compelling metaphor by writer David Foster Wallace, who killed himself in 2008.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” — David Foster Wallace

To me, depression never felt like a force pushing me down or making me sad. Its presence is noticed only by the absolute lack of will to do or be anything. When I am down I don’t want to go out. But I don’t want to stay inside either. I don’t want to laugh or cry. Seat down or stand. Talk or be silent.

Most of the times, under acute melancholia, the only acceptable though is to not exist. For that, unfortunately, the answer seems quite evident.

To escape those plans I trick myself by remembering another version of me that has his shit together. That other self is well diagnosed, medicated and knows a lot better everyday. He’ll get things back on track.

If I could possibly leave anything close to an advice for fellows of the Gloomy Club - and I can’t - it would probably be along these lines: take care of your balanced self. He is your best friend.

So far, healthy me has managed to emerge from the dark and save the day - every time. May he always be there. Even in the unlucky prospect of some ball growing phenomena.

Mail Pilot still not the one to take Sparrow's throne

Mindsense has released Mail Pilot with an interesting approach to e-mail. Its goal is to leave you with a clean inbox at all times. Your mail is either dealt with, deleted or set to be taken care later. A very well planned "Getting Things Done" system.

Execution, however, is just not good enough. Specially if you are a Sparrow kid and is used to just seeing your e-mail workflow operate smoothly in a fast and reliable way.

Here are just a few examples of very annoying and sometimes alarming experiences you may face with the current version of Mail Pilot.

  • Ghost town: you navigate to one of your folders on Gmail only to see ZERO messages. Happened to me lots of times and it makes you jump to an alternative right away (which for me, is right back to Sparrow).
  • Slow mo: you reply to a message and you have to wait until it is sent to do some other action. In web based Gmail or Sparrow, sending mail is a background process and you don't have to wait for it to, say, archive a thread or move on to another conversation.
  • No moving around: when composing a message you can't drag peoples names and address around. That means if you want to change "Jesse" from the "To" field to the "Cc" field, you have to first delete him from one and type his e-mail again on the other. Very lame.
  • Sexy, yet overdressed: the whole interface, though running towards a very nice and clean state, still has lots of unnecessary information taking space and not doing much in return. A bottom bar, for instance, tells you about the main shortcuts for the app. That's cool, but eventually you learn them all by heart and there's no way to get rid of the bar. You just have to live with it.

Some of these might sound not that big of a deal (though some folks have reported frequent crashes as well), but if you already have a better experience, it makes no sense to make a move to something at least not as good.

I love Sparrow and can't believe after such a long time it was acquired and frozen by Google, nothing came even close to replacing it. I was very hopeful Mail Pilot would be it. Though it has potential, is not quite there yet. Anyway, I am hopeful.

Mail Pilot looks great and promises a lot. Still has some work to do, though. 

Mail Pilot looks great and promises a lot. Still has some work to do, though. 

12 years

It's my son's birthday. He turns 12.

When I was 12, my dad gave me a perfect replica of a red Ferrari, a 1956 860 Monza. All in painted metal, duplicating with extreme perfection each detail of the real car.

It was a ruby jewel that should have been kept under a glass dome. That dome should have been kept in a safe and this inside of an even safer safe.

On the list of things to do with a perfect replica of a Monza Ferrari, the last item is gifting it to a 12 year old boy.

The car, obviously, turned into a cheap toy on my little agitated hands. Small pieces were soon broken and in the first few months the thing was ready for collectible's heaven.

To this day I recall the red Ferrari, and agonize in pain, unable to forgive myself for breaking it, or my dad, for his complete lack of timing. I am almost 40 and still don't think I should have gotten a gift like that.

Infinite memories

All my childhood happened when I was 12. At least that's how I remember it. All my memories come from that age. Even those things that happened before or after it. To me, they were all from my golden 12, half 1988, half 1989.

At that time, I was already in love with many women. Not girls of my age. No. They never enchanted me. It was only the older and more mature that managed to catch my attention. Friends from my building, school and a handfull of teachers. To some of my crushes I even made the bold move of stating my clear intentions, which gave me the outstanding score of 100% in the broken heart category.

But it wasn't always bad. Once, during a camping trip with my family, my mom thought it would be a great idea to give me a proper and much needed bath in the ladies locker room. You know, kids are apparently allowed that (thanks, mom, for noticing).

I then had the most important, magical and poetically frightening vision of my entire existence. I saw two older girls, sisters, twins, with the most angelic faces. Showering together and smiling at that little boy with the chin fully attached to the ground. And that's how, my first ever naked women sight turned out to be a double pack. Thanks to my good mother.

From there to finding a bit more about my penis was a quick jump. Until then it was only good for peeing and that was already too much. I was always holding myself. You know, less pee time, more play time. Basic rule of life. One day, however, it asked for my attention and I gave it, providing myself with the most important of the joysticks.

It was also on my 12s that I discovered my absolute lack of talent for any sport. I was always the last one to be picked for any team of any game.

To play soccer I had to own the ball. That worked really well. From that time on I am always trying to own everything I can. If I have any entrepreneur talent today, that's because I suck at sports.

I was a permanent member of the cheering crowd. Learned to watch and broadcast. Years later I would graduate in journalism. Also a triumph of my athletic failure.

Fragrances of 12

Everything I try to remember from my childhood takes me back to 12 years of age. That's where I find my father smiling, feel my mom's lovely kisses and see the spaced out teeth of my young brother, lighting up his fat angel face.

I can close my eyes and hear the ocean, frequent guest of our family's vacation trips. I smell fried fish in the afternoon. I feel the salty tears that would come out of my eyes, for no reason, from time to time.

I see my grandparents, with their hats, weird habits and eternal sense of care for the others. They were beautiful, loved and full of life. Didn't want the time to pass. And they were right.

That was the ideal year to freeze time. And let everything like it was, forever. Me, with my 12 years, and the rest of the world existing solely for the happiness of everyone.

In my world, all of Earth's inhabitants were truly happy then. Except fro my dad's major mistake, no sins were committed between the winters of 1988 and 1989.

It's my son's birthday. He turns 12. I am giving him a perfect replica of a red Ferrari.

 © Rodrigo Bressane

 © Rodrigo Bressane

My father

I will write about dad. He's important to me and probably means very little to you. So, to avoid being bored, pretend I am writing about your dad as well. This is a letter about fathers. Mine and yours. As you read it, feel free to keep similarities while tossing disparities.

I am lucky to have a father. And if your old man is no longer around, you know about this a lot more than I do. I can, somehow, fantasize about what's like to lose him for good, but I can't know for sure. So, my honest respect for those of you who've experienced such loss.

My dad is a beautiful man. From his looks I got nothing but the pointy nose and some franciscan baldness. He saved for himself the blondish hair, oceanic blue eyes, a full golden beard and the ability to play the guitar by ear while singing in fine tune.

He didn't pass me along any mood related genes either. I've never seen him mad, screaming at my mom and siblings or emotionally unstable. He never cursed in front of me. Never fought in traffic. I am not even sure he knows how to use the car horn.

I also never saw him drunk. Probably because he quit drinking when I was around seven. Rumor has it in the glorious days of his youth my grandma had to cover his room with newspaper, "Dexter" style, just so he could return from his nights out and throw up like a bad remake of "The Exorcist".

He never lied to me. If he did, he was pretty darn good since I still haven't find out about it. The closest thing to lying he did was asking me to hold his cane during a fishing trip. The fish was already on the hook and he wanted me to think I was the one who caught it. I am still disappointed on that one - although his motives were all good.

He never taught me how to make money, but with him I learned to do everything in my power to never, ever go into debit.

He showed me, more than once, how to tie a tie in different styles. Didn't work. I still need Youtube on that one.

In many aspects, I am very different from my father. His only hero is Jesus. I start with Darwin and go on with a long list of antichrists. He loves God above all things. I regard the Lord as one of the worst things humanity has ever invented.

Dad and I are two worlds apart. He's got the looks and his assuring faith. I've got nothing but my everlasting ignorance and his pointy nose. Yet, he is my dad. He turns 63 today. And I love him like I never loved anyone.

 © Rodrigo Bressane

 © Rodrigo Bressane

New York and friends

Two weeks ago I was in New York. Me, my business partner Agê and three photos from the Skin, Ink and Light project, that I started with the great artist Luis Matuto. The pictures were selected for the History of Creative Exhibition, that took place at the Angel Orensanz Foundation.

The event was incredible. It was a real honour to be among some of the finest new names in photography around the world. The place was packed. Seriously. The line was going around the block and at one point even the cops were called in to control the some trouble. Nothing better than debut in New York with a mad crowd outside. You can read all about it at the Panda Blog (with photos).

That wasn't, however, the best part of the trip. Not even close.

This was the first time Agê and I left for an adventure as a team. We've both logged a fair amount of miles in the world map before, but not together. Not like this. Traveling as pals felt like we were teenagers backpacking. Except we are really old and would never backpack. Because, again, we are really, really old.

Anyway, getting to stay with Agê for 12 days was one of those things I will never forget. When we started as partners, about a year ago (I always get this time wrong), I knew we had a lot in common and our minds were very much in sync. This trip showed me our brains are a lot more paralleled than I imagined.

We had lots of fun in New York, working in some photo productions. For one, we shot the lovely Bruna Reis at the "Music Building", an iconic location where folks like Madonna, Billy Idol and Joey Ramone already stopped by for gigs.

In another occasion, we rented a small plane and flew over Manhattan for some aerial shots that came out insanely great. Just wait for that one.

New Yorker  © Rodrigo Bressane / Pandalux

New Yorker  © Rodrigo Bressane / Pandalux

On friendships

Now, the point of all I am writing, is not just to make public how much I care for my buddy Agê - and I do, in case you're still wondering. I guess I am trying to lay some thoughts about friendship, which is a topic I've always struggled with during the course of my life.

And I am not talking about day-to-day friendships, those that we make as we live and carry on forever. Those are all cool, but that's not it. I am talking about the real deal. That friend that you wouldn't probably die for, but you would think a little bit about it.

For most of my life, I have had very few of those. And if you think really hard, I bet you might come to the same conclusion. Today, however, I can count more of this kind of friend than I ever had before. Which is odd, since I am terrible at making friends, but even worse at keeping them.

Luck and merit

I remember the exact moment when friendship as a thing was born in my adult life. I was at home doing nothing when the phone rang. Daniel, one of these friends that I care a lot about today, was at the time just a guy I knew. As soon as I picked the phone up he invited me to go to his place with my family. My response couldn't be classier. I said: "why"?

In my head, there was no point in inviting someone over just for food, some beverages, chatting and having a good time. I needed an agenda. Some sort of official thing, like a birthday, or something. It wasn't the case. Daniel and Christian, already friends, were both inviting me just because they wanted to hang out. And so we've been hanging out for years now. And there I learned what's like to have a friend (and I got two).

I still don't know why they stick around. It could be just because of my hot body and caramel eyes. I still feel lucky about it.

MaxCDN is my choice for an easy to setup and affordable CDN solution

I first started considering a CDN solution when one of my clients' website started going down frequently due to heavy traffic.

I remember I had to do a series of server upgrades (all of them very costly, of course) in order to contain the traffic. They were all palliative solutions, though.

The simple fact that lots of people were consuming the content at the same time meant whatever I had in hand wouldn't be able to handle the heat, unless I payed a lot of money for a dedicated giant machine.ion

A friend of mine told me about CDN solutions. At that point I didn't even know what those were. And it turns out, it's quite simple and really, really useful. All huge players like Apple and Facebook use some sort of CDN solution. But CDN, as I discovered, Is not just for the big boys.

CDN stands for "content delivery network" and, as the name says, it solves the data load problem by spreading the traffic to many servers around the world, handing content to the customers from the locations that are closer to them.

This process takes all traffic from the original server and balances it out from mixed locations. The result is a data distribution with little impact and enormous performance.

MaxCDN was the first CDN solution I tried and I stick with it ever since. It's really simple to use. The guys over there offer awesome support and their tutorials make a no-brainer to set things up, even if you're not a tech guy.

In the case of my clients (at limehouse.me), most projects were developed in Wordpress. If that's your situation too, you're a lucky fellow! Setting up MaxCDN with WP is a breeze.

If you want to give it a try, here's a 25% discount code. I hope you like it.

Love and diamonds

I know nothing about love. Still, yesterday I celebrated 17 years of marriage and two decades besides the same woman. Romantic, you may say. For me, the biggest mistake in life. Fortunately, also the best.

20 years ago I decided to love. My motivations were all twisted. Got married as a kid, at 19, pressured by Darwin and the flames of hell, kindly presented to me by the faith of my folks.

But I was in love. Wrote letters, made incredibly long calls, caught late night buses. Once, I had no money for the fare and walked through the darkest and most dangerous places in town with a rose between my teeth.

My first gift was precisely this. We were still dating and I knew nothing better than a red rose. Ignored all other flavours. The red rose was, to me, the only one people used to make.

From there I never improved much. This one time I sent, by letter, a tiny sea shell. It was red. Reminded me of the rose and I took it would make a good present. It did. Though it reached is destination in pieces which she quickly glued together like a puzzle.

After a while I stopped giving presents (like I ever started). I didn't know what love was. Would I be romantic? Of course not. In a few anniversaries I even took her to McDonald's. A huge thing when you compare to the alternative: nowhere.

And it wasn't because I am cheap. I am not. And I've never been poor, in my pocket or my spirit. My anti-romance was exactly that. Lack of touch. Lack of love. Zero sensibility to see in the woman of my life what she already saw in me.

But I believe in compensation and yesterday decided to justify my 20 years of emotional deficit. I bought diamonds. For the neck. For the years. For the eyes. For the heart.

I still know nothing about love. I also understand very littler about diamonds. I just know one of them I can buy. The other, I hope for the next 20 years to keep trying to comprehend.

In the evening, we went out for dinner. She didn't want to eat. I got a Quarter Pounder.

Now, be romantic and comment below!

 © Rodrigo Bressane

 © Rodrigo Bressane

I met an Angel at the Apple Store

Note: If you are reading this and you are my wife, the following is pure fiction. For everyone else, its all true. It really happened exactly like that.

I met a real angel. The most beautiful girl I ever saw. And possibly will ever see another one like her. She wasn’t hot, sexy, tall, supermodel, nothing like that. She was even shorter than me and, if you know me, you know that’s really, really short.

Still, she had this look that made me freeze in time. As soon as I saw her I lost track of what I was up to. I also forgot my name and home address. I felt like everything in my body was paralyzed, except for my brain. Oh, my brain was in turbo mode. My head painted a dozen masterpieces that would put Van Gogh and his gang to shame.

Before complete solidification I saw her angelic profile. Her skin seemed soft like nothing I’ve seen before. Her eyes where of a vivid caramel tone. Almost yellow. Sounds freaky, but you were not there, so trust me on this one.

It was of devastating cuteness. Her nose was perfect. I doubt a sculptor could get it so right. Her lips were perfectly measured and probably coloured by the same painter living inside my mind.

And just as I was waiting for a pair of wings to appear from underneath her dress, she turned to my direction. I was already frozen, remember? So I did nothing. I could only contemplate with love, passion, respect and fear. Waiting to go blind at any second.

Then it happened. As if one miracle wasn’t enough, my angel ignored all laws of heavens and did the unimaginable. She looked at me. For half a second. But she did. And it was profound. Like she knew what that would do me. Those caramel eyes fitted me and I felt out of my body for half a second.

The angel left. And I was ready to die.

Too bad I didn’t. Now I have this memory to carry around. And the painful knowledge that I will never see those caramel eyes again.

 © Rodrigo Bressane

 © Rodrigo Bressane