Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Not even sure if I should post this, but I will anyway. At least it's not on Facebook.

I came out of my usual evening visit into my head space wanting to write this on my FB status page:
I'm alive, dammit.
Dammit, I'm alive.
Alive, dammit, I am.
I thought to write it and post it as a public thing, but then I decided against it. My eyes usually glaze over such declarations when I see other people do it on their timelines, especially when they come from friends who have a history of never following through with their declarations (though, thankfully, not a single one of my friends have written anything as dire). And I didn't want people who got the hint to be alarmed, or at least come to some conclusion without hearing me out. Social media has never been a good place for affirmations from the point of view of the clinically depressed. Which, I guess, why instead of actively engaging in the revelry I do the bare minimum of engagement and post pictures. That said, I wish I was like the majority of people there and was able to enjoy the party without feeling isolated and lonely and cast out and neglected, and etc., etc., etc.

That last bit is the kind of head space that I visit on a daily basis. It's one that's easy to get into once head to YouTube on my browser, as my mind shuts off as my eyes and ears are actively engaged to some semi-educational bit on SciShow. And it sinks even deeper once my taste and olfactory senses are engaged by the semi-regular order of pesto chicken pizza. And it gets into the darkest portions when my tactile senses are ravaged by the fire of open psoriasis lesions.

And what happens in that head space, at any depth, is somewhat mundane to me. I get the usual flashes of S-ideations: scenes where I meet some quiet end in the woods or in a bathtub or out in the desert. Then follows the catharsis as that scene plays through my head. Mostly, it's relief from the promise of being free from the pain of living. But, sometimes, it's an affirmation from a very familiar part of my psyche that says "you should probably do it, you know nobody's going to care after a few years anyway." And that affirmation feels really good because, for a long time now, I'm convinced that's exactly how it is. And hearing something that I believe to be true, even if it's a self-destructive believe, just feel fucking wonderful. It doesn't matter if someone is kind enough to tell me otherwise, because I'm very good at taking their kind words and rationalizing a way to disregard them. I'll do anything to preserve my way of thinking because it feels that damn good. I even feel like I'm willing to die for it (though at this moment, that has a certainty of about 12%, maybe 11%... my rational brain is in control right now).

I've conditioned myself to feel like I don't matter. I add on to the mythos when I stutter in conversation, stare blankly at a story I have to write for my group or my class, when I yell at co-workers in frustration, when I watch my weight rise above 230 lbs... again. At their face, these things don't seem to equate to proof that I don't matter, but to me they're examples of how I've failed to reach some potential that I should have achieved years ago. The fact that I'm still hitting these barriers after five, ten, fifteen years pushes me to a conclusion that I really don't want to make: that this is all that I could do in this life.

And I don't want to be content with my current station in life. I want to move beyond where I'm at and do something that I find more fulfilling. Unfortunately, that beyond is in the arts, and it doesn't pay the bills - especially my bitchin' psoriasis meds that I literally need to keep on living because lord knows if I want to live if I lose that (which I am actually at risk of). I don't know how I'm going to freaking deal with not sleeping for days at a time while itchy and open lesions are ruining 70% of my body.

Ahem. Which brings me back to the declaration that I wanted to post but didn't...

Even after all of that thinking, I get out of that head space and choose to go on. I've read some literature on depression that has encouraged to treat this choice as a heroic one. I don't feel like it is. Part of it might have to do with the fact that this choice is a regular one and maybe I've been desensitized to the point where I believe it's a so-so choice (much like those ideations that I presented as "mundane" earlier). Part of it is because that I know there are people who are suffering far worse than I am, and that the energy I'm spending worrying about my problems can be spent on a thought or a donation to those who need it. But even though I don't feel like it's a choice worth noting, I still had the urge to note it, on Facebook, to anyone who would hear it.

And yet I chose not to note it there.

Five years ago, a friend of mine killed himself. He wasn't a close friend before he died - he was just a guy I met at writing workshop. At the time, I was three months into SSRI withdrawls because of a snafu with my health insurance (my employer neglected to pay it) and was starting to form the suicide ideations that have now come to occupy my life. Another friend of mine from the workshop, who had taken his death very hard, wanted to talk to me about it, and so we spent some time outside of the Irvine Spectrum parking lot.

Now, my memory of this is a little hazy, which I totally blame on quitting anti-depressants cold turkey, but here's what I remember:

  • She invited me to a gathering of our other workshop friends to grieve over this loss, I declined. 
  • We talked about his suicide note, that she read it, understood it, sympathized with him - she asked me to read it, I declined, telling her that I'm pretty sure what the note would say. 
  • I said something to the effect of "nobody gives you a medal for living." That made her mad. She told me that I was inconsiderate of her feelings.
This is what I recall happened, and when you remove my internal thoughts from it, it makes me look like a terrible asshole. And, considering the conversations she's had with others in the workshop, it seems like that's the label I'm saddled with. But I had my reasons:
  • I declined to go to the gathering because I was in a terrible mental state. I didn't want to go there thinking "all of these people didn't think about him until he killed himself. Maybe he had the right idea." I recognize that THAT statement is very disrespectful, but in my depressed mind, that wasn't an insult - that was a permission... I didn't want to give myself permission to end myself yet.
  • I declined to read the note because I didn't want his words to convince me that suicide was the only way out of his position. If I did, then, I feared, it would only take a few more leaps in logic to convince myself that ending it is the only way.
  • I think the last statement I made was insulting because of what happened at the previous two points. I knew she was trying to reach out to me, to grieve with me, but I was resisting. I can understand how that can look to her and everyone else at that workshop, that I'm a jerk. But I still stand by that statement. 
I needed to say that nobody gives you a medal for living because it's true and I needed to hear myself say that. I've spent my entire life trying to seek validation for my existence: from my parents, my teachers, my girlfriends and my peers. That was the only reason why I kept on living, up until the point where all that validation went away, which was inevitable - I'm an adult now, I should find my own reason to live. But it's hard to find your own reason to live when you've been conditioned to think that you have to live for others. But I tried, and all of that trying has culminated in affirmations such as the one I said last night. And as bleak as it seems at face value, to me it's an assurance that I have to pat myself on the back for choosing to live, because the world sure as hell won't.

And so that's how the statement that I needed to say to stay alive also happened to be the one that insulted my grieving friend. I didn't think it would insult her as, at the time, it was a revelatory statement that brought me back to a normal head space after thinking about suicide throughout that conversation. But, I hurt her just the same, and I fucking hate myself for it.

So, I learned not to express terse thoughts like the ones in the beginning, at least when it comes to something I want to take seriously. I don't want to cause any trouble because I could see how bad it can get. So, I won't. Even if it kills me.

Which is why I'm glad I can hash it out long form on this blog. Thank goodness for that!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thoughts on This Morning's Bike Ride

This morning I rode my bike around the Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve. There is a trail loop there, and it took me about twelve miles and an hour a half to complete. Before I started, I shoved my bike in the back seat of my car, the front tire removed from the frame because it would be too wide to fit otherwise, and brought it over to a parking spot at the north-eastern most part of the trail. After parking, and screwing the front tire back on of course, I was on my way. 
I turned a corner before the trail dropped down to a steep grade. I took on that slope at full pedal, keeping in mind the backpack hanging behind me and my camera slung across my torso; bouncing against my side as I sped through the cool air of the morning. 
This was something that shouldn't have happened. It's the kind of thing that I would talk myself out of almost immediately. 
You can call it laziness. You can call it anxiety. You can call it apathy. I've considered any combination of the three at some point in time, but the end result was always the same: I stayed at home, stayed with the status quo of YouTube or Starcraft II, stayed blissfully inactive until it stopped being blissful: when pangs of regret or guilt or shame reminded me that, once again, I'm stuck in the same state of depressive inertia despite having told myself that I needed to do something about it. 
With enough iterations, that depressive inertia grows into depressive despair, and that's when the really bad things come out of my brain, telling me that there's no way out of this endless loop I'm putting myself to, that I am incapable of improvement, that I am useless, just like he had always told me. 
Here is the part where I'm supposed to say that it comes from the deepest part of my psyche, but in reality it's easily accessible. I imagine that, in the bookshelf of my consciousness, I have the Jonar is Useless book at the third shelf, easy enough for my 5'7" internal librarian to reach for at arms length.  
I won't tell you where I acquired this narrative, but I will tell you that I have nurtured it as much as a writer could. I have revised it endlessly, intensifying different parts of the narrative for every failure or milestone that I missed in my strange plan for my life. It has grown into a tome of self shit-talk, and I've made more than fifty copies of it for that psychic shelf. 
And when I play/read this narrative in my head, it's all overwhelming and drains me of so much energy. Sometimes I wonder if I stay inert because of exhaustion, rather than having been convinced that I am worth nothing to no one. I certainly don't feel that way on the good days, as few as they are. 
Thankfully, none of that happened this morning. This morning I went out for that ride, and it only took a small amount of effort to put that awful narrative away. Once I started off on my bike, practicing unsafe riding on the way by shooting my camera on the move, it didn't come back. My body was too busy being in motion. Though that motion is cyclical (yay, pun!), that physical repetition is a lot better for my soul, as opposed to the loop that always runs through my head on most other days.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Keeping to myself and keeping it simple

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve cut my Facebook activity to close to nothing. So far it’s been alright. It took me a little effort to keep from tapping the FB app on my phone. Sometimes I would slip and the app would start, but then I’d press the Home key before it loaded up. There are times when I take a quick look, but only because Facebook sends me notifications on my phone. Excited, I would check it out hoping that someone was trying to contact me, only to find out that was not the case. Thank you, FB, for trolling me. 

But then I close the app and move on. I don't think about it after that. I consider that a victory. 

The main reason why I’m keeping a low profile (ha ha) in social media is because it isn't serving my needs. I tend to focus on others, even above myself. I go out of my way to read status updates that comes my way. If I thought I had something clever to say, I would take the time to craft a response. I used to spend a lot of time doing this, even at work or in the place of other activities like reading, or cooking dinner, or laundry. Eventually this lead to sinks full of dishes and a really dusty room (thanks to my psoriasis flaking off) - resulting in a consistently bad mood. 

Neglecting my own ego was fine as long as I got likes and acknowledgements for the things I post. But lately those have dried up, in part to Facebook's tendencies to not broadcast my posts, and without a healthy lifestyle to fill the void (thanks to all that negligence)the lack of attention made me even more sad. 

So I decided to take a step back and be my own cheerleader for the time being. It may seem extreme to remove myself in near totality from social media but I had to shake things up a bit. It’s hard to break out of a negative mindset when you don’t know you’re in it. Pulling myself out of FB jolted me out of that sad reality and allowed me to look at things from outside that system. 

I’ll get into what I’ve been doing to with my time in another post. But for now, all I want to say is that I’m sticking to the basics. I need to focus on showing up to work on time, cooking my meals (instead of always eating out) and doing my laundry (instead of wearing the same shirt twice in a row). I will add more complexity to my life, such as writing projects, classes, and maybe even cleaning my apartment, after I can comfortably do the things that I need to pay rent and eat ramen.  

As I said last time, I stretched myself way too thin in 2014. I'm going to try to keep myself together this time around. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

A Nu Start

New post for the year. I'm going to keep it short because I think it'll be better this way. Plus it's the only way I can actually get anything done around here if I promise myself that this will be quick and painless.

What I want to do for 2015:

  1.  Pare down my life so that I have minimum responsibilities - I stretched myself out way too thin with commitments to writing articles and doing homework for writing classes. I found myself getting stressed out over assignments that I procrastinated on, which affected the way I handled the other aspects of my life. My apartment was in a perpetual state of dirtiness, and I kept showing up late for work because I didn't want to face the day with all that I needed to do. So I'm going to take it easy for a while, focus on work and my health. Maybe I'll find the energy to get more ambitious than that, but for now I'm not even going to think about it. It's gotten to the point where even dreaming is stressing me out. 
  2. I've disabled my Facebook account again and will probably keep it down for the year. Facebook has a weird effect on me. Almost all of my interactions with people have been through FB and any interaction I've had with them has been unfulfilling at best. It was making me very depressed, feeling like I'm alone and ignored on a platform that supposedly is made to keep me from being alone and ignored. Staying away from Facebook at least keeps things honest. I can be alone and ignored without the irony. 
That's it for now. This wasn't that short, but if I told myself that this post wasn't going to be short I would never have started. So, I had to lie to myself. And I guess I lied to you too.

Happy New Year.

[By the way, this is a respost from my other blog at jonarisip.com. If I make any more new posts you'll find them there. I might as well make use of the website, considering how I paid for it and all.]

Update 1/5/2015

  • I've reactivated my FB account, but only so people who don't have my phone number can message me. I figured it would be unfair to them that fall off the face of the earth without any warning. I'm still not checking messages or posting though - so I'm still staying away from Facebook.

  • I still have an audience on this blog, so I've decided not to make it more complicated by moving over to my website. So all new posts will show up here. I'll just have to figure out a way to use my Squarespace account outside of blogging.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tanka 8

A small girl walks,

with hands cupped, to a small bird

that then flies away -

it remembers the hurt

from girls and boys of the past.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tanka 7

no time for tanka
I say as I think of chores
and sit by my desk.
dishes and dinner can wait,
I just made time for tanka

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Few Thoughts on a Recent Bout of Loneliness

My dog laid on my couch as he watched me pack my things. He had his legs tucked underneath him and, with his fur spread out to his sides, he looked like he sank into the couch cushions. He knew the score, I was leaving again. I guess, in contrast to his usual, hyper-active jumps and trots, he opted for this motionless stance, his attentive eyes betraying an otherwise still body. 

Leaving my parents house after a visit is something that I really dislike. I never liked how sad my dog seems, even though I only live in the next county and I am able to see him often. But that is also something that happens all the time, and none of those times have left me sad for long. At least until now.

Maybe it's the fact that today is Christmas, but as I pulled away from my parents house and drove onto the freeway, I was faced with the strong sense of loneliness. I didn't have anything to help me deal with it: no dog, no television, and no radio (my car radio having been dead for a few years now). I didn't even have my phone near me so I could play music off of it. I had no distractions; just the steady, stinging sensation of loneliness.

It's an awesome feeling to be sure. That stinging sensation lived in my core, but the energy from that moved throughout until it seemed to hover around my body. It was an aura so thick that my mind couldn't stop obsessing over it. I knew that it was a need easily fixed by being near another person, but nothing like that was available to me and could not be found at this moment. Mulling over that thought just made the emotion more present. It's a feeling so awesome that it hurt.

My reactions to this were complex and varied in intensity. At the least, I wanted to see my dog, my parents, a friend, or perhaps go to a bar and talk about random crap over a mug of beer. At worse I thought of death, which caused my mind to spiral through memories of depression, which followed with constant reminders of strategies I have used to overcome them. Ultimately, I quickly reminded myself that death would kind of mess up the act of living, which is the reason why I am able to think about all of this in the first place.

It still sucks, though, and there's really nothing I can do or say to change that at this moment (somehow, the mechanical keyboard I'm typing with isn't exactly hug-able). I'll be able to cope later by looking at cats on YouTube or playing a little guitar. Hell, even writing this post has done much to take the edge off. But it's still going to be there for a while and I guess that's okay. Like the old ass cliche of being pinched to see if you're awake, having loneliness crop up is a prickly way of reminding me that I'm alive. It's just another thing that I'll take in as experience. And cherishing experience is something that I am ready to do now.