Stink or swim

I woke up this morning in the same mental space as yesterday.

I drifted in between tasks, trusting in routine to get me to work. Zoning out and kind of dissociating, I caught my bus, transferred to the train and stood there, hazily noticing my forlorn reflection in the train’s window. I was lost, just totally gone. Not there in the slightest. Then I felt something. I didn’t hear it, but an unfamiliar sensation slipped out. I farted. It smelled noxious. Just a rough and tumble dropped guts. Brutal. My features stayed neutral, but something stirred beneath. I felt my skin, came into contact with my body. I noticed a couple of people looking around, narrowing their eyes. I stayed silent. I also stayed present, in the moment in all facets. The all-encompassing dread that’d inhabited my total being couldn’t hold court against that kind of injunction. I was myself.

Then the moment passed and I felt myself drift back into the aether.

I’ve been on and off today, as I expected. For the most part though, I’ve been better than I’d hoped. It helped running into a friend in the kitchen at work today, pushing away the gloom for long enough to get a tenacious hold on things. I’ve had distractions, which have all done their part. I dunno, dumb shit like wondering whether it’s an insult or not to say that a dead DJ was “spinning in their grave”. Sometimes that’s enough.

I was thinking about a good way to make this all understandable, what it feels like when I’m in a rough patch and trying not to constantly dissociate. Have you ever tried to fix your posture? You’ll force yourself to sit up straight, then five seconds later you notice you’re slumping again. So you’ll force yourself to straighten again, then slump. The cycle repeats ad infinitum. When I’m depressed to the point where my grasp on reality suffers, it’s because it’s hard to retain that grasp. I’ll notice that I’m in a regressive, negative thought spiral and try to push back towards positivity. It may help for a matter of seconds, then I notice I’m right back in the mire of negativity. I try again to think of nice things and maybe I do, which helps briefly. So I keep trying, and it keeps getting harder to get back there. So most of the time I stop trying and just give up. Occasionally it helps, and my mental posture is effortlessly solid. Or something dumb will knock me out of it (like the aforementioned fart) and I’ll wonder why I was so densely sad. So often though, it doesn’t and that’s okay. Much as it sucks to feel that way, I never tell myself that I’m wrong for it. I’ve at least gotten rid of personal stigma against depression and I think that’s far healthier than judging myself for it. It’s just a part of me and accepting that is pretty damn important, oddly enough, for my own mental health.

I guess that’s about what I was trying to say. I’ve got no real intention of turning this into a dedicated depression blog, but at the same time my goal here is to never be anything but honest. Depression may be a part of me, but dishonesty isn’t.

If you’ve read this for any length of time, however, you’ll know that toilet humour most definitely is.

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In other words, a coping mech and isms

Hi. Hello. How’re you doing? Me? Not well. Thanks for asking.

It’s gonna be one of those. “Those”, y’know? Hours, days, weeks, months kind of deal. I’m in a place and I don’t know where that is, but it’s not a bundle of joy, bunch of fun or barrel of monkeys. I’m in one of my ebbs, while I wait for the tide to bring me back to shore.

That’s all very cryptic, so let’s put it in plain terms. I’m depressed. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I’m in a rut where I’m having trouble with many, many things. It’s not a singular aspect of my life that’s shaky, it’s a culmination of factors, a couple of which I’ve probably never considered. It’s tangible things like being unfulfilled at work, unsure of the future, worried whether I’ll get there and what shape I’ll be in if I do. It’s also less tangible stuff like feeling rudderless and disappointed, hurt and without motivation. A general ennui that fluctuates between absent and all-consuming.

I think there’s a general public perception that depression means an inability to get out of bed in the morning. To not know how to do dishes or brush your teeth. That’s not how depression presents for me. I have no issue completing tasks. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to get out of bed or I’ll be AWOL for work without explanation. I’m not worried about failing to eat, or dishes piling up. I can be depressed and functional. I might just not be there all the time.

Depression, as I experience it, means having trouble being present. It’s a fundamental disconnect between action and true understanding. I space out for periods and lose purpose. I can see the logic of what I’m doing, but there’s no link between the act itself and my desires or objectives. I stop living because I want to and instead live out of obligation. I go to work because logically I know that I need money to stay alive, to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach, but not because I can understand why I would want any of those things. I can do my job in a technical sense, but not because of any investment in the outcome. People need the work done, it’s my job to do it, so I’ll make it happen. I eat because logically I know that without food, my body would die. I know that there are times at which I’d regret that, so I eat out of obligation to my future self. I’ll still go to the gym, because I’m aware that it’s best for my physical and mental health to keep that up. I’m aware that depression isn’t all consuming either at the time of depression, or in other periods of my life to follow. It makes sense to continue with upkeep, so I don’t stop. I know that I need to do these things to sustain myself, I just don’t care that I am.

When depression strikes me, the hardest thing to deal with is time. Time keeps happening. There are so many hours every day to fill and they’re just gonna keep existing. I’ll keep performing the same activities whether depressed or not, but I don’t connect to them as I otherwise would. I’ll listen to comedy and realise that things are objectively funny or entertaining, but I won’t laugh. I’ll read articles, but feel emotionally unaffected. I’ll constantly refresh my Facebook wall and see my friends’ posts, but be unable to overcome this chasm of disconnect. I won’t be doing things because I want to, I’ll do them because if I don’t, time will continue to tick away and it’ll take even longer to do so.

The short way of saying any of the above is that I go on auto pilot. I’ll keep living, but I’m not there. I feel numb, like I’m unmoored from my body. Like I’m piloting a big machine that exists independently of myself. I lose all sense of purpose. It’s not that I want to die, but I don’t want to be alive either. I think, therefore I am, with no idea why.

The thing I want to drive home is that it’s not an absolute. I’ll come back for minutes, hours, days, or weeks. All different increments at times beyond my control. Maybe I’ll hear something that brings me back for a time. Or I’ll exercise and physically feel in my body. Or I’ll hear a song and cry for some inexplicable reason. Or I’ll write, read what I’ve written and find resonance. Then I won’t. There’s no pattern.

So this may be one of those, or it won’t be. I’ve got no way of telling depth or length from this vantage point. I’ll keep checking in every day. I’ve booked in my introductory session with a new OHIP supplied therapist, so hopefully that gives some traction. Things will blow over. Then they’ll be back. And that’s okay. I’ll still be here.

I might just not be here.

I’m obviously in a mid life crisis. What else would explain the Roboraptor?

What do I do, folks? Where do I go from here?

Of course I’m meaning both in the sense of this entry and my wider life. I’m kind of brickwalled right now. Everything outside of my job is fine, but that’s holding everything else back. It sucks, but I’m getting increasingly tired of being miserable all the time for no good reason. Being unfulfilled in my work seems a trite reason for that to leech into the rest of my waking hours, but I guess it’s important to me deep down. I’ve been indoctrinated into a mindset where the thing I do to pay my bills has some relevance to my self-confidence. If I don’t feel like a useful, productive person in the eight to ten hours I spend under one roof five days a week, it makes me question everything else.

Yet again, that sounds dumb right? At the same time my brain chimes in with a what form of integrity do you have if you’ve been seeking a change for several years and haven’t made it happen? It subconsciously erodes the value of everything else because it all seems connected. Being uninspired at my desk for an absurd amount of waking hours makes the past few years kind of seem like a waste. What have I done outside of maintaining the status quo. I’ve had a cluster of tiny personal projects that don’t feel like a substantive mass when they’re gathered. I’m not saying that I haven’t done anything much outside of work because of work, but it doesn’t help.

In an ideal world, this pervasive ennui would be enough to ignite a fire under my arse. Oh, you’re bored at work? Why not funnel the lack of creative output into creative pursuits? On paper, that works. In reality, the lack of meaningful output makes it harder to summon the energy for creativity. It’s draining, day by day. At this stage I’m coming home exhausted with little enough spark to make dinner, let alone anything worthwhile. It’s gotten to the point where weekends have become this little oasis because I can take a vacation from who I am during the week. Well, that’s kinda uncharitable. It’s not that I hate who I am during the week, it’s that I find it increasingly challenging to get in touch with myself underneath the layers of disillusionment, fatigue, anxiety, disappointment, discontentment and other chaff. This one thing is bringing everything else down with it. I feel tethered to aiming low and it’s killing my ability to look beyond. Like I’m tightening up all my muscles defensively and feeling confused when it affects my mobility.

It’s been years of giving myself little pep talks, telling myself I can do better and failing to deliver. I’m quite sure that motivation isn’t an infinite resource. Time’s marching on. My brain and body are depleting with each passing year. My ability to move with the flow is stagnating. I desperately want to find direction before I’d even think of bringing a kid into this world. If I’m not happy with who and where I am, I’ve got no business burdening an innocent child with the ramifications of my personal baggage. What a way to prematurely stunt their growth. I think at the core of it too, I’m not ready to adopt the level of selflessness being a parent would require. If I’ve been thinking of myself for this long and still not managed to get anywhere, what chance would I have of finding where I need to be when I don’t have time to think about myself? That’s a surefire way of breeding a spectacularly effusive resentment. A recipe for waking up in twenty years oozing with silent rage.

I feel like this entry hasn’t taken me anywhere, but it has taken half an hour to get there. “Just be better” has a hollow ring when it lacks a substantive swing behind it.

Maybe the interview wasn’t that bad after all?

If you’re reading this, you’ve made my dreams come true

I’m getting hate mail and it’s kind of my favourite thing.

The best part is that I don’t know who’s sending it. I don’t know if I have any mortal enemies (aside from Smashmouth Guy and honestly, after this comment I’m kind of Team Smashmouth). I’m certain I’ve rubbed people the wrong way before. I’m an excessively eccentric dude with too many opinions. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes and dumb, thoughtless comments. I’ve 100% been drunk at parties and mouthed off before realising what an ass I’d been. I have a trunk full of regrets from my early 20s that I use as incentive to constantly strive to be better. I possess a litany of anxieties and self-doubts (hint, the clue was in the site name) and talk about them at length. I’m undeniably self-obssessed, which I’m sure gets on some people’s nerves. I’ve had relationships that didn’t end well. As a child I even once bit into an entire block of cheese, then put it back into the fridge and did NOT take ownership of my actions.

Here’s the entry that called them to action, by the way. I think it’s pretty benign, but I also wouldn’t want to deprive you fine folk of all this DRAMA.

I’m still not sure that any of this would drive anyone I know to send me hate mail. I’m pretty sure that I only have one failed relationship that would even remotely bring someone to sow salt and frankly, I think that ex is way too cool and talented to bother being that petty. Her hating me doesn’t stop her from being fucking awesome. She just has better things to do with her time. Plus the hits are coming from Canada, from someone whose internet is tied to Rogers and she lives in The U.S.

I don’t think it’s an individual who knows me personally. While I’ve surely acted out of order before, I don’t think I’ve erred enough to draw this kind of ire. Mildly annoying people is no doubt within my arsenal, but offending a personal contact to the level that they’d seek out this page, create an anonymous persona and read over 50 entries in order to trawl for ammo. I just don’t think I’m that remarkable. If I am, that only feeds my ego. This site isn’t on the Reddit Frontpage or anything. They’d deliberately have to seek it out or find the link by searching certain subjects. It would take effort. If they’re trying to hurt me, they’re going about it all wrong.

It can’t be someone who knows me well. The shots they’re firing are just too broad and don’t play into my sincere insecurities. I’m not even sure how one would really insult me in a way that’d cut to the bone. I’m way meaner to myself than anyone else could ever be. Most anything they could throw at me is rationally countered by knowing that I’m very much an acquired taste and I’m excessively okay with that. Saying I’m a bad writer or not funny would make little sense when I regularly interact with others in amicable ways. I can read body language well enough to know that these people aren’t deeply uncomfortable or trying to escape. If they were, there’s no way I’d spend time with someone who didn’t want to spend time with me. What would be the point? Telling me I was a shitty person would give me the chance to find growth opportunities, which is something I value. How else do I learn to be better? Them telling me I’m self-obssessed is fine, because it’s true. It also doesn’t preclude me from caring deeply about the people in my life.

Realistically, it’s probably some MRA/Incel who read something I wrote and felt insecure (for a change?). I’m very okay with this. Or else it’s my co-worker who chewed carrots loudly, but really he’s a nice dude and his consumption habits don’t make him a bad person. Maybe it’s my therapist who feels neglected and wants to drum up another few sessions. Thing is, I looked up appointments and she’s booked solid for the next three weeks. I don’t think she has the time.

Whoever it is, I’m honoured they took the time to get in touch. If you’re reading this, stalker chap, I’d love to chat. It feels like you’ve got some emotions you need to let out.

WAIT. ARE YOU MY FRIEND I HAVEN’T MET?

I guess I’ll swim

I feel like I was ready to have a good day, then I read about Scott Hutchison losing his battle with depression.

I do and I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Some dude at a party once told me I’d like Frightened Rabbit and he was alarmingly correct. I’ve listened to their album Midnight Organ Fight countless times. It’s this beautiful combination of gallows humour and earnest emotion. The rest of their oeuvre I’ve been appreciative of, but haven’t absorbed it as fully. I can sincerely say I’m a fan without the baggage of excessive fandom. Hutchison was an immensely talented lyricist who hung his heart on every line and a performer who brought everything of himself to the mic. He’s someone whose creativity and honesty I was in love with. A few days ago a news report surfaced saying he’d gone missing. I feared the worst and hoped for the best, but those hopes fell away this morning. It’s heartbreaking and no amount of platitudes make it any less so.

Naturally, we’re all gonna witness events like this and turn inwards. We think about ourselves and how we relate. This becomes an important part of how we in retrospect view the outcome. I’ve been known to have my ups and downs, often between months. There are times in which I start to question all the structures around me and fail to find purchase. If you’re reading this, please don’t worry. Emotionally I’m in a downturn, but not with tangible lingering effects. I’m trying to figure things out, which is a world away from doing something stupid. Still, part of working through this kind of stuff is getting the negative ephemera out there to see it for what it is. With that precursor out there:

I’m having a hard time right now, as I have been for a while. I feel like my up and downswings have had me lingering at the bottom for a lot longer than I’ve been climbing. It’s rough. At the moment I’m having trouble finding purpose. I look at my day to day, week to week, year to year and see nothing in the matter of cumulative gain. I don’t feel like I’m further ahead at 31 than I was in 28. Of course it’s symptomatic of these kind of moods not to check your blind spot for the light you’re missing. Still, when I look ahead to the next six months, I don’t see the point. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m doing things, but none of them mean anything. I don’t know why I continue to sit in an office five days a week, not to be gaining traction. I feel like I’m living for escapism, but nothing concrete. I exist to consume, but I’m not consuming for any kind of existence.

I look at someone like Scott Hutchison, someone who made so much for so many, and I wonder what I’ve done. Once again, what am I doing? What am I doing for others? What am I doing for myself? If all I’m doing is going through the motions, that’s not enough for me. That’s not sustainable for the next 50 years. That’s a long time and I need a pretty good reason to hang around for another five decades. That’s not to say I’m looking for a way out. I’m looking for a way forward.

It sucks all the more because I feel like two months ago I had momentum. I felt indomitable, full of steam and drive, not knowing where I was going but not stopping to worry. Months later with nothing to show for it, the idea of picking myself up by the bootstraps seems a worthless endeavour. It’s hard to press on when the path seems to lead nowhere. I have no doubt I’ll turn this around in a matter of time, but right now that’s hardly enough for me.

Guess I’ll just wait.

In that case, I’m sure we’ll find some other way to make fun of all those cumulosers.

As I occasionally do, I’m gonna cheat with today’s writing and start by reposting a Facebook comment I made. I’d seen a post about the discourse surrounding being overweight in our society and how nuance is so quickly lost in the shadow of fatphobia.

“A hill that I am willing to die on is that the apparent healthiness of your food intake is not a moral issue. The way that society has developed language around it is bullshit. An entire swath of foods is grouped under the label “junk food”, which automatically gets slammed with negative connotations and we start to associate guilt with our intake. It’s lead to a mentality where you’ll hear people about to eat something sweet and say “oh, I shouldn’t” or “I’ll be bad” and wink. This entire concept can fuck right off to the fiery gates of Mt. Fuck. It’s all predicated upon a ridiculous social fear of gaining weight, as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. What’s more, it only serves to entrench this view in people who have issues with moderation, leading to pointless and unnecessary self-loathing. Then others wield it like a badge, as if your ability to count calories says anything about your character.

Let people enjoy things. Their consumption is not your business.

Edit: Let’s also not forget that for many, cost is a gatekeeper to healthy eating. It’s entirety possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet on a low income, but it requires a ton of education. Nutrition is a minefield of information and most of us don’t really know what’s in our food. Pre packaged and manufactured foods are often far more affordable than their fresh counterparts and this has a trade off. So any kind of snooty moral superiority can take a fucking dip in the Arctic depths of Lake Fuck.”

If you’ve spent any time with my daily writing, you’ll recognise that these sentiments have been repeated ad nauseum. I’ve had to struggle with precious little in my middle class white cis male life. Body issues have been one of the few repeat offenders. While it may seem kinda ironic posting this in the middle of my tussle with the ketogenic diet (I’ve never professed that I’m doing it for anything but weight loss), my hope is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The point that I’d like to drive home is that your relationship with your body is a personal thing. Not all relationships are healthy, but neither are they the domain of strangers. In the same way that moral panic has been used through the ages to control mass behaviour (the concept of sexual pleasure outside of marriage as a sin, for instance), being outside a slim definition of physical norms has become aberrant. We’re told that irrespective of health, being overweight is cause for disdain. Hell, even the euphemism “overweight” implies a deviation from the norm. Fuck that noise. What right does a stranger have to cast judgement on your health or worth based on the way you look?

Turnabout is fair play, supposedly, and it’s easy to point the finger back to me. For the past 17 years I’ve pushed myself to the gym three or more times per week. I’ve tried diets, cut alcohol and run to work in order to drop weight. I’ve constantly fought with the scales, yet I’m standing here advocating against demonising people’s weight? I want to be clear, I’m not saying I’m any different or better than you. I have internalised personal fatphobia, I just come by it honestly. As a child I was teased and physically bullied for being fat. It hindered my ability to be confident in myself. I drank deeply from all the media messages telling me that to be successful and admired was to be trim and attractive.

I didn’t feel trim or attractive and as such thought of myself as pretty damn unlikable. At the age of seven I started to believe that if I was to be fat, nobody would love me, I’d never get married, then die alone and childless. I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. Isn’t that fucking ridiculous? The only thing seven year olds should care about is the wonder of the universe around them. Not their inevitable entropy. You know what? I bought in. I struggled unsuccessfully with weight loss for years. I started going to the gym at 5.30am three times a week before school at 14. I ascribed to the notion that I would never be liked or desired unless I fit a certain body type.

At 31 I’d love to say that I’ve grown out of it, but you read the keto diet thing. I know that in my brain and heart, I’ll always be fat no matter what my body looks like. It’s absurd, but therapy to unpack and dismantle all that trauma would cost more annually than my salary. My hope is that we as a society improve. That these attitudes die out. That we change the language and perceptions around the way people look to save future generations from needless anxiety.

Until we upload our consciousness to the cloud, anyway.

Ad-Just my type.

I lately feel like I’ve lost the ability to type and furthered my ability to typo. Why? Because I made seven typos in that first sentence. I’m not shitting you (and I swear it was by no means intentional). My fingers have recently become leaden and clumsy like a golem trying to tango. I wish it weren’t so, but I’ve clearly inherited a voracious brain disease and it’s chowing down on all my synapses. Sure, I never actually learned to touch type and that could be a large part of this whole mess. Maybe I’m just getting lazy and assuming my fingers will get to where they need to be without actually visualising the keyboard. Or perhaps I’ve gotten reliant on my phone’s swype functionality. Whatever it is, if you’ve been wondering why my entries have been shorter lately, it could be because I’ve used the backspace key more than any one letter.

When I was a kid I thought the “spacebar” sounded cooler than any other key. Escape was a close second. I had no idea what that little cluster of Insert to Page Down did. The F keys occasionally got used in games, but beyond that I was clueless. There’s no moral to this story or hidden parable. I just thought it was cute to mention.

I could probably fill a week with little “when I was a kid” anecdotes. Let’s put my money (a sliver of it) where my mouth is and see if I can do one entry.

When I was a kid I split more than one pair of pants by farting. I don’t know if I had a propensity for bending over and flexing the butt fabric as much as possible. Maybe I just lucked out. For sure though, I’d push those little seams as far as they could go and toot my way through. This wasn’t sabotage. I was mortified. It was quite possibly even psychologically damaging. Perhaps that’s why I started wearing almost exclusively track pants on my lower half.

When I was a kid I’d find toy adverts exciting beyond all else. Even toys I had no interest in. I just got excited seeing the child actors getting excited and that made me want to join in. Perhaps I was super empathic or something. In the event that I did get something advertised on TV there was this whole “monkey see” aspect. I’d repeat the action I saw onscreen. Then I’d usually become oddly disillusioned when I wasn’t having as much fun as the kids in the ad did. I remember interrupting an adult discussion of ads that deserved to win at the annual Fair Go ad awards. I told the adults in no uncertain terms that the Power Rangers toy ad was a shoe in, because it showcased the full line of toys and which looked fun to play with. What else could an ad possibly do? I mean, it’d worked on me, for one.

When I was a kid my Nana used to make the coolest jelly. It’d be three colours in layers, then have little bits of banana in there. As an adult I’ve thought about that jelly on a weekly basis, but I don’t think I’ve ever completed the simple steps of a) looking up a recipe or b) following through on that recipe. My Nana never had the internet and I’ve never had a good excuse.

When I was a kid I’d develop crushes on actresses and cartoon characters all the time. Cameron Diaz in The Mask, the Pink Ranger in the aforementioned Power Rangers. Lola Bunny for obvious reasons. Nala from The Lion King for less obvious (though I think I identified with Simba because… actually I don’t know. Maybe there was something in my brain about my name meaning “lion” and having some illusory kinship because of it?) reasons. Thing was, I’m pretty sure there was nothing sexual about it. I was immensely sexually naive as a child, but hyper-romantic. I fell in love with girls from school every second day from the slightest gesture. They lent me a pencil? SOUL MATES FO LYFE, YO. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with that notion. I think I kind of liked the idea of kissing/being kissed. Holding hands with a girl was basically a tacit marriage contract. The concept of sharing something secret that existed only between myself and a girl inhabited this forbidden space walled off by shame and self-loathing. Of course they wouldn’t like me back, but a guy could dream, right? To be clear, this all kicked in around age six. I was a fast learner.

When I was a kid I never got my pen licence. My handwriting was abhorrent and I often had to stay after class to finish lines. I guess the educational system thought that rote learning could fix my aesthetic inability. I guess they were wrong. At some stage I wrote tiny letters and decided it looked neater, so from then on I made my handwriting tiny. To be clear, it was still borderline indecipherable. The habit, however, stuck. By the time I was in university, I’d be writing these dense essays that weren’t merely crammed full of polysyllabic words, but in joined letters with minuscule letters. I’m surprised I ever got a passing grade.

Maybe constant typos are my fingers’ way of getting nostalgic.