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.

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Chilli out, bud

Right now I’m. I dunno.

If that isn’t the least inspiring beginning to an entry in some time…

Wait, I already don’t like how this has started. It feels so disconnected and loose, so I guess that’s what we’re going with. I’m borderline stressed at the moment, I think. I’m going away to the burn on Thursday, which is awesome. I’m gonna have an otherworldly festival, challenging myself and trying to be as present as possible. Radsome To The Max, right? I’m also the right amount of antsy for an upcoming unfamiliar experience. I think that tracks.

At the moment I’ve got this vague but pervasive sense that I’ll get it all wrong. A big part of the festival is being self-reliant and self-sufficient. I’m stressed that my preparations will be insufficient and I’ll be forced to rely on others too much, which will put a strain on the time they’re having. I feel like I’m not gonna have enough water or food and that I’ll have to source this from friends. Alternatively I’m worried about bringing too much stuff and filling our transportation with unnecessary baggage (literally, the metaphorical baggage doesn’t take much physical space). I made a big batch of vegan chili to share with camp mates, but after I packaged it all up last night I discovered there were only ten portions. I’m probably gonna need four or so myself. Is this a matter of over-promising and under-delivering? That’d make me feel shitty, especially because they’re already being so generous with their time, expertise and emotional energy. I don’t want to lean on everyone, and the thought of doing so is filling me with nerves. Also I have no real idea if it’s spelled “chili” or “chilli” and by this point I’m almost afraid to google it.

To be clear, deep down I’m sure it’ll all be fine and everything will work out. Even if I do end up leaning on friends, I’ll no doubt provide support when they need it in return. That’s what a community is. Aside from that…

Will I pack everything I need? Or will I get there and think oh shit, I can’t go commando this whole time? What if I get too drunk and pass out? My body being ravaged by insects and burned to a crisp through exposure? What if I get injured and it ruins my festival? What if I play with fire and suffer the consequences? What if I fuck up my volunteer work at Sanctuary and someone in an impaired state fails to get the help they need? What if my radical self-expression just ends up pissing everyone off? What if I take generosity for granted or do something with ramifications that extend beyond the festival?

Once again, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m a big boy and I’ve faced much bigger challenges than a regional burn. It’s not my first camping festival either. The scale just seems a lot larger. I’m certain I’ll have an astoundingly good time and deepen a lot of my friendships. I’m sure I’ll make new ones. I’m sure that all of this anxiety is the mental equivalent of dusting. Shaking things up in the hopes that whatever settles is less laden than it was before. In holding my stress points up to the light, perhaps I can see how unfounded most of them are.

If we’re being entirely honest, the hardest part will probably be coming back to reality once it’s all over.

Now that you mention it, I am a pretty flash dancer.

Apropos of nothing outside years of fluctuating behaviour, I decided to google “hypomania” today.

Hoo boy.

How you might feel:

  • happy, euphoric, with a sense of wellbeing
  • lots of energy
  • sociable
  • racing thoughts
  • creative and full of ideas and plans
  • like you can perform tasks better and more quickly than normal
  • impatient, irritable or angry
  • confident, with high self-esteem
  • attractive, flirtatious and/or with more sexual desire
  • restless, on edge and having difficulty relaxing
  • heightened senses – colours may seem brighter, sounds louder and things more beautiful

How you might behave:

  • more active than usual
  • taking risks
  • very friendly
  • very talkative or writing a lot
  • sleeping very little
  • signing up for and taking part in lots of activities
  • taking on extra responsibilities
  • wearing colourful and/or extravagant clothes
  • making lots of jokes and puns
  • finding it hard to stay still – moving around a lot or fidgeting

I dunno. Maybe it’s a tad relatable. I don’t ascribe to the thought that self-diagnosis carries a ton of weight. I really don’t. I’m not even close to a medical professional. Even as an armchair psychologist, I have trouble sitting still. I want to be very clear when I say that any of the following is not meant to trivialise or tokenise mental illness or symptoms of mania at all. I’m sure a lot of the above is evergreen enough that everyone feels this way from time to time. I have never been diagnosed with a condition of any kind and the thought of detracting from the very valid experiences of others would not sit well with me.

That being said, how much of the above applies to my very regular behaviour? So often it feels like the world is moving too slowly. I’ve applied the word “ludic” to my personality before, but it’s occasionally felt insubstantial. I find myself on these spontaneous tears where I can’t do or say enough to convey how my brain is feeling. Overly sociable, charismatic and confident. I get antsy and impatient for people to finish sentences, because of this overwhelming urge that I already knew where they were going from the first couple of words. My thoughts are scattered, but rapid. Crazy quick synaptic connections. Jokes and puns, understanding and dismantling structures social, narrative and psychological. Focusing on/completing a task has never been a massive issue, but I’m usually thinking of the next couple while I’m doing it. Infinite ideas, creativity out each and every one of my wazoos.

The idea of not doing something at every moment feels suffocating. Relaxation seems like a punishment. If I’m not active, why am I alive? Despite knowing that my body needs it, I’ve always viewed sleep as a waste of potential waking hours. I’ll feel this compulsion to be doing more, as many things at once as possible. An insatiable urge for my consumption to keep up with my racing mind. Any substances that can preserve this overly energetic state, I need all of them at once. Sure, I know I’m not gonna feel great later if I drink an unhealthy volume of coffee, but it feels transcendent now. Why not gorge on everything and become one with every atom in my vicinity?

Then downswings. Days, weeks, months. Withdrawing from human contact. Excessive negative self-talk. Irrational irritability. Implacable frustration. A pervasive sense of dissatisfaction with everything. Feelings of disconnect and isolation. This notion that nobody really understands me.

Wait, am I just a teenager?

Who knows, really? If anything, I’m not sure what good labels would do. Is this cycle (which admittedly has more up than down) hurtful to my everyday? Is the cost of the lows worth the highs? I’m not gonna lie, if it’s a touch of mania that propels me, it’s an incomparable sensation. Like gravity has no hold on me. As if boundaries are abstract. An almost divine indomitably. It makes me feel special and gee golly that’s a swell feeling.

Or it could be nothing and maybe I merely drink too much coffee.

Entering MiSophomore year.

I’ve always had an issue with certain sounds. Eating noises, mostly. Chewing, lip licking or sucking, the scrape of metal on plates or glass. For the longest time I assumed I was just fussy or pedantic. In recent times I’ve discovered that it’s a relatively common disorder. As time goes by, things are getting worse. It’s becoming intolerable to deal with and I don’t have strong coping strategies. Where did it all start?

That was a peculiar segue, cause honestly I’ve got nothing more than speculation. As kids our parents would chide us for open mouth chewing or pushing too hard with our utensils. My thought is that perhaps it shaped me into mentally acknowledging it as aberrant behaviour? That when I heard other people making those noises it triggered off some response in my brain. I knew innately that I wasn’t supposed to do that, so when others did, it conflicted with an internal boundary. Over time that tread deeper and deeper into my subconscious, creating an automatic negative response. See, I didn’t always have this issue. I noticed it as a teenager, but it’s been steadily growing as I’ve aged. It’s at the point now where it’s become actively intrusive, affecting my day to day. In short, it’s a problem.

I’ve been talking a bunch about how it started, most likely because that was the segue used to spark that paragraph. What I haven’t done is explain how it manifests for me. Let’s say, in a totally hypothetical example, that my co-worker eats approximately 30 crunchy baby carrots around 11.30am every day. I’ll hear a crunch and it’ll spark off a fight or flight response in my brain. I’ll get simultaneously furious and panicked. My heart rate will begin to race, muscles will tense and most of the time I’ll swear involuntarily. Or I’ll be on public transit and someone will chew gum. Or an old person will just be chewing nothing. I dunno, old people do their own things. Or I’ll be at a movie and I’ll hear open mouthed chewing of popcorn. Or my girlfriend will lick her lips in another room and I’ll hear it. My brain will zoom right in on that noise and I’ll barely be able to concentrate on anything else. To be clear, these people aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re not some worthless uncouth hooligans that cause me to sputter my tea and crumpets. It’s not their fault that I’m affected by these sounds or the degree to which I struggle with them.

For that reason, it’s not plausible or functional for me to politely ask everyone in public to chew with their mouths closed. I’m not gonna tell my co-worker that they can’t eat a certain food that they enjoy because I have an adverse reaction. I’m not going to interrupt other people’s movie experiences because they’re unwittingly hindering mine. I once mentioned to an ex-flatmate that she was chewing with her mouth open and she got embarrassed, upset, furious, then locked herself in her room and refused to talk to me for about three weeks. In retrospect, that was awesome. But I digress… Because I can’t expect everyone else to change for my sake, my only recourse is to take avoidant tactics to salve my reactions. Loud music on headphones comes in handy. I listen to music/podcasts all day at work. I’ll usually try to take a break when I’m transiting home, but if someone starts chewing those headphones come out lightning fast.

Thing is, these aren’t solutions. They’re band aids over a gaping wound. I need to address these issues with meaningful remedies. I need to embark upon Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or see an Audiologist. Perhaps hypnosis could help to ease the triggers. I have to choose to do something about it, because I know the other path this could take. I can easily see a future where this all gets worse. Maybe I’ll decide that instead of going out for dinner with friends, I’ll stay home where those noises won’t be present. Perhaps I’ll start carrying earplugs or white noise headphones on me at all times. What if I retreat further and further into these avoidance tactics instead of facing my issues head on? I’m a social guy. The concept of habitually retracting from others isn’t one I’m comfortable with. I could very easily see myself falling into the bad habit of letting misophonia dictate my behaviour.

Frankly, that sounds awful to me.

Do androids post clickbait for electric sheep?

Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049. My girlfriend posted this article on Facebook and it prompted discussion. I spent a while writing a response to the discussion and figured I’d done my daily writing. Here goes.

So I think these are all pretty valid criticisms of the movie. The one conceit that I’m not buying into is that the sequel’s box office performance is tied to its lack of representation. Films with shitty representation go gangbusters at the box office all the time. It sucks and it’d be great if that wasn’t the case. It’s a niche, long and contemplative Sci Fi sequel of a cult film released something like 30 years ago. Also like they said, the original wasn’t a huge hit either. Also how often are people buying tickets to films knowing how effective their representation is? Isn’t that something you learn after watching the film? Using its box office performance issues as a tag for an otherwise pretty decent article seems pretty clickbait-y.

So first off, I’m not positing this as me having some crazy hot take. Unabashedly I really enjoyed the film and kind of just want to have people to talk about it with. I’m also of the opinion that you can both love a piece of art and criticise it without detracting from the fact that it meant something to you. I think that this article’s author had a bunch of pretty salient points and I’m interested in a discussion.

She’s on the money saying that women in this film were primarily relegated to window dressing and signposting. I mean, Robin Wright, in typical Robin Wright fashion, was fantastic. She was certainly a Boss Ass Bitch, but even she was reduced to essentially a gatekeeper making sure to quell the uprising in a very motherly position.

So how would we go about fixing the script? First and foremost, I don’t think the gender of K is super important to the plot. I mean, the commoditization of female bodies is sort of a central idea, whether it’s the corporation mass producing replicants like some kind of big baby factory, or trying to obtain the replicant born child to cheapen the reproduction process. Having K be female could’ve opened avenues for her to navigate these themes as well as the nature of reality, humanity and all that jazz. Then again, it’s not like this movie needed a longer run time.

I don’t know where I sit on the whole JOI aspect of not having agency, because that was kind of the point, right? She was a product created by the corporation to sell to their own products (I mean, grow your own consumers? That’s gotta help your bottom line). The whole “I tell you what you want to hear” idea was central to the plot and eventual twist. I think it would’ve gone some ways to have depicted male JOI units too (because surely the corporation wouldn’t skip out on selling to half their market?). Maybe even including a scene with The Lieutenant using one? Could’ve added a nice layer. Maybe have male sex workers too? Sexy nude dudes on that Vegas planet as well?

I mean, the Vegas planet was a nice backdrop for a film obssessed with the nature of reality and illusion, the holographic performers, etc etc. I did think it was a bit much that we were only seeing female bodies sexualised.

As for the sex scene, it felt more like they were using it to show off impressive SFX than super important narrative pathos. Was JOI organising the sexual encounter an extention of telling K what he wanted to hear? Did it show how much he was tied into the idea of her as real? They had the rain scene, him pouring her a glass, that dumb “buckle up” line. Did it add enough to necessitate its inclusion? I’m not sure. It looked pretty, but felt kind of throwaway to me.

Luv is another matter. I think [my friend in the thread] made a pretty great point about the sociopathic relationship with Wallace. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit sleepy when I saw the film, especially during the Leto scenes. This strikes me as a pretty astute read on the character. The details were either subtle enough that I missed them entirely or maybe dozed through them. It would’ve been great to have just a little bit of dialogue implying that she had agency in her decisions, or furthering her motivation along those abusive relationship lines. We know she was his tool. Hell, K was just a tool himself after all (and the question of agency was another big part of the film, right?) but the film was built around him. It could’ve done a ton to build her out as an antagonist if her motivations were more apparent.

I kinda want to watch this film again…

You know something? I used that middle urinal and I felt like a god.

At improv yesterday we were learning about status and our teacher told us something interesting. She said that status is a choice. It’s not something that can be taken from us, it can only be volunteered. She said to imagine status as some kind of liquid within us. We wake up each day with it filled to the brim. Countless interactions throughout the day allow us to tip out or refill that status, depending on our response. When our status is lowered, that’s a choice we’ve made. It went deeper, but let’s keep things pretty simple.

Status exists on two poles; high and low. Those poles each have tiers to them. The highest is happiness, then anger and lastly sadness. Status is also largely a concept that we buy into societally. We’ve decided that attributes such as wealth, power and attractiveness dictate our status. We see those who possess these traits as opinion leaders or somehow more capable than those without. It sucks, but when you think of high status, what image comes to your mind? Is it a tall white dude wearing a nice blue suit getting into his Mercedes? Society is all kinds of biased. It’s sexist, racist, ableist and, well, facist too. It’s systematically drilled into us a certain image of status and over time we’ve chosen to accept that.

I started to think about the way I roam the world and how I exchange status. A lot of the time in public, I aim to be as considerate as possible. This can involve stepping out of the way on the footpath, standing on public transport, making myself as small as I can to let people through. I’m not a tiny person or physically unimposing, but I’m aware of how I could be perceived as thus. I’m conscious that as a dude, I tread upon a mountain of privilege every day and I intentionally try not to take it for granted. I know that if I didn’t go out of my way to consider others, it’d seem like I was any other white dude imposing himself upon the world. That sounds shit in my book, so I try to mitigate it. I try to lower my status to even the playing field. Whether this works, I have no idea. Most people tend to find me pretty non-threatening, so maybe I’m on track.

Our teacher said something else. She said that the difference between confidence and arrogance involves whether or not you ever choose to willingly lower your status. If you refuse to ever yield status, you come off as an asshole. Cocky and unfriendly. People will resent that you seem to put yourself above them. I thought about this and wondered what balance I could strike to raise my status without trampling on others. I often joke about what the world must seem like to a confident person (doing power moves like pissing in the middle urinal of three), but it’s not like I don’t have that option in front of me. Recently I’ve been trying small tricks to see if they’ll help. I’ve been checking my posture more regularly. An upright chest with neutral spine, shoulders back, pelvis tilted forwards. I’ve been trying to smile more often in a fake it till you make it kind of fashion. If I do move aside or let someone through, I do it with a smile. Happiness is a status move, whether intentional or not. I’ve been heeding another lesson learned in improv- that it’s okay to pause before responding. You don’t need to always have an answer right away. Taking a second to consider isn’t a sign of weakness. It shows you’re thinking about the right answer.

Status is a privilege and it’s also a choice. It’s weird to think that I had a say in this all along.

Sounds choice to me.

Thanks for doing me a solid, Snake.

Imagine having the kind of confidence where entering a room didn’t trigger your threat analysis mode.

Before we start with this, I don’t assume I’m anything special or exceptional from the norm. Then again, I don’t often talk with others about all of my eccentricities, so who knows? Every time I walk into a room, take in my surroundings. My eyes will dart around and even if I don’t get to look in all directions, I’ll try to get a feel for people in my vicinity. If I’m putting something down, for instance, I’ll do slightly exaggerated movements, or after setting it on a surface, I’ll pivot. Am I nuts? Well we assumed as much already. Is this, however, the central reason?

I don’t have a solid notion of where this habit came from, but I’ve absorbed enough pop culture that I expect misfortune to come from all angles at any moment. If it’s not a ninja, katana half drawn, it could be a co-worker ready to ambush me with small talk or a telemarketer (*whispering* they’re everywheeeeere). Frankly, it’s probably a latent habit from high school theatre. Having your back to the audience is verboten, so you learn techniques for subtle movement and turns. Side-on conversations, etc. I guess at some point I folded this into everyday life. Even, wait, ESPECIALLY at parties I’m constantly taking inventory of where everyone/thing is situated. If I have my back to a doorway, I’ll repeatedly rotate or gesture around me as a way of increasing my vantage. I’ll subconsciously shift or move, according to anything that could catch me off-guard.

It has to be a modicum of control freakism leaking out. As if instilling a belief that you have status in a scenario, when that’s still to be determined. Hell, even the fact that on some level I’m placing an intrinsic status into my interactions should set off red flags. I DON’T LIKE BEING TAKEN BY SURPRISE, ALRIGHT? When you assume everyone’s trying to get one up or wants something out of you, taking steps to mitigate their reach feels not only helpful, but necessary.

The flip side of this is that if two of me existed, I’d be my own worst enemy. I try not to telegraph my presence unless I think it’d seriously worry the other person. I’ll often quietly walk into a shared space (like a kitchen) and begin doing something without saying hi. There’s also the weird trait I developed after noticing that nobody says goodbye in phone conversations. Now if I’m having a benign conversation I’ll quietly walk away when it dies down rather than dropping farewells and niceties. I’d hoped it would make me more enigmatic, but people probably just think I’m an asshole. Not gonna lie, it gives me a little thrill to go unnoticed. Stealth is exciting to me, which is how I wind up matching others’ breathing and steps without any intention of doing so. I’ll be walking down steps behind someone and find my stride matched with theirs. Or I’ll notice the extra focus my body is putting into masking my footfalls.

Like every societal ill, let’s blame video games for that one. Playing through stealth games, sneaking silently often results in avoiding damage. Perhaps I intuitively translated that to real life. If people don’t know I’m there, they can’t engage me in boring conversation. I get to choose whether or not I want to opt into interaction. What could be better than that?

If I was a therapist, I’d have a bunch of easy points to pounce on. This kind of behaviour has to be a response to childhood bullying and its lasting trauma. Or to feelings of inadequacy. Desiring control on this level is less about getting one up on others and everything to do with intended inoculation against further hurt. I’m only human. If you prick me, I’ll probably bleed out in the gutter. Isn’t it better to stay puncture free?