Tag: depression (page 1 of 2)

No Pity

Courtesy Adult Swim

Good media doesn’t just entertain. It invites us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our world. It shows us things that can change, or need to change. And, sometimes, it points the way to the tools required to make that change, to be that change.

Take Rick & Morty. In the midst of all of the cruel cutting humor and Cronenbergian body horror, there are moments of true introspection and insight. “Pickle Rick” provided wonderful for-and-against arguments regarding therapy. We’re seeing Morty grow and change, standing up to Rick more often and seizing opportunities to be his own person. And now, in “The Wirly Dirly Conspiracy”, we more closely Jerry, the sad sack that exists mostly as a punching bag, a savage take on the typical “everyman” character, and the unwitting catalyst for the family problems that are just as important to the storylines as Rick’s alcohol-fueled mad science.

“You act like prey, but you’re a predator. You use pity to lure in your victims. It’s how you survive.” – Rick, to Jerry

Maybe it’s just me, but I had to pause the episode, step away, and take a long moment to think about myself, my past behaviors, and the changes I’ve made.

At some point when I was very young, I developed a titanic guilt complex. I would be extraordinarily hard on myself. I would emotionally (and, at times, physically) beat myself up, punish myself, for making a mistake. I think that part of my motivation for doing so was that if I punished myself hard enough, other punishments would pale in comparison.

Another part was that if I was outwardly hard on myself enough, others would take it easy.

I, too, preyed on pity.

Writing that out is at once damning and freeing. It’s something of which I am deeply ashamed. I am struggling to put into words just how insidiously toxic such behavior can be. I think about my past behaviors and actions, impulsive decisions I made; the knowledge that those choices hurt people I love, respect, and care about hurts.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those things I did. That I don’t turn the evidence over in my hand and look for things to correct and change. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t admit to myself how afraid I was of being abandoned should these things come to light — and how much I still fear.

Courtesy HBO

Fear is no excuse. There is no excuse.

I cannot take pity on myself any more than I should expect others to have pity on me. The things inside of me that served as the roots sprouting that poison fruit are not excuses. They are explanations. When a tree in your garden is rotten, you have to deal with it, before it lays waste to everything. You salvage what seeds you can. Then, you cut it down. You burn it.

You plant anew and you move on.

I’m still hard on myself. I still examine myself more closely and more exactingly than I do those around me. But that is because I am still growing, still changing. I do wish, deep down, that those who were affected by my actions could see — maybe even appreciate — the changes I’ve made and the ones I’m still making.

However, the only validation that truly matters is the validation I find and give to myself.

Other people will always think how they wish to think, feel how they wish to feel. For whatever their reasons, the way they look at me is something beyond my control. It doesn’t matter if they choose to be “on my side” or not. All I can do is show up as the best version of myself I can muster, own my mistakes in the name of doing better, and be present for people I want to be present for me. How they deal with that is up to them.

They cannot and should not have pity on me. Neither can I.

I will talk about how I think and how I feel. There are others in the world who fight similar battles against depression, anxiety, PTSD, all sorts of head weasels that clamor and screech for attention. It is my hope that being open and honest and up-front about these things can inspire others, or at least reassure them that they are not alone. In the past, that would not have been my motivation. But that is what it is now.

The line between asking for help and begging for attention or pity can be a fine one. And if you’ve done the latter in the past as I have, there are those who may not believe that you are engaging in the former.

Look within yourself. Do whatever you can to remain on the side of the line that will lead to you changing and growing. Distance yourself from the people and things that would drag you to the other side.

This is not easy. For me, it is one of the most difficult things to admit about myself and one of the hardest changes I’ve made.

And I am never, ever going back.

There is no pity in my soul’s city.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

Feeling Like Dying

Courtesy http://www.tombstonebuilder.com/index.php

Suicide discussion follows. Be forewarned.

For someone who no longer has the impulse to commit suicide, I think about it quite a bit.

It’s a feeling. I talked about feelings earlier this week. I know that my suicidal thoughts, and the attached feelings, are not invalid. I have no intention of acting upon them, so there are no real consequences to me having them in and of themselves. But I am going to write about them, and try to unpack this tangled mess in my head when I ask myself questions like:

“Why is it worth the pain and struggle to get up every morning?”

“What, if anything, do I really bring to the world around me?”

“Who in their right mind would want to give me their time, let alone trust or affection, when they see me as I am, now, and know all I was and all I’ve done?”

Especially in light of losing so much that was so important to me, through my own ignorance, impulsiveness, self-deception, and lack of cognitive wherewithal, I have a hard time considering myself a worthwhile human being. I fight every day to hold on to some semblance of self-worth, some notion that later today or maybe tomorrow will be better, and some days are easier than others. I try to focus on good moments, rather than bad ones.

And, as I have so many times before, I fail miserably and spectacularly.

I don’t even fail in half-measures. I either prevail or crash and burn in absolutely breathtaking fashion.

I’ve never attempted suicide. I’ve put myself in the care of medical professionals when I reach that brink. I rarely call a crisis hotline. 9-1-1 is my go-to “I need real help, no really, right the fuck now” number. Because I would rather face my demons head-on even if their horns are going to gouge out my idiot brain, than just give up. And if I ever did give up, I’d do the job right. I’d go somewhere nobody has to clean up after my mess and just disappear from your lives. And some people out there, my badbrain tells me, would be glad for it. Sighs of relief would be breathed.

“Good riddance,” they would say. “That guy made me so uncomfortable/angry/sad. I’m glad he’s dead.”

I don’t think the people I know are actually like that. But my brain won’t shut up about such sentiments.

If there is a God, and I was made this way for some esoteric and inscrutable “higher purpose”, I want to speak to someone in charge about this defective product. It’s really irritating.

Rather than the above maudlin badbrain idiocy, I think a lot of people would just exhale and shake their heads.

“His heart was in the right place.”

At least, I’d like to think it is. It has not ever been, nor will it ever be, my intention to just grab whatever it is I want, and to the hells what other people need. I tend to go in the opposite direction. The more I’m pushed, the more I go out of my way to satisfy other people’s needs. To the hells with my needs, self-care, or any of that stuff. Other people first. Their safety, their comfort, their desires come first. That is the way I’ve been wired since I was young.

So the thought of someone feeling unsafe or uncomfortable or having their needs unmet because of something I’ve done really fucking burns me up inside.

The feelings of the offended are not invalid. They had the right to take action. Those actions had consequences. I felt the full brunt of them. I will go on feeling them for a long time. Nevertheless, I have no desire to demonize the offended, or blame what has happened to me on them. Again – their feelings are not invalid.

Neither are mine.

All I’m doing with them is screaming into the void. It doesn’t really matter who, if anyone, is listening.

The head weasels, of course, want to know if there’s more I can do to punish myself.

Because it isn’t enough that I am left physically intact by this. They say more is required. Justice is still undone, they say. My freedom is unearned, they say. I should not have the freedom to do whatever I want, to grow in the ways I need to grow, to see another beautiful sight when I’ve done so many ugly things.

“You do not deserve your life,” they say. “You’ve wasted it. And there is no point denying that or letting it go one more day.”

At the very least, they inspire me to think: I should harm myself in some way. Castrate myself. Flagellate myself nightly. Form a celice out of wire and nails. Scar myself.

I want tattoos but cannot afford them.

I guess that will be the ultimate expression of all of this frustration and anger and pain and grief in my lifetime. Willingly allowing my flesh to get marked in a permanent way that, from what I understand, hurts in various ways depending on where it happens.

As I said, I doubt I’ll stop feeling these things any time soon. And as much as I may feel like dying in a given moment or on a given day, I think I trust my mind enough to not push me into doing something awfully stupid with dire and irrevocable consequences for my family and friends. I try to remind myself that I’m allowed to have feelings. Even if I feel like dying. I will not act on that particular feeling.

I will, instead, pack another few pinches of pipe tobacco into my pipe’s bowl.

I’ll pour myself another drink.

Maybe find something edible to enjoy.

I will wait.

And when Death finally arrives, I will toast their entry, greet them as an old friend, and wonder what the hells took them so long.

[spoiler]
I’m gonna need someone to help me
I’m gonna need somebody’s hand
I’m gonna need someone to hold me down
I’m gonna need someone to care
I’m gonna writhe and shake my body
I’ll start pulling out my hair
I’m going to cover myself with the ashes of you
and nobody’s gonna give a damn.

Son of a bitch
Give me a drink
One more night
This can’t be me
Son of a bitch
If I can’t get clean
I’m gonna drink my life away

Now for seventeen years I’ve been throwing them back
Seventeen more will bury me
Can somebody please just tie me down
Or somebody give me a goddamn drink

Son of a bitch
Give me a drink
One more night
This can’t be me
Son of a bitch
If I can’t get clean
I’m gonna drink my life away

My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
My heart is breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me

Son of a bitch
Give me a drink
One more night
This can’t be me
Son of a bitch
If I can’t get clean
I’m gonna drink my life away

Son of a bitch
Give me a drink
Son of a bitch
This can’t be me
Son of a bitch
If I can’t get clean
I’m gonna drink my life away
[/spoiler]

From the Vault: Stubborn Stinkbrain

I’m working on overcoming a severe bout of depression. Thank you for being patient. While I keep making steps forward, I continue putting effort into being less of a “selfish diaper-baby” as Ralph would put it. And with a bunch of new Enforcers joining the fold, I have to remind myself that quitting what I love is not the answer to anything. So it’s time this post came back.


Courtesy Disney

I used to be really, really good at quitting.

I can think of several instances in my past where I would be attempting something, run into the first real obstacle, and just give up. I would avoid putting myself in positions where I would have to deal with any major difficulties or consequences. I hate to admit it, but I was something of a coward. While I still remain afraid of screwing up, letting people down, or hurting the feelings of those I care about, I’ve learned that giving up before all alternatives are exhausted yields only more doubt, disappointment, and is generally less favorable than making legitimate efforts.

It feels a bit odd for me to talk about hardships and difficulties when I’m a white cis male in the first world, which is about as privileged as you can get. I’m not really wanting for food, shelter, clothing, or any of the essentials a human being needs. It should be an easy life for me. I’m choosing to make it more difficult by involving myself in the things I choose to be involved in, and in that I am engineering my own defeats. And yet, I know if I simply enjoy my privileges and do not take steps to share what I can with the world around me, I am no better than a day-trader on Wall Street or a corrupt corporate executive. So I try to make the world a better place, and sometimes, the world seems determined to remain terrible.

Case in point: I’ve made the choice to be an Enforcer, part of the PAX volunteer staff, and by extension, I am tangentially connected to Penny Arcade and its creators. Mike (“Gabe”) has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to sensitive issues, and this was the case yesterday. He made a comment that was offensive to the transgender community, and the resulting exchange has caused people to call for PAX boycotts and, if I understand the situation correctly, several of my fellow Enforcers have quit in a show of solidarity with those offended by Mike’s comment. They more than likely see Mike’s apology and exchange with Sophie Prell as half-hearted or perfunctory or some other word for insincere.

I for one am willing to give Mike the benefit of the doubt. As I see it, the possibilities are that he makes comments that he thinks are funny and only occasionally gets it right; he puts his foot in his mouth more often than not by tweeting before he thinks; or he’s a deplorable human being through and through. What I have seen and heard of the man leads me to believe that the first two cases are the most likely. Considering his brand is one that is mostly comedic, the first is the logical conclusion for me to draw. Penny Arcade has done a lot for the gaming community, children’s charities, and a more inclusive Internet in general; why would I want to disassociate from that?

Don’t get me wrong. Anybody who feels strongly enough to quit or boycott has my understanding. Not everybody is wired the way I am. And, to be frank, I could be wired completely wrong. I’m willing to consider and even accept that, if presented with sufficient evidence.

But I refuse, to the core of my being, to quit now. Not when I can try to change things for the better.

I know that I can’t change people who don’t want to change. And I know that my words and actions may have zero effect on the people or world around me in general. I accept that. What I will not accept is the idea that I cannot change anything at all on an individual level. I don’t want to muck around with people’s brains to make them what I would consider “better” – each individual is entitled to be and think and feel however they want to be and think and feel. I have no claim to change things within another person’s being by force. That isn’t right.

All I can do, all I want to do, is be the best human individual I can be, engage as often as possible in what I consider to be better behavior, exemplify compassion and understanding for my fellow human beings, and do what I can, small as it may be, to make the world around me a better place. Every person deserves to be treated with respect, and the best way for me to get that idea into the heads of others is to be as respectful as I can with everyone around me, especially strangers. As an Enforcer, I meet thousands of strangers. This, to me, is an excellent way to ensure that I am doing as much as possible to be the change I want to see in the world. I may affect even more if I can get more writing off the ground; time will tell on that score.

But I’m not going to quit either, I’m not going to quit giving people the benefit of the doubt, I’m not going to quit being me, even if I can be overly optimistic and occasionally gullible and something of a stubborn, tactless, somewhat arrogant stinkbrain from time to time.

This is who I am. This is who I choose to be.

Take it or leave it.

From The Vault: Why Take This Matters

I’m still shaking off the doldrums and getting myself back on track. While I make more steps towards that, please feel free to read over this post about one of the best initiatives I’ve ever had the pleasure of helping with, even as a source of moral and financial support. It’s important.


Courtesy Take This

It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.

Some of the earliest, most indelible memories some of my generation has when it comes to video games involve taking a sword from an old man who just spoke those fateful words. “It’s dangerous to go alone.” The world is going to try and kill you. Monsters prowl in the shadows, ready to destroy your body and devour your dreams. Perils you won’t see coming are fully prepared to swallow you whole. You need to defend yourself. You must be prepared to combat your challenges and overcome your obstacles. “Take this.”

We didn’t know it at the time, but this wasn’t just advice that applied to the world of Hyrule. It applies to our world, too.

We may not have to deal with the extant threats in many video games, but the world is still going to try and kill you, spiritually if not physically. I’m not talking about religion specifically, but rather in terms of the human spirit. The singular and the extraordinary are far, far too often pushed and held down by society at large, and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of conformity and ‘normal’ behavior, just to get by. But not everyone can pull off acting ‘normal’. For some, it’s a daily challenge, and some days, it’s an hourly one.

I’ve both faced this struggle myself, and done my utmost to help others cope with it. It’s easy to think, in our darkest hours, that we’re facing these challenges alone. And it’s dangerous to go alone.

The fact is, however, that we are not.

Take This is, according to their site, “a charitable organization founded to increase awareness, education and empathy for those suffering from emotional issues, their families and greater institutions with the goal to eradicate the stigma of mental illness.” While not exclusively dealing with the gaming community, the founders work within that community, as journalists and organizers, and so focus a great deal of their outreach to gamers, through sharing stories via their website and holding panels at events like PAX.

I’m a little lucky, when you get right down to it. I share my stories all the time. I have some skill at articulating myself and the means to do it. I let myself take the time to breathe, to contemplate, and to share. Not everybody is so lucky. Not everybody feels they have a safe place to unburden themselves of the pain and anxiety and uncertainty and loneliness they feel.

And the fact is, everybody should have that.

That’s why Take This matters. They’re just getting started, and I want to see them grow. Their first PAX Prime panel last year was a great success, as was their first ever at PAX East 2014, and they’re returning to Boston next month (EDIT: it was another AMAZING panel). Their site is full of stories that have needed to be heard, they’re going to be looking to grow as much as possible, and they can’t do it alone. None of us should be alone in this fight. Our chances of survival are much greater if we face our challenges together.

The world is a dangerous and cold place. Emotions and mental imbalance can topple even the best of ideas when the world gets involved. It’s dangerous to go alone.

But you don’t have to be alone.

Take this.

I’m An Adult, I Swear

Courtesy Andre Jordan
Art courtesy Andre Jordan

I feel, at times, that I am failing at this whole “adulthood” thing.

I don’t have what people would consider a traditional career path. I’m not looking after or interested in inheriting the family business, as the family doesn’t really have one – other than being awesome. I do not walk in my father’s footsteps, though I do have an intense amount of love and respect for the man and all he and my mother do for this family. I didn’t stay in the stability of an office despite indications of job security, and instead opted for a new path that seems to be, on the whole, better for my personality, if not my prosperity.

I am unsure if that is what people would consider the ‘mature’ thing to do.

I’m not a very conservative person. If you know anything about my political views (which I used to broadcast pretty hard in this blog space) that would be fairly obvious. There’s also the fact that I spend a great deal of time inside my own head. I have story ideas, a desire to write more, thoughts on games and films and comics and entertainment in general, and that’s to say nothing about the static and white noise of various disorders, doubts, and dread tied to mistakes of the past and fears for the future. But, hey, at least I’m still getting resumes and job applications out every day, right?

I should be writing more. I need a tight reign on my spending. I waste too much time, sleep in too late, exercise too little. I criticize myself pretty much daily, if not hourly, because I feel like if I don’t, I will accomplish even less than the little I already do.

Then again, this could be the influence of depression that comes from being uncertain about income in a situation where I really can’t afford to be. I am aware of this, and struggling to internalize the idea that no, the situation is not hopeless and things will improve, especially if I keep working on it. Even an inch of progress towards a goal is forward motion, and it’s better than nothing. I have to hold on to that.

I’m going to finish this post, look after the needs of the cats, and hopefully do more writing and job hunting before I get terribly distracted. I do have a great deal of work ahead of me, and nobody else can do it for me.

I guess that realization and the actions that follow in its wake really are a mark of adulthood.

Even if I have no real clue as to what I’m going to be doing next.

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