A cold night in the wilderness

Today was not good.

It started off on the wrong foot when I either slept through my alarm or the damned thing didn’t go off. I have checked and rechecked all the relevant settings and as far as I can tell, there was no reason for it not to go off. Everything is 5 by 5.

So once more, an alarm clock has failed me in a way that seems impossible. I know I would not have slept through it had it gone off. The dang thing was only inches from my ear. Plus, most alarm clocks keep beeping till you tell them to stop/

And that’s clearly not what was going down. So I dunno.

All I know is that I lazily awoke at 7:36 am, convinced it must still be before 7 until I looked at the clock and shouted “Excrement!”.

Or words to that effect.

Luckily,. I have enough wiggle room in my schedule to accommodate such a SNAFU. It just meant that I would not get my usual “grade period” of time between waking up and actually having to pull myself together and act like a human.

Usually, I play video games during that time and that keeps my mind busy enough that it doesn’t interfere with my mind’s delicate and intricate booting up sequence.

Anyhowzit, I had a quick breakfast and got my big butt out of the door. Missed my bus by mere moments (I hate it when that happens) and had to walk. Not a huge deal – I only went back to taking the bus in the mornings last week – but definitely part of a sort of theme that was emerging from the events of the day.

And of course, it was a really cold morning.

Fast forward to class. Story Editing, last class of the year. I was dreading this class for two reasons : 1) my story editing report was going to get workshopped and it suuuucks and 2) we had a test for which I was not prepared because the instructor has the charming habit of testing you on the last day of class on things from the handout on the first day of class, and I am not very good at keeping things like that.

I have that instructor next term too, for Career Launch. I am thinking of taking everything she gives us on the first day and nailing it to my wall.

Also… Career Launch! I’ve been waiting for one of those my entire adult life. The whole thought of it makes me a-tingle with that feeling that is anticipation, excitement, and terror all rolled into one.

Call it…. teranticement.

Or don’t. I’m not your mother.

Anyhow, coming up on halfway through class I began to realize that my bowels were sending me urgent messages of dire need, so I went to the bathroom. All was well until I stood up at the end of the performance and realized I had made a rather substantial deposit. Uh oh, I thought.

And I was right to be concerned. Despite my pre-flush efforts, the toilet overflowed violently. Water fountaining over the sides of the toilet with me helplessly jiggling the handle. I had to go next door and tell the two program aides about it.

Patient readers know that this kind of thing freaks me the fuck out and throws me into a depressed, anxious, and freaked out mood filled with so many layers of Freudian shame that it it’s like a baklava of neurosis.

So I was deep in the depressive deep freeze when I went back to class. I felt cold and numb and like I was in shock, which was not that far from the truth.

Weird how our minds can throw our bodies into genuine medical distress just from emotions, don’t you think? Makes me feel like we need better safety circuits.

And then came the test. I knew I would not do super well, but I wasn’t too overly concerned (just overly concerned enough) because I test well and I figured that meant that I would at least pass.

But then it came time to mark our tests and I realized that I had missed two pages of a five page test. The pages had been stuck together and I had not seen them. No wonder I had finished so early.

So I went from “deep freeze” to “bathed in liquid nitrogen” I did do something very intelligent, though : I immediately got up and left the room so that I would not hear the answers for that section.

Because of this, the teacher let me do that part of the test over my lunch break and I handed it in to her before the next leg of my long day’s journey into neurosis.

Which consisted of getting together with my partner for that Writing for Video Games presentation (after a quick Subway lunch). I had not heard a thing from them since our creative jam session last Wednesday, and seeing as the presentation is to be given tomorrow morning, I was kind of eager to get down on it.

So yes. I still have that to dread. Yay me.

It quickly became apparent that our crazy ass plot from the jam session was going to be very hard to explain. After a fair bit of work, we (I hope) have it reduced to something that can be conveyed in a ten minute presentation.

Makes me really wish we had come up with something really simple involving penguins, though. Cute little penguins having cute little happy and harmless and LINEAR adventures that a child could understand.

Bit late for that though.

After we finished, I headed on home. Good news : I finally remembered to get some prescriptions filled that had been sitting in my wallet for more than a week. The bad news : the bag my pharmacist put them in had no bottom, so my four bottles of pills scattered all over Cook street while I was in the middle of crossing it.

So I had to risk life and limb to retrieve them. At least I realized that the spillage was not my fault. At first, I, of course, blamed myself immediately, assuming that I had somehow managed to turn the bag over while clumsily handling it.

But no. The bag had no bottom. For once, it was not my own fuckery at work.

Oh well, at least today is over, school wise. All I have to do before tomorrow’s double whammy of classes is study up on our presentation so I am ready to do my part.

And once tomorrow is over, I have five days off before I start Term 6 : Endgame.

That’s roughly the right amount of time off. I don’t want any more than that. I just need a nice stretch of days in which there is absolutely nothing expected of me so I can concentrate on relaxing, and I am good to go.

Only one term left!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Inner voice part 2

A rare sequel! Mark this day on your calendar, folks.

What I forgot to mention yesterday is that this “listening” state is my preferred mode of being. I live my life insuch a manner as to maximize my time in the creative/intelligent mode. i.e. open to mental stimulation but emotionally closed off from the world.

I have talked before about how depression seems to have some kind of relationship with stimulus level. The theory (which is mine) is that by keeping stimulus levels preternaturally low and avoiding as much physical arousal as possible,  the depressive keeps their anxiety in check. But at a terrible cost.

It creates a very strong and destructive anti-vitality bias. The things that normally stimulate people to a happy, balanced level of physical arousal are violently shunned. An artificial, deathly calm is enforced with brutal thoroughness. Nearly all forms of emotion are suppressed lest they wake the sleeping giant of the depressive’s anxiety.

The safe island in all this is mental stimulation. That is a form of stimulation that can be controlled with precision, especially with the Internet available to all. This fine control allows the depressive to keep the emotional stimulation to a “safe” level.

I do it with video games and hanging out with my fuzzy friends, and frequent naps. Another person might do it with TV and junk food. A third person might do it with music, reading, and prayer.

But the game is always the same : substitute “safe” mental stimulation for all the rest of the stimuli that normally keep people feeling alive, awake, and content.

That’s why I live in this bizarre “outside the Cave” way. I live Plato’s philosopher’s life as much as I can, and you really shouldn’t do that. I live in my world of ideas, observations, information, and other cold-circuit things because that’s where I feel safe. Interaction with external reality is kept at an absolute minimum, often at the cost of doing a very clumsy and weak job of relatively simple tasks.

Which, of course, only encourages further withdrawal.

It doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing I can conquer by sheer force of will. I can push myself to spend less time inside my head and more time dealing with reality, but the fundamental pattern of withdrawal from excess stimulus no matter what seems to be very deep set, probably because it started when I was raped at the tender age of three.

I dealt with it while it was happening by taking my mind away. This is not real, this is not happening, I am not here. I basically unfocused my mind to blur it all out, and retreated deep into my mind in order to cope with the horrible reality of what was happening.

And that is what I have been doing ever since. Trying to stay in that tiny room inside my head so that horrible reality can’t get to me. Brutally and desperately minimizing my time outside that room. Restricting my life to only that which is compatible with this regime.

For an agoraphobic like myself, home is a place in our minds far more than it is a place in the real world.

It’s hard for me to even imagine leaving that tiny hovel of my mind for very long. When I contemplate it I feel a very intense sense of panic that shuts the whole thing down. It’s that kind of panic/anxiety that is similar to the nameless dread of the compulsive in that it is a fear so great that it has no object. You are not imagining a specific outcome or a particular consequence of the action. The action itself is far too terrifying.

Even as I type this, I am filled with terror and dread.

So I stay in my teeny tiny safe place and only touch reality with a ten foot pole. Two of them, actually, used like chopsticks. Very clumsy.

It’s not without is benefits. This inner world of mine is extremely well developed. All this time listening to my inner voice in contemplation has given me a deep understanding of many things, such as what makes people who they are and why they do what they do. This understanding makes me a better writer and gives me insight into things which most people would consider an unsolvable and opaque mystery.

That has its drawbacks too, though. It’s not easy being the only fish who knows he’s swimming. I have always “seen” more than others and understood more than was probably good for me about human frailty and the everyday darkness of life from which there can be no escape.

At least, not for me.

Because it’s not just that I perceive things about people that others don’t, it’s that I lack any sort of escape from the reality of it all. I have denied myself denial as a coping mechanism for so long that it’s simply no longer an option.

I am naked to the truth, and dying of frostbite. And I don’t know what to do.

Lately I feel like my superego is this enormous and  brutally judgmental eye in the sky, filled with malevolence and hate and determined to crush me flat and keep me that way. It knows no mercy and no compassion, and with it, you are failing the moment you begin.

And all the time, it stares into me, freezing me in place and keeping me from healing. Things happen in my mind that make no sense. Like whenever someone is waiting for me, I get this intense anxiety the second they begin to wait, as if I am already doing something inexcusable, and need to move as quickly as possible because even one second more than the absolute minimum amount of time it takes to finish what I am doing means I am a horrible, horrible person.

I got that from my impatient Dad. But I am sure that even he would say that it goes way too far. When I am in this anxious state, I truly feel like I have to rush or I will be abandoned. Left behind and forgotten.

And I have felt that abandonment anxiety for a very long time.

Pretty fucked up, isn’t it?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

The inner voice

I have been pondering that place I go when I think about stuff.

I’m no transcendentalist, so I am not talking about a real place. I do not literally go anywhere. Anyone observing me would just see me staring off into the middle distance with a faraway look in my eyes. In this, I look like any other human being.

Remember this when contemplating your fellow humans. No matter how they look, how they dress, what assumptions your social programming are telling you to make, or anything else. You have no idea what is actually going on in that person’s head. They could be having amazing thoughts that would astound you.

I certainly don’t look like a genius. In fact, due to my usual state of dishabile, I imagine I often look rather the opposite. I imagine I look kind of homeless, to be honest. Fat homeless, but homeless nevertheless.

Anyhow, back to the inner voice thing.

It was when I was collaborating with my classmate on our Writing for Video Games project that this subject really stuck in my mind. Repeatedly though the process, I would go to this inner state in order to come up with something or figure out a solution to a problem.

And the thing is, it’s a very hard state to describe. Despite my articulacy, when someone asks me what I am thinking about, I don’t know what to say. My thoughts are too multifaceted and complex to be rendered into a simple linear sentence.

And even if I could express it in a sentence, odds are nobody would understand it because it is so uniquely idiomatic to my way of thinking. It would be like asking a question and getting an entire library in response – and all the books are in Swahili.

Plus, well…. a lot of my thoughts are beyond most people’s ability to grasp. That’s a fact I find hard to take. I always, in quixotic fashion, feel like if I just explain it right, people will understand it and we will have connected.

It almost never works. But it is one of the things that has pushed my verbal skills into the stratosphere, so I supposed it is worth it.

As usual, my biggest problem with my advanced capacities is that I honestly don’t know how to handle them. By that, I do not mean that I am incapable of using them, but rather that I don’t know how to emotionally integrate the notion of intellectual superiority.

It’s weird. I have no problem with people thinking I am very smart or very talented or a lot of other ways of being good st stuff. But when I contemplate anything close to thinking of myself as better than another person, I get incredibly uncomfortable.

I mean, can’t we all just get along?

But I grasp that most people don’t go into this inner voice state and come back to reality with the sorts of things I can do.

So I suppose I can handle being unlike others. Just not superior.

Once more, we shall tack patiently back to the subject.

I call it a voice, but it’s not like there are words or a tune. It’s a voice only in the sense that accessing it is so much like listening for something. I go very still and there’s a sense of straining to sense something. External stimuli are muted in order to free up as much of my mind for the task at hand as possible.

If it’s merely a matter of accessing information, it lasts only a moment. Remembering does not take a lot of effort, although the older I get, the more full my memory gets. And that means finding what I am looking for takes a bit more time.

It’s like trying to find the right book in a very large library.

I used to say that the process did not involved imagery, but I was mistaken. I said that basing it purely on the preconceived notion that I was not a very visual person and therefore I did not think visually.

Never make that kind of assumption. Always observe before you conclude. Even if you are pretty sure you are right.

Images do flash through my mind while I think. But very, very briefly. It’s almost subliminal. I never really get a “look” at them. And it seems almost incidental to what is going on in my mind. Like it’s just what flashes on the screen while the supercomputer works away, no more meaningful to the process than the noise the printer makes.

Computer analogies and the human mind : together since computers.

I have never been able to call up an image of something I have seen like I was looking at a photograph. My mind just doesn’t work that way most of the time. The only time I can think of that it does work that way is that, occasionally, when I am remembering some piece of arbitrary information like a phone number, that I have seen but not used yet, I will get a brief flash of where I saw the information.

The other exception is in situations where I have an enormous number of visual samples because they are people, places, or things that I’ve seen an enormous number of times.

I can easily see everything in my childhood home, for instance, and in such detail that I can walk through that home in my mind like I am taking a virtual tour. Same with the writing department at school, and that restaurant I like, Bob’s Sandwiches.

To a lesser extent, I can still mentally survey all three schools I attended growing up, parts of my home town, and the bits of the neighborhoods I have lived in here in the GVRD.

Those are the exceptions, though. For the most part, my mind just plain doesn’t take pictures, or at least, doesn’t keep them very long.

Music, on the other hand, lasts forever, even if I only heard the chorus on a K-Tel commercial when I was six.

Funny how that works.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

My slippery mind

I have a very slippery mind.

On one hand, it means that my mind can find and slip through the tiniest cracks in someone’s bullshit. Or to a lesser degree, my own.

The slipperiness also makes my mind very quick and agile. I have a lot of mental maneuverability. In the right situations (say, ones where verbal skills shine) I am quick-witted, pithy, witty, and total in control of myself and my situation.

On the other hand…. well,. things slip my mind very easily.

I really feel like no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to stay on the ball,. things go missing. There’s a limit to how many plates I can keep spinning and when that limit is exceeded, for every plate I start spinning, another crashes, and boom goes that memory.

I have never been any good at keeping a lot of things in my mind at the same time. I have specialized rather heavily in being a deep processor, and that comes at the cost of not being much of a multitasker.

And that wouldn’t be such a problem if I had the self-discipline to make and keep lists and calendars and so on. But I don’t. Doing the necessary tasks often, ha ha, slips my mind. Those inner processes of mine are extremely demanding and they will delete anything that stands in their way if they need more mental space.

It’s like I start off with great intentions, then I think really hard about something, and my “keep my shit together” tasks go out the window.

It’s a crude approximation, but apt.

Now arguably, with enough therapy,. a lot of the junk in the attic of my mind will get cleared out and that could pave the way for something approaching competence.

That makes sense in theory. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I would end up using that extra space to think yet deeper thoughts.

That’s the benefit for me of being 43. I may have lost some perspicacity to age, but the older I get, the deeper my mental integration goes. I feel like my mind has deepened with age, so that everything my mind does draws from a deeper and far more powerful source than when I was younger.

So powerful that it scares me, to be honest. The power of this subconscious creative engine of mine is staggering. The feeling of being a small man walking a large dog (and vice versa) grows with every day. The one thing that reassures me about it is that my mind can’t run away from me too much because it is, after all, only a supercomputer. It still needs me to tell it what to do.

So I am safe for now. Unless I develop a psychosis. But I am too old for standard psychosis and too young for senile psychosis, so I think I am good for a while.

Normal people don’t think things like that, do they?

But when you are mentally ill science-minded genius who loves psychology and has a deep  DEEP fear of finally losing all his marbles, you need facts like that in order to control the fear so that the fear doesn’t control me.

When I went through mental and physical hell in my early twenties – when I was consumed by hypochondria and paranoia  – one of the many thing I thought was happening was that I was going crazy.

Turned out not to be the case, mostly because I was already crazy. My thought processes during that period of time were extremely unstable. It was hard for me to keep a thought in my mind for more than a second or so. The enormous shit tornado[1] of pain and anxiety and confusion and everything else ripped my thoughts apart. I was extremely depressed and anxious and ill and I spent most of my time propped up on a couch watching TV in those periods where the storm was not so bad.

And spending the rest of the time in the bathroom.

And as I have said before,. severe IBS left me malnourished, dehydrated, with my electrolyte balance completely off and a gut like an earthquake zone.

That’s what happens when a disorder wrings your guts out until you have absolutely nothing left in you (and then some) and then keep you empty by murdering your appetite with a straight razor in a graveyard at night, and even makes it so that just drinking water sets off the intestinal fireworks.

But you have heard all this before.

I am still figuring out how to adjust to the knowledge that you WILL forget stuff. Important stuff. [2] And that, at least until you at least gain the competence to write shit down, there’s not a goddamned thing you can do about it.

I suppose my existing coping mechanism will have to do : being self-effacing and friendly and humble and apologetic so that people will forgive your frequent fuckups.

It’s nothing I set out to do, but I suppose I had to develop some kind of defense mechanism, and I am definitely not the sort of person who can pretend these things don’t matter or blame it on others.

I have too deep a sense of responsibility for that.

I keep coming back to the same answer : I need a personal assistant. Someone whose job it is to keep track of what I should be doing, as well as what I could be doing but is not yet a must-do.

Only a live human being with a functioning forebrain can compensate for my mental vacuity and general reality issues. Someone bright and focused and competent who is willing to be the gardener who takes care of this delicate little hothouse flower.

For now, at least, I can’t fix my brain. It is what it is.

But maybe someday I will be able to pay someone else to do it.

I wikll talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. I dare you to make a movie out of THAT,. Syfy! You could call it Shit Storm.
  2. I’ve had nightmares like that. And guess what? They came true! Yay me.

Are you still there?

Something to tell the depressives you love : I’m here for you even when you can’t feel me.

Because depression is disconnection.

The root cause of the disease is a kind of mental anesthetic that the mind normally produces at times of psychology trauma in order to keep us going so we can  heal.  Once the trauma has been healed, the anesthetic tapers off.

Depression occurs, then, when the trauma is too big,. too severe, for the mind to heal. Therefore, the signal “stop producing the anesthetic” never comes. The wound remains, and the depressive is caught in a situation where the mind can only treat the symptoms, not the whole disease.

And it doesn’t do a very good job of it. Especially if the trauma occurred early in life, and therefore distorted all psychological growth after it.

Mine happened when I was three. Maybe four.

And the thing about anesthetic is that it numbs you. Think of it as Novacaine for the brain. And that numbness makes it hard to feel things the patient vitally needs to feel in order to have a balanced and healthy psyche.

Things like love, a sense of connection with others, positive social feedback, and all the other things from that upper middle section of Maslow’s hierarchy.

The teal bit and the purple bit.

Note that the above is a hierarchy of needs. Not a hierarchy of wants. A human being needs these things in order to be happy and fulfilled.

And the purple and teal areas are the things that depression blocks. No wonder we’re so sad. We’re walled off.

So from the point of view of the depressive, those things in the “happiness zone” (HZ) do not exist. Not in any real, meaningful sense. They don’t exist because we can’t feel them.

And if you can’t feel a thing, it doesn’t exist. Feelings trump perception every time. [1]

That’s why reminding us of our blessings is worse than useless. Not only does it make us feel like you are invalidating our suffering, it only serves to remind us of how we should be happy… but are not.

And we hate that. We would rather think the world is against us and that we are genuinely the worst human being ever than face the bare fact that we are broken. That it’s not something wrong with the world. It’s not even something wrong with us, or at least, not in the way we think there’s something wrong with us.

Objectively speaking, we are nothing like we think we are. But the human mind interprets the lack of HZ input only one way : we are terrible people of negative worth, nobody loves us, our friends and loved ones hate us and resent us, nothing we have done in our lives matters, and the world would be better off without us.

Again, this is all extraordinarily contrary to the observable facts. But again, that doesn’t matter, because it’s how we feel, and feelings trump perception.

Note how these feelings map perfectly onto the HZ, especially the purple “esteem” zone. We are receiving none (or almost none) of the necessary inputs for self-esteem.

And we interpret that as meaning they are not there, when in reality, they are there, we are just not receiving them.

It’s not that there’s no signal. It’s just that our antenna is busted.

Therefore, ergo, and so on, to really attack the problem from a cognitive point of view, what is necessary is to construct a way for the depressive to believe in signals that they can not feel because of the disease.

Perhaps that is the true function of faith. Faith allows someone to, in essence, generated those HZ signals for themselves, no matter what happens in the world.

From that point of view, faith is brilliant. I wish I was capable of it.

Assuming faith is not a possibility, how else can a bridge to belief be built? Believe it or not, the answer might be reason and the rational mind.

But rationality used in a specific way. A rough, working definition of rationality is the ability to let observation and reason to change emotion.

In other words, to defy the usual pattern of emotion overriding observation and rationality, and letting observation and reality change emotion instead.

In order for this to happen, however, the patient must be able to truly believe in the products of their rational mind. To have faith in their own intellect, more or less. Such faith is a potential bridge to sanity for some depressives because it opens the door to modifying one’s emotions through reason.

The essential method is this : to fill one’s mind with all the evidence that the positive HZ inputs are out there – say, that your friends really do love you – and hold on to that knowledge despite the attempts your depression will make to negate this strange and foreign emotion that threatens its reign.

And this will not be easy. It will, in fact, be an intense defensive battle wherein the patient must fight off wave after wave of attacks from the forces of the “status quo” mindset, and the weapons they use will be both emotional and intellectual.

The emotional side will consist of a feeling of “wrongness” to the new emotion of self esteem and a desire, almost like a mental itch, which makes the individual want to reject the thought. You have activated the mind’s immune system and it is going to try to convince you to dump the positive input of reason in favour of giving up and thus releasing the mental tension.

Intellectually, it will come in the form of attempts of the mind to come up with reasons why the conclusions that have been drawn from the evidence is false. Call it a very personal form of motivated reasoning. This can be harder to resist because it comes bearing the marks of reason.

But if these negations are examined as they attack, their logical flimsiness will soon become evident, and countering arguments can be developed. Such as :

Depression : Those people who said nice things about you didn’t mean it.
Counter : What evidence do you have for that? Because you have way, way more evidence that they do mean it.

Depression : Everybody wishes you would just go away.
Counter : Really? Because that’s not what they say. What proof do you have that they are not being sincere with you?

Depression : I am the worst person ever.
Counter : Worse than Hitler? Stalin? Vlad the Impaler? Trump? Don’t confuse feeling bad with being bad.

And so forth and so on.

Now I realize that the above solution is not for everyone. It is, in fact, only suitable for those of us who walk a very rare and harsh road. Those of us who have faith in the truth and pursue it at all costs. Those of us whose reason can modify our emotions.

Those of us who conquered their childhood fear of the dark by repeating “there is nothing in the dark that was not there in the light” to ourselves.

So remember folks : the sun is always shining, even when you can’t feel its warmth.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Just look at the victims of Capgras Syndrome.

One fried fox

Get ready for some brain farts, because my mind is pooped.

But for a quite wonderful reason. I am just getting home from collaborating on a project with another student and it was AWE SOME.

I have avoided collaboration so far because I thought it would be like group work and I hate group work with a pink and purple passion. To a “get it done” introvert, group work is the lowest level of hell. People fuck around, they don’t listen, they don’t take the project seriously, they don’t do their part of it, and the whole time, they give you fucking attitude.

Admittedly, that’s group work in a scholastic setting. It’s probably worse in offices.

And the thing is, I take responsibility for what I do. To do otherwise would impugn my sense of honesty, honour, and personal integrity and do me a moral wound.

Fuck THAT noise.

And that’s all very noble, but the thing is, most people are not like that. They feel no sense of responsibility to the group to do their part,. They treat anyone who expects them to pull their weight like they treat their parents. They are sullen, pouty, difficult, and feel absolutely no guilt about making other people do their work.

Just thinking about it makes me remember why I was a conservative in my teens. Then I found out that the Progressive Conservatives were a bunch of jackals like Mulroney.

Back to collab. The one thing where I was forced into collaboration at VFS was my film group, and you all know how that went. I got shut out of the process entirely.

So I was not super happy to be forced to collaborate with my classmate for the final project in Writing for Video Games. But tonight, I got together with my partner and we brainstormed a story together and it was so much fun.

THAT is what I hope I find in the TV industry. Creative people bouncing ideas off each other, helping each other out, everyone working to make the show as good as it can possibly be, all one big neurotic dysfunctional family. The story we came up with for a video game is quite good, if I do say so myself, and I am quite happy with the result.

And the process was a lot of fun too. Exhausting, but fun. Like the most fun exam ever. My creative engine was running at full throttle and so was his. We played off each other quite well. He’s young and energetic, and I’m… not, and I think between his enthusiasm and my own creative depth, we make a decent team.

For three hours we hammered away at that thing. It was exhilarating. He took care of writing things down on the dry erase board in the classroom we used,  which is proper as he is the one with the energy, and I got to just sit there and generate ideas and solutions.

I wish my life was always like that. I’d be such a workaholic!

By the time those three hours were up, though, my brain calories were used up. Also, regular calories because I had not had my supper yet. I maybe could have done another half hour, but I would have been a goddamned zombie by the end of it. As it turned out, we finished more or less in sync with my mental gas tank.

Even my partner’s laptop was exhausted!

Actually, today has been a pretty good day. It didn’t start out that way though.

See, I was supposed to present my TV ads project in Writing for Commercials this morning, but there was one small problem : I hadn’t done it.

But I had a pretty good excuse. I’d never received it.

I was sick the day we did TV ads in class, and therefore never got the assignment. In fact, I completely forgot there was another assignment in that class until last Saturday, where a paranoid prowl through the school Moodle  reminded me of the assignment.

Which I had never received, and therefore could not complete. It was too bad, too. I like writing my radio ads. Writing TV ads seemed like even more fun.

So then I had to get my hands on the assignment. First, I put a call out to my fellow students. Nada. Then I emailed the instructor. Nada.

Finally, Tuesday night, one of my fellow students photocopied the assignment and put in my binder at school.

Sadly, I did not learn of this fact until this morning, aka Wednesday morning. Right before the thing was due. I couldn’t even start it because the assignment was at school. I was completely out of options.

So I stayed home. It was not an easy decision. It was the product of a sudden and very fiercely fought battle between my will and my social anxiety.

Social anxiety won.

I just could not face my peers and an instructor without anything to present. My sense of shame was deep and burned bright hot. So I composed a point-form email explaining my situation to my instructor, and stayed the hell home.

Not proud of it, but so it goes.

I did make it to my afternoon class, which was TV Pilot 2, though. And I enjoyed it. For whatever reason, possibly the extra sleep, I felt far more alert and engaged today, and that made all the workshopping something to enjoy rather than endure.

Apparently, actual TV work is a combination of individual and group work, much like my workshopping courses. Writers go off to their office, write, then get together and present their work, which the group then workshops.

I kind of wish it was more like what I did today. And who knows, some people in TV write with a partner, maybe I could do that too.

I can say with certainty that what I produced with my partner is way better than anything I could do on my own. With him to do the writing down and contribute phenomenally good ideas, all I had to do was the parts that I do best, and bingo.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So for the most part, today was great,

Except that I forgot to get the assignment out of my folder.

I am so high maintenance to myself.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Who I am and what I do

The eternal questions : who am I and what do I do?

I’d really like to know. I have felt like I served no purpose except to subtract from its overall productivity Useless… that’s the word that got hung on me at an early age. And it stuck. I have a deep sense of being a net loss to the world. Nothing but a pathetic blubbering mass of flab, completely incapable of supporting himself, and my only hope in life is other people’s pity.

I know this is not true. I actually have extraordinary talents and an amazing mind. A lot of people would give their eyeteeth to have what I have always just taken for granted. There is a vast latent power in this megavolt  mind of mine.

And that scares me.  Perhaps irrationally. Maybe the fear is just one of the ghosts that my mind uses to keep me “safe” by making sure I don’t step outside my teeny tiny comfort zone. Maybe I have nothing to be afraid of.

But I have had a sense of my power since I was a kid, and how much damage it can do, and because I am a morally responsible, sensitive person, this power frightens me. I am terrified of hurting people via a careless use of mental muscle.

There’s a part of me – my id – that would love nothing more than to pull out all the stops, disconnect the safety systems, and shine as hard as I can without worrying about hurting people’s eyes. To take the attitude that I am just a normal person with no extra responsibilities and use my extra worldly power to make a life that suits me, and to hell with the consequences to anyone else.

I’m going to be me as I am, and the world will just have to deal with it.

But that would only change the polarity of the error. Take it from too much to too little. For every wrong solution, there is an equally wrong opposite solution.

Sometimes I wish I had gotten the clue about how much my life sucked and how it totally did not have to be that way when I was younger. Say, when I was thirteen. Then I might have rebelled and copped a massive attitude that basically said “Fuck you, I’m smarter than you” and dared the world to prove me wrong.

Secretly hoping that it would. Then there would be some sense of authority in my life. Your teenage years are supposed to be about testing your boundaries and seeing what you can get away with. They’re about testing the limits of your capabilities and discovering the walls of your world.

But I never did that. If there was some kind of urge to go crazy and push the boundaries in my teen years, it was hidden under all the depression. Despite my prodigious intellect, I was markedly incurious about the world around me.  The world inside my head was so much more interesting to me.

And as far as I can tell, I was never much of an explorer. I recall exploring my neighborhood when I was a preschooler. I remember doing it slowly and cautiously. But once I started going to school and getting bullied, all I wanted was to be safe and that killed whatever exploratory urge I possessed.

I wanted to be safe and safety meant home. That’s how agoraphobia is born.

Instead, I took up the depressive defensive posture – the one where you bend over with your hands on your stomach in order to keep your guts from falling out.

I suppose that’s what happens when you go through life as one of the walking wounded. I suffered a lot of trauma as a child, and those wounds were left completely untreated and left to fester with infection unimpeded.

And that stunted my growth. Not physically, obviously, but psychologically. Socially. Spiritually. I never really grew up. It’s easy to get away with that when you are as intelligent as I am. All you have to do is keep flashing that advanced IQ and talking vastly above your age and such, and nobody even imagines that you are not growing up.

But I wasn’t. I was largely in my own isolated world. I went to school. I ate supper with my family. I went to the mall with my allowance. Physically, I was present, and at a glance I seemed to be fine.

But I wasn’t. I was deeply ill. And I didn’t know how to express it. I am very lucky that my mother got a sense of my depression and arranged for me to go see Doctor Klein. He probably saved my life, because when I was in high school, the depression got bad enough to distort my sense of reality and there were times where dying seemed like the easiest thing in the world, and not even important. Like I could kill myself and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Nobody would even miss me, least alone myself. It would be fine.

Luckily, I had Doctor Klein to talk to. As a therapist, he was average, but just having someone I could talk to about things helped enormously.

That kept me alive till college, and I didn’t feel useless there. But then my parents pulled me out of college because they wanted to take early retirement (or rather, my Dad did) and brough me back to high unemployment Summerside and the depression took over and I was useless once more.

And that’s how it has been since then, really. I foundered in the pits of depression for two decades because there is no disease more deadly than one that prevents you from seeking treatment. It took me many, many years to get over having been dumped by the local hospital’s psychiatric outpatients program.

It was only when I finally got my shit together enough to bug my doctor to get me individual therapy with Doctor Costin that I began to recover. And even then, it took five years to have anything like an appreciable effect.

And now I am only 2.5 months away from actually having that precious piece of paper that proves to the world that I can do things.

Surely someone needs my genius!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Overcharged at the memory bank

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this excess of mental energy of mine and the role it plays in my mental illness and general fucked up lack of a life.

It should come as no surprise that I have the kind of mind that produces more energy than I know how to use. After all, I started out with a top notch brain (for certain areas of application) and then spent nearly every waking hour exercising it in some way due to my insatiable hunger for mental stimulation.

In fact, that’s probably the pathology of the problem : I need a lot of mental exercise to deal with the high energy output that comes from all that mental exercise.

That’s why I am so addicted to video games. They can keep my mind relatively busy. Only the really, really good ones engross me enough for it to be the kind of mental drain that puts me in “the zone”, but as long as I am enjoying the game, it helps a lot.

And the great thing about video games, from a certain unhealthy point of view, is that they can help me use up that mental energy without also stimulating my fear and anxiety (much) because they ultimately don’t matter.

Nothing is truly at stake when I play a video game. It’s just me and my computer versus the game. I might get very frustrated or even angry, but at the end of the day, it’s as safe and solitary as reading, watching TV, or masturbation.

This makes my time playing video games, especially the really good ones, the closest I get to really being happy. The game absorbs enough of my mental overflow to produce a sense of calm within me, the game itself is fun (of course), and with some good music from my mp3 collection on, I can actually gain a certain amount of mental peace and a feeling of flow that makes me feel good about life for a while.

This suggests that my mind is, in a crude sense, its own worst enemy. Or at least, my inability to find the motivation to pursue more productive means of diversion is. Productive things by their very nature have stakes and therefore pressure and fear attached. TO my diseased mind, that makes them too scary and it is so much easier jto play my nice safe non-scary video games instead.

And meanwhile, my days go by and the next thing I know, I am 43 before I even get around to acquiring marketable skills.

My point is that if my mind is left unoccupied, it attacks itself. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it uses maladaptive means to dissipate that leftover mental energy, like for instance turning it into an energy for my crude and overweaning superego to use in its never ending destructive self-analysis and harsh judgment of the contents of my soul.

It’s like I am constantly prosecuting myself in a court without mercy but with plenty of malign intent to go around.

So it behooves me to keep my mind busy. And that would be a lot easier if I was a self-starting go-getter who loves generating their own projects and then seeing them through to the end and enjoying the sense of accomplishment that brings.

But I am just plain not that kind of guy. Not yet, anyhow. The only times I have been able to overcome my terrified paralysis have been when I have set out to do a certain thing every day. And that certain thing has to be something very simple that I can do entirely by myself and then push out into the world before my inner demons can catch up to me and tear down my confidence and make me give up in horror and shame.

That’s why I have to do things like this blog, where I don’t edit or proofread or anything. I just make wordcount and then hit Publish. It’s not that I don’t give a shit how good my work is. I care a lot and I really wish I was capable of writing and rewriting and polishing and perfecting a thing before sending it out into the world.

But I’m not. At least, not yet. While I am working on the initial edition of a thing, the work itself can keep me going. It absorbs enough of my mental energies that it keeps the demons at bay and my compulsion to complete what I start carries me through, at least if the journey is relatively short.

Once I finish the first version, though, all bets are off. The spell is broken and the demons arrive in full force. If I didn’t immediately push my creation out into the world, I would  never get anything done at all.  The demons would tear it apart, destroy my confidence, fill me with shame at having ever dared to do something so clearly awful, and I probably would not create anything for a really long time after that.

So instead, I do a lot of half-assed work. If I could overcome these personal demons of mine, I could produce work of a much higher quality.

But nope. I just squirt is out and shove it through the door.

And the thing is, I can get away with it. In a way, I am still coasting on natural talent. Even at VFS, I do my halfassed work and submit it, and get good marks anyway, just like always. It’s almost too easy.

I am the only one who knows for certain that I am capable of so much more. That is my shame. I hope to eventually be in a position where I have to try much harder in order to make the grade.

Because when the work does not challenge you, it’s hard to value it at all. I have been looking for that sort of challenge for my entire life.

Maybe so day, I will be able to provide it for myself.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.