Me — I Will Become… Pt. 2

Nearly three and a half years ago, I started The Daily Dose of Derailment. I did it for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost on that list was the fact that I was depressed. This was partially because I considered myself a writer, but didn’t write, and so the blog was one of many aspects about myself that I changed in those weeks. It helped a tremendous amount, and I’m still happy I took that first step. I never would have imagined the traction it would have gotten in that amount of time (though that is not and has never been the point of it), and I love that I can very easily see how much I—and this blog—have grown.

If you’re interested, here is the fist blog post I ever wrote. I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep myself from cringing a bit as I read it. That’s good though, it proves growth. (The fact that I’ve since changed websites and the formatting has been screwed up does me no favors here, either.)

Having noticed that 6 out of 10 of my most recent posts have been indirectly (or directly) related to my recent depression, I feel that it’s time to revamp. Just like I did over three years ago. I need to re-calibrate, and hopefully some good will come of it.

The last two months I have not had the willpower to make myself happy. I’ve just been allowing myself to be emotionally unstable because it has been so much easier than the alternative.

That ends today.

As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to put together a list of some things I need to do—all of the things that will bother me during the week if I waste my Saturday and Sunday knowing I had time to work on them. In a sense, I’m throwing away the weekend by not allowing myself to relax. But I need to lay the foundation for a better tomorrow if I want every day to stop sucking. (As I’ve said before, every action I’ve been taking has been with the mindset of mitigating depression rather than maximizing enjoyment.)

This means no more late blog posts—especially when there’s no reason for them to be late—and no more procrastination. If I can’t be serious about pulling myself together, I’m in big trouble, so I have to be serious.

If you actually read any of the past few weeks of posts, allow me to apologize! I can’t imagine there was anything worthwhile in any of those, but I’m certainly not going back to check.

For those interested, one of the action items on my list is to make a list of quotes that I will start using to keep me going. I already have the list, I just need to print it out and put it on a frame on my desk so that I stay on track. I think that list of quotes is a great thing to send you off with (with no attributions as I’ve reworded many of them to be simpler than they were). And, as I hope mine will be, may your tomorrow be better than today was.

“Follow your path.”

“If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

“It doesn’t get easier. You get better.”

“What easy thing can be done now to free up time later?”

“Don’t break your back for somebody who won’t see your pain.”

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Me — Playing Life on Damage Control

At risk of taking an even more intimate look at my psyche as I have been writing on my blog lately, I need to vent a bit. Again. So read at your own risk.

At the onset of even more bad news, I’ve been starting to seriously look at how I could possibly make the changes I need. I feel like at a certain point, the depression becomes my identity, and when it gets as bad as it is right now, nothing makes me feel better, I can only do things that don’t make me feel worse. Life becomes a game of damage control and mitigation in the hopes that each day is as not-terrible as it could possibly be.

Every conversation I have ends up being about staving off the sadness, and every thing I decide to do is carefully chosen with the intent of distraction and suppression. I start to seriously consider whether or not I would really care if I got hit by a car or if that headache suddenly turned out to be cancer, (being bedridden for months would remove a lot of options and choice, and the self-loathing that comes with them) and when I decide I would care, it’s because I couldn’t even begin to afford the hospital bills that would cost.

Now, my thoughts haven’t strayed towards action, and I don’t expect they ever will, but it can be hard to gauge just how bad of an emotional state I’m in because for all I know, this is just what life is and everyone else is just more well-equipped for it. I’m inclined to think that this isn’t the case, but you never know.

I have little doubt that my depression is worse than it was in January, and if I have any hope of being okay now rather than later, I need to make some drastic life decisions. As I’ve talked about before, I intend to move out of California, and my current plan has been to start that process next January/February. The reason that I’m not looking now is because I have one more semester of school left, I want to help get my passion project off the ground (which, admittedly, wouldn’t be much harder if I moved), I’m sort of waiting for a suitable replacement at work (though I’m not wouldn’t hold out for that—plus the idea of looking for new work breaks me a little bit), and I want to find a good conclusion to the D&D campaign I’m running. That last one is kind of important to me, and though my brothers and I could play over voice chat, I feel it would take a lot of the fun out of the game, because we’ve only ever played D&D on a table with character sheets and miniatures. Plus, I really hate it when campaigns don’t get closure, as is often the case.

But what if none of that really matters? What if I started packing my things right now and moved next month? Would I start healing right now? Would that be the right choice in the long run? I’m very aware that given the grand scheme of things, none of the things I’m holding out for really matter all that much, but I like to have a game plan, and throwing out the next few months of plans worries me.

Still, spontaneously going on a three hour walk because you can’t get out of your own head and almost crying in public while you’re listening to All You Need is Love also worries me. To me, that is a very clear indication that Kollin’s normal mental functions are failing.

I’ve found a quote about a week ago that really struck a chord with me.

“It doesn’t get easier. You get better.”

Strange how words can have the power to soothe and terrify at the same time. They say it gets worse before it gets better, so maybe my best course of action here is simply to assume that life isn’t done yet.

Me — Daily Happiness Tracker

So, I’ve been using a happiness tracker that a guy named Hugo started, as it is not just a pile of data (like most other ones I’ve used), but rather it turns that data into graphs and helps visualize your life in ways you can understand and digest. I’m not going to explain how it works, as you can just use that link to read up on his (very long) blog post. Instead, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned from it.

First things first, when you rate how good a day was on a scale of 1-10, I’ve noticed that it tends to be a bell curve. For me, my average day is a 7. I’ve had multiple conversations with people trying to explain why the average is 7 and not 5, but honestly it boils down to semantics, I guess, except that the American education system says that 70%, a C, is an average score.

Most of my days are 7s, with a good number of 6.5s and 7.5s. I realized that I had actually been doing a great job, all things considered. I’ve been keeping track of my numbers since March, and while I had good days and bad days, things tended to be pretty consistent, and it got easy to predict how good my day would be based on the things that I did.

But then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Three weeks ago, my daily average went from ~7.3 all the way down to 5.8. The last time my depression had been this bad was at the end of January, and I had spent all the time in between building my stability back up. I felt like all that work had been thrown at the window.

Happiness Chart

You can clearly see things drastically change near the second week of June.

It’s still affecting me in very obvious ways, and I won’t pretend things are different, but this time around I tried to take action immediately. I do not want to spend another six months using excessive busy work as a coping mechanism again. So, I reached out to a few people, and with the help of some sage advice, some personal daily routine changes, and a little bit of providence in the form of that dream I mentioned a bit ago all came together to put me back on track. My daily average is roughly 6.7 at the moment, so I’m already about halfway back to where I used to be a month ago, despite even more trials life has been throwing my way in the meantime.

The worst part about my depression is that when it’s at its worst, I feel like it’s the only thing I ever talk about, and the same is true whether I’m writing blog posts or talking to friends, or even in my own headspace—it’s almost inescapable.

But this chart—this chart shows me that I did a great job bouncing back. I feel like all of those good days since “the fall” were exceptions to the rule, and not the standard, but hey, if I can make a habit of what feels like abnormally good days, even if those days were the standard when I was better, I’m clearly making progress.

Me — Rebuilding Stability

Last week was rough. Without question, it was the hardest set of days to get through in several months, and it rivaled the month-long rut I got caught in in January. I had spent most of this year building myself and being okay with who I am and the position in life I’m in (while acknowledging the steps forward I’m taking), and I was doing great.

I have a daily happiness tracker that I’ve been keeping since March, and on a scale of 1-10, I’m happy to say I’ve had a bell curve peaking at 7. To me, that’s pretty solid. A passing grade, could be better, could be worse. (70% is average because of the American education system, think of that what you will.)

But a combination of things happened last week, and that score plummeted. My weekly average went from 7.07 to 5.82. My mental health has obviously taken a huge hit, and I’m afraid it’s going to take me quite a few months to build it back up to where it was.

It’s a shame, because I was doing so well. I was writing consistently, doing weekly prep for my D&D campaign, working full time, etc. I was even making efforts to be more social and getting up at 5am just to get even more work done.

Now I’m back to the rut of going to bed at midnight, struggling to get up for work, and then not having the willpower to do anything when I get home at 5-6. That’s primarily why the blog has been struggling the past few weeks. Sometimes I’ll forget to write a post entirely, but other times I’ll just put it off indefinitely (like last Saturday).

I know what I need, and I’m taking steps towards it. Different steps I’ve never taken to fix my problems, which I feel is a good sign. The problem is to muster the willpower to take those steps when every free moment I have makes me want to just play games mindlessly the rest of the night. But I know this will only perpetuate the problem.

What I don’t want to do is turn the blog into a mindless vomit of words of me complaining about my problems. That’s part of the reason why I’m being vague here. The primary purpose of this blog is and has always been simply to force myself to write more about my thoughts and experiences. That way I can be more comfortable with words while also allowing me to easily look at my past and reflect on who I once was, and I can’t do that if I never include anything personal here.

I know that my life will never be 10/10 every day, but I’m working towards increasing my weekly averages. Right now the goal is to get back up to 7, which I imagine will take a while, and then after that maybe try pushing it to 7.5 or even 8?

I want to live life to the fullest. The current me is not capable of really enjoying it, but he’s doing what he can to allow future me to do so.

Life — Making Your Own Happiness

In my experience, there’s a certain type of depression/sadness that a lot of people have. It’s a very common affliction I like to call (as of right now) apathetic depression. It is the primary symptom of a state of life that is suboptimal for reasons that don’t appear to be your own. Your life sucks because you hate your job, you hate your family, you have no idea where your life is headed, etc. None of these things are your fault, so you just live day in and day out moping over how you drew the short stick when you were born.

I think there are people out there who drew the short stick, but you aren’t one of them.

The trap that a lot of people fall in is being comfortable in their contempt. It’s easy. Why blame yourself for the professional career you hate when you can just write it off by saying you have no other options? (It’s like in video games: nobody wants to blame themselves for their team losing; they will always point to somebody else first.)

Being happy sucks.

I say that because it’s not what people think it is. It’s not a magical state of mind that suddenly transpires when you get a raise or when you enter a committed relationship. Good events are easily overshadowed by that wall of the uncontrollable misfourtunes of life, because while it seems that good events are rare, misfortunes are constant and ever present.

But anyone can be happy, despite any misfortune and any life circumstance. I won’t pretend it’s easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But it is simple. In fact, you’ll probably nod to yourself and think “Wow, that was really deep, Kollin” as soon as I tell you the trick. (Or maybe you’ll just think I’m an idiot pretending to be philosophical, which wouldn’t be far from the truth.) The key to happiness is something you’ve already heard many times in many different ways from different inspirational quotes. But the inspirational quotes are just flowery ways of mystifying the truth right in front of our eyes. Ready?

Being happy is just a matter of putting in the effort to be happy. It means getting up in the morning finding ways to get excited for work instead of hitting the ‘Snooze’ button as many times as you can get away with. It means preparing for your future (near or far) instead of rewarding yourself for things you already had to do. It means taking steps to forgive and love yourself rather than dwelling on things you can’t change.

Most inspirational quotes are just an indirect way of saying that being happy is like going to the gym. It’s not easy. It’s a ton of work. Very few people want to go to the gym, they just want the results. It’s the same thing with happiness. It’s so much easier to dwell in misery because misery requires no action on your part. It’s also like the gym in that the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more you can lift.

Treating yourself to Starbucks before or after work isn’t going to make you happier. That’s a mental lie you tell yourself that will actually just perpetuate the problem. Caffeine addicts aside, you don’t (really) need anything but to commit to a personal promise that you’ll think about things with more positivity, and take action to ensure your days are better.

It’s hard, and you might need the help from friends and family to make that effort, but it is worth it.

Me — Having Something to Say

For the longest time, the MO of this blog had been “write for me, and anyone that reads it is a bonus”. That’s sort of translated to writing regularly about what I’m feeling about so that future me can look back at how very specific events have affected me over the years. For instance, I can look read the post about my cat that died November of 2017, or when I went to Portland, Oregon last July and how I felt during that time.

Most often, though, it just means that every week I commit myself to writing a “Me” post, but all I can think about is stuff I’ve written about in past weeks. At this specific moment, roughly three things come to mind: weather, and how I deal with the cold, getting up and being productive in very early mornings, or just general stress, and how the combination of an ever strengthening writer’s block and an omnipresent feeling of loneliness are working together to make insecurities more and more prevalent.

I’ve already talked about the former two, and the latter isn’t really something I feel is a good topic of conversation, even for a blog post. I’ll say this much, though: I’ve always imagined myself as having a bottle of emotions, and once every several months I rant to a friend about all my problems and then I feel nice and empty for a while. Recently, though, I haven’t managed to empty that bottle, and what worries me about that is that I’m starting to crack. In all honesty, I’m one serious tragedy away from a full mental breakdown. Not that I would wish it, but maybe that’s something I need—a traumatic yet cathartic release of emotion in order to reset my emotional balance.

But anyways, every week I’m struggling with finding a subject of conversation to go into. I really want to talk about my new D&D campaign, but that seems better for a Saturday post for arbitrary reasons. I don’t really like the idea of reviewing games or movies at the moment—the purpose of that was so that future me can look at my first impressions at all this media that may or may not end up being anything—but really I only go back at archived blog posts for references, and when I link them in new posts I don’t reread them. Part of that problem is that the current me isn’t far enough removed from any of those posts, so I know I haven’t changed, but still.

This is a long way of saying that Tuesday posts will no longer be restricted to “Me” posts, because I’m a boring individual and I don’t even have enough to say to interest my own writing muses, so nobody, not even future me, should be subjected to reading that sort of crap. (The preceding paragraphs that are only tangentially related to each other are a good example of this.)

That said: here’s something that doesn’t deserve a full post but I want to mention anyway. I got two pairs of nice cotton pajama pants for Christmas and they are so cozy I love them. One of them even has tea cups on them.

That is all.

Me — Holiday Free Time

Time budgeting is a very important aspect of my life. What I do with my day and setting a course for how to tackle it is vital because if I don’t get anything done, it affects my mood, and if I let that happen too much, it starts to really spiral out of control.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got so busy that I would be going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 5am to get stuff done. To be honest, and to my surprise, it was fantastic. I would get up early to finish homework that was due that day, go to class, then perhaps we would have a performance that night for my play, and then go to bed to wake up for the next day. On nights we didn’t have productions, I’d work on my final projects. Every couple of hours I had where I was comfortable enough to relax and play video games was a treasure.

But then, the production closed, and I got all my finals finished. I haven’t had a whole lot of hours at work lately, either, so suddenly I have a full week straight of nothing but free time. Then two weeks, then, three, and, well you get the picture. It didn’t help that I got sick on Christmas Eve and I’m still feeling the repercussions as I write this.

Let me tell you, the free time has sucked. I’ve hated almost every minute that I’ve spent to myself. I’ve tried writing, but I admittedly haven’t gotten a whole lot of that done. That part, I honestly can’t explain. Two months ago I would have been ecstatic to have all this free time. I was trying to get through a book, prep for a D&D campaign, and I’ve had a story rattling around in my head since July. Now that I have the time to do it, I can only shrug and thing “Sorry, not today”.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I at least had something fulfilling to do with my free time, but I don’t even have games I really want to play. With all the stuff that’s been going on at Blizzard my enthusiasm to play Heroes of the Storm has been shot. I recently bought a Switch but Super Smash Bros. isn’t the sort of game you could play for several hours at a time, and besides that, I don’t have anything I want to be watching while doing either of those things. Being caught up on Critical Role while the show is on a holiday break sucks!

For somebody that finds fulfillment in productivity, well, I’ve started to feel pretty terrible lately. That’s probably part of the reason why it’s taking so long to shrug off this sickness.

It’s not all bad, though. Classes start up Monday, which I’m very excited for. I did get an email saying that the schedules were moved around, and they put two of my classes in the same time slot, so I’m going to have to figure that out, but I’m not terribly worried.

I just need to start classes and getting more hours at work, because I’m dying here. I want to feel good about getting up at 5 instead of staying in bed because I don’t have anything to do.