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 — July ’19 Update

I’m going to try my best not to make this month’s update too depressing, as June was kind of a mess for me and I don’t want it to bog down my July. I’d rather talk about the news I’m excited for rather than the bad stuff that’s been happening (that I’ve admittedly been talking about nonstop the last few weeks).

So as always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I’m honestly thinking about taking “blog” updates off of the monthly topic list, because this entire year has been consistent of Tuesday and Saturday posts, even if the Saturday posts always seem to be late. I’m still pretty happy with that consistency, though. It keeps me accountable and keeps me writing. So unless I have some changes to make, I won’t be including the blog on the regular list of updates.

Writing has actually been going well! The story I wrote for my passion project is done (well, it’s first draft is), and I’m relatively satisfied with how it turned out. My original plan for a simple 1500 word “establishing shot” of a location turned into a 10k word novelette with lots of mystery and intrigue. A happy accident, I suppose. It won’t end up here on the blog, though. Our current plans are to monetize it along with other parts of the project. In other news, the second short story anthology is still in progress! I still have lots of edits to make on the stories, but it is something I am actively working towards, and I hope to publish it some time this year.

Work is still not going great. I did get a pay raise, which was nice, but it wasn’t as much as I was hoping, and the amount of stress I had to deal with a couple weeks ago when the manager was on vacation was not worth it. Still, I survived, and work has been getting slow so I managed to leave a little early a couple days, and for as much as I’d like the money, staying home to relax is more valuable to me at the moment (even if home hasn’t been particularly welcoming lately).

There isn’t much to say about school, because I’m not taking any summer classes, but I will reiterate that my hope is for the next fall semester to be my last, and once I’m done, I’ll have two AA degrees that will be basically useless, but hey, at least I don’t have student loans to pay off.

The DM fatigue of my current D&D campaign is hitting me hard, and it’s getting very difficult to thread the story beats I want to while also just trying to get through the sessions. I have a climax to the arc I want to earn, but if I don’t do a good job in the upcoming sessions, it will feel sudden and hand-wavy. It’s tough, but I really just want to take a break from DMing, cause it takes a lot out of me, and currently it’s been adding a lot of unnecessary stress to my life! Last month I was hoping we would have five more sessions before the arc was over, and even though our sessions are weekly, my current scope is now about three more sessions (because things take longer to happen than I expect).

I haven’t had a whole lot of time for video games, lately, but when I can spare a minute I play Magic: The Gathering Arena, and when I’ve got an hour or more I play a few games of Heroes of the Storm, usually while listening to Critical Role or something similar. (I’m almost to level 75 with D.Va, which is exciting). That’s about it, though.

As before, I’m still getting caught up with Critical Role, as a few busy weeks brought me behind, and I’m excited for Peace Talks, which I expect will have been released by this time next year. I’m planning on doing a reread through the Dresden Files. If/when I have time.

And that’s about it. I don’t have a whole lot else to talk about, though I’ve been trying a few new things lately to break myself of the monotony that has been driving me a little crazy with the stress my life has brought the past month. I’m planning on sharing my thoughts on them soon, and I’m excited for next month, when I start what is almost certainly my last semester of college.

Here’s to the future and digging ourselves out of the wholes we dug.

 

 

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 — Making Excuses or Biding Time?

A lot of people have this ideology that their life will get better If and When. “If I just got that job I wanted, I would have the money I need to buy that new car”, or “When my kids finally graduate high school and go to college, I’ll finally find the time to work on my hobbies”. They take the unhappiness they’re currently feeling and deflect the responsibility by saying they can’t fix it because of whatever situation they are currently in. That situation, of course, is always temporally locked, so the future is always brighter.

I’ve done a post about how happiness is a choice, and I still think that is 100% true. It’s just a mindset you have to flex, and virtually anyone can be happy in almost every situation they find themselves in. (I’m excluding the extremes here for obvious reasons.)

But even though I’m very aware of this argument, I still have a hard time feeling that my situation is like these things. For example, I desperately want to move to Oregon/Washington for a multitude of reasons, but first and foremost is the lack of privacy I have. I don’t really feel like I have my own space to work in, because I even share a bedroom (and have all my life). I can’t move out this second because I’m still going to school, but as soon as I’m done, the current Kollin has no intention of staying for a second, though some opportunities might encourage me otherwise.

This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy in my current living situation, as my unhappiness is an unrelated issue, but this significant and constant blow to my psyche of not having anywhere I can run to does put quite a damper on my mood. Even if I’m sitting at my desk playing video games, I have to be selective about the games that I’m playing if I don’t want to be visible to friends I may or may not want to interact with.

I’m doing everything in my power to make my space my own, though. Right now, I’m in damage control: I’m trying to be productive as mindlessly as possible so that I can maximize happiness while dumping out as much free time as possible (because free time spent not being productive stresses me out quite a bit).

No, I’m not under the delusion that changing my living space will solve all my problems. But I know for a fact that it would help, as I like clean, efficient uses of space, and as of today, the amount of people living/sleeping in my home went from 6 to 11. When your living room has to be converted into a mass sleeping mat, you’ve got spatial issues.

So while I’m waiting for this temporal problem to sort itself out, I’m working on the unrelated things. I’m trying out a new hobby that feels both productive and takes up a lot of time, and on that principle alone, it works well. More on that later, as I don’t want to talk about something after having only spent a few hours doing it.

Godspeed with your own endeavors and tribulations.

Playing Catch-up

Hello, friends! My time has been being devoured by both finals and work over the last few weeks, as you could probably tell by my late (or even absent) posts. I’m happy to finally report though that finals are now over, so my work schedule will resume to a simple 9-5! I’m very excited to slowly start getting my weekends and weeknights back, but with that excitement comes cleanup.

As I stated before, my job recently lost a full time employee, and I’ve had to fill in the gap as best I could, even while going to school (and, of course, finals). So aside from all the extra stuff I’d like to be doing, the shop just needs to be straightened up and organized. Scrap material has been piling up in the corner for weeks, and my partner left a ton of stuff in disarray! (Or at least, not to the nigh-obsessive level of organization that I would like to keep it at.) I went in to work for an extra 6 hours yesterday just to clean and I still have what I would predict to be another 4 hours of work. (It’s not as though I’m simply sweeping up wads of paper, after all. These scrap pieces are still 4′ x 8′ sheets of material.)

If I could get the shop in tip-top shape, finish all of the extra stuff I’d like to do, I would estimate it would need about another 12 hours in total, though a lot of that would just be normal maintenance like mopping the floors, which should be getting done more often than it is.

That leaves me to well, my actual room. I like to think I’m an organized person, but there seems to be a certain point in every semester where I just can’t be bothered. I get home late with various loose papers in my hand, and I just put it down on my desk sitting atop the rest of my various papers and then don’t bother to look through it ever again. I’m starting to seriously run out of desk space because of it, but the amount of time I’ve been able to spend just relaxing at home is so sparse as it is, then when I am here I’d rather just watch YouTube videos and play Magic than do more work. Obviously that’s a self-perpetuating cycle, but I’ll get to it soon. Along those same lines is the fact that I’ve been contemplating doing a deep cleaning of my room (yay purging!), but if I did that it would take all day, and the last time I had a full day to myself was probably January. As much as I want to, I’m not sure I can spare that kind of time.

As far as I’m concerned, summer can’t really start until both the shop at work and my room are completely clean and primed for living in. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do that.

I’m coming for you, summer. I have games I want to play and books I want to read.

Me — Time Budgeting

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time with… well, time. There’s been so much that I need to get done at work and at home, and I feel as though the amount of time I have to do it is getting smaller and smaller while the list of things is getting bigger. Part of the problem is that since I don’t have time to do weekly stuff, it keeps piling up, and another part of the problem is that I’m the only person filling in my position at work as of today. And not only that, the person that left was full time, and because of my school semester I still work part time. So what 1.5 full time employees were already struggling to carry is now being handled by 0.5 employees, which is me.

I do not know how I managed to wake up consistently at 5am last semester and get work done then. That was a magical time—a time I desperately need to emulate and am failing miserably at by struggling to get up at 7 every morning. (Which, back then, was my ‘sleep in’ day.)

What I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to get real work done at my desk. I mean, why would I do anything when video games are right there and there’s no consequence to doing that instead of writing? (Beyond the mental consequence, that is.) That said, today I went straight to Starbucks after work, even though I was super tired from a long day, and pulled out my laptop to write. I will say, though I only stayed 2 hours and didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have liked, I did get stuff done, so for that I am happy. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

I also think that since I have such a big backlog of work that needs to be done, there’s always a psychological strain on getting work done, so stress is a constant in my life right now. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get stuff done if I wasn’t so intimidated by the sheer amount of things that need to be done.

The thing that probably frustrates me most about situations like this is that while I know the answer is simple, it isn’t very clear. Do I need to schedule a day where I just kick down the whole to-do list? Would I even use that day properly or would I waste it and feel terrible as a result? Do I go to bed at 9pm and set up alarms that force me to get out of bed in the hopes that I can resume my once-great schedule? Do I just need to permanently trim my to-do list and forgive myself for doing so? Would the lessened burden fix things?

Part of me is thinking “just hold out for the summer, you’ll have more free time!” but I know that isn’t true. In fact, I’ll probably have less, because I’ll be working full time once school is out of the way, and I’ve half-committed to finishing the full-length play I started a few months ago, so the side projects I’m doing now will end up being even lower of a priority if I can’t find a way to up my creativity regarding personal projects.

Here’s hoping that regularly going to Starbucks will be worth my time (and the money my self-imposed patronage would cost).

Anyway’s that’s it for today’s useless ramble. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

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.