FYI: I’ve taken a leave of absence from my job and am going to be trying to avoid using the computer as much as possible for the next several weeks at least. Probably through that time you won’t see much of me on here.
Take this with a grain of salt. I’m not going to talk in any depth about research, and I’m not going to talk about large or objective samplings of any sort of data.
I’ve read some interesting stuff recently about experiments in welfare. The kind of experiments where people are guaranteed a certain level of income regardless of whether they work or not. My impression is that the experiments that have been done have not suggested that everyone would suddenly stop working if they didn’t have to to survive. In some cases, they seem to have suggested that this guarantee enables people to be more successful by taking risks that they didn’t have the ability to take otherwise.
I’ve been thinking about this recently because I’ve been thinking about my own case. If I knew I could afford to do so, I would take a leave of absence from my job immediately. I would take as much time as I needed to recover from the repetitive stress issues I’m dealing with, and then I would either go back to the same job or apply for something more full-time. Either way, once I was recovered, I would be able to earn massively more money than I’m earning right now, and to put that money back into the economy.
Instead, I don’t have that guarantee. I don’t have the ability to take an indefinite leave of absence from work and still be able to afford basic necessities. Because of that reality, for the past year, I have contributed less to the economy and the world than I would otherwise have been able to. In my case in particular, right now, both I and the system in which I participate are suffering as a result of my inability to take the time that I need to be able to take to get better.
I’m just a data point. There are many others more extreme and demonstrative than my data point, but this one is mine, so I’m writing about it.
It always seems to be worst in the mornings and just before going to sleep.
It helps to think of depression and pain problems as puzzles to solve. It gives you a path to follow to feel like you’re making progress. Try this thing, then if that doesn’t work try this thing, then if that doesn’t work try this thing, etc.
What’s supposed to happen when you do that is that you eventually try hard enough and find the right thing to try and things get better. That’s how the story is supposed to go. It isn’t how mine is going. If I had actually chronicled all the different things I’ve tried for the physical and mental stuff I’m going through on this blog, there would have been a lot more posts over the last year or two. There have been the different daily routines to minimize physical activity that aggravates my physical conditions, the different strategies for communicating and engineering interactions with people that make me feel satisfied and cared about, all those times some new thing I was trying felt like it was working for a few days before everything went back to feeling like last time.
Somehow, in spite of all the things I’ve tried, I’m still here, feeling physically broken and lonely and exhausted and like I don’t know what options are left to try.
Every now and then I think of a new direction to turn in, and I turn to face that direction and walk forward and bang headfirst into a wall I didn’t know was there. It’s like living in a tiny room, and every time you try to get out the walls press in a little closer.
I am in a dangerous place right now. I experimented with yoga a week or so ago, which seems to have turned out to have been a very bad idea — my tendonitis symptoms have changed in an alarming way is making me wonder if I might not have any time left to put off taking some time off from work, and hoping that will be enough.
In consequence, I’m making an effort to locate friends to crash with in the interim, because although there is a decent chance my savings would last a few months of my being unemployed, I think there is a good chance that my mood would plummet further down than it already has. My bad moments are already dipping into a frequency and extremity of suicidal ideation that I am scared by — a few months with nothing to do but brood would be a brilliant recipe for making those moments more frequent and more dangerous than they already are. I think crashing with friends for a while might be the best way to avoid that escalation.
I am seeing a therapist. I am making an effort to talk to people. I am doing the things that you do, and doing them as well as I can. And I am writing about this because it’s as good a way I know as any to make sure I’m letting people know where I am, and because I think that providing a window into what this looks like and feels like it is as important as providing windows into any of the other aspects of the experience of depression or chronic pain.
A while ago I had a conversation with a friend where I talked about how one of the most frightening things, to me, about the idea of committing suicide was that people might be mad at me for doing so. She told me that the people she knew who had friends who had committed suicide were usually not so much angry about the suicide itself as that the friend hadn’t told them that they had needed help. I have tried, since then, to always make sure that I communicate with people when things are going badly, even when I don’t want to, so that if I ever do end up committing suicide, I won’t have left people feeling that way.
But at this point I don’t know what to ask for. Usually I ask for talking, but right now my voice still isn’t doing that well, so I’m having to carefully manage the amount of talking I do. I guess really what I need right now is to find a way to feel financially and emotionally secure for long enough that I feel like I have the time to rest my body for as long as is needed for it to actually get better.
It still boggles my mind how situational so much of this is. I definitely have depression, and it definitely contributes to how this all feels in major ways, but without the physical shit I’m dealing with, there would be so many additional options for self-care for me. There would be ways of socializing and meeting people, there would be less management of the amount of time I spend talking or exercising or just… existing in certain positions that make certain physical symptoms worse.
If I just hadn’t worn out my voice to the point that it got this way. If I hadn’t gotten so excited about being able to type and code faster at the beginning of this year that it resulted in tendonitis. If I hadn’t gotten so excited about finally finding a form of exercise that I could do and found fun that I overdid that and ended up with these symptoms in my legs as well. If I hadn’t, in the effort to get better, tried yoga, which seems to have ended up making things worse.
If it didn’t feel like just this long process of me trying as hard as I can to get better, and my body responding by finding new ways to get worse.
Truthfully, sometimes I get frustrated that there even are the stigmas that there are against suicide. Shouldn’t I have the right to throw in the towel? Shouldn’t I have the right to say, “You know, this is just too much to expect any person to reasonably handle, and I quit.”
The line between where I am and a set of circumstances in which I could be happy feels so thin. Is so thin. If my body were a little different, a little more resilient. If things had gone slightly different way. If things have gotten better after one of the things I’ve tried. If the yoga had worked.
I went on steroids briefly for my throat. Steroids are a pretty effective short-term treatment for the symptoms of tendonitis, although long-term a terrible idea, because they actually eat away at connective tissue. At the same time, I had been experimenting with friction massage for the tendonitis, and for a few days it felt like that was working well. For a few days I caught a glimpse of just how thin the line is between where I am and the set of life circumstances where I think I could be happy.
With the tendonitis gone, and my voice better, I could work more and stop having to worry about money, and I could meet people, and I could teach coding, and I could write.
But none of those things is simple right now. Some of them are complicated and others are impossible. And I’ve spent a decade always having to wonder if it’s a good idea or a bad idea, physically, for me to go for a walk. For most people that’s the simplest thing. You want to go for a walk, so you get up, and you walk out your front door, and you go.
This isn’t really going anywhere anymore, I’m just talking through thoughts as they come. And I guess this is about the end of them for now. I am doing my best, because I know it will be worth it if I somehow manage to get through this. I know it will, but right now I don’t know how to get there, or if I can.
That stuff about groups from yesterday? This also helps put it in focus:
I didn’t encounter interrupt culture anywhere until I was in my early 20s, and it still comes off as kind of barbaric to me as a result. I have a very hard time understanding how people can do it.
Skepticon this year was a roller coaster. I was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in my personal life that week, and cons are always a bit of a risky proposition for an introvert. I’m not sure I’ve ever had quite so pronounced an experience of the nature of my introversion than I got this year at con.
What I like about cons is that it’s a chance to be surrounded by people who are like me. People who are thoughtful critical thinkers, and interested in science and the world’s big questions and who are able to keep up with my own thoughts about such things. Being surrounded by people like that can be its own special type of intoxicating.
The biggest problem with cons for me is that they are designed around group interactions, which is something that I can only do in small doses. I very much enjoy talking to most of the people that I meet at conferences, but what I really enjoy are the one-on-one interactions. Group interactions with more than three or four people tend to paralyze my brain. You could predict my mood at any given time at the conference pretty reliably by looking at the amount of group versus one-on-one conversation I had had in the previous hour. A lot of group interaction and my mood would be pretty low. A lot of one-on-one conversation, and my mood would be pretty fucking good.
I’m not sure what this means for me for future conferences. I do love the people at conferences, but conferences aren’t designed for the types of interaction that I really enjoy having with people, and I would imagine that most people who go to conferences are better suited to group interaction than I am, and may be actively looking for more of that type of interaction.
Sometimes I think of the distinction between one-on-one versus group interaction in terms of operating serially or in parallel. I don’t much like parallel social interaction most of the time, but I do serial social interaction very well.
This reality leaves me in a position of not having a lot of control over whether or not I have a good time at conferences — either a lot of group interaction happens and I end up anxious, on edge, and at risk for a period of increased symptoms of depression, or I chance upon enough interesting, person-to-person conversations that things are awesome.
I don’t know if there’s any good way to control which of those possibilities actually happens, which means conference experiences in general are a coin flip, and at times a coin flip that is potentially dangerous for my mental health.
This is a broader problem for my life in general. Most group interactions feel, to me, like a period of waiting to get to the good part. The good part is the part where you have the chance to stop operating in parallel. The good part is plugging your brain into someone else’s brain and watching your ideas refract through the media of their ideas, and their ideas through yours, and seeing things entirely new come out the other end.
The difficulty, in my experience, in strongly preferring one-on-one interaction, is that it is much harder to find ways to have it happen passively. If I want to interact with someone one-on-one, generally, it happens by chance or it happens by intention – e.g. I call someone up. If I want to interact with or meet people in a group setting, I can go somewhere where there are groups of people. I can go to a party or a conference or a meetup and be interacting with a group of people just like that. All I need to do is be in a place where there is a group of people and those interactions, by default, start to happen. And I hope that at some point we’ll get to the good part.
Dance is the best way I’ve found to operate in serial for a while, but, for the moment, it’s a risky proposition for me, physically. I’m becoming more and more aware, though, that I very much need to find some better ways to have one-on-one interactions with people that can happen relatively passively. I don’t think most people have quite as strong a preference for it as I do, and it gets frustrating quickly when I feel like I have to put an enormous amount of energy into making it happen whenever I want to make it happen.
I think it creates a certain amount of frustration for me in my friendships as well. To an extent, my brain doesn’t interpret group interaction with friends as “real” time spent with friends. It doesn’t feel, to me, like the type of time spent with people that builds a sense of interpersonal intimacy — which is generally what I like to do in friendships — so some of my friendships end up feeling very different from my side versus the other person’s side, because the other person may be able to experience a sense of building history and intimacy from group interactions that I will not experience. This may lead to my feeling like people are less interested in my time and friendship than they actually are, because to me the expression of that interest is in large part defined by the amount of time they try to find with me one-on-one, and for others it may not be defined that way.
At this point I’m just throwing out hypotheses. This whole thing is a complicated issue for me, and I feel like I need to understand it better before I’ll be able to come up with good, actionable solutions to the problems.
So, the questions are:
How do I find a way to have a good time at conferences in spite of my issues with group interaction, or how do I find a different way to interact meaningfully with the kinds of people that I love to interact with conferences?
How do I find a way to feel valued and balanced in friendships with people who may express and experience friendship in ways that don’t line up very well with the ways I do?
How do I find less effortful means to experience the types of interactions that make me happy?
Is there a way to manage to get less anxiety and more satisfaction out of interacting with people in groups?
Here’s hoping I stumble upon some solutions.
It is possible that my voice is improving. Slowly. Blogging may or may not ramp up slowly as well, depending on how things go. For now, a brief anecdote about depression.
The last few weeks have involved some pretty severe spikes in depression, on account of my having to self limit my levels of human interaction. They have also involved a lot of neck irritation on account of the fact that I really need to replace my razor sometime soon.
In thinking about that, it occurred to me that it might be fun to buy and learn to use a straight razor. I think it would be fun, and I’m considering getting one, but I haven’t made a final decision about whether or not to get one. I’m waffling because I have depression. I have depression, and I have been suicidal before, and while I am not at the moment, it’s not impossible that I could be again at some point in the future.
I have to ask myself: would it put me at an increased risk of suicide to have a straight razor flirting with my major arteries every morning? Would owning a straight razor, a tool that would make it that much easier to commit suicide, increase the risk that periods of suicidal ideation would lead to actual suicide before the low points had passed?
I don’t know what the answer is. Right now I want to live, but I remember what it’s like to want to die, and I don’t know if it’s a good idea to own something that would give my potential future suicidal self the means with which to do so.
Some decisions get a lot less simple when you have to take into account being neurologically atypical. This one is one of those.
This will be short, as I am having to type it.
The sore throat is proving to be more chronic than my being sick was. I’m seeing a vocal rehab specialist to try to get it back to normal, which may or may not be helping. I’m still dealing with tendonitis, which together with the voice problems means every form of human communication available to me costs spoons, which is, as one might expect, pretty seriously exacerbating my depression.
I will return when I can. And hopefully one day will be able to stop feeling like my life is one long, drawn out process of my body refusing to ever heal from anything.
I am sick and have lost my voice. Updates will resume when I am again able to dictate.
I like blogging about my opinions. I like taking my opinions out of my brain and putting them in little observational vials where I can poke and prod them, and others can poke and prod them with me.
My poly self was raised on Franklin Veaux’s thoughts about poly. I very much hope that there might, someday, be people raised, in part, on my thoughts about poly. As much as I want to be able to offer useful advice about poly (and the other things I write about), though, there is another reason I write about it that shapes how I write.
I was in a discussion about being poly and out not too long ago where I talked about one of the things I think about when I make the decision to be out about something, poly or otherwise.
When I think about coming out to people, I worry. Especially when I talk a lot about depression, about chronic pain, about my personal issues, etc., etc. I worry that people won’t want to hear about it, or will think that I’m being weak or whiny. When I talk about poly or BDSM, I worry about people thinking it’s immoral, or that I’m bragging, or that I’m doing it wrong.
In light of these insecurities, When I think about being out about something, I try to think about doing it for someone else, instead of for myself.
When I make the decision to talk about poly or kink or depression or chronic pain, I think about doing it, in part, for the other person in the room. I try to imagine that there is one person – in every conversation, every thread, every blog post, every panel – who is exactly like me. One person who is depressed or anxious or poly or kinky or chronically ill who just can’t stand to talk about it.
I think about those moments in my life when another person spoke up about being the same as me, and how relieving those moments were. Suddenly some part of me would become warmer. Where that part had felt fearful and brittle – where I had kept that part in a little house in my brain with a “Beware of dog” sign in the yard, and a reminder on the door that read “No one can know.” – something changed. Maybe that something was just that I felt a little bit more comfortable with myself and my parts. Maybe it was more than that. Either way, that warming is always a positive thing.
I try to talk about the things that I’m afraid to talk about. I try to talk about the things that I’m worried will come off as weak or whiny or shameful or difficult because maybe there is that one person, just one other person in the room who will feel a little bit warmer for my having talked. The more worried I am, the more that I hope I will find the courage to talk, because the more worried I am, the more worried that other person in the room probably is, and the more my talking may help them.
This is a big part of the reason why I try to talk about personal things, instead of just opinions. It’s a part of why I blog, and it’s a part of why I think everyone should blog. We all need company, and even if you aren’t very good at writing, and you don’t have any strong opinions about things, and you don’t have any wisdom you think is particularly useful, you are still like other people. You can still be company.
You can still be that person who is just enough like me to make me feel a little less alone, and even if I have nothing else to say, sometimes I can be that person who is just enough like you to make you feel a little less alone.
Even if all you can be is company, that is a big thing to be.
So don’t just write when you’re happy or inspired or any of the things you think people think you’re supposed to be. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re depressed. Write when you don’t know what to do. Write when you can’t handle things anymore. Write when you’re afraid.
Write when you are unacceptable.
Write for the other unacceptable people in the room.