One Billion Dollars

“Try to figure out what you’d ask for if you were being maximally greedy.”

In context, this question was about finding a job. In the context of my life, I was thinking about social interaction.

What is the ridiculous, perhaps childish, making $1 billion a year equivalent in social interaction?

Always having people available when you need them. Having them take initiative when you want them to and not take initiative when you don’t. Having them close by when you want them close by and far away when you want them far away.

Having people ask for help when you want to be asked for help, and having them leave you alone when you don’t want one more piece of responsibility for dealing with any problem of anyone’s. Having people offer an ear when you need an ear, and a shoulder when you need a shoulder, and being asked to be an ear when being an ear for someone would make you feel good, and being asked to be a shoulder when being a shoulder for someone would make you feel good.

Being the one person that someone can talk to about this particular thing, but only when being that one person makes you feel useful and validated, not when it makes you feel overburdened and exhausted.

Having enough people and things going on in your life that you can always find something to do with someone, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed with obligation. Perhaps, in summation, being committed to in all of the ways you want to be committed to, but not having to commit in return. Just having things fall exactly where you want.

Sometimes I think it’s good to talk about the things that I want when I’m feeling frustrated and overwhelmed or lonely or both and the things that I want are maybe childish but they’re still there and the only thing I can do in the moment is give them expression.

A Few Thoughts On The “Online Harassment Can’t Cause PTSD” Crowd

Other people have talked about the recent Internet explosion around online harassment and PTSD better than I can, so I’m going to try not to rehash.

Here are some links for the curious:

Your Uninformed and Incorrect Opinions About Psychology

Can one get PTSD via Twitter?

Online Bullying and Trauma: What’s At Stake?

PTSD and Me(lody)

I’m just going to add this:

If you think that saying “both war and online bullying can cause PTSD” is the same thing as saying “war and online bullying are basically the same thing”, or “war and online bullying are necessarily the same amount of bad/traumatic”, then you really need to get it into your head that it is in fact possible for different types and levels of trauma to lead to similar results. It’s not a hard concept.

Reading people’s comments around the Internet lately, one could be forgiven for thinking that some of you would respond to the idea that two plus two equals four and one plus three also equals four by screaming “BUT HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT ONE, TWO, AND THREE ARE ALL THE EXACT SAME NUMBER?!”.

Also, for all of the people who do think that it is impossible to get PTSD from online harassment, in spite of the fact that the weight of the evidence is uniformly against you, and that a professional psychiatric diagnosis based on far more information than you could possibly have access to is also against you, you should take this time to ask yourselves why your first instinct is to attack the person who you think has been misdiagnosed by a professional.

If I had a friend whose doctor diagnosed them with, say, an imbalance of chakras, I would be incredibly skeptical of the diagnosis. Under no circumstances, however, would my reaction be to say “How dare you be misdiagnosed like that?!”. You know why? Because that is an absurd, utterly useless, and incredibly cruel reaction. This should be obvious.

In short: first, all of the available evidence suggests that you’re wrong, and second, even if you were right, your reaction would betray an astonishing lack of thoughtfulness and compassion. Given the reality of the situation, you appear at best to be engaging in motivated reasoning and thoughtlessness, and at worst to be willfully ignorant and deliberately cruel.

A Fantastic Piece About “Casual Love”

I’ve been a little bad about writing lately; busy and stuff. In the meantime, you all should read this absolutely fantastic blog post about love. Here is the intro as a teaser:

The truth about love is: it happens. A lot. It happens at appropriate times (like, when you’re in a long-term relationship with someone great), and also inappropriate ones (like, when you meet somebody at a party and have a weirdly awesome conversation and then make out in a bathroom). Love is just not all that concerned with appropriateness.

We have a mythology surrounding romantic love that says it’s a special, rare feeling, reserved for just a few people in your whole life. It says that love takes time to develop, and that the feelings you experience at the outset of a relationship are not love, but something else (“infatuation”, “a crush”, or my favorite, “twitterpation” (see Bambi)). It also says that love is generally constant and reliable, and that falling in love is A MAJOR LIFE EVENT, about which SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

In summation, the plot of every romantic comedy: if you fall in love with somebody, you better go out and get ‘em – even if they’re already married and they don’t really like you and you’re their stepsister and you’re leaving for a six-year residency in Mongolia in the morning – because you’ll probably love them forever and you might not ever love anyone else.

We are so enamored with this idea that we tend to round some feelings up to love (when you first met the person you later married), and others down to not-love (your weekend fling with a Spanish dancer). The thing is, those experiences feel remarkably similar from the inside.

An Open Letter to My Physical Therapist

Alright, first things first: I presume you want to help. You probably wouldn’t have gotten this job if you weren’t interested in helping people with injuries and other physical issues. That’s great.

With that out of the way, I have some issues I’d like to bring up with you. Not everyone in your profession is guilty of doing every one of the things I’m about to bring up, but a lot of you are guilty of a lot of them, and it really needs to stop.

So, without further ado, some constructive criticism from a patient who has, regrettably, become somewhat of a connoisseur of practitioners in your domain:

Dear Therapist,

First, let’s get something straight: I want to get better. I’m pretty fucking sure that I want to get better more than you want me to get better, because I am the person who actually has to deal with the issues that we are trying to address day in and day out. I am the person who decided to set up these appointments with you. I am the person paying for them. If I didn’t want to get better, then I wouldn’t be coming to see you. Proceed with this assumption. If you aren’t making this basic assumption in dealing with me, we are going to have problems.

Second, on a related note, if you ever, ever feel the impulse to remind me that “We really need to start seeing some improvements”, consider that another option is to shut the fuck up. If I think that my problem is bad enough that I am paying money to come to see you, you can safely assume that I am well aware of the benefits of seeing improvements. You can also safely assume that if you decide to remind me of that fact as though the problem is a lack of motivation to get better on my part that I will spend the rest of our appointment fantasizing about stabbing you in the face with a protractor. Repeatedly. Forcefully.

Third, if I’m not reliably doing all of the exercises you prescribe, consider the possibility that it is not because I lack motivation to get better. Consider the possibility that if you prescribe 10 different exercises five times a day, you are prescribing the impossible for most people, and if you can’t acknowledge that, then you probably don’t understand enough about people to be doing a job that involves working with them. Consider, as an alternative to insisting on an absurdly complex exercise regimen, that you could collaborate with me to figure out why a particular regimen poses the challenge that it does, and how we might modify it to make it realistic to expect me to keep up with it.

Third and a half, if you can’t do that, consider that you are giving me (and probably all of your other patients) a tremendous incentive to lie to you about whether or not we are doing the prescribed exercises. Deciding to change physical therapists is a big step, and generally a scarier step than deciding “Maybe I can just do a few of these and say I’m doing all of them and hope for the best.”.

Four, be able to explain and defend the treatment decisions you make. If you prescribe something I have already tried that didn’t work the first time, you had better be able to give me a damn good reason why it’s worth trying again. If you prescribe something that sounds like bullshit, and can’t explain why it’s not, I’m going to lose confidence in you very quickly. Because I have been dealing with the problems I deal with as long as I have, it is not uncommon for me to go to therapists who recommend things that I have tried before, and that I know more about than they do. If it seems like I have done more research on the treatments you are recommending to me than you have, we’ve got problems.

Five, for God’s sake take accurate notes! I will know if you don’t, because when you tell me that things are looking better or worse and I know that the opposite is true, I have no recourse but to assume you are incompetent. This is especially true if I tell you that you are wrong and you refer to your oft-inaccurate notes to back up your claim. It is astonishing how often some therapists have told me things about my own health history in appointments with them that are blatantly inaccurate.

Six, don’t insist on finding a silver lining in a lack of improvement. You aren’t the one in pain, you don’t get to decide for me if the glass is half-full. If I ask you for ways to keep my chin up about stuff, then by all means help me out, but your thoughtless optimism is obnoxiously patronizing coming from the person who does not actually have the affliction. If things aren’t working, then let’s form a new strategy rather than wasting time trying to cobble together hope about the failed one.

Six and a half, for fuck’s sake don’t take your frustration about a lack of improvement out on me. If you get frustrated at me because of the fact that I’m not feeling better, you are complete and total asshole, and I will ditch the protractor fantasy for one involving fire ants and your sensitive parts.

Seven, and I can’t believe this is something I actually need to make explicit, but history has shown that it is: if I ask you what things I can do without aggravating my issues, do not, under any circumstances respond by giving me a list of things I should not be doing. When I ask you about my options for physical activity, I am looking for a list of things that I don’t have to be afraid of doing, and if you respond to that question by giving me a list of things I should be afraid of doing, I hate you.

Eight, ask for my input. ask me what I think about how I’m doing, and about the treatments and exercises you are prescribing. Ask me if I think there are ways the regimen will be hard or easy, and could be improved. You are the professional, and while some of your patients, myself included, will put effort into adding our own input to your ideas on how to move forward, it is entirely within your power to make that easy or difficult. You can ask questions and deliberately give openings for my input, or you can hope that I will find a conversational opening to do so. And you had better want my input, because while you may be the expert on physical therapy, I am the expert on me – on what I can do, what I can’t do, what I have time to do, etc. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, every patient and every physical issue is different, and my input is how you know what is different and how it is different.

Nine, if the exercises you give me to do are not working, do not assume that it’s because I’m not doing them. Consider the possibility that maybe your exercises are not working because people are different and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

Ten, assume that I am always doing my best. If I’m not keeping up with the exercises, assume that something is making the routine impossible for me to keep up with, and let’s collaborate on modifying the routine. If you think I’m lying to you about whether or not I’m doing the exercises, assume that you have failed to make our therapy sessions feel sufficiently collaborative for me to feel comfortable communicating to you about what I can and can’t do and what I am and am not actually doing. If we really can’t figure out a way to make everything doable, then let’s go over all of the available options for treatment again and figure out what possibilities we have missed.

This concludes our prickly open letter of the day. I hope we’ve all learned something.

Sincerely,

Your Patient

Trying Antidepressants

I think I am going to try antidepressants again.

I’ve been mulling this over for a good while now. The last time I tried antidepressants was about six years ago; I tried Pristiq, Paxil, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin, and stopped trying after none of them seemed to have any effect outside of side effects. Looking back, however, I’m not sure if I gave all of them enough of a shot, time-wise, and I’ve been thinking it might be a good idea to try again, with one or two of those or with different ones.

I’ve talked to the therapist I’ve been seeing a few times about medication, and she has generally taken the position that meds are an option that wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to try, but has left the decision about whether or not to try them up to me.

There are a few different things that have led to my decision to take a stab at meds again. The first one was reading Greta Christina’s post about being on antidepressants indefinitely, and, in particular, learning this bit:

“Apparently, if someone’s had three or more serious depressive episodes in their life, the current standard of care (as my psychiatrist understands and interprets them, anyway) is for them to stay on anti-depressants. If someone has had three or more serious depressive episodes, the chances are very high that they’re going to have another one — and when that happens, it’s better, for a zillion reasons, to already be on medication.”

Second, also via Greta Christina, was this analogy she quoted in a subsequent post:

“Maybe instead of diabetes as your go-to simile, try using asthma.

I’ve had asthma for as long as I can remember. I’ve been on maintenance medication for it since I was in junior high. When I’m on the meds, I can run, exercise, do all the things that normal people do. When I’m not on the meds, running might put me in the hospital.

When I was diagnosed with chronic depression, I was thrilled. I was doing something about the thing that was holding me back from being the me I wanted to be. As far as I am concerned, it is just like getting on asthma meds. I fully expect to be on them the rest of my life, and I’m happy to do so.

I think the “chronic” part of “chronic depression” might be what is throwing you for a loop. It doesn’t mean you’re constantly depressed. It just means that you’re at an elevated *risk* of having an attack of depression. I.e., it isn’t the episodes of depression itself that the “chronic” is referring to. It is the elevated risk. In that way it’s a lot more like asthma. And just like my asthma medications help me be the person I want to be who can run and exercise and stay in shape, the medication for depression helps me be the version of me who has motivation, loves a challenge, loves to learn new things, and has decently high creative output.”

I love this analogy for depression. I think it is spot on, and it has changed the perspective that I take on my own depression symptoms. More than anything else, it is the effect that this analogy has had on how I perceive my depression symptoms that has pushed me over the edge into considering medication again. I have had a few moments lately where I felt either socially overwhelmed or incredibly lonely and ended up feeling immensely, viscerally awful about myself as a result. Having the experience that I have and the perspective I have on that experience, I am able to look at those and say “This is not a normal or useful response to what is going on right now.”.

It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better at the time, but it does make me want to do something about it.  The last few times this has happened, I have looked at it and said “This is the emotional equivalent of an asthma attack; there is no good reason to be experiencing this, and I might be able to avoid experiencing it by being on medication.”.

In certain ways, my life is also not in a state of significant change at the moment, which means it is not a bad time to experiment with medication again.

This is a thing I think I’m going to try.

The Chronic Pain-Imposed LDR

In some ways, having chronic pain is a lot like being in a long-distance relationship. Rather, it’s like being in a lot of long distance relationships. It’s like having to be in a long-distance relationship with everything that you love.

I really like programming. I like solving puzzles, I like thinking of new ways to engage people with information, and I like making things pretty and intuitive. You can easily get lost in programming in the best kind of way — you can fall into the zone where there is nothing but the current problem you’re solving and stay there for hours.

Well, most people can. Falling into the zone isn’t much of an option for me, because by the time I’m there, it’s time for me to take a break. Because I have these chronic issues, I have to carefully plan how much I work, how long I sit, what I can do during work breaks to lower the possibility that symptoms will worsen, etc.

In my case, doing anything long enough to get in the zone will get me approximately to the point where I need to stop doing it in order to preserve my health.

In a long-distance relationship, you have to be deliberate about setting time to spend together. You often have to fit interaction into the gaps in busy schedules — gaps which may change between the time you plan for them the time they occur. You may not be able to find as much time as he would like to talk to a partner, and the time that you do find can often feel too short. It can be just enough to remind you how much you enjoy someone — just enough to realize how awesome it is talking to them — and then end.

A lot of times, this is what programming is like for me. If I work just long enough to really get in the flow, it is also just long enough that I have to stop. Just long enough to be reminded how amazing it is to get lost in something, and just long enough to have that feeling of awesomeness taken away at that moment of realization.

And it’s not just programming, it’s everything that has the potential to aggravate symptoms given time. I can do them just long enough to fall in love again, and the point at which I do is the point at which they are taken away, because that’s how my body seems to work.

It really, really sucks.

Points for Effort?

Wait, dammit, is April Fools over yet?

I’m a vanilla, monogamous, conservative, libertarian, pro-life anti-vaxxer! True story. Also I think Fox News is, like, the best ever.

Were you fooled? I had you going there for a bit, didn’t I? Be honest.

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Ten Responses To “But Don’t You Get Jealous?”

“But if your partner can have other partners, don’t you get jealous?”

  1. Of course.

  2. Yeah, but it’s not like I didn’t get jealous when I was in monogamous relationships. Monogamy isn’t a cure for jealousy, it’s just a different set of circumstances in which to experience it.

  3. Yes, but I also open myself up to situations that can cause jealousy when I have friends who are friends with other people, when I have coworkers and project collaborators who work with other people, when I know writers who write and share writing ideas with other people. The thing is: although all of those situations open up the possibility that I might end up feeling jealous or inadequate or insecure, they also enrich my life in enormous ways that I would never in a million years trade away.

  4. Yes I do, and certainly there are some situations I’m going to get into as a result of being poly that are going to be really difficult, and be a potentially stronger trigger for jealousy than most situations I might get into while being monogamous. For some people, myself included, that comes with the territory.

  5. Yes, and yes, sometimes it really bothers me. It also means I get more opportunities to face it head-on. The times when jealousy is really bad are the times when I am forced to examine where it comes from, and to learn about it, and, in the process, to learn about me.

  6. Yes, but it also means I get to unlearn one of the worst root causes of jealousy for me. For me, poly provides an opportunity to unlearn this culturally ingrained habit of thinking oppositionally. When I was monogamous, and someone I was interested in decided they wanted to go out with someone else, it was easy to feel like that was because I wasn’t good enough — that I wasn’t as attractive or interesting as that other person. Being poly, though, means that when someone decides they don’t want to date me, it isn’t because some other person is “better”. If they’re poly, it means that they could date me anyway, which means that I don’t have to think about my rejections in the frame of “I’m just not as good as that other person is.”. I get to practice thinking about them in the frame of “Something just didn’t work between this person and me.”.

  7. Absolutely, but although I may sometimes feel jealousy about my partners’ partners, I also sometimes meet them, and talk to them, and make new friends. Sometimes my partners’ partners become my friends, and sometimes they even become my partners.

  8. Of course, but the same situations that sometimes cause jealousy can also teach me things about sex and relationships that I never would have learned otherwise. Maybe my partner has a kind of sex with one of their other partners that they’ve never had with me. On the one hand, something like that might end up making me feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, it also means I get an opportunity to learn how to do that kind of sex. Maybe my partner communicates with one of their other partners in a way I haven’t tried. On the one hand, that could make me feel insecure, but on the other, it gives me an opportunity to learn a new way to communicate, too.

  9. Yes, but this is what I want. This is the way that I want my relationships to look, and if dealing with jealousy is something I’m going to have to work on in order for my relationships to look the way that I want them to look, then it’s something I’m going to have to work on.

  10. Yes, and it’s worth it.

 

 Author’s sidenote: every single one of these answers is true for me. The “I don’t get jealous” answer is not true for me, which is why it has not been included, although I readily knowledge that it is true for some people.

Jotting Down A Few Miscellaneous Proto-Posts

Lately, I’ve had several things I wanted to write about, but nothing I had the energy to write a complete post about. In lieu of writing full posts, I’ve decided I’m just going to empty the backlog with some short summaries of some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately.


I just had a conversation with a friend of mine about a partner of hers. A few weeks ago we had a lot of conversations about this partner, and she had expressed to me a few times that she was nervous about not being very attracted to this partner physically. I noted to her, today, that she hadn’t mentioned that issue in a while, and asked if that was because it had changed or not. She responded that, yes, it had changed, and that she was now finding this partner incredibly attractive all the time. It was really cool being witness to a change like this as it happened.


I’ve been wanting to write something just to remind myself that this happened: the woman I have most recently started dating gave me a very distinct first impression over about 30 seconds of conversation at the beginning of our date. Over the course of the rest of that date, I got a stronger and distinctly different impression — one that was much more compatible with me than the first impression had been. Then, over the course of the following date, my impression changed again (not to a negative impression, but to one that was markedly different from the second impression). It’s not a particularly interesting story except that I tend to have a very high opinion of my ability to develop highly accurate snap impressions of people I meet in person, and this particular dating experience has somewhat flown in the face of that. Data about my brain I wanted to write down so I remember it.


I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy recently. At some point, I want to write a full-length post about this, but for now just a short summary: I’ve been mulling over this idea that empathy is, like all those other things I wrote about in the brain skepticism post (pain, depression, etc.), a model. Roughly: that empathy is a mental model of the state of another person’s brain that can cause us to experience emotions. That is, when someone else is sad, and you recognize the visual cues that signify sadness, you form a mental model of them as a person experiencing sadness, and whatever process creates that mental model also produces a corresponding emotional experience in you.

I find this idea intriguing because it presents an interesting perspective on why certain groups of people have so much trouble empathizing with other certain groups. For example: why are so many religious people convinced that atheists are just angry at their god? I think this model for empathy implies a fascinating explanation: if someone lives in a world where, in all of their experience, the existence of a deity is self-evident, then maybe their system has no idea how to simulate the mind of an atheist. Maybe the best it can do is to posit things like “angry at God”, and, as a result, not only is that the explanation that seems plausible to them, they might even experience an emotional reinforcement in the form of an “empathetic” emotional experience of being angry at God produced by their inaccurate model.

In a nutshell, what I find interesting about this is that it reframes my concept of the idea of “failing at empathy”. When people assume completely inaccurate things about other people, by this model, it’s not that they aren’t experiencing empathy — the very same process is happening as when empathy works — it’s just that their empathy engine isn’t producing accurate results.

This is obviously a hypothesis formed out of purely anecdotal speculation. It’s the worst kind of just so story. I just think it’s fascinating as a hypothesis, and I would be curious to learn about reasons it might or might not hold any actual evidential water.

Spin the Bottle Party Recap

Last week I went to a party. It was a very good party, celebrating a major life accomplishment in the life of the party-thrower. I was honored to be invited to the celebration of a Big Life Event like that, and I had a tremendous amount of fun. I got to see people I hadn’t seen for a while, cuddle with people I hadn’t cuddled with before, and play Advanced Sexy Consensual Spin the Bottle. This will be a recap for basically no reason other than that I like remembering things that were fun.

When I got there, I said hi to friends and people I hadn’t seen for a while, and then mingled while we collectively waited to start the planned Movie And Cuddles Part until most of the attendees had arrived. I ended up in a conversation with a girl I had seen at a few other things but never really gotten the chance to talk to before. I barely remember anything about the conversation, now, except that at some point I did something that she said was really cute, but in that way where it actually means “and also you are cute”, which made me feel brave enough to ask her if she wanted to cuddle during the movie, which she did, and we did, and it was nice.

It’s always a bit of a challenge for me cuddling with new people in groups, because it’s scarier (at least for me) to have “Is this okay?” conversations within earshot of bunches of other people, but in this case I think it went pretty well, and mostly without an overabundance of nervousness. I enjoyed it, and she definitely seemed to enjoy it.

After the movie, spin the bottle began. The first highlight for me was getting to make out with the aforementioned cuddle partner. We made out enthusiastically, and one of the other people in the circle commented approvingly that “Adults are so much better at making out.” while we were doing it. I also got hit, bitten, and scratched over the course of the evening, but the spinner (frustratingly) didn’t actually start landing on me during other people’s turns until almost the very end of the game. Fortunately, it was a very good end of the game.

Toward the end, two friends of mine had turns where the spinner landed on me. A room had been set aside, this particular game, for the seven minutes in heaven option, and on both of those turns, I offered that option, and both friends enthusiastically selected it. I’m going to take this time to note that one of the many things that is better about this version of spin the bottle than the regular version is that you get to experience the awesomeness that is people enthusiastically selecting the option you were hoping to get to do with them.

The cumulative 14 minutes in heaven were fantastic. I hadn’t been really physically sexual with either of the friends in question before, and one of them even told me after we got to the seven minutes in heaven room that she had been hoping to get me at some point over the course of the night. Those 14 minutes also definitively got me to the point where my energy was winding down (and did some noticeable damage to my lower lip). The party, itself, wound down shortly thereafter, and I drove back home, but not before one of the other women at the party that I knew told me she really liked my energy, and I gave the party-thrower a small memento of the accomplishment the party was celebrating.

All in all, a very good night. There is nothing quite like several people enthusiastically volunteering to be sexual with you in a short span of time for boosting the ego.