“I Wish They Would Stop Teaching Me This”

A while ago I made a post about voices. About how there are the voices in your head and the voices all around you from people, media, etc, and how both the voices in your head and the ones around you are habit-forming.

We all imitate. The more we see people doing something, the more likely we are to do it. The more we do something, the more likely we are to keep doing it. Whether it’s high fives, baseball, drinking, talking with an accent, being bigoted, being helpful, or eating bananas. The fact that we learn by imitation is why I think one of the most helpful things people can do to better themselves is to spend time around people who act in ways they want to act. It makes learning to be a better person almost involuntary. On the flipside, hang out with assholes, and you tend to acquire some asshole-ishness yourself.

This ties into a conversation I was having with a friend yesterday from which I got the title of this post. I was watching an episode of White Collar and there’s a scene where the main character, Neal Caffrey (a former con man now working for the FBI), is having a conversation with an old rival, Keller. Keller taunts Neal about a girl they have a history competing over, implying that he’s been with her in some sense while Neal was in prison. I found the whole conversation annoying. The subtext is a narrative that’s familiar to all of us, I imagine.

Keller: Well, guess what, I’ve totally had sex with a girl you like!

Neal: How dare you, I am incredibly threatened by this, and I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN!

This narrative annoys me. It reinforces cultural myths that annoy me. Imagine if the conversation had been like this:

Keller: Well, guess what, I’ve totally played tennis with a girl you like!

Neal: How dare you, I am incredibly threatened by this, and I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN!

It would be weird to see someone threatened by a game of tennis. Not so much with sex. And I don’t think anyone’s ever given me a good reason why that isn’t rooted in the crazy cultural mythology we’ve built up around sex–that sex is some sort of magical, soul-stealing act with inherently greater significance than any other thing we do. Don’t get me wrong, sex is great fun, and a more powerful experience than a lot of other things much of the time. But it’s not magic. For me, playing music with someone is also an experience that’s can be more powerful connectively than most other things. But it’s not categorically different, and neither is sex.

Now, I’m just as subject to this sex-mythos as anyone who grew up around the same time I did. The “I fucked your girl” narrative resonates with me more powerfully than the “I played tennis with your girlfriend” narrative would. The point is that it shouldn’t. And I’m annoyed that White Collar (and pretty much any mainstream show these days) reinforces that mythology. I know every time I watch that scene, I’m reinforcing that mythology. I’m listening to a voice that tells a narrative that is habit-forming, just like all narratives are if you listen to them enough.

I resent being taught this bullshit over and over. I resent being taught that sex is magic. I resent being taught absurd standards of attractiveness. I resent being taught that men are rational and women are emotional. I resent being taught that monogamy is the only way to do relationships. I resent being taught that the solution to bullies is never to fight back and always to get through to their human side (watch any kids show from the 90s, I guarantee you’ll come away with this message, implicitly or explicitly). I resent being taught absurd gender roles. And a thousand other things.

I wish they would stop teaching me this stuff.

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Transitioning The Blog

So my posts about chronic pain are slowing down somewhat. This is for a combination of reasons. Partially because there’s less to say these days–recovery has morphed into a slow, steady, unexciting process that seems to be going well but slowly.

Diablo 3 came out this past week and since I was very sick and incapable of doing much else, I played it the day it came out. For almost the whole day (with various breaks). When I started this blog in February, I had trouble sitting down for a half an hour straight.

This is not to say that sitting that much didn’t have consequences, or that I feel like I’m out of the woods. I don’t at all. I have to continually remind myself how significant a change that amount of sitting is even now. Because the reality is that dealing with and accommodating my MPS–building my day around the reality that it exists and that I need to plan my days carefully around the risk factors that come with it–is still my life in many ways. So it doesn’t feel all that different.

But it is different, and I’m going to keep working on it, exercising, etc.

But I’m thinking very seriously about transitioning this blog from a blog about chronic pain to a more general one. I’d still like to write about chronic pain when I need to, but there are a lot of other things I’d like to write about that I don’t feel fit all that well into the subject matter I started this blog to write about. So I’m thinking of changing the name, and the layout, and a few other things to facilitate my feeling comfortable with doing more general writing about things. On account of not having one single place to rant about the things I like to rant about I tend to post rants on random different online accounts, and having a unified place to rant about relationships, gender issues, sex, culture, and the other sorts of things I’m prone to geeking out about on a daily basis would be nice.

So I may do that. I don’t know if that means people will have to find it to follow it again if I change the name (since that will change the URL and such)–does anyone know how that works for RSS feeds or WordPress or e-mail followers, etc?

Things and Stuff

So I haven’t updated in a while. Not a whole lot new has happened. Slow progress as usual, hampered still by the pulled muscles and being sick (yay sick!).

I do seem to have managed to get to a point of physical fitness where I can walk for an hour a day without it making my back worse if I do it for several days in a row. This is definitely good news. One upside of not being able to lift weights is that I haven’t had to spend a few days with shit muscle strength recovering from the workout. It’s enabled the experiments with walking.

My internship is getting intimidatingly close now. I just today got housing arranged for most of the trip. I definitely think my physical health has improved significantly over the past few months, but the next month or so may be more challenging. Pain is triggered by anxiety, and approaching the start date of this internship without really knowing how it’s going to turn out is likely to be anxiety-inducing. I’ll be doing my best to counteract that and to not freak out too much.

I’ve started to reach out to people in the new area so I’ll have at least some acquaintances by the time I get there. Hopefully that will help.

Update

The overdoing it from a week or so ago is still with me. I most definitely pulled a muscle in my arm and another in my leg. They’re doing better now than they were, but I definitely won’t be attempting weightlifting this week. I’ve been advised to keep from weightlifting until I’m 30-50% past feeling like I’m fine, and while I feel better at the moment, I can still feel the injury there.

In a general sense, I’ve been improving still, I think. I’ve had some pain issues over the last week, but on account of being injured, the past week has involved a lot more sitting still than usual, so I actually think the week has been a positive sign more than a negative one. I know I didn’t used to be able to sit for nearly this long without significantly more pain, so that’s good.

Getting myself to program has been hit or miss, but has been slowly progressing.

I do think I need to figure out some ways to more regularly check in with people about how things are going–the social aspect of recovery lately has been lacking, and it’s much harder to work on untangling mental issues without having some sort of regular checking in with people. Figuring out some manner of regular check-ins that will work is going to be one of my goals over the next week or two.

The weekend was unreasonably stressful for a combination of reasons including but not limited to lack of sleep. Still recovering from that.

Conversation About Depression and Suicide

I had a long conversation with a friend yesterday about various depression related things. I felt like a lot of what was touched on was a good window into some of what’s it’s like being depressed and dealing with suicidal ideation, so I’m posting a bunch of it here.

12 hours ago Me

There was a time a few years ago when I was suicidal

I remember reading something somewhere that asked the reader where they thought they would be in a year, and I instinctively thought, “dead”.

I was wrong

Sometimes, like then, you can’t imagine that another shoe won’t drop

and honestly

I think there’s a part of my brain that likes doing it

always being afraid of the other shoe dropping

because then at least if it does, it’s not like the rug getting pulled out from under you. It’s not like you weren’t ready for it, expecting it, whatever. Sometimes I think I feel better being right than being happy

Or being right about things going wrong anyway

I don’t know why that is

But I try and fight it

12 hours ago Friend

I really understand what you mean. I love talking to you, I feel so alone with these feelings a lot

The only thing that keeps me from it most times is thinking how awful it would make life for those around me

I guess I keep thinking, I’d rather be dead then watch my life fall apart and fail again

12 hours ago Me

I really, really know what you mean

12 hours ago Friend

but suicide is a cop out… I feel like a hypocrite, I send so much time telling people how to fight it even when I almost lose to it so often

12 hours ago Me

we all suck at it, I think

12 hours ago Friend

but then again, we are the best to give advice

I don’t think you can really know what it is like tell you’ve been to the edge

the feeling of auto pilot your mind goes into

all you want is to fix it

its weird, planning it at times, almost makes me feel better

like having a morbid back up plan

12 hours ago Me

yeah

one thing that has helped me not do it

Is that I find the idea of trying it and fucking up to be intensely terrifying

Having to be around when everyone finds out I gave it a go. That is a really terrifying thought

helpfully terrifying, in a way

it makes it a lot harder to consider

12 hours ago Friend

yeah, I guess in my mind I came up with a fool prof plan… but then again, I think about the damage and possibly hurting someone else in the process

12 hours ago Me

You know

when all this had just started happening

and I was really, really in a dangerous place

I was talking to a friend of mine about it

and

it was the silliest thing in a way

People don’t get what it’s like dealing with this amount of pain

and one of the things I was most afraid of about suicide

was the idea that people would be mad at me for doing it

12 hours ago Friend

yeah, I kept getting into the angry mood of “why do the people who love me want me to live this way, in this much pain, in a state of constant self hate… I don’t belong in this world”

12 hours ago Me

yeah

I think that was a big part of the reason I didn’t

Because I felt like I wouldn’t feel right about it if I hadn’t given it my best shot, and I knew there were still things I hadn’t tried

12 hours ago Friend

yeah… I guess the idea of new experiences keeps me around too. I feel my best when I’m helping people I’d love to make that my career. I think that is the reason I want to teach, it’d be doing that all the time.

12 hours ago Me

yeah

another thing

is that I know technology and science is always advancing

I would kill myself if I thought I would have to live with the kind of pain I was dealing with when this all started for the rest of my life. I don’t have much in the way of illusions about that

but

that’s not a thing I can know

we don’t know very well how to deal with this shit right now

but in ten years

or 20

we might have a perfect cure

and I will have stupidly missed it

12 hours ago Friend

it is true, medicine is getting better

Even what I’ve been taking gets better

and I keep thinking that doing it would be the worst derailing, I’ve made such a comeback, but I keep thinking it will never be enough

I lot of it stems from self hate

12 hours ago Me

So, I guess I’ve written about this before, that I don’t know where to draw the line between accepting/indulging in/identifying with in engative feelings and trying to change them, and I don’t know which this would be. But I wrote the closest to a suicide note I’ve ever written a few years ago. You would be welcome to see it if you like. If it would help somehow.

12 hours ago Friend

yeah. it would. I wrote one a long time ago… when I made my attempt… I remember seeing it right after I got out of hospital it seemed so weird, like it was written by another person

12 hours ago Me

gurgh

I still identify with this one in a lot of ways. Or remember how it felt, anyway. I still *can* identify with it.

I think that’s one of the scary things with me

I do feel like I’ve been making progress

but at the same time

I feel like all that bad stuff is always just a few steps away. A few bad days, or whatever

and that’s really…ergh

12 hours ago Me

I want to not remember what that’s like

12 hours ago Friend

yeah.. I know that feeling

wishing you could rewrite your history

rewrite everything you did wrong

all the dark parts

12 hours ago Me

I mean, I want to remember it, but I want it to seem alien. It’s like I have this suicidal jacket hanging on the door, and I haven’t worn it for a while, but I could if I wanted, just put it right back on. I want to have thrown it out and had it taken away to a junkyard somewhere and to barely remember what it looked like. To be forgetting little details about it that were once incredibly familiar. Like an old relationship.

12 hours ago Friend

yeah… I understand. Wishing it was a hazy memory

12 hours ago Me

Did you read that Bruce thing I linked a few days ago?

12 hours ago Friend

can you send me a direct link?

12 hours ago Me

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/misc/2005_Stuck_In_The_Middle_With_Bruce.html

It’s kind of similar to how I think about that waiting for the other shoe to drop thing

12 hours ago Friend

I love this

12 hours ago Me

Oh, I sent the note thing, also

It is weirdly similar, though, isn’t it?

12 hours ago Friend

it is

also sad

I’m so sorry you felt so bad

it breaks my heart to think that someone can feel like that

12 hours ago Me

I don’t know what it is about me. Though I like to think i’m figuring out bits and pieces of it

I probably am

But I do genuinely have a lot of trouble connecting with people, which I think is a lot of it

or rather, feeling connected with people

12 hours ago Friend

yeah… I feel so isolated all the time

like I said, just not meant to be in this world

like I was born wrong

12 hours ago Me

I just feel like…I don’t know. A lot of times I inntuitively feel like it’s the situation. Kind of like it’s the world that was designed wrong. That I could be happy in the right situation, but that situation just doesn’t exist. But it should, dammit, but it doesn’t.

12 hours ago Friend

I understand tat

that

a lot of my thoughts are “I would be happy if…”

12 hours ago Me

yeah

One thing I think I know

Concepts are way more important than anybody understands

Conceptual prisons are way more powerful than real ones in a lot of ways

Greta Christina once wrote a post about whether or not cheating is ever okay

and she talked about some cases

like

if a person were in a marriage with children and a spouse that refused to provide them affection or sex or any of the things people want relationships for, and cheating was the only way to have needs fulfilled without destroying a family

and I think that can be argued either way

but

There’s something a lot of it hinges on for me

which is whether or not the person has a concept of the idea that divorce can be okay, or that nonmonogamy can be okay, or that it’s even okay to be not okay with a situation like that

I think there are people who have never been exposed to ideas like those who haven’t come up with them on their own

I just, I think similarly about depression. Like, there are probably all of these concepts. Zillions and zillions of them that I’ve never thought of, that might entirely change my perception of myself and the world and everything

It’s almost the same as faith in technology and medicine. I think there are ideas to be discovered, by society, and by just me, that might turn everything around.

In a lot fo ways I’m the same as I was in high school, but in others I’m barely recognizable. And I think that’s because of concepts

11 hours ago Friend

haha I feel that way

I look back at myself a few years ago

before I reframed the way I thought

the difference is amazing

11 hours ago Me

yeah

A Reminder

My therapist said something today I think I should remember. When I said I overdid it today, what I meant was now there is more pain. Which sucks. But on the bright side, as she said, the thing to concentrate on is that even though I found a limit in doing that experimenting, the fact that I felt safe enough to do the experiment at all is a sign of progress. A lot of progress, really.