Why Depression Makes You Feel Like Depressed You Is the Real You: A Hypothesis

People struggling with depression often talk about how it can be difficult not to think of your depressed self as your “real” self when you’ve been dealing with depression for a while. This is absolutely a problem that I have experienced, myself, and my impression is that it’s a very common one.

I have a pet hypothesis for why this phenomenon is so common. It may be wrong – it may even be true that depression in and of itself is sufficient explanation for the phenomenon. That said, the “Depression just does this.” explanation has never felt sufficient to me.

Some background is going to be required to put my hypothesis in context:

I have always absolutely hated answering questions like, “What’s up?”, or “How are you?” when dealing with depression. When I’m in the middle of a depressive episode and someone asks how I am, I have the following choice: be honest and deal with the social awkwardness that the honest answer creates, or lie and say I’m fine. Since these questions are pretty common as a way of greeting someone, I find myself faced with this decision frequently. I never enjoy it.

Another thing that tends to happen when I’m depressed is that I have breakdowns with people. When I feel like everything is too heavy, I’ll try to find someone to vent and cry to until things feel a little bit less shitty. Some of my best memories from times when I was dealing with depression are memories of times when I was able to be really honest about exactly how bad I was feeling, and friends supported me through the expression of all of that.

My impression is that experiences I describe in the previous two paragraphs are not uncommon for people dealing with depression. My hypothesis about why thinking of depressed you as “the real you” is so easy to do comes from thinking about those things.

Because here’s what those experiences mean for me: they mean that, when I am depressed, I am being dishonest the vast majority of the time that I talk about being okay. When I’m depressed, “I am fine.” is always a lie. Concurrently, the times when I feel the most authentic tend to be those times when I am able to really spill how I’m feeling about being really depressed. The venting and crying sessions that I sometimes so sorely need are some of the most honest, connective moments that I have during those times.

Being depressed means that I am going through a period where I am almost always at my least authentic when I talk about feeling okay or good, and I am almost always at my most authentic when I am expressing my most intensely depressive emotions. I am usually telling the truth to people when I talk about feeling depressed, and I am usually lying to people when I’m talking about feeling fine.

Given such circumstances, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could avoid developing an association between authenticity and depression and inauthenticity and happiness.

Advertisements

Life Update and Rambling

This week has been hard.

One of the unfortunate patterns that tend to crop up regularly with me goes like this: I have an injury I have to manage, which means I can’t do the normal things I do for exercise. I spend a while frustratingly trying to figure out some form of exercise that won’t aggravate whatever particular injury needs healing time. When I finally figure something out, I get excited about doing it, I do it a bunch, and I get injured in a way directly related to the new form of exercise.

This has actually happened to me quite a lot. When you really enjoy exercise, it takes a tremendous amount of willpower to take it slow when you find a form of exercise you can actually do after being without it for a long time.

This is how I ended up with tendonitis in my legs as well as arms. So that has been incredibly difficult.

I also, recently, started trying out a new technique for coding without having to type. It has been going pretty well, overall, but I had a day earlier this week where my tendonitis got fairly bad, anyway, which was incredibly discouraging. When you think you’re doing everything right, and pain still gets worse, it’s tend to be a very getting-the-rug-pulled-out-from-under-you kind of moment. None of my physical symptoms seem to have been going particularly well, lately, and I can’t really say anything new about that except that it really sucks, and it makes me wonder if any of the things I’m dealing with right now will ever get better.

A few weeks ago I started trying to do regular meditation. In general, this is what I’m working on right now. For the next few weeks, at least, I think my primary objective in terms of self-treatment will be to continue the meditation practice.

In other news, I have been figuring out things with a new casual partner, recently, and thus far that has provided some excellent moments and insights. It is pretty unusual for me to find people who are as enthusiastic and scientific about explicit consent and feelings conversations as I am, and I have found myself a combination of appreciative of and entertained by how similar New Partner and I are in this regard.

The result has been a lot of, “Seriously, this kind of moment would only happen to me.” things happening.

Though I am still having trouble feeling like some of my friendships are one-sided with respect to mutual engagement, I have also met a few people recently who have been proactive about spending time with me. I think, for the first time since I moved out here, I’m starting to have moments where I feel like friends who I have a satisfying level of interpersonal resonance and initiative-taking with are not in anxiety-inducingly short supply.

I always worry when I’m spending more time talking about personal things that people will get tired of this blog being about me instead of Topics Of Interest. Paradoxically, I think that the reason I have managed to keep up with this blog (unlike the other previous times I tried and failed to maintain blogs) is because it provides that sort of outlet.

One of the reasons I like writing about difficult personal stuff, also, is that I know that it’s possible that my life will get better.

A friend of mine and I used to wonder whether or not the kinds of awesome relationship resonance that we looked for in serious partners was actually ever possible. A little while ago, she ended up getting married to someone that she had found that with. I got to hear about it, and I got to be there at the wedding, and one of the greatest things about that was that it helped and still helps me to stay optimistic about finding similar things for myself. It helps me, now, in part because I knew this friend when she was despairing just as much as I sometimes do about finding awesome serious relationships. I knew her before she had found one, and I watched as the thing that we worried didn’t exist happened to her.

It’s hard to be pessimistic about never being able to find something when you have watched someone else be just as pessimistic as you and then find that something.

If my life gets to a point where it doesn’t feel like all of my decisions are ruled by what is least likely to aggravate pain symptoms, and where I generally feel more secure about my life and relationships, I want to remember this period. I want to have a record of exactly how bad things were, how frequently I despaired about things, and how hard everything was day-to-day.

I want to have that record so that I don’t fool myself about how hard things were, so that I can use it as an example of how things can get better when things inevitably get difficult again, and so that I can provide an example to others like the example that my friends marriage gave me.

If things do get better for me, I want to have this record of how bad they were so that other people dealing with depression and chronic pain and other difficult things can look at my example and be more optimistic, because, no, it really was that bad before, and it really did get to here from there.

In the meantime, while I am spending a lot of my time feeling shitty about pain or money or relationships or whatever else, I do have the respect of a lot of people whose respect I think matters, and for reasons that I think reflect an accurate perception of who I am, and that is an accomplishment that a lot of people never manage in their lives. So there is that.

I keep almost ending this post and feeling like the end is either unrepresentatively negative or unrepresentatively positive. So I’ll just end by saying that there are some shitty things going on and some nice things going on, and that overall life is pretty fucking difficult right now and… it goes on, I guess.

Life Update

I guess I’ve been doing better than usual lately. Work has been going okay, and nothing too obscenely complicated has happened socially. The last time I updated, I was feeling socially overwhelmed, particularly in terms of having to figure out a number of relationship situations. Those situations have largely thinned out since then.

I find myself, now, figuring out one situation, and hoping for one or two more. I also find myself waffling pretty extremely between feeling like I have too much going on and feeling like I have not enough going on. I don’t like scheduling too many things in a week, but when I end up with empty afternoons as a result of not scheduling things, I end up feeling lonely. You would think the solution would just be to get over it and schedule more things, but having empty afternoons feel lonely doesn’t change the fact that I get Schedule Panic when I have too many things planned in a given week.

I feel like my brain is to being social like a cat is to a door. Cats always seem to want to be on whatever side of the door they aren’t currently on. “Let me outside! No, let me inside! Now, let me outside!” etc. In that same sense, my brain tends to “There aren’t enough people, no one loves me! There are too many people, make them all go away! Why doesn’t anyone want to hang out with me, ever?! Jesus, will everyone just leave me alone!”

It’s exhausting. The ideal situation seems to just be to be able to get to an afternoon and then call someone and hang out, but most people tend to schedule more in advance than I do, so this isn’t a plan that works out all that often.

I also find myself wanting more opportunities to be physical with people, and to be having sex. It’s a little bit strange to be spending time feeling like people aren’t interested in doing that with me when the reality is that a number of people are.

I’ve always remembered this one line from one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books I read way back when. It was something like, “The truth is that when we ask ‘Why doesn’t anyone like me?’, most of the time what we’re really asking is ‘Why doesn’t the person I like like me back?'”

It’s true. Usually when I feel like people don’t like me, or that people don’t want to do the things that I want to do with me, the reality is more like, “The people I would really like to be doing these things with are not necessarily interested or capable of making the time to do them with me.” It isn’t that no one is interested, it’s that no one happens to be in the overlap between me being interested and them being interested.

Even that isn’t really the case right now. There is some overlap happening in that area. So I find myself wanting to have rational reasons to feel not particularly wanted right now, and I find myself coming up blank.

I suppose some of it may have to do with my still feeling like I am generally the more proactive person about initiating interaction in most of my current friendships. This problem doesn’t seem to have been as bad over the last few months as it has often been, but it’s still definitely a problem for me, and I’m still not really sure what to be doing about it.

I’m not sure what to be doing about it, because part of the problem is just that I have more time than most people that I need to find things to do with. It’s possible that I would be just as bad at keeping up with people if I had more things to spend my free time on. But right now free time is scary for me. Free time means making an effort to find things to do that won’t worsen any of my physical symptoms. It means not doing anything that requires staying still for too long (e.g. reading books is fun, but not for too long), it means not doing anything that will aggravate my tendonitis, which has conveniently recently decided to take up residence in my legs as well as arms. So, assume you can use your legs or arms, and can’t do anything that requires being sedentary for too long. What would you be doing with your free time?

In reality, I guess it’s no wonder I spend a lot of time feeling lonely. Having free time to be by myself these days feels more like a sentence than a break.

A Couple of Thoughts on the Skeptic Community And Calling Out Racism

I’m not going do to anything in depth on Bria Crutchfield’s comments at the Great Lakes Atheist Convention. I do want to say two things in (relative) brief, though.

To the people who are saying that she shouldn’t have publicly chewed someone out for asking a racist question because “Anger isn’t going to help educate people or change minds” (and there are, in the least, commenters who are saying this quite unambiguously),  I want to say this:

First, yes, it can. I think about the arguments people make even when they make them angrily. I suspect so do most of us. The skeptic community is a community that prides itself on the idea that we are capable of considering the substance of someone’s argument independent of the manner in which it is delivered. For us to about-face and claim that none of us could possibly learn anything from someone, simply because that someone is expressing their opinion angrily…

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 4.50.34 PMIronic is a pretty big understatement. If we are incapable of being educated simply because we were put off by someone’s anger, then I’d have to say that as a whole, our community is unspeakably terrible at skepticism.

Second, can we consider for a moment that maybe the successful education of us white people is not the only possible positive outcome from someone speaking out against racism?

A while back, someone commented to David Silverman that some of the billboards that American Atheists put up are more likely to offend than to deconvert believers. His response was that the billboards were not for believers. They were for the already de-converted, who needed to know that there was a place for them.

Consider the possibility that even if not one single white person came out of that Q&A session feeling like they had learned something (which I doubt), that does not mean that the callout was useless. Establishing ourselves as a community where racism will be called out is a benefit in and of itself. Establishing a lack of tolerance for racist questions as a community norm makes our community better. It helps make our community a place where people who have to deal with racism every single day of their lives might reasonably expect better. Even if no white people were educated in the making of this callout, that effect alone is a benefit to our community.

As one eloquent commenter put it: “I don’t care about your intent when you say something racist. I care that people who are constantly being harmed by racism just got harmed again, and my first goal is not to teach you, it’s to make sure all those harmed people know that what you just said is not okay.”

So You Think You May Have Been Blocked on Twitter

So you think you may have been blocked on Twitter.

Social rejection is hard. I understand you may be having a lot of feelings about this. Difficult feelings. Challenging feelings. Feelings that make you want to shout things like “free speech”, “censorship”, or “taking our jobs”.

This is only natural. It’s a difficult time in a boy’s life when he realizes people don’t want him shouting “cunt” all the time. We’ve all been there. As a wise man once said, we must try not to sink beneath our anguish, but battle on.

In this most difficult of times, allow me to offer some words of advice.

First, keep things in perspective. Though it’s important not to abandon the battle against Twitter censorship, the war against censorship is being fought on many fronts – none of them can be forgotten.

Did you know that many telecommunications companies enable people to block calls from particular phone numbers? Someone could have your very phone number blocked at this very moment, completely without your knowledge or permission! Did you know that if you’re in a public space expressing your opinions at generous volume and length, that those nearby have the right to get up and sit far away from you before you have even finished? Did you know that if you were to walk up to someone’s door and ask them, in all politeness and sincerity, if they would like to hear some words about Jesus, that person would have the right to shut the door in your face?

In each of the scenarios I describe, you have absolutely no legal avenue for bringing such fascist, socialist, terrorist, witch-hunting, flag-burning, pig-stealing, misandrist cannibal-Nazi barbarians to justice. Free speech isn’t only under attack on social networks – it is under attack in every facet of American life. If we falter in the defense of our constitutional rights, those who are too afraid of logic, reason, and the free exchange of ideas to listen to another 30 minutes of proselytization about Jesus or Xfinity or misandry will never accept the truths we so generously offer.

Second, remember that though these violations of our rights are serious, the powers that be have, in reality, only erected a proverbial Maginot line against truth and justice. Blocked on the Internet? Remember that you can still employ an army of sock puppets to do your truthy bidding! Those people in the park don’t want to hear your speech about the merits of Men’s Rights Activism? Follow them when they try to leave! Don’t stop until you’ve made sure they’ve heard everything you have to say! Family down the street doesn’t want to listen to your doorstep speech about Jesus how feminism is keeping us down? Look up all of their online accounts and make sure they can’t go two minutes without being bombarded by the free exchange of ideas!

After all, if they can’t handle a little open debate, how will they ever learn anything?

Third, and I know this is a difficult one: try not to come off too emotional. Yes, being blocked on Twitter may remind you of that painful time in middle school when that girl you liked didn’t call you back again after you called her a bitch all those times, or the time at that party when people kept edging away from you when you were just trying to have a normal conversation about sperm-jacking. Though such wounds may take years to heal, we cannot let them get to us. There are already those who claim that we are simply letting our frail manfeelings get the better of us when we call Twitter blocking a violation of our constitutional rights, or compare speaking out against sexual harassment to lynching.

There are those who say that such analogies are laughably absurd, context-blind, ignorant fantasies — the product of our inability to accept that there might be some people somewhere in the world who don’t have an obligation to listen to everything we have to say. There are those who say that the only way we could compare someone not wanting to listen to us on the Internet to censorship is if our fragile, irrational emotions had completely overridden our reason. There are those who say that such comparisons only serve to illustrate how completely and utterly we have failed to understand even the basics of the principle that the First Amendment was written to express.

We know different. But we will never convince those who doubt our cause if we come off all irrational and feelings-y. So, please, let’s try and keep it together. Just because your fundamental freedoms are being eroded doesn’t mean you have to be all angry about it. Just engage like reasonable people, with civility and jokes about physical and sexual assault, and, eventually, our cooler, more rational heads will prevail.

Keep that chin up. It may not seem like it now, but I am confident that one day, people will look back on Twitter blocking as a shameful but isolated dark stain on the otherwise free and egalitarian history of our great nation.

Also, you should smile more. You look so much nicer when you smile.

Social Progress And Avoiding Obsolescence

Someday, probably sooner than you think, there will be a generation of children who grow up never having known a world where gender neutral pronouns weren’t commonly used and accepted. There will be a generation that grows up with gender-neutral pronouns as an obvious cultural given. In the context of that culture, a person who talks about the good old days before everyone had to know all these pronouns is going to look like a backward, irrelevant relic of the past.

This type of cultural change has already happened, and is already happening, all the time. Marriage used to be all about property. These days, the idea of marriage representing an exchange of property seems absurd. More recently than you think, though, it wasn’t.

I think it was Steve Jobs who once said that If you want to be a successful company, you can’t aim where technology is, you have to aim where it’s going.

This lesson applies to culture.

As people, and, in particular, as social justice movements, being socially progressive isn’t just good because it’s the right thing to do. It’s a rational, intelligent decision to make for any person or movement interested in not becoming obsolete. If you’re interested in staying relevant, you have to aim where culture is going, not where it is right now.

Right now, gender-neutral pronouns are not the norm. Right now, rape culture permeates our society. Right now, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. permeate our society. But all of these things are slowly changing.

I want the movements that I am a part of to be conscious of all of these issues, not just because I think it’s our responsibility to care about all of the people around us, but because I don’t want the movements that I am a part of to become obsolete. If the atheist movement still has the same problems with misogyny that it has right now a few decades from now, we will have become obsolete. The subsections of feminism that don’t overcome their transphobia will be obsolete a few decades from now. The kinds of organizations that promote marriage as only between a man and a woman will be obsolete a few decades from now.

Organizations that don’t change with the times become obsolete. They become obsolete, and people stop caring what they have to say. They stop being able to do good work, because the ways in which they have become backward act as an insurmountable ball and chain, preventing their voice from mattering to anyone.

Within the next few years, I hope everyone watches closely what happens to geek conventions and harassment policies. Given how fast conventions have been adopting harassment policies lately, particularly since John Scalzi’s harassment policy policy received so much support, I’m guessing it won’t be very long until all such conventions have harassment policies, and the few that don’t find themselves with fewer and fewer attendees.

I would like to think that these conference organizers are adopting harassment policies purely because they think it’s the right thing to do. I imagine this is true for many of them. That said, I imagine that self-interest plays a significant role in the decision as well. The writing is on the wall: conferences without harassment policies are about to become obsolete. Soon, It won’t matter whether some conference organizers think harassment policies are unnecessary. It won’t matter how emphatically they insist that their con doesn’t have a problem. No one will care, and they will cease to matter, and, eventually, cease to exist.

Why is it important that the atheist community call out misogyny, racism, transphobia, etc., when they show up in the movement? Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the only way for our movement to matter. It’s the only way we succeed, because it is the only way we will avoid becoming obsolete. If you’re an atheist, and you don’t think the conversations that we’re having right now are important, then you aren’t just doing a disservice to the people who are hurt by misogyny, you are shooting our movement in the foot. The atheist movement cannot succeed without remaining relevant, and it cannot remain relevant without being responsibly socially progressive.

If you don’t think that’s true, then whatever part of the movement you’re participating in is a part that no one is going to give a fuck about in 20 years.

And, as a human being, if you don’t think you should have to learn about people’s personal pronouns, don’t say I didn’t warn you when you become the “racist grandparent”-type stereotype of your generation.

An Analogy for Casual Sex

Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me about casual sex.

“People talk about it being like sex without the sense of intimacy, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s like talking about something being blue without being blue.”

I thought about it, and I thought about my own journey from being uncomfortable with casual sex to being comfortable with it. In retrospect, I think it was mostly a process of getting out of the habit of thinking of sex as being defined by the way I experience it in serious relationships. It took me a while to stop thinking, “This doesn’t feel at all like sex, so something must be wrong.”, to thinking, “No, not wrong, just really different.”

And then a silly analogy came to mind, which is basically why I am writing this post.

It’s like if you spent your entire life eating only food with meat in it, and then suddenly started trying things that were vegetarian. For a while, your whole reaction to vegetarian food is just, “Holy crap, there is seriously no meat in this!”. Every time you try something vegetarian, it’s just this visceral experience of the not-meat-ness of it. It’s weird. Something is missing; something that fundamentally defines your idea of food.

But you keep experimenting, because, hey, you’re in college. Eventually, your reaction evolves. After a while, you start noticing the other flavors. “Oh, I remember having this before. It had more beans in it the last time. Maybe I should add some more.” Over time, the lack of meat becomes much like the addition or subtraction of any other flavor. You can still objectively observe that this food has meat in it and that food does not, but it isn’t an overpowering or over-important awareness. It’s just another flavor. Maybe one that you really like, but not one that you need, and not one that is so fundamentally important that you can’t see things without it as food.

And that, dear readers, is roughly how I look back on my own journey to being comfortable with casual sex.

Meet The Antagonist

“There are things I’m not doing. Things that might have a chance of helping, but I just don’t have the energy to do them. I’m spending too much of my willpower already just getting my work done and getting through my days.”

“Do you think anyone would blame you for that? Do you think anyone you know is the kind of person who would think badly of you for not having the energy to do everything that might help all at once, when things are as hard as they are right now?”

She was right. I don’t think anyone I know would think badly of me for the things I’m not doing right now that might have a chance of making my pain problems better. I don’t think any of my friends would assume I was just being lazy, or any such thing.

So, who is it that I am arguing with? Why, when I think about the things I’m not doing, do I feel like I need to have an explanation for why I’m not doing them? Why, if no one I know would question how hard I have tried, am trying, will try to get through the stuff I’m dealing with right now, does this argument play out in my head so often? If I haven’t allowed anyone into my life who would demand explanations for why I’m not doing more, why do I feel compelled to come up with the explanations anyway?

Who is this antagonist that I am so obsessed with satisfying?

When I put this question to my brain, an answer surfaced almost immediately: the anthropomorphization of culture.

There isn’t anyone in my life who would ask these questions of me. But the culture that I grew up in asks them all the time, and the voice of that culture lives in my head.

I will never fully understand the anxiety that some ex-religious people feel over the idea of going to hell, even years after they have de-converted. But in having this revelation yesterday, I feel like I have come a little bit closer. There is a voice in my head whose words and attitudes have nothing to do with mine. There is a culturally constructed antagonist that I feel the need to satisfy in spite of knowing that so much of what it says is bullshit.

At the very least, now I know how to think about it. I’m going to think about this voice like a god. It is the voice of something imagined, something that doesn’t exist, but that I have been taught to believe in. It’s the god of culture. I haven’t beaten it yet, but now I know how to think about my enemy.

A Lie Of Omission

“it seems like we both have a lot to process. Do you want to call it a day?”

I really did. The conversation was dying, settling into a silence full of my disappointment that a relationship was off the table and her not having a whole lot else to say.

And yet, as I contemplated leaving, I realized that as much as I wanted to have some time to think about everything, I really didn’t want to be by myself. I suddenly needed a friend a lot more than I needed to go home and think.

I told her that something else had come up, emotionally, for me. Something that had nothing to do with her or the conversation we had had earlier. I asked if she was up to just being an ear and a shoulder for a bit. She told me she was, and offered a hug I gratefully accepted.

I started to cry. She held me as I waited for the sobs to subside, feeling the utter helpless frustration accumulated over the last few months boil over and out. When the first wave of crying subsided, I tried to explain.

“I should call it a day. It would have been a good idea to call it a day. I need to process things, and I can’t think of anything else to talk about. But I don’t have anything else planned after this today. That means that even if I think it’s a good idea for me to go home and be by myself and think, what happens when I do go home is that I have to find a way to fill the five hours between now and when I can go to sleep with things that won’t hurt.”

The crying began again. Around the waxing and waning of tears, I talked more about the things I been worrying about with respect to my chronic pain. There never seems to be a whole lot to say about dealing with chronic pain. The pain is there, it’s always there a little more or a little less, sapping your strength, and when someone understands that there is nothing else interesting to say.

So I talked about my worries. I talked about not knowing how or when to make a decision to take time off from work. I talked about worrying about what happens if I were to go broke doing so. I talked about how frustrating it is that my current physical issues happened on such an off chance. The perfect type of work at the perfect time for me to be careless enough to forget the risks involved in having a body prone to repetitive stress.

I talked about how no one told me things could be like this. No one told me things were ever this hard for anyone. I grew up in a world where things were solved in the space of an hour minus advertising minutes. I grew up knowing that depression and poverty and hardship were things that existed, but only in the abstract – knowing it in the same sense that I know a few of the names of people who signed the Declaration of Independence – knowing it like I know trivia facts.

No one told me when I was growing up that the world was broken. No one told me what it meant – no one forced me to really appreciate what it means that people suffer. It took me a long time to learn that there are people whose lives we can’t fix and people whose brains we can’t fix, and people whose circumstances some don’t even have any interest in fixing, and what that really, really means for those people.

I wasn’t told, not really, that anyone’s lives could be as hard as I have recently found mine. This in spite of the fact that there are so, so many people whose lives are immeasurably more difficult than mine has ever been. I have spent so much of my time feeling like everyone has things together but me because the world I was shown while I was growing up did not have people like me in it. I had to learn for myself that this reality wasn’t new — that depression wasn’t something that had sprung into existence with my generation. That it has always existed, it’s just that no one thought it was important to tell me. The fact that the world I see around me — full of friends and friends of friends struggling to keep their heads above water, mentally, physically, financially — this world isn’t new. The novelty of this world in which people suffer and die at the hands of chance and the indifference of people who should know better — that novelty exists because of the single crowning lie of omission. That novelty exists because, by way of omission, I was taught that real suffering doesn’t exist. I was taught that the word “civilization” had something, anything in common with the world I live in.

It’s difficult to put into words the sense of betrayal that this realization comes with. If I had known what suffering and hardship really were, and how much more common they are than I knew growing up, I would have started trying to fix the world sooner. I wouldn’t have spent and wouldn’t be spending so much time feeling like my problems are my failures. I would have understood just how many people I share my experiences with, and would have been better able to believe that my problems are things that happen to people everywhere, and taken solace in our shared circumstance, instead of feeling like I was the one person who just couldn’t figure out how to get things right.

We need to teach our children that the world is broken. We need to teach them that it’s broken and that no one, but no one, can fix it but us. We need to teach them this because the alternatives are for them to grow up and be hit by the reality of it full in the face without warning, or to be dealt a bad hand and be one of the ones who has to go through the long process of learning that they aren’t alone and it isn’t their fault, or to never know, and never really understand what the fact of human suffering really means. To never understand how much we need to fix things, and, as a result of not knowing, to unknowingly perpetuate the state of brokenness in which so many people find themselves.

The world can be, and sometimes is, an amazing, wonderful place. But it is also, at times, hell. We can make it not that way, but first we have to acknowledge that it is, and to take on the responsibility of being honest with others about the fact that it is.

Life Update: Pain and Social Interaction and Girls and Stuff

Time for a life update.

My life has been absolutely ridiculous lately.

First, chronic pain stuff. Tendonitis Is as annoying as ever, and as an added bonus I recently started to have some minor symptoms of it in one of my legs, further restricting the activities I’m capable of doing. There’s not a lot to say about this that I haven’t said already, really, except that it isn’t particularly helpful for my depression or for finding activities I can fill my free time with.

I guess I thought there would be more lamentation how incredibly shitty my body is in this post, but in the end I’m not sure there’s much more to say. My body is crappily made, and it means I can’t do things, and I don’t know when I will be able to do things again, and I don’t know what I should be afraid of doing or not doing, and it’s all a big pile of shit and I hate it.

Socially, my life has been overwhelming lately. About a month ago, I decided to make a concerted effort to be more social. Unlike most of the other times in my life I’ve decided to do this, it worked brilliantly this time, to the extent that I’ve been feeling various levels of socially overloaded for the past three weeks or so. I’ve also learned that group social events can, at times, be sufficiently stressful that they keep me from sleeping after I get home from them. This seems to happen whether or not things go particularly well or poorly at a particular event — more to do with my brain overclocking on social decision-making processes than with an event going badly. This has not been a fun lesson (incidentally, if anyone would like to recommend any particular brands or types of sleeping pills that I might employ on days where this is the case, leave me a comment).

One of the side effects of having been more social has been that I have suddenly and unexpectedly found myself in a number of new situations with girls. Overall, I would say that having found a few instances of mutual interest has been pretty awesome. That said, the fact that they have all happened at exactly the same time has been pretty overwhelming. Each situation has its own set of complexities that I have needed to do processing about, and I find myself really looking forward to a month or two from now, when I imagine things will have settled a bit.

All the changing social/dating context has left me feeling a bit like I just started five new jobs at once. I like the new jobs, but it’s all at once, and there are things to learn about each one before I get comfortable there, and it’s pretty overwhelming.

There are more things, but my brain appears to have suddenly decided to stop working (it likes doing that these days), so this is the update for now.