Being Sick Sucks

What’s going on guys? As is standard here, I’ve been slacking again. It’s a typical process really: I write a ton of stuff on Sunday and Monday and usually panic-post something on Tuesday, and feeling achieved I slack off for the remainder of the week. Repeat this weekly. But as you can guess given the title, I have a reason for my slacking over the past week: I’m sick. And not just sick, miserably so. Being sick is something so universally terrible and being one of those “low-hanging fruit” posts it should be really easy to write. That hasn’t been the case. Why? I think because being sick is so universally terrible that it’s hard to complain about it without adding any new information that people don’t already know. Everyone knows being sick sucks, and so what?

I was trying to churn out a post like this about six or seven months ago when I was crippled for over a week with bronchitis. Bronchitis was awful. I was used to the common cold where you feel like trash for a day or two and then get along with your life relatively easily. Where you can still summon enough motivation to survive day to day life with minimal issues. Bronchitis was a whole other level of misery that I wasn’t aware of or prepared to deal with. I physically couldn’t do anything. I’d lay in bed for hours needing to use the bathroom or make a cup of coffee but not having the willpower to actually get up. This is how my current sickness has been. A total lack of energy.

When I was beginning to get sick I tried to remain positive. I told myself I would take it easy, watch some videos, read some books, and do some writing. To be productive without being physically productive I guess. Sounds like a plan, right? Wrong. Apparently this type of sickness brings along with it such complete and total exhaustion that I found I couldn’t do anything. The task of writing seemed too strenuous somehow. Watching movies and reading requires focus and was also too strenuous. Hell, even listening to music was too much to undertake for some reason. So over the past five days I have done literally nothing. This is why there hasn’t been a being sick sucks post until now: having the common cold isn’t that bad and is nothing to write about but anything serious wipes you out to a degree where you can’t write anything at all. And once you get better? It’s hard to channel those feelings as clearly as when you’re actually sick, miserable, and exhausted.

By far the worst part of being sick is the mindset that it brings with it. Something about being sick puts the fact that you’ll eventually get old, your body will fall apart, and you’ll die directly into conscious thought, although maybe that’s just me being dramatic. Being sick to me is like a temporary version of dying, where your body falls apart and stops doing what you need it to do but in a temporary way. Isn’t this what being old is like? You see older people constantly sitting, limping around, and generally looking like shit and they usually say it’s because their bodies feel like shit. I always seem to blame something vague on them like a “lack of willpower” for not tackling a staircase like a 20-year-old, but are they even physically able to do so? No. No more than I am able to go outside and run a mile because I’m so physically fucked right now. My body won’t allow it. Being this sick makes me feel old, and it being the inevitable future that awaits me (and everyone else) is depressing as fuck. What would I do if I felt like this all the time? It’s scary to think about. I understand why people want to kill themselves in old age. If you consistently feel terrible and your quality of life is degraded far enough life might end up not having anything enjoyable to offer you at all.

I’ve found I’ve always favored a “mind-over-matter” outlook in life. Like if you have total command over your brain you can overcome anything. This was especially prominent when I was an avid runner. Running is as much of a mental task as a physical task and it’s easy to think it’s all a mental task. Like if you will something enough, or put your mind into a unique enough state you can do anything. Like the Buddhist monks that protest by self-immolation without screaming or flailing, surely we all can learn to perfectly control our bodies given perfect mental control. It’s the belief that anyone can run a marathon without practicing if they just “focus enough” or some bullshit. (If I recall correctly there was a How I Met Your Mother episode where Barney decides to run a marathon saying something like “How hard can it be? You just keep running and don’t stop.” He actually wins too.) If you really want a new PR during a race, you just do it. Sure training is important, but the most important thing is mindset. And if an 80-year-old wanted to tackle a staircase like a 20-year-old, all they need to do is “focus” or some stupid shit like that.

But this isn’t true, and being sick makes it so obvious. Imagining being sick I would think something like, “Even if I do feel bad, I can still ‘be tough’ and make myself be productive.” Like if I just put enough mental power into thinking about feeling well that I could actually be well. Or that I could minimize the effect that being sick actually had on me. But when you’re physically sick and exhausted you just can’t bring yourself to do anything. I would sit on the couch for hours feeling miserable and while knowing I could get up and take some medicine, I didn’t. Sitting on the couch was where I was and taking the tiny bit of physical effort to get medicine, even if it would bring me near instant relief, was beyond me. This is how it was with everything. I didn’t write. I didn’t read. I didn’t watch movies. I just existed in the past five days feeling like shit and just hoping to feel normal as soon as possible. It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough motivation or willpower; it was the fact that I had none at all.

I also like to imagine the opposite of being sick where you are physically okay but mentally not well, i.e. depression or other mental health troubles. Being sick your physical body won’t let your motivated mind do anything, while being mentally sick your mental state won’t let your physically healthy body work properly. The body needs to work harmoniously together and you’d be tempted to even think that the idea of mental health being separate from physical health is wrong; health is the interplay between the two and trying to separate one from the other is impossible to do. Obviously having a distinction between the two is helpful, but it’s also fun to think that it could just be a useful construct created by us humans.

I’m still sick and trying my damndest to tie all of this shit together into a good blog post. It isn’t working. I feel like I’m at about 50 or 60% maximum health here and I’m pretty sure it shows. I feel like I’m rambling. I feel like I’m stating the obvious. Do I want to delete it and start over? No, because that’s a lot of work. Even proofreading this was difficult as I discovered I repeated like two or three paragraphs without knowing it. But this is what being sick does to you I guess. I’ve always wanted to write a post about how much being sick sucks, and if it turns out to be awful, well, it’s because being sick sucks. Maybe the next post will be better. That one might be about being sick too, but more on how I brought it on myself through bad karma. Or something.

Self-Esteem Sucks: The Challenge of Self-Acceptance

My grand plan upon realizing I have self-esteem issues while reading The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden was to read the book, understand the book, and to internalize what it was saying. To take the book and make what it was staying part of my being. The more detailed plan was to go through each one of his pillars one-by-one and discover which ones I needed to work on. The book argues that self-esteem is constructed upon six “pillars” — fundamental areas that need to be developed for self-esteem to thrive — and that lacking strength in any pillar can weaken the entire foundation of self-esteem. It shouldn’t be too hard to go through each one logically and discover which ones were problematic for me.

I’m about half-way through the pillars and so far I’ve identified one area that I’m sorely lacking in: self-acceptance. The first pillar is living consciously and I’m pretty proud of myself in that area. Summing that one up in a terrible way: be aware of the moment you’re in. Be receptive of information. Be open and accepting of the world. Shit like that. The third pillar is of self-responsibility: you are responsible for yourself. There are certain people that love to blame others for their problems, and while other people can cause problems for you, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t your responsibility to fix. I’ve heard somewhere (with regards to mental health but it applies to everything) something like this, “It might not be your fault, but it’s your responsibility.” Consider this shitty scenario. You get a divorce and your ex has taken everything from you. It’s a shitty situation right? While you might be perfectly innocent in the matter, you still need to act in favor of yourself and your happiness. In short, you are responsible for you.

You might’ve noticed I skipped the second pillar and that’s because it is the topic of this post. The second pillar is self-acceptance. Upon initially reading the chapter I thought it would be another pillar to mostly ignore: I already accepted myself about as well as I knew how to. Seriously. This was mostly because the first half of the chapter talked mostly about accepting your flaws, which I’m assuming most people are terrible at because of how much the author had written about it. This covered things such as admitting when you’re wrong and admitting that you’re not perfect. Owning your flaws and mistakes. And guess what? I’m amazing at that! I’m constantly thinking I’m wrong (but also feeling that I’m probably right but not wanting to come across as cocky or something), I’m always open to critique, and so on. In short I am very open and accepting of my flaws.

But then the book totally beat the shit out of me over something that’s very similar to admitting your flaws: to be self-accepting is to also accept the good things about yourself. If you’re going to own all of the bad shit about yourself, you also need to accept the good things about yourself as well. This makes perfect sense if the goal is to have perfectly honest self-acceptance. And holy fuck if that didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks.

You don’t have to, but go check out my post about self-esteem and writing. I love to use that as my go-to example because it writhes in its lack of self-esteem. It’s so brutally honest it’s amazing to use as an example. In that post I wrote about how when I receive positive feedback with my writing it must be a fluke or a mistake like I accidentally wrote something good. Something about putting enough monkeys in a room with typewriters and eventually one will write Shakespeare. I attribute any and all success I achieve to luck or chance. But when my posts don’t get positive feedback it is something that resonates with me. Those are the facts for me, the clear signs that I’m a failure as a writer. It’s classic “disown the good” and “accept the bad” which is not accepting yourself fully and openly.

Self-acceptance means owning the shit out of the good. But that is scary to someone with little to no self-esteem. It’s easy to admit skill in areas that don’t matter: I’m good at driving, I’m good at hanging blinds, I’m a decent cook, but am I a decent writer? Really? Am I scared of being good? Yeah, kinda, but so what? What the hell am I writing for if not to be good? There is a disconnect between the blogger/writer who consistently writes but doesn’t actually think they’re good at it. If I thought I wasn’t good on some level why would I be writing in the first place? Most people don’t do thing that they know they’re awful at (besides golf for some reason). Something in me believes that I have something special otherwise I wouldn’t be writing. It’s only on the conscious (or subconscious?) level that I think I suck.

I rambled a bit, but apply this line of thinking to yourself. Are you perfectly accepting of your skills and abilities? Do you disown everything good you do as an accident or believe that “it wasn’t that difficult…”? Are you scared of actually being successful? And do you own, personify, and internalize your failures over your success? Are you defined by your flaws and shortcomings? You are one total and complete package — the good along with the bad — and they each need to be accepted together. Feel free to admit that you’re good at painting, writing, blogging, or whatever it is that you do. It doesn’t mean that you close yourself off to actual critique and criticism, but don’t let yourself become identified by your failures. Self-acceptance kinda sucks, until you learn to do it properly. And then I suppose it’s awesome.

(Fixing Your) Self-Esteem Sucks

I’ve been trying to churn out a meaningful post about something, anything for the past week. Sure I got out the therapy post, and the bullshit Halloween post, but those seem like more of the low-effort stuff that I try to stay away from. The problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to write about; the problem is that I have too much to write about. I’d say there are about 5-7 topics floating around in my head and they all seem interconnected and interweaved that I can’t write about one without it bleeding into the other topics. One rant would turn into another rant and eventually I fear I’d have a giant, rambly mess about a multitude of things without saying much about anything in particular.

I want to write about anxiety. I want to write about enlightenment. I want to write about impermanence and how I (we?) naturally despise impermanence. I want to write about video games and how they’re a form of avoidance. I want to write about drinking/not drinking. I want to write about depression. The challenge of seeing a therapist. I want to write about love, friendship, loss, and new beginnings. I want to write about life.

I also want to write about self-esteem. And I’m going to try to do that here. It is one of the interwoven topics tied to depression, drinking, and writing but seems to be the most separate topic that I might be able to make progress on. The fact is I’ve already written about self-esteem, but it was mostly in regards to writing. I have no self-esteem in regards to writing, nothing else, or so I thought. But once again things that are terribly obvious to everyone else can be a mystery to yourself as if the safest place to hide is within your own self-ignorance. I did have an idea though. I read through a few of my past posts: the self-esteem post, the Stardew Valley post, and a bunch of other posts pretending to be a detective looking for clue to the true state of my mind. It hit me hard when I realized it: I have zero self-esteem. It’s everywhere in my writings. Shit.

What I realized was that I could take my self-esteem post and slightly change it to be about any situation and it would fit. It accurately described how I felt about life in general if I just changed a few of the subjects. Here, here’s an example tweaked and edited to be about talking to people and making friends. It’s the exact same mindset though. Also note how the second paragraph needed minimal editing because shitting all over yourself is a pretty general thing to do.

Naturally, I started thinking I would fail from the start, which is a big red flag in terms of self-confidence that also should’ve been apparent. Surprisingly, after posting the first few chapters going out of my way to talk to people I had tons of positive feedback. I was shocked. Some people would ask me if they could be in my stories strike up a conversation with me. Others gave feedback in the form of blog/Facebook post likes and comments positive social cues such as laughing, smiling, and appearing at ease. I mean why would people like and comment act like that if they didn’t like the work fundamentally disliked me as a person? Would people really do that to feign support? And one of the best signs of not sucking was when one of my “fans” “friends” (she called herself that. I’d never call people who read my stuff “fans” talked to me a “friend” because I don’t know if they feel that way about me) mentioned to someone else that I was a good writer person. You don’t recommend stuff you hate to other people talk positively about people you hate to other people. Overwhelmed with actual positive feedback, I was set right? Free to write socialize with all the confidence I needed to push through chapter after chapter and finish a book conversation after conversation and have actual friends. It sounded like my plan was a soaring success.

OF FUCKING COURSE NOT! The plan was a miserable failure. What would happen was a wildly successful post conversation would be followed by a not-as-successful post conversation and instantly my brain would conjure up reasons for everything successful to be a fluke to be a lie. Just me getting lucky for some reason or another. No, success was never from actual skill. Failure is my natural state, and anything other than that is an accident. Maybe I just got lucky on the popular posts a few conversations? Maybe people wised up to the fact that I’m not really good at writing and all my chapters are kinda samey really a terrible and boring person and constantly talk about the same stuff. Maybe everyone dropped the facade of liking my stuff me because it was exhausting to do so.

So once you admit you lack self-esteem, then what? It’s not something you can go to the store and buy exactly.

Getting Help With Self-Esteem

Obviously seeing a therapist would probably help, but I’m still slacking with that matter at the moment. (It should be noted that I’d rather write a blog post instead of search for a therapist. It’s pretty fun when something you used to procrastinate doing becomes its own version of procrastinating something else. Productivity right?) Luckily my supervisor is the most intuitive person to ever exist. While struggling with my lack of self-esteem and the fact of it over the weekend, I went into work to be greeted by her handing me a book. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. Holy shit. Was it that obvious to everyone else? This situation sounds like something that would happen in a story or a movie where one of the characters is going through some shit and another character hands/tells him/her the exact thing they need to assist them in their problem. I’m not making this up either. It’s like the universe is trying to tell me something and is working directly through her. And who am I to gripe about how the universe does its shit? I lack self-esteem not intelligence. I can take the hint.

The introduction to the book stressed the importance of self-esteem and how it underlies everything about mental health. If you have self-esteem issues they’re likely to bleed into other areas and can attribute to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc. The book, not being too cocky about itself, also stressed that self-esteem isn’t a fix-all solution to every problem; there can be serious mental health issues in people with high self-esteem. Luckily for me, self-esteem does seem to be my main problem. It does seem like the fix-all for me, although I’m weary of falling into that mindset lest it be wrong. Even if it isn’t my main issue, it sure is up there in importance.

So for the past week I’ve made a dedicated effort to read the book, process what the book is saying, and to incorporate it into my life. And it’s been working wonderfully so far! There still does seem to be some underlying depression that exists outside of my self-esteem issues, but it’s far less threatening than how I’ve been feeling in the past month or two.

I was going to continue this post, but I think I should break things up. It’s just a really big topic. I’m writing a blog post here, not a fucking book. My “self-esteem journey” seems like it’ll be an interesting process and a few other posts might sprout out of the journey. Why try to cram it all here? In closing: I have self-esteem issues. These issues might be my main problem that needs to be fixed. I’m going to make a dedicated effort to improve my self-esteem. And you’re welcome to come along for the journey!

Halloween Sucks

No one probably noticed much, but I’ve been in a pretty bad patch for the past week. I feel fantastic now, truly, and I’m left looking backwards wondering what my problem was in the first place. This was kinda evident if you care to read my last post about getting help (a sort of post-breakdown pick-myself-back-up post) and a post before that one about lacking self-esteem. Anyways, since I’ve slacked for a week and with Halloween quickly approaching I found myself not feeling motivated to do another “X Holiday Sucks” posts because no one seems to care about them anyways. But in a mild bout of procrastination panic I’ve decided to totally lay into the bullshit that is Halloween. Obviously, the best time to write/post this was yesterday (the 30th) but better late than never, right?

Another Damn Holiday

I always try to find reasons for why certain holidays suck, but let’s face it, I just don’t like holidays. At all. Period. This is how I am with any sort of “traditional” thing be it birthdays, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, holidays, New Years, etc. I’ve always had an issue with doing things just because “that’s how they’ve always been done” and if holidays aren’t the epitome of that then I don’t know what is. Halloween is no different and while I don’t give a damn to read up on the history and reasons behind Halloween (and you shouldn’t need a holiday back story to understand or complain about it anyways), it being the day where, for some reason, kids dress up in costumes, go to strangers’ houses and get free candy just because it’s October 31st seems very hilarious and strange.

You do have to give Halloween credit for being a batshit insane holiday though. Christmas and Thanksgiving have this bullshit somberness to them which isn’t helped by them being in the shittiest time of the year for us Northern Hemisphere bros. You just can’t joke about Christmas. It’s too serious. Remember, Christmas is the holiday where people get upset upon hearing “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” because of some vague idea that a war on Christianity is occurring. Or that our society has become to politically correct. Whatever your stance on this stupid fucking issue you hold, you have to admit that Halloween is a pretty fun, random, insane holiday that doesn’t make much sense. No one is anti-Halloween. Everyone seems to be on board the Halloween Train. Even I am mostly indifferent to it (contrasting with my hatred of Thanksgiving and Christmas). At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Halloween Stores

In the past decade there has been this fascinating phenomena which is The Halloween Store. You might know what I’m talking about. Every September/October random Halloween shops appear inhabiting the corpses of decrepit and abandoned retail stores. Since Amazon and internet shopping in general have murdered retail stores in strip malls all around America there is a multitude of hollow shells for these Halloween stores to inhabit. It’s kinda fitting in a way with Halloween stores possessing the corpses of these long-deceased storefronts.

Do these companies really hibernate for 10 months of the year? What do they do in that time? Do they do anything? Why don’t they branch off into general holiday stores? Why doesn’t any other holiday have random shops that appear for a few months of the year? There are businesses that sell fireworks primarily for Independence Day, but those are year-round stores, aren’t they? Why aren’t there Christmas Holiday Stores? Easter Stores? Thanksgiving Stores? No, there are only Halloween Stores. And like some possessive demon they only appear to inhabit the corpses of the fallen retail shells for a few months of the year returning to the nether for the rest of the time.

Pumpkin Carving?

Once again not researching a damn thing, let’s give a big shout out to whatever pumpkin carving is. You have to admit that taking a giant, orange, seasonal gourd and gouging out its interior so you can carve a face on it is badass. It is the quintessential Halloween thing to do. The only thing that really compares to pumpkin carving is the Christmas Holiday tree, because hauling a fucking evergreen tree inside your house to put lights on it is pretty strange, especially when you realize that it’s kinda dangerous with a real tree and incandescent bulbs, but the viseralness of carving a pumpkin takes the cake pumpkin pie. I mean I have nothing against carving pumpkins and admire it in a way; pumpkin carving is an art form all on its own and gives you tons more possibilities for self-expression than decorating a Christmas Holiday tree does, but damn is it a strange thing to do.

Fucking Trunk-or-Treats are Bullshit

I love the communal aspect of trick-or-treating. Love it. At no other time do people actually visit random strangers’ homes or ring their neighbor’s doorbell. It’s like a holiday of community in a way while most other holidays emphasize family. Independence day is kinda similar as we can all gather and watch shit explode in the sky, but this celebrates the community of America and not your immediate neighborhood. Trick-or-treating is so strange in our society. We stress wariness of strangers: Halloween says take their candy and eat it. Ring their doorbells. Fuck it. We stress being wary of people who hide their identity: open the door for those masked people and toss Snicker bars at them! Political divides fall to the wayside because even the dipshit Trump supporters give out candy just like everyone else. If there’s one thing everyone agrees on it’s that candy is fun and tasty. It unites us all.

But then there’s this thing called trunk-or-treating that seems to be gaining popularity. And I despise it. It seems to take anything that is special about Halloween and dumbs it down to its most basic and meaningless level. Instead of walking around a neighborhood you walk around a parking lot. Instead of going on an adventure to find candy you walk from car to car. Instead of seeing the unique decorations that people display in their yards, well, you can see everyone’s unique interpretation on The Stick Figure Family slapped to the rear window of their gas-guzzling SUV. Halloween becomes not about the adventure of trick-or-treating but about maximizing the candy/time ratio which is best achieved in a densely packed parking lot of vehicles. If you’re going to do that, just buy your own candy and eat it because you’re taking all the fun out of Halloween. Making it a shell of its former self. A fucking mockery of it. Trunk-or-treating seems like such an American idea that it disgusts me: Parking lots. Minimal walking. Candy. SUVs. Convenience. Safety. Practicality. America already seems to have a problem with kinship and community and trunk-or-treats seem to be another way to make the problem even worse by removing everything about Halloween that makes it special.

Snow? Huh?

To close out this post, check out this picture:

I took this picture about twenty minutes ago. I’m not sure if you guys know the typical weather of Northern Illinois around Halloween, but this isn’t it. It isn’t typical by a long shot. Usually Halloween is your typical fall weather with temperatures in the 50s or 40s and maybe some clouds and rain. It’s strange because I used to bitch that it always seemed to be cold and rainy on Halloween, but I suppose I can’t whine about that too much now, can I? This picture is self-explanatory: snow before and on Halloween, the prospect of trick-or-treating with temperature in the 20s, stomping through inches of snow, wind chills possibly in the teens, and it isn’t going to be a fun day at all. While snow on Halloween isn’t a thing to bitch about Halloween for, it sure isn’t going to make the day any more enjoyable.

Getting Help Sucks

Last week I decided that I should probably go see a therapist. For most of the week and for various reasons I felt as though I was on the verge of a total mental meltdown. It was especially terrible while at work with me nearly going home early because I couldn’t deal with being there. I was antsy, jittery, and my body had sort of a nervous hum to it, like the hum of a fluorescent light bulb if that makes sense. I was shaking and bzzzzzz constantly. Just a total feeling of being on edge and ready to lose it all. My mind was in overdrive thinking (mostly worrying) about a wide range of things where it was impossible to not think about them. I was utterly depressed. I felt lonely. I felt hopeless. I felt like a loser, like everyone probably hated me and only dealt with me to be nice. Despite me knowing that I was overreacting, it’s hard to get yourself to actually internalize it. I knew I was being fearful, scared, and irrational with no way to actually think rationally about things.

It was in this rare mental state that something snapped and I realized something obvious but difficult to admit: I was not happy. Life was not enjoyable. Like at all. Something was not working. I felt on the precipice of something very dark and scary. My drinking had picked up again. I was anxious and terrified of everything. Day after day was a struggle against the dread of existing. And that probably isn’t how a person is supposed to feel. Certainly isn’t how a person is supposed to feel. I admitted to myself that I needed to go see someone about my mental state.

So how did that go? Well, I don’t know. I still haven’t went because getting help fucking sucks.

You’d think the main difficulty in actually getting help is admitting that you need or want help, but this is only the initial part of the challenge. Once you finally admit that you need help, you actually need to find someone. And holy hell is that another shitty adventure all on its own.

The fact is that mental health issues are still stigmatized in the United States (maybe the world, I don’t know) and it’s very difficult to find someone you can open up to between family and friends. After you admit you want to find help, it greatly helps if you have a support system who can support your choice to find someone. I think I’m pretty lucky in regards to having friends and family to talk to, but other people? It’s terrifying to put myself in someone else’s place who has no support. If a person like that did admit they needed help, there isn’t anyone to support them along the way. Finding help is solely on them, and that is terrifying. Everyone needs a support system.

So knowing that you want help, now what? You find someone to go see. How do you do that? Once again it’s up to you to do most of the work. There are no mental health “general practitioners” to go see, no one to recommend you to someone, you have to find them your own. And mental health is different from general health. If you have a physical problem any doctor should be able to help, or at least point you in the right direction to someone who can help, but with mental health? It seems there needs to be a good relationship between therapist and patient and sometimes people just do not bond or feel comfortable with others, even if there is no outward reason to feel so. I guess I’m trying to say finding someone for mental health issues isn’t as easy as going to your insurances’ provider finder, typing in your address, and going to the first place you find. You need to do research and research is not something the depressive person is actually up to doing.

One of my friends directed me to psychologytoday.com. You can search for therapists/counselors/psychologists/psychiatrists in your area. (What are the differences? More on that shortly) This helped a ton as you can still search by insurance providers and you can read their profiles/treatment techniques/see what their specialized in, but there were still too many to choose from! I didn’t want to start limiting my choices based on stupid shit like how friendly they look or if they’re young or old. It seems like I could miss a good person to go see by using such pointless criteria. And once again a person in this mindset probably isn’t the best at taking the initiative or being motivated to continue the search.

And there’s always the question about who exactly I should go see. Therapists and counselors are kinda the same thing (I think. But one has more schooling? I don’t know.) while psychologists have more schooling or something. I think the psychologists are meant for people who have more clinical disorders who might need specific treatments. And psychiatrists? Apparently they can prescribe medicine. (Also, let’s not forget the fact that psychologists and psychiatrists are both spelled similarly and are equally difficult to type. The psych- is so fucking clunky to type out, try it for yourself. Every time I write one of those I get a big, squiggly red line under it.) I don’t really know and if anyone wants to clear these distinctions up feel free to correct me in the comments. I don’t know if my case is serious enough to require a psychiatrist or if I just need someone to talk to, like a therapist. Being depressed means you don’t fucking know. So if I don’t know, how am I going to know who to see? I’m just trying to stress again that a person in a depressed state probably doesn’t want to research the intricacies and differences between certain mental health professional’s titles, schooling, and specialties. It’s daunting at a time you don’t want to face anything daunting.

I think that’s about it (so far). I feel that admitting you have a mental health problem should be the primary key to finding assistance. It should be your ticket to freedom, sort of like a call to 911 in a medical emergency is enough to get help. The emergency room doesn’t require you to select a pulmonologist or a cardiologist because they figure out what is wrong with you and find a person to treat you. With mental health? Nope. It’s up to you to find someone even though you’re as confused as you could ever be. You need to go through a mostly bullshit, confusing, and complex process mostly by yourself to actually find someone to see. It’s a pain in the ass even if you weren’t in a shitty mental state, and being in one only makes things harder.

We have a ton of work to do in the US and probably the world at large in regards to mental health. I’m almost certain that a massive amount of people quietly go about their lives abusing drugs or whatever or hiding behind hobbies, entertainment, and other things to keep busy so they don’t break down. Putting on a mask and struggling in silence. Like everyone is dealing with something and even if some look like they’re fine many might be close to their breaking points without showing any outward signs of it. There is no clear way to get help, no clear way to talk about how you feel or to be open about it, and maybe people turn to suicide as a way to ask for help because mental health is so stigmatized. If you do admit to get help, good job on you. Congratulations, it’s probably the hardest thing to admit! Hang in there. But it’s still going to be a pain in the ass finding someone to go see.

Stupidity Sucks (and What it Feels Like to Be Stupid)

Stupid: slow of mind; given to unintelligent decisions or acts, acting in an unintelligent or careless manner; lacking intelligence or reason”

-The Damn Dictionary (Merriam-Webster if you’re being appropriate)

This article right here sums up a fascinating phenomena: most people think they’re above average. Most people think they’re good drivers. Most people think they’re smarter than average. Most people think they’re more attractive than average. And so on. This doesn’t sound too bad at first, but once you consider the meaning of the word “average” it becomes much more interesting. Average, in terms of whatever you’re talking about, would be in the exact middle: 50% of people are below average and 50% of people are above average. So why, as the article says, 95% of professors think they’re better than their peers. And, as I’ll get to, why do some people think they have a higher-than-average musical insight when they’re clearly stupid?

I don’t really want to get into the why here because the article and all the information it links to should illuminate why. Given information like this I usually turn to introspection: I’m obviously guilty of this in some form (if I thought I was an exception to this then I’d be putting myself above average in regards to not placing myself above average) but am I even aware of it? Are there certain things I’m awful at that I think I’m good at? Objectively? And more importantly, what does this feel like, the inability to gauge your actual abilities? The main question I’m trying to get at is (even though skill and intelligence aren’t the exact same thing), “What does it feel like to be stupid?”

One way to discover how you’re stupid is to find someone or something that makes you feel stupid. Luckily, I know a few of these people and it’s amazing to feel stupid! I think the key is to find a topic that you want to be knowledgeable with and have someone blow you out of the water with their depth of knowledge and mode of thinking. It has to be a shared interest too: I can talk to a sports fan and not know anything they’re talking about but this doesn’t necessarily make me stupid because I don’t care about the knowledge in the first place. Perhaps if I wanted to, I could be wiser than they are on the topic of sports, but that doesn’t make me smart or stupid. That’s just ignorance.

A few people allow me to feel stupid in something I’ve always been passionate about and think thought I was intelligent in: music. I’ve always liked music (but what soulless creature doesn’t like music?) and thought I could “read between the lines” and see things the artist meant to convey — or didn’t intend to convey — and appreciate the complexities of the music in a way most people couldn’t: I’m smarter than the average person when it comes to musical comprehension. At least that’s what I thought two months ago.

After our work shift a few of us began hanging out and listening to music. Led by my supervisor’s supervisor (I’m not sure how else to explain this without explaining the hierarchy of my workplace), he would allow two or three of us regular employees to ride around in his work-provided Chevy Malibu. Sometimes our immediate supervisor would also join us. We would just aimlessly drive around property and listen to the music he selected for us. Most of these songs pieces were well outside of my comfort range by default. I’m talking classical music, I’m talking choral music, I’m talking strange chanting music that made me feel like I was having a panic attack: everything from Brahms to some dude with a guitar from Canada. Let’s also not forget Tom motherfucking Waits who is apparently a musical and lyrical genius whom I never appreciated before.

It wasn’t just this wide range of music that made me feel dumb: it was also his interpretations of the songs. It was his depth of insight in regards to the music, lyrics, instrumentation, song structure, etc. He would walk us through a song and tell us what the song meant to him and how everything supported his perspective. This would also involve body language as well. Well into a song and without saying a word he would toss his arms up in total amazement at something in the song. He’d shake his head as if thinking, “There is no way this music can be this good!” Sometimes the rest of us could understand what had blown his mind away, but other times there was nothing obvious about what had inspired him so, his mind seemingly making connections between music and self without any explanation. I would always smile at his musical enthusiasm. Here was a guy so taken away by the music he could barely contain his emotions and it was something to admire.

Here’s a specific example: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5)”. The first song on Pink Floyd’s album Wish You Were Here. (This the example I went with because I assume most people are aware of the band Pink Floyd, and so might be aware of the song “Wish You Were Here,” and hence the album it came from, Wish You Were Here, and might’ve possibly came across “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5)”!) I like Wish You Were Here, but it wasn’t ever my favorite Floyd album. I’m more a Dark Side of the Moon guy myself (I find the album “Speaks to Me” and allows me to “Breathe (In the Air)” to make a really shitty pun…), but he totally sold the song — and the entire album — to me! I now have a greater appreciation for Wish You Were Here.

I’ll try to paraphrase how he explained the song to us: he pointed out the guitar around the 4:30 minute mark was “screaming in pain” about something, and how the part that came after it (6:30ish) had the exact same notes but were much more passive, as if the guitar had sort of accepted the pain of whatever and was okay with it. Like if you had enough pain in life you adapt; it becomes a background type of pain that you deal with and accept and it simply becomes a part of you. Still pain, but pain you don’t even acknowledge. Something about how no matter what your talent is (in regards to Syd Barrett here) the machine (the world itself, society, etc.) will still chew you up, spit you out, and incorporate your talent into itself. It’ll steal your gifts, trivialize them, and ruin what was so special about you in the first place. Elaborations on being blown by the steel breeze and eventually riding the steel breeze: what did all of that mean? Was it about growing older? Or being cruelly carved by the world around you? Losing the innocence of your childhood, how your dreams betray you, and about twenty or thirty other layers of understanding that were mostly invisible to me.

This was basically me:

So bombarded with all of this high-level elaboration on a song I’ve heard countless times while never piecing any of it together or thinking deeply about it all was making me feel rather stupid. Luckily I was able to give some preschooler-tier wisdom about how “Wish You Were Here” fades into “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 6-9)”: maybe the wind at the beginning of the song was depicting the steel breeze itself! Teeheehee! I felt like a kid telling Einstein that space was big and dark or something after he elaborated on General Relativity. Just pointing out what was already obvious to everybody. I was reading preschool picture books and this fucking dude was reading The Odyssey. I clearly felt stupid, but not only that, I felt the feeling of being stupid.

I suppose by feeling stupid you see what is possible, how deep your understanding can go if only you could ever make it to that level. You understand that your knowledge hasn’t peaked and that you still have a massive mountain to climb, especially with music: I’ve always viewed music as the most intuitive and easily understood art because it is so basic and visceral to the human mind. We all know how songs can remind us of seasons, people, events, and we attach memories to music firmly as opposed to other arts. (The only exception is smell: smells seem to be a direct link to past memories. I can smell a certain perfume and it will instantly remind me of making out with a certain girl at a high school party, as awful as that is.) Music is intuitive. Music is visceral. Music is something that happens deep within a person. Music is universal. I guess I’m saying that music should be relatively easy to understand and here I am feeling stupid over that. So now I feel immensely stupid.

I find that being stupid doesn’t feel like stupidity though. To me it feels like laziness. In my mind I know that if I wanted to understand “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” with the depth of understanding that my supervisor’s supervisor does I could understand it; it’s just that I don’t really want to right now. It’s work. I don’t feel like doing work. There’s other songs I’m listening to and other bands, and well, I don’t have the time. Analyzing something like that requires me to look up the lyrics and process the music along with the words. Ugh. While I know that I can, I don’t want to. That’s what being stupid feels like. It feels like laziness. I can do it, I just don’t want to.

This makes me ask the question if stupidity only feels like laziness or if they’re actually the same thing. Maybe that’s all stupidity is: you just don’t want to make the effort to understand something even if you are perfectly capable of it. Or maybe stupidity feels like laziness only so your brain can further let you believe you’re not actually stupid, you’re just lazy! Like a fancy form of confirmation bias. To really hit the point home, I’m going to end this post right here. Right on the verge of possibly making some deep connection between stupidity and laziness, intelligence and effort, I’m going to wrap it up. It sounds too complicated. It’s too much to think about right now. Maybe I’ll think about it later. I’m probably ranting anyways. I can always write about the topic later. I think I did good enough here anyways. But I’m not stupid though…

(A Lack of) Self-Esteem Sucks

When you first begin to write you learn a lot about yourself. Certain themes and plotlines seem to appear and I know it points to something within my subconscious. Sure you can purposefully have a theme to a story, but sometimes things just appear that makes you think “Why do I keep writing about that topic?” Another thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that I have little to no self-esteem and lack confidence in my writings. It is so damn clear to me now that I’ve wondered how I was in denial about it for so long. No matter what sort of feedback I get on my writing the truth is clear: In my mind I still suck at writing. And to me I’m horrible at it.

My grand plan (if you could call it that) was to post short stories and chapters on my old blog, which was repurposed for its new mission. The idea was to get some feedback on what I was writing and to snowball that into self-confidence going forward. If I had enough people — ya know like five or ten — tell me my stuff wasn’t total trash I would have enough validation to continue writing. Just a handful of support and I could channel that into pure confidence going forward. I could hold onto it as a cherished gift and always have this initial support to fall back on in times of need. I imagine the established author who has sold over a million books: this person will never run out of confidence because they have that shining badge that they can always look towards as proof that they’re actually good at what they do. A little feedback would serve to be my shining badge in a way. Or so I thought.

Naturally, I started thinking I would fail from the start, which is a big red flag in terms of self-confidence that also should’ve been apparent. Surprisingly, after posting the first few chapters I had tons of positive feedback. I was shocked. Some people would ask me if they could be in my stories. Others gave feedback in the form of blog/Facebook post likes and comments. I mean why would people like and comment if they didn’t like the work? Would people really do that to feign support? And one of the best signs of not sucking was when one of my “fans” (she called herself that. I’d never call people who read my stuff “fans”) mentioned to someone else that I was a good writer. You don’t recommend stuff you hate to other people. Overwhelmed with actual positive feedback, I was set right? Free to write with all the confidence I needed to push through chapter after chapter and finish a book. It sounded like my plan was a soaring success.

OF FUCKING COURSE NOT! The plan was a miserable failure. What would happen was a wildly successful post would be followed by a not-as-successful post and instantly my brain would conjure up reasons for everything successful to be a fluke. Just me getting lucky for some reason or another. No, success was never from actual skill. Failure is my natural state, and anything other than that is an accident. Maybe I just got lucky on the popular posts? Maybe people wised up to the fact that I’m not really good at writing and all my chapters are kinda samey? Maybe everyone dropped the facade of liking my stuff because it was exhausting to do so.

I try to be humble, but I feel walking the fine line between ego and being humble is difficult to do. I find myself erring on the side of caution by being humble and have always taken solace in that. Maybe I’ve gone too far? Maybe in trying to not be too cocky or egotistical, I’ve went to far in the opposite direction? Either way, being cocky and being confident two wildly different things. Is it that hard to be confident and humble? This doesn’t seem like a slippery slope to cockiness.

Just as an experiment, let me try to actually be confident for a moment, to try to weigh the positives and the negatives together. Once again, this isn’t meant to be a cocky “Haha, look at how good of a writer I am!” ego stroker. I just want to see if I can hype myself up for a few sentences. Maybe make a case for myself not being shit.

  • This blog has about 600 views per month. These views are growing. When I first started blogging I was happy to get 5 views in a month. This means I’m doing something right.
  • One of my college English instructors loved my papers, even using me as an example to the class a few times. She pointed out that I always asked questions as I wrote, kinda prompting the reader to think about things as well.
  • Another English instructor suggested I go into technical writing because my research paper was so goddamn awesome apparently.
  • I won two seperate writing awards in college. Not being a writer I decided to YOLO a few submissions and took third and second place. I won $50 from writing an essay about what college meant to me. I hammed that essay up so much. It was the first money I’ve earned from writing. The other award wasn’t very rewarding: I had to read that essay (about improving our community) aloud in front of like fifty people.
  • I’ve self-published two ebooks on Amazon (blog post about that mess here) that have netted me a whopping $0.11 $0.60 in royalty payments. Woah!
  • Someone mentioned that my writings sound very “conversational” as if I’m actually having a talk with someone. That’s good, right?
  • A few coworkers have used my posts as a springboard to their own thinking and writings (the enlightenment post) and have told me their own thoughts on it. That means they had to get something useful from it, right?
  • Lastly, the general positive feedback from people who have read my stuff.

So now why do I suck? Is there any concrete reasons to suspect sucking?

  • I’m not wildly successful. I haven’t sold thousands of books yet.
  • Other people’s blogs are more popular.
  • My past few chapters haven’t had any positive feedback on them.
  • And. That’s it.
  • This isn’t a long list…
  • *thinking very hard*
  • *shrugs*

(Big Note here on how my negative points arise from comparing myself to other people. I obviously know this is a mistake but do it anyways. Oof.)

Thinking about this as objectively as possible leads me to believe that, hey, maybe I don’t fucking suck at all. But my brain doesn’t work this way! Even after typing all of the positives I have to look back on I only felt better for about ten minutes before feeling awful again. Brains are emotional things, and I’m apparently an emotional person. None of this shit matters because somehow a thought randomly appears in my mind that makes me think I’m terrible at writing. It doesn’t even take negative feedback: my brain can tear itself down all on its own! It’s a superpower I didn’t want but am somehow stuck with.

So this isn’t such a whiny post, are there ways to have a little more confidence in regards to writing? Firstly I should probably not worry so much about viewers/likes/numbers. I’ve recently read a blog post stressing this same point. (Vee over at Millenium Life Crisis always has great and informative content.) Secondly, stop worrying about beating the mythical “other people” because all that matters is your own progress. Maybe I can internalize that if I try hard enough. Another thing that sort of helps seems to be reflecting on the past; those 600 views a month sure mean something, and if I put myself in my past frame-of-mind I find myself thankful and proud of the progress I’ve made. Lastly, just keep writing! Even if I do feel like I suck, that doesn’t mean I have to give up. Ya know, progress forward just to make progress.

Closing Note: If it wasn’t obvious, I’m not trying to farm approval or validation with this post. If that isn’t clear I fucked up somewhere. The point wasn’t to whine until people came to support me, but to point out the clear issue of me lacking confidence. It’s a problem I really need to work on. If you did like this post, great! I won’t turn down feedback in any form. But I’m not trying to get a pity-party going on here either.