Destiny

Despite the title, I don’t really believe in destiny. By that, I mean that I don’t think there’s some grand plan for all of us. We aren’t necessarily meant to do anything in particular; there’s no greater purpose. Well, at least not to our individual lives. I think we all have free will, and in order for free will to work, there can’t really be a plan for each of us – because if there was, it would mean that everything we were to do had already been planned out, and that no matter what we did it was what was planned for. Which, given some of the terrible things we can go through – and some of the painful, messed-up things I’ve been through in particular – would mean that the plan for me has been pretty sadistic. I’d prefer to believe that we’d been set in motion, but left to find our own way through life and the universe.

Which, I guess, means that there’s nobody I’m meant to be with. It can feel like it at times, but I think it’s supposed to feel like that in a good relationship. But I know that when I feel something, something big and serious like (for instance) love, I can get pretty intense about it. I take it very seriously, maybe too much so. I don’t feel inclined towards romance all that often, but when I do, I guess I go for it all the way. And that can probably be weird and scary for the other person. It’s hard for me to admit how I feel in a romantic sense, and even harder to express it, but I know what I feel. I also know that my lack of ability to express myself can be confusing or disheartening. I can say the words, and I can mean them, but without much of an ability to express myself, I don’t know how real it feels for the other person. Maybe not enough. My lacking in that area has been a part of at least one failure to get a relationship off the ground, and I wonder if that will keep being a failing that will doom my relationships.

I’m just conflicted. I know how I feel, but not how the other person does. Maybe they don’t know, either.I know that I also have a tendency to assume that things that seem wrong or strange are somehow my fault. Sometimes they might be, but sometimes they aren’t, or can’t be. I assume that I am more of a part of things than I am, and that ends up in unnecessary feelings of guilt for me and trouble expressing what’s really going on for the other person. At this point, I don’t really know what to say. I’m confused, frustrated, hurt, scared. Maybe even a little angry. I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t deal well with the unknown. I know it might be none of my business, but it’s weird. I want to help, because I feel helpless. I want to do something, because knowing nothing is driving my anxiety level up the wall.

Life is confusing. And I hate to think that somehow this is all planned. Because if so, it’s a really painful plan.

Worrying

I’m a worrier.

For those of you who know me, this is no surprise. I worry about my friends, my family, the people I care about. High on my list right now is Calla, because I know there’s a lot going on with her, and I wish I could help; I know I still have feelings for her, even though I’ve come to terms with the idea that we won’t have a romantic relationship; there’s a gap between the rational side of my mind – the part that know’s we are just friends – and the emotional side, which spent months building up feelings for her, and is extremely slow to let them go. I’m stubborn like that. I worry about my friend who is switching medications, because she seems to be taking it pretty hard, and it’s not like things have been terribly easy on her. I worry about my other friend here, who’s a single guy and an awesome friend who just seems to have a hard time catching a break. I know it’s coming, but I still worry about him.

I know I worry, and I know it can be intense and annoying. It can cause me to try to intrude more than I should, and just be more of an ass than I normally am.I also know that for a lot of people, this would be a cause of a lot of stress. But I worry because I choose to, not because I have to. I want my friends to be happy, and I worry about them when things aren’t going so well. I’ve had one friend come very close to killing herself – not one of the above friends, a separate one, in Canada – and another actually go through with it – my friend Alice, my took her life in June. I know that I can’t change the past, and that ‘what if…’ scenarios will just mess with my head. But I wonder if having someone to reach out to, or who reached out to her, might have made a difference. So I worry about my friends because I never want to see one of them get to that point again, or if they do, to know that I am here for whatever help or support I can give.

In other news, things are proceeding as planned, and I know that two blog entries in two days is pretty unusual for these times – more reminiscent of my early blogging. But I had this on my mind, and I spent the day at work thinking about it – well, the part of my work day when I wasn’t going through the process of reporting a workplace injury, because I slipped on a loose piece of cardboard and twisted my knee. It’s nothing serious, but I’m going to be limping around for a day or so. Thankfully, I’ve got the next two days off, so I’ll be able to keep things easy on my knee. So, whoever is reading this, don’t worry; it isn’t serious, just an annoyance, and I’ll be fine in a day or two.

Keep On Keepin’ On

So it’s been a while since my last post, but I have good reason. The last week or so has been pretty busy for me; last Tuesday was my third session with my Dungeon World group, and last Monday was the character creation session session for a 4th Edition D&D game that should be starting up soon – I’m not running it, thankfully. Just yesterday was the fourth session of my Dungeon World game, and it went very well – much better than session 3. I think the group works together pretty well, and it’s fun to do, even if it is exercising new narrative muscles in my brain.

I met up with Calla on Sunday to see a movie, and again on Tuesday – we met with some friends at a place called The Mad Potter and painted some pottery, which was fun and a cool new experience. I’m still not entirely sure where things are with her; last year around this time she was essentially placing her life in my hands, and now it seems like – well, I don’t know what it seems like. I know there’s not a relationship in the cards, but it feels like she’s even distancing herself as my friend. It sounds like she’s trying to take on a lot by herself, and I wish she would ask for support if she needed it – but I know how hard it can be to ask other people for help. I spent a long time trying to handle everything in my life alone, because I didn’t feel like anyone else could understand what I was going through – and that didn’t work out so well for me. It took 2 suicide attempts and a trip to Menninger Clinic, as well as four months in a step-down program, to hammer that into my head. My head, as you might surmise, is pretty hard. So I hope my friends don’t do the same thing and try to take on everything alone, when those close to them are willing to help.

Today I was at a workshop with NAMI on learning how to effectively tell my story, to communicate it in ways that would be helpful for advocacy. It’s just another thing to do to work towards getting into the social work field, on the side of mental health. It is so frustrating to me that so many people don’t understand even the smallest things about mental illness, and so I want to do what I can to change that. This blog is a piece of that, certainly, but I want to do more; I want to try to help people the way Menninger and the step-down helped me. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be able to do, but I want to do something; it’s hard for me to see my friends in distress and not want to do more to help. I know I’m not their therapist, and I don’t want to be, but if I can help make any part of their lives easier – and then do the same for other people, while I’m at it.

In a couple weeks I’m going to head back to St. Louis to help my parents figure out what they’re going to keep and give away, sell, or leave behind, and soon after that, I should be an uncle. The next month or so is going to be pretty interesting – and that doesn’t even get inot holiday season in retail. So we’ll see how active I can be here.

Weirdness and Awareness

I was going to try and write a blog post today about being in, or not being in, a relationship, but right now I just don’t know what I can say that won’t be insulting, unhelpful, or guilt-tripping for someone. So instead, I will note that today, according to the International Bipolar Foundation, is Bipolar Awareness Day, and this comes in the middle of NAMI’s Mental Illness Awareness Week. So do what you can to be educate yourself about mental illness and the stigma that those of us who suffer from the various mental illnesses face, and Say It Forward.

Recent Reading

It’s been a few days since my last entry, but that seems to be becoming the norm – for the most part, my mental health status is relatively stable these days, and I haven’t really gotten anywhere with CPS training yet. I am still working with NAMI, though, and I am attending their SMARTS for Advocacy training in about ten days; it’s to help with advocacy for mental health treatment in the world in general, focusing on being able to tell your story clearly and coherently and get your message across to people in positions of power – like legislators – through meetings and letters or calls. It sounds like something worthwhile to do, so that’s where I’ll be spending a day.

Like I’ve said before, since I now work in an area of my job where I can listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts while I work, I get the chance to do a lot of ‘reading’. Recently, one of the better books I’ve gone through is called Extra Lives: Why Video Game Matter, by Tom Bissell. Bissell is a writer who has written on a number of scholarly topics, but in his spare time is also, it seems, a video game fanatic. This book goes through nine games from recent years, from Grand Theft Auto to Far Cry 2 to Mass Effect, and makes a case that while they may not necessarily be art (though they are certainly getting there), they are amazing achievements, and fun ways to spend time. I think I’d recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t play video games, but knows someone who does, and wonders why; it can be a little academic at times, and Bissell is often dismissive of games as an art form even though he is an avid fan, but it goes a long way towards explaining the reasons why gamers find video games so entrancing – they are far, far from the Pong and Asteroids of the early days.

It’s not like Jane McGonigal, by any means – this book does not talk about the traits of games that mean gamers are often learning while they play – about social interaction, teamwork, puzzle-solving, math, and other things – and how they can be used to help make society, in many aspects, better. Mostly, it just talks about why video games are so attractive to gamers, and how they have evolved over the last couple decades into the enormous works – of art, or just design – that they are today. Bissell does use some rough language, and does occasionally talk about his own past addictions – mainly cocaine – in relation to video games, but they do serve the point he is trying to make, even if it can get a little ugly.

Aside from that, I’ve also been listening to recordings (now podcasts) from the last several years on mental illness. The NAMI chapter of Athens, Ohio apparently does a monthly or bi-monthly radio show talking about mental illness topics, appropriately called Conversations about Mental Illness. Each show is only a half-hour long, but they interview a lot of people – either authors, or doctors, or people with mental illness who are living proof that you can overcome it and live a reasonably regular life. A lot of the information is old hat to me, having been through a lot of treatment over the years, but it is still nice to hear that people are trying to be so active in their advocacy for those suffering from mental illness, and the stigma of having it that exists even today.

I’m tempted to do something like a YouTube video talking about my own story, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I don’t really want to sound scripted, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time just trying to fill air while I process my own thoughts. I’m also a little worried about what kind of reception it would get – would it get back to my employers? Would I have to severely restrict comments in order to avoid the torrent of comments about how terrible a person I am that inevitably comes with such things on the internet? I’m not sure, so if someone has any tips on how to make such a video, let me know.

Jedi vs. Sith

I’ve had Star Wars on my brain for a while, so I thought I would write a Star Wars-themed blog post today, the topic being the Jedi vs Sith codes as seen through the lens of someone struggling with mental illness (and, obviously, a nerd – or geek, whichever you prefer). First, I’ll post the two codes.

Jedi Code

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Sith Code

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

Those are the two codes, and reading them, you can see the differences in the philosophies at play. The Jedi favor serenity, harmony, and peaceful contemplation – very Zen, insofar as my limited knowledge of Zen goes – while the Sith favor a more passionate, energetic approach – the passion of emotions gives them the strength to control their lives and futures. I don’t pretend to have done an in-depth study of the meaning behind the two codes, though, I’m just looking at them through the lens of my personal experience. And while I have to admit that there is certainly a place for the Jedi principles, most of what I have learned is that in real life, the Sith Code is far more relevant.

One of the most important things that I’ve learned in my treatment is that emotions are something that you can’t repress – not for long, anyway. They more you push them down, the more they will fight to come up, and eventually they will come out whether you want them to or not. So it’s much smarter to deal with them as they come up and try to work through them while they’re still fresh than it is to try to ignore them. The Jedi that we see in the Star Wars movies are always trying to remain calm, and avoid emotions – thus Anakin getting in trouble for his relationship with Padme, because emotional attachment make emotions too strong and close to the surface. The meaning of the code may not be emotional suppression, but that’s how it seems to be used in the movies – and we see how well that goes.

The Sith Code was actually created by Bioware, for their computer game Knights of the Old Republic. It emphasizes emotion over suppression, and using that emotion, that passion, to your own gain. Through passion, eventually you gain freedom – to do what, it isn’t clear, but it seems like it could be the freedom to essentially have control over your life. And as someone with a mental illness, I find that very appealing. Now, I have no plans to don dark robes, cackle maniacally, and try to take over, create, or otherwise rule a galactic empire. But I do want to be able to control my life on my terms, And so I prefer using my emotions over suppressing them any day of the week.

Like I said before, though, the Jedi Code has its merits. It does value knowledge over ignorance – something I am also a big fan of, because I’ve seen a lot of passionate things done without enough information, and that can go really badly wrong, really fast. But saying that there is no emotion, only peace, is doing the emotional lives of humanity a disservice. Ultimately, though, I think both codes could be read both positively or negatively – you could just as easily have a Jedi dispassionately ordering a campaign of galactic genocide because he felt that only certain people were evolved enough to handle the Force as you could have a Sith putting his or her passion to work to help others – real altruism, from what I’ve seen, requires that one have a real passion for what they do, something that the Jedi Code fails to take into account. Either could be used for light or dark purposes – it’s only due to movies needing consistent bad guys that the Sith have become the stereotypical bad guys in the Star Wars universe.

As a bonus, here’s a video tour of my Star Wars: The Old Republic characters’s galactic stronghold, decorated all fancy-like because company is a-comin’.

I apologize for the poor sound. My microphone apparently doesn’t know how to do its job.

Inspiration

Well, my day got better, as I was able to spend part of it with friends, and hopefully tomorrow (or rather, today) will continue that trend. But I was looking for some things that help me to express my emotion – I find that a lot of the time I keep things pretty bottled up, and I don’t express myself well. There are some things that can help trigger that; I thought the most easily appealing to an online audience would be things that you can see and hear.

Longtime readers might recall the impact the Mass Effect video game series had on me emotionally (if not, you can read it here.) This particular song always hits me with all of it, square in the feels, and as a bonus, you can (and I certainly have) reinterpret it as learning to deal with depression.

The next one I always just thought was powerful – everyone around is running from something, and then we see the one guy who decides to go towards it – and we find out it’s a dragon.

Star Wars has always been a favorite of mine, and even if I could argue about the virtues of Jedi vs. Sith all day, the trailers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, released late in 2011, always seem to make me feel very strongly.

And as much as I love gaming, that’s not all that can tug on my heartstrings. I won’t lie, I was kind of a mess seeing the most recent Les Miserables movie in theatres.

And finally, one of the most powerful speeches I have heard on TV, or in a lot of places, really. From a 90s sci-fi show called Babylon 5, when the human race is looking at extinction – and spitting right in its face.

 

These aren’t cheerful, by any means – many of them are heartbreakingly sad. But they are prized by me because, for whatever reason, they can force an emotional reaction out of me, even when I don’t really want to have one. Holding things in for too long can cause some weird stuff to happen, and so every now and then I have to break these, or others like them, out, and use them as a sort of pressure release valve.