A Place of Peace and Quiet

Depression sucks. You get all geared up to post three times a week, work on writing every day (at least a little bit), and maybe sleep a little more if you can do all that before midnight before getting slapped back down into the emotional pits by the heavy hand of ever-present depression.

My depression always takes the form of exhaustion. Sure, there’s a certain degree of listlessness and negativity that goes with it, but the constant, ever-present face of my depression is a sense of exhaustion always hovering at the edge of my mind.

Any kind of exhaustion or tiredness I experience can trigger it to come tumbling down on top of me. A frustrating problem at work that is intellectually taxing; a long day of dealing with people and the requisite emotional output; a long hike or hitting the gym hard. All of these things can trigger it or compound it, leaving me unable to break free of it.

This exhaustion is always there, always beckoning me toward lethargy and, eventually, a complete lack of motion. It takes energy to throw that feeling off, to push out of the haze it pulls me towards. The whole thing can be frustrating because pushing it off often results in it coming back worse once I’m no longer actively pushing it away.

When it starts to take over, I sometimes have to give into it and let it slow me down, let myself drift toward the precarious edge hinted at in coy phrases like “a complete lack of motion” or “the deepest rest.” Its terrifying. Which is also exhausting.

You can probably see the issue there.

I spend a lot of time managing myself and administering self-care in order to avoid the feedback loop I just described. Thankfully, this sort of management and caution plays right into most of my obsessions and compulsions from my OCD, so it can often be counter-intuitively relaxing. The most relaxing thing I did in the past month was take an entire day, on which I was off of work for a holiday my employer observes, to rearrange my bookshelves, setup my video game console recording gear, and to reorder my entire bedroom to better reflect the direction I see my life and my mind going.

There is a lot of psychology and philosophy out there that suggests the environment one finds most relaxing is one that best reflects oneself. Most people who know me would say that’d be somewhere in nature, far away from the city, where a sense of peace and steadfast endurance exists. Mountains or great forests.

To me, though, the place that best reflects me is my abode.

I live on the edge of cities, caught between the quiet I need and the chaos I love to watch. I’m surrounded by a frenetic energy I don’t understand and a populace I struggle to connect to. Within that bubble of disorder and unknowable insanity, I have a place I live that is–aside from the portions effected by my current roommate–strictly ordered, neat, and calm. I decorate in more muted colors, favor ambient music and light that lends itself toward creating a calm environment, and tend to prefer the quiet of my own company over the obtrusive noise of other people.

My mind is like that. Longer ago than I can even remember, I create a small place of order, quiet, and calm in my mind, tucked away inside the chaos created by how I grew up and the chemical imbalances biology has bestowed upon me. A small room of peace amidst the constantly growing chaos of my mind. There is no place more relaxing to me than my room or home. When I meditate, I always seek out that place of peace within myself.

I do need to get away sometimes. There is a huge value to be found in the quiet tranquility of a cabin far away from any city or civilization. There is a huge value to be found in the experience of a new city and the new chaos that is both challenging and rewarding. Sometimes the strength you need is found by going outside yourself and sometimes its found by going deep inside yourself.

When I really need to relax, to let the exhaustion finally slide away on its own, I spend my time in the peace and quiet of my home. I sit and read for hours at a time. I reorder my space and let it represent the less tangible reordering of my mind. I cut off all communication to the outside world aside from one or two lines to particular individuals and just let myself sort of expand to fill the space. Stop trying to cram everything into that tiny little space in my head and let the order I’ve created do the work for a while.

I’m pretty sure its coping mechanism, but I’m not terribly concerned so long as it helps me push back against the ever creeping exhaustion. Pretty much everything in life is a coping mechanism to one degree or another.

 

Hike Up Your Pants and Climb

Every time I sit down to write, I’m reminded of the mountain I’ve got to climb to reach any of my goals. Publish a book. Make enough money to live off my writing. Update my blog 3 or more times a week for a year (haha, right??? I can’t even do this for a week). All of these things require a huge commitment from me in not only time, but in energy and self.

Every time I want to write I have to marshal my thoughts and set aside whatever else has occupied my day. I have to stop thinking about bills, student loans, doing laundry, trying to find a date, and whatever pointless bit of minutiae my anxiety has fixed on. Then, as soon as that’s done, I need to collect my thoughts about whatever project I want to work on. After that, there’s the constant need to spend a decent amount of energy keeping those thoughts collected and the incessant report of my anxieties knocking against my defenses, trying to worm their way back in. The act of writing itself takes a part of me that I keep from the world the rest of the time and puts it somewhere I INTEND people to see, so it can be difficult to do with the kind of confidence needed to actually do more than make a half-assed attempt.

Even when it was easier, when I was writing every day, there was never what you could call an “easy” day. I may have had an easier time getting myself to sit down and do it, but it was never easy to actually do. I’ve spent a huge amount of time thinking and writing about the difficulties associated with writing. I’m always interested in reading what other writers have written about the act of writing. I’ve got a whole sub-classification of my poetry that is specifically about my difficulties in writing or how often I feel like none of the words I produce are the right ones. I’ve got a whole blog that is currently themed after the concept of struggling to find and use my words with undertones of how much I struggle to actually do it.

I’m pretty well versed in this kind of adversity, clearly. I could probably write a doctoral thesis on it (and might someday, depending on whether or not I actually go for an advanced degree in the future).

It does get easier to do, the more often you do it. I know that. You probably know that. Its true of pretty much everything one can do. It’s also true that there’s a point of diminishing return where it stops being noticeably easier. I would like to get back to that point, sure, but that just means I’m better at getting on the mountain to work on climbing it. It doesn’t actually make the mountain smaller.

Even in an ideal situation, with time to write every day and a minimum of other worries to keep away, I’ve still got a daunting task to accomplish. Not only that, I’ve got two I need to complete in a row to really count them as the success I want to see. I can’t just write a book, I’ve got to get myself to the point where I can write full-time.

Sitting here, at the base of all three of my mountains, I can tell you it’s really hard to make myself start walking up any one of them, much less split my time between all three. It seems far more tempting to find a path with some nice hills and valleys, some easier treks to try before I really make an attempt at any of my mountains.

I’ve never been very good at letting myself off easy, though. As much as I really want to consider something easier, as much as I’d like to take the easy route, I know the only reason I’d ever wind up in those hills and valleys is if I fell off one of my mountains. I may doubt myself constantly and wonder if I’m as good as other people have said (one teacher had to pretty much beat it into me and I’ll be forever grateful), but I know I’m good at trying again.

As today literally showed me, doing something again is always easier than doing it the first time and, somethings, you’ve just got to hike up your pants and climb that stupid rock. I did. There was a great view at the top. Maybe, someday, I’ll be able to say the same thing from the top of one of my metaphorical mountains.

 

In more business-y terms, I’m in the process of setting up some streaming and video-recording capabilities on my computer, solely so I can make and upload a “1000 Ways to Die: LoZ Edition” video along with the review I eventually post of Breath of the Wild. I might link a YouTube account to this thing or just post all my videos here if people are interested. Other potential videos include a “Naked and Afraid” run-through of Breath of the Wild” which will likely be the source of many of the 1000 deaths and something to do with the Dragon Age franchise. I dunno. Maybe some kind of heavy RP and story-telling element video. We’ll see. I’ve got a history of planning bigger projects than I can accomplish, so take that all with a grain of salt.

A Title Would Definitely Help This Post

I’ve had a busy couple of months. Adjusting to my job followed almost immediately by the new Legend of Zelda game. I did nothing but play on my Nintendo Switch for about three weeks and then spent another week avoiding my TV and computer and Switch as much as possible while I recovered from my binge. No regrets, though. I’ve already started a second play-through and have a third planned that I might either record or stream. We’ll see when the time comes. I’ll eventually review the game as well, probably as my next post.

While all this has been going on, I’ve been taking the opportunity provided by not having my soul drained as a result of my day job to spend some time reflecting and growing, something I’ve apparently ignored over the three years I held that awful job. Its been interesting to see just how much I’ve changed as a person. I’m a lot less likely to take abuse (which is probably a direct result of said awful job), I’m a lot less likely to cling to the past, and I finally stopped holding onto stuff for no other reason than it stirs a strong emotion in me. Almost all of those strong emotions weren’t positive ones, to be honest. I was pretty subconsciously masochistic, apparently. It explains a lot. Coincidentally, my closet is now emptier than it has been in years.

All that being said, I don’t feel like I’m in much of a different place than I was when I last updated. I’ve only just started working on my writing again. I still don’t know how to push back against the insanity infecting the world and some of those around me. I still feel like I’m drowning in a sea of student debt and self-inflicted problems. If anything, I’m a bit less worried about it all and a bit more restrictive on how long I’ll let myself freak out about anything.

I do know I tend to feel tired more often, but generally in a much more balanced sense. My old job used to emotionally drain me or intellectually drain me. I never got a nice, well-rounded exhaustion from it like I do from my current job. Today, after spending almost 8 hours trying to figure out settings and hardware setup, I finally managed to get everything working and do the one hour (if that) of work I needed to get done today. It was frustrating beyond words. I nearly burst into tears when I made the adjustments I needed in order to add another piece of hardware to the system and everything worked on the first try (previous attempts had added at least an hour per additional piece of hardware).

It was exhausting physically because this hardware isn’t light. It was exhausting emotionally because I’m new and half the problems were me screwing things up. It was exhausting intellectually because I had to learn as I went and try to remember everything my senior coworker taught me. Now, I can barely make myself get out of my chair and the blog entry I’m writing feels like a rambling, barely coherent mess. But today, as I went to the grocery store to buy myself a bag of my favorite chips, I wasn’t buying them because I was tired and exhausted and my day was rough. Today, I bought them as a reward for solving a really tough problem, for being recognized by my coworker for doing a good job with a complex issue, and because I deserved some kind of self-recognition for succeeding when I wanted to quit.

That little change in mindset makes all the difference. I may not have the solutions to the world’s problems, I may be actively considering giving up my dream of being a successful novelist for the more practical goal of just being really good at my current job, and I may have very little desire to ever move from this spot again, but I did good today. I can say I gave 100% of my effort into something that was ultimately rewarding and fulfilling. It feels good. It is what will push me out of this chair in another ten minutes and it is what is going to sit me down at my computer after dinner to spent two hours or more working away at my current book project.

I may not be happy right now–I’m definitely grouchy bordering on almost hysterically tired–but I’m feeling more fulfilled than I’ve felt since I wrote the end of a story for the first time. To me, happiness comes and goes but fulfillment is something that can stick around forever. As long as I feel fulfilled, nothing else really matters to me.

I suppose I might be in the same place I was a few months ago, but I definitely know I’m headed somewhere new.