Aiming for Even Keel as I Sail These Troubled Waters

One of the interesting (ahahahahahahahaha.. haha… ha…) parts of recovering from trauma is the way you can quickly slip between old modes of thought and new ones. It happened to me just the other day (the day before this went up) in the middle of a conversation with a friend who was checking up on me. I was increasingly dour as she tried to be supportive, sinking down ever faster as she tried to drag me back to the neutral mind frame I’ve been trying to cultivate lately.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 13 (11/13)

Well, I wound up not doing much writing last night. I was going to play a game, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, for a couple of hours and then get down to writing, but then it was almost midnight and I’d written nothing. So I wrote a bit so I could maintain my National Novel Writing Month streak and then went back to gaming. Between the last two nights, I’ve gotten about seven hours of sleep. Needless to say, I’m no longer allowed to play that game on week nights. It’s too addicting. I literally made excuses to keep playing for just one more quest/fight/look at the kingdom map/trip to the shopkeeper to sell something I decided I didn’t need from seven until one thirty in the morning.

Today, Fallout 76 comes out and I get a long anticipated book, Seth Abramson’s Proof of Collusion, so I’m going to be doing my best to stay focused and writing tonight. We’ll see how it goes, though. I have been using a therapy light at work and its been helping enormously, but it can’t exactly make up for the low amount of sleep I’ve been getting. That being said, it’s been helping far more than I anticipated or even hoped. For example, it’s telling that I forgot there was a difference between being tired from not getting enough rest and being tired because I’m incredibly depressed. I now remember what the difference is and feel more capable of handling my lack of sleep because I’ve been spending thirty or more minutes every morning with the lamp on while I do stuff on my work computer. I like it so much I’m going to be getting myself one for home use since I do not want to be without the incredible benefits of this device. I’m willing to bet some of this is the placebo effect, but it’s such a big change that I can’t write all of it off to that. It’s like night and day. I was down and ready for a long week of feeling depressed on Monday morning, but then I plugged in the therapy lamp.

If you can spare the money for one and struggle with depression that is generally worse in the winter months when you’re getting less sunlight, I suggest getting one for yourself. If you suffer from any kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I suggest getting one of these therapy lights. It’s really helpful and the UV protected ones don’t hurt your eyes if you wind up looking into them. I’m still figuring this whole thing out so I can’t speak to all of the benefits since I’m having trouble pinpointing exactly how it makes me feel, so I’ll probably write about this again sometime. Plus, I want to give it some time to see its effects in the long-term.

I’ve had so much going on lately that I really enjoyed being able to set everything aside to just play video games for a couple of days and there’s still a part of me that wants to keep doing that since writing for any length of time is hard work. With my grandfather, the changing seasons, the slow shift of my country’s government toward authoritarianism, the uncomfortable truth that we’re probably dooming our planet, and the unfortunate truth of life that every relationship I have won’t necessarily be what I want it to be no matter what I do, I’ve had a lot of big subjects on my mind. Video games are a way to escape them and writing, for me, is a way to come to terms with them. To process them. Which means it’s a lot of work to write anything because there are all these weighty emotions struggling for attention inside me and I need to be mindful of their influence so I can address them properly instead of having them spill into everything. I just feel like my mind is pretty cluttered right now and trying to pull out the right bits for writing is taking a lot more work than it usually does. It’s really tempting to not do that work and focus on resting instead. It’s also probably healthy to do that since I probably need an extended break from all of this writing and day job stuff since I use a break from one to focus on the other or just try to jam both into every day of my life.

As I told someone this morning, my main trait is will power. If it’s an absolute thing, like posting or writing every day, I can do it. I talked with them about this other thing in a more complimentary light originally, but further reflection has made it pretty clear that, tied in with the will power thing, my main vice is obsession. Surprise, the guy with severe OCD tends to get obsessed with things easily. I can make it work for me, usually in the form of making me stick with habits no matter how difficult or tiring they sound at any given time, but there are times it gets out of hand. Any time I push myself too hard with my writing or my work, any time I get too focused on details or minutiae, any time I get a dumb thought stuck in my head, that’s the obsession. It’s also why I have a hard time relaxing or doing nothing. It’s why I never just take vacations. I mean, I haven’t taken a day off of posting or writing in over a year. That’s a long time to go without a break. I’ve tried to get a blog post buffer set up so I can take a few days off of writing, but I always wind up writing anyway.

I don’t really have a conclusion here, I’m just trying to be more honest with myself about the positive and negative aspects of my life and how I spend my time. It’s almost as if I’ve had to confront mortality lately. Sure, it’s indirect, but it’s there. Nothing lasts forever and I want to make sure I’m acting in my own long-term best interest without (and this is the new part) making too many sacrifices here and now. The long-term is great, but nothing is worth three years of misery or living like a pauper or constantly engaging in a vicious cycle of burning myself out and subsequently crashing until I’ve recovered just enough to start working again.

Sorry if you came here looking for something upbeat or positive. I’ll pencil that in for later this week once I’ve gotten more sleep and untangled the web of emotions and thoughts that’s tying me up right now. I hope your month is going well, though, and today especially. I hope your writing goals are going swimmingly and I want to remind you, as I’m constantly reminding myself these days, that goals are important since they give us something to strive for, but make sure they’re something within reach and don’t be afraid to reassess if something changes your reach. Good luck!


Daily Prompt

Everyone needs to blow off some steam occasionally. Stress tends to build up rather quickly when you’re the protagonist of a story. How does your protagonist try to relax when it seems like they’re drowning in stress? Do they even get a chance to catch their breath, or are they constantly being harried and unable to take a break to get themselves in order? Write a scene in which your protagonist tries to relax. Whether they succeed or not is entirely up to you, but show us how they handle their stress and their success or failure since a failure is bound to only make them feel worse and success could give them an opportunity to reflect and grow.


Sharing Inspiration

One of my all-time favorite books is “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. In terms of complex and skilled writing, I’d rank him near the top of all writers I’ve ever read. I’m willing to concede this is just my opinion, but I could make a strong argument given the foreshadowing, complexity of storytelling, and just how much information there is that could be foreshadowing but maybe is just world information. We don’t know yet! The story isn’t finished and there’s just so much left to resolve that it’d be impossible to wrap it all up in just one book. There’s no guarantee that all of it will get wrapped up or nicely tied together, but I can hope. I love his writing because it gives me something to aspire to as a writer.


Helpful Tips

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Trying to work through a difficult passage? Grab a book that does something similar to what you’re trying! Not sure if what you’re trying to convey is coming out in your writing and it’s a big enough thing that you want to get it worked out right now? Find an alpha reader! Share your work with them and get their thoughts! Not sure how to move along with the current scene and unable to figure out where you can skip ahead to? Ask other writers for advice or suggestions! My inbox and the comments on my blog are always open if you’ve got questions or just need someone to talk to who gets the struggles of writing. There’s nothing wrong with opening up a bit to dump out some of the stuff going on in your head. That’s part of why I write this blog. There are many reasons, of course, but it’s super helpful to have a place I can dump all this out. I can’t promise I’ll always respond right away, but I can promise I will eventually respond.

Self-Care is an Important Part of Life

Self-care is a bit of a difficult topic these days because a lot of the online world has begun using it to mean “indulge yourself” when it is really supposed to mean something like “take proper care of yourself and your life, even if it’s hard. ESPECIALLY if it’s hard.” It’s been interesting watching a counter movement crop up in response to the “self-indulgent self-care” movement. People seem to get quite angry or insistent that self-care means scheduling doctor appointments, doing your taxes, and cleaning your place, often while asserting that things like bubble baths, naps, and quiet activities for yourself aren’t really self-care.

Like most things, the truth lies in the middle. Self-care definitely includes getting your taxes done in time, but it can also include bubble baths, so long as the bubble baths aren’t getting in the way of living a healthy life. If you find bubble baths relaxing, then self-care is totally doing your taxes and then winding down from stressing about money by soaking in some scented bathwater and bubbles. Maybe with a good book or a glass of wine. You do you. The important part is that you’re seeing to your needs, not just doing whatever you want all the time.

Sometimes, your needs are quiet time filled with books and video games. Sometimes it is cooking healthy meals, working out, and staying active every day. Sometimes, it can even be some ice cream after a difficult day, so long as it isn’t always ice cream and you’re not eating it by the pint. A pint of ice cream as a reward for doing your taxes is a dangerous step toward self-indulgence. A small bowl of it totally is. Self-care is complicated and varies from person to person, so it can be difficult to work out a definitive list of what “counts” and what doesn’t.

For me, self-care is a lot of the important stuff that I don’t like to do, such as scheduling appointments, updating my budget, limiting my expenses so I stay within my budget, and cleaning my room. I’m already really good at the self-indulgent side of things, which I really ought to scale back a certain amount. At the same time, sometimes I just need a quiet evening of popcorn and favorite cartoons, or a good book, because I feel every kind of drained. Tonight’s going to be one of those nights.

The occasional night like this, and every version of self-care like them, is important to me because I spent a lot of time wrapped up inside my own head and sometimes need a chance to be pulled out of it. If I spend all my time wrapped up inside my head, my thoughts get muddle, my emotions go haywire, and I usually wind up making myself feel miserable because I get so wrapped around whatever problem I’m trying to work through that every other part of my life fades away. I need something engaging and fun to pull me out, but that still makes me think about things, so I can stretch my mind out again. Pull it away from the problem I’ve been worrying at for however long. Give myself a chance to recover and the thoughts/problems time to breathe. Usually, after a few nights of this kind of peaceful relaxation, I have the clarity I need to finish working through whatever’s on my mind.

Proper self-care is important. If you aren’t taking care of both your mental and physical health, you’re going to wind up causing worse problems for yourself further down the line. Taking care of one at the expense of the other can work for a short time, if you’re in desperate need, but it isn’t something I’d recommend doing if you can avoid it and definitely something you shouldn’t make into a habit.  It can be incredibly tempting to lose yourself in some athletic activity in order to avoid what’s on your mind or to indulge in a giant bag of chips or some sweets because it pushes the happy buttons in your brain. Once is not good, but it isn’t bad. Repeatedly losing yourself in athletics until you’re too tired to think or eating a bunch of junk food because it feels good becomes a serious issue.

Well-rounded self-care is key. Some therapy for the mental stuff, rest for your body and mind, healthy meals and exercise for the physical stuff, and a decent amount of the things you enjoy to keep your spirits up. Moderation in all things, of course, but that’s more of a suggestion than a rule or a guideline. You’re really the only person who can say when something goes from self-care into self-indulgence or self-harm, so make sure to keep an eye on what you’re doing and how it makes you feel.

Conflicting Emotions

I’ve had a bit of a week. A lot has happened since June 13th (Okay, a week and a day), and I’ve been doing my best to deal with it. I tried writing (*cough* last week’s blog post *cough*) but wound up being unfortunately busy most of the time I thought I’d be able to write and entirely too tired for the rest of it. Throughout it all, I’ve had another major bout of depression come and go with a frequency comparable to bipolar disorder (and yes, I’m certain it’s not that) as a result of some of last week’s events.

I’ve never been terribly good at handling conflicts on my own behalf. If someone I know needs an advocate or someone to intercede on their behalf, I’ll dive right in with barely a second thought. When it comes to initiating conflicts on my own behalf, I would almost certainly rather suffer for weeks and months than start an emotionally charged conflict. Specifically emotionally charged conflicts.

Need to decide where to go for dinner and no one can agree? No problem, I can argue my suggestion with the best of them. Need to tell someone that their callous, disrespectful, and down-right negligent behavior is having a severely negative impact on my mental and emotional well-being? Fuck that, I’ll bring it up when it gets to the point of being nearly crippling.

As a result, I have a tendency to stay in shitty situations far longer than any reasonable person would. For example, my roommate and I definitely shouldn’t have re-signed our lease together, even if it was only going to be for 6 months. I knew then that we were not good cohabitors. The problem is that I’d been trying the subtle and conflict-less resolutions to our problems for 9 months at that point without result and even done a few more direct attempts that resulted in small conflicts, again without result. In his eyes, things were not that bad yet. In my eyes, I couldn’t really afford to live alone and we hadn’t tried everything yet.

So I tried being more direct and more forceful, all to no avail, until things came to a head and I told him we wouldn’t room together after our current lease expires. As a result of the conflicts leading up to that moment and all of the conflicts after that (because the issues have only been growing as time goes on), I’ve probably been more frequently and severely depressed than I was before I left my horrid, soul-sucking job in January.

That’s what conflict does to me. It stresses me out, makes me worry about having taken things too far despite knowing I pulled every single metaphorical punch and let the other person off too easy, it cuts into my ability to sleep properly, and makes my depression flare up with a vengeance. The more emotionally charged the conflict, the worse I get. The more often I’m in conflict, the worse I get. When you get both together, I wind up in a misery and depression hole it takes two or more weeks to actively climb out of (usually after two or three weeks of trying to make myself want to climb out of the hole).

I want to blame my roommate for my recent issues and I know a certain amount belongs to him for not respecting me and not respecting the agreements we made when we moved in together, but it’s not his fault I’ve got issues with conflict. He wouldn’t even know since I’m good at hiding it from people I want to hide it from and he’s already pretty oblivious on his own. I’ve told him a part of it now and I’m probably going to tell him the rest in an effort to encourage him to develop as a person and learn to respect people within his inner circle, but that’s another emotionally charged conflict right there and I’m still reeling from last week’s.

I know whose fault it is and I know how to make progress on resolving the issue as much as I’ll ever be able to, but that’s a big ol’ therapy journey and I’ve been procrastinating on getting a new therapist on my new insurance. It can be hard, to have to spend 6 or more months of sessions just working on getting comfortable with a therapist and familiar enough that I can talk about my big issues without needing a 15 minute aside to tell the entire story. Ultimately, it’s just another excuse to avoid something I find difficult. Like the phone call I’m going to make tomorrow (during business hours), sometimes you have to do something that makes you feel worse in the moment in order to feel better in the long run.

All I really wish, I suppose, is that this idea of misery now for a potential lack of misery later wasn’t a major theme of every aspect of my life. Kinda sucks to be a responsible adult sometimes.