Category Archives: beliefs

tattoos and hasty conclusions

I think I mentioned briefly in a past post that I had just got a tattoo–and if I didn’t, well I just got a tattoo. Not going into too much detail, I’m a fan of  dialectics–thesis, antithesis, synthesis–so I got a tattoo of a dragon, some waves, a peaceful river, mountains and a sun–all done in Japanese style–each representing a phase of the dialectic process, on my right arm.

Anyway, during my first tattoo session, which by the way was my first tattoo session for my first tattoo, I felt nervous/anxious/excited/etc./etc. I took an Ativan to help calm my nerves, which did very little if anything.

I had to take off my shirt, and even before the tattooing began, I was, to put it mildly, sweating horrendously (I brought a rag to wipe up the sweat from my underarms), not much worse though than any other social interaction. I was also wincing and wasn’t talking much to the artist who badly wanted to talk. Thankfully my girlfriend did most of the talking. Being a twenty year tattoo vet and slightly insensitive, about halfway through the session, he looked at me and asked, “Why is this so much harder for you that for everyone else?”

Shocked and caught off guard, I said, “It really hurts.” I left it at that.

I didn’t think much of this until a few days later when it hit me–I was pissed. Him saying that seemed akin to a therapist asking, “Why can’t you be like my other patients?” On the surface what he said was not only insensitive but extremely hurtful as well. It’s my job to sit as still as possible while getting a tattoo. The experience itself is mine, though. If I don’t want to talk that should be fine. If I want to wince that should be fine too. Shouldn’t that be somewhat expected, especially from someone who has been tattooing for that long? As soon as I started thinking about it, I realized just how angry I was. I also knew right away that that anger had been building and was ready to burst. I didn’t really know what to do with it so I just put the anger aside for a few days.

And that’s exactly what I did. Inspired by Layara, I came back to the issue when I had some time alone to think a day or two later and came to the conclusion that perhaps I had been jumping to hasty conclusions on what exactly he meant. He could have just been having a bad day and did in fact take it out on me. Maybe he really was just trying to ask if I was doing okay and it came out wrong. Whatever the reason, it’s not my fault. I did nothing wrong. It’s so easy for me to blame myself in situations like that.

Further, I tend to jump to huge conclusions based on the most minute types of behavior. For example–

  • If someone gives me a tired look while I’m talking to him or her then it’s my fault. They find me boring. They would rather be doing something else.
  • If someone doesn’t say hi to me and smile then I’m probably just not worthy of it in the first place and he or she really doesn’t like me.
  • Etc.

My point is that I have programmed myself to jump to very negative conclusions based on outward behavior, which has not served me. My hope is that one day I can catch myself making those hasty conclusions and and provide arguments or other scenarios to counter my irrational thinking. For now though, I’m doing my best to go back and look at situations and try to re-frame them, in order to attempt to objectify the situation more.

I go back to get my tattoo finished on Sunday. I’m excited, and the experience will be mine. If he’s not okay with that, I have the confidence now to let him know.

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do we choose how others treat us?

This is my entry for July’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health. The topic is Stigma and Discrimination, which I interpreted liberally.

***

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the boundaries I set affects how others treat me. As some of you know, after my suicide attempts and subsequent hospitalization in an urgent care facility, I basically told my boss everything that had been going on. Why did I do this? Well, I trust him for the most part, he’s easy to talk to, and I need more people in my life who I can share my inner experiences with. In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision, but what’s done is done. I was in the midst of a crisis, and I may not have been thinking all that clearly. Things happen in a crisis.

Anyway, I also told him about the Nardil and about how it affects my diet (because he’s always trying to shove cheap pastries and hot dogs down my throat, which I can’t have while on Nardil).

Being who he is–older, somewhat wiser, and a wanna-be therapist–he likes to give me his opinions on my condition. For example, sometimes, when he’s stressed, he jokes around by saying things like, “I’d try to kill myself too if I just had the time.” I’ve spoken to him about this–about how that’s insensitive and is not something I want him joking about. He’s stopped. Other times, he gets serious and tries to tell me that, looking solely at my behaviors, I don’t need to be on medication, especially long-term.

Although, I appreciate that he cares, he has no idea what’s going on inside my head. Sure, my behaviors tell a particularly happy story about myself–a story that others interpret as the entire picture. I mean, I have a job. I’m in school. I have a girlfriend. I’m training for a marathon. All good things. Inside my head, though, something entirely different is going on. He, as well as many others, tend to forget this. I think we all tend to compare ourselves to others based on what we see. This is unfair not only to others but to ourselves as well.

Logically, it makes no sense to judge how we’re feeling on the inside to how others look and behave on the outside. I am incredibly guilty of this. It’s a huge reason why I suffer so immensely from social anxiety.

Anyhow, because I chose to disclose my condition and the fact that I am medicated, I have greatly altered my relationship to my boss. He has considerable power over me, even more so than he did before. He could use it against me if he wanted to.

So the question remains: Do I choose how people treat me based on what I disclose? The answer in my opinion is yes. Sure, there’s much more that goes into it than just that, but boundaries are a huge factor.

Most of the time I usually don’t disclose much of anything, and people think (at least in my opinion) that I’m distant, cold, boring, and that I perhaps don’t like them. In other cases, I disclose too much because I need emotional connection really, really bad. There is a happy/perfect medium which I haven’t exactly been able to find yet. Again, it’s something I’m working on, and, again, I believe one day I’ll get there.

structure AND chaos

Please note: This is my entry for June’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health. The topic is hope and despair.

***

Structure is my one true love. I love going to bed every night at ten and getting up at six. I love running three miles on Wednesday, five miles on Friday, and six miles on Sunday, and I love knowing that my distance for each of those days increases by ten percent each and every week. I love reading a chapter from a book on my commute into work every morning and then another chapter at night before bed. I love planning activities way in advance, so when I do have to deviate from my schedule, I can plan accordingly.

I could go on and on and on.

Structure serves a purpose for me: it provides hope amongst chaos. It’s also synonymous with perfection. When I know exactly what I’m doing and when I’m doing it, I can remain free from uncertainty, and anxiety stays somewhat at bay.

The problem becomes when uncertainty, chaos, and despair creep back in, which is inevitable. This sends me into a downward spiral. When an unexpected social situation comes up that keeps me out late and floods me with anxiety, I get worn down and it takes a few days to recover. The more deviations, the longer and harder it is for me to recover.

For those who don’t know, last January I entered a downward spiral that stole all hope and ended in two hasty suicide attempts and one well thought out attempt that probably would have killed me if I had carried it out. There’s plenty of triggers to look at, but I think my obsession with structure is the main culprit.

Up until that point I thought I had everything under control–that is, I had developed a set of routines that I thought were impenetrable. However, I went from only going to school online and being subject to few real social situations to having a full-time job and an internship. It was too much. They broke down my structures so much I couldn’t recover. And so I gave up.

I let myself be taken by chaos. I let myself fall further and further down. Granted, I started planning for suicide, which ironically in itself brought structure. But for the most part, I let all structure go.

Now that I’m stable and can look more objectively at what happened, I know that I need structure. I’m just that type of person. The question, though, becomes–How can I have structure but still allow some chaos and uncertainty in without letting it destroy me?

I don’t have an answer. But I do believe it starts with awareness. It starts with knowing that life is full of uncertainties and I cannot possibly plan for every little thing. I mean life isn’t some science experiment with set variables, yet so far it’s been my best defense against anxiety to treat it as such. I am learning that there is a balance between structure and chaos; it’s not an either/or situation. There will always be hope and despair in my life, sometimes at the same time–and I’m learning that that’s okay.

my mom and dad and my boss

I thought I’d drop by
to see how you see the sun.

As you know, I told many people about my suicide attempt, including my parents and my boss. I’m not the closest with my parents so telling them wasn’t easy. Fortunately, when in the midst of a crisis things become easier. I called my mom while I was still high on Ativan–I barely remember the conversation, actually; I just remember her saying over and over again to stay away from alcohol–and I told my dad while I was in the urgent care facility. He took it well. I mean as well as one could, I guess–very grateful I was alive and communicating with him.

Further, I also told my boss while in the urgent care facility via text messages. I told him I wouldn’t be coming in the rest of the week because I had a “psychiatric emergency.” I should have been more specific as he seemed worried, because he tried calling many times. But I did tell him that I was okay and that I would explain everything face-to-face.

That face-to-face conversation went well. I didn’t tell him about my social anxiety but I did share with him my suicidal intentions as well as my subsequent overdose. He understands that I am a perfectionist and take a lot of what he says personally. He wants me to be more open with him when I’m feeling stressed or angry at him, rather than bottling it up–easier said than done, of course. I also told him I wanted to work more, as I need more structure, and that I enjoy the work (most of it). He’s been pressuring me to take more interest in the work, as he actually wants me to take over the business some day (not sure what he sees in me), but I told him during our conversation that I’d like to be working there for a long time but in the background. “I do not want to take over the business,” I told him. I feel a bit trapped, I guess. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life, yet this job isn’t very demanding, socially-speaking–so it’s working for me right now.

I feel really bad because my boss is probably going to lay someone off thinking that I can take over his role. Granted this person has really stopped caring about his work, but I can’t help but feel bad. He has a very difficult time communicating, even more than I do, and he must be struggling from some form of social anxiety. Then again, I think he may want to get laid off to pick up unemployment.

But do I really want to put someone out of a job for a job I’m not sure I want? I keep telling myself it’s out of my hands, but there are options; I’m just choosing the easiest one for me, which may be best considering all I’ve been through.

***

I talked to my parents yesterday after everything calmed down with me. I apologized many times for not confining in them about my problems. I will do my best to be more honest with them in the future about my depressions. (But I have my doubts about whether I will really be able to do that.)

I now feel really depressed and somewhat anxious about my relationship to my parents. I put myself out there–I mean really out there–and now I feel a lot of pressure to keep an open dialogue going with them regarding my mental issues, which is a common theme in our relationship as of late. During those calls, we  grew closer than ever before, and it scares the hell out of me. It’s as if five years of emotional bonding and connection passed before us all at once. (My dad even said he loved me, which hasn’t happened in like ten years. It was very awkward, and I must admit my “I love you” back was equally awkward. We both meant  it; it’s just we both lack an emotional connection to the other. He’s not a perfect dad, and I’m not a perfect son–that’s okay.)

What’s more, they say they understand but I don’t think they have a clue. They may have been depressed most of their lives but they address it differently. They ignore it and try to push it away while I’ve tried to address it. I don’t think they’re any closer to seeing the sun the way I see it.

***

P.S. I think my manic energy is starting to wear off. I may not post for a while, but don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Take care.

three things (and four stages)

First, sometimes I cannot trust myself. Losing your capacity to reason isn’t quite as bad as thinking you can still reason when it’s clearly illogical (in retrospect, of course). I need to do my best to question my logic. Logic can be its own monster. That is, fallacies and distortions can build on one another, creating what appears to be logic–but it’s far from it. Staying connected with others and communicating more with them will help me stay on top of my own distorted thinking.

That said, I think there are instances where death makes logical sense–and suffering from mental illness(es) can be one of them. However, I owe it to others and more importantly myself to exhaust all options before even considering death. I need to grind away at each day no matter how difficult life becomes.

Second, killing myself will affect so many more people than I realized. I tried my best to push people away. But I now know that no matter how much distance I put between myself and others, they can still see me–and will be greatly affected by my loss in ways I cannot even begin to imagine. I thought I could simply die unnoticed. I was wrong.

Finally, I need structure now more than ever. In The Four Stages of Spiritual Development, the author, Scott Peck, posits that there are four stages of spiritual growth (from Wikipedia)–

  1. Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. They are extremely egoistic and lack empathy for others. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.
  2. Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them. Once children learn to obey their parents and other authority figures, often out of fear or shame, they reach Stage II. Many so-called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good, law-abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.
  3. Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and questioning. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III. They often reject the existence of spiritual or supernatural forces since these are difficult to measure or prove scientifically. Those who do retain their spiritual beliefs move away from the simple, official doctrines of fundamentalism.
  4. Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature and develops a deeper understanding of good and evil, forgiveness and mercy, compassion and love. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith or out of fear, but does so because of genuine belief, and he does not judge people harshly or seek to inflict punishment on them for their transgressions. This is the stage of loving others as yourself, losing your attachment to your ego, and forgiving your enemies. Stage IV people are labeled as Mystics.

I for one believe that no one person is totally in only one stage at a time–we fluctuate across many stages throughout our  lifetimes, often residing in more than one stage at a given time and between stages as well. At this point, I find myself mostly in stage one. I still carry with me pieces from the other stages, but, for the most part, I unraveled, tried to kill myself, and now am left vulnerable, disordered, and reckless.

Now, I don’t believe that organized religion is the only means of finding structure in Stage II. I’ve decided to focus more on my job, as well as to start studying for an Enrolled Agent exam so I can move up in my company and get a raise. I’d also like to spend more time writing and connecting with others through my blog. Reading, exercising, and cooking are also on the agenda.

Sorting through the pieces of what’s left from my suicide attempt is all I can do at this point, and I need to take it slow, one day at a time.

live or die, heads or tails

There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.      – Albert Camus

I woke up last Friday certain that it would be my last day on this planet. I took an anti-emetic, as I was pre-loading, staggered into the kitchen, made toast, and then stared at a picture of my parents–all the while shoving back tears. On Thursday, I put up pictures of my family and girlfriend throughout my apartment. I didn’t want to be alone when I took the pills. They would give me strength. In a way, I would be doing it for them.

After breakfast, I started thinking about death–and what that means. I went to a window and pushed open the drapes, allowing the light to pour in. It wasn’t a particularly sunny day, but I still felt it’s warmth against my skin.

As a nihilist I haven’t given much thought about the after life. Whenever I do think about it, I just get pushed back to my nihilistic beliefs. What’s the point? No one knows for sure what happens after we die—it’s all subjective. Plus, even if I did believe in something after all this, I cannot imagine it resembles anything that’s depicted by popular religions. I do believe there is something out there, that connects us all. That connection is what I believe in, which is why I knew that if I had killed myself on Friday it would have affected so much more than I can possibly imagine.

I’ve relied on that connection for a long time; it gets me through the day; it provides meaning to my life. Depression took it away. I cannot extract meaning from anything anymore, and, although I still believe on a theoretical level that this connection exists, I no longer feel it deep down—and that’s where it matters. It’s hard to do anything when faced with a meaningless life.

On Friday everything pointed toward death. I felt so certain about it. Sure, the week before I tried to kill myself and couldn’t go through with it, but something felt different on Friday. I didn’t feel happy or terribly sad. I may have spent the majority of the day crying, but those tears were okay. The days leading up to Friday were much worse. I was in agony thinking about the shit-storm of pain I would be leaving behind. But on Friday, the path seemed clear. I could do no wrong.

But then when it came down to it–after I took the final anti-emetics, after I deleted all my email and everything from my hard-drive, after I scheduled an email to be sent to my girlfriend on Sunday, after I lined up the pills, after I took one last look at myself in the mirror–I couldn’t do it. Terror rose up from somewhere unknown, pushing the depression and pain aside.

A part of me wanted to go on. Where was this part of me a month ago when I was living like I had a month to live?

On Saturday I felt numb. I barely ate. I guess numb and starving is better than binging and suicidal (my normal state). I cleaned everything up. Out of sight, out of mind. And now, it’s like it never happened. I feel myself moving on to the next phase, without giving much thought to my suicidal feelings.

This is how I operate. I push things aside. I move on. I adapt. I do not dwell, and I do not feel. It’s like a game. One minute I’m suicidal, and the very next everything’s okay again. There’s never been any balance in my life. All or nothing. This way, or that. The suicidal feelings flicked off (unconsciously) and now I’m not even taking them seriously. I don’t know how close to death I came, but this is something that should demand attention, yet I am somewhere else, in the future, trying to plan my life, as always.

My answer to Camus is this: Life and death are the same. Neither matters to me. My desire to live didn’t keep me alive; my fear of uncertainty kept me going.

P.S. Today is my birthday and the only person I heard from is my dentist (via email). I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve pushed almost everyone away these past few months and that I got off Facebook and that my phone doesn’t have a battery. But it’s nice because I get to reinforce all the negative feelings about myself–nobody loves me or cares about me, because nobody even realizes it’s my birthday. I am nothing.

always wishing i was somewhere else

I’ve spent most of my life dreaming of either being somewhere else or being someone other than who I am. For example, for the longest time I wanted to be a writer. I spent over five years working on a novel. I put that dream on hold last year and started writing flash fiction. I got a few stories published, but I gave up after that. My perfectionism makes writing really, really hard. Plus, I can’t handle rejection. I guess it’s not even really like I thought I could be a writer; it’s more like I used the thought of possibly being a writer to propel me forward, through my depressions.

Lately, I’ve used running to push me through. In the past, I’ve put my hope in life transitions, like going to college or moving to New York, to get me through the day. I remember when I made the decision to move to New York and bought my one-way ticket how good I felt. No matter what was going on in the present, just the thought of that ticket made everything better.

You see, I thought the transitions would change me. I thought moving to New York or running seventeen miles or writing a book would change who I am–that is, I would no longer be depressed or anxious. This thinking not only took me out of the present moment, it pushed a lot of negative feelings aside. Instead of dealing with my problems, I focused on the future–something that doesn’t even exist–and suppressed my feelings and emotions.

I think this deep, all-encompassing depression I’m feeling now is all those feelings and emotions catching up to me. I’m running out of options. I’ve tried a lot of things. I can’t run anymore. I have to be present–and the present is complete shit when there’s no hope.

Maybe awareness will save me?