Computer + Depression

Sorry for the unplanned disappearance.  Again.  This one wasn’t anything to do with me or my situation, it was just my mom visiting and keeping me busy.

Today’s post is about something that’s been working for me lately; keeping my computer out of my bedroom.

A little history; I can’t sleep without background noise.  Haven’t been able to since I moved into an apartment building for the first time.  When I try and sleep without constant noise, my brain picks up on EVERY noise and wakes me up to investigate what it was.  When I do have noise, my brain just tunes everything out assuming everything is from the constant source.  And for a long time I didn’t have cable, so I would put DVD’s on or something.  Things that always stopped playing after a while and I would wake up and have to put it back on.  This got annoying.  I could have used music, but at the time I was being a luddite and refused to get a cell phone and couldn’t afford an MP3 player.

After a while I got cable and could just stick that on a channel that was mostly repeats so they wouldn’t keep me up wanting to watch something I’d already seen, or a channel that played shows I wasn’t angered to listen to but also wasn’t terribly interested in, like the Food Network.  When I moved though, and ended up living in a camp more often than not, I had to get a laptop since I needed a computer that was mobile, and I started to get used to using my laptop as my source of noise to sleep.  This was not a very good idea.

When I am home and not working, which is a lot lately (isn’t unemployment just the greatest?) I had my computer in my bedroom because it was my background noise.  It is also my internet and my communication with my friends, and my games… I barely ever left my bed.  Didn’t have to!  Everything was right there!  Why get up when you can be so warm and cozy right here and you have everything you need?!  Oh, just a few reasons.

First and most obvious reason is less physical movement.  When you’re sitting at a desk all day you get very little physical movement.  But when you’re lying in bed all day your heart rate barely gets above 65, and that’s really not great for your health.  Beyond that there’s also several other things.  Like making it a lot harder to convince yourself to leave your home, not just your bed.  Like being more tired because your body is in a position that tells it to sleep.  Like having a harder time motivating yourself to do things that actually do need to be done because you’re tired and comfortable right where you are, why would you bother moving?!

Being too comfortable is a bad idea when you’re depressed.  I know that sounds stupid to anyone with depression who feels massively uncomfortable all the time and would kill to feel comfort, but honestly when your depression stems even partially from your situation, comfort is a killer.  When you’re comfortable, you don’t make changes.  Not the important ones.  You do everything you need to do to keep whatever is making you comfortable.  Even if staying comfortable means giving up a chance at being more than comfortable.  A chance at being happy means a chance you won’t be.  And if it goes THAT way, then you gave up comfort for misery.  Why would you do that?

For me, having my computer in my room was making me sleep longer than I should, it encouraged me to not get dressed, which was comfortable, but honestly terrible for self esteem.  It encouraged me to be unwilling to view my writing as work, which made it harder to write.  When I was miserable at my job, my writing was to vent.  I don’t need to vent anymore.  I still wanted to write, but I was so tired all the time.  It required too much focus.  So I had to find some other way to motivate myself to do it.  I had to get out of bed.  I had to stop being up till all hours of the night after deciding to go to bed because there was something interesting on the screen beside me, and then sleeping all day instead.

Honestly it’s not that easy to explain why it helps as much as it does.  But it’s made a significant difference.  I don’t know if it would help anyone else, but it helps me, and this section of my blog is about my fight, not just advice for other people.  But keeping your computer out of your bedroom is never a BAD idea as far as I’m concerned.  Unless your common areas are untrustworthy or your bedroom is also your living room, then it gets a little tricky…

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Anger

I’m going to talk a little about how my anger affected my daily life.  I’ve expressed before that I had fairly good control over it, never physically lashing out at anyone, managing to bite my tongue most of the time people pissed me off, so unlike a lot of people with anger problems, I wasn’t going around harassing people or making enemies.  But it did affect me a lot despite that.

One, it made me never talk to people.  I hated everyone, why the hell would I ever go out of my way to talk to people?  I mean, come on.  So I don’t have a lot of friends, and now I have no goddamn clue how to make new ones because I never figured out how the hell to talk to people and have to learn a new skill.  It’s not gone well so far.  But the amount I moved around, combined with a desire to punch most people in the face, I never had a chance to meet a lot of people or make a lot of friends.  I have a few close friends, and some people I got along with enough to add to Facebook.  I rarely ever leave my apartment outside work and grocery shopping.

Two, I hated myself.  Every time I would get angry I would hate myself a little more.  What right did I have to look down on them so much?  What did I have to be so angry about when so many people had so much worse lives than I’ll ever have?  What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t control my emotions?  Why was I letting such menial shit get to me?  Why couldn’t I stop being so goddamn angry?  What the fuck was wrong with me?  What right did I have to get mad at these people’s actions, I’d done bad things too, sometimes even similar things!  What right did I have to get mad at these situations that I wasn’t a part of?  Why was I letting things that shouldn’t affect me, affect me?

Three, it affected my health.  Did you know that being angry is linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, headaches, stomach ulcers, stress related illnesses… I’ll bet you did.  I was not immune.  Sometimes I would get so angry my temperature would go up so high I could go sit out in a Canadian winter in the snow without a jacket and still be boiling hot.  And that is NOT good for the body.  I had stomach pains, digestion issues, headaches, knots in my muscles… My everything hurt more often than not.  And I’m immune to painkillers, so I just got to hurt, all the time.  Sometimes to the point of throwing up.  Life was fun.

Four, when I did fight with people, shit got LOUD.  And I hold a grudge.  There are people who crossed a line with me well over a decade ago that I still won’t forgive.  And I was scary.  There were people I had never even been angry with who were absolutely terrified of me.  The ones I did hate, some of them were genuinely afraid I would kill them in their sleep.  And I don’t mean jokingly, I mean they were afraid to come anywhere near me.  Again, neeever actually intentionally hurt anyone.  Not once.  But my anger was so visceral that I didn’t have to.  People did not fuck with me.  Which I will admit in some cases was actually a good thing… But in others it was fucking obnoxious.  Especially the people I had no problem with who were afraid to even let me show them something because they were certain I was going to hurt them.  It’s hard to realize that people you care about are afraid of you.  People who knew me well knew better than to find me scary, but the ones that didn’t, friends of friends, or people I just hadn’t known long enough yet, who were great people and I wanted to try and get along with, were legitimately afraid of me.  They’d at some point seen or heard about me finally hitting the end of my rope with someone and ripping them a metaphorical new one and assumed I was a vicious jackass.  And they had every right to.  I couldn’t hold it against them.  Why wouldn’t they be scared of me?  I was a jackass.

Five, my already bad relationship with my parents broke.  By the time I graduated high school, my parents and I weren’t really on speaking terms.  We didn’t even really tolerate each others existences.  Whenever we would see each other, there would be a shouting match.  No matter what was going on, whether we’d actually pissed each other off or not, we could not just talk to each other.  Even if I’d done well in school and was showing off an A on a test, it would after only about 2 sentences progress into shouting insults.  We could not co-exist.  And I wasn’t on speaking terms with my sister at that point either, though that wasn’t fighting, that was just pretending we didn’t exist to each other.  So after high school there was about a 2 year stretch where my parents and I only talked on holidays.  To be completely honest part of me still wishes that was the case because they never did acknowledge their part in the strife between us but they’re pretty damn quick to point out mine.  But that’s not really the point.  I had, in my mind, no family, almost no friends, and life sucked on just about every conceivable level.

I had no money, the only jobs I could get were part time temp work.  I had no support system, financial or emotional, I didn’t even have a functioning computer.  Couldn’t afford one.  I was living on kraft dinner and koolaid because it was all I could afford and I was just getting increasingly isolated and angry.  I didn’t have anything.  At that point even though Llama and I were already friends, we were more tangentially friends.  She was a friend of a friend of mine and we’d started talking from time to time.  So I had bills I couldn’t pay, pretty much no friends because the ‘friend’ that Llama and I had gotten to be friends through was the only ‘friend’ I had in the city I was living in and he was my roommate and a bigger jackass than I was with even worse anger problems.  I had nothing in my life worth living for.  Just a bundle of shot nerves, a massive chip on my shoulder, and a bunch of burned bridges.

And of course all of this just served to make me even angrier.  100% of the time I could feel the frustration and anger in my chest.  Sometimes it was physically painful.  Even when things were going well or something good was happening in that moment I would still feel the frustration and rage.  At it’s worst it would only take one tiny little thing to make me snap into full blown visceral rage.  Being angry all the time sucks.  I knew what I was doing, I wanted to stop.  I wanted so much to stop.  But in my head the world was just such a terrible, unfair, miserable place.  There was so MUCH to be angry about, that I couldn’t pull myself out of it for even a few minutes.  I was trapped in a pit and I didn’t know how the hell to get out.  I didn’t think it was even possible to.

The Why of My Issues

I suppose the first post in this series should be about the problems I had; why I had issues with depression, and the impact it had on my life. Everyone’s story is different, and everyone reacts to things differently, so this is basically just a summary of the first 26ish years of my life that finally brought me to a point where I could make the changes I needed to make.

When I was a toddler, I was always surrounded by incredibly intelligent people. Everyone in my family – even the individuals who don’t necessarily seem to be on first glance – is ridiculously intelligent and talented. Entrepreneurs, pharmacists, sergeants, accountants, engineers, professors, advanced math teachers, musicians, artists, programmers…and I have a big family; that list only encompasses my parents, my sister, my aunts and uncles, and a couple of first cousins that I spent a lot of time around. I was also very intelligent, and that was a problem. I know it doesn’t sound like one, but bear with me.

When I was very little, I picked up on things incredibly quickly, and my thought patterns were…abnormal for a child. As a toddler, I would watch a piece of technology be used, and immediately understand the principles that made it work. I remember watching a movie (in the ‘80s, long before the days of Google) with my parents in which the main characters were using a device to break into someone’s house by picking up the signal from the garage door opener and mimicking it. The movie didn’t explain that that was what they were doing, it just showed that they had a little device on which, after the person left for the day, they could press a button, and the door would open again. My parents voiced their inability to figure out how it worked, so I rattled off what it was that the device was doing, and they looked at me like I had three heads. I didn’t realize at the time that they were simply hugely impressed at their toddler understanding something that they didn’t, so I took their expressions to mean that I was wrong and they thought that I was stupid.

Things like that happened a lot. Everything except people just intrinsically made sense to me. It all worked on rather straightforward and predictable logic that just came to me, but people I knew to be very smart, who were much older and more experienced than me, didn’t seem to understand those things as easily. I didn’t take that to mean I was smarter than them, or that I was just more capable than them in certain areas, I took it to mean that I must be wrong, that I must be stupid, and the fact that everything seemed so simple to me just meant that I really didn’t understand it at all. So I started to keep my mouth shut when I thought I knew the answer to something; I would overanalyze to a painful degree, and never voice anything unless I was absolutely certain I knew what I was talking about…which was pretty much never.

Obviously, this was not good for my social development, not to mention my self-esteem and confidence. I was afraid to try new things, I was constantly second guessing myself in school, I hated most children because they were even stupider than I was in my own mind, which made me question how stupid I actually was, which then led to a weird sense of superiority that would cause a massive crash as soon as something made me feel stupid again. I would feel guilty for ever thinking I could possibly be smarter than anyone, even people who were objectively really fucking ignorant.

As I’m sure you can guess, that horrible cycle outlined above, coupled with a feeling of isolation from the entire world, (I struggled to connect to people my own age, adults tended to talk to me like a child even younger than my actual age since I was a pretty tiny kid, and as I said, I felt like I was the only stupid member of my family so I didn’t connect with them either, add to that the fact that we moved around a lot so I would constantly lose the friends I had managed to make, and you’ve got a very lonely teenager) caused a lot of problems. I was angry most of the time, annoyed at myself, annoyed at the people around me, annoyed at my lack of direction in life, annoyed about the fact that my parents spent more time away from home than at home and still felt when they were around that they had a right to tell me what to do when they weren’t even there often enough to reliably provide groceries…

I was a highly independent child, and that only got worse as I got older. I didn’t trust anyone around me to help me with anything. When I was a toddler, on top of everything else, I was also a very picky eater. And my parents wouldn’t accommodate that, but they DID let me make my own food. So I had a choice, either eat what they gave me, go hungry,  or make my own meals. So I made my own meals. As a toddler. When I needed help with something, I couldn’t trust my family not to make me feel stupid for needing help, and that wasn’t even me misunderstanding non-verbal communication like the issues with my actual intelligence. My parents did see me as very smart, and so when I needed help with something that they thought should have been very simple for someone who understood the things I understood, they would get annoyed at me and actually imply that it was ridiculous that I needed help with it.

As I got older, it became a matter of no one actually being AROUND to ask for help. Like I said, when I was a teenager, both of my parents weren’t there most of the time. By age twelve I was basically living alone. My older sister would go stay with her friends or boyfriend, my parents had jobs that caused them to leave for long periods of time to other parts of the country, I was just left home alone for days on end, they would come home for a day or two, yell at me for drinking all the pop and not keeping the house spotless, and then leave again. I resented them a lot. But mostly what I learned from that was to never ever rely on anyone else for anything because the people who should have been there for me the most, weren’t fucking there. Even when they were there, they weren’t there. I couldn’t talk to them about my problems. They would tell me that I wasn’t allowed to be stressed or depressed until I had bills to pay. When I had bills to pay, I still wasn’t allowed to be depressed because my whole situation was all my own fault so I should just suck it up.

I make my parents sound like terrible parents, and objectively, yeah, pretty much. But they are really good people. They’re just shitty parents. I know they love me very much, and I have a great deal of respect for them as human beings, but they’d have been much happier if they’d just never had kids and instead put all the money the spent on us into doing things they always wanted to do like traveling to Australia. Instead they had kids because that’s just what people did. So please, if you’re considering having kids, have kids because you WANT KIDS, not because you think you’re SUPPOSED to have kids. Please. Or at the very least remember that kids are human beings with individual thoughts and feelings and needs.

Anyway. So yeah, because of the whole, feeling like an idiot thing, I never pursued anything I really cared about because I never believed I could do it, or if I thought I could do it, I thought it would be something that would make my family look down on me, and for some reason I still wanted their approval. So I had no long term goals, few friends, no ambition to do well in school or give any kind of shit about my health. I ended up in a university I didn’t want to go to taking courses I had no interest in while working part time at a job I hated to try and pay the bills because my parents couldn’t afford to put me through college but I also wasn’t eligible for student loans because they made too much money. I stopped going to school, I ended up working in a call center taking calls from angry old people about how much they were being ripped off by the company that I was representing, and just trying every day to find SOME reason to keep getting up in the morning.

Eventually I couldn’t take this anymore, realized my only way out was going back to school or suicide since I lived somewhere with a non-existent job market and I had few marketable skills, so I decided to at least try school first, and managed to get myself into a retraining program offered through the government through some… I didn’t lie. But I certainly bent the truth a bit. But I got out of the call center, into another school that I didn’t really want to be in preparing for another job I didn’t really want, but at least would suck less than the one I had been doing. I still had to work another shitty job I didn’t want to do to keep up with the bills because I was still somehow not eligible for student loans, but I felt hopeful that at least life would suck marginally less at the end of it all.

Then my not paying attention to my health came back to bite me in the ass.

I am going to say this with all the sincerity I can muster. If you ever have a filling fall out, GET IT REFILLED! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO NOT IGNORE THIS! IT CAN KILL YOU VERY GODDAMN QUICKLY AND PAINFULLY!

So that sucked. But then I found a job that didn’t suck! I actually enjoyed it! And I liked the people I worked with! It was wonderful! I even managed to get The Llama a job at the same company, so I was working somewhere I liked for people I liked, with my best friend, and things were looking good for the first time in my life.

It didn’t last long.

The boss I liked who really wanted to see me succeed, left. He recommended me for his job, but they ended up giving it to someone with absolutely no management experience or training, no people skills, and whose idea of motivation was to call everyone morons as loud as he could for even the tiniest of mistakes. Or when they didn’t make a mistake, they just couldn’t get what they needed to do the job because we were ill equipped and there was not a goddamn thing they could have done. And he did not like me. At all. And then Llama got pregnant and moved to another province so the good job now sucked and my best friend was hours away again, and I no longer had a bright future at that job since there was no way in hell I would ever get a promotion as long as that ass was in charge. In part because I had the gall to point out the fire hazard that indeed ended up causing a fire. So the anger that had only been starting to go away came back with a vengeance and the depression and hopelessness came back just as strong.

I grew angrier and angrier every day. I started writing about villains as a way to vent. I contemplated every day whether or not I should just drive off a cliff. Getting up every day was harder and harder. I was jumpy, I was constantly on edge, waiting for the next horrible thing to happen. I had believed wholeheartedly that this job had been the start of finally being able to enjoy life, and all of that had disappeared almost overnight. I had had a career path, now I just had a job. I had had a boss I could actually talk to and bounce ideas off of, who respected me and listened to what I had to say and acted on some of my suggestions, now I just had the stereotypical horrible boss that everyone fantasizes about getting beaten by the watercooler who I couldn’t even approach about legitimate health and safety concerns, let alone suggestions for the future of the growing company.

Even when he eventually left too, he was replaced by people who he approved of who also hated me for daring to bring up safety concerns that one time. (It really was just the once, and it was only after the overloaded wall circuit had already caused power outages.) Though I also dared to point out that they were treating their employees in a way that wasn’t acceptable. I have a bad habit of defending people even when I’m not involved, and watching employees who did nothing wrong get yelled at for ten minutes for technical issues they had no control over wasn’t something I could let go. I went to the higher ups and pointed out that the man they put in charge had anger issues that made him an unfit manager. I also made a point of cutting him off mid rant explaining what happened as point blank as possible when the person he was yelling at was just sitting there taking it. This did not win me any friends with anyone above me. I was a shit disturber. I will always be a shit disturber though. That’s not something I ever intend to change, no matter how many times it screws me over.

So my depression and anger was pretty constant and I didn’t feel like even if I made another drastic change again that I could escape it. I felt like any improvements I made to my life would just go to hell again like this job had. So I didn’t try. I gave up. I dragged myself out of bed each morning, forced myself into the office, and eventually once it settled in that all hope of every moving up was gone, I just completely half assed pretty much everything. I hit another breaking point. End it all, or try again.

I’m stubborn. I tried again.

The way I chose to look at it was that if I was going to kill myself if I stayed, and only might do it if I left, I owed it to myself to at least try the other way first. The worst case scenario was I killed myself. Which was what I was planning to do anyway. So the worst case was just delaying the plans. So I moved to the other side of the country with the help of my family (I told you they were good people. I have issues with them, but they’ve been there in their own way, it just wasn’t the way I needed them when I was young) and then went broke and caught pneumonia.

It wasn’t off to a great start.

I felt horrible in every sense of the word, went with my parents to a bar, met someone who had a potential job for me, got food poisoning from the chicken wings. While I still had pneumonia.

Anyway, despite a lot of issues cropping up, things actually did start to improve, then suck a bit again, then improve, then suck again… But there was enough good going on to keep me from dropping into the severe depression again, which allowed me to actually start working on improving my outlook on life.

This was the turning point that has allowed me to drastically alter a LOT about my emotional and physical health in the last three years.

Q&A: Love yourself

“When do you love yourself most?”

Hmmm.  I genuinely don’t know.  I’ve only in recent years stopped absolutely hating myself, so I’m not entirely certain I would say I ever actually love myself.  I have moments of inflated ego, but that generally has more to do with frustration about the people around me than genuinely thinking I’m awesome.  It’s ‘these people are so fucking stupid I’m fucking Einstein in comparison.’

Even when I do accept that I am smarter than average, I build muscle easier than most people, and there are things that I don’t suck at, it’s generally tainted by feelings of guilt for feeling like I’m better than anyone else.

I guess I feel best about myself when I’m helping someone I care about, specifically through actually useful advice.  Because I get to use my brain and help someone I love at the same time.  Two things I quite enjoy.  Which I suppose explains why despite how angry it makes me, I actually kind of enjoy the worst parts of The Host that make me have to actually think.  Engaging my brain and having to piece things together and then finding a reasonable answer makes me ridiculously happy.  I’m built to problem solve.  So when I can use that for good, it also appeals to my hyper moralism, and I can feel happy, intelligent, and useful all at the same time.

Q&A: Are you comfortable being nude?

This week’s question is an easy one for me! The question is ‘When and where have you felt most uncomfortable being nude?’  And my answer is the only place I am comfortable without at least underwear on is in the shower.  I’ll walk around my apartment without pants while I’m doing laundry, but, yeah, in general I’m never completely naked outside the bathroom.  And yes that does mean exactly what you think it means about my love life or lack there of.

shame

I’m trying to think of a way to extend this one, but I can’t without talking about something else entirely.  There’s no traumatizing story about why I don’t like to take off my clothes, there’s no wacky stories about times I got drunk and went against it, and it’s not about low self-esteem.  Though I suppose I could justify it by saying that I’ve only been living alone for a few months, prior to that I’ve always had a roommate or family around, so the odds of someone seeing me were exponentially higher.

Hmmmm…  What else is there to say?  I guess I could say that the place I would feel most uncomfortable being caught naked would be at work.  And for me that’s actually a possibility.  During the winter I work in remote areas so they set up ‘camps’ which are trailers with tiny rooms that make the 10 by 11 closet I lived in when I lived with my parents look big.  30-50 people per trailer, depending on what style rooms you get stuck in, and 2 of the 3 types of rooms, you have to share a bathroom with 1-4 other people.  95% male.  Whee.  A couple of the guys over 50 had a bad habit of walking around the halls in their long johns.  I don’t look forward to winter.

Nope

As for things that have actually happened not just possibilities, there was one night a few years ago I was getting back to my building late, I walk in through the front door, and for some reason there was a couple in the hallway blocking the stairs to my apartment.  The girl was fully clothed, but the man was bare ass naked.

Walkin awayTo this day I have no idea what they were doing.  There was an awkward silence before he pressed against her so I could walk past.  The hallway was not big enough for 3 people…  Thankfully the guy’s girlfriend was small so I got past without having to touch him.  Pretty much as soon as I got in my apartment I fell down laughing.  I was loud enough to wake up my roommate.  He came out of his room to check on me, thinking I’d gone nuts.  In my defense it was somewhere around 4 in the morning, I was tired, and not mentally prepared for that particular event.

That’s all the nudity stories I can think of.  Share your own in the comments!  And check out The Llama’s!