Life — 2020 Changes

I’ll probably do a more articulated post along these lines next month, but I’m creating a primordial gameplan for how I’m going to turn my life around next year. I have all the thread, I just need to weave everything together.

Mostly, the idea is I need to spend more time loving and less time dwelling in apathy. This primarily is pointed towards me, but it needs to be projected onto others as well. The less I do things “just because” and more because “I want to”, the better I will feel (I hope).

This comes from two philosophies squished together. One I made up as one of the major themes of the Lisa Stenton screenplay, and another I read online. The online quote could be summarized as follows.

“Stop telling yourself what you should do. Instead tell yourself how you feel when you do something. The word ‘should’ implicates you, doesn’t inspire action, and perpetuates guild. Instead of saying ‘I should go to the gym’, say ‘I like how I feel after I go to the gym’.”

I’ve been using this philosophy in regards to waking up early, and it has helped a lot. The quote that I made up is very similar, but not exactly the same.

When faced with a crossroads, ask yourself what your ideal version of yourself would do in that situation. Not the perfect you that has never struggled or the pure you that can do no wrong. The you that is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. What would they do? Try to do what that ideal you would do, and if you can’t, get as close as possible. The better those strides, the closer you will be to achieving your ideal you.

I’m tired of looking at myself in the mirror or seeing pictures of myself and seeing somebody I don’t like. For the longest time I’ve been playing the game just to get by, and this year, I almost lost everything because of my carelessness.

It’s tough for me, because my ideal Kollin is extroverted. He loves hanging out with people and makes everyone around him hum with excitement. He makes everyone feel loved and respected and never fails to improve somebody’s day. I’ve met people like that, and I want to emulate them. But I can’t. The actual Kollin is so irrevocably introverted that I am often too polite to tell somebody I need to pee if they won’t stop talking.

But I think recognizing the changes I want to be making is the first step to being somebody different. Somebody that I can respect. I may be pretty intuitive and nice, but those aren’t traits I fought for, they just happened. For as great as I thought I was because of them, I no longer feel like I have anything I’ve truly had to work for.

I’ve been trying to embody these thoughts now, but for certain I plan for them to be actionable by the time the new year hits. Because my current biggest fear is falling back into the pit of depression October and November sucked me into. I’m not out of it yet, but I’m no longer digging myself deeper.

Me — December ’19 Monthly Update

So. I’ll just say it. As far as my mental health goes, October and November 2019 put me in the worst state I’ve ever been in. I experienced lots of emotions I didn’t know I was capable of, and, well, it was rough. Only two people have any idea how bad it got, and not even they know the true extent. Luckily now, nobody has to know.

I felt like I was actively drowning and that in my flailing to grab anything—anyone—I would merely drag them down with me. I almost lost a very important battle before I even realized I was at war. I learned some things, but most terrifying of all was that it came and went with no specific warning or trigger, and with that knowledge comes the fear that it could strike again. I think the worst is over, but since I don’t know how it happened, I also don’t know what I can do to prevent it in the future. Either way I’m glad it’s behind me. I just wanted to let you know why I was so vacant last month. I’m still in recovery.

And so, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I’m still going to do my best to update once a month. I have some story ideas and some blog posts I’d like to share, which doesn’t happen a whole lot. Maybe next year I’ll have more to talk about, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m actually going to take the blog off the monthly updates, as the cadence of once a week has suited me well for several months now.

I’m still chugging away at the same writing projects. My Lisa Stenton screenplay has finished a preliminary second draft (though I still need to make a few passes to “finish” it as a full draft), and I’m probably going to put that on the shelf soon. I still don’t really like it, even with all the changes I’ve made from the first draft. There’s something about the world of Lisa Stenton that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the magic system (or lack thereof) and how the supernatural ties to it. It’s the only thing that has ever held me back from writing more of that story, and the only reason this screenplay kind of works is because it has very little actual magic.

Other than that, the second anthology is probably not going to be published until the beginning of next year at this rate. With all that’s happened, I feel like I’ve lost a month and a half of writing time, but it is what it is.

Work has been fine. I’m not going to share details, but we’ve actually had several strong months in a row, as far as sales go, which is increasing morale and making the whole atmosphere a lot easier to bear.

Not much to say about school, but I only have a few classes left before I finish… maybe forever. That hadn’t occurred to me until I just wrote that. These next couple class sessions might be the last time I’m in that environment period. At least for a long while. Huh. By this time next month I will hopefully be sitting pretty on two AA degrees.

D&D has been going great. We’re almost closing what I’m calling Chapter Three of the Knights of Fire campaign. (The only one of five that I am not the DM for.) We’ll be taking a break from that for a couple of months to play in another short campaign before we resume with this story and, by extension, my role as dungeon master. I’ve already got the juices flowing as to How Chapter Four will start and what the main story beats will be.

I’ve been devoting the vast majority of my time playing WoW: Classic still, and let me tell you, in the last month, our guild has become a family. I can’t put it into words in a concise manner, but… I love the feeling that I’m part of a team and that people are talking about me when I’m not around. That’s part of my goal for regaining the sanity I lost in October and November. I’m planting the seeds that will make me feel like I’m important to people. I wouldn’t say I feel like I’m an essential part of the crew, but… I hope I will be in time.

Not much to say about listening. I’m keeping pace with Critical Role as well as I can, and that’s about it.

Not much else to say.

Poem? — Maw

We all seek refuge.

Refuge from the storm that rages outside.

Outside, there is nothing but howling.

Howling. Yes. But worse still is that most call it home.

Home is where we find Ourselves… and for those that are lost, well…

Well. We don’t all make it.

It is tragic, then, that this cave we have found… Can we really call it a cave?

‘Cave’ often implies some shelter. But this place… It provides none.

None would ever live here willingly, yet few that do ever leave.

“Leave?” they ask. “But there is comfort in suffering. And that storm outside rages on.”

On moist beds, they sleep. Telling themselves that things simply are the way they are.

Are they blind? These stalagmites aren’t rock. They are made of bone. They are… Teeth.

Teeth that hiss with hunger. It hungers for our flesh.

Flesh is no shield to the maw of this leviathan. And its thirst is eternal.

Eternal… Like the war it wages with that storm. Who is to blame for more lives lost?

Lost souls end up here not by choice. But the end comes for us all.

All who find themselves here reach a truth, though.

Though the storm is less lethal, the maw is a quick, painless death.

…And who are we to deny its embrace?

Me — November ’19 Monthly Update

Greetings! So. A lot has happened since my last monthly update. I visited the Pacific Northwest for the second time, went to BlizzCon 2019, started compiling stuff for a new project, and well, we’ll get to all that.

As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

No blog changes again. To be honest, I’ve attained a bad habit of not writing any posts until Monday night when I would prefer to be in bed. No forward planning at all at the moment!

My writing has been a bit crazy lately. I’m converting my Lisa Stenton play into a screenplay, editing some stuff for the passion project (which has been on hold for a month while we recover from firing on all cylinders for months on end), and putting together Anthology #2. That last one is the lowest priority, and I’m growing increasingly concern that I’m not going to even start making those final edits until late December. If that’s the case, it probably won’t see publication until January at the earliest. Still, I can’t be too upset at myself because I am working on arguably more important things.

I’m still hard at work at the same old job, though things have been looking up lately! We beat our sales goal for the third month in a row, and the owner has been a lot more cheerful and easier to get along with lately. I don’t know if those two things are directly correlated, but I actually suspect it’s a coincidence. Either way, though, I’m not complaining. Happy boss, happy life? Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

School has been fine. No news on that end, though I will say I don’t think that anyone I’ve met this semester will end up being a long term friend. Bummer, but same old same old.

D&D has been fun. We just hit level 9 and completed a little mini arc. I’m very excited for the things to come, but in the meantime I’m simply enjoying what we already have.

Still chugging away playing World of Warcraft. I haven’t been playing Spyro as much anymore, as it is pretty repetitive, but it’s still something I think about almost every day.

As far as listening goes, I’ve got lots to catch up on. I have 3 episodes of Critical Role, one episode of their offshoot game Deadwood, and practically all of the BlizzCon panels, as we only watched one live while we were there.

I may or may not provide a more detailed account of my BlizzCon experience down the road. I still haven’t written a post about my second Portland trip, but that is also on my list.

I also want to just throw out there that, overall, October was hard for me, mentally speaking. There were days where I was hit with a type of depression I had never experienced before—the kind that is dangerous. I think the worst is behind me, but I’m certainly not out of the woods yet. I just wanted to say that things aren’t really getting easier for me. I don’t know if it seems that way or not because I’m on the inside looking out, but, well, here we are. Some days (or weeks) are just easier than others. This last week was easy. We’ll see about the next one.

Stay safe out there.

Me —Getting Some Thoughts on Paper.

Let me start by saying this is going to be pretty raw. I think about stuff a lot, and I consider myself to be pretty introspective, but I came across something that made me rethink a lot of who I am and how I feel about things. After nearly 48 hours, my morale has only depleted. That said, I have no doubt that two weeks from now, I will have redefined, recategorized, and reorganized my headspace in a way that I’m comfortable with. But for now, here’s the things I’m struggling with.

As I define it right now, I can count on one hand the amount of times that somebody has shown me true affection in a way that has genuinely, emotionally affected me.

That number is three, and two of those people I no longer speak to (for no reason other than the passage of time). Those people were, ostensibly, the only people that have ever really listened to me and understood me in a way I could express.

This comes as a catalyst to a lot of my negative thoughts this year regarding every relationship I have with others. I don’t feel like anyone loves me, which I know is stupid, because obviously my family loves me, as I have (virtually) always had a good relationship with all of them. But in some way I can’t put in to words, their love feels more obligatory than it does… real. We love each other in the way that we have to, not in a way that has meaning.

I think this points to why I must be the best at everything. My family spent so much time being so big that the only thing that made me noticeable was that I was smart and good at everything. That became my defining characteristic. It became who I was, and, unfortunately, who I continue to be. I’m beginning to think that my need to be the best at everything is because praise is the closest thing to affection I can really receive. I don’t know if this makes my peers think I am above their affection, but lately… praise isn’t enough. Being the best and being told I am the best is… the minimum for me, now.

If I don’t know something on Warcraft, I will look it up myself before I admit my ignorance to strangers, who could easily (and happily) teach me in a fraction of the time. You can imagine how this translates to real life.

I’ve spent all my life trying to feel wanted, and I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt that, even for an instant. That isn’t to say that I feel unwanted, just that my existence is arbitrary. That people’s lives would realistically be no different if I had never existed at all. (Disclaimer: I am not suicidal, and even on the worst days of my life when I had gotten to that point, my fear of hurting those around me was too great a deterrent for me to seriously consider anything so drastic.)

And so, 48 hours later, I’m at a loss. I don’t know if it’s my attitude that needs to change, or if it’s my personality. Perhaps it’s both. All I know is, the person I’ve identified the most with in any media was killed off because her one and only wish of being loved came true and her purpose in the plot was therefore fulfilled.

Rant over. Don’t let my bad day ruin yours. Pet a cat for me.

Me — I Will Become… Pt. 2

Nearly three and a half years ago, I started The Daily Dose of Derailment. I did it for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost on that list was the fact that I was depressed. This was partially because I considered myself a writer, but didn’t write, and so the blog was one of many aspects about myself that I changed in those weeks. It helped a tremendous amount, and I’m still happy I took that first step. I never would have imagined the traction it would have gotten in that amount of time (though that is not and has never been the point of it), and I love that I can very easily see how much I—and this blog—have grown.

If you’re interested, here is the fist blog post I ever wrote. I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep myself from cringing a bit as I read it. That’s good though, it proves growth. (The fact that I’ve since changed websites and the formatting has been screwed up does me no favors here, either.)

Having noticed that 6 out of 10 of my most recent posts have been indirectly (or directly) related to my recent depression, I feel that it’s time to revamp. Just like I did over three years ago. I need to re-calibrate, and hopefully some good will come of it.

The last two months I have not had the willpower to make myself happy. I’ve just been allowing myself to be emotionally unstable because it has been so much easier than the alternative.

That ends today.

As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to put together a list of some things I need to do—all of the things that will bother me during the week if I waste my Saturday and Sunday knowing I had time to work on them. In a sense, I’m throwing away the weekend by not allowing myself to relax. But I need to lay the foundation for a better tomorrow if I want every day to stop sucking. (As I’ve said before, every action I’ve been taking has been with the mindset of mitigating depression rather than maximizing enjoyment.)

This means no more late blog posts—especially when there’s no reason for them to be late—and no more procrastination. If I can’t be serious about pulling myself together, I’m in big trouble, so I have to be serious.

If you actually read any of the past few weeks of posts, allow me to apologize! I can’t imagine there was anything worthwhile in any of those, but I’m certainly not going back to check.

For those interested, one of the action items on my list is to make a list of quotes that I will start using to keep me going. I already have the list, I just need to print it out and put it on a frame on my desk so that I stay on track. I think that list of quotes is a great thing to send you off with (with no attributions as I’ve reworded many of them to be simpler than they were). And, as I hope mine will be, may your tomorrow be better than today was.

“Follow your path.”

“If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

“It doesn’t get easier. You get better.”

“What easy thing can be done now to free up time later?”

“Don’t break your back for somebody who won’t see your pain.”

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Me — Playing Life on Damage Control

At risk of taking an even more intimate look at my psyche as I have been writing on my blog lately, I need to vent a bit. Again. So read at your own risk.

At the onset of even more bad news, I’ve been starting to seriously look at how I could possibly make the changes I need. I feel like at a certain point, the depression becomes my identity, and when it gets as bad as it is right now, nothing makes me feel better, I can only do things that don’t make me feel worse. Life becomes a game of damage control and mitigation in the hopes that each day is as not-terrible as it could possibly be.

Every conversation I have ends up being about staving off the sadness, and every thing I decide to do is carefully chosen with the intent of distraction and suppression. I start to seriously consider whether or not I would really care if I got hit by a car or if that headache suddenly turned out to be cancer, (being bedridden for months would remove a lot of options and choice, and the self-loathing that comes with them) and when I decide I would care, it’s because I couldn’t even begin to afford the hospital bills that would cost.

Now, my thoughts haven’t strayed towards action, and I don’t expect they ever will, but it can be hard to gauge just how bad of an emotional state I’m in because for all I know, this is just what life is and everyone else is just more well-equipped for it. I’m inclined to think that this isn’t the case, but you never know.

I have little doubt that my depression is worse than it was in January, and if I have any hope of being okay now rather than later, I need to make some drastic life decisions. As I’ve talked about before, I intend to move out of California, and my current plan has been to start that process next January/February. The reason that I’m not looking now is because I have one more semester of school left, I want to help get my passion project off the ground (which, admittedly, wouldn’t be much harder if I moved), I’m sort of waiting for a suitable replacement at work (though I’m not wouldn’t hold out for that—plus the idea of looking for new work breaks me a little bit), and I want to find a good conclusion to the D&D campaign I’m running. That last one is kind of important to me, and though my brothers and I could play over voice chat, I feel it would take a lot of the fun out of the game, because we’ve only ever played D&D on a table with character sheets and miniatures. Plus, I really hate it when campaigns don’t get closure, as is often the case.

But what if none of that really matters? What if I started packing my things right now and moved next month? Would I start healing right now? Would that be the right choice in the long run? I’m very aware that given the grand scheme of things, none of the things I’m holding out for really matter all that much, but I like to have a game plan, and throwing out the next few months of plans worries me.

Still, spontaneously going on a three hour walk because you can’t get out of your own head and almost crying in public while you’re listening to All You Need is Love also worries me. To me, that is a very clear indication that Kollin’s normal mental functions are failing.

I’ve found a quote about a week ago that really struck a chord with me.

“It doesn’t get easier. You get better.”

Strange how words can have the power to soothe and terrify at the same time. They say it gets worse before it gets better, so maybe my best course of action here is simply to assume that life isn’t done yet.

Me — Daily Happiness Tracker

So, I’ve been using a happiness tracker that a guy named Hugo started, as it is not just a pile of data (like most other ones I’ve used), but rather it turns that data into graphs and helps visualize your life in ways you can understand and digest. I’m not going to explain how it works, as you can just use that link to read up on his (very long) blog post. Instead, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned from it.

First things first, when you rate how good a day was on a scale of 1-10, I’ve noticed that it tends to be a bell curve. For me, my average day is a 7. I’ve had multiple conversations with people trying to explain why the average is 7 and not 5, but honestly it boils down to semantics, I guess, except that the American education system says that 70%, a C, is an average score.

Most of my days are 7s, with a good number of 6.5s and 7.5s. I realized that I had actually been doing a great job, all things considered. I’ve been keeping track of my numbers since March, and while I had good days and bad days, things tended to be pretty consistent, and it got easy to predict how good my day would be based on the things that I did.

But then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Three weeks ago, my daily average went from ~7.3 all the way down to 5.8. The last time my depression had been this bad was at the end of January, and I had spent all the time in between building my stability back up. I felt like all that work had been thrown at the window.

Happiness Chart

You can clearly see things drastically change near the second week of June.

It’s still affecting me in very obvious ways, and I won’t pretend things are different, but this time around I tried to take action immediately. I do not want to spend another six months using excessive busy work as a coping mechanism again. So, I reached out to a few people, and with the help of some sage advice, some personal daily routine changes, and a little bit of providence in the form of that dream I mentioned a bit ago all came together to put me back on track. My daily average is roughly 6.7 at the moment, so I’m already about halfway back to where I used to be a month ago, despite even more trials life has been throwing my way in the meantime.

The worst part about my depression is that when it’s at its worst, I feel like it’s the only thing I ever talk about, and the same is true whether I’m writing blog posts or talking to friends, or even in my own headspace—it’s almost inescapable.

But this chart—this chart shows me that I did a great job bouncing back. I feel like all of those good days since “the fall” were exceptions to the rule, and not the standard, but hey, if I can make a habit of what feels like abnormally good days, even if those days were the standard when I was better, I’m clearly making progress.

Me — Rebuilding Stability

Last week was rough. Without question, it was the hardest set of days to get through in several months, and it rivaled the month-long rut I got caught in in January. I had spent most of this year building myself and being okay with who I am and the position in life I’m in (while acknowledging the steps forward I’m taking), and I was doing great.

I have a daily happiness tracker that I’ve been keeping since March, and on a scale of 1-10, I’m happy to say I’ve had a bell curve peaking at 7. To me, that’s pretty solid. A passing grade, could be better, could be worse. (70% is average because of the American education system, think of that what you will.)

But a combination of things happened last week, and that score plummeted. My weekly average went from 7.07 to 5.82. My mental health has obviously taken a huge hit, and I’m afraid it’s going to take me quite a few months to build it back up to where it was.

It’s a shame, because I was doing so well. I was writing consistently, doing weekly prep for my D&D campaign, working full time, etc. I was even making efforts to be more social and getting up at 5am just to get even more work done.

Now I’m back to the rut of going to bed at midnight, struggling to get up for work, and then not having the willpower to do anything when I get home at 5-6. That’s primarily why the blog has been struggling the past few weeks. Sometimes I’ll forget to write a post entirely, but other times I’ll just put it off indefinitely (like last Saturday).

I know what I need, and I’m taking steps towards it. Different steps I’ve never taken to fix my problems, which I feel is a good sign. The problem is to muster the willpower to take those steps when every free moment I have makes me want to just play games mindlessly the rest of the night. But I know this will only perpetuate the problem.

What I don’t want to do is turn the blog into a mindless vomit of words of me complaining about my problems. That’s part of the reason why I’m being vague here. The primary purpose of this blog is and has always been simply to force myself to write more about my thoughts and experiences. That way I can be more comfortable with words while also allowing me to easily look at my past and reflect on who I once was, and I can’t do that if I never include anything personal here.

I know that my life will never be 10/10 every day, but I’m working towards increasing my weekly averages. Right now the goal is to get back up to 7, which I imagine will take a while, and then after that maybe try pushing it to 7.5 or even 8?

I want to live life to the fullest. The current me is not capable of really enjoying it, but he’s doing what he can to allow future me to do so.

Life — Making Your Own Happiness

In my experience, there’s a certain type of depression/sadness that a lot of people have. It’s a very common affliction I like to call (as of right now) apathetic depression. It is the primary symptom of a state of life that is suboptimal for reasons that don’t appear to be your own. Your life sucks because you hate your job, you hate your family, you have no idea where your life is headed, etc. None of these things are your fault, so you just live day in and day out moping over how you drew the short stick when you were born.

I think there are people out there who drew the short stick, but you aren’t one of them.

The trap that a lot of people fall in is being comfortable in their contempt. It’s easy. Why blame yourself for the professional career you hate when you can just write it off by saying you have no other options? (It’s like in video games: nobody wants to blame themselves for their team losing; they will always point to somebody else first.)

Being happy sucks.

I say that because it’s not what people think it is. It’s not a magical state of mind that suddenly transpires when you get a raise or when you enter a committed relationship. Good events are easily overshadowed by that wall of the uncontrollable misfourtunes of life, because while it seems that good events are rare, misfortunes are constant and ever present.

But anyone can be happy, despite any misfortune and any life circumstance. I won’t pretend it’s easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But it is simple. In fact, you’ll probably nod to yourself and think “Wow, that was really deep, Kollin” as soon as I tell you the trick. (Or maybe you’ll just think I’m an idiot pretending to be philosophical, which wouldn’t be far from the truth.) The key to happiness is something you’ve already heard many times in many different ways from different inspirational quotes. But the inspirational quotes are just flowery ways of mystifying the truth right in front of our eyes. Ready?

Being happy is just a matter of putting in the effort to be happy. It means getting up in the morning finding ways to get excited for work instead of hitting the ‘Snooze’ button as many times as you can get away with. It means preparing for your future (near or far) instead of rewarding yourself for things you already had to do. It means taking steps to forgive and love yourself rather than dwelling on things you can’t change.

Most inspirational quotes are just an indirect way of saying that being happy is like going to the gym. It’s not easy. It’s a ton of work. Very few people want to go to the gym, they just want the results. It’s the same thing with happiness. It’s so much easier to dwell in misery because misery requires no action on your part. It’s also like the gym in that the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more you can lift.

Treating yourself to Starbucks before or after work isn’t going to make you happier. That’s a mental lie you tell yourself that will actually just perpetuate the problem. Caffeine addicts aside, you don’t (really) need anything but to commit to a personal promise that you’ll think about things with more positivity, and take action to ensure your days are better.

It’s hard, and you might need the help from friends and family to make that effort, but it is worth it.