On the impact we’ve had on people

I remember, in first year university, I had recently been diagnosed with depression and I was working on some homework in the evening on the lawn in front of residence (Leblanc) and I saw one of the community advisors.

I’m not exactly sure how it came up. But he talked about how he left university for a semester because of depression. In that moment, I needed to hear this. I needed to hear someone else talk about depression, I needed to hear that I wasn’t alone, I needed to hear that maybe it wouldn’t always be like this.

I don’t remember if I ever thanked him…. and to be honest I don’t even remember his name. (Maybe something like J-P) (edit: found him and thanked him!)

When I left Automattic, I got inundated with messages about how I had impacted folks. It made me feel so warm and fuzzy and to this day I have those notes, along with others I’ve collected in a google doc. I’m not sure if people realize the impact those notes had / have on me. I go back and read some of them when I’m feeling down.

For myself, I’m trying to be more diligent with letting people know the impact they’ve had on me. I know how much it means to me to know the impact I’ve had on others so I’m trying to be more diligent about doing it consistently.

We’re basically plants

There’s this image that comes and goes on social media:

Image result for we're plants need water and sun meme
It seems to be from http://www.poorlydrawnlines.com/ but I can’t find the actual link to that comic

It’s silly how much of an impact sun has on me. I often don’t want to believe it you know? That all these complex emotions, thoughts, and feelings are deeply influenced from the fact that I’m in the sun or not. I often kind of diminish it’s impact, want to believe I can overcome it. But when there’s sun… It’s all just Sunshine Rainbows and Lollipops:


Having self esteem makes you a bad person.

I’ve come to realize something recently with my therapist, and that’s a strange belief I have. The thinking goes that If you believe yourself to be a good person, you’re likely to not be on guard for if you truly are. You become unaware of your actions, your thoughts, and your intentions. By thinking yourself a good person, you put in place systems that make you slowly become a bad person.

And by bad we can go with something like morally dubious, unaware, not-compassionate, toxic in relationships, manipulative, self-centered, emotionally abusive etc. It ranges from being a “Douche Bag Bro” to someone on twitter insulting or being condescending at everyone who has a different opinion.

It feels very sophomoric (seriously my favourite word recently) as a way of thinking really. It’s easy to find an example of someone with self confidence who is a good person. (for whatever metric of good you want) Just as it’s easy to find someone with no self confidence who is a bad person.

And yet, I have a hard time shaking it. Part of the problem with these kinds of thoughts is, they’ve gotten me this far, so clearly it can’t be that wrong, right? If I’m generally happy with what I’ve accomplished, why should I change. Now clearly that’s also questionable logic right there. It’s always possible to be better no matter how well our current thoughts, actions and beliefs have served us.

It’s very hard for me to admit that it might not be true in my case (As in I don’t worry about others being a good or a bad person in relation to their self esteem, this just applies to me). I’d love to have a good conclusion here, a wrap to the story, something to the effect that I’m working on it or that I’ve changed my thoughts or some shit like that. But I haven’t, at least not yet. But I do know what the problem is.

Emo Songs

I think I was very emo in my teens / early 20s. I don’t recall that being a term at the time. But then again, vocabulary was never my (or rural Manitoba’s) strong suit. Regardless, I find some songs and music bring me back to that time. Not necessarily in a “I’m back in depression when I hear these songs” kinda way (although that has been the case in the past and I’m sure if I listen to too much of them it would happen). But rather in a I appreciate my past kind of way.

After posting a few of them I almost feel like they could each have context attached to them…. Maybe one day I’ll repost them one at a time and give a short explanation (Yes, there’s a lot of Radiohead).

How Am I Not Myself?

My second favourite movie is I heart Huckabees (First is Memento). It bills itself as an existential comedy, which you know, fits my genre. It explores some of the absurdities with life, meaning and nihilism. One great line in it is when Lily Thomas’s character asks

“What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?”

I heart Huckabees

And the answer Judd Law’s character gives helped me with a big struggle I had with my mental health.

For many years I worried greatly about how my behaviour changed when taking my meds. I wasn’t as pessimistic, I didn’t ruminate as much, I didn’t spend as much time thinking about how the world is fucked. I struggled with it because there’s an easy trope to fall into and it’s of the tortured genius. It’s easy to point to great thinkers in the past who were tormented.

There’s also a bunch of folks online who think taking meds and “fighting” their mental health struggles makes them sheep. It’s easy to think this. Just think of Brave New World, 1984, and most dystopian books. The thinking is that if you move your focus away from everything that’s broken, if you don’t stay focused on the wrongs on the world, on the flaws of humanity, you can’t solve the problem.

It’s a very appealing theory. It means that all that suffering you’re doing, is not in vain. You’re not wrong to feel this way. It justifies the pain, both the past pain and the present pain. It means all that time I suffered wasn’t my fault for not changing myself, it’s everyone else who is too weak to sit with the darkness.

I’m not even sure who, but I think it was an aunt who, when I was 17-18, gave me a quote from George Bernard Shaw.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”.

George Bernard Shaw

When Judd law is asked “What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?” he answers

“How am I not myself?”

I Heart Huckabees

Both existential detectives then keep repeating and pondering “How am I not myself?”

And once it sinks in, once you realize the absurdity of saying or even asking if you’re not yourself you in a sense free yourself from all expectations.
You cannot be anything but yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be pleased with yourself. That you can’t improve yourself. Just that there is no need to worry if you’re yourself. Because you can’t be anyone but yourself.

(And yes, this means that, even given the good intentions, I’m not a huge fan of the “not myself” mental health campaign which implies that you can or should be someone different.)

Meta Blogging Thoughts, Memory and Song Lyrics

One thing I struggle with these blog posts is that I have a tendency to ramble on. The post on memory really could of gone in multiple direction. What got me thinking on the topic is actually that I couldn’t find the song with the lyrics I had in my head which were “And I wonder if you think of me too”

I’m figured out that the beat I had in my mind was from:

I think the part I was humming was “I don’t know if you feel the same as I do”. Really there are many parts in the song that are very close and it would easily fit in with the rest of the song.

Regardless, while writing the post on memory I was like… no one gives a shit about me humming the wrong lyrics. I should write something (put on monocle) erudite (a word for smart you’d in academia).

So then I was like, I can link it to the hypocrisy post. Or wait! I can link it about how we create our past selves and we fabricate a past that will justify our actions and somehow slide in that everyone needs to watch Memento. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen it, it’s my favourite movie of all time.

I think part of the problem causing this is that I somehow feel an obligation to have good content here. But I’m not exactly sure why…. For my 30 followers? For the 12 people who read the posts? It’s not like I’m trying to become an influencer or build my mailing list or something. It’s just legit random thoughts…. And yet…

On Memory

Memory is a tricky thing. What we “remember” is often shaped and malleable. And most people recognize or understand this in the abstract. They’ve seen a TED talk about it or something.

But in the moment, in each specific moment, people I talk to are almost always certain that this current memory is accurate, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Maybe it’s an adaptation. I mean, questioning everything you think and believe all the time is a quick path to stress and mental health issues. I should know since that’s a bit how my generalized anxiety manifests itself. But should we not try to be less certain? Should we not always keep the possibility of being wrong (in terms of memory and in general)?

It’s going to be okay

With my recent post on anxiety many people have reached out and expressed support and, in a sense their concerns. While I really appreciate the support, I think people are used to folks talking publicly about mental health only when everything is on fire.

What people assume when you talk about mental health publicly

Part of the goal of that blog post was to really normalize that ya, things aren’t great and that’s why I’m doing something to make it better.

I think of it as I’m going to the physio. Ya, my shoulder is kinda sore. I’m not sure why, maybe I’m doing some exercises wrong or I can improve my form, or even more likely I need to work on my core strength.

My shoulder isn’t dislocated, it’s nor torn off or anything, but I’m still going to go see someone for help. I shouldn’t wait until I shoulder falls off before getting help for it and I see it as the same for mental health.

All that to say, I appreciate the concerns and the support, but you don’t have to be worried :). Rather let’s just all talk about when we need to go to the physio for our mental health.

(Seriously, I’m going to the physio for my shoulder… Not sure what I’m doing, but it’s not feeling great… I’d of made a blog post about it, but I don’t think people would be that interested)

On Generalized Anxiety

I often talk about my struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a thing of the past. Something I struggled with, something I developed coping mechanisms and that I now just kinda pass as a normal person.

Recently it’s come back, I’m not sure what’s triggered it, perhaps the combination of a new job and a new relationship. Either way it’s interesting to be reminded how debilitating and kinda ridiculous it can get.

I think I’m still starting from a better spot since I’ve been able to keep things to a day and not spiral into multi-day or multi-week affairs. And even then, compared to some of my past events, these are not as acute.

It doesn’t change the fact that I had a day where I somehow changed my thoughts via a few hours of brooding and negative thought patterns on a topic I was earlier pretty convinced. It kind of threw people for a loop and while talking about it later, Nicole made me realize it was part of a pattern of recent events where I let my anxiety take over and make decisions that I feel help me become in control of the situation.

The work ones are interesting because, it doesn’t seem to have much in terms of evidence to support my anxiety. Everything seems to be going well, I haven’t had any negative feedback and, au contraire, I’ve had many positive feedback. Yet, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’ll be exposed as a mediocre programmer.

I’m going to go see a counselor shortly, something I haven’t done in many years. Recently I just see my psychiatrist once a year since things have been pretty steady. I decided not to go see her first since I feel like this is something I can tackle by changing my thought patterns.

As they say (okay, maybe I’m the only one who says it), perception is everything.