Anxiety: It’s a War

I’ve been silent lately, on this blog.  I guess I’ve had many things on my mind, good and bad.

There’s the good:

– I’m writing songs feverishly while riding the bus… and yesterday I got a great intro to a song going.  My style is advancing beyond what it was before.

– My family circumstances have changed as such, that I am enjoying my family more than I have in several years.  It’s too personal to write here, but I just want to say that our family is having good times these days.  Which is very important to me.

– I am settled in at my job, and am no longer *fresh* and *new.”  I have organized my files and documents well, and have developed a whole system that is very streamlined and efficient.  My colleagues appreciate me for this as well.

And then… the bad.  Well… there’s just 1 “bad.”  It is…

I keep thinking I’m fat.  Whenever I look in the mirror, I just see the rolls of fat.  My arms.  My stomach.  Legs.  I used to weigh myself every day with enthusiasm.  Now I do it with a bit of terror.  I do it so that I can make sure I don’t eat too much.

People say that I’m thin.  I know that I’m healthy.  My BMI’s about 22.  But I see those people in the workout videos with shredded muscles, and I worry.  I worry that I will go back to being borderline obese, like I was 3.5 years ago.  Rationally, I know that I will not.  My eating habits are so ingrained, that I never crave garbage.  Yesterday was a cheat day… ish?  I had about 6 pita chips and about 6 pieces of cheddar popcorn.  I don’t usually eat bread.

People say I sound obsessive.  I guess I do.  They usually will respond with a “Hey, you look great!” or “Wow, I’m really worried about you.  I wish you’d stop obsessing.”  I know that they care, but it just bothers me further.  Because when people say this, the only thing it tells me to do is SHUT UP.

I mean, let’s say I did stop obsessing.  I wouldn’t really have a need to talk to anyone about my eating anymore.  And if I don’t talk about it anymore, people assume that I don’t have the problem anymore.  So… basically, I can make people feel better if I just shut up.  Because if I don’t talk about it, I don’t have the problem, right?  And if people don’t think I have the problem anymore, then I don’t, right?

You see where I’m going.

That’s what stigma is.  It’s a big “SHUT UP.”  I mean, I know my friends care about me.  But we have to also understand something else.  If a person is complaining to you about their symptoms, or if a person is being “symptomatic” around you… you shouldn’t shut them down.  You should be GLAD.  Because…

They’re communicating.  To YOU.

If someone with an eating disorder is lamenting to you about being fat, be glad.  Be glad that he is talking to you about it, instead of holding his thoughts in.  Be glad, that she is sharing her thoughts with you.  Because even if her thoughts are “symptomatic”… it doesn’t matter.  They’re still HER thoughts, and they’re still just as valuable as yours or anyone else who is “healthy.”

I know that I have underlying issues with eating.  I freak a lot about it.  But do know, I’m not a skeleton, and I’m not starving myself.  My BMI is around 22, I eat fruits, veggies, lean meats, beans and nuts.  And I always have my coffee with skim milk and no sugar, etc.

Then again… I had 3 cans of beans 2 nights ago, and I’m STILL getting gas pains.  Maybe I have a bingeing disorder?  My rationale for eating the beans was that I was terribly dehydrated and sun-sick.  My meds make me very weak in the sun.  I felt a lot better after eating the beans, and I read that they have electrolytes.

See, this is what I freak about.  Stuff like that.

I guess… I am just in a state of disbelief.  Like, doctors say that, if you eat xyz, and if you exercise abc amount of time, n times per week, you will lose weight, or gain muscle, or whatever.  But… I just don’t believe it.

Why don’t I believe?  Because… well… it just goes back to the mental illness thing.  For me… it goes back to my college years, in music conservatory.  I was in the practice room, with my viola in hand, my music on the stand… and delusions, haunting me.  But it didn’t feel like delusions.  It was just me.  I’ve always had them.  But… no matter how hard I tried to get better at my instrument, I didn’t improve.  I saw my colleagues improving, but I didn’t.

It’s complicated.  Maybe I wasn’t talented.  Or maybe I didn’t try hard enough.  Or maybe I wasn’t taking the right meds?  That’s probably it… but it doesn’t matter!  The thing is, some people work really hard and are rewarded, and then other people work just as hard, and they’re not rewarded.

Like sports.  Some kids are good at it naturally, others aren’t.  Or learning disabilities.  Or any disability.  I mean… if you’re blind, and can’t see… no matter how hard you try to read a book that’s not in braille… you’re never going to read it!

That’s what it feels like with food and weight with me.  I know that the scientists say that if you do bla-di-blah, you’ll be healthy and in the clear.  But I don’t believe it.  Because… maybe it’s not meant for everyone?  I guess that’s what they call genetics.

I mean I’m really complaining like a princess here.  Many people say that I’m very beautiful and have a body to kill for.  But… I’m writing this anyway.  I’m writing it because this is a real insecurity that billions of people have.  It’s an insecurity have too.

What it boils down to is… even if you do everything in your power to be healthy, your health is not 100% guaranteed.  I’ve heard of athletes in their prime dying of brain aneurysms and heart attacks.  What did they do wrong?  Things like this make me think that the war is never over.

That’s right.  War.  The mind, struggling to have control over what I eat and what I look like… it’s a war.  I’m fighting on both sides, body against mind… and yet I feel like I’m losing.  How can I lose a war if I’m the prime general on both sides?

Such is anxiety.  Such is disordered eating.  Such is mental illness.  Such is worry.

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I Copyrighted My Songs!

I copyrighted my songs today!

For years… too many years… making music felt like pulling teeth.  Even as a young violinist… age 10.  All of a sudden, depression weighed itself down on my neck like a lodestone, and I, young and inarticulate, fell into despair.

Since then, music was my kryptonite.  Quit for a couple of years in high school, resumed.  College, burnout, psychosis.  Quit.  Started teaching violin.  Started writing songs.  Psychosis.  Quit violin.  Quit writing.

And now…

Renaissance.

Or rather…

What it always should have been.

It always should have been me, carrying a notebook of staff paper, scrawling ideas in pencil while riding the bus.  It always should have been me, practicing on my guitar, noodling around just for the sake of noodling.

For far too long, music has been a means to an end.  A competition.  Such it was as a classical musician.  Never practicing, except before orchestral auditions.  “Winning” first chair.  “Winning” scholarships.  “Winning” the favor of the private teacher, who would “reward” me with the words, “Let’s start a new piece.”

I was zealous, but soon became disenchanted.  Classical music only goes so far.  You have to sort of be an uncreative type, ultimately, to thrive in that business.  Because…

You’re playing 200-year-old covers!  And you’re not even improvising or changing anything!

It would frustrate me, in my lessons, how teachers would say, “Play this part playfully.”  I would think, playfully?  Who cares?

I’ve said this before: playing music is much like typing on a computer.  You put your fingers down at the right times, and the music comes out.  As for “expression,” that is purely up to the chance of motor skills.  The aptitude of the player.

This topic is boring.

I am much happier, musically, when I write my own shit.  I realize that I’m a good writer too.  I don’t have to have the approval from any professor or whatever.  I can just be myself.  You couldn’t pay me to play in an orchestra ever again.  Last time I tried, in 2008, I was literally FALLING ASLEEP during rehearsals.  It worked even better than Clozapine.  DAMN.

Anyway, now that I’ve copyrighted my songs, I will share one with you:

Muse: a song

I play this one often, as a sort of meditation.  It makes me feel grounded and centered.  It also makes me feel good about myself as a writer of music.  I have to acknowledge the fact that, when I write, or get inspiration… I can’t take credit for it.  It comes from elsewhere.

That idea could go further, but I prefer not to travel down that road for now.  Let’s just listen and enjoy.

🙂

9th Annual Peer Specialists Conference in NYC

Yesterday was a great day.  I attended a peer specialist conference at the Kimmel Center at NYU, in Manhattan.  I have been to a couple of peer conferences before, so it was very nice to see familiar faces.  And to catch up with these faces too 🙂

I have to admit, that lately, I have been feeling very tired.  Working as a peer specialist is a hard job that requires a lot of patience and endurance, I’ve learned.  Our clients open up to us, and they really appreciate that we can understand them.  After working at my agency for several months, many of the clients have taken a strong liking to me.

I feel it too.  When I disclose my illness to my clients, they see that I’m for real.  When I introduce myself, I’ll say, “Hi, I’m Neesa, the peer specialist.  A peer means that I have a mental illness disability, so I know where you’re coming from.”  And just after that one sentence, I feel like the client opens up.

Being a peer is more than just saying that sentence.  It’s about being “real.”  And I think… I think my clients can sense that I’m being real.  Because no matter how “sick” we might be, I believe that most of us have a sense of intuiton that works just fine.  We can sniff fakeness just like anyone else.

Anyway… back to the conference.

It was enjoyable.  The conference opened with a slide show that showed faces of people that have been pivotal in the peer movement… that is what it seemed to me.  Some I knew, others I didn’t.  Many were people I’ve never formally met, but were faces I recognized.  Such is the New York peer specialist community.  We’re a small (-ish) gang.

Following was a talk by keynote speaker, Keris Jän Myrick.  She broke the ice by earnestly shard her story.  It amazes me how each one of us has a wealth of experiences that are both horrific and compelling.  It makes me realize that, when you have a room of several hundred of us… we’ve got material enough for at least several hundred books.  Books that people could learn from.

I then attended a workshop that discussed the new upcoming changes regarding managed care.  The presenters were Jonathan Edwards and Yumiko Ikuta.  Peer services in New York are going to become Medicaid billable.  There is a slew of information that we need to know, in order to prepare for this.  I admit, I’ll have to study my notes a few times to fully absorb the content of this presentation.

Following was… networking.  I went to the Resource room and chatted with several people, handing out my business card and so forth.  Despite all the fun I had here, I was then rewarded with the leftovers of lunch: sandwiches with mozzarella and roasted red peppers.

You have to note that I don’t eat bread, brownies, chips, and cheese (normally).  So there was very little in the box that I was willing to eat.  I succumbed to the cheese though.  The cheese was also of excellent quality, although I am not a connoisseur or even a fan these days.

After lunch, there was a unique presentation that focused on hip hop.  The idea was that hip hop, as a genre, has historically been used to help those in adverse situations voice their struggles.  And this sentiment… it is also similar to peer work.

While I am not a fan of hip hop in general, the presentation was very enlightening.  I am a classical musician myself, having studied violin and viola since early childhood.  What touched me the most, was that each presenter said that the words of each rapper struck a personal chord.  That the lyrics… they helped each person feel understood during times of pain.

After this… I was dog-ass-tired.  My overall fatigue from life was catching up to me.  Although a second workshop was certainly in order, I was too grumpy.  I feel embarrassed to say this… because I should be all chipper right?  I should be rearing to go to learn more, right?

Sometimes, things work out in ways we don’t expect.  I ran into a good friend of mine, and during that hour, we chatted at length about peer work.  She is a seasoned pro in the business, and she was giving me pointers on resources in the community, as well as workshops and webinars that I can attend.  Also… this conversation helped to alleviate my fatigue a bit as well.  Sometimes, that 1 on 1 personal touch is all it takes.  This is the crux of peer work in general.

Afterwards… reception!  I have to admit that this was long awaited.  (I feel terrible saying this…)

You see, I went to this same conference last year.  And last year, the reception was GLORIOUS.  They had exotic cauliflower, in colors of yellow and purple, and they also had these tiny squashes that were absolutely fresh and delectable.  To my horror, at the end of the reception, I saw the clean-up staff heave trays of these beautiful veggies into the garbage.

This experience… was one of the most vivid memories of mine from the year 2014.  You see, I have a very strong connection to vegetables.  They’re colorful, bright, and good for you, and incredibly fresh.

So… this year I was again on Cloud 9.  There were no little squashes this time, but the cauliflower was back, and there was this hummus that was the freshest I’ve ever had!  At the end of the reception, a nice woman gave me a big Ziploc bag and encouraged me to take stuff home.  And so I did.

It sounds like I’m a mooch here, but I really don’t think so.  It really grieves me that food is wasted.  Also, I really applaud the planning committee of this meeting to have such a great spread of food.  If only more caterers would treasure veggies… That’s another fight that’s got to be fought too.

Overall, I had a great time.  In my heart, I want to be a fighter in this fight.  Part of the fight, though, is meeting others who have the same voice as you.  I think I have a problem though… I always fight to be “different” from others.  When I hear others speak about their opinions, I always try to figure out ways to discuss, or I try to improve on what the other person said.

This sentiment… sometimes it scares me, because it makes me think that I won’t “fit in,” and that I’ll be confrontational and ruffle feathers.  And… how can I be a part of the team if I do this?

A memory sticks out for me, in response to this.  One time, I was talking to someone in casual conversation.  I was sort of turned off, because the person was speaking very loudly, and we were indoors.  I wasn’t able to get a word in.  After about twenty minutes, the person asked me about my opinion.  I said, “I don’t really know.  You’re talking about a lot of stuff, and very loudly as well.  It’s hard for me to keep track of it.”  The person questioned me further, and I said, “Well, when you are speaking loudly like this, it gives off the signal that you’re not listening.”

I was afraid that I would offend the person.  But to my surprise… I was received quite differently.  The person became quiet, and seemed to muse on what I said.  The conversation thereafter was more mutual, and even the volume had improved.

I think there is something to be said for honesty.  Sometimes, honesty hurts, in that it can be a criticism.  But if we develop the language to deliver it with compassion, we can help the other person grow.

I tread on risky waters here, if I am to compare this to peer work.  Very much, we want to affirm our clients’ experiences, and to be encouraging and non-critical.  Indeed, we are very tired of being told by “professionals” and psychiatrists and such that we will never have fulfilling lives due to our illness.

But… we shouldn’t handle each other with kid gloves either.  Each other meaning “peer-to-peers.”  Society in general strives to be “polite.”  People strive to not offend others.  But my comment to the above person… it was a criticism, but perhaps no one ever told the person this, out of “politeness.”  And that… is a disservice.

It’s like a child at school.  Asking a question that makes a teacher “uncomfortable.”  But the child asks again and again, and the teacher doesn’t answer.  What if this goes on year after year, with teacher after teacher?  The answer, which the student is 100% entitled to hear… is never given.  What happens then?

The child is stifled.

I think that’s one major problem we, the mentally ill, face.  We behave in ways that are “odd,” and we might ask questions that are “strange.”  But instead of being taken seriously, we are ignored, or pushed aside.  But… we’ve got questions too.  We deserve to have them answered.

I can write more, but I think it will be rambling at this point.  I want to just repeat that I had a good time at the conference, and I look forward to seeing the peer community again soon.

Being Healthy… It’s Not Only About You!

Every day I see my mother, I ask her the same question over and over again:

“Do I look fat?”

She gets frustrated with me.  But really, I worry a lot.  I used to be very overweight, and then I lost weight by eating right and exercising.  Even today, I eat like a saint… mostly.  I eat no grains, no dairy (except for skim milk in coffee, no sugar), no cookies, cake, candy, ice cream or anything else with sugar in it.  No starchy veggies either: no potatoes, corn, peas… and so on.  My version of junk food has been Quest Bars, but lately I’m substituting this with bananas.

But still, I worry.  I see celebrities, with their rail-thin bodies, all but unattainable.  And the camera “adds 20 pounds.”  So I look at myself, and I think I’m really fat.  Also, I do my P90X3 workout, and such… but I don’t look ripped like the peeps in the vids.

A good friend of mine… she is the manager at the women’s gym in my area.  About 3.5 years ago, I joined this gym, totally out of shape… but ready to rock.  I had so many questions.  She answered all of them, and beyond.  I still see her periodically, just to give her an update and to hear some encouraging words from her.  Every time, she says, “You look phenomenal!”

Even though I freak and worry, she tells me that I’m doing well.  That I’m in the maintenance phase.  Regarding those who look ripped, she says, “There are people out there who spend hours to look that way.  And celebrities?  You can’t compare yourself to those people, because it’s their job to look the way they do.”

Nevertheless, I do have some Beach Body friends who put in no more than an hour a day, 5 or 6 days a week, and still they look perfect.  (Beach Body is the company that puts out the Insanity workouts, etc.)

It’s frustrating, because I have one major thing holding me back:  my feet.

Ah yes.  Bunions run in my family on my mother’s side.  My mom says always that “bunions run in Italian women.”  I, 1/4 Italian, have this curse as well.  I’m not sure if it’s really an Italian thing, but it’s definitely in my family.  For 4 generations of women on my mother’s side of my family (including myself), apparently all of us have/had bunions.  And mine are starting to develop, sadly.

I used to go to meet up with friendly people and do some Beach Body vids, primarily by Shaun T.  But I had to stop, because the videos required a lot of jumping on the balls of the feet.  That’s a big no-no.  Even when at home, I can’t do the cardio workouts in general, again because of my feet.

I’ve found a good podiatrist, but I’ve got to wait until scheduling… probably until the first week of August.  Most likely: orthotics.  Hrm.

I don’t like how people think that, just because you’re overweight, that it’s your fault.  A lot of people have disabilities, or impingements, or injuries.  And while a person can persevere despite these setbacks, sometimes as successfully as those not impaired, we cannot assume that everyone can do this.

It saddens me that “jocks” adopt this attitude.  What’s worse, is that sometimes, formerly-overweight-people-turned-jocks have this same attitude too.  “I did it, you can too.”

Perhaps it’s encouraging, seeing where they’re coming from… but I wish such people would also remember where they came from.  Because… no matter how much you achieve… if you do not remember where you started from, then you are devoid of the compassion to reach back and help others where you were.

Maybe that’s why I should get fit.  Not for myself, but for others.  I don’t care about looking in the mirror and seeing my perfect six-pack abs or whatever.  (I don’t even have a 6 pack yet, it’s more like 2 top abs and a blob…)

I just want to help others.  I want to explain fitness to people who are struggling.  People who are discouraged, and see no light ahead at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe that’s why I should work out.

Because… no matter how much one succeeds… it gets to a certain point where it’s not about you anymore.  I also don’t like how people think: “Oh, I’m rich.  I worked my way up.  Everything I have, I did for myself.”

That’s just not true though.  Did you offer yourself a promotion?  Was it you that purchased items from your business, allowing you to become wealthy?  NO.  It was the wallets of other people.  It was the decision of others to promote you.  You personally did nothing.  At best, you found yourself in favorable circumstances.

We have to say the same for our bodies.  Sadly, people who are ripped, again, think that they did it.  But really…?  I mean, such a person is fortunate not to have a disability or an injury.  Again, circumstances are favorable for these people, that they could attain the bodies they have.

I was just thinking… the reason I should work out, is because I want to be able to help my mother as she gets older, instead of becoming decrepit myself.  If that happens, then I’ll be too weak to help her, and the other people I love.

Maybe that’s why I should get those abs.  Not for me… but for those around me.  Me, everyday at work… I grab my lunch box and munch on baby carrots… I see myself as a REBEL.  And when people see me joyfully eating my raw carrots, they start to think… “hrm… she’s really healthy.”

But again… doing it for me… it’s not a good enough reason anymore.

I don’t know if this blog post makes sense, but it’s just what I’m thinking right now.  I thank you for your attention, if you’ve read this far.  Good evenings 🙂

Every One of Us is Different

When it comes to people, whether on an individual level or within groups of people, we can never make assumptions.  We can’t assume that all conventionally attractive people are ugly on the inside.  We can’t assume that all “ugly” people have saintly personalities to make up for their lack of “looks.”

And… we can’t assume that everyone experiences mental health in the same way.  Everyone experiences mental illness in a different way, even if they share the same diagnosis.  Everyone has a different opinion on the usefulness of mental health treatment, with psychiatrists, meds and all that.

I’ll demonstrate:

Elyn Saks, a renowned advocate for the rights of those with mental diagnoses, is quoted to say, “Some people still hold [the] view that restraints help psychiatric patients feel safe.  I’ve never met a psychiatric patient who agreed.”

Well, Saks has not met me.

(Do note that I have no ill thoughts against her.  I applaud her work greatly.)

I remember being restrained myself, two-and-a-half years ago.  My body was moving against my will.  It was attacking people, and I was horrified.  I was receiving commands.  Those commands were NOT me.  So I was tied down, and I was bloody thankful.

Anyway…

It bothers me when people say that certain types of people “don’t exist.”  Like… all older men who have young girlfriends are just using them for booty, and are far more sexually experienced than the women they date.  Or that all women find receding hairlines unattractive.  I mean, I actually like receding hairlines.  I find them very attractive.

Or… another “weird” thing about me:  I think that German is a beautiful language!  The sounds are are pensive and philosophical.  The grammar is absolutely stunning as well.  It is so structured, and I find that structure beautiful.  My German friends lament that theirs is an ugly language.  But I always disagree wholeheartedly.  Auf Deutsch, natürlich 🙂

It took me a long time to get to the point where I celebrated my quirks.  I used to want to fit in, and be perceived as “successful” amongst my peers and acquaintances.

See… when I was younger, and pursuing music as a profession… I had no idea who I was, or why I was doing what I was doing.  I did music because “that was what I’d always done.”  It had no meaning to me.  It was just… I knew I was “good” at it, so that’s why I did it.  But deep down, I was terribly unhappy.

We need to wake up.  We try to fit in, but we fail to realize that, in the process of “fitting in,” we abandon our individuality.  And when we do that, we lose touch with ourselves.  We even become ashamed of who we are, at the core, because it is “inconvenient” and “not desirable.”  Perhaps a man is gay, yet marries and has children, and wishes he were straight because it would make his inner conflict go away.  (I just saw True Detective with Taylor Kitsch, forgive the example.)

Or in my own life:  I used to wish I was not a musician, and not a fan of classical music, because it made me uncool amongst my peers.  I wished I could understand rock music, but I couldn’t.  So then I started to hate the viola.  I started to hate music, because it was the wall that separated me from the world.

It’s sad.  It’s sad that we set up standards for ourselves.  It’s sad that we wish we were something other than what we are.  Not sad, as in “pathetic,” but simply… sad.  Life entails suffering.  We don’t always get what we want.  Or what we deserve.  Trying to make sense of it is a Herculean endeavor, and none of us are strong enough to accomplish it completely.

Accomplish what?  Understanding.  Understanding why we are the way we are.  For me:  Why am I good at music, and why does music bring me such grief?

I want to investigate it further.  I think deep down, there is a love for music within me, still.  Laying dormant.  It is a well-spring, pure and refreshing… but I have not dug down deep enough.  One day… I will strike through.  And then the reward will burst forth… happiness!

Life is truly good, but we must work to find it.

The Internet, and Using it for More than Dating

Misquote:

“If you want to find a boyfriend, join a club, or do something where you can find someone with a mutual interest.”

NEWSFLASH: Most people don’t have any interests.  They basically go through the motions of life, make money, and then… look for sex, sad to say.

The internet has allowed all of us to abandon our pseudo-interests (like ballroom dancing and tennis), leaving us free to pursue our true interest: sex.  Or perhaps, a fetish.  Or cosplay.  Scantily clad women, etc.

I sound like a nun.  So be it.

I’m basically speaking from a place of boredom and frustration.  Wait… are those words opposite of one another?  Is this an oxymoron?

I mean… I don’t decry sex itself.  But the pursuit of it is hardly liberating.  I have one particular friend… he sits glued to a laptop for hours on end, emailing women galore, hoping that he will be rewarded with a score after a month or so.  Many boring dates.  I mean, where is the freedom in that?

I write from the futile male’s perspective here, but I’m pretty sure this story is not unique to my friend.  This is the exact attitude that lines the pockets of Tinder and OkCupid.  And Craigslist?  Even my friend won’t touch that place. *pun*

This process used to be intriguing to me.  Finding randoms, etc.  But now, I have realized the calculated, predatory nature of the whole thing.  Unlike most other people, I am most fulfilled by the pursuit of knowledge.

My common friend, the male aformentioned, tells me that I am incredibly unique.  He says that most people are like him.  Selfish pieces of shit.  Looking back, I figure that this is probably why I developed mental illness in the first place.  I am unable to comprehend the idiocy of selfishness.

I am a philosopher, formally speaking.  And therefore… I am terribly naïve.  I also have a generous, charitable spirit.  As a child, I was thoroughly confused as to why those around me were not so kind-spirited.  In the first grade, when my classmates asked me for pencils to borrow, I gave them freely.  And so I was always without pencils.  I believed them when they said they were borrowing them, every time.  I couldn’t fathom, that these people thought I was a fool, simply to be taken advantage of.

I call these children people, because they’re mean enough to cause misery for someone else.  The innocence of a child cannot cover this fault.

Nevertheless, I’m over my lost pencils.  I am more attractive than most of my previous acquaintances, from what I see of these people’s profiles on Facebook.  I’ve developed good habits of exercise, and I eat like a saint.  I mean not to gloat, but I am quite tired of self-deprication.  Humility only goes so far.  In excess, it weighs down the spirit like an anchor affecting a tug-boat.

No matter.

As a genuinely nice person, I have never understood why people experience emotions like… the need for revenge.  Why do people feel like they have to get back at someone who has wronged them?

Or… a lack of empathy when bullying others. Why do some people feel entitled to label another person, perceptibly weaker, as a “loser,” or a “weakling,” or call them “gay,” regardless of sexuality?  Why is that term equated with “stupidity?”  Even the word “lame” should be considered an offensive slur.  Remember, the word originally refers to a person with an injured leg, unable to walk without pain.  Is it “lame” to wear unfashionable pants?  Oh dear, those acid wash jeans really make it hard for me to walk…

We really need to wake up.

Another feeling I truly do not understand, is feeling of entitlement a person has when seducing a sexually-desirable someone.  Of course, we think of sexual harassment, assault, rape, and all that evil stuff.  We know that sex should occur between two consensual adults.

But… it is truly alien to me, this savage nature of pursuit.  For me… romance is a polite art.  It is like… an exchange of question and answer.  One person asks an inviting question, perhaps for a dance or a date, and the other person is free to oblige or decline.

These days, we see this question/answer-style of romance sharply diminished.  The internet has probably caused this.  It serves as a closet as vast as Narnia.  People step in, and are granted instant access to free porn and dating sites and sketchy message boards, granting access to thousands upon thousands of profiles and ads and forum postings of people either seeking sex or talking about it.

In pursuit of satisfying our desires, we rifle through piles of profiles of men and/or women or whatever gender we seek… sniffing them out like dirty laundry, and then promptly discarding what is unwanted.

I mean, should we treat each other like this?

The sad thing is, this has always been in our hearts, as people.  I never knew it though, as a child.  Even now, my goody-two-shoes attitude makes it hard for me to understand… why people do this.  But least, I’m awake now.  I thank my depraved friend for this moment of enlightment.

Many people decry the internet to be evidence of the decline of society.  But personally, I don’t think the solution is to clean up our interactions online.  Wherever we clean, more dirt shows up elsewhere.

And really, I love the freedom of the internet.  I love how I can be myself online, sometimes more than in real life.  Many people disagree with me, but then again, I am a wordster.  I love reading more than anything else, so the internet is amazing to me. I suppose I write about this… to get our minds thinking.

Because… in order to write words, you have to have a brain formulate them, if you are to sound at all intelligent. Sadly, people don’t think before they write.  We often say, “think before you speak.”

The same should go for every word you type online. Maybe… if people applied this in their own lives, in their use of emails and chats and all… maybe people would be more intelligent.  It requires a sense of uprightedness, to commit to forming such a new habit.

But I tell you.  I apply this in my life 100%, and as a result, my capacity to express myself in words, as vividly as I do in person… it causes me to really treasure my online friendships.  I’ve strong friends in Germany, Tunisia, the Netherlands… not to mention those real-life friends who are now in different states, and elsewhere I no longer frequent.

Like anything else, the internet is a tool. The same as is a knife or a chainsaw.  We choose how to use it.  The internet can be used for quite noble causes.  Let’s challenge ourselves to use the internet to enhance the quality of not only our own lives, but the lives of others.

Demystifying Mindfulness… It Ain’t So Spiritual

It is difficult for me to love myself, and accept my imperfections.  A life-long struggle, this has been.  Why?  Because I look around me, and I see others, achieving what I cannot, and finding greater happiness than I can.  Supposedly.

Although, the glue which fastens the bricks of my wall of self-hatred… that wall which separates me from the world… that glue is becoming brittle.  It is crumbling.  I am learning to love myself more.  But as I do this, and as I forgive myself for my own imperfections, I become sad.

Why?

Because… I am starting to realize that the people around me are not perfect either.  And that makes me sad.

See… all those people I went to college with, all those exceptional musicians who won this or that international competition, or won such and such principal chair in whatever symphony in Europe, and so forth… all those famous people on TV who have comfortable lives and every luxury known to man… they are all imperfect too, just like me.

It makes me sad, because it seems that my imperfections can blind me at times.  In that, I focus on my imperfections, and I fail to see the beauty around me.  Or… the beauty in myself too.  Perhaps I’m warped.  I’d rather see those around me as perfect, than see myself as perfect.

I should note, there are different ways to define the word “perfection.”  Here are a couple of them:

#1: perfection: the desire to do everything correctly.  The desire to finish everything you start.  The desire to be better than others.  The desire to have no problems.  The desire to understand everything and everyone around you.  The desire to be accomplished and wealthy.

#2: perfection: The ability to see the perfection in everything around you.

A lot of people call #2 “mindfulness.”  But I hate this term.  Why?  Because it’s incredibly vague.  There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of ways to meditate, or be mindful.  There are gurus upon gurus and self-help books galore, not to mention all those time-tested religions.  Many people, in our New-Agey, touchy-feely all-inclusive society claim that all roads lead to Rome.  That all religions lead to the same thing… whatever that is.  Heaven.  Nirvana.  Enlightenment.  Whatever.

But… over the years, I have tried different faiths and paths.  And I learned, through ways of experience, that this is NOT true.  Religions aren’t all “the same thing.”   I mean… really.

If you think about it, different spiritual rituals will do different things to the mind.  It’s like cooking a recipe.  If you put eggs and a bit of oil into a pan, you get scrambled eggs.  If you put in thin-sliced veggies, sesame oil and some chunks of beef, you’ll have… whatever that is.  You could be vague and say that both recipes yield the same result: “food.”  But this is absurd.  Adding different ingredients to the pan will yield completely different results.

So it is too with spirituality.  Meditation especially.  People figure that, as long as you are sitting in lotus position with an open mind, you’re plugging into the Universe, Avatar style.

But… in my experience, this just ain’t true.

One time, about ten years ago, I did a meditation practice that had a guru in India.  Morning and evening, I meditated by using visualizations indicated by the guru.  A couple of years earlier, I learned a style of meditation where I would gently pay attention to my senses, feeling the weight of my clothes against my skin, listening to ambient sounds, and so forth.  The end result of both practices may be mindfulness, or wisdom, but to say that both would yield the same sort of wisdom… that is reaching too far, my friend.

We need to wake up and stop sniffing the kumbaya Kool-Aid, or whatever.  It’s frying our brains.  Just like stir-fry.  (That’s what it’s called!)

For those who swear by mindfulness practices as a way of managing mental illness… I’ve got a sad response for you:

The only way I have ever been able to achieve mental clarity and focus can be summarized in one word:

CLOZAPINE

That’s right.  An evil, little pill.  (Well, 5 of them actually, due to my dosage.)

You see… for years, I tried to get all of my unwanted thoughts out of my head.  You know, watching them float by, “wise mind,” being calmly objective, etc.  Didn’t work.  Whenever I would attempt to put my mind into this state, I’d start to feel pressures in my head.  And then the thoughts would get even MORE intense.  My efforts of “gently pushing the thoughts aside” never worked.  The thoughts in my head had a mind of their own.  After about 1.5 years worth of diligent meditating, I was rewarded with schizophrenia and terrible pressures in my head.  It felt as if someone were squeezing my skull on all sides of it.

These pressures lasted for years.  And the thoughts were still there, all the while, getting louder and louder.  Not audibly… but… more persistent.

That is, until Clozapine.

Clozapine shut those thoughts up.  Clozapine made those thoughts go away.  Now… FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE… I know what peace is.  I know what silence is.  And it is glorious.

We overestimate the concept of Enlightenment.  For me, I really think I’ve achieved it.  All due to a little pill.

And I must tell you… it is as glorious as the Buddha says it is 🙂

How can I boast such a claim?  Because I’m happy.  Not in a fake way.  I really am happy. I walk outside, and I marvel at how beautiful the trees are, leaves gently blowing in the wind.  I hear the birds chirping their spontaneous song, and it is more compelling than Top 40.  The sun, gently glowing behind the clouds… allowing its light to shine into my eyes and upon my face… warms me more than any compliment can.  Experiencing nature, in all its glory, confirms to me that Clozapine is, in fact, a pill of Enlightenment.

For me, at least.

You see, others have literally died from Clozapine.  It can compromise white blood cell count.  I have to take a blood test every 4 weeks to make sure my levels are good.  It used to be every single week.  It is seriously the last resort for those with psychosis, because it is considered a drug with high risk.

Nevertheless, we, who bemoan psychiatric medications as part of the evil, conspiratorial, societal, governmental machine… tools to control our brains and make us into zombies… we really can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Psychiatric medications DO help some people.  Me included.  Without my meds, I would be living in an institution for the rest of my life.

Every evening, I take my dose of Clozapine.  It has given me mental clarity.  Now, I can finally love myself.  I can finally appreciate myself, and accept my flaws.  I can do all those kumbaya mindful exercises now, without feeling pressures in my head.  Without getting “psychic revelations” that the world is ending, or that I’m the Antichrist.

I’m thankful.  Thankful that I am finally living the life I have always wanted.  A life of mental freedom.

“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Don’t Work

The notion of “fake it ’til you make it” makes me sick to my stomach. The saying, intended to encourage one to persevere in times of discouragement, also implies another notion altogether:

Faking it.

Those of us that are depressed often are told that, in order to fight our depression, we should crack a smile. Magic smile juice will then course through our veins, and eventually, smiling will become a habit. And then, little by little, our depression will fade, and we will be cured. Normal. Happy.

Or, at least, people will think we are.

See, that’s the thing. When I was a teen, surrounded by my happy, inside-joking peers, I tried to laugh along with their jokes. I tried to laugh when they did, at all the “right” times. But every time, I felt fake.

It was not even a matter of being excluded from anything, because I went to a tiny private school where we were all well-acquainted with one another. And it’s funny. When I look back at pictures from that time, or at my yearbook… I see myself smiling. I looked happy.

Was I even sad back then? Or did I make the whole thing up?

I guess it’s mixed. I was depressed. Terribly so. But there were good times too, mostly due to the school’s curriculum. I benefitted from tons of art classes, using all sorts of medium, from stone-carving to stained-glass. Then there was a kind-hearted music teacher, who eventually encouraged me to study classical music performance at the college level. And even though I hated gym class, I still remember the beauty of the outdoor grounds of the school. The green-grassed soccer field. The red rubber track around it. The baseball field, tucked in a corner surrounded by trees. And an intricate, beloved tree by the elementary school, perfect for climbing.

I touch on a lot of memories here, seemingly scattered. But no matter.

When I was in high school, I always felt like everyone knew I was depressed. In my mind, my mental pain was so intertwined with my sense of self, that I was convinced that I had “mental illness” written on my forehead. But now that I reflect back, fifteen years later… I realize that no one knew. I had been hospitalized in ninth grade for depression, which everyone knew about at the time. But then it was forgotten. No one cared.

Or rather, people chose to focus on more positive things. Like joking, being friends, etc. I must repeat that my school was a nurturing place, and not toxic. But still… I felt alone.

In harsher social climates, such as in your average public school, faking it till you make it can be a death sentence. I read so many cases of teenage suicide plastered on the internet. Perhaps… a pretty-faced girl, academically accomplished and engaged in several extra-curriculars. Bullied online on Ask.fm, anonymous tormenters telling her she is ugly and that she should die. This terrible crime, happening in her own home. A place where one should feel safe.

Every day at school, she carried this weight on her shoulders. Far heavier than her AP class textbooks. She smiled. Went through the motions. “Faking it.” But then… poof. Gone. She never made it.

I ask you: what if this world were compassionate enough, so that precious, beautiful souls suffering from depression… were freely encouraged to share their pain with others, instead of bottling them up inside? What if we lived in a world where stigma was considered as evil as murder itself?

Like murder, stigma leads to death.