This is a great example of how “Microtargeting” works:
I had a meltdown about writing—the process of—this morning. Simultaneously, my son, a recent BS degree graduate, did too—about job hunting.
His email to me while I’m melting down:
“I’m applying for jobs and contacting these people but when absolutely no one contacts me back I feel like I’m just sinking. I’m just looking through meetups thinking that no one will ever want to continue a relationship. I just feel like a fucking failure.”
I emailed him back:
“The only thing i know that works for me to shed these feelings is WRITING them to dad, or myself. i am doing that now. literally. i had meltdown this morning so i’m journaling. i will for a page or so, then get on with watching youtubers gaming to educate myself before i continue writing the power trip—which is what i melted down on this morning:”
The absolute hardest part about writing fiction is shutting out the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough to write this:
I’ll never get this right.
It’s too complex.
It’ll take too much research.
I’m too fragmented.
I’m not focused enough.
The subject won’t be topical if it takes too long to write.
I can’t DO this.
I keep losing the string.
I can’t hear the characters even after profiling them.
I get too wrapped up in superfluous details.
I don’t get to the point quick enough.
I don’t make it exciting, engaging out of the gate.
I’m too heady.
Too too too…
Give it up.
Too much work you’ll never finish anyway.
This is stupid to pursue.
You are wasting your time, not living your best life.
You’ve been working at this too long and are still nowhere…
His email back:
“This is exactly what I freak out about as well. Just replace writing with coding.”
“thing is, you have to combat the bullshit voices in your head.”
they are half-truths. not lies, cuz there IS truth in our fears, but only HALF truths. i can counter every one of the voices i just wrote…
“But there’s always these looming feelings that I’ve accomplished nothing, done nothing. Am nothing.”
“it’s not true. that’s fear—like you are a failure—because you’re scared you will be. And while the fear is valid, real, true, because there is a vague possibility you won’t find a job you want, the WHOLE TRUTH is you are virtually 100% guaranteed to find a job if you keep looking for one, and likely a coding job you’ll like.
Another truth is you’ve proven you can code as a straight As graduate with a CS degree, which was your primary goal the last 4 years. and you did it. Well!”
I seem to be unable to compartmentalize my feelings.
this is LEARNING, em. your FIRST job get that isn’t a bullshit job. you WILL get this. guaranteed, IF you keep working at it. just like i’ll get the power trip written. see, i’ve already proven i can write with 7 books out. and still i hear the voices of doubt as i write these words:
yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap.
and the good reviews, well, they were just stupid people.
bad reviews are the truth about your writing.
so GIVE IT UP, BITCH. you will always fail at this.
and so on…
but again, i can COUNTER ALL OF IT.
yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap. BULLSHIT. MANY PEOPLE GAVE SOME OF MY BOOKS REALLY GOOD RATINGS.
and the good reviews, well, they were just stupid people. BULLSHIT. JUST BULLSHIT CUZ THIS IS SUCH A STUPID THOUGHT.
bad reviews are the truth about your writing. NOPE. THEY ARE HALF THE TRUTH. OR A PERCENTAGE, BUT GOOD REVIEWS ARE THE OTHER PERCENTAGE AND IN MOST CASES THE GREATER PERCENTAGE ARE POSITIVE.
so give it up, bitch. you will always fail at this. FUCK OFF BITCH OF DOUBT.
Emoji smile. Clapping hands. Thank you hands.
In the near future…4 Stanford students use Deep Learning, a bio Neural Network and Recommendation to get fellow undergraduate students to do what they want.
Chpt 2 of THE POWER TRIP is up:
I imagine when all is black that I’ll write something brilliant that justifies the darkness within.
But when I’m black like this, all I usually produce are rants.
Not this time. But it’s not going to be brilliant, either. This post is simply on depression, living with it in a world that wears masks, puts on facades online and in-person, because we’re not allowed to feel bad, or at least show it. We’re allowed to feel frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, in moments, but they better not last too long, or be too intense, like when feeling mad translates into yelling. Even in anger, we’re supposed to retain our composure.
I suck at pretending. I can’t pull off that I’m OK Buddy, when I’m not. Most of you reading this are much better at wearing faces. Most people are. But depression, that feeling there is something stuck in your throat that you just can’t swallow, that with every breath it feels as if you’re sighing— trying to shed the weight in your chest— makes putting on a mask particularly difficult because you’re spending so much energy just trying to breathe.
Commercials for drugs to combat depression are all over the media. They come with a list like: Use this product and you may get dizzy; nauseous; stop breathing; feel even more depressed; become suicidal even if you didn’t feel that way before the drug; die. Wow. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t really need to take Lexapro to help motivate me to kill myself.
I’ve tried Prozac, a long time ago. I was allergic. It almost killed me. I’ve tried Xanex, which is by far the most popular drug for depression. All it did was make me sleepy. I’m already tired all the time.
Therapists like to talk, or for me to talk. And talk. And talk. Business 101— you make more money with continuing clients than having to find new ones. I want ACTIONABLE things to do, other than taking drugs or talking to a shrink 3 times a week, making me poorer, which makes me even more depressed.
What is “depression,” anyway? I mean, everyone gets depressed occasionally, regardless of the masks we wear. Technically, and absurdly simply, depression lies in our chemistry—dopamine, serotonin…etc, not supplying the pleasure centers of our brain adequately. It is commonly accepted that some are born with inadequate levels of these hormones, or there is a problem with their release inside the brain. Manic depression apparently has a genetic component, but this has yet to be proven as hard fact.
Episodes of depression effect most people when events in our life hurt us. For most, the length and severity of feeling sad is usually consummate with the event itself. Losing a loved one, or loosing the lottery generally solicits dramatically different responses. As it should. Most let their feelings of sadness dissipate, often forget them entirely over time. I’ve spent a lifetime envying these folks.
Those of us suffering from depression internalize pain. It resides in us, like a cut, or injury that just won’t heal. We hang on to our hurts, from minor slights to major loss. And whether born with an imbalance, or too many painful life events, when sadness sticks, builds up and gets thick, every day feels like wading through molasses. If depression festers long enough it will eventually kill you. It strips us of the single motivating factor that keeps us all alive through dark times… hope.
Curing clinical depression for those who experience it, and those who have to live with people who do, is paramount. Over 90% of those who attempt or commit suicide are clinically depressed. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide, which is a shame, because so often emotionally wired people are the creators, writers, artists, builders of thriving societies. It is believed Abraham Lincoln suffered from Depression.
The only way to help reverse, or at least halt the chemical cascade into darkness is to actualize pleasure. I realize that an effect of depression is finding no joy in anything, but that’s not true, and those of you reading this that are living with that weight in your chest with most every breath, KNOW it’s not true. It is that ugly voice in our heads meant to perpetuate depression, and a LIE. A rainbow is still beautiful. A double-rainbow extraordinary. The taste of your favorite foods; a hug when we’re scared, or lonely; backrubs; creating something—these things are still good. The Pacific cresting at 40ft is still awe striking; a field of blooming flowers still visually stunning…etc..;-}.
Living, existing as human, is all about FEELING. The good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderous, the awesome, the magnificant empowerment of feeling loved, respected, valued. The charge that comes with creation. The suffocating black hole with loss.
Are you living with Depression?
If so, SEEK and FIND JOY, not self-destructive behavior, like drinking or using cuz it’s fun, as this will increase depression. Do things, stuff that turns you on, makes you feel—if not good—at least glad you get to see it, taste it, experience it—without regret later!! ACCOMPLISHING TASKS also lights up your brain’s pleasure centers. String enough joy and accomplishments together, even simple things, and, over time, continually reminding your brain why you are choosing to live will reinforce your desire to do so.
This piece is a composite. Though written in first person, it is a true story about a friend…
I haven’t always been mentally ill. I’ve always been on the fringe of the norm, the glass wall between me and humanity kind of thing, but I didn’t feel myself start to fragment until my mid-twenties.
The first time it happened I was working as a bank teller. It was closing and I was counting out the cash drawer and doing my balance sheet. I got this idea to close my checking account, take the $5000 I had to my name, and use it as a down payment for a Mercedes. I knew it was a bad idea. I could hardly afford rent. My job, like most of my others was tenuous at best.
And then I separated.
I stood outside myself and watched me clear out my account.
At the dealership I tried to tell the other me not to sign the purchase agreement, but I did anyway. I gave the guy my five grand and drove off in a new midnight-blue SL450 convertible. The other me sat in the passenger seat, her head thrown back, her short hair blowing around. She laughed and laughed. And I let myself get sucked into her lightness.
Two days later I was stuck in traffic on the 101 and it hit me what a stupid idea it had been to buy the Mercedes. I couldn’t return it and get my money back. It wasn’t a pair of jeans. I couldn’t afford it either. I got so depressed about it I got out of the car, left it on the freeway and walked away.
The car was never found. I’d let my insurance lapse so they wouldn’t compensate me, even with my documented tale of someone carjacking me. I was $50,000 in the hole for a car I didn’t have anymore and no way to pay it back.
And I separated again.
I started taking money from the bank. The customers actually. I’d take a little off the top of deposits over a grand.
I didn’t. The other me did.
Again I stood outside myself watching this other me steal. I tried to stop her with moral and value judgments. She came back at me with justifications.
You get paid shit. You get treated like garbage- bottom of the rung lackey.
I told her I was afraid of getting caught.
She laughed me off. No one will notice. Nobody keeps tight track of their money these days.
But I knew the bank did. Sooner than later they’d discover what I was doing. Three weeks into stealing, and both sides of me finally came together, now joined by raw, unrelenting fear. So I ran away. Two days before the end of the month audits I left the bank at closing and never went back. I walked away from my life with $17,000 in cash in my pocket and became the other side of me—the wild side, for the next month.
There are only brief, fleeting images of that month. The first thing I remember clearly is my mom standing next to my hospital bed staring down at me, her face tear streaked and gaunt. She started crying again the moment our eyes meet, and I got how hurt and scared she was. I wanted to hug her but I couldn’t. I was strapped down.
I spent three days at UCLA Medical Center Psych ward. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, given Thorazine and sent home with my mother.
No cure. No hope for a cure. Manageable only with medication—side affects to be expected.
And though the array of antidepressants I now take does keep both sides of me together, it reinforces the glass wall separating me from the rest of the world. I walk around in this thinly veiled haze, which I suppose is okay, given the alterative. But I wonder if sanity is really worth the price. It gets harder and harder to justify feeling sick and tired all the time.
In the car with my 10 yr old daughter the other day, she asked me what Ego meant, one of her vocabulary words for the week.
I laughed. “Good question, I replied. What do you think it is?”
“I wouldn’t ask if I knew, mom.”
“Well, use it in a sentence, in context. You’ve heard the word enough to have an inkling what it means. And an inkling is as close as you’re going to get to defining an abstract like Ego.”
Her brows narrowed and I could see her pondering in the rear view mirror.
“My ego got hurt when Ms Brown told me I was singing flat this morning.” She paused. “And she really said that, mom.”
“Sorry. We’ll get back to that. OK? So Ego is feelings then?”
“Well, sorta, I guess. But not exactly. It’s more like how we see ourselves. To me, I’m a good singer. You can hurt my feelings by being mean to me. But you hurt my ego when you tell me I’m not how I think I am.”
“Do you think you were flat this morning in glee?”
“Well, yeah. When I listened I wasn’t hitting the notes sometimes. I guess I’m not such a good singer.”
“Ah, but you could be, if you practiced singing. And not the perpetual humming you do, but really practiced, daily—sing along with your favorites, or sing the notes when you practice piano.” I glimpsed her rolling her eyes at my suggestions in the rear view mirror. “Being a good singer doesn’t happen inside your head. What is the only way to really get good at anything?” (One of my many canonical refrains.)
“Practice, mom.” She sighed.
I sighed. “My beautiful daughter, I think your explanation for Ego is excellent—it’s how we see ourselves. Ego is an idea, even an ideal—who we want to be, but generally are not. We are what we do, my dear” (another of my refrains). “If you want to be a good singer, you’re going to have to practice becoming one.”
“So you don’t think I’m a good singer,” she asked woefully.
“Were still talking about defining Ego here, right?”
“Yeah. And my ego says I’m a good singer now, mom. So is ego always fake, just pretend inside our heads?”
“You tell me. Do you think our ego ever gives us an accurate depiction—paints a real picture of how we operate, how we act, what we do in the real world?”
“Probably not.” She sighed again, deflated. “Just cuz you think you’re good, or talented, or special doesn’t mean you actually are to anyone besides yourself, except if you’re famous. When you’re famous, it’s not just ego, you know you’re good.”
“Really? So, there’s a famous chef, recognized for his delicious creations. As you noted, it’s not just his ego talking that’s telling him he’s a good chef. He has 1.7 million dedicated followers on Instagram. He decides to create a new dish, and serves it to five friends. And all five hate the meal. The combination of flavors tastes just terrible. So, is the guy delusional that he’s a good chef—it’s just his ego talking—or is he really good?
My daughter considered my little tale carefully before answering. “Well, if he thought of himself as a great chef with everything he made, then his delusion was that he could be good all the time, that everything he created would be a masterpiece.”
“So then, is ego ever an accurate depiction of self?”
“I guess not. Just like there is no such thing as smart, mom.” She quoted another of my canonical refrains. Her bright smile in the rear view mirror lit up my world.
My DH and I NEVER tell our kids they’re smart. In fact, when other people do, we smile politely, turn away and snicker. Our kids are consistently at the top of their classes because they work at it. A lot. There is no such thing as smart, we preach. Smart is an abstract, merely an idea, a concept, like democracy, or potential, or ego. Smart is as smart does.
It is not our potential, or what we believe, or believe in that defines us. Our ego guarantees that none of us are who we imagine ourselves to be—good or bad. Regardless of what your ego tells you, you will never be more then the choices you make and the actions those choices lead you take.
We are what we DO.
You are invited to join us Thursday, March 25, @ 7:00 p.m.
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