Friday, February 26, 2016

Why Anonymity? (so no one knows you suck, duh)

I am constantly on this mental back and forth. One one hand, I've go some psychological/neurological barriers to the way I think/process/act and I have to remain aware of them to work past them and have successes. On the other hand, these are just plain shortcomings I have that are hard wired and I can't work past them.

The second half of that presents me with this frightening version of myself that's fairly dumb and ill-equipped to function in the world who's just pretending to be smart and capable.

I'm honestly not sure of the answer! If I struggle to remember some details at work am I just a person who doesn't have the memory capacity or organization to do the job I was given? If it's hard for me to process a lot of details at once am I just someone who's not smart enough for the work.

If I falter coming up with new creative material, or even working on something creative I've started...am I just not really that creative?

It's almost crippling sometimes and letting those thoughts expand in my mind leads to some of the most negative, destructive, self loathing times in my life.

Are those real limits on my worth? Or are they just challenges I haven't mounted yet? I am constantly worried that someone is going to find out and say something like "Well why did we hire this incompetent person into that role?". Or in future prospects for either jobs or further education or whatever it is, someone will find out that I'm really this dullard and my chances will be shot.

That's why I write anonymously. And honestly, even if the nicer version of the narrative (I have some challenges I haven't gotten through yet), I fear someone would judge me negatively on that basis anyway. "Oh, this guy hasn't gotten his shit together, he's not worth our time".

I don't know where on the spectrum I really lie in terms of real worthlessness and unrealized success...but I don't want anyone to know this deepest darkest shit.

Not Spiritual...But Not Religious

"Spiritual but Not Religious" is one of the most recent additions to the taxonomy of religious tradition around the world. It's a status claimed by much of the "millennial" generation who aren't full on militant atheist, likely "believe" in some truth or existence beyond the observable universe, and have little interest or use for organized religion in it's traditional forms.

I come from a strong Western Protestant tradition, and no matter how my own faith journey changes, that will culturally always be a part of me. It will also be the mode I drop into when worshipping with my family.

The hitch, and I don't consider it a negative...just kind of an acknowledgement of where I'm at...is that I don't feel spiritual, and don't have spiritual experiences. And that ever-present wall of consistency in life bars me from being "religious". I'll unpack those two statements here in the tradition of this blog's purpose...to spit out words about whatever is happening in my life and mind as a way to get it out of myself.

Not Spiritual:

Through my life and the different ways I've interacted with faith, I've had several emotional moments. Being a music lover, worship music has often been a part of those experiences. A youth leader once told me that the wave of emotion I felt during a song was the holy spirit. That made sense I suppose, I didn't dwell on it. I went on practicing Christianity, caring about it and having the occasional emotional moment. Expanding my knowledge about psychology and cultural cognition, as well as hearing perspectives from others who examine this kind of stuff, I'm of the opinion that those emotional moments can be explained by psychosocial phenomena.

Practicing a familiar thing in a community and having been coded to understand these traditions as personal, supernatural and overwhelmingly positive...could produce really good feelings of being in a powerful moment experiencing something "good". That feeling could be connected to a neural construct of a being called "God" that exists in my mind. And all that could happen regardless of the truth or untruth of an independently existing deity. All that is to say...while I've been emotional in the presence of religion, I'm not confident saying those were definitely "spiritual experiences". Blogger Mike McHargue, whose work I follow, tells the story of his faith falling apart, and then returning after a mystical experience. I think it's really cool how his sharp analysis of how faith operates was coupled with that mystical experience to make a brand new faith. I, however, have never had a mystical experience. I have had emotional times practicing Christianity, but never felt that something outside myself or my control came from a supernatural realm into my consciousness. So for the moment...I am not spiritual.

Not Religious:

I'm going to take a slight detour into Buddhism here. One way that Buddhism is said to operate is instead of its practices creating good in a person, they are meant to supply the conditions for change...to cultivate good existence in the world. This is one of the points of Buddhism I've always found really inspiring, it's also an approach that's supported in Psychological techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness therapy.

I think to a certain extent, or maybe for the majority of individuals who never have a mystical experience, that religious practice cultivates spirituality...makes the conditions present in the mind for a transcendent experience or thought process to take place. That's where ADHD and my general cocktail of nasty habits rears it's ugly head.

Writing this blog post was a completely impulsive action that pulled me away from a few others I was bouncing between. I was deciding between two books to read and reading a few sentences of each without getting anywhere, switching to listening to a podcast, missing part of that because I started reading the news. All of these currently being activities I'm trying to use to fall asleep.

This is a major source of anxiety and doubt for completing any meaningful work in my life, whether that be pursuing science, politics and other interests, creating music, or just keeping up on general life stuff (clean house, food to eat, opening the mail, etc). So often without even starting, engaging in a religious practice seems impossible.

That feels pretty shitty to me, because I suspect that a solid practice of prayer, reading scripture, meditation or whatever would cultivate spirituality in me...but I can't do anything consistently enough to HAVE a religious practice...so that leaves me being someone who cares about religion, who thinks it's an important part of human life...but who can't actually DO anything religious or spiritual.

There's a lot more to this: ideas about submitting to something outside yourself instead of thinking you can make it right on your own, or where a supernatural truth does or does not matter, and the fact that my own perceptions of my strengths and weaknesses are very warped. There's also the fact that I'm likely way to much in my head about some of this stuff.

I'll keep writing on religion because it's of great interest to me. But I'm feeling a little stuck in a loop of not spiritual, not religious.

It's pretty dumb.




Saturday, February 6, 2016

Erratic Emotions Help The Medicine Go Down? (That can't be right...)

Have you heard? Depression is the new black. It's the mental health issue that's overtaken my life and made living with ADHD seem like a walk in th--squirrel!

Ok. that joke was super unnecessary, sorry. Job anxiety, seasonal affective disorder and good ol' out of whack neurotransmitters have thrown me straight into clinical depression, something I haven't really dealt with too much in my life, definitely never this bad.

There is talk of some light at the end of this tunnel, just whispers. I finally made it in to see a doctor who can advise on pharmacological solutions...I would have made it there earlier, but I missed the appointment. Guess the ADHD is still in there somewhere.

I'm not naive enough to think an antidepressant should solve all my problems on day one, but day three was a pretty good day. I felt productive, I felt more comfortable having conversations with others, I think I smiled a few times without it feeling fake or forced.

Today was absolute hell trash. I woke up a little later than intended, but still had time to do stuff in the morning before work. It seemed every single step involved in that process; disorganized, scattered, frustrated. I've gotten better over the past couple years at being calm in the face of frustrations, even when not in a regular meditation routine, something I badly need to start again, I am good at getting perspective on life's little bumps. Not today, no sir. Every little scattered moment made me more mad, putting me in a terrible mood by the time I got to work. Things went downhill from there, negativity, self-doubt, unfocusedness, fatigue all boiled together inside of me and I couldn't stand to be in that place.

I had to come home form work sick today and go straight to bed, simply because of an undefinable, vague sense of feeling like complete and utter shit...with nothing apparently physically wrong with me.

Bed was the place to get some rest and recover some energy (though it doesn't feel recovered), but it was also my hiding place from the shit, and that's probably not the most healthy coping strategy.

With mental health the line between mental/emotional and physiological is pretty blurred, but it's been a long time since I've really had a "bad day" like this, where nothing seems like it's going right and I'm pissed about it. I've felt emotionally and mentally exhausted and unfocused frequently in the recent past, but this was a little different.

This leads me to think that it's part of the rocky process of starting a new mental health medication regimen. Anxiety is a listed side effect when starting the drug. I've got a six week ramp up before the drug should be fully integrated into my system at the right dosage. It's really going to be a pain if random days are going to feel like this...I hope it is a more stable process.

Until then I can merely let the process work itself out and have a clear answer on whether the medication is the best solution or not.

Fingers crossed. Heading back to bed.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pavlov's Suicidal Ideation

One of the most popularly known ideas in psychology is "pavlov's dogs" a breakthrough experiment by Ivan Pavlov that illustrated classical conditioning. The stimulus of a bell ringing was paired with the stimulus of feeding, and eventually the physiological response of salivating became conditioned to the bell stimulus. Pavlov could ring a bell and cause the dog to salivate, absent actual feeding.

There's a lot of conditioning that happens in the mind and mucking through it all can be quite complex. But greatly simplified...negativity is a very well conditioned response that my mind has to many situations in life. Many times that I'm in a position to think about my own success at something, whether existing or future...I trend toward a negative view. This is the negative nah. It's a defining feature of the way my mind works and it's extremely reflexive. One of my chief self-frustrations is my apparent inability to pursue something with consistency...however this is the one thing I seem to be able to do predictably, and do "well". By "well" I mean I can focus on it extremely well.

I can't seem to sit down and work on a hobby with enough focus or consistency to make progress, but when presented with the opportunity to consider my own ability for success...you can be sure that I will dive headfirst into negatively berating myself, and get consumed with doing that for days. Logically I can see the futility of this and the fact that it's quite self-fulfilling...but because this cognitive behavior is so very well conditioned...it's like salivating at the sound of a bell.

This year I tried embarking on a very well structured plan to pursue my interests routinely in an attempt to both get better at those interests, and get better at pursuing things in an organized way.

If I haven't clearly stated this out loud...it was a miserable, miserable failure. Not only that...my own fears of self worthlessness and anxiety about my ADHD having a negative impact on my job and life coupled with this unsuccessful side project to make a nasty cognitive cocktail. By about half way through my multi-month work project, I was routinely paranoid about my ability to do my work, and about others' opinions of me. I began to become easily fatigued and many days would crawl straight into bed after work. I withdrew into addictive distractions  such as TV shows and video games. While these diversions can be good for many people and they can find some rest and enjoyment in them, they are generally very damaging for me.

One way I sometimes think about my own bad cognitive habits is boiling water. It's also a good metaphor for Global Warming...but more on that later. Water can get hotter and hotter until its molecules start turning into a gas. Before that point it can be hot enough to be dangerous. Once it starts boiling it can't get any hotter...it can only convert to a gas faster. If that rate of change is fast enough, and the amount of water high enough, it can be moving so fast that water is pushed out of the container. We call it boiling over. So hot water is like this thing that is kind of happening, kind of happening until all the sudden it's HAPPENING and there is hot frothy dangerous water all over your stove top.

My nasty little cocktail of conditions boiled over this summer. I routinely felt like escaping into a dark, quiet hole away from the world. I was routinely furious and hateful with myself. I routinely thought about killing myself. This is called suicidal ideation, and coupled with fatigue and feelings of escapism, it's called clinical depression.

My work project is done now, I'm back at home with my wife and in my regular job. But I'm still "sick", I'm still dealing with the symptoms of clinical depression. Depression isn't really a condition I have dealt with constantly, but the ingredients of ADHD and the negativity I've developed as a response to its frustrations have always been there.

Fortunately, suicidal ideation is scary enough to push me into doing something, I have started seeing a therapist and will soon talk to a psychiatrist about medication options. I feel as if I just traveled to a foreign country where to only food served was something I was mildly allergic to. I feel like I had no choice but to eat it because it was all that was served and it continually made me more and more ill. And though I've returned from that country, I am still sick and will need time and treatment to get better.

I will try to document that process regularly. The negative nah tells me that writing on a blog regularly is impossible and pointless. But I don't let regularity or polish be hindrances to writing here...it's the place where I can just spew words if needed. I don't know if that actually accomplishes anything, but I'm currently content with it not needing to.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Darash and Jihad

I clicked the new post button without looking at anything else on the site. I think my last post was a promise to write more? The fact that I don't remember sheds the light of irony on that. Well Done.

This is another short post meant to set up an imagined future (the only kind of future?). Faith and religion have been growing, stretching, and changing in my life. It's mostly been internal and not really a disruptive thing, moreso just cognitive background noise.

I am neither a Hebrew nor Arabic scholar...actually, I know almost nothing about either language or tradition. I'd love to change that, but there is only so much brain and so much time available. Darash and Jihad both mean struggle and have a place in Judaism and Islam tradition talking about seeking, struggling, confronting faith and related issues.

I want to write about this more and this is kind of a call to my self to do so.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Is your neurology your worth?

Look at that, I said I should write on my blog a week ago and I'm writing on my blog. Boom. I can do anything.

I have been struggling intensely with self worth in light of the challenges ADD presents me with and the often unhealthy ways I cope with those challenges. I was extremely grateful recently to unload these struggles on a close friend of mine and in that conversation I systematized the issues into three categories.

1. Neurological/brain traits. Without any intervention or "psyching out" getting in the way, the reality of my neurology lends to frequent expression of the behaviors described in the diagnostic criteria of ADHD. (I'm not a fan of the fact that this page features a photo of a bunch of kids, and then has a tiny footnote that "ADHD often persists into adulthood"). At the end of the day, I am scattered, forgetful, distractible and bad with details. Yuck.

2. Avoidance. I considered calling this fear, but that's not really a good emotional description. I don't often (or ever) feel fear as an emotion. I do have a really reflexive habit of avoiding things that are hard for my neurological makeup. Focused reading, engaging with minute and complex details, keeping a consistent schedule and forming good habits. Without some magical instance of willpower, I often push away from doing tasks that involve those skills. It's annoying.

3. Horrid negativity. This is, in essence, The Negative Nah. That (also reflexive) tendency to reject doing something purely for the purpose of making myself feel worse and reinforcing the distorted negative view of myself. Lately, the Negative Nah has often taken the form of this line from that blog post:

"Nah, fuck you you worthless piece of shit who should die."

As I am on a long term work trip, I've tried to establish a schedule of good habits like exercise, reading, meditation etc. Not only has that fallen woefully apart, I increasingly find myself falling into scenario No 2. (avoidance) at work. This has made me increasingly paranoid about how others view my work and how that affects my career.

It has been shitty. Honestly shitty. It's been very up and down too. Once a week or every two weeks I will come up from underwater and feel like everything might be OK. I'll clean up my hotel room, get a haircut, cook a meal and feel like I'm in control of life again. Unfortunately what goes up must come down.

I'm away from home and in a temporary situation and finding a mental health professional to work with seems inefficient if my situation is transitional.

I also have been experiencing frequent mental fatigue. I have been taking ADD medication pretty consistently (the days when I don't take it are noticeably worse). But even with the medication, 4-5pm rolls around and I have an extremely hard time focusing, starting something new, or even knowing what to do next.

I want to explore taking a second pill mid-day, but honestly remembering to take one pill daily is a feat! I also would need to see my doctor to modify my prescription to have qantity for that.

This post was supposed to be about how your worth is NOT determined by your neurology or the psychological situation you find yourself in.

I am trying super hard to step back and realize that a lot of my negative ruminations are not in sync with reality. My paranoia and doubt isn't realistic, and is most definitely not helpful.

For the moment I'm simply grateful to have this anonymous blog to write about it. That's why I started it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Imaginary Motivation (It's real)

I'm going to suspend disbelief momentarily and pretend people read and care about this blog.

Now, I haven't written in a while...and for me that induces fear and judgement that makes it less and less likely to do the thing I've stopped doing (more on that later).

But I have some things to write about that are right up the alley of this blog's purpose...so I need to do it.

I'm telling you, my imaginary readership about it, so that you will expect me to do it...and then that feeling of expectation will make me for real do it.

Let's see how this experiment turns out.