This is a place for me to write about personal things.
Some of these things are deep or uncomfortable.
I have done my best to tag them appropriately.
Please be gentle.
I've been nostalgic for the likes of LiveJournal, so a few weeks ago I decided I'd make one on a service called DreamWidth, which is basically "LiveJournal if it stayed open and not Russian".
Here's a link to my journal. I have been updating it more than here just because it's usaully a lot easier and allows for more things than plain HTML, but I haven't forgotten about this place.
Feel free to stop by and say hello, if you want.
The title is a reference to what my parents would say whenever I expressed any of my depressive feelings. As if feeling bad was in itself bad, a sign of weakness.
But this is my goddamn journal, and I'll be sad (and mad) if I want to, damnit.
Today's post will likely focus mostly on learned helplessness. I say likely because I'm also likely to meander during writing it, and I wrote this introduction first.
After writing it, this post is pretty depressive. It isn't worthy of a warning beyond this, but it's still kind of bad.
This post is inspired partially by eevee's post about growing up alongside tech. Some parts of her post particularly stood out to me:
Over time, I developed an idea of what was Right based on experience I'd accrued. And then I set out to always do things Right.
That's served me decently well with some individual problems, but it also led me to inflict a lot of unnecessary pain on myself. Several endeavors languished for no other reason than my dissatisfaction with the architecture, long before the basic functionality was done.
When I've thought back to my monuments to failed projects and broken dreams, I pointed to the same phenomenon; that, compared to earlier years, when I would just play, and make toys, I was never capable of building anything beyond that in scope; I was never satisfied with my work, paralyzed by the fear that what I did would be stupid, or bad, or require starting over again when I ran into some limit, or some case where I didn't understand what I was doing, or... whatever. Some block that would stop me from completing it.
But in the last few days, I've spent some time trying to put together the pieces of my history. A lot of things in my past I've tried very hard to forget, and in the present it means that I sometimes lose sight of why things are happening.
I mentioned the concept of learned helplessness before. The concept was familiar to me in passing, as more than once I'd heard things like "stop acting helpless" from authority figures, mostly my parents.
To reference a particularly apt description:
If, over the course of your life, you have experienced crushing defeat or pummeling abuse or loss of control, you learn over time there is no escape, and if escape is offered, you will not act – you become a nihilist who trusts futility above optimism.
The longer I think about this, the more examples I can come up with, where the chain of events always leads to a similar negative outcome.
First, I probably need to go back two decades and explain a little about my living situation. My mother and father divorced when I was very young. Because they lived in the same city, within miles of one another, the custody situation was set in a way originally that I would be shuffled between them every week.
While this may have sounded nice in theory, in practice it mostly meant I got shuffled around almost randomly, and that nowhere was truly home. Due to issues with schooling, starting in the fourth grade, even that became unstable; every year was a different school, switching where I lived, losing any friends I may have had.
That much on its own probably wouldn't have caused much of a problem — lots of people have had to suffer through it. But it wasn't, and so here we are.
Like several of the people I know, I was infatuated with computers from a young age. I first had something even before a 286; it was an amber-screen PC that had very limited programs on it, but nonetheless it was an interesting toy.
Soon, that was rather suddenly replaced with a 386 proper; it came used from some university at the time, and didn't run Windows. I experimented with making toys in QBasic; mostly timers, or beepers, or simple "games".
That PC eventually got removed, too; a mixture of custody changes and moves. I eventually came into owning two different Windows 98 PCs, both of which I continued my QBasic experiments on, but also gradually started getting into HTML and Visual Basic 6.
In the early 2000s, the constant school changing and custody situation got to its worst. I would spend a year with my mother, a year with my father, often leaving considerable things behind until I returned.
When I started to play with PHP development around 2003 is probably when the problem first got bad. I had started working on projects for people; small side work for fun, like making a website for my cousin, or a simple forum, or... Just attempts at building my skills and creating something useful.
My mother, in her infinite wisdom, decided one day that all of that was void. She had purchased a far superior computer for use and set it up in the dining room. But more than that, one day I simply came home to find the old computer was gone. It was "thrown away", because we were "only allowed to have one in the house". All of the work I had done, all of the projects I had been playing with, had vanished.
A similar situation happened with school. My parents ensured I was never allowed to have the electives I wanted (computer science, of course), deciding that, as punishment for being depressed and reclusive, I was to be forbidden from using them. Even as what few friends I had were in those classes, I was stuck away from them.
Later, in high school, I was taking a comp sci class, finally able to choose my own electives. In that class, we put our assignments on a shared network drive, in folders named based on our initials — everyone had access to all files. This ended in catastrophe when someone decided that, as the result of a prank, they would flat-out delete all of the files in my assignments folder.
All of the work on those, lost. In trying to use the undelete utility to recover the files, I was actually banned from the class entirely. Since my assignment files were gone, I was given a failing grade for the class, because (for whatever reason) if you changed your solution for an assignment, your grade would update.
Even after I dropped out of high school and got my GED, things never really changed.
As someone too young to get their own hosting, but with enough knowledge to make fun toys, I was able to secure occasional small hosting from friends to use. Without fail, every one ended up vanishing, taking all of my work with it. (This was still during the era of uncertainty, when I didn't have a stable computer to use, so there was no version control or, often, local copies.) I would make something neat, and then it would just be gone — without warning, it would disappear from the internet, never to be seen again.
Even later on, enough people held a grudge against me, that someone even used an FTP server that was running on my laptop to delete files from my development folder; I had forgotten that it was set up almost two years prior, and I woke up to my laptop having been rebooted and a large amount of files erased.
Things sort of stabilized after 2007; I moved away from home, after my mother got drunk and literally broke through a door, stole my laptop, and ran off like a fucking child (more on that some other time). I had a fairly stable-ish living situation, hosting that I controlled, and... no motivation to make anything beyond simple, one-use toys.
When I eventually landed a job doing PHP development, the situation changed, but only on the surface. My first job handed me a task of developing and integrating a new module into their in-house CMS. While at first an engaging opportunity, the work eventually finished &emdash; and then vanished. I did not see the work I had done until three months later, when they finally reviewed it. It felt like nothing I did mattered, and my work didn't mean anything. It was almost as bad as having it just thrown away and forgotten.
In my second job, a lot of similarities formed. Asked to do tasks, work on projects. Any time I would try to take on a task and finish it, I was rarely allowed to so. My work would get shelved, never cleared for release. We would shift gears, getting a new and immediate "top priority". It created a culture of nothing mattering, because in the end the work done wouldn't be used anyway.
Even in personal projects, I never get anywhere. I feel like any time I start something, it's doomed to failure; I'll lose interest, I'll become too busy with something else... The large amount of dead projects and broken dreams reinforces this thought, and it's immensely hard to break out of that "oh, what's the point" feeling.
It's easy to look at it from the outside and say, "just make something small, something you can finish". But even in cases where I did make something "finished", it just doesn't feel like I've accomplished anything. It's not truly complete, it's missing stuff, it's dead and broken...
When battered women, or hostages, or abused children, or long-time prisoners refuse to escape, they do so because they have accepted the futility of the attempt. What does it matter? If those people do get out of their situation, they often have a hard time committing to anything which may lead to failure.
When you're already busy under crushing depression, worried about the future, worried about stability, jobs, friends, it's so, so much easier to just throw in the towel, and accept defeat.
I just don't know anything else.
I think that the biggest problem with myself is that I'm ashamed of almost everything about me.
I'm ashamed about my weight, my looks. I'm ashamed about my past, the dumb things I did. The old things I made, the people I talked to, the words I said, everything that I did that was awful, dumb, immature.
I'm different now -- or I'd like to think I am, at least -- but the shame doesn't go away.
Arguably, it made things worse. I'm more concious of that shame, almost cripplingly so; many times I've started trying to work on something only to throw it away because I feel like it's not good enough, or will be obsolete once I figure out the "right" way to do something... As if not making a thing is better than making something bad.
I'm ashamed of what people might think of me. I have two replies I got from a thing I posted on a mastodon instance; nothing bad, just a much lighter, less thought-out version of what I put here. But I'm too ashamed to read them. To me, I know what they're going to say, and they'll be right; there's no reason for this sort of thing. But that doesn't make the thing go away, either.
I thought I was getting better with it, but maybe I was wrong. While I'm not as ashamed as I am about, say, my awful 2002-era ROM hack of Super Mario Bros. 3, there's still a lot I am ashamed of. I was looking through some old code from the modifications I made to ancient forum software and felt awful all over again.
I don't know. I feel like if people knew, they'd hate me, or...
even posting this feels shameful, exposing another facet of how i'm...
making people feel awful, by calling the moments where they're afflicted by the worst of depression, feeling sad; "pity parties", mocking them for having feelings, for not being so full of confidence, because of the way you treated them for years, the years of bullshit they went through from their peers,
as if any , sort of f... feeling, or lack of worth, was weakness, failure, an error to be corrected by any means; "the beatings will continue until morale improves",
While driving home one night:
If we did move somewhere else, would you want to try presenting as a girl?
After a few moments, I just turned up the volume of the music playing, without giving an answer.
I still don't know what the truth is.
It's gone now.
It wasn't ready. I wasn't able to write it the way I wanted to, so I cut my losses and have removed it for now. The first part of the post is still there, below this one.
Maybe some day.
I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. Guess it's finally time to do it; no time like the end of the year, huh?
The first part of this is going to be about the way I've presented myself online. I've always been Xkeeper, more or less; the name has not had any major changes. Over the years, I've become less attached to it; partially because I keep bumping into the occasional other people using the name, partially because people keep thinking the X is padding and calling me just "keeper". I'd prefer the opposite — just to be called "X" — but that never seems to work out.
The first avatar I can really remember using was one of the character images from RPG Maker 2000, shown here in double-size for your viewing pleasure:
Spiky hair, unamused expression, basically did quite well at matching how I felt. This remained pretty constant for a while. Sometime later, I learned about the Disgaea series, and it wasn't long before I moved on to something a little more fitting:
"With their aggressive personalities, they have a low capacity for friendship."
— Disgaea PSP character description
The artwork for the warrior class matched what I "wanted" to look like enough. As for the description... aggressive personality? Sounds like me; I had been known for a while for certainly being abrasive, and I did not have much in the way of friends online for a long time. A few variants of this avatar were used, taken from various official art or the box art for games. Later on, I migrated to the version used in the later games (on right), though I don't like it quite as much:
Up until now, all of these are just the official art; it was nothing I had any say in, other than choosing to use it as self-representation. It still mostly fit, but it wasn't... me.
Eventually, in 2014, I worked up the courage to commission someone for art that ... while not exactly representing me, would maybe be a little closer. It's... well. If you don't care to see it (and you don't have to — please don't feel obligated), it is a version of the Warrior (M) above except as a girl. And a little curvy.
Well, you did read the warning, so I guess I can show you:
This was done by Sanone/Su-sano, September 2014. I chose Sanone mostly because their art is actually really cute and generally not explicit at all; even if this is blatantly pandering to my tastes...
Honestly, the only reason I am showing it here is because it is the first real step where I commissioned something resembling "me". I don't think it would otherwise really be appropriate to share...
That was sort of the "beginning", if you will; now that I had done it once, doing it again was easier. I had normalized the girl-version of the male warrior for myself, and was slowly starting to make it... me. I got another one, with slightly more "normal" proportions, and ended up using a simple-color version of it as an avatar for a while:
I started contributing to someone's Patreon, and as the monthly reward, got a piece of art every month. I started using it to experiment with "myself", making little changes to how I presented this "character". Sorry, I know it's getting harder to understand as we go; the line is beginning to blur a lot between "myself" and this "character", who I've been using to representing myself. I guess that makes it me, sort of? This is confusing.
Anyway, the first change was just... giving it a different hair color. Slowly distancing it from the origin without completely eliminiating it, that sort of thing.
Second month's reward
I started to request some other experiments; rather than just the same outfit as ever, maybe something a little more...
Third month's reward
Fourth month's reward
The design was finally approaching something more "settled"; it was different enough that I was starting to be comfortable with it taking the place of my old avatars. The last one in particular has been used in a lot of places, as it represents ... helping people? I don't know about you, but I'd appreciate a little friend on my desk to keep me company sometimes.
Behind the avatar, for a long time (2002 to 2010), I did a lot of forums/instant-message role-playing. Nothing explicit, just... escapism, really; fun stories to take my mind off of things with friends, exploring ideas for people's stories or other characters. Basically, just having fun.
One constant in most of those, though, was that I was almost always a girl, or ended up as one at some point. I won't deny that the idea never crossed my mind before, but it was one of the few "regular occurrences".
Even outside of this, I've noticed things happening; some people on IRC channels refer to me as "she/her", even though I never asked for it. It almost felt strange to correct them at first, and I ended up doubling back and deciding that I could be referred to as whatever. Specifically, my Twitter bio has said "pronouns: ✱" for a while, to signify that whatever people want to use is okay.
This doesn't seem like where this post was supposed to end.
My "mind" has a space inside of it that I creatively call "mentalspace" or "headspace". It has gotten a little ... weaker since the accident, but it's still there, just hard to focus on and very 'inactive' — it feels almost grayed out. (Also of note is that my headspace is also occupied by a tulpa named Knives, but she has been very quiet/absentee since the event, too.)
For a quick overview, my headspace is primarily an endless beach running north-south (ocean to the east), almost perpetually night. There is a house on the beach that is my "home" here. This post is going to go into some details of one of the less-used rooms.
The library is on the second floor. I don't know exactly which way it's oriented (it's very hard to focus, lately), just that it's on the second floor. Even the door itself is hard to make uot right now; the handle is on the left and it oepns inwards, and it seems like it's made out of a heavy wood.
Inside, the main path goes straight forwards to another door (beyond which is unknown). The door opens into a short hallway, after which the right side turns into a long countertop area; the left side has several bookshelves, lined up horizontally; there are about eight of them, spaced enough to have plenty of room between them.
The area behind the counter has its own shelving, but they seem empty aside from a few scattered books. It feels like someone has been here, but I cannot positively identify anything that makes me feel like this.
The books themselves are all very similar. The design feels like hard-cover books with a dark leather cover, posibly black; on the front is a common emblem, and below that is a label with a short title. The emblem is a diamond overlaid on top of a square; the diamond itself has four squares of equal size on it (like a grid), with the top and bottom ones a dark red, and the left and right ones a deep blue. The square under the diamond is a deep gray.
The only time I was able to read any of the books was when I was under a hypnotic trance, years ago. The ones that were read were about people near me in life. The contents were surprisingly short, as if most of the pages are blank; they were simple descriptions of who the person was, their good points, their bad points, and what I thought about them, such as how trustworthy they were, or what they had done to me in the past. (For example, my mother's book focused largely on her alcoholic abuses.)
I do not know what is beyond the door at the end of the library, or even what most of the books are inside it. The door itself seems to have the same emblems that the books do, but ... oddly if I put my finger on it, the inside squares extend outwards, revealing more of the silver square under them. I don't know why, but it doens't seem to do anything else. The door itself is locked, and I have a forboding sense when I'm near it.
The rest of the library has a calm atmosphere, but if I concentrate I still feel vaguely as if I am being watched. It feels like someone is at the counter, but nothing is moving and I do not see anybody there.
Maybe in the future I can explore a little more.
Addendum: Sanqui asked me to try drawing the emblem. It's based off of one I had long ago, but I don't know if it exists on the internet anywhere any more. I spent a few moments in Paint redrawing it. It isn't entirely accurate; the colors feel a little more muted in my mind (blue seems too dark here, or red too light) but it is close enough for being three in the morning.
I asked a friend, a while ago, to describe how they saw me in their 'mindspace'.
After a short while, they responded.
You are a weary soldier of tattered clothing and weakened muscle.
The look in your eyes tells me right away that you've been trucking ever-onwards for so long you don't even realize you're moving anymore.
You could spend a month crossing an entire desert on foot and not even realize how far you walked, because to you it simply never ends and you just have to keep moving.
That's all that matters.
Everything else is a dead dream, no hope, no future, this is just how it is now.
Your only respite is the strange and unknowable world of the mind, which you desperately try to explore despite being so worn down your mind is barely usable.
Everything in real life is just another weight on your shoulders, dragging you down — ironically, because you have to handle the wellbeing of your closest and most intimate friends and lovers and I'm not physically there to suffer with you, that makes me even closer to you.
That's all for this post. Maybe something more soon. I'm very tired.
I feel more and more tired every day, it seems.
No matter how much sleep I try to get, I wake up later and later and accomplish less and less.
I took two days off of work this week to have a four-day weekend, and I still feel as tired as I did before.
I don't know why this is happening, but if it doesn't stop soon, I don't know how much longer I can keep functioning at all.
Light content warning: This post is about my own mental health and use of (prescribed) prescription drugs.
I have now been off of my antidepressants, Bupropion, for about five days.
The short version is that I missed the part on the label that read 0 refills, and called in a refill on the last day, assuming I would be able to pick it up at the end of the day. This is how it usually goes, and it tends to work. However, 0 refills means it has to be authorized, and that authorization is taking forever. In the mean time, I have effectively gone cold-turkey.
Pretty much everyone will tell you this is a terrible idea, never do this. Take their advice.
This is the fourth time this has happened to me, but not with this particular antidepressant. On other occasions, similar things happened; I ran out of refills, didn't get an authorization, and simply stopped, or sometimes just... quit. Other antidepressants, this one included, don't seem to have a noticable effect — if anything, I feel only more aware of how depressed I am, not any less so, or any more able to deal with it. (The last few months especially have been very difficult.)
Combined with a horrible lack of sleep duration and quality, and I have been something of a mental wreck the last few days. I have mostly been able to show myself as being OK, but underneath it I'm largely struggling to not just lay in bed all day and sleep. (I do not consider myself at-risk for self harm.)
Thinking about antidepressants and their effectiveness (or lack thereof) mostly reminds me of an unwanted memory; I was diagnosed with major depression fairly early, when I was in my mid-teens. I was given a sample-pack of antidepressants to take home and try over a month. My mother, rather than listen to the psychologist, happily declared (once we left, of course) that "[I'm] not depressed" and "these are just sugar pills", and that was the end of that.
Maybe my depression is less a result of chemical imbalances and more the environment in which I was raised (and, to some degree, still live in).
Either way, going cold-turkey on no less than 4 different antidepressants certainly did not help matters. I just wish that medicine you basically need to live a normal life (or, in some cases, live, period) can be gated behind an "authorization" that may never come. That goes for all medicine, not just these.
American Exceptionalism sure works wonders when it comes to health care.
The actual writing part is not difficult. If you know what words you need to put down, it is as simple as just writing, or typing, the letters. That part is trivial.
The difficult part comes when you try to write about things you think or feel. To you, they make sense — you already know everything. To anyone else, it might be nonsense. You need to not just convey what you think, but the context of what you think, the nuances of those thoughts. You must also think about them in depth. If you don't, you risk the possibilty of veering wildly off-course in the process, your written thoughts becoming some sort of tangled ball of strings.
In some cases, you can get around some of these issues with a simple outline. Think about what you want to talk about. Put it in a list. Go over the list point by point, explaining each one as best as you can. The structure helps keep focus and makes it easier to follow, because you have already designed your path.
But the most difficult part by far, is convincing yourself to write.
When you are so reserved, so shy, so... afraid of what people might think. Even if those fears are unfounded. It is difficult. It is difficult to imagine other people showing empathy, understanding what you say, listening and understanding without shrugging it off or disrespecting you. If you have grown up through years of this sort of disrespect, it can be an almost impossible task. You become fearful of what other people might think, even if it doesn't matter. Sure, some random person thinks you're stupid. But over the years you have internalized it to the point where you think even your closest friends might say that.
This is what I mean when I say that writing is difficult. It is not just the difficult in getting words out, but the ability to trust yourself to do so, the ability to trust that the people who might read it one day will respect what you have to say and be constructive. Without those, writing is a difficult task, prone to the problems above; thought wandering, lack of clarity, etc.
It does not help when some of the things you want to write about are hot-button issues for some people. The kind of things that someone might see and blow up at you over, even if you did not mean it in any offensive way, even if you did not know the ramifications of what you think or say.
There are a lot of topics I want to write about here. Not all of them will make sense. A lot of them may be painful for me to write. But... hopefully I can do it.