NaBlogWriMo 4: Social Anexitee

(Yes, I know it is spelled wrong.)

I was chatting with a friend (via Facebook) about my propensity for standing in the corner by myself at our social gatherings. She wanted to know why I didn’t interact with the people around me more often.

“Not really my thing,” I wrote back. “Really, Lor is the rock star in the family,” I told her.

” I really don’t perceive that about you”, she said.

“No one becomes a writer because they love being ‘on stage'” was the only response I could think of.

“Touche,” she replied.

The Pathetic Life of the Rock and Roll Singer

The funny thing is, once upon a time, I was the “rock star” in the family. No, really. I was the lead vocalist (!) in a local cover band. For years we played the local bars and casinos. I soaked up comments about my “amazing” voice. Middle-aged women stuck twenty-dollar bills down my shirt and tried to kiss me. For most of a decade, I was a medium-sized fish in a very small pond. So…why the shift in my personality? What happened? Can my personality these days be blamed entirely on my broken brain?

Well, not really. See, here’s the secret – I’ve always suffered from social anxiety. Even when performing for dozens (and, in one notable case, thousands) of people. My wife and my former bandmates will happily regale you with tales of waiting for me to finish throwing up before every single gig for years. Once I was done puking, the show, as they say, could go on.

Even though I eventually got past my audience-fueled nauseau, I never really got any better. I had the coolest job in the world – fronting a rock and roll band. And I hated it. No, seriously. I didn’t hate the job itself, see. But, every night, I would find something to despise about our performance. My vocals were bad. The guitarist had flubbed a solo. The drummer was too loud. Our sound engineer had our PA set up all wrong.

I literally can’t remember a single performance where I came off stage and said: “Man, that was awesome!” I was still terrified of the audience and made sure I judged myself and my bandmates harshly before anyone else ever got a chance to.

It’s Quiet Here In The Corner

Today, I am really not much different. I am terrified that I am a horrible author. (What they call ‘Imposter’s Syndrome‘ in the writing business.) In social situations, I do my best to stay in the corner, to listen at least twice as much as I speak.  I am positive that I have nothing valuable to add to the conversation. After all, I know that no one is really interested in anything I have to say anyway.

I drive my friends and loved ones crazy. If you get a couple drinks in me, I suddenly become vivacious, witty, and humorous – I can be the life of the party. “Where,” my relations ask me, “are you hiding that person 99% of the time?”

In the corner. Over here. By the door. It’s quiet here in the corner.

I do my absolute best work one on one. For some reason, I am able to get past my neuroses when I am only dealing with a single person at a time. I find myself full of compassion, empathy, and insight.  I really feel like I am making a connection with the person I am speaking to.

Then you add a third person to the mix and it all goes to hell. I immediately retreat and try to listen to everyone else speak to one another. ‘Cause, you know, anxiety.

The Gamer’s Dilemma

So, why is this an issue worth addressing now, you might ask? After all, writing is a perfect outlet for someone like me, right? (And most of my fellow writers/introverts as well.) At the end of the day, I am really just telling myself stories, and writing them down. If I happen to share them with the world at large later, well, I don’t have to be there when they read them, right? (And you should have seen my melt-down when a good friend had me do a reading from Inheritance in front of maybe a dozen people. Hoo, boy.)

Here’s the problem: I happen to love other things beyond writing. And the main one is gaming.

Computer/console gaming is ok for me. Most of the time I simply remain in “Single Player Land.” No problem there, right?

But, as it happens, I am passionately interested in other kinds of gaming. Things like board games. Miniature-based games. Even Collectible Card Games. And those types of games require a very specific element…

Other people.

My brother (also an introvert) and I have begun discussing ways to jury-rig multiplayer games against one another. He lives a couple hundred miles away, so the logistics are challenging. Maybe leaving a game board set up somewhere 100% of the time then exchanging moves over the phone once a week. Or, possibly, doing miniatures-based games where we will take photos of the game boards and email them to one another, along with our “moves” for the turn.

All this to avoid doing something like heading down to our corner game stores and interacting with the groups of gamers already there. Or even (the horror) inviting other gamers into our homes to play, interacting with other human beings. Who might not like us or something.

The Pain Of Social Friction

Merriam-Webster defines “friction” quite simply as “the rubbing of one body against another.”

However, it then goes on to use the following example: “the friction of sandpaper on wood.”

So, really, friction isn’t about 2 bodies rubbing against one another. It is actually two bodies changing one another by their contact with one another. (Take a look at both the wood and the sandpaper after you’ve rubbed them together to get an idea what I am talking about.)

I think that social anxiety stems from a fear, not of coming into contact with other people, but a fear of being changed by our interactions with them.

What if these hypothetical gamers don’t like me? Will I be compelled to change who I am in order to be liked?

If I don’t change, does that mean that my interactions with other people are actually worthless? That I just glide across the surface of their lives, leaving no trace of myself and picking nothing up from them in return?

Heavy concepts to deal with just to manage to find some folks to play Warhammer or Munchkin with, right?

But they are important things to think about nonetheless. I personally can not interact with someone and be unchanged. And, am I willing to change, all in the name of a few hours of gaming?

So far, probably not. But I think the question is relevant for any interactions at all – whether at Tuesday night Canasta or around the Thanksgiving table. What are we willing to give up in order to socially interact? And what are we willing to accept in return?

We, as humans, are supposedly social above all else.

So why are there those of us, like me, who fear that social interchange more than we fear to be alone?

It bears some thinking about.

I’ll have to consider it right after I figure out how to play Settlers of Catan solo.

Catch you all tomorrow,

  • Jeremy

The Long, Dark Silence of the Soul

Long Dark Silence

Ever had a morning filled with good intentions and glorious plans for achievement? Only to arrive at the evening discovering that you not only didn’t accomplish anything but may have actually taken a step or two backward during the course of the day?

Yeah, I’ve had several months in a row like that.

Once upon a time, Misdirected was written every day of the week.

Then, it devolved to a couple times a week, as other projects ramped up.

Eventually, I moved it to a once a week publication schedule, determined to not let it slide any further back.

But nowadays, I am lucky to get out one post a month.

So, what happened?

The Things We Do Not Talk About

First, let me qualify: It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. It is more a case of not wanting to say it.

Which is unusual, for me, as you all well know. I can talk about epilepsy until I am blue in the face. I am willing to expose the dark underbelly (see what I did there?) of obesity. I’ve taken the Misdirected audience day-by-day through the good, bad, and ugly of bariatric surgery.

But the elephant in the room is that which I don’t talk about – the one subject that makes me intensely uncomfortable. I’ve tried to talk about it, heaven knows. My “Drafts” folder here is filled to the brim with halfway done to totally completed articles that never saw the light of day. A few even made it all the way to the final step before publication – the “Lor Review.” She would read them, shake her head a bit, and ask if I really wanted to publish that post.

See, the subject I am talking about is Depression.

Oh, THIS Again

In my opinion, the major problem with understanding Depression comes from its name. “Depression.” It sounds very straightforward – just a case of the blues, or “Feelz bad, man.”

I wish the folks that had named depression had called it something more descriptive. Maybe if they had named the diagnosis “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die And I Can’t Even Get Out of Bed Why The Hell Won’t You Just Leave Me Alone” it would have a bit more impact on those trying to understand it from the outside.

The frustrating thing is, there are so many of us suffering from this illness. Yet it still gets blown off. People say we are lazy, that we are feeling sorry for ourselves, that we need to just get over it.

Pretty similar to the way outsiders look at a diagnosis of chronic obesity, now that I am looking at the words in print. Interesting, that.

But, the fact of the matter is, I don’t have an explanation for my condition. For someone who has had life hand me pre-squeezed lemons, I’ve done pretty well. I’ve lived longer than I was expected to. I’ve accomplished personal and professional goals. I have loving meaningful relationships with my family and my spouse.

And, at the end of the day, I still feel worthless.

Self-Worth: What Aisle Is That On?

Still don’t get it? Don’t feel bad, many people don’t. Let me give you an example, for those who might not understand the mechanics of depression.

Last night we went to the 5 year anniversary for DaVita Bariatrics, the practice that performed the sleeve operations for both Lor and I. Being surrounded by success stories was nice. While we all chatted and praised each other’s progress, before and after photos of certain patients were projected on the wall. Lor’s looked amazing. Looking at mine, though, I literally could not see the “after” photo. All I could focus on was the “before” shot. There I sat, looking dejected and exhausted at my Mother-in-Laws at Christmas 2015. I weighed 300 pounds and in the picture, I look like I am pushing 400.

Standing there, surrounded by success stories, I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was supposedly the “old” me.

Yup, I thought, there I am. That is who I am.

Dropping the Bomb

And I am one of the lucky few who actually has a family who understands the condition. They’ve been down this road before with me. In fact, my family will be horrified when they read this. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Well, guys, mainly because I am sick of being a burden. As anyone who has had to rely on an entire infrastructure of people just to make it from day to day will tell you, it gets old asking for help. Especially when you are convinced that those who are your support structure are secretly exhausted with your constant demands. This is why so many suffering from depression eventually commit suicide. It isn’t because they are out to do permanent emotional damage to their families and loved ones. It is because those of us suffering from the condition are convinced that the lives of those around them will be improved by our absence.

Now, nobody panic. I am not suffering from suicidal ideation currently. But, as someone who has walked those roads, I can tell you exactly what the thought process is. Those of us who suffer from depression don’t talk about it because we are embarrassed. We are ashamed. And we are exhausted from dealing with this condition that never seems to get better.

So, we assume that those who love us must also be embarrassed by us. That they must be secretly ashamed of us. That they have to be exhausted from caring for us.

So, we keep our mouths shut. And when everyone asks how we are doing, we say “Fine.”

Then we change the subject.

The Enemy In Action

Allow me to describe how depression affects your thinking.

While we were in California last week, jeremycschofield.com went down. There was an issue between my hosting provider and the company I used to originally register the domain name. (Who knew?) So, when we got home, I discovered that my website had not been functional for almost a week.

Initially, I scrambled to get everything back up and running. But, once repairs were carried out, I was suddenly done with the process. It just all seemed so overwhelming and exhausting.

I should’ve put out an email to my followers explaining what happened. I didn’t.

Even a post on Twitter and Facebook would have been a good idea. But, I didn’t do either.

Why not? Because I was unable to convince myself that anyone cared enough to hear about it. This despite the fact that my very own statistics showed that I had several hundred people a day visiting Misdirected. I literally could not make the evidence in front of my eyes overcome the feeling of worthlessness inside my head.

The conclusions that a person suffering from depression arrives at make no logical sense. But this disconnect exists everywhere around me. When I speak to Lor I can’t figure out why she is married to me. Looking around my house, I am positive that “someone” is going to take it away from me. I stare at my Personal Training Certificate on the wall and have no idea how I ever managed to earn it.

I can even hold a copy of Inheritance in my hand, and still feel as though someone else must’ve written it.  In fact, my personal copy now sits on a shelf above my head, buried under spiral notebooks filled with other things. I don’t want to have to look at it anymore.

Daylight

It took Wil Wheaton’s blog post from a few days ago to motivate me to tackle this head-on. If someone as successful as he is can still be wrestling with these invisible demons, and brave enough to admit it, then the least I can do is tell the truth as well. I not only owe it to my loved ones, but I owe it to anyone else going through this. It needs to be said: if you are suffering from depression, you are not alone. You are not the only one on the face of the planet feeling the way you do.

So, before any of my readers starts worrying, let me just say that I am ok. Well, not exactly ok. I am SAFE is a better word. Lor, bless her heart, is staying on top of me. This ain’t her first rodeo. Which comes back to making me feel like crap for putting her through this, but, yeah. At some point, I have to accept that those around me put up with me out of love and not because they are all masochists.

But it has become apparent that I am going to have to go back into some kind of therapy/treatment. Back, you say? Yeah, I struggled with depression, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts for years after developing epilepsy. Only the love and support of my family and a very talented counselor got me through it.

So, if this ain’t my first go-round, why haven’t I just gotten some help, you might ask. That’s the tricky thing about depression. I just keep waiting to wake up and feel ok again. After all, I had just started to turn the corner. Things were looking up – 2017 was an awesome year for me.

So, why would anyone believe me when I say I’ve relapsed? Never mind that I obviously have. Surely a professional is just going to pat me on the back and tell me “Chin up” or something…right?

TL;DR (Because Why Would You?)

Normally, I will finish a blog post in an hour – two at most. I started this one at 6 AM this morning.

It is now 6:27 PM.

So, let me just summarize: Yes, there is something currently wrong with me. I am aware of the problem and am screwing up my nerve to talk to someone about potential treatment options.

The logical part of me says this is all due to chemical imbalances in my brain and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

The rest of me wants to apologize to all of you for not being who I think I should be for you.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from depression, please be gentle and patient with them. And encourage them to get some help.

If you are the one suffering along with me – talk to your friends and loved ones. Talk to your doctor. And start taking care of yourself. The way you feel is not your fault, and you are not alone in the world.

Talk to you all again soon.

But Probably Not On A Daily Basis,

  • Jeremy

 

The Stupids

It was a day like any other. I got up at 5 AM, wandered through the darkened hallways, and sat in front of the PC. I looked over my writing tasks for the day and then decided to bang out my Tuesday blog post before I did anything else. I then worked through about 700 words, added a photo, attached some keywords, and then went about my other tasks for the day, with the warm and fuzzy feeling that accompanies the completion of a daily task.

The only problem is that I didn’t press the “Publish” button.

Welcome, my friends, to the world of “The Stupids”. First off, a definition:

Stupids (stoo-pidz), noun: A mental condition characterized by poor short-term memory and lack of attention to detail, frequently brought on by caloric deficit and substandard nutrition.

When you tack the effects of this condition on  top of my already fragile mental state due to my use of anti-seizure medications, you can have some profound results. I have been known to “lose” items that I was holding in one of my hands. I have been observed standing in front of a running sink washing dishes, not noticing that the sink is overflowing and running water is cascading off the counter onto the kitchen floor. I have been sent to the store across the street for an item, only to return with a backpack full of things we did not need, while missing the crucial piece that I was sent to the store for in the first place.

And, yes, I have written an entire blog post, and then forgotten to publish it.

The Stupids. Sometimes it is a state of mind, other times it is a new home I have moved into.

There are some solutions available. Nutrition is the big one: I have learned that when I do not eat 3 meals in a day, I will be affected. Forgetting to take a multi-vitamin will also do it. (Which leads to forgetting other important supplements, etc.) Not enough sleep is always a trigger.

But what about days like yesterday, when everything was pretty normal otherwise? No idea. Some days I just operate with only half a brain. It is frustrating, but after years of experience with epilepsy, I have learned to roll with it. For a person who has just emerged from bariatric surgery, experiencing this for the very first time, this must be frustrating and frightening. It must feel like you are losing your mind.

Take heart – you are not losing your grip on sanity. Your brain is responding to what it feels is a deficit of important nutrients (or sleep) by shutting down what it considers to be non-essential functions like remembering to flush the toilet after you are done. Once you have identified the problem, figure out what you missed. Take a nap. Take your meds. Eat a snack. Then wait for a while.

It is only The Stupids. This, too, shall pass.

This Time I Will Check The Blog Page,

– Hawkwind