Chip on their Shoulders

Writing some things out

Stress and Regression

These past few months have been beating the hell out of me as I deal with both emotional and tangible problems. The tangible problems are becoming a little overwhelming, which causes stress and that’s where they can overlap. You see, stress isn’t simply stress for someone with anxiety issues.

Not everyone can deal with stress well, but a mentally healthy person can find ways to combat the stress by either taking logical steps to solve the problems, distracting themselves and checking out, or they just break down. It can happen to everyone. It’s not to say that stress isn’t harmful to a mentally healthy person, but it’s a little different. For someone like me, breakdowns are almost always imminent when stress induces anxiety. Most times, I have to make a concerted effort to not break down. And in those moments, where I’m hysterical, I often make impulsively bad decisions in a desperate attempt to relieve the anxiety. Then, I lose hope that whatever problems I have will ever be resolved no matter what attempts I make to stop it.

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And in a one-two punch to my mental health, an emotional issue recently flared up that resurfaced another facet of my anxiety. This part of the anxiety makes me unsure of myself again and then, I start to regress. I regressed to the person who I used to be; a person who believed that their every move was a slight to the people they cared about, a person who believed that their mere presence was a burden. I found myself constantly apologizing for things that didn’t require an apology. I found myself re-analyzing every single move I made after hanging out with friends and regretting most of them. I found myself relying heavily on the company of my friends because I couldn’t handle being alone. And despite that, I found myself believing that I wasn’t worth anybody’s time. I thought I had broken all those habits when I started getting better. They came rushing back and made me feel worse about myself.

It’s frustrating to think that all the progress you’ve made was for naught. So there’s stress, anxiety, regression and then, frustration. It’s made me both extremely reclusive, but at the same time, desperately want the company of friends.

This uncertainty, self-doubt, and constant teetering on the edge of a breakdown has made it so that my therapist has asked for more frequent sessions because she feels that it’ll “benefit me.” And with that, I doubt even more that I ever got better.

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But then, I think about some of the things I’ve said on this blog, when I was in a better place and I realize that a lot of it makes sense.

I think a lot about what I said in my Hope analysis sequel. The one line that hits me most is this: “Have hope in that if you stumble, you’ll get up again. But don’t be hopeful of springing up and leaping over the moon. It takes time to heal.” It’s a little self-indulgent to seek comfort in my own writing, but it’s a reflection of who I was in my better days… when I made sense.

And then, it dawns on me that if I can reflect on the some of the healthier days and really believe them, then I must have gotten better. At my worst, very little could be said or done to make me feel better as I was blinded by my hopelessness and depression. Everything was discounted and dismissed. But at this moment, I still really believe what I said, so that in itself has to mean something? So I guess I haven’t regressed that far back, right? At least, not to my worst… yet?

I just gotta Keep on.

Adam.

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Empathy

As my tangible, realistic problems begin to overwhelm, I feel less and less inclined to write, especially if it’s about emotions to which I don’t currently have the time to give in. However, there has been something that I’ve been pondering about for a little over a few months and I feel it’s worth discussing in here.

I’ve mentioned in the past in passing about how I often wear my heart on my sleeve and I can AND have cried at the drop of a hat… especially if that hat had special meaning to the person whom dropped it. I wasn’t always this way, but it became a large part of personality as I started to hit my 20s. Prior to that, I was cynical and angry. I’m still cynical, but I often find myself getting emotional when my faith in humanity is restored in some small way.

And it wasn’t until recently when I realized that it was really an overabundance of empathy. I always knew I could be empathetic, but I didn’t really fully understand the depths of my empathy until a few tragedies surfaced on the Internet that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

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Filmmaker Zack Snyder, known for last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, recently lost his eldest daughter to suicide. As a Batman fan and writer at Dark Knight News, it was important that it was relayed out to the world. I took the task on in hopes of sharing my sincerest condolences to the Snyder family. Here is that article: Due To Family Tragedy, Zack Snyder Leaves ‘Justice League,’ Joss Whedon To Take Over

Though I’ve never met this man, his daughter, or his family and though I never had a child of my own, I found myself crying. Just imagining how much pain the family was going through was enough to bring me to tears. I was genuinely distraught over the news. The idea of a parent having to lose their child, especially since she was a victim to her own depression just destroyed me. Having to acknowledge your child was struggling that much and succumbed and you didn’t know about it… it would destroy anyone. Even now, as I reminisce on the tragedy, my eyes are starting to get glassy. Still yet, it hadn’t occurred to me how empathetic I could get.

A few weeks ago, the Internet exploded over the loss of TV’s Batman, Adam West. I personally never had any attachment to the actor, but I admired and respected him for the work he did for the character. Unlike so many others, he wasn’t my Batman. Therefore, I was not personally affected by his death. However, as the profound reactions of shock and sadness started flooding the Internet, I found myself crying once again. As these people began to publicly mourn the loss of their childhood hero, it felt like I was getting small glimpses into their lives. It felt as if I was looking through a peephole, watching over their shoulder at their home movies. (Sounds creepy, but I swear I didn’t mean it that way.)

These social media posts really gave me a good understanding about how much this man meant to them. For several generations, this man represented their Batman. For several generations, he was in their homes and teaching them how to be good people. For several generations, he was their actual superhero. With that, I empathized and I felt their loss. I understood why he was important to them and of course, I started crying.

It may be extremely silly, but it never fully processed until I started filtering it through a geeky lens. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 featured a character named Mantis. She is an empath which meant her powers are based on her ability to empathize. Simply by touching a person, she will be overwhelmed with their emotions. It was the plot device that resulted in a particularly beautiful scene involving Drax, who was unfortunately incapable of expressing himself.

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After Adam West’s passing, I started thinking what type of person I was that I would cry for the tragedies of others. To be as deeply affected by such news simply by reading the words of others. It’s stupid, but I started thinking about Mantis and that’s when it really dawned me. I realized that I’m just an extremely empathetic person, who can’t seem to control their emotions.

It’s really strange to admit, as if it’s supposed to be some sort of profound truth or earth-shattering catharsis, but it’s really not. It was just a realization over years and years of shed proxy tears. It also helps to explain why I’m so affected by fictional media like several books I’ve read, movies I’ve viewed, and TV shows I’ve binged. I just empathize greatly with these characters.

Long story short (or the kids say these days, TL;DR), I’m too fucking emotional. Thanks for listening to me figure myself out.

Keep on.

Adam

Two Years Later

Two years ago today, I had my first major breakdown. For the first time in my life, I intentionally harmed myself. I was in love with my best friend of 15 years and she had rejected me in favor of someone else. Even now, I’m still uncertain if I would have killed myself that day. Thankfully, a good friend picked up the phone and I’m here today, likely because of that small gesture.

It’s been quite some time since last I meditated on my breakdown. These days, I rarely find myself looking back on that awful time in my life. Though I’ve always found it to be a phrase based on corny, motivational-poster optimism, but I honestly do find myself looking forward to the things I have planned for myself and the great experiences that are on their way. It stems from last July, when I took my first solitary trip to San Diego. I don’t think I’ve looked back since.

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Last July was the one year anniversary of my blog. Therefore, it took roughly a year for me to heal and feel like a renewed person. As for whether I’m over it? No, I don’t think so. Not quite. If I were to assign a percentage, I’d say I’m about 85% there. Almost, but just not yet.

From July to December, I spent most of that period resenting her. I finally managed to demystify her and recognize her as an imperfect person. I removed her from that pedestal that I firmly planted her atop and I acknowledged that she might not have treated me very well and that she wasn’t as good a friend that I constantly fooled myself into believing. And with that in mind, I spent that time being very spiteful. I wanted to treat her the way I felt like she was treating me. After a few months of it, she understood what I was doing and confronted me. What transpired during that confrontation is documented in my Conflict Resolution blog.

I can’t say it’s been smooth sailing since that confrontation, but I can say that our relationship has been mostly mended. We make the effort to see and speak to each other, as friends, whenever possible and I don’t find myself agonizing over her anymore. Am I fully over her? No, I can’t say that I am. There have been moments where lines – that exist in my head only – might have been crossed and I had to the make the painful decision to end it. To clarify, the lines are not normally there in any given friendship, but realizing that not all my feelings for her had subsided, some things were a little hard to bear. And she didn’t take too unkindly to the abruptness whenever I had to draw a line.

So, it looks like there are some things that do require adjustments here and there if we are to fully repair our friendship, but I think I’m strong enough to speak up for myself if need be. It’s certainly not easy, and it requires a lot of counsel, but I know that I do have the strength to say something.

It’s been a slow crawl and despite many hiccups in my hurried attempts to heal, I’m ecstatic to say that things are far better than before. Better than last year and infinitely better than two years ago. I have hopes that I will be fully able to pass this by next year, likely around this time.

So here is my progress report, so to speak. With it being the anniversary of my breakdown, I felt the need to update you wonderful folks on how things have been. Thank you for reading this when I was at my lowest and thank you for continuing on this journey with me. The few of you who have stuck with me throughout. I hope I haven’t disappointed you in the meantime. I hope that things get even better than they are now. And I hope that I’d be fully here for you soon.

Keep on.

Adam

Conditional Friendships

Recently, my view of certain friends has started changing. As lights begin to shine at different angles previously unused, I started noticing that a few friends whom I believed to be very close are not quite so.

As previously mentioned, I value friendships very strongly, eclipsing the value I have for my own blood relatives, therefore, in a more fragile state of mind, this would have been earthshattering. Thankfully, that’s not really the case these days. Sure, I still do retain a certain level of dependability, but as the days go by, I’m being forced to learn to depend on myself, which has a lot to do with the topic of this blog.

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Though I’m sure we are all at fault at one point or another for being this person (and I am including myself here, folks), it’s always a little rough to discover that one friend who only talks to you when they are in need of something. The one friend who only contacts you when they require a favor and who are otherwise completely absent from your life. I had the misfortune to discover that one person whom I considered to be very close is that type of friend.

Hitherto, part of my personality was to cater to my loved ones. I would do as much as I could to please them, in hopes that they’d find some use for me and not forget me. I strongly believed that if I didn’t do what was asked of me, they simply wouldn’t want to be my friend. I felt like I had to constantly prove my worth to them and if it meant sacrificing myself in some way, so be it, as long as they’d continue to be my friend. A logic based on a lifetime of low self-esteem.

As I slowly began to build towards a healthier view of myself, I started to push myself to be more independent and self-assured. And it’s been working… for the most part. And then one day, this close friend decided to ask me for a favor. A ridiculous favor that felt exploitative of my passive and servile nature in the past. That one gesture shifted the paradigm of our friendship. We had a discussion and I explained how I felt like I was being taken advantage. And then, almost immediately, things changed. This person with whom I thought I can talk to at any given moment, with whom I could share my intimate thoughts and feelings, whom I thought genuinely cared about me… became that person described above. I mean, they were already likely that person, but I never saw it until that aspect of our friendship was eliminated. It just seemed like once that person felt like they couldn’t make any requests, there was nothing left to talk about.

I pluralized the word “friend” intentionally when I started this blog. I was hesitant at first to make mention of this particular situation mostly because it’s far less tangible, and far more abstract. It’s not quite succinct and falls into a gray area where things aren’t quite clear.

In my overeagerness to cater to a friend, I found myself assimilating interests… interests that I found that I quite disliked. As the years went by, I stopped assimilating their interests and began brandishing my own, in hopes that they’d reciprocate, which they didn’t and I can’t blame them for it. They are their own person and just because I’m willing to express interest in something I don’t like, doesn’t mean they will do the same. (I’m usually the fucked up one in any given relationship, something I’ve just recently realized.) Regardless, once I stopped sharing in their interests, we drifted.

Recently, I observed this person become a different sort of person when facing someone with identical interests. And I saw the person they became. The things they did and the things they said. They wouldn’t have acted like that around any of their other friends who don’t share the same likes and passions. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of how they would act around other friends. In a weird way, that friend became the overeager, obsequious person I used to be. I saw that friend doing some incredibly nice things that they wouldn’t even consider for their other friends. Now, this isn’t necessarily something that’s wrong or bad. It’s human nature to enjoy the company of someone that shares your same likes, but I couldn’t quite understand the profound change in personality and the glaring difference in their treatment each friend. It’s just something that stuck out to me. It’s something I can’t quite grasp, but that’s not the point.

I bring these two friends up because, despite how different the circumstances are, they are both essentially conditional friendships. Both friendships require something for it to work for them. One required favors carried out in exchange for friendship, while the other required you share their interests for them to really give a damn.

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Now, I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of doing the same things. We all require something in a friendship in order for it to endure. It’s understandable. Why continue a friendship that you get nothing out of? But it really shouldn’t be based on a specific thing… a specific condition for you to be a certain person.

Or I could just be whining… about first world problems. I don’t know. There are just some things that I can’t comprehend and because of that, I just need to examine it with a large lens. And if it’s something as important to me as friendship, it’s going to be with an especially large one.

Overall, my perspective on these friendships has shifted. I don’t believe that they’re worth ending, but it would definitely require a refocusing to understand them better. In the end, I still deeply care for both of these individuals. Admittedly, it’s a little disheartening, but I’ll

Keep on.

Adam.

 

Conflict Resolution

This past month has been extremely trying for me. Over the last few weeks, I was dealing with several anxiety-inducing tangible problems that pushed me into multiple breakdowns. However, with things finally improving somewhat (fingers crossed), I feel well enough to be able to finally post something.

In my last post, I hinted at doing a blog on Conflict Resolution, as I was able to resolve a couple ongoing conflicts that were causing heavy strain on my relationships. One remained relatively isolated, though no less distressing, while the other was in fact spilling over and affecting a few other relationships. Thankfully, both were handled by the same, improvised procedure.

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The first conflict, the isolated one, was an ongoing issue. And it had everything to do with my breakdown. She was my best friend. For the first time, I was seeing her for who she really was. For the first time, I was seeing myself as a valued individual. For the first time, I was no longer interested in taking any of her bullshit any longer. And because I refused to cater to her, our relationship began to strain significantly. We were no longer communicating, though that was by my choice. Eventually, she confronted me and I retaliated, being honest with her for the first time in our long friendship.

The second conflict seemed somewhat sudden. This individual seemed flustered and unhappy with… something and suddenly, I was the target of their frustration. After a point, this person dispensed with any niceties and altogether stopped greeting me, in favor of ridiculing me for doing something they simply did not like, instead of just talking to me. Eventually, it culminated in a confrontation wherein they were upset with me once again. My honesty was met with hostility and disbelief. They simply was unwilling to accept my explanation, which led to a misunderstanding and an extreme reaction.

Both of these conflicts literally came one after another and each one was resolved the same way. I discovered that contrition is an important factor in Conflict Resolution. In fact, it seems that it hinges on it and has the power to completely shift the tide of the conversation. For each conflict, I offered a small act of genuine contrition coupled with a clear and succinct explanation for what I was contrite about and the opposing steadfast party was suddenly more compliant, with a willingness to compromise that prior seemed very unlikely.

It should be common sense, yes, but seeing it act so powerfully one after another in the same fashion really gave me pause. I started to muse on the multiple apologies I gave throughout the years and how often the opposing party’s anger would not subside. Each apology was riddled with guilt and remorse, but it was simply an apology and did not provide an explanation for what I was apologizing. Apparently, that really makes all the difference. Even more so surprising, the apology offered up with the explanation was far more self-assured than any guilt-ridden apology I’ve given in past. I always believed that showing guilt and remorse made the difference. I was obviously wrong.

In the end, it all boiled down to the way in which I apologized. I then followed it up with a few simple steps that really helped to move the conflict into resolution. I offer up these steps to you in hopes that you can help foster peace in some of your salvageable relationships (if you already hadn’t figure it out):

  1. Be honest: Try to be as honest as diplomatically possible without escalation, but also do not sacrifice your feelings. The way you are feeling is valid and do not forget it.
  2. Listen: They likely felt a certain way about something you did of which you weren’t even aware. If they listened to you, reciprocate the courtesy.
  3. Offer up an act of contrition: If there was something that the opposing party took umbrage with and you feel that it was warranted, own up to it and apologize for it. Choose maturity and magnanimity above pettiness and defensiveness. However, do not apologize for how you feel.
  4. Push for a resolution: It’s easy to continue arguing back and forth regarding behavior each party perceives as unjust, causing more strain and no progress. With everyone’s feelings out in the open, look for a solution. Offer a compromise where both parties benefit and addresses the problems. Being able to speak your mind and having your feelings acknowledged are really what we want in any given relationship. If you have done that, the opposing party should be open to repairing your relationship.

Again, this should all be common sense, but it took me nearly 30 years to figure this out. And it only came from some self-assurance and understanding my value as person. Since then, I’ve started putting the pieces back together on one very important relationship and it feels better, because it’s currently free of complicated and bitter feelings.

I hope the processes outlined above really help you remedy any relationships that have become strained.

Keep on.

Adam

Death

It’s been far longer than I originally intended, but that’s par for the course as my free time starts to dwindle rapidly. Since December, I’ve managed to resolve a few conflicts, one of which was extremely important, making several strides into repairing a friendship that meant a lot to me. From these two conflicts, I learned the essential steps to ending conflict and moving towards peaceful resolution. I may explore that in a different blog, but for now, there’s been something on my mind that needs to be addressed.

There’s a co-worker that I like very much. He was the first person who trained me at my current job. He’s an extremely reliable and efficient person, often referred to as the backbone for that department.

A few weeks ago, he didn’t come into work and did not inform anyone of his unexpected absence. This was unusual, but given his solid reputation, it was left unnoticed. The next day was payday. He’s an older gentleman who operates on the old school and prefers a tangible paycheck as opposed to digital pay. That means that come hell or high water, he will retrieve his paycheck. That day he didn’t, nor did he show up for his scheduled shift once again. That was the last straw that his manager needed to sound the alarm.

He was found in his apartment. He had had a stroke and suffered through it alone, but he was alive. He was rushed to the hospital shortly thereafter. As far as I know, he’s as good as someone who suffered through a stroke can be. He’s recovering and that’s all he can ask for.

I visited him in the hospital a couple weeks later. He described to me what he referred to as the “worst days of life.” He waited in his apartment for two days for help to arrive. He attempted to call for help, but nobody heard him. He attempted to knock on his walls to alert his neighbors, but nobody came. He attempted to get up and find his phone, but he constantly lost balance and fell. Fearing that he would injure himself further, he chose to stop trying and just waited. He intimated to me that he believed he was going to die.

It was heartbreaking to hear, to say the least. I felt sorry that he had to endure such an agonizing experience. I wish him well and I hoped I would see him at work very soon.

As humans tend to do in their unintentional selfishness, I thought about how I would fare in the face of something life-threatening. In the same situation, would I shake in terror in the event of my demise? Would I fear death?

The easy answer is no. Not really. But I would fear the long, painful deterioration of death. I don’t have a high threshold for pain, so I’d fear the hurt and eventual decay of my cause of death, but not actually slipping from life itself.

Please be advised that I am not at all suicidal. As you may have read in previous blogs, I was suicidal and always found myself daydreaming… almost hoping to die. Currently, I have no plans to pursue death, so please don’t take this as a call for help.

With that being said, I’d like to confess that in all actuality, if I were to come face to face with my own mortality, I’d sort of… welcome it. Even embrace it, depending on the time and place when it happens. It just feels like it’d be a relief. Just to have all my stressors, problems, grievances, anxiety, and depression just disappear, leaving nothing but peace. It’s calming. It’s freeing. The relief just washes over.

And I know it may sound alarming, but I promise you that I’m doing fine. Yes, those thoughts do in fact occur frequently when one is suicidal, but I can’t express enough that I am doing okay. Occasional lapses of mood do happen as I’ve stressed time and time again that depression doesn’t go away overnight, but I’m not sad nor am I driven to find relief. I’ll live life day by day and do the best I can with what I have, but if it were to happen… well, then I’d be free of the weight of life’s problems. And really, who doesn’t want to be free of that?

In the end, I just sat down and I thought about the idea of death with the clearest head in a long time, unencumbered by extremely unhealthy thought patterns… And I came to the conclusion if it were to happen, I’d be okay with it. I wish I could describe it in a less alarming way, but those are my honest feelings. I’m not going to shy away from them nor am I going to apologize for them. I will however, reassure you.

For the sake of everyone reading, I really can’t stress enough that I am NOT intending to kill myself in any way. Trust me, I have many things planned for the future and I can’t wait to see through these new experiences with the self-assurance that I’ve never had before. However, if death comes knocking any time soon, I’m going to answer the door.

Keep on.

Adam

New Year: Loneliness

With the end of 2016 rapidly approaching, I suppose it’s appropriate timing for the obligatory year-in-review. Similar to last year, I really believed that this was yet another wretched year gone by and even more similar to last year, I discovered that I had a pretty amazing year. More so than last.

Granted, I will always have the occasional mishap where I fall, but I’d like to think that I’ve been doing a pretty good job in picking myself up again. Currently, I’ve been far too busy to feel very much, but I can assure you that I’m not doing too bad. I lost my Christmas spirit somewhere along the way, but I think it’s slowly coming back.

As I sat in front of my therapist and reflected on what I believed to be another despicable year that needed to end, I realized that I couldn’t find anything to gripe about. As I struggled to list and discuss all the bad that happened this year, I found a lot more good than bad. I sat there feeling stupid as it slowly dawned on me (again) what a good year I’ve had.

May

I attended MegaCon Orlando as my first convention as a member of the press. Although it wasn’t the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had at a convention, I was pretty pleased with my coverage of the convention, despite being censored at some point.

July

I managed to check off another item off of my bucket list and attend San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve always referred to it as the mecca of geeks and I was not disappointed. As a fan, it was everything I thought I wanted it to be and more. Everything was larger than life and spectacular. I can’t describe to you just how exhilarating it was to be in Hall H, with 6500 other screaming fans.

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As press, I was given the opportunity to interview a few of my heroes: The voice of Batman himself, Kevin Conroy and the godfather of the DC Animated Universe, Bruce Timm. It was a pretty wonderful moment for me.

August

After six months at new job, they recognized my skills and dedication and promoted me when faced with an unexpected vacancy.

September

I went to Tokyo, Japan. Although I never really dreamed of traveling to Tokyo, I’m more than happy that I did. It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my very short, privileged life. Ten days of exploring as much of Tokyo as possible with some of my favorite people in the world. We hope to go back very soon.

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December

Every year, one of my favorite bands plays a holiday show to which fans from all over the world travel. It’s not simply a show, but a celebration wherein they schedule several different live acts, volunteers dress up in various characters in the lobby of the venue, and they run a charity drive for both toys and canned food. I was lucky enough to attend 8 years ago, when I was still attending college. In my good fortune, I decided to gift myself a trip to Dallas, Texas to experience it again. And just like it was the last time I attended, it was magical. I intend to go back next year.

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Not only did I do so much, but I also grew a little.

The idea of being alone frightens me sometimes. If I can, I usually choose to be with close friends. Oftentimes, if I want to do anything like attending a show, for instance, I’d prefer to have friends nearby to accompany me, but unfortunately, I can’t always indulge in that luxury. The normal, healthy solution would be to just do it myself. However, my anxiety has always made it so that I can’t do it at all or with extreme difficulty. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but the loneliness can be very crippling, often preventing me from really doing anything if I don’t have a friend with me. I missed out on a lot because of that.

Then one day, sometime after my trip to Comic-Con, I was feeling lonely again and I desperately wanted to be with my friends. Unfortunately, no one was available. In that moment, I realized that I shouldn’t have to rely on them. They’re out living their own lives, while I was stuck at home, paralyzed from going out by my anxiety of being alone. I thought about how much I had missed out on throughout the year because I couldn’t bring myself to go without a friend. And finally, I just realized that I couldn’t do that anymore.

I realized that, out of necessity, I had travelled to San Diego alone. It was the first time I had ever done so. That trip made me realize that the world doesn’t end when I’m out by myself. I spent 3 days in a different State, away from all of my friends… and I was fine.

I learned that I could travel unaccompanied, unimpeded by my anxiety. And by far, the most wonderful thing of all: I learned I could go out and have a good time alone.

Armed with that knowledge, I booked a trip to Dallas to see one of my favorite bands. I was in Dallas for 31 hours and I had a blast.

It sounds so insignificant to any normal person, but I honestly don’t think I could have done anything like that before. This year made me realize that I can do it and above all the wonderful trips I took, that knowledge is by far that best thing that happened to me this year.

Those two solitary trips really opened up the world in a different way for me. More self-assured than ever, I plan on travelling a lot more next year, with or without my friends. And I hope you’ll follow me as I continue growing into 2017.

Thank you again for being there and reading my pathetic diatribes all throughout the year. I’ll see you in 2017.

Keep on in 2017 and beyond.

Adam

Mental Wellness?

The title of this blog may be misleading because I haven’t achieved mental wellness. In fact, it’s pretty far out of reach, but I’m still working on it.

No, this blog is more so about seeing the reaction of a friend of mine who is, for the most part, mentally stable… or rather, normal. This friend and I had a brief disagreement that ended in a moment of childish lashing out that was completely unexpected, on their part. Baffled by that, I confronted this friend, who recognized this moment and forgave themselves for it.

Now, it’s forgotten. The acting out was so small and minute that I’ve stopped thinking about it, but his reaction to it is what baffles me and continues baffle me. It’s the instant forgiving of oneself that I couldn’t wrap my head around and the unapologetic way in which they addressed it.

If I had done something like that, I’d beat myself up for hours. I’d hate myself long after the actual act and my anxiety would drive me to apologize profusely. Seeing that they could forgive themselves and forget it so easily, I thought to myself, “Is this the way a mentally well person thinks?”

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I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It plagued me for days afterward. I honestly couldn’t believe that someone could show absolutely no remorse for a brief moment of being an asshole. And then, I wondered if maybe that’s the way it should be. That that’s the way healthy… normal people think. It started to occur to me that maybe being mentally well meant being more selfish and less considerate. And I couldn’t quite fathom it. Was it worth the loss of consideration for others if it meant reaching such a stable point?

I told my therapist my thoughts and she looked at me dumbfounded. Not only was I overreacting to something that really just meant nothing, but she also made it abundantly clear that my way of thinking was the unhealthy way of thinking. Really, nobody should be punishing themselves for hours following a silly and negligible faux pas when likely everyone in attendance had already forgotten about it. It’s unhealthy and the anxiety drives me to do and say things that may or may not have made things even worse than they likely were.

Even talking through my feelings with my therapist and understanding that my way of thinking was debilitating, I still couldn’t shake the thought that to be stable meant being less considerate of others. An important part of who I am is my thoughtfulness of people around me. It’s always been one of the core aspects of my personality. That part of me is so ingrained in who I am that I literally cannot grasp the thought of forgiving myself so easily over something like what transpired between my friend and me.

With that being said, I wondered if I would even like the mentally stable version of me? Will the current me approve of a version of myself where I was happier, but less considerate of the people around me? Will the current me be satisfied with a thoughtless version of myself who was no longer plagued by anxiety and depression? Will the current me like a version of myself who’s essentially more selfish?
In the end, to achieve this goal of mental wellness, I would have to learn to care for myself more, which fundamentally means that I would be more selfish.

But I don’t want that. So what do I want?

As you can see, I’m sort of lost and confused.

I know that I don’t want to be sad anymore. I don’t want to be controlled by my anxiety anymore, but I also don’t want to lose the thoughtful side of me… which is really the only side of me that I’m proud of. There has to be some sort balance to it and I’m likely only dabbling in extremes. It’s just that display of instant forgiveness really shook me.

I suppose I have a new goal in mind now: To reach a point of mental stability that doesn’t sacrifice the considerate portion of my personality. I guess that means that if I ever do something really stupid, I’d have to learn not to chastise myself so heavily, but recognize what I did was wrong and sincerely apologize to those around me and hope that I don’t do it again. That’s healthy, right?

Keep on.

Adam

Discounting the Positives

Commentary: It’s been far too long since I last posted and I sincerely apologize. Trust me, I really wanted to post… something, but I either forgot, or I was too busy. And it’s honestly pained me that I haven’t posted in so long. I never meant for that happen. This blog has been too important for me to neglect it like this. I hope there’s still some of you out there reading this.

A lot has changed since I started drafting this post, so I may or may not feel the same, but I feel it important to post it regardless and it was important for me to write it. So let’s go back and finish a post I started more than a month ago.

Expect this to be a lengthy entry. All of it ties to a point, I promise, but it’s also meant to update you on my life. Clever, huh? No? Okay.

Commentary end.

***

A tendency in which I partake quite often is what is known as “discounting the positives.” I have a very low opinion of myself and a distinct lack of self worth. Unlike normal people, when good things tend to happen to me, instead of attributing successes to my talent and/or skill, I attribute it to the situation, somehow putting a negative spin on something that’s supposed to be good. It’s either that or I simply ignore it altogether, often feeling like it wasn’t deserved.

Just as it’s called, when you discount the positive, it’s when you attempt to explain away an achievement or a good quality about yourself. It’s considered a cognitive distortion or a negative thought pattern that contributes to folks who have depression as it prevents one from having a sense of pride in oneself. And I suppose that’s really part of the foundation of mental wellness. It’s just another type of negative thinking of which I have to break.

It was touched upon in the previous entry on Comic-Con. Although I got to check something off my bucket list and I remember in the moment, having an incredible time, but I returned feeling numb to the whole experience. I began recalling the worst parts of the trip to my therapist, concluding that it was an experience I wouldn’t want to revisit. Bemused, she looked at me and bluntly said that I was discounting a positive. I didn’t believe her at first, as I recalled not enjoying the experience while there, but she quickly countered that I likely did enjoy myself at some point. She made it very clear that attending Comic-Con is a big deal and not something that I should easily disregard.

And a lot of good stuff was happening to me recently, but I refused to allow myself to accept it for one reason or another that I will explore here.

My place of work has two ways in which to boost morale and recognize employees. Of course, there’s your standard Employee of the Quarter (monthly seemed too costly for them) as well as the Shining Star Award. There’s an incentive program at my job where you receive stars for recognition for hard work and talent, or going above and beyond your call of duty. The stars can be redeemed for cash or other bonuses. The Shining Star Award recognizes those who have won the most stars in a given quarter. Apparently, I received both. I wasn’t willing to accept that I deserved those awards. Instead of just patting myself on the back for a good job, I made excuses. “I got lucky. They give those out to everyone. The last nominees already got them, so it was my turn.”

I came up with what I believed was the most plausible explanation: A few weeks prior to that, I interviewed for a promotion in administration. I didn’t get the position, losing out to someone who was more experienced than me, however my manager made sure to give me a pep talk, explaining that it was only because of the other candidate’s experience that I did not get it. I’m not sure if I chose to believe that, but I know those circumstances led me to believe that that manager rigged the awards so that I received them as a consolation prize for not getting the position to begin with.

I provided this explanation to my therapist, who blinked at me in confusion, and proceeded to imply heavily, in the kindest words possible, how stupid I sounded. Whether or not it’s true, it was really up to me to break that unhealthy negative pattern and feel that sense of accomplishment.

Then, Comic-Con happened.

About two weeks following my return, the person vacated the position for which I was vying and true to his word, my manager promoted me. At that point, I did start to feel a sense of accomplishment, in this pseudo-career path that I’ve chosen for myself. And thankfully, I haven’t been doing a bad job. Granted, I made a pretty grave mistake that could have resulted in immediate dismissal (and I’m sure I’ll be beating myself up about that for ages), but I wasn’t (and I have to make myself understand that it was an honest mistake). In the end, those who have been evaluating me have blatantly told me that I haven’t been doing a bad job (Even my verbiage indicates that I still haven’t quite broken myself of that negative thought pattern).

And then, Japan happened. I traveled to Tokyo, Japan and had such an incredible time. There’s really no way to express how great that trip was. No excessive use of adjectives nor ridiculously verbose and flowery rhetoric can express how great that trip was. I can only say that I was homesick for a country I was in for 11 days.

And all of that is amazing and fantastic, but nothing validated me more than a simple compliment from a stranger I met at work.

Now, I had helped her a few times, so we were somewhat familiar with one another, but it’s still mind-blowing that she stopped in the middle of her day to say:

“I just want to say that you’re great. There’s a lot people here that will act like dicks and I don’t want that to change you.”

I was so shocked by it and I could barely sputter out a word of thanks, before she smiled and walked away. I couldn’t accept the compliment for days after and still, I have issues processing it. I always wonder about what warranted it; For her to feel the need to tell me something like that…. In the end, it shouldn’t matter. She decided to do something awfully kind by offering a very simple compliment. And if I want to build a sense of pride, if I want to feel like I have value, I have to accept it, right?

I’m still trying to break that thought pattern. My therapist tries to make me see the value in myself and I never understood why. I just want to be a good person and a good friend. Finding value in myself doesn’t seem like it’s really needed. It doesn’t add to any of those aforementioned goals, so why should I care? I neglected to mention that I just want to feel better and that’s where my therapist got me.

So I suppose I need to tell myself and whomever is still around to read this post: When good things happen, it’s because you did it. Try to accept that and make sure that you know your value.

realizing-your-self-worth

And above all, keep on.

It’s been too long.

Adam

San Diego Comic-Con

I really hate to leave this blog silent for so long, but these past few weeks have been the busiest I’ve been in quite some time.

Aside from my usual work schedule and basic living tasks, I managed to check off an item off of my bucket list. For years, I said I’d go to San Diego Comic-Con, constantly calling it the mecca of geek culture… but for years, I always considered it a far off dream more than anything. Although I wanted to go, it just seemed so improbable with life being the way it was.

As you may already know, I write for a Batman news website called Dark Knight News. I have been writing for them for over 3 years as a hobby. Last year, the owner of the website decided to submit applications for press passes. I had little faith that the biggest comic book convention in the US would approve us, so despite not knowing if I could afford the trip, I took a chance and filled out an application and submitted it with the owner.

Months down the road, I was shocked to find that we were approved. I was in utter disbelief for weeks that I refused to even utter it in the presence of another soul, lest I’d somehow, with the power of my words, undo it. So much so, that I prolonged any actual planning. I didn’t book plane tickets or any lodging up until I received an email informing me that my badge was being shipped to me.

That week leading up to the big weekend was nerve-racking, making last minute preparations, checking-into airlines, and packing. Packing is a bitch. Nobody ever quite knows what will pass through TSA and what will not. It turns out that a lot can pass through TSA. All of this while realizing this will be the first time I’ve ever traveled alone… anywhere. I knew I could handle it as a relatively sensible individual, but fretting over it was inevitable.

However, finally getting there was an entirely different story. Most of Downtown San Diego had been taken over by Comic-Con whether it be the restaurants, bars, and clubs in the Gaslight district advertising specials regarding Pokemon GO or Mario games, or massive advertisements covering hotels and skyscrapers that are aimed at the geek audience. In Downtown San Diego that weekend, it was fair to say that the geeks had inherited the Earth.

There were so many fucking people, but you probably couldn’t really feel it. I’ve attended multiple conventions before with huge attendance packed into small confined spaces that really made you feel how overcrowded it was. With the popularity growth in Comic-Con over the last decade, Comic-Con International has learned how to handle such large crowds and managed to expertly and efficiently herd the masses so that it never actually felt that crowded. They kept the festivities as widespread as possible, covering more than just the convention center, but onto different properties close by such as the Hard Rock Cafe or the Martin Luther King Promenade just across the street.

The nature of this sort of beast requires that people will be waiting in lines for… everything. I’ve been to several conventions in the past and the lines have always been a mess, obstructing any clear pathway, however, not at this event. Security and volunteers shepherded attendees, keeping any paths as open as possible, while providing specific designated areas (especially for Hall H) for the lines.

Really, the biggest crowd pleaser was by far the Exhibition room. Being a con veteran, I’ve been to many Exhibition rooms in many different conventions, but NOTHING compares to the Comic-Con Exhibition room. I was in awe for most of it. The larger companies are able to set up makeshift stores in the hall and sometimes, even a museum, so to speak. They would have art or costumes or toys beautifully displayed for people to admire. Nickelodeon, in promotion of nostalgia and their new block called The Splat, had recreated sets from popular shows from the 90s such as Legends of the Hidden Temple and Stoop Kid’s stoop from Hey Arnold. Some even set up “experiences,” where you’d enter an enclosed shack in their booth, in which you’d experience something pertaining to whatever they were advertising. Capcom had set up a dilapidated old house in the Exhibition hall to promote Resident Evil 7, for example.

By far, the most important moments for me, however, came from experiencing Hall H. As a diehard South Park fan, it was pretty cool to sit in and watch Matt Stone and Trey Parker discuss their silly little cartoon that took the world by storm. As a massive Kevin Smith fan, I’d watch his legendary Hall H panels every year on YouTube, where someone fumbled with their phone to record. I got to be there for that.

I remember every year for the past 5-6 years, on Comic-Con weekend, huge news would surface from Hall H and I’d be at my computer marveling at grainy, shaky footage. This year, however, I got to be among the first to hear and see it at the WB Pictures panel, most notably discussing their DC slate of films. Just as I was marveling at the YouTube videos, I was far more ecstatic to see it in real life. Seeing our first live-action Justice League take the stage, I’m ashamed to admit that I actually got a little overwhelmed emotionally.

As I said, I came in as press, so of course, there was work to be done. I managed to secure interviews with the cast and crew of Batman: The Killing Joke, the animated adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time. I got to interview Bruce Timm, one of the primary architects of the beloved DC Animated Universe about an adaptation to one of my favorite books. I can’t tell you how rewarding it was doing what I love while attending a place I’ve always dreamed.

By the end of each day there, I was exhausted and surprisingly, by the second day, I was ready to go home. It’s tough being so emotionally dependent on others and being out somewhere by yourself, with nobody to talk to for days.

All in all, the convention was truly what I expected: unbelievable and incredible. It’s hard to believe even now that I had a chance to experience that.

Even more surprising was coming back and finding that my coverage for the con was even more rewarding. Spending hours transcribing interviews and panel recaps for everyday for 7 days straight

At first, I was numb to the whole experience, not realizing the significance of it all. My therapist made me realize just how big of a deal it really was. Listening to me minimize this achievement, she insisted that I was discounting the positives. Therefore, the point of this blog to make myself realize how important all of this was to me.

And once again, this blog has helped me.

Keep on.

Adam