Tag Archive | mental health

Reflecting

It was hitting me on Saturday night as I sat at Dempsey’s attempting to learn sports by osmosis, my fleshy frame’s surface area exposed to discussion of basketball statistics, attempting to draw the knowledge in through my cell membranes, that my life has turned into something I didn’t really expect. I am becoming friends with professional fighters. I’m looking at getting a motorcycle. The thought of donuts makes me sick to my stomach (I will still totally eat them though, lets not get too crazy). I think about running two miles and I get a mild buzz of excitement and not dread. I have business cards, they even have my name on them. It’s a bunch of little strange things that confuse me, and of course that makes me think about where I have been. So a brief recap of the last year:

A year and a day ago, I graduated with a Master’s degree in Linguistics. My sister got married the day before. I was never as upset about it as the other people I knew. I started talking to my girlfriend about getting married. Eleven months ago I switched anxiety medications and everything seemed like it was going to be great. They were actually helping instead of making me feel worse, all of which came from the fact that I was still anxious after grad school ended. Ten months ago, my girlfriend left me in the middle of the night, my life started to fall apart. Nine months ago, I adopted my kitten. Shadow has been, well, my shadow ever since. Eight months ago, with no prospects of employment after getting a significant amount of debt and doing a lot of work to prove I could be an academic success, and reeling after being left by someone I thought I wanted to spend life with, I thought very hard about the benefits of no longer existing. Seven months ago, I got a part time job that paid a ridiculous amount for being a part time job, but still wasn’t quite enough to make ends meet on my own. But it was something. I turned 27 and I could get out and do things occasionally again. My dad retired, they named a building after him. Six months ago, I had a brief encounter with someone who had meant a lot to me before my girlfriend, and who still means a lot to me today. 5 months ago, I kind of screwed that up. Neither of us were in the right place to even be thinking about dating someone. This made Christmas kind of rough. Four months ago I got my camera. Instead of sulking I started to go out and practice shooting. I wanted to explore and get better. Three months ago, I made it 5km on the elliptical trainer for the first time ever in my life. I was starting to actually get in shape instead of just punishing myself at the gym for being a fuck up in his late 20s. Two months ago, I got my motorcycle license. I had gotten up to doing 5k three times a week on the trainer and could do 3k on foot without stopping. I knew I could go further, I don’t stop because I’m out of breath, but because I’m hell on my knees. Last month, I decided I wanted to get serious about becoming a fashion/alt photographer. I’m slowly collecting gear and kit to make that work. I actually did some work painting for the first time in a long while. I had forgotten how much I liked painting little mans, and how good I was at it. This month, I hardly believe its been a year.

The truth of the thing is that eight months ago, I may have really died. Whoever I was stopped existing, because he was defeated. All the work he did and all the plans he made fell apart and failed, and he had to let go and admit that none of that was solely his fault. It takes two to tango, and I admit I screwed up a fair number of times in that relationship, but you can’t control how someone else feels. She just wasn’t feeling it any more. I couldn’t have fixed it. The economy and politics have been severely mismanaged by a small group of greedy individuals, especially here in Kansas. I am not alone in the substantial amount of debt that I left school with, and am not alone in the fact that it will crush my ability to function in society for years to come. Things in this country have stagnated, and the work I do now, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, is threatened further by short sighted budget cuts and anti-intellectual agendas. How many students out there are now highly trained scientists and problem solvers that can’t get hired because they lack job experience? How will we ever get job experience if no one is willing to train us or let us train ourselves? Every graduate student in America, unless they finished their degree by being a mindless sycophant, has demonstrated that for a minimum of two years that they are capable of learning and adapting to any situation under their own direction. They can identify and deconstruct problems and work through innovative solutions by doing research and through systematic inquiry and investigation.

And hell, even the mindless sycophants have proven that they are spineless and well documented yes-men, and there are people who want that, too.

There are plenty of people feeling guilty today because they are in their 20s and they had to move back home after school and society says that is a sign of personal failure. Well guess what, we are becoming a majority of people, we get to decide what society says, and I think we should be saying “No, fuck you, we never got a chance to buy cars and houses like you said we should. The problem isn’t us, it’s you. We haven’t failed you, you failed us. You told us the only way to get ahead in life is to go to school and get an education, and then hung us out to dry after you got our money. You sold us into slavery, and we refuse to go quietly.”

Point being, I hit an extreme low, and I think because of it I have started to think and feel significantly differently. I have become a person I did not expect to become. I’m an activist and an advocate, an artist and kind of a bad ass. If people want to call me a self important internet asshole, or cry “Social Justice Warrior!” let them. What people think about you is not important, but what you think about yourself. I’ll keep volunteering and donating, making calls to the FCC Chairman everyday until he fixes the net neutrality rules, and you can make your own decisions. You always have been able to, and that’s what I’ve wanted my readers to do all along.

I hope you stick around, though. We can get a lot more done together then we can alone.

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Online Dating

I’m an introverted adult. I have a professional life and I don’t just bum around in bars or at the union or the library or wherever else I used to frequent as a student. As I get older, there are fewer and fewer options for clubs and activities with people I don’t already know. Consequently, I don’t necessarily meet a lot of single girls, so I have tried online dating. I actually met my last girlfriend through OKCupid, and we had a long term, fairly good relationship for two years before things fizzled. I sort have talked about her before, but short recap, after two years I wanted to get married and she didn’t, and so she decided to end it. It sucked. Prior to that however, I had managed to go on several first dates, this being 2010 and 2011, usually if I wanted to, every weekend or so I could meet up with someone new for drinks or bowling. Just recently I’ve actually considered trying to meet someone new in earnest and I have had very close to no success. At first, I was under the impression that I was doing something wrong. Maybe my e-mails are too cookie cutter. Maybe my profile isn’t very interesting. Maybe I’m actually just ugly, that’s possible too. When I actually arranged a date, I ended up getting stood up.

I told my sister that, her response was to blink at me and say “People actually still do that?”

Anyway, it had seriously started to get me pretty down. The somewhat classical trap for the intelligent and resourceful is to consistently assume that because you are resourceful and intelligent, failure is solely your own responsibility. You didn’t do it right, or maybe you just need to be better, you still aren’t good enough. This is a dangerous and self destructive line of reasoning. Quite frequently, this will, in fact, not make you reach higher goals. It will actually outweigh any or all achievements that you do make with a looming sense of doubt and the knowledge that whatever you did, it will never, ever be enough. That’s shame, and it is a weight around your neck while you are drowning.

Then however, I saw this article about a man who posed as a woman on the same dating site I was using and it greatly altered my perspective of what was happening. (Yes, it’s a Gawker site. Sometimes they do good stuff.) Tl;dr: A guy from Reddit had similar woes; the imbalance between eligible women and eligible men on the site should make it easier for women, they have a huge selection of men competing for their attention, and they get to pick the cream of the crop. Wonderful, no? Well, turns out, that large pool of men is full of ginormous assholes. A guy who bums around the internet consistently and has been to the cesspool that is 4chan’s /b/, the guy running the experiment should have had relatively thick skin. He lasted only 2 hours before the deluge of obscene and desperate messages forced him to delete his account.

My lack of progress finding new people to spend time with was now cast in a very different light. There is a ton of dangerous themes at play here. The bizarre entitlement of the dudes who start by fawning and immediately switch to borderline criminal desire when they don’t get what they want immediately is disturbing. The fact that anyone, let alone a large number of people, are that vulgar and insulting to strangers bothers me to a great extent. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around. Someone like me, with (what I’d like to think) are reasonable expectations for online dating, are operating on the basic assumption that a woman on a dating site is looking for the same thing that you are, they are interested in meeting some new people because they have busy lives and society isolates us a little more as we get older. I approach each new person with the same level of respect that I would provide any stranger, that they are another human being with thoughts and feelings and rights, and that if we share that we can start a conversation and try spending time together. Apparently that assumption is bad, and somewhat naively idyllic. In truth, there is a very vocal group of people operating under the assumption that because they are on a dating site as a man, they can immediately treat others like meat, and when they don’t immediately get what they want, they start to abuse people. As a linguist, I am acutely aware of the power that words have on people. Each one of us is endowed with the limited power of mind control; words are processed largely autonomously by the brain, and they activate associated memories and sensations. If by saying or writing words that you know will result in a physiological effect like nausea or revulsion, it is equivalent to physical assault.

Digest that for a moment. Those disturbing words are (to me, just are) very close to physical assault. A not small group of people in a population that is looking for companionship try to initiate relationships with physical assault. How and why is this even possible that these men think that that is socially acceptable?

I still feel down, but now for an entirely different reason. Where I was convinced I wasn’t good enough, the backlash of this culture undermined my self esteem, it may have to do with the fact that I am in a minority of people that approach this whole prospect with respect. I am folding up paper airplanes and tossing them out the window at people I think are interesting and then sad when they don’t respond. What I didn’t realize is that those paper airplanes with notes written on them have to fly over a tremendous ocean of shit and abuse only to arrive with a pile of other paper airplanes full of razor blades and poison. That’s just a horrible state of affairs for everyone, and a very solid example of how anti-feminist thinking and attitudes among men really hurt men just as much as they hurt women. Why is it hard to approach women as if they were just another person, just like you, for such a large number of people? Do they never ask themselves how they would feel if they were approached that way? Is there that little empathy in people?

Food for thought.

Metrics

A thought has occurred to me as I sit here data mining at work. I am searching through trends in education data and it brought me back here. I’m trying out Headliner.fm, a pretty cool site about community co-promotion; if we all agree to work together, we can all reach much more disparate bases of people who are interested in what we are writing, what art we are making, the worlds we are building. I frowned and I asked myself, why am I doing this? Who IS my audience? Are you really going to address the whole internet, Doc?

Well I guess it’s anyone that’s interested. So who exactly is interested? I know people coming through are looking primarily at my pictures. I have no delusions about that; I’m not a pro photographer, even though I want to be. I am hell of a hack amateur, and other photo bloggers are following and I hope that’s encouragement to continue practicing.

Miniatures gamers? Legit. I do know my stuff in that category. I am a fairly good painter and I keep an ear out for what’s new and what’s good. That’s a fraction of my posts, though.

This blog is turning into a platform about awareness. I’m doing my best to pay better attention to the problems in the world and as I learn, I’m sharing it with the internet. I don’t dare to presume that what I say here should be important to you, but if you are here and you see me talk about Net Neutrality, you might have a vested interest in it (cause without it, you wouldn’t be here). Mental health, sexual violence, and other rights issues may not seem like your problem, but you certainly won’t be worse for learning more.

So what does that really make me?

I’m an archivist.

I’m making a record of things, preserving them in pictures and words. I’m passing resources to people that need them. I’m connecting people to information. I’m facilitating awareness and enlightenment, enabling help. I’ve been in some very miserable and dark places in life, but I am returned from them, and now I want to help others do the same. The road is long and treacherous, but some that pass this way have documented their travels, written guides and maps. That is what I want to build. That’s what I want to make a community around.

So community, let’s talk about something else. Headquarters is an important and positive local resource. It previously was one of few 24 hour accessible crisis counseling centers and the only one in Kansas that answers the National Suicide Prevention hotline. Up until this past December, they had been answering calls anytime since 1969. Think about that for a minute. That is 44 years, 24 hours a day, that if things were not OK, that if it seemed like the only way out was to be dead, there was someone that you could talk to. A stranger that cared enough to listen to you, that valued you, and your ability to keep living. That is truly awesome.

Recently, the money for resources like this have started drying up, especially here in Kansas (Koch-istan) and on a national scale (Tea Party/”Libertarians”), and a combination of some internal problems with the leadership of the center, Headquarters has been struggling to keep their crucial service running. Their leadership has changed, so that they can start to grow and adapt to changing circumstances better, but that doesn’t alleviate the inherent problem that services that are pretty explicitly designed to prevent needless deaths, to genuinely save lives, are sorely under funded and under staffed.

Go visit their website for some more information. They can always use more volunteers to answer calls if you can’t help financially, man power is always crucial to non-profits and community programs as well. Get out there and help people, readers. That’s the audience I want.

If You See Something…

… you have a moral obligation to say something. I drove into the office this morning and I saw a girl holding a sign. It is finally turning to winter in Kansas, and it was starting to sleet at 9 in the morning, so I read her sign, it was clearly important to her.
It read “University of Kansas Horn Prof. Paul Stevens only cared about my boobs, and not my education or about sexual violence.”
It made an impact on me. It is awful to say it, but had the circumstances been different, if it had been 60 and sunny instead of a windy 28 degrees as sleet started to pelt her, it may not have hit me as hard as it did. I realized that was unacceptable. So here is the Doctor, standing up and saying something. Sexual violence against women seems to be a pervasive cultural trend, and that is sickening. It seems to be exceptionally bad in college settings; I saw on the news a girl at Missouri State, a good student, a scholarship swimmer, committed suicide after no one took her allegation of rape against a football player seriously. The university was silent. The civil authorities performed a minimal investigation.

Now someone is dead.

Think about that for a minute. Silence and ignorance didn’t make the violence go away. Instead, it killed someone.
There are sometimes stories about positive outcomes. Activist group Anonymous, labeled “terrorist” by many, in a nationally recognized campaign, forced a Missouri (I’m starting to notice a trend here, are you?) prosecutor to reopen the case of a high school girl raped by multiple high school football players. Originally swept under the rug by a local prosecutor protecting some good old boys, a state prosecutor, in the face of such an enormous uproar and deluge of bad press, decided to get involved and reopen the case. When fighting for human rights became “terrorism” is a post for a different time. I know I don’t currently reach a lot of readers, but if I post this and you take a look into helping end sexual and domestic violence, supporting victims, or just being aware that this is a problem in your life, your workplace, your community, then we will be making progress. If authorities and made aware that this is an unacceptable, bordering on hellish state of affairs, we can make change happen. I am not naive enough to think we will end violence forever, but we can take a stand and say that sexual violence is culturally unacceptable, is a vile violation of human rights, and will be investigated with due process and punished accordingly.

Here are some people looking to change things. They have a lot of resources for survivors and people that want to make a serious change in how we go about things.

If you see something, say something. We will make them listen.