Sunday, January 21, 2018

growth and decay

I've been tired this weekend.  It's somewhat discouraging.  It reminds me of how little logic and reason mean, should I backslide far enough.  The allure of of comforting answers can be a strong one, as I tell myself that everything will be different now, but then life happens.

I try to keep track of every little thing that seems to help or harm, assessing my strategies of what I can handle, and how well.  Sometimes I've found that nothing I have any control over turned out to be enough.  Sometimes I could have been better at assessing what was helping, what wasn't, and what risks were just stupid.

I should not need the reminder that doing better has been quite difficult.  I'll try not to think about how it can also be quite precarious, but I can't forget that this is not an abyss I've ever quite made my way out of.  This is bound to make me prone to negativity about it.

Still, it's the effort itself that's important in life.  For all life.  We're either growing or we're dying.  Literally, each offsets the other and there is no in-between.    As I get older, making that distinction seems to grow more imminently important, but I also realize that I don't have to just passively watch in horror.

I have to remind myself that it's also the reason I write, so it doesn't even matter if I have nothing to write about.  This is the only thing that motivates me, when I have nothing else, but I've realized that I should be able to stretch it a lot further than I have been.  Least when I have the energy.

Maybe I'm declining because I haven't been running.  There isn't really any substitute for that.  Or because I have an appointment with VSAC tomorrow, and suppressing my anxiety has been exhausting.  This might seem to be a big step, but I think I'm all out of smaller steps, here.

As for being more social, those are even bigger steps, for me.  I can go back to worrying about that, once I'm on track with this education bit.  As far as helps and harms go, I think it might be important, too.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

concrete steps therapy

I understand that I try to stretch definitions.  If it seems I don't understand, it's often more because I'm acutely aware of conventional understanding, but reject it.  I don't always make that clear.  In my perpetual struggle to get to the point as quickly as possible, I leave out all sorts of things.

Negative thinking is not always wrong, per se.  It's more likely to be accurate and rational than optimism.  Suffering is one promise that life always keeps.  It does in fact often suck.  It's good to be able to face that.  The delusion of negative thinking can be more a matter of focus.  We don't just take improbable risks because we're bad at math.  We can also do it believing that can handle the likely outcome of life getting worse, just for the chance of having something positive enough happen instead.  Sometimes doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.  Sometimes failure, the best.

All these arbitrary values we assign to everything define the conclusions we draw. How we prioritize, or obsess, which consequences matter, which don't, and in what order.  What we want or fear, how much and why.  Negativity can be an overestimating of harms, a lack of interest in gains, the truth being a matter of interpretation in between, not so easy to pin down with strict logic and reason.

I need to figure out some rather concrete steps, and just found out about VSAC today, which looks like exactly what I was looking for.  Calling them makes me nervous of course, but what a lame reason not to do something.  I'll make an appointment with them first thing tomorrow.  I have to at least wait until I'm not stoned.

I've been trying to figure out what's really been at the heart of this change of mindset, and what mechanisms precipitated it exactly.  A lot's factored into it, but one thing in particular seemed to shift abruptly, and I think it might have been a letting go of this notion that I should be accepting of myself.  A point I've hashed over many times over the years.  This seems concerning, as it provides a sort of safety net, but there is nothing to accept.  No current state of affairs of intrinsic self-nature.  A pointless endeavor, like trying to accept wisps of smoke, exactly as they are.

The unique attributes of nature are no less unique for the fact that it does not stay that way.  A flowering plant will thrive as it sheds it's petals and keeps growing, or it will wither.  There is no staying the way it is.  Excuses for doing too much nothing aren't such a good idea, as I find myself abruptly appalled at the prospect of sloth.  I've been beating around the issue for years, while essentially embracing it as who I am.  Maybe it's not so unusual, as I have made some pretty sharp turns in my life before.  When I realize that I'm wrong ..and goddammit, I think I've been quite wrong.

No self-nature means no static nature to which we're bound: I haven't started reading again because my attention span is better.  Rather, because I realize that if I want to have a better attention span for reading, the obvious solution is to read more.  My mind still wanders, but come on.  It's not that difficult to at least make the effort.  It's not so important that I succeed, only that I keep trying.  It's like I just figured out what learning is.

Now that I've mastered this technique of reading human books, I think I should be able to transition into a higher function adult type person.  Learn Chinese just to visit China, if that's what I feel like doing.  Eventually.  For now, I'm still learning Russian, per my original intent to move to Оймякон.

Jogging when I can, hitting the bag more when I can't, calisthenics and stretching, cooking myself real food but also intermittent fasting, because why not.  Reading books, plural.  Even really boring ones.  Meditating every morning.  and night.  Clambering through the ice and snow into Burlington once or twice a week, and walking that little dog.

At some point, I'd like to be too busy to do all that every day.  Honestly, I'd like to be able to say that I've defeated mental illness, but I might be getting ahead of myself.

Friday, January 5, 2018


"Do or do not. There is no try."  This suddenly makes sense, removing success or failure from the equation.  When doing is a matter of intention, and not the external objective it's supposed to accomplish.  You either intend something, or you don't.

Who to believe.. Yoda or Lao Tze?

Wondering what I'd posted about cognitive behavioral therapy exactly, I did a blogger search for 'cognitive.' A number of passing references, and one post on it specifically.  It made me realize just how much differently I'm thinking about it, and how there are a few different ways of interpreting what sort of behavioral changes we're talking about.  I've read about it some, but not at enough depth to get into specifics.

In one old post, I was thinking of it from the perspective of overcoming depression.  The idea being that doing happier things would lead to feeling happier.  Or the old familiar premise that if I'd just get up and get moving, I'd feel better.  This is a bit simplistic, but can be true, unless there's a physiological problem preventing it from being true.  All my references to physiology did remind me that I used to feel a lot worse all the time.

Understanding how neurophysiology is altered by behavior has a lot to do with my recent change of direction, though.  Understanding that these changes are very gradual.  It's not the impact of behavior in any immediate sense.  Doing things as part of an every day routine pushes our neurophysiology to adapt and get better at it.  This is what I've meant by viewing everything as practice.

I've also thought about behavioral therapy more from the perspective of anxiety.  If you expose yourself to anxiety provoking situations, you'll get used to it, you'll get over it.  This can be more universally true than the first approach, but it can be quite difficult and painful.  I'm not sure it's always the right solution.  I've realized that I don't like the emphasis on getting used to it, as I don't believe that will necessarily happen.  It might, but I can't count on it.  I need to be able to tell myself that this is all worth doing regardless.

Now, I'm thinking of it in terms of behavior, not to counteract negatives (anxiety, depression) but to build up positives.  That is, to do things so that I'll get better at doing things.  That may or may not involve any reduction in anxiety or depression, but I know that I really need to get better at this whole life thing.  I need to get better at navigating society, one way or another.  Of course that should in turn help with mental health, but that itself isn't the point.  Fixating on my problems like that would be kind of depressing, right?

In any case, doing so much nothing has made me terrible at doing things, and changing direction has been like trying to steer the Titanic, but I'm getting there.  In trying to read up on CBT though, I still don't know which of these angles, if any, it's supposed to involve.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Met my new social worker today.  She's a cognitive behavioral specialist, of course.  I think I might have blogged a bit on that subject once or twice before..  In short, I've had reservations, but I'm looking at it a little differently now.  It's not so much that I'm interested in 'getting better' by doing things.  It's more that I want to start doing things, 'getting better' be damned.

I'm so done with this.  If I'm being honest with myself, I must be at a point where I feel capable of saying that.  This is essentially the 'behavior' in CBT. I'm thinking about the goal differently, but maybe it is effectively the same.

I have more to say about all that, but I don't feel like saying it right now.  I still don't feel like posting much about anything anywhere.  Not sure where that fits into all this, but I'd rather go read a book.  Anyhow, have to go batten down the hatches.  There's a bomb cyclone a coming.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone. 

True mastery can be gained 
by letting things go their own way. 
It can't be gained by interfering.
 .                             ~Tao Te Ching, Ch. 48

Maybe I took this too literally.  Maybe I misunderstood it.  Maybe Lao Tzu didn't understand the process of neurological development and it's impact on one's ability to master much of anything.  The Diamond Sutra uses some similar language in reference to bodhisattvas, though Buddhism often incorporates the metaphor of the raft required to cross a river.  Dharmas are fundamentally empty of meaning like any phenomena, predicated entirely on circumstance and conditions, yet needed to navigate circumstances from which they've arisen.

Such navigation being the product of brain function, cognitive development honed by practice.  Upaya-kaushalya.  A practice of emptiness, mindfulness of impermanence, conditions - and a practice of learning, studying, processing, utilizing, and incorporating new information, lest the mind fall to dysfunction and atrophy.  There may be such paths to advanced cognitive states, but I'm skeptical of the value therein, absent a robust adaptive understanding of the world, and our myriad experiences of it.

I've often touched on thoughts and feelings of pointlessness, on what it really represents and how much sense it makes, in my effort to understand why this question pervades my thinking.  These days, I've been feeling that I've finally answered that question in a way that satisfies me, and this answer strikes me as wholly antithetical to this concept I've been holding so close for decades.  This ideal of an empty mind, letting go, letting life happen.  Like water.  Doing nothing, stagnating.

If I read a book, the book is not the point.  When I create something, the creation is not the point.  If I get an education, the education is not the point.  In all things, the point is the same as when I meditate.  Failures and difficulties are not setbacks.  The point is the practice.  At least for the moment.

What matters is that I stop doing nothing.  Getting an education is probably the most serious way of going about it.  I'm also hoping that in the process, I get a better understanding how life is supposed to work, because I'm still confused.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

living in the world

My search for guidance has not been going so well.  The system is more of a mess than I'd realized, and seems to have even gone downhill in the past two years I've been here.  I've been striking out in my efforts at choosing a social worker that would help me navigate a transition into academia.

That is, one with an emphasis on external, practical solutions, as opposed to the countless psychotherapists who will hash out my feelings and history, week after week, month after month.  I've done enough of that in my life.  It's not what I'm looking for, but seems to be all many mental health professionals offer.

I'm thinking that I might need to take some initial steps on my own.  Not to be cryptic about it, but my impulse is often to leave the specifics out of my more personal posts. I mean that I need to look into my financial aid options and how to enroll in the community college that's just a few blocks from where I live.  It's a little school that only offers some basics, but as I understand it, this would lay the groundwork to enroll in a more interesting university later.  I'm also thinking that once I get started, I'd have access to advisers who would help me figure out if I'm even going in the right direction.

Right now though, I need to wait for the Zoloft to kick in, or at least to stop making me worse.  This should take another two weeks or so.

*update, made an appointment with someone this morning, so now I'm just nervous.  I think part of my plan here is to force myself to stick to my plan.