Wednesday, December 23, 2015

stupidity can be beautiful

My rantings on religion are not meant to suggest that nothing worthwhile comes of it.  Some of the most beautiful art and music in human history has been inspired by religion.  When I went to shul for the high holidays, there was lots of singing, and some of it was certainly very moving.

..and then I'd read the translations.  I found that what was actually being sung was almost entirely nonsense.  This doesn't detract from the artistic quality of it.  Of course great art can be based on nonsense.  Some of the greatest works of literature brazenly admit to being outright rank fiction.  There is nothing contradictory therein, but that beauty is no excuse for celebrating nonsense as anything ideologically substantial, when it just isn't.

I don't feel like getting into why people find religion so inspiring, and whether that in itself has value, but Sam Harris goes into some depth on that, here:

I would however like to take a moment to chastise anyone who takes my below post too literally.  A post in which I rant about how literal people are.  Not that it was meant metaphorically, but it was drunkenly rhetorical and hyperbolic.

I know that most of the Buddhist world takes concepts like rebirth and karma very literally.  I know that includes some of their greatest leaders, throughout history.  To be more precise, I'm just less interested in focusing on that aspect of it, and find it less worth worrying about, because no one is being beheaded over said literalism.  It's nonsense, but almost entirely harmless nonsense..

Unlike concepts like talking snakes and martyrdom, I think there's a whole other side to it that is ideologically valuable.  A grossly racist bigoted thing to say, I suppose, as apparently, we're supposed to respect all religions equally, but my respect for an ideology is directly proportional to how much potential its ideas have to make sense.

That I refer to religion as an ideology underscores a common root of disagreement, here.  That I view religion as ideological at all, while many of its defenders insist that the ideology isn't important, or so malleable as to be irrelevant.

Fact is, religious ideology has been very important to me.  I can see how important it is to ISIS.  I can see how important it is to the Dalai Lama.  That it isn't important to you, isn't going to change any of that.

Monday, December 21, 2015

taking it out of context

Wait, hold on, hold on.  You're butchering that quote about the turtle.  That was a quote from the Majihima Nikāya on your chances of being born a human!

Right.  We're supposed to take that literally?  What else would I be born as?

I am a human.  Are there lots of sea slugs cursing their luck, for not being born humans?  Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK are you talking about?

I refuse to believe that was meant literally.  No one with the intellectual rigor much better than that of a sea slug would believe such a thing.  Not just because it's absurd, but because like so many Buddhist concepts, when you look at them metaphorically, they can become extraordinarily profound.

What, that's just chance?  You can look at any religion metaphorically, and..?

I've tried that. The old Torah, or New Testament.. at best, looking at it metaphorically just neutralizes it.  You take utterly batshit crazy concepts, and render them virtually meaningless.  There is nothing profound in Judeo-Christian scripture.  Or Islamic scripture.  As if the Qur'an isn't bad enough, the Hadiths are just fucking horrific.  I think I can speak with a fair amount of confidence when I say, fuck you, it's garbage.  I've tried to look at it all sorts of ways, and no, it's just garbage on every level.  Looking at it metaphorically just makes it slightly less evil garbage.

Look at the words of people from Hillel to Pope Francis, and the only time they say anything worthwhile being when they cut it from whole cloth.  Even then, it's about all the profundity of, "be nicer to people," and "stop fucking with everyone." They're at their best when they deviate from scripture entirely.  There is nothing of value to be found therein.  It's not even good fiction.

I'm a terrible person, I know.

See?  Mindfulness.

Still, I put forth that some religious philosophers were different.  Some of them actually had really good ideas.  Some of those ideas were expressed metaphorically, trying to use the religious language of their times, but people are idiots and took them literally. I base this on my experience of finding such incredibly mind provoking concepts in these metaphors, as well as on my experience of people, and their incredible ability to misunderstand just about everything.

Have you ever tried to use sarcasm on the internet?  I mean, holy crap, people are stupidly literal.  and literally stupid.  People are idiots and they distort everything.  Human history is like a vast game of telephone.  Sift through it all, piece together how it just might have been originally intended, and some of it actually makes a lot of sense.  Some of, still not so much.  Or put another way, you're just missing that yoke by hundreds of miles, you fucking sea slug.

This is probably why the 5th precept advises against indulging in fermented drink, though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

relapse

I've been feeling really lousy the past few weeks.  Sleeping later, can't get to sleep at night, haven't felt like cooking, my apartment's a mess, keep procrastinating laundry, shopping.  I haven't been running.  I even run out of beer, and just go a few days without it, rather than restocking immediately.

Essentially, I feel like my old self again.  Like my Omnitrope suddenly stopped working.  I keep thinking maybe I got a bad batch.  Maybe they didn't refrigerate it at the pharmacy.  I keep thinking I'm just grasping at straws, making excuses.  More likely just relapsing, back to my lousy baseline, because this is who I am.  Now that the novelty of my new apartment has worn off, I'm just stagnating, like I always have.

It wasn't until today that I remembered, I forgot to refrigerate it myself, when I first got it.  I'd left in my coat pocket for a few hours, before an "oh crap!" moment, when I remembered it was there, and jumped up to put it in the fridge.

I remember thinking, it's just been a few hours, right?  I'm sure it's fine.

Maybe it'd been a few more hours than I'd thought.  Maybe it goes bad more quickly than I'd thought.  It's $1400 worth, and I don't even have an endocrinologist yet, to check my IGF-1 levels - that would prove whether I'm right about this, or just a whiner.

Still waiting on the referral for that, should be any day now.  Maybe a week or two.  In the meantime, I'll have to use up what I've got anyhow, and see if I feel better by spring..

Sunday, December 6, 2015

religious teachings (sometimes) matter

Why have I latched onto the discussion of Islamic conservatism, terrorism, and human rights abuses in the Muslim world, coming to closely follow writers from Sam Harris to Aki Muthali?  More to the point, why do I harp on Islam?  Even if we can agree that it's a serious issue that needs attention, certainly, there are so many other issues that do, too?

Why not climate change, or gun control, income inequality, or systemic racism in America?  Why not any issue specific to America, over something that's really more of an issue on the other side of the world?  While I do touch on all these other problems, I can't deny that my fixation on Islam seems questionably disproportionate.  I think it's partly an issue of scale, and awareness of global proportions over ethnocentrism, as well as having some perspective on differing degrees of severity, but I'm not so sure these are quite the sparks that motivate me.

I think about what draws me to a writer like Sam Harris in particular, and the similarities of his own disproportionate focus.  He didn't start out picking on Islam, and has even said that he'd really like to get away from doing so.  Like myself, his background has more to do with philosophy and world religions, from ideologies, to studying meditation, to appreciating the spiritually uplifting quality of music and ritual.  We both come from a background of thinking that these things matter.  That these things actually matter a whole lot.

Would anyone say that Buddhism is all about what you bring to it?  That bodhicitta can be all about peace, or all about violence, depending on the practitioner?  That The Four Noble Truths are just tabula rasa for whatever we want to make of it?

No, it's only ignorance of these concepts that might make it appear that way.  Maybe if you think religion is all about colored robes, funny hats, candles and incense, and all manner of words in other languages for family get-togethers.  These cultural trappings of religion are of course part of it, and for many cultural adherents, the much larger part of it.  From your average nominal Buddhist in Myanmar to their Islamic counterpart in Iraq.  People just living their lives, following the traditions of the religion they grew up with.  Not really the sort to do all that much navel gazing over it, one way or another.

That's fine, I don't mean that as any sort of critique.  I just mean to say that's not the whole picture of what religion is about, and it is not the direction I'm coming from.  When I delved into this stuff, it was very much a quest for ideas, new ideas, new ways of thinking about the world, and what I should consider important.  Which religious concepts might hold some truth that I wouldn't find elsewhere.

I didn't read the Tao Te Ching, so that I could shape Lao Tzu's words to fit what I already believed.  Concepts like anatta made no sense to me at first, and took quite a long time for me to really grasp.  I was looking for ideas that would be new to me, that would help me make sense of this life.  I was looking to build on my personal ideology, not just embellish it with culturally appropriated bells and whistles.

So yeah, I'm not too keen on this idea, espoused by the likes of Reza Aslan, that religious teachings hold no meaning of their own, that they're just ideological clay to be shaped by the practitioner.  That is incredibly antithetical to my own experience- and I know, antithetical to the experience of many others.  Some people adjust the concept of their religion, to fit what they want to believe.  Others look to religion, to help them figure out what to believe.  I don't know how anyone can seriously deny this.

We often read these works to figure out how they might have been originally intended, with the idea that they might hold wisdom of utmost importance.  How our lives might be shaped by this reading can be so very different, depending on whether we're talking about Leviticus, or the Dhammapada.  I've read a whole lot of this stuff over the years, and I guess that's why I find the idea that 1.6 billion people might approach reading the Qur'an similarly.. to be gravely concerning.

At least some of them are all too understandably going to come away with the belief that groups like Boko Haram and ISIS are absolutely right.  My focus on Islam really comes back to my appreciation of religious significance in general.  In this context, a context that has pervaded most of my life, Islam does appear to be uniquely and exceptionally harmful.

"The motherload of bad ideas," if you will.  As is most religion, really, but those ideas are especially dangerous, when we're talking about an Abrahamic religion, prior to any sort of broad reform movement.  In time, I'd even go so far as to say that I've come to feel more akin to Muslim atheists, than religious Jews.  We've gone through our respective nonsense, to see it for what it really is.  That's how important ideology is to me, and there is only one ideology I see wreaking the sort of global havoc and misery that Islam does.

I'm sorry if that hurts feelings, but those hurt feelings don't rub me the wrong way, quite like the sort of hardcore human rights abuses that are rampant to the Islamic world.  That shit needs to be dealt with, and I find it far more pressing than whatever asinine thing Donald Trump's been saying lately.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

perspective

It's all relative.  I know, much of the world suffers far more than I.  Places where despite being besieged by daily violence, famine, and terrorism, the most common cause of death is diarrhea.  Then living with Nan and Marty for over a year, I realized it can be even worse than that.

Seriously though, I appreciate having my own place, and enough government assistance to eat reasonably well, now.  I appreciate it so much more, having struggled so hard to keep my head above water, with less.

I'm so fucking tired of aiming for any more than this.  I'm just happy to have a place to live.  I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing.  We work with what we can.  The only promise life keeps is suffering.  Appreciate when it gives us a break.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

happy american genocide day

I was going to head back to Jersey to spend thanksgiving with the family, but realized that I just really don't want to.  It's nothing personal, I just need some time to myself.  The past three months of soIitude haven't been quite enough.

That sounds terrible, I know.  Look at me, isolating.  We all know that can't be healthy.  Especially if you're in the mental health industry.  It's a bad sign.

Oh, fuck off.  I'm tired of this shit.  I know it's not how life's supposed to work, but for the first Thanksgiving in my life, I'm just entirely thankful to be alone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

coming to terms

It's occurred to me that despite my solitude, I don't miss anyone.  I haven't missed anyone in a very long time.  Whenever I'm around people, I just miss being alone.

I've used the metaphor of the hungry ghost, but that might be a little too fantastical to get the point across.  Another way of putting it might be of someone who can't keep food down.  They need to eat, but doing so just results in being sick.  That doesn't change the fact that a person needs nourishment to survive, but they might settle for some rather lackluster way of going about it.  they might give up on the idea of having a great meal, or really enjoying food at all, but that doesn't mean they're drinking Ensure because they love it so much.

Still, it might be for the best to accept it;  To stop putting myself through the torment of trying to socialize, to hold on to hope that any day now, it might turn out differently than it ever has.  To just appreciate my solitude, as best I can.  It's not exactly that I'm content being alone, but that it's sure as hell better than the alternative.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I find you all nauseating.   I just miss my cat.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

as good as it gets

At times, I've chalked up the worst of my depression to spending too much time alone.  Not just in a specific social sense, but literally, all day every day, interacting with no one at all.  At times, I've thought that had a lot to do with why I'd fallen into such depression.  Now though, finally, here I am, in my own place.  Completely alone.

..and I'm actually kind of loving it.  I'm not sure what makes the difference, but I'm feeling really happy here, just doing my own thing.  Cooking and cleaning for myself, taking care of my own household, for no one but myself.  I feel like I'm doing pretty well, at least for the time being.  Guess I'll see if it lasts.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

good news, but..

I'm doing pretty well here, so far.  Getting one thing or another done, every day since I've been here.  Whether it's grocery shopping, or dealing with social security, or whatever.  Was doing a lot of walking at first, getting to know the area, getting into Burlington, but got my computer set up now, so sometimes I just settle for making phone calls.

Anyhow, I'm liking the place.  A nice mix of interesting, diverse, liberal, laid back, and affordable, in a nice chilly northern climate.  It seems like somewhere I might stay for a long time.  I can even see myself being happy here.  Kind of lonely, I don't really expect to meet anyone ever again, but fuck it.  I'm tired of giving a damn about that.

Bad news though, just being that I ran out of pot over a month ago, and I'm not sure what to do about it.  Maybe it will be legal after the 2016 elections, but I don't know.  If I don't figure something out soon, I might have to resort to growing my own again.  See, I haven't been posting much, I haven't been playing my guitar, I just haven't felt very creative in any respect.. and I've been drinking more.

I think NOT having cannabis is the gateway drug.  People start looking looking for other things to try.  DXM, painkillers, booze.. all so much worse, and far less likely to do a damn thing for creativity.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Winooski

No, that's not gibberish, but the name of the town I now live in.  This is my new home.  It feels a bit surreal, suddenly living in this strange apartment, in this strange new land.  Feels awfully random, as I'd gotten to the point where I just had to find somewhere to go, and just dive in.

My first day here I walked through the pouring rain to the grocery store. I was dismayed to find that the sidewalk ended and had to walk along the side of what was basically a highway, just to get to the nearest supermarket.  Attempting to stock my brand new and very empty kitchen, I got carried away, and bought much more than I should have attempted to carry, especially in the rain, along the shoulder of a highway.  The whole experience did not make for a great first impression.

There are two Asian groceries much closer, which I was looking forward to checking out immediately, but the first one was awful, and the second mediocre.  Oh well.  Was starting to have some doubts about this place, but things have started looking up since then.

Yesterday, my second day here, I went to the nearest drug store, for a variety of other odds and ends I've needed.  Then, the liquor store for some beer- and whoa.  Possibly the best selection I've ever seen.  Just a few blocks away, it's going to really test my willpower.  I tend to have expensive tastes, and I can't afford to be satiating them too regularly.

Today, I went to the Winooski Farmer's Market.  Last one of the season, so despite my anxiety, I had to check it out.  Didn't have the courage to do too much browsing, but this time of year there wasn't much left anyhow.  I bought a 5lb bag of sweet potatoes, and a plate of food from an interesting looking food stall- Street Foods of India.  Was very good, though the menu was confusing, and the portion tiny.

Finally, a cup of coffee, from what appears to be the only real coffee shop in town.  I immediately recognized Morrissey's voice playing over the sound system.  The line was long, and they turned out to be playing a whole album of his.

So now I'm back home.  Finishing my coffee. In my own apartment, still trying to think of ways to make it feel like my own.  I'm still unconvinced, though cautiously optimistic.  I haven't even crossed the river to Burlington, yet. It's just a mile away, but I've been too busy.  I'm feeling pretty sore from lugging heavy bags all over, every day, starting with as many of my worldly possessions as I could bring with me on the bus to get here.

I moved, via bus.  Who does that?  Much simpler than how most people go about it, but a bit disconcerting.  It feels like a very transient thing to do.  Now that I'm here in this bare apartment, I'm trying to think of how I'm going to fill it out.  How I'm going to anchor myself.  Might take a while, but I'm making good progress so far.

Friday, September 25, 2015

buddhaphobia

The Dalai Lama said something stupid recently.  I've tried to find a way to defend it, but it seems pretty damn indefensible.  I've turned to thinking about why I want to defend him.

I've never been one to think he's some kind of perfect enlightened being or anything like that.  After all, he seems to hold a number of absurd superstitious beliefs and the like.  He's not so much a beacon of wisdom, in the intellectual sense, but of kindness and compassion.  He embodies the spirit of Tibetan Buddhism, which is not the most cerebral branch of Buddhism, anyhow.

So, my expectations of him are not all that high, but this sinks below even all that.  I can defend it somewhat, first of all pointing out that until we get some clarification, his intent may not be what it seems.  It may have been something he just didn't give much thought to.  It may be an issue that his own culture isn't exactly sensitive to, the way ours is.  Upon reflection, he may realize it was a dumb thing to say, or to be more generous, his weak grasp of western culture, and language muddled his understanding of the question, or his answer.

It feels like a bit of a stretch though.  Even considering all that, and the fact that he didn't appear to be taking any of it very seriously.. it seemed like a terribly stupid thing to say, no matter how I cut it.

(Jump to 5:30, for what I'm referring to)


I'm more inclined to say that he's allowed to say stupid things now and then.  We all are.  To have stupid ideas, like anyone else.  The challenge is not to be perfect in our ideas, but to be willing to reconsider them, when life points them out to us.  So maybe, most importantly, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, in the sense that he might reconsider, when asked what the fuck he was talking about.

What really irks me though, is the way so many people are jumping on this.  See, Buddhists can be misogynistic too, right?  Yeah, sure, this is just like stoning women to death, for getting themselves raped.  An abruptly dark turn, but I'm talking about having some perspective.  Not waving around bullshit false equivalences.  Not all muslims, I know, but you won't find justification for anything like that, in any Buddhist scriptures at all.  This might just have something to do with why they don't do shit like that.

It largely comes from the same people who seem practically giddy, as they point to Myanmar's Buddhist nationalists as proof that Buddhism is just as crazy as any other religion.  Nominal Buddhists, who just so happen to be in conflict with Muslims.  Coincidentally, of course, a religious group that seems to be in conflict with every other culture, almost everywhere they go.  Does this mean Myanmar's nationalists are without blame?  It's all the Muslims' fault?  Not at all.

Much like in the west, it means that admittedly ugly coalitions form, between ignorant racist xenophobes and rational people who are rightfully concerned about the intolerant ways Muslims behave, in so much of the world.  Not all Muslims, but a very concerning proportion of them, with direct lines that can be drawn from that intolerant violently oppressive behavior, and the words of their infallible religious texts.

(See Sura 5:33, for example, 4:89, 8:14, 66:9, or 98:6)

How dare anyone point out that religious doctrines matter, or that the followers of given religions behave differently from each other, I know.  This has been deemed to be some sort of rampant and inappropriate prejudice, to suggest that an ideology matters.  One that clearly states that anyone who opposes it's mythology should be slaughtered, being just the same as another which unequivocally promotes compassion for all living things.  The argument being that no one actually pays any attention to any of that; we all just express violence or compassion for reasons completely disconnected from our ideological aspirations.

Sorry, but I think it's just intellectually lazy and ignorant that this gets conflated with racism.  It is an especially hostile religion, which makes it difficult to believe that it's just a coincidence that it has the most hostile of extremists.  Every religion has it's questionable elements, but every other religion is allowed to be questioned, while Islam is stuck on the idea that doing so is blasphemy.  This creates a vicious cycle of regression, considering what the Quran says should be done to blasphemers.

This criticism is something that Muslim themselves need to face, not be shielded from, by supposed liberals, who think that even discussing these differences is just a distraction from what's really just veiled disdain for "the other."

How is a Buddhist any less "other" than a Muslim?  Islam is the second largest religion in the world, right behind Christianity, the second craziest religion in the world.  Historically, the other side of the same Abrahamic coin, spread through similar sort of violence and oppression.  Unlike every other religion out there, albeit at different points in their respective timelines.

What does any of this have to do with the Dalai Lama saying something stupid?  It's this moral relativism that leads to defense of Islam, that also seems to lead to this oddly enthusiastic loathing towards Buddhism. Often expressed by liberals, who in recent years have turned against Buddhists, in direct proportion to their embrace of Muslims.

There seems to be this view that Islam has been unfairly vilified, while Buddhism is unfairly held in high esteem, and thus needs to be knocked down to size.  One is brought up, while the other is brought down, without any regard for the ideas each espouses, how their followers behave around the world, or which is actually the minority.  It's all reduced to cultural differences between people, like any other ethnic difference.  A belief in bodhicitta, a belief in jihad, all just inconsequential words that divide people, for no good reason.  

Leading to this overblown condemnation of a Buddhist leader for saying something stupid, while being forgiving of extremist violence and practically turning a blind eye to incredibly widespread human rights abuses.  In the name of some sort of cultural fairness.

Yeah, this gets under my skin.  I think it's just so very misguided.  It was a dumb thing to say, but come on.  He's no Ayatollah.  He's still not even as bad as Pope Francis.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wind, my blanket, earth, my bed

Ok, for real this time.  Looks like I have an apartment waiting for me in Vermont.  Just across the river from Burlington.  Another unfamiliar new land, another chance for another start.  Maybe it will finally work out this time.  I've done this over and over now, each place different.

Different reasons it might work, same old reason it might not.  Wherever I go, there I am.  To ruin it.

I do have to learn to stop doing that, but I also have to keep trying.  As is usually the case, I can't stay here.  It's not working, there doesn't seem to be any way to make it work, and I'm not exactly attached to Montclair, anyhow.  So, sure, I know the score, but still.  Ever the nomadic vagabond, off I go, again.

Well not quite yet, but the apartment will be available circa October 10th.

Looking at Google maps, it looks really promising though.  It's a tiny city, but that also means that it doesn't sprawl out in every direction like other places I've tried to live.  Everything seems to be within a mile or two.  Even what appears to be a decent selection of martial arts schools, within easy walking distance.  Asian groceries, craft beers, even the major hospital, UVM, just a few blocks away.  Bike lanes everywhere, and even a robust public transit system that it looks like I won't even need.

So far, anything I can think of appears to be easily accessible, and I can't say the same of here at all.  Or of Minneapolis, or even Chicago.  Burlington appears to be so much more compact, while still having just about whatever I want to do.  I know, each time I've moved, I thought I was going somewhere that seemed promising, only to find some reason to hate it, but we'll see.

At the very least, I'll have a comfortable little apartment, nestled between a quaint little city, and an expanse of beautiful woodland, rivers and streams, in the heart of liberal New England.  Maybe I will finally find my way home.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

judge.me.nt

Still playing me guitar.  Making it up as I go, can't play the same thing twice even if I wanted to.

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I seriously have no idea if I'm any good. Am I making a childish racket? Is it creative? Musical? Is it weird that I have no idea, or is it pretty normal? Is it not supposed to matter? I'm just supposed to create because I love it so?

I'm mostly just bored. Is that good enough?

Not that anyone reads any of this.  I just like to pretend.  Some day maybe cyberarchaeologists will read it or something.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

paradigm shifts

Taking hallucinogens taught me just how impossible it is convey a scenario between two people who hold inherently different values.  How so much of what we take to be reality is predicated on the different sorts of values we place on all its parts.

Death is a basic example.  Countless millions of lives are extinguished, with every passing moment.  Countless millions more are born.  These numbers can seem impressive, and yet abstract.  Unfathomable.  Essentially, irrelevant to how desperately we value the lives of our loved ones.  Our own lives.

Given a different frame of mind, those countless millions don't seem so abstract.  They don't seem unfathomable, so much as deeply indisputable.  Our place in this vast sea of life, comically irrelevant.  To think we should be happy or sad about that would be to entirely miss the point.

I struggle to remember what it felt like.  In that moment, I realized that even any so-called enlightenment would itself be transient, like anything else.  An awareness that flickers into existence given just the right interplay of circumstances, and then to dissipate, as all things do.

This is not to say that I believe I attained enlightenment.  I don't believe in enlightenment.  Not that it's impossible, just anybody's guess as to what it really represents.  There are lots of possibilities, some more impressive than others.  I only know what I experienced, and that it was rather enlightening.  I also know that no amount of description equates to understanding it as I did at the time.

To feel reality turned upside down, without perceiving anything that was factually wrong.  Just a different sense of values, an awareness of how subjective that is.  How impossible it is to convey what it feels like, to fundamentally place different values on all the things we take for granted as objectively valuable to such a subjective degree. As well as the awareness that every individual is bound to have unique variations in their own value systems, differences in life experiences, and brain chemistry.

Shifts in mood can disrupt value measurements, too.  Especially when they extend beyond the normal range, into what we call mental illness.  When I lost the apartment yesterday, I wanted to attempt to capture how I felt about the entire week, in which I thought of nothing else.  I knew that my value system was out of whack.  Nobody died.  Everything would be ok.. and yet, that's not how it felt.

That is a very difficult thing to convey.  If you tell someone that having a hangnail feels like having your whole arm dipped in hydrochloric acid, that is objectively absurd.  Unless someone has a neurological disorder that makes it absolutely true, but this is damn near impossible to imagine.  At least convincingly enough to viscerally appreciate, even if it were possible to discern the truth of it.  As opposed to just taking their shrieking melodramatic word for it.

We're wired to interpret our perceptions of other people through the lens of our own experience.  We instinctively assume that what we've experienced is going to be essentially the same for everyone, in some basic ways.  When it comes to a whole lot of what we consider important in life, this is not true at all, and when we communicate, I'm not so sure that we're ever really hearing each other.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

tribulations

Sometimes experiences are unpleasant enough that even after going through it, we might want to forget it ever happened.  Experiences which are pointlessly painful.  Where we go through some absurd gauntlet, without achieving anything at all for it.  It feels like it wears on my ability to keep doing it.  It sucks, it wasn't rewarding, what the hell?

but no, maybe I'll have better luck next time.  You fall off the horse, you get back on, blah blah blah.  Maybe with the right drugs or something, I don't know.  I'm really just barely scraping by, here.

Didn't get the apartment.  After obsessing about it all week.  Being a neurotic basketcase over it.  The week felt like months.  For nothing, rented by someone else, while I waited to hear from someone who could help me actually get there to finalize.  Being dependent on people really sucks.

Not going through it again.  Going to try being more independent, head up there to do it all by myself.  Well, catching a ride up to Vermont with my cousin.  but other than that.  Not really sure how it's going to go.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

northward bound

It's looking more seriously likely that I will be moving to Vermont.  Right in Burlington, even.  I'm actually pretty excited about it.  I always like moving, in a way, frustrated with where I've been, wanting to try somewhere new.  Knowing it might be me, my curmudgeonism, following myself everywhere I go, but environment has got to play at least some role in it all.

In this case, an especially bad one.  Montclair has been terrible for me, and I am desperate to get out of here, and try somewhere else.  Still, wanting to be somewhat discriminating about that, and a small affordable city like Burlington seems like a good bet.

I've accomplished some good here, getting on Omnitrope and all that, but part of why I couldn't bring myself to find a place around here might have had something to do with not really wanting to be here.  Being near NYC doesn't mean to me what it used to.  For whatever reason, I feel much more positive about Burlington.  It just seems like a really nice place.

I feel like I'm just waiting now, to see how it plays out.  Not knowing if it will be quick and painless, or drag out for weeks.  I could have an apartment lined up already, or for whatever reason, it won't work out, and I'll have to try another, and another, and another.

I don't know how easy it will be to close the deal, from New Jersey.  Will I have to answer questions, fill out an application, look the landlord straight in the eye, and promise that I'm not a smoker, or whatever else.  Will they be ok, just doing this over the phone.  Sending them money, or sending money to my cousin, so that she can pay for it in person.  Not even sure she'd be ok with that.  Not sure it will matter.  Just worrying about anything and everything I can think of.

I feel like I've been just waiting, this entire time here in Montclair.  Waiting for some kind of opportunity, anything, but I couldn't figure out anything other than just hanging on.  This feels like that opportunity, but it also feels like it couldn't have come much sooner.  I'm not sure I could have handled all this six months ago.  Maybe that's part of what's changed.  Maybe being on the growth hormone for a few months really has helped.  It's just been so subtle and gradual, that it's hard to tell sometimes.

Mostly though, I'm just desperately looking forward to finally having my own place again.  I have not handled living under someone else's roof very well.  I know it's not all their fault.  It's been oppressive, but I am all too easily oppressed.  I need my own space.  Where I can sleep all day, and make my curries as spicy as I want.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

fuck you, old el paso

Habanero Sculpin is the best beer ever.  Granted, only if you're a big fan of habaneros and Sculpins already.  It isn't just spicy.  It's a very distinctively habanero flavor.  If this means nothing to you, that's probably not something you'd find to be a good thing.

As for Sculpins, it's just an IPA by Ballast Point Brewery.  One of the best IPAs I know of.  Even better than Heady Topper IMNSFHO.

I just found a sixpack of it for sale today, which is why I mention it.  It's not actually a popular beer, oddly enough.  It may be my last chance to ever taste it.  This is normal for me.  I always seem to like things no one else does.  I feel like I'm being discriminating and refined, but apparently to everyone else, I'm just being weird.

It all started with Old El Paso Bean and Cheese Chimichangas, when I was about 7.  This is not so exotic.  It's just a fried burrito.  How American is that?  But no, the only one that sold was the McBeef version.  Bean and Cheese is just too high brow, I guess.  Took it off the market.

I'd recently vowed to forsake meat forever though, and as a 7-year-old, I took that very seriously.  I don't even know if the beef version was any good.  I just had to go back to their lousy burritos.

Old El Paso just makes canned beans and tortillas now. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

tick tock

I haven't been blogging much lately.  I haven't much felt like it.  I'm inclined to blame it on the Zoloft, but who knows.  We always want something to blame.  Something to protect ourselves from, rather than just this helpless angst of life going all wrong, and not knowing why, let alone what to do about it.

Depression is so much more insidious than people can fathom.  Even wrestling with it, all my life, it still catches me off guard, all the time.  When I'm caught up in it- it all just makes so much sense.  Like two plus two equals four, cause and effect.  This is life, and it's bested me.

Nothing is going to work out.

I can't find the strength to keep trying.

 It's time to just give up.  Get it over with.  It's where this is going, anyhow.

Whether or not that's rational does hinge an awful lot on one particular line.  I can't find the strength to keep trying - because sure, if I do stop trying?  Yes.  I'm fucked.  No question about that.  I have to keep trying, but I'm seriously not sure I can.

Vermont now?  I have to deal with finding my way across the social safety net all over again, there?  This has been horrible, and it all resulted in a whole lot of nothing.  Is this unique to New Jersey, or is this what I can expect to find anywhere that isn't the middle of nowhere?

I am getting really tired.  I thought taking growth hormone was going to help with this a lot more than it has.  That too, has been seriously fucking depressing.  Regardless of what else I can find to blame for it.

* * *

Believe it or not, that was me trying to look on the bright side, last night.  I was feeling a little more positive, at least enough to try blogging it out a bit.  Glossing over little details, like how I don't really have any footing in Vermont.  I don't know how I'd even get started there.  It might not be an option at all, which would mean that I am simply out of options.

It's not a matter of giving up, so much as having nothing else to even try.  My bus is due any minute.

Friday, August 7, 2015

cognitive resonance theory

I complain a lot about how little psychiatrists know, and how ineffectual they are, but offer little by way of serious alternatives, myself.  That is, of course, the hard part.  At the very least though, I think it's important to be honest about what we do know, how things do seem to work, and only then, what a more appropriate approach might be.

My latest thoughts on the subject involve an integrated hypothesis of behavior, neurochemistry, and neurological structure.  It's pretty clear that simply boosting the levels of a hormone or neurotransmitter reuptake doesn't usually do much immediate good.  The human experience is a much more complex system than that.

Likewise, changing behaviour is not only easier said than done, but also disappointingly ineffective when finally achieved, as well.  People fall back to their baselines of malfunctioning behavior, almost every time.  The chemistry needs to change, the behavior needs to change, but even that isn't generally enough.

I think this is because chemical quantity is only part of the equation.  When we're talking about neurochemistry, we're talking about neurological reactions, with numerous variables.  Synaptic sensitivity, other chemical interactions, existing cerebral architecture, etc, etc.

Take an adrenaline junkie, for example.  One does not become an adrenaline junkie, simply by boosting adrenaline levels.  People become that way because of the precise manner in which their brains react to adrenaline; the way the reward system is triggered by it, other systems are resistant, and the way neural pathways are reinforced by going through this behavioural process over and over.

Put someone else through the same process, and you're just going to freak them out.  Even give them PTSD, because their brains don't react the same way to the behavior, or the surge of adrenaline itself.  We all become junkies, in a way, addicted to what actually works for us, given our individual neurochemical reactions, reinforced pathways, and supporting behaviours.  Changing that would involve a much more invasive alteration to how our brains function.

Science may get there some day, but I'm strongly inclined to believe that in the meantime, acceptance of ourselves, and what we're dealing with, is the only realistic way to go.  We can always strive to improve ourselves in various ways, but we cannot change who we fundamentally are.  How our brains fundamentally work.  The fact of the matter being that this is going to be different for everyone, given all the variables that go into it.

So, I'm taking Omnitrope now, and in case anyone is wondering, it hasn't exactly created any miraculous changes, yet.  I have more energy, I'm in better physical shape, and that's definitely something, but really, that's about it.  It may gradually impact the way my brain works, as pathways are shifted and reinforced differently than has been happening up until now, but it's still just a very recent change to a single simplistic variable, in a very complex system.

I would be OK with this, if I had a fucking place to live.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

discon.nected

"disconnected" was a handle I used for a while.  I shortened it to "discon" when I realized how big the internet is, and that too many other people were using the same handle.  Better to alter a word in some way, to make it more unique, so as not to be confused with random other people.  I haven't used that handle in a long time either, but that's not the point.

I was just thinking about how some people find connection online, and seem to be relatively happy with that.  When the internet was a new thing, I thought it would be great for meeting people, expanding my horizons in all directions.  When I went by "discon," I even felt that it was working, in a way.

It was via usenet, and old fashioned medium for discussion forums.  I tried lots of different groups to no avail, except for this one off-beat group for suicidal people.  It was like an alternative to the traditional depression support group, where people could express themselves, without fear of being told to be more positive, or being given lousy cliched advice.  If anyone came along and tried to suggest getting more sunshine and exercise, they'd be utterly eviscerated for it.  Some were persistent about it, but they were widely deemed to be trolls.  We had zero tolerance for that bullshit.  These were my people.

Least it felt that way for a while.  Things changed, I've wandered through all sorts of other online social gathering places since then.  From the alternate realities of countless MMORPGs, to all manner of forums and discussion groups.  Chatting about everything from mental health, to recreational drugs, to Buddhism, to video games, to current events and politics.  It still keeps me busy, to this day, but I don't feel that same sense of connection anymore, anywhere I go.  Little glimmers here and there, but the whole thing feels a bit like a mirage.  Get too close, only to find that it isn't real.  I don't know these people at all.

That almost feels like a conclusion of sorts in itself, but it's not.  There's still the question of why getting to know people seems to be problematic.  It's not just that it's difficult, but that when it does happen, it's never a good thing.  It's never a rewarding thing.  It's just depressing, and makes me feel very alone in the world.

It's indicative that something more serious might be going wrong neurologically.  A failure of the social reward system that facilitates people bonding with each other.  Some people are just socially reticent, and meeting people online works wonders for them, but for me.. the problem seems to go a little deeper than that.

Monday, August 3, 2015

psychopharmaceutical witchdoctors

Saw this opinion piece in my newsfeed this morning, about depression in teens, and how more of them should be medicated.  He's trying to make the case against concerns that antidepressants might actually be harmful.

https://www.facebook.com/nytopinion/posts/1134102933271328

In sticking with the theme of my "textrovert"post, I want to highlight that I responded to the article like this:

Joshua Abell Antidepressants are only marginally more effective than placebos, and in many cases can initially aggravate depression, increasing risk of suicide. Maybe we should be trying to come up with more serious solutions, rather than pushing dubious pharmaceuticals as if they're some sort of panacea.
Like · Reply · 3 · 25 mins 

In person, I could never do that.  When I see Dr. Lim in a few days, I won't be able to do that.  The author is a professor of­ clinical psychiatry, and while that's naturally intimidating, I'm fairly well-versed in this stuff myself.  I'm confident in my ability to debate the point, turning to Google if I need citations or anything.  I am confident that I am on equal footing intellectually, and possibly even then some.

As long as I can have a little extra time to organize my thoughts, and utilize any and all available data.  In person, I can't do this, although anxiety is really the number one barrier.  The mere fact that I might need to fall back on some brief research is enough to shut down my ability to even have the discussion.  The fact that I have to respond immediately, even as my neurochemistry goes haywire in the awkwardness of the moment.  I can only deal with this, in text.

Still, how can I possibly say that I'm on equal footing with a professor of psychiatry?  Me, a mentally ill impoverished high-school drop-out?  Seriously?

Yeah.  We're not talking about real doctors, here.  I mean, sure, they do have real medical knowledge, and could certainly run circles around me in a discussion of general physiology, but psychiatry itself is, in a sense, a complete sham.  They don't know why one person gets depression and another doesn't.  They don't know why some people recover, and some people are miserable their entire lives.  They don't even know with any serious scientific certainty why some people hallucinate, never mind all the more nuanced psychiatric problems they encounter.

"The best science we have, which is on problems like color vision and amnesia, long term memory, and language processing. We know the most, about what intuitively matters the least."

They don't know why the meds they push on everyone that comes into their office don't always work, and they're usually in denial about just how often those meds don't work.  Just keep trying, more meds, higher dosages, different combinations.  Stay optimistic, while their patients muddle through a myriad of side-effects that can often make their problems worse.  When some of their patients eventually kinda sorta recover, is it because of the meds, or in spite of them?  When some of their patients hang themselves, is it in spite of these dubious pharmaceuticals, or because of them?

I don't even need to look up the statistics, or take guesses as to why that happens sometimes.  I know how they've made me feel.  I know that if I act on it, these clowns would just think they should have prescribed a higher dosage.  Take some responsibility for it though?  Hell no, that's just crazy talk.

They're practically witchdoctors, in how primitive and spotty their knowledge of the human mind actually is.  Not them personally, but medical science overall.  We still have such a ways to go, as far as really understanding the mechanics of human thought and emotion.  Psychiatrists are relegated to pointing to their occasional successes, statistics showing that intervention is, overall, better than leaving people to drink themselves to death, or whatever else.  Their methods are still akin to shooting buckshot in the dark.  Like shamans giving people herbal remedies that sometimes do the trick, while they really had no idea why, nor a complete grasp of side-effects, long term risks, or really, what the hell they were actually doing.

It's all too easy to manipulate statistics to give the impression that psychiatry works, but there are comparable statistics indicating that it actually doesn't, and some of that hinges on how you even define efficacy.  It isn't even remotely cut and dry.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

solitary

It seems strange to me, to be challenged on why I would even ask this question.  WTF is wrong with me?  To say that I shouldn't be asking that strongly implies the belief that nothing is "wrong with me" per se, which in turn, suggests that I just need to pull harder on my bootstraps.

I would love to be able to afford a place to live, to be able to drive, to be able to take care of myself, in even the most modest of ways.  To be able to choose where I live.  If I had about 30k a year, I'd feel like a king.  Essentially, I would love to be able to work ..but I can't.  I don't.  I never have.  It's not realistic to tell me I just need to try harder.

Look at any situation, any circumstance, and there are always reasons for it.  It isn't possible to be in a circumstance which is entirely of our own making.

Still, mental illness may not be the only reason, or even the primary reason.  Nor am I talking about my hypopituitarism.  These are contributing factors, but I've been dealt a rough hand, in a whole number of ways, and my life seems to be the outcome of that.  I don't know if any of it can be addressed.  I don't know if any of it ever could have been.  I have no idea what to do.  I don't even know what the problem is.  To be obsessed with trying to figure that out seems pretty damn reasonable to me.

“They were grieving for their lost lives, for their loss of connectedness to the social world and their families outside, and also for their lost selves,” he said. “Most of them really did understand that they had lost who they were, and weren’t sure of who they had become.”
They startled easily, avoided crowds, sought out confined spaces and were overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. 
“They become very impaired in terms of relating to other people,” Dr. Kupers said.

I read an article earlier, about the effects of solitary confinement.  I thought about how I've said that I feel like I'm in a prison no one believes in.  My theories on hormones and neurochemistry inhibiting my ability to connect, compounded by a life that hasn't made it particularly easy.  I find myself wondering if the problem has grown worse, in a way similar to the neurological effects of long term solitary confinement.

I spent years in my bedroom alone, when I was a teenager.  Years alone in Pittsfield.  Much of my life, and even these days, I spend a massive amount of my time alone. I haven't really had any friends or a social life, since I was a kid.

Yet, even more than that, I'm afraid my neurochemistry might be such that I am isolated, even when I'm not.  I don't know how to be any other way, and that's more true now than it's ever been.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

textrovert

It's strange how much of my life has been spent online.  Throughout my entire adulthood, almost all of my social interaction has been online.  I've all but given up even trying to interact with people any other way.

I take the regular stabs at partaking in family social gatherings, we converse of course, but I don't branch out any more than that.  I've made attempts over the years, but it never works out.  In a sense, I feel as though I only really exist online.  That is where I express who I am.  When people say it doesn't count, it feels an awful lot like being told that who I am doesn't count.

Some of us have nothing to give, but our voices.

It would be nice if I could figure out some way to make a living this way, but even my voice doesn't seem to be worth that much.  I can get lots of thumbs up from a Facebook post, but am I coherent enough to write entire articles?  Stories?  Anything serious like that, that people might want to pay for?  Not really, not as far as I can tell.

A lot of my effort has been channelled into saying as much as possible, as briefly as possible.  I know that the more verbose I am, the more I'm going to lose to people.  The greatest impact coming not from novellas or even an exhaustive article, but from a line or two, that really drives a point home.  That makes the point in a new or innovative way.  A question that gets people to think.  This isn't really marketable, though.

They say that if you want to be a writer, write.  So that's what I do.. but year after year, this is all that comes of it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

cognitive dissonance

The way I play music feels significant.
How disorganized it is.  How I just play whatever comes into my head. I attempt to write bits and pieces of a song, but never tie it together.  I jump from one thing to another, with complete disregard for continuity.   I get better and better, but turning that into anything cohesive always feels just out of reach.

I make up all different parts, on any given day.  Tying it together should be the easy part.  Remembering it.  Being able to play the exact same thing a second time.  What kind of craziness would that be?
\
It seems trivial, compared to the creativity of it, and yet, it's not trivial at all.  It seems to be really important.. but for whatever reason, I can't get my head around it.  I just play.  No matter how good I get, I'm afraid it's still just a lot of random noise.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

see: voluntaryism

In the comments section of a Rolling Stone article, I got into a debate about police brutality and the idea that it's inherent to what government is.  Absolute compliance, or risk of death.  That is, the police need to be obeyed, absolutely.

If I understood correctly, the concern seems to be that unrestricted force for noncompliance is necessary to mitigate escalation into anarchy.  People will otherwise keep pushing limits until the whole system falls apart.

i.e. Government itself is the problem.

I used to be an anarchist. One thing that changed my mind was the realization that there are no people anywhere in the world, without government. There aren't even any Libertarian governments, let alone Voluntaryist or Anarchist.

The problem is that government is also an organizational tool which is extremely effective. It makes us capable of so much more than we are without it - which includes having the power to dominate anyone within its sphere of influence. A sphere of influence which grows until stopped by another's, leaving nowhere ungoverned.

Our only real defense against government is better government.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

systemic hopelessness

I woke up this morning, thinking about Sandra Bland, and the growing evidence that it really was a suicide.  Evidence gathered by the very people who may have killed her.. but still, enough of it to look like they might be telling the truth.

..this time.

It seems almost worse, in a way. I realized that it's even more depressing, the more I started thinking about it.

She was supposed to be starting a new job.  She'd moved across the country for it, and they took that from her, as soon as she got there.  Her dreams kicked to pieces by a racist pig, trampling the rule of law he was supposed to be upholding, for the ego trip of dominating a defenseless black woman.

We hear of this happening all the time.  People thrown in jail over minor infractions, and broken window policy.  Perpetuating a cycle of poverty, where even if they have a job, they end up losing it, for trivialities that other people only get a warning for.  If they're even stopped at all.  We hear of people committing suicide in jails and prisons, all the time.  We know that the abuse and mistreatment of incarceration can be psychologically destructive, but all the more so, when it's so oppressive and unjust.

When this is levelled at someone who hadn't even commit a crime worthy of a fine, sitting in jail indefinitely, treated like garbage, like her life didn't matter.  Alone in her cell, still suffering her untreated wounds, inflicted when she was dragged from her car and beaten at the side of the road.  Someone who may have been vulnerable to begin with, but was trying to get her life together.

I think we underestimate just how traumatizing it must be, to be dragged out of your car, assaulted at the side of the road, hauled off to jail, enduring more abuse while there, and for what? Because some psycho cop saw a black woman with Illinois plates and decided to go fishing.

We're not just talking a bad day, here. That's gotta be fucking soul crushing.

I don't know if she killed herself, but even if she did, the people who did all that to her are absolutely still responsible. At the very least, the guards who failed to protect her charged with criminal negligence, the cop who arrested her, fired and charged with assault, elevated to a hate crime.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

scapegoatting

Sometimes people just really want to be angry with each other.  It sounds crazy, but it's true.  There's something comforting about having someone to be angry at, rather than someone or something beyond your sphere of influence.  We don't like feeling angry at the wind.  That's just pointless.

So much more satisfying to be angry at someone we can actually have an impact on.  Someone that can be hurt by that anger.  I guess that's kinda the point.. but seriously, grow the fuck up.

I keep this to myself, though.  Be angry at me, whatever, I'll be fine.  It'll blow over, and before we know it, we can pretend nothing happened.  Call it fear, call it whatever you want, it just seems like a bad idea to even bother being confrontational.  It never works, no matter how meticulously I chose my words, no one ever changes their mind.

People stick to their asinine proclamations, even when everyone knows what a jackass they're being.  To be confrontational, no matter how skillfully, just extends the drama.  It ends up being no more than a catharsis that isn't really worth it.

So, here, where it won't be read by the party in question.  Just venting.

Friday, July 10, 2015

poor little old me

Sometimes I find myself obsessively conserving things, like my grandfather used to do.  Or trying to consume every little particle of food on my plate, as if still trying to be a part of that "clean plate club" he was always going on about.

I've often wondered if it's something I learned from him, or if it might just be genetic.  I was always told that he grew up during the great depression, and that might have had a lot to do with it.. but if that's the case, what's my excuse?

Oh wait, I haven't exactly been living comfortably all these years.  At least in his day, it was normal.  It was hard on everyone.

I haven't met many people who know what it's like, going decades without being able to afford a car.  At times, not even a bicycle.  Scouring my apartment for another 12 cents, so I could at least buy myself a donut or something.  Have you ever eaten a jar of mustard, because you ate the last of the salsa, yesterday?

It occurs to me that I could easily have been someone asking strangers if they had any spare change, so that I could get something to eat.  If I weren't so afraid of people.  I got by, but I sure as hell wasn't letting anything go bad in the back of the fridge.

This may seem self-pitying, but that's only part of the point.  It's also just that I don't know if anyone else even knows this.  I don't know if people are aware of it.  I don't know how much it matters.

My therapist caught me off-guard with a question I'd never thought of, the other day.  She pointed out that I create these scenarios in my head, where I'm speculating on what everyone else is thinking.  As I understood it, to be asking if it made much sense to base my decisions on something so entirely of my own fabrication.

I... What?

This feels kind of foundational, a paradigm shift I can't even imagine.  Acting, without regard to what other people are thinking?  That would be like acting in spite of gravity.  It would be like navigating a maze, by realizing that there are no walls.

I don't know.  These walls feel more important to me than anything else I can think of.   Maybe I can't see them, but I know that they're there.  I sure as hell know when I bump into one.  I'm just trying to figure out where they're most likely to be.

I'm inclined to say that our thoughts and feelings are what life is all about.  OUR thoughts.  Not just mine.. but I'm not entirely closed off to the possibility that I've made some sort of egregious miscalculation.

At the very least, it may have something to do with why I have no money.

Friday, July 3, 2015

abject poverty

I suspect lots of people stuck in chronic poverty suffer from depression.  When we fall apart, when we stop taking care of ourselves or our environment, when we turn to drugs, or criminal behavior.  When we just don't give a fuck anymore.

I wonder how often we do this, because being dirt poor can be seriously fucking depressing.  I'm not talking about a temporary bout of poverty, or dwelling on the stuff we can't afford to do or own, but the impact of this being all we've ever known.  The recurring struggle of finding an affordable place to live, having enough food to eat every single day, having transportation to get where we want to go. Having no evidence to suggest that our lives are ever going to get any better.

It's oppressive and it isn't a condition I can even imagine getting myself out of.  I have nothing to work towards, that I honestly believe would change my situation enough to matter.  I think the word for that is hopeless, but that is the product of my entire life's experience, and it isn't really conducive to good mental health.  Some do better with it than others.  Poverty tests people in ways that others have the luxury never to be at risk of failing.  To afford the stability and adaptability to have weaknesses and vulnerabilities, as so many human beings do.

It can sound like a mark of privilege to even speak of mental illness, as if it's an affliction of being too comfortable.  Really, it's just the diagnosis though, that's the mark of privilege.  The poor may not think of it that way, and society may not look at it that way, but it may be far more accurate to say that Major Depression is especially rampant among those trapped in poverty, and that is part of the problem.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

endoskeptic

There is still a whole lot of skepticism in the world of endocrinology, about some of what's being attributed to hormones like somatropin, cortisol, and oxytocin.  Among medical practitioners in general, and in turn, the general population.  This is because so much of this information is very new, and still inconclusive.  There is very strong evidence that hormones do a lot more than is well understood, but they've still got a ways to go before that makes it into textbooks.

Oxytocin, for example.  If you look it up, you will find some claiming all sorts of nutty sounding things on one side, and some very dry established science, on the other.  The truth is most likely somewhere in between.  Oxytocin requires the pituitary gland to cross into the brain, and I have to ask, if it doesn't have any function in the brain, why does it have such a distinct process for getting there?  For its textbook functions, it doesn't need to get there  at all.

I've learned that it's also common for endocrinologists to be trained to treat symptoms, rather than risk screwing with the endocrine system itself.  In part, because it can have all sorts of unforeseen results.  Supplement one hormone, and another spikes, too.  There is an unpredictability to it, highly indicative that they still have a hell of a lot left to learn.

Incidentally, this could even be yet another explanation for be why I've been feeling bad- my dosage just went up, and that might be throwing off something else.  If my doctor actually gave a fuck, she'd be testing me for that sort of thing, but she doesn't seem terribly thrilled to be treating me at all.

She's just getting through her fellowship, following the lead of the head endocrinologist, though.  He told me that he doesn't like treating the deficiency, because of how expensive it is, and what a pain in the ass insurance companies are about it.  He prefers to treat symptoms as they arise, caused by the deficiency.  It's much more straight forward ..and affordable.

I have a few issues with that. In many of these instances, hormones are like nutrients.  They don't just cause physiological change.  They can be more like conduits to healthy functionality.  In their deficiency, in anyone, various systems begin to deteriorate.  When you supplement the deficiency, you don't cure those symptoms, so much as prevent further deterioration.  This, in turn, gives the body (or mind) a chance to recover.

He'd prefer to let the deterioration keep going, and just keep patching me up, as I fall apart.  Uh yeah, I'd kind of prefer not to be falling apart in the first place, if at all possible.  My doctor is basically telling me that he prefers to wait for deterioration to occur, becoming obvious and problematic enough to treat.

As for mental health type symptoms, they never really reach that point, and the jury is still out on whether hormones impact anything like that at all, so doctors often err on the side of what the textbooks say, with a big pinch of personal bias, regarding how they feel about mental health in general.

This is still new science, really and this makes it all so complicated.  Some of it a decade or two old, in terms of when they started doing the research, but that research and figuring out what to do with the data still seems to be ongoing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

lint deficiency

This weekend was really bad.  I'm aware that most people have no idea what that means, and how hyperbolic it sounds to try to explain it.  Manipulative, even.  I get so tired of trying to explain how dangerously wrong that is.  Hah, "dangerous?"  There I go again, right?  It's not like mental illness has ever actually killed anyone, right?

So anyhow, as usual, I'm trying to figure out why.  What was different.  What did I do differently.  What has made this month different.  Why do I feel better, today.  Even when I went for a run, I had more stamina than I've had in weeks.  Stopped at my usual two miles, but could probably have gone for three, and I wasn't even pacing myself well.

I can see why people come up with all sorts of superstitions, trying to figure out why things go well one day, and not another.  Maybe I was wearing the right pair of socks, and I should start calling them my lucky socks, or something.  Doesn't seem that much crazier than what I am considering.

My doctor suggested taking vitamin D3, so I started that a month ago.  While I'm at it, why don't I take a multivitamin, too, I figured.  And a B-complex.  Sure as hell don't expect that to hurt.. but I Googled it, and there are some supplements that have been linked to aggravating depression.  Folate, for example.  So, I stopped taking the B and the multi, to see if that helps.  Seems like a long shot, it's not like I'm taking megadoses of anything.. but hmm.  Need to see how temporary this improvement is.

It was also grey and rainy this weekend, but nice and sunny today.  Come to think of it, it's been a very rainy month.  I like the rain, but maybe that has something to do with it.  Who the hell knows.

Just seems insane to me that piddling crap like this would matter all that much.  I have this very clear physiological deficiency and getting treated for it should trump all of this other nonsense.  It seems impossible to keep track of all the conditions that people think might cause depression.  You can Google almost anything, and someone somewhere claims it causes depression.

There are probably studies showing a correlation between depression and pocket lint.  I'm so sick of worrying about this shit.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

falling apart

i've spent a huge amount of time in my life, trying to figure things out.  some might question why i do this, some might see it as excuses, this stems from an egregious misjudgement of my condition.  just do it, right?

often i'll refer to my efforts as a means to assess the problem, so that it might be fixed, but the flipside of that is trying to discern if its a problem that cant be fixed.  people think this is defeatist, and seem to prefer sticking to all their awful advice, none of which has ever done anything but make everything worse.  this is not terribly surprising given how obvious it is that they have no clue what i'm going through.  like giving a paraplegic stretching advice, because your legs get stiff sometimes too.

if this is a problem that cant be fixed, its gravely important to understand that.  dragging myself through hell, for a goal that isn't attainable isn't going to make me a better person, it just makes me hate life even more.  forcing myself to be around people, if i have a concrete deficiency in my capacity to socialize isn't going to help me.  there's nothing to learn or get used to.  its just torture.

they say that the longer a person goes without somatropin, the more Quality of Life tends to decline, and the longer they're going to have to be back on it to see any improvement.  it might be difficult for me to dig up a citation though, because everything i've found about this illness has been so sparse.  a comment here, an obscure study there.  all i know is that i'be been on this for months now, and this past month, i've been as miserable as ever.

still running every other day, but that's about it.  i cant deal with anything else.

now i'm going on about oxytocin, instead of somatropin, because it seems a piece of the puzzle is still missing, after all.  a different facet of the same hypopituitarism, but still, feels a lot like grasping at straws.  everyone else just thinks i need to pull harder on my bootstraps, i guess?  maybe it seems crazy that i'm guessing what everyone else thinks, but nobody fucking tells me what they think, nobody knows what to say, so i have little to go on but what's been said in the past.

seems to be a pretty safe bet that when people don't voice their opinions, they either have an offensive opinion better left unsaid, or they don't care enough to have an opinion.  its weird how everyone seemed to forget i existed, while i spent the last 20 years curled up in a fetal position.  only now that i've been thrust back here, is any of this an issue again.  doesn't seem all that crazy to assume nobody fucking cares.

"surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself," says a meme on my facebook feed, but for me, there is no such thing.

Friday, June 26, 2015

the trust hormone

"In mammals, many mysteries remain. Oxytocin is difficult to measure reliably in the brain, making it hard to know exactly where, when and how much is normally released; nor do scientists understand precisely how it works to alter behaviour."



This could mean only the most overt deficiency can be measured.  If hypopituitarism is interfering with oxytocin getting into the brain, this can't be measured, because it's actually produced by the hypothalamus, and may be at normal levels in the bloodstream, regardless.  This also means that supplementing oxytocin will have no effect, because this gets it into the bloodstream, but still needs to get across the blood brain barrier to actually do anything there.

This may be why studies on the impact of inhaling oxytocin have been less than conclusive.  It doesn't necessarily get where it needs to go, especially in someone with a condition which might be the result of that very issue.
"The hormone does not act alone. In 2013, neuroscientist Robert Malenka at Stanford University in California and his colleagues showed that oxytocin works together with the neurotransmitter serotonin to reduce the excitability of neurons in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region involved in reward."
The reward of social interaction would be undermined on two different levels, then.  The reward of everything else, possibly diminished, as well.  I imagine this might be a little depressing,  and demotivating, not to mention all the anxiety of distrusting everyone.


I don't know what's wrong with me, but I am so tired of this.  I'm so tired of everyone thinking I'm wrestling with imaginary demons, here.

Wait, who is "everyone?"  Is that unfair?  Do you think I should trust people more?

Friday, June 12, 2015

nothing works

I hate being back here.  Somehow managed to feel like I was almost succeeding at being an odd person, flawed like anyone else, albeit in some eccentric ways.  Counter-culture, really.  Being "normal" seems awfully overrated anyhow.  It seemed like a healthy enough attitude to have about it all.

That was when I had a place to live.  As long as I could feed myself, I was good.  Even that's been a problem in the past, but I'm well past that.  I'd even go so far as to say that I've gotten pretty good at feeding myself.

Now, I can't come shambling across the threshold of my sanctuary anymore.  To breathe a sigh of relief, safe from the outside world.  I'm never safe.  Secure.  Stable.  This is shelter, but this is not home.  It's horrible, and I can't do anything about it.  I'm too damn "eccentric" to even function.

Back to thinking of myself as sick.  Damaged.  In need of some kind of repair.  This situation has driven me to get treated for my hypopituitarism and that's a good thing, I guess, but if it's doing anything, it's not enough.  I'm still completely stuck.  So, I do all these things people say I should do.  I take everyone's crappy advice.  I'm trying everything, but none of it changes the fact that I am stuck.  

I just want a fucking place to live.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

lilliputian

One of the lessons I learned from doing hallucinogens has to do with just how profound a shift in perception can be.  How the exact same words can have very a different meaning, given a different frame of mind.

So much of what we take for granted as real is built upon layers of assumptions and correlations, personal experiences, cultural norms and judgements.  So much of that can change, with a mere shift in neurochemistry, and reality becomes something else entirely.

Sunlight can be harsh to someone who's too sensitive.  The darkness others fear, a comforting reprieve.  A positive thought, a ray of sunshine, or a triviality.  The negative, dismissed as hysterical hyperbole, or taken seriously, as the brutal honest truth.  We can nudge things one way or another, but I think a whole lot of it is bound to these chemical processes, our pathways developing the way they have, tuned to the chemistry of it, as it happens along the way.

For this nudging to have a chance of doing any serious good, I suspect that it has to be very persistent, it needs to be long term.  It needs to be a viable lifestyle change.  Not little steps taken here or there, but something to commit to, everyday.  Something worth committing to.

I have no idea how to make that happen.  I'm barely hanging on,
as it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

psychopharmacosis

I've tried lots of SSRIs over the years.  As far as I'm concerned, they're all crap.  That's been my experience, and there's a substantial amount of evidence indicating that for most people[1], they don't do any good, while for almost everyone, they do some degree of harm.  Also known as
side-effects.

What the mental health industry peddles isn't any sort of actual treatment, so much as hope for the desperate.  We have no idea what's wrong with you, we have no idea how to help, we don't even really know a damn thing about how the brain works, but here, take this neurotoxin, it might fix everything.  You never know, and what have you got to lose?

Nothing.  I'm trying Zoloft again.  Maybe if this doesn't work, I'll look into getting a lobotomy, next.