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.