The last 30 days or so have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, to be cliche. Yet, describing it as a rollercoaster would be dishonest, or at least misleading: rollercoasters have highs and lows, while my “highs” are middles, and my lows are divided between standard lows, low lows, and oh crap. Somewhat like going along one of those country roads that have dips that make your stomach lurch. Anyway, the point is: there has been more movement in the data points than in the previous 30 days, let’s say. Is this good or bad? It’s both, in fact. The bad: inevitably I thought about my death. Wouldn’t it all be so much easier? Sure, it would mean a lot of missed opportunities. But no more need to feel, well, to feel like you want the world to end. Correction: not the world, just my own.
What brought this particular low? It was a particularly low low, in a non-hip hop, party music sense. No apple bottomed jeans or boots with the fur here. In a way, it was bad timing and my worst characteristics having a reunion and deciding to paint the town of my mind bleak, with shades of self-loathing. I should warn in advance: one of those bad characteristics is to be slightly self-involved. But you should know that anyway, as you are reading something I’ve written…about myself. (There is a kind of arrogance at work in all writing, but that’s for another time). Anyway, it starts with a job rejection. Another one. Interview which, as ever, I assume has gone poorly mostly because I have no real clue how it went, but I suspect I interview poorly. So, following the interview an e-mail: it was lovely to see you, thank you for your application yada yada we’re sorry but we won’t be taking your application any further at this time. A request for feedback gets the usual “too many applicants to provide feedback” response. So, not great. It’s all made worse because this was an interview for a tutoring agency, to be a tutor, a job I already have experience of, not to mention my time in South Korea as a teacher, of sorts. So, it is in my field, unlike the other jobs that I’ve applied for without luck. I don’t take rejection well at the best of times. This rejection was a bit of a double whammy because it left me thinking: well, what now? That thought wormed its way into my brain, deeper and deeper. Then, a few days later, my family and I go up to Aberdeen for what was a happy occasion: my dad receiving an honour from the university.
It was a happy occasion; it was a depressing occasion. Not Dickensian, though. I sat through the graduation ceremony of all these young students receiving their degrees and having so much potential ahead of them. I was acutely aware of the potential that I had squandered with the mistakes I’ve made, and, of course, a brain that has only one mode: You can’t do this, it’s too hard, it’s scary, you won’t manage it. And, of course, there was a speech given about my dad detailing his accomplishments (though his children were a shocking omission!). And in my happiness and pride for my dad, I also felt deep disappointment in myself. How could someone who had done so much in his life be proud of a son who had done little more than cause worry? So, I spent much of that day feeling withdrawn, lying foetal in bed, listening to Lou Reed’s “Cremation” and Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Classic moody teenager, aged 30. Thoughts of oblivion and all that. A bit Marvin the Paranoid Android. I’m a personality prototype. You can tell, can’t you?
Yet, despite this low, the last two weeks, for sure, have been characterised by a relatively consistent “meh”. Major improvement. I’m naturally wary of prolonged periods in which I am not feeling down, as I know a down period is always around the corner. And the longer the period of neutrality, the worse the down ends up being. Fingers crossed! I have been doing something different. And this, at last, is what I was going to discuss regarding my ongoing therapy. Life rules.
I mentioned before about core beliefs. I am funny, for example. These then tend to feed life rules. So, if my core belief is that I’m a failure, then a life rule might be “If I try, I will fail.” Simple. So the task I was given, after discussion, was to attempt to make a small adjustment to one of these negative life rules and see how it feels. So, we took my life rule of “If I try, I will fail/it will be awful/it will be pointless/worthless” etc and have experimented with a variant that is a simple case of “If I try, it might feel good”. The idea here is that this does not place too much of a burden on me for a) success b) automatic good times. It has plenty of emotional wiggle room. It’s indefinite, which makes it harder to disprove, which is good because I tend to prove, in my head, only things that reinforce my negative opinions of myself. Acute confirmation bias!
Now, of course, you can’t create a new rule for life and start employing it willy nilly on everything. I’m 30. I’ve had my harmful rules for all my adult life and more: it is a hard habit to break. We take small steps, little experiments to test it out, to take a bit of control and to see, potentially, that change having a slight impact. So my reading habits were to be the focus of the experiment. I was to begin a new routine. I would read in the morning after waking up, and at night before going to bed. Previously my reading habits had been limited to toilets, trains, planes, and automobiles. (This sequel could not afford John Candy or Steve Martin). In part this was to break my routine of going on to my computer, playing games and watching Person of Interest, losing time and then hating that the day had gone without anything accomplished. It was also meant to get my ass in gear regarding reading generally: something I enjoy but do not do enough of because of the easier activities of gaming and Person of Interest. The experiment, I would say, has been a success: I broke up my routine, I actually had longer days (proving the relativity of time), and I finished one book so far (Princess Bride). If I can get to finishing a book a week that way, then I might start to feel properly well read. We’ll see.
Of course, here is the problem: I am impatient. This ties in to another problem: the world doesn’t wait for anyone. Being impatient, and being aware that the world goes on regardless, can make the process of “healing” intensely frustrating. I’ve made this bit of progress, but, in the big picture, it does not matter. I’m still behind where I need to be, let alone where I want to be. And that’s another problem: life, despite what people say, doesn’t really give you second chances. So part of my mental healing is going to have to involve accepting that I’m never going to be the person that I wanted to be when I was 20 because I never did the things at 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20 that I needed to do to be that person. So, as far as second chances go, you get a second chance, but never at the life you wanted, but only at the life you can have. Having this at the back of my head, or anyone in a similar position, is not helpful. It just makes things seem impossible, and what you need, what I need, is for things to appear manageable, for things to be achievable, even if that means accepting that what counts as achievement for now is being able to get up every day and want there to be another.
Making small changes can help, I’ve certainly noticed that. Yet even small changes can be difficult, and it’s easy to feel it is futile. I’m feeling that after doing this experiment for almost two weeks. What next? Where does it lead? The questions start to roll in and I don’t have any answers other than to try and be patient. And that’s what everyone needs sometimes: a little patience with themselves. Euch…that was dangerously close to one of those feel good empowerment quotes. Sorry. Those things just make me think of con artists. Or a Guns n Roses song…or Take That, whatever tickles your fancy!
I’m sure I started writing this with a point and my intent was certainly to be eloquent, articulate, erudite, and all that jazz. I suspect it’s a bit of a mess, but it’s my mess.