jazzfish: Pig from "Pearls Before Swine" standing next to a Ball O'Splendid Isolation (Ball O'Splendid Isolation)
Will Moore RIP. The comments are insightful, particularly CassandraLeo's, particularly when paired with Five Lies Depression Told Me.

I don't know. At this point I feel confident in saying that I was depressed by summer 2012. That I was probably depressed by September 2011, and likely October 2010, and back and back and back with a little less certainty at each milestone. That being laid off eased up certain pressures but not others, and that after six months, being off work had done about as much good as it was going to. That I remained depressed up through last summer and on into the start of fall.

Still, I'm reluctant to identify as "depressed." I guess maybe I am, if frequent suicidal ideation and sporadic self-harm are anything to go by. I don't know. I feel pretty okay these days, but then oxytocin is a hell of a drug. Ask me in a month.

Too, I'm reluctant to try antidepressants for several reasons. In no particular order:

One, I am not the most reliable observer of my own mental state, and would prefer not to lock myself into something that maybe works with unpleasant side effects.

Two, finding a doctor in this town is a fool's errand.

Three, I would much prefer to sort out the external stressors in my life and see what's left after that.

Four, I've tried drugs once. I was on Prozac for a little over two years, from the end of high school through the first two years of university. It clipped the highs and lows of my emotional state, which I guess was a tradeoff I was happy to make at the time, and also sharply limited any pleasure I took from sex. Not the drive, mind you, just the physical pleasure.

This was under the direction of a terrible, terrible counselor chosen by my parents, at a time when their worry was "clearly there's something wrong with our son, he's not keeping up with his schoolwork." (A caricature, but not, I think, a wholly unfair one.) It's possible that that whole experience has made me averse to the idea of being depressed.

I don't know what the point of this post is, either, other than leaving a record where I can find it later. At about this time, Tucker began to consider that maybe he was clinically depressed and had been for well over a decade.

jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Summer lasted all the way through September this year, all bright skies and shorts weather. The sudden reappearance of normal Vancouver on Saturday hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Waking up was tough this morning but I think I'm readjusting. It helps that my light-clock went off turned on like it was supposed to, as opposed to three days out of five last week. (Scheduled power outage one night reset its clock; when I reset it I failed to notice I'd set it twelve hours off; and then I just forgot to turn it on once.)

I fight my undiagnosed SAD with vitamin D pills and a blue sunlamp that hangs over my monitor. It works, I think. I mean, I'm still here, I haven't completely withdrawn into hibernation or anything. Definitely gonna need a sun-vacation sometime this winter, though.
jazzfish: Pig from "Pearls Before Swine" standing next to a Ball O'Splendid Isolation (Ball O'Splendid Isolation)
This is an old stupid story and I'm tired of living it:

At the age of twelve I'd been hearing for years that I could be anything I wanted to be, that I was smart enough to do anything at all. So I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer, and write F&SF novels.

My mother famously answered, "How are you going to put food on the table?"

Lesson learned: I could be anything I wanted to be as long as my parents were okay with it.

A stronger kid might have said "screw you guys" and kept writing anyway. I wasn't that kid: I still desperately needed my parents' approval, because being an army brat meant that I didn't have anyone else, at all. I spent the next N years trying to simultaneously fit my future into the box of Acceptable To My Parents, while making my present Acceptable To Me.

In hindsight, it's no wonder that I was depressed.

That's not the story I'm telling now but it's useful background. So, take it as told.

During my terrible terrible junior year of high school, my English teacher was Ms Bettie Stegall. I can only assume she didn't think much of me. I certainly didn't give her much reason to. My teenage rebellion mostly took the form of not showing up and not doing the work, and Ms Stegall's English class was not one where I could slide by. I got my shit sufficiently together to pass, somehow.

For senior year English we had a few choices. The only ones I can remember are AP Literature and Writing Seminar. Had I chosen AP Lit, I could have taken the English AP exam, and placed out of freshman English at Tech. (And likely not ever have read Borges, and my life would have been the poorer for it.) On the other hand, there was Writing Sem, advertised as being meant for creative writers.

The point of the old story above: I never gave up wanting to be a writer. I just gave up on doing much about it, because no one cared.

I signed up for Writing Sem in the hope that it would make me into a writer. Ms Stegall taught Writing Sem; I took it anyway. I don't remember much of the class but then senior year was a depressive burnt-out blur for me. In Writing Sem I tutored a special-needs second-grader with Jen Larson, and read Catch-22 which was exactly the right book for me at that point, and taught Kafka's Metamorphosis to freshmen with the help of Brian Aldiss's parody "Better Morphosis". I'm sure there was writing, too: I recall terrible poetry, and a Finnegans-Wake-style stream-of-consciousness depiction of a high school class.

Throughout the year I'd hear whispers from other students about how they were working with Ms Stegall on ... things. A chapbook of poetry, a collection of monologues, whatever. Books. Actual books. (I only ever saw one, and that only because Nesa used a photograph I'd taken in photography class to go with one of her poems.) And I'd think "that would be kinda cool," and then I'd stop thinking about it, because I had no idea what I'd do other than "i want to write" and, well, I'd already nearly failed out of one of Stegall's classes for not caring.

And so I graduated from high school, and went off to college, and the rest, as they say, is history. Or silence. One of those.

My memories of Ms Stegall are of someone who contribued to making my life miserable junior year, and didn't much care about me during senior year.

Maybe six months ago I fell into a snarky Facebook group of alums from my high school. This weekend, someone reported that Ms. Stegall had died.

Immediate outpouring of grief and love and "she was my favourite teacher" and "she kicked my ass and really helped me get my writing in gear" and specific tangible things she'd done for people.

I had no such response. I got none of that from her.

Thing is, I'd really like to have. I wish I'd been someone that she saw enough potential in to encourage, to kick my ass and get me in gear.

But that would have required me to have gone through junior year differently, and for that to have happened, the changes keep going back until I'm not even recognisable to myself anymore.

And just showing up isn't enough for that. No mentor will come to me and say "yes, i will teach you, and help you, and guide you, and care about what you do." Most of the time I'm grown-up enough to know that.

Most of the time.

I make no promises as to whether I will reply to any comments here.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
tl;dr: I hate revising because my brain is terrified I'll screw up something that's currently not-terrible.

So I have this story. It's okay, people seem to like it, but it needs more. So I'm adding in a scene or two and filling in some backstory.

I can't shake the sense that every change I make is, instead of improving things, ruining whatever it was that made the story good to start with.

I complained about it on twitter, and talked it over with a couple of people, and suddenly that looked really familiar.

Imagine it's the dead of winter, and you've woken up in the middle of the night. You're buried under blankets and you're mostly warm enough. Only mostly, though. You've started to get a little chilly.

There's a thermostat on the wall. You can get up and turn the heat up a couple of degrees, and then you'll be fine.

Trouble is, you have to get up. Get out from under the blankets, into the cold air, where you'll be genuinely cold instead of just a bit chilly.

Instead I have a bad habit of staying buried under the blankets and convincing myself that I'm not really that cold. And compared to how I'd be while I'm out, it's true! It just misses the point that I'd be completely comfortable pretty soon after, for some small effort and discomfort now.

Same thing. The story as it is works, sort of. Why mess with it? Why risk making it worse?

Answer: Because it doesn't work, because there is no 'sort of works' any more than 'sort of comfortable.' Because it's worth making the story better, and if that makes it worse to start with then I can correct that when I hear about it.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Blarg rant DST rant blarg. Sign the petition.

We've been keeping a change jar since we got here. It's a pretty big jar, and we've filled up maybe 5 cm (2") of it. Extrapolating out, it's going to take us over a decade to get it most of the way full. Since Canada abolished the penny awhile back there's going to be a clearly demarcated stratum at the bottom with copper intrusions, and then the rest of it will be pure silver coinage. (Loonies and toonies aren't "change," they're oddly-sized bills.)

March seems to be music month: Tylan (formerly of Girlyman) in Seattle next Sunday, a UK band called Veronica Falls the Friday after, and then back to Seattle for Antje Duvekot the next day. Busy busy.

After having it open in a browser tab for a week or more, I finally played Depression Quest yesterday. It's a choose-your-own-adventure type of thing from the point-of-view of someone who's depressed. As you get more depressed, some of the choices are struck out & not available to you. Highly effective, slightly terrifying. [Via Zarf, I'm pretty sure.]

(Also, Boggle the Owl. DW feed at [syndicated profile] boggletheowl_feed.)

Via [personal profile] thanate, Procrastination is Not Laziness, which explains a great deal about where my procrastination habit comes from. O brain, you are not as helpful as you think you are. From the comments on either that article or a related one, I'm experimenting with the Pomodoro technique, which consists mostly of doing things for 25 minutes and then not for 5 minutes. Initial results are promising but that could be the standard "any change in process will result in temporary improvements" thing. Will see.

And after a dull grey morning the sun is threatening to come out.
jazzfish: A small grey Totoro, turning around. (Totoro)
"Why I can't write" turns out to be one of those things that my brain just slides off of rather than grappling with. I literally cannot hold the idea in my head for long enough to say anything coherent about it. Usually when that happens I forget about it altogether. It's some sort of defence against prodding too much at something very frightening. I've only kept track of it this time through concentrated effort.

Anyway, writing. I've been here before, and sort of skirted around what was actually going on. Now I'm getting closer to it but still not to a point where I can think usefully about it.

A tangent: in my limited experience, the two main attitudes of counselors/therapists are "wait the patient out, they'll bring up the hard stuff on their own when they're ready" and "prod the patient gently to get at the hard stuff." Prodding seems to provide more immediate results for me, since I'm very good at Not Thinking About things. However, my current counselor is more of a waiting type. This has the (probably intended) result that if I don't bring in something to talk about there's not much talking going on. So when something happens like "I spent three days straight playing a computer game that I'm not even sure I like very much," I bring that up, and it turns out to be relevant. Anyway. Tangent over.

Normally when people think about being afraid of writing, it's the whole 'what if it isn't any good' thing. I don't have that, so much. I mean, I moan about how awful my stuff is as much as the next writer but I don't let that stop me. I keep going, usually with friendly support and 'it doesn't suck' from various people. Once it's Out There for whatever value of Out There, I don't worry so much. It's either good enough or it isn't and either way the next one will be better.

This... has something to do with the weight I place on Being A Writer, and something to do with needing other people, and, oddly, some relation to a couple of other things I'd like to do but haven't pursued.

Twitter turns out to be a horrible medium for me to feel connected to anybody. It really is like being at a huge party all the time, and as such it's exhausting for me. (I am decidedly not comfortable with jumping into conversations.) Unfortunately it's also where much of my writerly social circle is being sociable and supportive. That's more of a big deal for me than I'd thought it would be. It's not a cause, I don't think, but it's not helping. I am, as always, deeply grateful for the people I have here. DW/LJ helps. It's just not enough.

Which is in some sense the problem. What I can get isn't enough, and so I stop asking and seeking. Not sure how to resolve that.
SAM: Well, that was needlessly cryptic.
MAX: I'd be peeing my pants if I wore any.


Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:18 pm
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
"For a long time, I considered myself ADD and dreamed of a pill that could make it alright. But the longer I write, the more I think my problems have less to do with ADD, and more to do with my desire to avoid pain.

It's painful to write. It's painful to take a clear look at your finances, at your health, at your relationships. At least it's painful when you have no confidence that you can actually improve in those areas. I would not speak for anyone else, but most of my distractions (and I said this at SXSW) are traceable to a deep-seated fear that I may not ultimately prevail.
I was diagnosed ADD in elementary school, and put on Ritalin for a few years. At this point I'm willing to believe that it wasn't that I couldn't concentrate, it's that I didn't want to. There wasn't any point to it. The reward for doing the work was either more work, or getting to go play-- and it was easy enough to just go play without doing the work, especially once "playing" and "reading" became interchangeable.

(None of this is intended as a slight to anyone else who may have been diagnosed ADD. It's a Real Problem for a lot of people. I'm only looking at whether it was the problem in my specific case.)

These days? There's something going on there, something that makes focusing incredibly difficult without an external deadline, and trivial when the deadline's imminent.

(Self-imposed deadlines have less force. I hate that.)

And I'm tired of how much effort it takes to start writing. I'm tired of sitting down intending to get the next scene done, and having this bit in my brain that doesn't even bother talking to the rest of me about what's going on and instead just holes up with a mindless computer game for an hour or two.

I don't know myself well enough to say whether I'm afraid of writing. It's got an awful lot of baggage associated with it; maybe I'm afraid that may parents were right (and if they were right on that then what else might they have been right on? TERROR).

I don't know what to do about any of this, other than to name it.

No deadline this time, just a reward: when I finish the (current draft of the) space story, and ship it off to VP, I can write a (fun! or at least exciting) letter that I've been contemplating for the last couple of days.

That ought to be enough incentive. I hope.


Mar. 18th, 2011 02:23 pm
jazzfish: Pig from "Pearls Before Swine" standing next to a Ball O'Splendid Isolation (Ball O'Splendid Isolation)
Elseweb, a thoughtful person says I exist primarily in words. Meaning there are very few conversations I would rather have face to face instead of over IM or e-mail.

Her reasons make a great deal of sense to me. Particularly I don't have a record of the conversation later to consult and ask further questions on. There are a number of Hard Conversations that I'm happy I had over IM, because that way I can go back later and say "oh, that's what that meant" or "i was a jerk and need to apologise and make amends for that" or "wow, that was kinda fucked up." And having the time and leisure to think out a response clearly and see that it's saying more or less what I want it to say helps as well.

Even so, when things are overwhelming, when I'm so hurt or angry I can't process, I need more contact than chat or email can give me. I need the sensory input that tells me there's a human being on the other end of the conversation. I need that knowledge, that visceral reassurance, that says I'm still here, even though this is hard I'm still with you.

Physical presence and contact are preferable. Voice will do in a pinch.

(Not that I expect this to come up anytime soon, or likely ever, with anyone reading this. It's more for my own record than anything.)


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Tucker McKinnon


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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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