Step 4

While I’m openly not a member of A.A. and don’t explicitly follow their steps, I think part of the difficulty I’m having in feeling like my sobriety is as productive as it could be is that I never did step 4 or 5 (or anything beyond that really but I feel that step 4 is especially important for people to do regularly, even those not in recovery). While listening to a podcast episode between Russell Brand and Jordan Peterson over the last couple of days, I’ve come to find how this may have made me stuck. You can’t fix your house if you don’t know what needs to be fixed in it. Today, then, I’m going to be making my moral inventory.

This is actually hard work. I mentioned to someone yesterday that your mindset doesn’t simply change over time by itself, you need to do real work to change it. Step 4 is part of that work… a big part, probably. To showcase just how difficult this is, I was going to include a short list of my character defects that I feel comfortable sharing in this post but I can only think of one that I’m not horribly embarrassed of (telling white lies).

Of course, part of this exercise is to think about events that happened in your day that made you angry or sad and so on and examine what part you had in those events. I think the point of that is to understand that we are at least somewhat responsible for everything that we feel and we don’t have to act upon negative feelings. If you lie to or insult some people, they may get angry and attack you back but if you do that to me, I curl up into a ball mentally and think “oh my God, they’re right”. Moral inventories are a way past this.

I just wanted to put this up quickly to hold myself accountable today because I want to get a great deal of a page filled before work is out. If I find enough of these defects that I feel comfortable with sharing, that will be tomorrow’s post.

Christianity

I’ll open by saying that I have a lot of Christian friends both here and in the “real world” and so the purpose of this post is not to put anyone’s religion down or be a proposal for what the absolute truth is. This is an examination of my own religion and moral traditions. I don’t think I’ll be offending anyone here but just in case, I wanted to state that up front.

Picture my belief system as a triangle. Each point of the triangle is labelled Catholicism, agnosticism, and atheism. My belief system is almost smack in the center, although it has drifted further from atheism and closer to agnosticism in more recent years. I was a hard-core atheist in my teens and early twenties which isn’t at all surprising if you know that I was also an anti-social misanthrope and occasional extreme-left fascist. My politics are still a topic that will have to be addressed later because we’d have to get into the neo-Nazi movement I joined as a teen and my subsequent years as an anarchist and that just doesn’t fit in this post.

Most White (and probably black) Americans, whether they like it or not, live under a Christian moral code. Freedom of religion is a great ideal but in practice it isn’t a real thing, in my view. America was founded by people who were raised under a Christian ethical system and based on the principles of Christian empires that came before. As such, most of our laws and moral values come from Christianity. I rather enjoy having Christian values; I find them to be enlightening and a true challenge to live by, and we require challenge to thrive.

Morality is the extent of my Christian beliefs. I don’t believe in the Christian idea of God nor do I believe that anyone in the history of mankind could perform miracles. I don’t believe that people once lived to be several hundred years old or that snakes had legs before the Eden Incident. I’m agnostic in that way. I have found, through simply living, that there might be some sort of force out there that can be tapped into to guide us on life’s path. I don’t know if this force has intelligence or if it’s simply how the universe works.

My a-theist beliefs stem from my loose Christianity. I don’t believe that any one religion is superior to any other. We live in a Christian society so we see everything through a Christian lens but if we lived in India or Tibet it might be different. Not worse or better: different. At their core, most religions are designed to give people guiding moral principles by which to live an ethical life which benefits themselves, their families, and their community. In that way, I think that most religions say the same things in different words. I’m not an expert, of course. I’ve only studied Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. It’s a working theory.

I have rather closed minded friends who ask “what about all the homophobic and racist things in the Bible” and I’m really the wrong person to ask that to. When you’re as loose with your religion as I am, you’re more free to admit that you’re cherry picking the good things from the Bible and throwing the rest in the bin. It’s also an adolescent and unwise argument, in my view. Sure, there are Christians who use the Bible to discriminate against people but they are a minority of illiterate morons who don’t need to be feared.

Freeze Frame Reality

I’m cold.

I woke up after only 4 hours of sleep with a burning throat and river of mucous pouring down my esophagus.

Autumn is here.

The list of things I have to finish before the weekend is up are racing through my mind as I try to pen them into my day planner. Homework. Laundry. Kitchen. I wasted a lot of time yesterday; I feel guilty about that.

It seems as though my mood vibrates erratically between lethargic depression and manic desperation… desperation for purpose and life. To me this is the definition of bipolar disorder although my psychiatrist no longer things it’s the name of my affliction. For a time, it seemed like it was under control with the new medications but now I know that I was simply in a prolonged manic phase which ended rather abruptly two weeks ago.

Several weeks ago, I decided that this would be the first “good” mid-western autumn in my life. Ordinarily, I loathe the colder months. Superficially I say it’s because there’s less to do: you can’t really go outside and it’s hard to get up at 4:00 AM when it’s only 30 degrees in your room. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, though. It’s not like I ever went outside much in the summer, so there’s no reason autumn or winter should be any different. It’s cold, sure, but it’s a wonderful excuse to practice layering clothes.

I’ve picked out a nice cardigan sweater-jacket to ring in the fall with. Thanks to my second job, and this is primarily the reason I wanted to get one, I’ll be able to get some season-appropriate clothing both in color and type. I’m becoming much more fashion focused in sobriety which I imagine simply has to do with caring about myself more. People who don’t recognize the power of their image are fools.

Hopefully you notice, as I do, that my writing becomes much more structured and reasonable as my depression fades away. I didn’t recognize that until last night and it had a very profound effect on my understanding of my mind. My depression occurs when I become too emotional and not ordered enough, or perhaps those things are a consequence of the depression. The hen or the egg?

I never wanted this blog to become a personal diatribe about my turmoils and victories, I don’t personally find those types of blogs to be very compelling or interesting. If I do write about my life, I want it to have a theme behind it driving the narrative. I’m going to be getting back to doing that as I recover more, certainly. So then, what’s the theme behind this post? Perhaps order rising out of chaos… the phoenix rising from the ashes all the while knowing it will burn out again some day. There’s a great deal of apprehension in that knowledge but I’ve found very little that I can do about it.

If this is what my life is, I will make the best of it.

Mini-Update: Got the Job!

I was hired on the spot at Kohl’s for part-time seasonal help. I’ll be working in the online shopping department which is ideal for me because I don’t necessarily want to be standing around folding clothes all day. The interview was very good for my mood… it’s the first time I’ve ever completely run an interview. The manager was trying to convince me why I wanted to work there instead of me convincing her I’d be a good fit. Made me feel very desirable. It’s definite evidence that I’ve changed in demeanor in sobriety. I was even stepping back outside of myself and being a bit impressed with how social and friendly I was being when normally I can be kind of shy. It’s strange… I’m an extrovert meaning I get tons of energy from being around people, but I have terrible social skills just from lack of practice. Getting better, though, apparently.

Still have to wait for an email from them to set up orientation but she basically told me it’s a sure thing.

I’m Not That Bad Off

The depression broke completely today. Thank God! I woke up motivated and energized. It could be that I have an interview this morning for a second job, feeling some sense of purpose and simultaneous fear. Fear is good, I think that depression a lot of times comes from the lack of fear. Once everything becomes mundane routine with nothing to look forward to with uncertainty, existence starts to lose its flavor.

I’m not bad off, I remind myself. I’m almost 40 and starting life as a normal 20 year old, but my life is far from over (I hope). What reminds me of this fact today is my interview for a second job at Kohl’s. A lot of people I work with have second jobs out of necessity; we work for a corrupt government which pays its elected officials and supervisors extravagantly and has the lowest paid employees in the surrounding counties.

However, thanks to my sobriety and relatively simple means (both closely related) I am getting a second job to get ahead rather than keep up. I never had children with a woman I shouldn’t have, never got in trouble with the law, never accrued significant debt, and so on. I don’t need that much money to keep up. So, I plan on living off of my second income (not totally sure yet what it’ll be but I only need about $100 a week) and the rest will go toward paying off the rest of my debt and my monthly bills. With this plan, my debt will be paid off before the end of the year and then I’ll be able to start investing again.

Things are looking up, for now. This has been a lesson. To stave off the darkness I have to stay just on the edge of how much responsibility and fear I can handle. I’m going to be looking for more activities that get me out of my comfort zone; social activities for sure.

The Great Passive Aggression of 2019

One of my coworkers is giving me the silent treatment because I had the forethought to go to the doctor for my back pain when she’s been suffering through shoulder pain for a month without doing anything about it. Sucks to suck.

Yesterday ended up being a pretty good day. The depression still isn’t gone 100% but for the most part I am getting back into a normal routine. My mother cooked my “birthday meal” of city chicken (Polish Americans will know) which I get every year. It’s a bit of a process to make so not possible to have more often than that! So I’m very grateful for that. I was also thinking this morning about how grateful I am for my insurance company which might be something that not very many people ever say. They paid for 100% of my stay in rehab and all of my after-care. Totally turned my life around.

I think I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I forgot to take my meds in the morning. Welllll I forgot to take them after work too because I was rushing around to different doctors to get my back taken care of (more on that later). I woke up at 3 AM in full blown SSRI withdrawal. If you’ve never gone through that it is terrifying! Your head feels like it’s going to pop, you get these electrical jolts in your brain every few seconds, and you can hear your eyes move. I took all my pills right then and was able to fall back asleep. It’s back to normal now aside from a slight headache but I don’t know if that’s from what happened last night or just a continuation of the headache I’ve had all week.

My back has returned to its original state of unbearable pain. That’s what started this whole passive aggressive mess (she might not come to work today to be extra passive aggressive and I’m okay with that). I left with a bigger dose of steroids and a refill of naproxen as well as a referral for physical therapy. I’m confident it’ll get sorted this time, especially combined with my chiropractic visits. I see a DO instead of an MD so they’re also trained in a bit of chiro and he tried to crack me yesterday and said my muscle there is like concrete and there’s no way anyone is going to get it to move before these meds do their trick. Yeah, that’s what it feels like! I’d rather have rock-hard abs than a rock-hard spine.

I have a few “normal” posts in the works but they’re taking a long time to finish just because of all the stuff that’s gone on. I’m excited to get them done and get them up, though. I don’t really enjoy writing personal posts like this, I just do it because I’d feel ultra worthless if I didn’t post at least a couple times a week while depressed.

Further From the Brink

I feel even better today; I didn’t eat as well as I planned yesterday (just didn’t have the energy) but I did cook a healthier meal than I have been eating. Chicken burrito bowl over rice. Rice is terrible for you but it’s a comfort food for me and I wanted it, darn it! All of the comments and well wishes I’ve received over the past week are much appreciated and I’ve tried to respond to all of them but if I’ve missed you, it’s just because I haven’t had the energy to write. Normally I’m excited to get WordPress notifications but in the past week it’s just been a tap-and-dismiss habit.

Documenting my feelings, though sparsely, has helped as well to get me to reflect on why I feel like this and in a way how silly it is. I’ve beaten myself up for having one, maybe two, weeks of lethargy when I’ve been absolutely killing it for 2 months prior. In the grand scheme of things this is nothing but it’s difficult to see that when you’re in the middle of it. Hopefully down the line, if and when this happens again, I’ll be able to re-read these posts and remind myself that it will end… especially if I don’t let myself binge on McDonalds and candy for a week.

Yesterday I had my chiropractic appointment (I go twice a week) and during my back adjustment apparently he got me to squirt some blood out of my nose. Not fresh, healthy blood but brown, sick, old blood. This is the second time this week I’ve had that nasty stuff come out of my nose and I’m not sure what’s up. You may remember that I had my nose cauterized about 4 weeks ago but this is coming out of the opposite nostril. I called the physician-on-call last night because the ENT was closed and he thought that what probably happened is my nose bled so badly before it was cauterized that it filled my sinuses and now they’re finally draining. My worry, though, is that I’ve been getting massive headaches every time this blood comes out which doesn’t seem like sinus drainage to me. I’m going to call the actual ENT in a few hours when they open. I just hope my brain isn’t bleeding (the dramatic hypochondriac in me).

Reading has been really lacking through this ordeal and I think that’s part of the reason I get so depressed: I set these goals for myself like finishing a book every two weeks so whenever I fall off of that habit, I fail that goal. I have an over-arching goal of finishing all of my currently owned books by the end of the year and now I’m way behind because of this episode and a few others in the past 6 months. It’s just time, though. Years are a human construct so does it really matter if I finish all of my books in February instead of January by 1st? Probably not. My brain just likes neat and tidy structure.

Just realized I forgot to take my medication this morning, too. That’s becoming a more and more frequent occurrence since my morning routine has been totally shattered. I can just take it after work so it’s not the end of the world, just makes me feel like a jack-ass.

Still in the Doldrums

I haven’t been writing as much lately because I feel that nobody needs an endless torrent of misery levied at them, but I have some free time today and nothing else to do! I’m not quite as miserable as I was over the weekend… weekdays are always better just because I have something to focus on and am also around other human beings.

Yesterday was my birthday and I was actually blown away by how many people at work visited this year. A lot of the referees (mini-judges) stopped by my floor and they don’t do that often. I’d like to think it’s because people notice when you work hard but in all likelihood it’s because they were hungry, haha.

My therapy appointment went well and did manage to cheer me up a bit. Just talking about life with somebody who is a professional at it helps a great deal, I really think everyone should do it. I always thought that therapy was useless because it doesn’t really “fix” anyone. These days I understand that, while progress is extremely slow in the personal development department, therapy does play a huge part in it.

Blunt Japanese Woman has an interesting theory about introverts, that too much alone time can burn out your energy stores and lead to a depressive episode. I think I’ve found this to be true. I’ve been very isolated these past couple of years even despite not wanting to be. However, when an opportunity to meet with people does arise, something always gets in the way be it my own social anxiety or a massive depressive episode like this last time.

Sal, my therapist, helped to put things into perspective though. Yes, I may be burnt out on the gym, photography, music, etc. but I am still sober and I still do more with my day than the majority of people do. I’m in college with a 4.0 GPA, I read every day, I try to write SOMETHING every day, and I practice at least one thing even if my mood will only allow for a few minutes. Many people just go home from work and watch TV and nap. I’m at least doing better than that.

Not attaching images or any formatting to these recent posts I feel conveys how pointless and droll I find life to be right now. It’s also because I don’t have the energy or motivation to edit anything I’m writing or format it. Pictures just seem superfluous at the moment. It kind of makes me feel like my blog is disorganized and spiraling down the drain but I know that some day I’ll recover from this and be back to writing on a better level.

Diet is super important, I know, and I’ve been eating like a postmodern savage lately. My friend Moriah sent me this article last night and it has motivated me a bit. I had breakfast today and I’m going to make sure to eat some fatty fish like salmon with some veggies tonight to hopefully increase my energy tomorrow. I don’t have lunch though, so I don’t know what that’s going to do to me.

A Dark Weekend

My medication has definitely not only stopped working but is actually doing the opposite of its intention. I’ve never been this depressed before and it gets worse by the day. Tonight I see my therapist so that will probably help me feel a little bit better but I need to get in with the psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Depression is a downward spiral for me because it triggers a series of events which exacerbate the symptoms. First I start feeling lethargic and sleepy all day so I stay in my room, sitting around watching Netflix or gaming. Maybe taking lengthy naps. Then I start eating fast food and neglecting to cook the healthy meals I had been eating. I haven’t eaten a real vegetable in a week. I’ll start bailing on social situations which makes me feel even more isolated. Throughout all of this is a permeating feeling of “fuck it”. I willingly give all of these things up because “life sucks anyway, I’m never going to be anything” etc.

I might be coming out of it today. I’m not sure. I made a point to eat a bit healthier yesterday but still not as good as I should have. I still have that choking feeling of wanting to cry that follows me around throughout the day but it’s subsided a little bit. I am exhausted despite doing nothing yesterday and sleeping in an extra three hours today. At least I did start filling out my planner again after leaving it in my gym bag all weekend.

Not much else to say about it. A lot of you know how this feels.

Up and Down

I feel great today! Lately it’s been a roller coaster, though: happy one day, depressed the next. Usually it’s some trigger that sets me off like bad experiences in the dating apps or my alcoholic brother renting movies on my Amazon Prime account (and thus my credit card… don’t worry I changed my password). Today I didn’t let any of those triggers in. The minute I woke up I jumped out of bed, threw on shorts and a t-shirt, and went to the gym. Part of a happy life is not looking inward too much. That’s why people commonly say that those who struggle with depression are also very intelligent. We think too much, and when we think too much some of us tend to think about things that aren’t great. This is where mindfulness comes in! If I can focus on what I’m doing in the moment for even thirty minutes a day, that’s thirty minutes I’m not thinking about the awful things that could happen in my day.

Today’s workout was a bit rough! It’s arm and chest day and I’m not fully recovered from last time because I stopped working out during the bloody nose fiasco so my body isn’t used to it anymore. But, a short workout is still a workout and I get to mark it down in my planner as a streak! I need to start doing yoga at night again but I just really do not like yoga. Haha! I don’t know why, I just dread the thought of doing it.

I’ve put together a rough outline of the book I hope to write and I’m just writing on the topics in free-form mode. For me, it’s better to spill my guts onto a page and then edit it later rather than trying to moderate myself in the moment, even with blog posts. I almost always write my post around 6 AM but sometimes I’ll let it sit until 5 PM so that I can periodically look at it and edit it. I feel my best work comes out of that process, and the numbers appear to agree. There’s certainly value to my raw, personal posts in that it is very helpful to get advice from my friends here.

Some of you who have read much of my story here know me better than my local friends do because I don’t let them read my blog and I don’t talk to them about most of this stuff. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s fear that they wouldn’t like me anymore, which is ridiculous because that’s been proven wrong to me so many times. It’s a habit, though.

I’ve been pretty lazy after work which I hate because it basically means I’m back to where I was before I started taking my medication. The reason I started taking all of these pills is because I was sick of being super active and positive for two weeks and then suddenly quitting everything and sitting in front of my computer for two months. I’m not as bad as I was so the medication is doing something but a piece of the puzzle is missing.

I know I need to work on my diet again, it’s really slipped lately. That might help but I take a lot of vitamins with my medication so I feel like I’m okay there. It’s probably just depression and anxiety. Even though I feel good today there is still that underlying feeling of fear and dread that’s always there. Like something horrible is about to happen but I don’t know what.

I finished the first chapter of 12 Rules for Life yesterday and so far the book is amazing. Probably the best psychology-slash-philosophy book I’ve ever read. Regardless of what you think of Peterson’s political views, he’s obviously extremely brilliant when it comes to psychoanalysis and biology. I plan on writing a post for every chapter not only so that you all get some benefit out of it but so that I cement it in my head as well. The best way to remember something is to re-write it in your own words, I think. Also using it in conversation… that’s how I remember new words. For example I learned that the word for my personality when I was a drunk is “sardonic”.

Cynical and mocking. Very accurate.