Posted in day-to-day, depression

Dr. Phil, Second Life, and Gaming Addiction

So, as no doubt you’ve heard by now, Dr. Phil made an appearance in SL, and Ebbe made an appearance on Dr. Phil.

Kudos to Dr. Phil for making clear that video games and virutal worlds are not by default bad. As I’ve said myself, they’re neither good nor evil, because they don’t think and don’t have intentions one way or another. For many people they’re therapeutic.

But I could really sympathize (though on a lower level) with Justin saying that it’s much easier to just anesthetize himself than to face the harsh realities of the world, especially when he feels like it’s too late in his life to make anything positive of it. The feeling of having missed my shot is one that resonates with me as well; I’m 40 years old, no degree, diploma by the skin of my teeth, with huge gaps in work history that make it really hard to make look positive on a resume.

But if by some chance you’re reading this, Justin? No. It’s really not too late. It’s easy to feel like you’re lost when you’re 23; lots of people do.

At 23, JK Rowling was broke. Tina Fey was working at the Y.M.C.A. Oprah had just gotten fired from her first job as a TV reporter and Walt Disney had declared bankruptcy. None of these wildly successful individuals could have predicted what was in store for them next but the one thing they all had in common was that they knew that there was more to them than what they were doing at the time. And that’s what you have in common with them, too. You know that there’s a bigger, better version of yourself to bring to life. You just haven’t gotten there yet.

That doesn’t mean that you have to become the next JK Rowling or Walt Disney. It simply means that there’s so much more ahead of you, and within you, that you don’t even know yet. And it’s scary but it’s also exciting.

And, the same goes for me. Did you know that Phyllis Diller was almost 40 when she first gave stand-up comedy a try? Or that Julia Child was 49 when her groundbreaking cookbook got published? Stan Lee was 39 when he published his first comic book. Vera Wang went into fashion design at 40. Darwin wrote “On the Origin of the Species” when he was 50. Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing books in her 60s. Harland Sanders was 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken.

My point is, it is NEVER too late to be successful.

And it’s frightening because, for me at least, fear of failure and that nagging lie of “IT’S TOO LATE” are always always hanging over me. Or fear of making a wrong choice. It’s so much easier to just not make any choice, and curl up, and let life happen while I’m deluding myself that I’m making amazing things happen too, just in a virtual world. It feels GREAT to be ultra-popular in a virtual world. It feels GREAT to have the ability to make anything, do anything, go anywhere, and be seen and appreciated for it. It hurts like hell to walk away from that. It’s HARD AS HELL, Justin, and it might take lots of tries, but I believe that you CAN do it!

One thing the show only briefly touched on, though, is HOW. I know that On-Line Gamers Anonymous tends to preach the hard line that all video games are bad, all relationships in them toxic, and you’re 100% better off without them. I don’t agree with that, and from the sounds of things, neither does Dr. Phil. I think maybe for some people it’s easier to talk themselves out of an addiction by convincing themselves that the thing to which they’re addicted is absolutely undeniably BAD. I believe personally that the hard (but necessary) first step is to face the IRL dragon. Look what you’re running from in the eye. For me, that was financial troubles. I had to do a lot of paperwork, make a lot of appointments, pay a lot of debts (and as a result, make a lot of sacrifices), and it was draining and overwhelming. It helped to break things into small pieces, and give myself some kind of reward (preferably tangible, not virtual) for accomplishing smaller goals. For example, if I sit down and pay all my bills and get them sent out, I go and treat myself to a favorite junk food snack while I’m out at the post office. Or, I get a new bottle of nail polish. Or something at the fabric store. Or art supplies. Or a matinee at the theater. Things that I have to be AFK to enjoy.

I’ll reiterate to Justin and all the other Justins and Mistletoes out there: it’s FUCKING HARD. But you can do it. It may take years and years, and you may stumble on the way, but you can do it. We can do it!

Now if you will excuse me, because I reached my goal by sitting down and writing this blog instead of playing on FB, I’m going to go and treat myself to some embroidery floss and a nice walk outside to get it.

Posted in depression, personal, updates

The ice cracks

Sometimes ice goes away ever so gradually, melting to water a few slow drops at a time. Other times it shatters, hard, sudden, with a shiver and a crack.

Depression’s like that too. And today the ice snapped and popped. I was thinking about my husband and my cat, and about how much they mean to me, and about how much it would hurt to lose them, and suddenly I felt this overwhelming bittersweet feeling of what himself calls “mysterious sad beauty” so profound that it made my heart physically ache. I cried, a little (I was at work so I reined it in), spontaneously; and I felt like I was alive and that it felt so beautiful to love someone enough to think about how much their loss would pain me.

That’s when I realized I’m not depressed right now. That for now, I’m free.

Posted in day-to-day, depression, health, personal

Bouying Up Slowly

I’m currently in the “anxiety and irritability” portion of our program, but make no mistake, I’m on my way upward if slowly. Depression just really fucking sucks all around but at least I can see a way out of it, if long and slow.

I’ve been showing this to everybody. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s like that. Yes. She nails it to the fucking wall.

Let’s see, let’s see, what news. The festival is over. Anytime I ever feel like spearheading a nine day event again, in particular when my availability is limited, do us all a favor and check me in. I’m officially certifiable for going forward with that and expecting different results.

That’s not to say it wasn’t without its moments of enjoyment. There were even some moments of outright fun (like blowing the grounds up…). And, none of it could have gone over without the help of my friends who were also my staff. And, to the performers and merchants who made it more than just a really pretty vacant lot.

But you see, a depressive crash hit me right square in the middle of it all. And with it came the “what the hell is the point?” described in the link above (seriously, GO READ IT). And so it means even more than it ordinarily would that those whom I could count on, stepped up and held things together while I tried holding me together. With the crash came the bitter disappointment of such low turnout, and by the time the second weekend rolled around, well, you had one elf ready to just throw in the towel and stay in bed. Which I pretty much did, on Saturday.

I can’t really state just how much of myself I end up pouring into things like this, so it’s hard not to take it personally when it falls miles short of expectation. So to everyone who said, “Mistletoe, this was a great event,” you made me cry. Which is a good thing because you got to my partially-frozen (due to the depression) heart and really made a difference. THAT, is the payoff I get for doing stuff like this.

Posted in depression, health, personal

Depression and mental health: let’s discuss it.

This is a thing I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but I never quite know how I’m going to go about it. However, in light of the recent loss of an SL friend to depression (see previous post), and the fact that it’s “that time of year”, I think it’s time I just stopped making excuses and went forward.

If you live with, if you suffer from, if you have or are had by depression, you are not alone, and here’s my tiny bit of evidence:

I, Laura, whom most of you know as Mistletoe Ethaniel and/or Clover Windlow, live with depression. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder officially about 12 years ago, but depression is something that I’ve known since at least the age of 4 (I have a vivid memory, for example, of crying and telling my mom that it was for no reason, that I just felt like crying). I’m no stranger to the frustration and the pain and the isolation; if anything I get more frustrated with it now because god damn it by now I should have it all together.

And I don’t. I know that nobody has it all together. I’m sure that outwardly I appear to have it more together than most. That has taken decades of self-discipline to master, and sometimes I feel like a real fraud for it when what I’d like to do is stay in bed and just cry for no reason.

I want to talk about the things that help, the things that have gotten me through the unfathomably dark places, because maybe it will help someone else too. No one thing will make the depression go away entirely, but they can (I hope) help you break free from its grip. And I hope this can offer some insight to people who love someone with depression as well.

Medical Treatment.
Depression is not a character flaw or some kind of “weakness”. It’s a disease, and a potentially fatal one at that. You wouldn’t stay home from a doctor’s office and try to “ride out” diabetes, or mask it from your friends and loved ones, or beat yourself up for not being able to make it go away with your own strength of will.

By way of medical doctors and pharmaceutical treatment, I can live my life. It doesn’t make the depression go away and it certainly hasn’t made my personality go away (a fear many have regarding medication) or my creativity go away (a fear I myself harbored). But it has made it manageable; it’s like reins and a saddle for a wild horse. It’s hard to remember to take it sometimes, but if/when I go off it, the effect can really be a mess. That’s where I come to the next thing:

Self-Awareness.
I know exactly what happens if I miss a dose. I know exactly what happens if I miss two. I know exactly what happens if I take too much. I know exactly when my body is not acting like it should, because something has interacted with what I’m taking (by the way, Seroquel + Dextromethorphan = NO). One of the– I hesitate to say advantages, but it’s the best word I can come up with at the moment– of depression is that it kind of removes you from your self in a way that you can be a dispassionate observer. I am easily able to distinguish what’s “me” and what’s “not me”.

And while I’m discussing self-awareness, I want to stress the importance of not making one’s illness one’s identity. It’s why I tend to stay away from like-diseased groups. I am not bipolar; I have bipolar. I’m still me. In fact most of the time I’m more me than I’ve been in a while, if that makes any amount of sense at all.

Discipline.
And no I don’t mean the whips and chains “yes Mistress” stuff. I mean something far more difficult: self-discipline. The discipline to take the medicine every day at roughly the same time (an alarm clock setting on my phone helps). The discipline to get out of bed when I really really don’t want to (the hardest thing for me to accomplish, when I’m depressed, is this one task. I don’t know if it’s the same for others but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Holy hell). The discipline to go to work and put on my game face when I really don’t want to. The discipline to call the doctor or counselor when I’m just not able to hold myself together on my own. The discipline to make myself something to eat (another sure sign I’m depressed is an anti-compulsion to preparing food for myself).

The hardest part, though, is not beating myself up if I’m not able to do any or all of these things. That creates one hell of a vicious cycle. I try to remember– to have the discipline– to not talk to myself in a way that I wouldn’t allow anyone else to talk to me. Or, on hard days, like I would talk to a child.
Continue reading “Depression and mental health: let’s discuss it.”

Posted in depression, personal

A Belated Farewell

Taken March 2010, Seven Isles: the day we met.
Taken March 2010, Seven Isles: the day we met.

I was not long back in Second Life, not even a full month. I had just re-opened Clover’s Kitchen and was taking a break from setup to hang out with some friends in Seven Isles. Chocobo races, if memory serves. That was the day I (as Clover) met Cern Glenwalker, a sensitive, kind fellow who wore grand antlers on his head. We got to talking and in not much time struck up a RP romance.

dancing_001

Perhaps they seemed an unlikely match. Clover, married to her work and devoted to her daughter; Cern, a lonesome widower and old-fashioned romantic.

Of course in the time of the pretend romance, what I like to hope was a genuine friendship was born.

This is the part where I look back, where I scour my memories, to think if there was something I could have said or done differently, where I ask myself if I was really a good enough friend to someone so deeply, so painfully, in need of one. I don’t know if I could have made things different. Probably not.
dancing_006
We ended up going our ways. The RP was too much for me to keep up with, with re-opening a shop and all the marketing and stocking and all that went with it. He’d pop into the Wee Little Irish Pub from time to time– wish I had a picture of that red kilt he wore– but time went on, the pub closed, the clientele went their ways, things got quiet.

I only got the news, on New Year’s Eve, of just how quiet.

Depression. Fuck. Depression is a horrible, torturing, silencing, scourge which kills. It twists your mind by making you afraid to talk to people about how much it’s truly making you suffer. It freezes your heart until you start to think nobody cares and nobody can possibly know what it’s like. It’s killed people I know. It’s claimed the life of another someone I used to know.

And I am stung in the heart by his loss. Anyone who knew him at all must surely be.

Cern, whose real name I didn’t even know until recently, is now a ghostly name on my friends list, linking to someone who will never log on again. Another good human being, swallowed up by the ice.