Career Shameer

It’s 10:44 in the morning. I got off of work two hours ago. I am sleep deprived from the last few days, and quite irritable. That’s the perfect time to belch out a post. Agreed?

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but my best cognitive realizations and abilities are birthed from pure, elegant exhaustion. I did much better in Calculus at eight thirty in the morning after four hours of sleep than I did in an afternoon class after a solid seven and a half hours of sleep the night before. My brain is backwards and I appreciate that.

However, I am at a rather jarring crossroads in my life right now. After the last three years of being in and out of psychiatric hospitals, on and off psychiatric medications, jumping around from (ignorant) diagnosis to diagnosis, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight again, in and out of a four year relationship, it’s left my education in shambles.

Most of you know I currently work as a Peer Support worker at a Peer Respite house and if you didn’t know, now you know. Somewhere on this blog I still have the post I put up about my first day of work there. I’ve been there for 2.5 years by this point, the longest job I’ve ever held. I started when I was 20 years old, a month or two away from my 21st birthday that I don’t remember. In my interview I told them I was a Pre-Med student eager for a career in psychiatry to fight the system.

I am now 23, four months away from my 24th birthday.

I’m not quite sure what happened. I was fully invested in my psychology degree and unscathed by the physics and math required for Med-school. I was a little perturbed about chemistry. I can’t balance an equation to save my fucking life. Another fun fact: put a Calculus equation in front of me, or teach me Linear Algebra and I”ll eat it alive. Put a pre-algebra word problem in front of me and I crumble, I disintegrate. As a writer, you think I’d understand what word problems are asking of me. As someone pretty decent at math, you’d think I’d understand how to calculate what’s being asked of me. Both of your assumptions would be horribly, horribly misled. I’m sure you can, then, deduce how well physics went.

My point in all this rambling is I can’t figure out what I want to study in college anymore. My psychology degree is almost complete and I don’t much care for it anymore. Every psychology class I take I no longer take interest in. Perhaps it’s from 1) living the experience of mental health issues and realizing textbook explanations are pale in comparison, 2) understanding the corruption that lies in the mental health industry/business, and 3) from working in the exact opposite environment that I would be working in were I to pursue my original career choice.

Perhaps it’s my stubbornness. I don’t want to answer to Insurance companies. I don’t want to be solicited or bribed by pharmaceutical salesmen offering me money to push certain drugs. I don’t want to have to deny someone my services because their insurance won’t pay for me because they don’t want medication. I don’t want to make that choice for them, it’s not my business. I don’t want to go into private practice and have to charge 300 dollars an hour and limit myself to an elitist group when we’re all very much aware that the people who need the most help are often struggling with housing, substance use, financial issues, as well as their mental health.

I don’t want to work for a county that would allow me to see that population but underpay me significantly and overload me with cases. I don’t want to only be allowed to see those people for 15 minutes when they need so much more time than that. I don’t want to be considered a doctor that only hands out medication. I don’t do well with rules that are illogical and all of the aforementioned happens to be just that.

And yet I feel that to not pursue this would be abandoning my own people. I feel the difference I wish to make can only begin with legitimizing myself, and unfortunately that requires a college degree in this day and age. But if the passion for the classes isn’t there anymore–where does that leave me? I still have a fiery passion for exposing pharmaceutical companies for what they are, for guiding people through their own mental health journey, for offering other opportunities and healing besides medication and hospitalization, but I just can’t handle sitting through these fucking brainwashing classes and pretend to care about what they’re saying.

So do I start over? Do I accept the psychology degree and switch to a different discipline? Do I follow my original plan, which would require a hard science degree? Do I have the confidence for that? Or will word problems best me? Will I make the same mistake, get the degree, and then not want to pursue the discipline? Will I even be able to get the degree? Or do I say fuck school all together and live the rest of my life check to check, roommate to roommate?

I’ve been off all meds for a couple months now. No antipsychotics, no mood stabilizers, no antidepressants, no sleep medication. I’ve 360’d my diet, and now exercise five days a week for an hour and a half. I’m making a lot of changes and it feels like it’s only natural that my career path do the same.

The real problem is i’d love to have a career in physics and a career in peer support. That just doesn’t seem realistic though. Research during the day, peer during the night? Sounds exhaustive.

What’s helped you choose your career path? Are you still searching for something? Are you at a crossroads too?

The Night I Tried to Kill Myself

I don’t quite know how to put this experience into words. I haven’t written for some time again, due to feelings of inadequacy, depression, and general brain fog. I can’t seem to form coherent sentences as quickly as I used to, nor can I focus for long periods of time on something that I have a deep love for.

Thursday, 10.25.18 I remember walking into the outpatient center I attend for a therapy session. I remember the feelings of utter hopelessness attending with me, like a sack lunch I was carrying to school. I had made the decision to give up. I was tired of fighting, I was tired of trying to fight, and I was tired of the only option being fighting. I was tired of fighting myself, I was tired of, for the millionth time in my mental health career, coming off of medication, and I was tired of hearing I needed medication to thrive.

I was taking 10 milligrams of Abilify and 10 milligrams of Trintellix and I couldn’t find the energy to finish homework, or get out of bed, and I didn’t have the luxury of feeling any emotion at all: happiness, sadness, inquisitiveness, passion–nothing. And so I did what I always do: stopped the medication.

This usually happens without consequence. For the most part, I’ll stop cold turkey after a couple of months, struggle through a few physical withdrawal symptoms, and get on with my lifestyle. The last time I stopped these two meds, I regained my energy quickly, breezed through four classes, and managed happiness until the opinions of those I care about convinced me to try the medication again.

So I tried again, For maybe two and a half weeks. Then I stopped. I stopped and I noticed my energy did not come back. My mood was stable until it wasn’t. It plummeted. I focused a lot on what was wrong with me, the disappointment of my relationship ending (yes, I’m still stuck on that), and the worries of the future regarding my education, where I’m going to live after December, and the simple fact that I struggle taking care of myself. Those are the surface issues. There are deeper issues I don’t think I’m in touch with yet.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was ten years old. A low mood was nothing new to me, in fact I welcomed it because the darkness was comforting. It was an old friend, a sinister reminder that life is suffering and suffering reminds us that we’re alive. I was thankful for this friend to return because on the medication I didn’t feel alive.

I started planning fun things to do to keep me from falling further: A concert, an overnight trip to San Francisco, Halloween plans and costumes. I got excited: the week of the 21st would be marvelous.

But I started separating from myself.  I don’t remember when, and I don’t remember how, but part of me blacked out. I know I was around and talking to people because I went to work, had laughs, made plans. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I was there.

By Thursday, the 25th, I was moving slowly, not comprehending where I was, no hope or vision for the future, and I’d even lost interest in Halloween, my favorite holiday. I confessed to the therapist that I didn’t have energy to care much about my life, nor could I answer her questions. I didn’t tell her I’d made a plan to (somehow) kill myself after Halloween. It wasn’t fully developed yet, an undercooked chicken in the oven.

I don’t remember much about the session other than the ending: a mindful meditation seeking to locate my inner child. I remember a lot of pain resurfacing, so deep and profound I had never felt it before, and I snapped. I was gone. She asked me how I felt, and I told her dissociated, separated from myself. I remember that. She made me do some grounding activities to bring me back into my body. I don’t think they worked.
That night I went to a concert. It put me in a seemingly better mood.

Friday and Saturday I spent the days in San Francisco at the Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, Six Flags, and around town. Saturday evening, on the drive back, a sinister part of me reminded me of my plan.

I’m not a stranger to hearing voices. I don’t hear them every day, and I haven’t had a bad episode in a while, not since my last hospitalization last year, but this time was different. This time I heard nothing external, and everything internal.

We all have an inner voice that reads to us, thinks for us, and we are in control of that voice, we dictate it. I’m dictating it now as I read back what I wrote, and as I write. But what I listened to that Saturday evening was not of my own doing. A different voice, a male voice, one inside of my head that I had no control of, which directly told me I needed to kill myself. He instructed me to open the door of the car and jump out in traffic–on the highway–and end it. He addressed me as “you” and I addressed me as “I”. That’s the only difference I can pinpoint right now. When I had a thought of my own, I said to myself “I need to calm down”. When I didn’t, he said “you need to do this. There’s no reason for you to live, you don’t deserve life.”

Was this a demonic entity interfering with my thoughts? I didn’t know. I sat paralyzed in the rental car my Ex drove, crying consistently for an hour and a half. The torment wouldn’t stop. “You don’t deserve to live. There’s nothing good about you. Jump out of the car. End it. When you get home, kill yourself. Hang yourself in the closet, no one will even find you.”

I had plans that evening with another friend, so I did not act on those commands. I did, however, drink quite a bit of whiskey and wander around the downtown city. When I got home, I drank more whiskey and fell asleep.

In the morning I awoke instantly crying. The day was Sunday, 10.28.18. I turned on Breaking Bad: I’ve never seen it before. I don’t remember much of the episodes because my head was so loud: “hang yourself in the closet. Take a knife, slit your wrists. You will never amount to anything. You don’t deserve to be on this earth, you don’t contribute to anything.” I joined in: “I can’t write anymore. I can’t enjoy things anymore. I don’t see this getting any better”.

It was 6pm that night when I finally stood up and searched my apartment for something, anything to hang myself with. I didn’t feel in control of my body, I was just going along with the motions.

“Fill up the tub, get in the water, slit your wrists.”

I grabbed a kitchen knife from the drawer and filled up the tub. I remember this part more clearly than other parts because my heart was beating out of my chest, my hands were clammy, and I couldn’t get a grip on myself, I felt like I was losing myself to someone else.

I got in the water with my clothes on and fought the noise in my head. I tried to give myself reasons to live–family, my cat, work–but it was always overpowered by that other voice. I spent a half an hour sawing at my wrists with a dull blade that could barely cut a tomato. I pressed as hard as I could and my skin barely broke. Eventually, I threw the knife. I remember a lot of crying and banging my head on the wall and hitting myself. The noise wouldn’t stop. I ripped out the string from my leggings I had on and wrapped it around my neck and pulled and pulled and pulled. Thinking back on it, I would probably pass out before I die, given my hands are the one pulling the strings, but in the moment I just needed to cause some sort of harm to myself. I kept trying the knife in between strangling myself and I sent one text message that I don’t remember.

It was a couple hours before I stopped. My neck was sore and I had stopped crying, but I wasn’t back in my body yet. The water was cold and I heard the front door open and footsteps running in.

We spent a couple hours talking, and I was gone completely. I don’t remember an ounce of the conversation. I remember seeing through my eyes my body stand up and go for the knife, go for the string, and my ex preventing me from doing so. I remember telling him I didn’t want to traumatize him.

There’s a block on my memory of the conversation, what I said, what he said. I remember being on the couch wrapped in blankets, soaking wet, distraught, eating pizza. I didn’t remember the last time I had food. It couldn’t have been too long. I took a Seroquel. I only had three or four left. It’s a shame I didn’t have a full bottle, or I would have just swallowed them all and called it a night.

The next day I didn’t awake until 1pm. I could barely move, my mind was paralyzingly loud, and I turned on more Breaking Bad. The urge to die was so strong. People took turns watching after me, texting me, calling me. I refused to let anyone call 911. The hospital is not a place to be when you’re in a crisis.

Today is Halloween. My head isn’t loud. I came back into my body and have trouble remembering what the depression felt like because I feel I wasn’t the one to feel it–this entity within me, whether it’s paranormal or just a fractured part of my self, is hell bent on destroying me.  I haven’t experienced a dissociative experience so destructive since high school.

Am I still depressed? I think. Mildly. Or it’s so severe that I’m incapable of comprehending the severity of it.

I didn’t learn to love life from this attempt. I didn’t learn to appreciate the little things or find new meaning or purpose. I still feel lost and confused. A hospital visit isn’t going to change that. What I did learn is that I’m more committed than ever to never taking psychiatric medication again in my life. After 7 years of being a guinea pig, I’m done.

My outpatient group counselor asked me why I despised medication so much. I told her it’s poison. She asked in what way. I told everyone in that room that long term treatment results in heart issues, liver issues, physical ailments that permanently scar your internal body and shorten your life span.

She said okay,  well, then would you rather kill yourself now and not have a life to live, or have some little problems a little later?

I said that was a dumb question, and that heart arrhythmia’s aren’t little problems. I said I’d rather kill myself than subject my body to synthetic chemicals.

And through this experience, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the only two ways I will die is by my own hand or nature’s hand. I will not slowly die at the hands of greedy monsters making a profit off my death. If anyone is going to shorten my life span, it’s going to be me.

Should 911 have been called on me? Probably. I’m worried what I will do after Halloween–my original plan–and where my mindset will go. I’m worried I won’t be able to receive the support people are offering because I don’t know how. I’m convinced there is nothing left for me and that the only thing keeping me alive right now is fear of the unknown and a low threshold for pain. I’m worried this depression will slide past, unnoticed, and sky rocket into something more. I’m worried I’m not going to find a purpose again, that I’m not going to find a reason to live. I’m worried I’ll never feel passionate about anything again, or optimistic. I’m worried I’m shutting down, like the last stages of liver cancer. I’m worried I’ll pass as functional and be in misery for the rest of my life, however short or long that is. I’m worried someone will convince me to go back on medication. I’m worried that the only thought in my head right now is that I give up.

I’m worried that, recently, every time someone offers their help, my response now is “I don’t want it.”

How Sick Are You, Pt 2

Another long stretch since I’ve written. I spent some days adjusting to medication, some days hating myself for taking medication, and other days deciding to come off of medication.

Experiment number 2984719374:

Hypothesis: I will have a burst of energy and feel-good neurotransmitters flooding the gates of my synaptic terminals, followed by an immediate and harrowing decline which will, therefore, push me inevitably towards reuniting with the medication I so despise.

Methods: I will stop both the Abilify and Trintellix and monitor my moods and/or whatever aspects of psychosis that may rear its ugly head.

Results: TBD

Discussion: TBD.

Now that we have that settled, let’s talk a bit about mental health and awareness. There are so many great people out there doing great advocacy online and in person. There are so many great Non-Profit organizations doing the same. There are even clubs dedicated to such a thing at my college campus. And yet, there are still people wary and ashamed of their mental health. Let me give an example of how this thought process is still prevalent.

Today, while sitting in my Cognitive Psychology class, we were going over, for the umpteenth time in my life, neurotransmission, synaptic terminals, receptors, antagonists and agonists, Dopamine, Gaba, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin, some of the main receptors you learn in an introduction class. It follows that we should then speak about the dis-regulation of some of those neurotransmitters, and discuss the THEORY of chemical imbalances: regarding primarily dopamine and schizophrenia, serotonin and anxiety/depression.

Again, the idea of a chemical imbalance is a (repeat after me kids):

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which means it can never be proven, only dis-proven.

Anyway, that brought up the topic of SSRI’s, their side effects, and their withdrawal symptoms.

One young woman, who was probably younger than I am, raised her hand and said this:

“I was wondering about the withdrawal symptoms, because I take an SSRI, and I noticed that–well, I don’t have depression, it’s for some nerve problems–but I noticed that when I didn’t take it even for just a couple days, I was sleeping a lot, I couldn’t focus in this class . . .” and yada yada yada, personal life bullshit.

But what struck me is that she immediately discounted the experience of depression. She wouldn’t want her classmates thinking she’s “mentally ill” now would she?

And this is why I advocate for changing the culture around this term “mentally ill”. Because people are ashamed of that, of “being ill”. But what if we weren’t “ill”? What if we were perfectly well humans with a variation of neurons (a very, very, very large variation of neurons) that just so happened to result in different experiences? What if believing we are “ill” is keeping us, well, “ill-er”?

What if the perception of those experiences changed from unpleasant to being perceived as unique, variable, malleable, valuable, curious, and wonderful?

That’s not to say the struggle isn’t hard, because it’s very hard. But the harder we believe it is, the harder it will get.

Now, this could all be the feel-good neurotransmitters talking, because I started my little experiment about two weeks ago, and that is about the amount of time it takes for this poison to slowly remove itself from my body. Although, if you know anything about half-lifes, it never really goes away.

But whether or not this is me being euphoric and grandiose, I think we need to expand the discussion around neurotransmitters, and inform the public of just how wrong it is to think that the pathway of ONE SINGLE neurotransmitter leads to something as complex as what we call schizophrenia or what we call anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, any of it.

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You’ll read in a lot of studies released to the public–or at least glorified in the media–that they’ve found another link of dopamine to this, another one of serotonin to that, and it’s just not feasible that with 30-100 different molecule versions of neurotransmitters (granted there are a few that do a lot of the work) and 100 Trillion estimated neural connections plus constant variation of cell death/growth, neural connection death/growth, as well as environmental and genetic influences that dictate those neural connection and sell growths and deaths, that ONE neurotransmitter is going to be responsible for making or breaking our mental health.

Now, we can say that they are correlated. We can say we see increased dopamine in people who experience what we label as schizophrenia. But you cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT use that as CAUSATION.

Fuck I can’t stress it ENOUGH.

Psychology 101 folks: CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. 

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Dopamine may be high during what we call psychosis, but that does not mean that the high dopamine CAUSED the psychosis, or that the psychosis CAUSED the high dopamine. We haven’t learned what “causes” mental health struggles yet, that’s why chemical imbalance is a THEORY.

See how much you’ve learned already today.

And that’s what happens in a lot of these articles that are debriefed by media or science magazines online with writers who don’t know a single thing about psychology. They get hung up on correlations.

It’s also a result of research publications being manipulated to suit the needs of pharmaceutical companies.

It’s a fact that if you give someone a drug that decreases dopamine, you’ll likely see a decrease in what we call psychosis. You’ll see a decrease in a lot of other things too, and those are what we cal side-effects. But are those drugs really doing anything to the thing we call psychosis, or is it just blunting some aspects of the self? Because often “psychotic symptoms” continue during the usage of said drug.

These are all questions I can’t answer, and neither can the magazines that publish articles on published research. It’s important to read these things carefully and really take a moment to look inside of yourself and ask yourself if you want to consider yourself broken, sick, ill, and helpless.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

 

How Intelligent Are You?

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I need to speak about this.

This may not be as whimsical or joking as my other posts, because I’m disturbed. I’m deeply disturbed and actually a little hurt. Not for myself, but for the people who have been reaching out to me specifically and confiding in me. I see a disturbing trend in a subject that’s only ever touched on briefly in the media.

I’m on a website to help people dealing with depression or crisis or other mental health issues. (Yes, they train you, but what better training is there than having been in such situations yourself?) I spent a few hours today talking with a deeply saddened individual who was cutting themselves as we spoke and I stayed on the inter-web line with them until I could confirm they were safe to the best of my abilities. I also gave them resources links. I’m used to speaking with the deeply depressed and hopeless.

What I was not prepared for today was the influx of high school students applying to college, and undergraduates.

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Obviously that’s a stressful time in many people’s lives: it was stressful in mine because I realized spending the last two years of my high school career smoking weed in the back of the school wouldn’t help me get into Stanford and that I was stuck in my home down for another three years. Who would have known? Life is a mystery.

I’m sure you’ve all heard recently that this generation of college applicants and high schoolers are under the most amount of stress yet. I’m sure you’ve all heard that because that’s all you hear–that one line. Maybe they mention the price of tuition (which, by the way, I was seriously considering sawing off my left leg and sending it in with one of my applications just to see if they’d willingly accept the payment) or the average required G.P.A (U.S.A standards here).

We don’t talk much anymore about how we force kids to intertwine their identity with their grades or about how we constantly compare their grades to their level of intelligence and therefore knowingly pressure them into perfection? Something we tell them from birth doesn’t exist

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I went through college prep; the class was small and I felt generally comfortable around them. We knew each other all four years. They stressed a 3.5 G.P.A and above, labeling 3.5 as the absolutely worst you could do.

Because I had nothing else, and because it was the only thing the school and I felt I could excel at, I turned to academia as my savior. So when I went to college and pushed a 3.9 G.P.A, I had self confidence. I could do something right, and people respected me for it, particularly for my writing. Each essay I wrote had to be better than the last. Each paragraph I wrote needed to be ingenious, particularly since I wasn’t so great of a talker.

Part of my drive to become an M.D came from the fact that people expect me to do something they consider great.

I’ve since found my own reasons to strive for it.

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The Stamp On My Forehead I Wore Not So Proudly

It all fueled my self-esteem and I wrapped my identity around it all. So when my mental health decided to tear me down and my G.P.A fell from 3.9 to 3.5 I almost killed myself. I was self-harming like crazy, sitting in my room, the stress and depression getting worse the more I focused on it, figuring out ways to kill myself with style.

I wished I could have a gun, that would have been the ultimate way to go out, like the man who took his life right down the street from my house in his car. Quick and painless if you do it right. They say those who use violent weapons are generally self-loathing and I certainly loathed myself at that point in my life.

Slitting the wrists vertical was an option, but I couldn’t leave the mess. I considered jumping off that one cliff again but could never find the energy to drive out there. Perhaps I didn’t want it enough.

If I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t want to be alive. I hadn’t even turned 19 yet.

These are values instilled in some of us in this education system. If you don’t live up to these expectations, if you don’t become this, if you don’t get into this school than what’s the point of your life? You can’t get a job without college, you can’t be happy without college, you’re NOTHING without college.

I beg to differ. Greatly.

I spoke to so many students today who scored spectacularly on the SAT (perfect score I believe), maintained amazing G.p.A’s and did everything right. Most of them got rejected from the schools they wanted.

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Now let’s think about that for a moment. What does it take to get into an Ivy League school? Often money or Fame or family history or ethnic background help tremendously because let’s not forget that all too important quota to fill.

So the system they make us strive for perfection in, the system they say will guarantee us a good reputation (as if that defines our character), is one of the most imperfect piece of shit machines man has corrupted in the last few hundred years.

That’s how desperate we are as a society for perfection. It’s not what you do with yourself, it’s not how you handle or acquire the knowledge you do, it’s all about how it looks on paper. 

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This is why I loathe the reality of resumes and professional interviews; it’s all just a way to make yourself sound like some perfect, well oiled machine when you’re really just a ratty old human.

We’re obsessed with the idea and theory of intelligence, not so much the actuality of it. Everyone wants to be “smart”, but most people are conflicted on what that means. And for good reason.

I talked down another medical student ready to give up on life because he felt like his fellow students were more successful and perfect than him.

I saw an influx of people my age who could think about nothing more than their reputation, than who will be proud of them when they get finished slaving over a pot of grades on the stove of college, as if any of that determines a happy life. I took the time (a couple hours each person) to pull them from that warped mind set and got them into the present, talking about the good things about themselves, their personality, the other things in their life besides the pressures placed on them. I helped them see, for a brief moment, perfection doesn’t exist and I’m living proof.

gifted_childI don’t see this as much in people who were not pushed as children to be better than everyone, in people who were exposed to other things besides academic education, in people who were allowed to develop their own interests instead of their worthiness as humans being placed upon their unusual level of intelligence.

So, more than anything, this is a message to the future college students and current college students who feel that stress of living up to a certain reputation that has somehow been placed upon you. A G.P.A is about as relevant to your life as your I.Q. Your I.Q is about as indicative of your intelligence as the bottom of my shoe, the one that stepped in the dog shit.

I mean, think about it. IQ tests mainly measure processing speed and vague understanding, (as well as learned knowledge they don’t tell you about). But who said that was the definition of intelligence? If the validity of science is determined by what it can measure and what it can detect, and the measurement is horribly inaccurate because of that fact that what you’re measuring can’t actually be measured unless you yourself create the parameters and definition of said thing being measured (and therefore end up with a biased definition), than how in the world can you logically conclude you can pinpoint the level of someone’s intelligence?

My point? Live by your own terms. It saves a lot of heartache on your part.

Shots Fired: Your Move.

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Is this what my generation has to offer the world?

Is it?

It this all we’ve got?

hashtag_selfie_drooling_on_blue_led_car_decal-r3643991aad4c4f86818bba2839e7dc61_zwcsn_324An army of vehicles with hashtag decals on the back window and girls in minishorts posing sexually against a wall on the street and asking a strange man to take a picture of them?

Is this all we’ve got?

I’m disappointed. I was expecting a little more. Get a tattoo of the first hashtag you see on your Twitter feed in the morning: now that will impress me.

Or, better yet, if you’re in high school, get a tattoo on your chest of the name of your boyfriend who you’ve been with for two weeks. That will really show me how smart you are.

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You know, these people weren’t born like this. At least, in my totally expert (not) opinion. I believe they were conditioned and influenced by their surroundings to develop a lack of control of themselves and therefore delay their development of critical analysis.

It’s hard to measure someone’s intelligence though, and I certainly don’t base it off of something as simple as that. They may be very good at lacking control and being completely gullible. Better them than me.

They might be able to take a test easier than I can. I study until I can do every problem in the book (or the majority of them) and still come out with a D or F on a test because of my inattention. I skip simple steps and misread questions constantly.

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Not exactly a detail I told my new bosses: in the department I work in, precision and detail is everything. If you’re a penny off in your count, the entire day’s balance is off and they have to sit around and read through every receipt until they find out where the error was.

I never blame the professors for marking me off big time on little details: it’s my fault, I should have seen them. I’m thinking about getting tests proctored elsewhere so I can have all the time I need to go over every little detail and recheck my inattentive mistakes.

9458372_origIt’s hard, in this society, not to base your intelligence off of a test score. I’m a perfectionist, so if I see anything less than a B, I’m immediately disheartened, particularly when I see the tiny, tiny details I missed that cost me so many points.

In a lot of cases that may be true. But in many, it’s not. My anxiety and attention issues often take over my ability to get things done correctly. But that’s not ever taken into account.

When I was doing runs with my trainer (runs = delivering items to particular stations) and we had to pass through the arcade and lazer tag area, the noise level was already loud, but for me and my sensory overload it was especially loud. So loud, my brain didn’t quite know what to think or where to think and my trainer had to repeat herself four times before I realized what she said. She’s very nice and patient, which I love. But I get frustrated with myself more than anything: we were only up there for two minutes, how could I get so discombobulated so quickly?

Unfortunately, part of social anxiety and anxiety in general is, when in large, noisy crowds, your brain is so busy trying to pay attention to every thing, every person, every voice, every noise, to scan for threat or a perceived threat, that you lose yourself. You’re no longer in the “now”, you’re in the black abyss I call “the possible”. I consider it “the possible” because your brain is focusing on what could, or might, or (to you) probably is happening. Like thinking someone who stared at you automatically hates you or sees something wrong with how you look or the way you dress or how your voice sounds. All from a glance.

If one glance can cause so much damage and panic in our minds, think about how ten or twenty or thirty glances affect us.

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It makes us over-critical and over-judgmental of the people around us and of ourselves.

Sometimes that works to our advantages. For example, in my position when we walk through the park, we have to go very specific routes and must always maintain a certain length away from guests. If someone asks you to take a picture for them, you have to politely inform them “I’m sorry, it’s against my department’s policy to do so; if you ask anyone in tickets or games, they’d be happy to assist you”. If someone asks you a question, answer it while you’re walking: never stop on a run. 

If there’s someone suspicious wandering around, you better believe I’ll be the first to spot it. Although I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I’m suspicious of everyone. I can see the shifty eyes or stance from a mile away. I can sense someone who has been watching me or following me. It’s in my anxious nature.

It also has it’s disadvantages: I like routine, which is why I hate answering phones. You never know what kind of problem the other end is going to have.

robo_phonophobia_webBut does failing a test or having anxiety or purposefully avoiding the desks in the office with the phones, or being overly-cautious about people make me any less intelligent? 

School taught me it did, so I used to believe it did. Until I realized many (certainly not all) of those people who often aced tests and went off to huge universities or had many friends and brand new cars have never dealt with what I have. Their mind is clear. They might be stressed and they have had problems like everyone else, but they’ve never experienced what I have. Which means, but default, they could never have the same exact issues to the extent I do. That makes us different, not unequal.

A lot of times these days you’re taught what to think and made to believe they’re teaching you how to think.

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For example, my boyfriend is a business major. He’s getting way better at critical thinking (that’s what he told me) and therefore was able to point some interesting things out to me in one of his business human resources something (I don’t fucking know) class book. They wanted you to believe C.E.O’s have an “aesthetic” quality about them (meaning they value harmony and artistic life episodes–anyone know what an “artistic life episode” is? Because we couldn’t figure it out.) and they wanted you to believe salespeople have a power hungry quality about them.

Then they defined something as having value when it’s “important to you”.

That’s a personal value, not an intrinsic or true value like they make it sound, because what’s important to you may not be important to your neighbor. What’s important to you isn’t important to the whole of the world.

If you’re going to give a definition, make sure you point what you’re really defining. A personal value, in this day and age, is what’s important to you.

I see why they don’t make business undergraduates take philosophy. They want you properly brainwashed before you attempt to open your mind some more.

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But, you know, by that logic, if money is important to you, than it must be valuable or have value, right? Forget lying and murdering millions of people or being a douche, just pay attention to what’s important to you and only you. Whoever wrote that textbook was either a sheep or a very smart business person.

My boyfriend decided he wanted to agree (just to mess with me) that “what’s important to you” is the definition of “value”, and he wanted to agree that money is important to him and that therefore it’s valuable. I decided to give him a little run for his money.

Ha, no pun intended.

I asked why it was valuable, besides the basic definition.

He said money can run his business, take care of his family, and take care of his employees, and he threw the environmental issues in there for some brownie points.

I said okay. We’ll call that, depending on the size of his business and family, about 100 people or so, excluding the environment as people. Not to mention there was no discussion between us on the definition of what it meant to “help the environment with money.”

All those things he mentioned are true, and they’re nice of course. But could he hold those 100 people more valuable because they were simply “important to him” than the millions enslaved by his company to create his products? Can one person have more value than another? To the business definition of value, yes.

He said he’d have things made in America.

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I told him the parts he’d get wouldn’t be made in America, they’d only be assembled by Americans.

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He said he’d check in on the outsourced workers to make sure they’re being treated fairly and paid correctly.

I said he could never know; their bosses would lie to him. “Yeah, they’re getting paid 12 dollars an hour!” when really they’re getting a penny every three hours.

 

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He said he’d fly out there to make sure.

I said he’d spend an awful lot of money very frequently doing that and questioned his stance again: “so then are the people more important or the money?”

He just started laughing. So did I, but the truth of the matter is they’re teaching many selfish, individualistic views in this school system. It’s what we base ourselves on these days. It’s why we obsess with selfies and beat ourselves up when our reputation isn’t what we want it to be. It’s why some fall into the abyss of a crowd and lose themselves for the sake of likability.

yin-yang-right-wrong-450More over, if what is important to you is what you value above all else, that gives you the freedom to disregard anyone’s definition of right or wrong. In fact, you skip over right and wrong. You go straight from importance to value. It becomes regardless of consequences or intention or any of that. 

Money is important. But does importance have anything to do with value?  I believe they’re separate. Money is important in that it’s now the foundation of our lives. It gives us food and shelter and keeps our kids alive. It’s now a necessity to live. But are all necessities valuable or just simply . . . needed?

What’s the true definition of value? Well, there are many, depending on who you follow. There’s intrinsic value: value something has in itself; happiness, for example. Happiness is good because it’s just good to be happy, not because you’re getting anything else out of being happy, and extrinsic value: basically the opposite of intrinsic; google it. It all depends.

Value, to me, is regardless of importance because importance can be really subjective. To me, if something is irreplaceable or hard to clone, it has a certain level of value.

Can there be both? Perhaps. I value thought. Thinking is also important; if you don’t think at some point in your life, you’re probably going to die.

To me, money is important. But I don’t value it. I can get replacements of it all sorts of ways.

Maybe that’s just me.

Read your textbooks carefully, students.

 

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Yo, Let Me Hit That Apple Real Quick

I woke up this morning, sat at my desk, set my fingers on the proper keys, turned on my sub-woofer, blasted the playlist on my computer, and still couldn’t think of a clever opening line for this post.

I thought of talking about some fancy neuroscience articles on psychiatrists and neuro-scientists attempting to quantify consciousness and then blast them for thinking they could explain something as mystifying as consciousness in terms of man-made mathematical equations that, if you really want to get technical, still don’t explain consciousness itself. I’ll give them props for their Integrated Information Theory, but even that thought process kind of, well, falls short of explaining how we feel the information our brain integrates. They understand the biology, not the result, and that’s not very invigorating to me. If quantum particles can change their state and “teleport” information between each other than how can consciousness be as simple as integrated information? They have a lot of work to do if they think they can understand our perception of life to the degree they understand the transportation of a neurochemical. Which, judging by the psychotropic medication out today, there’s not a lot of understanding. So I guess we’ll never know.

Instead, I’d like to address a disturbing incident I witnessed last night.

I’d like to personally accuse the American public school systems, particularly in my area, of attempted murder. Yes, you read right, attempted murder.

Attempted murder of the human soul, spirit, and creativity. I don’t give a shit if I sound like some weed smoking, slap happy hippie.

Really, bro? 

The robots they’ve turned these college students into reminds me how lucky I am to have suffered Social Anxiety Disorder through elementary school. Being inside of your own head has its advantages.

As some of you know, I’m taking a Native American Literature class, one of the most tranquil courses I’ve taken thus far in my college career. What you may not know is that I’m a very spiritual person. Not religious by any means, but spiritual yes. I enjoy the connections humans share with other humans, animals, seasons, the self, and nature in general. After all, we are all made up of the same material if you want to look at this at a micro-level. If I could embrace it as much as I’d like, I probably wouldn’t have this rampant anger management issue.

I don’t know as much about my own Cherokee ancestral history as I should, but I know every time I walk into that class there’s an aura about it that serves as a pungent reminder this class will be forever life changing.

We just finished a memoir entitled “The Morning The Sun Went Down” by Darryl Babe Wilson, an extraordinary autobiography of a man of the Achumawi and Atusgew tribes from Northern California. When abrupt tragedy strikes, Darryl experiences the reality of how desecrated and disrespected his people have been by the ever expanding American government.

Wilson possesses an extraordinary talent for describing feelings and incidents in relation to nature, as most natives are, and I felt honored in having read this summary of the first part of his life. His words don’t need analysis to be appreciated. They don’t need to have some crazy symbolism and motif attached to them to make them have substance.

I can’t blame these students for not understanding that, but they better learn quickly. In this class we don’t receive grades on any of our work and when we read texts we are supposed to write the responses in terms of how the text made us feel whilst simultaneously providing an analysis without trivializing or being a kiss-ass. When we had a discussion in class last night, hand after hand raised and mouth after mouth made my ears bleed.

I say this because what most of them said was the result of a very one-track mindset, a program. And that mindset is “I’m in a Native American class, so I should talk really good about the Native Americans and bash the Christians in the book that made the Native guy feel bad.”

I’m not a Christian. Or a Catholic. I’m more inclined to read science fiction than The Bible and in all honesty I can’t stand science fiction most of the time. The problem with these students is that they contrast and compare everything. That’s a mindset we learn early in school. Analyze this side, analyze that side, state the facts, and who gives a shit how you feel about it. It’s easy for a kid to realize if you argue with the side that has the most positive points, you’ll get an easy A and you’ll sound so smart.

More like intellectually stunted.

Why not just accept what that particular group of Christians did to that particular group of natives, understand how that relates to the underlying feeling of inadequacy and self loathing in natives today, bask in how that makes you feel, and put some thought into it? Why do we have to spend time in discussion labeling all Christians as murdering freaks and why do we have to spend time labeling natives as victims? State facts without judging who is in the wrong and who is in the right because wrong and right is very subjective. Natives were a victim of settlers, yes. Does that make the settlers horrible human beings? I don’t know, I can only judge of their past actions and I don’t think actions are an entire representation of the self.

That being said, I also call this compare and contrast/over analytical mindset the kiss-ass syndrome. That’s what they were doing last night, kissing the professors ass to make it sound like they actually understand the depths of sorrow in these people’s hearts. But none of their words held any substance or feeling and one guy spoke for five minutes straight. He spoke empty words. I almost fell asleep.

There’s a time for analysis and there’s a time for simple appreciation; they can be combined, cleverly, but they’re not the same.

For this I love my anxiety disorders. These students may be amazing at socializing and vocalizing, but they have no sense of self and no sense of how to relate the outside world to their self. They can only relate to each other, and on a shockingly shallow level. I’ve spent so many years inside of my head that I’m in the head of each emotion I’ve ever felt. #Headception. It’s why I can write a paper consisting of analysis of thought and understanding of feeling on a personal and external level, and have the professor thank me twice for writing the paper I did.

You know you did well when the professor thanks you for your work.

I’ve only spoken in class maybe a hundred times from Pre-School to College, so my thoughts and answers never got shot down by teachers. I was never molded, not to the extent these students have been.

I don’t want to make it sound like these students are horrible students, I think many of them are brilliant. I just don’t think they know how brilliant, yet. I don’t think they were ever allowed to exercise that brilliance.